THE BIGGER THEY ARE, THE HARDER THEY FLOP

I saw the remade The Green Hornet last night. Superhero movies don’t have a great batting average with my taste, but the trailers promised it would be a humourous encounter, so I was willing to give it a try.

In the past, I’ve found the Hornet’s star, Namesake Rogen, to be likeable and funny (more so, generally, than the scripts he’s in). In this performance, Namesake’s bumbling superhero persona is paired with a highly skilled sidekick, Kato, who can design their supercar, drive it like a stuntman, and then perform magical martial arts on the enemy. Kato (played by Taiwanese musician, Jay Chou) has his own charm, but his limited grasp on the language of the movie (English) forces Rogen’s Green Hornet to take on the primary role of entertaining us during non-action sequences.

This is the tragic flaw of the film as Rogen seems to be feeling the pressure to make his lines big and hilarious in every moment of every scene to make up for his partner’s lack of contribution. The result is somewhat painful as Rogen’s over-the-top efforts are too big to be humourous more often than chance; and so, neither is the movie.

THE BETTER PERSON

Several times now I’ve heard articulate TSN hockey commentator, Pierre McGuire, comment during a hockey telecast that a certain performer is not only a great player,

“…but an even better person!”

This irks me each time because, although I don’t doubt that the athlete possesses a delightful personality, I can’t help wondering if Mr. McGuire is taking liberties with his definitions: it seems to me that a hockey player would have to be a pretty awesome human being to outshine the hockey skills that have gotten them into professional hockey.

My concern was brought to rant, then, when McGuire referred to superstar, Steven Stamkos (who is currently the league’s second leading scorer) by this same “even better person” claim.

So let me get this straight. According to my friend Wik, there’s well over 1.44 million registered ice hockey players world wide, and Stamkos is probably one of the top 10 best of those people. That is to say, he’s in the approximately 99.9993th percentile of hockey players. But he’s an even better person! So he’s in at least the 99.9994th percentile of human beings. He’s basically the best person in a 145,000 person radius! Not bad for a 20 year old!

It is of course possible that a hockey player (Trevor Linden) is as great at being a human as he is at playing hockey, but it seems a fairly daunting task, and so I can’t help wondering how exactly Pierre McGuire defines the words “even better person.” I’m guessing Mr. Stamkos is very likable and easy to be around, and makes Pierre feel comfortable to be himself. But has Steven made great efforts to change the world for the better?

I looked around the web to see what sort of work the Steven Stamkos Foundation must have done for charities in Africa, and how much money the millionaire himself has surely donated to save wounded polar bears.

Strangely, I didn’t find much evidence of anything particularly generous coming out of the Stamkos Empire. But, on the website for the Tampa Bay Lightning (for whom Stamkos works), I found, from 2009, a “Steve Stamkos Answers your Questions” page, and the following query from a fan:

“…have you thought about using your celebrity status to bring awareness to a certain cause or charity?”

“Yes,” Steven cheerfully wrote back, “it’s definitely crossed my mind. I won’t go and say I’m a celebrity, but I definitely thought of that.”

(See, that’s the kind of modesty from a young star that certainly does make him seem like a delightful fellow. I see what you’re saying, Pierre!)

He goes on:

“I attended numerous charity golf tournaments this summer in and around my hometown of Markham, Ontario. I also donated some jerseys and sticks to great causes. I’ve thought of having a Steven Stamkos Charity Golf Tournament back in my hometown. I think we’ll wait a couple of years and see how the next two seasons or so progress, but having a charity event is definitely on my mind and will be coming in the near future.”

Very nice. Definitely sounds like a great fellow. He might have a charity golf tournament (which I suspect is all work and no play for the celebrity name behind it) and he’s donated some of his used equipment to auction off to people willing to pay a lot to a charity for them. Very very nice.

Now, at the time of that quote, Stamkos was only 19, so go easy on him, SethBlogs! But, before you rant back at me for being too hard on the young star, be advised: I’m not actually meaning to imply (with my sarcastic tone above) that he’s not a very good person. In fact, I think Stamokos seems very likable, and I wouldn’t kick out of a conversation if I met him. However, perhaps Mr. McGuire could hold off on ranking him as one of the top 2000 people in Canada (per the math of his statement) until he’s done a few more good deeds?

Thanks so much.

SELF-AGGRANDALISM II: If Your Critics Don’t Believe In You, No One Will

In the face of difficult questions, the most talented egos use impeccable sleights of language to rebrand their behaviours to seem heroic. This series is dedicated to those rhetorician-magicians.

SELF-AGGRANDALISM SERIES:

I: NEVER LET THEM SEE YOU CARE (you are here)

II: IF YOUR CRITICS DON’T BELIEVE IN YOU, NO ONE WILL (you are here)

III: WINNING MEANS NEVER HAVING TO SAY YOU’RE SORRY

IV: POET KNOWS BEST

V: HUMILTY IS AS HUMILTY DOES

VI: HOW TO AVOID QUESTIONS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE

VII: IF YOU CAN’T BULLY ‘EM, ACCUSE ‘EM


In the interest of full disclosure—and Seth-promotion—the spirt of this rant, and other works of Sethiquette, is now available in my book, How to Cure Yourself of Narcissism.


In sports, when underdogs win unexpectedly, there seems to be an almost unanimous tendency amongst such winners to suddenly deride those who predicted they wouldn’t win.

INTERVIEWER: How does it feel to win?!

UNDERDOG CHAMPION: Yeah, everyone was counting us out. They were all bashing us. Nobody believed in us, but ourselves, and we proved them all wrong!

I find the indignant tone of such remarks to be a wee bit confusing. It’s as though the vindicated athletes think the pundits were maliciously targeting them in a manner akin to someone telling a child they would never amount to anything:

PUNDIT: I predict the Rangers will beat the Blazers 4-2.

BLAZERS’ PLAYER: Oh, great, so you’re saying I’m not good enough to win?! You don’t believe in me just like my parents never believed in me! Thanks a lot.

Surely the players understand that—if predictions are to be made—someone has to be estimated to lose, so their designation as underdog was not necessarily mean-spirited. But maybe I’m missing the point. Perhaps the players simply don’t like being predicted upon at all:

INTERVIEWER: So how does it feel to go into this tournament ranked number one?

HIGH RANKED PLAYER: Actually, I find the whole notion of rankings to be disrespectful: I’m tired of being treated like a piece of meat whose results can be anticipated by non-players. Instead of typecasting us based on past performances, why don’t you just wait and see what happens? Whatever will be, will be!

Strangely, though, such railing against complimentary predictions happens rarely. Instead the players only seem resentful when they’re not picked to win. Actually, that’s not completely true. More accurately: they only object when they’re not picked to win, but end up winning, after all. However, I’ve yet to hear an assault on predictions of losing when they prove accurate:

INTERVIEWER: So, how do you feel about your 5th place finish?

5TH PLACER: Well, let me first point out that everyone predicted I would come in 5th. And I just want to say ‘Screw you!’ to all those people that didn’t believe in me.

INTERVIEWER: So you feel you should have been predicted to fare better?

5TH PLACER: Yeah! It would have been nice if someone would’ve believed in me. I see that all sorts of people believed in Mr. World Record Holder over there. Isn’t that nice for him? So not only does he get the glory of winning, he also gets the pre-event accolades, too. Couldn’t those predictions have been shared out evenly? Or better yet, here’s an idea: why not treat us all like we have an equal chance of winning and not predict at all!?

So, given that the athletes only object when they are inaccurately predicted to perform worse than they do, maybe their objection is not that their results were estimated, but instead that the alleged experts got it wrong. Hmm, but the problem there is that if inaccuracy of prediction is the only issue, wouldn’t the “overdog” players predicted to win complain when they lose?

INTERVIEWER: So how does it feel to lose after being the favourite in this tournament?

OVERDOG LOSER: Well, the truth is I was a little irritated in the first place when we were ranked so highly. Clearly, the so-called experts don’t know what they’re talking about. They said we’d come in first, and did we? No. I just feel really bad for the fans who were given false estimates by the pundits.

So I’m not sure what the solution is to the incrogruity that predictions seem to be okay so long as pundits don’t predict certain teams to lose. When I coached kids’ rollerblade hockey, a four-team tournament was divided into “Gold Medal Winner,” “Gold Medal Runner-up,” “Silver Medal Winner,” and “Silver Medal Runner-up.” Admittedly, one of my ten year old players approached me afterwards, and said:

“Why are we being called ‘Silver Medal Runner-Up’? Didn’t we come in last?”

Despite the youngster’s ability to see through the trophy-based re-framing, perhaps sports prognosticators can learn from such efforts to protect people from ever thinking they’ve lost:

PUNDIT: I believe equally in all four teams in this tournament. They’re all ranked number one in my books! If I had to choose—and it’s basically a coin flip—I would rank the Bears ‘1A,’ the Tornados ‘1B,’ the Lions ‘1C,’ and the Ravens ‘1D.’

RAVENS’ PLAYER: Awesome! We’re ranked number 1!


For delightful illustration of the above, consider below Jim Carrey’s (Academy Award worthy) Lloyd Christmas in one of the greatest (and most underrated) comedies all all time, Dumb & Dumber. In this wonderful scene, Lloyd masterfuly reframes a situation in which first glance might suggest he hadn’t succeeded.

SPOILER ALERT: Don’t view you if you haven’t yet seen this brilliant movie!


SELF-AGGRANDALISM SERIES:

I: NEVER LET THEM SEE YOU CARE

II: IF YOUR CRITICS DON’T BELIEVE IN YOU, NO ONE WILL (you were just here)

III: WINNING MEANS NEVER HAVING TO SAY YOU’RE SORRY

IV: POET KNOWS BEST

V: HUMILTY IS AS HUMILTY DOES

VI: HOW TO AVOID QUESTIONS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE

VII: IF YOU CAN’T BULLY ‘EM, ACCUSE ‘EM

UNREGRETTABLE NEW YEAR’S

Congratulations from the New Year’s Regret Collection Agency! You may already be the winner of a brand new year! Your N.Y.R.C.A. agent will collect your regrets on your way into your new set of four seasons. We appreciate your business, and hope you will consider us again this year.

As you begin on this new year’s worth of existence, you will be bombarded by “feel good,” pressured-packed propaganda that speaks of a fresh slate on which you can imprint any new life that you’d like. But we at the N.Y.R.C.A. would like to remind you that New Year’s resolutions are just mean-spirited criticisms meant to change you and your naturally-earned habits.

Instead, why not simply be yourself and once again pay us your regrets at the end of next year?

Happy Nearly New Year: we have agents standing by to take your call.

RAVISHING DISTINCTION

I notice, from the previews, that the new movie, The Tourist (starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie), features the following conversation (approximately):

DEPP’S CHARACTER: You look ravenous.

JOLIE’S CHARACTER: You mean “ravishing”?

DEPP’S CHARACTER (confidently): I do.

Hee, hee, very funny, but I call accidental inverted plagiarism! That is, my brother has been mixing up those two words in the reverse manner for years:

SETH BROTHER: Man, I haven’t eaten all day. I am so ravishing!

SETH: I think you might mean, “ravenous”.

SETH BROTHER: Yeah, that’s what I said.

SETHBLOGS: Yes, I’m sure it was: I just hope you’ve been telling people all day about your “ravenous” self-analysis.


SETHBLOGS NOTE: As a result of comments from my readership, I have discovered that my claim that the tourist engaged in “accidental, inverted plagiarism” may be inaccurate. Please read the below comments for details.

UNAUTHORIZED ENTERTAINMENT

So, many years ago, my second-placed sister (featured in the background of styrogirls.com) and I were wandering through a bookstore, whereupon we spotted an autobiography by a famous hockey player (who shall remain anonymous, but may be featured in my “HOWE TO TRICK YOUR FRIENDS” post). The interesting thing about this autobiography—unlike any other that we’d observed before—was that it was an “Authorized Autobiography.”

“Hmm,” I said to my sister (she’ll claim it was the other way around, so don’t be alarmed), “if this is an authorized autobiography, what exactly would count as an unauthorized autobiography?”

“Yeah,” my sister quickly caught on, “how exactly would you write and publish a story about yourself without getting permission from yourself first?”

“I guess maybe you could write it in your sleep?” I said.

“Yes!” my sister said. “And then I guess maybe you might find it in the morning, and—without realizing what it was—you might instinctively send it in to a publisher without realizing it was a tell-all about yourself. Oh no! By the time you realize what you’ve done, it’s too late: the unauthorized autobiography is already out there, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Yup, it all made sense. I hope I never write an unauthorized autobiography. I know a lot of my secrets and could definitely portray myself in a negative light.

Seth celebrating his first Stumpy Cup victory. Photo submitted to Sethblogs by Seth without Seth’s permission. 

SUPPLYING AND DEMANDING EXPLANATION

So I recently took in a bit of surgery to repair an old nasal injury. I spent the recovery time under the generous care of my parents. Along with mocking my inability to wrestle with him, my dad entertained me with introductory Economics lectures on video. (I’m embarrassingly ignorant of economics, and so was delighted by the opportunity.)

The instructor-on-DVD has lots of personality, almost to the point of condescension in the first couple lectures as he explains fairly basis concepts, such as the division of labour (the notion that 100 workers can get more done if they each take on a specialized task within a project, instead of each of them trying to build an entire car on their own). I was happy to have this straight-forward concept reviewed, but once it was emphasized with a tenth example, it started to become tedious.

Nevertheless, we proceeded to the lecture on “Supply and Demand,” where once again I was ready to boast that the concept was too simple to be continually reiterated. To my headache-provoking surprise, though, it is not as simple a notion as I had imagined.

In fact, I found it so confusing that I was forced to research it post-lecture. I enlisted the help of both internet and book (Economics Explained), but was baffled to discover that the particular part that was confusing me seemed to be only vaguely illuminated by each of my sources.

Eventually, after much mind-searching, the collected instruction of my resources overlapped to make sense to me (at least I think I’ve got it). And, I must admit, it’s actually a pretty neat model. So, for my fellow economic newbies (if there are any out there), I offer you the results of my study without the cost of research:

DEMAND:

“Demand,” it turns out, is not simply, “How many do people want?” It is a relationship between price and quantity demanded. That is, given a certain price, how many do people want to buy? Today, then, we can graph the quantities demanded of autographed pictures of Seth at various prices. That demand graph, is the current demand which will arc upwards as prices go down (since more people want commodities when they’re cheaper).

But, tomorrow, if a rival Seth-paraphernalia seller comes along and offers autographed “with love” photos of Seth, the quantity demanded at every price for the original “non-loving” photos goes down, and so overall “Demand” for them will have gone down.

SUPPLY:

“Supply,” in turn, is not simply how many the sellers have of a certain item, but it is a relationship between the price and the quantity supplied. That is, given a certain price, how many Seth photos are supplied to the market by the makers of Seth photos? In this case, the higher the price, the more the sellers tend to want to supply (since that’ll make them more money), and so the “Supply” curve tends to arc upwards with price.

But if, Blog forbid, Seth’s nasal surgery went badly and harmed his looks, there may be fewer quality Seth photos available, and so the quantity supplied may go down at every price, meaning that overall “Supply” goes down.

THE FUN PART:

Now here’s the fun part: the Supply and Demand curves seem to work together to set a price in the market. If, that is, there are more people wanting an item at a certain price than there are items available, then the price of that item will go up.

For instance, let’s say that the price of Seth’s autobiography is set at only $100. The quantity demanded for that item at that price would likely then be around one billion. If, though, the quantity of books supplied is only 500 million, then the sellers can raise the price until the number of people still willing to buy matches the supply available.

In contrast, if there are fewer people wanting an item than there are supplied (at a particular price), price will go down.

For instance, the world’s worst movie, The Matrix, may supply 50 copies of itself at 25 cents each. But if only 10 people are willing to buy at that price then the price will start to drop until the number of copies available matches the number of confused people willing to buy them.

In both of the above cases, once the price of an item leads the quantity supplied to match the quantity demanded then we are in equilibrium. And the interesting aspect to an economic novice like myself is there is apparently a tendency of all products towards this equilibrium. The equilibrium will often be disrupted by outside factors (suddenly, let’s say, there is an interest in giving The Matrix as gag gifts), but the price will always then head back towards equilibrium given the new Demand.

CONCLUSION:

I like it: the Market, it seems, will naturally figure out its own disagreements until it agrees with itself again.

NOTHING BUT EMPHASIS

In basketball, the phrase “Nothing but net!” indicates that a player has made a shot so accurate that—on its way to the hoop—it touched neither backboard nor rim, but instead travelled unencumbered straight into the arms of net. It’s a term of endearment, therefore, for shots that not only score, but are accurate in a particular, elite way. Such shots can arise from various basketball plays (jump shots, hook shots, Michael Jordan vs Larry Bird advertising McDonalds shots), but, let me repeat: to be counted as a Nothing but net shot, the ball must travel from the player’s hands to the net without touching anything but that net.

I reiterate this definition because it is apparently not as simple as it sounds. Twice recently I’ve overheard television announcers witness an excellent basketball scoring play, but in which the ball hit the backboard before going into the net, and yet the commentator has nevertheless claimed, “Nothing but net!”

“But,” I replied from my couch, “it hit more than net… it hit backboard… and then rim… and only then net.”

After several hours of soul-searching, I realized that these commentators did not actually realize that the words in “Nothing but net!” have meaning beyond being a cool bit of emphasis. You see, during their commentator training, they must have noticed the phrase was always expressed in excitement towards a great shot, so the newcomer announcers logically must have assumed that “Nothing but net!” was just a fancy way to say, “Great shot!”

If you don’t believe me that newbies to expressions can sometimes confuse emphasis for meaning, consider the statement: “He’s literally out of his mind!”

For those who aren’t familiar with the error in this usage, I’ll bring in guest SethBlogger, Dr. Frasier Crane, for illumination. Frasier, take it away:

Hee, hee, well done, Frasier! Special SethBlogs’ Contest: can you identify the voice of the literally defeated caller? I’ll give you a hint, this isn’t the first time he’s been accused of being Dumb & Dumber (and it’s not Jim Carrey)

INTERVIEWING SOLO

So a personal irritation of mine arises when comedy talk show hosts ask what I call joke-ended questions of their guests, thus leaving their conversation partners looking silly as there’s not much for them to say. If they answer the question seriously, they look dense as they seem to be missing the joke. But, if they try to add to the comedy of the question, they often look like they’re milking a line of humour that was complete at the question mark.

Consider, for instance, Jon Stewart’s recent interview with Harrison Ford (which was on my television last night). After spending his pre-interview comedy time pleading mockingly with his favourite whipping President, George W. Bush, to be a guest on his show (promising him a free McRib burger as a reward), Stewart asked Han Solo if he thought the entreatment would work.

What was Indiana Jones supposed to say to that? If he responded “No” he’s stating the McObvious, but if he went with “Yes” he would seem like he was trying to add to a joke that appeared to me to be pretty much done. Thus, it seemed that Jon Stewart was not really asking Harrison Ford a question, but instead was simply offering another punchline with a question-impersonating lilt on the end of it.

But, wait, let’s hear Harrison’s response:

“No,” he said with an assertive chuckle at the possibility of George Bush guest appearing on Jon’s show, “not a chance.”

Not bad. Somehow he delivered the straight line without sounding humourless.

“Do you think,” apparently delighted Stewart painfully followed up, “I need to throw in a McHappy Meal toy?”

Again, we were spending Bladerunner’s time on the pre-interview monologue, and I didn’t see where Harrison could go with it, and yet, amazingly, Dr. Jack Ryan didn’t look as phased as I would be.

“You have to just be a much nicer guy,” Harrison said with another chuckle (which left his host in hysterics). “So it’s not going to happen: no, it’s not in you.”

Both Jon Stewart and I loved this reply! Somehow, Harrison Ford had found a way out of the question-joke by not taking it on directly, and instead mocking the question right back for its ridiculousness. Mr. Stewart, are you really going to laugh at George Bush for not coming on a show that has made its career on mocking him and then ask Harrison Ford if he thinks the failed president will come on the show for a burger and toy? Fine, then the wily actor will join the joke by telling you why George Bush isn’t coming on your show.

But perhaps this was a fluke. Surely, Jon Stewart would get him with the next question-joke.

The McDonalds-based interview continued and Harrison Ford admitted that his 9-year-old son thinks the McHappy meal toys are dreadful.

Jon Stewart was intrigued because his 4 and 6 year-olds still love the toys.

“Between the age of 6 and 9,” he asked everyone’s favourite action hero, “when does that toy go from being the greatest thing that has occurred in life, that we must go through monsoons, over mountains by foot to get to, to ‘Ahh, it’s a piece of bleep: I’m not interested’?”

Perhaps this one wasn’t a pure question-joke, as it contained a reasonable inquiry for another parent, I supposed, but still it felt to me that there wasn’t too much room left for The Fugitive.

But, hold on.

“Well, I don’t know about your parenting skills,” Harrison said to another explosive laugh from J.S., “but I would suggest that somebody should have got to this maybe a little earlier. Have you ever bought ‘em a toy? Then they would see the difference…”

Wow! Don’t get these quotes wrong, Harrison seemed to like and appreciate Jon Stewart, but nevertheless, he brilliantly sidestepped the host’s standard attempts to make his guest the straight man to his continuing monologue. Instead, Harrison Ford absorbed the punchline-questions and punched them right back.

You go, Solo!