Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Thanks

Readership was EIGHT times higher than usual yesterday. Thanks to everyone who dropped in. Tell your friends. For those who still want to read "film year in review," I'll stay out of the way--this will be my only post today.

Please stop by on a regular basis. Tomorrow we'll be back to regular posting on show biz (the Oscars nods, for instance), politics and whatever else strikes our fancy.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Film Year In Review--2005

Overall, 2005 wasn’t that bad. (Compare to last year.) Probably because the midrange Hollywood offering were less painful than usual. Maybe because there were fewer sequels. Maybe because I missed most of the worst stuff*.

On the downside, the best stuff seemed weaker than usual. I don’t think there’s a single film on my top ten list that I don’t have some significant reservation about. That’s never happened before.

Before I start, a few ground rules. No shorts or made-for-TV movies or mini-series. While this is for films released in 2005, I include films released earlier overseas, or knocking around for a while at festivals, if they were only available theatrically to me in 2005.

My Top Ten list is near the bottom. You could skip down now, but don’t you prefer the suspense?

SPECIAL AWARDS AND PRIVATE THOUGHTS (MADE PUBLIC)

WORST PLOT TWIST: Bewitched—essentially a compendium of bad plot twists—is about a remake of the Bewitched sitcom where, unknowingly, they hire a real witch to play Samantha. (See?) Shirley MacLaine is Iris, the actress hired to play Endora. Now there is no reason to suspect Iris is a witch—there are even jokes premised on her not being a witch. But for some reason known only to director-writer Nora Ephron, halfway through the film, it turns out Iris is a witch, too. This is where I went from being bored to bothered and bewildered. (It actually gets worse, but you’ll have to rent the film to find out how.)

BEST TREND: The return of the R-rated comedy.

WORST TREND: The continuing disappearance of the theatrical audience. Movies are still best when experienced with others.

BIGGEST FAKE TREND: Political films are back.

IF YOU THOUGHT HEATH LEDGER MUMBLED IN BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN:
He’s almost incomprehensible as the surfer dude in Lords Of Dogtown. Of course, that does match the plot.

AS THE PLOT CHURNS: Kill The Bastards Already—In Capote, I got as tired as the title character waiting for the killers to die. Marry The Bitch Already—As much as I enjoyed the acting and the music, I found the endless years of footsie between John and June exasperating in Walk The Line. (By the way, I know both films are based on real life. That should be an excuse for a boring plot?)

SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW AWARD FOR "IT’S A GREAT TECHNIQUE, NOW WHEN ARE YOU GONNA MAKE A GOOD FILM WITH IT?": Sin City.

WORST TITLE: By far and away, Cinderella Man. As if the film didn't have enough trouble (see below, THE AUDIENCE GOT IT RIGHT), the title suggested this was less about boxing and more about Brokeback Mountain. Bonus points for the worst tagline: "When America was on its knees, he brought us to our feet." Still sounds fishy.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM SYRIANA: Big oil calls the shots in our foreign policy (I thought it was the pharmaceuticals). The U.S. Government can kill anyone in the world it wants to, at any time. Poverty causes terrorism (which explains all the terror in South America and Africa). If we’d just leave the Middle East alone, it would become an oasis of democracy. Best of all, Milton Friedman supports corruption.

PLOT HOLE YOU CAN FLY A 747 THROUGH: (SPOILER) The plot of Flightplan requires some of a jet’s crew kidnap Jodie Foster’s daughter while Jodie sleeps. For some reason, they don’t explain how the hundreds of passengers still awake don’t notice it. Honorable mention: War Of The Worlds. Tom Cruise and his family race around like maniacs through the film, though I could never quite figure why they thought where they were going was any safer than where they were.

WORST SEQUEL OR REMAKE: Ring Two. It’s easy to win this award. Simply throw out everything that was interesting about the original and replace it with nonsense. Honorable Mention: George Romero’s Land Of The Dead. It’s become a case of beating a dead zombie. Dishonorable Mention: The Longest Yard. Nuff Said.

BEST SEQUEL OR REMAKE: Almost by default, Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire (sequel) and King Kong (remake).

MOST UNNECESSARY SEQUEL OR REMAKE: Tie: I didn’t mind Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, but the original Willy Wonka movie is still available and works just fine. Worse, the new Bad News Bears took a classic and turned it into nothing. Honorable mention: It made a fine radio series, book series and TV series, so I’m not sure if we needed a film of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

HARDEST TO BELIEVE IT ACTUALLY GOT MADE (AT ANY PRICE): Jiminy Glick in LaLaWood.

FORBIDDEN FRUIT: I can’t read Brokeback Mountain as a gay film. It’s about infatuation, and a dream deferred. The relationship between Ennis and Jack has NO problem except they can’t get together enough. One assumes if they could finally escape from their harridan wives and live as they choose, after about three months of fishing and hunting and groping, some of the excitement would wear off.

Still, the film was well shot and acted. Ang Lee is back in his element, making films about (relatively) contemporary people without superpowers. My favorite relationship was actually between Ennis and his daughter.

THE WOODY QUESTION ANSWERED: For years I’ve wondered would I think Woody Allen’s "serious" films are so bad if I didn’t know he made them. Match Point answers the question in the affirmative. Woody, forced out of his element, makes a movie that allows one to forget it’s his.

The London settings are very nice, but what you’ve essentially got is a generic film. Very basic characters play out a story that feels more like an outline. There’s a nice twist at the end, but it’s not worth waiting two hours for. As for a message, alas, Woody still thinks showing real life doesn’t work out like the movies is deep.

DETROIT (MY HOMETOWN) IS AN ANGRY AND VIOLENT PLACE: The Upside Of Anger, Assault On Precinct 13 (which also shows us there’s a major forest somewhere downtown), Four Brothers. Of course, we already knew all this from 8 Mile.

IT’S THE MESSAGE, NOT THE MEDIUM: Pixar makes it look easy, but Madgascar, Robots and other movies reminds you that story is more important than quality of computer animation.

BEST OPENING SHOT: Cache starts with a dull establishing shot of an average street in Paris. It’s held throughout the credits, and then longer. Too long. Eventually, we realize we’re watching an anonymous videotape that has been delivered to the family that lives in the house in the shot. Suddenly, the most prosaic things seem ominous.

WORST CLOSING SHOT: Munich ends with a shot of the World Trade Center. It takes a lot of fancy explaining to interpret this as anything but dumb and forced.

THE AUDIENCE GOT IT RIGHT: Cinderella Man got great reviews, but really, while it was well done, it was a story we’ve seen before. A lot. The audience didn’t hate it, but they didn’t make it the major hit it was expected to be. King Kong was a hit, but not the super-blockbuster so many predicted. Once again, the audience recognized they’d seen this story before—in fact, if they had a good memory, they’d seen it done better and faster.

GOOD LUCK WITH ALL THAT: I was jazzed to see Good Night And Good Luck. I figured a taut, black and white Playhouse 90-type piece beating up on McCarthy would be fun. What’s more, Clooney has shown talent as a director. Instead, dullsville. Not only didn’t it move, it wasn’t relatable. For instance, when Robert Downey is talking about signing a loyalty oath, you don’t feel this is something rational (or otherwise rational) people could take seriously, like say, drug tests or sexual harassment classes today. Instead, it just seemed like an absurd artifact from a bygone era.

Nevertheless, showing a time that’s so different did afford a few valuable lessons. It used to be that a handful of self-important middle-aged white guys sitting in their offices got to decide what the news would be. It’s not quite so easy for them to set the agenda these days. Also, really going after a politician used to be a big deal, but now it’s done so commonly, almost reflexively, that, if anything, it’s being overdone.

CATEGORIES

WHY "ROMANTIC COMEDY" AND "ROOT CANAL" HAVE THE SAME INITIALS: The Wedding Date, Guess Who

TOOK A WHILE TO GET GOING, BUT ACTUALLY ENJOYABLE: In Her Shoes. The Family Stone

I DON’T CARE WHAT THE CRITICS SAY, I LIKED IT: The Producers, Mr. And Mrs. Smith (barely), Sahara

BEFORE YOU START SHOOTING, MAKE SURE THERE’S AN ENDING: Jarhead

BEFORE YOU START SHOOTING, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A STORY: Lords Of Dogtown

TOO CLEVER BY HALF: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Syriana (a simplistic story told in a complex way)

SEEN IT BEFORE: All the sequels and remakes mentioned above, plus Cinderella Man, Coach Carter, Fun With Dick And Jane (actually better than the original), Assault On Precinct 13, The Honeymooners (ugh!), War Of The Worlds, Bewitched, Saw II. Special mention to Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, by far the best of the first trilogy.

BAD HISTORY: Kingdom of Heaven

BEAUTIFUL HISTORY: The New World

MORE FUN TO QUOTE THAN WATCH: Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic

NOT TOO SHABBY: Hitch, The Matador, Sky High, Batman Begins, Transamerica, Cache

NOT AS BAD AS I FEARED: The Island, Red Eye, Four Brothers, The Skeleton Key, Flightplan, Serenity, The Pacifier

PRETTY MUCH WHAT I EXPECTED: Bride And Prejudice, The Upside Of Anger, Hostage, The Aristocrats, Broken Flowers (Jarmusch often makes my top ten), In The Realm Of The Unreal, Capote, The Corpse Bride, Brokeback Mountain, Walk The Line

DISAPPOINTING: In Good Company, The Jacket, Sin City, Fever Pitch, Melinda And Melinda, Kung Fu Hustle (I love HK, but Stephen Chow has never done it for me), The Interpreter, Madagascar, Kicking And Screaming, Unleashed, Hustle & Flow, Just Like Heaven, Zathura, The Ice Harvest, Elektra, 2046 (ouch), Match Point, Munich, Good Night And Good Luck

BUBBLING UNDER THE TOP TEN

Might have made it on a different day:

JUNEBUG: A quiet, sweet film. Amy Adams is getting all the attention for her showy supporting role, and she deserves it, but I remember better Embeth Davidtz as a dealer in outsider art, who’s an outsider herself when she’s with her new family in North Carolina.

GRIZZLY MAN: I don’t think I even liked it when I walked out, but it’s stuck with me. This collection of new and archival footage, put together by Werner Herzog, is the story of a jerk who gets himself killed. But he’s a fascinating jerk.

LAYER CAKE: Another complex, character-filled British caper film. As long as they’re entertaining, I’ll keep watching. I hope Daniel Craig’s Bond films will be as good.

ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW: A pretty cool work from Miranda July. Check it out and decide for yourself.

THE NOMI SONG: Ever since I saw the bizarre but talented Klaus Nomi steal Urgh! A Music War (1981), I’ve wanted to know more about him. The only other thing I knew was he was the first celebrity I’d heard of to die from AIDS. Well, this documentary scratched a 20-year-old itch. It’s a slight but well-done bio of Nomi, plus a picture of a creative era in New York City. Who would have guessed Nomi was an expert pastry chef? Best of all, his fans thought that striking performance in Urgh! was a sell-out.

TOP TEN (IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER)

CRASH: Not especially deep or realistic, but fun in its own way. In all my life as an effete white liberal, I’ve never heard people talk like this, but the slick dialogue and a lively story move it along. The biggest mistake was Matt Dillon saving Thandie Newton—it broke the streak of accidental meetings and seemed forced and didactic.

DOWNFALL: I always knew Hitler ended up in a bunker, I just didn’t know it was so busy. In some ways depressing and ugly (how could it not be), but really makes you feel you’re there. Even as he realized he was going down, he was still proudest of the most hateful, racist things he did.

THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN: No story here, and a lot of down time. Really it’s just a collection of sketches. But when it hits, it’s funny, which I’ll take over a dull film that follows Syd Fields any day.

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE: I’m not the biggest fan of Cronenberg, but I think he’s better here forced to keep things in the real world. It’s a pretty good concept, even if the story gets a bit silly as it goes along, especially in an almost farcical ending with William Hurt (which is off-point, if fun).

HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE: After Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, I expect classics from Miyazaki. Okay, Howl’s doesn’t reach those levels, but even decent Miyazaki is head and shoulders above everyone else.

THE MARCH OF THE PENGUINS: This was such a big hit, there was a backlash. Hey, it’s beautifully shot and tells a great story. What more do you want? (And apparently it’s better in English than French.)

THE SQUID AND THE WHALE: Noah Baumbach films have never done much for me, but this one definitely cuts deeper. Perhaps because it’s based on his family (and I have to wonder how they feel about it). All the performances are good, but an especially memorable turn from Jeff Daniels, as a man who wants to feel superior to the world but has the world constantly reminding him how things really are. If the film has a problem, it doesn’t so much end as stop. (Also, I don’t buy no one recognizes the Pink Floyd tune.) I give it Daniels’ character’s highest accolade: dense.

WALLACE & GROMIT AND THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT: The delightful Wallace & Gromit are back. There’s one obvious problem—they’re best in short doses. A feature stretches them almost to the breaking point, but there’s still enough fun to recommend them.

WEDDING CRASHERS: Funniest movie of the year, and comes with an actual plot. Good first act, great second act. Admittedly, the third act goes on a bit long, but it rallies.

THE WILD PARROTS OF TELEGRAPH HILL: A lot more cheaply made than the penguin film, but it’s still the story that counts. The film is able to make characters of separate birds, and has a lead human who’s pretty memorable himself.

* These are among the more notable films of 2005 I didn’t see. I’d guess at least a few of them would have made my top ten: Chronicles Of Narnia, Fantastic Four, Chicken Little, Monster-In-Law, Are We There Yet?, The Dukes Of Hazzard, Cheaper By The Dozen 2, The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, Guess Who, Herbie: Fully Loaded, The Amityville Horror, Yours Mine And Ours, Memoirs Of A Geisha, Hide And Seek, Diary Of A Mad Black Woman, Racing Stripes, Just Like Heaven, Boogeyman, The Legend Of Zorro, Must Love Dogs, Transporter 2, Rumor Has It, The Adventures Of Sharkboy And Lavagirl in 3D, The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants, Beauty Shop, Derailed, Hostage, The Ringer, Dreamer, Because Of Winn-Dixie, Just Friends, House Of Wax, Get Rich Or Die Tryin', The Fog, Hoodwinker, Rent, Doom, XXX: State Of The Union, Elizabethtown, Aeon Flux, Dark Water, Ice Princess, Two For The Money, Prime, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, A Lot Like Love, Man Of The House, Valiant, Cursed, Into The Blue, North Country, Pooh's Heffalump Movie, Son Of The Mask, Rebound, The Perfect Man, Waiting..., The Gospel, The Greatest Game Ever Played, The Cave, Casanova, In The Mix, Domino, The Great Raid, Cry Wolf, An Unfinished Life, The Man, Mad Hot Ballroom, Ladies In Lavender, Kings and Queen, The World, Tropical Malady, The Holy Girl, Last Days, Cafe Lumiere, Nobody Knows, The Intruder, Head-On, Mysterious Skin, My Summer Of Love, Saraband, The Power Of Nightmares, Paradise Now, Pulse, Keane, Memories Of Murder, Darwin's Nightmare, Good Morning Night, The Beat That My Heart Skipped, The Best Of Youth, The Century Of The Self, Look At Me, Breakfast On Pluto, Innocence, Turtles Can Fly, Palindromes, Pride & Prejudice, Tony Takitani, The White Diamond, The Devil's Rejects, The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada, 3-Iron, The Time We Killed, Funny Ha Ha, My Mother's Smile, A Tout De Suite, Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, Forty Shades Of Blue, Whisky, Wolf Creek, Mondovino, Yes, The Weeping Meadow, Gunner Palace, Chain, Land Of Plenty, Machuca, Shopgirl, Three Dancing Slaves, Oliver Twist, Dallas 362, Occupation Dreamland, The Oil Factor, Murderball, Dolls, Garcon Stupide, Heights, The Ballad Of Jack And Rose, The Far Side Of The Moon, Happy Here And Now, The Joy Of Life, Nine Lives, The President's Last Bang, Rize, The Dying Gaul, Proof, Travellers And Magicians, The Brothers Grimm, The Memory Of A Killer, Separate Lies, The Syrian Bride, Lord Of War, The Weather Man, Where The Truth Lies, The Baxter, Loggerheads, The Ninth Day, A Talking Picture, Tell Them Who You Are, Throw Down, The White Countess, Cronicas, Exorcist Prequel (either version), Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room, Perfect Crime, The Prize Winner Of Defiance Ohio, She's One Of Us, The World's Fastest Indian,New York Doll, The 3 Rooms Of Melancholia, Another Road Home, Boys Of Baraka, In Satmar Custody, Terror, Rize, Wall, The Untold Story Of Emmett Louis

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Playing the game

We've said a few nice things about Kinsley here, once in awhile, anyway, so we may as well take the bad with the good: "Republicans simply play the game better"?

Sounds like boring whining to me. Your side plays too nice, right Michael?

LAGuy adds: As I've been saying for years, the most common, yet intellectually dishonest argument is "we're too nice."

Keillor Country

Garrison Keillor may come across as a sweet guy on A Prairie Home Companion, but he has a temper. He unleashes it against Bernard-Henri Levy in The New York Times' Sunday book review.

Levy's American Vertigo is being sold as the greatest outsider's take on the U.S. since de Tocqueville. Keillor will have none of it. He doesn't think some continental genius on a road trip will get the country that Keillor rhapsodizes regularly (and often ironically) on his weekly show.

The review is pretty amusing in its contempt. Whether he's right or wrong, I can't say until I've read the book (which Keillor is trying to prevent).

I'm reminded a bit of a piece years ago in TV Guide by Sherwin Nuland on the Seinfeld episode where George's fiancee Susan dies from licking cheap wedding invitation envelopes that George had picked out. George, who'd been looking the whole season for a way out, is not too displeased with the result. I thought the episode was well done (and, I believe, time has proved me right). Anyway, Nuland, who'd recently written the bestseller How We Die, thought it was tasteless. I remember thinking Nuland apparently believes he owns death, and anyone who wishes to comment on it from now on better get his permission.

Perhaps that's what Keillor thinks. He's annoyed some upstart French intellectual dares to try to comprehend us. Keillor has written often and well about America, and this review is a warning shot to all amateurs trying to horn in on his territory.

Defenders

Over at my friend Tom's blog, he's got a nice bit about the old video game, Defender. I'd like to see a regular feature on old arcade games. My favorite--one of the few I mastered--was Frogger. What distinguished Frogger was it featured more ways to die than any other. The idea was to hop your frog from the bottom of the screen to a slot on the top, across a road and a rushing stream. You could jump offscreen, get run over by a car, be eaten by a snake (on land or water), eaten by an otter, be carried offscreen by a log on rushing water, drown, jump in the wrong slot, and if that wasn't enough, if you took too long, your time ran out.

Also, our old pal Judge Posner has an short essay on eavesdropping for national defense. He asks an important question, too often lost amongst the ornate legal arguments--what if it works?

Columbus Guy says: "What if it works?" What the hell kind of test is that? What are you trying to do? Destroy the government altogether?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Size doesn't matter

I know we're not worthy, but, really, we're not worthy. Congrats to the P-boys.

Curioser and curiouser

Hillary's voting against Alito and supporting a filibuster? Now I utterly don't understand the race; her biggest problem is trying to persuade the American public that she's not a lunatic socialist b*tch. She has no room to tack left, and she hasn't really been doing so.

But if she's got to pander to the left, she's lost. She may as well start setting her sites elsewhere.

More credible?

So says Steven Spielberg: "If it became necessary, I would be prepared to die for the USA and for Israel."

So who would you rather have in your foxhole, Spielberg, or this guy?

God love Stein. Stein? Joel Stein? . . .

"Without them, Joel Stein would have his head sawed off."

Didn't I Tell You?

As I predicted, Alito will get through with little problem. This is as it should be. I'm not saying he's the greatest choice, but he's highly qualified and he's the man Bush and the clear majority of the Senate want. Furthermore, his politics are certainly "mainstream," which prevents the Dems from pulling out the filibuster. (By the way, if he has much effect on the direction of the Court, in a decade or two, his judging may also be "mainstream." )

But the real point is I'm still not sure the Democrats should be fretting so much. This is not the apocalypse. Let's even assume Roberts and Alito are as conservative--when it counts--as Scalia and Thomas. Alito's replacing a fairly solid conservative, and the Court still has another conservative who can tip surprising ways.

No, it's when they pick another Alito-like candidate (there are still plenty of non-Miers choices, if Bush is up to it) to replace a Stevens or a Ginsburg--that's the apocalypse. And if the Democrats have any power at all (and, if it's after the 2006 elections, they might have plenty), then you'll see a true fight.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Missing Sunstein

Hugh Hewitt has fun at Jonathan Alter's expense here (http://www.radioblogger.com/#001339) where, among other things, he says that Cass Sunstein supports Bush's eavesdropping powers. I'd like to see that, but can't find it.

What I did find was some UC folks, including Stone, no surprise, and Epstein, a good addition, arguing the other way. (http://uchicagolaw.typepad.com/faculty/2006/01/why_the_nsa_sur.html#more) You'd think they'd mention Cass's position somewhere along the way, if he had taken a contrary one.

So does Hugh have it wrong? Am I misreading?

LAGuy adds: Sunstein, somewhat notoriously, came out on Bush's side early on--at least tentatively. He may have worked on similar questions years ago when he was at the Justice Department. You can check it out here. (Have you forgotten how to link, ColumbusGuy?)

Halfway there

This column starts great. It sets up the hook that Reagan made a big mistate, by devoting the first half or more to an excellent argument that Reagan was fabulous.

Then it segues: George Herbert Walker Bush was a piss-poor choice for VP and successor.

Still great. Absolutely. Spot on.

But the segue is a mere touch-down to the real complaint: W is a tool.

Geez, what a dissappointment.

W isn't a tool. So far, he's running with a lot of problems, but on balance he's still clearly favorable.

Supreme court justices (and judges) are crucial, and he's doing well on that score.

Tax cuts are crucial and he's doing well on that score.

The war is huge and crucial and frankly he's doing fabulously.

Media bias and Democrat and Democrat interest group politics are significant for long term policy, and Bush is doing pretty well, there, too.

His failures? Part D, of course. Budget growth, of course. NCLB is bad constitutional policy and full of garbage, but it has some good elements, too.

Probably his most important failure is rhetorical leadership, but at least he's doing a notch better on that. You can't even say Bush is a mixed bag; he's a success, even if his failures nettle.

What do we do now?

"What do we do now?"

Kudos to AP's John Leicester. If there were an award for best quote, this would be it. It's spoken by Elie Wiesel, so he's got a heavy hitter. And it's great.

The topic, of course, is the election of Hamas. So far, everything's cool. Bush and Condi say they'll treat them like Arafat, which is good. Plenty of people, Kaus among them, have recognized that now Hamas is likely to moderate, since they'll have to spend energy making sure the toilets flush. Israel says they won't talk to them, which is good, but I suspect they'll find a way soon enough, which is good, so long as Israel continues willing to shoot, too.

All tough questions.

But here's the great one: Suppose this really does mean that the Palestinian people want to kill the Jews. I don't mean, is that the popular prejudice among them; of course it is. I mean, are they willing, more than just fantasizing about someone else doing it, are they will to disrupt their own lives and die for it? If so, it'll be like Sherman's Civil War: Kill them until they're gone.

And what about another idea: Can people vote themselves out of a democracy? I don't mean, can someone take over and suppress the people; of course that can happen. What I mean is, could the people legitimately vote them selves a dictatorship or theocracy?

Dana's Theory

I was recently in a retail establishment when a woman named Dana started talking to me. She was very outgoing, as you might expect.

She saw I had a newspaper and asked me what was going on in the world. I talked about war, etc. She said she knew there'd be peace. I asked her when. She said she didn't know. I asked her how she knew at all, then.

She explained that it had to happen, because she talked to people all the time about peace (and love, and joy, etc.). She also figured the people she talked to would spread the word as well. The idea of peace will double, then quadruple, then octuple, and, before you know it, everyone will be talking about thinking about it.

I admit I see certain flaws in this logic. Neverthless, I'm doing my bit right here. Feel free to spread the word yourself.

Columbus Guy says: Meanwhile, here in Columbus, both our likely gubernatorial candidates are likely to be strong gun rights supporters. Pretty soon, Ohio will merge its concealed carry policy with Jeb Bush's no liability policy and George Bush's we-don't-'need-no-stinkin'-warrants policy, and we'll be shootin' terror-- er, advancing justice here in the streets.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Disease Or Cure?

The New York Times has a pretty silly editorial about the Alito nomination (see ColumbusGuy's take below). It's one thing to oppose Alito, it's another to hang it on the separation of powers argument going on today.

1) It's tone deaf. The public (and therefore politicians) just can't get excited about Bush fighting terrorism by listening in on calls to Afghanistan (without first getting rubber stamp permission--that's what this fight is over!).

2). It's trendy. The NYT doesn't really care that much about this issue, and has never cared that much about this issue--not compared to abortion or First Amendment freedoms, for instance--it's just something that seems big now.

3) It's false. The relative power of the branches of government change through time and the NYT, like most entities, tends to opportunistically support power for whichever branch agrees with at the moment.

4) It's contradictory. What does the Times want? A filibuster. In other words, to protect the Constitution, they want to Senate to avoid doing its Constitutional duty with respect to the Executive and Judicial branch, a threefer.

Begging for attention

Wow. The NyTimes has out-Molly'd Molly. It's not enough that they already wrote their column opposing Alito, a silly and short-sighted effort that stands in contrast to the resigned but reasonable effort from the Post.

Now they want a filibuster, dammit, even though they themselves say, "there is very little chance it would work."

So why do they want it? It's hard to tell from the editorial. On the one hand, they say, "Even a losing battle would draw the public's attention to the import of this nomination," which sounds good, a sort of, "Well, we'll lose, but we'll educate the public."

But they also say that the Dems "unwilling to risk the public criticism that might come with a filibuster." Er, okay, so they acknowledge at least the risk, if not the fact, that it wouldn't serve to educate the public, except insofar as it educates them that the Dems are knuckleheads.

So if they'll lose, and if they'll just earn the public's contempt, why do this radical thing? Just to howl in the night? The Timesfolk are unhinged.

(BTW: Ku Kluxer Robert "I've known white niggers" Byrd is going to vote for Alito? Geez, you'd think that whack-job was running for reelection or something.)

Wait til Breyer gets hold of this one

"Saddam to sue Bush and Blair"

No Town Like Motown

I'm from Detroit, but I'm hardly sentimental about the place. Yet when I read that the old HQ of Motown Records, as dilapidated as it may have been, has been demolished to put up a parking lot for this February's Super Bowl, without being properly salvaged, then I must say this is a city whose judgment is out of whack.

(Maybe Barry Gordy is embarrassed about the contracts he offered.)

Samstats

I bow to no one in my admiration for Samuel L. Jackson. As far as I'm concerned, his performance in Pulp Fiction was the greatest job anyone did onscreen in the 1990s. But that's no reason to exaggerate his success.

This Monday he will leave his hand and footprints at Mann's Chinese Theatre. In an article about the ceremony, it's noted "[h]is films have grossed more money in box office sales than any other actor in the history of filmmaking."

Let's unpack this. Now there's no doubt Jackson is popular, but, box office-wise, he's no Tom Cruise or Denzel Washington. He's had a few hits where he's the lead, but all his smashes were where he was in a supporting role, sometimes quite a small one at that.

He's appeared in supporting roles in hit films such as Unbreakable, XXX, a Die Hard sequel and Patriot Games. He's also been in blockbusters like Jurassic Park and The Incredibles. But what really puts him over the top is his appearance as Mace Windu, a relatively small part, in episodes I through III of Star Wars.

Compare this to, say, Harrison Ford, who had a leading role not only in the original Star Wars trilogy, but was the star in the Indiana Jones trilogy, as well as The Fugitive, Air Force One, Witness, Patriot Games, among other hits. Now that's star power.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Bringing back banishment

LAGuy rudely interrupted a post on his friend Mr. Welch, rendering it practically unreadable. While I don't see his point, I'm nonetheless assuming, despite the lack of evidence of it, that he has one, and so it's posted here:

LAGuy butts in {to this post}: Scroll down to yesterday. Here's what you had to say about Joel Stein's piece: "What an appalling essay, and I don't mean its viewpoint. I'm happy to let that speak for itself. It's such a poor quality effort that I wonder if it was just cut and pasted from a college student newspaper." That was published in the LA Times, of course, where Stein is a regular.

Columbus Guy says: Sorry, LAGuy, your butt-in is pointless, in addition to being rude, and in this context it's utterly uncalled for. If your point is a newspaper couldn't possibly publish a piece of crap without itself being a piece of crap, maybe, but then there probably aren't very many newspapers that aren't crap--certainly neither the Post or the other Times, which do so with disappointing frequency. SStill, I wouldn't call them crap, even if you would. For myself, since I haven't seen the LAT editorial page, I won't say what its quality is. Maybe the rest of the page is filled with brilliance. You presumably have more experience with it, though I'm beginning to question your judgment.

LAGuy reminisces: Fascinating. Ever since I've known ColumbusGuy, he's railed against the media. One time I take him seriously, he rushes to deny it.

Columbus Guy says: Definitely a blast from the past. We haven't heard from the LAGuy who denies Manhattan media press bias in quite some time. Instead, we've been hearing from this one, and this one, and this one,this one, and this one, and, a PajamaGUy favorite, this one. And that's just for this month.

Anything in there about sexless love?

Headline: Pope warns about loveless sex.

RIP CP

Chris Penn died yesterday. He was only 43. The cause is still unknown.

He may have been overshadowed in life by his brother Sean, and even musician Michael, but he'll be remembered. He appeared in about 50 movies and lots of TV as well. The last performance I saw him give was as himself in a small part in the HBO series Entourage. But the one part that will live on for sure is his Nice Guy Eddie in Reservoir Dogs.

Reservoir Dogs is one of the most influential films of our time, but, as so often happens, the original magic is rarely recaptured. All the ensemble--Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi--do great work. And Penn is right up their with them, as Lawrence Tierney's son--his character is a little less intense than the others, perhaps, but a perfect part of the mix.

Stop The Presses: LA Times Makes Good Move

Scroll down. You'll see ColumbusGuy doesn't think much of the LA Times editorial page. But maybe he'll change his mind soon. My good friend, Matt Welch, who used to work at Reason, has just been hired as assistant opinion editor.

Congratulations, Matt. Now show them how it's done.

Columbus Guy says: Yes, congratulations to Mr. Welch. Any friend of LAGUy's is a friend of all the PajamaGuys. Certainly few enterprises live up to their names as well as Reason does.

But, LAGuy, it's unlike you to be overbroad. It may well be likely that I wouldn't be a fan of LAT's editorial page pre-Welch, but I really don't know, since I can't say I've ever seen it. If I ever spoke against it, I was the one being overbroad. From the many specific excerpts of it I have seen, however, and more importantly its news stories, I have no doubt it's part of, or rather a follower of, the Manhattan media. The good news is, the only cure for the Manhattan media is to take exactly this kind of step and put to work some intelligent writers who aren't the typical bedwetter.

So here's wishing both Welch and the LAT success. Perhaps soon enough we can introduce a new word to the lexicon, "Los Angeles media," with an entirely different and heretofore non-existent meaning.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Schooling 'em

I called it on December21st. The Pistons remind me of the '84 Tigers and I predicted they would make 35-5. Of course the way they are playing now, it could be 40-5. Well, tonight they put the wallop on the Minnesota Timberwolves for a 34-5 record. They were 12 for 20 on three pointers! Many of the recent games the Pistons have seemed to be toying with the opponent like a cat playing with a dead mouse. Yes, it has been that bad. 35-5 seems absolutely in the bag. And the NBA title . . . well I don't see anyone else contending.

Truer words were never spoken

"And sometimes, for reasons I don't understand, you get to just hang out in Germany."

What an appalling essay, and I don't mean its viewpoint. I'm happy to let that speak for itself. It's such a poor quality effort that I wonder if it was just cut and pasted from a college student newspaper.

(There's also this interesting line, so important that he ends the piece with it: "Seriously, the traffic is insufferable." You know, I wonder. Has anyone ever seen Joel Stein and LAGuy in the same room?)

Molly Ivins Smackdown!

The natives are restless. Molly Ivins speaks for a lot of Democrats when she says she's tired of the crap. She wants a fight, dammit, windfall profits tax and all.

Meanwhile, E.J. Dionne is upset that Rove is telegraphing his punch, and the hapless, too-nice Dems aren't doing anything about it.

I get the sense of panic out there. Don't worry, folks, it's early still. You won't be handed your hat 'til November.

UPDATE: Links are fixed now. Plus, I'm having some doubts about my girl Molly. She say's she's not gonna support Hillary, no how, but I'm thinking come September 2008 when Hill is after Jeb or Condi, we know what Molly's gonna be writing about.

How Democrats think

"Washington can't rely on the hidden hand alone to solve the problems it has been too timid to tackle."

Why must we assume Washington is to solve problems?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Somebody tell the Ohio Republicans

"If blacks were to take her example and embrace overcoming rather than grievance, the wound to liberalism would be mortal."

Speaking of echo chambers

Well, the NYTimes has made it official: Only Democrats should be president or sit on the supreme court.

Drop a penny in the well of credibility at the Times, and you'll wait a long, long time before you hear the splash.

NPR's echo chamber

Don Gonyea has an absolutely hilarious story today. Bush is givng a speech today in Kansas as part of the Landon Lecture Series, topics predictable and spoken about by Gonyea in a single breath, like the disclosure statements at the end of a radio commercial.

But where Don luxuriated was in a startling fact: NIXON gave a speech there, too! During VIETNAM! GET IT? VIETNAM!

He even plays tape of Nixon's speech. That's it, though, no other story value than that. Iraq is like Vietnam, see? Don oughtta get a Pulitzer for this one.

Oh, there was another fact: Three sitting presidents have given speeches to the series. He didn't bother to tell us who the third one was, though, but, really, is that important? The thing is, Bush is like NIXON! And Iraq is like VIETNAM . . .

UPDATE: The third was Reagan, in 1982 (taking Don's word that there are three, a risk). SO I guess there's no point comparing Bush to a strong, successful, historic figure like Reagan, because the thing is, Bush is like NIXON . . .

Could we lower costs if we put it on film?

To get domestic partner benefits at the University of Florida, you have to be having sex with the partner. The Partner lobby is upset that no similar requirement is imposed on the married.

This is one of the itneresting moral hazards of allowing such insurance benefits, the number of people who will use it for insurance, not as an adjunct of a mar--, er, partnership.

The real cure for the problem, of course, is to decouple benefits and employment, which is largely the fault of the tax code.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Go, Johnny, go

Walk the Line closing in on $100-million. Gotta love the Carter Cashes.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Universals

I'm thinking of moving to Vegas. Do waitresses carry guns there, like they used to in Arizona?

10 guilty men

The price we pay for a decent criminal justice system: Letting some pay the ultimate price with no punishment for their killers. Is it worth it? Yes, it's worth it.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Was that copyright or copywrite?


Hmm. I just noticed something. PajamasMedia is knocking off our tagline. PajamaGuy got there first, hot shots.

10 million dead in the Middle East?

There's a depressing thought. (And that's the low-end estimate.)

The proof we seek

The Holy Grail for opponents of the death penalty is to find someone who has been executed for a crime that something proves he did not commit. Of course the current fixation is DNA. We saw this a week or so ago with the testing of the late Roger Coleman in Virginia.

There's even a TV show about the idea. (Aapparently one not doing so well, since it doesn't seem to have a web site.)

But there's a little problem with the basic concept. Turns out, most people convicted of crimes are guilty of them. (Hooda thunk?) While liberals are salivating that DNA's going to finally prove what they've known all along, that the criminal justice system is railraoding the innocent, there's one angle they don't seem to have considered: It's also going to confirm the accuracy rate, and more.

Ohio's attorney general recently announced that DNA testing did indeed prove something startling about a man on death row: He murdered a woman whose murderer had not been found. Now he has.

And, 12 years ago, a coed disappeared walking down Pearl Alley, a local drunk colleges student landmark and was soon after found in a field, raped and murdered. Continuing his winning ways, her murderer was later convicted of felony non-child support, which in Ohio gets your DNA collected, and that was how they matched him.

If I were the prosecutor, I'd charge him capital, and then send a telegram to the Innocence Project.

There And Back

Faithful reader, I will be gone for a few days. I'm sure the other guys will take up the slack.

When I get back, due to popular demand--ah, I'd do it anyway--I will present my annual film year in review (for 2005, of course). Start spreading the word. Until then, feel free to read last year's review, which I think still holds up.

For further edification, check out my friend Jesse Walker's blog, which is featuring his top ten films for years ending in "5." Scroll down to see them all.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Spotlight on Wilson Pickett

that wicked wicked Pickett. Sorry to hear that Mr. Wilson Pickett, one of the inspirations for Arthur Conley's homage, "Sweet Soul Music" has passed. Pickett famous for Mustang Sally, Midnight Hour and Land of a 1000 Dances. Loved his gravely voice and his backup band. His first hit was, I Found a Love with the Falcons. Goood music.

The ring of truth

When I saw this WSJ column criticizing Paul Bremer for his actions in Iraq, I bristled. I was wrong to do so.

In my defense, my background is essentially the nonsense in the Manhattan media that Bremer should not have disbanded the Iraqi army, a sentiment that is palpably stupid. Bremer did it and was right to do so, and indeed it would have been criminal not to. The column acknowledges this and other things, but it makes a decent effort to tag Bremer where, possbily, at least, he should be tagged.

How to editorialize

Kudos to the Powerline boys, who catcha great one. A few weeks ago, the NYTimes James Risen "broke" a story about surveillance during war time--hooda thunk?--that the Manhattan media thinks is grounds for impeachment.

Risen was very proud and noble. He went on NPR and the morning news shows talking about how, in all his years of reporting, he had never seen anyone so pure of heart and patriotic as the people who leaked in efforts to harm the war effort. (And then a week later started flogging his book, which Drudge reports isn't doing too well.)

Well, a full five years after the Clintons are out of the White House, here's how The New Yor Times writes about one of the few times either our government or media has mentioned what a fiasco the Clintons made the American government. The topic is a special counsel report about various criminal investigations of Hank Cisneros, but the importance is how the CLintons abused power in ways that would have embarrassed Nixon. The Times writes:

A copy of the report was obtained by The New York Times from someone sympathetic to the Barrett investigation who wanted his criticism of the Clinton administration to be known.

What a hoot. I guess this leaker isn't pure of heart.

So how does a fair reporter do this? Obviously the Risen model doesn't work: Our friends are angels and our enemeis are devils. I might like it if this Cisneros model were consistently followed (Hindraker includes a parallel structure that runs counter to the Times political views on Bush and those who hate Bush), but I don't think it can work. How do they know the leaker's motivation? Even if they ask, it can't be considered credible. I think you just have to report it, fairly, and leave the motivations to others.

Toobin Out

Jeffrey Toobin, in his latest New Yorker piece, disappoints. He starts out okay, quoting our old pal Richard Posner, to the effect that most constitutional decisions the Supreme Court makes these days can't be called right or wrong, since they essentially answer political questions.

Toobin accepts this but seems to feel, then, that Court nominess should be chosen based on their politics. Thus, they should tell the Senate how they'll decide certain cases, rather than dance the minuet that Roberts and Alito have done. This is questionable enough, but let's move on.

The odd thing is how insanely confident Toobin is that his team will pass muster:
[Supreme Court nominee Robert] Bork lost not because he answered but because of how he answered; a majority of senators saw him, correctly, as being outside the political mainstream of his time. That wouldn’t have been true for at least four of the six nominees confirmed since. If Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen G. Breyer had forthrightly answered questions about their judicial philosophies, they almost certainly would have been confirmed anyway; all of them belong in the large middle ground of American politics. Clarence Thomas, who squeaked by, in a vote of 52–48, probably would have been rejected in this imaginary regime of candor, given his extreme views on the bench.
Oh, Jeff, Jeff. We're talking about mainstream American politics now, not mainstream judging. Depending on the issues presented, Breyer and certainly Ginsburg could easily be painted as extreme leftists (as well as Kennedy on the right). Meanwhile, when Roberts and Alito are called "extreme," it's usually where they agree with the majority of the public.

Toobin apparently thinks he has a killer point when he notes "a recent poll shows that almost seventy per cent of the public would oppose Alito’s confirmation if he were committed to overturning Roe." (Let's ignore that this single-issue push poll was about making abortion illegal, not overturning Roe.) Big deal. You'll get numbers near seventy per cent supporting restrictions on abortion as well--does this mean Toobin's "mainstream" liberals couldn't make it? There are affirmative action practices defended to the death by the Court liberals that are opposed by well over seventy per cent of the public; same for separation of church and state cases.

The world Toobin wants, where qualified candidates are rejected for specifically answering how they'll decide cases years before they hear them, will simply lead to all-out political battles, where Republicans will reject Democrat nominees, and vice versa. Toobin better be sure his party will retake the Senate soon if this is what he wants.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Porn, the entry drug?

Hostel made #1 movie (which in January certainly does not make it an artistic triumph). Interestingly it puts forward the idea that the next step beyond porn and fetish sex is violence. Recognizing that the movie does not intend in the first place to put forward a viewpoint but rather to 'entertain' with wanton sex and violence. Recognizing also that this very post will drive LAGuy nuts. It is noteworthy that the 'message' of this film is consistent with what theocentrists have been saying against porn--it objectifies people and that the nth degree of that objectification is violence and death.

LAGuy notes: Theocentrists should stick to defending their wacky, unproven supernatural theories rather than claim that recognizing people (especially men) are physically attracted to others ends up in violence and death. The nth degree of sexual objectification, oh, almost 100% of the time, is ejaculation. (I admit I'm not being fair to theocentrists, or anti-porn activists in general, by ascribing AnnArborGuy's beliefs to them, but we'll deal with that some other time.)

Meanwhile, the body count of religion, from those who explicitly explain their objectives and obsessions, is hundreds of millions, with no end in sight. And the award for the most dangerous societies of all, religious or otherwise, goes to those (e.g., Soviet Union, Nazi Germany) where the leaders were extremely concerned with wiping out degeneracy and keeping things clean.

Grim times for Cass

The Dems have finally fingered their problem: Cass Sunstein.

... three liberal legal eagles - Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School, Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago Law School and Marcia Greenberger of the National Women's Center in Washington - who told the Democrats that they could "oppose even nominees with strong credentials on the grounds that the White House was trying to push the courts in a conservative direction." And now that's the strategy that has failed, leaving Democrats "tilting at windmills," as a rueful Tribe told the Times.

Nor is the Manhattan media doing them any good. Drat.

An additional problem Democrats face is that the media, their once-powerful allies, aren't so much help anymore. The mainstream media (MSM) once provided a big boost. In 2004, Evan Thomas, assistant managing editor of Newsweek, estimated that pro-John Kerry coverage from the "establishment media" could be worth "maybe 15 points" to the Democrat's November vote total. . . . Indeed, perhaps because of competitive pressure from the new media - cable, talk radio, the Internet - the MSM is changing, too. Picking up on the crescendo of criticism aimed at Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), Newsweek gleefully quoted an anonymous Democrat as saying that Biden was "a blowhard among blowhards."

Some days, I just want to learn to spell schadenfreude.

LAGuy notes: By the way, if you want to read what Sunstein, and other old pals at the U of C are thinking these days, check out this site.

AI

American Idol is back and it's as enjoyable as ever. The first part of the season, where we see the masses try out and (mostly) get rejected, is a triumph of editing. Seeing endless mediocrity would be boring, but selected weirdness, mixed in with actual talent, is fascinating.

Maybe it's because I haven't seen him in months, but has Simon Cowell gotten meaner?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Dying to get in

Ooh, this could be bad news. Roberts joins Scalia and Thomas in dissent on a decision that upheld Oregon's assisted suicide law. Not having followed the case or read the decision yet, it may not be as bad as I fear, but the obvious implication is federalism: This looks like something the feds ought have no part of. While Scalia is hopeful on this, when it comes to drugs and moral issues he's a loss. My only hope is Thomas; he's a powerful federalist, so his inclusion in the dissent suggests a hopeful possibility that federalism wasn't at issue.

So, what is it? Did Roberts fail his first federalism test, or is federalism not at issue?

UPDATE: Well, while the decision is not good news, it's not a clear disaster. A cursory read shows Scalia dissents apparently on statutory grounds alone in a lengthy opinion that Roberts joins. Thomas raises the federalism question, comparing Raich, in which he dissented. I'd rather that Roberts have joined Thomas'ss dissent in addition to Scalia's. That he didn't raises a flag that he's not going to be an overt federalist; but maybe it only suggests he'll go cautiously on the issue. The latter would be important, since as chief justice he'll be in a position to persuade, cajole and politic margin-sitters.

My gut? Roberts doesn't care about federalism.

Won't get fooled again, or love me two times?

No sooner does His Virtualness indicate that he once thought Algore wasn't a thorough waste of time than he intimates that Oscar-winner Mohammed El-Baradei might not be a waste of time. http://instapundit.com/archives/028076.php.

I'll believe it when I see it. "Tough talk" is only tough talk when you're willing and able to back it up, and only a fool would believe Ol' Mo. Wake me up when he says, "That's it" and picks up the phone to George. Won't happen.

Embarrassing admissions

His Virtualness was once impressed with Al Gore? Wow. Talk about falling to earth. That's something he should have kept in the closet.

A Second Time

Sometimes you hear a song for years, but don't really listen. Yesterday I heard a Beatles' tune (not "Yesterday") that I hadn't heard in a while. So I listened more closely than usual. The tune: "We Can Work It Out."

To the casual listener, this song seems to be about a open-minded guy trying to bridge an impasse with someone (probably his girlfriend). But if you actually look at the words, this singer is pretty certain he's right and is trying to convince the other person that he/she is a fool who hasn't thought this thing through, and if he/she would just change his/her mind, instead of acting like an idiot, then they could solve this problem.

Perhaps a better title would be "My Way Or The Highway."

Columbus Guy says: Long ago I heard someone talking about the John & Paul team and how they were bipolar. At the time I was quite the listener to Beatles songs and knew them pretty well, and it made a lot of sense to me. Today I know them only as a residual. Anyway, this is one of those bipolar songs, the theory of course that Paul wrote the go-go happy stuff, "We can work it out," etc. , and Lennon wrote the edgy stuff, "Think of what you're saying, you can get it wrong and still you think that it's all right."

So maybe Paul won the coin flup on the title. Or maybe Lennon liked to sell songs.

LAGuy responds: This is mostly a Paul song. John added the "Life is very short..." section. So it's Paul who, though the title suggests the opposite, wrote most of the close-minded stuff, starting with the first line: "Try to see it my way."

Happy 300th

Benjamin Franklin was born 300 years ago today. He's always been my favorite Founding Father, so happy birthday, you knucklehead. Read his autobiography if you get the chance.

Monday, January 16, 2006

What If Thinking

We get stuck in a rut in our thinking. We simply assume things are the way they are for a reason, and that's good enough. (It's actually necessary to think like this--you can't go around questioning everything all the time.)

For instance, we just assume certain jobs come with tenure. Why? Why should any job come with such a guarantee? If it's such a good idea, should more jobs have it?

Over at the Becker-Posner blog, there's an interesting discussion of the issue.

The anti-Cronkite

"I have long believed that the US went into Iraq hoping to find the key to Iran. We'll find out when we try to turn the lock."

UPDATE: Forgot the quotation marks the first time.

Pompous Windbag

Walter Cronkite, of course. Who else did you think I was talking about?

Someone should tell him this isn't the 60s and no one cares what he thinks any more. (And that it was a mistake anyone ever did.)

His latest "who asked you?" comment is, predictably, that it's time to leave Iraq. Even better, he thinks we should have left after Hurricane Katrina. I know it sounds ridiculous, but let me quote him:
We had an opportunity to say to the world and Iraqis after the hurricane disaster that Mother Nature has not treated us well and we find ourselves missing the amount of money it takes to help these poor people out of their homeless situation and rebuild some of our most important cities in the United States. Therefore, we are going to have to bring our troops home.
You know, if Bush had said something that bottomlessly stupid, he'd deserve all the hatred he's getting.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Creepy

I was just listening to an old cassette tape of stuff I'd recorded directly from TV in the 1990s. To my surprise, I had Lou Rawls singing "Natural Man." I have no idea where I got it from. It's not like he sang it on a lot of TV showcases, since it wasn't his biggest hit, and certainly wasn't recent in the 90s. But I'm glad I have it.

Proud to be dumb as a Post

Kudos to the Washington Post. They're B-List Manhattan media, or perhaps the last of the A-list, and they've about a 50 percent decency rate in their political stories.

In any case, they've thrown in the towel on Alito. Can't wait to see what the Times has to say.

LAGuy notes: So far the tone of the NYT analytical articles seem to be one of resignation, with some desperation underneath: "Alas, it looks like a done deal (but hey, the voting hasn't started, and you know it's a mistake, so think about it.)"

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Yay! He raised taxes!

Recognizing "success."

We have documents

In a world in which stupid, transparently wrong or insincere (or both) PR talk dominates all public discourse, it's beyond odd that the administration isn't pumping out all sorts of documents on Iraq and terrorists.

This explanation, that a Pentagon functionary (maybe the Journal should run one of its vaunted editorial motifs, "Who is Stephen Cambone?") is blocking efforts, or that fear of the CIA is doing it, doesn't quite cut it for me. It's a little bit too much Trilateral Commission-y.

But something's going on. Either it's a pure screw up by someone in Bush's charge, or they've got some reason to hold back. As always, Bush has just enough important success that you grudgingly have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The payoff

Bush can be as maddening as all get-out, from "compassionate conservatism" on down. Large among the irritants was the administration's support of Arlen "single bullet" Specter over a conservative for senate, and of course they're continuing the pattern with Mike "Clean Diamonds" DeWine here in Ohio.

But in the end, Specter not only didn't torpedo the process, but could conservatives have asked for much more than Roberts and Alito? Janice Rogers, sure, but if you had been given the choice beforehand between a certainty of Roberts and Alito and a wild-eyed fight for JRB, would you really hold out for JRB? Bush won a conservative hand. Now all we need wait is a few decades to see how their integrity holds out, or until the point becomes moot.

They Did It Again

It's amazing, the flap about CAP (the group Samuel Alito belonged to (supposedly) back in his Princeton days). I really can't make myself care. The only thing that gets to me about the whole issue is a mistake that I've heard more than once--most recently by the NPR moderator of a discussion on the Alito hearing--that CAP was against minorities at Princeton.

This is outrageous. CAP didn't care how many minorities (however defined) were at Princeton. They opposed affirmative action, which is quite something else.

I've heard this mistake repeated, and corrected, often enough that I'm beginning to think it's actually a lie.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Sam, They Made The Rants Too Long

Unless I totally misread things, any serious chance to stop Alito is finito. He won't be filibustered, which means the only question is how big a majority of the Senate will he win.

As I've said in the past, hearings should be done away with, unless it's the nominee who insists on them. They've become circuses where Senators show off for their base, and not much else. Nothing new came out about Alito, who, after all, had been in public life quite a while. And that was the idea, as far as his handlers were concerned. The last hearings we actually found out anything interesting about the nominee were not for Thomas (that was more a weird ritual, not a soul-searching moment), but Bork's, since that was the last time a judge figured he'd get in merely because he was highly qualified so felt free to be himself.

Since then we've had two Dems questioned by a Dem-run Senate, and now two Repubs questioned by a Repub-run Senate. I guess we might get some true fireworks if the judge knows he has to convince some on the other side to join him. They used to cross over all the time, but now that the whole process is political, who knows?

If Alito serves, the Court would have, probably, four solid conservatives, one near-solid conservative, and four wishy-washy "mainstream" liberals. A big question then, is how willing are they to overturn precedent (i.e., on 5-4 issues where O'Connor voted with the left)? I wonder if it matters how old the precedent is? For instance, abortion rights go back over thirty years, but some major decisions on affirmative action and campaign finance still have wet ink.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Kiss me deadly

Kofi Anan announced today that Iran's check has cleared and he issued the following statement:

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, won't get fooled again. C'mon, pretty baby, Kiss me deadly.

Ack. What a fool. Just tell us when you're done farting around so we can have Don Rumsfeld engage in "serious and constructive negotiations."

n Guilty men

Yet another non-story that some special interest group hopes will blow up into Something Big.

The central conceit is obvious: Show just one person executed wrongly and we can do away with that nasty old death penalty. Conservatism entire will collapse like the cheap suit it is, and all Republicans can finally be put in prison where they belong.

Only the American media could think that the death penalty could never be justified if there is any error ever. And here I thought they were pretty much anti-God, but come to find out they believe in divine infallibility--and that's just for humans.

Unfortunately for the dishonest and the stupid, this non-story was a non-story twice, since it turned out the right bastard fried after all. So no need to tote this one up as an argument in favor of Ol' Sparky; we can just ignore it and prepare for the Big Outrage if we ever do find an example of the Final Mistake.

One of the best law review article ideas ever raises this question and examines it closely. Just how close to perfection do adults conclude we need to be?

Can't hardly wait II

Ooohh, juicy! Ted Koppel is going to open his mouth as a commentator. (If you don't remember who Ted Koppel is, he was a commentator for ABC news for more than 25 years. This time, though, he 'll be doing it openly.)

Where Your Taxes Are Going #27631

The 405 (aka, the San Diego Freeway) is one of the busiest highways on earth, especially through the Sepulveda Pass, connecting regular LA with the Valley. I usually avoid this area, especially during rush hour.

According to recent reports, the state is ready to build a new lane. The Guv's on board and soon it'll be a reality. Bully.

But the article, which concentrates on how the project will be designed and built, misses the point. They're building a CARPOOL LANE. In other words, they're doing just about nothing to improve congestion. 99.9% of all drivers will not only still be stuck (after suffering through years of construction), but they'll get to watch a privileged few whiz past while they're steaming.

Why not just save all the money and build a big hand that gives everyone the finger as they pass by?

ColumbusGuy adds: What do you care? You avoid the area anyway, and it's not like they'll give you a refund. They ought to just impose a toll. Start it at $5 and raise it toward $50 until the congestion clears.

And if you think it's bad now, just wait until we impeach this judge and name the woman director of transportation. That'll create some HOVoc.

LAGuy Ripostes: ColumbusGuy, out in the Midwest, clearly has no idea what life is like in LA. Traffic is the #1 issue out here. And you can't get away from it. It's bad everywhere, but if it gets worse ten miles away, you feel it as people seek out new trails.

For business reasons, I have to visit the Valley regularly. There are only so many choices. If one path is effected, all are.

Columbus Guy says: You can make more money streetwalking the Valley than LA proper?

Please, quit the whining. It's most unseemly and most un-LAGuy-like. The only reason Columbus exists is the Interstate highway system. Take away our roads and we're a series of pretty farms, not the cultural Mecca of the United States that we all take for granted; take away your roads and you'd still have that nice city transit system you had in the 1950's. Trust me, we know all about roads. It's only that we consider a 15 minute delay to be intolerable. But who knows? Give us an ocean the chance of seeing Julia Roberts at McDonalds and maybe we'd be willing to boost it to an hour.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Is that an iPod in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Looks like Levi's is about to kick off a new wave of pocket pool.

Really, though, I'm still waiting for the iPod implant (tm).

Poor Ashley

Mr. Blackwell has just come out with his worst-dressed list. What caught my eye was Mary-Kate Olsen made it but her twin sister Ashley didn't.

1) They're not still wearing the same clothes?

2) Which is worse, to make the list or to be ignored?

3) I guess Ashley can wear any crap she wants now, since her sister will be blamed for it.

Lies, Damn Lies...

I was just listening to a local radio personality and he was making some big deal about a news report on how the war was no longer popular with the military. (I think I saw something about this on Drudge last week, but I couldn't find it.)

Actually, the story, which is being predictably spun, is about how the war is less popular in general than it was a year ago. This is not exactly news. In other words, among those who were opposed, they like it even less. Among those who supported it most (such as the military), there has also been softening. No surprise. Regardless, it's still fairly popular among the military.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Digging through the sock drawer

You know what's depressing? Digging through your bedside dresser drawer past all the pens, aspirin bottles and stray cedar blocks, and finding an old, old unused condom that of course you've long forgotten.

You know what's more depressing? Its expiration date is 2009.

Inevitable

Celebrity gossip bores me, but there's been one Hollywood marriage I've always marveled at--Chad Lowe and Hilary Swank. When they married 8 years ago, they were both relatively unknown TV actors. Since then, Hilary has won two (!) Oscars while Chad is still best known as Rob's brother.

In fact, I marveled when they made it past the first Oscar. But now the inevitable has happened, and they've separated. No reason has been given, but who are they kidding.

Can't Hardly Wait

Sure, today we have VCRs and DVDs, but back in the old days, they actually produced TV shows. I have a friend who just bought the originally filmed Honeymooners--all 39, done live, week after week. Now I'm thrilled that I get a new Lost and Battlestar Galactica in a couple days. The last time this happened I think Ton DeLay was still running things.

Monday, January 09, 2006

I believe you're a lasagna

NPR started this appallingly bad concept many months ago, "This I believe," attempting to resurrect something from society's glory days (you know, those go-go John Wayne days of the 1940's and 1950's, when deviance stayed in the closet, etc.)

It's one of those pretentious, cringe-inducing train wreck kind of ideas that one hopes to avoid but in any case prays for a good editor to kill before it does too much damage. They're little 300 word or so essays that are pretty much as pompous as the title suggests. To my chagrin, I caught the last few words of today's entree:

. . . it’s about trying to do the right thing even when nobody else is looking.
I believe that worrying about the problems plaguing our planet without taking steps to confront them is absolutely irrelevant. The only thing that changes this world is taking action.
I believe that words are easy. I believe the truth is told in the actions we take. And I believe that if enough ordinary people back up our desire for a better world with action, I believe we can, in fact, accomplish absolutely extraordinary things.
Words are easy, all right. It's thought that's hard.

This Year's Model

Okay I tried this once and it got lost in ether. This version may not be the same, I have the advantage of actually being in the new year afterall. So here are my predictions for 2006:

War on Terror: Significant (but not enough to please the democrats) pullback from Iraq. Media will therefore focus more on the other two axes of evil. Hopefully they will not do anything to justify more attention. Israel and palestine please be nice to each other this year. (I know those last two are notreally predictions.)

Politics: Democrats continue to act crazy, Repubs continue to fight amongst themselves. Mid-term elections spilt enough for them both to claim victory.

Pop Culture: I don't remember what I wrote here before. Oscars (and all the rest) give BBM more awards than it deserves.

Law: Tom Delay is acquitted. Greta VanSustern is looking for work on MSNBC or some other obscure place unless another beautiful white girl meets an untimely death or missingness.

Sports: Wolverines have a better year as these guys start to mature and Henne decides he would rather be Brady then Harrington. Pistons go all the way.

Medicine: Stem cell research continues to make small strides and no benefit is found from using embryonic cells as opposed to morally neutral other sources. Avian flu is a media bust. Move on to other panic attacks.

Weather: God is quieter this year.

Business: The market flies early and then has to take a rest for the late summer and fall. US Economy grows at 4% rate. Unemployment remains low. Interest rate hikes by Fed catch up to economy late 2006, early 2007. Housing bubbles are regional and some will pop and some will slowly deflate. Florida continues to boom.

Predictions for 2006

Continuing our annual tradition, here are predictions for 2006.

Iraq: The situation will continue to improve, though violence will continue as well. Some troops will be withdrawn. Saddam will be found guity and executed. Slight inroads will be made on America public opinion that Saddam was, in fact, a great threat to the US.

World Politics: Even without Sharon in charge of anything, there will be military action taken (from somewhere) against the threat of a nuclear Iran. Communism will not spread further in South or Central America. Some European states will adopt stricter anti-terror measures. Lead politicians in Germany, France and Britain will all have plenty of trouble keeping up their popularity. US-China relations will remain stable. Palestinians will not be able to get it together--violence will roil any territory they control.

American Politics: Though the Republicans have some work to do, they will retain both the House and Seante, while some statehouses will be lost. Hillary will remain the Democrats' unquestioned leader for '08. Howard Dean will continue to embarrass the Democrats but will not be removed. There will be no serious impeach Bush movement. No clear conservative Republican leader (i.e., not McCain or Giuliani) will emerge yet for '08.

Pop Culture: Brokeback Mountain will win the Best Picture Oscar. (I actually predicted this a month ago before it was conventional wisdom.) The battle for Best Actor will see Philip Seymour Hoffman edging out Heath Ledger. Sorry, Joaquin. There will be no sitcoms in the top ten. The Sopranos will be big, of course, but not as big as they've been in the past. The general trend in movie attendance will still be down, but not as fast as it was diving in 2005. Record sales will also go down as more people download. Record stores will become rarer. So will movie rental stores.

Economy: There will be decent growth in the beginning of the year. Annually, it won't be better than last year. The Dow will break 11,000 (I predicted this last month as well).

Law: Alito will become a Justice. If Bush gets another nominee, the process will be tougher.

Sports: Michigan will lose no more than 2 games in the regular season, saving Lloyd Carr. More than 7000 players will enter the World Series Of Poker. It will be won by someone who's never won it before.

Tomorrow's news today

LAGuy is the prediction king. No sooner does he predict the Dow will break 11K than Druge posts that it's so. (Pay no attention to the date stamp that says LAGuy's post won't appear for another three hours. He and SnakePitGuy are albomizing again.)

Fair warning, though: Reuters reports the market rally is led by GM shares. Talk about snake oil. Nonetheless, since the market can do no wrong, we must infer that GM is about to be carved up.

We're No. 1

The AP is reporting that Toledo is the leading recruitment center for teenage prostitution. (I smell a redundancy or misnomer there, but it's titillating so let it go.)

Sensibly enough, everyone's puzzled: How could Toledo lead in anything?

But it's just another case of reporter and bureaucrat ignorance. If any of these Solons had ever been to Toledo, they'd know anyone would do anything to get out.

Through Being Cool

This song and several other "80's songs" were minimally recast in the movie, Sky High. My 10 year old saw half of this with me earlier in the year and now he has the DVD. I did not catch the individual songs the first viewing, only the 80's punk feel. Then as he watched the movie the third time or so, this song came through the mix. Apparently TMBG does the cover. Very interesting. Punk was so commercial and poppy, it is amazing it wasn't bigger the first time.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Three Up, Three Down

With the Alito hearings coming up, the LA Times Sunday editorial section (aka, "Current") hired some heavy hitters to put it all in context. They've got Edward Lazarus, former clerk to Justice Blackmun and perhaps the best popular writer on the Court around, and Cass Sunstein, highly-regarded liberal law professor (and friend of mine).

Lazarus notes the modern battle over Court nominees began with Robert Bork. Before his hearings, someone with his record would have been a no-brainer, but now the fight is over politics, not qualifications. And the Democrats have essentially been playing defense for decades, hoping to hold onto the precedents set by the Warren and Burger Courts.

Lazarus notes the Republican response. Nominees now have to say as little as possible, and claim they have an open mind and a great respect for precedent. (Democrats will likely have to do this, too, if they face a Republican Congress.)

The irony, and Lazarus seems to miss this, is the most important rulings that the Dems insist are "mainstream" usually amount to cases where the Court gave the finger to the public. In particular, Dems want to make sure Justices will 1) not allow the slightest hindrance on abortion and 2) allow people to judge others as much as possible by race.

Oddly, Lazarus thinks Bush's actions may have given the Dems an opening to successfully attack Alito. He feels the recent revelation of warrantless wiretapping can be portrayed as a threat to our way of life, and Alito can be portrayed as a Justice who will allow Bush whatever power he wants. This is simply wrong. First, most Americans are hardly upset at the surveillance (most favor it, in fact). Second, tying Alito to allowing any damn thing Bush wants just because he fought for the President in the Justice Department (i.e., did his job) and deferred to the executive branch in some cases as a judge (oh my) will be a stretch. Third, there are a lot of things a Justice will decide over the decades he serves, and the division of powers is probably not in the top ten--in any case, it's usually more a battle between the Legislative and Executive branches, with the people as referee.

Sunstein, on the other hand, says nothing too controversial, and that's the problem. I can't disagree with his general thesis, but then, I'm not sure anyone can. He notes the Court is important because it represent the rule of law, and stands as a bulwark for our rights and freedoms if the other branches go too far. But he also notes sometimes the Court tries to set policy when it should defer. True enough, and these are important factors we should consider when any nominee is voted on.

But just how do you tell which way the Court should go? Maybe a few decades after the fact we can guess, but during controversial times, who knows? Sunstein suggests a number of mistakes the Court has made (following his thinking in Radicals In Robes) but I hardly agree with his list. For instance, he feels the Court has "exceeded its proper bounds" in striking down affirmative action programs and campaign finance regulations. Come again? I think there is a solid (nay, winning) Constitutional argument that many, perhaps most, affirmative action programs should be struck down. As to Campaign Finance Law, which drives a stake into the heart of the First Amendment by allowing direct regulation of political speech, it's an outrage that any court anywhere has allowed any of it.

And speaking of the courts, the Times' editorial page predictably chimes in regarding the Florida State voucher opinion that we must have only public schools now, public schools forever.

The Times reasons it's not fair to allow parents to remove their kids from public schools using vouchers. The kids who are getting away have to be tossed back into the schools that the parents believe are failing. You see, private schools aren't held to the same standards, so when the parents figure a private school is better for their kids, they have to be protected from themselves. You get to buy from the company store using company scrip and that's that. In essence, protecting crappy schools and preventing any serious competition guarantees the equality that the state promises.

Non-lunatic Democrat count

Added to this, the number is up to three. Any chance any time soon that they'll find one at the New York Times, CBS, ABS or NBS?

Are we content?

"Anyone who uses the term content provider without a smirk needs to consider getting content from someone else."

How would Fox do it?

Powerline has done some great work in this piece. A congressional report states:

Given such uncertainty, the Administration's legal justification, as presented in the summary analysis from the Office of Legislative Affairs, does not seem to be as well-grounded as the tenor of that letter suggests.

So how does the Washtington Post report it?

The administration's legal justification 'does not seem to be ... well grounded.'

You are kidding, right? How about we try this one:

Given . . . legal . . . . analysis [the administration's position] does . . . seem . . . well-grounded.

If the Post fails to discipline people here, they've just dropped to New York Times level drivel. You're better off not reading them than reading them.

Manhattan media picks

National Review's Byron York expands on the comments made by Jack Murtha saying he doesn't want anyone to think the U.S. won a victory in Iraq: "I worry about a slow withdrawal which makes it look like there's a victory when I think it should be a redeployment as quickly as possible and let the Iraqis handle the whole thing."

Contemptible lunatic. So what is it with our Manhattan friends? Every Bush critic they lionize jumps off the cliff.

Thanks, Suckers

I heard an amazing radio spot today. Some union members bought time to thank the people of California for their support. They claimed to have no motives but expressing their gratitude.

Remember, last year the unions spent well over 100 million for a 24/7 campaign that propagandized against the Governor. They were completely successful, preventing any of Schwarzenegger's reform initiatives from passing, and destroying Ahnold's rep in the process.

I guess they raised so much money they figured they should buy some ads to celebrate. The message is still the same, of course: pay no attention to the facts--we are kind and powerless while the Governor is all-powerful and evil, so don't let him change anything (except for hiking taxes).

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Speaking of courts running schools

It's not just the Florida Supreme Court sticking its nose where noses don't belong.

"The trial began in July 2003 and saw more than 100 days of testimony from lawmakers, school administrators and education experts."

This, folks, is how you know you have legislation goin' on, not judging.

Cunning linguists

So a convention of linguists gets together to vote on the best new words of the year, and they come to the category of most creative, where they have trouble deciding between two:

In a runoff for the most creative word, "whale tail," the appearance of a thong above the waistband, beat out "muffin top," the bulge of flesh hanging over the top of low-riding jeans.

Is it just me, or does it seem like the top two competitors have essentially the same theme? Isn't that a bit odd? I wonder where these linguists' minds are?

Goodbye, Goodbye, Goodbye

Nothing lasts forever, but you're still surprised when institutions go down.

First, even though ChicagoGuy is in denial, the venerable Berghoff is closing. It's a family-owned German restaurant in Chicago's Loop that's been serving sauerbraten and schnitzel for over a century. I used to work about two blocks from The Berghoff, and when friends came into town, we'd meet there for lunch, even though the place was invariably packed.

For some reason, they're shutting down February 28. From what I've heard, business is still great, so it's not about money. According to the website, the building will be leased to Carlyn Berghoff Catering, run by the daughter of the owners. Hmm.

Closer to home, two of the best independent record stores in the country, Rhino Records in Westwood and Aron's in Hollywood, will be closing down. Many's the hour I've stood checking out their selection--especially Aron's, which is just up the street.

I see two factors driving them out of business. First, records stores are in trouble in general--people get their music, legally and otherwise, off the internet these days. Second, a few years ago, a branch of Amoeba Music opened in Hollywood, and it's been doing blockbuster business since. The competition might have driven other independents over the edge.

I hope to pick up a few deals before they close. But in a few weeks, LA will seem a little lonelier.

SCOFLA

I was gonna write a piece about the abysmal decision by the Florida Supreme Court striking down school vouchers, but I see my friend Tom has already commented at his blog.

If anything, Tom is too kind to the Court. It seemed to me they couldn't stand their social ideals being attacked and so grasped at whatever straws available. Tom's too smart an analyst, though, to engage in such mindreading.

I admit, though, once anything provided by the state becomes a right, you are simply begging for courts to write the laws, keeping out the voice of the legislature and the people, and for that matter, most real-world considerations.

Columbus Guy says: "Abysmal" seems a bit strong. Wrong, yes, and abysmal as a policy choice, yes, but as far as the opinion goes, it's actually not too poorly written. They at least hit the salient points. If you want to see abysmal, take a look at an Ohio Supreme Court decision.

Friday, January 06, 2006

A Natural Man

Lou Rawls just died of lung cancer. A smooth soul artist, he started as a gospel singer in the 50s. By the mid-60s, he was delivering regular r&b hits .

His biggest song--his only top ten hit (#2) and gold record--was "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" in 1976. A bit MOR perhaps, but his soulful singing kept it aloft.

But I remember him best for "A Natural Man" in 1971. The coolest part, even before he starts singing, is a great rap about how in the old days you did what the Man said, but no longer. Right on, brother. The song, and Lou Rawls, has a special place in my heart, since it was the first record I ever bought. (For 69 cents, if you were wondernig.)

Sickening

According to Pat Robertson, Ariel Sharon's stroke could be divine retribution for his policies.

Robertson just won last year's Pajama Guy Award for dumbest comment, and he's already on the inside track to take 2006.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Can I get an RPG on that RPA?

"THE US Department of Defense has revealed plans to develop a lie detector that can be used without the subject knowing they are being assessed."

It's called a Remote Personnel Assessment device, or, as we like to call it, "Mr. Thingy."

LAGuy adds: That's nothing. Devo had a voice stress analyzer hooked up to their phone back in 1979. They used it whenever their manager called.

Dampening the echo chamber

Some things are simply worth preserving, such as this quote from a Democrat who is not unhinged (which you wouldn't think exists, if you follow the Manhattan media):

As the Ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, I have been briefed since 2003 on a highly classified NSA foreign collection program that targeted Al Qaeda. I believe the program is essential to US national security and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities.

But shame on the Powerline boys for failing to note the source, or explain that it's their original reporting.

The Rose Bowl

I wasn't even rooting for a team, but wow, what a game. ABC got exactly what it wanted, that's for sure.

ColumbusGuy adds: Best moment: Announcer Keith Jackson went to commercial with 6:50 in the second quarter and had to have some patter, so he said, "650 seconds remaining in the second quarter" blah blah blah. Reminds me of one of my favorite jokes: THere are 10 kinds of people; those who understand binary, and those who don't.

No-Win Situation

Perhaps the highest profile job in show biz is hosting the Oscars. But doing it well is a tightrope walk that defeats most applicants.

The trouble is you've got what is essentially a boring show, outside about 8 awards, that is stretched out over 3+ hours. You've got to move things along (an impossibility in itself) and be funny. And not just funny--David Letterman was funny. You've got to be classy, too, since movie people take themselves seriously. But get too serious and you end up being pompous.

Jon Stewart was just chosen as host. He seems like a good choice, but then again, so did Chris Rock last year. Rock, at his best, is funny and edgy. For whatever reason--bad material, or being handcuffed by Oscar tradition--he didn't deliver as expected. Stewart's in a similar bind. He's smart and witty, but the Oscars do things to hosts.

Making it worse, Stewart, host of The Daily Show, is best known for political humor. It's been (another) political year in Hollywood. If Stewart holds back and doesn't go for strong political material, he'll disappoint a lot of people. But if he goes for the jugular too often, he may not be "classy" enough for the show--the winners are supposed to be the story, not the host.

Anyway, break a leg.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Missing the story

Give AP's Jesse Holland props for remembering and reporting the American Bar Associations partisanship that cost it a quasi-formal role in reviewing federal judicial nominations.

But of course Holland spins it the other way, as if it's a problem of "conservative" behavior rather than ABA behavior. And Holland's world view prevents him from writing the real story. It isn't about Alito gathering a chit to give him additional credibility; it's part of the long, slow slog of the ABA trying to establish its credibility by quitting being leftist hacks. The headline and the lede ought to be, "ABA foregoes partisanthip on Alito/subhead: Tactic or change of heart?"

Two Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong

Anonymous lists his/her top ten Elvis Costello numbers ("I Want You," "What's So Funny...," "Jack Of All Parades," "Oliver's Army," "When I Was Cruel No. 2," "Just A Memory," "Shipbuilding," "God Give Me Strength" and "Mystery Dance"--okay, so it's a top 9) and challenges me to come up with a top 25.

I looked over his songbook and decided this was too hard. Instead, here's his top 50, in chronological order. (I've dispensed with the hassle of quotation marks):


Welcome to the Working Week
Alison
(The Angels Want To Wear My) Red Shoes
Mystery Dance
Less Than Zero
Watching The Detectives

The Beat
Pump It Up
Lipstick Vogue
Radio Radio
Hand In Hand

Accidents Will Happen
Oliver's Army
Party Girl
Moods For Moderns
Two Little Hitlers
(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?

Clowntime Is Over
(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea
Crawling to the USA

Love For Tender
New Amsterdam
Hi Fidelity
I Can't Stand Up (For Falling Down)
Black & White World

Lover's Walk
New Lace Sleeves
Shot With His Own Gun

Man Out Of Time
And In Every Home

Everyday I Write The Book

The Only Flame In Town
Inch By Inch
Worthless Thing
I Wanna Be Loved

Uncomplicated
I Want You

Brilliant Mistake
America Without Tears

...This Town...
Let Him Dangle
Veronica
God's Comic
Stalin Malone

The Other Side Of Summer
So Like Candy

13 Steps Lead Down
You Tripped At Every Step
Just About Glad

Tear Off Your Own Head (It's A Doll Revolution)

web page hit counter