DavidAArnott.com Home

New Orleans is a weird presence in Disney's remake of The Lady and the Tramp

November 21, 2019 • 3:34 PM

While many of you were watching and re-watching the latest installment of Baby Yoda and the Masked Mystery Man on Disney+, my five-year-old was insisting we watch The Lady and the Tramp live-action remake. Over the course of the movie, I had a gradually growing sense that something about this new movie was odd, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

That feeling persisted until the two dogs watched a jazz band from the roof of a Mississippi river boat that very clearly was not on the Mississippi River, a moment when everything became clear.

Trade Deadline: A dice-based baseball roster strategy game

November 10, 2019 • 11:17 PM

About a decade ago, I went through a Strat-O-Matic phase. This year, I sank more than 100 hours into an Out of the Park Baseball save. Both experiences were fun, but recently I started thinking there ought to be a less time-intensive way to simulate baseball roster management.

Trade Deadline is the game I came up with.

All you need is a pair of dice, the two-page instruction manual, and the six-page Player Type Index, which I’ve linked below. If you’re into fantasy baseball, or Strat-O-Matic, or tabletop games, or all of those, get four or five friends together, give it a whirl, and let me know what you think.

Trade Deadline Instructions and Player Type Index (PDF)

(Photo: "Dice" by Ella's Dad | cc-licensed CC BY 2.0)

"The Americans" and "The Joy Luck Club"

November 3, 2019 • 10:39 AM

Elizabeth and Philip Jennings could have remained childless, if the show’s creators wanted. The Americans could have been a show about Russian spies in their thirties who constantly defy the KGB on whether or not to have children, for example. As is, they could have moved away from Stan Beeman and Pastor Tim. Paige didn’t have to learn about her parents’ secret lives. Paige and Henry could have been killed at some point.

Instead, every moment of the show revolved around the Jennings children, which is why, as I plowed through all 75 episodes over the past couple months, I kept coming back to The Joy Luck Club.

How I fear flying

November 3, 2019 • 10:23 AM

I’m holding The Fiancee’s hands with both of mine.

"Don’t worry," she says. "I brought lotion this time so my hands won’t dry out from your sweat."

Inside the world of Strat-O-Matic tournaments

November 3, 2019 • 10:22 AM

In 1961, a college student named Hal Richman started selling a dice game that purported to simulate baseball. He called it Strat-O-Matic, and since then, through the personal computer revolution and the rise of video game consoles, it has persevered and survived.

The game’s structure is simple. Every player in Major League Baseball has a card with certain outcomes and attributes printed on it, based on his actual performance. Managers playing Strat have precise control of the simulation, from choosing pinch hitters to positioning infielders, to deciding when to send a runner for a critical extra base. To start, they set lineups. Then, for each at bat, they roll three six-sided dice and a 20-sided die, check the dice’s results with the outcomes on the cards, determine the situation in the baseball game, and roll again. Games can be over in fifteen minutes, or they can last an hour, and when they are completed, managers are apt to pore over their scorebooks to relive that clutch double or see where everything fell apart.

‘Urges contrary to swallowing’: An amateur enters the strange world of competitive eating

November 3, 2019 • 10:21 AM

David A. Arnott recently took approximately eight years off his life by doing this…

It came about as many exciting things do, on a whim. For some reason or other, in early April I found myself on the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs web site, staring at a blinking message soliciting applications to compete in the company’s annual hot dog eating contest that culminates with an orgy of consumption at Coney Island on July 4th, broadcast by ESPN. On a whim, I entered the competition’s qualifier in Charlotte, NC. My friends and family weren’t exactly thrilled by this decision.

“I suppose it’s better you than me,” my dad said.

"The Princess Bride" is unrepentantly sexist

November 3, 2019 • 10:19 AM

Rob Reiner’s 1987 film, The Princess Bride, has become a modern classic thanks to its clever wordplay and twists on timeworn fairytale tropes. But what sets it apart from even the most irreverent and challenging modern children’s entertainment, such as Shrek or Harry Potter, is that it risks putting its characters in truly frightening situations with malice in the air, rather than cartoonish, bloodless, or off-screen mayhem.

For the most part, those risks pay off. To children, Inigo Montoya might be just a swashbuckling swordsman with a fantastic mustache and a desire to avenge his father’s death. However, there’s an implied horror to Inigo’s story about the six-fingered man killing the elder Montoya and slashing eleven-year-old Inigo’s face that only adult viewers can fully appreciate. And when Inigo finally confronts the six-fingered man and disarms him, he forces the villain to beg for mercy before thrusting a sword through his chest and calling him a son-of-a-bitch. Name another children’s movie featuring a vengeance execution. That Reiner and screenwriter William Goldman pull it off without a screeching shift in tone is a testament to their skillful storytelling.

However, the movie fails in one important respect which, once I noticed, ruined much of it for me: The Princess Bride is unrepentantly sexist.

The ballad of Phil Funnie

November 3, 2019 • 10:01 AM

Phil Funnie never went to college. That was for the academically aspirational kids in the Class of 1970, and Phil thought of himself as a real world guy.

Growing up on the east side of Bloatsburg meant Phil was insulated from the hardscrabble kids on the west side, but his family was hardly rich, and outside of school he didn’t know many adults who didn’t work at his father’s plant. So when he started building a career selling camera gear and taking portraits, Phil was fully aware of how different his life was shaping up to be compared to his father, who had spent decades destroying his knees and back on home appliance assembly lines.

A unified theory of Jackson Maine in "A Star Is Born"

November 3, 2019 • 9:57 AM

Jackson Maine is full of shit. Once you figure that out, the latest version of “A Star Is Born” and what the film says about art begins to make sense. (We’re about to go over some plot points, so spoiler-phobes, be warned.)

The NCAA can't justify its own existence

November 3, 2019 • 9:49 AM

Imagine you were asked to defend the NCAA against charges it is a corrupt institution that unfairly exploits labor, and in so doing you must justify its continued existence. Where would you start?

You’re a sucker if you read The New Yorker’s Shouts & Murmurs

November 3, 2019 • 9:46 AM

Ostensibly a spot for humor, for years the column has instead hosted either one-joke parables that would be too bland for a priest to tell in his homily, or a series of sub-Catskills-level jokes held together by the vague outlines of a “topic” that, almost invariably, reads like the editor understands some sort of reference to the modern world is at play, but rephrased everything to appeal to 75-year-olds.

Get posts by email whenever they're published