Wednesday, May 31, 2006

NostALgia

Al Gore is much in the news, with his all-but-won-the-Oscar documentary An Inconvenient Truth. He says he will not run in 2008 and I'll take him at his word. (That was a joke, son.)

Apparently, Gore now feels he should have been more passionate in the 2000 election. With the results so close, I suppose it's natural to second guess. My guess, however, is he got about as many votes as he was gonna get.

After all, he did get more votes than his predecessor, and more votes than his opponent. Though Gore had a good economy to run on, Clinton had turned off a lot of people, and the public wanted a change. Also, he (or some Democrats somewhere) timed the release of the Bush DUI story right before the election, so it was fresh on everyone's mind. This hit at Bush's greatest weakness--he was untested on a national level, so people weren't sure if he was personally up to the job. I'm guessing this move alone gave Gore more than a million net votes.

If he had been more passionate, Bush probably would have been able to beat him over the head with it. His passion is global warming, and I can see the ads now--"if Gore is elected, gas prices will rise so high they'll be" as big as they actually are now. Gore would have lost Michigan right there. He also would have lost all those retirees in Miami on fixed incomes who mistakenly voted for Buchanan.

"For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been!'." All the more reason not to fool yourself.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Belated kudos

Cheers to Alberto and Mueller for threatening to resign over the bogus Congressional challenges to subpoenas.

And boos to Alberto and Mueller for asking that all Interet activity be recorded and retained for two years. (In bureaucratese, I'm thinkin' that means "forever.")

Mixed signals

Is it a bug or a feature? A story about the burgeoning redevelopment of Hollywood notes, "Crime has dropped, but teenage runaways and prostitutes can still be seen off Hollywood Boulevard."

So the question is, did LAGuy buy low?

LAGuy notes: I live off Hollywood Boulevard, so I'm not thrilled they're kicking their problems out my way.

Incidentally, LA low is high anywhere else.

For some reason, I'm reminded of the Rodney Dangerfield line about how tough his neighborhood was. The ad for an apartment read "a short run to the subway."

Columbus Guy says: What do you mean, they're kicking their problems out your way? I never figured you for a NIMBY.

One Last Time

Before I forget, a word about Lloyd Bentsen, who died last week. He served his country well for decades, but will be remembered for one stupid moment.

I'm sure you know what I'm referring to: “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

A few comments.

First, I'm not especially impressed with Kennedy. I think he was an average President whose reputation is high because of his tragic death. (By the way, I don't think I ever used the phrase "not especially" on this blog and now I've used it twice in two days.)

Second, Dan Quayle has no one to blame but himself. He heard the silly Kennedy comparison at the Republican convention and for some reason thought he could get away with it in an actual debate.

Third, this was obviously a canned line. The Dems watched the Repubs' convention and figured if Quayle's dumb enough to repeat this, we should be ready.

Fourth, while it got a lot of attention, it was a cheap shot that told us nothing about either candidate. I suppose no one cares what vice presidents think anyway, but it would have been better to concentrate on actual content.

Fifth, this is why I hate political debates--they're often more about who scores the most points and who spins the best afterward.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Now That's Funny

Bravo just counted down the 100 funniest movies. It was an insult. Not just because of all the questionable choices, like Old School or Legally Blonde--entertaining perhaps, but hardly classics. No, the insult was the special gave the impression that movies were invented some time in the late 1950s.

There are a handful of 60s films on the list (The Pink Panther, Dr. Strangelove and The Producers) and the rest are more recent. Remember, this wasn't the funniest movies of the past 40-odd years, or the funniest movies our shortsighted audience voted for--this was for all time. Okay, even if it's going to be top-heavy with modern stuff, couldn't they throw a bone to Chaplin, Keaton, the Marx Brothers or Cary Grant?

There were plenty of hilarious films discussed, but if I had to make a list of the 50 funniest comedies, the majority would be from before World War II.

For the record, here's the top ten:

10. Arthur
9. Blazing Saddles
8. The Wedding Singer
7. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
6. Airplane!
5. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
4. There's Something About Mary
3. Shrek
2. Caddyshack
1. Animal House

The quality here is higher than the rest of the list. Three, maybe four of these films would make my top 50. One is highly overrated. Two I don't find funny at all. I'll leave the reader to guess which is which.

Columbus Guy says: My God, man, don't leave the readers in charge. Next thing you'll be leaving it up to the voters.

So I'll bite. Arthur is highly overated, your list in cludes Blazing Saddles, Animal House, Caddy Shack and There's Something About Mary. And you don't find the Wedding Singer funny at all.

LAGuy responds: Since you ask...

There's Something About Mary, and probably Animal House and Airplane! would make my all-time list. Arthur might make it.

I like Shrek, South Park and Blazing Saddles, but don't consider them classics.

I don't find The Wedding Singer or Ace Ventura funny.

The present-day reputation of Caddyshack (a film that disappointed fans and critics alike when released) mystifies me. There are some funny moments--especially from Chevy Chase (not Bill Murray)--but overall the film is a not especially amusing mess.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Aww, I was Hitler last time

Now that he's dead, everybody wants to beat Hitler.

Not Forgotten

Desmond Dekker just died. Bob Marley may have been the face of reggae, but Dekker was the first to popularize it. For millions outside Jamaica, Dekker's music was their initial experience with the off-kilter beat. (It's no coincidence his first name is used in The Beatles' reggae-ish "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.") He will always be remembered for his 1969 international hit "The Israelites."

Val Guest is also gone. He may not have been a great filmmaker, but The Day The Earth Caught Fire (where nuclear bombs throw off the Earth's orbit and send it toward the Sun--now that's global warming) is memorable, and I've always had a soft spot for the beatnik Expresso Bongo.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Land Of The Lost

Entertainment Weekly wonders why Lost's ratings are down this year? They claim it can't be all because it had to go up against American Idol. Of course it is. The ratings were higher than last year before American Idol started, and lower after.

I liked the finale, though the characters still have trouble talking to each other. There are a few seams showing, as the writers try to make everything fit together. One example: we learn Desmond (David Hume--that's a real Lost name) was gonna kill himself till he heard Locke knocking on the hatch. You'd think he'd be grateful and invite the guy in, but in past episodes, he waits till the Losties dynamite the hatch open and then greets them with a gun. Also, he seems to see the vaccine isn't needed, but in the second season opener, he's still taking it.

Another example. The Pearl station was abandoned long ago. If not, wouldn't they have moved the plane off the hatch? But the computer is not only operating, its readouts are still printing, telling Desmond what happened over the past two months.

Then there's Jack's "plan," which is apparently walking into a trap while one guy with a gun will follow later. Even if he has more up his sleeve for the third season, Jack and his band would have been killed if the Others wished it.

But it's still my favorite show. Otherwise, I wouldn't complain so much.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Snow job

Bush press spokesman Tony Snow was on Limbaugh's third hour yesterday, and Limbaugh gave him a pretty hard time over immigration. Snow parried as best he could, but Limbaugh did a better job of raking Bush and Snow over the coals. As to the question, why should we trust you, all Snow could say was, the old times were then, this is now, and we really know it's important.

A Democrat couldn't have said it better: All the people that came before us were idiots, but we're here now. Trust us.

Better to be thought an idiot . . .

Denny removes all doubt. USAMcToday gives him 300 words to explain himself, and he never says what's wrong with DOJ pursuing criminals, or what would have been a better way. It's only that we're supposed to take his word that there is one.

Okay. I'm convinced issue a warrant right now for Denny's office, too.

Or better, just send him to Gitmo.

Maybe someday they'll control drivers, too

"Honda Says Brain Waves Control Robot"

The machine for reading the brain patterns also would have to become smaller and lighter - like a cap that people can wear as they move about, said ATR researcher Yukiyasu Kamitani.

What Honda calls a "brain-machine interface" is an improvement over past approaches, such as those that required surgery to connect wires. Other methods still had to train people in ways to send brain signals or weren't very accurate in reading the signals, Kamitani said.

Popular Justice

As everyone knows by now, Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling were found guilty of all charges in the Enron case. This result is highly popular, to judge from editorials across the country.

I didn't follow the case closely, though from what I do know my guess is they were guilty. But I'm always a little nervous when a verdict is too popular.

Most cases are unknown to the public at large, so big cases take on extra significance since the public's trust is implicated. However, while the system should, ideally, please the people, they often have opinions based on superficial knowledge. A truly impartial verdict, in other words, will sometimes anger the public--especially in criminal cases where the prosecution has a heavy burden.

In other words, what we don't want are judges or jurors swayed by public sentiment, rather than the facts of the case. Maybe Martha Stewart was guilty, maybe not, but we don't need jurors who say it was a victory for the little guy. Maybe the accused members of the Duke lacrosse team are guilty, maybe not, but we don't need a prosecutor who moves forward with a very weak case because the voting public demands "justice."

So I suppose Lay and Skilling got what they deserved. I just hope it was for what they did, and not what people thought they did.

Pajama Guy Calls It

It's not much to brag about--a coin flip had a 50% shot--but PJ Guy predicted Taylor Hicks would be this year's "American Idol." This was the first time in a male/female AI showdown the male won. Ryan Seacrest noted this. Talk about a meaningless stat. I would guess Hicks won handily, since Seacrest would have mentioned the percentages if they were close.

By the way, in this silly ABC News commentary, writer Heidi Oringer incorrectly states Seacrest claimed "Taylor Hicks got more votes than any president ever elected." What he actually said is that Idol viewers cast over 63 million votes, which is more than any President has ever received. (Bush holds the Presidential record with 62 million votes in 2004.) This is far less impressive than Oringer's misinterpretation since you could vote more than once (you can't do that for presidents except in Chicago) and the Idol votes were split between two candidates.

I would like to thank the producers of American Idol for announcing the winner during a comercial break in Lost.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

He really does sound like a criminal

Wow. Denny Hastert's trash-talking the prosecutor. I guess it must be true that he's guilty. (Say, Denny, is a it a separation of powers thing for the head of the most important chamber of the most important branch to trash talk the most significant line officer of the second-most important branch? You know, I'm just askin' -- that is, I'm just askin', as long as asking isn't a McCain Feingold violation.)

Maybe I Shouldn't Say Anything

Baseball is full of superstitious people. If a player's on a streak, he'll keep doing the same thing every day--eat the same meal, wear the same clothes, not shower, whatever. And if a pitcher is throwing a no-hitter, no one is supposed to mention it.

So even with the season well underway, I'm still afraid of jinxing things by bringing up how well my team, the Detroit Tigers, are doing. They've been at or near first all season. This is amazing considering their competition is the Series' champions, and the Tigers haven't been over .500 since the early days of the Clinton administration.

Maybe I'm overreacting at a few swigs of water after years of drought, but they sure look like the real thing.

If I get to Detroit this summer I'll have to check out the team in person. Though I hear they're selling out these days.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Another Piece On That Thing I Said I Wouldn't Write About

I finally saw The Da Vinci Code movie, and guess what? It's not bad. It's no classic, and outside Ian McKellen's Sir Leigh Teabing, none of the characters are much (just like the novel). But it's a perfectly respectable version of a best-selling book.

If anything, it's better than the novel. Dan Brown presents lunatic ideas fairly uncritically, whereas in the movie, whenever McKellen makes an outrageous claim, Tom Hanks (who's likeable even in a nothing part) is around to be skeptical.

Its biggest flaw as far as being a crowd-pleaser is that about two hours in--which is long enough for any movie--the bad guys are caught so the tension level goes way down. Yet you've still got half an hour more to go.

I can see why Ron Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman did it this way. When you've got a novel with 50 millions readers, if you make too many changes, they won't be happy. Still, there are certain things you can do in a novel that don't play in a movie.

Whatever they did, it worked. The opening was huge and the audience seems to be satisfied. They may not win any awards, but everyone involved already has plenty.

Lamar meets Denny

A little recency bias in action. Having read over His Virtualness' snide but fair remarks on our disgusting Congress critters, along with my own reaction to it, I've decided on a new slogan: Cut their pay and send them to Gitmo.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Gee, do you suppose they'll enforce the Commerce Clause next?

It's actually not a bad point. BUt what about Abscam?

And in any case, these clowns have forfeited all credibility. I think Justice should do a little rendition action and send all 535 of them to Gitmo.

Jonbenet Ramsey Award XXXI

"The teenage fellatio craze exists mainly among adults."

No, the award goes not to Cathy Young, but rather her subjects. In any case, I expect she meant "exists mainly in the minds of adults."

That's failure?

Failure to Launch did $88 million? 'sup with that, LAGuy? My girl has that much legs? I would have sworn the cutesy thing was about used up.

LAGuy Wonders: Who said it failed? And who said it had legs?

Finally, Finales

Big TV day tomorrow.

I'll watch the overblown American Idol finale. (It'll easily win the night--it may be the highest-rated episode of a series this season.) I was not surprised to see Elliott Yamin leave last week, but I was surprised by the losing margin. I can't believe the producers would lie, but it sure was surpising that Elliott, Katharine and Taylor all got over 33%.

The question is where will Elliott's votes go. My guess is Taylor will take more than Katharine, which makes him the winner. On the other hand, a lot of viewers go by performance, so it's foolish to make any predictions before seeing how they do tonight. But I will: Taylor wins.

I'll watch it, but I'll tape something I like a lot more--Lost. This is a highly-touted (by the producers) two-hour finale. The first season introduced us to the characters. This season has been more about delving into the mysteries of the island. I'm sure they'll answer a number of questions, but raise even more. The biggest question is always will anyone get knocked off. They lost a couple characters not long ago, but the cast is still the biggest in TV.

Before the season started, I knew someone would die and made predictions. (Spoiler warning if you haven't watched this season at all, though why would you be reading this, then?--okay maybe a stray American Idol fan or two, but what do you care?) I predicted some characters were safe, some not safe and some fairly safe. The one who died--Shannon--I thought was fairly safe. My reasons were overridden, I guess, by the producers' understanding that the whole Shannon-Boone story wasn't working.

The most popular characters on the show (I'm guessing) are Jack, Locke, Kate and Sawyer, closely followed by Hurley and Sayid. The fans would howl if any of them died. The question is do the producers dare kill any of them off for a"big finish"? This series isn't even half over (and as far as I know, they're still signed and not being offered leads in major movies) so it's still hard to believe that will happen. But it sure would be talked about. Taylor will win, but I'm gonna stop predicting who will lose on Lost.

Columbus Guy says: Fine. But do you know why gravity works? Because Jack Bauer lets it.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Tom Tom

The two biggest stars in the world are Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks. Okay, that's an opinion, but look at the numbers--they have starred in a variety of films over the last two decades or so and most have been big hits.

In the past twenty years, Cruise starred in 14 films that grossed over $100 million domestically. Meanwhile, Hanks starred in 12 such films, 13 if you include The Polar Express, 15 if you include Toy Story and its sequel.

Last year I would have said Cruise had the edge, but I think Hanks has since passed him. (I realize going on a yearly basis, statistically speaking, is silly, but Cruise seems to have sustained serious public relations damage.) A few months ago it was different. With The Ladykillers and The Terminal, two Hanks underperformers, it seemed his star was dimming. Meanwhile, Cruise did the well-received Collateral and the big hit War Of The Worlds. But now, with The Da Vinci Code conquering the world and Mission: Impossible III doing disappointing business, their positions have reversed.

Overdoing It

The attacks on The Da Vinci Code, book and film, have been so widespread that I'm starting to feel sympathy for Dan Brown.

I mean as much as Code is big on absurd conspiracy theories, it does raise some worthwhile points and questions. For instance, it is true that the Church adopted and adapted some pagan symbols and rituals. Also, it's at least worth discussing the effect of Christianity (and other religions) on the treatment of women.

So let's not condemn everything wholesale. And remember, Dan Brown being wrong doesn't make his opponents right.

For instance, in Friday's Wall Street Journal Joseph Loconte (channeling C. S. Lewis) tries to debunk some Code claims. (Michael Novak does the same thing in the National Review.) But look at his arguments.

Part of Loconte's evidence is that there are "any number of people and events in the Bible that are frankly embarrassing to believers....[y]et the earliest Christians failed to excise these characters from their story." This is a triple-bad bad argument, since 1) it isn't clear the original writers thought these stories embarrasing, 2) Christians aren't the only ones who tell stories that seem embarrassing today, and 3) even if the previous two points weren't true the argument still doesn't prove very much. (And what's one of his examples of embarrassment? The bloodline of Jesus includes "a king who commits adultery and murder (David)." Yeah, you wouldn't want the royal lineage of David in your family tree.)

And listen to this:
The first "conspiracy theory" about Jesus, in fact, actually appears in the Gospel of Matthew. After the crucifixion, religious leaders ask Pontius Pilate to post a guard at the tomb of Jesus because they suspect his disciples "may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead." Why keep a story about a possible conspiracy lodged at the heart of your sacred text if you're determined to cover up a deception about the credibility of that text?
Huh!?! This is precisely the kind of story that would be made up (consciously or unconsciously) to make one's claims stronger, and to inoculate against future conspiracy theories or, more likely, fight against those that already exist.

Let's not make bad arguments to defeat worse ones.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Somebody's got to pay it

". . . this accountant and lawyer charged me hefty fees to finance their learning curve . . ."

Sounds like it's time to say, "Heh."

Out of gas

What's Mark Steyn smoking?

"If America's political class wants to do the same, it could at least have the integrity to discuss the issue in honest terms."

Huh? When was the last time this happened? It's always been frustrating. Some guy who wrote about pigs once famously lamented the problem, E.B. White maybe, and he probably wasn't the first.

But goodness, since Clinton's day, lying isn't merely a governing art, it's a virtue. Admittedly, it's still causing some stress--all the "Bush lied" mania of the Manhattan media is doubtless an outgrowth of the contortions those poor souls went through to defend their man--but that will pass soon enough.

10,000!

We will soon reach our ten-thousandth hit (since we started counting)! Who will be the lucky customer?

I wish we could do something for you, but even if we knew who you were, this is not-for-profit blog.

Big Sports Day

One reason to prefer sports over movies is you don't know how the story will end. And sometimes, the best part isn't about who wins or loses.

Yesterday enough interesting stuff happened in the sports world that you wonder what will be the lead headline.

Barry Bonds finally hit his 714th homer. I was getting tired of waiting. I hope they start pitching to him normally, now. It's pretty clear he won't reach 755 this year, but if he gets to play another season it sure seems likely. I was never a big fan of Hank Aaron (I liked Willie Mays) so it'd be fine with me if Bonds breaks his record.

At the Preakness, Barbaro, who dominated the Kentucky Derby, didn't even finish. He pulled up before the first turn. This horse was unbeaten, and had a fair shot at the Triple Crown. Now the question is, with a serious fracture, will he race again.

Then there's a story that might have been the lead otherwise--basebrawl. The uptown-downtown rivalry between the Cubs and White Sox erupted into a punchout. Four players were ejected. Bad for baseball, but great for Sports Center. (The Sox won, of course.)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Cinematic

Some critics will read a book and call it cinematic. This usually mean it has short scenes, clearly motivated action and melodramatic moments. But what may seem "cinematic" in a book doesn't necessarily translate to the screen. Movies have their own language, and a novel still has to be translated properly to work in another medium.

Hence, we shouldn't be surprised if The Da Vinci Code doesn't work as a movie. (I haven't seen it yet--I'm just going by what the critics say.) George Lucas once said movies are binary--either they work or they don't. It takes a lot to make a movie work, which is why so few truly do. We should never be surprised when one doesn't.

Another format many call cinematic are graphic novels, but that's an even worse case. Long comic books may seem easy to translate into movies, but the form, where we fill in the action between the drawings, is very different from film. Thus a very faithful adaptation, like Sin City, doesn't really come across as well as the comic.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Perry, Andy And Otis

I was flipping through the channels and Perry Mason was on. I've never been a regular (the theme song scared me when I was a kid), but I stopped.

The expert on the stand intrigued me. I felt I couldn't trust him. Then I realized why. He was played by Hal Smith, better known as Otis Campbell, town drunk on The Andy Griffith Show. Who could believe anything he says?

(I'll say one thing for Perry Mason, he's got the best possible strategy a defense lawyer can have--get the real criminal to admit he did it.)

How To Lie

Central to the The Da Vinci Code (which I said yesterday I wouldn't write about) is the Priory of Sion, which author Dan Brown claims on the first page is an actual secret society founded in 1099. I checked up on it and sure enough it's a fraud, but that was obvious based on the "facts" in the novel.

It's bad enough he claims they're an ancient society that's successfully kept a huge secret for centuries (a secret Dan Brown knows). What really gives it away was the list of Grand Masters. Not merely members, but Grand Masters. At any given time, there can be only one.

Now you can't just take a famous guy and choose him as Grand Master. He's got to be trusted to keep secrets, so you've got to induct him when he's young, and have him work his way up.

Yet, the list of grand masters includes Leonardo Da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and other great artists and thinkers. (Just geographically speaking, the Priory gets around.) The group sure got insanely lucky choosing so many before they became famous. (Actually, a secret society would probably prefer a leader not in the public eye. Maybe they weren't lucky.)

It reminds me of how all those past-life regressions show people being kings and queens, never slaves or serfs.

If you're gonna create a fake society that goes back centuries, you can have a few celebrity members, but not a string of world famous Grand Masters. It's just too silly.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Clause Cause

Here's an interesting blog all about the Rapanos case, soon to be decided by the Supreme Court.

John and Judith Rapanos owned parcels of land in Michigan. They filled in wetlands on these sites. The United States declared this illegal under the Clean Waters Act and brought both criminal and civil charges.

The question presently under review regards the legal reach of the Act. Is the extension of its jurisdiction to intrastate wetlands, even those with only the remotest connection to navigable waters, within the power of Congress?

In other words, this is a Commerce Clause case. The modern history of this Clause has the Supreme Court bowing and scraping before every manifestation of Congress's power. The big question is will this new Court declare there actually may be some limits. (You can probably guess what side I'm on.)

What Lit Her Wick?

An amazingly silly piece by Dahlia Lithwick in Slate on the Bush administration's attempt to get conservatives on the courts. She makes all sorts of absurd arguments as to why it's bad, but doesn't mention the obvious reason--she doesn't want conservative judges. Hey, I don't either (at least not social conservatives), but at least I'm honest about it.

Listen to this, for instance:
The reason social conservatives are so desperate about stacking the federal bench now is because they want instant action on issues like gay marriage, abortion, and school prayer...
Really? Doesn't seem to me they want instant action--they just want the courts to step aside on these issues so the people can democratically decide them.

Lithwick also makes the desperation argument that Bush shouldn't give his conservative base what they want since they'll never be satisfied anyway. It's always fun to hear liberals give conservatives political advice (and vice versa).

And Lithwick's greatest fear? The "nuclear option," which would get rid of the filibuster to stop judicial nominees. She warns conservatives they'll regret it as the political landscape changes. Maybe they will, but why should Lithwick care? All it would mean is the Senate will decide nominations by--gasp!--majority vote, as they always have (until recently) and as the Constitution requires.

Why Bother?

I guess I won't write anything about The Da Vinci Code after all. I mean, now that it looks like the movie is disastrously bad, why pile on? (I was mostly going to say book is a passable but not great mystery-thriller that makes many bizarre claims about art and history. I'd hardly be the first to note this.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Just look at me

That's it. I'm tired of all the anonymity. Herewith, ColumbusGuy:


Funny, but your son looks like the guy who cleans your septic tank

"The 72-year-old mayor of Waldron . . . gave a woman with whom he was having sex special treatment on her city water bill and also paid her for sex. . . . Anderson tried to solicit sex from a woman for several years because of her delinquent water account and later paid her $100 for sex."

Hmm. We're billed only once a quarter for water. And my wife pays that bill . . .

Giving In

The Pentagon just released the video of a plane smashing into it on 9/11. Apparently, they were under pressure from groups who think the story was made up.

Are there that many people who believe such nonsense? Since when does the Pentagon take crackpots so seriously? And what's the point of trying to appease them--won't they think this is just another part of the coverup?

PS Speaking of crackpots, check this out at the Huffington Post. Read the guy's bio, too (he worked for Michael Moore, natch).

I especially like how, after whining that no one believes his 9/11 insanity, he writes: "Kennedy was assassinated with a 'magic' bullet. America has essentially accepted this." Actually, while it's true one of Lee Harvey Oswald's bullets did a lot of damage to Kennedy and Connally, in fact, Amercan has not essentially accepted this. So stop complaining--crazy people like you still have a chance in this country.

ABC--Always Be Canceling

ABC had a pretty good TV year. Ratings went up. But still they're saying goodbye to a lot of shows that didn't cut it--Commander In Chief, Invasion, etc.

None of their new shows appeal to me. Maybe they'll prove me wrong. The comedies, in particular, don't seem too promising. I know I'm being unfair, but what is one to make of something like Help Me Help You? It's about group therapy, but what bothers me is ABC had a flop sitcom a few years ago called Bob Patterson on the very same night as Help Me, and one of the gags they sold the show with was "help me help you help me help you." Do they think everyone's forgotten? Just hearing half that phrase leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

He's Got A Little List

Moralist Robert Wright reviews a couple books in The New York Times on why everyone hates America. Wright knows that we've always been a target, perhaps never more so than when we became the world's only superpower. But that doesn't mean we still can't blame our Prez:
[Bush's] alleged failures in this regard have been so thoroughly discussed that we can save time by evoking them with keywords: "crusade," "evil," Kyoto, Iraq, Bolton, Geneva Convention and so on.
Let's look at this list a little more closely.

Bush used the word "crusade" once and regretted it. Mind you, it's a perfectly good word, it just has unfortunate connotations. For anyone to get bent out of shape by Bush's one-time use shows, at the very least, a lack of perspective.

On the other hand, Bush was right to call Iraq, Iran and North Korea "evil." I think the world's problems have been exacerbated more by the Western world's inability to call something evil than by overuse of the term.

The Kyoto Protocols were one of those bad ideas that Europeans love--it's too expensive, won't really solve the problem and, when you get down to it, won't really be followed. But it's symbolically good. I'm glad America wouldn't go along. (As long as we're talking about not voting with everyone else, why doesn't Wright mention Israel? Or would that give the game away.)

The Iraq war was the right thing to do, and I shudder to think what a situation the world would be in if any potential Saddam Hussein knew the worst he had to face was a vote in the UN. (And here's to the leaders who joined us, as unpopular as the war was to the European mindset. For taking a brave stance, they got to be called lapdogs, but that irony is lost on the pseudo-sophisticates over there.)

Bolton I don't have much to say about except he was a great pick. We need more men like him serving in government.

The Geneva Convention is a great idea, but a lot of people misunderstand it. The point is to give fighters who follow the rules of war (wear uniforms, not aim at civilians, etc.) good treatment if captured. Nothing will destroy the hopes represented by the Convention faster than giving everyone all these rights regardless of how they act. (I'm not saying I agree with everything the US government has done in treating war prisoners, by the way.)

So maybe these are the reasons they hate us. But they're also reasons to be proud of this country. I'd rather do what's right than win a popularity contest.

How's That Again?

Armond White, an interesting film critic with unconventional taste, has a piece in Slate. He complains that certain young directors--"American Eccentrics"--take too long to make a film. Who are these eccentrics? Wes Anderson, Spike Jonze, David O. Russell, Alexander Payne, Paul Thomas Anderson, Sofia Coppola. He compares them to "entertainment specialiasts"--Quentin Tarantino, M. Night Shyamalan, Bryan Singer, Michael Bay, Brett Ratner, John Moore. They "work regularly in the Hollywood system and turn out updated genre vehicles as if on schedule."

There are some questionable assumptions here, but what I really don't get is Tarantino on the latter list. Here's a guy who has consistently made films following his own vision. Does it matter that they make money? Anderson, Payne and Coppola films have made pretty good money too.

As to taking too long between movies, he's made only 5 full-lenth films in the last 15 years, including one script he separated into two films. He works slower than the "eccentrics." Let him in the club, Armond.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Pajamaguy errs

ColumbusGuy stands corrected. Turns out the three Manhattan media networks will air Bush's primetime speech after all.

But you can still color me doubtful. Their reasons are either (1) the existence of Fox pressured them into it, or (2) they're betting it'll hurt Bush more than it helps him. If it's the latter, they're still playing Charlie Brown to Bush's Lucy.

How to tell we're not serious about illegal immigration








When we quit treating them like deer, then we'll be serious about illegal immigration.

UPDATE: Anonymous lost his bifocals. Let's try this one:



Eh. Never mind. Just drive safely out there.

The answer is no

"The question is, are we willing to be honest with ourselves and the American people and make these tough decisions?"

So says Cryin' George Voinovich, who says, " if you look at the extraordinary costs that we had with the war and homeland security and Katrina, the logical thing that one would think about is to ask for a temporary tax increase to pay for them."

Tell you what, George. I like your idea. We do need to be honest. We do need to be fiscally responsible. Let's just tweak it a bit: How's about a temporary spending cut? Nothing permanent, just a temporary thing to balance the books. Waddya say? Huh?

Clever Hans

I heard an interview with Hans Zimmer on NPR. He just composed the score to The Da Vinci Code.

He unwittingly came up with a great phrase while discussing music for certain action scenes. He said it could be so boring it led to "pedestrian car chases."

Au Contraire, Says Jer

Many movie fans feel in the late 60s/early 70s Hollywood was at its best. Released from the Production Code, and appealing to a new generation, they turned out better art than ever before. Led by major 60s hits such as The Graduate, Bonnie And Clyde, Midnight Cowboy and Easy Rider, by the 70s they were able to deal with serious subjects in a more honest way.

Not that there wasn't fluff at the time--that's always around. It's just that there was also an explosion of acting, writing and directing that gave us something new: Five Easy Pieces, Mean Streets, McCabe And Mrs. Miller, The Godfather (I and II), Taxi Driver, Dog Day Afternoon, Nashville, The Last Picture Show, Fat City, Shampoo, The Hospital, Chinatown, Deliverance, Straw Dogs, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, A Clockwork Orange, American Graffiti, The French Connection, Carnal Knowledge, Sounder, Save The Tiger, The Last Detail, The Conversation and many more.

On the other hand, I was recently looking through Jerry Lewis's 1982 autobiography, In Person, and found this:
...the current Hollywood trend [around 1970] saw selfish, ambitious men who called themselves producers beginning to transfer their poisonous ideas from television to the silver screen. Everybody crying out for happy entertainment, while everything in sight was being tainted by the grime of "realism" and magnified on celluloid. A decaying process, a chipping away like water that hits the rock, century after century, until one of nature's strongest minerals slowly erodes. And that's what they were doing to our industry. It was eroding under a heavy flood of X-rated films. So I backed off. I wouldn't play the game. I'd made forty-one pictures in thirty years; in the next seven years, I made only one.
Hmm. Perhaps. I'd guess, however, the main reason he stopped playing the game was that his films stopped making money. Otherwise, he'd have still been at it, and those selfish, ambitious men who called themselves producers would have put up the money.

(Let me say a few things in Jerry's defense. 1. I think he's a great talent. 2. He was a major movie star for about two decades. 3. He wrote that passage a long time ago--he may have more perspective today.)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Making The Best Of A Bad Situation II

Michelle Rodriguez, former star of Lost, on doing time for a DUI:

TV Guide: What was jail like?

Rodriguez: It was so cool! [Laughs] I love people, and it was a primal crew. The only thing that keeps them going is fighting for salt and making dice out of soap. It was an amazing experience. I wouldn't take it back for anything.

I like her attitude. She also gave a good reason for lock-up over community service:
...if I'm gonna do something for the community, I need to do that on my own accord. I don't like being told to do things for the community. I'd rather be in jail for a few days than be told what to do for a month.

Clash Of The Titans

Here's an interesting bit on the two greatest clowns the movies have known, from James Lileks:
I like Arbuckle – he had grace and brio and pluck, by God. Paired with Keaton, he was golden. This one was a 1914 Keystone Kops piece – the Kops are hilarious, if you’re in the mood, and very underrated; the pacing makes the Stooges look like Pinter. They all fall down as if they share a single brain. Anyway, Chaplin makes an appearance as a boxing ref, and I know it’s now fashionable to dump on Charlie for the lachrymose character of his later work, his relentless sentimentality and self-love. Keaton was better! It’s the old Beatles vs. Stones thing. I go back and forth myself, but I always end up admiring Keaton more than I love him, and it’s vice versa with Chaplin. In the case of this film, he simply defines and occupies another level of ability altogether; it’s like he’s a member of a different species. You can’t not watch him. He’s made of mercury. He’s incredibly funny, and it comes from someplace no one else on the screen can reach. His sudden appearance has a galvanic effect, and you can imagine the audience of 1914 – already sore from laughter, already invested in Fatty’s character, already delighted with the sturdy progression of the story – suddenly erupting in cheers at the very sight of Chaplin. It’s that guy! We love that guy. And he’s that guy, and more, from the very second he appears.
Who's the greatest? I also go back and forth.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Mickey screws up Big Time

Mickey Kaus says a man known to Dick Cheney as Big Time is a problem:

[A one-note blogging hack] once defended [New York Times reporter Adam] Nagourney by blaming the faults in his reporting on editor Howell Raines' meddling. Well, Raines is gone, and Nagourney is still spinning the Democrats' cocoon. He's become a national embarrassment.
But this isn't right. As far as the nation is concerned, Nagourney, like most of the political staff at the Times, is a hoot. He should be considered a national treasure, not a national embarassment.

Maybe the Times should be embarrassed, but obviously they're beyond embarrassment.

They Don't Need Help

I was recently at the Alex Theatre in Glendale to watch A Hard Day's Night. I own it on DVD, but there's nothing like seeing it with an audience.

The film was made just when the Beatles had become world famous. It was not an expensive affair--the main idea was to get the thing out before the fad was over. And somehow, with a magic mix of talent, they turned out one of the most entertaining films ever.

Most rock star vehicles are beyond stupid. A Hard Day's Night is smart and witty. Many musicals have plots that are little more than glue holding the songs together. A Hard Day's Night would be great even without the music. Most great comedies feel effortless. A Hard Day's Night seems practically off the cuff.

Much of the credit goes to director Richard Lester. The fast editing (for its day) and shaky camera has been much copied, but the film still comes across as stylish. And he's in tune with The Beatles' style of comedy. The throwaway dialogue and visual humor come across with an insouciance that he'd never repeat (though he tried). He even pulls off a few lyrical moments.

Just as important is Alun Owen's screenplay. Having the group play themselves is a great idea, but writing for someone to play himself is harder than it sounds. Yet, you can almost believe The Beatles are ad libbing their parts.

The Fab Four were not professional actors, but they've never come across better. John, with his big personality, may be the most memorable. Then there's sad sack Ringo, who's not only funny, but adds a bit of pathos. George is witty, though in a quieter way. Paul, for whatever reason, makes the least impression. (Perhaps because the others all have their special moments and scenes, while Paul's big scene was cut.) Of course, they're all wonderful when they come together and play.

Lester, Owen and producer Walter Shenson were also very smart to surround the band with expert comic players, such as Norman Rossington, Wilfrid Brambell and Norman Spinetti. The Beatles are the center of the story, but not required to carry all the weight.

If you haven't seen it in a while, buy or rent it. Or better, go see it with a crowd.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Sure thing, George, just talk to the camera

"The White House said it was seeking time from television networks for the president's remarks."

Yeah, that'll happen. The nets give George prime time to address immigration? Riiight.

Would he socialize sex, too?

Powerline has what seems to be an awfully cynical post: "In many respects, Gov. Mitt Romney is the most attractive potential presidential nominee the Republicans have. He is bright, good-looking, articulate, and conservative. But he is also a Mormon."

Yes, and he's the father of Hillarycare.

Buy low, sell high

So I was lamenting that the Guys aren't as big as Powerline and a friend, I won't say who, said "If you want more attention for new posts, either break something big, or write something interesting that no one else has, then send it out to the bigger blogs and see if they'll link."

Sure. And I bet his diet advice is "eat less and exercise more," too.

Against The Odds

Speaking of game shows, I saw a startling example of bad luck earlier this week on Deal Or No Deal. (If you want to know how it's played, read my earlier post.) What makes it especially painful is how well the contestant was doing before things fell apart.

Here's the situation: She has only five briefcases left with huge money still in play. The amounts are $1, $50,000, $300,000, $500,000 and $1,000,000.

The bank offers her $299,000 to quit. It may seem hard to turn down, but I understand why she doesn't make the deal. If she picks one of the two lowest briefcases, the offer will probably go up to around $400,000. If she picks the middle amount, the offer won't change much. Even if she picks the half million, she'll still probably have an offer over $200,000 and a rich exit. The only disaster, which she can still probably recover from, would be to pick the million dollar briefcase--which, of course, she does.

So the bank drops the offer down to $144,000. This is still a nice chunk of change, but she refuses the deal. Not the worst idea. She's not simply chasing losses. She's got a 50% chance of upping the offer to over $200,000 by picking one of the two smaller amounts. Even if she picks the $300,000, the offer will drop but remain over $100,000. The only disaster would be picking the half million--which, of course, she does.

So the offer drops to $70,000. A nice amount, if you can forget the last two offers. Does she take the deal? No. This is the right percentage play since she's got a two in three chance of improving that offer to $150,000 or more. The only disaster would be to pick the $300,000--which, of course, she does.

Now the offer is a paltry $25,000. (Paltry? I'd happily take it.) Should she stick with her own briefcase or take the offer? It's the old bird in the hand. She figures at 50/50, it's finally time to make a deal. So they open up her briefcase and, sure enough, it's worth $50,000. She made the wrong choice again.

That makes the worst pick four time in a row. What are the odds of this happening? 120 to 1.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Words And No Music

Reading Lyrics is an anthology of the best English language song lyrics from 1900 to 1975, according to Robert Kimball and Robert Gottlieb. Such works leave something to be desired, since lyrics are meant to be sung, not read. Nevertheless, as an aficionado, I look forward to reading it.

However, I've heard one of the selections is "People" from Funny Girl. I think the tune is pretty bad, but the words are even worse. "People--people who need people/are the luckiest people in the world." There's nothing lucky about needing someone. Having someone so you don't need someone else--now that's lucky.

Everyone Is Above Average

I used to collect bad answers from the old Family Feud. ("Name an English-speaking country." "France." "When's a good time to end a New Year's party?" "Midnight.")

I don't watch it much any more, but I caught the final round today. The host (Richard Karn from Home Improvement) asked "what is your IQ?" The first contestant answered 160, which is genius level--she apparently believes in a group of 10,000 randomly selected people, she's the smartest.

In a survey of 100 people, she got zero matches. Not so smart any more, are you?

The next contestant answered 350. So this guy's obviously a super-duper genius, smarter than anyone else is or can be. We're lucky to be living while he's around.

The average IQ is 100. The most popular answer was 120. Only one in ten people have an IQ of 120 or higher, so I guess we can conclude that the average person's IQ is above average.

Columbus Guy says: What are you laughing at? I'll be you my average annual salary (a nickel) or the total daily profits of the oil companies (a trillion dollars) that IQ tests are subject to the same upward pressure and political correctness to which grades are subject. Sure, they'll tell you it's normalized to 100 (and they'll tell you C is average, t5oo), but I'd say it's more likely the average score is 120 than it is 100.

Rocker Shocker

I was wrong and so was everyone else. Elliott Yamin survived another week on American Idol.

Surprisingly, the voters (who have been pretty good this year) seemed to decide based on the singers' performances. This week, they did Elvis songs. It was pretty bad--certainly none of them came close to the King.

Elliott, who has regularly received less votes than the Big Three--Katharine McPhee, Taylor Hicks and Chris Daughtry--did a decent job. Taylor was passable, too. But Katharine and Chris were unimpressive.

It was Chris, the intense rocker many thought had the competition wrapped up, who got kicked off. (Katharine was right behind him.) I never felt he was going to win the whole thing--I thought Katharine and Taylor had a better chance. Well, now Chris has no chance.

I still doubt Elliott will win. I still think he'll be the next to go. But at this point, a good or bad night (or two) can make the difference.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Denial

My anti-war friend Brian Doherty at Hit And Run tries to spin some good news in Iraq. Doesn't he realize the preferred strategy is to just ignore it and it'll go away?

On a positive note, Brian doesn't seem to believe there are any people in this world who would kill us if they could. Congrats to President Bush, I guess, because there sure were a whole bunch of them out there a few years ago.

Pajama Guy Calls It

Last week I wrote about a poorly-designed poll on immigration in the LA Times. My suspicions have been confirmed. A better-designed poll has just been released (not in the LA Times) suggesting the public welcomes immigrants under the proper circumstances, but enforcement comes before reform.

A Promise Is A Promise

I told some people I'd write about The Da Vinci Code, so I will--not that I have anything special to say about it. I'll probably get around to it next week, though. It'll be more timely then anyway, since the movie opens on the 19th.

One thing, though. Lately, I've seen billboards with Paul Bettany as Silas the albino monk. I couldn't help but notice he looks just like Hayden Christensen as a hooded Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars. (Here's where, as a blogger, I'm supposed to supply links to both. Sorry, I can't find anything, so you'll just have to imagine.)

You Can't Control Gas

I was wondering whatever happened to that experiment with price controls for gasoline in Hawaii. It's failed, of course. I'm just glad they finally realized it.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

So's the writing

"These perceptions, both inside and outside of Britain, are worrying."

Jonbenet Ramsey Award XXIV

Way to go, Reuters.

Is that Karl Rove in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Red light cameras, black boxes in cars, cell phones and little chips under your skin. Ah, well. We are the world. My big question: What will sex be like when we are one?

The mosquitoes seem heavier this year

"It may sound like science fiction, but the prospect that suicide bombers and hijackers could be made redundant by flying robots is a real one, according to experts."

Fall Into The Gap

Columnist Niall Ferguson in the LA Times writes about the leftward trend in worldwide politics. He believes the main cause is inequality. He may be right, but, disappointingly, he never says if this is a good reason to move left, much less a sufficient one. All he can do is rehearse tiresome stats on how wide the economic gap is.

When you have a free market with people creating great value, you will have a wide difference between the top and the bottom. In fact, the only large societies with economic equality are those where it's enforced by a strong central government, and since no government can force everyone to be rich, such governments generally make their people very poor.

What we should worry about is how wealthy the country is, how well the average citizen is doing, and how well the poorest are doing--questions which have little or nothing to do with the differential between the most and least successful. In capitalism, the pie grows and what was once only for the rich can soon become available to the middle class and even poor. Few things will slow down the pie's growth faster than demanding everyone have everything at once.

If what you care about above all else is the gap, then you'd be happy if the top third lost a large portion of their wealth and nothing else happened. Or if I said "in the next twenty years, the poor will do twice as well and the rich will do four times as well," you'd rather have things stay as they are.

Ferguson may be right in believing this political trend will continue. To bad he doesn't explain it's based on fallacious reasoning.

Save The Pigeons

Today is your last chance to scroll down and still see the illustrated piece about pigeons on my balcony. Tomorrow, it goes off the scroll, but will still be available in our May 2006 archives--see May 3.

PS The pigeons are still there, and so is the egg. Will they stick atound or eventually give up? Any naturalists out there who know?

Monday, May 08, 2006

By Jupiter

According to observations from the Hubble Telescope, Jupiter is going through global climate change.

No word yet on whether human activity is the cause.

Disunity

Andrew Sarris gives a rare negative review to United 93. I haven't seen the film yet, but it's easy to suspect Sarris dislikes it for political and not artistic reasons. For instance:
...I can’t think of anything good that has come out of the wildly successful criminal coup of 9/11. This imaginative touch of evil has only further poisoned our political atmosphere with mistrust and suspicion, undermined our democratic values and driven our maladministered republic into near bankruptcy. Consequently, I am not looking forward to any future cinematic reminders of 9/11.
(Boy, if he thinks Iraq is breaking us, wait till he finds out how much our permanent government programs cost.)

LA Doesn't Always Mean Los Angeles

The Becker-Posner blog is always worth looking at, but this week they discuss an important topic that deserves more attention, the political drift in Latin America. Check it out. (Hey, ColombiaGuy, how come we haven't done anything on this?)

Nobel Rot

Nadime Gordimer reviews Philip Roth's latest, Everyman, in The New York Times. Here's an excerpt:
His superbly matchless work, The Plot Against America, has the power of political fantasy moving out of literature into the urgent possibilities of present-day reality. With that novel he conveyed the Then in the Now. Hero-worship of Charles Lindbergh makes it feasible that he becomes president of the United States, despite his admiring embrace of Hitler; Bush never embraced Nazis, but the enthusiasm he elicits, through instilling fear in Americans who voted him into power and whose sons have come back in body bags along with the gruesome images of Iraqi dead, is no fantasy. And Lindbergh's anti-Semitism foreshadows the fundamentalisms that beset us in 2006.
Though Gordimer has won a Nobel Prize (an award Roth deserves), nothing she's written has impressed me as much as this. The amount of stupidity and/or dishonesty (the less dishonest, the more stupid) required to make such a claim is breathtaking.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

How 'bout if she goes in up to her waist?

I usually enjoy the (I suppose) Jewish homilies printed at the top of Jewish WOrld Review, but I don't quite take to this one: "The Divine's wisdom is unfathomable. Would you want to worship a god whose mind is within one's grasp to understand?"

It reminds me of the Groucho Marx line that is so obvious I'll skip it and substitute the story of how his daughter was denied admission to a swim club because she was Jewish, so, since his wife and the girl's mother was not Jewish, he wrote to the club saying, "She's only half Jewish. How about if she goes in up to her waist?"

An Actual Hair from Ronald Reagan

That's what's being offered as a fundraising item for one of our superior local NPR stations - an actual hair from Ronald Reagan (other items in clude an actual 2006 Honda VTX1800C36, skiing packages, exotic vacation getaways, and other stuff, like "OSU memorabilia galore," which is I think an old James Bond movie).

So I don't get it. I carry a hammer and chisel in my trunk in case they ever issue a general call for people to carve Reagan's face on Mt. Rushmore -- I don't want to waste time stopping by the house for fresh clothes -- but even I have no interest in an actual hair from Ronald Reagan. WHat in the world would a liberal want with it? "An actual hair" isn't enough even to burn.

I suppose there's the DNA angle, but what if it's a fraud and we end up cloning Bill Moyers?

I don't get it. If I didn't know that NPR was fair and balanced, I'd think it was a joke.

Blog And Draw

I was at a party last night at the elegant home of my good friends Matt and Emmanuelle. Matt use to write for Reason but now works on the editorial board of the LA Times. He's only been there a short while and already has some war stories. I also spotted Cathy Seipp, though she was leaving as I was arriving.

The guest of honor was Peter Bagge, a cartoonist who regularly contributes to Reason. Earlier he'd been in Leimert Park attending a Minute Man rally. I think he's reasearching a piece on immigration.

I didn't really get a chance to talk to him much, but let me say he may be the best all-around cartoonist today. He's got a great graphic style and is a wonderful writer. Check out anything he's published, but I especially recommend his Buddy Bradley collections.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Gross

Some surprising numbers this weekend. What wasn't that surprising to me was the weakness of Mission Impossible III. I saw it last evening at the Vista Theatre. When a blockbuster opens there's a line around the block, but this film didn't even make it to the end of the block. The house was crowded, but not packed.

It opened yesterday with $17 million, whereas Paramount was hoping for a number above $20 million. It's still a hit, but with its price tag, if it drops quickly (and serious competition is coming) it will be a major disappointment. It looks like Tom Cruise's antics have turned a lot of people off. Not his jumping up and down on Oprah so much as lecturing Matt Lauer on drugs and Brooke Shields on childbirth. In the film's favor, it is the best of the series. (It's probably not in as much trouble as next week's Poseidon, which is just as expensive and doesn't have a major star.)

What really surprised me were the numbers for RV and United 93. The former declined only 37% from last week, while the latter dropped 59%. If the numbers hold up it suggests RV, with its rotten reviews, is getting relatively good word of mouth, while United 93, with its stellar reviews, is a film people just don't want to see. Most prognosticators predicted the opposite. Perhaps the audience views United 93 as some sort of action movie, so the Tom Cruise film cuts directly into its audience.

Under The Sun

I just read Harold Lloyd's autobiography, An America Comedy. Originally published in 1928, it is, alas, a boring version of an exciting story. One passage struck me, though.

You often hear conservatives say there's so much political correctness, you can't make fun of any group anymore, only the mainstream. Who would have thought the same thing was going on in the silent era?

But check out this quote from the chapter entitled "The Night Life Of Hollywood." After noting the huge foreign market, Lloyd says:
If any character is to be held up to scorn or ridicule, let him be unmistakably a citizen of the U.S.A., preferably of old native stock, or else a resident of Mars, where we do not yet sell pictures. The National Association of Police Chiefs makes no protest about the Keystone cops, but the army of Graustark brooks no horseplay with its uniform. Knowing that the pictures are our very own, we rarely read a racial, national or professional slur into accidents of narrative and characterization. Very broadminded of us, but suppose, just for the sake of supposing, that London made the world's pictures. Suppose again that a British company should make a good British version of Hoyt's good old American farce, A Milk White Flag, which made fun of our politics and our militia. There would be rioting in the armories and hot words in the legislature, or I don't know my human nature. I can take a joke on myself, perhaps, but I prefer to do the telling of it.

Friday, May 05, 2006

His Virtualness for CIA director

"Given the Iranians' words and actions, I think that Israel is legally and morally justified in launching whatever sort of preemptive strike it chooses."

Disingenuous statement of the day

August Bush III says: For Mr. Busch, the definition of "drinkability" is simple: "I want the next beer!" he says. "You stop drinking because you know it's time to stop but you don't want to: That's drinkability."

Yeah, that's what all those marketers and product planners were doing, hoping you'd stop drinking because it's time.

The world's stupidest man

Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates said Wednesday he wished he were not the world's richest man.

"I wish I wasn't. There is nothing good that comes out of that," said Gates.

Bill, there's a really easy cure for this. It's the same one Democrats could use, but never do, when they see a program that is underfunded.

LAGuy notes: Actually, I don't think he minds being the world's richest man. He just doesn't like being known as the world's richest man.

We'll Always Have Paris?

Some of my friends believe that Paris Bennett, contestant on American Idol, was technically the best singer on the show. Perhaps, but I always thought she was a bit deficient in style and personality. (I preferred the other youngster, Lisa Tucker.) To no one's surprise, since she'd finished near the bottom before, Paris got the boot this week.

Next week is almost a waste of time. Unless something goes very wrong, Elliott Yamin will be kicked off. I didn't think he'd make it this far.

That will leave the Chris, Katharine and Taylor. Like 'em or not, they're the ones with the most presence (whatever that means). I'm rooting for Taylor, but it's anybody's game.

Mismanagement

What's going on at ABC? Last year they debuted three major hits--Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy and Lost. This year, they had the biggest new show and fumbled it so badly it's finished.
I didn't like Commander In Chief. I certainly wouldn't watch it over House. But its first two weeks it got great ratings--top ten, in fact. Then they fired its producer, Rod Lurie, and had lots of trouble behind the scenes. It was taken off the air for a long time and when it returned, no one cared any more.
Hit shows are rare. Some seasons you don't create any. You'd think CIC would have been handled with extra care. I don't know the whole story, but I'm assuming heads will roll.
PS Speaking of mismanagement, for some reason I cannot separate the paragraphs in this post. It's never happened before (please see the entire blog for proof). Sorry.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Not bloody likely

"The Congress needs to hear me loud and clear," Mr. Bush. "If they spend more than $92.2 billion plus pandemic flu emergency funds, I will veto this bill."

One Sentence

It never hit me until the sentencing of Zacarias Moussaoui, but when we give someone life, that's exactly what we do.

Uncommonly Good

My old friend Tom at Mirror Of Justice is at it again. In a discussion of how Democrats should best fight for the "common good" (by, as far as I can tell, getting rid of all that excess freedom we have), he takes writer Michael Tomasky to task for claiming Republicans are "all about" trashing "the common good."

So far, so good. Republicans believe just as passionately in the common good as Democrats, they just want to achieve it in a different way. Tom gets this--for half a sentence. Then he can't help himself and trashes them. Here's his list of things Republicans support that he believes are against the public good in a way that "seems undeniable":
lobbying corruption and rubber-stamping of business lobbies, creation of a Medicare prescription program that boosts the deficit by deferring to drug company pricing, leaving the compassionate conservatism programs underfunded while emphasizing high-income tax cuts, etc.
Let's take 'em one by one.

"Lobbying corruption"--I wasn't aware this was specifically Republican. In any case, it's not an official program (of either party), so it's a weird thing to put in a list that I thought was gonna be policies the Republicans support that hurt the "common good."

"Rubber-stamping of business lobbies"--I can name a lot of people in business who don't feel the government is rubber-stamping what they want. Anyway, the accusation is a bit general, so let me respond generally--there is too much regulation of business, so listening to businesses and sometimes passing laws that please them (and their lobbyists) by lightening the heavy hand of government is, in general, a good thing.

"Creation of a Medicare prescription program that boosts the deficit by deferring to drug company pricing"--you had me, then you lost me. I was all ready to agree that this gargantuan new government program (wasn't it supported by Democrats?--it must have been) wasn't good for us. But then the complaint, believe it or not, is that they're actually going to pay pharmaceutical companies reasonable prices. The program is bad enough--screwing over the drug companies by officially underpaying them only makes it worse. Punishing innovation that improves our health--that isn't for the common good.

"Leaving the compassionate conservatism programs underfunded while emphasizing high-income tax cuts"-- I wasn't aware our Republican-led government was underfunding any programs, compassionately conservative or otherwise--the problem is they're spending too much on almost everything.

As to the separate issue of high-income tax cuts, let's unpack it a bit. Cutting taxes is good for the economy. I suppose there can come a point where taxes aren't high enough, but let's not talk about fairy tales. Now the Bush tax cuts gave a higher percentage back to the lower brackets, but the well off (a group that mostly feels, and mostly is, middle class) were allowed to keep the most money because they're the ones paying almost all the federal income tax. The top 1% of earners pay over a third, the top 5% pay over half, the top quarter pay over 80%, the top half pay over 95%. (For comparison, the top 1% earn under 17% of all income, the top 5% earn a bit over 30%, the top quarter earn around 65% and the top half earn a bit over 85%.)

And what has been the result? The economy has been growing solidly for the past few years, unemployment is low, and the government is receiving higher revenues than ever. I think the tax cuts helped, and stopping them would hurt society at large.

What's "seems undeniable" to me is Tom needs a broader outlook.

Columbus Guy says: I'm always proud of my liberal friends when they see a program that is "underfunded." It shows that at least they recognize the concept of "scarcity." It's the only time that they appear to have any economic knowledge at all. But hey, that's just numbers. Let's get back to the important stuff, like social justice.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Watchu mean 'we', Kimosabe?

"The Iranian military on Wednesday rejected a statement from a top Revolutionary Guards commander that Israel would be Iran's first target in response to any U.S. attack, an Iranian news agency reported."

Revelation

RIP, Jean-François Revel.

Revel was one of the rare intellectuals in Europe who understood anti-Americanism was a disease, not serious thinking. For telling the truth, he was a highly controversial figure.

Here's hoping there will be more courageous people like him. Or better, here's hoping some day it won't require courage to hold his positions.

Too late

"I for one hope that the next time a nation experimenting with socialism or communism fails, which will happen the next time a nation experiments with socialism or communism, Ken Galbraith will feel the need to explain what happened."

Rats With Wings

There are pigeons on my balcony driving me crazy. Their cooing wakes me up in the morning and keeps me up if I try to take a nap. They recently built a nest, so they have plans.



I figured if I can't outsmart a pigeon, I might as well give up. So I put a chicken egg in their nest, hoping it would scare or confuse them, and they'd leave.



Instead, what happened, predictably, is they are trying to hatch it.


They're gonna be here a long time. At least the cooing has stopped.

Columbus Guy says: Several years ago my dad had pigeons roosting and nesting in eaves outside his apartment, leaving copious pigeon poop as a souvenir (there's a hard word to spell). He went to Wal-mart, bought a pellet gun, and started firing at the poor things. All God's creatures except beef, etc.

Gun didn't work. Fired, did the pfft-pfft, but no effect on the immortals. He returned the gun, got a new one. Fired, did the pfft-pfft; no effect.

Perplexed, he put on his glasses. Turns out both guns worked fine. He was just an exceedingly poor shot. Pigeons survived, but the aluminum eaves did not.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Dick, in shape or out

Line-reader Richard Dreyfuss is "studying civics and democracy as a senior associate member at St Antony's College at the University of Oxford." So far, so good; he'll be as qualified to serve as secretary of state as Madeleine.

His big bugaboo? Doesn't like "shaped" news. His cure? Suppress it:

"The falling Twin Towers -- pictures that produced anger, a lot of anger that were sent instantly around the world, they created a need to react."

"People in Kansas could see the Twin Towers fall at exactly the same instant as in Nigeria and Cairo. Such an instantaneous knowledge of a situation leads to an instantaneous reaction which creates demand for an instantaneous, reflexive response.

"The question is how do you get people to find out more, how do you get people to read not just what they are told to read."
Yes, if only people had had time to think.

Welcome

Hello Kausfile readers. Don't hold it against Mickey if you don't like what you see here, and by all means don't use us in place of a dictionary.

But LAGuy writes a mean movie review, and the rest of the Guys fill in around him. Stop in and who knows, you might see a post from the elusive PajamaGuy himself.

Block That Metaphor

I'd have to say Hilton Als' comparison in his review of The Importance Of Being Earnest is more startling than insightful:
[Lynn] Redgrave [as Lady Bracknell takes] charge of her role with the single-minded aggression of the lone fag hag in a gay bar.
(The actual sentence is quite a bit longer, but it's only the last half that I care about.)

Making The Best Of A Bad Situation

If you're ever watching the movie Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band--certainly a bad idea--make sure you're around near the beginning, because that's where the highlight is: George Burn's surprisingly good version of "Fixing A Hole." After that, feel free to do other things.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Portentious?

United 93 pulls in about $11 million opening weekend, second behind the $16 million Robin Williams vehicle that looks like it'll tank fast.

United 93 will certainly have better legs, and it'll break the $50 million mark I suggested earlier. Doubt that it'll break the $100 million mark, which leaves us in the uncertain twlight in between, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, the latest polls show Ken Blackwell taking the governor's nomination from the establishment candidate. The immediate conventional wisdom will be: Dems will win the governor's race, because Ken's too conservative.

Oh, and Republicans won't vote for a black man.

Making George Cry

"This atmosphere is like a bubble. It is like a twilight zone. Things that happen here don't reflect the reality in the rest of the world."

Appreciate Me, You Jerk

Today is the May Day boycott supporting immigration (of all sorts). Purely as strategy, I question this move.

If the boycott has little effect, it's a failure. But even if it's huge, it will likely backfire.

Supporters apparently think Americans will look at this event and say "gee, we really do need these immigrants, illegal or otherwise."

My guess is most Americans will say "how dare they?--let's kick them all out and we'll see who needs who the most." (Pardon my average American's grammar.)

My suggestion for future marches and the like--try to emphasize how hardworking and grateful you are, not how important.

PS Here's the quote of the week, from actor John Leguizamo: "It is insulting that the law would call an immigrant a criminal. It's horrible."

John, let me ask you a question. Do you know of any nation that has no laws regarding who is and isn't a citizen? That's practically the definition of a country. Now I hope this isn't too confusing, John, but if you don't follow these rules--for instance, by entering and living in a country without proper documentation--you are breaking the law, i.e., commiting a crime. If you don't believe me, try it in anywhere south of the United States and see how it goes.

I've generally been in favor of fairly open borders, but even I believe there's a distinction between a legal and illegal immigrant.

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