Happy Super Bowl, a special day when Americans across the country will gather and watch more than 200 commercials, and some team will play some other team in just 11 minutes of actual game time.
No wonder the NFL and its advertising partners try to sell the commercials as entertainment in their own right: If you watch the Super Bowl, you’ll be subjecting yourself to an relentless onslaught of adverts for everything from Budweiser to Booking.com, insurance companies trying to out-zany each other, and gambling commercials. Lots and lots of gambling commercials for sites like DraftKings, Caesars Sportsbook, MGM and FanDuel.
Super Bowl Sunday was previously made brighter by the Kitten Bowl, but Hallmark canceled the cute fan favorite last year, saying only that it’s “not currently developing original animal-centric programming.”
It was inevitable that another network would move in to capitalize on Hallmark dumping its popular annual special, and taking the place of Kitten Bowl is the Great American Rescue Bowl, an event by the Great American Family Channel and the North Shore Animal League which will feature adoptable dogs and cats on a pet-size football field, along with host Beth Stern revisiting the stories of kittens, cats, puppies and dogs who were featured last year and found their forever homes. If you don’t get the Great American Family Channel you can stream the event on Hulu beginning at 10:30 a.m. (See the previous link for other streaming options.)
Viva la Tiger Bowl!
Watch this space in the coming week for a new longform story about the Champawat tiger, the most dangerous animal documented in more than 5,000 years of recorded human history. Little Buddy and I did quite a bit of research for this one, and we hope it’ll make for a good read.
The 295-lb former NFL lineman recently got a license to kill mountain lions, so when he heard about a puma that was “terrorizing” a Colorado community by existing near it, he packed his weapons of war, rounded up his hounds and set off, trailing testosterone like a beefed up Jim Corbett gone to deliver justice to the Champawat tiger.
First he spoke to a local homeowner, who had an ominous warning for him.
“And when we had talked to the landowner, they said, ‘Hey, we have house cats. And the cats are acting weird.’
No doubt the cats were agitated and wanted to get out there to cause havoc with their feline brother by existing and eating stuff. The cats would have to be dealt with later.
Arriving at the scene, Wolfe (what a badass name) found the remains of a recently-killed deer and knew the evil mountain lion hadn’t reformed its ways. By continuing to exist despite the discomfort of people in the area, and continuing to eat, the defiant cougar was practically asking to be hunted down and killed.
Moving downwind of the fearsome predator so that it wouldn’t smell the pheromonal cloud of machismo that permanently surrounds him, Wolfe began climbing. The ascent was exhausting — not only is the 6’5″ Wolfe almost 300 pounds, but he was also carrying his sword, his health elixirs and his Bow of Righteous Smiting, a 1,000-DPS legendary weapon he obtained after slaying the Goblin King of Dreadmoore. Wolfe was carrying more than 400 pounds up the slope when he caught sight of the puma and did what men of testicular fortitude do: he released the hounds, who cornered the cat and chased it up a tree.
Then, with righteous fury, Wolfe drew his bow and killed — excuse me, “harvested” — the mountain lion, whose species is notoriously averse to conflict with humans and has killed fewer people in a century than dogs do in a week. But what are a few inconvenient facts between friends, amirite?
When Wolfe descended the treacherous slope with the corpse of the mighty cat like Geralt of Rivia toting the trophy from a monster hunt, the villagers applauded and sang songs of his bravery, then feasted in his honor.
But all was not well, for when Wolfe posted the manly photos of himself posing manfully with the corpse of the big not-quite-big cat, a contingent of insignificant peons criticized him on Instagram for killing an animal that was allegedly “just surviving.”
So Wolfe did what men of his stature do, and went on Tucker Carlson’s show to cry about the rodential men and women nipping at his heels.
It is said that the combined testosterone of Wolfe and Carlson created a vortex of badassery that threatened to spark untameable hair and muscle growth in anyone who ventured too close. Female assistants had to be ushered out of the studio before the segment began, and the lesser men manning the cameras had to sign waivers absolving Wolfe and Carlson of blame if they were transformed into hulking man-beasts by the combined presence of the former lineman and the scion of a TV dinner empire.
“I’ve been through some tough training camps, brother, but this hunt was – man – it beat me up bad. I was beat up bad. I’m all cut up and scraped up. I was in full-body cramps [and] barely made it up there,” Wolfe told Carlson.
Wolfe proceeded to regale Carlson with tales of how dangerous mountain lions are. Puma concolor, the scientific name for the species, is responsible for a whopping 27 deaths in the last century. That’s one person every four years, and most of those people triggered the confrontations by getting too close to puma cubs or cornering the animals. By comparison, dogs kill 25,000 people a year via attacks, and another 25,000 by spreading disease, the latter mostly in third-world countries. Cows killed 655 Americans over a nine-year period from 1999 to 2007. More than 40,000 Americans are killed in car crashes annually.
In other words, pumas rank extremely low on the list of potential dangers to people, despite their size and their superficial resemblance to much more dangerous African lions. Pumas/mountain lions, also known as catamounts and cougars, actively avoid humans and try to steer clear of conflict with people. When they kill a deer or even a pet, it’s not because they’re “terrorizing” communities — it’s because they’re obligate carnivores who need to eat meat to survive.
Wolfe explained that it’s important to “tree” mountain lions in order to do recon on them and make sure they’re appropriately big and impressive-looking.
“Those full-grown males will kill kittens as well, they’ll kill kittens to get the females to go back into heat,” Wolfe said, confusing terms and the dominance behavior of African lions with American pumas, which are not the same species. “It’s important to manage that herd, right? You have to manage every population of animal out here, especially mountain lions. So we got the dogs on ’em.”
Who knew cats were herd animals? Who knew pumas had decided to give up their solitary lifestyles and live in prides? Who knew former NFL linebackers arbitrarily killing random pumas qualifies as ‘managing a population’? Someone call the wildlife biologists so they can rewrite their field guides!
Despite his ability to scale mountains and slay (mountain) lions, Wolfe was wounded by the backlash when he posted photos of himself with his “harvest.”
“I can’t believe what’s happening to me…They’ve had 200 calls to Colorado Parks and Wildlife trying to turn me in like I did something wrong,” Wolfe complained. “I’ve been harassed.”
Disclaimer: Since this is the internet, and this post is bound to bring in readers unfamiliar with PITB and the fact that we’re sarcastic jerks, allow us to state for the record that Wolfe did not kill the Goblin King of Dreadmoore, does not own the legendary Bow of Righteous Smiting, and we’re not exactly sure if the villagers in the unidentified rural Colorado community threw a feast in Wolfe’s honor after he returned with the corpse of the cat that had been “terrorizing” their community. I mean, they probably feasted him, but we haven’t confirmed it.
Archive 81 arrived just in time to help us through a content dead zone.
The Witcher’s excellent second season helped tide us over last month alongside Amazon’s not-so-great adaptation of The Wheel of Time, and critically-lauded The Expanse ended its six-year run on Jan. 14. Meanwhile, if network TV is your thing, the last few weeks of January through early February are filled with nothing but reruns as networks are loath to put any original content up against the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl.
Enter Archive 81: A story that promises mystery, Lovecraftian horror and a heavy dose of 90s nostalgia.
Our protagonist is Dan Turner (Mamoudou Athie), an analog enthusiast who makes a living restoring vintage media (VHS, cassette, Betamax and anything else pre-DVD), and spends his off hours crate-digging for rare recordings.
We meet Dan as he’s looking through recently-acquired VHS tapes at a street vendor’s stall in Manhattan.
“You know last month you sold me 16 hours’ worth of a T-ball tournament, yeah?” Dan asks.
“Yeah. But also, I sold you an uncut version of Phantasmagoria off channel 7,” his street vendor friend says. “That’s unreleased and very rare.”
When Dan balks at buying a box of random tapes, his vendor friend appeals to the hobbyist in him.”Look,” he says, “I know you love the hunt.”
“The hunt” he’s referring to is the obsessive drive that prompts collectors of all types to sift through yard sales, estate auctions and abandoned storage units. It’s the thrill of opening the unknown with the knowledge that most of it will be junk, but every once in a while a nondescript box will hold a rare gem.
It’s the thrill of the hunt that leads Dan to accept an archiving gig from a secretive company despite concerning red flags.
The job is to restore an archive of video cassettes scavenged from the charred ruins of a Manhattan apartment building called the Visser that burned to the ground in 1994. No one survived the building-consuming fire, and Dan’s employers believe the tapes could shed light on how the fire started as well as the people who lost their lives.
The company offers Dan a particularly generous fee for restoring and digitizing the footage, with the caveat that for the duration of the project he has to work out of a company-owned compound in the Catskills, a few hours’ drive north of New York City.
Dan accepts and it doesn’t take long for him to become engrossed in the content of the tapes he’s restoring. The collection of cassettes was shot by a young woman named Melody Pendras who moves into the historic and creepy Visser Building, ostensibly to interview its residents for a dissertation she’s doing on the strange history of the high rise.
With each cassette Dan restores and digitizes, a new chapter of Melody’s time at the Visser is revealed, and it becomes increasingly apparent that something is very wrong with the building and the people who inhabit it.
Think Ghostbusters and 55 Central Park West, also known as “Spook Central.” In the 1984 hit, 55 Central Park West’s bizarre design choices came courtesy of an architect who was heavily into the occult, and he built the high rise to serve as some sort of supernatural antenna for spirits from another dimension. The Visser has similar origins, although the details are best left unspoiled.
As Dan becomes increasingly invested in Melody’s story he begins to feel the effects of isolation, living in the brutalist compound that houses the repair studio and a cavernous living space. He’s not allowed visitors, as the content of the tapes are supposed to be confidential, he doesn’t get cell service and he begins to suspect the landline is tapped.
With a history of mental illness, Dan isn’t sure if he’s imagining things when he realizes someone else may be in the compound, and his paranoia is stoked by the discovery of journals that indicate he wasn’t the first archivist to work in the isolated building.
To make matters worse, he begins to experience vivid dreams in which he’s speaking directly to Melody — and she’s clearly in trouble, calling for help across almost three decades.
Archive 81 is guilty of the so-called “mystery box” narrative format popularized by JJ Abrams and Damon Lindelof with Lost. The pair provided a template to string viewers along by unraveling just enough of the central mystery in each episode to keep viewers hooked, but as Lost proved, the mystery box form only succeeds in pissing the audience off if there’s not a solid pay-off at the end.
While Abrams and Lindelof dragged out Lost’s narrative and winged its conclusion to much derision, Archive 81’s Rebecca Sonnenshine clearly mapped out her story from start to finish. Momentum builds over eight roughly hour-long episodes until things escalate quickly toward the end. While I’m still not sure how I feel about the way things concluded, Sonnenshine’s story provides answers to most of the burning questions that pop up over the season’s run, and leaves just enough of a cliffhanger for a potential sequel. (And judging by the show’s several-week run atop Netflix’s charts, we probably will see at least another season.)
You could argue that mystery is baked into the genre: Archive 81 is a drama with elements of horror, but it doesn’t rely on jump scares. It avoids many of the latter genre’s most worn-out tropes while embracing others, layering the narrative with an ever-increasing sense of dread. It’s a clear attempt at high-concept horror.
There’s not much in the show to dissuade the squeamish and the writers are more concerned with exploring their characters than trying to freak viewers out. All the same, whether you enjoy the series or not probably depends heavily on how you feel about the genre. If you’re game for something a little dark, Archive 81 isn’t a bad way to spend a week’s worth of frigid January or February nights.
Dodgers centerfielder Cody Bellinger cheered the little intruder on as he backed up to the wall like a true outfielder, trying to escape a pair of masked employees who scooped him up so play could resume.
Word after the game was that Mets GM Zack Scott offered a roster spot to the enthusiastic kitty, envisioning the fast feline as a pinch runner. If the unidentified cat signs, he’ll earn the league minimum 438,000 cans for his rookie season.
Last night’s game was not the first time a cat has taken the field at a major US sporting event. On Nov. 4, 2019, a black cat scurried out while the New York Giants were hosting the Dallas Cowboys. Superstitious fans blamed the cat for the Giants’ subsequent losing streak, but the truth is the team was just terrible and kitty was simply reminding everyone of that fact.
Feline humor, news and stories about the ongoing adventures of Buddy the Cat.