Monday, September 26, 2016

Under Cover

Today is the first Presidential debate.  It may determine who'll be our next chief executive.  Will I be watching?  No.

For years--as far back as the 90s--I have been avoiding debates, speeches, almost any appearances of politicians.  I find it better for my digestion.  Most of the things they say are annoying, since they manage to promise everything while saying very little. (Actually, they sometimes make specific promises which end up being annoying as well.) Having to watch them speak in real time isn't worth it.

Even before the internet was everywhere, you could find out what they said in their speech/debate the next day or so.  And anything important would be reported widely.  Nowadays, you can find out everything almost immediately afterward, and that's good enough for me.  And while we're at it, if you're reasonably well-informed, you'll see they rarely say anything you didn't expect them to say.

Reading a transcript is much more enjoyable.  You can stop whenever you like.  You can speed through or skip past the most irritating parts.  And you can drill in on something if it truly makes you laugh.

I admit Trump adds a new element.  He's a compelling figure because you never know what will come out of his mouth.  But it's still not worth it.  I'll forgo the joy of seeing something unexpected to avoid all the disturbing things that will predictably be said.

So don't expect a deep analysis of tonight's debate the next day on this blog (from me, anyway).  And certainly don't expect liveblogging.  I've got over a hundred channels--there's got to be something worth watching when they talk.  Or maybe I'll just read a book.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Speaking of intromittent organs

Not fun. The Italians would tell you, it's a duty.

Picture This

It's Comic Book Day.  Yeah, I didn't know about it either, but it's here, nevertheless. (Not to be confused with Free Comic Book Day, which was in May. Sorry.)

At Pajama Guy we've debated the worth of comic books.  Are they a true art form?  A useful stepping stone to real literature?  Or just cheap enjoyment for the semi-literate? If that last characterization seems harsh, remember the scare in the 1950s when parents across the nation worried that comic books were leading to the destruction of American youth.  That's why the Comics Code Authority was imposed in 1954, and kids have been well-mannered ever since.

There have been a number of books written about the form, but let me take this day to recommend what many consider to be the classic, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, by Scott McCloud.  Published in 1993--as a comic book, of course--it shows the grammar of comics, and explains what they can do, looking into the past but also toward the future.

The book notes that comics engage us in a special way, since we the reader finish the comic, as it were, by filling in the gaps between its panels.  And McCloud himself is the narrator, appearing to us, explaining things to us, moving the story along in which he is a character.

He followed this book with Reinventing Comics in 2000 and Making Comics in 2006.  Both worth checking out, but Understanding Comics is the essential one.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

When I was younger it was every day

I'd say it's surprising we need a government program for that, but apparently nothing exists except for government programs. Hmm. Maybe George Soros would help fund ObamaF*ck.

September Singalong

Lots of birthdays today.  Let's have them sing out.

Anthony Newley

Jim Henson

Linda McCartney

Gerry Marsden

Friday, September 23, 2016

The GF experience

"Freeing up money from our general fund to invest in other academic programs would generally be viewed as a positive" says the school district about a program in which districts pay college credit expenses (usually to public universities, though not always).

It's all about how the state would pay for it, he says.

Because the state doesn't have a General Fund, or for that matter taxpayers.

Thank God for free healthcare, or I'd go insane.


Readers of this blog may have picked up a sense that I'm only a half-hearted fan of Bruce Springsteen.  Not true. I think he's really good.  I just don't think he's the greatest, as so many others do, so it may seem like I damn him with faint praise.

But it is his birthday today, so let's celebrate all that is Bruce.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Because alcoholic hacks who will betray you for a dollar are good partners

Doesn't the code of professional responsibility prohibit practicing with non-lawyers?

"Boehner will work frequently from both the D.C. and Cincinnati offices, but will also be traveling to the firm's other 44 offices around the world."

A Prince Among Men

Prince Buster died last week.  One of the top names in the early days of ska, let's pay tribute.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A fact not in evidence

Some day, probably not in our lifetimes but perhaps not long after, machines will be able to do most of the tasks that people can.

What could possibly be the grounds for that statement? Is there any reason whatever that this person has any competence to judge whether it's six months out, or 600 years?

Heaven Can't Wait

It sounded like a horrible idea--a sitcom set in heaven.  Heaven is a place where only good things happen, and drama is based on conflict.  Actually, one reason I tuned in to The Good Place was to see how they get around this problem. Another is that it's created by Michael Schur, of Parks And Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.  Also, it stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, two talented and charming actors.

The NBC show starts with Eleanor (Bell) waking up in the afterlife and being assured she's made it to the "good place." Explaining this to her is Michael (Danson), who's designed the particular neighborhood where she and 321 others will live.  Turns out very few get into the good place--the vast majority end up in the bad place (but don't worry, that's their problem).

Eleanor moves into a house specially designed for her, where she meets her soulmate, Chidi, who was a Professor of Ethics and Morality.  (That an ethics professor would be considered a good person is apparently not meant as a joke.) There's just one problem, and here we get the conflict: they've got the wrong person.  Eleanor has been mistaken for someone else. In fact, based on the flashbacks we see, Eleanor was a pretty terrible person, and even average people don't make it to the good place.  She confides in Chidi and now he's got the moral dilemma of whether or not he should turn her in.

We meet some of the neighbors, who were all super-altruistic in their lives. (I recently read an article about people who overdo altruism--they feel so bad about not sacrificing as much as possible that it's almost a mental illness.) In particular, we meet Tahani--who did a lot of good but is rather vain about it--and her soulmate Jianyu, a monk who has continued his vow of silence in the afterlife.  So we understand just because people are good enough to get in doesn't mean they can't be annoying.

Next thing you know, horrific things are happening to the neighborhood, and it would seem to be due to Eleanor's mistaken presence.  Michael is distraught, especially since this is the first neighborhood he designed.  Chidi decides to teach Eleanor to be a better person, which might solve the problem.  Meanwhile, someone else (we don't know who yet) discovers Eleanor isn't supposed to be there.

So what drives the series--at least for now--is will Eleanor be found out, and what will happen if she is.  Schur claims he knows where he's going with the show.  I hope so, since the basic concept doesn't seem like enough for a long run.

One other problem is, aside from Eleanor and Michael, the characters are pretty one-dimensional. Maybe that'll improve as things move forward.  But the setting is novel and good for a few jokes, so I'll keep watching, at least for a while. Sooner or later, however, it's got to get deeper, or more clever, or I don't see how it can continue.  Jokes about how good everyone is and how bad Eleanor is can only take us so far.

In other evidence that the TV season has started, Kevin James returns to CBS in the sitcom Kevin Can Wait, where he plays a recently retired cop.  I didn't watch his first show, The King Of Queens, and now that I've seen the pilot for his latest, I'm pretty confident I'll never watch it again.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

You used too many words

What they meant to say was "The Death of Journalism."

I admit even that would be insufficient; journalism died long ago.

[T]the Times ran its “News Analysis” atop Page One while relegating its news story on Trump’s press conference to page A10. Moreover, “News Analysis” stories generally offer context. They don’t offer thundering condemnation. Yet thundering condemnation is exactly what the Times story provided. Its headline read, “Trump Gives Up a Lie But Refuses to Repent.” Not “falsehood,” which leaves open the possibility that Trump was merely mistaken, but “lie,” which suggests, accurately, that Trump had every reason to know that what he was saying about Obama’s citizenship was false.
The article’s text was even more striking. It read like an opinion column"

Do tell. No such analysis for a Clinton, I suppose. Meanwhile, here's Elizabeth Warren, celebrated:

Elizabeth Warren in Columbus: "Donald Trump has more support from the Aryan Nation and the KKK than he does from leaders of his own party" Massachusetts senator also calls Trump a "selfish low-life"

Oh, The Places You'll Go

A friend just sent me a piece in the NY Post listing "The 15 best places to live in the US."  Drumroll, please:

1.   Bozeman, Montana
2.   Bellevue, Washington
3.   Charlottesville, Virginia
4.   Long Beach, California
5.   Denver, Colorado
6.   Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
7.   Ann Arbor, Michigan
8.   Bend, Oregon
9.   Minneapolis, Minnesota
10. Lexington, Massachusetts
11. Asheville, North Carolina
12. Hoboken, New Jersey
13. Portland, Maine
14. Nashville, Tennessee
15. Cleveland, Ohio

You see these sorts of lists all the time, but it's often hard to figure out the criteria.  Lists that are specific--lowest crime, best climate, cheapest rents--they're easy to understand. But this grab bag seems pretty bizarre.

I've been to most of these places and, as nice as some of them are, I don't get it.  For instance, #1, Bozeman.  A pleasant place in many ways, but remote and awfully cold in the winter. (Warm weather is not a factor on this list.)

Or Long Beach.  That's a place I usually tell friends to avoid when they visit out here.  Has it improved lately?

Then there's Philadelphia.  For years it was a punch line for comedians, but I guess it's gone up in estimation.  But it's a big place with well over a million people.  Some spots are wonderful, but a lot of it you wouldn't even want to drive through.

It's nice to see Ann Arbor on the list.  It's one of my favorite places, but you better like the atmosphere of a college town.

And what of Hoboken? The main thing about it is it's easy to catch the train into Manhattan.  So is that why you live somewhere--because you can go somewhere else?  True, the place is relatively cheap.  One of the reasons it's so cheap is because you're not living where the action is.

I liked seeing Portland, Maine on the list.  I haven't spent much time there, but it's a nice burn on the other Portland, which so many think is hip. (In fact, the hipper cities, like Seattle, San Francisco, etc. didn't make this list.)

I've enjoyed the short stays I've spent in Nashville, but I don't love country music.  Is that legal there?

Finally, we get Cleveland.  The Mistake By The Lake.  I know there are some very nice areas in Cleveland, as there are in any city of some size.  But one of the selling points they mention is that median house prices are $60,000.  If that's the measure of a best place to live, then I suggest they drive up the road a piece and move to my hometown of Detroit.

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