Winners and Losers, 2016

Well, as John Oliver rightly noted, 2016 was not a good year. And while I’ll do my best to keep updating this space, regular readers (if there is such a thing) can vouch that I’ve been lacking in posts; mostly because it feels like the world is falling apart. (I say this not as a wholly political statement; for instance, Alan Thicke and Florence Henderson and George Michael have passed while I’ve been working on this draft. Update: Carrie Fisher, too.) But with that said, entertainment is often a good way to express discontent with the current political and social climate, and can often serve as a distraction from, well, our impending doom. So enough prologue: I humbly submit the winners and losers of the entertainment world that were on my radar in 2016.

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Best of 2015

In many ways, 2015 was pre-ordained to be a massive year. After a down year at the box office in 2014, pundits predicted 2015 would be huge, given the releases of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” the final “Hunger Games” movie, and “Jurassic World.” And (for those that have been released), those movies delivered well at the box office (including “World” setting an opening weekend record, and then, you know, “Star Wars” demolishing it.). But there were a number of pleasant surprises that pundits didn’t see coming, and that’s what made 2015 quite an impressive year for entertainment. These are my favorite pieces of entertainment from 2015, presented in no particular order, but, for sake of readability, I’ve broken my list down by categories. Let me know what I missed, or what you enjoyed, in the comments. And, as always, thank you for reading this blog – and I hope you’ll stay with me in 2016. Continue reading

Happy Sugar Ray/Visor Day 2015!

Happy Sugar Ray/Visor Day 2015, everyone!

I’m going to start with a statement that might shock you: The first song I listened to today was not by Sugar Ray. No, the first song in my head was “April Come She Will” by Paul Simon (specifically this version):

I know, some of you will think it blasphemous not to rock out immediately to Sugar Ray on its eponymous holiday. And while I try not to get too personal on this blog, let me explain why today I needed to hear Paul Simon.

As I said in last year’s oral history, SRVD has always been a way for me to remind myself (and my friends and family) that April is a wonderful harbinger of better times ahead. Over the last twelve years, April has meant Opening Days, finishing finals, warmer weather, and, most importantly, being able to wear a visor again. Above all else, it’s meant that things were going to improve, from the dreariness of winter to the sunshine of summer.

Mark McGrath and company were traditionally a perfect gateway for that, at least for me, and April 1st always perfectly coincided with that feeling. The fact that April 1st also had positive meanings for others made it all the more special: my friend Kevvy’s birthday; Kevin and Sarah’s anniversary; and, of course, Edible Book Day. (That last one is real, by the way.)*

*Evidently April 1st evokes negative feelings for others. Sorry, John Oliver:

So while it’s clear that Mark McGrath is still just as big a fan of mine as I am of him

I had some epiphanies:

The biggest realization is the limitation of the visor. Over the years, I’ve posted pictures and videos of celebrities in visors, arguing for their status as the essential summertime emblem. And then I saw something that broke my heart:

Enjoying a baseball game, that man publicly displays the fatal flaw of the visor: its inability to catch a home run ball. Never before had I seen a visor fail, on such a national stage. It was brutal to watch.

The other realization is that, in the spirit of everyone celebrating in their own way, I have to loosen the reins. No longer can I insist upon a Draconian standard of everyone wearing a visor and listening to the best Sugar Ray songs. (Although let’s be honest: aren’t they all the best?) Sure, April 1st is Otto von Bismarck’s birthday (look it up!), but that doesn’t give me an excuse to act like a Prussian dictator. As Gandhi said, I should be the change I wish to see in the world. And today, that meant  not starting with a Sugar Ray song.

So why Paul Simon? Maybe it’s because of all of his SNL appearances (he is, after all, a member of the Five Timers’ club, and his performance of “Still Crazy After All These Years” at SNL40 was tremendous); maybe it’s because of his Yankee fandom; and maybe it’s because, standing in center field at Yankee Stadium, I have no doubt that his Yankee cap would be suitable for catching a home run ball:

But the real clincher? I think even Sugar Ray would approve of me changing things up. As they put it so eloquently in the song “Someday”:

Someway
When the sun begins to shine
I hear a song from
Another time
And fade away
And fade away

And today, that other time was Paul Simon in 1965. Or, more accurately, me in 2011 watching April and Andy get married on Parks and Rec:

Sugar Ray will never fade away for me. Rest assured, after listening to one Paul Simon song, I put on their entire 2001 album. I’ll be seeing them in concert for the second straight year this summer, and fifth time overall. I’ll be wearing visors (though not using them to catch baseballs) from April through October, and both reminiscing of good times gone by and great times still ahead. But any major holiday, be it Thanksgiving or July 4th or Sugar Ray/Visor Day, has to adapt. It’s evolution. And Sugar Ray itself has had line-up changes, and released albums of…varying…quality over the years.

A visor is a wonderful thing – it surrounds your head, but also leaves available room for ideas (and yes, technically, your hair). It’s protective, but not restricting. And so, for this year, I wish that you all are able to celebrate this wonderful holiday in your own way, however you see fit. Even if that means wearing an 80s style cap that is, for all intents and purposes, 90% visor/brim and 10% hat, like Mr. Simon himself:

I mean that's basically a visor.

I mean that’s basically a visor.

But be sure to tune in next year, when SRVD turns 13. That’s going to be epic. The Sugar Ray Bar Mitzvisor.

Best TV, 2014 Edition

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Well, it’s that time of year. I’m hesitant to do a traditional Top 10 list, if only because there may not be ten shows that I loved, or there may be more, and, as I’ve said before, it’s my blog and I’ll make the rules. So without being beholden to numbers, let’s dive in to the television that I enjoyed the most in 2014. Note: some of these will be individual episodes or moments from a show, and some will be the show’s entire season. I’m sure you’ll figure it out as I go along. Continue reading