Monday, March 27, 2017

Good Morning Starshine

Former astronaut Alan Bean, who walked on the Moon, believes that aliens haven't come to Earth and there's a reason.

One of reasons I don't believe they have been here is that civilizations that are more advanced are more altruistic and friendly — like Earth, which is better than it used to be — so they would have landed and said 'we come in peace and we know from our studies you have cancer that kills people, we solved that problem 50 years ago, here's the gadget we put on a person's chest that will cure it, we will show you how to make it'.

Bean believes there are alien civilizations, many far more advanced than we are, but  is it that they don't think we're ready yet for them to appear?

Look, I've watched Star Trek, I know all about the Prime Directive and all that.  But if there's an alien civilization out there that is altruistic, knows how to get here and knows how to cure serious diseases, then they're just being jerks if they haven't shown up yet.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday, Sunday

Tonight is the fourth episode of Feud, the miniseries dealing with the fight between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis when they made Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?.  I thought it was a pretty thin concept, and would descend too easily into camp.

To my surprise, I'm quite enjoying it.  The creators, including Ryan Murphy of Glee fame, know the story inside-out and care about what happened.  And Jessica Lange as Crawford, Susan Sarandon as Davis and Alfred Molina as director Robert Aldrich are doing good work.

It's odd how so many of the top dramas seem to be scheduled on Sunday.  Maybe it started with The Sopranos, but now it seems to be the rule.  And what this means is I've got way too many shows to watch Sunday night.

None of them are must-see, exactly, like Game Of Thrones is (and will be once again when the new season starts this summer).  But still, it's quite a list.  Along with Feud, these past few weeks I've been watching, Homeland (my favorite of the night), Billions, The Walking Dead and Big Little Lies, not to mention half hours including Family Guy, Crashing and John Oliver's show.

This adds up to over six hours of (alleged) viewing pleasure.  And it doesn't even include 60 Minutes, or the silent and foreign films TCM airs on Sundays, or the sitcoms they show on the channels that feature old show, all of which I occasionally check out.

Of course, I don't watch them all on Sunday.  Everything is repeated, and available On Demand.  So I watch a few of them Sunday night and try to catch up with the rest later in the week..  Which means I spend more time on the internet avoiding finding out what happened on TV than finding out what happened.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Super Duper

Last week I paid tribute to Bob Holiday, who played the title role on Broadway in "It's A Bird...It's A Plane...It's Superman".  Since then I've been listening to the original cast album quite a bit.  The show was not a hit, but apparently a lot of people have fond memories of it based on the testimonials I've seen on the internet.

Anyway, thought I'd post some more of the show's songs.  Last time I concentrated on material featuring Holiday, but the numbers are distributed pretty equally among the cast.

For instance, Patricia Marand as Lois Lane gets several solos. I think my favorite is "It's Superman," taking the show's anthem and turning it into a lament.

Then there's Jack Cassidy as Max Mencken.  Cassidy had already won a Tony when he did this show (and wife Shirley Jones had won an Oscar) and he is, nominally, the lead.  Max is a heel who gets to show off his oily style and impressive pipes in a few numbers.  Maybe his best is when he's trying to make some time with Lois (and failing).

Max Mencken hates Superman, but the top villain in the show is Dr. Abner Sedgwick, played by Michael O'Sullivan. Not as good a singer as the rest of the cast, but he explains himself pretty well in this number.

Finally, the most famous song from the show--really the only one that's had a life outside it.  It's sung by Linda Lavin, who plays Sydney, Max Mencken's girl Friday. The song works on its own, but is even more effective in context.  Her character, rebuffed by Max, looks at generally unnoticed Clark Kent and sees a fixer upper. She's essentially trying to undress him, which not only shocks his sense of propriety, but threatens worse--if she unbutton his shirt and finds that red S underneath, his cover is blown.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Cast Out

I was recently watching Cast Away (2000), a huge hit for Tom Hanks (and the last time he was nominated for an Oscar).  This time around something stuck out that I'm sure didn't occur to anyone when they made it.

I assume you know the story--after a plane crash he gets stuck on an island in the middle of the ocean.  He works for Federal Express, and many of their packages wash ashore.  He opens them all but one--it keeps him going knowing he's got something to deliver if he ever gets back.  (Kind of silly, but okay).

So he finally gets off the island and at the end of the film delivers the package.  He's driving away and stops at a crossroads, trying to figure where to go next.  (I guess it's a metaphor, but I ignore them in films.)

The woman who owns the place he just delivered to drives by and gives him some directions.  And it occurred to me this looks really weird today. Anyone under, say, 20, might have trouble figuring out his problem.  Everyone has GPS on their phones now.  No one needs to look at a map to figure out which way to turn.

The last shot of the film is his looking in the direction of the woman.  Will he go after her?  All I know is GPS would have ruined the ending.

Been there, pal, been there

Periodical cicadas emerge only briefly to mate, lay eggs and die.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Let's Skip Over That

A pointless article entitled "5 Most Politically Incorrect 'Seinfeld' Moments" starts with this line:

NBC's "Seinfeld" did far more than introduce "yada yada yada" into the lexicon.

I can't believe how often I've heard this.

Seinfeld may have popularized the phrase "yada yada yada," but it was around a long time before the show aired.

In fact, not only do I remember a friend of mine using "yada yada" in the 1980s--I remember being charmed by how old-fashioned the phrase sounded back then.

But you know what they say--nothing happens until it happens on television.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

March (And Other Months') Madness

Basketball is a weird sport in that essentially nothing matters until the final quarter.  The score bounces up an down, but it's usually close enough that it's decided near the end.  A goal in hockey, a run in baseball, a touchdown or even field goal in football makes a different early on, but 50 or 60 or 80 points scored early in basketball--who cares?

Unfortunately, this leads to the worst thing in basketball--the final two minutes.  Now both coaches have a good idea of what's needed, and the fun of the game is lost.  The coach that's ahead wants to waste time, while the coach that's behind needs to score fast and then get the ball from the other team.

What this leads to are lots of fouls and endless (they seem endless) timeouts so the coach can discuss the latest strategy, while the game practically grinds to a halt.  And usually it's pointless.  If you're behind by 15 points with 1:40 left it's over, stop playing like it matters.  Even if you're behind 8 points with 30 seconds left it's over.  But the fans have to wait forever for the game to finish.

I'd like to change the rules to get things moving.  How about this:

First, only one timeout allowed in the last five minutes of the game.  (And maybe none in the last two mintues.)

Then, a different foul structure in the last two minutes.  First foul, you keep whatever situation you're in.  But then future fouls--if they're intentional--give the team that's been fouled an option (or maybe not even an option, since that might slow up the game)--they can have the normal foul shooting situation, or they can take one foul shot and retain possession.  The other team, as far as I'm concerned, is just gaming the rules to get the ball back, so let's deny them what they want most and play this game all the way through like it's normal.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


After a lot of negotiation, The Big Bang Theory has been renewed for seasons 11 and 12.  For a while I wondered if the people behind it wouldn't just say "we've done enough, time to move on."

But it's still the biggest hit CBS (or any network) has (especially taking the demos into account), so what were they to do?  Some people like to go out on top, but others like to keep on going until it's definitely over.  It's hard to imagine making that much money, but it's also hard to imagine giving it up when you don't have to.

The central five stars have been re-signed, though the two "junior" cast members, Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch, are still working out their new contracts with CBS.  I'm sure they'll come to some sort of agreement. (Though I'm intrigued--how much leverage do they have?  They are regular cast members and it would be hard to write them out, but CBS knows they've got to be pretty happy with the money they're already making.)

There's also going to be a spinoff called Young Sheldon, which sounds awful.  Sheldon, unquestionably the breakout character, works fine playing off the ensemble, but I don't want to see him surrounded by new characters, I don't want to see his "origin" and I don't want him played by a new actor.

Still, who knows?  I recall, a decade ago, seeing a huge billboard near where I live advertising this new show called The Big Bang Theory. It featured the three leads, Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons.  And I remember thinking "isn't it sad?--here are these young actors all excited about landing a network sitcom, and by the end of the year they'll probably be canceled and forgotten."

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