Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"A man's trousers are, in a situation like this, essential to his dignity and his composure..."

Note: the post title, somewhat awesomely, comes from an actual quote from Justice Thomas Berger's (formerly of the British Columbia Supreme Court) remarks in R. v. Serack (1974).

Two Saturdays ago, my best friend Misha (a pharmaceutical sales rep—remember that part—in Barrie), got married in London to the lovely Jessica Henry. My best man speech didn’t go exactly as planned, so I thought I’d use that experience to cap off a woefully unproductive month of blogging with an annotated version of the speech. After wall, what better way to honor Halloween than the repurposing of content? Though it’s probably fairly self-explanatory, the actual text of the speech is in black, while interjections, comments, clarifications, and nonsensical tangents are in a smaller, red font. Stay tuned for the announcement of a couple long-term projects in the near(-ish) future.

To set the scene, my speech started around 9:00 p.m., about three hours into the reception, and approximately 30 minutes after people had finished desert (which is to say: everyone was on a sugar comedown). At this point in the night, I had had approximately five glasses of wine, comfortably in between the "I'm a bit buzzed and thus not too nervous about speaking and public" zone and the dreaded "I'm sloshed and an incoherent mess" zone. (Definitely closer to the former than the latter.)

And, on that note, off we go:

Annotated Best Man Speech

[open piece of paper]

Before I start, Misha approached me earlier and said that, legally, I had to read the following. I don't really get it, but he's the expert:

"While most people respond favourably to wedding speeches, fewer than 2% of participants in clinical trials were discontinued due to adverse experiences. The most frequent adverse events thought to be related to wedding speeches are flatulence, profuse sweating, and abdominal pain. Should you suddenly become afflicted with any of the following conditions as a result of these speeches, it is highly recommended that you cover your ears and hum loudly (but not so loud as to disturb your fellow tablemates) to yourself until such time that your condition improves. Symptoms include: Dry mouth, severe weight gain, severe weight loss, chronic scratching, dizziness, amnesia, restless leg syndrome, restless arm syndrome, restless torso syndrome, Rage, mild Hulkism, Phantom Hand Syndrome, vivid dreams of self-cannibalization, sudden incomprehensible infatuation with Private Practice, Late Onset Albinoism, Spontaneous Pregnancy, increased risk of vampire attack, Temporary blindness, chrono-displacement syndrome, sudden organ liquification, brain tooth, permanent blindness, hot dog fingers, mild heart explosions, autonomous nipples, Mad Cow Disease, Spontaneous dento hydro plosion, Leprosy, adult onset Tourette's syndrome, Government Created Killer Nano-robot infection, Count Choculitis, and monkey lung.

Also, if you experience an erection lasting longer than four hours as a result of this speech—while flattering—you should contact your physician.”

[1] I won't lie, I think this is fucking hilarious. Yes, yes, I’m well aware that these symptoms have been culled (my verb of choice in lieu of “lifted directly”) from the Cheating Death segment on The Colbert Report and the Health Plan episode of The Office (season one), but I don’t care. My original opening bit was going to be me saying “omg, it’s finally happened! We’ve had our up and downs but we’re finally married” before my brother would run up to me and whisper in my ear, at which point I’d sheepishly set down my speech and say “my apologies. That was the speech I prepared in the event that Misha and I got married” but I ended up dropping for fear that it would fall flat, I would be mortified, and the rest of the speech would be a train wreck.

(As it turns out, Jeff Tiolis, the MC, had me participate in a bit in his opening remarks—Jeff started to say “I have LOTS of stories to tell,” which was my cue to look panic-stricken, run up and whisper in his ear, whereupon Jeff, looking incredulous, turned to me and said “I can’t talk about past relationships??”, then ripped up the remainder of his speech—not two minutes before my own speech was set to begin that would have made MY whisper bit seem embarrassingly derivative, not to mention borderline disturbing in how swiftly and thoroughly I had brazenly stolen it from Jeff in front of all these people, etc.—so it’s probably just well that I went in a different direction).

I thought that the bit I actually went with—which is roughly two to four times funnier if you know that Misha is a drug rep, which, I assumed (possibly erroneously) everyone knew—was a guaranteed howler and that I’d coast off those laughs for the rest of my speech, under the theory: funny opening bit + so-so rest of the speech material = lots of laughs at the start + people giving you the benefit of the doubt later on and laughing at your marginally amusing stuff. Here’s what ended up happening: anyone that was under 30 or so seemed to like this section rather a lot. Unfortunately, those tables (and there weren’t that many to begin with) were well off to the side—roughly sixty feet from where I was standing, something I noticed with growing apprehension as soon as we made our entrance into the reception hall. The 30-60 demo liked it well enough (thanks, mom and dad!). And the over 60s…did not. At all. And were confused. And seemed to resent me for even broaching the topic. Misha’s friend Jaymie relayed a story that, at his table, he was laughing quite hard, but that an older person also sitting there leaned in to him and said, plainly, “I don’t get it.” These things happen.

A few other comments:

1. knowing that there would be some older people in the crowd, I deliberately left out symptoms that people might legitimately have, since no one enjoys laughing at something that’s actually afflicting them (I’m looking at you, monkey lung!)

2.There’s some debate as to whether I went through the symptoms too quickly. While I can see the logic behind reading them off slowly, waiting for the laughs, then moving on to the next one, I’m wayyyyy too self-conscious to actually do this/I think it’s a little smug to wait for your laughs, so I didn’t.

3. You didn’t ask, but my favorites are “restless torso syndrome, increased risk of vampire attacks, mild Hulkism, mild heart explosions, and count choculitis,” though, for whatever reason, spontaneous pregnancy and hot dog fingers got the biggest laughs.”)

I could literally tell you 5,000 stories about Misha, but, for a variety of reasons—among them: time constraints, staving off crippling boredom for the audience, delaying the opening of the bar,

[2] Turns out the bar actually was open, so I didn’t say this one.

pending lawsuits precluding further comment, and my firm desire to still be engaged at the end of this speech—I will limit myself to a dozen or so. Also, many of them involve one of us (whisper: Misha) crying…and no one wants to hear about that.

Apparently, we first became friends, but I’d be lying if I said I remembered much from when I was five, aside from really digging The Muppets, assuming that the Detroit Tigers won the World Series every year (too bad about that one), and possibly liking Jem rather more than a boy should.

[3a] These are all supposed to be things that happened in 1984—get it? I ended up dropping the Jem reference (only partially—ok, not at all—because it didn’t actually start airing until 1985, when I was six. Yes, I looked that up.

[3b] While we’re at it, here’s some other fun stuff that I forgot/never knew about Jem that I found on Wikipedia: did you know that Jerrica revealed her secret identity to the President of the United States in the 3rd and final season? Apparently it was some sort of matter of national security. I think I would pay approximately $25 to see that episode…and I’m broke, so that’s a lot to spend on animated programming from the 80s. Also: does anyone remember a third band named the Stingers? Me neither. Finally, were you aware that the series ended with the Holograms and the Misfits in a truce? How is this possible? This is completely unacceptable…All of my Hologram and Misfit references now seem foolish, and I’ll be damned if I’m going back to “Hatfields and McCoys.”

The one thing I do recall is vying with Misha for Angela Goulet’s love (score one for me! And I only had to get severe tonsillitis to do it!).

[4] She ate ice cream with me in my hospital bed! [pumping my fist]

We were tight, you know, more or less, from that point forward…except for that year, in 4th grade, when Misha decided that he didn’t want to be my friend and instead wanted to hang out with Daniel Thompson. [make face]. Well, I don’t see Daniel here today—[cover mic, look over, “he’s not here is he? Good”]—I think we all know who won that round…

[5] That Daniel Thompson is...all right, actually. In Grade Three—that is, the year before the unspeakable betrayal—the three of us were virtually inseparable. I don’t think I’ve seen Daniel since I was ten and he moved away. Wherever he is, I wish him well.

Looking back on out public school years, everything seemed to revolve around three things: sleepovers, video games, and sports. On the video game front, the pattern was follows: I would jump out to a big lead in whatever game we were playing—Tecmo Bowl, Dusty Diamond All-Star Softball, Coach K College Basketball

[6] By now, I realized that many people weren’t getting the references, so I decided to leave out the actual game titles—though all of them have a soft spot in my heart. And may I interject briefly here to say: while I still love video games and play them regularly, I think it really says something that, kickass graphics aside, none of these games have the replayability of, say, Dusty Diamond. (Additional interjection: how the hell has this game not been remade for the Wii? Quirky ballparks + 60 players of differing abilities and/or planets of birth + motion detecting swings = big o’ pile of cash.)

only to have Misha come roaring back at the end to beat me, invariably on the last play (jerk), whereupon I would throw down my controller in a fit of rage and shrilly accuse him of somehow cheating. (Incidentally, this still happens today…although I must say the graphics have gotten much better.) Although there was this one night, heretofore referred to as the “NES Open Golf freak out…”

[7] Which leads us to the most misguided foray into writing since a writer blurted out in a brainstorming session “hey, wouldn’t it be hella cool if Buffy had a sister?” Let the record show that Misha seemed to find the subsequent anecdote hilarious, as did a smattering of the audience, but, generally, this bit was met with resounding indifference. On the plus side, I’m absolutely positive that I crushed the single wedding speech record for “most time allocated to video game anecdotes.” That one could last a looooong time.

Now, like I said, Misha and I are usually evenly matched in pretty much any video game we play, but, for whatever reason, I seemed to be much better at this one.

[8] It's really neither here nor there, but NES Open Golf is also (or, at least, should be) known as the first golf game to incorporate a career mode—a staple in golf games ever since—which was positively revolutionary at the time. By the way, it still boggles my mind that here we are in 2007 and not a single golf game (or, for that matter, tennis game) has successfully integrated the full PGA Tour calendar into the gameplay. Here’s a tip to the Tiger Woods EA Team: I really don’t want to see my own face in the game (honestly, you guys, I see enough of it on a daily basis), nor do I want to be able to shoot 57 with ease (see: every TWoods game between 2002 and 2006) or have to scramble to break 80 (see: this year’s edition—if I wanted to suck at golf, I’d plunk down $35 and go stink it up on an actual course). What I would like is to be able to is to play (virtually, that is) all four majors, slog it out after the PGA Championship in lesser events in an effort to get my Tour Card, then qualify for the season ending Fed Ex Cup. Trust me, golf fans would eat this up. Now, I realize that there are certain licensing issues (mainly, the rights to virtual Augusta National are—inexplicably—not for sale), but couldn’t you just throw in a tournament in early April, on a lush, semi-easy, fictional course in, say, Marietta, Georgia, call it the Legends (or something), and move on? This doesn’t seem like an insurmountable obstacle...Anyway, I seem to have drifted almost hopelessly off topic. Where was I?

As a result, I played and Misha “caddied.” Now, to the untrained eye, it may have seemed as though Misha was merely watching me play a Nintendo game all night, but I assure you, he was making helpful comments throughout, including: “what the hell was that?” and “ I CANNOT believe you missed that putt.” At any rate, it got to be pretty late (2 a.m. or so) and I started to play quite poorly and Misha, for reasons completely unbeknownst to me still to this day, got it into his head that I was playing poorly deliberately so as to upset him. He, of course, relayed this feelings to me and a massive row ensued. The system was quickly turned off and—instead of sleeping in Misha’s SPACIOUS bed as was usually the case—I was banished to the guest room, where I stayed up for several hours out of fear that he was going to storm into the room and attack me as I slept.

[9] This actually happened. Whether or not it’s suitable for a best man speech is debatable, but I did—ludicrously, in retrospect—fear for my life. I even remember how I thought he would kill me: with a kitchen knife. Good times!

Of course, I eventually fell asleep and, by the next day, everything was normal again. That—minus, I hasten to point out, my fears of being murdered in my sleep—was pretty much the ebb and flow of our relationship as kids: long stretches of fun interspersed with the occasional blow up. In high school, we were often referred to as an old married couple, which seemed funny at the time, but now—as I read this—feels decidedly creepy. Let’s just ignore that last part.

We also played a lot of sports. From the age of 11 to 19—I think—we played baseball together every summer, with our dads coaching many of those squads. Aside from that there was also golf, tennis, driveway basketball, football, outdoor and basement hockey, basement basketball, basement tennis (with chairs, somehow, serving as the net), and basement curling. These last three events now seem inexplicable: we had a perfectly serviceable Nintendo upstairs!! What the hell were we doing making up events? Couldn’t we just have rented a tennis game?

[10] Again, a moderately funny off-the-cuff observation in an informal setting that really has no place in a speech of this nature.

As for high school, it’s something I could probably describe in less than 50 words or more than 10,000…but anywhere in between just won’t do.

[11] I stand by this statement. I won’t pretend that my high school experience was particularly traumatic—in fact, it was, more of less, five years of fun—but, Christ, how the hell do you summarize high school in two or three minutes? It’s impossible (and also: wildly inappropriate in places).

I recall carpooling,

[12] The best (and, by that, I mean "the worst") part about carpooling by far was the time when Misha dropped me off at home and, while reversing out of my parents’ driveway, backed in to a neighbor’s car across the street, doing several hundred dollars worth of damage in the process. A direct consequence of this was that the carpool (which, since I didn’t have a car of my own, essentially amounted to Misha chauffeuring to and from school) was immediately halted for several months, as it was reasoned by Misha’s mom that the accident would not have happened “but for” Misha dropping me off. On an intellectual level, I understand this position, but given that I wasn’t in the car when said accident happened (as opposed to, say, poking him with a sharp stick, surreptitiously releasing the parking brake, or spraying him in the eyes with mace—all, I’ll conceded, acceptable reasons for me to be held at least somewhat accountable) I fail to see why I was indirectly punished for its occurrence. Little did I know that this argument would come up some ten years later in Torts—I’m still not convinced, dammit!

coming agonizingly close to the two of us winning the junior basketball title,

[13] grrrr! This one still pisses me off! We were up nine points with 6 minutes to go and ended up pissing the game away to South. This loss was part of a larger pattern of me being part of winning teams occasionally, but generally finishing a tantalizingly close but ultimately disappointing second in abso-fucking-lutely everything: Midget Basketball, Junior Basketball, Senior Basketball, OBA Basketball (3x), Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball (3x), Baseball (several, several times), and even an undergraduate history department essay competition. Christ!

summer and march break parties at your parents’ place and mine.

It was also around this time that I taught Misha how to play poker. We were at Fred and Noreen Parker’s, and we played a makeshift game with a jar of peanuts standing in for poker chips. After teaching Misha the rank of hands, he confidently went all in hand after hand after hand, losing several of them. When I pointed out that he was pushing with marginal (even, some might say, terrible hands) he looked up at me, shook his head dismissively, and said: “Kyle, they’re only peanuts.” And, really, you can’t argue with that now, can you?

[14] [Cue Tumbleweed.] Poker stories, for the most part = “people turning off their brains until said story is over.” (Golf, too.) I think this was actually covered in the ridiculously stilted wedding speech book from (what seemed like) the 60s (and the British Sixties at that) that Carrie made me peruse. My bad.

Stupidly, a defining memory for me is that we lost the Best Friends Award at graduation—to twin sisters. What the hell?? They share DNA!! How is that even fair??? Would you give a Best Roommates Award to a Husband and Wife? Of course not! Come on!!—which I’m totally at peace with now.

[15] This actually happened, too. Misha reminded me later that night that we also lost “Best Couple” that night. Probably for the best that I’d forgotten that, as otherwise I was bound to mention it.

Our University years included our first forays into coaching, with me publicly chastising the 12 and 13 year old basketball players we coached while Misha looked on in the winter, and me silently keeping score while Misha dressed down the Under 21 Byron baseball team we helmed in the summer. This is also when we started our annual trek (3 in all) to Forest for a weekend of golf with our good buddy Phil (who’s now in B.C. and couldn’t make it here tonight) that were [PAUSE] too colourful to be properly and/or safely described here. Not, since there’s a sizeable Forest contingent here, let me just say, on the record: I’m sorry. That golf course saw things it can never unsee. Crushing really. And, to think, that poor golf cart

[16] One of my favorite jokes--shamelessly cribbed from The Simpsons, I concede--is coming up. I ran this bit by Carrie, as I was on the fence as to whether to go with “golf cart” or “hotel room.” We ultimately decided that “golf cart” was better, as “hotel room” implied one or more of the following: (a) that we trashed the room (which was partially true); (b) that there was some sort of sexual romp (which is not true at all). Truth be told, I think that “hotel room” is actually a bit funnier, but I’m glad I stuck with my original, less suggestive, reference.

was one day away from retirement…

[17] Since we're here, here are seven things I can tell you from these golf trips with impunity (there is a statute of limitations for public drunkeness, right? Right??):

1. Driving our golf cart—drunkenly, it goes without saying—off the golf resort and to the local beer store to re-stock our supply. One of my fonder memories…

2. Drinking beer in the hotel hot tub in flagrant violation of the posted rules, only to have someone from the hotel staff happen by the pool area. This led to us trying to hide our drinks underwater, except we were drinking out of cups, so we ended up, effectively, pouring beer into the hot tub.

3. Doing donuts in our golf cart on the 18th fairway in the twilight, with both Phil and I, on separate occasions, falling out of the moving cart.

4. Parking said golf cart in front of port-a-potty on the course, essentially barricading Misha inside, then running off for five minutes.

5. Bribing the beer cart girl to actually follow us around the course one day.

6. Phil and I drinking in our room, as Misha goes off to shower after an afternoon round. We hear what sounds like someone falling in the bathroom, but think nothing off it. Several minutes later, an irate towel-clad Misha emerges and admonishes us for NOT RUSHING INTO THE BATHROOM TO SEE IF HE WAS OKAY, noting that “[he] could have died!” This is followed by riotous laughter from Phil and I, which only made Misha angrier.

7. After a long night of partying, we barely made our Saturday morning tee time. A half-dead Misha teeing off on the 4th hole, with a fairway running parallel to a country road. Unbeknownst to him, Phil and I are frantically gesturing to a truck driver to use his air horn. Which he does…at the precise moment Misha starts his swing, causing him to collapse in a heap. Again: good times.

And so we both floated along. Misha: from King’s to Fanshawe to Program Director to Radio Sales. Me: from King’s to grad school to more grad school to law school (anything to avoid actually working!).

[18] It's funny because it’s true!!

Anyway, it was sometime in late 2004/early 2005 when I was living with Jon on Olympic Crescent

[19] Here, Jon, seated roughly 55 feet away from the podium, raised his arms and shouted “yeah!” (not unlike Steve Holt). I’ll be honest, at this point I was happy with any audience participation that didn’t involve people throwing rotten vegetables at me, so: thanks, buddy.

and it seemed like we had a party (er…Book Club Meeting) every single night, and I was lured into coming to Sarnia for a “huge” poker game. Being somewhat lazy, I was hesitant to come all the way from London. Finally, Misha coaxed me into coming. True to his word, I arrived to find Misha and Jeff Tiolis and…actually, that was it. The massive poker game had failed to materialize and Misha, being a good friend, didn’t want to trouble me with this disappointing news (at least, that’s how he explained it to me. I dunno.) This was discouraging for any number of reasons, not least of which being that I don’t particularly like Jeff. [“Hey buddy! Thanks for the intro!”]

[20] I also waved to Jeff here, which got a bit off a laugh.

But we trooped on, and decided to play a three-person game. About two hours in, this mysterious girl arrived. She said hello. Sat down. Said she could only play for 45 minutes because her rabbit was sick. Lost, then left. That girl, of course, was Jessica.

[21] Now...this IS how I met Jessica and that night went down pretty much exactly as I described (in a nutshell: I spent 60 bucks in gas to drive to Sarnia to get drunk, watch TV, play poker, and spend the night, which is exactly what I would have done in London for free that night had I not gone) but would it have killed me to throw in something to the effect that “I could tell just from that brief encounter that she was a very sweet girl”? Saying “I knew right away that she was the one for Misha” would have been pure sap (not to mention untrue, since I don’t even think that either of them were thinking like that at that stage), but a nice little comment here would have served me well. In light of the fact that the audience was roughly 85% her side of the family, this seems like a no-brainer now. Alas…

Not long after that, I went off to South Korea to teach for a year. There, I met my own beautiful bride to be (you don’t have to stand up, babe, but feel free to wave…if only so people don’t think that I’m making this up).

[22] Let the record show that Carrie did not stand up or wave. Thanks for hanging me out to dry, future wife!!

Between my seven months in Korea and six more in Australia, so, while I heard about the developing relationship, I missed the courtship. When I got back, I saw how perfect they were for each other; how nicely they complemented each other.

[23] I guaran-fucking-tee you mine was the only speech with a semi-colon in it. but that’s really neither here nor there...

A couple of stories about the two of them:

1. One night a few months back, Misha and Jessica invited us down to Barrie under the pretext of them “showing us their new house” and “having a tasty dinner.” Anyway, a couple of hours in, Jessica casually mentions that they have this great game called “Catch Phrase” (kind of like Taboo or Password, you can give clues but cannot say the answer outright to your partner), that they use to play it with another couple, that said other couple was unbeatable, and did it sound like something that Carrie and I might want to play with them? We, of course, said yes, and the game was on. The overall result is fairly inconsequential—though, SPOILER, we beat their brains in—but one round stood out. It’s near the end of the round and Misha is giving clues to Jessica.

Misha: two words. Second word, “what do I put in my car?”

Jessica: gas.

Misha: good! First word: when you’re really worried about something, it’s called being…

Jessica: “concerned”?

Misha: sort of, but more like before a big speech or a big game…

Jessica: [shouting] “nervous”!

Misha: [as time is ticking down] good! Now shorten it and put the two together.

Jessica: [as the buzzer sounds] It’s…“nervous gas”!

[Everyone—i.e. Carrie, Misha, and I—laughs]

Jessica: I got it! That counts! It’s nervous gas!!

[Wait for uproarious laughter from crowd]

[24] …Which never, sad to say, came.

Now, as you’ve likely figured out, the answer was not nervous gas—though if you’re suffering from that, I’d urge you to consult your…

[25] How's that for a callback??

--but instead, as you might’ve guessed, “nerve gas,”

[26] But, the problem is, I don’t think everyone guessed this. I went back and forth on how to work this bit in. I wasn’t sure if I should drop the actual answer in at the start of the anecdote or throw it in after the punchline. Since I couldn’t decide one way or another, I opted for the latter, which was perhaps not wise. Comments, as always, welcome.

but good luck ever convincing her of this.

[27] There's really no other way to say this, this bit flat out bombed—possibly because I started to tell it the other way around (with Jessica giving the clues and Misha guessing) before realizing I was fucking it up, banging on the podium, and starting over—so much so that I was rattled and actually omitted the subsequent story, which is truly a shame since, as a result, my comments on their relationship at the end of that subsequent story inadvertently ended up on the cutting room floor.

2. Just a few weeks ago, Misha, Jessica, Carrie, and I carpooled to Jon and Alex’s for a poker game. Misha and Jessica, as it happens, had to stop at the pharmacy to pick up a wedding card for Jon and Alex (who themselves had just recently gotten married). Jessica was picking up a bottle of wine from the LCBO, so Misha, bragging the whole time about his card purchasing prowess (“I don’t even know how to explain it, Kyle, I just have a knack for picking the perfect card every time…”), elected to go to the Pharma Plus on his own. He gets out of the car, leaving Carrie and I sitting in the backseat like we’re five and dad’s gone off to buy cigarettes.

[28] Though I didn’t end up saying any of this, it’s safe to assume that I would skipped over some of the less salient details had I actually gone ahead with it.

So he leaves and, about two minutes later, Jessica shows up. We explain where Misha has gone and she, cheerfully, decides to head inside to help him pick out le carde juste. Literally—I swear—one minute later, Misha returns to the car, without Jessica, and asks where she is. We patiently explained the situation and he headed back into the pharmacy. Not ninety seconds later and who should show up at our car door? Ms. Jessica Henry. She, too, asks where her significant other has gone and we, again, perhaps a little less patiently, explain what’s gone on. Everyone has a good laugh and then Jessica heads back in. At this stage, everyone can probably see how this is going to end up, but I soldier on nonetheless. Minutes later, Misha comes outside—no Jessica—at which point (I’m hanging out the car door by now) I let loose with something to the effect of “come [expletive deleted] on.” Carrie and I are now convinced that we’re going to move into this parking lot and we begin checking rental rates. Not to be deterred, Misha goes back in to the drug store and—I later found out—paged Jessica to the front of the store. And then we finally got to leave. Now, I tell this story for two reasons: (1) it’s funny, right?

[29] Crowd's emphatic response (I’m guessing now): no.

and (2) the way Misha and Jessica reacted was classically them. There’s was no incredulity, no sense of exasperation, no rolled eyes, no malice. Instead: patience and laughter. Now, make no mistake, I wanted to kill them, but between the two of them, there was only tenderness. If nothing else, that’s symbolic of their relationship.

[30] Awwww. Now, maybe that’s not the best story—one reason? It takes longer to describe than it took to actually happen—but I think it’s (a) amusing and (b) goes to the strength and sweetness of their relationship. Also, I inexplicably omitted the standard “Jessica, you’re a wonderful person and the perfect girl for Misha. I am so happy you’ve found each other. That said, if things don’t work out, Misha [make hand phone gesture]: call me.” So, if by some miracle you are reading this, Jessica: please see above.

And then, to see them interact with Jack, well, I mean, you can tell instantly: they’re a family.

And as for the brilliance that is young Jack, let’s put it this way, when your fiancée tells you that she might leave you for an eight month old baby and your first response is not to be upset but rather to say “you’ll have to fight me for him,” well, that’s a good sign that you’re some special baby…

[31] This, too, did not go over especially well with the 50+ crowd (“he wants to fight the baby?”)

Actually, when I was away, Misha and I barely spoke at all: partly due to the vagaries of different time zones, partly to Misha’s crippling aversion to e-mail. But, the deeper truth,

[32] Also known as the uncomfortably gay section of my speech...

and what I only truly realized a few weeks back is: when you talk to someone virtually daily about basically everything (and, let’s be honest, nothing), you really don’t know where to start when you go three months without saying a word. But, sure enough, the second I got back, everything was back to normal…

I love Misha like a brother…with apologies to my actual brother (I said “like,” Taylor!)

[33] On the plus side, I do believe that Taylor was too drunk at this stage to feel slighted.

Who else…

-Can I count on to come over to watch NFL Sunday Ticket incredibly confident in his proline tickets, only to have all of them be dead before the 1 o’clock games are finished, consequently making him so annoyed that he promptly stops talking and proceeds to take an angry nap on my couch?

-Or the following: The phenomenon whereby I discover something, tell Misha about it, Misha promptly ignoring this advice, discovering it for himself much later, then calling me excitedly to tell me what he’s discovered, me exploding (see: sushi, dress shirts with a sweater overtop, the movie The Lookout, etc.) Good times!

I looked long and hard for an appropriate quote on friendship that didn’t end up sounding too trite or saccharine in print

[34] Since I spoke first I think I ended up softening this to something like “corny or maudlin” for fear of someone like the maid of honor (or anyone else speaking after me) saying something that actually was trite or saccharine, feeling embarrassed, and, in the process, making me look like a colossal douchebag. Ah, weddings!

but this was a losing battle. The best quote I could find—Oscar Wilde’s “a good friend stabs you in the front”—seemed oddly inappropriate.

[35] Yes, I did say this. Who doesn’t love Wilde? [edit from me in July '08: That aside: what the hell were you thinking, me from 9 months ago??]

In the end, I decided to go with an anecdote.

[36] Looking back, it’s hard now to avoid the conclusion that this section is entirely too meta/self-referential. I mean, what, precisely, did I expect in response? “Ooooh, fascinating! Tell us more about your boring speech writing process [boring is supposed to be modifying “speech writing process,” btw, as opposed to describing the speech itself], Kyle. You’re ever so riveting!” I dunno.

Before becoming President, Abraham Lincoln ran a tiny law practice with his friend William Herndon. Together, the two of them shared an office not much bigger than this dais for nineteen years. In early 1861, as he was about to make the long trek from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, D.C., he came by the office to say goodbye to his partner. Herndon, who staying back to maintain the practice, asked Lincoln what he wanted to do with the sign out front which read, as it always did, “Lincoln and Herndon, Attorneys at Law.” Lincoln, who, as you might imagine, had about three million things on his mind—mainly, one presumes, the nation he was elected to lead tearing itself apart—thought about it for a moment, then replied “keep the sign up, Willy. If I survive this, I’ll come back here, and we’ll pick things up as if nothing has changed.” With that, he said his goodbyes, and left, (as we now know) never to return.

[37] Bonus cool points for the quick glimpse at Lincoln’s enduring—and, as it turns out, well-founded—fatalism. “If I survive”? Eerie.

Now, the parallels aren’t all there (sorry, buddy, but I don’t see either of his becoming President),

[38] DAMN YOU, U.S. CONSTITUTION!!! On the plus side: no (or, the very least, reduced) risk of being assassinated.

but the lessons drawn from it should not be ignored: success or failure doesn’t (or, failing that, shouldn’t) change who you are. Your friends are your friends, and, if you’re lucky enough, they’ll stay that way forever.

[39] I didn't quite say it that way, but I wish I had.

[40] Misha would, about an hour later, say something so eloquent, so downright perfect about our friendship that I almost cried—putting my remarks to shame—but I stand by my Lincoln anecdote (gleaned from David Herbert Donald’s Lincoln, the best single volume Lincoln bio ever written), and think it’s quite lovely.

So, to close, a toast: to my best friend, to a wonderful couple, to their truly amazing child, and to a lifetime of happiness. Cheers.

[41] I’ve been to too many weddings with speeches that spend way too much time on childhood. This has always bothered me, as I firmly believe that who we are at 5, or 7, or 11 is, in fairness, not really terribly indicative who we are today (to the point where I made my parents promise that, at my own wedding, they would not fall prey to this). To that end, I made a conscious decision to steer clear of too many tales from our formative years. And, for the most part, I think I succeeded on that front. But what I realize now (and what was probably blindingly obvious to everyone prior to my own realization) is that, when you’re dealing with an older crowd, and the teenage/adulthood stories are too risqué/uncomfortable/incriminating, your under 12 material is really your go-to stuff.

[42] That said—along with everything I’ve touched upon up to this point—while I do agree that certain concessions to the masses need to be made when you make a wedding speech (this is the same principle which won’t allow me to have “Come Pick Me Up” by Ryan Adams be one of the slow songs at our wedding next year, even though I think it’s one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful love songs ever written and absolutely refuse to argue about this with anyone. Why? Because it’s about fucked up love, and contains the following verse: “I wish you would come pick me up, take me out, fuck me up, steal my records, screw all my friends, they're all full of shit, with a smile on your face, and then do it again.” I think it’s important that what you say, at its core, resonates with your target audience—whether it be your friends, your best friend, or your new bride. Anything less than that verges on cowardly. All of which is the long way of saying: I stand by my speech and all its glorious misfires.

[43] Though, if I’m being completely candid, I would probably give up one my slaps for a do-over.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

"You can't fire me! I don't work in this van!"

The One-Third(ish) of the NFL Season Recap

Greatest NFL Uniforms Ever, Bar None: The Chargers powder blue unis from the Air Coyrell era (see left). I thought they'd retired these bad boys, but I'm happy to report that they're back...for at least one game this year. Memo to Chargers: wear these every week! It's not like you're going to play any worse than you already have.

Rule that Needs to be Changed Immediately: last-second timeouts called by coaches on the sideline. In Week 2, Sebastian Janikowski, the Raiders kicker, made a 52-yarder to win the game, only to have the FG negated by a last-second timeout by Mike Shanahan. Janikowski then missed the do-over kick, costing his team the gamell them on FG. (Though they did get payback in Week 3 against Cleveland, by doing the exact same thing against the Browns and winning as a result). This came up again at the end of the Week 5 Monday Nighter, when Dallas's game-winning FG was negated by a last-second TO by Buffalo coach Dick Jauron. Happily, Polk made the second kick, ensuring the win for the Cowboys.

1. Taylor's wish: A kicker misses the last second FG, but gets a reprieve due to the opposition calling timeout, then making the follow up.
2. My wish: the reverse (make, timeout, then miss) in a super-important game. I'm kind of torn here, since I would hate to see something like this mar a big playoff game, like, say, the Super Bowl. But I'd probably be willing to accept a tainted Wild Card match-up for the sake of getting rid of this ridiculous rule.

Actually, screw that. You're telling me they can't get all the owners to vote on this one during the season? Hell, David Stern increased the length of the first round of the playoffs from five games to seven (so the theory goes: in an effort to ensure that the struggling-but-clearly-the-league's-best-team-as-well-as-the-biggest-TV-draw-going L.A. Lakers didn't crap out early in the playoffs, costing the NBA untold millions in marketing dollars) just prior to the All-Star Break a few years back. Why hasn't the NFL done the same?

The quick and easy solution is to make it so that in the final minute of a game, only players on the field can call a timeout. That way, if you do want to try a last-second icing, it'll at least cost you one player's effort. And if he doesn't call the TO in time, so be it--you're screwed.

Overreaction of the Year: Look, I, too, wish that Cameragate hadn't happened, but, boys, chill the fuck out (see Peter King's Week 2 MMQB column, as well as Gregg Easterbrook's shrill TMQ rant, where he drops the word "Nixon" ten times in five paragraphs--dude, we get it. It was a stupid move on Belichick's part. But, seriously: you want to make him ineligible for the Hall of Fame? The fuck?? I thought the Brookings Insitute was supposed to be reputable...). Happily, Easterbrook was later slammed by ESPN's Ombudsman, which is always embarrassing/wildly entertaining (it really is the grown-up equivalent of being yelled at by a crossing guard, isn't it? You know you shouldn't feel bad, but good luck not getting upset.)

Enduring Hilarious Subplot: Peter King being in
love with Brett Favre. I don't even really have a joke here. I just think it's funny. I mean, they actually text each other.

Subplot That's Just Plain Annoying: the whole "aren't the Patriots running it up a bit too much against their opponents?" Belichick is actually fielding questions about this during press conferences. Am I missing something? Is this not a professional football league? Here's a tip: you know what you can do to not lose to the Patriots by 21 points [their average margin of victory thus far]? Play fucking better.

Absolutely Ridiculous Stat That is, Somehow, Actually True: The Lions are now 0-21 all-time against the Redskins in Washington.

The Much Ado About Nothing Award: I actually like Brett Favre and I think his resurgence is one of the truly interesting stories this season, but let's face facts: through Week 6, Peyton Manning is only 138 touchdown passes behind Favre. Is there any chance that he doesn't shatter this record? (See also: Rodriguez, Alex and Bonds, Barry.)

Worst Ads: Budweiser's "salute" to NFL fans. These make me angry every time I see them. Like the Jets fan referencing Super Bowl 3 (sorry: III). Like the Dolphins fan referencing the perfect season which--news flash--happened 35 fucking years ago. Arguably, the one with the Cowboys fans is the least egregious, as they are talking about a dynasty from roughly a decade ago, but even that is borderline. Put it this way: I consider myself a die-hard Tigers fan, and I consider the 1984 World Champion squad to be one of the best ever (they started 35-5! Won the AL East by fifteen games! Dropped one playoff game!), to the point where I had a framed copy of the '84 team picture up on the wall in my office when I was in grad school. But, if you ever hear me mentioning the '84 sqaud as a reason to root for the current team, you have my permission to shoot me in the face. You know why? Because those two teams, now 23 years apart, have, aside from their uniforms (and even those have changed) have absolutely nothing in common. If I ever met any of those fans--honestly, dude, Joe Namath's grandson might be too old for the NFL--I would laugh and laugh (and laugh) at them. (I'm fairly certain that Bud handed this ad campaign to a company that had no football knowledge but, to compensate for this, promptly went out and bought a football almanac. "Quick, Johnson, flip to the facts and figures section. I don't want to lose this account!")
I'm eagerly awaiting the spot where some bird watcher, Audubon guide in hand, critizes the timidity of the cardinal, only to have an Arizona fan burst out of the bushes and exclaim: "oh, you don't like the Arizona Cardinals, eh? Perhaps this is because you've forgotten that, as recently as ten years ago, we won a playoff game? Or maybe you don't realize that we have the newest stadium in the NFL. Cardi-nals. Cardi-nals!" (Also: "You mock the Houston Texans? How dare you!? It must have slipped your mind that Houston happens to be in Texas--I mean, look at their nickname, Geography Wizard!--only the most populous state in...the entire country. Tex-ans! Tex-ans!")

[Because I can't stop and I just saw this one: there's now a Cleveland Browns ad. Note: this is a team that has never even participated in a Super Bowl and, indeed, hasn't won a championship since 1964. This is a team that didn't even exist for five years in the 90s!! Impossibly, the--I assume--psychotic Browns fan approvingly sites the fact that they haven't won a championship since the Super Bowl started, almost like he's proud of it. Yeah, we love football, but we loved it when it was pure. It's gotten too commercial now. It used to be about the grammar...

Fantasy Football Resurgence: After opening a combined 1-7 in my first three weeks in my fantasy leagues, I went a combined 5-4 in the next three weeks. Say, that's really not that impressive at all, is it? Damn. Well, I've reeled off three wins in a row in the one league I'm paying for to get to 3-3. Still not amazed? Hmmm. I'll get back to you...

Game of the Year: Buffalo vs. Dallas (Week 5). Runners-Up: ummm...Denver vs. Buffalo (Week 1), Indy vs. Tennessee (Week 2), Cincy vs. Cleveland (Week 2), Chicago vs. Minnesota (Week 6). I had to look most of those up--what is up with the dearth of good games this year? It's a little disconcerting.

Sixteen Games To Get Legitimately Excited About (Note: Some don't even involve the Pats or the Colts): Week 7: Jacksonville vs. Indy; Week 8: Washington vs. New England, Denver vs. Green Bay; Week 9: Indy vs. New England (game of the year), Dallas vs. Philadelphia; Week 10: Dallas vs. NYG, Indy v. SD; Week 11: Detroit v. NYG (if only because my Lions will be revealed as frauds here...unless it happens sooner); Week 12: yikes!; Week 13: Dallas vs. Green Bay (on a Thursday no less!); St. Louis vs. Atlanta and Miami vs. NYJ (horrifying little mini-tournament for, arguably, the four worst teams in football. If St. Louis and Miami don't win their respective games here, they could both go winless, something that this--again, arguably--tougher than going undefeated); Week 14: San Diego vs. Tennessee, New England vs. Pittsburgh; Week 15: Seattle vs. Carolina; Week 16: Denver vs. San Diego (the Monday Night game...and Denver should still be steaming from the 41-3 drubbing they took from SD back in Week 4.); Week 17: New England vs. NYG.

One-Third MVP: Tom Brady. And it's really not very close at all. I could see Peyton Manning and Randy Moss possibly being in the discussion, but it's Brady's to lose (which [spoiler tag] he won't) at this stage.

This Cannot Be a Good Sign: 44-year old Vinny Testaverde started for the Carolina Panthers last Sunday. His respectable numbers (20 of 33, 206 yards, 1 TD, no INTs) have more to do with Arizona's rather porous defense than anything (on his lone TD pass, which was a 60 yard bomb to the incomparable Steve Smith, the Cardinals cornerback simply stopped defending after 30 yards) but this raises a bigger point: where the hell are all the good QBs?? Did you know that the Cardinals--willingly--offered to pay Tim Rattay to play QB for them? It never ceases to amaze me how, in a league that has 96 QBs on its roster (32 teams x 3, though some teams actually only hava one backup), only a dozen or so are competent. Which is another way of saying: 7 out of every 8 quarterbacks in the NFL are basically terrible.

I thought I'd look up some draft stats on this subject. From 2002-2006 (I didn't include the 2007 draft, since most of the QBs there haven't had a chance to distinguish themselves), 71 quarterbacks were drafted. Of those 71, here are the ones I'd consider adequate or better: David Garrard (2002); Chris Simms, Carson Palmer, Byron Leftwich, Kyle Boller (2003); Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Matt Schaub (2004); Alex Smith, Jason Campbell (2005); Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Jay Cutler, Kellen Clemens (possibly) (2006). That's 14 (or about 1 in 5) quarterbacks having "made it," with roughly triple that number no longer in the league at all. That strikes me as pretty weak. More on this another time...

Fantasy Killers: Shaun Alexander, Larry Johnson, Rudi Johnson, Steven Jackson, Drew Brees, Lee FUCKING Evans (note: I hate you, Lee Evans), Hines Ward, Marc Bulger, Vernon Davis, Devery Henderson, Joe Horn. Thanks for showing up, guys. I hope I'm wrong about LJ, since I traded him straight up for Brees three weeks ago.

Fantasy Sleepers: Derek Anderson, Jason Witten, Dwayne Bowe, and Devin Hester. Funny, I envisioned this list being more substantial.

Projected Records:
AFC East: New England (16-0), Buffalo (5-11), NY Jets (3-13), Miami (1-15)
AFC North: Pittsburgh (13-3), Cleveland (9-7), Baltimore (8-8), Cincinnati (7-9)
AFC South: Indianapolis (14-2), Jacksonville (10-6), Tennessee (10-6), Houston (6-10),
AFC West: San Diego (11-5), Denver (9-7), Kansas City (7-9), Oakland (5-11)

NFC East: Dallas (12-4), NY Giants (11-5), Washington (10-6), Philadelphia (6-10)
NFC North: Green Bay (11-5), Detroit (8-8), Minnesota (7-9), Chicago (7-9)
NFC South: Tampa Bay (10-6), Carolina (9-7), New Orleans (6-10), Atlanta (3-13)
NFC West: Seattle (9-7), Arizona (7-9), San Fran (5-11), St. Louis (2-14)

Note: Initially, I had New England going 15-1, losing to either Indy or Pittsburgh. But screw it, I'm rolling the dice. I think they can do it (unless Brady dies or something...).

First Round Byes: NE, Indy, Dallas, Green Bay
Wild Card Round: Pittsburgh over Jacksonville (WC), San Diego over Tennessee (WC), Washington (WC) over Tampa Bay, Seattle over NY Giants (WC)
Divisional Round: NE over SD, Indy over Pittsburgh, Dallas over Washington, Seattle over Green Bay
Conference Finals: Dallas over Seattle, NE over Indy
Super Bowl: New England 45, Dallas 24

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"And that's why you never make a Slap Bet with your friend..."

[rubbing hands together maniacally]

2007 World Blogger Championship of Online Poker [sic]
PokerStars Tournament #63028692,
No Limit Hold'em
1337 players
Tournament started - 2007/10/14 - 15:00:00 (ET)

1259: banditshuman (Windsor)
1260: luckyt0aster (Racine)
1261: kacorkiraly (Budapest)
1262: KACKIS (Kaunas)
1263: incandenza (Toronto)
1264: esqulax24 (North Hills)

1265: thomasson88 (Szolnok)
1266: Poprocks1 (Austin)

1267: tenbob (Castlebar)
1268: zpantel69 (Thompsonville)
1269: Horus Player (Loures)
1270: rich042486 (saline)
1271: Kitty6924 (Columbia)
1272: Powder2469 (Columbia)
1273: blahdy (Brno)
1274: Pipe5280 (FCP)
1275: terjeber (Marina del Rey)
1276: sancelle (Fresno)
1277: silenthedges (jacksonville)
1278: inventimes07 (Montreal)
1279: JDwest (Wichita)
1280: ozarkman59 (Desha/Batesville)
1281: seventh_sam (GR)
1282: slickpoker22 (Brooklyn)
1283: Marx767 (Tartu)
1284: GER_Timmey (Marsberg)
1285: psycho_100k (RAILBIRDS)
1286: FiKKer (Madrid)
1287: psychUout (Monster Mansion)
1288: BillyBizzle (Fairport)
1289: Davey52e (stockton)
1290: R U S T 1 D (New Orleans)
1291: Calculated22 (McMinnville)
1292: SunlightS (UK)
1293: SweetsakaSun (Dahlonega Ga )
1294: XAmethyst69X (Westfield)

1295: SmokeWeedman (Railbirds)
1296: $12-JB-12$ (upNorth, stats on~)
1297: SoxLover (Jersey City)
1298: EmperorJoker (London)
1299: NeillyAA (bradford)
1300: lakong (RHE)
1301: StCynic (Stanton)

Shuk, I know you're reading this. Five left.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

But one never knows, after all, now does one, now does one, now does one...

New Fall Shows

To put this early look at the fall 2007 season into perspective and since I was curious/bored, I decided to look up how many hit shows have emerged over the past fifteen years. "Hit" can be described as something that I consider to be good and has lasted for at least two seasons or something that I don't consider to be particular good but has been a ratings hit (see: Anatomy, Grey's; Betty, Ugly). The (admittedly selective) results?
2006: The Hills, Brothers and Sisters, Ugly Betty, Heroes, Friday Night Lights, 30 Rock, Dexter, Deal or No Deal
2005: The Office, Grey's Anatomy, American Dad!, My Name is Earl
2004: The Apprentice [note: am I the only one amazed with the date on this one? I could swear it was about the same age as Survivor], Rescue Me, Lost, Veronica Mars, Desperate Housewives, Boston Legal, House, Deadwood (also, in Canada only, the perfectly serviceable Corner Gas).
2003: The O.C., Nip/Tuck, Carnivale, Cold Case, Arrested Development, Battlestar Galactica, Joan of Arcadia [gone too soon, this one, though the 2nd season was remarkably poor]
2002: The Shield, The Bachelor, Monk, The Wire, Without a Trace, American Idol
2001: Six Feet Under, The Amazing Race, Alias, Scrubs, Smallville, 24
2000: Survivor, Gilmore Girls, CSI, Ed, Curb Your Enthusiasm
1999: The Sopranos, Family Guy, Futurama, The West Wing. Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, Angel, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit
1998: Dawson's Creek, Sex and the City, That 70's Show, Sports Night, Felicity, Will & Grace
1997: The Practice, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, South Park
1996: Everybody Loves Raymond, Spin City
1995: News Radio, Sliders
1994: ER, Friends, Party of Five
1993: Homicide, The X-Files, Lois & Clark, Frasier
1992: The Larry Sanders Show, Mad About You, The Real World

A couple of observations:
1. The 15 year average is 5.0 successful shows. The average over the last five years is 6.6.
2. What the hell, 1992 to 1997? Were all the writers and execs too coked out to produce/green-light quality programs? I had to include Sliders, Spin City, and Lois & Clark to make it look even semi-respectable.
3. And if you think we have it bad now, check out 1991, when the best new show was Home Improvement, followed by, I guess, Blossom and Step by Step tied for number two. Or 1986, when you had L.A. Law (great), Alf (initially entertaining, but quickly tiresome), and Hogan Family. Or 1983, when the cream of the crop was--wait for it--Webster (or, if you prefer, The A-Team). Some lean years...

Anyway, you have to go back to 1997 to find a year when fewer than four debuting shows became major hits and/or critical darlings. As for 2007, I'd be very surprised if even three of these shows lasted for 4+ years. And, on that note, off we go:

Cavemen (Metacritic Score as of October 11th: 15): groan. I actually did watch this--amazingly--twice. But I've got absolutely nothing to say. This show should never have been made--is that succinct enough?

Carpoolers (MC: 37): remember when sitcom characters used to be, you know, semi-believable? Me too! Here? Not so much. Inexplicably, Jerry O'Connell (playing a somewhat unhinged dentist here) appears to have gone to the Seann-William-Scott-in-the-first-hour-of-American-Wedding-school of creepy overacting. Not much else to say--this one is pretty dreadful.

Life (MC: 64): That Damian Lewis is involved (arguably best known for his awesome performance as Captain Winters in Band of Brothers) piqued my interest. I missed the pilot when it aired, but watched a downloaded copy last night. I have to say: pretty....pretty good. Carrie is high on it, and I can't say I disagree. It's a strong (if not wildly original) idea for a series: cop is falsely imprisoned for 12 years, is released, gets a huge settlement, decides to return to the force to become a detective. The way it's structured, we're all but certain to get a standard murder mystery every week, plus development on the genuinely intriguing "who set him up?" front? The writing in the pilot is solid, with a good mix of humor and seriousness, and Lewis (as Det. Charlie Crews) is--predictably--excellent. A couple of issues:
1. I was warned that there was an abundance of scenes where Lewis's character is inexplicably chowing down on fruit. And, sure enough, this is true. Now, it's fine for a TV character to have idiosyncrasies (most great ones do), but when it's actually distracting to the viewer (as it is here), it's time to dial it back.
2. Same goes for Charlie's zen-like tendencies. Again, it's not completely wrong-headed, but it is laid on a bit thick in places.

Chuck (MC: 74): this show is a lot of fun. It's got an Alias vibe going that I really like. (People forget this now--or, given how poorly it always did in the ratings, never knew it in the first place--but Alias could be very funny when it wanted to be.) I like that the spy scenes (featuring Adam Baldwin, probably best known for his work on Angel--Ryan is also forcing me to point out that he was tremendous on Firefly...fine, I will--and who is great here) and the domestic scenes (Morgan, Chuck's sister, Captain Awesome, etc.) are both strong (and, increasingly, overlapping), instead of one serving as filler for the other. Granted, this is a show that's it's probably best you don't think about too much while watching (for instance, who in the government knows about the sensitive computer data that's now in Chuck's brain? How is it possible that Chuck is now the only one who knows this information? Did everyone with Top Secret clearance in the CIA die violently offscreen and we're simply not privy to this information?), but hey, I can handle a bit of suspended disbelief. (I said a bit, Bionic Woman.) Also: the music kicks all kinds of ass (thank you, Josh Schwartz): Gomez, The New Pornographers (and "Challengers" of all songs, too!), The National. Bonus also: Rachel Bilson is slated for a multi-episode arc later this year.

Journeyman (MC: 52): I actually really like this show, and think that it has loads of potential. Yes, it does gratuitously rip off Quantum Leap and The Time-Traveller's Wife, but, in it's defense, it cribs the best stuff (the uncertainty about whose life the hero is actually changing and the slew of paradoxes) and sets the inferior stuff aside (he doesn't, for instance, leap into someone else's body, hence no need for him to become a woman, a bit I now realize--even though my adoration for QL is undying-- is not nearly as uproarious as I once remembered; also, for all its beauty, TTTW--cinematic mangling coming soon! Though the casting is impressive...--was incredibly depressing for the final quarter or so--while, so far, Journeyman remains upbeat.
Now, I'll admit, this show isn't without flaws. Not since the short-lived Reunion, which featured characters wearing pink La Coste shirts with their collars popped...who listened to Duran Duran...and referenced The Cosby Show...and talked about the prowess of the Chicago Bears...and who went to see Out of Africa in an effort to make it clear to the viewers that it was, in fact, 1985 has a show been this heavy-handed when it comes to indicating a shift in time. (Smoking on an airplane while having shaggy hair and listening to KC and the Sunshine Band? Oh, 1975, you're adorable.) But, all told, it's been interesting so far.

Cane (MC: 57): I've heard this described as a "Cuban Dallas." Now, while I understand what those words are trying to convey, I'm not buying it. I like the cast a lot, but I can't get excited for this one. I only watched the pilot (and not even all that closely), so it would be dishonest (and let's not forget: tedious!) for me to go on and on here, but I will make two brief observations.
1. As much as I like Jimmy Smits, Larry Hagman he is not. Oh, he's supposed to be the good guy? Hmmm....he's definitely better than Patrick Duffy. Now I'm not sure what to say...
2. No sense beating around the bush here: the oil industry is inherently more interesting than the sugarcane/rum running business. I refuse to argue about this.

Dirty Sexy Money (MC: 66): to be honest, I had high hopes for this show, which were only heightened when I couldn't get my hands on a screener of the pilot. That said, through three episodes, DSM has been fairly forgettable, to the point where I can't really remember anything that happened in an episode I watched a mere 24 hours ago. Ah, well. However, there's a scene right at the end of episode 2 where Nick (Peter Krause) is struggling to figure out the combination on his dead father's briefcase and Tripp (Donald Sutherland) suggests trying 721, as it's his wife's birthday. This code works, more or less definitively proving that Nick's dad had been having an affair with Tripp's wife for nearly 40 years. Anyway, when the lock snaps open, Sutherland makes a face like he's been simultaneously shot in the heart and kneed in the groin that is just, I don't know, immaculate. It's something that only he could pull off. Whether the show could incorporate this as a regular feature--44 minutes of just Sutherland reaction shots, anyone?--remains to be seen. Episode three re-affirmed that all the Darling kids are almost hopelessly vapid, while Krause's Nick (The alleged Good Guy--we know this because he saved a playground from being bulldozed in the pilot, but, aside from that, I'd simply describe him as less bad than everyone else) simply vacillates between irate and serene (really: almost narcotized), depending on the situation. Something happens right at the end of episode three that'll keep me watching for at least a little while, but, thus far, this one has been a bit of letdown.

Kid Nation (MC: 54): trust me, I'm the most surprised of anyone that I'm hooked on this show. I know the concept sounds ridiculous. I know the idea of "leaving" kids "on their own" for "40 days" is preposterous. I know that it shouldn't be compelling TV...but it is. Maybe it's because part of me thinks that Greg (at 15, he's the oldest--and biggest--contestant) is going to beat the crap out of the town council until they give him his gold star or maybe it's because I think there's a slight chance that Taylor--the precocious 10-year old captain of the yellow team who refuses to make her team cook even when it's very clearly their assigned task and basically just shrugs her shoulders and says "there's nothing you can do about it" when called on it....GOD!--might get herself kicked out of the town (or, alternatively, eaten by the other ravenous children), but I'm going to stick with this one.
Strangely, while the advertisers that bailed initially due to bad press (something about kids drinking bleach or something...I dunno) have jumped back on, the ratings continue to fall, suggesting that this show may not be long for this world. It won't get cancelled (they're nearly halfway through the season already), but season two (my suggested venue: Antarctica--come on, you'd watch...I've been saying this about Survivor for years) seems unlikely at this stage.
Update: several strange things happened in the fourth episode, which aired last night, including: 1. Once again abdicating her responsibilities in the kitchen, Taylor is confronted by members of the green team (the added intrigue being that the green team is pissed that they've lost to the yellow team--the youngest group--in all four competitions and have thus been relegated to seriously menial tasks and thus don't especially care for the yellow team, not to mention certain yellow team members that have gone mad with power). Taylor, impossibly, is pounding back shots (of, it seems, water) in the saloon instead of organizing her team, and throws them what can only be described as a shit-eating grin before replying, in essence, "I don't feel like cooking and there's really nothing you can do about it." And, to a certain extent, she's right, there's nothing the green team can do about it. But: where the hell are the producers? If, say, on Survivor, the Kucha tribe lost the immunity challenge but simply decided not to show up for tribal council, you can bet the producers would jump in pretty quickly. Point being, you can take the hands off approach too far, which is exactly what is happening here.
2. Cody, reading a letter from his girlfriend (including a classy photo), and sobbing rather more than most of us are likely comfortable watching. I'll admit, my first thought was: oh my god, she's dumped him! Alas, no. It turns out that he simply misses her desperately. He's 9, by the way (making his "I've been in love with her since the 3rd grade" comment somewhat less dramatic). Next, we're treated to a hilarious sequence where Cody mopes, then walks to the saloon, then decides to drown his sorrows with a bottle of root beer. Unsurprisingly, Cody decided to leave Bonanza City at episode's end--though, intriguingly, he cited missing his family instead of girlfriend issues. (Wuss.)
3. The kids, upon successful completion of their reward challenge were given a choice between an 18-hole mini-golf course in the city centre or, wait for it, an assortment of religious texts. This was put to a vote, and the kids go for the bibles. The. Fuck? Now, I'm not anti-religion or anything, but short of these children being regular attendees at Jesus Camp, there's absolutely no way that 40 regular kids would opt for King James over the windmill hole. What's going on here? Even more improbably, the vote was followed by several of the kids poring over the texts like they'd received a tip that the Rapture was imminent. I'm too perplexed by this turn of events to even begin to deconstruct it, except to say: this is odd behavior, no?
4. The requisite straw poll asking how many kids are satisfied with the Town Council (which, at this stage, might as well be phrased as: "who doesn't want to punch Taylor right in the mouth?") at the end of the episode revealed that roughly 70% of the kids were not happy with their leaders. At this point, Host Jonathan Karsh basically shrugged his shoulders and completely dropped the topic. Was he just curious? Looking for more fodder for his diary? I'm stumped. More importantly, is there no mechanism in place to replace ineffective/incompetent Town Council members? Are they free to--as Taylor evidently has--fuck off with impunity? Isn't this a semi-major flaw?

Kitchen Nightmares (MC: 66): I don't quite get how someone (Gordon Ramsey) who's an unimaginable asshole on his own televised restaurant program (the very pedestrian Hell's Kitchen--at this stage, I think I can cook a better risotto than the amazingly useless cheftestants they had this season) can, with a straight face, claim the moral high ground, then turn around and criticize chefs and owners (mostly the latter) who behave the exact same way in their own restaurants, but he does...and it works. The high point remains the pilot, where I thought that the jacked co-owner, totally irate at (fair, but harsh) comments made by Ramsey, nearly took a swing at him. To his credit, Ramsey--who I now believe to be a crazy mofo--did not flinch. Now that's good TV.

Bionic Woman (MC: 58): again, underwhelmed with the pilot, thought I'd check out the second episode to see if it was any better. Verdict: no. Aside from an admittedly cool training sequence (and the fact that Katee Sackhoff--aka "Starbuck" from Battlestar Galactica and the "bad" bionic woman here--totally fucking rocks), the second ep was completely unmemorable. (Apparently, the uneven second episode was cobbled together from storylines from two different future episodes, which...whatever. What a stupid excuse. If anything, that makes me angrier. I'm not expecting a Lost-level backstory in terms of complexity and intrigue, but at least put some fucking effort into it. To the writing staff, I have to ask: why did you think it wouldn't be disjointed? You're only three episodes in and you're already running on creative fumes?? This seems especially unforgivable in light of criticisms that the pilot's plot bordered on the incomprehensible.) All past problems (see here) continue to apply. No need to re-hash. Here's a puzzler: there's already talk of Isaiah Washington (whose character has appeared--and blandly at that--in precisely one episode) getting a spinoff. Now...wouldn't it make sense to wait to see if the first show is a hit before creating a second one? I really can't recall NBC execs chomping at the bit to spinoff Joey, can you?

Reaper (MC: 81): the funniest new program of 2007 (though Chuck is a respectable #2 in this department). Good rapport between the kids (Sam, Sock, Andi, and Ben), as well as between Sam and his parents. And, because I've always wanted to say this: Ray Wise is a revelation as Satan. [Check.] Now, could this show get tired? Undoubtedly. If Smallville can teach us nothing else at this stage--and, given that my brother, the lone living dedicated viewer I'm aware of, has officially written this show off, it probably can't--you go so far with the "Freak of the Week" formula. Week One's villain on Reaper was "Fire Guy." Week Two: "Electricity Guy." The Week Three previews lead me to believe it's "Bug Girl" (a twist!) and so forth. Hopefully, Sam's career as a demonic bounty hunter will be fleshed out in upcoming episodes--the show will need to delve into its mythology--a la The X Files--if it intends to thrive.

Gossip Girl (MC: 54): my brother, who claims not to be even a little bit gay, is totally in the tank for this show. He's usually pretty reliable, so we gave the pilot a shot. And... I never thought I'd say this, but I'm kind of finding Kirsten Bell to be a little annoying....though this probably has more to do with the notion of her character running a website for high school students at one particular NYC prep school than anything. Ratings are quite poor (even by CW standards), but GG just received a full season pick-up. Taylor, no doubt, is officially giddy.

Pushing Daisies (MC: 86): Loved the pilot. I'm a little freaked out by what I've heard (Olive sings? Oh, my) about the second episode (haven't seen it yet), but, barring some sort of disastrous collapse in creative output, I'm in this for the long haul.

Back to You (MC: 58): probably not as good as it should be, but better than most sitcoms. I've heard a few critics use the "it's like the Mary Tyler Moore Show, except not as funny" argument, which translates, at least for me, to "it's set in the bullpen of a TV news show." Probably worth watching merely for Fred Willard's three weekly scenes.

The Big Bang Theory (MC: 57): I won't dwell on it, but I still hate this. There's a fun little tidbit from the EW Fall TV Preview where show co-creator Chuck Lorre wanted to make sure that the science stuff the physicists prattle on about is totally accurate. Commendable, really (heaven forbid their extended and torturous discussion about the science goofs in Superman be inaccurate on top of being completely boring), but I humbly suggest a better allocation of his time: make the fucking show funnier!!
Proving, of course, how out of touch I am, TBBT consistently outdraws the vastly-superior-on-every- conceivable-level How I Met Your Mother (its lead-in) by several million viewers, and will likely only grow in strength once its timeslot competition (the ratings juggernaut that is Dancing With the Stars) finishes in December, so it seems as though this one is here to stay (for now). Downer.
Update: the week three numbers seem to have levelled off, as TBBT and HIMYM both got an 8 share this week, suggesting that people have, I don't know, perhaps come to their senses? Initially, I begrudgingly had TBBT among the shows destined for multiple seasons, but the more I think about, the less I think this will come to pass, as the novelty of listening to highly techincal discussions about everyday life (at best, this is one of those SNL sketches that pitches well but has no business lasting eight and a half minutes) seems to be wearing off.

Of the 15 listed, here's how I see it shaking down (though I'll qualify my observations by saying that, for many of these shows, it's too soon to tell):

Cancelled Mid-Season: Carpoolers, Cavemen, Kitchen Nightmares, Journeyman (though it has the potential to be the Kidnapped of the summer 2008 DVD season), Cane (apparently tanking among 18-49s, which is disastrous from a marketing standpoint)

One and Done: Kid Nation, Dirty Sexy Money (this would easily be in the above category were it not for Krause and Sutherland), Bionic Woman (I think this show is in more trouble than people realize), The Big Bang Theory

Multiple Seasons: Chuck (if it holds for this season, I foresee an Alias-like run: five years, middling ratings, TWOP-darling, etc.), Reaper, Back to You, Gossip Girl, Life

Full-Fledged Hits: Pushing Daisies (maybe)