Thursday, February 23, 2012

25 Greatest Simpsons Episodes

To Commemorate the 500th episode of The Simpsons, The Blast Furnace gives you the Top 25 Greatest Simpsons Episodes of All Time:

1. Last Exit to Springfield (4.17):  Mr. Burns revokes the dental plan from the power plant's union contract, and when Homer realizes that he'll now have to pay for Lisa's new braces, he leads the power plant employees on a strike, while Mr. Burns struggles to put an end to the rioting.

2. Homer vs the Eighteenth Amendment (8.18):  Bart gets drunk during a St. Patrick's Day Parade, provoking the city government to enforce a two-hundred year old prohibition law. Rex Banner, an Elliot Ness-type character, takes over the police force to help enforce the law, since Wiggum failed to do do. Meanwhile, Homer decides to make money for himself as a bootlegger, calling himself "The Beer Baron."

3. Homer the Great (6.12):  Homer becomes a member of a mysterious organization called the Stonecutters and is heralded as "the chosen one."

4. Marge vs. the Monorail (4.12):  After receiving a considerable donation of money, the people of Springfield decide what to spend it on. Enter Lyle Langley, a jocular salesman who gets Springfield hooked on a monorail system. After the monorail is up and running, and with Homer as the conductor, it's time for the maiden voyage. Little do the people know they have just boarded a one-way train to Hell. 

5. Homer at the Bat (3.17): Homer and his co-workers qualify the plant's softball team for the league final, but Mr. Burns hires 9 professional MLB players to win a $1 million bet.

6. Duffless (4.16): After Homer is arrested for DUI, and loses his driver's license, he is put to the ultimate test when Marge pressures him to give up beer for a month.

7. Two Dozen and One Greyhounds (6.20):  Santa's Little Helper has puppies, and Mr. Burns schemes to steal them and make them into a coat.

8. Team Homer (7.12):  Homer starts a bowling team with Moe, Apu and Otto, but when Mr. Burns discovers the team was funded with his money, he insists on joining. Meanwhile, Springfield Elementary introduces uniforms.

9. Mr. Plow (4.9):  Homer buys a truck with an attached snow plow after he destroys his car, and to pay for it, he starts a snow shoveling business, calling himself Mr. Plow. It all goes off without a hitch, until he finds himself in competition with The Plow King, a.k.a. Barney Gumbel. Now begins the winter of discontent.

10. Homer's Barbershop Quartet (5.1):  After the kids find a record with Homer's picture on it, he recalls the story of how he achieved fame in the 1980s with his barbershop quartet The Be Sharps.

11.  Flaming Moe's (3.10):  Moe claims that a drink that Homer invented is his own. After the drink makes the bar a local hot spot, Moe gains a number of fair-weather friends but loses Homer's friendship.

12. I Love Lisa (4.15):  Feeling sorry for Ralph, Lisa sends him a Valentine card. Having developed a crush on her, Ralph invites Lisa to go see the Krusty the Clown show. She accepts but after Krusty asks them if they are boyfriend and girlfriend, Lisa lets Ralph know that she just wants them to be friends.

13. Rosebud (5.4): Mr. Burns goes on a desperate quest to recover his cherished childhood toy Bobo, a bear which is now in Maggie's possession.

14. Who Shot Mr. Burns?: Part 1 and Part II (6.25/7.1):  Mr. Burns steals oil from Springfield Elementary, and one day, he is shot, with no indication on who did it.

15. Trash of the Titans (9.22):  After a feud with the Springfield refuse collectors, Homer decides to run for Sanitation Commisioner.

16. A Fish Called Selma (7.19): Washed-up movie star Troy McClure is pulled over for driving without corrective lenses, and forced to go to the DMV to get his eyes checked. While there, he meets Selma, who he asks out for dinner. Spotted by a reporter, he quickly realizes that being seen in public with a woman will grab enough headlines to revitalize his career, leading to a whirlwind romance between him and Selma.

17. Much Apu About Nothing (7.23):  Anti-Immigration fever sweeps Springfield, which threatens to lead to the deportation of of Apu, until Homer decides to reject the mob mentality, and help him become a legal citizen.

18. And Maggie Makes Three (6.13): Homer recounts the story of Maggie's birth when the kids ask why there are no photos of her in the family album.  Homer must give up his dream job working at the bowling alley to support the new addition to the family.

19. A Streetcar Named Marge (4.2): Marge wins the lead in a musical production of "A Streetcar Named Desire,"in which Ned Flanders plays Stanley Kowalski. Marge is infuriated by Homer's brutishness and insensitivity during preproduction, until he sees the play and reveals to Marge that he has grasped its meaning. While rehearsing, Marge sticks Maggie in the Ayn Rand Day Care Center, where her pacifier is immediately taken from her, and a la "The Great Escape", she must struggle to win it back.

20. Cape Feare (5.2): An anonymous letter writer makes ominous threats to Bart. The Simpsons discover they were sent by Sideshow Bob who, when released from prison, harasses the Simpsons and then attempts to kill Bart with a machete. But Bob's vanity foils him yet again.

21. A Star is Burns (6.18):  Mr. Burns hosts a film festival in Springfield to improve his image. Film critic Jay Sherman, of "The Critic" is invited, and stays with the Simpsons.

22.  Bart After Dark (8.5):  Marge leads a crusade against a local burlesque house after she discovers Bart working there.

23. Brother from the Same Planet (4.14): After Homer forgets to pick up Bart from soccer practice, Bart joins a mentor program called Big Brothers presenting himself as an orphan, and is assigned a big brother called Tom. When Homer finds out, he joins the program too as a big brother.

24. The City of New York vs Homer Simpson (9.1): Homer must travel to New York to get his car back, which is illegally parked at World Trade Center Plaza.

25. El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (8.9): Marge's fears that Homer will embarrass her at the annual Springfield Chili Cook-Off again, are reaffirmed when after tasting various bland samples of chili, he comes across a specialty made by Chief Wiggum laced with hallucinogenic Guatemalan peppers. The chili sends him on a psychedelic journey where he meets an imaginary Coyote spirit guide(voiced by country music legend Johnny Cash), who urges him to find his soul mate, causing him to doubt that he should've ever married Marge in the first place.

Honorable MentionHomer and Apu (5.13), Deep Space Homer (5.15), Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder (11.6), Whacking Day (4.20), Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire (1.1), Dancin' Homer (2.5), Lisa the Iconoclast (7.16), Homer the Heretic (4.3), The Last Temptation of Homer (5.9), Brush with Greatness (2.18), The Homer They Fall (8.3), and Radio Bart (3.13)

This was a very difficult list to compile as one could probably make a Top 100 list and still not be satisfied.  There are so many classic episodes that I wanted to include (i.e. Colonel Homer, King Size Homer, Weekend at Burnsie's, Two Bad Neighbors, and You Only Move Twice), but I had to stop somewhere.  The Simpsons really hit their peak in Seasons 4-8 and you can see from my list Season 4 might be the best.  Most of my favorites revolve around Homer and Mr. Burns.  Songs, guest stars and town hall gatherings stood out most to me over the years.   While the Simpsons doesn't produce the same quality of episodes as above it is still very watchable and I'm hoping they stay on for many years to come.

Monday, February 20, 2012

South Side Soup Contest 2012: A Spoon Full of Flavor and Fun

On Saturday, February 18 a few other members of The Blast Furnace and I were able to partake in the 2012 South Side Soup Contest which ran from 12:00 PM until 3:00 PM. I have never been to the event before and I was eager to try a soup contest, especially because one of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons is the Chili Cook-Off episode. Imagine roughly 1200 yinzers armed with plastic spoons, a lanyard with a punch card, and a map of the South Side detailing 21 locations serving various soups on a beautiful sunny day in mid-February. The Soup Contest is a partnership between the South Side Local Development Company, the Brashear Association, local businesses, and restaurants. Yinzers and businesses were basking in the glory of a walk through the South Side in mid-day.

The cost of a ticket via Showclix was $14.99 in addition to a required food donation to the food pantry. Participants checked in at the Southside Works Cinema or the WYEP Radio Station. We checked in at the Southside Works and were able to move at a comfortable pace all the way down to 10th Street and try each soup along the way. The lines were never too long and we were able to enjoy the inside of shops that are usually closed during night time drinking hours. Everyone was friendly and only a few places were missed because they had ran out of soup before the 3:00 PM finish. I was expecting to get a miniature bowl of soup at each location, but we were only given about half of a Dixie cup at all of the locations. Although the soups lacked size they made up for it in taste. Each powerfully flavored soup was unique and enjoyable.

The winners were announced today and luckily we were able to try all of the soups that won. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the winning soup, Pineapple Tomatillo Habanero, my favorite did not make the list, the Stuffed Pepper Soup. I am not surprised that the Lin's Asian Fruit Soup won for most unique, but this was less than enjoyable because it tasted too much like a simple pre-packaged fruit cup from Giant Eagle. I thought the Pizza Soup was a new, unique idea that tasted very good. Honorable mention goes to The Brew Bunny, which was a mix of East End Brewery's Big Hop and rabbit meat, and finally I enjoyed the soup prepared by Local Bar + Kitchen which was served with a piece of grilled cheese.

All in all it was a great day to experience both for the soup and atmosphere. No Yinzer is truly certified without making it to this event at least once in their lives.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

"Sullivan and Son," new Pittsburgh based TV show

Watch out Yinzers a new TV show set in a working class Pittsburgh bar has been picked up by TBS and will air ten episodes starting this summer.  "Sullivan and Son" is a sitcom that stars Pittsburgh native comedian Steve Byrne as a man who leaves his job as a New York lawyer to come back to Pittsburgh to run a family-owned bar.  The bar is owned by his parents, Jack Sullivan (played by Dan Lauria made famous by "The Wonder Years," and mother played by Jodi Long ("Eli Stone"), who are preparing to sell the bar and retire until Steve returns home to take over.  The popular bar that Byrne's character, Steve Sullivan,runs is the unofficial town hall of the neighborhood filled with locals and regulars.   

The show is executive-produced by familiar Hollywood names Vince Vaughn, Peter Billingsley (A Christmas Story and Iron Man) and Rob Long (Cheers).

Friday, February 3, 2012

ACC Announces New Division and Scheduling Format

The Atlantic Coast Conference released the schedule and division format for when Pitt and Syracuse join the conference. The expanded 14 team conference will continue with the Atlantic and Coastal divisions that were previously in place for football and add Syracuse to the Atlantic division and Pitt to the Coastal division. The league will play a nine game conference schedule with each team playing its divisional foe once and having one primary crossover partner each year; Pitt and Syracuse will play each other every year. The remaining two slots will be filled with rotating opponents from the opposite division.  Here is the new breakdown:

Boston College
Florida State
NC State
Wake Forest

Georgia Tech
North Carolina
Virginia Tech

Basketball will consist of an 18 game schedule; each team will play one primary partner twice a year and every other league team four times over a three-year cycle. Pitt was named Maryland’s primary partner. The other pairings are Virginia - Virginia Tech, Syracuse - Boston College, Duke - North Carolina, North Carolina State - Wake Forest, Florida State - Miami, and Clemson - Georgia Tech.

My thoughts:
As a Pitt fan I am happy to see them placed in the Coastal division with some of their more traditional opponents, Virginia Tech and Miami and like how the cross-over rival will be Syracuse. A nine game league schedule will make it difficult to play strong out of conference opponents each year.  I am hoping that this will not disrupt the annual game between Pitt and Notre Dame.  Leaving the Big East for basketball will be a little sad due to intense rivalries that were developed with UConn, Georgetown, and Villanova, but it will be nice to watch Pitt play Duke and UNC every year. Having to play Maryland twice every year is a little disappointing. I would much rather see Syracuse twice instead, but I suppose the ACC needed to give Boston College some sort of rival being that they are so isolated. I am looking forward to the move and hoping it happens sooner than later.