Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Munsters

Here's a recent comment we received about spooky music:
My favourite is not exactly Halloween but within the ambit of the theme- the theme of "The Munsters" (instrumental only). I also like Butch Patrick's 20 years later novelty tune "What Ever Happened to Eddie, the Kid From Mockingbird Place?" which was done to the theme.
I love The Munsters theme. It was done differently in the two seasons the show was on--first with a great organ backing, then with a cool guitar lick. I'm not that impressed with the Butch Patrick novelty since the words are so poorly written. Just look at the title. If you know the tune, you can see that "Eddie" is sung over three notes. Horrendous.

Far better is the actual lyric (rarely sung) to The Munsters theme. (It's still far from perfect. Compare it to the superior job done on I Dream Of Jeannie, Bewitched of The Odd Couple.):

When you are walking down the street at night
And behind you there's no one in view.
But you hear mysterious feet at night,
Then the Munsters are following you.

If you should meet this strange family
Just forget what some people have said,
The Munsters may shake your hand clammily
But they're not necessarily dead.

Behind their house you mustn't be afraid
To see a figure digging with a spade.
Perhaps someone didn't quite make the grade
With the Munsters, with the Munsters.

If when you're sleeping you dream a lot,
Ghoulish nightmares parade through your head,
And then you wake up and scream a lot,
Oh the Munsters are under your bed.

At midnight if creatures should prowl about,
And if vampires and vultures swoop down.
And werewolves and fiends shriek and howl about,
Oh the Munsters are out on the town.

One night I dared peak through their window screen,
My hair turned white at such a crazy scene.
Because every evening its Halloween
At the Munsters, at the Munsters.

The problem with family

LAGuy is fond of pointing out sister blogs, defined by their use of PajamaGuy dots. I'm thankful he's not pointed out this one. I'm going to start a movement to donate liberalgirlnextdoor's stem cells to Michael J. Fox. All of them. (My goal is not to end discussion, but to invite debate.)

Ghost World

It's the heart of the holiday lineup, with three biggies in three months. You don't get much to celebrate early in the year (President's Day--give me a break) and except for July The Fourth, the rest seem more like excuses to close banks than anything else.

But Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas (Chanukah/Kwanzaa etc.)--that's Murderers' Row. Each one is a different type of celebration, not just in content, but in feeling. Christmas, even with its rampant consumerism, is a religious holiday. Thanksgiving is about our nation's history. Halloween's atmosphere is, well, pagan.

For years Halloween seemed like the odd man out, even slightly disreputable. But the spirit seems to be growing and people are really going for it these days. Some of the decoration I've seen surpass Christmas.

Beyond the candy, I like the idea of taking the scariest things and laughing at them. Also, there are the colors--I wouldn't want to see orange and black all year round, but, for one week anyway, it's a nice change of pace.

To get you in the mood, here's a list of some great Halloween song. You've probably heard "Monster Mash" and "I Put A Spell On You," but let me put in a plug for the vocalese of Lambert, Henricks and Ross. "Halloween Spooks" is an odd number, even for them, but it swings.

Happy Halloween

From all of us here at PajamaGuy. (LAGuy submitted 41 images, but after a careful vetting process, the Ohio-based technical committee decided to use the first one.)

Monday, October 30, 2006

A good thing?

As one of those who thinks his side's views are not being put out when we lose, I'm happy to see this. I think. This is the second time I've seen this committee site put such stuff out. What's up?

Unhappy juxtaposition

Max Boot writes of four military revolutions: gunpowder, first industrial second industrial and Information (1970 to the future).

A group that is a bit overblown and bootstrappy--but just because they're paranoid doesn't mean someone isn't out to get them--nonetheless writes presciently how information is going to be used.

Here it comes

If only we had a global regulator, everything would be fine. Or maybe a nice, green tax.

Don't Say It

Roger Friedman claims Studio 60 is history. No surprise, but this is:
There is one winner to come out of Studio 60, however: Matthew Perry. In this show he's proven himself to be a star on his own separate from Friends. His comedic timing and ability to ad lib, toss off lines, and give restrained physical reactions is what keeps Studio 60 even remotely interesting.
Ad lib? Does Friedman think he's watching improv? This is an Aaron Sorkin show. Everything is done as written, down to the commas.

The Pain, The Pain

It's been a few days and I'm ready to write about this.

The Tigers lost the World Series. The didn't just lose, they got blown out. The Cardinals were good, but the Tigers made enough dumb mistakes to guarantee they had no chance.

It's almost funny. (Almost.) The post-season mirrored the regular season. For the first two thirds, the Tigers were red hot, practically unbeatable. Then they fell apart, playing like the below-.500 club everyone thought they were.

I should be thrilled they got as far as they did, but it's hard to be so close to the brass ring and not grab it. After losing the Series in five games, it's impossible to say which Tigers we should expect to see next season. On the other hand, the Tigers have a history of not getting into the playoffs two years in a row, and they seem to be on track for that.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Movie Maunderings

I was watching Planet Of The Apes, which is a lot of fun (the original, not the remake). Then it hit me, this has the same problem most episodes of Star Trek do. They land on a planet and see only a minute portion, but this small simian village apparently stands in for the whole place. I'm guessing this is a hangover from westerns, where you'd ride into a new town and that town was the whole world of the story. Was the rest of the the planet run by talking apes, or humans, or some other animal? Was it uninhabited (and they got lucky, landing within walking distance of the apes)? We'll never know.

This film sure opened up a new career path for Charlton Heston. He previously appared in epics set in ancient times, or westerns, but now he was the go-to guy for futuristic films such as The Omega Man and Soylent Green (which is people, Soylent Green is people!).

I also saw the original Brian's Song for the first time since it aired. It was hugely popular in its day, even beloved. It didn't hold up nearly as well as I expected (and certainly not as well as the contemporaneous TV movie Duel). But the real burning question is why didn't anyone notice that Gale Sayer's was so clearly living on the set of Bewitched.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Can't We Just Skip Ahead?

I know I shouldn't say this, but I'm looking past the next three teams Michigan has to face and concentrating on the November 18th battle against OSU. It looks to be one of the greatest games in this greatest of rivalries. It'll certainly be one of the most watched.

I know, I know, Michigan has a history of losing once a year (at least) to a weak team, but this year they seem too solid to have any trouble with Northwestern, Ball State and even the somewhat worrisome Indiana.

I'm impatient for these games to be over so we can get to the real one. I just hope I don't have to eat these words.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Supply And Demand

I was paging through The Daily Bruin, UCLA's newspaper (don't ask why), and couldn't help but notice a huge ad seeking an egg donor. They wanted the woman to be very attractive, very tall, very intelligent and (very?) white. Oh yeah, and under 30.

How much did they offer? $80,000 plus expenses. Not bad.

It made me think back to my days in college and law school, where I knew a number of such women. If these offers had been around back then, I imagine some would have left academia and churned out product while they were still young enough. (I wonder if I could have gotten a finder's fee.)

I checked but couldn't find any similar offers for sperm.

Columbus Guy says: Necessary joke, but of course the economics is entirely different. In the one case there is an extraction cost, and $80,000 seems reasonable, since, given most of the women I've dated, it's quite a battle to get to the thing. In the other case it's a containment cost, and given the size of the diovorce industry, I'd say it takes even more than $80,000 to keep it in.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Class of 2006

I wrote about Studio 60 and 30 Rock last month. They're the two NBC prime time programs set backstage at an SNL sort of show.

I had fears they wouldn't play, but, though neither is great, they're two of the most enjoyable new shows of the season. Unfortunately, they're both tanking, and I doubt they'll be around another year. Enjoy 'em while you can.

In fact, there have been no breakout hits, and a fair amount of expensive flops. The only two new shows that can really be called successes are Ugly Betty and Heroes, and neither are in the top 15. Back to the drawing board for the networks.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Lost Cares

As faithful readers know, Lost is my favorite TV show. So far, I think the new season has started off well. Some don't like how the mysteries keep piling up, but what's the rush? As long as the show is fun and exciting, let them be solved when the time is right.

Everything Lost does is minutely picked over by fans. Every development is analyzed with great care, and sometimes fans act like jilted lovers. While I think the producers know where they're going (itself a point of debate), the show seems to respond these fan discussions. There are a number of examples from last season:

They killed Ana-Lucia. Was this planned? Perhaps, or perhaps they saw how unpopular she was. More likely, they were gonna kill her, but when they saw how much fans hated her, they killed Libby too, since Ana-Lucia's death alone would have been more gratifying than shocking.

Another example is when Locke and Eko discovered the station that watches the Hatch. Fans had speculated the Hatch was a psychological experiment to get people to push a button. It's possible this new station was created to play off that--it turns out the button was very important, while the station that watched the Hatch was the psychological experiment.

Then there was the theory that the whole island experience was only happening in one person's mind. So Hurley had an episode where he thinks this, and the answer was no.

This season, they're even responding to my concerns. (Not just me, of course.) As much as I love the show, I thought the worst thing about the second season was what they did to Locke. He was a hunter, a seeker, and someone who believed--perhaps mistakenly--in the power of the island. In the second season, he hecame housebound, stuck in the Hatch, pushing the button. He also seemed less wise, more easily manipulated.

Apparently sensing fan unease, this season he's out of the Hatch (had to leave--they blew it up) and back on the Island. Looks like he'll try to rescue Jack, Kate and Sawyer. And with the exception of Sayid (whom Locke recognized in the first season as a man you want on your side) Locke is the only one capable of leading the Lostaways against the Others.

We don't know if he'll be successful, or even if he's doing the right thing. But at least he's back.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

How do you make a woman have an orgasm?

Well, I've been to Indiana, and what else are you going to think about?

Researchers at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University say most men are always thinking of sex.

"Audacity" is right

This guy sounds like a law school dean.

Obama can be startlingly candid.

Evidence?

He recalls an awful Hawaii vacation that caused him to miss a key vote in the Illinois Legislature, and ended with wife Michelle not speaking to him.

That''s startling? He should be married to ColumbusGal.

He explains his positions.

Evidence?

A question on Iraq expands into a discussion of public opinion, levels of threat, the first Bush presidency, and the nation's beleaguered military.
"As a result of this administration's failures, the American people are looking for a more thoughtful foreign policy, one that values cooperation," Obama said.


Cooperation! Of course! Get Rumsfeld on the phone now! And what was that other thing? Thoughtful!


The column is a puker top to bottom. A hard-working Lewinksy. Obama is Jesus Christ, JFK and Mark Hatfield, all in one. Read the whole thing and see if you can find any evidence to the contrary.

Tell you what. We'll provide this blog free for a month to anyone who can find, anywhere, a policy position that Obama has taken on anything that doesn't sound like it was written by Geoff Stone.

Reading Reed

Rex Reed lives in a Manichean world, where every film is great or horrible. (I'd like to live in that world, it sounds exciting.) In his latest column, he praises Flags Of Our Fathers to the skies (haven't seen it yet) and excoriates The Prestige.

I wouldn't care, except he clearly didn't understand the latter. This apparently made him mad, so he calls it "incomprehensible gibberish," an "incoherent tale" that "doesn’t make one lick of sense." The plot's a bit tricky, but it's not that hard to follow.

He doesn't stop there. He condemns director Christopher Nolan's work in general, calling Memento "despicable" and Batman Begins--the best Batman movie ever made--"the worst Batman movie ever made."

Reed can't even get the basics right, saying the trick Hugh Jackman wants to steal from Christian Bale is where he "get[s] out of his chains inside a water tank" when it could not be clearer that it's the one where he seems to travel across the stage instantaneously.

Worse, Reed (unwittingly?) gives away the biggest secrets of The Prestige, mostly by listing the questions his apparently clueless compatriot critics asked after the screening. So don't read this review until after you've seen the film. Better yet, don't read it at all.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Mirror Mirror

I haven't seen So Goes The Nation, a documentary about Ohio during the 2004 Presidential election (sounds like a job for ColumbusGuy), but I have read a few local reviews, and I'm guessing they say more about the critics than the film.

For instance, there's Gene Seymour at the LA Times. He relates Paul Begala's argument (shown in the film) about how Republicans want Paris Hilton to pay as little taxes as possible while the waitress serving her latte pays what seems most of her salary. Seymour adds: "What you're wondering at that moment is where, in all the campaigning that went on that year, was that speech?" The problem, Gene, is not that the Democrats didn't make that argument, but that they said practically nothing else.

Then there's Andy Klein over at LA City Beat. Klein's not a bad critic, but his politics can get the better of him. Listen to what he says in this squib about the film: "The possibility of actual electronic voting machine fraud is de-emphasized, though the White House’s recent lack of concern about losing the 2006 election--despite scandals and terrible poll numbers--should raise a red flag." Only a fanatical partisan could have that delicious mix of paranoia and stupidity. Then there's his finish: "[Republicans] have to be bigger liars: If both sides were forced to tell their true positions, the GOP wouldn’t get a third of the votes cast." Funny, that's what my Republican friends say about the Democrats.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I'll answer that one

"Presented with the wretches of Enron, price-rigging, industrial spying and other corporate malfeasance, would Adam Smith still wish to argue on behalf of his Invisible Hand?"

MMMMMmmmm . . . I'll take "yes."

LAGuy adds: You left out the best part from this barely-thought-out essay. In noting the great ideas that have been undone lately, Epstein lists "Marxism and Freudianism, with Darwinism perhaps next to tumble."

So Epstein is another one of the crackpots who think Darwin is in trouble. The irony is he's writing about how the thorny facts can hurt beautiful theories, but doesn't understand that the facts back evolution while the opposition is almost entirely based on the how the theory bothers people.

Just Goes To Show You

A real nailbiter against the Hawkeyes, the Wolverine's toughest opponent until November 18th. That's one of the reason's rankings don't tell you the whole story.

For over three quarters, Iowa matched Michigan step for step. One less missed pass and they could have been ahead. It wasn't until Michigan scored with 4 minutes left did they truly put it away. My only hope is the Wolverines learned some sort of lesson, since the offense will have to be a lot better to beat Ohio. (That lesson may be they need Manningham.) But the final score, 20-6, looks close to a blowout.

On the other hand, last week, they dominated Penn State, not even allowing them positive rushing yardage. The victory was essentially never in doubt. Yet the score, 17-10, made it look close.

You have to watch the games to know the team. And I have to admit from what I've watched of OSU, it's not gonna be easy.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Apocalypto Not Now

I was at the movies last night (seeing The Prestige, my second magician period picture within the week) when the trailer for Mel Gibson's Apocalypto came on. When Gibson's name was shown, there was a smattering of boos. Can't say I disagree with them.

It's said there's no such thing as bad publicity. Perhaps Mel Gibson will soon find out what Tom Cruise already knows.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The only poll that matters

Who is more handsome, LAGuy or ColumbusGuy?
LAGuy
ColumbusGuy
Free polls from Pollhost.com

LAGuy adds: ColumbusGuy, why are you bothering our fine readers with this nonsense?

Columbus Guy says: This from the Guy whose entire industry consists of Paris Hilton telling us about the importance of "story." Look, LAGuy, who was it that brought us the ability to display photos? Who now is bringing us the ability to insert polls? (If you respond, "the Internet," I say, who you gonna believe, me or your lyin' eyes?) Someone has to drag this site out of thje Internet Stone Age.

And besides, your complaints are the ravings of a man who sees he is about to lose. You may think you have a commanding lead , but your LA tan cannot save you from the values voters in the heartland.

Better nationalize it quick, before the price drops too low

So what do you suppose will do more good for Americans access to legal drugs, Medicare Part D or Walmart?

And I think I've finally realized how to shrink the federl governemnt. Let's privatize it, make the damn thing compete: "Shares of drugstore chains CVS Corp. and Walgreen Co. are down more than 11 percent since September 20, the day before Wal-Mart first announced the program in Florida."

What's that? Is that you Denny, George and Hillary? Did I hear you right? You're going to "put a cap in my ass"?

False Economy

NBC's announcement that it will cut jobs isn't exactly a surprise. The network's been ailing these past few years.

What was unusual was that they'll "stop scheduling high-priced dramas and comedies during the 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. slot." So just game shows, reality shows and news shows?

This doesn't make any sense. When NBC was on top not that long ago, it was due to scripted shows like Seinfeld, E.R. and others--some, like Friends, even aired at 8. If scripted shows make money, who cares when they're on. For that matter, if unscripted shows make money, who cares when they're on.

I'd suggest they work more on developing quality shows (or at least popular shows) rather than making pointless rules about scheduling. Or they could change their name to the Game Show Network.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Letter from America

"Undertaker admits stealing and selling Alistair Cooke body parts"

Didn't they already address this in the Matrix?

What are they going to tax next? High scores on Pac Man?

(Yeah, yeah, statute of limitations, but come on. Do we want to reward tax cheats? I think I might have had a high score on my Macintosh 512K Frogger game once, shortly after I reset the scores, and I want to pay my fair share.)

Master of the obvious

Bob Novak writes that the Republicans aren't competing against Hillary. Hell, I'd settle for their not actively promoting her.

Why Is This Man Smiling?

So the White House is upbeat about the Repubs' chances in November. I can see why--the one guy they know won't be ousted is George Bush.

I understand it's the job of Karl Rove to say all is well, but really now, can anyone take this seriously? If the election were held today, the Dems would take back the House and very possibly the Senate. Unless there's some significant change coming, the only question left is how bad will the thrashing be.

Our House

John Lahr, theatre critic for The New Yorker, doesn't like the latest Broadway production of George Bernard Shaw's Heartbreak House. (It's been produced about every 20 years since the original Theatre Guild production in 1920.) In fact, he doesn't like the play. Fine. But what about this: "The play, largely conceived before the First World War, prophesies the jolt to come."

Shaw was a playwright, not a clairvoyant. Yes, he conceived of the play before WWI, but he wrote it mostly during the War and didn't allow it to be presented until the War was over.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

When it's important to know the context

Choose the best sentence:

He was getting rid of her,” she said.

“He was getting rid of her,” she said, meaning he was trying to break up with her.

(So why am I thinking about Don Johnson and his dog?)

I'm supporting the Dems

Chances are it's a Hillary dirty trick, but I'm falling for it big time. This is enough to cause me to support any Democrat anywhere:

Arizona Sen. John McCain . . . was asked his reaction to a potential Democratic takeover of the Senate in the November 7 elections.
"I think I'd just commit suicide," McCain [said.]

This Ain't No Disco

CBGB just closed. It couldn't afford the rent. It's in the Bowery, but that's gentrification for you.

CBGB was perhaps the most important rock club ever. It opened December 1973, though by the time I saw a show there in 1982 its heyday was over.

Hilly Krystal founded the club, and the name stands for the type of music he thought he'd feature--County, BlueGrass and Blues. (Actually the full name was CBGB & OMFUG--the latter acronym meaning Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers.) Within in a few months that plan changed, and later, rock music changed.

It was a rare club in those days that would let unknown bands play originals, so CBGB's was a magnet to all the great early punk groups, such as Blondie, The Ramones, Talking Heads and Television. (In fact, the club was immortalized in the Heads' "Life During Wartime.") They all were regulars before any got a recording contract.

I can't remember who was on the bill when I was there, though I do remember how small and dirty the place was. Somehow it seemed seemed right.

Plenty of new bands (mostly hardcore) were introduced in the 80s and 90s, but the club never regained its cachet as THE place to catch new acts. At least it survived long enough to see punk go mainstream. (Is that good?)

Krystal is still around, and plans to relocate to Vegas. Great. It'd fit right into New York New York.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

That's some problem

The local daily front page reports "a long-stanmding and growing problem: Black students are disciplined at far greater rates than their white peers, though the vast majority of districts hav far fewer black students."

Yes, you read that right.

Reasons?
No. 1: white teachers don't understand black culture.
Yes, you read that right.
No. 2: teachers have poor classroom management skills and overreact to disruptive students.
Yes, you read that right.
No. 3: teachers don't understand how a suspension hurts a student.
It can't possibly be that you read that right.
No. 4: too few teachers can relate to minority students (sounds like reason no. 1, but I guess you can never have too many reasons.)

I am speechless. Not once does the story discuss whether the students are being disruptive. I guess it must be assuming they are.

It seems to me the domain has three outcomes:
1) students are less disruptive than the disciplinary rate, in which case you have a scorching case of racism;
2) students are disruptive near the rate of discipline, in which case the schools deserve a medal;
3) students are disruptive more than the rate of discipline, in which case, you have a scorching case of racism (we can't expect the dears to behave like civilized people, because they're black).

I'm guessing the likely outcomes are 2 and 3, because one thing is sure: school discipline is ineffective, no matter what your race, and when an article like this can't even bring itself even to allude to, much less discuss, the actual behavior in question, then it's clear there is no actual inquiry or debate to be had.

UPDATE: I missed it the first time I read it, but we'll have to add this to Great Moments in Journalism Math, too: "Black students are disciplined at far greater rates than their white peers, though the vast majority of districts hav far fewer black students."

Well, yes, that's what a rate is. This is sort of like saying, "The percentage is high, although the denominater is relatively low." I think reporters neeed to adopt a rule: Whenever you write a story about "black students," substitute "Asian students " and see if the story is too stupid for words. If it is, maybe you could go back and rethink it? Or maybe just, think it?

I'm A Believer

I saw my old friend Professor Cass Sunstein on cable discussing his new book Infotopia. I haven't read it yet, but it sounds intriguing.

I've always been fascinated by how people come to have their beliefs, and what I like about this book is, more than just just theorizing, it has actual research. Particularly, work was done on how people deliberate differently based on what others in the group believe. While I doubt there's a basic heuristic that gets us to the best results, there still can be specific techniques that will improve our decision-making.

Nobody's Business But The Turks

Congrats to Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Unlike last year's winner, Harold Pinter, I have not read his stuff.

Like last year's winner, however, he's known for his politics. He's said controversial things about the killing of Armenians and Kurds that have insulted many Turks. From what I can tell, I generally agree with these statements. Nevertheless, if the Nobel committee has based their decision in any way on political considerations, they are debasing their award.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Another brick in the wall 3.0.6

Make mine soup, please.
Using pulses of electric current, a team of doctors reportedly restored some of a brain-damaged man's speech and movement. . . . The team of neuroscientists was able to treat a 38 year-old assault victim who had barely been conscious for a period of six years. Using the treatment, he was gradually able to use his left arm and was able to utter coherent words for the first time since the injury. . . .
Doctors implanted two wire electrodes deep into the man's brain, according to a New York Times report, in a process that is called deep brain stimulation. It has frequently been used to treat people suffering from Parkinson's disease.

Would that include voting Republican?

"A police force is considering using unmanned aerial surveillance drones to fly over troubled local council housing estates to help tackle anti-social behaviour in respective areas."

I Believe The Children Are Our Future

L.A. just got a new education Superintendent, former navy admiral, David L. Brewer III. I wish him luck.

I just heard him on the radio. Maybe I misunderstood, but he seemed to be saying diversity was important in education because our kids will enter the workforce and have to deal with others.

Are we so different that we can't work together unless we go to school with people of other races and ethnicities? I would think treating fellow workers with basic respect and professionalism would handle most situations.

On the other hand, teaching children things like writing and math, that should help them quite a bit.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Another Great Day

Yesterday was even better than the previous Saturday. Michigan beat Penn State, as usual (though in a game that was way too close), and haven't been this hot since 1997 when they won the National Championship.

Far better, the Detroit Tigers beat the A's in four straight, ending the game with a 3-run homer. That's how you enter the World Series. They have a week off waiting to find out who they'll face. I'm hoping for the Cardinals, since we beat them in 1968, but some say been there, done that, bring on the Mets. In any case, it's already amazing they're in the World Series, and it's also amazing they'll be the favorites. I can't wait.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Mela Culpa

So Mel Gibson has apologized yet again, this time on network TV.

He was asked why he said that Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world. He explained it may have been on his mind due to the war in Lebanon.

Is it just me, or is that almost as unsettling as what he said during his arrest?

He also complained that during the lead-up to the release of The Passion Of The Christ, "I think I probably had my rights violated in many different ways as an American, as an artist, as a Christian, just as a human being." Wow. Maybe the Jews should apologize to him.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Making LAGuy's day

So, LAGuy, your Tigers are looking pretty good at the moment. Into the Series, are they? I haven't seen this since . . . 1984, a very good year indeed.

Animated Discussion

I heard a commentator on NPR today. She mentioned, in passing, weird, scary, black and white cartoons from the 40s. Sorry, but by the 40s, it was pretty much all color. She means the 30s or perhaps earlier.

It may seem like I'm nitpicking, but imagine if she'd referred to all those silent films from the 30s, or that great 70s band The Beatles.

Interesting Times

I read an interview with a young woman who will soon be graduating from college. She was asked what period she would choose to visit if she had a time machine. She replied she'd like to go back and work with Martin Luther King, Jr.

I could make joke, but just..wow, what a choice.

What's That Again?

Alan Alda's memoir Never Have Your Dog Stuffed is out in paperback. I recommend it, but check out this blurb from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "[Alda] does what M*A*S*H did: He leaves you wanting more."

Huh? Was there ever a show that overstayed its welcome more than M*A*S*H?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Fabulous Invalid

Thanks to the internet, it's rare I read a tangible copy of The New York Times. But when I have one in my hands I always check out what's playing on the Great White Way.

There are 34 shows running (or about to be) on Broadway. 27 are musicals of one kind or another. Now I love a good musical, but isn't there room for anything else? (At those prices, perhaps not.)

Some of them are revivals, which might be fun, but if I've seen the originals (such as A Chorus Line) I'm far less interested. Three are adaptations of Disney cartoons--Beauty And The Beast, The Lion King and Tarzan. Even if the reviews are good that's not my kind of show. Other adapations of movies include High Fidelity, Mary Poppins, The Color Purple and The Wedding Singer. Only the first really intrigues me.

There are two jukebox musicals, which might be fun, but I prefer songs written to fit a story, not the other way around. Then there are long-running hits, like The Phantom Of The Opera, Rent, The Producers, Hairspray, Avenue Q, Wicked and Spamalot.

There are also special events (two I'd call musical): Twyla Tharp working with Bob Dylan songs in The Times They Are A-Changin', Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me and (ugh) Jay Johnson: The Two And Only!.

As to the six straight plays, two are revivals, and the other four have already played elsewhere--mostly England. The revivals (both originally British) are Butley starrng Nathan Lane and Heartbreak House featuring Philip Bosco (perhaps our nation's preeminent Shavian actor) and Swoosie Kurtz. The new American play, coming up from off-Broadway, is The Little Dog Laughed. Friend have told me it's not great, but the Times liked it, so that's good enough.

The other three are British imports. There's Losing Louie directed by Jerry Zaks, The Coast Of Utopia by Tom Stoppard and David Hare's The Vertical Hour with Julianne Moore and Bill Nighy.

If I had a week in town, which shows would I pick? Definitely the Stoppard and Shaw. Maybe the Hare piece or even Louie or Butley, depending on the reviews.

As for musicals, I guess I'd ses Spamalot, even though I know the movie cold and doubt the musical is better. (I'd have said the same for The Producers a few years ago.) I might check out Hairspray, which everyone I know loves. I've heard good things about Avenue Q and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, so I'd try one of those. And the one revival I'd see is Company. Perhaps I'd even catch a matinee of the Martin Short thing.

Then there's off-Broadway, which is often more entertaining and a lot cheaper. Here at least you can see original works.

I don't know what I'd check out but I should note there are three plays with "Jew" in the title. Nice to see they're being represented on the New York stage. (On the other side, there's the production of My Name Is Rachel Corrie.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What's the most important thing about comedy?

One of my favorite from-LAGuy jokes requires the victim (I'm sure there's a term for it-in any case, an audience member) to participate in a complicated set up. The joke teller has to say to the audience member, "Ask me, 'What's the most important thing about comedy?'" It takes a moment to persuade the person to do it, but eventually you do, and then the finish:

Audience member: "Tell me, LAGuy, what's the most important--" (LAGuy abruptly interrupts: "Timing."

So, what I want to know is, while I think it's a fine thing to investigate Sandypants Burglar, what's the p[oint of doing it now? Do these morons have polls telling them they'll get an extra 2 percent of the base to the polls in four weeks?

Unturned

My old prof, Geoff Stone, has an editorial in the Chicago Tribune about being a liberal. A few comments on his comments:

For most of the past four decades, liberals have been in retreat.

Not really. I think they turned a corner four decades ago when they decided people should be judged by their race, but many of their greatest successes have come since then. Not only affirmative action, but numerous government programs and judicial decisions. And there's been a corresponding change in consciousness regarding many issues where they've won so big that no one even thinks about it any more. For instance, gays not being allowed to marry is considered a defeat, whereas 40 years ago homosexuality was an illness. If there's been a "retreat," it's mostly because they're victims of their own success.

Part of the problem is that liberals have failed to define themselves and to state clearly what they believe.

If this is true, I'd say it's mostly due to two reasons. 1) "Liberalism" takes in a lot of ground and has a lot of factions--there is no simple definition. 2) Many of their favorite ideas are quite divisive and perhaps they'd rather not say them too loudly.

I fear when reading this that Stone doesn't want a true definition (assuming it's possible) but rhetorical boosterism. You know, the "if being decent and loving your kids makes you a conservative then I guess I am a conservative" type of thing.

In that light, I thought it might be interesting to try to articulate 10 propositions that seem to me to define "liberal" today.

Good, I like lists.

My goal, however, is not to end discussion, but to invite debate.

Thanks.

1. Liberals believe individuals should doubt their own truths and consider fairly and open-mindedly the truths of others.

Maybe this is a liberal idea, but in action I see no difference between conservatives or liberals on this point.

Liberals are skeptical of censorship and celebrate free and open debate.

Would that it were so. In fact, liberals are on the forefront of most imaginative new forms of censorship (speech codes, sexual harassment, hate speech, campaign finance reform, etc.). In the 1950s liberals (perhaps out of self-interest) strongly opposed censorship, but they embrace it today.

As far as listening to others, I don't see liberal websites, or editorial pages, or even politicians particularly open to that many new ideas outside a limited range.

4. Liberals believe "we the people" are the governors and not the subjects of government, and that government must treat each person with that in mind. It is liberals who have defended and continue to defend the freedom of the press to investigate and challenge the government, the protection of individual privacy from overbearing government monitoring, and the right of individuals to reproductive freedom.

I don't see it. Liberals love huge government programs involving heavy monitoring of individuals, and even direct interference with their capacity to live life as they wish.

6. Liberals believe government has a fundamental responsibility to help those who are less fortunate.

By spending other people's money, damn the expense.

Conservative judges and justices more often wield judicial authority to protect property rights and the interests of corporations, commercial advertisers and the wealthy.

So it's the government's job to ensure all enjoy rights, except these rights shouldn't be extended too far or the wrong people will enjoy tham.

9. Liberals believe government must protect the safety and security of the people, for without such protection liberalism is impossible. This, of course, is less a tenet of liberalism than a reply to those who attack liberalism.

I see. Despite certain outward appearances, liberals support our safety and security as much as conservatives--but in a different way. I agree. Just as I agree that conservatives support tolerance--but in a different way. And helping the poor--but in a different way. And due process--but in a different way. And so on.

It's not a bad piece, actually, but rather than a list of beliefs, it's an argument for those beliefs.


Columbus Guy says: Not a bad piece? It's self-indulgent,self-important twaddle that he can get published only because of his status.

And you forgot part of it: "Consider this an invitation."

Okay.

"Are these propositions meaningful?" No.

"Are they helpful" In what? Analysis of the distinction between liberal and conservtive? No. In displaying an odd interaction between the conventions of legal writing and newspaper writing? A bit. In exemplifying the self-importance of the elites? Manifestly. In training editors how to slash text? Perfectly.

"Are they simply wrong?" How can they be wrong? They are too general to be falsifiable.

"As a liberal, how would you change them or modify the list?" I'd love to find someone who would admit to being a liberal. In fact, the meat of his piece is this line that he skps right over: "In many quarters, the word "liberal" has become a pejorative." "Many quarters"? Yeah, how about any quarters where people hold elected office or speak publicly to anyone whom they've not already vetted for conformity. Doesn't Geoff know "progressive" is the term, and even that is whispered? Were I Stone's editor, I would have slashed the whole thing and asked him to submit 700 words on those quarters where it's cool to be a liberal and people admit it out loud. That's the meat of his story, and he glosses over it--no, skips it entirely. Find those quarters, find what those people believe and say, and you'll know liberalism as it is. And you'll be puking into a bucket because it will be so frightening.

"As a conservative, how would you draft a similar list for conservatives?" I would only do it if I were having a bad, hubris-filled day, as indeed I too often do, and as Stone did here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I've heard that somewhere else

"Dynamism," eh? Come to think of it, I've never seen Phelps and Postrel in the same room, have I?

Battlestar Politica

Battlestar Galactica is a surprisingly smart show. It's got the hardware of sci-fi, but has deeper characters than almost anything else on TV, as well as a fascinating, if dark, sensibility (which is probably understandable when your pilot has the human race nearly wiped out).

I also liked how audaciously they ended last season--after the humans settle on a planet, the show flashforwarded a year. But, after watching the third-season premiere, I'm not sure if this gamble has paid off.

First, we're in stasis, with most of the humans stuck on a planet run by the Cylons while the rest hide in space. Second, we've lost the sense of quest, since the original plot engine of searching for Earth seems to be gone. I'm not saying every episode has to be filled with action, but this is a slow way to start.

Third, and worst of all, is the politics. This used to be one of the best things about the show--how it commented on the world today (as much sf does) as well as humanity in general. In the past, though, this was all part of what helped drive the story forward. Now, with discussion of suicide bombers and the like, it's getting heavy-handed. I still want the political stuff, but not front and center.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Not my kind of good news

Apparently there's a debate whether North Korea's nuke test was any good, because it had a low yield.

Hasn't anyone considered whether they might have chosen to test a tactical weapon? Such are likely to be of much more concern to us, and effect to Korea and anyone who has an interest in attacking us, than their bigger strategic brothers.

Update: Well, all right, then.

This can't be right

Are Bush and the Republicans really this stupid? Who does he think he is? Clinton? My God, even I couldn't vote for them if they try this.

"When loyalty trumps truth"

That's the tile of an opinion piece by Joe Klein of Time, "When loyalty trumps truth."

I haven't read it yet. Do you suppose it's yet another piece about how Democrats supported Clinton through the impeachment and creation of a hostile environment, where sexually compliant team players were rewarded and independent women were punished?

No Love For The Guv

I've already written on this, but Phil Angelides should fire his advisors. He is one of the lamest candidates I've ever seen.

Remember, California is a blue state. Also, Ahnold's rep was destroyed last year by tons of union money behind effective attack ads. It looked like the we were ready for a new chief exec, and any Dem with a pulse would fit the bill.

So Angelides just had his one and only debate with Governor Schwarzenegger (here's a poorly-done piece about it in the LA Times) and all he could do, over and over, was repeat the mantra "George Bush." Angelides kept saying how Schwarzenegger supported Bush, campaigned for him, etc., etc. Hey, Phil, Bush isn't running for governor.

I don't even think this strategy would work if it were a race for senator, but Bush has nothing to do with state concerns (if anything, it's good the Guv be friendly with the Prez), and the voters know it.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Doubleheader

Yesterday was the best sports day of the year so far.

The Detroit Tigers, who until recently were falling apart, won their third straight game and took out the mighty Yankees. Just a few days ago it looked like the post-season would be short and not sweet, but now it's hello Oakland, followed by (fingers crossed) the World Series.

About as good, the Wolverines beat hated rivals the Spartans. It was MSU's shot to salvage their season, but they never had a chance. We need more low-tension games like this. I realize it's still one week at a time, and there are some tough games coming up, but the Michigan-Ohio face-off is starting to look like the epic battle it's meant to be.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Nein

I let my VCR run a bit after this season's premiere of Lost and captured the debut of The Nine. The critically lauded show is about the lives of nine people who lived through a 52-hour bank robbery standoff.

I don't get it. Why should we care what happens to a group after the climax? I realize the show will give us glimpses of the event each episode, but so what? We already know the outcome. Perhaps if the characters were more interesting...

Also, I don't buy Scott Wolf as an adult.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Say Hello

Most films, even popular ones, are forgotten soon after release, but the opposite can happen--a film can be ignored and gain recognition later.

The Rules Of The Game was hated when it came out in 1939 and is now a mainstay on Top Ten lists. Singin' In The Rain was considered not nearly as good or important as An American In Paris but now it's generally conceded to be greatest movie musical of all. Then there's Scarface.

Not the Howard Hawks Scarface, that is a great flm. I mean Brian De Palma's. I saw it when it came out in 1983 and agreed with the critics and the public--not very good.

Yet, against all odds, it's become a classic to millions. There's something about Al Pacino's singleminded, violent pursuit of empty joys that speaks to the hip-hop generation.

I have nothing against gangster films. I have nothing against violence onscreen. I have nothing against De Palma or Pacino (and Michelle Pfeiffer may be the loveliest woman ever in movies). But I've seen this movie again recently and there's nothing there. The plot, the dialogue, all of it, adds up the nothing. I can usually figure out why critics and/or the public go for something, even when it leaves me cold, but this time I'm mystified.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Quite a range

I guess Apple must be dead, if this counts as a turn of phrase:

"everything from hot dogs in Chicago to bacon in Wisconsin."

Who Do You Trust?

In a piece at TCS Daily on why peope believe conspiracy theories, I ran into this:
The secularist who chides religious believers for having faith in what the Church teaches will also tell them, in the very next breath and with no sense of irony, to shut up and trust the experts where scientific matters are concerned. That there are philosophers and theologians who can present powerful and sophisticated justifications of religious belief is taken to be no defense of the average believer - he ought to "think for himself," says the secularist. And yet while the average secularist couldn't give you an interesting explanation or defense of quantum mechanics, relativity theory, or evolution if his life depended on it, the fact that there are experts who can do so is taken by him to justify his own faith in their findings.
It seems to me treating scientific experts differently from religious experts is a sensible distinction.

For all the disagreements and changes in science, there is a large area of consensus. (When there isn't, or some idea is fairly new, it does make sense to be more skeptical.) Meanwhile, there are numerous religions with mutually exclusive beliefs. Unless you make judgments regarding their "powerful and sophisticated justifications," how can you decide which "expert" to go along with?

Furthermore, science has a great track record. Every day we see hundreds of examples of scientific principles in action--even if we don't completely undersand these principles. And we can easily think of countless more. Meanwhile, it's hard to say any religion has "proved" that it, or its constituent parts, work except to its adherents on a subjective level.

Also, religion often asks you to believe supernatural things, or have faith, while science can show you objective evidence available to everyone.

Finally, there are simple experiments anyone can do, and basic books anyone can read, that make it possible to understand scientific theories, and realize they're well-grounded. There aren't any similar experiments or activities that work so well with religion. (Perhaps there are. There certainly could be. I'm just not aware of them.)

I don't want to make this out to be science against religion. I'm just trying to note that the two are very different, and should be thought of differently. What scientists do is also very different from the work of philosophers or art critics. In fact, one thing that makes science so successful is it sticks (for the most part) to a limited doman, and stays away from messier, not easily measurable things like morality or aesthetics. For that matter, when experts in any area--law, religion, history, whatever--stick to objective, verifiable facts, it's easier to accept their claims.

We can only learn a minute portion of what is known, scientifically or otherwise. Still, that doesn't mean we can't make rational choices regarding what kinds of experts to believe. Accepting a scientific explanation but deciding to "think for youserlf" in other areas may make sense.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What's Wrong With This Picture

Here are some interesting numbers. Little Miss Sunshine cost $8 million and has grossed $55 million. All The King's Men cost $55 million and has grossed $8 million.

Writing Doesn't Make It So

On Monday, Aaron's Sorkin's Studio 60 had the show-within-the-show not only retaining viewers from its initial episode, but increasing them. Meanwhile, in the real world, Studio 60's ratings, never great to begin with, have been dropping. It's getting slaughtered by CSI: Miami and also lost to The Bachelor. For that matter, it's losing a lot of viewers from its lead-in Heroes.

This isn't the first time Sorkin's wish fulfillment has run contrary to actual events. One could argue that's all West Wing was: an alternate universe, with a Sorkian liberal running the country. The only time, though, it really stood out, was when President Martin Sheen would do something that wouldn't play that well in reality, and then Sorkin would pat him on the back by claiming polls (as part of the episode) showed it was popular. An even better example is Sorkin's script for The American President (1995). The climax has Michael Douglas, in the title role, making a big speech about how great it is to be a liberal. At the same time, Bill Clinton, who knew a thing or two about politics, denied he was a liberal and was easily reelected.

Studio 60 isn't bad, but with ratings like this it may be in trouble. I noted a few weeks ago that Sorkin's style fits best within a context of big things happening, such as he had on West Wing. The relative insignificance of running a comedy show undercuts his work, and I think the audience feels it.

But why talk about other shows when tonight is the third-season premiere of Lost?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tales From Slate

Saul Austerlitz has a piece in Slate about Jean-Luc Godard. He writes:
Woody Allen famously cracked wise about fans who only liked the "early, funny movies," shunning his later turn toward the dramatic, or his attempts to grow out of the self-inflicted prison of auteurist style. Godard could be said to face the same dichotomy, his career bisected between the remarkable run of films he made as the leading light of the French New Wave—bookended by 1960's Breathless and 1967's Weekend—and everything that came after. The difference between Godard and Allen, though, is that Godard's early films really, truly are his best.
I think Godard is the emperor's new clothes. There are striking moments, but his filmmaking seems to me clunky, amateurish and shallow. Are his earlier films better than his later, more contemplative work? Who cares.

On the other hand, Woody Allen produced a series of great comedies right off the bat, from Take The Money And Run (1969) to Annie Hall (1977). Ever since then, he's made a bunch of arty films, some funny, some not, some decent, most weak. There's no question his "early, funny movies" are his best. How critics have come to prefer the later stuff is beyond me.

Also in Slate, Troy Patterson likes how Aaron Sorkin insults TV on Studio 60. He notes:
Meanwhile, back in the real world, Saturday Night Live limped out for its 32nd season on Saturday night with a toothless opening sketch about the dimness of George W. Bush. You've already seen it about 500 times.
Actually, the main point of the sketch was Bush is so unpopular that Republicans don't want him campaigning for them. (And note that Patterson doesn't seem to mind the cliche that Bush is stupid, merely that sketches utilizing this caricature don't have enough teeth.)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Where did his soul go? Redmond?

"A teen engineering prodigy who gained national attention in 2002 when he and his family received identification chip implants on live television was killed in a motorcycle accident, authorities said."

Congratulations

Well, it wasn't easy, but the Tigers managed to finish second, losing the home advantage in the playoffs. They somehow lost their last 5 games, even blowing a 6-run lead in the season's final game. Just one win would have guaranteed the top slot.

Of course, if they keep playing as they have been, home advantage won't make too much difference anyway.

Ghoulish Delight

Over at Hollywood Elsewhere, Jeffrey Wells is impressed with Martin Scorsese's use of John Lennon's "Well, Well, Well" in The Departed.

Whenever I hear it, I can't help but think of The Ghoul. I'm referring to a local horror show host whom I watched growing up in Detroit. He would do comedy during the breaks, and his biggest go-to song was "Well, Well, Well." Scorsese is gonna have to do quite a job to overcome that memory.

7-11

USA Today had a piece in their weekend issue about Saturday Night Live. The budget has been slashed this season, and now there are only 11 members in the cast. How will they manage?

Perhaps my memory is bad, but didn't they get along with only seven in the legendary days of the original cast? Of course, that was long ago, and human beings have changed considerably since them.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Bad Pep Talk This Week

Last week I noted there were two Michigan teams in the Wisconsin game, the lame one in the first half and the winner in the second. They reversed roles this week, with a great first half and a week second. But they still won, 28-14, and that's good enough--or will be until we face OSU.

Perceived Weakness

Fox News is celebrating its 10th anniversary. It's the classic success story of spotting a niche and filling it. However, over at the Hollywood Reporter, they see storm clouds. I'm not up enough on cable ratings to know if there's trouble, but one bit of evidence sure seems odd:
And the blow-up over President Clinton's interview with Chris Wallace suggests that Democrats are attacking Fox because they perceive the same vulnerability in the network as they do in the Bush administration.
Huh? An ex-President sits for a one-on-one interview and goes ape, creating an incident that gets everyone talking? If that isn't good news for Fox, what is? (Funnier still is the implication that until recently people were fearful of attacking Fox.)

Alphonse And Gaston

If the Tigers had just won one game in the past few days, they'd be guaranteed first place in their division, but this seems beyond them. Not that their rivals the Twins are doing much better. In fact, it seems now that both are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, neither wants to appear rude by grabbing first.

Well, we're down to the last day of the regular season, and as long as the Tigers don't do worse than the Twins, since they have the better record when they played each other, they'll have home advantage.

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