Tuesday, September 16, 2014

They missed one

A little bit of blog stir over a NYT guest column over decay, decay everywhere, but they missed a pretty good item.

The state of Washington Supreme Court has held the legislature in contempt for disobeying an order to spend more money on schools.

There is no excuse for this and no cure. The court and legislature should be impeached in their entirety, or at least those who did not dissent-the legislature for its mewling we-will-comply response.

Could there be a more basic separation of powers issue? The legislature ought to defund the court altogether for two months or a year, or impeach the affirmative votes, but of course they won't.

This is common in the states, where there has been an active campaign for more than 20 years to cause courts to order funding increases for education, although I'm not aware of others who actually reached the contempt stage. Ohio flirted with it, but the court eventually backed off, mumbling something about how its orders were important.

If we had competent civics programs in the U.S., we would now be teaching that Nebraska has a unicameral state legislature and Washington is run by its supreme court, but the other states at least pretend to separation of powers.

Big Mac

The voices from the earliest days of recording are mostly forgotten.  But if you were buying wax tracks in the 1910s, you couldn't have avoided the most famous Irish tenor of all, John McCormack, who died on this date just as World Wars II was ending.





Jazz På Svenska

How many Swedish jazz pianists do you know?  I know one, which is more than most people, I'm guessing.  Happy birthday, Jan Johansson.





Monday, September 15, 2014

The Big Ten

Today is Pajama Guy's tenth anniversary.  The blog was started by Pajama Guy himself, who is no longer with us (on the blog--he's still alive and well and living in New Jersey). He saw the blog as a political one, and often focused on the media.  In fact, his first five posts were all about the hot story of the time, Rathergate.

Indeed, that's what gave us our name.  It comes from Jonathan Klein's response to bloggers who dared to question CBS news, as quoted in the upper left-hand corner of the blog.

Here's the first post ever:

Viacom to CBS News: Good Riddance?

Is it possible that the Viacom suits aren't worried about Rathergate? After the CNN merger cratered, they may be happy to see the news division implode. What better way to get rid of Dan and the whole lot?

I joined September 19th. Here's my first post:

Hello

Hi. Thought I might as well introduce myself. I'm LAGuy. While Pajama Guy is out East in his PJ's, fingers ready at the keyboard, scrutinizing the New York Times, the Washington Post and the rest of the MSM, I'm out West at some premiere or Hollywood party (B-List).

I've been invited to share my opinions, which may be about politics, but just as often won't. Hope I fit in.
 
I think I called it pretty well.  In fact, by the next day, I was dealing with the Emmy Awards. (A few days later I gave a thumbs down to this new show called Lost.)
 
Eventually Pajama Guy dropped out, but I kept going.  There have been other Guys along the way, but I've been the main supplier of text.
 
I certainly didn't think I'd be at it for ten years.  At the start, I often wondered how I'd think of something to write about each day.  But here we are. So let's celebrate it while it lasts.

Oh Johnny

Hard to believe, but Johnny Ramone died ten years ago today.  One of the founders of The Ramones, as well as a major songwriter, he stuck with the band all the way--only Joey lasted as long.  He also was the martinet who kept them in musical shape, allegedly.

He'd often play four down strokes measure after measure--I don't know how his wrist took it.













Sunday, September 14, 2014

Is she more stupid than John McCain?

"The thought going through my mind was, I owe America a global apology."

Huh? She doesn't know she was just a target of convenience?

Who's The Best?

The New Yorker's TV critic Emily Nussbaum looks at FX's two new sitcoms, You're The Worst and Married, and agrees with me (see, it can happen): the former is pretty good, while the latter is disappointing, especially with the whiny husband at the center.

Before their debuts, based on the casts and premises, I would have guessed the opposite.  But Chris Geere and Aya Cash, as the awful couple at the center of You're The Worst, are very charming and resourceful actors with a surprising amount of chemistry.  You never know.  I've already given up on Married (which FX had more confidence in, since it gave it the better slot) but still check out You're The Worst.

I'm less enamored with the leads' best friends/sounding boards, which brings me to my biggest disagreement with Nussbaum:

[The lead male's closest friend is] Edgar Quintero (Desmon Borges), an eccentric veteran with P.T.S.D. [...T]he show is daring enough to tease both his tendency to tell horrific war stories and the V.A.’s shoddy treatment of veterans.

Why would Nussbaum believe this is even slightly daring?

BC

Today is the birthday of Barry Cowsill, drummer in The Cowsills.  He founded the band with brothers Bill and Bob.  Alas, he died at the age of 50 as a result of Hurricane Katrina.







Saturday, September 13, 2014

Nat should be proud

So it's mildly encouraging an Obama appointee has enough wherewithal to enforce the law. A fairly obvious case, but of course that means nothing or might be a contra-indicator.

What's so interesting is that anyone could think the challenged statement is a "lie," as many press reports described it, making absurd characterizations such as "Ohio law banning campaign lies is struck down" and "A federal judge in Cincinnati has struck down as unconstitutional an Ohio election law that banned candidates or independent organizations from lying in political campaigns"

The lie(tm) was a statement "claiming the Democrat's support for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul equated with support for abortion, even though he opposed abortion."

That's like saying the it's a lie to claim Obamacare will raise costs or lower them, or improve or worsen health care. That our press could report such a thing as a clear conclusion is ludicrous. And as for a politician's beliefs, please. The only true statement John Kerry ever made was that he was for it before he was against it (and needless to say he was pilloried for his inadvertent honesty).

Leftover Vanity Plates Of The Month

On a Silverado: 1 EVILKID.  Are Silverados that evil?

XFITCHK.  Of all the things to brag about.

TARPOTS.  The car smelled fine.

DNCNSNG.  Shouldn't you be driving down Broadway?

J[heart symbol]DSNEY.  Why don't you marry it?

TERPSR1.  For a second I thought it was a dancer, but no, this is a Maryland fan.

Feather Flies

It's the centennial of Leonard Feather.  He was maybe the best-known jazz critic around.  But in addition to writing about it, he played it, composed it and produced it.






Friday, September 12, 2014

May I suggest Bikini Atoll?

"Reality show strands Democrat and Republic senators on island"

Dead Again

I recently caught up with the first three seasons of The Walking Dead on Netflix.  Since then, thanks to On Demand, I've seen the fourth season, with a month to spare before season five starts.  Spoilers ahead.

It struck me as more of the same.  Zombies are fun, and people fighting each other while also worrying about zombies can make for decent action. But the characters are pretty thin and the plot stretched out--what took them 16 episodes could probably have been accomplished in half as many  It's also getting a bit repetitive, since you can only be surrounded by zombies in so many ways.

In fact, I had plenty of time to think about unanswered question during the many slow moments.  First, just how did the zombies take over?  They're deadly and relentless, but they're brainless and not that fast.  Sure, the early shock would give them the edge, but once the problem becomes clear, it seems to me a decent army division, properly equipped and trained, could take out millions.  But let's say no one was paying attention and right now the undead outnumber the living a hundred to one. No big deal.  Everyone's got a quota--try to kill two or three a day, shouldn't be that hard, and before you know it no more zombies. After all, the enemy doesn't strategize and doesn't reproduce.  Heck, just kill one a day and in three or four months you're safe.  Another question--does becoming a zombie makes your bones go soft, because it sure is easy to slice of their heads, or stab them through the skull.  One more thing. In the first season, people took great care not to get even the slightest amount of zombie blood on them.  Now they get splattered with the stuff. Okay, they've learned it's no big deal, even if they're all infected and will go zombie when they die, but it's still pretty odd.  I mean, if a zombie bites you, you die and turn into one, but zombie blood and other parts on your skin (especially on open sores, which there seem to be plenty of in this violent world) and sometimes in your mouth or eyes does nothing?

I was a bit surprised by the first episode of season four, since we're still in the prison from the third season, and not going anywhere.  Previously, each season started with a move to a new location. Instead, we spend half the season stuck in what was destroyed, I thought, in season three.  There are new characters, and some die--mostly the newbies. There's also an outbreak of flu.  Really?  We've already got everyone turning into zombies, and that's not enough? 

We also meet up with the Governor again, who should have been dealt with last season.  He attacks the prison...didn't he do that last season as well?  At least Hershel dies.  I was hoping that guy wouldn't make it past season two, so this was a long time coming.  Alas, pretty much all the other regulars make it to the end, including Glenn, who used to be fun but is insufferable now that he's in love with Maggie, and Rick's tiresome teenage son Carl.

The team is forced out of the prison.  Everyone thinks everyone else is dead, but they all make it one way or another.  The various escapees get their own episodes with their own adventures--sort of a break in the format.  Then most of them meet in Terminus, a place that says it offers sanctuary but is much more sinister.  So we know where we're going to start season five, and it's not a bad place, since we've got new and interesting bad guys, and the good guys are reunited and have their backs against the wall.  I expect I'll be watching it along with the millions of others who have made it TV's biggest phenomenon, but it won't be high priority.

One good thing about the show--it's got a positive message. All it will take to get the races living together in harmony is a zombie apocalypse.

Midnight Woman

Happy birthday, Maria Muldaur.






Thursday, September 11, 2014

Updates

Hmm. Spielberg's already retrofitted "ET" with having the federal agents carry dream catchers instead of guns.

Maybe it's time for Cameron to replace "Skynet" with "Apple."

Happy Anniversary

It's September 11th.  And with the rise of Isis, people are more nervous than they've been on this date in years. The question--is this a bad thing?

I can still recall the weeks after the original 9/11.  Everyone was waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I flew to the Midwest in October that year and I remember the grim feeling at the airport.  Everyone was looking at each other--will this be the flight they choose?

We couldn't know then, of course, that the terrorists had temporarily shot their bolt. (And maybe they hadn't. Maybe it was anti-terrorist measures that made the difference.)  For some time the country was on edge.  On the first anniversary of the date, people wondered if there'd be a follow-up.

It's certainly not good for a country to be on the verge of hysteria every year.  The question then becomes, with terrorists who would attack us every day if they could, and would glory in the deaths of Americans, are we too complacent.  I don't think so, but that's just what you say before the big attack comes, isn't it?

I don't expect for anything big to happen today.  If there's any happy thought I can conjure up, it's that If someone told me on September 12, 2001, that for the next 13 years nothing close to comparable to what just happened will happen again in the U.S., I'd have been happy.

All Part

Happy birthday Arvo Part, the Estonian minimalist composer inspired by Gregorian chants.






Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Lostover

In Variety, Andrew Wallenstein compares The Leftovers, which just finished its first season, with Lost.  The comparison may be understandable inasmuch as the former is producer Damon Lindelof's first series since he ended Lost so controversially.  But really the comparison isn't very helpful.  Okay, they're both dramas with large casts and a central mystery, but the focus is different.

Lost was about airplane crash survivors landing on a mysterious island with seemingly magical properties.  They discover more people on the island and find out more about how strange the island and its inhabitants are.  All along we're waiting to find out the answers to the show's many mysteries.

Meanwhile, The Leftovers starts with 2% of the Earth's population suddenly disappearing.  We then cut to almost a year later and focus on a small town in upstate New York as the citizens try to go on with their lives.  There's no indication that anyone will figure out how or why those millions disappeared, so there's not much of an engine to the show. It's more about how people deal with their grief.  Really there's no mystery to solve--or at least no indication we're expected to see it solved--and the show would rather investigate humanity.  (Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe we will finally discover why the event happened. But unlike Lost, where the characters were constantly trying to figure out the mysteries, The Leftovers spends essentially no time on this--many in the world have tried to figure it out and so far all have failed.)

So when Wallenstein writes "Please, Damon, whatever went wrong with 'Lost'…don’t let it happen to 'Leftovers' " it doesn't make any sense.  Whatever went wrong with Lost doesn't apply to The Leftovers. But then, I'm not sure that Wallenstein gets Lost.

Here's how he puts it:

For all the acclaim “Lost” drew since becoming a hit on ABC a decade ago, there was also a considerable backlash that battered [Damon Lindelof  and partner] Carlton Cuse after a finale oft criticized for not adequately tying up the show’s many mysteries

[,,,,] Make no mistake: “Lost” collapsed under the weight of a mythology so intricately built that it simply imploded. If “Leftovers” isn’t careful, the same fate could await it.

No, a thousand times, no.  As a secondary issue for some, Lost didn't adequately tie up its mysteries.  But, in fact, it did tie up most of the mysteries--it's the poor answers that bother so many fans.  And, in general, the wrong direction and poor storytelling of the series final season was also a problem.  It didn't implode under the intricate mythology--it gave answers that made millions feel cheated because it went in a direction they (including me) didn't want.

Here We Come A-Vassiling

Composer Vassil Kazandjiev turns 80 today.  He wrote that modren-style music, so you've been warned.





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