Tuesday, February 28, 2006

On the other hand

Bruce Bartlett notwithstanding, there are reasons to like W:

ABC News reporter Elizabeth VARGAS: I know you don't read the polls. You have said that many, many times.

BUSH: So what are you going to do, ask me about a poll?

Man's got a point

I could do without the defensive whining, but you've got to give Bruce Bartlett credit: When he tags campaign finance, NCLB and Part D, it's pretty hard to say he's got it wrong.

Any chance Rove sent her?

Drudge says Anna Nicole showed up looking like she's dressed for a funeral.

Justice Breyer says, "Hubba, hubba."

Really, though, under what possible scenario do federal courts have any business in probate matters? Anyone seen any links out there discussing this?

Who among us shall chew the first wad?

C'mon. It could happen to anybody.

Say, did we tell you about the Oscars?

Light blogging from the Heartland today - small brain, big deadlines.

But have you seen LAGuy's Film Year in Review? http://pajamaguy.blogspot.com/2006/01/film-year-in-review-2005.html

Given his untimely passing - it always comes in threes, doesn't it? Don Knotts, Darren McGavin and now LAGuy - it seems only appropriate that we review some of his finer work.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Conservative porn

So, Dick Cheney might step down two years before Bush's term ends, eh? Well, gosh, who could possibly replace him? Can anyone say CONDI? Oh, my gosh, I hope my wife doesn't see this in the cache . . .

Al From inhales

If you can stay awake through 2,900 words of prose so turgid it may as well be the minutes of a Congress of the Communist International, then Democrat Leadership Council guru Al From has just the piece for you.

Turns out, Reagan was a minor figure, a placeholder, but Clinton, well, "Clinton will be remembered as the modernizer of progressive politics -- for his insistence on new means to achieve progressive ideals."

Yes, he certainly will.

Barone swings

What we're starting to call the Long War

Hmm.

Of course he's not the first to say it, but that's the point. Is it taking root?

Revising and extending comments for the record

Sunday gave us "Iraq is lost." After due consideration, we conclude today that "Iraq is not lost."

Ann Coulter got a to-do talking about poisoning the juice or some such of supreme court justices, a reference to poisoning elderly popes and kings. Conservatives would have done well to spike the juice of Goldwater before he shook Bill Clinton's hand, and now maybe it's time to help Buckley along. Next thing you know, he'll want to legalize drugs or something.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Cut it into four pieces; I'm too busy to eat eight

Two of my favorite signs that the balloon is about to go up:

Sudden loss of cell service near some air force bases (from which heavy bombers would depart). At the same time, there would be sightings of Middle Eastern looking guys around these bases, trying to get their cell phones to work, while being observed by what appears to be FBI agents.

and

Increased delivery of Pizza to Pentagon

Somehow, references to Middle Eastern looking guys shaking their cell phones with FBI looking guys close behind doesn't seem the most credible way to say it.

True story, though: Sept. 11 came during my second week as a reporter at a weekly. There wasn't a lot to do except watch and wonder like the rest of the world, but I had had experience with the state emergency response facility, which has its own War Room, straight out of War Games or Strangelove or 24. I thought I'd go up and see what was up. Of course they weren't about to let me in, but I got a great photograph of a Papa John's delivery driver running earnestly up the stairs, arms full of pies.

UPDATE: I've retitled this because I thought of a better one (formerly "not hungry enough to")

So much to do, so little time

Both Israeli and U.S. intelligence observed large truck convoys leaving Iraq and entering Syria in the weeks and months before Operation Iraqi Freedom. . . .
. . . two Iraqi Airways Boeing jets were converted to cargo planes and moved the WMD to Syria in a total of 56 flights six weeks before the war.

Iraq, Iran, Syria . . . at least we're in interesting times.

It's in, it's out, it's two, two things at once

RealClearPolitics lists two adjacent article links: "The Long War" next to "Iraq is Lost."

Do you suppose I need to read either one?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The price of taxi medallions on the rise

I've been wondering about this forever. Why wouldn't they ban cars? Yes, it'll slow things down, but it'll also create markets for new products and services. It'll be like moving from html to shtml, only it'll be sHonda, instead.

A loss

Well, sorry to see him go. My erstwhile twin recently hosted an interesting, if odd, television retrospective of the Andy Griffith show with Andy Griffith, and Knotts showed up, as he must.

This is LAGuy's forte, of course, although I don't know if Knotts is on his list. I guess we'll have to see if LAGuy unfreezes either his computer or his ass in the next couple of days and find out.

Your not paying attention

"Were not your monkey and so what?"

I'd buy these guys' album, but I'm thinking they don't want to sell me one. And I'm thinking their songs are not being used to sell Mercedes, are they?


UPDATE: Fixed a typo. Had orginally written "We're not your monkey . . ." which is nonstandard Sex Pistols lingo.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Sir! Step away from the Patriot Act, sir!

Whenever I look at Rep. Charles Dent, R-PA, I think to myself, "Taser! Taser!"

Excruciating pain! Calm down!

Do you suppose it's part of the training to yell, "Taser! Taser!" at a target, who is almost certainly mentally disturbed, whether momentarily or chronically? Wouldn't it be better policy to say something like, "Look at the bunnies, Lenny"?

UPDATE: Anonymous kindly contributes the correct line, "Tell me about the rabbits, George."

I'm embarrased to say I don't have the volume on my shelf (although not nearly as embarrassed as Steinbeck should be for "Cup of Gold"), although at this point everything's in boxes, anyway, and I do suspect it's there.

In any case, it could have been worse. I almost wrote "Squiggy."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

When did this happen?

"The left seizes Harvard"

Really? Next thing you know, they'll take Manhattan.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Somebody else's echo chamber

Here's how Matthew Yglesias thinks Republicans view poverty:

"[T]he traditional conservative line [is] that poverty should be abated primarily through moral reform of the poor, rather than direct interventions, to improve their material well-being."

Er, no. The traditional conservative line is that the poor should be allowed to accumulate property until they are not poor, and then -- here's the really tricky part -- keep it. Their morals are their own lookout, as should be their money.

Oh-oh

So the South Dakota legislature didn't take PajamaGuy's advice.

Sounds like by the end of the week we'll have a bill and maybe even a law banning abortion. Lickety split, we'll then have a challenge to it. Silly ColumbusGuy forgot that it would have to work its way up the appeals chain, so basically this means we'll have huge news about abortion from the Manhattan media from now until doomsday. Bad move, guys. You should have waited until after the midterms. Doesn't Karl Rove know the area code to South Dakota?

Hey, baby, put on some Rawls

Satisfied? Hell, yes, I'm satisfied. For the first time in years, it moved.

Have a little whine with that?

Via Kaus, a journalism professwrites about an appalling act by the NYTimes. A student applies for an internship, is asked for a professor contact and gives the name of one he admires but who happens to ahve written critically of the Manhattan Media Whores, er, slipped, the NYTimes. Here is what a Times editor openly responds:

“Hi Kejal, Based on what Allan Wolper has written about us, I cannot imagine that he would want one of his students to intern here. I guess if we need students from New Jersey, we will go elsewhere. Best, Nancy.”

But later she put it in context. She explained that she was being snide.

I wish I could say this lowered my opinion of the New York Times.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Would a crueler world be a better one?

This seems like an odd contortion to go through:

A week ago, U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel responded to defense claims that lethal injection violated a constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment by offering three options: A lethal injection of only barbiturates; having an anesthesiologist on hand to ensure Morales was unconscious when the standard three-chemical injection was administered; or a stay of the execution pending a hearing.

State corrections officials chose the second option, and had two doctors ready to proceed with the execution as planned at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.


Maybe we'd be better off if the average level of cruelty were higher. Then judges wouldn't feel compelled to interfere as much.

Black gold . . . oil, that is

Hmm. LAGuy heads for Detoit, black ooze floods downtown Los Angeles. Coincidence if you say so.

Department of Evil and Appalling

"The reality is dark and evil and appalling and unregulated."

Regulate first, tax second

Don't make Virginia mad

This guy better hope Virginia Postrel doesn't see his argument.

He claims to be a conservative, but he says he doesn't like capitalism.

"We are gloriously 'free to choose'," he says. "But choose what?"

Guess what, bud? You're not a conservative. You're just another whiner who wants people to choose what you want them to choose. That would make you, let's see; yes, a Democrat.

"Efficiency" is not, as he says, an "icon" that must be destroyed. Efficiency is merely the way to get to where you want to go at the least cost. It has nothing to do with the direction you're going; it has only to do with getting there with the least damage to all your other, competing goals.

Could we take a pass?

Tough Commerce Clause issues on the Clean Water Act today. Our readers are probably familiar with my view, that the Commerce Clause needs to be limited and federalism is an important feature of our government(s).

But this is a tough one. Environmental issues readily cross state lines, which raises the prospect of legitimacy of federal laws. Just as one cannot say the national government has no power under a federalist point of view (thus rendering specious one of the Democrats' criticisms of Republicans refusal to follow the Florida Supreme Court in 2000), arguing for limits on the Commerce Clause is not tantamount to saying the feds have no commerce power.

Environmentalism is an area where I would be predisposed to find national power. If the court rules otherwise, and of course a large part of me hopes it does, given the importance of the idea of finding limits to national power, I hope it comes up with good structure for doing so.

Ah, maybe I'll feel better after lunch

So it turns out that women feel relief from stress when a husband touchers their hand.

I have to wonder whether this is an overoptimistic interpretation. Isn't it possible that it's merely the brain stem realizing that she'll be able to consume his head momentarily? (After speaking with LAGuy this weekend, maybe I'm just channeling, "How to Serve Man".

Monday, February 20, 2006

Are we on candid camera?

I'm tempted not to link this; I think Drudge must be being a bit precious. Still, it's pretty remarkable:

Dana Milbank frett[s] that the White House is exploiting the public's growing disdain for the mainstream media.
"Of course they succeed,” Milbank said of Bush aides. “The press always looks awful. They will once again make us look awful.”

CNN's Candy Crowley added: "The perception is that we're whining."

White House correspondent Bill Plante of CBS agreed.

"The vice president and the White House have both used the constant press coverage of this story as a wedge,” he told RELIABLE SOURCES host Howard Kurtz. “It plays to the prejudices of the people who are predisposed not to like us, and it's one way to distract attention from what happened.”


What could possibly predispose people not to like them?

Round: see circle; Circle: see round

So His Virtualness notes Ed Driscoll; a quick look at Ed Driscoll shows that he is noting . . . His Virtualness.

Can't I just sell some pita?

Mickey seems stuck on the idea that there's a big debate about whether democracy will work in the Middle East. Hamas, you know. But how hard is this? There just isn't any other possibility. Most people just want to live their lives, not murder their way into heaven. Frankly, if democracy brings out, sooner, those who do, it's a good thing, not a bad one.

Right hand Red! Left hand, er, Red!

The Democrat Party announced today its intention to turn the 2006 and 2008 elections over to the Republicans.

Meanwhile, George Bush announced his intention to become Jimmy Carter. This is just swell. Try to reform Social Security in a sensible way, the proposal withers on the vine. Socialize energy policy, and maybe it'll fly. If the Dems were looking for a way to end the Reagan Revolution, they should relax. The Republicans will do it for them.

State Of The Blog

Yesterday I had lunch with ColumbusGuy and dinner with AnnArborGuy. I am pleased to announce this blog is healthy, and you can expect many more stories and essays to be forthcoming. With any luck, we can get AnnArborGuy to talk about his experience in Nicaragua.

I will be on vacation one more week and I'm still not sure if I'll have regular access to a computer. But keep reading.

Bipolar George

A few days ago I noted another nice base hit from Bow Tie George, of whom I'm not ordinarily a fan.

I didn't get around to noting his recent lunacy, kvetching about the president fighting a war, but Will falling down is dog-bites-man.

Today's he's on base again, gonna go all the way tonight, tonight, with a serviceable piece about Ohio's Ken Blackwell, who's drawing national attention.

Nothing is more predictable than that Blackwell would do so, creating a high profile for Republican principle and a high profile for conservative Republican blacks.

Equally predictable is that the state party would line up behind someone else, in this case Jim Petro, a perfectly nice guy, but one who simply has no core conservative beliefs. He's simply an extention of the Voinovich/DeWine/Taft line, probably the best of them (Ed-Damning with faint praise? Absolutely. But it's true; he has principles. He's true to his eclectic beliefs, or sort of true. He's just not a conservative.)

The good news is, if Blackwell wins the office, he owes no one in the party, and he'll have validated conservatives. The bad news? Don't really see it. He could lose, of course, but at least if he does, he'll lose fighting, and someday someone else will pick up the banner.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Good thing Zingerman's isn't filled with Islamofascists

Yikes. So His Virtualness is just getting around to sticking his thumb in the eye of the jerks, and an alternative newspaper says it declines to do so out of fear? You've got to be kidding.

Had these scimitar bearers been at Zingerman's Next Door today, they could have taken out the entire PajamaGuy staff. Don't worry, though. There is another.

Wishing upon a star

You've got your news stories, and you've got your wishes. Today's NYTimes has the latter above the fold, A1: "Drug plan's start may imperil GOP's grip on older voters."

Yeah. Or it may not. Doubtless "Dems wedding to high taxes, big programs may imperil status as party" is coming soon.

So's Cryin' George Voinovich

"Republicans would do well to remember that their party's great deficit hawk was not Ronald Reagan, but George Bush the Elder."

No, actually, the formula's quite simple. You want to raise taxes, you're a tax and spender. It's only that you're a hypocrite if you say you want to do it to balance the budget, and a fool if you believe it will balance the budget. Cryin' George happens to be both.

There is only one way to be a deficit hawk, and that is to, you know, cut spending, and of course by cut spending one means "cut spending," not "raise spending."

Tell no one

For security reasons, of course, you should keep it under your hat until it's over, but come 11 a.m. PST all the guys who still have fingers will be eating absurd sandwiches a location code name Zingerman's. At least, I'm assuming AnnArborGuy will have returned from the dark side of the moon by then. We'll be expecting a full report on Operation Bird Shot. (BTW, I can hardly believe I'll be leaving Woody's Country to return to the Snake Pit, but just as soon as you think you're out, they pull you back in.)

Temporary Temp

I'm writing this in Canton, Michigan. How cold it? Right now it's 7, but it should be down to 4 soon. How did I survive growing up? How does AnnArborGuy manage? (Perhaps it's those winter trips to Nicaragua.)

That's it. Just figured I'd drop in to complain.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The key is precision

"The best atomic clocks can only measure cesium atoms for a split second."

One from column A and one from column B

"The Senate Democrats don't know whether to attack the administration now for its nonchalance or to wait and second-guess them once the bombs begin to fall."

VDH is at the top of the analysis game, but I don't quite see the sense of this sentence. It's quite obviously both. The Democrats' conundrum is a more immediate one: How to criticize Bush at once, now, for being too active and too passive.

I've Noticed...

...lately, a number of people who say Bush is destroying our country. Fair enough. But then they complain when people say what they're saying isn't good for America. How dare they?

Not a great item? No links? You try posting something when your computer freezes up every five minutes.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Reagan Redux

So Lawrence Kudlow thinks Ohio's Ken Blackwell is the new Ronald Reagan. I think he's right.

Problem is, Ted Strickland is the new Bill Clinton. It's kind of like the '76 Steelers playing the '89 49'ers. Who's the better politician?

Ugliness never pays

Apropos of nothing, I'm sure LAGuy didn't mean it when he said I looked like Clint Howard.

Now give me all your money.

Good News, Bad News

I just arrived in Detroit and have located a computer. Unfortunately, the computer keeps freezing up. Perhaps it's just as well, since I really don't have anything to say.

Columbus Guy says: And the bad news, of course, is Detroit?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Sweet Oscar Lovin' Sorrow

Columbus Guy performs an intervention: Needless to say, as the post below demonstrates, LAGuy has never had much in the way of marketing. Plus he's an incorrigible liar. What he meant to say was, our audience is among the most steady and reliable on the Web. And he'll be posting regularly. You should check every day, and not just in the morning, but several additional times during the day. And he'll be writing about Oscars. Lots of Oscars. And 'Merican Idol, too.

We've been getting a bigger audience than usual these past few weeks, so I hate to leave you all in the lurch. Alas, I am going on vacation until the end of the month. I will only be posting, if at all, intermittently.

But keep dropping in, faithful reader. I know ColumbusGuy will still be around, and maybe AnnArborGuy will soon have tales of Nicaragua. And before you know it, I'll be back, because February is a short month.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Second thoughts

ColumbusDaughter is thinking of attending Illinois, a prospect that delights me. But if they have idiots like this there, I'm starting to wonder.

BTW, if you're unclear about which side is the idiot one, here's a little hint.

I can see clearly now

Courtesy of His Virtualness, Popular Mechanics documents what is obvious to anyone with a pulse: That congressional investigators and those they work for are grandstanding fools: "the report’s most troubling shortfall: consistently blaming individuals for failing to foresee circumstances that only became clear with the laser-sharp vision of hindsight."

Spokesperson Blows Another Spoke

Catholic League President William Donohue, the loose cannon with the loose canon, has another howler today. He's unhappy with NBC's coverage of the winter Olympics. Why? Because it's in Turin and so far no one's mentioned the Shroud of Turin.

The Shroud, for those of you not up on venerated religious artifacts, is allegedly the one Jesus was buried in. Clear-eyed analysis (which is too rare) strongly suggests the shroud is fraudulent--does Donohue want that included in the report? The Church itself has never officially recognized it as authentic.

In any case, I wasn't aware that Olympics coverage was supposed to include travelogues.

With spokespeople like Donohue, who needs enemies.

I had to look up 'corporeal'

Admitedly, I don't understand Canadians (ask LAGuy what his favorite amendment is), but how exactly does one explore one's sexuality by text messaging?

"44 percent made love to a partner via webcam or telephone."

No, they didn't. Fortunately, however, "The survey also asked people about their corporeal sex lives," so let's get cracking:

Well, let's not. Go read it yourself. PajamaGuy refuses to report anything involving "pet friendly" unless it's accompanied by proper margin of error.

Andreas Katsulas

Not many people would recognize the name Andreas Katsulas. For that matter, not many would recognize the face. But the voice--that you'd remember. It was deep, resonant and expressive.

Katsulas died of lung cancer yesterday, a few months short of his 60th birthday. A busy character actor, he tended to play thugs and tough guys. His best known movie role was the One-Armed Man in The Fugitive. But the part he'll be remembered for is G'Kar in Babylon 5.

Babylon 5 was a science fiction serial plotted, from the beginning, to last 5 years. The title refers to a huge space ship where intelligent species from across the galaxy (including humans) gathered.

Throughout the entire series, Katsulas played G'Kar, the Narn ambassador. He went through many changes--from powerful, to weak, to imprisoned, to messianic. His relationship with hated Centauri ambassador Londo Mollari is arguably the highlight of the show.

G'Kar was at times comic, at times tragic. But he was always, always, covered in heavy makeup and costuming. That's what made Katsulas's performance all the more amazing. He was able to convey a full range of emotions, and do it all with only his voice and eyes. It was a performance few actors could match.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Working hard for you

Ah, the good old ABA, working harder than the Dems to make themselves irrelevant.

"Nobody wants to hamstring the President," a spokesman, said. "We just want a different one, and in the meantime, we want him to have to listen to us."

Angry Versus Convincing

Essayist Anne Lamott had an editorial last Friday in the LA Times on abortion. She convinced me of one thing: she's angry. Yes, the issue angers her, like, oh, it does about 200 million other Americans--and she's on the winning side!

However, being passionate (that's a more neutral word) doesn't mean you have a good argument. (It also doesn't mean you're making a smart political move, as ColumbusGuy would have it. [Columbus Guy says: Pop quiz, LAGuy: Was I supporting it or opposing it?])

A lot of the piece is on how brave Anne was to speak out for abortion rights in a meeting of progressive Christians. (She later finds out most of them were Catholics--whew, good thing she didn't know that earlier!) In fact, she spends so much time on the drama she only has time for a conclusory statement or two regarding the issue itself. (I guess that figures. She believes abortion rights are "common sense" and says "I could not believe that men committed to equality and civil rights were still challenging the basic rights of women." By the way, Anne, before you make this about men versus women, you'll find women are just as opposed to abortion as men, and men favor it as much as women.)

In the penultimate paragraph, she finally gets down to her real argument:
But as a Christian and a feminist, the most important message I can carry and fight for is the sacredness of each human life, and reproductive rights for all women is a crucial part of that: It is a moral necessity that we not be forced to bring children into the world for whom we cannot be responsible and adoring and present. We must not inflict life on children who will be resented; we must not inflict unwanted children on society.
That's it? Unwanted children? It's the worst argument there is. It applies equally--no, better--to killing children already born. (And let's ask them when they're in their 20s if they regret not having been aborted.) But you say there's a major difference between killing a newborn baby and snuffing out a potential life? Fine, then make that argument, rather than waste my time.

And when you make that argument, Anne, a suggestion: a little less passion, a little more reason.

Who You Gonna Believe, Me Or Walter Scott

Steve Martin's Pink Panther opened well, despite bad reviews. Interesting piece in the LA Times (check the business section) on how Amy Pascal had the film reconfigured--cleaner Clouseau, for one thing--to get a better, wider PG audience.

Others may interpret this differently, but I feel vindicated.

Monday, February 13, 2006

International PajamaGuy

So our man in the south has been posting from Nee-kha-rah-wha. And you think it's a coincidence that the vice president pulled a fast one on the Manhattan media? Don't make me laugh. My man Cheney shoots you, you die.

Poor Guy

Robert Redford complains his celebrity prevents him from being taken seriously:
You work hard to move away from it, and you're only partly successful. If I go up there to speak about an issue, they're playing The Sting.
Poor guy. If only he weren't a movie star, he could speak out as much as he wants to six or seven pals at the local bar, and they might even think he really knows what he's talking about.

Projection

ABC Commentator John Stossel has become a non-person in the eyes of the New York City teachers' union. Stossel was slated to receive an award from the union's Social Studies Conference, but then they saw his 20/20 feature on vouchers (he likes 'em) and disinvited him.

Because he offered a different perspective, the union wrote a letter explaining they want nothing to do with a man whose program "so violates the democratic principles of open mindedness, fairness and balance we hold dear."

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Imposing our Will

Give it up for Bow-tie George: "Civilization depends on the ability to make even majorities blush"

I think the man deserves his own epigram.

(And let's give a nod to Sen. Tom Coburn, too: "There's 200,000 -- 300,000 -- people can do these jobs. Millions.")

Oscars--My Choices

I've already discussed the expected winners--a few close categories, but not too much excitement. Now here's how I would vote for if I were in the Academy. (Note: I'm not.)

Here are the nominees. If I don't know a majority of the choices (i.e., shorts) I'll leave it alone.

Actor: Some decent choices, but no standout. I guess I'd go with Heath Ledger, who did a lot with a little. (Too bad Jeff Daniels or Anthony Hopkins weren't nominated.)

Supporting Actor: This is usually the most competitive category. Fairly weak this year. I think I'd give it to William Hurt, though I'm not entirely convinced his whole performance wasn't a put-on.

Actress: Sorry Reese, but it goes to Felicity Huffman.

Supporting Actress: Amy Adams. (And Catherine Keener got nominated for the wrong role.)

Animated Feature: Howl's Moving Castle. (The animated feature, once again, is better than the best picture.)

Art Direction: I didn't see Geisha. Also, hard to compare such different styles. Let's give it to King Kong, which spent so much money to reproduce Depression-era New York.

Cinematography: The New World. Easiest choice of all.

Costume: Once again, how do you compare different period pieces and fantasy? Let's give it to Charlie And The Chocolate Factory for its eclecticism.

Directing: None of the nominess are that impressive. I'll give it to Ang Lee.

Documentary: Some nice choices. Let's give it to the film that doesn't need it, March Of The Penguins.

Editing: Crash.

Makeup: Star Wars (which deserves more technical nominations).

Original Song: "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp." (Another very easy choice.)

Sound Editing: War Of The Worlds.

Sound Mixing: King Kong.

(There should be a contest for the best explanation in 25 words or less of what's the difference between the previous two categories.)

Visual Effects: War Of The Worlds.

Adapted Screenplay: A History Of Violence.

Original Screenplay: The Squid And The Whale.

Best Picture: Crash. (As usual, faute de mieux.)

Greetings from Nicaragua

Arrived in Managua last night and the sun is shining brightly and the temperatures are mild this morning. We will be here one week. Going to the town of Esteli.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A league of Ron Howard impersonators

Although the last episode of Arrested Development (four strung together for a two hour finale) felt a bit slap-dashy, kudos for a job well done. Who else but Opie could make incest and breaking character so repeatedly funny? (Plus, I could be Ron Howard's twin.)

LAGuy adds: I'm acquainted with the two main producers, Mitch and Jim, and they have a lot to be proud of. The show started great and maintained its excellence till the end. (Mitch even had a fine Emmy speech: Thanks for the award, now let's start watching the show.) Even if AD is not picked up anywhere, they created a three-season classic. Not only would I buy the DVD, I'd like a full CD of Hung Jury.

PS. Ron Howard's twin? Maybe Clint Howard's. It's likely I'll meet you in a week, ColumbusGuy, so I'll have to see if you've changed.

No, thank you

So I'm reading along a Salon article about why Steve Martin isn't funny when I hit this:

Want to read the rest of this article and all of Salon for FREE?
Just watch a brief advertisement to get a FREE Site Pass for today. There's no registration required.


Well, you know, your chances of getting me to register were nil. Now you want me to watch an ad instead? That would be less than nil.

More Idol Chatter

Maybe it's just me, but I'm sensing something about the judges on American Idol that I don't like. They've been doing the job for so long, and the show is such a huge hit, that I sense a certain arrogance. Not just from Simon--we expect that from him. Randy and Paula, too.

They're starting to act as if they deserve to be there. As if they're more qualified than anyone else to do their jobs. Sometimes they almost seem on the verge of grumbling about how tiresome it all is.

The truth is, all of them, even Simon, should thank their lucky stars every day. Singing well takes talent, but judging singers--there are literally million of people who could do as good a job, perhaps better. The show has made the three rich(er) and famous. If they start getting complacent, I say fire 'em.

There's one guy on the show who seems to get it. Ryan Seacrest. Of course, he saw up close what happened to Dunkleman.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Sleaze on parade

So "Brownie" is testifying to Susan Collins. (Geez, that's enough to stimulate the gag reflex all by itself.)

Let's stipulate a few things. One, we're relying on a CNN report, which is tantamount to not knowing anything at all.

Two, Brown was scapegoated, no question whatever. Three, folding FEMA into "homeland security" (more gag) was very likely a stupid thing to do; so, for that matter, was creating "homeland security" in the first place. Four, Collins and her colleagues are a bunch of showboaters who know less than Brown.

Nonetheless. Brown's stance contributes to the argument that he's an incompetent boob. His attorney's letter this week asking the White House about executive privilege was pretty obvious blackmail, certainly when it was disclosed publicly.

And you don't get to say, "I feel abandoned." You've pretty much got to suck it up, identify failures, identify any mistakes you made, identify the hypocrisy of the pompous boobs questioning you (and yet you have to do it politely and lightly).

What you don't get to do is just point fingers at every bureaucrat you see, but not yourself. Nor does a privileged communication become non-privileged when you lose your job.

Heck, I wouldn't let Brownie claim executive privilege either. He's not competent enough to do it, and he'd just use it as a press release.

Yecch. Sleaze all around.

Wait'll they start canning air

Bottling water taxes the ecosystem? Somehow, this offends my intuitive sense of material balance. Unless polyethylene is causing our bladders to grow so large as to rival the capacitance of the water-laden ecosystem, or irreversibly separating the hydrogen and oxygen, I don't see how this is possible.

The Democrats' gay marriage?

In 2004 the Massachusetts high court decided it was more moral than everyone else and attempted to compel legalized gay marriage.

The intermediate result was a backlash that caused something like a dozen states, including Ohio, to adopt "defense of marriage" amendments. It also raised conservative churches to a higher prominence in elections, which did the Democrats no favors. It's quite likely that this made the difference in Ohio, and thus made Bush president instead of Kerry. None of this bodes well for the Democrats.

Now the South Dakota House of Representatives has passed a bill to ban abortion. Now the issue will go to the senate.

Regardless of your position on abortion, you should hope it dies there (no pun intended, partisan or otherwise).

If you're pro-abortion, your fear is the same as the bill's proponent's hope, that the supremes will toss out Roe. You probably don't want that chance.

If you're pro-life, your hopes might be the same. But there are several problems here. One is strategic: Bush might get a chance to name another justice. Chances are that will make the court more conservative than it is on this issue, which increases the odds of a favorable outcome, so far as you are concerned. Better to challenge when you're stronger, and better to get another soldier on your side before you rile the opponents even more than they'll be riled already.

Second, it's a bit unseemly for the people you're counting on, Roberts and Alito. One would hope that they'll analyze the issues legitimately and come out according to principle. But this is trickier than it sounds. Even pro-lifers should acknowledge there's a huge body of law and judges that consider the pro-abortion decision to be a respectable one. By appearing too greedy and pushy, pro-lifers run the risk of pushing Roberts and Alito to the opposite position. And even if it doesn't, it puts them in an awkward position.

Third, this could be a tricky election for the Republicans. Unless the supreme court is able to reject a petition for cert before the election, this thing will be huge news all the way to election day if the bill becomes law. It'll raise opposition to Republicans and undermine Republican positions, which is not what the pro-lifers want. It'll be the Democrats' gay marriage.

Critic's Choice

When a critic sees a production of Hamlet he doesn't like, he's smart enough to know he can't blame the author. But when a play isn't quite a classic, the critic figures it's fair game.

This is tricky. Shouldn't a critic as least ask "this has been a hit before, is it the production's fault?"

I wrote about this earlier when the mostly negative views came out for the Nathan Lane-Matthew Broderick production of The Odd Couple. Some of the reviewers took on the play, which I think is one of the funniest ever written. If it isn't working, couldn't it be the production? For that matter, couldn't it be that the play and characters are so famous that some of the laughter is lost due to familiarity?

It seems the same problem might be happening with the not-so-well reviewed production of Once In A Lifetime that just opened in London. This comedy, about sound coming to Hollywood, was the hit that made the team of Kaufman and Hart back in 1930, and has had quite a few revivals since. I've seen several myself, and some were pretty funny. In other words, the play still holds up. If it has any problem, it's not that it's dated so much as the plot and characters have become templates for numerous other shows that mocked the movies. If you've never seen the play before, it might still feel familiar.

Which brings me to the review in The Hollywood Reporter. The critic is quite condescending, as if it's not worth reviving the play (even though successful productions have been done in both London and New York in the last 30 years). In fact, the critic makes the less-than-worthless suggestion the play might work if only it were a musical.

But the silliest statement comes near the end: "Tim McMullan, as a stereotypical German director [just curious--how many German film director characters had people seen before 1930?], and Jonathan McGuinness, as an underworked screenwriter, do well to add spark to dull characters." Oh really? I can't comment on how good the actors are, but these characters, especially the latter (Lawrence Vail, perhaps the best role in the play) have been making audiences laugh for over three-quarters of a century. But oh, I forgot, you're a critic, you know better. Even though countless actors have gotten huge laughs with the same lines and situations, the parts aren't funny so it must be the actors doing something with nothing.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Incitement

I was driving in my car earlier when I caught my old pal Geoff Stone talking about the First Amendment on NPR. I didn't catch the whole thing, but it seemed to be regarding incitement. Not the incitement of a potentially offensive cartoon, but of political or religious leaders telling their followers to be violent.

Stone explained the U. S. understanding of freedom of speech. The standard for incitement is one's language must be very directly related to any crimes caused--the standard example is telling a heated mob to string someone up, and they immediately go out and do it.

Not that it was always this way (Stone went on). During World War One, people could be convicted of speaking out against the war. The idea, simply enough, was that the freedom of speech clause (rarely used up to that point in our history) didn't allow you to say things that could hurt morale and make people less likely to fight. Eventually a new understanding developed that saw this approach as incompatible with a robust national debate envisioned under the First Amendment.

Later, during the cold war, many Communists did, in fact, advocate the violent overthrow of our government. After many arrests, it became clear these people were being prosecuted not because they represented any true threat--that was the pretext--but because what they were saying was so odious.

Thus, we've developed a Frst Amendment law where incitement is such a high standard to meet, even Al Sharpton roams about freely.

Most other countries, even in the West, have looser standards. What I didn't hear from Stone was whether these other standards might, or could, make sense. And whether, if we saw enough "leaders" successfully counseling violence, we should change our understanding of the First Amendment yet again. If we shouldn't (and I expect Stone thinks we shouldn't--as do I), how would he argue against change before the Supreme Court, beyond merely stating precedent?

The Grammys

Yawn. U2?

Characters As Plot Devices

A good screenplay covers its tracks. Characters are often plot devices, thrown in to make things tough for the protagonist. The trick is to make them live and breathe, rather than merely exist as a plot function.

Rounders was not a hit. This is due to bad timing. It's a smart film about the world of underground poker that made the mistake of coming out in 1998. If it were released today, there'd be a huge crowd to see it, what with all the interest in poker, particularly Texas Hold 'Em.

Okay, maybe there's another reason it flopped--it turns the basic Hollywood formula on its head. Normally, the hero turns his back on boxing, or gambling, or whatever, and returns to his girlfriend and an honest job. In Rounders, our hero, Mike McDermott (Matt Damon), is a great poker player who loses all his money on one disastrous hand. He swears to stay on the straight and narrow. From that point on, the story is how he gets back in the world of poker, ultimately dropping out of law school and dumping his girlfriend--and we're expected to be on his side.

Anyway, there are two classic supporting characters who amount to plot devices. The screenplay has varying success at hiding this. Edward Norton--almost a co-lead--plays Mike's best friend, Worm. He turns out to be the classic screwed-up best friend who moves the plot along by getting the lead in trouble. The trick with this character is to have a believable bond with the lead in the first place, and to motivate his actions properly so that we don't wonder why the protagonist doesn't abandon him.

On the first question, the screenplay does a good job. Worm did Mike a big favor by gong to jail and not informing on him, so Mike owes him a lot. On the second question, the screenplay wavers a bit. Worm is such a jerk from square one, and is shown to be uncontrollable in almost every scene, that it gets harder and harder to believe Mike is not only putting up with him, but putting himself on the line.

Much worse, if a much smaller part, is Mike's girlfriend Jo. I don't blame Gretchen Mol for taking the part. There aren't many great parts out there for women. But she's stuck playing the wet blanket. Her only purpose is to lecture Mike. The film may need that voice, but hectoring does not a character make. Her scenes just become placeholders while we wait for Mike to get back to poker, where the fun is.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Brilliant Idea

I have a simple solution to the whole surveillance question. Let's have the Congress pass a law making it illegal. They can even have a big ceremony and everything. And then, once the terrorists figure they're safe again, let's still listen in on their conversations but not leak it to the press this time.

(This follows my solution to drilling at Anwar that satisfies everyone: do it but don't tell anybody.)

Can you google this?


If we're going to have the theology, we may as well have the cartoon:

This thing was ridiculously hard to find. You'd think everyone who wrote about it would link it, but no.

Cartoon Theology

Regarding the recent incendiary Mohammed cartoons.

1. Mohammed has been depicted by Muslims historically and without complaint. Obviously these were not mocking depictions, but it is oversimplistic to say that NO depiction of Mohammed is acceptable.

2. Freedom of expression does go along with the idea that we should not try to offend others. A right is a moral power which is not indifferent to truth and falsehood or justice and injustice. It is likely however that we WILL offend others with our beliefs if they are divergent enough from theirs. So, there is an emotional and intellectual component to deal with here. Freedom of expression is supposed to allow everyone to bring their ideas out, so that the best ideas win. Along with that should be respect for the other, even if we strongly disagree with their ideas, or the exchange will get bogged down in the emotional and (importantly) because there is a chance that our own ideas are incorrect. First principle: read sentence #1 of this para.

3.The Vatican statement says the above imprecisely. The article quotes the first and worst sentence, which would better read if the word intentionally were added. To paraphrase the right to free expression does not mean we should intentionally offend others feelings. It should have been said that free expression often WILL lead to unintentional offense and that in a free exchange it is best to give the other party the benefit of the doubt that they are not trying to offend.


((Actual text of the Vatican statement.
1. The right to freedom of thought and expression, sanctioned by the Declaration of the Rights of Man, cannot imply the right to offend the religious sentiment of believers. This principle applies obviously for any religion. 2. In addition, coexistence calls for a climate of mutual respect to favor peace among men and nations. Moreover, these forms of exasperated criticism or derision of others manifest a lack of human sensitivity and may constitute in some cases an inadmissible provocation. A reading of history shows that wounds that exist in the life of peoples are not cured this way. 3. However, it must be said immediately that the offenses caused by an individual or an organ of the press cannot be imputed to the public institutions of the corresponding country, whose authorities might and should intervene eventually according to the principles of national legislation. Therefore, violent actions of protest are equally deplorable. Reaction in the face of offense cannot fail the true spirit of all religion. Real or verbal intolerance, no matter where it comes from, as action or reaction, is always a serious threat to peace.))

4. Even atheists can take offense at free expression of ideas and try to suppress same. As evidenced by many who would silence the high school student who wants to give thanks to God at his commencement etc.

5. So, was the cartoonist wrong? I don't think so. He put forward a common idea that many people have of a connection between terrorists and Mohammed. Not having read any comments he may have made about this, it is reasonable to conclude that he did not mean to offend Muslims, but rather to challenge them. If he WAS trying to merely piss off Muslims, then I do think he was wrong. The artist/author/cartoonist should to the extent possible not seek to simply offend others, because that is not respectful to the free exchange of ideas, as described above. (Besides which it is not very productive.) It is perhaps offensive to a Christian to be challenged by an atheist, but the atheist might feel strongly that he is doing the Christian a favor in warning him of his self delusion. Similarly the Christian may feel he is doing the atheist a favor by warning him of the dangers of hell. Accompanying the statements that might offend, there is nothing contradictory in adding that they are not meant to offend. Cartoons are by their nature simplifications. This can provide clarity, but often it can oversimplify.

6. Augustine's quote that "In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, in all things charity" is harder to apply when there are so many things in which the Muslim world and the West differ. It is fair to say that we often disagree profoundly on the essentials. But the last line still holds.

Annan is 'talk without thought'

Annan: Target killing is 'execution without trial'

Powerwords

Liberalism is the philosophy of the ill-informed; the intemperate; the marginal.

That's A Lot Of Stairs

It's always fascinates me what we retain from old movies. An image, a line, maybe a scene. (I suppose it's the same for real life, except we can't re-live old experiences so it's hard to compare.)

I watched The Lavender Hill Mob for the first time in almost 20 years. I thought it still held up. Before I watched it, there were only a few things that truly stuck with me. I remembered Alec Guiness's delightful performance, in general. I remembered, for some reason, the framing device, where an apparently prosperous Guinness narrates the tale, only the be arrested at the end. (Sorry, I don't give spoiler alerts for films over 50 years old. Besides, if you know Ealing Studio comedies, like Kind Hearts And Coronets or The Ladykillers, you know crime does not pay.)
But what I remembered best was Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway running down the spiral staircase of the Eiffel Tower. I can see why I remembered. It's actually pretty spectacular (and funny), even if it is a process shot.

Answering A Question With A Question

I was gonna post on the coverage of the budget, which is the lead story in the majors. While they report the numbers, they rarely give the context which allows you to understand the numbers.

But I started getting drowsy, so instead let me note a letter to The NYT Magazine. They did a piece on philosopher Daniel Dennett (who, by the way, is not only an interesting thinker, but a fun guy). Dennett, like most philosophers out there today (but not most people), doesn't believe there's any magical component to life--that we are a collection of atoms or cells that, added up, constitute life.

The Times got your classical thinks-it's-clever response in a letter. The writer asks: "Can [Dennett] really explain the beauty of Bach's music as merely the right combination of sound waves tickling his eardrums?" I can only reply that there may be different levels at which the question can be approached, but if you think it can be explained in any way that doesn't ultimately break down into a combination of sound waves tickling the eardrums, I'd like to hear about it.

There was also a silly letter about abortion, but one controversy at a time is enough.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Wellstone redux

Well, Jimmy Carter may be the most petty man in America, but at least he isn't the sleaziest.

King George and Prince Mike

LAGuy notes that Cryin' George Voinovich found out Bolton has something with which George is unfamiliar: a brain, in addition to principles.

But apparently LAGuy didn't finish the article, if the thinks George has stars in his eyes. Apparently there simply wasn't any space on the New York Times front page, so George is holding his fire: 'While he told reporters Bolton still needed "to be watched," Voinovich added, "at this stage of the game I am pleased with the progress that is being made here and the team that he has gathered together here."'

hMM. Glad you're pleased, George. That's what it's about, and your grandchildren, of course. (Guess he's going to have to go talk to some Democrats, since somehow he thought they had presented credible information against Bolton in the first place. Maybe George's problem is he simply listens to whoever spoke last.)

Meanwhile, Rove is apparently cracking the whip on the Senate Judiciary committee, saying hold the fort, boys. Now, who's on the Senate Judiciary committe, who also likes New York Times front page stories talking about his "integrity," and who's running for reelection? Oh, that's right! Conservative-for-a-year Mike DeWine (?-Ohio).

Not clear on the concept MCMXXVI

"He said the plan was to turn the tables on the assertion that newspapers can print offensive material in the name of freedom of expression."

Here at PajamaGuy, we're not sure what the "plan" is, but we know what the effect is: The idiots will show themselves all by themselves.

Deserted Island

Edward Jay Epstein writes on how the film industry really works (hint: it's all about money) for Slate. Sometimes the dollar signs in his eyes make him miss the big picture, but he can also be a useful corrective.

There are a lot of people who claim Hollywood has forgotten how to make films the public wants to see, but Epstein helps show how there's only so much you can do with shrinking audience and climbing costs.

One big question is originality. It's lack is what movie critics bemoan, but too much "originality" is dangerous, according to Epstein.

Case in point, The Island (2005). This was a big-budget film ($122.5 million) and, therefore, expected to make big money. Smaller films may have a chance to find their audience, but big films must open big or they're thrown on the scrap heap.

Under such conditions, it's understandable why a studio wants to play it safe. You won't get a large opening weekend if the audience isn't aware of your film. What helps awareness? A well-known property (comics, TV, videogame, books), a sequel to a hit, a big star and, perhaps, a major director. Even then, the studio must spend tens of millions on promotion to raise awareness.

The Island had an intriguing (if confusing) science fiction premise (clones raised for their organs to be harvested escape into the real world), but was not based on a famous property. Nor were its stars--though respected--the kind who would "open" a major film. It had a hot director, Michael Bay, but not necessarily a saleable one. So the film had to count on its marketing to raise awareness. It failed. It got weak reviews and flopped immediately.

In truth, the film wasn't that bad. It just had nothing going for it. Thus, Hollywood would rather play it safe than try to be original, especially when a major studio film costs so much.

But...

There are dangers in playing it safe, as well. Audiences will tire of the sameness. A lot of hits come from unexpected areas. Look at all the billions George Lucas (and others) have made on the Star Wars films. Sure, that's a lot of sequels, but it all started with one filmmaker who wanted to try something a little different (at the time) and had trouble getting the financing. Look at something as relatively inncoent as Pirates Of The Caribbean. Yes, it was based on a property Disney owned--a ride--but this was hardly a Harry Potter. In fact, at the time, pirate films were considered death at the box office. And what's the biggest hit of the modern age? Titanic, a film without huge stars based on an old event that wasn't precisely on anyone's mind at the time.

All sorts of movies, unheralded when going into production, became surprise hits: The Matrix, There's Something About Mary, Elf, America Pie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Independence Day, Animal House, Meet The Parents, Toy Story, Wedding Crashers, Men In Black, The Sixth Sense, Ghost, Back To The Future, Austin Powers and many others. Hollywood understandably wants to play it safe. But part of playing it safe means occasionally taking a chance.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Brokeback Bolton

Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio), who helped stall John Bolton's appointment as UN Ambassador, now thinks he made a mistake. Apparently, the two have made up and now talk on the phone regularly like a couple of schoolgirls.

I'd watch it, though. Voinovich is a slave to his emotions, and what goes up may just come down.

All the news that fits

Is it really true the New York Times did 1600 words on Pellicano and failed to mention the Clintons? Hee-hee. Hee-hee.

It's smokin' hole in the ground journalism at its best. Like Bill himself, the Times apparently forgets that, you know, you can go back and look.

The Man Who Knows Everything

When I read the Sunday LA Times, the first thing I check out is Parade magazine, in particular, Walter Scott's Personality Parade. People ask the oddest questions, but Walter's always ready with an answer.

First question this week, who are the hottest starlets under 30? While I can't argue with the answers, the photos of Keira Knightley, Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams are the ugliest I've ever seen.

The next question is about Grammy nominee Rick Moranis, essentially asking who he is. Here's the entire summation: "Moranis, 52, former DJ and standup comic in Canada, has appeared in several films, including Honey, I Shrunk The Kids." That's it. Leaving out his work on SCTV, which he's primarily known for, is like reviewing Paul McCartney's career without mentioning The Beatles.

A later question is about the Steve Martin Pink Panther. The reader has been hearing about it for so long she wants to know if it's in trouble. Oh no, Walter replies. The film's distributor was sold, explaining the delay. That's certainly news in Hollywood, where it's been widely understood for about a year now that the movie is a disaster. That it's opening in February, and not the summer, suggests the distributor knows it, too. I guess the mystery will be cleared up soon enough.

Finally, there's a question asking how Naomi Watts feels about no Golden Globe nomination for King Kong. As it turns out, Walter can read minds: "[She] was so hurt by the snub she stayed away from the awards ceremony." I suppose that's possible, though it seems to me she may have stayed away because--oh, I don't know--neither she nor her film were nominated.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Making dead men

Well, that has to be the best Superbowl halftime show in 20 years, maybe in 40. Good for the Stones.

I didn't catch the lyrics, though. I guess I'm getting old. I thought Mick was singing, "You make a dead man." Is this some sort of nod to horror movies?

Meanwhile, with Pittsburgh on the verge of putting the game out of reach, Seattle instead makes the longest interception return in Superbowl history, though not a scoring one, and goes on to make it a four point game.

Then everybody goes conservative, trying to decide who can best give the game away by being afraid to play. No entiendo.

(Prince Symbol)

I've never been the biggest fan of Prince, and I haven't been keeping up on him lately, but I must admit, he was rocking up a storm on SNL last night.

On the same episode, Fred Armisen did his well-known impression of Prince. I expected the real Prince to join in, and I bet Fred did, too. I guess they found out Prince don't play that.

Last Chance

Just reminding you, on this Super Bowl Sunday, that this is also the last day you can scroll down, all the way down, and see my "Film Year In Review--2005."

It will be available in the archives after this, of course (January 30, 2006), but it won't be available on the page when you call up Pajama Guy.

You Mock Me

A lot of people are saying, even as they deplore the violence Muslims are committing in response to drawings of Mohammed (throat-clearing over), that religious sensitivities should not be offended or mocked. (For one of many examples, check out the Vatican's statement.) This is just wrong.

If you are to have any reasonable system of freedom of speech (we're not talking about the First Amendment here, but first principles) people must be allowed to speak freely and openly, and debate will and should be robust at times. Sometimes it will even be excessive--though people will disagree on the standard. Furthermore, people don't just discuss things in a logical manner--that's the exception--nor do we want them to. There is irony, overstatement, satire, parody, burlesque, etc. These can be effective means of communicating, of getting to people in ways other methods don't. (Even in everyday argument there's sarcasm. Can you imagine banning sarcasm?)

In other word, freedom to speak must include freedom to mock.

Religious beliefs, as dear as they may be to those who hold them, are entitled to no more protection than any other human beliefs. Religious beliefs are human activity, just as open to disagreement, even hatred, as any others. To place them above other beliefs is to successfully destroy a wide swath of freedom. It also 1) sets a precedent to separate other sensitivities outside the rough and tumble of public debate, 2) allows people to hide weak or ugly beliefs behind a protective wall and 3) puts non-religious people at a disadvantage (or is it advantage?).

(If anything, since religious beliefs tend to be unproved and often mutually exclusive, it's actually easier to imagine reasons to not criticize someone for believing a well-proved scientific or historical proposition, or to not make fun of someone for her sex, race or ethnicity.)

I'm not saying it's good to be offensive. I'm not saying one shouldn't take into account others' sensitivities. I'm just saying religion should be no more protected, legally, in public debate than anything else.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Career Move

Chavez says Bush is worse than Hitler. Hmm. Sounds like he may be planning to run for a spot in the House as a Democrat.

Harder than it looks? No, it looks pretty hard

So we watched Thumbsucker last night. What a delight. No stupid writing anywhere; how did that happen? What I really want to know, though, LAGuy, is however did you miss that one?

LAGuy explains: I kept confusing it with Chumscrubber.

Columbus Guy says: Wow. That is confusing. I think at one time they were both called "Untitled Arie Posin Project."

Sickening

I was going to write something about the Mohammed controversy, but I've found the response of many in the West against violence and threats of violence so craven that I'd just as soon leave it alone for a while. Maybe I'll come back to it when the fallout is clearer and I'm less annoyed.

Friday, February 03, 2006

I was told there would be no math

I've been reading several papers about the House of Representatives effort to "slow the rate of growth in entitlement programs," and I've been quite impressed. As anyone who pays attention knows, there are never budget cuts in anything. Programs are always larger in absolute terms from one year to the next. But politicians like to project, say, a 10 percent rate of growth,a nd then when they pass a 9.5 percent rate of growth, the call it, and the newspapers report it as, a five percent "cut," by heartless Republicans, of course.

Travesty.

But, finally, ineducable reporters got educated, it seems, and reported it right.

Oh, except for the New York Times: "House approves budget cutbacks of $39.5 billion," subhead, "Social Welfare trims stir GOP unease."

Ah, yes, boys, you're trajectory is what we in the business call "a smoking hole in the ground."

Moving

So we spent the night and day in Bloomington so ColumbusDaughter could look at the dance program. We stayed in the Indiana Memorial Union, in a suite no less, due to a fortuitous upgrade. Quite nice. I've always wanted to do that, stay in one of those campus places.

So there's not much for ColumbusGuy to do in those situations except be where he's told when, so during the down time I bought a slew of newspapers, including McPaper. Perused the review of "Three burials of Melquiades Estrada," a Tommy Lee Jones movie. The accompanying photo is two cowboys sittin' in the beautiful wilds, and, well, you know what that's gonna get ya thinkin' about.

But of course, we readers are amateurs, and the professionals wouldn't fall prey to such obvious sloppiness. And I'm reading the review, by one Claudia Puig, and, okay, it's a review like any other, in this case positive, got me thinkin' I might go see it, and then I hit the close:

"Like Brokeback Mountain, another moving Western about the bond between a pair of ranch hands, this film is emotional in a captivating but understated way. It eschews easy sentimentality and provides viewers with a bracingly honest exploration of human relationships."

Yeah, nothing gratuitous there, no sir. Just bracingly honest. C'mon, Caludia, what I really want to know is, is there a little mano a mano, you know what I mean? [Oh my God . . . I think it moved.]

LAGuy wonders: "Mano a mano"? Why would you care if there's any "hand to hand" combat?

Super Duper

The Super Bowl tends to be an over-hyped, under-exciting event. Everyone knows the best part is the commericials. But this year is different. This year, I can't even muster up a rooting interest for either team.

I'll be at the party, but if it weren't for the pool, I'd just as soon skip it. I guess it'll be a chance for me to catch up on Moby-Dick, which we're reading in our book group.

Still, a shout out to all my friends in Detroit. Shine up the place for a weekend, okay?

Bucky Bawls

Guess who didn't like George W. Bush's State Of The Union Address? Patrick J. Buchanan. That means Bush must be doing something right.

Thanks Again

Even before Friday starts, this has been by far the biggest-volume week we've ever had at Pajama Guy. Thanks to all the people who stopped by, including those who followed the link at dynamist.com and The M Zone. Please keep dropping in, and tell your friends, too. And don't be shy about leaving comments.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A Few Good Quotes (or, "Oscars! Oscars! We've got your Oscars!")

For those who *can* handle the truth:

"There was only one unforgettable moment, and that was in a cutaway shot, of Hillary Clinton, who simply must do something about her face."

"Hey, Academy, what are you worried about: that you’ll turn gay or, worse, get a stiffie by just the hint of hunk-on-hunk action?"

"Bush's softer rhetoric can be stiffened as this year moves toward the serious business of midterm elections."

Okay, that last one's kind of flaccid, but I thought it had a nice echo.

LAGuy asks: What is this filth you've introduced to Pajama Guy? Next thing you know, there'll be dirty puns about Majority Leader Boehner.

Columbus Guy says: It's Bay-ner, you perv.

Is it due?

So this commentator believes McCain's filibuster deal worked out great for the Pubbies and that conservatives owe McCain an apology. Here at PajamaGuy, we concluded at the time it was a win for the Dems.

Based on appearances, it's hard to imagine conservatives having done better for the supremes than Roberts and Alito. There was that one woman out of California, I think she was black, I can't remember her name, who might have been preferable, but in the world of judging getting your second and third choices instead of your first is not only generally acceptable, it's hard to kvetch about.

Of course, appearances can easily be wrong, and there's that gol' durn' life appointment thing. When these guys start signing on to Souter's federalism opinions we can all go hang ourselves (or get Oregon to do it for us).

But the question is, is the commentator correct, do conservatives owe McCain an apology? Put another way, was PajamaGuy (the blog) wrong?

The answers are no and no. Just because you lose a battle doesn't mean later events cease to happen or that you stop fighting. The filibuster gang of 14 did turn out to help Republicans, but so did the incompetence of the Dems, the great competence of the judges, and of course the Reagan Revolution that brought conservatism out of the closet and allowed it to flourish. McCain didn't end up destroying the Republic, and who knows, blowing up the filibuster may have had later bad consequences.

Frankly, the more interesting question is Specter. That's where I expected the knife, and it didn't come. Still might, but you've got to give the man credit so far.

A Bit More On The Oscars

One thing I didn't note yesterday. Woody Allen gets yet another nomination--Best Screenplay. This is his 21st nomination: 14 for writing, six for directing and one for acting. (Note there are twice as many nominations available for writing as directing.) If he does anything the Academy considers halfway acceptable, they nominate him out of reflex.

In fact, Woody famously snubs the Academy, preferring to stay home and play his clarinet. It's almost as if this makes the Academy only respect him more. He must be a real artist if awards mean nothing.

Another automatic nomination is John Williams, who, once again, is competing against himself in the Best Score category, for both Munich and Memoirs Of A Geisha. But it's hard to complain with a first class talent who usually delivers.

Letter Logic

A bunch of anti-War letters in the LA Times, as usual, but one caught my eye. The writer is bothered that too many Americans support the War in Iraq, and would support action in Iran.

Thus: "I would remind them of the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1989 after a 10-year war in Afghanistan..."

What point does this woman, who took time out of her day to write this, possibly think she's making? First, the US already took Afghanistan, "graveyard of empires," in a few weeks (though not before there were numerous warnings about a quagmire). We took Iraq just as quickly, and the low level of insurgency since (as bad as it is) could go on for a half century before we start seeing the costs, in money and lives, that we paid in Vietnam or Korea (much less see our nation disintegrate).

Even better, why does she suppose the Soviets didn't take Afghanistan? Does she think the mujahideen were too tough? Sure, for the first few years, the Russians had trouble in the tricky terrain (unlike us), but they were powerful enough, and ruthless enough, that the tide eventually turned and the Soviet Empire was once more on the march.

It was the U.S. entering on the side of Afghanistan that squashed the Soviet's hope for victory. So thanks, lady, for reminding us of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. If we could pull that off, what we're trying today is a piece of cake.

Idol Notes

America Idol is almost done with its early episodes where they get rid of the worst singers. The ratings are high, but it's my least favorite part of the show. I actually watch to hear good singing, plus I feel sorry for all the candidates who finally have to learn they stink.

Yet, in some ways, the first section of the show is the most mercifcul. Those who don't make it to the next stage learn what they need to know. Almost all who get to go to Hollywood won't make it, but their hopes are being raised only to be crushed.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

did you see this?

Did anyone see this editorial from the SanFrancisco Bay Guardian?

The call for impeachment is not what struck me. That is now par for the course. It was this:
As Steven T. Jones reported last week, Rep. Nancy Pelosi was recently in San Francisco for a town hall meeting, and when the question of impeachment came up, she defied her constituents. She said she would not support an impeachment inquiry and urged activists to turn their attention elsewhere.
If that happens, of course, the issue will die – and the Democratic party will be more likely to take another shellacking at the polls in November. It's been more than 30 years since there's been such a dramatic opportunity for progressives to change the direction of national politics in the middle of a presidential term.


So as I now understand it, when the Democrats get shellacked in November, it will be because they did NOT file impeachment articles against Bush. I think this is another example of 'the problem is we are not being angry/tough enough'.

Oscar Thoughts

I used to make book on the Oscars. I'd set up the odds and put my money where my mouth is. I usually won.

And when I say I set the odds, I don't mean those silly Vegas odds where they throw a bunch of nonsensical number at you. My odds added up. If I said someone was even money, that meant the other four nominees equaled 50% as well.

It's no fun any more. There are so many awards given out these day, especially Guild awards, that if you're paying any attention, you pretty much know who the favorites are.

So this year's nominations were just announced with essentially no surprises. Munich (and not Walk The Line or Syriana) for best picture was a bit of a shock, but that's about it. Some bad choices, perhaps, but no truly surprising omissions.

There'll be some politicking within the Academy now, but the favorites are clear. (If you don't know them yet, trust me.) Best Picture: Brokeback Mountain. Best Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman. Best Actress: Reese Witherspoon. Best Supporting Actor: Paul Giamatti. Best Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz. Best Director: Ang Lee. No guarantee they'll all win, but this is the way to go in the office pool (at present).

Some--on both the Right and Left--are making a big deal about how political the films are, but it seems to me that Academy is just playing the hand they were dealt. Not everyone loves Brokeback Mountain, but it's clicking pretty well with a sizable number--ignoring it would be the political move. If Memoirs Of A Geisha or King Kong were better, they'd be up there, too.

One thing's hard to miss--since they didn't nominate Walk The Line for Best Picture, none of the nominees are huge hits. Some did quite well, especially considering their small budgets, but there are no Titanics, or even Chicagos. If nothing else, this doesn't bode well for the size of the Oscar's TV audience.

George Clooney has to be pleased. He got four (!) nominations. Best Supporting Actor (gaining weight for a role always helps), Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Picture (a producer's award). The nominations are his award, since he'll be going home empty-handed. I think Clooney has talent, but if you read my yearly wrap up, you may guess I don't even think he deserves the nominations.

Most interesting nomination? As often happens, it's in Best Song. Pretty lousy year for songs, as there are only three nominated (though, mercifully, this means the Oscar show will go faster). But what's that there? Why, "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp" from Hustle & Flow. You know what I'll be rooting for come March 5.

Two Lives

Wendy Wasserstein died yesterday. She was only 55 and it wasn't widely know she was ailing.

She was a talented playwright with a popular touch--a rarity. Her stuff was quite funny--also rare. Most of her work dealt with the specific problems she and her friends were facing. Her most popular work, and her best, The Heidi Chronicles, follows the baby boomer generation from its teens to the edge of 40.

Wasserstein's stuff was always highly contemporary. It'll be interesting to see how it plays when the X or Y Generation turns 40--will they see themselves as well, or will it seem dated?

I once thought I saw Wasserstein at a party. I wanted to tell her how much I enjoyed her work, but she seemed busy talking to friends, so I stayed away. I guess the lesson is to be a noodnik.

Nam June Paik also died yesterday. He was the first and best-known video artist. Museum art, not MTV art--and he goes way back before MTV. He was installing his video art, often using numerous screens at once, way back in the early 60s.

I don't know if the world needs more than one video artist, but he got there first, and sometimes, that's what counts.

Basic Physics

Sometimes I'll pick up my dinner at Whole Foods Market. One things annoys me, though. At the cashier, I'll usually have two plastic containers, one for the salad, one for the hot food. Invariably, they put the salad container on top in my bag.

Why? Because I'll be eating it first? Because salad is "lighter"?

Don't they realize heat rises and cold sinks? They don't know how long my drive back home is--by the time I'm there, both containers might be the same temperature.

Maybe I should tell them how to pack it, but it just seems obnoxious--it's only two containers. So instead, I change it in the car, tossing the well-placed food all around.

There must be some solution. Or am I making too much of this? I know, I'll move closer to the market!

Columbus Guy says: Here's what you do: 1) Identify the checker-outer bagger who is most environmentally sensitive. 2) Identify which bag material to which they have the strongest environmental objections, paper or plastic? 3) Ask for two of those bags.

(BTW, for a guy who's snarky about basic physics, you're awfully quick to discount something that I'll bet baggers understand, even if some of them can't tell you why: If you put the heavy stuff on top, you tend to get a lot of spilled bags and unhappy customers. Not to mention that there's probably a strong correlation between light stuff and soft, crushable stuff that tends to do better on top. Comparing all those "rules" to heat transfer leaves heat transfer on the low end of the order.)

LAGuy ripostes: I'm quite familiar with advanced bagging techniques. They don't apply here. Why do you think I put "lighter" in quotation marks?

1) Before bagging, the cashier weighs each container, and they tend to weigh about the same. 2) I'm only buying these two containers. I doubt they even come up to the halfway point, so issues of stability hardly come into play. 3) The containers prevent any crushing.

I'd tell ColumbusGuy to go back to his worries that Hillary's radical moves will alienate voters (see how Jesse answered you below) except, alas, I fear engineering is his strong point.


Columbus Guy says: Ah, LAGuy, you're going to hurt my feelings. I feel like such an idiot. Here I'm thinking these poor baggers are developing their habits over dozens or hundreds of customers a day, hundreds or thousands a week, and thousands and thousands over the course of a short time indeed. But when YOU come along, all that goes out the window, because, gosh, you've only got two containers--and they weigh about the same!

Tell you what I'll do, though. Tell me the containers are not transparent, so they baggers don't know what's in them, and I'll admit you've got somethin' mysterious goin' on here.

BTW, are "we" cruising along at 100 hits a day here? I say you should write more Oscar stuff.

web page hit counter