For some bizarre reason, and in spite of some confusion, games three and four of the Stanley Cup Final aired on NBC Sports Network. The first two games had been on NBC. Lord only knows where game five will be. They like to keep their fans guessing.

I swear, pro hockey has some of the worst marketing… It’s one thing to air your championship on non-free TV. That’s a mistake, in my opinion, but it can be lucrative, so I get it. But at least be consistent! They can’t even manage that. Why would you put part of the series on one channel and the rest on another? It’s like they are actively trying to make the sport difficult to follow.

Hockey is a great sport, but the way it’s managed is highly questionable. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: If I were in charge, I’d have a 20-game regular season, followed by a single-elimination tournament, televised either on one of the major over-the-air networks or ESPN. The tournament would begin the week after football season ends and be over by mid-March.

It will never happen, though, for obvious financial reasons. But I bet it would increase the popularity of the sport–and hence, the profitability–over the long-run.

I only ever read two things by him: Fahrenheit 451, which I frankly didn’t think was very good, and “The October Game”, which was well-written but way too dark, even for my tastes. He also seemed, at times, like something of a luddite.

But Bradbury liked the atmosphere of the fall and Halloween, apparently, and that’s definitely true of me as well. Someday, I’ll have to give Something Wicked This Way Comes a try.

And another thing I’ll say for the man: he came up with some awesome titles. I may not have liked Fahrenheit, but it’s a good title. Scanning his bibliography on Wikipedia, I see tons of titles that I know nothing about, but which intrigue me quite a bit.

I honestly cannot believe that Hollywood has been reduced to making movies based on board games. I haven’t seen the movie, but from the trailer it’s not clear to me if it has anything to do with the game “Battleship” besides the license and the fact that it has battleships in it. I’d say this is the clearest sign yet that they’re running out of ideas.

So, what other board or pen-and-paper guessing games could get the Hollywood treatment? I’m thinking “Parcheesi” myself. Although they could also do an adaptation of “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and say it’s a “Hangman” movie. The posters almost make themselves:

Last week in Scotland, there was an academic conference on the Harry Potter series. The Guardian reports:

Billed as the world’s first conference to discuss Harry Potter strictly as a literary text [as opposed to what?–MM], almost 50 lectures are lined up, with academics taking on issues including paganism, magic and the influence on Rowling of CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien and Shakespeare. Seminar titles range from “Moral development through Harry Potter in a post-9/11 world”  to “Harry Potter and Lockean civil disobedience”.

The article goes on to quote Prof. John Mullan of University College London as saying: “[The participants] should be reading Milton and Tristram Shandy: that’s what they’re paid to do.”

Well, I’m sure the world will manage to struggle on despite some professors not reading their Milton and Tristram Shandy for a few days. Somehow, I don’t think those works will change much over that time frame, so I don’t think there’s a lot of urgency.

It is not that literary analysis is a useless pursuit–I have often engaged in a bit of it myself, in my amateurish way–it is just the rather odd, almost arbitrary mechanism by which things are deemed worthy of it (or not) that annoys people.

Why shouldn’t our friendly neighborhood professors spend a little time reading the adventures of Harry Potter, in lieu of another go-round with Paradise Lost? Is it because they are not as good as the works of Milton? Perhaps they are not. But how can you claim that, without first having subjected them to the same scrutiny that has been applied to Milton’s work? They could give their profession a much greater reputation for academic rigor if they did that, I think. Prof. Mullan’s idea is somewhat akin to astronomers continually proving to this day that the Earth does in fact orbit the Sun, and smacking down any loose talk about this “Sloan Great Wall“.

Not that Potter is as good as the classic Great Works–it isn’t, in my opinion, but who is to say that they won’t one day come along with something that is better than those old books? It could happen, you know, but academia won’t find out about it unless they analyze them. And even if they never actually do get surpassed, you don’t need to keep reading and writing about them over and over to be sure.

This conference is, nevertheless, a bit ridiculous. I know I sound like a Tea Partier saying this, but there is a vague touch of elitism about the whole thing: “We are academics! We can discuss this book series better than you (dare I say it?) ‘muggles’ can.”

I don’t mean to imply it isn’t worth doing, because they’re professional critics. The ridiculousness of the situation derives less from the fact that they’re discussing Harry Potter and more from the fact that academic literary criticism in general is fairly ridiculous. It is for this reason that so many people think the entire profession is useless and stupid, when in fact it is only that they are using the wrong techniques. And the reason they are using the wrong techniques, I suspect, is that they are mostly analyzing old texts, and consequently have to reach further and further for new topics that haven’t been addressed before. There are only so many ways you can say “Hamlet is really quite interesting.”

Unfortunately, the techniques honed by critics for doing this are the only tools available to those critics who would write about something slightly newer such as Harry Potter. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde’s assessment of the United States: “critical analysis of Harry Potter went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.” (There was, I am sure, a “Golden Age” of Shakespeare analysis. It was probably in the 1700s.)

I don’t really know why it’s such a big deal, all told.  Amateurs on fan sites were analyzing the Harry Potter books well before this and will continue to do so. Academics may join in if they like, or not. It doesn’t much matter.

I watched the season finale of Sherlock 2 last night. I watched the adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles the week before that, and I watched the first installment of the first season when it aired, but I haven’t seen the rest of the series.

My thoughts on what I’ve seen: the acting is all very good, but the characters are often unpredictable. In the finale, for instance, it seems absurd that Lestrade, after trusting Sherlock all that time, would so easily be willing to believe that he committed the crimes. Also, Sherlock shows too much emotion too often.

Moreover, the attempt to update the stories works pretty well for the most part, but every now and again, there are some rough patches. The solution to the “Baskerville” one felt especially bad. In terms of satisfying the audience, it was barely any better than one of the solutions found in Stephen Leacock‘s humorous survey of the mystery genre:  “the murder had been committed by somebody else altogether different.”

They do a pretty good job of updating it to the real world without being too obnoxious with the “Sherlock Holmes has a cell phone” aspect, but it still feels pretty much pointless to me.

As for what Sherlock did at the conclusion of the finale, I assume that his words to Watson “keep your eyes on me” are of significance, but I don’t know all the details. The trouble is, after the “Baskerville” episode, pretty much anything is on the table, so there’s really not much point in speculating. For all we know, Watson is dreaming the whole thing.

All in all, I can’t help bu think they would have been better off writing a new series with new characters–still the same actors, of course–than trying to re-do something that’s been done too many times already. The only “Sherlock Holmes in the modern day” riff that I’ve ever thought was really good was the one with John Cleese, The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It.

I read this Slate review of the movie Crooked Arrows, which is apparently a fairly predictable movie about lacrosse. I’d never heard of it till I saw the article. But from this review, it seems that it simply reinforces what I’ve said before about sports movies being dull and predictable.

I still like my idea for a movie about a super dominant team that destroys their plucky opposition. I envision a football movie, about a team on a quest for its second undefeated season in a row. I’m thinking it would be a musical, with the big number sung by the half-Lombardi-esque, half-Belichickean head coach. (I’ve thought about this too much.)

Even that would just be a satire of the sports movie genre, though. It couldn’t be a lasting formula for films, just a one-off. The problem is that sports are dramatic affairs themselves. And they’re more dramatic than movies, because they are harder to predict. If Hollywood had written it, the Cardinals would have beaten the Steelers. The Giants and Patriots wouldn’t have even been in it last year in the movies. The unpredictability is what makes it good.

I think the best sports movies are the ones that involve rigging and corruption in the game. That way, the drama of the game is subjugated to serve the larger drama of behind-the-scenes machinations. Political issues and sports might work, too. I’ve never seen all of Invictus, but I’ve watched some scenes from it, and it seems pretty good because of the larger political issues at stake in the movie. The outcome of the big game doesn’t even matter to the real point of the movie, because it’s more about what the South African rugby team means to the country.

Figures I’d have to find a way to work conspiracies and political intrigue into my sports movies, doesn’t it?


Over at Thingy’s blog, she and Sue J. are discussing the new Three Stooges film. Neither of them are big Stooges fans. I can’t say that I consider them the height of comedy, but I usually do find their little flicks good for a chuckle. The above clip is a good example; it’s four minutes of labored jokes and contrived misunderstandings, but Curly’s last line is pretty funny.

In general, I’ve noticed that men tend to be much more amused by the Stooges’ antics than women are. Maybe women have more sophisticated senses of humor than men do.

I think my favorite Stooges short was “Goofs and Saddles”, a western-themed outing at the conclusion of which Curly knocks a box of bullets into a meat grinder, which miraculously works like a machine gun, and forces their pursuers to retreat. So, not exactly the most understated and urbane humor ever.

Maybe it’s the slapstick violence; after all, I think women in general tend to prefer less violence in their entertainment than do men. Thus, it amuses the male of the species when Moe hits Curly on the head with, for instance, a sledgehammer and the sound of a loud bell is heard, but the female thinks it is just stupid. Or maybe it’s that women know that when kids see the Stooges, their first instinct will be to imitate them. Women know this is unlikely to end well. I hate to resort to stereotypes like that, though, so maybe it’s something else.

That said, I do not intend to see the new Three Stooges flick, which looks moronic without being charming. Frankly, I don’t understand why it was ever made, for almost precisely the same reasons I don’t understand why the movie Game Change was made.

Entertainment Weekly has a slideshow of movie errors that bother people. I have to say, most of them are quite minor, and the sort of thing very few people would notice. (The one about Pi did bother me, though.)

But I guess we all have different things that annoy us in movies. I never did understand why the giant laser guns in Revenge of the Sith seem to be ejecting casings. That makes no sense.

The best errors, though, usually come in movies about some historical event, like people wearing wristwatches in the movie Spartacus. The most glaring examples I can think of come from the movie Battle of the Bulge, in which the German tanks are actually American M47s. Even more jarring is the fact that the final stage of the battle appears to be fought in a desert. There is, as far as I know, no desert in the Ardennes.

But some people probably wouldn’t be bothered at all by things like that. For one thing, in the EW article, a lot of people mentioned being bothered by characters going in the wrong direction to reach their supposed destination. I have a lousy sense of direction, so I would never notice that kind of thing.

What kind of movie errors irritate you?

The Time magazine “100 most influential people” list is out.

As always, it looks to me like they just took leaders of major countries, a few politicians and ministers from those countries, and then filled up the rest with names of celebrities.

How is Jeremy Lin “influential”? Sure, he’s famous and he’s a good basketball player. But very few people will make substantive changes to their lives based on the actions of Jeremy Lin. At most, he can make a minor impact on the economy through fluctuations in ticket and merchandise sales. But that money would probably be spent anyway, and Jeremy Lin is simply a substitute for some other sports-related thing. People will say he’s inspirational because of what he’s achieved, but if that’s the case, who inspired him to achieve it in the first place? Or maybe he didn’t need inspiration.

I have no problem with Jeremy Lin; he seems like a nice guy. I just don’t see his influence.

It’s hilarious; I was clicking through the list and I went from Kristen Wiig to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Wiig is an actress and comedienne. Kennedy is, in all probability, the man who is going to decide whether  30 million people shall have health insurance or not. I just don’t see how Wiig can possibly be within 100 people of him in terms of influence.

You can take it from me; I’m an expert on having no influence.

I have a confession to make, my fellow liberals: I have never liked Keith Olbermann.

I agree with most of his political opinions, of course. But for some reason, he always seemed like a jerk to me. I feel bad saying that about a guy I never met, but he just does. I could never stand to watch his show Countdown on MSNBC or Current TV for very long; I mean, sure, he was very witty and clever in mocking various Republicans, which of course is something I am quite in favor of, but the guy just annoyed me. He has a way of speaking always slightly too loudly. (A trait he shares with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, although Olbermann does at least have a better speaking voice) Everything Olbermann said and did on his show seemed so overly theatrical, it was hard to take him seriously at all.

I also thought he was incredibly obnoxious on NBC’s Football Night in America. It seemed like he only had three or four jokes that he used every Sunday night during the highlights. I always dreaded when anybody fumbled the ball just because I knew Olbermann was going to say “so-and-so is stripped–fortunately only of the football.” It was funny the first ten times, man.

I suspect he actually is a jerk; at least, that would explain why he keeps getting fired from every network he goes to.

But at least he is partially responsible for Rachel Maddow getting her altogether superior liberal talk-show. That’s something to his credit.