Everything Bad is Good For You

Parents can sometimes be appalled at the hypnotic effect that television has on toddlers; they see their otherwise active and vibrant children gazing silently, mouth agape at the screen, and they assume the worst: that television is turning their child into a zombie. The same feeling arises a few years later when they see their grade-schoolers navigating a video game world, oblivious to the reality that surrounds them. But these expressions are not signs of mental atrophy. They’re signs of focus.

2005’s Everything Good is Bad for You by Steve Johnson is a challenge to the idea that pop culture is ruining our brains. Mainstream television shows are quantifiably more complex and mentally demanding than the shows of previous decades, and video games test and develop our problem solving skills better than ever before. Definitely worth reading.

Best Season of Survivor Ever

Survivor’s 20th season was?undoubtedly?it’s best because it showed the game of Survivor is still misunderstood by most people who play it, giving people who do a huge advantage. ? This season also asked (and answered!) some great questions.

Sandra is a great Survivor player, but I wouldn't call her the greatest.

Did Sandra deserve to win?

I think Parvati should have won, but Sandra certainly deserved to win. ?I like players who continually operate in their own best interests and even though Sandra rarely takes the long approach, she was the first person to figure out a viable “one more day” strategy. ?Sure, she let stronger players take the heat when her alliance lost out, but she was able to manufacture a split between Russel and Coach that saved her and Courtney for another week. ?Russel seemed to think taking Sandra to the end was a good strategy, because the jury wouldn’t vote for a previous winner. ?Like the previous season, he showed a total lack of understanding and respect for the jury’s opinion.

Is Sandra the best player ever?

No. ?I was ready to crown Parvati the all time best player until she lost. ?She seemed set up perfectly to take credit for at least half the decent strategic moves she and Russel made while reminding people how much of jerk he was. ?Her problem was that she misread the hero-centric jury who actually believed in their BS heroic code and held the villains to this standard. ?Parvati should have played up her challenge wins, especially when Coach gave her the opportunity to do so (now that I think about it, I don’t think Coach let anyone talk other than himself).

I think Parvati deserved to win Heroes vs Villains

So why isn’t Sandra the best player ever after having won twice? ?My standard for great Survivor players is they always act in their own self interest (which she clearly does), ?could someone else do what they do, and how often do I think their strategy would work? ? Does she have unique talents or skills that make her strategy work better for her than anyone else. ? Probably. ?Here’s why she wins. ?Once she’s able to get herself past the first few votes, she’s simultaneously likable and unlikable. ?While everyone likes her, they assume others don’t because of her forward,?combative?personality. ?Her non-threatening physical ability allowed her to get to the final three in Pearl Islands, but it was the jerk factor in Johnny Fairly that caused Lil to take Sandra to the finals. ?Lil hated Fairplay so much she’d rather lose a million dollars just to make sure Fairplay didn’t have a chance at it. ?Sound familiar?

I thought Sandra flopped in front of the jury until I realized her lame attempts at expressing her strategy (“I tried to get rid of Russel every week!”) wasn’t her way of explaining the plan, it was a message to the jury that said, “It’s not too late to get rid of Russel.” ?But what happens if she doesn’t go up against a jerk? ?What if she went up against Yul, or JT, or Danni? Most of the other winners were likable people. ? Her strategy has no ability to pick her jury opponents. ?She’s been very lucky in her two seasons with Russel’s stink was all over Parvati and the jury didn’t perceive Lil’s return to the game as fair (Pearl Islands featured the only season where voted out Survivors were allowed back in via a special challenge). ?I don’t think it would work in most seasons.

Is Russel right that Survivor is fundametally flawed?

No/Yes. ?Jeff answered this perfectly by saying Survivor can’t be flawed because everyone is playing under the same rules, which include being judged by the jury from your own season. ?Past jury choices don’t mean anything and you need to figure out what your fellow survivors want to see and hear.

I think having a final 3 instead of a final 2 gave a ton more power to the jury and took a lot of strategic thinking out of the game. ?Now, when you get down to 6 you almost know who will win. ?In a final 2 no matter how?unlikely?you are to win, you only have to find one chump you can beat on the jury. This makes it interesting since more players have a chance to win.

Is JT really the dumbest Survivor ever?

No, Erik is still the dumbest. ?JT’s move at least had an upside.

The Micronesia girls alliance laughing at Erik, who gave up his immunity necklace for no reason before being voted out.

What was the best strategic play this season?

In a season of great moves, these were the best:
JT busting up the vote split to oust Cirie
Russel giving Parvati the idol and ousting Tyson by getting him to waste his vote
Parvati handing out idols to Sandra and Jerri and getting rid of JT
Sandra engineering a feud between Russel and Coach
Russel convincing Jerri to vote for Rob

Russel is a chronically flawed player, but made the greatest move in history this season. ?It wasn't enough to win, though!

I have to give this season’s (and probably ever) best move to the Jedi mind trick Russel threw at Tyson and Boston Rob. ?The situation was hopeless. ?Russel built an alliance with Parvati and Danielle but was greatly outnumbered by the alliance of Rob, Tyson, Sandra, Courtney, Jerri, and Coach. ?Rob’s alliance planned to split their votes in case the hidden immunity came into play, but this made a three way tie possible and Tyson was worried he might be included. ?Russel casually suggested to Tyson that he might want to consider switching his vote to ensure that he stayed in, but of course, Russel duped him and gave Parvati the idol, making the vote 3-2 (4 votes for Parvati were thrown away) and sending Tyson home. ?It was risky, but that move moved propelled Parvati and Russel to the finals.


Is Amanda Kimmel the most tragically flawed Survivor player? She spent 78 days in China and Mironesia without ever getting voted off, but no million dollar prize. She has the strongest social game of any player I can think of, but can’t communicate the worthiness of that skill to the jury. The players who voted for Parvati really thought that Amanda was lucky and had no idea how she got there. I’m not sure she knew how she got there either, but she wasn’t lucky.



For the past few seasons I’ve bought into a Survivor pool and I picked Amanda in Survivor: China.? Her main flaw seemed to not knowing when to oust Todd at the right time, but she also made a terrible case for why she should win.? In Micronesia she had to work much harder to stay, but was always able to repair her alliances after they were broken.? She also was the first person ever to properly use the hidden immunity idol and that allowed her to coast into the final four.

Going into the final she decided to take Parvati over Cerie, presumably because Parvati would be less sympathetic to the jury, but Amanda never used the final tribal council to highlight any of the reasons why Parvati shouldn’t get the million.? Eliza even handed the roadmap for Amanda in one of the earliest questions.? She told Parvati that she respected Parvati’s game, but didn’t understand why she also did plenty of mean and arrogant things that didn’t affect the game one way or another.? If Amanda had used that angle I think she would have turned Eliza’s vote making it 4-4 instead of 5-3.

?I’m not done writing on this topic, so I’ll probably add some more later.


More TV Show Themes

I also really liked this versions of the Gummi Bears theme by Into It / Over It

And I know everyone secretly has wondered to themselves, “What would it sound like if Stacy Brown sang the Mr Belvedere theme?” Well we are in luck (She’s hiding behind the piano).

See the rest here.

Free Radio

Most trends are easy to spot in hindsight, so now it definitely seems as though fake-realism has overtaken situational comedy as shown on the Office, Colbert, Ali-G, etc. The latest in this trend is VH1’s Free Radio, starring Lance Krall and Anna Vocino as a pair of radio talk show DJ’s who take over after their star morning jock leaves unexpectedly for satellite radio. Lance, previously the station’s intern, has no idea what he’s doing but in the world of amateur success we live in today the show becomes a hit.

Lance Krall from Free Radio

Free Radio seems like an Ali-G style interview show, but in this case all the celebrities are in on the jokes. Still, I think it works despite missing the humiliation factor. What’s really funny are the questions that Lance decides (or doesn’t decide) to ask. I loved when he asked what the big deal was about “Ugly Betty” since there has always been shows with ugly stars, such as Roseanne or the Golden Girls.

Here’s the trailer:

Sopranos Finale

Note:? It’s been weeks since I first watched the last episode of the Sopranos and I’ve been working on this post forever.? It’s taken me forever to write it and I may edit it later, but for now, here it is!

Journey? At this point I have to take a second look at everything I’ve ever seen in the opranos. David Chase looked us straight in the eye, cranked up Don’t Stop Believing, and kicked the teeth out of Sopranos fans everywhere.

Or he made the greatest television show of all time.


My impressions of the final episode and the entire season after the jump. Please don’t read it unless you’ve seen (almost) every episode. Continue reading “Sopranos Finale”