Ups and Downs: Where masked crime fighters are the perfect metaphor for the postmodern condition, but this isn’t an English class, so nevermind.


Up: He’s not the hero we need, but the one we deserve: Reuters reported my favorite story of the week; that of self-proclaimed amateur crime fighter Benjamin John Francis-Fodor, who until this week provided the much-needed service of spraying people in the face in downtown Seattle with pepper spray. Unfortunately, it seems he maced the wrong people last weekend, and now he’s facing charges of up to a year in jail.

This guy was for real, though; despite his seemingly tenuous grip on reality. He was the perfect crime-fighting machine, for a number of reasons:

1. He had a costume, which in the amateur superhero world is everything. Skulk around the city looking for petty crime wearing jeans and a stained college t-shirt, and you are only a few steps away from the crazy cat lady on the block who peers out her window and calls the cops every time she sees someone who is under the age of 30 / non-white / both. But don a costume, and suddenly you are a mysterious, crusading badass, hell-bent on distributing justice through karate, science, or — God forbid — scientific karate. A costume is vital, and Francis-Fodor had an elaborate one at that:

Molded rubber armor. A mask that covers nearly all of his face. A color scheme that makes him look like Scorpion from Mortal Combat and gives you the vague feeling that he might pull his mask off and reveal a flaming skull that immolates people. FACT: This costume looks ten times better than Anne Hathaway‘s Dark Knight Rises nonsense.

2. The crime-fighting name he chose for himself was “Phoenix Jones,” which automatically gives him a fallback career as a stripper.

3. He worked outside the local police. As television cop dramas have already established with 100% certainty, vigilantism is the best and only form of effective crime prevention, and should be conducted with as much needless violence as possible.

This whole situation raises precisely the moral and social dilemma that Alan Moore detailed in his masterwork, Watchmen. Only I feel Moore would have been pretty much OK with macing people from Seattle.

Down: Netflix. The whole company: I like my Netflix account. I honestly do. They completely changed the way a lot of people consume video entertainment. But lately, they are becoming more known for the peerlessness with which they have been able to do something stupid, acknowledge customer complaints, and then respond by doing something worse. First they raised their prices by up to 60% percent. Then they decided to split online streaming services and by-mail DVD delivery into two separates services run be separate companies, in effect asking customers to contribute to Netflix’s attempts to kill its own DVD mail service and force people to its online service. And now, they’ve announced that, in response to the universally-agreed upon belief that it was a bad idea and that Qwikster was a terrible name for the new mail service, they won’t be splitting the two services after-all. Which is kind of what customers wanted, but not entirely, since it still leaves the 60% price jump that upset people in the first place. I literally have no clue what the company will do next. If I opened the front door tomorrow and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings hit me in the face with a banana cream pie and then handed me a $20 bill, I wouldn’t be that phased.

Still, it was almost worth all the Netflix aggravation to get this gem from Conan a few weeks ago:

Up: The Cubs went and got themselves a General Manager: As you may or may not have heard, depending on your baseball acumen and proximity to Chicago, the city’s most infamous struggling sports team signed a new general manager today, and like the 14 before him, he’ll be tasked with breaking the Cubs record-setting World Series drought (currently 103 years long). And who did the Cubbies hire for the job? Why, Theo Epstein, the sitting General Manager of the Boston Red Sox; a guy who built two World Series-winning teams and ended baseball’s second-longest World Series drought (giving us the amazing, epic 2004 ALCS between the Bo Sox and the Yankees in the process).

How did the Cubs do it? Well, they stole his ass, like Angelina stole Brad Pitt. Epstein still had a year left on his contract with the Red Sox, but after a late-season collapse in which Boston only won six games during the last month of play and lost out on the playoffs on the last day of the regular season, it seems the chance for a fresh start and the opportunity to turn around the fortunes of another perennially frustrated fanbase was too much to resist. That, and the $20 million.

Hiring Epstein is a huge upset for Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, and the most interesting thing to happen with the team since the last time Carlos Zambrano went bug fuck and ate a live moose in the woods (<--probably). But the challenges with the Cubs are extensive, and Epstein will need to address a number of issues with a team that finished twenty games below .500 last year. So, what should the new GM do to make the team successful? Some helpful suggestions: 1. Find another team willing to take on some portion of Alfonso Soriano's contract, and ship the beleaguered outfielder out of town. He might look for an American League team in search of a designated hitter, or a Little League World Series team in search of someone who runs with the athleticism of an 11-year old. 2. Improve Wrigley Field by building a giant water slide near the bleachers and then putting up a hand-written sign that says, "Ta-Daaa!" 3. Hire Brad Pitt to run saber metrics for the team / to look handsome during games. 4. To exercise any lingering notion of a Cubs Curse, Epstein should personally sacrifice a goat on the pitchers mound on opening day and then drink its blood from a gold chalice before 40,000 raving fans. 5. Change the name on the outside of the ballpark to "Phillies" and hope that it takes people more than a year to realize they've been reading the stats from the wrong team.