Monday, July 31, 2006

Nick Of Times

A few weeks ago I wrote about John Dean's new book where he says a large portion of people whom he disagrees with (let's call them conservatives) aren't just wrong, but have serious mental problems. The funny part is he claims (and worse, apparently believes) that he's presenting disinterested science as proof.

The book has become a bestseller. I was going to write about it but I see my old friend and Reason editor Nick Gillespie has just reviewed it in the Sunday NYT. Nick is no fan of the Bush administration, but he knows nonsense when he sees it.

In Vino Veritas?

The big story out here this past weekend has been Mel Gibson's DUI. It's not the arrest, it's the outrageous stuff Gibson said during the incident.

Apparently, he was highly abusive, threatening the arresting officer and others. What's getting the most play, understandably, are his comments about Jews. Allegedly, he made a number of anti-Semitic statements, including "Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." (Since what he said is on tape, this may be a verbatim quote.)

Gibson has previously had trouble with the Jewish community. Some thought his movie The Passion Of The Christ was anti-Semitic and also felt he didn't fully distance himself from his father's Holocaust denial.

The next day, Gibson put out a statement where he said "I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said."

A few friends emailed me wondering what I thought of the whole affair. I guess if Gibson wants to apologize for things he said while drunk, I'll accept it. Let me put it another way. There are millions and millions of people out there who are willing to say what Gibson said when they're sober. Let's worry about those people first.

PS Mel Gibson is still a lot shorter than William Wallace.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

V#c@b*l%ry

I can't count how many times I've heard that profanity reveals a limited vocabulary. I just want to take a little time this Sunday to note two things.

1) When someone drops a brick on my foot, you'll have to pardon me for not saying "that was most unpleasant, see to it you take steps to avoid any repetition of this unfortunate incident in the foreseeable future."

2) It seems to me those who refuse to swear are the ones with limited vocabularies.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Ain't No Sunshine

I think it was John Simon who said a reviewer writes for those who haven't seen the film and a critic writes for those who have. I can see the distinction, but it still seems to me if your review comes out before most people have seen the movie, you shouldn't give away the plot.

Here's a good example: Rex Reed on Little Miss Sunshine. Reed lists just about every plot point in his fifth paragraph. I'm glad he enjoyed the film, but he should remember part of that enjoyment comes from watching the plot unfold.

I don't think Reed is much of a critic. I doubt John Simon would even call him one. But if you're going to read what he wrote about Little Miss Sunshine, I suggest you see the movie first.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Past Due

I was flipping through the channels and I caught part of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation entitled "Devil's Due" (which was actually written for a previously planned Star Trek show).

The plot centers on Ventax, a planet that made a deal with the devil, as it were. They were once ravaged by war and agreed to a contract where they'd have 1000 years of peace and prosperity. After that, they'd be permanently enslaved. Some deal.

That's the legend, anyway. Now the devil, "Ardra," has returned to collect. Data looks over the contract and says it's airtight. Most sophisticated legal systems I'm aware would have serious trouble with one generation signing away the freedom of countless generations a thousand years hence. I must admit, however, all these systems are Earth-based--I don't know how the Ventaxians view things.

Anyway, Captain Picard tells Data to look for loopholess and commands him to study the last 1000 years of legal precedent. Now I don't care how they run things on Ventax, the more relevant precedent would be from over 1000 years ago, since those were the rules in effect when the contract was signed.

Starfleet should get on the ball and start training cadets better in logic.

Columbus Guy says: What are you, some sort of Klingon Scalia?

"Things sure are different now" category

The NYTimes headline: "Tide of Arab Opinion Turns to Support for Hezbollah"

Damn Jews. They've turned the whole Arab world against them.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Best Song Not By...

Driving around town today, I heard "The Boys Are Back In Town" by Thin Lizzy. Not much of a chorus but a great verse. Anyway, I remember how some people thought it was a Springsteen song when it came out. To be honest, though I like Bruce, I'd probably rather blast this song in my car.

I wondered how many songs are thought to be by one artist but aren't. Here are a few that came to mind:

Above all, Fontella Bass doing "Rescue Me." To this day I hear people say it's Aretha Franklin.

Then there's "A Horse With No Name" by America, which sounds like bad Neil Young. (Sometimes Neil Young sounds like bad Neil Young.)

Back in 1966, "Lies" by the Knickberbockers sounded like The Beatles.

Everyone knew "Uptown Girl" wasn't by the Four Seasons because they weren't recording anymore when Billy Joel put it out. I think it's my favorite Billy Joel song because I prefer the Four Seasons, and this is the best Four Seasons song not by the Four Seasons.

Columbus Guy says: I dated a girl who hosted a college radio program, "not by the original artist." stuff like "Here, There and Everywhere" by Claudine Longet, Springsteen covering "Blinded by the Light," etc.

LAGuy notes: What that girl did is not quite the same thing as what I'm talking about here, of course.

By the way, Springsteen didn't cover "Blinded By The Light," he wrote it. I think the reason Manfred Mann had such a big hit with the tune is everyone thought they were singing about douche.

Columbus Guy says: Well, needless to say, the relationship did not proceed apace. (And BTWBAY, my guess is, if people general y didn't hear Springsteen as saying douche, it's because the Boss didn't speak clearly.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Never The Twain

Another blog writes "To paraphrase Mark Twain, the only thing better than having NATO peace-keepers in south Lebanon would be not to have them..."

Sorry, but that's paraphrasing Oscar Wilde.

The Flesh Is Willing

Fascinating reading at the LA Times. Not only is Israel killing Lebanese civilians (a tragic thing, though I didn't see any mention of how Hezbollah uses them as shields while gleefully attacking Israeli citizens), it's also hurting the feelings of Red Cross volunteers like Imad Hillal and Qasim Chaalan.

In her front page piece "Israeli Missiles Rip Into Medics' Esprit de Corps," Megan K. Stack describes the havoc Israel is wreaking (without ever quite explaining how we got to this point), noting that, above the violence...
...most dangerous of all, the attack blunted the zeal of the band of gonzo ambulance drivers who have doggedly plugged away as Red Cross volunteers. Young men and women with easy grins and a breezy disregard for their own safety....
Remember, this is news article, not a press release.

Here's the other front page headline on the war: "Lebanese Tell Rice Bluntly That U.S. Must Step Up." Also on the front page are quick descriptions of three "Related Stories" inside: one on how critics are urging Blair to separate himself from American policy (which is too lenient toward Israel, of course), one on how Israelis killed some Palestinians, and one on how this conflict is hurting the future of Israel's kibbutzim.

Maybe tomorrow someone will write something with enough facts to put it all in context. I just hope it isn't spiked to make room for a piece on how Lebanese pets are being effected.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Answers To Quiz

Doing the research for this quiz was much trickier than I thought. People lie about their height, especially celebrities. It's hard to pin down the correct number. I went with the sources I thought were the most reliable. A good rule of thumb is if you hear two different heights, choose the smaller one.

In any case, even if I'm a bit off here and there, who's shorter is usually pretty clear.

1. Alan Alda is pretty tall at 6' 2", but George Plimpton is even taller at 6' 4" If you don't think Alda is tall, it might be because his costars on M*A*S*H, Wayne Rogers and Mike Farrell, were taller.

2. Sergeant Alvin York was 6' 0". Cooper was at least 6' 2". (Cooper famously portrayed another six-footer, Lou Gehrig.)

3. Bonnie Parker was short--4' 10"---and plain. Faye Dunaway is tall--5' 7"--and glamorous. While we're at it, 6' 1" Warren Beatty was about nine inches taller and considerably better-looking than Clyde Barrow. That's Hollywood.

4. Legend has it that William Wallace was a giant of a man. He's usually listed at 6' 7". This may be an exaggeration, but it's hard to believe he was under 6 feet. Mel Gibson, on the other hand, is 5' 9" (on a good day).

5. Ben Kingsley is a not-too-tall 5' 7". Gandhi was a compact 5' 3". Maybe he didn't eat enough.

6. "Evita" may be a diminutive, but Eva Peron was 5' 5". Another one-name superstar, Madonna, is somewhere between 5'3" and 5' 4".

7. Steve McQueen was 5' 9". Papillon was 6' 0".

8. Gary Oldman is 5' 8". Beethoven was around 5' 4", as was Mozart. (Tom Hulce, who played Mozart in Amadeus, is about the same height as Oldman.)

9. T. E. Lawrence was short and dark, closer to Al Pacino or Dustin Hoffman than Peter O'Toole. Lawrence was 5' 5 1/2", O'Toole is 6' 2".

10. Tie one for the Gipper. Reagan and Gipp were both 6' 1".

11. Mickey Rooney, at 5' 1", was one of the shortest adult male film stars. In fact, his height was a major reason he was cast as lyricist Hart, who was somewhere around 4' 8". If you've ever watched this biopic, you might even think Hart died of excessive shortness.

12. At a bit under 6 feet, Geoffrey Rush easily beats the Marquis de Sade, who was no taller than 5' 3".

13. Denzel Washington is 6' 0". He definitely has a better reach than 5' 8" Rubin "Hurricane" Carter.

14. At 5' 11", Sigourney Weaver is taller than most women (and men), but she still would have looked up at 6' 2" Dian Fossey.

15. Reese Witherspoon is an adorable 5' 2". June Carter was 5' 5 1/2"--same as Lawrence Of Arabia.

The old dog barks

Give it up for the Old Man. Buckley does some remarkable things in this column: He dredges something useful out of Pat Buchanan and he raises a fair point, radical Islam is in "fighting trim."

Overall, though, I think he's not quite on board. He accuses Bush essentially of what the Left accuses, that he's too simplistic, too tied to idealism. Really, in Reagan, the Left said the same thing, but the Right recogized it as leadership. Bush's problem isn't false goals (i.e., he should not be more "pragmatic" with those rising heathens) but instead an unwillingness to articulate them more forthrightly than he does. Why, who knows. Maybe it's the same political calculating that gave us NCLB and Medicare Part D.

We're average

Talk about inspiration. Mrs. Bill Clinton says what it means to be an American is to get "into the middle class."

Most people, I think, actually want to be rich, although they say they want to be, you know, upper middle class.

"These ideas will make sure every American will get a fair wage, access to college and home ownership and a path out of poverty and into the middle class," she says. Yes, you'll earn just as much as we tell you to earn, and no more, because we have to think of others behind you, and by the way, you need to pay your betters a little more, because all this leadership doesn't come cheap.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Height Of Celebrity

Our last quiz was so popular, we decided to try another. This one is a less highbrow but, we hope, just as much fun.

Here's the deal. We list the actor, a real-life person the actor portrayed, and the movie where it happened. You have to answer a simple question--who's taller, the actor or the real-life person.

1. Alan Alda as George Plimpton in Paper Lion

2. Gary Cooper as Alvin C. York in Sergeant York

3. Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker in Bonnie And Clyde

4. Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart

5. Ben Kingsley as Gandhi in Gandhi

6. Madonna as Eva Peron in Evita

7. Steve McQueen as Henri "Papillon" Charrière in Papillon

8. Gary Oldman as Beethoven in Immortal Beloved

9. Peter O'Toole as T. E. Lawrence in Lawrence Of Arabia

10. Ronald Reagan as George "The Gipper" Gipp in Knute Rockne All American

11. Mickey Rooney as Lorenz Hart in Words And Music

12. Geoffrey Rush as the Marquis de Sade in Quills

13. Denzel Washington as Rubin "Hurricane" Carter in The Hurricane

14. Sigourney Weaver as Dian Fossey in Gorillas In The Mist

15. Reese Witherspoon as June Carter in Walk The Line

The answers are now available on a Tuesday post here at Pajama Guy.

Hold Your Horses

Lately, I've seen several uses of "free reign." Here are two examples. It's supposed to be "free rein."

The expression is about letting a horse loose, not about rulers who can do anything. I think this one's crossed over, though. Let's say goodbye to "free rein" and welcome our new, unhampered leader.

Respond To This

So President Bush has finally found something worth vetoing, embryonic stem cell research. I don't agree with him, but I was surprised at the Democrats' response in their weekly radio address.

Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado, who co-sponsored the bill, said "the President’s veto had nothing to do with morals" but was motivated by “cold, calculated, cynical political gain.”

I was taken aback. Bush has dealt with this issue before and it's pretty clear he feels strongly about it. Why else would he veto a bill that's so popular? For "political gain"? DeGette may hate how Bush voted but that's no reason to insult our intelligence.

In fact, I wish Bush were more cyncial. Then he might have voted the way I want.

I know it's too much to ask, but I'd like to see a higher level of debate among politicians, i.e., arguments about policy instead of name-calling.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Home Run

I just watched Midnight Run, one of the best road pictures of the past few decades. Check it out if you haven't seen it. It brought back memories--not of the movie, but of the shoot.

I lived in downtown Chicago in the 80s, near the river, and often saw them shooting films in the neighborhood. Just a few blocks away they worked on The Untouchables and Red Heat, to name a couple.

Once I was walking home from work and I saw several people with handguns. Who knew what it was? We're talking Chicago, after all. Turned out to be part of a scene in Midnight Run. If you watch it, it happens as Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin get off a bus.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Jack Warden

Actor Jack Warden just died. He'd been doing great work in movies, TV and the stage for over two decades when, some time in the 70s and 80s, he became Hollywood's go to guy.

Some of his best work can be seen in Brian's Song, Shampoo, Heaven Can Wait, Being There, Used Cars and The Verdict.

He could play it straight or funny, be a figure of authority or a befuddled mess. Regardless of the role, you always knew you were in good hands. Just thinking about him now brings a smile.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Separated at birth

Have you ever seen ColumbusGuy and Sen. Hillary Rodham ("Mrs. Bill") Clinton in the same room? I didn't think so.

Hillary says, "Madison Ave. ad execs are so bent on taking control of America's children, they'd put computer chips in kids' brains if they could, Sen. Hillary Clinton said yesterday.
Saying advertisers have found so many new ways to get at kids through video games and the Internet, Clinton warned that we're verging on a society out of a grim science fiction novel.
"At the rate that technology is advancing, people will be implanting chips in our children to advertise directly into their brains and tell them what kind of products to buy," Clinton said at the Kaiser Family Foundation.


Yeah. Any moron knows the chips are to tell them what laws to obey.

Calling Garrison Keillor II

The Great Taranto catches the NY Times in some silliness, "On average, American schoolchildren are performing at mediocre levels . . .."

But it's fun to see the problem. My dictionary (Random House 2nd) gives two definitions: 1) "of only ordinary or moderate quality; neither good nor bad"; 2) "rather poor or inferior".

I like that. It means, "not bad" and "bad."

Finding a better issue

I knew my issue pun was weak but so is my self-discipline, so I did it anyway. Although it's almost as cheap, here's a better one.

A Tale Of Two Toms

My friend Tom runs a great blog where he talks about his three passions--movies, amateur wrestling and Japanese toy robots.

A new post lists his top ten superhero movies. It includes Superman I and II, as well as The Incredibles, but the rest are unorthodox choices to say the least. Check it out.

Then there's my other friend Tom, a law professor, who contributes to the Mirror Of Justice religious law blog. In a recent post he discusses income inequality. As to what Catholics and Christians should think, that's none of my business, but some of his arguments are more generally applicable.

He feels wide income disparity (like we have in America, I guess) is bad. He says "people will find it harder" to have empathy for others "when income and life-condition disparities are really large."

Is this true? I'd argue, at the very least, it's hardly obvious. Seems to me America is more egalitarian where it really counts than most countries. We don't believe other people, rich or not, are "our betters." Everyone feels they're as good as anyone else. Other countries, where government policy weighs more heavily on social and economic issues, tend to have stronger class systems and more social distance between groups.

It seems to me what you want is not official intervention to tamp down financial inequality (which requires massive regulation that can only guarantee less wealth in general), but a bottom-up ethos that we're all humans with basic dignity and a right to be treated fairly by others--through free association.

But, those who concentrate on the gap between rich and poor say, there are still so many things the rich can buy that others can't. This claim is not about how the poor are doing, but about how much better the rich are doing. In other words, if I had an economic plan that improves the lot of the poor by twice as much and the rich by three times as much, these people would reject it.

We need to deal with hatred and resentment of both the well off and the poor. And the people who concentrate on economic disparities, if anything, are helping to sow those seeds of unhappiness.

(Tom also says some stuff about social mobility that I disagree with, but this post is already long enough.)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The bard lives

"This soup of oestrogen"-- what could be more poetic?

Threat or invitation?

The Lebanese Minister of Defense warned Israel Thursday that if IDF ground forces are sent into southern Lebanon, Lebanese troops will fight along with the Hizbullah against Israel.

I guess the operative question is, for how long will they fight? Will it be measured in hours or days?

Driving down the cost of justice

So a federal judge kicked out Maryland's socialism effort, invalidating a law that singled out Walmart to provide health care benefits. Too bad it was on mere federal statutory grounds, instead of something exciting, such as the dormant commerce clause or an important doctrine, such as, "I'm sorry, this law is just too stupid to stand."

Star Track

I guess this is the week I celebrate mid-60s TV shows. Two days ago it was The Monkees, today, Star Trek.

I just finished Inside Star Trek: The Real Story by Herbert Solow and Robert Justman. How is it these guys know the inside story? Solow was an executive in charge of TV production at Desilu--the company that owned and produced Star Trek until it sold out to Paramount. Robert Justman was a producer on the show.

What's interesting about their take is, though the two made creative decisions, they're not "artistic" types constantly condemning the "suits." In fact, these guys are the suits. To them, the actors, the writers, producer Gene Roddenberry and others weren't just creative people, but all too often obstacles to getting out each episode in time and on budget. It's a useful angle with so much else written from the fans' viewpoint.

I learned a few surprising things. Every Star Trek fan knows Jeffrey Hunter played Captain Pike in the original pilot. What I didn't know was when a second pilot was ordered--a very unusual thing--he was offered the lead again but turned it down. In fact, his wife came in and said that Jeffrey was a movie star and this role was no good for him. (Hunter died of head trauma in 1969. Little did he know he'd be best remembered as Pike since the footage was reused in Star Trek's two-part episode "The Menagerie.")

Also, I discovered when Leonard Nimoy became the show's breakout character and held out for better terms in the second season, a list was made of possible replacements. (Originally, NBC requested his character, Mr. Spock, be cut. They were so worried about his Satanic looks that the promotional material they sent out rounded off his ears.) The main reason for the list was to scare Nimoy. Nevertheless, one name on it stands out--David Carradine. Think of it, Star Fu.

It's impossible to imagine the show without Shatner and Nimoy. I know that's a cliche, but I mean it. I could easily imagine other actors in the other roles, or even those roles being cut. Perhaps Jeffrey Hunter missed out, or perhaps if he'd taken the role the show would be forgotten today.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Kissing cousins

John Stossel's writing is nothing to write home about, but at least some of the time he makes a decent point or, more to the point, counterpoint.

Somehow, though, I don't think this is next civil right. Don't you suppose most people want to marry outside the family in the hope, forlorn though it may be, that they'll raise the attractiveness average? I know I'd like to be married to someone better looking than I am, and by God, take a look at ColumbusGal and you'll know I am.

More seriously (maybe), as technology allows us to live longer, something approaching forever, and circumvent biology entirely, how long do you suppose before it's okay to marry the 'rents or the kids? And will any of the current justices still be sitting on the court that rules on the, ahem, issue?

Picture This

A few years ago I purchased a Kodak digital camera and installed the company's software on my computer. Right now I'm watching as a little rectangle slowly rises from the bottom right of my screen warning me this is my last chance to update the software. Either I can click on it to get to the new stuff, or wait till it goes away.

I'm not interested in updating the software, even for nothing. The old software works fine and I don't feel the need to relearn how to use it. Yet this rectangle with the warning has been popping up several times a day for over a year!

Kodak, I hate you.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Monkeemania

"I would not work with those guys again if my life depended on it. I can't be responsible for their attitudes and the way they treat people." That's what Davy Jones said about his bandmates last week. So the Monkees are kaput. Funny, I thought they broke up over 35 years ago.

I recently read (okay, skimmed) Andrews Sandoval's day-by-day history of the Monkees. What struck me is how busy these guys were.

Their heyday was from mid-'66 to mid-'68. During that period, they shot two full seasons of their TV show, completed a full-length film, put out five top-selling albums and toured extensively. Most of what they did (admittedly with a lot of help from others) was of reasonably high quality. Even Head, the feature that all but ended their career, has re-emerged as a cult film.

They also had a comeback in the 80s, charting with new records. Even today their legacy lives on--for example, an extensive ad campaign for eBay features their hit "Daydream Believer."

A few years ago I saw Mickey Dolenz at the Egyptian Theatre where they were showing Head. He said comparing The Monkees to The Beatles is like comparing Star Trek to NASA. He may be right, but hey, hey, there's nothing wrong with Star Trek.

Truer words II

My respect for Tony Blair, already good, is going up: "Obviously, if she goes out, she's got to succeed as it were, whereas I can just go out and talk."

I love those implicit quote marks, "succeed as it were."

Monday, July 17, 2006

Is he dead yet?

Drudge reminds us of a forgotten promise.

Upon hearing this, I told friends I'd attack Israel myself, if there were the remotest chance it were true. But one wisely responded, it would only result in the rest of you being subjected to a lecture on the meaning of "personally."

Calling Garrison Keillor

Michael Kinsley explains why this joke is funny: Editor's note: Kinsley's surgery took place on July 12 and went fine. His first words were, "Well, of course, when you cut taxes, government revenues go up. Why couldn't I see that before?"

I'm not sure whether I'd rather have people believe that I was stupid, or mentally ill.

LAGuy notes: Woody Allen did the same joke in Everyone Says I Love You.

Interest Versus Obligation

"Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue" says Francois de La Rochefoucauld (it would be a French guy). Perhaps this is best demonstrated in Hollywood movies. They tend to tell stories that end in conventional morality, while luxuriating in the sin along the way.

For instance, gangster pictures end with the protagonist dead in the gutter, but audiences pay to watch his rise, as he gains wealth and meets beautiful women by killing a lot of people. Another example is The Hustler, which I watched a few days ago. After pool shark Paul Newman drives his woman to suicide, he gives up the game forever (I don't give spoiler warnings for classic films over 40 years old), but we're watching the movie for the pool scenes and the hardboiled dialogue, while the love affair is relatively dreary.

(Not that Hollywood invented this. George Bernard Shaw complained about the immorality of plays where the audience wallows in the world of a courtesan for two and a half hours, only to have her die in the last ten minutes due to her iniquity.)

Why am I bringing this up? Because it was something to think about during the dull scenes in The Devil Wears Prada. I recommend this movie, by the way. The story of Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway), who gets a job as personal assistant to a demanding boss, Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), at a fashion magazine, is very entertaining. However, the fun is all about the nasty stuff at the magazine, while every now and then the film returns to Andy's decent but tiresome boyfriend, Nate (Adrian Grenier), to remind her (and us) this is the path she should be taking.

Once you get past the modern trappings, this is one of Hollywood's oldest plots. A young woman comes to the big city and must make a choice: fame and/or financial success versus true love. She always picks true love in the end. I think the reason Hollywood keeps telling us this story is that they just dont believe it.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

You Don't Say

Dahlia Lithwick's latest piece in Slate is about how America is coming close to criminalizing bad thoughts. I thought great, it's about time she wrote something on hate speech.

I was disappointed when it turned out to be about the application of conspiracy laws against potential terrorists. The line between merely talking or thinking about something, as opposed to committing a criminal act, has always been tricky to determine, but it's a pretty old question. Criminalizing "hate speech," on the other hand, crosses the line completely, and punishes people directly for holding unpopular views.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Unclear On The Concept

Jeffrey Lord in The American Spectator writes that Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame have jumped the shark. Maybe they have, maybe they haven't, but I do know that Lord doesn't quite understand the phrase.

It was popularized (not invented) by my friend Jon Hein, who runs the Jump The Shark website. He just sold it to Gemstar for a nice chunk of change, by the way.

Back to Lord. He goes to the trouble of explaining the phrase, which is a mistake:

One of the stars of the longtime hit TV series Happy Days, Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzerelli, played by Henry Winkler, is made to do something by the show's writers that was clearly designed to save the fading series from sinking ratings.

The something? The Fonz, on water skis, was forced to literally jump a shark. The episode not only failed to save the once popular series that also starred future director Ron Howard, "jumping the shark" became a Hollywood metaphor for the point at which a once believable premise became a caricature.

Not quite, Jeff.

A show "jumps the shark" when it has peaked (subjectively speaking), and you know it will be downhill from here on in.

Lord is a bit off in describing the phrase, but he's way off when it comes to Happy Days. In fact, the show was still at the height of its popularity when they shot this episode. As creator Gary Marshall has noted (somewhat defensively--I don't think he gets the phrase either), they went on to make another hundred episodes after this one.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Business As Usual

All day long the main headline in The Drudge Report has been "World Leaders Split" on Israel's attack on Lebanon. That's not what I read. Seems to me America accepts what Israel is doing while the rest of the world condemns it.

As usual, Israel is the only country in the world not allowed to defend itself.

Dean's List

I saw John Dean on Keith Olbermann's show. At first I thought it was a put-on, but Dean was serious. (And Olbermann seemed to be buying it.)

Dean has a new book out attacking conservatives. Fine, that's what partisans do. But he wasn't merely claiming conservatives are wrong, he said they naturally desire authoritarianism and are impervious to facts. Worse (or should I say funnier), he actually claimed it wasn't his opinion, it was a truth revealed by decades of scientific research.

Where had I heard this argument before? Of course, in the Soviet Union, where political disagreement was considered a psychiatric disorder.

The only response is to make sure men like Dean never (again?) have any real power.

Columbus Guy says: By "Soviet Union," do you mean "Berkeley"? (I tried to sort out a best line, but it's just not possible. Read the whole thing. It's a riot from top to bottom: "Hitler, Mussolini, and former President Ronald Reagan were individuals, but all were right-wing conservatives because they preached a return to an idealized past and condoned inequality in some form. Talk host Rush Limbaugh can be described the same way, the authors commented in a published reply to the article. . . . They also stressed that their findings are not judgmental.
"In many cases, including mass politics, 'liberal' traits may be liabilities, and being intolerant of ambiguity, high on the need for closure, or low in cognitive complexity might be associated with such generally valued characteristics as personal commitment and unwavering loyalty," the researchers wrote.
This intolerance of ambiguity can lead people to cling to the familiar, to arrive at premature conclusions, and to impose simplistic cliches and stereotypes, the researchers advised."

So let's see if I read this right. Liberals suffer a Bill Clinton weakness, e.g., "I care too much," and, to be fair, let's acknoweldge that conservatives have strengths, e.g., if you want a Nazi movement, they're your guys.)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Another brick in the wall MCMI

The goal is to combine specialised domain knowledge with common sense knowledge to create a reasoning system that learns as well as a person and can be applied to a variety of complex tasks. Such a system will significantly expand the kinds of tasks that a computer can learn. . . . Successful demonstration of this system will have implications beyond the ability to automate the medical evacuation planning process, by providing the groundwork for automated systems capable of learning other tasks of similar complexity. This will enable a capacity to develop more effective military decision/planning support systems at lower costs and that require less training for human users.

Another brick in the wall MCM

The scientists implanted a tiny silicon chip with 100 electrodes into an area of the brain responsible for movement. The activity of the cells was recorded and sent to a computer which translated the commands and enabled the patient to move and control the external device.

Emmy Enemy

The Emmy nominations came out last week and I'm still recovering. For years I thought they were poorly picked and finally last year they had some stuff worth rooting for. So what do they do this year but reverse all the good choices.

This is probably due to their new methodology. TV Academy members still voted, but then a select committee chose the nominees from the top ten or fifteen vote-getters. This guaranteed a lot of eccentric--and bad--choices.

It's the omissions that are the hardest to understand. For instance, last year's winners for best comedy and best drama, Desperate Housewives and Lost, weren't even nominated. I haven't watched the former, though I hear it's gone dowhill, but Lost is still the most intriguing series on TV. For that matter, none of the regulars on the show got acting nominations. In fact, the only acting nod they got was for guest actor Henry Ian Cusick as Desmond--if anyone, it should have gone to Michael Emerson as Henry Gale.

Then there's House. It's up for best dramatic series, but its star, the wonderful Hugh Laurie, got no nomination. How could this happen? House is no ensemble show--it's all about House.

James Gandolfini didn't make the cut. The Sopranos might have had a weak season, but he's always worth considering. Edie Falco, who matches Gandolfini beat for beat, was also ignored. On the other hand, Martin Sheen, who hardly figured in West Wing this year, and Allison Janney, who had a weaker season than usual, are yet again up for Emmys. (Sheen even has a second nomination for a guest shot in his son's show Two And A Half Men.)

For best comedy series, not only is Desperate Housewives missing, but so is Entourage and the charming new series My Name Is Earl. Jason Lee, who's found the perfect role as Earl, isn't nominated either. (At least Jaime Pressly got a supporting nod for the show.)

Another odditiy--Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer co-star in Two And A Half Men, but Sheen gets a best actor nomination while Cryer is relegated to supporting actor. This is a modern Odd Couple, they should be in the same category.

Let's not even go into the writing nominations.

I don't think I'll watch the Emmys this year.

Columbus Guy says: It's great that Pressly got a nod. She deserves it. Her performance as a drunk was worthy of Lucy, just side-splitting, and she's consistently laugh out loud.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Failure to gel

Kudos to the producers of "Failure to Launch." You couldn't make a movie that annoying if you tried.

NPR's morning edition had an odd but good story Monday juxtaposing babies and computers learning their environments, based on some effort at MIT. So what I think is, Sarah Jessica Parker is actually a robot. Of course, I think the same thing about my dog, and don't get me started about ColumbusGal.(And for that matter, I'm not sure the rest of you are real, either.)

Do Not Disturb

A friend sent me an email with a YouTube video he called "truly disturbing." It's some American Nazis giving speeches in front of a government building.

I didn't find it disturbing. Perhaps if I were living overseas I might think these people have some grip on the American public, but as a citizen I know better. Even on the video you can hear the white supremacists being met with cries of "go home." It's also clear they need a lot of police protection. Almost everyone here understands how vile and foolish these people are.

The truth is Jews are safer and doing better in the United States than any other country. There's a lot more anti-Semitism elsewhere, and I don't just mean in the Middle East. I mean Europe. Now that's disturbing.

I've Got A Secret

I was driving back to LA last night when I heard Brother Michael Dimond interviewed on the radio. He's a Catholic (or at least claims to be) who essentially believes the Church has been run by Satan since Vatican II.

Now I don't get involved in these disputes, they're none of my business. But he seemed to be claiming the reason the third secret of Fatima hasn't been revealed is that it would show the modern Church is heretical. Perhaps I misunderstood him, but hasn't the Church revealed the secret (if belatedly)? I mean, I even read about it in The New York Times a few years back.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I Should Take Vacations More Often

While I was gone last week, we had far more hits than usual. Of course, this is entirely due to my quiz being linked by The Volokh Conpsiracy.

I just hope a few of you who dropped by decided to stick around. Came for the quiz and stayed for the commentary.

Truer words

"The screen is divided into nine squares, each reporting in mind-numbing accuracy what is happening on the streets of Sanborn."

Walks like a duck

When I graduated from U of M about the time LAGuy did, the ceremony was in the Big House. I have no idea how many graduates there were and parents, but surely it was thousands. Despite the cap and gown and crowd and distance, my parents said they could identify me. I guess they were right.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Metaphor alert

Bob Novak thinks Lindsey Graham has got it goin' on:

Lindsey Graham . . . uses a metaphor from the links to describe his political discomfort. His fellow Republicans remind him of a tournament golfer who ignores the leader board and thinks he is ahead going into the 17th and 18th holes, when he really is trailing.
"It's like we think we'll get by with pars on the last two holes when we really need birdies," Graham told me.


Yeah. And it's like football teams that ignore the scoreboard and, down by a touchdown, go for the field goal. Happens all the time.

I don't doubt that the Republicans could lose (though I doubt they will). I just think that if they do, it will be more Goldmanesque, more "nobody knows anything."

Not so by-the-way, I saw the Prince of Darkness speak in tandem with Mark Shields a few months ago at some trade association event. Doubtless they were paid $50,000, maybe apiece, for their 20 minutes of back and forth. It was the epitome of phoning it in. "We're not thinkers," they may as well have said. "But we play them on TV."

July Fourth revisited

So after a week near Kitty Hawk and a half day in D.C., we traveled to St. Pete to visit ColumbusDad.

He's got a boat that is indeed a big hole in the water to suck up money, but he also has a small boat with a little jet that scoots around pretty nicely, too. It's a money-hole that is just my size.

So five of us loaded in and traveled through John's Pass (actually, we went through Blind Pass, which is so much less crowded) and watched them launching fireworks from the beach.

That, dear readers, is a cool fireworks perspective.

However, I have to say, I think it comes in second to sitting in the hills above Mt. Adams in Cincinnati above the river. With all those jurisdictions going off at once, it looks like a real war.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Contingencies

Well, LAGuy is off for a well-deserved rest and I am returned from an ill-deserved one. When anyone says, Life isn't fair, I say, Thank God.

But ColumbusGal especially appreciated my time away from the computer, and she archly said moments ago, "It's a good thing the hotel didn't have computers."

So here's my question for the evening. Suppose someone dies in a hotel. I'm a reporter who reads police reports; it happens all the time. What does the hotel do if they've used that hinged chain-bolt substitute thingy. How do they get in?

Friday, July 07, 2006

You say its your birthday

My son is 11 years old today. If one pays attention, watching our children grow up can be so much more insightful than our own growing. Of course I still have many strong memories from when I was 11 years old, one being that I carved my initials along with this girl's in every tree and wet cement patch I could find that summer. But the other strong memory I have that I now see in my son is of starting to take on REAL responsibilities. I remember carrying a package to or from school. It was heavy and fragile and I knew that they should not have entrusted it to my clumsy hands. Yet for that reason I undertook this mission with more gravity and care than I knew I had. I watch as AABoy takes on similar tasks and I realize that the judicious placement of expectation on our kids is necessary to their proper growth. Happy 11th AABoy!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I Know, I Know...

...I said I wouldn't be blogging for a week. Well, I'll be leaving on vacation soon but I just discovered we were linked at our favorite legal blog, The Volokh Conspiracy.

Just in case any of you dropping by are checking out our most recent posts, let me promise you we update daily (if not more often) with vibrant, incisive commentary on politics, show biz and whatever else interests us. You just happened to catch us on a few down days when everyone is on vacation.

Come back any time, and feel free to leave comments.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Independence Day II

Call me SanDiegoGuy. I'm gonna be there over the weekend, so, for the first time in quite a while, I'll be taking some time off from blogging--about a week.

But never fear. ColumbusGuy will return in a few days (we hope), and who knows, maybe AnnArborGuy or some other Guy will pick up the slack.

In any case, faithful reader, we'll be back soon. During our desuetude, why not peruse our voluminous archives?

Independence Day I

Happy July Fourth!

And what Fourth of July would be complete without fireworks!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Don't Toy With Him

A few days ago I was over at my friend Tom's house. He's a collector of and recognized expert in Japanese plastic toy robots. He has a huge collection, but recently made a major addition--the Garada K7 Jumbo Machinder. It cost many thousands of dollars.

There are very few orginal Garada K7s around. In fact, until the last decade, many thought none had been produced. Suddenly, to Tom's surprise, one was available in an online aucton. Amazingly, the owner didn't know its true worth and didn't even list it under its proper name. Many collectors missed out on the auction altogether.

I was lucky enough to see it in a display case. By the time you read this, it should be ensconced in a safe deposit box. If you want to see what it looks like, and read the full story behind the sale, go here.

She's Got Us Pegged

A friend recently sent me this tidbit from an editorial in the Wall Street Journal by Peggy Noonan:
Everyone should stop spinning. Because America is now a country composed of people who know better than anything how to deconstruct spin. It's our great national talent.
(Believe it or not, she's referring to Barbara Walters on Star Jones.) Here's how I responded:

This claim, which ends the piece, really stands out because it's so false.

First, I don't know if America is better (or worse) at spotting spin than a lot of other countries. (That's globalization for you.)

Second, the way people are built is to believe things that support their biases and be suspicious of things that don't. One person's spin is another person's truth.

Finally, this kind of claim, even if Noonan believes it, is a pretty old come on. You flatter the reader by complimenting her discernment and discrimination. People want to feel in the know, so buttering them up makes them more likely to agree with your argument.

By the way, telling people to stop spinning? It won't stop because 1) most "spinners" don't believe they're spinning and 2) people want to be "spun." They just don't like it when the spinning is the kind they identify as spinning.

So what is our great national talent? You got me. Capitalism? Jazz? Hamburgers? Football?

PS The same friend notes Neal Stephenson's answer to what America does best. Four things: Music, movies, microcode (software) and high-speed pizza delivery.

PPS Here is a link to a short piece on the physiological basis for confirmation bias that I mentioned in the comment section.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

I'm A Believer

When the Detroit Tigers set a torrid pace at the start of the season, I thought they were playing above their level, and they'd soon be back around .500 (which would have been enough).

But now it's the season's midpoint and they have the best record in all of major league baseball. This thing is for real. I will actually be disappointed if they don't make the playoffs.

Maybe it's too much to ask, but better to have hope and be burned than to support a hopeless team. I know.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Hominy horminy hominy

So ColumbusGal and I are in Charleston, and what a city. We're here just for the day, on our way from Kitty Hawk (Currituck, actually) to St. Pete. We're going to try to swing by Cape Canaveral on the way, see that shuttle thingy burn those calories.

But back to Charleston. Next time you're in town, hit Hominy Grill. The fried green tomatoes were competently breaded but no harbinger of what was to come. The salad, however, with tomato citrus (orange) vinegarette, was possibly the best I've ever had, the grouper and mahi mahi made the mouth water, as did the potatoes that were hardly recognizable as potatoes, the wilted spinach, and the cobbler with peach and blueberry. Just fabulous.

Holy cow

AnnArborGuy is in the Holy Land? Way excellent. And I didn't even know he was neoconish.

Minor Complaint

In the latest New Yorker, critic David Denby discusses the first film Billy Wilder directed, The Major And The Minor.

Here's the premise: Ginger Rogers has given up on New York but doesn't have the money to get back to the Midwest. She poses as a 12-year old to pay half fare. On the train, she makes a friend of army man Ray Milland, but gets him in trouble with his fiance. She stops off at the academy where he works to help him out. She falls in love but can't reveal her true age.

Denby says "the story doesn't 'work' anymore," and this kind of farce is "excruciatingly square" in a post-Lolita age.

I have news for Mr. Denby. This farce is still one of the most charming and funny films Wilder ever made. I've seen it on TV and in a packed theatre, and I can guarantee, it not only works, it also "works."

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