Presented in no particular order, here's a look at some of our favorite Grantland pieces from the past week.
By Hua Hsu
"Recognizing Kanye's self-awareness is critical to understanding Watch the Throne, his collaborative album with Jay-Z. Here is an album that has begged to be taken seriously as an event, from its lavish, paranoid listening sessions to Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci's gilded, Transformer-at-rest album cover. The powers that be chose to debut the album on iTunes rather than stores so that fans worldwide could experience the duo's grand vision together at the same time — a strike against Internet piracy disguised as a gesture of egalitarianism, a victory for the big guy over mom-and-pop record shops. But none of this could truly prepare listeners for Watch the Throne, which, at its core, is a marvel of affluenza. "This is luxury rap/The Hermes of verses," Kanye remarked on the lead single, "Otis," and while hip-hop has always made a sport of excess, Watch the Throne indeed suggests a new scale of possibility. It is the culmination of a wealth-happy maximalism that is as logical as it is ill-timed. Rarely has an album seemed so simultaneously in and out of touch with the exigencies of American life."
By Bill Simmons
Living without the NBA, the best Curb episodes ever, and mustache jokes. LOTS of mustache jokes. The second installment of The Sports Guy's weekly letter-answering binge.
Chris Jones and Jonah Keri
"I see the constellations in one of Norman Mailer's perfectly written paragraphs. I listen to 'Montana' by Youth Lagoon and I believe in something like the divine. I am a man of deep feeling, and when I see people do beautiful things, I feel it in my chest. Barry Zito's curveball was one of those beautiful things. When I first saw it and wrote about it, I thought for a long time how I might describe it. I ended up writing that 'It dropped like a broken heart,' because that's what I felt when I saw it."
By Andy Greenwald
"Here is the no. 1 reason why TBS canceled Lopez Tonight: Nobody watched it. OK, that's an exaggeration, but not by much: Recently the show was pulling in a mere 400,000 viewers a night — or, as those in the biz call it, a "Cleveland." Even worse, the two-year-old talk show managed only a 0.2 rating among the 18- to 49-year-olds who are legally required to be referred to as "coveted" (and, most likely, aren't just people who fell asleep during reruns of Seinfeld and left the flat screen humming).
So it's probably not worth digging too deep here in search of conspiracy theories. It's unfortunate that Lopez and Mo'Nique both lost their talk shows in the same week — leaving the late-night landscape whiter than Conan O'Brien in a leaky pasteurization plant — but it's also an unfortunate coincidence. No one could survive ratings that low. Sometimes a Hollywood cigar is just a cigar — even when it happens to be a generally unfunny cigar floating in an unattended pool."
By Chuck Klosterman
"Last week's episode of Louie opened with a quasi simulation of his failed HBO show Lucky Louie, punctuated by Louis C.K. wearing a backward baseball cap and destroying the concept (and his hypothetical career) by questioning the realism of what they were doing. For maybe 90 seconds I found myself thinking, 'Goddammit, here we go. This is it. This is going to be the first bad episode of Louie, because he's going to obsess over something that's essential only to him and not especially new and not even accurate (because the show he seemed to be satirizing wasn't how Lucky Louie actually was).'
"And then — of course — episode changed. It didn't just become unbad; it became incredible. The more I think about it, the more I suspect the interaction with Dane Cook might be the strongest seven-minute stretch I've ever seen on television: It's realer than any reality show, more emotionally complicated than most 300-page memoirs, yet still awkward and severe and (somehow) easy to watch. I want to know everything about this scene — I want to know if this conversation truly happened, I want to know Cook's views on his involvement, and I want to know C.K.'s deeper intent. And I can tell I'm not the only one who feels this way. What's so distinctly compelling about this season of f Louie is how everyone seems to collectively realize that what C.K. is doing is not only cool, but also authentically artful and unnaturally profound. There's no debate over its value because there's no contradictory position to take. It's not polarizing in any important way: If you're watching this show, you intuitively know it's fantastic (and substantially unlike the way fantastic TV typically is)."
By Peter Richmond
"My guess is that in the rest of the world, when someone decides to commit billions of municipal bucks to building a stadium for their city their first thoughts generally go immediately to the architecture. My guess is that the Beijing Olympics organizers didn't sit down on Day 1 and say, 'First off, which fast-food franchise should we put at the top of all the mezzanine escalators: Snake Shack or a Canton Cat Taco? What's going to work, maximum-bucks-wise? And should we go with a Michael Jordan Steakhouse or Hard Time Café in the end zone?'
"I'm going to guess that they said something like, 'Who can design something that will put Beijing on the map as something other than a really large city in a really, really large country that likes to run over dissenters with tanks?'"
By Bill Barnwell
"Nobody won or lost their division with the moves they made over the past 10 days, but there were teams that very clearly improved, as well as teams that declined into the margins. And for those teams with holes left on the roster, there's still some talent left for the taking."
By Andy Greenwald and Lane Brown
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes rose right to the top of the box office over the weekend, shocking Hollywood and proving once and for all that America prefers animals acting like people to people acting like animals. How did a monkey movie with a laughable trailer and an oddball, animalistic Oscar campaign make $54 million in its opening weekend (a lusty $20m more than its own studio had predicted) and win over a nation of humanity-hating critics?"
By Jonah Keri
"For centuries we used horses to get around, until we unlocked the secrets of internal combustion and started building cars. For 2,000 years, we diagnosed the sick based on surpluses or deficits of their four humors, until modern medicine added decades to our lives and immeasurably improved our standard of living. For as long as baseball has existed, pitching remained a great mystery, until advances in statistics and technology opened our eyes to how pitchers work.
"These three advances are nearly identical in their contribution to society. If anything, driving and curing disease are vastly overrated."
By "Brady Quinn"
"Hello Hello! Welcome to the first post on my first blog ever!
"I am Brady Quinn (AKA B-Quiddy AKA The Bairy Queen AKA Battlestar Qualaxica) and I am extremely amped. This blog is pretty new for me, as I'm not exactly what you would call 'tech savvy.' I mean, I just found out about Facebook 12 minutes ago. Accidentally. While looking for videos of people getting hit in the face with phonebooks."
By Sam Eifling
"During the annual Calgary Stampede, a massive urban rodeo and cowboy-culture exhibition, an oil town of more than a million people turns over to cowboy hats, tall boots, blue jeans, pearl snaps, and garish belt buckles. For some, the nod to country style is in fact a way of life. For others, it is cowboy Halloween — costumes minus the character. My first night at the Stampede, a group of friends and I closed down a massive yard party, then wandered to an Italian restaurant that had set up a South Beach-style lounge under tent cover on the sidewalk. Before long, a scuffle broke out. Someone threw a punch; someone else swung a stool. In a blink a dozen guys were bum-rushing one another and crashing over the ropes into the couches of the VIP section, kicking, pushing, punching, yelling. A peacemaker walked over to try to talk sense and got a stool swung against his temple. My friends and I edged to the door. A moment later the man at the middle of the attack strode out, pink as a ham, his face running with blood. Police sirens dispersed the melee. Our broken table and drinks lay strewn on the ground.
"There's no rodeo quite like the Stampede. The capstone to the season is the National Finals Rodeo, in Las Vegas, where the top cowboys ride against each other for prizes worth more than $5 million. There are other major events — RodeoHouston, Cheyenne Frontier Days — but the Stampede is a thing apart."
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