The Wrap Sheet
A monthly airing of thoughts and grievances
Happy 242nd birthday, America!
Apologies for the late posting (I know, it’s August 2nd). But let’s talk about July!
I have a lot to get to this week, including some major sports news, a film review, opinions on Twitter, theatre, and a new segment I’m calling the Best Thing I Saw This Month.
That is LeBron James. Wearing purple and gold. (Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)
I want to get sports out of the way first. The big story didn’t really feel like a big story because we all knew it was coming- LeBron James is now a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. He signed a 4-year, $153.3 million contract earlier in the month.
My hot take is that this doesn’t make the Lakers championship contenders. I mean, obviously it does, any team with LeBron on it is a contender, but it doesn’t make themautomaticchampionship contenders. In fact, I think LeBron made it harder on himself by going to the Western Conference, especially since the Warriors just brought in DeMarcus Cousins to add to their superteam.
As it stands, LeBron is surrounded by an underwhelming but somewhat-decent cast including Rajon Rondo, Kyle Kuzma, JaVale McGee, and Brandon Ingram, with players like Lonzo Ball, Lance Stephenson, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope coming off the bench. I don’t know about you, but I’m not scared of that team if I’m the Warriors, Rockets, or Celtics.
The West is going to be a bloodbath this season.
France: Because Nobody Else Wanted To. (Getty)
In soccer, France defeated Croatia, 4-2, in the most boring World Cup Final pairing of all time.
Woods, understandably frustrated, could not hold his final round lead. He finished at 5-under for the championship. (Harry How/Golf Digest)
In golf, Tiger Woods made a run at the British open after being fairly mediocre through the first two rounds, eventually holding an outright lead on the front nine of his final round. Unfortunately, Woods couldn't hold the lead for long. The 14-time major champion finished three strokes back of eventual winner, Italian Francesco Molinari, who became the first of his countryman to win a major championship.
What really struck me, though, was Rory McIlroy's beautiful double-fist-pump-pirouette combo after sinking a long eagle putt on #14 to put him within a stroke of the leaders.
LOL at Putin's smug-ass face. (Yuri Kadobnov/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, after meeting with Vladimir Putin at a summit in Helsinki, said that he didn’t “see any reason why it would be Russia” interfering with this country’s elections, causing major internet backlash.
Trump sided with Russia. What else is new?
What I want to talk about is the backlash and eventual revision of the statement. In a press conference a few days later, facing fury from both his supporters and opposers, said that he misspoke.
“I thought it would be obvious,” he told the press, “but I would like to clarify just in case it wasn’t (it wasn’t, hence the backlash). In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t’... The sentence should have been: ‘I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t, or why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ Sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.”
Obviously it didn’t clarify things pretty good by themselves. The comment sparked the hashtags #would and #wouldnt trended worldwide on twitter.
But Trump very clearly being an idiot again is not what I want to discuss.
I’m sorry if this seems to “normalize” Trump’s behavior, but I think we need to stop being shocked at what he does or doesn’t do that is defined as “normal,” and look forward to the next voting cycle so that we can put an end to this buffoonery.
This story brings me to my main point: Twitter.
Twitter and I have a love-hate relationship. I use it to get a lot of my breaking news from journalists I follow. It’s very convenient to have all of my news in the same place divided not by media outlet, but by primary source. It’s also a convenient place for me to find memes and other funny things to retweet so I can convince my followers that I have a sense of humor.
It also pisses me the hell off sometimes; so much utter shit goes through that universe that it makes me want to pull the plug on social media altogether. There’s just so many opinions on Twitter that I do. Not. Care. About.
One such issue I take with Twitter is that of a potential “edit tweet” option. And I totally get understand its appeal to the mass-users, the “casual tweeters.”
You spend a few minutes crafting a tweet. Maybe it’s over the 280 character mark. Maybe you’re looking for just the right wording. And you send it, and it gets a bunch of likes and retweets, but you notice -gasp- it’s got a typo. Maybe even a few typos. But you’ve already worked so hard to get those likes! And since there’s no editing option, you’re forced to delete the tweet, type it again, and resend it, and you look like an idiot to your friends because you’re double posting, and the same people probably won’t like/retweet it again because they did the first time and I GET THE APPEAL OKAY.
My opinion on the edit button is that there shouldn’t be one. That’s the beauty of Twitter- it’s very stream-of-consciousness, at least for most of us who don’t use twitter to break news. I say leave the edit button to Facebook and Instagram. Also, if you can’t take two seconds re-read a tweet for typos, you don’t deserve an “edit tweet” button.
Also, consider the following, if you want to get technical about it: a certain politician tweets something nice and considerate. It receives a million likes and a million retweets.
And then that certain politician uses the “edit tweet” function to make that tweet really racist or homophobic or xenophobic, and it looks like those million people who liked and retweeted actually liked and retweeted a really awful tweet.
Hold people accountable for their actions and don’t even think about adding an “edit tweet” option.
Also, learn to spell check your own work.
Writer/director Bo Burnham (left) and Elsie Fisher (right) work on a scene from "Eighth Grade."
I only saw one movie in July, and that was Bo Burnham’s coming of age comedy,Eighth Grade.
Jesus, was this movie a hot mess.
And by "hot mess," I mean the life of Kayla (played by Elsie Fisher, a shy, awkward thirteen-year-old who struggles to figure out what it means to be popular, pretty, social, and above all, herself, as she navigates the murky waters of her final week of middle school.
(Because I can’t do movie reviews that aren’t spoiler-free, there are mild spoilers ahead.)
Anyone who has been through the actual eighth grade in the last two decades knows what Kayla has been through: the terror of attending school, the anxiety of trying to impress the cool kids, and the pressure of living up to the expectations of parents.Eighth Grademakes you take a long, cringey trip down memory lane, while all the while making you look your own awkward experiences in the face.
Kayla’s father Mark (Josh Hamilton) plays a loving parent who wants nothing more than to show his daughter love and support as she grows older. His monologue toward the end about taking pride in being a parent and how he wants the same for Kayla is soul-stirring.
But whereEighth Gradetook a turn for me was its setting. It’s set in the present, and middle school in 2018 is very different from middle school in 2008.
What the kids inEighth Gradehave that I never had at that age were smartphones and easy internet access. Kayla makes and shares advice videos on YouTube, the other kids in the movie navigate Instagram and Snapchat with relative ease. There’s also the added pressure of sexual discovery that is briefly touched upon in the film, but Burnham refrains from going too over the top on that front. It’s perfectly cringey and illustrates 2000s teenage insecurity perfectly. It’s deliciously agonizing to watch Kayla’s every move.
Navigating this current world is hard enough (and I say that now, as a twentysomething living on his own in New York), but I can’t even imagine doing it when you’re newly thirteen.Eighth Gradeknocks it out of the park. Depending on the competition, Bo Burnham could find himself at the Oscars with a screenwriting nomination next year.
Taylor Iman Jones (center) and the company of the new broadway musical "Head Over Heels," currently playing at the Hudson Theatre. (Joan Marcus/Playbill)
17 years ago, a show featuring the music of ABBA opened up on Broadway to mixed reviews. That show wasMamma Mia!. It won a grand total of zero Tony Awards after being nominated for only five. But it ran for 14 years, spawned various national tours, and had two movie spin-offs. Anything can happen to a show if enough people give it a chance and see it.
I work as an usher on Broadway for the showHead Over Heels, which just opened last Thursday to, let’s be less, less than stellar reviews. You can read one of those reviewshere.
Head Over Heelsis based on Sir Philip Sidney’s poemThe Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, set to the music of the popular revolutionary 80’s band The Go-Go’s. It’s a bizarre combination of heightened english text and mainstream pop music that blends together really well. It’s also the gayest thing I’ve ever had the pleasure to see and I’m so here for it.
But the show got bashed over the head by reviews. Now, ticket sales have been relatively steady and I don’t know how much of that has to do with the fact that the show is now finally open or the controversy surrounding New York Times reporter Ben Brantley, who intentionally misgendered the show’s transgender star, Peppermint, as a joke during his review (Peppermint is the first transgender woman to originate a principal role on Broadway) and his subsequent apology.
The jukebox musical has run its course on Broadway, I’d say. Ever sinceJersey Boysreached the top of the mountain, you don’t see too many reaching that same fanfare. That’s not to say they’re not popular, because we’ve had a plethora of them reach Broadway since 2000- they are recognizable commodities, after all- but as far as critical reception, I feel like folks are generally tired of their existence and prevalence over more original works.
The thing withHead Over Heelsis that it doesn’t feel like a jukebox musical, at least not to this particular millennial. Perhaps it’s because I was not ultra-familiar with the Go-Go’s canon before seeing the show, and thus many of the songs feel fresh to me (thanks to the brilliant work of orchestrator Tom Kitt), not to mention the lyrics lend themselves to the book, which I think is the strength of the piece.
Working in show business, so often do I hear “oh, I heard it didn’t get very good reviews,” which is basically the same thing as saying “someone else I don’t know said it’s not worth my time, so I’m not going to give it a try.”
This is less of an opinion piece and more of a public service announcement. The only person who can decide if something is for you is YOU. Not a reviewer, not the internet, not your friend or family member- you.
I stress this every year- don’t let reviews or the number of Tony Awards a show wins dictate what you see in New York. Some musicals make you think- there’s nothing wrong with that. Some musicals make you smile and laugh until your face hurts, and that’s their only purpose- there’s nothing wrong with that either. I am sick and tired of people going to see award-winning shows for the sake of seeming cultured or bragging to their friends that they got to see their favorite movie star in a garbage play. Alas, this is the nature of commercial theatre- marketing and selling tickets in any way a show can. PerhapsHead Over Heelshasn’t done the best possible job at that, but in my attempt to sway the populace away from the norm and into the unknown: give the show a chance. Theatre is entertainment, and that’s what this show brings to the table. Its message is also timeless- Love and acceptance and equal representation for all. What’s not to love?
And finally... The best thing I saw this month.
Ah yes. Dudes shoving hot dogs in their mouths. As American as apple pie. (AP)
This last section is the best thing I saw this month, and it revolves around the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, which took place at Coney Island on July 4th. I had the pleasure of being there this year (although it is something I will probably never do again), and I was introduced first hand to one particular individual who will live forever in my memory.
And no, I’m not talking about any of the eaters. I was there- there’s no way in hell Joey Chestnut ate 74 hotdogs and buns in 10 minutes due to a "massive judging error."
No, the real hero of the day was a man by the name of George Shea. He's this guy, who does all the announcing for the event. The guy who wears the hat that says to everyone he's a guy running for mayor in a small town in Missouri (pronounced mizz-UR-uh, not mizz-UR-ee).
Shea was an aspiring writer who studied literature at Columbia, but later found himself managing a PR firm along with his brother Richard, the same firm that handled the Nathan’s account. Together, the two took the hot dog eating contest from a sideshow event and turned it into an international phenomenon watched by millions of people on national television every independence day.
In 1997, the brothers founded the International Federation for Competitive Eating, later renamed Major League Eating, and began to hold eating competitions around the world (and yes, there are videos of people shoving not just hot dogs, but everything from pork rolls, to oysters, to raw onions down their gullets in an allotted time). Thanks to the success of breakout stars like Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut (and the two’s back-and-forth rivalry), the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest has become an event that is far removed from a vaudeville event.
With George Shea at the helm as emcee, he has elevated it from a sideshow attraction to a place on the pedestal at God’s right hand.
Shea has a knack for introducing the colorful competitors with such incredibly outlandish fervor, that he has turned himself into a national treasure. He has the ability to dance upon the razor-sharp edge between a joke and a very real emotional event. These introductions are absurd, verbose, elaborate, ironic, and uniquely inspiring, packed with esoteric references and grandiose language. He delivers his speeches with a charismatic energy that it rivals (and, more often than not, surpasses) the heart of most sports commentators.
Current world champion and world-record holder Joey "Jaws" Chestnut. (Getty)
Of current champion Joey Chestnut:
“He has God’s username and password and does with it what he pleases!”
And also, because this is too good to pass up:
“He is the citadel, and he shall endure forever, because he is freedom. And he will fight until the dome of heaven collapses, and the black avalanche of space pours down around him.”
In 2014, Chestnut was carried to the stage on a mustard yellow palanquin, which prompted this epic speech from Shea, accompanied by The Who's "Baba O'Reilly." ("Out heeeere in the fields, I fight for my mealllllls")
Thomas is a three-time women's hot dog eating champion. (Getty)
Of former women’s champion Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas:
“She is the shadow under the lotus petal. She is the absence of beauty. She is the memory of pain more painful than the pain itself. She is the darkness driven ever westward by the rising sun."
Of former competitor Yasir Salem: “He is entirely committed to competitive eating. He will do whatever it takes to win. Three days ago he broke up with his girlfriend and euthanized his dog to leave a void of emptiness inside him that he could fill today with hot dogs and buns.”
Lefevre is actually the "buttery flaky crust" guy.
Of Rich “The Locust” Lefevre, the 73-year old competitive eater: “When we’re young we drink our coffee with milk and sugar, and as we age we drink it with milk only, and then we drink it black, and then we drink it decaf, then we die. Our next eater is at decaf.”
Martinez wears a luchador mask to the table.
Of eater Pablo Martinez: “His marriage troubles began when he named his children Mild, Medium, and Hot. But he will not let domestic issues get in the way of the task at hand."
The mystical "Eater X" always an intro befitting such a wondrous athlete.
Two for former competitor Tim “Eater X” Janus:
“His lost his arm to a Bengal tiger in a boyhood trip to the Atlanta zoo. But his arm grew back. He can speak Neutrino, the language of the sun, and all day long he listens to the conversations in the sky.”
“He was born outside of time. A witness to all possible realities. He was there when the sea and the sky were mixed together as one and humans floated from the depths of the Pacific to the very edge of space where they looked out at the stars in the blackness. He was there when druids walked the earth, and he watched as mankind built great cities, developed technology, and invented complex language with combination words such as bromance, labradoodle, manscaping, frenemy and craptacular.”
And finally, there is Eric “Badlands” Booker, who is also a self-producing rapper. During the 2018 event, Badlands performed three rap songs, and then went on to eat a respectable 20 hot dogs and buns. But no performance was more epic than when Shea and Booker tag teamed his entrance. Eat your heart out,Hamilton.
George Shea. A living legend if there ever was one. You’re my hero, and the best thing I saw this month.
That about does it for this month's wrap sheet. Keep a lookout for lots more coming this August from the blog, including my yearly NFL preview!