Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Good, The Bad, the Ugly: January 2012 Edition

Matt Domino rings in 2012 by offering up his thoughts on all things sports, music and general culture in the triumphant return of everyone's favorite running column - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Welcome to the New Year, my Puddlers. I hope you managed to enjoy yourself on New Year’s Eve and not make yourself too crazy with trying to find the right party, the right person to kiss, the right drug dealer to call or the right scene of Rosemary’s Baby to have queued up when the ball dropped. Now that all the champagne has temporarily been put away, the resolutions have begun to be broken and the New Year’s Day brunches have been thoroughly digested, we can move on into 2012.

This first week of 2012 brings the first non-World’s Coolest Dude related content since the Puddles of Myself hiatus. As you can imagine, when you take a five month hiatus in a failed attempt to completely overhaul your website, quite a few things happen in sports, music, television, politics and general. And when those things happen, sometimes they are good, sometimes they are bad and, well, sometimes they are ugly. So, if you are astute, I think you see where this is going. That’s right! It’s the return of the Puddles of Myself: Good, the Bad, the Ugly Column, which is now sponsored by Axe Body Spray.

Let’s dive right in!

The Good:

- Breaking Bad Season 4. All fans of the series know that the show has made a leap in each successive season. The biggest leap being between Season 1 and Season 2. Season 3 took the show to another level entirely with the abrupt end to the Twins sub-plot and the evolution of the feud between Walter White and Gus Fring. The cliffhanger at the end of Season 3 should have been the perfect nod to where the show was going to take us in Season 4, but there was no way to anticipate the emotional twists and dramatic turns both large and small that happened in Season 4 up until the final frame of the season finale. Jesse became one of the most intriguing TV characters of all time and straightening a tie as well as those white plant identifier tags you stick in potted plants will both never be seen in the same way ever again.

- Drake’s Take Care. This is emotional rap. This is evolutionary R&B. I’m not quite sure what it is, but it’s a fantastic album. The title track alone is worth the price of admission, but then you remember that “Lord Knows” blows the speakers out and “Marvin’s Room” is one of the more inventive pop songs in recent memory. The guy is legitimate and the album is must listen.

- The NBA Lockout Ending. Christmas Day serving as the NBA’s Opening Day for the 2011-2012 season was one of the most beautiful gifts any basketball fan could ever receive. After four months of a bitter lockout, it seemed like the season was in peril, but miraculously, a deal was done and we survived with a 66 game season. This first week of the NBA has contained some of the best and most intriguing basketball that I have ever watched. Every team except the Jazz, Nets, Raptors, Pistons and Suns are basically must see TV (and the Suns are borderline because you do still feel like you have to watch Steve Nash play). There are endlessly great storylines: are the Mavericks seriously this bad? Can the Lakers gel? Can the Knicks figure out how to play defense? Will Miami win the title? Is Derrick Rose going to repeat as MVP? Will the Thunder win the title or will Westbrook and Durant self-destruct? Is James Harden really making the leap? Are the Pacers the real dark horse in the East? Can Memphis get the magic back? Where will Dwight Howard wind up? How good are the Lob City Clippers really? And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

- Walden. Nah, not Thoreau’s lake. I have to give a shoutout to a new local Williamsburg restaurant that I hope sticks around for awhile.

- The Miami Heat. Even if you hate them, you have to be impressed with the Heat so far this season. They have licked their wounds from the Finals and last year’s torturous media coverage and are playing basketball in a very calm, businesslike manner. Wade and James have developed a chemistry that is straight scary. Bosh has gained a composure he didn’t have last year. Haslem is healthy. Anthony figured out how to shoot. Chalmers still has his overconfidence. Battier is the new steady veteran hand and Norris Cole is the surprising rookie. They are very good and very reminiscent of the 1990’s Bulls. The title is theirs to lose.

- M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. The epic electro-pop, anthemic rock album of the year. “Steve McQueen” and “Midnight City” justify listening to the double album, but then you encounter a gem like “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire” or a drop dead gorgeous song like “Splendor” and you understand that you are listening to an artist who has truly brought his vision to life. “Splendor” goes down as one of my favorite songs of the last ten years and hell “Midnight City” isn’t far behind either. If you haven’t listened to this album yet, use the winter evenings wisely and learn it inside and out.

- Baron Davis playing for the Knicks. Baron’s run in Golden State during the 2007 Playoffs was one of the most magical NBA moments in the past 15-20 years. That team had a lot of great characters, but Baron was the leader. He was the metaphysical rapper point-guard who was running the show. Now, after years playing in front of dead crowds on the Clippers, Baron is back in the spotlight in New York. The Knicks fans are hungry for success and drama and Baron feeds off that. The Garden is buzzing and if the game against the Celtics was any indication, they are ready to explode at any moments if the Knicks go on a run. Once Baron is healthy, he can thrive in New York and make the Knicks a legitimate contender. The possibilities should make any NBA fan excited.

- Michael Pitt’s performances on Boardwalk Empire. What a run to end Season 2 for Michael Pitt. Jimmy had always been arguably the most interesting character on Boardwalk, but the last few episodes of Season 2 really gave Pitt the scenes to prove his status as the MVP of the show. The last two episodes were extraordinary and Pitt’s scene in the rain on the finale was nearly the stuff of myth.

- The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. You’ve probably heard about it and you’ve most likely read about it somewhere, but this novel really is that good. There are certained cliched elements, but the writing is always true and the scope and control of characters and their perspective is something to behold. As Keith Gessen said in Vanity Fair, it seems like the book has always been around in some way. Hopefully you all read  it and hopefully the novel spurs a great appreciation for Herman Melville as well.

- It’s Garry Shandling’s Show Complete DVD set. Obviouly, I love Garry Shandling and the Larry Sanders Show, but my eyes were really opened by It’s Garry Shandling’s Show. This was Shandling’s first show that aired on Showtime in the mid to late 80’s. It completely breaks down the concept of a sit-com and is basically the precursor to Seinfeld. It’s more far out there, since Shandling has always been the more experimental Seinfeld, but you see how much influence Shandling had even before Larry Sanders and you can easily see how Shandling had to make Sanders after It’s Garry Shandling’s Show. The jokes are pure Shandling and it just looks like the 1980’s beyond belief. Watch it and learn.

- Parks and Recreation. This show has taken it to another level. It is the best show not named Mad Men or Breaking Bad. Community may have its cult following and may be more daring in its concept, but the writing on Parks and Rec is never wrong and their decisions constantly amaze me in their prudence and wisdom. This show makes the kindness of people seem funny and genuine without ever becoming maudlin. It made of the same  stuff as vintage era Simpsons and who knows that the hell that all really is.

The Bad:

- The Republican Party Presidential Candidates. I’m not going super liberal on anyone here because I’m not super liberal, but seriously, these are the people we have to deal with for the next year. C’mon!

- NBA Lockout. It was stupid, pointless and petty. Thank god its over.

- Mad Men premiering in March, maybe. It’s been long enough. We have to find out what’s going on with Don and Megan. If Peggy has a boyfriend or can still provide ultimate spiritual support to Don. Is Roger still coherent? Is Cooper still alive? What the hell is the little Pete Campbell going to look like and will Trudy still be as smoking hot, post-childberth? Will Betty and Henry completely self-destruct? And will Sally Draper enter adolesence graceful and remain perhaps the most interesting character on the show? Give us a premiere date already please!

- The New Jersey Nets.  They are really going to be the worst team in the NBA this year. As I’m hoping to be one of their notable season ticket holders next year when they move to Brooklyn, they better figure out how to put that roster together. In other words, they have to get Dwight Howard and make sure Williams resigns.

- Whitney. Look, I tried to like it. I tried to enjoy the laugh track in a sort of retro appreciation. I tried to see Whitney’s terrible jokes and situations as cause for celebration of the terrible. However, it’s just bad and sometimes disturbing television.

- The Charterhouse of Parma. I understand why its supposed to be good. I understand why Stendhal was in many ways the main precursor to Tolstoy, but this novel is seriously boring, overwritten, overwrought and really just not that great. Maybe a beautiful woman can teach me French and then I can read it to her in the original while making love and I’ll learn to appreciate it, but for now, I’ve read it twice and I don’t think any professors should be foisting this on students. There, now that takes care of the literary side of the site as well as my ability to brag about what I’ve read multiple times. Yesss!

- The Kim Kardashian vs. Kris Humphries Public Scandal. Look, they are both pretty unlikeable. I never watched the show but it sounds like Humphries is a bad dude. However, Kim strikes me as an alien. However, this whole situation seems to have made her more likeable with women even if the whole saga is terribly annoying and unlikable. However, asking woman what they think about Kim remains entertaining, just because you get a variety of responses in this Post-Hump world.

- Bridesmaids. It’s very overrated. I get it. I understand why its funny. I understand that it didn’t reinvent the mold, but just did funny women being funny and being “real women” very well. But its just not that great. I’m sorry to everyone that loved it.

- The cancellation of How to Make it in America. There is a huge essay forthcoming from me that will go into detail about why this series was amazing. In the meantime, you can just read this, which is basically the essence of the show and where I will be jumping off from in the essay.

The Ugly:

There’s just no other way to describe this whole situation.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, totally agree about Michael Pitt, such a shame he'll be gone. He's got a future that's for sure. Never read Stendhal...really appreciate Garry Shandling, but now would like to watch that show since I never caught it first time around. Glad basketball is back, there should be some staples in life. Agree on the republicans-just so disappointing, but even more disappointing is Congress! Glad you're back.