Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Name Game

I enjoyed reading It Happened On Broadway: An Oral History Of The Great White Way, even though oral histories are a form a cheating--I'd rather the authors do the full research and write a real book rather than just edit what others say.

But, as I've wondered before, what has happened to editing?  Okay, you've interviewed a bunch of people.  And someone typed up transcripts.  That's not the end of it.  Make sure it's spelled right.  This is an insider book, people will know.

For instance, early on we get a couple mentions of critic "Alexander Wolcott." I believe this is supposed to be Alexander Woollcott.

Later, more than once, we see the name of composer "Aaron Copeland." I'm pretty sure they're referring to Aaron Copland.

By the way, both these names are spelled wrong in the index as well.

But the weirdest of all is the mention of the great Russian opera singer "Shlapin." I have to assume they're referring to Feodor Chaliapin.  But how could anyone make such a mistake in the first place?  When a transcriber hears an unfamiliar name--even if she doesn't want to look it up, and decides to spell it phonetically--the least she can do is make a notation about it so someone will catch it later.  And I don't mean the reader.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Also have bowel movements, and exhale carbon

August Round-Up

Let's enjoy the music of some birthday boys and girl.

Lester Young

Martha Raye

Tommy Sands

Daryl Dragon

Glen Matlock

Friday, August 26, 2016


AP news coverage is frequently ludicrous in its bias against conservatives, Republicans and free market values, and its bias in favor of the antithesis of these things.

So it is all the more remarkable that the organization returned to actual news coverage. Shades of Larry Tribe. There are a few green shoots left in the Tree of Liberty. The smart money is they are merely the cut off remnants, enjoying their last, dwindling moments of life.

But here's hoping God might bless the country yet, and that the tree might still live. It will take efforts like this AP effort to make it so.


John Oliver's weekly HBO show is pretty amusing, though predictable politically.  Many of his comic-yet-serious investigations are very much like (or perhaps based on) articles found at leftist websites like Think Progress or ProPublica. And his solutions tend to be of the "more regulation, more government spending" type.

Sometimes I agree with his basic take, sometimes not, but that he looks at things a certain way is a given.  Which is too bad, since there are plenty of juicy stories he seems blind to, and it would be quite instructive not only for him to investigate these problems, but also to see the reaction of the people who, at present, agree with him on practically everything.

Why bring up Oliver now?  Because of his most recent piece against (or, some would say, hatchet job on) charter schools.  This is a subject libertarians know a lot about, and I know a lot of libertarians, and they seem to be reacting against this piece more negatively than anything else the show has done. (For example, this reaction.)  Of course, some of them have never seen the show, so are surprised to hear what sounds to them like an uninformed rant.

It's not so much that charter schools don't deserve to be put in the spotlight.  It's that all education does.  And I guarantee for every horror story in the charter school system, you can find ten in public schools--horror stories much harder to fix, in fact.  But Oliver seems to be on the side that will defend public schools against any competition. (The same side that often puts their own kids in private schools).

Would it be that bad to question leftist shibboleths on education, John?  To investigate not just the corruption, but how they oppose all sorts of reform that threaten their interests?  After all, when you're done you can always say "if only we spent more money we could solve this problem."

Thursday, August 25, 2016

I wish I'd got my doctorate in that

Prison currency

Bonus: Who doesn't love ramen?

Toots Goodbye

Toots Thielemans has died.  He was the best Belgian harmonica jazz artist ever.  He also played guitar and whistled.  And we had something in common--we shared April 29th as a birthday.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

All in

So I see one orange juice product labeled "100 percent orange juice" and the next, identical in every way, including packaging and supplier, also 100 percent orange juice--PLUS added calcium and vitamin D.

Isn't the second one mathematically impossible? Shouldn't it be something like, oh, I don't know, "More than 99 percent orange juice, plus some stuff we think you'll think is good for you, or at least that will help loosen up your wallet, you tightwad, but neither we nor any competent health care professional have expressed any such opinion, just to be clear about it"?

A Day For Waffling

Happy National Waffle Day.  Not to be confused with Vaffeldagen, Sweden's Waffle Day, which is on March 25.

How do I feel about waffles?  I guess I agree with Mitch Hedberg: waffles are pancakes with syrup traps.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"I was wrong" or "I wuz robbed!"

Ya gotta love Larry Tribe. First the Second Amendment, now the IRS?

What are you trying to do, Larry? Save the country?

It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's The Bouncer

I've just been looking through The League Of Regrettable Superheroes, a book that shows actual superhero comics that didn't quite make it.  Starting in the late 30s there was a craze for superheroes that hasn't abated yet, and as you'd expect there have been plenty of mistakes along the way.  Most of the characters receive a page of description, but to get a feeling for what's offered, you don't need much more than their names:

The Bouncer (doesn't kick you out of bars, he just bounces)


Doctor Hormone (at least he's got a degree)

Doll Man (if Ant-Man isn't wimpy enough for you)

The Eye (yep, just an eye)

Rainbow Boy

Brain Boy

The Straw Man (I guess he's easy to take down)

Zippo (not a lighter, but has wheels on his feet)


Captain Marvel (not the famous one--I bet they got each other's mail)

Dracula (the famous one--as a superhero)


Squirrel-Girl (I'll take Pow-Girl over this one any day)

Brother Voodoo (created in the era of Black Power)

Captain Tootsie (a huckster for Tootsie Rolls)

The Ferret

Killjoy (and his sidekick Buzzkill?)

Maggott (one of the less popular X-Men)

Prez (the first teen President)

Thunder Bunny

Monday, August 22, 2016

Turf wars

Not to step on LAGuy's toes, but I bet this is the only time in history (past and yet to come) that two of the top three box office draws star Jonah Hill.

Tommy's Side

I just read Cheech & Chong: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Tommy Chong. Published in 2008, it's mostly Chong's life up until he and Cheech split up in the 1980s.  It's written in just the style you'd expect from an elder hippie--free-flowing, somewhat nostalgic, and still full of wonder (not to mention poorly edited--lots of repetition, and names spelled wrong: Ned Tanen is "Tanin," James Komack is "Komax"--but hey, it's the spirit of things that count, not the exactitude, dude.)

Chong is known as the second half of the biggest comedy team of the 70s, but he had a lengthy career before teaming up with Richard "Cheech" Marin.  Born in 1938, of Scots-Irish/Chinese stock, he was raised in Calgary.  Like many in his generation, he was excited about rock and roll and R&B, and in the late 50s started working as a guitarist.

People loved his band, originally called The Shades. Canada needed whatever entertainment it could get, and Chong and his group moved to Vancouver and opened up a nightclub.  The group, now called The Vancouvers, was even signed by Motown and opened for The Supremes.  And Tommy got his Green Card, so he was ready to take America by storm.  But he was fired and, in any case, the band didn't make it.

He traveled around, eventually back to Vancouver, where he started an improv troupe.   He'd seen Second City and The Committee and loved comedy--often doing their bits, since he felt humor was meant to be shared.  That's where he met Cheech, who was American-born but living in Canada to avoid the draft.

They worked well together and became a comedy team.  Chong was the hippie stoner and Cheech the Chicano lowrider.  Cheech at first resisted the character, considering it demeaning, but it was so popular he had little choice.

They moved to Los Angeles and Cheech, who'd broken a leg skiing in Canada, was able to get 4-f status, taking care of his worries about the draft. The two scrounged around for a while, performing at various clubs, learning what worked and what didn't.  They were a hit at the Troubadour, and record producer Lou Adler asked to meet them.  They came to his office and he asked what he could do for them.  Chong said Give us a thousand dollars and a tape recorder and we'll make some comedy.  That's how it all started.

They came to the studio to make up material (they used improv to develop their act).  Cheech went outside to come back in for a bit, but the door was locked.  He asked to come back in and Chong pretended he didn't know who he was, and thus their first famous routine, "Dave," was born.

Cheech & Chong were different from other comedy acts.  They were part of the counterculture, but their characters were there from the inside, not commenting from the outside.  And they were more rockers than comics--not only that they played music, but that they had hits that were played on music stations:  "Sister Mary Elephant," "Basketball Jones," "Earache My Eye" and so on.

On the way to stardom, we learn about the women Chong loved, married, had kids with.  And, of course, he talks about his other love affair--with drugs, mainly pot.  Chong is still a big proponent, but he also believes in eating healthfully and is a body builder.

Their first four albums went gold.  Their fifth didn't do as well, and it looked like they might be moving downward in the late 70s, but that's when they turned to Hollywood.  They realized only they could make their own feature--featuring the classic Cheech and Chong characters, it would have a loose structure and they'd have to make up large parts of it as they went along.  They wrote it and got manager Lou Adler to direct it.  The film, Up In Smoke (1978), was a smash. However, Chong and Adler had a falling out over how the film should be done and Adler quit as their manager.

From now on, Chong would direct their films.  They made one a year in the first half of the 1980s.  The films made money, but with diminishing returns.  On top of that Cheech was getting restless--he wanted to prove he was a real actor.  The team split up and Cheech has since played numerous roles in TV and movies, but Chong believes he's "acting" now whereas he was authentic in the duo.

They've done a few things here and there since they split up, but the two (according to Chong) don't seem to get along any more.  Just as well--they were a team of the 70s that conjured up the spirit of the 60s.  That should be enough for anyone.

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