Recently, due to my brain producing adequate levels of mood-regulating chemicals, I decided to rewatch the hit television program Friends from the beginning. This was a choice that I made because of my extreme mental wellness and overall contentment. Again, I am well.
Regrettably, I did not learn anything in the process.
It did not teach me anything about culture in the 90s (the first 38 episodes do have at least one gay joke each, but that is absolutely not a revelation).
It did not teach me anything about love (everyone except Ross and Rachel keep falling in “love” absurdly quickly, but that is primarily owing to the fact that this is a multi-camera sitcom written by television writers).
It did not teach me about life (I already knew that no one told me it was gonna be this way).
And it sure as hell didn’t teach me anything about friendship (“living across the hall from your besties would be tight” is not a learning).
No, in the end what I mainly learned was this: my HBO Max subscription provides me with access to the full Warner Bros catalogue of programming. You can subscribe at hbomax.com or in your preferred app store, and be sure to use code LEFTONREADHEAD for a 0% discount.
I was watching the NCAA non-women’s tournament and I noticed they literally kept making the Big Ten teams leave? Like it didn’t matter who they were playing, no matter how Oral the Roberts or how Sister the Jean, they wouldn’t let the Big Ten team stay and play.
We MUST name this behavior: it’s gatekeeping, and it’s toxic.
To all the Big Ten teams who have been sent home I just want to say that I see you. You are valued. You have worth. Except for Ohio State, obviously.
There are so many reasons that this isn’t very sicko mode of the NCAA, but let’s just say that it’s literally super problematic and if they don’t drop the notes app apology soon we literally might cancel this much-beloved institution. It is sad and wrong that a Big Ten team hasn’t been allowed to shatter the glass backboard in over 20 years.
Honestly? I haven’t seen this much cultural control to prevent Midwesterners from dancing since Footloose. What do we have instead? Coastal elitism that only provides Sweet 16 access to the Pac 12. It’s truly a shame that an egalitarian organization like the NCAA would instead take it upon itself to decide who from the corn belt can or cannot contend for a spot in the Final Four.
Call me crazy, but the only “madness” this March is limiting college basketball’s most promising conference to 7–8 in tournament play. It’s time for the NCAA to stop limiting which teams can contend for a men’s college basketball championship.
So let’s check the gatekeeping receipts. And let’s end the cultural gatekeeping that has oppressed the Big Ten for far too long.
Sunday formally marked the end of winter and the beginning of spring. For many of us, it’s been the toughest winter we’ve seen since at least 2014, when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl and Macklemore won Best New Artist and we realized that Seattle people had become just as insufferable as Bay Area people. But as vaccinations continue and days keep passing without the United States president showing his entire ass to the world, the springtime themes of brightness and rebirth feel more relevant than ever.
My point is that we should lean the hell into Spring 2021. Things are getting better! Yes, they are still terrible, and they will always be pretty bad, because, you know, [gestures loosely at shitty world]. But we’ll take an improvement wherever we can get one. As the cold temperatures relent and the world blooms anew, so should our spirits. Not our physical spirits, of course, but like hard alcohol. It’s warm enough to drink outside again, and that’s a joy worth reluctantly renewing one’s hope in life.
Other than assiduously getting buzzed al fresco, there are only two ways I know of to celebrate this season. One is eating Starburst jelly beans until you are absolutely ill, and I encourage you all to do that. The other is going on a walk on the first warm day of the season, popping in your headphones, and listening to Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks in its entirety.
Why Astral Weeks? Well, I’ll tell you why. Astral Weeks is so goddamn vernal, you will have tulips growing out of your pores just from listening to it.
You see, we talk a lot about the right music for every season besides spring. The “song of the summer” has been talked about for years, even though the only right answer is any hit by Katy Perry. Taylor Swift’s folklore album immediately elicited tweets of “omg fall vibes
” by every beflanneled white girl in the lower 48. Any sparingly arranged Bon Iver song is at risk of being called a “winter classic” by people who don’t know what the real Winter Classic is. But for some reason, there’s never discussion about the right music for springtime — especially odd when you consider that Astral Weeks has been around for more than 50 years.
It’s hard to put your finger on what makes Astral Weeks the perfect springtime album, besides the fact that it just bangs regardless of season. It’s the combination of many features. It’s the references to Van Morrison’s home of Northern Ireland naturally evoking images of lush greenery. It’s the aural aesthetic of his arrangements, with his unrefined voice sailing over simply-strummed major chords, exuding brightness and warmth. It’s more than a few specific lyrics like these from “Sweet Thing”: We shall walk and talk / In gardens all misty and wet with rain / And I will never, never, never / Grow so old again.
Above all, the album boasts a sort of je ne sais quois — or in Morrison’s local parlance, some fookin’ shite — that floods the listener with feelings of hope and renewal. It samples from across the entire range of human experiences that give life the potential for contentment and meaning, even in the hardest times. It evokes memories of youthful, optimistic abandon that offer a welcome reprieve from the caution and anxiety that have burdened us for the last year.
Folks, it is categorically Astral Weeks szn. Act accordingly.
The hearsay doctrine may be one of the most known and least understood legal principles of all time. Hell, I went to the same law school that produced a 7-time Jeopardy champion and I still have to look up all of the hearsay exceptions.
This is all to say it was a very big deal in our household when self-proclaimed “Queen” Victoria told off Matt James on last week’s The Bachelor for crediting allegedly inadmissible hearsay evidence.
So, here was the situation: one contestant (Ryan) told Matt (the Bachelor) that Victoria (pure evil) had called her (Ryan) a ho. Because The Bachelor has a very strict—if murky and malevolent—sense of morality, Matt took this accusation to heart, using it as persuasive evidence to deny Victoria a rose. Then, as Victoria was making her long-overdue exit, she levied this accusation at Matt: “I honestly feel so sorry for you that you would listen to hearsay and not all of the facts behind a situation.”
But is that true? Did Matt actually listen to “hearsay” at all?
As Prof. Leah Litman explained, he most certainly did not. But the reason why this wasn’t hearsay is worth explaining in more detail here, in part because this is such an illustrative example of a difficult concept, and in part because I thought of this article before I saw Litman’s video.
Hearsay is (1) an out-of-court statement that is (2) offered in court to (3) prove the truth of the matter. But as simple as that sounds, things can get confusing real fast.
Let’s start with Ryan’s statement to Matt (telling him that Victoria had called her a ho). To be fair to Victoria, this does appear to meet the first two prongs of hearsay: Ryan was taking Victoria’s out-of-court statement (allegedly calling Ryan a ho) and offering it in court (or at least the Bachelor equivalent: a filmed conversation with Matt). But crucially, Ryan was not introducing the statement to prove the truth of the matter—she was not trying to prove whether or not she (Ryan) is a ho. Instead, Ryan is trying to prove something else altogether: likely, that Victoria is a scheming mean girl who is not to be trusted because she is the sort of person who would go around calling other girls in the house “ho’s.”
But it’s easy enough to picture a different situation where this sort of evidence would be hearsay. Let’s imagine that, in the case of In re Ryan, one important issue for Matt to decide is “whether Ryan is a ho.” And let’s say that Serena P. wants to testify that “I heard Victoria call Ryan a ho,” and this testimony will be used to support the claim that Ryan is, indeed, a ho. Now that would be hearsay: it’s an out-of-court statement (Victoria calling Ryan a ho) offered in court (ideally over champagne and ruined mascara) to prove the truth of the matter asserted (that Ryan is a ho).
As I mentioned above, however, there are nearly enough exceptions to the hearsay doctrine to make the rule itself a nullity. So, under the Bachelor Rules of Evidence, how could we introduce this statement to Matt in our case In re Ryan?
Present Sense Impression: Let’s say that Victoria walked in on Ryan and Matt sucking face, and Victoria immediately turned to the camera and said, “Oh. My. God. Ryan is such a ho.” Under Bach. R. Evid. 803(1), “[a] statement describing or explaining an event or condition, made while or immediately after the declarant perceived it” is admissible. So Victoria’s present sense impression—her statement describing Victoria as being a total ho for kissing Matt, made immediately after she saw them sucking face—is admissible.
Excited Utterance: Similar to above, Victoria’s statement could also likely come in as an excited utterance under Bach. R. Evid. 803(2), which allows for “statement[s] relating to a startling event or condition, made while the declarant was under the stress of excitement that it caused.” Here, Victoria witnessed a startling incident (Ryan tongue wrestling with Matt) and, while Victoria was under the stress of the excitement that was caused by seeing the two of them go at it, she uttered: “Ryan is such a ho.” Boom! We just got this in as an excited utterance.
Statement for Medical Treatment: This one’s a little different. Let’s say that Victoria went to the house doctor to treat a case of VD. While describing possible causes, Victoria explains to her doctor that Ryan is a ho, and maybe that’s how the VD passed from Ryan to Matt to Victoria. Under Bach. R. Evid. 803(4), “[a] statement [such as Victoria’s] that: (A) is made for—and is reasonably pertinent to—medical diagnosis or treatment; and (B) describes medical history; past or present symptoms or sensations; their inception; or their general cause,” is admissible.
Recorded Recollection: Let’s say that Victoria is called to testify in In re Ryan. Only now, Victoria can’t quite remember how exactly she described Ryan at the time. But Victoria knows she made a video confession to a producer that documented her impression. Under Bach. R. Evid. 803(5), such a recorded recollection is admissible if it “(A) is on a matter the witness once knew about but now cannot recall well enough to testify fully and accurately; (B) was made or adopted by the witness when the matter was fresh in the witness’s memory; and (C) accurately reflects the witness’s knowledge.” That would likely be the case here, as (A) Victoria once told the cameraman about Ryan being a ho, but she now can’t remember exactly what she said, (B) Victoria made her video confessional while the sting of Ryan’s ho-ness was fresh in her mind, and (C) the video confession accurately reflected Victoria’s knowledge at the time.
Dying Declaration: Let’s imagine that Victoria was on the verge of death (maybe hypothetically because she caught COVID while storming the Capitol). As she lay dying at the ho-spital, perhaps Victoria uses her final breath to uptalk, “Before I leave this cruel world of fake bitches behind me, I want you to know: Ryan is a ho, and that’s the reason I’m dying—she li-ter-a-lly killed me with her ho-itude.” Under Bach. R. Evid. 804(b)(2) (commonly referred to as the “dying declaration” hearsay exception), “a statement that the declarant, while believing the declarant’s death to be imminent, made about its cause or circumstances” is admissible. Thus, Victoria’s statement about the cause of her death (Ryan’s ho-itude) could come in.
Murder: Last, consider what would happen if Ryan, to prevent Victoria from testifying that she once called Ryan a ho, murders Victoria. Not only would that probably preclude Ryan from later appearing on Bachelor in Paradise, but it would also likely cause Victoria’s statement to come in to evidence. Under Bach. R. Evid. 804(6), “[a] statement offered against a party that wrongfully caused—or acquiesced in wrongfully causing—the declarant’s unavailability as a witness, and did so intending that result” is admissible. So in this case, Chris Harrison would likely be allowed to read into the record Victoria’s statement (“Ryan is a ho”), since it would be poor public policy otherwise to allow Ryan to get away with murder in order to prevent Victoria from testifying to that effect. It should be noted, however, that this scenario could result in a possible Confrontation Clause issue under the Sixth Amendment. If, say, Ryan committed manslaughter by hitting Victoria too hard in the head during the annual Bachelor episode where they make the women box each other, but Ryan didn’t hit Victoria with the intention of making Victoria unavailable to testify, then this evidence couldn’t come in. Thanks, Scalia.
So there you have it. The Bachelor is so much more than a bizarre fusion of patriarchal hierarchy and champagne-drenched morality play. It’s also a useful reminder of just how confusing and difficult hearsay law can be.
College football’s video game is coming back! Will the players get paid? Probably not! Aside from rectifying a system that profits off of the unpaid, mostly non-white labor pool of college football players, here is our wishlist that we’d love to see in the new game:
Newly improved post-game interviews with 1,000+ pre-programmed excuses from Dabo Swinney.
MyMovement Mode: Do you have what it takes to form a student-athlete union that will be recognized by the NLRB? Or would you rather use the vast array of institutional wealth and power at your disposal to crush a rising labor movement? Whether you’re notorious Pinkerton Pat Fitzgerald or a scrappy upstart who just wants to get paid for his name and likeness, the future of the sham of amateurism is in your hands.
You can write customized death threats to the Alabama kicker if he misses a game-winning kick.
WR #5 Wheel Route now 20% more effective.
Enhanced school finances—don’t even think about digging FSU out of its self-imposed hole until you can find a booster willing to pay off two coaches’ buyouts at the same time.
More Lane Kiffin. Less Mike Leach.
As head coach, you can now be de-platformed by the student body of your school.
Dozens of new celebrations, including the Florida Shoe Launch.
If you win enough bowl games in Dynasty Mode, you get a wildly undeserved Presidential Medal of Freedom.
You can only play games with PAC-12 teams between the hours of 10pm and 3am ET.
EA Sports has partnered with Amanda Gorman to provide a spoken word tribute at the beginning of any Rivalry Game. If you thought you couldn’t be driven to tears by a lyrical ode to the Iron Skillet, the trophy given to the winner of Southern Methodist vs. Texas Christian, you’re wrong.
Some new liberties are taken with the general science around how pathogens spread.
They made it so you can’t play as Boston College anymore, just to see if anyone will notice.
Every three years Baylor gets expelled but HOOOO BOY those years in between.
Public approval in Ann Arbor about Jim Harbaugh is programmed to decline 8 to 10% each year, depending on how badly the Wolverines lose to Michigan State.
You get the Turnover Chain when you play as Miami until about the 40th season, when Miami is submerged by rising sea levels.
Every school is sponsored by Jumpman except Michigan. They’re a Skechers school now
Oddly enough, you can still play as Penn State. It’s just allowed.
You can now choose from a list of preselected social causes to replace “EA Sports” when you turn the game on, so the game offers intros like “Black Lives Matter: It’s In The Game,” or “Minimizing the Budget Deficit: It’s In The Game.”
After considerable public pressure, the game finally has an intoxicated Matthew McConaughey streak at about one of every twenty Texas games.
You get to shave Trevor Lawrence’s head if you want.
It has Pat McAfee now. Sorry.
An all new alternative reality where Hugh Freeze isn’t like that.
Nothing can stop you from giving Coastal Carolina the championship berth it deserves. Go ahead, try it.
Brent Musberger provides 45 minutes of gambling tips before each game. You can’t skip this part.
There’s no more pandemic but the coaches are still wearing masks under their mouths, just for the hell of it 🙂
If you play a Mascot game, hit up + B + left trigger for the Stanford Tree to sack tap Big Red.
You lose a coupla points every time your coach thinks a racial slur (they do NOT say them out loud).
All Georgia QBs are named either Travis Hunter or Hunter Travis.
After the game it tells you which players stormed the Capitol.
You can have a female kicker, but the option is only available when your team sucks so much ass that you don’t ever actually get within field goal range.
With all due respect to Palm Springs, Pixar’s Soul is the best movie to come out during the pandemic.
I’m still not quite sure how a media Death Star like Disney ended up producing one of the most internal, challenging movies I’ve ever seen and that dwells on subject matter that’s often way too difficult to confront (What is our purpose in life? How do you live a meaningful life? Why are the New York Knicks the way they are?). But I’m glad that they did, even if it reduced me to an existential puddle who also weeped openly about a character who is a talking cat.
Did the joke about the lost soul of a day trader hit entirely too close to home? You’re gosh darn right it did. And did I ball my eyes out during the final montage of the main character’s life? Hoo boy.
One of the things that has stuck with me most about Soul, however, is the idea of finding your spark. It feels so especially salient now, nearly a year into a pandemic that (at least for me) has caused me to go through entire life cycles of hobbies in search of my own (my sourdough starter ended shortly after the Trump presidency; I never did finish that 1,000-piece puzzle; I’ve been producing fewer and fewer listicles for this eminent newsletter, etc. etc.). And what about all of us who derive energy and inspiration from the very people we’re not able to see right now?
As awed as I was by Soul’s discussion of capital-D Difficult concepts about life, death, and the meaning we find in between, I think I got just as much out of its exploration of Joe’s love of jazz and what it means to pursue your ambition by immersing yourself fully in what brings you joy (and the ways in which that dedication can hamper other parts of your life). And on top of that, it was worth it just for the reminder to take a breath and look around you—which, in Soul, was a New York City that looked more real than any movie set in NYC that I’ve seen since Spider-verse.
So for me, Soul is on the Mount Rushmore of pandemic movies, right up there with Palm Springs and whatever else you happened to have streamed this year (Tenet? Chicago 7? Mank? Sure, go ahead, so long as it’s not The Midnight Sky). One month of Disney+ is worth it to watch Soul and then binge as many of the Mighty Ducks movies as you have the appetite for.
Superheroes are created to match the needs and wants of their audience. At their best, comic heroes shed light on the difficulties people are facing and provide a medium through which the audience can imagine overcoming that adversity. Captain America was created as wish-fulfillment for anti-isolationists hoping to punch Hitler right in the kisser. The X-Men comics, despite their mayonnaise-white cast of original heroes, were born out of the momentum of the civil rights movement, a stand-in for the discrimination faced by black and brown Americans and a representation of what it takes to keep fighting through adversity. And Punisher arose from the innate desire of every person to become Batman, juxtaposed against the fact that becoming Batman involves way more money anyone could reasonably have—so hey, why not buy a fuckton of guns and fucking shoot everybody? Okay, that one is a little less idealistic.
The of-the-moment inspirations for our most iconic superheroes makes you wonder: what type of superheroes are going to be born out of this flaming shitnugget of a time? We did our best to answer.
Captain Exhale: Able to breathe comfortably through any mask, Captain Exhale can powerfully walk through densely populated buildings, burst through crowded subways, and even carefully avoid strangers on the sidewalk while maintaining a calm, even breath.
Video Woman: It’s a sociopath! It’s a living zombie! No, it’s Video Woman, capable of withstanding multiple hours bouncing between Zoom, Google Hangouts and Skype for Business without once leaving her mic on mute or dropping her WiFi connection.
The Outsider: When it’s 30 degrees outside and you can’t bear to have another meal trapped in your goddamn apartment, who are you going to call? The Outsider! With her power to turn any outdoor location into a tolerable place to sit for 45 or so minutes, The Outsider is the only hero guaranteed to make you say, “Can I just die here instead of going back?”
Seth Rogen: Look, the bar is really low right now. The power to absolutely roast the fuck out of Ted Cruz every day while still finding the time to make dope pottery is a superpower these days.
Average Boy: No task is too big. No responsibility is too important. When the moment arises, Average Boy will show up and turn in a C-minus effort. And every time, humanity will rejoice because at least someone is doing something. What a hero.
How long did you wait for this? How impossible did it used to feel that we’d ever get to this point? What were you thinking in those early morning hours of November 9, 2016? Or in those early evening hours on November 3, 2020?
Well, we did it, Joe. Donald Trump is no longer the president of the United States. But I gotta say, I thought I’d feel a little happier. I’d assumed that the day Donald Trump left office would be one of those “see a doctor if it lasts longer than four hours” days. Or that it’d be like when the Cubs won the World Series, with crashing waves of spontaneous euphoria bursting through unannounced for weeks. Or at very least, that it’d be something along the lines of November 7, 2020, with the crowds in the streets and the joy in the air.
But it doesn’t feel like that.
Maybe it’s because of all the dead people. The crematoriums running past capacity in LA County, EMTs instructed not to bother bringing those who are too close to death to the hospital. The nurses and doctors who worked past the breaking point, pleading with us to stay home as patients lay in the hallway. Yes, the pandemic that’s been permitted to run roughshod over an entire people is probably part of it.
Or maybe it’s the Nazis. The lunatic fringe that has prospered like no other group under Trump’s leadership, recruiting enough members to overtake a Capitol police force still trained to see no hint of threat in white people with guns. It’s definitely hard to feel joy when the same people who think Tom Hanks chugs baby blood also get to choose the nominees for one of the two major parties.
Or it could be Joe Manchin. We worked and organized and donated and volunteered and wrote letters and registered and voted like the world depended on it… and now Joe Manchin gets to decide which of our dreams live and die. The guy who voted to confirm Kavanbrough and got elected by shooting a climate bill on TV. It could definitely be Joe Manchin.
Perhaps it’s the 74 million votes. We can all agree that that’s altogether too many votes to re-elect the man who oversaw the resurgence of the aforementioned Nazis, the unchecked spread of the aforementioned pandemic, and incited the aforementioned insurrection. But unless the machines really were rigged, he got more votes than any candidate in American history without the middle name Robinette. That doesn’t inspire much excitement.
I guess it could be because of the Supreme Court too. We got a lot of wins these past four years, mainly because Donald Trump is deeply incompetent—but Mitch McConnell is not. And so, a 6–3 conservative majority is enshrined for decades, likely to strip healthcare and rights from anyone who didn’t party with Brett. And the more you think about it, the more likely it seems that SCOTUS is the reason.
There’s a big part of me that thinks it’s the way he’s leaving. We wanted him in handcuffs, or at very least resigning in some sort of self-pardon deal. Instead, he’s off to Mar-A-Lago (in the country’s largest swing state, which he won TWICE) and will likely be able to sell a book or start a TV station to pay off his debts. His children seem primed to run for office. Impeached twice is nice, but it’s a far cry from those Mueller fever dreams, and I’m not sure everyone got over that.
But I think it’s something worse. It’s a lack of hope.
No one really wanted this. Democrats nominated Biden because we thought he could win and put an end to the nightmare (we were right!) and because some core constituencies thought they could trust him to do the moral thing (they might be right!). But no one did it because they were so deeply inspired by him. No one voted Biden for the hope of it all.
Some people did so very enthusiastically, myself included. But when Biden first got to the White House in 2008 it was under the delightly vague banner of “hope and change.” As much as his ace campaign staff tried putting aviators on ice cream cones and getting Eminem to cut sick ads, his 2020 banner was “fewer excess deaths per capita.” We voted for Biden because we were sad and nearly broken by what’s happened, not because we hoped for much better.
No one voted for Donald Trump out of hope either. As much ink has been spilled on the streets of Youngstown trying to explain How Trump Won, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone answer this simple question: have you ever found a passionate Trump supporter who is happy with their life? Someone who wears the hat and pledges loyalty to him, then goes home to a loving home, fulfilled by the days that pass and content in their personhood? If such a person exists, they’ve done an excellent job of hiding.
They voted for him because they’re angry. Angry at all different things, most likely, but angry.
This time, sadness beat anger. And for now, that has to be enough.
If you’re a good, red-blooded American, you’ve likely seen the flawless trailer for Godzilla vs. Kong. And if you’ve seen that trailer, there is one inescapable conclusion you’ve likely drawn: those two are going to fuck, right?
Don’t get me wrong—I know what they want you to think; these are two terrifying proto-monsters hellbent on destroying each other and everything in their paths. But c’mon. You’re telling me you watched that whole trailer, heard that mood music, listened to the long history of their relationship and saw them start to go at it and didn’t just know, “Oh yeah, they’re going to go at it, alright. They are going to destroy everything.”
I’m not saying it would be offensive if they didn’t fuck. But also… it would absolutely be offensive. In this day and age, in 2021, it would be incredibly puritanical to keep two creatures from fucking who are definitely ready to go to the bone zone just because one is a gigantic ape and the other is a dinosaur (ageist, much?). And if Christopher Nolan can produce a movie where Robert Pattinson definitely has poop re-enter his body (oh, you think pooping is off-limits in that reverse timeline?!? It happens. Grow up), we can get at least a couple minutes of Kong-on-Zilla action.
Let’s make this happen, America. We got a whole new fucking Sonic after one horrendous trailer. The least the film industry can give us now is the hookup of the century.