Category Archives: The Effects

The Kings of Leon Effect Part V: Sarah’s Picks

by Sarah Bennett

Ed. Note: This is the maiden post of the lovely Sarah Bennett, who will be joining our team here at Commutes. We’re thrilled to have her on board though Sarah’s prowess and skill will likely give you a dim view of the men of Commutes going forward. Read charitably, reader.

This week, Commutes is discussing the Kings of Leon Effect, where underrated things eventually become overrated. As a new writer for this blog, I figure that a great way to alienate readers upon first impression is by making a list of things I dislike or think are overrated:

1. Sushi. It used to be that outside of major cities, Asian restaurants were limited to places that served only Kung sushiPow chicken in takeout containers and suggesting you go for a bite of raw fish was a gross idea. As we’ve hit our 20s, the default dinner out suggestion with my friends seems to be sushi. I love it, but it’s constant and seems like more of a snack than a meal. I don’t know if this is actually true or it’s all a big show, but everyone else seems stuffed after five pieces of sushi, while I’m ordering my tenth roll and avoiding giving anyone a ride home so I can stop to pick up White Castle with a side of shame on the way home.

2. Liking Things Ironically. There was a time many moons ago when people were earnest and you didn’t always have to parse their sentences for level of sincerity. Irony was still funny, but could be lost on others. Now, it is the default assumption.  I could pretend that my love for 80s and 90s pop is an intellectual statement about high vs. low culture and somehow a reflection of my own intellectual superiority, but that would be a lie, not to mention exhausting. The truth is, I love it when “King of Wishful Thinking” comes on the radio. It’s OK to actually enjoy things, and a waste of time to purposefully spend your time on things you don’t like to prove your sense of irony and wit. Plus, the influx of irony makes for uncomfortable conversations: “I love this song!” “I know! Isn’t it terrible?” Awkward.

3. Johnny from Devil Went Down to Georgia. A bit out there, but it’s the end of the week. devil went down to georgiaThis is a musician who has continually suffered from the Kings of Leon Effect since long before Kings of Leon existed. The devil certainly underestimated Johnny in the beginning; he has talent and the Devil should have considered that.  But there is no way in Hell that Johnny beat the devil. Sure, Johnny is good, but the Devil has a BAND OF DEMONS. His version has a much more badass fiddle part, funky guitar, and an awesome bass line, while Johnny’s is nice, but nothing particularly original. Who would you rather see in concert? The Devil would have a 100-piece demon band behind him with Mephistopheles on drums. There would probably be a laser light show and a mosh pit. All Johnny has going for him is a soul and the ability to rhyme “run” with “sun.” He did not deserve that golden fiddle.

4. Pants. In college, there seemed to be a major pants shortage. People went around in tee-shirts without pants, because leggings are not now nor have they ever been pants, no matter what the occasion. On nights out, it was short skirts and dresses, trading pants in for hypothermia. Guys, too, often eschewed pants for mesh shorts, whether they were actually playing basketball or not. I scoffed at these people then. Now that everyone else seems to have jumped on the wearing pants bandwagon, I‘m beginning to think that they were on to something. While most of my friends are now young professionals with the wardrobes to match, this period of freelancing from home while in between jobs (read: without dental insurance) has made me question my commitment to proper clothing. They all seem to like how they now seem more “put together and appropriate” compared to others in the same age bracket, whereas I’ve begun to resent going in for interviews because they require me to wear real pants. Maybe I’m not a productive member of society, but at least I’m comfy.

5. Ordering Scotch. I would like to preface this by saying that I love whiskey in all its forms. It is by far my favorite drink. But for a long time, scotch was strictly an old man drink. With the advent of Mad Men—a show with characters who would now be old men in real life— young people have taken to ordering scotch on nights out. For me, still being in the “I’ll have a glass of whatever your cheapest beer is, thanks” phase of life, this is problematic because there is no Popov’s equivalent of scotch. But the greater problem with the increase in people ordering scotch is that a lot of people don’t actually like it. Once the first person orders one, though, the gauntlet has been thrown, an d anyone after has to also order a scotch or risk looking like a sissy. Nothing kills the party mood faster than the sudden hush that falls over the room as eight out of nine people try to choke back their drinks without grimacing.

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The Kings of Leon Effect Part IV: Erick’s Picks

by Erick Brown

Cynicism is always fun. But this list was tough because it’s composed mostly of things that I wish were better. They once had promise in their own little ways but they have since out-worn their welcome. Thus, I present the following list with just a hint (the precise amount of Sriracha I enjoy on my Pad Thai) of regret:

1. Bill SnyderHe’s good, but this past year brought reactionary fans out of the woodwork to proclaim the superiority of Bill Snyder to the utmost levels. He took a very lousy program and turned it around during the 90’s. He had a number of really good years, reaching 10+ wins consistently and peaking at an unexpected #1. All the while he has (according to those who ignore JUCO transfers) done this with paltry, pathetic recruiting classes. Apparently this demonstrates that he is among the ‘greatest coaches of all time’. What these arguments ignore is that Synder has won just 2 conference titles in his career, is under .500 in bowls, .666 all time, and .598 in conference. A good coach, but nowhere in the discussion among the greats.

2. Smartphones. Smartphones certainly aren’t underrated in popular culture, but those that don’t have one are constantly bombarded by their smarter-phoned brethren about everything they are missing. They are assured that it will change their life, they will never be able to go back, that they don’t know what they are missing, etc. As a recent smartphone convert driven to make the switch thanks to a generous corporate phone program, I’m glad I held out as long as I did, and I don’t believe I’d have much of an issue returning to the LG EnV2 that served me well for 3+ years. Considering the prices, the expansive availability of Wi-Fi, and the relative value of Wi-Fi-based items like iPod Touches or Kindle Fires…smartphones have hit a Kings-of-Leon point from which they may never return. Wi-Fi certainly won’t be shrinking in the future.

3. The Walking Dead. The books are better than the show, and the books just aren’t very good. The graphic novel series that pre-dates the AMC TV show were recommended to me by friends and blogs alike. They were supposedly a hidden gem from the under-the-radar Image Comics, and I eventually gave in and picked up a few. I got through a solid 9 trade paperbacks before quitting and never looking back. The novelty of a zombie comic book and the writer’s willingness to kill of characters George R.R. Martin-style can only make up for incredibly awful dialogue for so long. I regret only that they sit on my shelf next to much better material. Eventually, I heard amazing things about the TV series. Another hidden gem on a TV channel that brought me Mad Men and Breaking Bad. I gave it a full two seasons before, once again, the novelty wore off and the acting and writing led to a unceremonious removal of my Tivo Season Pass. The Walking Dead is readable and watchable to a certain extent, but the ratings leave me simply baffled.

4. AgnosticismThis seems to be a term that many people use to simply mean “I don’t like going to Church”. It’s right on par with the statement: “I’m not religious, but I am spiritual”. And I for one believe both have run their course of usefulness. I’ve had many engaging conversations about theism with theists, atheists, and agnostics. The consistent feature of a conversation with an agnostic is that it’s short. Not because they are unwilling to discuss religion, but because it generally becomes pretty obvious which side of the fence they actually fall on. In the words of the always entertaining Richard Dawkins: Permanent agnosticism is “fence-sitting, intellectual cowardice.”

5. Pirating Movies. I had my pirate phase for sure. It’s easy, it can be extremely useful (especially a while back when trying out a new TV show was significantly more difficult than it is today), it’s free, and it’s mostly harmless. But there are people who download just to download. They react to any discussion about movies with: “Oh yea, I have that on my computer”, yet they have never bothered to actually watch it. I may be in the minority, but for the enjoyment I get out of a movie theater experience (and don’t be afraid to go it alone), tickets are relatively cheap (keep an eye out for AMC Gold Experience tickets and buy in bulk for $7 each). And the availability of cheap DVDs or movie-streaming services is truly astounding if you think back to 5-10 years ago. Finally, there are literally hundreds of sources out there that can help you avoid a shitty movie-going experience. If you’re upset about dropping $10 on a movie ticket, it’s my personal belief that you’re seeing the wrong movies.

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The Kings of Leon Effect, Part III: Vincent’s Picks

imagesBy Vincent Kwan

Unlike the John Mayer effect, where I had to draw within myself to find the upside of things, the Kings of Leon Effect, where underrated things are now overrated, allows to exercise my naturally high levels of haterade. As always, disagree with me profusely in the comments:

1. Rush. A couple of my dearest friends are Rush fans, and it’ll pain them to read this, but there are few more sanctimonious fanbases than the one that exists for Geddy, Alex, and Neil. I kind of like Rush in that way you like something out of respect for it. But, if I’m being honest, I’ll throw on “Limelight” or “Tom Sawyer” only when I want that clichéd classic rock song feeling. Whenever I tell people I’m sort of eh about Rush, the conversation always plays out exactly like that Cheetos bit from Family Guy. NEIL PEART IS THE GREATEST, the chorus screams. WE RESPECT MUSICAL TALENT, WHY ELSE WOULD WE MENTION A DRUMMER FIRST? But beyond the initial Neil Peart hard-ons, the arguments are remarkably slim. Behind the clear technical skill , there’s an abundance of those “screeching halt” drum fills and lyrics you can only appreciate ironically, all jammed into overly-long tracks. If I had to guess, Rush fans are probably also the people constantly bemoaning how they “don’t make music like they used to anymore.” That’s something Rush fans and I can agree on: When listened to today, Rush is a markedly aged, not transcendental experience.

2. Sriracha. As a Vietnamese kid, it pains my heart to say this, but I think the Red Rooster has gotten overplayed. The condiment’s explosion in popularity over the past couple years has made it the object of abuse. My heart weeps whenever I see menus proudly proclaim their Sriracha usage, as if to prove a certain hipness or exoticness. Additionally, Sriracha should not be thought of as the hot sauce to rule all hot sauces; Frank’s Red Hot (Cameron’s favorite) and other of it’s ilk are far more appropriate when you want that hit of vinegar as much as spice. If not properly handled, Sriracha will go the way of ketchup, where whatever it is we’re eating is merely used as a  vessel to deliver the condiment to our mouths. There’s a time and place for everything under the sun, folks, and Sriracha is a prime example.

3. NFL (Fantasy) Draft Sleepers. When NFL punditry’s annual “sleeper” lists are proclaim the same 10-15 small school players as sleepers, are they really sleepers anymore? Is it really possible to have  a “consensus sleeper?” The same logic goes for your fantasy drafts. When you and your friends all do your research from the same few sites, you’re bound to get enamored with the same freakishly athletic, bench-riding tight end or some team’s third string running back who can make it big if only he picks up a few carries. As a result, unfortunate, regrettable things happen, like drafting James Casey or Robert Turbin, for instance.

4.  Reddit. As a aggregator of often great nerd-culture pieces, Reddit delivers a bunch of content you wouldn’t otherwise find (or at least not yet find) on more above-ground media sources. But spend enough time on Reddit and you’ll find parts of its community repulsive, but even worse, boring and homogenous. Aside from harboring all sorts of unsavory characters in the name of free speech, the overall mood of Reddit is one that’s not unlike a precocious high schooler, always eager to prove he’s (and lets be honest, “he” is definitely the right pronoun to use for Redditors) right by setting up and knocking down strawman arguments, usually concerning religion. I imagine if you set up a venn diagram of “People who describe themselves as libertarian” and “Redditors,” you’d have two circles spooning each other. The internet is supposed to be something that expands your worldview. Often, I find Reddit doing the opposite.

5. Your Hangover Breakfast Place. Everyone’s got one in every town, and everyone’s convinced theirs is the best. After a night of drinking, a plate of carbs and fat is usually going to taste great, regardless of the source. Don’t get me wrong, local diner/greasy spoon, I enjoy your wares as much as the next dumbass who decided that shots past midnight was a good idea. But, just realize, you’re not some underground, transcendent culinary experience. You’re no different than the rest of them.

The Kings of Leon Effect, Part II: Matt’s Picks

Yesterday, Cameron introduced the Kings of Leon Effect, which is essentially the opposite of the John Mayer Effect. The Kings of Leon Effect is the effect whereby something is considered underrated for a long period of time, eventually gains momentum for its underrated status, and thus subsequently becomes overrated. After weeks of thought and exhausting research (okay, I used my lunch break yesterday to read Wikipedia for an hour), I have my top five.

Matt’s Picks

  1. Missouri Valley Conference basketball. For at least the past five or six years, college hoops pundits have raved about the Missouri Valley Conference. Creighton is so good this year! Southern Illinois is great! Wichita State is legit! I’ve even heard it suggested that the Missouri Valley Conference is so deep that it can’t really even be considered a “mid-major” anymore. Granted, the MVC usually has a team or two in the top 25 during the regular season. But when it comes to the NCAA tournament, it’s a different story.

    Since 2000, 35 teams from mid-major conferences have made the Sweet 16, and MVC teams have accounted for a mere six of those appearances. More importantly, in that same span, mid-major teams have made it to the Elite 8 or further fourteen times (when you take out Memphis and Xavier, which are relative powerhouses, there are still eight mid-major appearances in the Elite 8 or further). No MVC team has made it to the Elite 8 in that span — not Creighton, not Southern Illinois, not Wichita State, not Northern Iowa, not Bradley. That’s less Elite 8 appearances than the MAC (Kent State ‘02), Conference USA (Memphis multiple times, Tulsa ‘00), the Horizon League (Butler ‘10 and ‘11), the Colonial Athletic Association (VCU ‘11, George Mason ‘06), the Atlantic 10 (Xavier multiple times, Temple ‘01, St. Joe’s ‘04), and the Southern Conference (Davidson ‘08).

    In today’s diluted college hoops landscape, that doesn’t cut it. Butler, VCU, and others have proven that true top-tier mid-majors can make serious postseason runs, and the MVC simply hasn’t reached that level. The MVC is the Houston Texans of college basketball — perennially impressive in the regular season, and a dud when it counts.

  1. acousticAcoustic/unplugged performances. Live acoustic music certainly has its virtues, and “unplugged” performances have continued to grow in popularity for good reason. In an age where a decent-sounding finished musical product does not necessarily imply a talented musician, acoustic performances strip away the artifice and reveal the talent (or lack thereof) of the artist at a song’s core. But with the increasing popularity of these performances, an attitude — both spoken and unspoken — has emerged among some that a live acoustic performance is automatically superior to a fine studio recording.

    Take the Beatles’ “Yesterday” for example. After all, it is the most covered song in rock and roll history. I’m not a huge fan of the song, but I think it’d be hard to argue that a live acoustic performance by Paul McCartney would be automatically superior to the complex, richly textured recording on Help!. Acoustic music has its place, and there are countless instances where an acoustic performance surpasses a recording, but an appreciation for acoustic performances should not automatically override an appreciation for great studio work.

  1. Craft beer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan. Living in Madison and Chicago for the past two years, I’ve had easy access to some of the best microbrews in the country (shoutout to New Glarus, Ale Asylum, and Half Acre). The rise of craft breweries has supported local economies and driven mass producers to diversify their offerings, both unqualified good things (except in the case of Blue Moon).

    However, the popularity of craft beer has given rise to — or at least brought completely out of the woodwork — a new class of annoying pseudo-beer-snobs, many of whom have no idea what they’re talking about. It’s now pretty much impossible to order a Miller Lite without justifying yourself, which is just kind of strange. Sometimes, you’d rather pay $3 than $6, and that’s not the end of the world. But it’s now pretty difficult to do that without an eye-roll from the bartender or the hipster on the barstool next to you. So, I guess this isn’t a knock on craft beer at all — in fact, I universally prefer it to mass-produced alternatives. Rather, this is a rant about the assholes whom the craft beer scene has unfortunately but inevitably provided with an air of superiority. Sorry, craft beer, but I hope you can understand. You hate these people too, right?

  1. Image courtesy of Flickr user stevendepolo.

    Image courtesy of Flickr user stevendepolo.

    Soccer. I get it. For decades, America ignored the most globally popular sport, one with its own unique aesthetic and distinct culture. In the states, soccer is finally getting the attention and respect it deserves. In my opinion, it’s also become really annoying. Of all the people I know who now “follow” soccer, I’d say about half actually give a shit. The rest are in love with the idea of soccer. You get to wear a scarf, drink Guinness, and avoid the type of drunks you’d find at an SEC tailgate. Call me old-fashioned, narrow-minded, and the archetypal Ugly American, but I’ll continue to pretty much ignore soccer and hang out with the raving idiots at the tailgates.

  1. Horse meat. For years, it was an edgy food popular in remote villages. But, sadly, Ikea and Burger King have taken horse meat into the mainstream. I’ll reminisce about the golden days, but you can now count me out of the horse meat scene. Enjoy it on your Whoppers, posers!
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The Kings of Leon Effect

I think Vincent put it extremely well in his John Mayer article that my colleague Matt Waller and I tend to post for the weekday and coffee crowd. Without further ado, grab a cup of coffee and settle in. Happy Monday morning! Welcome to another edition of ‘the Effects’. Our first series featured a very positive topic, highlighting certain products, people or players that do not receive their due respect. This week will be the opposite, focusing our attention onto entities that have received their fair share and (in our opinion only, mind you) do not necessarily deserve the level of praise.

The Kings of Leon Effect – n. the effect whereby an object becomes drastically underrated at a certain point and thus subsequently becomes overrated

1. Kings of Leon – This band has had a strange place in my hierarchy of musical taste for a long time now. I discovered them all the way back in the frigid winter of 2005, where a cherubic Cameron Daniels was still in high school. (Is it kosher to call yourself cherubic?) The reason I remember the specific winter is I remember where and when and in what circumstance my friend first played some of their songs for me. We laughed at the lyrics for the word ‘Soft’. They were bluesy, twangy, rocky and raw. I think I would call it garage rock.

Then, Only by the Night was released in 2008, featuring songs like ‘Use Somebody’ and ‘Sex on Fire’, the latter of which to me sounds like a horror film about picking up a companion at a shady bar and sweating over those test results from your doctor (!). I digress. The album to me was a major disappointment because of my super high expectations.

2. The Films of Wes Andersen – With all due respect to my colleague Vincent Kwan (who posted his opinion as the exact opposite of this), listening to Wes Anderson fans talk about the power of The Royal Tenenbaums’ soundtrack makes me wish for a fast and painless death. I don’t want to make a big fuss over this because I truly enjoy his work. For the record, Bottle Rocket is one of the funniest movies ever made. The level of criticism needs to be levied against many of the fans.

“Wes painted a rich tapestry of suburban New England in Moonrise Kingdom” – Generic Coworker #2

Moonrise Kingdom had parts of it filmed in my hometown and I had to put up with this at work. To portray you how foreign this type of praise is uncommon for fans of anything else, let me cite the timeless Simpsons in their assessment of Jim Carrey:

Hugh: I’ve never met anyone who so understood the magic of Jim Carrey

Lisa: He can make you laugh with no more than a frantic flailing of his limbs.


3. Houston Texans – Boy, were the last six years fun. Every single year I got to hear about how chronically underrated and talented the Texans were! Did you know they had a billion Pro Bowlers! Did you know how much Arian Foster could run and Andre Johnson can plow over defenders like a Mack truck? Can you tell that I am a Patriots fan?

4. Big data – Either in the media or in social circles, I have noticed more reverence for statistics as a game changer and requisite for career, political, or financial prowess. As a Math major in undergrad (are you allowed to say ‘undergrad’ as opposed to ‘college’ if you didn’t go to grad school?), I support this movement. The fact that my co-writer Matt Waller can get excited about Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise is a fantastic development. If this were 20 years ago, I imagine his literary attention would be only focused on writers similar to Johnathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace (whoever their late 80s corrolary would be), but I can only speculate.

Then, Bill Gates quit Microsoft and Larry Page/Sergey Brin got so rich that they don’t know what to do with their time anymore. So they go around the world and consult about the power of data and how that is where all the competitive advantages are in business, education or health care. I highly suggest listening to Bill Gates speak about education and health care. His passion for his new work really shows and having listened to him I am more confident than ever in our ability to progress on simple, measurable metrics.

In the media, big data is expressed as a simple recognition of math as a tool to use and then the rest is trivial. It is what I do every single day at work, dealing with big data (Math FTW!) and what we talk about, debate and consult over are important things to know when dealing with big data. How does your AIC or SBC compare over time, does it degrade outside build, how have we weighted observations, are there multi-collinearity concerns?

I can drone on and on.

The devil is in the details. I worked as a research assistant for an economics professor while I was at Notre Dame. This could be measured as ‘big data’-ish. When I was interviewing my senior year, having this on my resume was very interesting to talk about with the interviewer.

“Oh, I see that you have some statistics work as an undergrad. What kind of things did you do?”

“Outside of get coffee?”

<Interviewer aggressively laughs at my perfectly timed and orchestrated joke, caught in surprise at my compelling wit>

“Well, there’s a lot to it. Variable selection, build selection and the actual coding takes a lot of time. There are theoretical issues that we need to be concerned with and how we are proxying for certain exogenous factors that will adversely impact our vertical readings in this time period. What we did was….”

No job offer received on that one.

5. Frank’s Red Hot – I put that shit on everything. Mac N’ Cheese + Frank’s Red Hot for the record is what eternal bliss is for me. Except it’s not eternal because I can wolf down an Easy Mac in, maybe, 30 seconds? When I’m hungry? I haven’t timed myself. I wanted that to preface what I have to say next. I have met people who refuse to eat buffalo wings that aren’t made with Frank’s Red Hot. I have met people who have looked down on the fact that I don’t throw it on my burgers or salads (sometimes gotta stick with the classics, like Italian or Ranch).

It’s a cult. Sweet Baby Ray’s has a similar cult surrounding it and I almost put that here, but I just think the product is too good (I’m a card-carrying member of the cult).

There you have it, my top five. If you disagree with me, remember that this is just my opinion. But also know that you are wrong.


Cameron Daniels

Cameron Daniels works as a financial analyst in Texas. Hailing from the Greater Providence area, he is obsessed with following the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics and lets you know it ad nauseum. His other interests include chess, Good Will Hunting, Pearl Jam and playing piano. He also currently writes for Don’t Quit Your Day Job, a personal finance website dedicated to the night and weekend crowd. You can contact him through e-mail.

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The John Mayer Effect: Recap

Cameron, Matt, Vincent, and Erick have spoken. The Commutes Top 20 for the John Mayer Effect — where something gets so overrated/overhyped that it then becomes underrated — includes ESPN, the 9-5 job schedule, Starbucks coffee, and, of course, John Mayer himself. The list is a dynamic one, and new phenomena fall into the realm of the effect every day.

My (Matt’s) watch list for future John Mayer Effect candidates: Chipotle (everyone is still enamored with Chipotle, but eventually people will tire of it and forget how great it really is),  the Chip Kelly era at Oregon (I think the program will decline precipitously and Kelly may flounder in the NFL, leading many to forget about how ridiculous Oregon’s offense was for a good stretch), and Dwyane Wade (the Heat will win it all this year behind LeBron’s dominance, and Wade will be overlooked). Comment on the site, on Twitter, or on our Facebook page if you disagree. The Effects are meant to spur debate.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Stein9

Image courtesy of Flickr user Stein9

The Top 20, as Chosen by the Commutes Staff:

  1. John Mayer
  2. Starbucks coffee
  3. The “9-5” white-collar schedule
  4. ESPN
  5. Allen Iverson
  6. The “diva” NFL WRs of the late ’90s-’00s (Moss, T.O., Ochocinco)
  7. Reggie Bush
  8. Neon
  9. Avatar
  10. The Da Vinci Code
  11. Justin Timberlake
  12. Facebook (for people over 40)
  13. Grand Theft Auto III
  14. Manti Te’o (as a football player)
  15. The films of Wes Anderson
  16. Jay Cutler
  17. Poker
  18. Flying (on airplanes)
  19. A good night’s sleep
  20. Stand-up comedy

The John Mayer Effect, Part IV: Erick’s Picks

by Erick Brown

The art of going last is a difficult one to master. Maybe one day I’ll stop volunteering for it.

Allen Iverson would have been my first choice. And the entertainment value of the The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons put me into a sort of cheerful stupor that, at that time, made me even think Dan Brown’s Deception Point was a good read (a recent re-read has me rightfully doubting many of my opinions from last decade).

Finally, the “9-5” schedule might be my favorite example mentioned so far. It’s the social norm that allows me to stop what I’m working on, shut off my laptop, and turn off my work-brain when the clock strikes 5 (usually 6, but same idea). It also gives me an air of quiet superiority over my graduate school friends that is only rivaled by their not-so-quiet air of superiority aimed right back at me.

Now I think the John Mayer Effect should be firmly ingrained in your lexicon by now, so I’ll skip the definition and get right down to it.

1.  ESPN. A corporate giant, towering over sports like a puppet master. They are the robber barons from the 1800s, the Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones, and, by all accounts, the guy played by Kevin Spacey in House of Cards (from what I’ve heard, let’s keep this spoiler free until I get a Netflix account). It’s a criticism easily thrown at an organization that has played a large role in the influx of money and money-based decision-making in college sports today. But to fault a company like ESPN for going after the money is missing the source of that money: we’re all watching. Maybe the quality of their journalism isn’t up to par with other investigative pieces, but I genuinely don’t care. I don’t turn on ESPN at any given hour of the day for quality journalism. I like to watch sports, I like to have sports on in the background, or I want to see some highlights. ESPN can always satisfy what I’m looking for. Sure, maybe they’ll be talking about Tim Tebow or Manti Te’o or some other loosely related ‘sports’ topic…but that’s why 3 or 4 other ESPN channels exist. I’ll watch Celebrity Bowling on ESPN2 if I have to, or ESPNews, or Highlights Express. Or I can log onto and rewatch a 5 OT ND thriller vs. Louisville. And for those options and more, I’ll always ignore the negatives and be thankful for ESPN.

*(Similar idea but doesn’t quite fit: NBC Olympics Coverage)

2. Neon. There is a certainly ‘truthiness’ about this one that is difficult to put into words. I believe Neon fits within the John Mayer Effect not because of any logical argument, but because I feel it in my gut. Neon has been circling the themed party and costume circuit for far too long. It’s hit underrated status in my book (but perhaps not yet in my wardrobe).

3.  Facebook (for people over 40). Facebook can be useful, useless, overused, fascinating, boring, and all things in between for all kinds of different people. It’s a great way to stay in touch but it can also be an artificial means to “stay in touch”. It has lovers and haters, but I think the haters have been growing far more over the past few years. Enter: my mom. A quiet, easy-going person who grew up in New Jersey only to end up moving her family all over the country and eventually settling in Ohio. Fast-forward through most of my childhood and my mom (now with an empty nest) was eager to flee Ohio and return home to New Jersey. Since that move, I am constantly shocked at the power of Facebook to reconnect my mom with friends and family long forgotten. For me, Facebook has some funny posts, some interesting links, and reminds me of my friends’ birthdays. But in reality, I have everyone’s cell phone number if I feel like talking to them. My mom has reconnected with people she probably never would have spoken with again. Facebook can be a powerful and wonderful website, just maybe not so much for our generation.

4. Jay Cutler. See: Allen Iverson. Cutler may just be my favorite athlete out there right now. How can one man care so little about what I think of him? It’s truly inspiring. Get that man an offensive line.

5. Stand-up Comedy.  I have a complicated relationship with stand-up comedy. I personally find a truly good stand-up album much more enjoyable than even the best music albums around. But a bad stand-up or really even mediocre stand-up is often just unlistenable (unlike mediocre music). It leaves with that awkward feeling that also makes movies like Cyrus difficult to sit through. But good really good stand-up is one of my all-time favorite things. I’m talking about Patton Oswalt at his best, early David Cross, Mike Birbiglia. John Mulaney, Demetri Martin, and plenty of others. I’ve listened to albums like Cross’ The Pride is Back and Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk with Me far too many times to count. Now does stand-up fulfil the John Mayer Effect? It’s certainly debatable. In my view, the Comedy Boom of the 80’s was followed at least in part by an underestimation of the quality out there. Mediocre comedians like Jeff Dunham draw concert crowds, guys like Cross and Zach Galifianakis are better known by many for their acting than their stand-up, and I think many people, especially those trending younger, would say that their favorite comedians are people like Will Ferrell, who don’t actually do stand-up at all. Louis C.K. is fighting the good fight but there is still far to go. The quality is out there. It’s sitting on Spotify deserving of a larger audience, and I won’t be happy until that Spotify stream of what my friends are listening to includes John Mulaney’s hilarious tale of his trip to Chicago’s Salt and Pepper Diner or Patton Oswalt’s take on liberal arts majors.

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The John Mayer Effect, Part III: Vincent’s Picks

by Vincent Kwan

Cameron and Matt post for the early-riser, coffee crowd; I tend to post for the late night, glass of wine crowd. Or, I’m just a huge procrastinator. Your call, dear reader, but I would love it if you judged me favorable. Anyway, so far we’ve seen two fantastic “John Mayer Effect” Top 5s, so you all should be ready to be let down by mine. As always, please comment to tell me how terribly wrong I am.

The John Mayer Effect – n. the effect whereby an object becomes so drastically overrated at a certain point that it subsequently becomes underrated

1. The “9-to-5”, White Collar Schedule

“Fighting the man” (but not to the degree where, you know, actually disturb the balance of things) is a trope common throughout our popular media narratives, and nothing reeks more of the system than working behind a desk for 8 hours a day. If 90s kids movies taught me anything, the office is where your parents go if they don’t love you enough to spend time with you. Naturally, the idea of the desk job isn’t really appealing to anyone in their formative years. But after going through a couple petulant years of “I SWEAR TO GOD, DAD, I’LL NEVER BE ANYTHING LIKE YOU” and the largely “anything goes” structure of college, the rigidity introduced by the white-collar working world is surprisingly refreshing. When I started working, I noticed that I was not only far more productive, but I had so much more free time. Having distinct periods of the day dedicated to work and play tends to make the quality of both much higher. Four hour Netflix binges used to make me feel guilty in college. Now, they’re a justified release after a day at work. Turns out, Mom and Dad might have had a good thing going as a working stiff. That is, until their asshole kids took up all of their free time.

2. Reggie Bush

Few players’ careers have undergone the hype rollercoaster that Reggie Bush has. Coming into USC as the second best football recruit in the nation, Bush disappointed few with his play in the Coliseum, shattering records, winning the Heisman, and giving football fans a performance in the 2005 Rose Bowl that goes down as one of the best in history (matched in dominance by Rivals’s top recruit of 2002, Vince Young). However, the wheels came off when Bush entered the NFL, with his high stature coming into the league undoubtedly accentuated his fall from grace in New Orleans. Stripped of his Heisman, relegated to the unsavory “change-of-pace back” label, and joining the fraternity of Kim Kardashian’s “been there, fucked that” list*, Bush was sold for scrap parts to the Miami Dolphins. However, in the Magic City, Bush has experienced a rebirth, putting together two productive seasons as a feature back in a league below-average offense. His numbers (~1000 yds, ~6tds), don’t suggest superstardom but in a league that has an attitude of “next warm body in” when it comes to running backs, Bush’s sneaky resurrection and longevity in the league make him underrated in my book.

*Membership being, incidentally, the greatest threat to the black community since the crack epidemic of the 80s and early 90s.

3. Justin Timberlake

How can one of the world’s biggest pop superstars be considered underrated? You have to consider Timberlake’s trajectory as an artist. What amazes me is the fact that N’Sync’s Celebrity and Justified were released within a year of each other. In that year, Timberlake’s sound escaped from the black hole of Swedish-produced technopop to a rarified form of white boy R&B that still stands unmatched in my opinion (sorry Adam Levine, Robin Thicke). Adding further to the Timberlake mystique is his distinctive selectiveness in releasing his music. As the boy band genre that introduced us to him collapsed, there was no urgency on Timberlake’s part to cash in on what could have been his fading star. Instead, he took his time selecting his projects, making an excellent follow-up in FutureSex/LoveSounds and showing (surprising) taste as an actor. It’s this self-awareness that I think makes Justin Timberlake underrated in the world of mega-stars: a keen understanding of when to move on and where to go.

4. The films of Wes Anderson

The films of Wes Anderson frequently just how homogenous being unique could be. With a string of releases all centering around dysfunctional families going on journeys, Wes Anderson transformed the definition of “indie” from its logical origins to meaning a particular brand of saccharine twee. Both Anderson’s characters and fans of his movies alike have approached a sort of “indie singularity” – where everyone is identically awkward, neurotic, and self-convinced of their own idiosyncrasy. Spare me if I don’t think his movies are any less formulaic than any typical Hollywood blockbuster. Given that the trailers made it look like the entire movie was shot in Instagram, it was surprising that Moonrise Kingdom was the movie that turned my opinion on him. The movie doesn’t break the mold of twee; in fact, it’s almost absurd in its twee-ness. But that’s what I found so refreshing about Moonrise. Anderson’s decision to be sincere and unabashedly romantic was jarring in a largely ironic world.

5. A Good Night’s Sleep

I used to take it as a point of pride how late I could stay up each night, bucking the popular science of “8 hours a night” in the face. This came to a screeching halt when I entered my senior year at Notre Dame and any time I had to work past midnight felt like a hellish death march. For whatever reason, getting by on little sleep is treated like some sort of battle scar. We tend to imagine these people as the “Work hard, play hard” types. This is stupid. More likely, they’re “be really shitty at everything” types, the kind of people who start every conversation with a 10 minute monologue about how tired they are. As I’ve quickly learned, there’s no shame in going to bed before midnight. Usually, it’s a sign that you’re a responsible, productive member of society.

The John Mayer Effect, Part II: Matt’s Picks

starbucksby Matt Waller

To reiterate from Cameron’s post yesterday, the John Mayer Effect is “the effect whereby an object becomes so drastically overrated at a certain point that it subsequently becomes underrated.” Cameron’s top five were John Mayer, Allen Iverson, Avatar, Grant Theft Auto III, and Poker. That’s a tough act to follow, but here goes (in no particular order).

  1. Starbucks Coffee. For every positive or even neutral thing I hear about Starbucks, I probably hear five negative things. Everyone seems to have the same complaints: it’s overpriced, it’s on every street corner, it’s a massive corporation when there are plenty of local stores worth supporting. Each of those complaints has its merits, but the tired critique of Starbucks as a whole overlooks some its far more redeeming strengths. For one thing, Starbucks makes a damn good cup of coffee, and a grande sets you back a mere $2 (about $2.50 less than my favorite local place). Quality-wise, I would guess that in the majority of neighborhoods outside of major cities, a cup of Starbucks coffee is better than 95% of other options within a ten mile radius. As for the complaint about Starbucks stores being ubiquitous, I consider this a good thing. There are four different Starbucks stores within a twenty minute walk of my apartment and, insofar as they’re not threatening local coffee shops (they’re not — the local shops are thriving), I’m fine with that. If I can get a consistently good cup of coffee while walking in any direction in my neighborhood, that’s a good thing. Finally, and most importantly, Starbucks inspired a national obsession with coffee that likely made the existence of many of the local shops possible. So while they’re now rivals, a good amount of the local shops wouldn’t be there if Starbucks hadn’t laid the groundwork and gotten Americans addicted to high-end coffee drinks.
  2. The “Diva” NFL Wide Receivers of the Late ’90s – 2000s (Moss, Owens, Johnson/Ochocinco). I hesitated to include Chad Johnson/Ochocinco in the company of Randy Moss and Terrell Owens, but I put him in there because even more than either Moss or Owens, he captures the flamboyance and ego-centrism of (many of) the NFL’s star wide receivers in the late ‘90s-00s. The WRs of this era, even and especially the superstars, made a name for themselves with their touchdown dances, press conference antics, and reality TV exploits. This behavior went on for so long — T.O.’s career began in ’96, Moss’s in ‘98, Johnson’s in ‘01 — that it is their behavior, perhaps more than their play, that will define their legacies for many fans. What stands to be overlooked (by the average fan, though statheads and diehards might not be surprised)? Owens and Moss are second and third all-time in receiving yards, and fifth and fourth in total touchdowns scored, respectively (links to full stats: Owens, Moss) . Only Jerry Rice has caught more touchdown passes than Moss or Owens. Johnson, for his part, was in the top five in receiving yards for five consecutive seasons with the Bengals. Perhaps another unintended consequence: the Moss/Owens/Johnson overload may have pushed NFL fans’ tolerance for this type of thing to a breaking point, and the new star WRs–led by quiet types like Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson–would much rather just shut up and play the game. I think most fans are okay with that.
  3. The Da Vinci Code. When The Da Vinci Code was published in the early 2000s, I was an impressionable freshman in high school with a love, or at least an interest, for anything that seemed rebellious. Thus, I was a big fan of Dan Brown’s book. Looking back at what I used to read makes me cringe (and probably always will — ten years from now, I will probably look back at the books I read in 2013 and consider them at least somewhat embarrassing), but regardless of its literary sophistication, I still consider the Da Vinci Code to be a fairly important — and underrated — book for American culture in the ’00s. The reason is pretty simple: it got much of the country, and certainly much of the Catholic community, to engage in a conversation that considered religion with a critical lens. I’m not sure how much of it was a real “conversation” — instead of talking to me about the book, my dad just bought be a book called Breaking the Da Vinci Code for Christmas, and my high school religion teacher was outraged when someone even mentioned the book in class — but the book was able to stir a sizable debate in our culture for significant amount of time. It’s a good thing when the entire country has such a spirited conversation about any book (perhaps with the exception of Fifty Shades of Grey), and The Da Vinci Code got that conversation started like few recent books have.
  4. Manti Te’o. For this one, it’s important to distinguish between Manti Te’o the linebacker and Manti Te’o the lover of fake women. Manti Te’o the lover of fake women continues to be overrated as a news story. I was as enthralled as anyone when the news first broke — I stayed at work late just because I didn’t want to leave the Internet long enough to drive home — but I lost interest pretty quickly. However, the embarrassment and subsequent media saturation of Manti Te’o the lover of fake women has caused Manti Te’o the linebacker to become an underrated NFL prospect. For much of the season, Manti was considered a top-10 pick, but after his dismal performance in the national championship, he (understandably) slipped to the 15-20 range. However, in the wake of the Lennay Kekua scandal, Te’o is now out of the first round in the majority of NFL mock drafts I’ve seen. Te’o was not convicted of using steroids, driving drunk, or using drugs. Physically, he is the same player that he was all season, and now that the truth appears to be finally out, his character does not seem to be in question as much as many initially thought. His main crime was his naivete, which I’m not sure should result in a 15-20 pick free-fall. It seems to me that Manti Te’o the linebacker is being irrationally undervalued because no NFL team wants to be embarrassingly associated with Manti Te’o the lover of fake women.
  5. Flying (on airplanes). Complaints about flying, airports, etc. are kind of like complaints about Starbucks, but are far more jaded. We now take the convenience of flight so for granted that we fail to recognize the absurdity of complaining about it–and complaining is pretty much all people do when they talk about flying. Imagine explaining to someone from 1750 that your flight across the ocean in a magical metal machine was inconvenient because a fat guy next to you snored. Still, people complain about flying far more than they stop and think about how ridiculously awesome it is. As usual, Louis C.K. pretty much nailed it on this topic, so I’ll end with his description of flight: “You’re flying. You’re sitting in a chair in the sky. You’re like a Greek myth right now” (from Louis’s special Hilarious). So the next time you complain about flying, remember, even if your trans-Atlantic flight only has Coke products and you’re dying for a Pepsi, you’re still sitting in a chair flying across the sky.
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The John Mayer Effect

Welcome to a first in a regular, bi-weekly feature of the Commutes called The Effects. In this segment, we will describe a category that is personified by a certain object in pop culture, be it movies, music, sports, history, science and so on. The name of the effect will be the most telling example and we will list a series of other examples personifying its manifestation. I think it would do best just to jump right into our first definition.

The John Mayer Effect – n. the effect whereby an object becomes so drastically overrated at a certain point that it subsequently becomes underrated

  1. John Mayer – To a certain demographic, John Mayer was typified by undying adoration of teenage girls. Their fandom consisted of playing Your Body is a Wonderland on repeat while hanging pictures from his latest album in their locker room. The most natural reaction by most during this time is one of revulsion. How can somebody write such horrible songs and be loved by so many? Don’t answer that, there are plenty of counterexamples. But, what happened next in his career is what is most compelling. In 2005, John Mayer formed the John Mayer Trio and the following year released the album Continuum. To guitarist enthusiasts everywhere, the stark departure of musical direction was a breath of fresh air. Suddenly, his music had returned to relevancy and people could appreciate him as an artist. If you are reading this and don’t understand the reverence I hold in him, try the album Continuum. It may just change your opinion.
  2. Allen Iverson – The personification of the me-first attitude of the NBA in the late 90s, Allen Iverson held a special place of disdain for most sports writers of America. This shoot-first, turnover-prone, low-FG percentage “point guard” scored a lot of points but could never break through to the next level. A vein of schadenfraude existed in every discussion of Allen Iverson’s career: he was talented enough to be a selfish ballhog that could not break through to win an NBA championship. But, in retrospect, how could he? The greatest players he played with on his lone 2000 Finals appearance were Eric Snow, Aaron Mckie and Todd MacCulloch. Wait, what? This four-time scoring champ and MVP winner’s worst crime was that he wore cornrows in the NBA. A demon in the backcourt, there was nobody who could ever completely shut him down. Perhaps twenty years from now, sportswriters will speak of him the same way some hold Dominique Wilkins and George Gervin in high regard.
  3. Avatar – These listings are very time sensitive and dependent on the social crowd discussing the topic. Avatar broke down barriers for a science fiction film. That’s what having James Cameron directing a film will do for a picture. If you haven’t heard of it, move out from under your rock. The film broke records for highest grossing film ever and was quickly on the short list for greatest film ever on IMDB and was on the top of every critic’s ‘Best of 2000s’ film list. That’s when the questions surfaced: isn’t this just Fern Gully (or Dances with Wolves) in space? Was there even a real screenplay? How hard is it to write about evil white guys ruining the environment? Discussions about the screenplay or its character development distract from the fact that the movie was damn entertaining. Treating the movie as a masterful literary masterpiece is the incorrect response to an action movie with stunning visual effects. And if you don’t think it was entertaining at all, leave your ego at the door and watch it again.
  4. Grand Theft Auto III – To videogaming enthusiasts, Grand Theft Auto holds a weird place in history. The game was immediately reviled by conservative watchdog groups and loved by gamers worldwide. After a short while, however, dissension amongst fans emerged. The game didn’t have a fleshed out shooting mechanism. The main character couldn’t swim. Escaping cops became too easy. The same cars and styles of missions kept cropping up. This inane style of contrarian criticism arose as a reaction to its sheer popularity. A true sandbox-style videogame, the game proved that games can be fun with or without a strong direction in its gameplay. Running around, killing things, picking up hookers and stealing cars can be just as fun as the most intricately designed storylines. In addition to this, the sheer wealth of gameplay possibilities and sheer fun that can be had is astounding. I also still want to hear Claude say something, damn it. Why can’t he swim?
  5. Poker – Chris Moneymaker winning the 2003 World Series of Poker was both a blessing and a curse for poker enthusiasts. It helped bring mainstream attention to the sport (or hobby, use them interchangeably) causing a huge surge in interest and prize pools. This made exposure to the game greater than ever, coinciding with the massive growth in online access to the game. Suddenly, everybody was following the game on TV and starting their own weekly games to test out their theories and strategies on their friends. I’ll be damned if those Thursday night games with $10 buy-ins were not as competitive and intense as the finals of the World Poker Tour. The poker resurgence was described as a fad and as is true of all fads, they fade (fads fade?). Where this strikes me as an overreaction, however, is ignoring how fun the game can be for those who are passionate about the game. When I go to a casino, I know the first section I search for. Suggesting a poker night for some is taboo and immature, although I would never scoff at the idea. Let’s bring poker back in style.

Honorable Mention: Jack Johnson, Ernest Hemingway, The Sopranos, University of Notre Dame (betting on them), the Coen Brothers

Please, disagree with me severely in the comments below and tell me that John Mayer is still aggressively overrated. Later, this week, we will hear the other three writers’ takes on this effect and perhaps their reaction to my ironclad opinions on the epitome of this effect.


Cameron Daniels

Cameron Daniels works as a financial analyst in Texas. Hailing from the Greater Providence area, he is obsessed with following the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics and lets you know it ad nauseum. His other interests include chess, Good Will Hunting, Pearl Jam and playing piano. He also currently writes for Don’t Quit Your Day Job, a personal finance website dedicated to the night and weekend crowd. You can contact him through e-mail.

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