Thursday, December 29, 2016

Sean's Best & Worst Of 2016

I always find it odd when magazines, newspapers, websites, etc. share their best and worst of lists in November or early December. There's still an entire month that they can miss. Therefore, I'm proud to present my 2016 best of/worst of list with only 2+ days left of this year.

Best Television Show: O.J. Simpson

This has been a really strong class of new shows on network television. Designated Survivor, This Is Us, Speechless, The Good Place, and Pitch all earned season DVR passes. Game of Thrones, Veep, and Better Call Saul were also amazing this year. However, for me, O.J. Simpson was the best thing on television in 2016. Ezra Edelman created a 5-part documentary titled O.J.: Made in America that did an outstanding job of not only describing O.J.'s life but also the history of race relations in Los Angeles. The murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman weren't even really discussed until part three of the series. Meanwhile, FX aired The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Sure, John Travolta and Cuba Gooding Jr. were a bit over the top, but the acting of Courtney B. Vance, Sarah Paulson, and Sterling K. Brown as Johnnie Cochran, Marcia Clark, and Christopher Darden, respectively, was incredible. I highly recommend watching both of these.


Worst Show: The Great Indoors

This was a really tough call between Man With a Plan starring Matt LeBlanc or The Great Indoors with Joel McHale. I guess I'll go with The Great Indoors only because Man With a Plan supposedly takes place in Pittsburgh, so the few stock photos of my hometown gives it a bonus point. The Great Indoors features McHale as an outdoors writer who apparently has never been online. Meanwhile, he now works with millennials who never leave their computers. Hilarity does not ensue.


Best Movie I Saw In the Theater: Arrival

I saw a whopping three movies in the theater this year (in related news, I did not receive media credentials for the Oscars), the most I saw live in probably 5 years. Arrival was definitely the best and should receive a Best Picture nomination. This is a sci-fi film but without the action/adventure component of most films in this genre. It's more of a thinking person's film that kept me engaged. Plus, I'd probably watch a 2-hour movie of Amy Adams reading from a phone book


Worst Movie: Sausage Party

Yes, there are some funny moments but the ending was just a big "wtf did I just see?"


Best Song: Starboy

My rule is that the best song of the year has to be featured in one of my Friday video blog posts. In my mind, this comes down to three songs: DNCE's Cake By The Ocean remains catchy after being all over the place for the past year, but I think I would regret this selection in a few years. I also really like You Don't Get Me High Anymore by Phantogram, but I don't think anyone actually knows this song. Therefore, my winner is The Weeknd's Starboy even though I have no idea what the song is about.



Worst Song: Work by Rihanna featuring Drake

It's not that this song is bad; I just have no idea what Rihanna is singing in the chorus.



Best Blog: Josh's World

I honestly don't know how Josh does it. He produces quality blog posts nearly every day on a variety of topics from book and movie reviews to sports to politics and what's going on in his life. I'm looking forward to his posts next year when he becomes a new dad.

Worst Blog: Everybody Loves You

Alex is one of my favorite writers...but he hasn't published a new blog post since early September! I know life gets in the way of writing and I miss his posts. (Maybe this will encourage him to start writing again. Maybe?)

Best Podcast: Pop Culture Happy Hour

While I enjoy YaJagoff! Podcast and The Jonah Keri Podcast, NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour is my favorite. In this weekly podcast, Linda Holmes, Stephen Thompson, Glen Weldon (my personal favorite), and a special guest discuss one or two topics (generally a movie or TV show). Then, they conclude with a "What's Making Me Happy" segment where they each pick a book, podcast, show, etc. that they recommend. It's always an enjoyable listen. The Live PCHH with Kumail Nanjiani (of Silicon Valley) discussing romantic comedies was hilarious.


Worst Podcast: The Bill Simmons Podcast

I used to be a big Simmons fan devouring everything he wrote. He also put together some excellent podcasts with Chuck Klosterman, Malcolm Gladwell, and others. Now, however, it seems like every single podcast is him predicting NFL lines with Cousin Sal. This bit was old years ago.

Best Sports Moment: The Penguins winning the Stanley Cup!

What a run!


Worst Sports Moment: Pittsburgh Pirates

After seeing the Penguins win the Cup, I really should complain about any Pittsburgh sports teams. However, after three consecutive playoff berths including winning 98 games in 2015, the Pirates were a disappointing 78-83-1 in 2016.

Best Fantasy Sports Person: Me

Sorry Meat Loaf, but in fantasy sports, 2016 was the Year of Sean. I won my fantasy baseball league for the second time in three years after going 20+ years without a title. In fantasy football, I won 2 of the 3 leagues I'm in, and I'm also in the Championship of the Pittsburgh Bloggers Fantasy Football League this weekend. Not too shabby!

Best Book: The Hike by Drew Magary

I've enjoyed Magary's writing in Deadspin and the old Kissing Suzy Kolber for a long time and his books are also great. The Hike may be his best work. I'll let Washington City Paper give a quote:

“The Hike reads like a mix of The Odyssey and The Phantom Tollbooth, with the same humor Magary uses on Deadspin. . . . Along the way, Magary’s hero hunts for an enigmatic mastermind, encounters man-eating giants and monsters, and teams up with a talking crab. What starts out as a saga of suburban ennui quickly turns into gripping tale of survival.”


Worst Book: None

I didn't read enough books to have a worst book this year. I need to do better and read more in 2017.

Best Blog Post: (Tie) My Interview with Vinny Karpuszka & Donald Trump Is Going To Be President

My interview with Vinny, the Pittsburgh Penguins' gamenight DJ, was a lot of fun. The second one isn't particularly great; it's just that I was correct in my early March prediction that Donald Trump would win. This particular line seemed quite prophetic:

"Will Clinton be able to inspire the Democratic base and get enough Independents in Virginia, Florida and North Carolina to win the election? As of today, my guess is no."

Worst Blog Post: Shooting at Burger King

I blamed a Whopper for shooting someone.


Feel free to share your best and worst of 2016 in the comments below, and have a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Sean's Ramblings 2016 Year In Review (Sort Of)

Welcome to my 12th (yes, 12th!) annual year in review, where I take the first few lines of the first entry of each month in order to produce a random and (hopefully) interesting summary of 2016. Please note that this is not my State of the Ramblings (that comes next month) or my picks for best of/worst of 2016 (that will be later this week). This is simply a summary.

January: Ryan Seacrest, Carson Daly and Pitbull all counted down to start 2016 on national television, but I know that the new year can't truly begin for all us until we know the top visitors to Sean's Ramblings in 2015.

February: Wegmans celebrated its 100th birthday this weekend by giving away lots of samples, grocery bags and birthday cake. (My 1.5 year old - Pedro Tulo - loved the sheet cake.)

March: What a scary headline. The American political system has become extremely partisan with little getting done in Washington, so many voters are looking for a political outsider.

April: Today’s post comes from Jenilee Dunson, a geek, otaku, and lover of all things kawaii (I have no idea what this means) who also writes about video games, anime, tech and toys at Geeky Sweetie.


May: I promise that this post isn't too political. I went out on Monday night to play trivia and to watch game three of the Pens-Caps series.

June: You may or may not remember the singer Mike Posner.

July: Season 69 of the Learned League ended last week, and I dominated questions related to television where I got 9 of 10 correct.

August: Ron Lippock runs the PGH Sports Daily website and also sends out Pittsburgh Sports Daily Bulletin e-mails with links to blogs and articles about, you guessed it, Pittsburgh sports.

September: Tuesday marked the first day of kindergarten for The Moose (my five year old) and first day of preschool for Pedro Tulo (my two year old). Naturally, there was a lot to do in the days and weeks leading up to the start of the school year.


October: With Rosh Hashanah starting later this evening, I wanted to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. To get everyone in the holiday spirit, I thought I would share a quick story.

November: Halloween with young kids can be really fun. It can also be very frustrating.

December: I recently found a $100 US treasury bond that I received in 2001, apparently as a gift for graduating from graduate school.

Some sports, some fatherhood stuff, some politics, and some pop culture. That seems about right.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Happy Hanukkah 2016

Hanukkah begins on Saturday evening, so if you're doing some last minute shopping for latkes (potato pancakes) or donuts, don't forget to buy pickles too. Seriously, I'd love for my legacy to be helping pickles become part of the Hanukkah tradition. You can click here to see how the tradition of eating pickles on Hanukkah started way back in 1998 in San Diego. Please help make this happen!

Let's check out some videos to celebrate the Festival of Lights:

The Maccabeats are back with a Hamilton-themed song.



Meanwhile, Six13's Hanukkah song this year also has a Hamilton theme. The feud between these two groups must be at an all-time high!



Shir Soul Singers want into this a cappella mix and look to differentiate themselves from the others via face painting.



I honestly don't know what this is.



Tex-Mex Latkes? I'm not sold, but I'd be willing to try this if someone wants to make them and bring them over.



This guy wants you to celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas together.



And this woman came up with a name to celebrate the holidays together, Chrismukkah.



Apparently, this family listened to the last two videos and is celebrating the two holidays together. Welcome to the show! (Enjoy the WWE action around the 1:20 mark.)



And finally, a Happy Hanukkah from Technion, Israel Institute of Technology.



One more finally. This is a Happy Hanukkah from Ottawa.



Happy Hanukkah to those who are celebrating!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Champagne Ivan Nova

With the surprising news that the Pittsburgh Pirates re-signed pitcher Ivan Nova for reportedly 3 years/$26* million, let's celebrate! Nova was terrific after being acquired from the Yankees earlier this summer and keeping him at a reasonable price for a starting pitcher is fantastic for the Pirates. It's a Festivus Miracle!

So in honor of this transaction, take it away Oasis!



* There may be incentives that could bring this total to $30 million.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Trivia Tuesday

It's the holiday season, so how about some trivia to celebrate. Your challenge is to answer the ten questions based on the pictures (and questions) below.


Please do not use the internet for assistance, and leave your answers in the comments section below. Good luck!

This quiz is courtesy of the fine folks at Pub Stumpers.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Dream Is Over

Last month, I applied for press credentials for the 2017 Academy Awards. Unfortunately, I didn't realize the due date to apply was the day I looked on the Oscars website, so I had to quickly complete the application. In hindsight, I wish I would have added more to this question:

19. Provide any additional information necessary to complete your application. This may include special access requests in addition to the above positions and/or specific requests regarding the above positions.

I do not require any special access. While The Academy works with many of the biggest global media organizations, this would be an opportunity for The Academy to get covered by the "little guy." Sure, it might be fun to see Ryan Seacrest interview Meryl Streep, but seeing the guy next door interview Streep (and more importantly talk to the people that don't necessarily get the attention they deserve) would be more interesting.

If I had more than 5 minutes, perhaps I would have phrased this differently. Anyway, on Thursday, I received the following e-mail:


89TH OSCARS®

MEDIA CREDENTIALS APPLICATION

CREDENTIALS REQUEST REPLY


Sean's Ramblings, (Not Dear Sean's Ramblings, Dear Sean, Dear Mr. Ramblings, or even Dear Mr. My Last Name...just Sean's Ramblings)

We regret to inform you that the Academy is not able to accommodate your request(s) for credentials to cover the 89th Oscars on Sunday, February 26, 2017, and the Nominations Announcement on Tuesday, January 24, 2017.

This is a travesty!

Please be aware that information about the Academy and the Oscars is always available on the Academy’s year-round web site at http://www.oscars.org/. Additionally, information will be available on the official website of the 89th Oscars, http://www.oscar.com/, beginning with Nominations information on Tuesday, January 24. Oscar.com will continue to be an excellent source of Oscars information in the weeks leading up to the Academy Awards presentation on Oscar® Sunday, February 26, 2017.

Due to safety and capacity regulations, the Academy will no longer offer Oscars Setup credentials (also previously known as Exterior Access and Oscar Week credentials) for the upcoming show. We will provide other coverage opportunity and event information in January on our Oscars Coverage Planning Calendar at www.oscars.org/press.


So there's still a chance I could cover some random, not as important event in January?

PHOTOS

Images of all Oscars pre-events and the 89th Oscars will be posted as they are available at http://photos.oscars.org/.


Why do I have a feeling that I won't be allowed to post these pictures on my blog.

Thank you for your interest in the Oscars.

It would have been nice to have this signed. Sincerely, Oscar or Sincerely, Anna Kendrick. (I just figure that Anna Kendrick is involved in all facets of the Oscars.


I don't think I can appeal this decision, so I'll have to try again next year. Actually, maybe I'll apply for media coverage for the Emmy Awards instead!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Hockey Road Trip: St. Louis

For nearly the past decade now, my friend and I have attended NHL games across North America each year. Although I haven't written about our experiences much the past few years, I wanted to write about this year's trip to St. Louis, Nashville, and, um, Metropolis.

Let's start with a little history. The St. Louis Blues formed in 1967 when the NHL expanded from 6 teams to 12 teams along with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, and others. Although the Blues reached the playoffs for 25 consecutive years from 1980-2004 and lost in the Western Conference Finals during the 2015-2016 season, the Blues are the oldest NHL team to never have won the Stanley Cup. However, the team's 50th year logo is pretty cool and they are hosting the Winter Classic next months, so that's worth something.


Throughout these hockey trips, I've seen amazing crowds in places such as Montreal and Chicago where the arenas were packed and fans were totally into the game. There have also been arenas with less enthusiastic crowds (I'm looking at you, Toronto!). St. Louis leaned toward the latter. Lots of empty seats and not nearly as loud as you'd expect when the home team scores three goals in the first period. Maybe the acoustics of Scottrade Center keep make it seem more quiet though the pre-game music blasted through the speakers.

I'm switching this from my typical glorious prose to more notes about the game/St. Louis.

- It was cold and dark when we arrived outside Scottrade Center, but I didn't notice much of an atmosphere around the arena. We actually parked in a parking garage attached to arena and walked right in. Meanwhile, about a mile away, there is an entire outdoor area with restaurants about a mile away adjacent to Busch Stadium, St. Louis' baseball stadium. This seems like a vibrant and fun area to visit before, during, and after baseball games. There was no such vibe around the hockey arena.

- If you're a St. Louis Blues fan, can you please explain this guy?



Does he do this at every game? If so, is he a Blues employee or a season ticket-holder? Is he allowed to leave his seat during the game? I mean, what happens if he's in the bathroom or stuck in line getting food when the Blues score? Will no one know how many goals the Blues have? In addition, what does he throw?

- In the 21 games during our hockey road trip, we saw a hat trick twice, during game #1 (Ryan Malone of the Pens) and game #6 (Dustin Byfuglien of the Blackhawks). Thanks to Vladimir Tarasenko, we've now seen three hat tricks live. Definitely a highlight of the trip seeing star players at their best.

- Are Dippin' Dots really the ice cream of the future? If so, you'd think the ice cream of the future stand would accept more forms of payment other than cash.


- Did you know that the World Chess Hall of Fame is in St. Louis? If you did, um, checkmate!

- Recommendation if visiting St. Louis: check out the free zoo. However, don't go at 3:00 on a cold Thursday, December afternoon during their holiday of lights season. The gift shop was closed and none of the animals were out. I mean, I saw a sleeping Andean bear and a few squirrels and birds, but this may have been the highlight.


- I did see Louie the Bear though. Sadly, I didn't get a picture with him.


- I ate lunch at Schlafly Bottleworks and had a $2 beer. Not a $2 sample but a $2 pint. And it (and the food) was good! By the way, according to its website, Schlafly is "Missouri’s largest locally owned independent brewery" and the Schlafly Tap Room, which opened in 1991, was first new brewpub to open in Missouri since Prohibition. So, um, why did it take so long to open a brewpub? It's not like Prohibition ended in 1989.

- I'm not a casino owner and I don't play one on the internet. But if I was a casino owner at say, The Lumiere Casino in St. Louis, I'd change the minimum bets to $5 at blackjack tables on a Thursday afternoon instead of having dealers stand at completely empty tables with higher minimum bids.

- I also won $16 at said casino, so maybe I am the owner now! (This reads better if you say this in an "I'm the captain now" voice.)


So that's it from St. Louis. For more about the Blues-Lightning game, check out NHL.com, ESPN, and/or the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

You can also click here for the hockey road trip archives.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Friday Video: Starboy

Reason #1324 why I'm not cool: I have no idea what The Weeknd's song Starboy (featuring Daft Punk) is about. What is a starboy? When did the Star Trek movie Wrath of Khan become "Wraith" of Khan? When we talk about The Weeknd are we supposed to bring shade? (Do I have the proper shade in this blog post?) Actually, I think the only thing I think I understand is a drug reference about cleaning pieces of ivory with her face. Of course, I'm probably wrong about this too.

Anyway, I like the song, so here's a video of The Weeknd performing Starboy on Saturday Night Live. While the official video has some bad words, this video does not.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Battle For Metropolis

Metropolis: Home of Superman, the greatest of all of the superheroes. (I'm sure there is plenty of disagreement about this statement, and I'm not qualified to enter any superhero debate. Well, except that I can't believe that there was a Batman v Superman movie when Superman would clearly win this fight. In other news, I did not see this movie.)

Metropolis, Illinois: A place I visited last week between St. Louis and Nashville during my annual hockey. This Metropolis, located next to the Ohio River across from Paducah, Kentucky off Interstate 24, is home to about 6,500 residents. This city has embraced its name (and a Harrah's casino) by erecting this giant Superman statue and opening the Super Museum and Gift Shop.


In case you're wondering the 2017 Superman Celebration is June 8-11. If only they didn't schedule this for the same weekend as Celebrate Fairfax.

Anyway, Superman's best-known rivals are Lex Luthor and probably General Zod. There are other villains in the Superman world including one not mentioned in movies or comic books. Enter Big John.


Located approximately one mile away from the Metropolis Superman statue, Big John is a formidable foe for the Man of Steel. I'm curious if the two figures reached some type of agreement to stay on his side or if there are epic battles that occur between the two when everyone is sleeping. We'll go with the first one.

Look for more posts soon about the St. Louis-Nashville trip.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Random Ramblings

I recently found a $100 US treasury bond that I received in 2001, apparently as a gift for graduating from graduate school. It appears that the gift-giver paid $50 for this bond which will be worth $100 when it matures in 2031. It looks like I have two choices here:

1. Cash the bond now and receive approximately $75.
2. Hold on to the bond for another 15 years when it will be worth $100 and hope that I don't lose it.

The US must make millions just on people losing their bonds. It seems really easy to lose something or accidentally throw something away after 30 years!


In March 2012, my car hit 100,000 miles on a drive to North Carolina as part of my annual hockey road trip. On Wednesday, my car reached 125,000 miles. That's not a lot of miles driven in the past 4.5 years.

On Saturday, I recorded the Ohio State-Michigan game since I knew that I wouldn't be able to watch the entire game live. ABC set the broadcast time from 12:00-3:00, which was not realistic, so I added an hour of recording time. At exactly 4:00 on DVR time (though later in real time) with Ohio State driving in double overtime, the recording stopped. While I was happy when I checked online to see that the Buckeyes won, why are college football broadcasts so long? Games should not be 4+ hours! I know the clock is stopped on first downs (please get rid of this, NCAA), but every commercial break was at least 4 minutes. No other sport has commercial breaks.

Have a great weekend!