Two and Half Men hit a new low every season and then continued to sink even further underground. During this last season, the show went off the rails in terms of absurdity and offensiveness. After a death scare, Walden decides that he wants to adopt a child and, since he’d have more luck if he were married, he and Alan decide to wed and adopt the child together. What follows are a plethora of obvious jokes, mostly at Alan’s expense — no one is surprised that he married a man; they all assumed he was gay already — as he girlishly demands a fancy wedding, fawns over his new husband, and brags about Walden’s attractiveness to everyone he can. Isn’t that funny, these two straight men playing gay for a roaring laugh track? It’s as low as the show can go but then, again, it goes lower. (SL Grantland)
"And forget the relaxed cheeriness of the context that slotted them into the yacht-rock ranks with Loggins & Messina and the Doobie Brothers — shared sessionman personnel and L.A. neighborliness notwithstanding, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were New York to the core, all Brill Building gone Burroughs, using the language of pop as their foot in the door to ease in creepier, more unsettling things. No amount of multi-tracked studio trickery, woodshedder scrubbed-up arrangements, or perfectionist, precise ultra-virtuoso slickness could really obscure the existential dread and hip-panic self-consciousness that made their lyrics resonate. So they piled on as much gloss as they could, stitched together all manners of hopped-up jazz and rhythm & blues permutations into the weave of their sound, and infiltrated the subconsciousness of future yuppies everywhere like some kind of Manchurian Candidate virus to make them eventually realize there’s futility in optimism." Steely Dan albums from worst to best. (You're seeing them at Coachella this year, right?)
"'I'm not that kind of guy. He was a physical man,' Hackman said of Popeye [Doyle] in the Ebert interview. 'We had to go back and re-shoot the first two days of scenes because I hadn't gotten into the character enough. I wasn't physical enough.'" (Steven Hyden's piece on actor Gene Hackman at Grantland.) [more inside]
During the interview, Manson brought up the Doors before I did, calling Morrison “my whole inspiration” back when he first started writing poetry as a teenager. Later in life, Manson plugged into keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger; the trio jammed on some Doors songs in 2012, giving Manson serious Lizard King vibes. “They just went with me,” he said. “That’s what they did with Jim because he was chaos and they were the tornado, and they just had to go with it. They didn’t really have any choice.”
"Great athletes sometimes find themselves in these clarifying final acts. Shaq retired in a cloud of chummy nonchalance. Jordan went out on a play that completed the perfection of his all-important legacy (and then came back to screw it up, in a move that told us just as much about what drove him). Most of the time, though, careers wind down in ways that mean nothing except that time is passing. Remember Karl Malone in Los Angeles? This season is the distillation of the go-it-alone challenge Kobe set for himself back when O’Neal and Phil Jackson left L.A., or even sooner — Kobe, remember, is the star player who invited none of his teammates to his wedding. (It’s a wonder he invited his wife.) He can’t win, a fact that has no apparent bearing on the fury with which he is trying. We’re seeing Kobe stripped of everything except the will to succeed, a will that persists despite being hopeless. We’re seeing him face his doom with a fearlessness that is ludicrous, profane, and maybe slightly inspiring. We’re seeing the existential Kobe Bryant." Grantland's Brian Phillips on Kobe Bryant. [more inside]
Ever Say Never Again: On the History and Future of James Bond, by Brian Philiips [previously]
In the spring of 1984, Davis caught an 8.7-pound bass in the KYKX Big Bass Classic. It wasn’t big enough to stuff and mount on the wall, but it was big enough to qualify for the $105,000 first prize. Winning two major bass fishing tournaments in less than a year? He was lucky. He was ecstatic. He was in deep shit. The Weight of Guilt.
“im bored of the old men threatening young women as entertainment trend and much more interested in the young women getting $ trend. zzzz”
Wesley Morris & Rembert Browne over at Grantland have an amazing email discussion on the meaning of the Bill Cosby sexual assault revelations.
Grantland: "This is the Animated Movie Sadness Index. It’s very simple, though perhaps easy to get confused by. This is not a ranking of sad moments from animated movies. For example: Charlotte dying in Charlotte’s Web was a sad moment. But Charlotte wasn’t a sad character, nor was Wilbur, so they aren’t here. Because this Sadness Index charts characters with sad backstories — tragic figures with dark histories, who endure the most awful of circumstances."
A sumo wrestling tournament. A failed coup ending in seppuku. A search for a forgotten man. How one writer’s trip to Japan became a journey through oblivion. [slGrantland]
The amateurs will split $2,250 in prize money, plus two of them will qualify to compete at nationals, which take place in October at Circus Circus in Reno. The pros will split $14,000. They will lift tire barbells like the ones the amateurs are lifting right now, except heavier. They will also lift or press or carry 220-pound dumbbells, a 340-pound metal log, and an unwieldy 300-pound hunk of I-beam the contestants can’t quite figure out how to get their arms around. They will toss sand-filled beer kegs of increasing heft — 35 pounds at first, all the way up to 70 — up and over a high bar between goalposts adorned with the flags of Indiana and the United States. They will drag a 700-pound metal chain you could use to bind a kraken. The life of the seventh strongest man in the world.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’ Running Diary: An Unblinking Journey of Autumnal Despair Schroeder, a musical Faust, bangs away at a toy piano, coaxing impossible, darkly miraculous tones from the infernal instrument. The Devil’s notes pour out from his fingers like the blood offering from a slaughtered goat above the sacrifice-font. Snoopy, utterly helpless in the music’s thrall, dances and weeps, dances and weeps. He stumbles back out into the night, disoriented. The music, the music.
Just in time for the new season, it's The NBA Fan’s Guide to Talking Trash During Pickup Basketball
Bill Simmons returns to ESPN today after a three-week suspension for calling Roger Goodell a liar. There's a lot of speculation over his next move.
"This is a column about Katie Ledecky. It has a simple thesis. The thesis is that Katie Ledecky kicks ass."
On December 10, 1810, in a muddy field around 25 miles from London, a fight took place that was so dramatic, controversial, and ferocious that it continues to haunt the imagination of boxing more than 200 years later.A long-form article in Grantland tells the story of freed American slave and boxer Tom Molineaux in England of the early 19th century.
The butt-shakingly over the top video for Nicki Minaj's Anaconda (Previously) was released recently and while there's been discussion if it re-claims the twerk or refuses the male gaze, video artist Jeff Osborne has put the song into its 90s "Baby's Got Back" pop culture context with appearances by Jessica Rabbit, Beavis And Butthead, and more. (all videos quite NSFW) [more inside]
Sports and pop culture junkies Bill Simmons and Rembert Browne visit the 2014 National Sports Collector's Convention.
The history of soccer in the First World War — which began in earnest 100 years ago this month — is a history of two worlds in unresolvable tension. It’s the story of a failed metaphor. Soccer in Oblivion.
The Case for CDs -- as CD sales continue to plummet, Grantland's Steven Hyden takes a "glass-half-full perspective" on those numbers, discusses format nostalgia, and the five types of albums that justify the continued existence of CDs. [more inside]
On July 5, 2014, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal will premiere on Japanese streaming site Nico Nico Douga and on Hulu Plus 17 years, 4 months, and 27 days after the final episode of Sailor Moon: Sailor Stars aired in 1997. No disrespect to J.J. Abrams, but this is the most important resurrected franchise of the decade. Any questions? The opening and transformation sequence have been leaked and can be seen here.
Grantland's longform piece on former Philadelphia high school basketball superstar Eddie Griffin, whose brief career and life ended in 2007 when he crashed his SUV into a train. [more inside]
Competitive board gamers are a serious lot. Perhaps none are more serious than the players of the most ruthless and harrowing board game of all: Diplomacy.
Hack-a-Shaq, inconsistent officiating, poisoned room service, and the road to the last NBA three-peat: Grantland's oral history of the 2002 Western Conference finals. [more inside]
Bill Simmons, Grantland boss and 30 for 30 executive producer, went from a little known Boston blogger to one of the most successful sports writers in the history of American media. Rolling Stone's Rob Tannenbaum took a deeper look at Simmons.
"Dylan was bad in the '80s because to be anything else would've been dishonest." Steven Hyden (who else?) has found a way to appreciate '80s Dylan: "It's about appreciating the subtext of records that are more fun to think about than to listen to."
"If you were a sexually repressed British butler, then you were well represented in British cinema, but otherwise there was nothing for young people." Grantland invites Paul WS Anderson to reflect on the highlights of a 20-year directing career by picking out his favorite scenes. [more inside]
More than 50 million Americans play pool on a regular basis, according to L. Jon Wertheim’s Running the Table. Yet this is maybe the worst shape the sport has ever been in. More detrimental than just dwindling tournament fields, it’s the shuttering of pool halls, the disappearance of pool on television, the absence of any endorsement deals for top players. It isn’t at all clear how such a beloved game can be in such dire straits. But it is. Can't Knock The Hustle: Earl Strickland, Scooter Goodman, and the struggle for the soul of pool.
Databall. With an ocean of new statistical information available, the NBA could be on the verge of understanding the value of every single movement on the court.
So Money. An oral history of Swingers.
Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt invented a radical new golf putter. But Dr. Vanderbilt may not be exactly whom she seems to be....
The Year of the Crush: How the Radically Unfair Candy Crush Saga Took Over Our Lives We are clearly drawn to structured entanglements with chance. We use rules and money to define the stakes, and we use cards or dice or candies not as generators but as channelers — mediums — of the chance we believe is already out there, secretly running the show. Despite whatever other beliefs we have about fate or God or a deterministic universe, we often act as if luck is quite real in our daily lives. Candy Crush Saga has capitalized on this to become the mobile game of the year. Not the best, nor the worst, but the mobile game that dominated the charts, that succeeded at free-to-play in a way that will be studied for years, that penetrated the wider culture and came to stand in for all of addictive, time-wasting mobile gaming in 2013. And yet Candy Crush is not simply game of the year in the way that Stalin was once Time’s Person of the Year. It’s a genuinely compelling game that fully commits to radical unfairness. In fact, this is the primary source of its appeal.
Watch as Billy on the Street's Billy Eichner and his Parks and Recreation pal Amy Poehler terrorize people on the streets of Manhattan by forcibly conscripting them into an ad hoc caroling group.... (Begins at 1:25)
"Glover feels that the Internet has cut him off from the experience of feeling truly alive, and he believes he can express this feeling only on the Internet." Steven Hyden reviews Childish Gambino's Because The Internet - and ruminates on social media's "hunger that can't ever be satisfied."
A 30 for 30 short tells the story of the husband and wife team who created MLB's schedule every year for two decades, using only pencil and paper.
Grantland visits the set of Eastbound & Down on the eve of its fourth (and final) season. "The canon of post–Tony Soprano TV antiheroes is well established with your Walter Whites and your Don Drapers. Now, with Eastbound & Down sailing into the sunset, there is Kenny Powers. He was a crass, craven, and mean-spirited buffoon — and he was our buffoon. As he fumbled, fought, and fucked — his flabby arms protruding out of cutoffs, jorts hanging just so — he carried the mantle of the Ugly American. But this was neither a tribute nor a judgment. It was a love letter to this particular American way."
"Once upon a time, playing a GTA game was like sitting next to your offensive Republican uncle at Christmas dinner. He was definitely a dick but also smart and interesting, and his heart was fundamentally in the right place. These days Uncle GTA is a billionaire with an unchanged shtick, and he seems a hell of a lot more mean-spirited than before."
—A letter to Niko Bellic about Grand Theft Auto V
—A letter to Niko Bellic about Grand Theft Auto V
A Week With Action Bronson 'A highly stoned, deeply weird, very food-obsessed three days on the road with 300-pound Albanian American rapper Action Bronson' (SLGrantland)
Grantland writers put in their two cents on the all-time great drinking scenes in TV and movies (Available on Youtube Edition). [more inside]
It's amazing, isn't it? Just when you think this photo shoot has peaked — that Donovan's inert lower lip or Mathis's oddly bendy face have set an unsurpassable standard — it finds a way to top itself, in this case by dressing a hulking, be-dreadlocked defensive midfielder in Stormtrooper underleggings and a miniaturized I Love Lucy housedress and convincing him to make unhurried love to a set of stadium bleachers. If "The Boys of Soccer" were Maradona, this would be his England game. Grantland investigates the greatest sports photoshoot of all time.
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