April 2008 Archives

The depressed Swedish detectives over at Nuts & Boalts are claiming to have exposed a scandal of sorts regarding Telebears (the computerized, appointment-based system for signing up for classes), namely that Telebears appointments are not determined randomly but instead are ordered based on student ID numbers.

The reason this is angrifying people is the fact that Cal alumni (and apparently people who applied to Cal as undergraduates and either didn't get in or didn't enroll) retain their original SID numbers when they enroll at Boalt. I remember being surprised when this happened to me -- I was not only given my original SID number, but I was also given the opportunity to reactivate my dopey undergraduate email address ("fergus13," named after the dog from "Citizen Dog," in case you were wondering). Because SID numbers are assigned sequentially and not re-used, the upshot of this is that Boalt students with a previous connection to Berkeley have much lower SID numbers than Boalties who attended less cool colleges, and so the latter group is stuck with later appointment times and fewer options for classes. Given the large number of Cal alumns who seek a second degree at Boalt, this is a non-trivial disadvantage for people new to the university.

Whether this is actually true remains to be seen, of course. But if it is true, it's a terrible way to assign appointments, made all the worse by the fact that the official line from the law school is that appointments are assigned randomly. I can see using this approach for undergraduate Telebears, since undergrads are all in more or less the same boat when it comes to their SIDs (though this would marginally incentivize enrolling early). It would even make sense if all Boalt students got brand new SIDs. But the current system (if, indeed, the current system is as described by N&B) is just no good.

. . . and the Law [of] Lost

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Hey! You!

Have you ever wondered what the multi-platform narrative of Lost has to say about the constitutionality of government censorship of broadcast content?

Have you been dying to see a scholarly legal discussion of SNL's "Dick in a Box"?

Do you have a few minutes to spare to read a five-page article written by a guy you might know?

Is the computer you're using right now equipped to handle Adobe PDF documents?

If the answer to any, all, or none of these questions is "Yeah, I guess," click here and enbetter your life.

50 Greatest Sketches of All Time

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Some website I've never heard of has teamed up with the Independent Film Channel (that authoritative repository of sketch comedy) to compile a list of the purported 50 Best Comedy Sketches Evar!. (Hat tip wt). My hatred of Top X _____ of All Time lists is long-standing and well-documented, and being an avid fan of sketch comedy I feel the need to comment.

Monty Python, not surprisingly, is all over the list, and [SPOILER!!!], the number one sketch is the Parrot Sketch, which makes perfect sense. This sketch is one of the purest and best-executed examples of the "Wacky Guy vs. Normal Guy in a Shop, Wherein the Wackiness of Wacky Guy Causes Normal Guy to Become Hilariously Exasperated" motif that formed the basis of so many classic Monty Python sketches (think Travel Agent, Book Shoppe, Fish License) and influenced a great deal of other sketch troupes going forward. Many of my favorite Kids in the Hall sketches, for example, are just Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald acting out Wacky Guy vs. Normal Guy (with Dave almost always the Wacky Guy, which is all the more effective given that Kevin is objectively wackier). One such sketch is "Citizen Kane," which also makes the list. So, I approve of the top prize going to the Parrot.

In Living Color makes a single appearance on the list, and it's a Jim Carrey parody of Vanilla Ice. I know not everything needs to be political, but come on. They dust off In Living Color, a ground-breaking show lampooning black urban stereotypes, and the best they can come up with is the show's one white guy making fun of a white rapper? How about Homey the Clown? The Brothers Brothers? I mean, really.

Upright Citizens Brigade also makes a single appearance, which is an underrepresentation as far as I'm concerned. There were plenty of great UCB sketches, though I recognize the difficulty of teasing them out. One of the brilliant things about that show was the fact that each thirty-minute episode had an overarching plot that the sketches were generally woven into, so some of the jokes are lost without context. Still, they could have tried a little harder. "Poo Stick" would have been good to include.

I still have trouble thinking of Saturday Night Live as anything but terrible, since I stopped watching several years ago when it actually was (at that time it was virtually indistinguishable from the unwatchable MadTV). I realize it's gotten better recently, but I'm still prejudiced against it. Still, the SNL sketches they chose to include are pretty solid, and there's a good mix of the classic 1970s sketches with the newer things. Number fifty is "Cowbell," an inevitable choice for the list. "Cowbell" is one of those things that's funny as a self-contained sketch but has been ruined by popular overreaction to it. I also kind of resent the fact that, since "Cowbell," on-set giggling by the actors has apparently become a legitimate basis for comedy. Today's sketchers, alas, lack the discipline of their predecessors.

I'm glad that the State is well-represented, and that "Porcupine Racetrack" made the cut. I would like to have seen the Unauthorized Biography of Abraham Lincoln, but you can't have everything. The scene where John Wilkes Booth walks in on Abraham Lincoln having sex with Robert E. Lee's wife, leading Lincoln to yell "John Wilkes Booth! I'll kill you for what you've seen here!" is still one of my favorite things I've ever seen on television.

Many of the performers, I must admit, I've either never seen or never heard of. The Catherine Tate Show has a sketch called "The Ginger Refuge," which I know by the title I would absolutely hate. At some point I'm going to write a blog post about how much I hate the word "ginger" and how stupid the new trend of ginger humor is, from the perspective of a redhead like myself.

I think that's all I have to say. Lists are stupid and sketch comedy is rad.

Voila Mon Passport*

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I got my Irish passport yesterday. My nationality is listed thereon as "√ČIREANNACH/IRISH."

You know what this means, folks. At the first sign of trouble I'm out of here. For good.

*

A home-made ice cream parlour recently opened near our house, so last night Dr. M and I went over to check it out. Among the flavors available last night was something called "Beer Me," which I initially dared to assume was beer-flavored ice cream. I suspected, with some despair, that it might be root beer-flavored as opposed to proper beer-flavored, so I requested a sample. Sure enough, it was beer. With pretzel sticks in it (more on that later).

After some momentary hemming and hawing I decided to go with a full serving of the beer ice cream, since (1) I'm always interested in trying new and bizarre forms of junk food and (2) I've been a vanilla fan all my life and I've made it my business to branch out to other ice cream flavors.

So, the beer ice cream. It tasted like beer. Exactly like beer. Not high quality beer, of course, since it would be decidedly uneconomical to waste the good stuff on ice cream, but the taste was authentic nonetheless. I speculated, though didn't verify, that they actually used some sort of non-alcoholic beer to keep it family-friendly (though I probably wouldn't let my child eat beer ice cream, if only because he or she would probably hate it and I'd be hearing about it for the rest of the night). I won't say that the beer ice cream was a uniformly positive experience, but I also can't say that it wasn't good. I probably won't order it again, not because it was bad, but because when I'm in the mood for ice cream I want something smooth and sweet, not beer-you-can-eat-with-a-spoon. It would be like steak ice cream. I like steak, but when I want ice cream I don't want steak.

Also, the pretzel sticks, while somewhat clever and certainly ambitious, were a total dud. They added some nice saltiness to the flavor (which would have been more effective if the ice cream were decidedly sweet as opposed to beer-bitter), but the delivery mechanism consisted of small, intrusive bits of soggy bread. A valiant effort, local home-made ice cream shoppe, but better luck next time.

Dr. M went with chocolate chip, and concluded that the chip-to-ice cream ratio was far too high. It seemed like she was eating a cup of chocolate chips with some ice cream mixed in.

We will probably return, since the overall product was of high quality even if the specific flavor executions needed work. But we'll probably stick with the more garden-variety -- dare I say, vanilla -- flavors going forward.

Lawyer Mode Activated

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Sometimes I find that it's hard to turn off being a lawyer. For example, Dr. M and I had the following exchange yesterday while watching Murder, She Wrote*:

Me: (Upon spotting Eileen Brennan making a guest appearance) Hey! It's Mrs. White!
Her: Oh yeah! I thought that name looked familiar. Eileen Brennan.
...
Me: I meant Mrs. Peacock, not Mrs. White.
Here: I know what you meant.
Me: I know, I'm just correcting the record.

I should also note that the few times that I have watched Murder, She Wrote have always included at least one "Hey! It's..."

* I don't want to hear it.

Cohen v. California in T-Shirt Form

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I'm tempted to buy this and wear it to a courthouse, just to see what happens.

(Cohen v. California, in case you're wondering, is the case where the Supreme Court decided that curse-words are protected by the First Amendment.)

You know, now that I think about it, "One Man's Vulgarity" would be a great name for a legal-themed blog. So would "Another Man's Lyric" for that matter.

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This page is an archive of entries from April 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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