Sunday, December 31, 2006

Quick Preview

We plan to keep blogging in 2007, and we hope you plan to keep reading and sending us comments. I don't know what we'll write about the whole year, but I can make a few guesses about the next few months. Within the next week, we'll have a review of our last year's predictions and soon after that, predictions for 2007. We'll also have awards for 2006.

Then there's my Film Year In Review post, but it won't be until later in the month after I can catch up on a lot of the movies I missed.

Then there'll no doubt be stuff about Lost, American Idol, the Oscars and, time permitting, politics.

Until then, enjoy our old predictions and previous film year reviews.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam Hussein

Well, it's obvious what the big new story is today. I really don't have too much to say about its legal and moral ramifications.

I only hope, in the long run, it can be an event that leads to more peace.

Friday, December 29, 2006

New Year Predictions/Last Years Results?

Will we be reviewing last years predictions and making new ones for this year?

Columbus Guy says: I'm game. I can't do any worse than last year.

LAGuy says: I was just about to mention it's that time of year. Tell us what's gonna happen in 2007. And any readers who want to add their guesses can do it in the comments section.

Olives and their Oil

As a lark we bought a collection of Chaplin's first shorts, 8 dvd's, the kind of thing we figured to put on the shelf and never watch. By mistake we watched the second film first, "Kid Auto Races at Venice" (I presume California) and it's fabulous. The first time as the tramp, but what makes it great is the simplicity of it. It's nothing at all but 8 minutes of film of soap box derby cars and low powered racing cars, with crowds lining the dirt track. Chaplin plays a man who we recognize from every Today Show and Oprah show: the idiot mugging for the camera. Film makers are trying to film the race, but Chaplin keeps jumping in front of the camera, oblivious to the thing being filmed. Just wonderful.

So what am I, 90 years behind LAGuy?

More Than A Feeling

Sometimes when I hear a classic oldie I try to listen to the words, since I'm so used to them I usually stopped paying attention years ago. I recently tried this on Phil Spector's masterpiece, The Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (note they drop the "g" twice in a row). And let's not leave out the songwriters, Mann and Weill.

Anyway, it's actually a pretty good lyric. It sticks to a simple idea--that something is missing in a relationship--and the words and music work well together to get this concept across. But I have two slight problems, and they're in the first two lines.

Here's the second line: "...there's no tenderness like before in your fingertips." All I can say is this guy is pretty sensitive. He's apparently still being touched by his woman, but he can tell these touches just aren't the same.

More troublesome is the first line: "You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips." How does he know this? Obviously, he's keeping his eyes open. Maybe if this guy wasn't so suspicious when she kisses him or touches him, this couple would do better.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Could we turn Ramsey Clark over too?

Saddam Hussein's chief lawyer implored world leaders on Thursday to prevent the United States from handing over the ousted leader to Iraqi authorities for execution, saying he should enjoy protection from his enemies as a "prisoner of war."

Agreeing with Harry Reid

So Harry Reid is skipping Ford's funeral. He justifies it by saying he's leading a foreign delgation. Despite encomiums such as this, Reid would be equally justified if he were hanging around Vegas in his bathrobe.

What Can I Say

There have been so many tributes to James Brown lately that there's not much point in going over his career yet again. He was the most important R&B (and soul and funk, etc) artist of all time.

Rather than gush about song after song, let me give just a few impressions.

His earliest stuff alone--"Please, Please, Please," "Try Me," "I'll Go Crazy" and others--would have made him one of the greatest soul shouters of all time.

"Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" changed the face of music, and the follow-up, "I Got You (I Feel Good)" is his signature tune. In fact, it's been so overused it's easy to forget how revolutionary it is. Try to forget about all the bad comedies it's been in and try to listen to it for the first time.

He had a great act, with his wild dancing and the routine where he's being led off and throws off his cape and starts performing again. (Andy Kindler said "he's the hardest working man in show business? He does one song then has to be helped off stage.") He was the last of the big band leaders, but he used his band sparingly, in a percussive, staccato way.

My favorite song of his may be "I Got The Feelin'." Don't let the dropped "G" fool you--he's the only man who's able to get three syllables out of "feeling" ("I got the Fee-lin-uh!")

My other favorite is "It's a Man's Man's Man's World." The lyric is pretty sexist, and yet, somehow, it always touches me.

In 1986, more than a decade after his previous hit, he came out with "Living In America." It might not have been groundbreaking, but it still sounded great.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald Ford

I was about to write on James Brown when I heard our oldest President ever, Gerald Ford, had died. He'd been living in Rancho Mirage, California, about two hours east (with good traffic) from where I'm writing this now.

I have two connections to him. 1) He's the only President who attended my alma mater, Michigan. 2) He's the only President I've ever seen in person.

Where did I see him? When running for President, he appeared at a rally at the Macomb Mall, a few miles from where I grew up. It was pretty exciting, actually. I mean, a President's a President.

Ford is most famous for pardoning Richard Nixon before he was convicted of any crimes. This move may have cost him the 1976 election, and it certainly frustrated millions who wanted to see Nixon in the dock. But most now think it was the right thing to do. Nixon was gone, sometimes it's right to move on. Ford even got off a phrase that has become part of the lexicon: "our long national nightmare is over."

Though mocked for his alleged clumsiness, he was actually one of our most athletic President's. He was a center on Michigan's championship football team in the early 1930s (hence his nickname Gerald "Flippum Back" Ford).

Though born in Nebraska, he was a Michigan man, growing up in Grand Rapids and serving that district in Congress for many years. The state of Michigan honors him. There's the Gerald Ford Museum in Grand Rapids and the Gerald Ford Library in Ann Arbor. I've spent time in both, and have particularly fond memories of the Library.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Carol Me This

So I was singing Christmas carols yesterday, and we did "My Favorite Things," which isn't officially a carol, but has that Christmas-y feeling.

Anyway, the song, as you probably know, is about this gal listing stuff she likes. This is not a Cole Porter list, this is an Oscar-Hammerstein-corny list. He liked to write about naive people and simple joys.

So we're going through the roster--you know, raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, that sort of jazz. Then we come to this: "Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles." Come again? I can see loving sleigh bells (when the occasion calls for it) and a pasta dish, but really now, who considers a doorbell to be a favorite thing?

I'll believe a hot dog makes Patty Duke lose control before I believe that.

Monday, December 25, 2006

One More Thing

I wasn't planning to post any more today, but I just read James Brown has died. He was one of the most significant musical figures of our time, and I just want to note his passing.

Perhaps later there'll be time for an appreciation.

We Wish You A Merry

We here at Pajama Guy are out caroling and meeting non-virtual friends, so no posting today except to say have fun but don't overdo.

By the way, if you want to see a movie set during Christmas, you can't do better than The Shop Around The Corner. Here's a recent (if so-so) appreciation by Elbert Ventura.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

I Don't Get It

I've watched a few episodes of Iconoclasts on the Sundance Channel. The idea of the show is you watch two celebrities hang out together.

Let's assume these people are worth hanging out with. Please explain to me why this is more interesting than profiling one celebrity. Please explain to me what this isn't less interesting than profiling one celebrity.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Anything like fake but accurate?

This is simplistic of course, but roughly accurate; paychecks represent a claim on a finite amount of national production, and at least part of the reason that steelworkers could be paid so much, is that blacks, and particularly women, were paid so little for the work they did.

Is "accurate" a synonym for bullcookies? How could The Economist spew such silliness? Steelworkers were paid what they were paid becaue they could extract their wages from the process, i.e., a pot of money made in the steel industry, not because there's a national pot of money that they kept black's and wimmin's fingers out of. Now, if you want to complain that these Democrat interest groups kept blacks and women out of the unions, fine.

Immigrants lose the argument

That Michael Chertoff. He's just like Joy Behar.

Highly Recommended

Perhaps it's too late to get it for Christmas, but let me suggest a good read, as they say. It's written by a friend of mine, Scott Page. It's entitled The Difference, and it's about diversity of viewpoints and how they can help solve problems.

Theories on problem-solving have always interested me. The funny thing is, when I first heard about The Difference, I thought it might make an interesting companion piece to another intriguing book, Fooled By Randomness, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. So I checked out Page's page at and in the "Customers who bought items like this also bought " section, Taleb's book was at the top of the list.

Anyway, order a few copies and watch its Amazon rank climb.

For The Rest Of Us

Happy Festivus! I'm amazed to see it's become a regular holiday. I guess a lot of holidays have started for sillier reasons.

It's inspired by a last-season episode of Seinfeld. I recently saw something about the popularity of Festivus in Entertainment Weekly; somewhat ironic, since EW, when it reviewed all Seinfeld episodes, called "The Strike" one of the worst, and thought the idea of Festivus was desperately unfunny.

Anyway, enjoy the feats of strength and the airing of grievances.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Dem consultants demand higher pay

These hired guns are so phony. The sun comes up, they crow like they did it.

Actually, though, the Dems have the last laugh. What's Al qaida going to do? Go back to the Republicans?

Now That's Bombing

I just saw Eddie Murphy interviewed on Inside The Actors Studio. Asked if he'd return to stand-up, he said it'd be tough to go back to ground zero.

Yes, it would be tough, since "ground zero" means the area where the explosion takes place. I think Eddie meant it'd be tough to go back to square one. (Come to think of it, it would be tough to go back to ground zero.)

Actually, I've heard this meaning attached to "ground zero" so often, I think it may now be correct.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Gee, he doesn't sound guilty

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Clinton's national security adviser removed classified documents from the National Archives, hid them under a construction trailer and later tried to find the trash collector to retrieve them, the agency's internal watchdog said Wednesday.
The report was issued more than a year after Sandy Berger pleaded guilty and received a criminal sentence for removing the documents.
Berger took the documents in the fall of 2003 while working to prepare himself and Clinton administration witnesses for testimony to the Sept. 11 commission. Berger was authorized as the Clinton administration's representative to make sure the commission got the correct classified materials.
Berger's lawyer, Lanny Breuer, said in a statement that the contents of all the documents exist today and were made available to the commission.
But Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., outgoing chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said he's not convinced that the Archives can account for all the documents taken by Berger. Davis said working papers of National Security Council staff members are not inventoried by the Archives.
"There is absolutely no way to determine if Berger swiped any of these original documents. Consequently, there is no way to ever know if the 9/11 Commission received all required materials," Davis said.
Berger pleaded guilty to unlawfully removing and retaining classified documents. He was fined $50,000, ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and was barred from access to classified material for three years.
Inspector General Paul Brachfeld reported that National Archives employees spotted Berger bending down and fiddling with something white around his ankles.
The employees did not feel at the time there was enough information to confront someone of Berger's stature, the report said.
Later, when Berger was confronted by Archives officials about the missing documents, he lied by saying he did not take them, the report said.
Brachfeld's report included an investigator's notes, taken during an interview with Berger. The notes dramatically described Berger's removal of documents during an Oct. 2, 2003, visit to the Archives.
Berger took a break to go outside without an escort while it was dark. He had taken four documents in his pockets.
"He headed toward a construction area. ... Mr. Berger looked up and down the street, up into the windows of the Archives and the DOJ (Department of Justice), and did not see anyone," the interview notes said.
He then slid the documents under a construction trailer, according to the inspector general. Berger acknowledged that he later retrieved the documents from the construction area and returned with them to his office.
"He was aware of the risk he was taking," the inspector general's notes said. Berger then returned to the Archives building without fearing the documents would slip out of his pockets or that staff would notice that his pockets were bulging.
The notes said Berger had not been aware that Archives staff had been tracking the documents he was provided because of earlier suspicions from previous visits that he was removing materials. Also, the employees had made copies of some documents.
In October 2003, the report said, an Archives official called Berger to discuss missing documents from his visit two days earlier. The investigator's notes said, "Mr. Berger panicked because he realized he was caught."
The notes said that Berger had "destroyed, cut into small pieces, three of the four documents. These were put in the trash."
After the trash had been picked up, Berger "tried to find the trash collector but had no luck," the notes said.
Significant portions of the inspector general's report were redacted to protect privacy or national security.

LAGuy adds: "Hello, this is the AP. We'd like to discuss some copyright issues with you."

Game Show Basics

I was planning to audition for ABC's Show Me The Money. From what I could tell, I probably would have won a few hundreds thousand dollars. Alas, the show has been canceled.

But there are a couple new game shows on NBC worth considering, 1 vs. 100 and Identity. If you want to see a clueless appraisal of these shows, check out Troy Patterson's piece in Slate.

Troy complains they're not challenging enough and gives some examples. Maybe he just hasn't seen that many game shows. The questions start at a simple level and get trickier as more and more money is at stake. It's called building suspense.

Most contestants stop short of the highest money level because it gets too hard. How far do you think you'd go, Troy? Remember, sneering doesn't help.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Help Me Out Here

There's a small but definite uptick in hits today. Obviously, you people are being sent here from some other blog, or by someone, somewhere.

I'm gonna be out the rest of day, but if anyone wants to tell me the source, spill it in the comments section. Thanks.

Can't Wait Till He's 90

The early buzz on the latest Rocky film is positive. I guess it shows every thirty years Sylvester Stallone is able to pull off a surprising crowd pleaser.


A lot of people are looking forward to the movie version of Dreamgirls, but one thing (at least) bothers me. David Denby's New Yorker rave mentions a contradiction without indentifying it as such:
[Director] Condon pursues two tracks: he celebrates the chart-topping success of groups like the Supremes, but he makes it clear that what they have achieved, however exciting, is not the same thing as artistic success.
In other words, we're gonna get to watch a bunch of numbers that are not artistically successful. Can that be good?

By the way, the Supremes were artistically successful.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

An elegant philosophy

Props to MRC for this little gem. You couldn't find a better, more poetic statement of the collectivist philosophy than this one:

Rosie O'Donnell: "His name is Senator Tim Johnson. He's a Democrat, and sadly he, he was ill, and he's had brain surgery. They think he may have had a stroke."
Elisabeth Hasselbeck: "Yes."
Guest host Dari Alexander of Fox News: "And the thing that is quite interesting about this, I think, is that it started this whole political brouhaha because, as you know, the Democrats took over in November by a 51-49 majority, and now if he has to resign, it will make things 50-50, because the governor of that state, who is a Republican, is in, in, he's in charge of basically putting an interim person in there for, for Senate, andâ€""
Joy Behar: "Is there such a thing as a man-made stroke? In other words, did someone do this to him?"
Alexander: "Maybe they gave him polonium."
O'Donnell, laughing: "Oh no, no."
Elisabeth Hasselbeck: "Let me ask you something. Why is everything coming from the liberal perspective a conspiracy? This is a conspiracy."
Behar: "I know what this, that party is capable of."
Hasselbeck: "Help us."
Alexander: "So, in any case, it started this whole political brouhaha, and you know, I think the thing that's really sad about this is that it takes a political angle when this guy is really critically ill."
Behar: "Yeah, we're very sad that he's critically ill, but there are millions and millions of people who depend upon this Congress. People in the world and people in this country. So it's really, his illness is, is sad, but it's not as important in the overall scheme."
Alexander: "Well, that's definitely true, butâ€""
Hasselbeck: "I guess it depends on what scheme you're thinking of."
Behar: "Well, I'm thinking of, I'm thinking of human beings lives. That's what I'm thinking of."

Behar is just fabulous. Dismissing a life because you're thinking of lives, which is, you know, more. So right and righteous. She's just like Hitler.

Must See?

Let's stop and reflect at mid-season how NBC's new Thursday line-up looks. Not the ratings--for years NBC was unstoppable, now it's getting its brains beat in by CBS and ABC.

But they've put their four most notable comedies on from 8-10--My Name Is Earl, The Office, Scrubs and 30 Rock--and are trying to generate a little heat. Note the new face of sitcoms--they're all one-camera, no laughtrack half-hours.

My Name Is Earl has, unexpectedy, turned into my favorite live action comedy. A neat premise and a bunch of fun characters (who all talk funny). I don't see why it shouldn't go on for years.

The Office is getting the most critical love, having just won the Best Comedy Emmy. I don't get it. The original British version is a gem, smart and subtle. Its American cousin is trying not to be a direct copy, but I still find it a bit too obvious and overbearing.

Scrubs I stopped watching a few years ago, so I really can't comment.

30 Rock has a certain screwball charm. It's having trouble finding a tone, though--it goes off in all directions, sometimes sharp, sometimes silly. Tina Fey holds things down as the sensible one (who's a bit of a sad sack) and Alec Baldwin continues to prove his metier is comedy. Only Tracy Morgan doesn't quite work. There are some interesting secondary characters, though I hope they get rid of Fey's boyfriend.

For all its problems, I'll take this lineup over CSI or Grey's Anatomy.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The one thing that scares Hillary

Being seen with--strike that, known as a socialist.

The Battle Continues

A month ago I posted on some problems I had with Battlestar Galactica. Now that we're at the mid-season break, I still enjoy to show but also still have problems.

First, the leaders continue in their lax ways. Survival is at stake, but after inviting the Cylons aboard, they let "good" Cylon Sharon hang out wherever she wants, which means right in the path of the Cylon delegation. She even faces the "Boomer" version of Sharon, who shot Adama. Wouldn't caution suggest she be kept away from the Cylons just in case?

Second, a show with two sides is best if both sides aren't quite sure what the other is doing. Now they've met and announced their intentions--much of the mystery is lost. And since they're both openly searching for Earth, it doesn't seem like the sanctuary it once was.

Finally, I've always felt the most interesting character is Baltar, who betrayed his own species--assuming he's not a Cylon. (Looking at James Callis's bio, I see he appeared in Shaw's The Doctor's Dilemma. He'd make a perfect Dubedat--the talented, self-absorbed artist.) But as interesting as Baltar among the Cylons is, he was more intriguing playing a respected scientist with a guilty secret living amongst his own kind. The show is hinting he might go back, but he'd be so unpopular on Galactica they'll have to figure out a way to make him indispensable to the humans.

One good thing--the show is now scheduled for Sunday night. A lot better than Friday, when I tend to be out.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

On Behalf Of Everyone, I Accept

Pajama Guy has been named Time Magazine's "Person Of The Year." Thank you, thank you.

It Was A Very Good Year

Over at his website my friend Jesse Walker lists his favorite movies. Not of this year, since he hasn't seen enough, but of 10 years ago.

I was taken by all the great films of 1996. Jesse lists 20 films (I've only seen 14 of them) and at least five are better than anything I've caught so far in 2006. Which ones? Breaking The Waves, Conspirators Of Pleasure, Flirting With Disaster, Schizopolis and Welcome To The Dollhouse.

Then there are several others that would probably make my top ten list if released this year: Citizen Ruth, I Shot Andy Warhol, Kingpin and Microcosmos. I also like Forgotten Silver, Paradise Lost and When We Were Kings. (I love Bring The Pain too, but it's not a movie.)

Will 2006 look this good in retrospect? No, it won't.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Libertarian Party membership up 10 percent

Bob Barr, who served eight years as a Republican congressman before losing his seat in 2002, announced Friday that he is now a "proud, card-carrying Libertarian."

And he encouraged others to join him.

Hillary's box full of cojones

Frequently though forlornly mentioned presidential prospect Evan Bayh says no go. Now she only needs Obama's and she's all set. Oh, wait. He doesn't have any. She's good to go.

Where There's A Will

In a recent article, George Will suggests the time for Obama is now. It's still a bit early to think about 2008, but in general, Will is right--Obama may not seem so exciting once we get used to him.

In his list of arguments for Obama, though, one is just filler: "...the odds favor the Democratic nominee in 2008 because for 50 years it has been rare for a presidential nominee to extend his party's hold on the presidency beyond eight years."

This is rather silly. There's simply not enough data to justify any particular trend--each Presidential election is pretty much a law unto itself.

The cutoff date itself is arbitrary--if Will had made it 100 years we'd see it's pretty common for a President to hand the torch to a member of his own party. In the other direction, politics has changed so much that I'm not sure if you can get many clues from things that happened before Reagan.

And let's look at those stats. We'll ignore Truman taking it after four FDR terms, since that's more than 50 years ago.

Nixon had a shot and lost narrowly. Humphrey had a shot and lost narrowly. Ford had a shot (even after Watergate destroyed the Republicans) and lost narrowly. Bush won after Reagan. Gore had a shot and lost narrowly, though he received more votes. And note these were all Veeps running, which won't happen in 2008.

Four out of five close cases going your way proves nothing.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Jimmy's such a nice boy

It'd be nice to think Carter is just senile, but no, he's just a nasty, self-righteous bigot.

A nice UN global tax would fix this

"Like many French people, I've had enough of the taxes we are forced to pay and this is it, I've made my choice," Hallyday told French radio Thursday during the launch of a Hallyday fashion line at a Paris boutique."

Who does he think he is? Bono?

Let Lockyear pick out his cell

The North Carolina prosecutor in the Duke rape case has a problem.

This is more than dismissal of the criminal charges. This is more than a sanction such as a Slick Willy suspension of the law license.

This, is jail time.

More great moments in journalistic math

On average– we’re not talking about a Prius or Hummer here– less than 20% of the energy of gasoline is actually used to drive the wheels of the car. That means very little of the gas you bought moves you down the road. It’s like buying a twelve pack and taking one sip.

Er, not really. It's like buying a twelve pack and taking less than enough sips to consume two and two-fifths cans. Technically, I suppose, that includes the quantity of one sip, but I think we can safely conclude this writer wasn't being so persnickety. It's an open question whether he was being dishonest, bujt I vote for error prone.

Hotter than a pepper sprout

The P-Boys are a bit feverish, it seems (ellipsis warning-they're omitted. Read the damn thing yourself if you're concerned):

You need a decisive stroke. You need to tip the table over. You need to attack.

Commandeer a half hour in prime time to tell the American people, and the world, that we have clear evidence of Iran's involvement in killing American servicemen. Show the captured munitions. Explain exactly how they have contributed to American casualties. Display aerial photos of the training camps. No doubt there is much more evidence that can be presented or described.

In the dramatic finale of your speech, announce that thirty minutes earlier, American airplanes stationed in the Middle East took off, their destination, one of the munitions plants or training camps of which you have shown pictures. That training camp, you say, no longer exists. You say that if Iran does not immediately cease all support for, and fomenting of, violence in Iraq, we will continue to strike military targets inside Iran.
A forceful and dramatic conclusion. But that isn't quite the end; instead, in the manner of Columbo or Steve Jobs, you add just one more thing: you declare that no nation that is engaged in killing American servicemen on the field of battle will be permitted to arm itself with nuclear weapons.

In the manner of Columbo?

Look, great idea. Love it all the way through. Bush ain't gonna do it. This is the guy who sat around for two years letting the New York Times spew propaganda and then validated it by firing Rumsfeld the day after the election. He takes Hindrakers advice, great. All is forgiven. But Bush is a man with his tail between his legs.

Deaths In The Label Industry

A few big names in music just died.

First, Ahmet Ertegun, founder of Atlantic, one of the great labels. Atlantic recorded many of the greatest R&B acts. Ray Charles did a lot of his best work there (Ertegun is a character in Ray). Soul Sister Aretha Franklin was from Detroit, but somehow Atlantic got to her before Motown.

Ertegun later signed some of the best rock acts, such as Cream, CSNY, Led Zeppelin and above all, The Rolling Stones. He also had more poppy acts, like Sonny And Cher, Bobby Darin, Bette Midler and Abba.

He was involved till the end, dying from complications after he slipped and hurt his head at a Rolling Stones concert. I believe Frank Zappa named his son Ahmet (obviously) after him.

Then there's Fred Marsden. The tougher bands that followed The Beatles, such as The Stone and The Who, are remembered today, but a bunch of acts like Herman's Hermits and The Dave Clark Five ruled the charts in the early days of the British invasion. One of the best of these softer bands were Gerry And The Pacemakers. Gerry was Gerry Marsden (now old enough for a pacemaker). Brother Fred played drums.

Brian Epstein famously signed The Beatles and made Liverpool the center of a musical revolution. The second band he signed was the Pacemakers. Producer Geroge Martin wanted the B eatles to record other people's tunes--that's how it was done. The first song he gave them was "How Do You Do It?" The band recorded a version, but begged to have their own song released. Martin agreed--how could he not with a single as good as "Please Please Me"

So who got to record the song? Gerry And The Pacemakers, of course. And guess what, it went to #1 ("Please Please Me" only hit #2).

They also had hits with quieter numbers like "Ferry Cross The Mersey" and "Dont Let The Sun Catch You Crying." And then there's one of my favorite records from the entire era--"I Like It." I still play it when I need a shot of energy.

Peter Boyle

All the obits are saying Peter Boyle will be best-remembered for his years on Everybody Loves Raymond. I suppose that's true, but I never watched the show.

I will remember him, though, for all the great work he did in film, especially in the 70s.

He first gained wide acclaim in the title role of Joe (1970). So many supported the hippie-bashing of the film that Boyle shied away from such violent roles, even turning down the lead in The French Connection. He mostly appeared in supporting roles for the rest of his career.

In 1972 he did an amazing job as Robert Redford's handler in The Candidate. The film encouraged Dan Quayle to enter politics (did he get it?); I have to wonder if Boyle's Svengali-like role hit Karl Rove the same way.

He hardly speaks as the monster in Young Frankenstein (1974), but it's his best part. There are at least two classic sequences--the soup scene with the blind man (Gene Hackman) and the monster's social debut where he performs "Puttin' On The Ritz" with Doctor Frankenstein.

In 1976 he was great as a taxi driver (not the taxi driver ) in Taxi Driver. In 1979 he was powerful in Hardcore, an film about the world of pornography. And in 1980, in a generally forgotten film, Where The Buffalo Roam, he's quite memorable as Hunter Thompson's crazy lawyer.

He never got roles quite as good as these again, but he always worked. As mentioned above, he gained his greatest fame in the last decade of his life. A lot of actors don't have second acts, so I hope he was pleased.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Violent Disagreement

Another tiresome think piece on fake violence, this time by Richard Schickel in the LA Times, regarding Mel Gibson's gorefests, particularly Apocalytpo. Not much worth commenting on, but this did catch my eye:
It is not so much the detail with which it treats violence that finally disgusts even the most hardened moviegoer; it is the ritualistic staging of it.
I'm a hardened moviegoer and I'll decide what disgusts me, thank you very much.


I once heard someone claim there was a poll that showed students supported affirmative action on campus. This intrigued me, since every poll I'd ever seen showed they didn't.

So he pulls out the poll, and what did it ask? Something about do you think it's a good thing to have a diverse student body. This is not the question you ask if you want to know if someone supports affirmative action. This is the question you ask if you want to avoid knowing if someone supports affirmative action. (If you really want to know, you ask "do you support affirmative action?")

It could be worse. Imagine a poll that asks what should we do with child molesters, and only offers two choices--torture them or set them free.

Here's the headline and sub for a recent LA Times poll: Majority Support Pullout Timeline--Results Suggest Bush, Who Has Rejected The Idea Of A Timetable, Is Out Of Step With Public Opinion On The Iraq War.

Here are the four choices given: 1) "Troops should be withdrawn on a fixed timetable," 2) "Troops should be kept in Iraq to secure the country," 3) "More troops should be sent" and 4) "Don't know."

Got it? The choice is between bringing the troops home on a timetable or never bringing them home. I would have thought many, perhaps most, Americans agree with me--let's bring them home, but only at the proper time based on the general situation; a fixed timetable allows the terrorists and others to wait us out.

This poll seems to be designed either by incompetents or people with contempt for the truth.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

As sure as night follows day

"The princess ended up instead taking a vacation on the yacht of Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed and became involved with his son Dodi, a romance that led to her death. "

A romance that led to her death? What is this, a morality lesson? "Keep it in your pants or you'll end up dead in a Paris traffic tunnel with Princess Di."

How about this: ". . . bought a Mercedes Benz, a purchase that led to her death."

Or, ". . . beef bourguignon, a dinner that led to her death."

Or, ". . . fermentation, a discovery that led to her death."

Good Writin'

I guess this week's theme is Broadway.

In the latest New Yorker, critic John Lahr extols playwright August Wilson. I haven't seen Wilson's Two Trains Running, which Lahr reviews, and it's always tricky to read a quote out of context, but what do you make of this:
Wilson died this year; as time goes by, his work will be recognized as one of the twentieth century’s greatest dramatic achievements. His plays swing with the pulse of a people. “A nigger with a gun is bad news,” Holloway says. “You say the word ‘gun’ in the same sentence with the word ‘nigger’ and you in trouble. The white man panic. Unless you say, ‘The policeman shot the nigger with his gun.’ ” That’s magnificent writing. I left the theatre exhilarated, glad to have been alive in Wilson’s time.
That's magnificent? I don't know--seems kind of...bad.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Betty Comden

While I was out last week I missed that Betty Comden had died. She was one of my favorite theatre people. She and Adolph Green (they weren't married, though a lot of people thought so) worked together for six decades and provided some of the brightest entertainment ever seen in Hollywood or Broadway.

They started out working in a satirical troupe along with Judy Holliday. Their friend Leonard Bernstein asked them to write the book and lyrics to his first Broadway musical, On The Town (1944). It's probably the best score they ever helped create. They also starred in the show, and the cast album (made years later) shows their vibrant personalities. They made it as writers, but they were born performers.

They moved to Hollywood where they wrote the screenplays for two of the greatest musicals ever, Singin' In The Rain (1952) and The Band Wagon (1953). Too often the plots in Hollywood musicals were excuses to set up numbers, but these stories could stand on their own. Fred Astaire claimed when they read him their Band Wagon script they did such a good job he feared he and his cast wouldn't be able to top them.

But their hearts were always on Broadway, and that's where they spent most of their career, winning several Tonys. Among their hits were Wonderful Town (1953), Bells Are Ringing (1956) starring their old pal Judy Holliday, Applause (1970), On The Twentieth Century (1978), and The Will Rogers Follies (1991).

While they didn't perform in these shows, they did have a show of their own, a delightful one where they told stories and sang songs. It was called A Party With Betty Comden & Adolph Green, which is a pretty fair description. They first played it on Broadway in 1958, and revived it numerous times.

I never met Betty Comden, but I once had the chance. In the 80s, Comden and Green wrote A Doll's Life, their biggest flop. The concept for the musical was we'd follow the life of Ibsen's Nora after she left her Doll's House. (Sounds pretty bad, but then who'd want to see a musical about a phonetics teacher, or a gang war?) The expensive Harold Prince production closed after five performances. I just happened to be walking around the Broadway district at the time when I saw them moving out. I was pretty sure I saw Betty Comden standing at the stage door, talking to some cast members. I thought about going up to her, but what could I say?

Here's what I could have said. "Thanks for bringing joy to millions, especially me."

I do not think it means what you think it means

"It seems inconceivable that the Clinton administration would have intervened in Teddy Forstmann's social life simply because he was a prominent Republican. "

Many things are inconceivable about anything to do with the Clintons: Their election, twice to the White House and twice to the senate; that anyone anywhere takes them seriously about anything; that they geared up the Washington Post, the New York Times and the networks to slime Monica Lewinsky as a stalker when they knew she was just a compliant kid; that Hillary will be president. The list is endless.

Which is to say, it's not only coneceivable, it would be unsurprising. Hard to believe that two people could so easily render the U.S. a third world country, but you've seen it yourself.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Global test

UNSAT (United Nations SAT):

Which four of the following five items are the same?
A) collective responsibility
B) global solidarity
C) rule of law
D) mutual accountability
E) multilateralism

At least he admits he's a collectivist.

Blame It On Broadway

As long as I'm on the subject of Broadway musicals, what about John Lahr's review in The New Yorker of the latest revival of Company?

Discussing the 1970 show, Lahr writes "songs such as 'The Little Things You Do Together,' 'Marry Me a Little,' and 'Sorry-Grateful' opened up a whole Pandora’s box of ambivalence." Perhaps, but "Marry Me A Little" was cut from the original production, so it didn't open up much of anything back then.

Much weirder:
“What happened to the good-time musical?” Ethan Mordden asked rhetorically in his book “Broadway Babies.” Vietnam is what happened. The culture had lost faith in both its goodness and its gladness.
Mr. Lahr, it's a rhetorical question, no need to answer. But if you do, try to make sense. Company as a response to Vietnam? The culture lost faith in itself?

1) Sondheim doesn't exactly represent the culture. As great as he is, he's in his own corner. Since 1970 the Broadway musical has become more about Andrew Lloyd Webber and operatic spectacle.

2) People have been asking since Oklahoma where has the fun-time musical gone. Plenty of productions that pre-date Company--West Side Story, Cabaret--show a seriousness that doesn't require a Vietnam explanation.

3) The good-time musical hasn't exactly disappeared. Broadway still comes up with stuff like Annie or The Producers or Hairspray which, for better or worse, are bigger hits than anything Sondheim's ever written.

4) Here's what really happened to the musical--rock and roll. When the Broadway idiom no longer represented mainsteam taste, it splintered into a bunch of smaller streams.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

France declares war on the Jews

"According to Israeli defense sources, the French initiative is also meant to prove the operational capabilities of its UAVs so they can compete against Israeli defense industries on the global UAV market. "

The Word

NBC has been running ads showing people dressed up like John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John singing "You're The One That I Want."

This is to promote their new reality show, Grease: You're The One That I Want. The finalists will be the leads in a 2007 Broadway production of Grease.

I saw the original production. I also saw it put on in college, as well as a community theatre production featuring my brother. In all these presentations, I never heard anyone sing "You're The One That I Want."

I guess Grease: There Are Worse Things I Could Do didn't cut it.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

My Spy

A collection of Spy magazine--Spy: The Funny Years--is out. It would make a good Christmas gift but I won't buy it. That's because I still have the original issues from when I subscribed.

During its short reign in the late 80s, Spy was the funniest, smartest, nastiest magazine around. It took on the powerful--socialites, celebrities, politicians--in ways that probably still make them wince today.

In Christopher Buckley's New York Times' review, he notes how intensely the magazine was edited. I can attest to this.

See, back in those days, I wrote a lot of letters to magazines and newspapers. Yes, I was a crank. Now I'm just a blogger. Anyway, Spy was the only place that actually had someone call me to discuss the letter and explain what it meant before they published it. (It was in defense of mimes, but that's another story.) I liked the magazine already, but that impressed me.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Losing the Cold Warriors

Rest in honored peace.

Guess the RNC reads the Mansfield News Journal

For LAGuy, who thinks the only viewpoint in the newspaper is on the editorial page:

The authors calculated the ideal partisan slant for each paper, if all it cared about was getting readers, and they found that it looked almost precisely like the one for the actual newspaper.

Needs More Study

In The Paper Chase, Harvard law students join study groups to handle their classes. I never got this. Sooner or later you have to understand the ideas yourself--how will hanging out with other clueless people help?

I hope this is George Bush's attitude regarding the Baker/Hamilton Iraq Study Group. In this case, the "group," as far as I can tell, is a clueless mix of people with bad ideas about Iraq and no ideas about Iraq. The only thing they all seem to agree upon is teaching our enemies a lesson--that they've won.

The American people want change. Fine, give it to them, but it's a wise leader's job to make sure the change is not change for change's sake.

Anyway, glad to be back. LAGuy, over and out.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Now that's history

This is cool beans. Actual historical research showing one of the greatest achievements in human history. At least, if it's true, that is, and not simply a good idea that outran the facts.

Tiny bubbles

Wow. Computer chips smaller than DNA. First we'll fix the bodies, then we'll ask, Why?

Chief Justice Lamar

The number of cases the court decided with signed opinions last term, 69, was the lowest since 1953 and fewer than half the number the court was deciding as recently as the mid-1980s. And aside from the school integration and global warming cases the court heard last week, along with the terrorism-related cases it has decided in the last few years, relatively few of the cases it is deciding speak to the core of the country’s concerns.

Raise their pay and send them home.

Part of the Palestinian discourse

"'Right of return' is not in Oslo I or Oslo II, it's not in the Bush Rose Garden speech, it's not even in UN 181, the original partition resolution -- it's part of the Palestinian discourse," said the US analyst.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

President Mrs. Bill Clinton

"She would not be another President Clinton. She would be President Rodham. I'll bet you that if she wins, that's what she has people call her," Morris told Fox News host John Gibson today on "The Big Story."

"I'll bet anybody in the country that when she gets elected, that's what she's gonna want to be called. She won't say it before [the election], but she will."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

If a tree falls and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Talk about useless gestures.

Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, will hold a full committee hearing tomorrow on "Climate Change and the Media."

I guess it costs less than, you know, actually getting a message out during, I don't know, a campaign, or even a political career.

Nat slips

Nat Hentoff writes the usual column, which is to say an excellent one, but for all his talk of Orwell he and Kennedy and Stevens he doesn't even touch on the big example: How the Manhattan media continually refers to a "type of abortion procedure."

Here's a real headline that took 15 seconds to find: "Ban on type of abortion set for arguments today"

Love it. Wish all reporting were done this way. "Type of policy was subject of a kind of communication in a central social organization during a common time unit."

Oh, I thought you said George Voinovich

"I'm the emotional one," Bush said later. "I don't enjoy breaking up, but when you talk about somebody you love, when you get older, you do it more."

Monday, December 04, 2006

Just because you're paranoid

The FBI appears to have begun using a novel form of electronic surveillance in criminal investigations: remotely activating a mobile phone's microphone and using it to eavesdrop on nearby conversations.
The technique is called a "roving bug," and was approved by top U.S. Department of Justice officials for use against members of a New York organized crime family who were wary of conventional surveillance techniques such as tailing a suspect or wiretapping him.
Nextel cell phones owned by two alleged mobsters, John Ardito and his attorney Peter Peluso, were used by the FBI to listen in on nearby conversations. The FBI views Ardito as one of the most powerful men in the Genovese family, a major part of the national Mafia.
The surveillance technique came to light in
an opinion published this week by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan. He ruled that the "roving bug" was legal because federal wiretapping law is broad enough to permit eavesdropping even of conversations that take place near a suspect's cell phone.
Kaplan's opinion said that the eavesdropping technique "functioned whether the phone was powered on or off." Some handsets can't be fully powered down without removing the battery; for instance, some Nokia models will wake up when turned off if an alarm is set.
While the Genovese crime family prosecution appears to be the first time a remote-eavesdropping mechanism has been used in a criminal case, the technique has been discussed in security circles for years.
The U.S. Commerce Department's security office
warns that "a cellular telephone can be turned into a microphone and transmitter for the purpose of listening to conversations in the vicinity of the phone." An article in the Financial Times last year said mobile providers can "remotely install a piece of software on to any handset, without the owner's knowledge, which will activate the microphone even when its owner is not making a call."
Nextel and Samsung handsets and the Motorola Razr are especially vulnerable to software downloads that activate their microphones, said
James Atkinson, a counter-surveillance consultant who has worked closely with government agencies. "They can be remotely accessed and made to transmit room audio all the time," he said. "You can do that without having physical access to the phone."
Because modern handsets are miniature computers, downloaded software could modify the usual interface that always displays when a call is in progress. The spyware could then place a call to the FBI and activate the microphone--all without the owner knowing it happened. (The FBI declined to comment on Friday.)
"If a phone has in fact been modified to act as a bug, the only way to counteract that is to either have a bugsweeper follow you around 24-7, which is not practical, or to peel the battery off the phone," Atkinson said. Security-conscious corporate executives routinely remove the batteries from their cell phones, he added.

Althought his virtualness thingks it's a scam, here's another example of such potentially hidden technology: Using paper as a digital storage medium. The Homeland Security people are just getting started on this stuff. It's all part of there being plenty of room at the bottom.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

We're Number 2!!

With the UCLA victory over USC, Michigan fans are buzzing about the possiblity of a rematch with unquestioned #1 Ohio State. The ESPN pundits are asking who should play against Ohio. The BCS system is supposed to have answered that question: the #2 team. But pushing Florida ahead of Michigan is apparently not above many sportswriters and coaches so they can get the game they want.

The team that is really getting screwed is not Michigan, who will get a BCS bid regardless and should really not complain about playing the Rose Bowl, but Wisconsin who has only lost to UM and has the misfortune to be in the same league as no 1 and no 2 (0r 3). If we are really looking for the best teams then leagues should not matter so much. Isn't it obvious from watching the Big East teams beat each other up, that some leagues are not as good as others?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Paltrow says she's less intelligent and civilized than average American

"The British are much more intelligent and civilized than the Americans," the 34-year-old added.

Yeah. Let me guess. George Bush never "really listened." Maybe she should go on a bender with Danny DeVito, see how her ape impersonation is coming along, for a bit of high-class fun.

Garrulous and Querulous

So LaGuy thinks I'm garrulous? I've always thought I was one of those co-dependent, always-trying-to-please personalities. Plus, I think I don't get what I deserve. Thank God.

Fresh air

Via His Virtualness, Volokh tells of two states supporting individual rights. If only the Ohio Supreme Court had such vision.

Friday, December 01, 2006

December News

Hard to believe, but the year's almost up. To celebrate the shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I will be in a place (physical or mental I leave it to you) where I won't be blogging. Expect me back in about a week.

But please, check in. ColumbusGuy is still around with his short, querulous posts. Perhaps AnnArborGuy will show up. And there's always the archives.

Also, though we don't officially have guest bloggers, if you want to leave a comment about anything at all, try it about an inch or so below this sentence.

See you soon.

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