Saturday, March 31, 2007

Hands down

I don't think there's any room for debate. This has to be the best post or comment ever received here at PajamaGuy.

Thanks, Mr. Crocker.

More Julia

And to completely destroy my credibility, Julia may have said it at some point but "Save the liver" was uttered by Dan Ayckroyd doing Julia (while bleeding profusely due to to some kitchen accidents) in an early Saturday Night Live sketch (though at the time it was called "NBC's Saturday Night" and "Saturday Night Live" was the name of a short-lived Howard Cosell vehicle).
-Purveyor of Trivia From Memory Only

Julia And The Urban Legend

A couple days ago I got a comment about Julia Child that seemed to allude to a famous food-dropping incident. New England Guy (I just read his profile and learned he's a fan of P. G. Wodehouse) said that Julia taught him anything on the floor longer than five seconds hasn't really been on the floor

Let's clear things up. The legend has Child dropping a chicken, or a duck, or whatever, onto the floor. Then she picks it up, puts it back in the pan, as says You're alone in the kitchen.

What actually happened, and I've seen the video, is she flipped a potato pancake and missed the pan. She picked it up (not from the floor), put it back in, and did indeed note that you're alone in the kitchen.

As for the Five Second Rule, I think that's been around longer than Julia Child.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Why are smart people so stupid?

It's not an enforcement problem, tinkerbell. Bend over and listen very very carefully while I whisper it into your ear: IT'S NOT LAW.

International law has as much relation to law as law does to the laws of physics. It's nothing more than an unfortunate conflation of terms, one which law professors, to their great shame (and by all appearances, great ignorance), find convenient.

The issue is, you can't have law without a government. There is no international government. Therefore, there is no international law. Why His Virtualness falls into this trap I cannot say. But I can say, IT'S NOT LAW.

History Is Made At Night

As readers of this blog know, Jeopardy! recently made history with a three-way tie.

Well, yesterday I heard a radio ad promising a contestant on the gameshow Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? will "make history." How long has this show been on, about two weeks?

Andy Barker, Prime Time

The NBC Thursday night comedy lineup has a new show, Andy Barker P.I. It stars Andy Richter as an accountant who's mistaken for a private eye. It's actually pretty good. Unfortunately, NBC used it to replace a better show, 30 Rock. If they'd replaced Scrubs instead, they'd have a real solid two-hour block of sitcoms.

Unfortunately, no one seems to want good sitcoms anymore. Thursday night, for years the jewel in the crown of NBC, has no chance against the popular hour-long dramas on CBS and ABC. Every year I hope for a new Cosby Show to raise the form back to popularity. Is it TV's fault for not making one, or the public's fault for not watching them?

(Some have suggested the problem is the one-camera, no audience approach. Perhaps, but people don't seem to mind it for hour shows.)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Simon Says

On Tuesday's American Idol, Simon compared one singer's old and new performances to chalk and cheese. For this he was mocked by Ryan and Randy. Ryan noted wine and cheese go together better.

I realize "chalk and cheese" is a British expression rarely heard here, but did Ryan and Randy just think Simon made it up, even though it seemed to make no sense? That's Paula's job.

Child's Play

I get two PBS station one channel apart--KLCS and KOCE. Yesterday I noticed that had two different Julia Child shows playing opposite each other. And it turned out both episodes dealt with lobster dishes.

How am I gonna learn to be a master chef if they don't coordinate their schedules better?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

JonBenet Update XVI

"Cyber bullies are even forcing their girlfriends to undress in front of webcams and then sharing the images with others online."

Goodness, give me the vapors, why don't you? Then file this one in the "hard-hitting journalism" file.

Didn't Dogbert already patent the white space?

"The coalition, which submitted the prototype about two weeks ago, said using the white spaces would spur technological innovation and help provide affordable broadband service to millions of Americans, especially in rural communities."

Synthetic knowledge

So Breitbart prints a news story in which a gun was drawn in self-defense in public. A bystander states he was nonplused to be "in the line of fire," and Breitbart puts a link on "in the line of fire."

WHat could that be? What could be relevant other than a definition, and who needs a definition of "in the line of fire"?

What it is, is a text search of "in the line of fire" on Breitbart stories; thus, clicker-throughers would find out that Fred Thompson was in the movie, "In the Line of Fire," and Dick Cheney accidentally shot someone in the line of fire, and Pakistani President Musharraf published a memoir "In the Line of FIre."

Who, or what, chose to link "in the line of fire" and for goodness sakes why? I think it's time for Leahy to start issuing subpoenas.

The name of the bird sucked into the jet's engine was Harold Meeker

"It's very disconcerting for a lawyer to be in the line of fire," White told the Times-Union.

Yeah, it's really bad when you're a lawyer.

Johnny's Gone

I just watched the rock exploitation film Go, Johnny, Go (1959). Weak script, bad acting and mostly bad songs. The most amusing moment is Alan Freed in a Chuck Berry jam session; Freed hits the snare once a measure--no wonder they want him sitting in.

On the plus side, we get to see Berry and Freed in their prime, as well as Richie Valens and Eddie Cochran.

It's said some movies are cursed, such as Rebel Without A Cause, where the three leads all died young. Well, I think we can make a case for the Johnny curse. Within a year Freed would be ruined (and would die broke in a few more), Berry would be in jail, Valens would die in a plane crash and Eddie Cochran would die in a car carsh.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Nothing But Star Wars

I'm going to talk about a major issue of the day. In what order should you show your kids the six Star Wars films?

There's the order in which they were made--IV, V, VI, I, II, III--or, of course, the order in which the story unfolds, I, II, III, IV, V, VI.

Creator George Lucas may now intend we watch them in numbered order, but a lot is lost if you do. In particular, the whole shock of Darth Vader revealing he's Luke's father (if you needed a spoiler alert, you shouldn't be reading this), and the mystery surrounding Darth and Luke's origin, will be completely gone.

Also, IV, V and VI are better movies--I, II and III are more interesting (or is it disappointing?) in how they fill in the past, not how they introduce a new galaxy. The real question, I suppose, is should you show your kids I, II and III at all?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Great. More Democrat voters

"Now scientists create a sheep that's 15% human"

QueensGuy groans: Ok, that was baa-a-a-a-a-d.

Hey! I agree with Obama! Ah, no I don't

So Obama wants Nifong investigated. Good for him. So does any informed, decent person. It appears highy likely the man should be disbarred, and jail is in the neighborhood, too.

And there's always a fair chance that the bar association won't get the job done.

But the feds? I suppose there is a good case for feds investigating state corruption, though one has to be careful of the slippery slope, but really, when it gets down to it, what right do the G-men have to be involved here?

QueensGuy replies: State corruption has nothing to do with this. This was arguably a racially motivated unlawful prosecution, in violation of the defendants' 14th Amendment rights. Favorite tool of the civil rights division. Perhaps the Senator is trying to bolster his credentials as being in touch with his white heritage as well as his black.

A Picture Of Cathy

A number of fellow bloggers hae been posting photos of Cathy Seipp on their sites, so I thought I'd put up mine.

It's from a party last May.

Battlestar Galactica--What The Frak Is Going On?

I just watched the season finale of Battlestar Galactica and I'm more confused than ever. (I get the feeling some spoilers are afoot).

I mean, I was troubled enough by the tral of Baltar. I even questioned the need for one, but once it started it was run very strangely. On this episode, for instance, there's false testimony condemning the defendant, which Baltar's lawyer essentially ignores. If I were on the defense team, I would definitely cross-examine. And later, even if there's some sort of Fifth Amendment rights allowed, I would put my client on the stand since he has a story to tell that no one knows about regarding the gun to his head when he signed an incriminating document.

Even later, after Baltar is found not guilty, he thinks he'll go on a book tour? Huh? There's less then 40,000 people alive. Even if they're big readers, and there's a thriving publishing industry, isn't this a bit much? Then, after that, even though thousands think he's a traitor who betrayed the human race, he just walks around the ship like it's no big a deal.

But Baltar is a sideshow. We found out a bunch of secondary characters are actually Cylons (or believe they are). I have no idea why it's them, how it can be them, or what the secret "plan" of the Cylons is. I certainly have no idea what they're supposed to do next.

Weirdest of all, these newly-aware Cylons start quoting Bob Dylan. So Dylan, or at least "All Along The Watchtower," exists in the world of Battlestar Galactica.

There was one good thing--Starbuck is back. I thought she had some sort of destiny. I guess we'll find out what it is in 2008.

Give Me Back My Mondays

It wasn't that long ago when NBC had my big night of entertainment on Mondays--three hours straight of Deal or No Deal (the appetizer), Heroes (the entree) and Studio 60 (dessert).

Now with Heroes on vacation and Studio 60 seemingly gone for good, all they've got is two hours of Deal (too much of semi-good thing) and Black Donnellys, which I don't watch.

It's too late to get into 24. Give me back my Mondays.

Bargain Basement

I was at one of my favorite places yesterday, the 99 Cent Store. I know people who won't shop anywhere else. (It used to be the 88 Cent Store--that's inflation for you.) I don't know how they can afford to sell their perfectly acceptable wares so cheap, but as long as they keep it up, I'm not asking.

Anyway, at the cashier, where they put the impulse items, I noticed something interesting--a home testing kit for pregnanacy. In fitting with the store's theme, it boasted 99% accuracy. Now it's one thing to buy toothpaste or pita bread cheap, but is this an item you really want to skimp on? Be a sport and spend a few extra bucks.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Slipping On A Banana

I'd heard about this a while ago and thought it was a joke, but I've been assured it's not. Apparently the banana proves religion is true.

When you're taking a side in a debate, I suppose it's good to have a variety of arguments, but should you make one that seem ridiculous to most people, even if you believe in it? For that matter, should you make an argument that's convincing to others if you don't believe in it?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

That's A Lot Of Clowns

I recently watched A Thousand Clowns (1965). Hadn't seen it in years. It's an interesting movie, for several reasons.

It's very stagebound, most of it taking place in one room, with long scenes and a lot of dialogue. But occasionally it breaks out and goes into weird montages (for the time). (Ralph Rosenblum, editor, goes into the story behind this in his book.)

The play debuted on Broadway in 1962 (by Herb Gardner, who wasn't even 30 when he wrote it). This is well before the revolutionary period of the 60s, but after the Beats, and it's interesting to see what a Broadway version of non-conformism was. Jason Robards as Murray is goofy but overall pretty harmless. He does wacky things that don't really harm anyone. The main thing he's done, that's considered dangerous, is dropped out and stopped working, even as he raises his nephew.

The play, and the movie too, essentially gives Murray and his kid a parade of squares that they can mock--William Daniels as the social worker, Martin Balsam as his agent brother (Balsam won an Oscar--he's fine but it's not as if he stands out) and Gen Saks as the TV clown Murray used to write for named Chuckles. (Did this inspire The Mary Tyler Moore Show?). Murray also gets the girl, Barbara Harris, the confused social worker. (Sandy Dennis played the role on Broadway and won a Tony. Soon after, she won an Oscar for Virginia Woolf.)

But at least Herb Gardner gives the squares some speeches where they recognize they're not as cool as Murray, but they've adjusted to theworld, and if he doesn't, he'll hurt himself and his kid. That's another thing about early 60s non-conformism--the assumption there's this world out there that everyone, right and left, understands is the normal world--you don't really see that today, since we're all very conscious of alternative lifestyles.

While you definitely root for Murray, and the film is generally sympathetic to him, I think there's some intentional ambiguity. Whether it comes from the writer or the director, you can certainly choose to see Murray, amusing though he may be, as a bit of a jerk. It's easy enough to screw around and have fun, but when you've got a kid, you've got to shape up. Even without the kid (whose plight provides the drama), you can question the decision to just drop out. In addition, there are a few odd scenes (not in the play) where Murray decides to go out and find a job. He's a reasonably successful TV writer--he quit Chuckles, not the other way around--and though he has a flaky reputation, others are willing to talk. Philip Bruns and John McMartin play producers who want him, and Murray just walks out on them. He can't stand even this version of the rat race. I mean, Bruns wants to pay him (and pay him well, I assume) just to be an eccentric panelist saying whatever he wants on a TV show, and this bothers Murray. What's the problem? Sounds like a dream job. (The scene does have the best joke written for the movie--they're in a very dark restaurant. The waiter asks Murray what will he have, and Murray responds "A hamburger and a flashlight.")

At the end, Chuckles comes in and begs Murray to come back. Chuckles is needy, crass and overbearing, and the kid, who up to now has been more adult than Murray, wants Murray to turn him down. But Murray seems to realize he needs to do something, and takes the job. The final scene is Murray out there bright and early with other people on the street running for the bus. I don't think the movie forces us to believe this is good or bad. (The play, if I recall, is a bit more accepting of the need for compromise).

Friday, March 23, 2007

Watching This American Life

I just watched This American Life on TV. I'm a big fan of the radio show, and, like so many others, was afraid it would lose its soul when put on TV.

I'm happy to report it mostly works. It's not quite as special as the radio version, but they've adapted--they're not simply adding pictures to a radio story. It's a little arty (not unlike the aural versio) but they don't overdo it.

The first show did two bits I'd heard before (I don't know if they plan to do TV-only stories), and it did add something to see what was being talked about. People say nothing matches the vision you have in you rmind. That may be true, but this is documenaty, and there's nothing wrong with seeing the real thing.

I do not think it means what you think it means

"These figures suggest a perverse Fox News effect."

(The last line is a killer: "Finally, we hope that more evidence on the effect of other sources of media bias, such as local papers and radio talk shows, will complement the evidence in this paper." And don't forget to look for the "Berlusconi" throwaway; where the hell did that come from? I guess we can all hope that more evidence on the effect of other sources of media bias, such as the Manhattan Media, will complement the evidence ni this paper.)

Lost And Battlestar Galactica

Lost is still my favorite show, but I fear it's starting to have a problem that I wrote about earlier regarding Battlestar Galactica. That show has the humans fleeing the Cylons, who are trying to wipe them out. But by the present season, the humans and Cylons hang out together so much, and we see so much of the Cylons, that a lot of the sense of mystery and threat is gone.

On Lost, the survivors have been menaced by the Others from the start. Now, they're hanging out with the Others, and don't seem to be in direct danger. A lot is still not known (or it wouldn't be Lost), but without this feeling of danger, some of the excitment is gone.

I'm also not quite sure where they're going with my favorite character, Locke. Ironically, with all my concerns, fans seem to think the latest run of episodes, where, admittedly, a lot is happening, are a return to form.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

It's all about the transcript

I just realized that I was missing the point below about transcripts and oaths; one that explains the real reason for Dan Bartlett's ducking and weaving. [I originally wrote "weaseling," but now fear ColumbusGuy's devastating "Bedwetter!" attacks.] ColumbusGuy reminded me about an article that I think gets to the heart of the Rove subpoena debate:

Even without oaths, Bush aides would be legally required to tell the truth to Congress. But without a transcript of their comments, "it would be almost meaningless to say that they would be under some kind of legal sanction," Schumer complained.

Indeed, that's what it all comes down to. The oaths are just for show in front of the cameras; it's the transcript that matters. Schumer wants a transcript as a basis for indicting Rove if there is contradictory testimony or stonewalling. Bush does not want a transcript, recognizing that there almost always will be some contradiction when multiple people remember multiple conversations. It's really a question of trust -- or lack thereof. Schumer doesn't trust Rove not to lie unless under direct threat of jail; Bush doesn't trust Schumer not to grasp some meaningless error in detail as a basis for indictment. And the latter fear should be considered in the context of Republican vulnerability to all of their past words about the threats to our very way of life that result from lying under oath.

Columbus Guy says: I didn't see any ducking and weaving, BW. I saw clarity: "criminal political pursuit" captures it precisely. It's strong enough to support a cottage industry in the law schools.

Meanwhile, all Mr. Siegel can do is act the Dem shill, as you so aptly point out: "Can we record it, huh, can we?" That could be considered competent reporting, but not when there is not, and will not be, commensurate bulldogging of the Dems on the criminal political pursuit angle (NPR-ites can see that angle only when Democrats are being persecuted). [NPR-ites? I think I'll stick with Manhattan Media.]

QueensGuy says: How about neepers? Nice counterpoint to freepers, n'est pas?

I thought Siegel's doggedness was justified -- there really is no excuse for the slippery slope in response to an offer of compromise -- but you are absolutely right about balance. The questions for Schumer should start with: (1) do you agree that even the "political motivated" firing of a US Atty is perfectly lawful, absent the intent to interfere with an ongoing prosecution or investigation?; (2) what evidence have you seen so far of such an intent to interfere?; (3) what do you say to critics who argue that you should first interview -- under oath -- the responsibile parties from the Justice Dept., and review the full set of documents that have been produced to you? [The longwindedness shows why I'd make a crappy reporter]

Best to the Edwards

Cancer is a bomb. Best wishes to them.

I'm supporting the Dems

"Senate Democrats Rewrite Budget Plan to Embrace Tax Cuts"

The NPR broadcast you didn't hear this morning

"Obviously, the Justice Department should issue subpoenas to congressional staffers and Democrat political advisers," officials said Wednesday.

"If we don't receive the answers under oath, we don't receive full answers. We've tried that. We are concerned that politics is driving Sen. Schumer and others, and the credibility of the justice system and the political system requries that we have answers to these questions."

QueensGuy replies: Such softballs you throw me sometimes! Name that tune: "for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place."

Columbus Guy says: You puzzle me, QG. Are you trying to make my point? I'm not challening that "softball" clause; in fact, my argument wouldn't work without it. I'm challenging the other part, the one that comes after the semicolon: "Unlike the 'president,' who serves as the whim of this hallowed body, and shall damn well answer any subpoena or Democrat news media whatever." Since you're looking at clauses, maybe you should check to see if you're reading the Articles of Confed.

QueensGuy says: We're agreed, I would guess, that the Framers explicitly gave one branch a pass for spouting stupidity, and implicitly denied it to another branch. (Inclusio, exclusio, etc.) And I'm guessing your argument probably isn't that we should find such protection for the poor harried executive in the penumbra {snicker}; but rather that it's inherent in separation of powers that one branch isn't at the beck'n'call of the other. Executive privilege is a slippery area, self-interestedly asserted by administrations going back to the first one, but never explicitly tested until US v. Nixon, so far as I recall. [ed. -- You don't recall it because when a Republican does it, it's a grave national challenge that bears weeks or months or years of repetition and becomes evergreen, watershed material; when a Democrat does it, it's a noble protection of the office from Javert] {QG. -- huh? please re-read last sentence, focusing on words that begin with "u."} Is this issue big enough, or clear-cut enough, to warrant the legislature testing its boundaries again in court? Not in my estimation. But the executive's position on the issue is most certainly weakened when the attorney general and his chief of staff are caught out mis-stating, mis-remembering, or otherwise repeatedly missing the boat in front of congress.

"Bud"

Calvert DeForest, better known to David Letterman fans as Larry "Bud" Melman, just died.

He was on the Letterman's late night show almost from the start. His odd looks and off-beat delivery made him the most popular of Letterman's many eccentric regulars.

I think the moment that really broke him was on a remote where he greeted people at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, handing out hot towels. What made it so funny was how he unwittingly removed the microphone from anyone's mouth (including his own) just before they spoke.

It's not clear how aware he was of just what he was doing. Once he was sent on a goodwill tour of South America in a Winnebago, but got so tired of the trip that they let him return before he hit the Mexican border.

Other bits I loved. Ask Mr. Melman, where audience members would ask questions, and he'd give surprisingly nasty answers. ("I have controlled the halls of Congress just to makea little girl cry." "Your shoes are fine, but your hair...ouch!")

My favorite memory might be his most bizarre character, Kenny The Gardener. He appeared several times, but the highlight was hearing him sing an off-key version of "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" for no discernible reason. It still makes me laugh when I think about it.

John takes an obvious pill

"The real goal of Congress's subpoena assault is to cripple the Bush Presidency."

Er, yeah. Maybe Fund could do a piece on the broadcast goals of CBS.

Meanwhile, for something completely different, with a fresh, new perspective, NPR did a piece yesterday on comity.

QueensGuy replies: You know how to tell when someone hasn't properly prepared for an NPR interview? When he offers nothing better than the ol' slippery slope defense to an offered compromise. Yes, the administration will win this point in court in the end, and along the way they'll look like they have something to hide, providing further ammo for weeks to come. [ed.-contra ColumbusGuy]

That said, your larger point is indubitably correct. Nobody in Congress seriously believes that a crime has yet been committed. Their only hope to leverage this into a crippling blow is if Rove is as dense as Gonzalez and Libby, and would lie under oath. The odds on that are slim to none.

Finally, I don't get the sense that this issue has real public traction yet outside of the impeach-at-all-costs crowd. Too lawyerly. Absent a real smoking gun, which would have been in the emails, there's nothing sexy enough here for a good sound-bite rebuttal to the "we hired you to govern again, not continue attacking one another," sentiment.

Intolerance

Hilton Als isn't much of a theatre critic, but he's even worse as a political commentator. In reviewing a revival of Tea And Sympathy (why bother to revive it? but that's another post) he shares his wisdom: "That we live in a country that is, for the most part, intolerant of difference is a given." A given.

Actually, Hilton, we live in a country where, for the most part, tolerance of difference is a given. If you want to see intolerance, I could point you to a lot of other places, the most obvious being a mirror.

The Voice

I just watched one of my favorite episodes of The Sopranos, "D-Girl." It's probably their funniest.

One of the best things about the show is how they capture the voice of New Jersey gangsters, as well as that of a middle class Italian family. "D-Girl" makes fun of Hollywood types, people the writers know personally, and you can tell. Alicia Witt is especially good (in the title role), and Jon Favreau, playing someone close to himself (he wants to capture the "voice" of gangsters for his own script) is also fun.

The only time I've ever felt the show really missed the voice of a type was in the most recent season, when they dealt with New Hampshire homosexuals. They love ripping apart the pretensions of any group, but here they seem befuddled. Maybe they were afraid getting too campy, but it seemed to me they treated them with kid gloves, which made them seem a but lifeless.

Columbus Guy says: Well, there's your problem right there. But-lifeless New Hampshire homosexuals don't need taking apart, they need support.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

That, and he wants government to finance political campaigns

"McCain Warns Against Spread of Socialism"

Mickey, right once again

All I remember is he was given custody of an important set of hearings--into China and campaign finance--and screwed them up.

Just so. (But what are you going to do? Hillary? Obama? Giuliani? McCain? I mean, it's one thing to screw up, but it's another to want to screw up.)

Idol Update

This year has been the dullest edition of American Idol, so I was pleasantly surprised by last night's show. The singers, in general, were pretty good. Of course, it may have had something to do with the fact they were singing tunes from the 60s. Nothing like good songs to help a performance along.

Still, we're fairly far into the season and I'm not seeing too much personality in most of the contestants. I used to look forward to the show, now I'm mad it's preempting House.

Make it stop, my sides are hurting

A month later, Sampson wrote to the Justice Department spokespeople with some good news for them. That e-mail says that according to the top lawyer to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), the U.S. attorneys issue "has basically run its course."
"They need to get a little more information from us," Sampson predicted. "But that will be it."


Wow. I wish they'd give me a few boxes of Clinton material and let me read my selections on NPR.

My Favorite Things

I consider Pajama Guy more a destination blog than one where we send readers off to other places. I mean The Drudge Report doesn't need our help. Besides, anyone who can find us on the internet is capable of finding plenty else.

Still, every now and then (such as last week) I see something amusing that I feel like passing on. Of course, by the time I hear about it, the fad is usually over. (For example, Mentos and Diet Coke.) But I recently saw a video (I guess it's a mashup) mixing two of my favorites, Star Trek and Monty Python, and I couldn't resist. Actually, I pressed the play button with foreboding, and was surprised at how well done it was.

Back To The Cave

There's talk of the Geico Cavemen getting a series. I find them unbearably unfunny in small doses, so this is scary. I recognize the idea is to satirize special-interest group sensitivity, but the premise is so far removed from reality I can't go for it.

And, of course, the whole centerpiece of the campaign--the sophisticated caveman--is a rip-off of Unfrozen Cavemen Lawyer, which was more subtle since that bit was about the caveman exploiting our anti-caveman prejudice.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Bring it on

Finally, Bush is dealing with the terrorists. I hope he means it, but I surely don't count on it. Maybe they've finally picked on the one BUsh buddy that's going to make the Hulk . . . angry.

If he does stick to it, this'll raise his approval 15 points.

Irreplaceable

It looks like Cathy Seipp doesn't have much longer to live. She'd been quite sick for a while but I didn't know her illness had progressed this far.

I was introduced to her a few years ago, and since then, whenever I've gone to an LA party with bloggers about, she was there. She had a fine blog but was even more entertaining and informative in person.

Columbus Guy says: Yes, respect and best wishes to her.

Stupidity Knows No Color

Some people are making fun of David Ehrenstein (whom I've met) and the LA Times for the piece on Barack Obama and the "Magic Negro." However, it's not the phrase they should be mocking, but the content.

The concept of the "Magic Negro"--a modern (how modern no one can agree) folk figure, a black man (usually in a movie) who comes on the scene with no past to help a white character--is too vague to have much meaning. For instance, some of these movies that allegedly fit the pattern, usually older ones (and usually created by earnest liberals) try to deal, directly or indirectly, with race relations--The Defiant Ones, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, Six Degrees Of Separation. (The latter film is so self-aware that the whole concept of a "magic Negro" is being played with, not unwittingly reenacted.) Most, especially nowadays, don't.

In the majority of modern cases, it's simply a black man playing a supporting role that a white man could (and usually does) play. The social critics who feel superior enough to bandy about this phrase apparently can't see beyond color and want to place a burden on black actors, while the audience at large, with its more tolerant and open view, simply shrugs it off.

The whole article is pretty silly, but I think my favorite moment is this:
[Scatman] Crothers in The Shining, in which psychic premonitions inspire him to rescue a white family he barely knows [...] get[s] killed for his trouble. This heart-tug trope is parodied in Gus Van Sant's Elephant. The film's sole black student at a Columbine-like high school arrives in the midst of a slaughter, helps a girl escape and is immediately gunned down.
Let's ignore his race-conscious reading of Elephant and ask Ehrenstein to watch The Shining again. Crother's death is already a parody. Director Stanley Kubrick goes to great lengths to get Crothers into the haunted hotel just to have him killed immediately for no particularly good reason.

P.S. The Shining is such an old movie I'm giving my spoiler alert after the fact.

Monday, March 19, 2007

No good deed

How many years now has our LAGuy stood behind the scientists, refusing to back down in the face of arguments about evolution, er, intelligent design and whatnot.

And how do those stinkin' four-eyed monsters repay him? This is how. Wouldn't surprise me if he pitched his luggage into the ocean and headed for the nearest Kansas school board meeting.

LAGuy responds: As readers have noted, it's impossible to understand ColumbusGuy's posts by themselves. But in this case, even if they check out the link, nothing is explained.

ColumbusGuy has discovered scientists acting one way on one issue, and then in a perfectly consistent manner on another issue. For some reason this bothers him. Why I'm being dragged into the argument is beyond me.

The Great and Terrible Columbus Guyini says: Nuns. No sense of humor.

Not just a laugh, but an NPRLaugh

QueensGuy thinks this is funny, he should try these howlers, here (Congress Eyes Hearings on U.S. Attorney Firings) and here (Fallout from Attorney Firings Lands on White House). Such side-splitting cluelessness and bias is as rare as . . . a daily broadcast from NPR, CBS, NBC and ABC.

Three-Way

There was a three-way tie on Jeopardy!. All the contestants ended up with $16,000. That's pretty neat, but in the news story, a "mathemetician" calculates the odds of a three-way tie are one in 25 million.

This is nonsense. The numbers won on Jeopardy! are not random. They are determined, above all else, but contestants picking how much they wager in the final round. It may be unlikely that all three will bet so that they'll end up with equal amounts, but it's not that outrageous.

The mathematician probably just threw up his hands, squared 16,000, and figured that was close enough.

Doesn't Sound Like Me

Kaus links to an anti-Kaus diatribe by Robert Farley (no relation to Chuck U. Farley). I was reading the comments and noticed something by an "LA Guy." In the one in 25 million chance a reader of Pajama Guy saw this, I want to note it wasn't me.

(I also saw comments from "Hans Gruber," who's written to us in the past. Assuming it's the same one.)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Let Me Go On

Exactly a year ago I noted how cool the music was at my local Wendy's. Maybe it's no coincidence. Today, I noticed their latest commerical for a spicy chicken sandwich featured the Violent Femmes' "Blister In The Sun." Someone at Wendy's likes new wave.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Photo Finish

Whenever we publish a photo, it seems to prevent text from coming up. I'm just putting this post up as a test

A very special man

Sadly, I know more or less how much of an idiot you have to be to pose for a picture like this, but how much of an idiot do you have to be to let anyone see it, much less publish it and proudly, nay ambitiously, attach your name?

Brilliant

YouTube is an amazing place. Here's something I ran into just by chance--Ouch!, a Rutles tribute band. The idea is so great they don't even have to be good, but they are.

Check out "I Must Be In Love," the song that made The Rutles, or "Hold My Hand," the one that broke them in America. And as you'd expect, Ouch! does a bang-up mob with "Ouch!"

Friday, March 16, 2007

We're off to see the wizard

Dan Rather: Journalism has 'lost its guts'

Well, Rather is good evidence that it's lost its brains.

BONUS BLOG UPDATE: How Rather and LAGuy conclude there is no press bias: Both liberals and conservatives think the press is biased against them, and independents fall both ways. (Don't bother your purdy lil' head about the numbers. There's nothing to see here. Move along.)

LAGuy Bonus Update: You have enough trouble expressing your own opinions, please don't express mine for me.

The Great and Terrible Columbus Guyini looks into your mind and says: Indeed. We Cassandras suffer.

The poor just got screwed

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is dropping its bid to establish a bank after months of heated debate over whether the world's largest retailer should be allowed to gain the added financial power of a federally insured bank.

Spamalot

One of my favorite blogger things ever is the human verification of posts; what a clever kluge for the Turing problem.

So how does this stuff make it past the filtering process?

(And while we're in the neighborhood, why does every program everywhere offer to fill in your password for you and "remember" it [sic].

And my favorite nonsennse of all: The same form-fill feature that so helpfully will pass your passwords right along also volunteers to fill in the post verification for you, asking, implicitly, anyway, "vxkggsd met your needs previously; would you like to try it again?")

(Hey, QueensGuy: How's my punctuation?)

QueensGuy replies: Better than your spelling. [Zing!]

Wickedpedia

I'm not quite sure why this story, about how comedian Sinbad was reported dead in his Wikipedia entry, made the news. Every day hundreds of entries are vandalized. They're usually fixed fairly quickly. Did this story get attention because so many people weren't sure if he was still alive?

QueensGuy replies: I'd bet it got press because somebody lost money at a game of Dead Or Canadian after relying on it.

I Can Dream, Can't I?

It's still so early I can't believe I'm wasting space writing about the race for President. But I have a dream. Before I was born, conventions used to mean something. They weren't infomercials, they were places where party faithful met and decided who would be their candidate. Since then, the political landscare has changed, and reforms have been put in place, so that it's almost impossible to have an open convention. No matter how close things seem early on, once you get a few weeks into the primary season, it's over.

Well, I have hopes. Why should Iowa and New Hampshire be so important? Maybe, with no incumbent running, with states angling to move up their primaries (including the biggest fish of all) and with both parties fielding three reasonably popular candidates, maybe my wish will come true. Maybe we'll have a convention (or two) where the outcome is in doubt.

Will this make for better leaders? No. But then, neither does the primary system. I just want a little excitement.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

300

I finally got around to seeing 300. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. As far as taking artistic license with the Persian War, it's no big deal. Aeschylus did that about 2500 years ago.

I found the film ridiculously macho, in a gay porn sort of way.

Brush With Greatness

Yesterday I was in a restaurant and at the table next to me was Michael Eisner. What was it like to be so close to that much money and power? To tell the truth, I thought he looked a bit tired. Heavy is the head...

I didn't catch what he was eating, but I believe he's been a vegetarian since his heart problems.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

"I say that carefully"

What a joke. An NPR "expert," David Burnham, just said that Clinton fired ONE federal prosecutor. A baldfaced lie, one with plenty of contemporaneous refutation. Astounding.

QueensGuy retorts: The only astounding thing here is that you're buying into the latest nuance of Rove's discredited talking point, and citing an editorial as your source. Jeez, the "refutation" you cite is so far off base I almost don't know where to begin, so how about we just start off with some facts?

Presumably Mr. Burnham was referring to the one guy Clinton fired before the end of his four year term for choking a reporter.

But let me reply to the editorial just for fun anyway, assuming that what the author really meant was Clinton's en masse replacement of Bush-41-appointed US Attorneys who had already served their full term, but were historically replaced as "holdovers" in a more leisurely fashion. Was Clinton's replacement of US Attorneys done more speedily than the previous few administrations? Sure. So what? Are you really going to argue that either Whitewater or Rostenkowski (who was ultimately convicted) were insufficiently investigated as a result? Do you really see no meaningful distinction between speeding up the process of removing holdovers from a previous administration and firing your own appointee prior to the end of his term? This guy did. Too bad about him losing his job for not having forseen Rove's strategy.

Columbus Guy ripostes: I seek to elevate the tone of this debate. How shall I do it? I know: Bedwetter! Bedwetter!

Really, QueensGuy, this is beneath your ordinary level. From the disingenuous effort to disarm the fact that what clinton did was unprecedented ("in a more leisurely fashion" indeed) to the argument that poor Rostenkowski had already suffered enough, all fair minded folks are accustomed to better treatment from you. (BTW, if only I had known our gal harriet was behind this move way back when.)

QueensGuy parries: Ok, both you and the anonymous commenters have a point. Re-reading what I wrote, you're right, it's just a half-assed version of Crossfire. What happened was, I read your original post and said "wow, really, that I didn't know." Then opened the link and said, "oh, please, that's just spin! Based on that crap you call a man a liar? How could you, CG?" On reflection, I still believe there is a huge difference between replacing the other party's appointee and replacing your own, and only the latter counts as "firing"; but reasonable minds could disagree on the semantics. Re Rostenkowski, my point was that while there may have been smoke, there was no fire, given that Clinton appointed a prosecutor who went ahead and, you know, prosecuted ol' Danny-boy. On a broader level, I have lost any patience I may ever have had for the "but, but, Clinton did..." line of moral-relativist argument, but we can save that for another day.

Now back to the subject -- and one anon. commenter was right, linking ain't argument. I hear from friends who've worked at the justice dept. that there really is an expectation there that the us atty's won't be treated like other political appointees, in the sense that they can make decisions about who and when to charge, prosecute, plea-bargain, etc. without having to answer to the president, barring really exceptional circumstances. In fact, I'm acquainted with a registered democrat who was an acting us atty (that's what they call you when your term expires, ahem) for six years under Bush. Why was he kept around so long? I assumed it was because he wasn't a political hack and did a great job. Respecting quality work and the independence of prosecutors was one of the things I had admired about this administration. I'm considering revising my judgment, but the jury's still out.

Presumably that expectation of independence is why the justice dept felt the need to give the initial -- bullshit -- answer that this batch were let go for performance-related reasons. If that's changing now, there's absolutely nothing illegal, nor even immoral, about it, though it is an incredibly bad idea. The us atty's are in the executive branch, and answer to the executive. Fine. I think micromanagement would make for far worse governance, in that every mildly controversial prosecution will (rightly) be scrutinized by the opposing party for political influence, and the judgment of people who are not professional prosecutors will be substituted for the judgment of professionals, leading to far greater inefficiencies and likely less justice. But probably no crimes will result. Even if a New Mexico us atty was let go because of insufficient zeal in chasing a democratic voter fraud scandal, no criminal convictions will follow, no matter what your least-favorite senator may say, unless someone was so mind-numbingly stupid as to first threaten him with firing. But does that ridiculous possibility make enough smoke to warrant congressional hearings? Sure. And when the atty general gives idiotic answers to congress, does that multiply the amount of smoke? No doubt. Which is why people like Spector are so pissed off -- the administration created its own "scandal" out of simple hubris. (As a reminder, see here for what should have been said.)

301

Unlike our Toronto hero who says, "My condo will be built in the shade," there are a few here and there whose motto is something better than "Live free or conduct a feasibility study."

¡Comer Con Gusto!

I was stuck in traffic and saw an ad for the new "Angus" hamburgers at McDonald's. (I think they may be testing them regionally, so you may not have heard of them.) I had plenty of time to look it over.

What intrigued me was how the English was so much shorter than the Spanish. Is this normal? Is it a coincidence? Was the translator just better at one of the languages? Do Latino consumers demand more adjectives?

Here, to the best of my memory (I don't know Spanish) is the ad copy:

"Pure Angus beef on a toasted baker's style roll."

"Grandes y suculentas hamburgeusas hechas con pura carne Angus, en un papecillo tostado estilo panaderia."

Induction

I like the yearly ceremony where they celebrate the newest members of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Not just because, unlike most awards, they tend to get it right. Not just because of the superstar jams.

What I like most are the speeches. And the best one are the introductions to the inductees by other big stars. So often,when musician speak out in public, it's just silly platitudes about politics that are as boring as they are unoriginal. But hearing a Keith Richards talk about how he was inspired by some great before him, that's magic. Here's a subject they understand, one they live for. You can feel someting light up inside them, and it's poetry.

Wimsical

ColumbusGal and I are fans of various mystery series and other genres on DVD, all the ones you would expect, Prime Suspect, Jeeves and Wooster (Bertie was played by this great guy who seems to have just disappeared).

Sadly, we just exhausted a series that was profoundly well done but alas too short, and so lately we've found "Lord Peter Wimsey," and with it bizarro world.

Begin with the technical point that it's filmed in videotape (it's an early 70's product) except outdoor scenes, which are filmed. No bones against either, except when you throw them together.

Then proceed to the fundamental issue, the character. Imagine Batman, except without the hidden identity or any of the fantastic flourishes that might allow you to suspend disbelief, and without any flaws or difficulties whatever, unless being a wealthy lord who is kindly, popular, and intelligent and sensitive beyond all plausibility is a problem (he's the kind of character any teenager or G. Gordon Liddy would create).

Then imagine the main character played, earnestly, by (or at least as) a sixty-year-old man (who at one time played Bertie himself) right down to the dentures, whose main means of conveying discovery, curiosity, adventure, arousal, tea time and chagrin is raising his moderately bushy eyebrows. This might be fine for a lord, but, in addition to being a lord, he's also an apparent action hero who woos women easily (and seemingly disinterestedly) and performs extraordinary and sustained feats of derring-do--always in his three-piece suit.

One of his few endearing quirks is he has a monocle, a naked one, a mere lens with no frame or attachment, which he keeps in a vest pocket and pulls out frequently when he reads or examines a thing closely. (I've wondered how he keeps the fingerprints off it.) Of course he can't raise that eyebrow then, so during those moments his acting chops are limited to the other brow.

We've watched one series and have proceeded to the second; in this one, Lord Peter is in disguise. What is his disguise? He uses a different monocle. One with a frame and a fob.

Lest you think this is merely a small change in setting from one series to the next, no, no, no. Because whenever he's alone, he pulls out his naked monocle and shoves it under his brow and gets to work. And whenever someone barges into the room and catches him, he hastily drops his true monocle into his vest pocket, and shoves the disguise monocle under his brow. Then he says something to divert attention from his suspicious behavior, such as "Caught me in the act, what?"

And several characters have remarked directly to him that his tailor is fine and his shoes cost more than his annual salary. (A 60-year-old lord, who by the way is famous, is investigating the death of a 25-year-old copy editor by taking his job.) Lord Peter throws them off by adopting his fool persona and saying, "Tally ho! Good job that!" followed immediately by an earnest and conspiratorial, "So, why do you think Deeds died?"

I've never quite appreciated it before, but I'm beginning to think that the British are not merely subtle. They're more than subtle. Indeed, I suspect they're over-subtle. What?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Border crossing

I'm moving to where this guy is:

"Our concept is more to accomplish and solve things, rather than giving; that is, not going around like Santa Claus," said Slim, as he cracked jokes, smoked a cigar and outlined business plans at a rare news conferences. "Poverty isn't solved with donations."

Modern-day warrior

While one need not necessarily buy LAGuy's direct historical causal trail leading to today's freedoms, it's surely disappointing to read this guy's idea of sacrifice: Most Greeks would have traded their homes in Athens for hovels in Sparta about as willingly as I would trade my apartment in Toronto for a condo in Pyongyang.

I'd expect that soon enough there'll be quite a market for condos in Pyongyang.

(Especially if W gets off his arse and finishes the job.)

Betty Hutton, RIP

Betty Hutton just died. No matter what film she did, she was always a high-spirited, lively presence. A lot of female stars are mysterious, hidden, but she was a game gal.

She didn't make that many great films (she didn't make that many films), but she'll be remembered for two.

She replaced Judy Garland as Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun (1950), and she does such a good job it's hard to imagine Garland would have been better.

Then there's her all-time classic (and gigantic hit), Preston Sturges' The Miracle Of Morgan's Creek (1944), where she's a pregnant girl without a husband in sight. It's surprising that this got past the censorship of the day. I'm not sure if Hollywood has since matched the speed, madness and wit of this film (along with its companion piece, Hail The Conquering Hero).

You Don't Say

Dennis Kucinich, superannuated boy mayor of Cleveland, has condemned fellow Democratic candidates for ducking scheduled debates in New Hampshire and Nevada. (He argues--convincingly, I think--that a few of their votes that have helped our country would not play well with the base. I'm not sure, though, this explains the cancelations.)

Kucinich's complaint would be a lot less hypocritical if he didn't want to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, a bald-faced move to stifle political discussion in this country. To be fair, Kucinich does seem to believe the only honest debate takes place within a small portion of the political spectrum, so why worry about the rest?

Final 12

The final 12 have been chosen on America Idol, and I must say, I'm not impressed. A few of the contestants seem to have personality, but overall they're a pretty dull group. And last week the best natural singer of the bunch, Sundance Head, was voted off.

The show has built-in tension, but I have to wonder if the high ratings will keep up if the singers are duds.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Isn't the answer "yes"?

Polls like this one tick me off: "Are Bush's policies helping or hurting the economy?"

100 percent of respondents agree, they don't know how to answer a question.

Who Needs Music?

I recently saw the Leslie Howard/Wendy Hiller Pygmalion at LACMA. Good comedies should be seen on the big screen with a crowd.

It goes without saying this is the best film adaptation of Shaw. (Too bad the print was poor.) There's not that much competition. It helps that the play is more an attempt at a West End hit than usual for Shaw. His lengthy discussions in other plays don't film quite so well.

Of course, what's a light comedy for Shaw is deep for anyone else. His characters are more incisive than you usually see on screen (even in a potboiler like this), and his subject, beneath the anti-romantic romantic comedy, is society and class.

It's a tricky play to pull off, because it has what's known in Hollywood as "third-act problems." The first two-thirds of the movie (and the play) are one brilliant comic sequence after another, but then after Eliza succeeds at the embassy ball, a more serious drama develops, threatening to destroy the light mood. (This is definitely intentional. Others might end soon after the ball, but while Shaw can be fun, he doesn't believe in being frivolous.) As long as Higgins and Pickering are involved in a project to pass her off, there's forward momentum, but the going gets heavy when the motion stops and we're left with two people who both feel hurt.

Shaw didn't want Higgins and Eliza to get together, but every storytelling convention says they should. And the film, which Shaw wrote, but with collaborators, not only fills in what goes on between the scenes, but also has the suggestion at the end that the two are meant for each other. Shaw probably didn't fully approve, but he did ultimately like the movie. (It came out when he was the grand old man of theatre, a Nobel prize winner in his 80s. He won an Osar, which he considered an impertinence.)

A lot of people watch this movie and hear music cues for My Fair Lady. I find Shaw's writing quite enough. (He hated musicalization of his work, and forbade it during his lifetime. He said the music of his own words would have to do.) Yet, without this movie, My Fair Lady wouldn't have happened. Others had tried to adapt Pygmalion by going back to the play, but it was Alan Jay Lerner who figured that the movie opened things up enough to make a musical work. Some of the most famous scenes from the show--Higgins teaching Eliza, the ball--are in the movie, but not in the original play. The film version is the missing link between Pygmalion the play and My Fair Lady the musical.

P.S. I never noticed before, but the movie version appears to be set in the "present" of the late 1930s. The musical goes back to the original period. I guess they figured (correctly) it just wouldn't play in 1956.

Wasn't he a Jew?

"This should never serve to play down history along the lines of 'Look, he wasn't a German at all'," she said. "That would never be my intention as a Social Democrat."

Four Rhymes In Two Lines

My friend Tom over at his blog has a nice piece on Captain America. In it, he notes how much I love the ditty that introduced the cartoon.

He also had a nice post below on Richard Jeni, whom he knew.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Bad Spell

One of the most commonly misspelled words is "accommodate"--two c's, two m's. But I was still surprised by a handmade sign I saw on a broken elevator yesterday.

The writer was trying to use a fancy word and ended up impressing me in a way he wasn't planning. He explained that the elevator would no longer "accomidate" anyone. At least he knew there were two c's.

Columbus Guy says: My favorite ever was a handyman ad on an index card: "Will bild you a shed 9" x 12" x 7"

I think it had a price on it that seemed reasonably accurate for the job, generous even if the dimensions were correct.

But really, LAGuy, aren't you barreling fish here? What's next? Making fun of Democrats?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Cost Of Freedom

Andy Klein's review of 300 is nutty even for him. He doesn't like the film, which is fine (I haven't seen it). Be he all too predictably turns his review into an editorial.

First he's mad that anyone would suggest just because a country like Iran commits regular acts of war against us that we would contemplate fighting back.

Then he turns his anger on the Spartans, stars of the movie, who stood against the Persians at Thermopylae. Klein doesn't want a film that glorifies the fighting spirit as part of civic virtue.

Well, Andy, welcome to the Founding Fathers, who were big fans of the Spartans. They seemed to like them better than the Athenians, in fact. But then, Klein, being a modern liberal, probably doesn't trust anyone as politically wrongheaded as the Founders. (For that matter, why read Herodotus? People were crazy back then.)

Hate the Spartans if you like--I have my problems with them, too. But at least be aware if it weren't for their brave fighting at Thermopylae, it's very possible we wouldn't be living in a country where we're free to write foolish movie reviews.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Worth a dozen Libby's

His Virtualness (who has expertise on the topic) has the quick roundup on the Second Amendment. Hoo-yaa. Except, I hope it's not true that the supremes are likely to take it up; I wouldn't expect to prevail there.

Collective rights, my eye. You may as well say your First Amendment right is satisfied when George Bush publishes a newspaper.

ColumbusGal says

Speaking of self-contained

The "Total Information Awareness" Project.

Seems ambitious.

Pleasing the crowd

In response to reader demand:

You got your yin, you got your yang.

Non sequitur

There isn't anything about this that is news.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich acknowledged he was having an extramarital affair even as he led the charge against President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair, he acknowledged in an interview with a conservative Christian group.

I can't decide if it's made worse or better that, after the story is introduced, they do get to the point that Clinton was charged for perjury and obstruction of justice. Of course, since it's AP and since it's Gingrich, the point of the quote probably isn't its substance, but that he's a lunatic for thinking that way.

Try, try, and try, and you can't find news in this. "Clinton impeached" maybe, "Clinton obstructs justice" maybe, "New York Times attacks Republicans and protects Democrats while network news anchors try to learn how to read paper" maybe, but most editors would consider all of those a bit stale.

(And don't you just love the "with a conservative Christian group"? I can't say I'd like to see inside the mind of the editor who approved this; it's all too transparent.)

You Can Say That Again

I was listening to an oldie today, We Five's "You Were On My Mind." I love the opening lines: "When I woke up this morning/ You were on my mind/ And you were on my mind."

You see, normally, "and" signifies something new is about to happen. But this guy (or gal--two are singing) is so obsessed with "you" that he (or she) is doing two things: Thinking about you and, uh, thinking about you.

My favorite example of redundancy in popular music is probably from the chorus of "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence": "The man who shot Liberty Valence/ He shot Liberty Valence." Now you might have already figured the man who shot Liberty Valence shot Liberty Valence, but you can't be too safe.

You can say that again

I was listening to an oldie today, We Five's "You Were On My Mind." I love the opening lines: "When I woke up this morning/ You were on my mind/ And you were on my mind."

You see, normally, "and" signifies something new is about to happen. But this guy (or gal--two are singing) is so obsessed with "you" that he (or she) is doing two things: Thinking about you and, uh, thinking about you.

My favorite example of redundancy in popular music is probably from the chorus of "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence": "The man who shot Liberty Valence/ He shot Liberty Valence." Now you might have already figured the man who shot Libert Valence shot Liberty Valence, but you can't be too safe.

Unspeakable

The title intrigued me: "Four Unspeakable Truths About Iraq" by Jacob Weisberg over at Slate. So I checked it out.

Guess what it is? Iraq was a mistake, we're wasting lives there, etc. etc. Having read Weisberg before, I supposed I shouldn't have been surprised, but wouldn't a better title be "Four Things Everyone Is Saying About Iraq All The Time That Are False"?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

You have 15 seconds to comply


Just like those neocons, wanting to involve us in yet another war, kill more people before we even bother to explore the question, "Why do they hate us?"

Hooda thunk it

Well, what have we? It's only a modest stretch (well, a moderate stretch) to call the Ninth Circus clowns, but one has to have respect for the esteemed Volokh.

Add to that that the guy was filming, and has become the hero of, a bunch of leftist lunatics.

And yet here I am, thinking he has a point: ""There was a trust established between people involved in the organization that I was covering and myself . . . that what I chose to release was what I chose to release, and that I wasn't an investigator for the state."

LAGuy and QUeensGuy and NewEnglandGuy and God knows how many other guys could do a fine job explaining why Volokh and the circus are right.

Still, a piece of me wants to say, "%$@#! the Man!", ya know what I mean?

QueensGuy says: Oh, do I ever. Gotta love the casual mention of the final burial place of the Tenth Amendment:

But in an unusual move, federal prosecutors took over the arson case from state authorities on grounds that San Francisco's police department receives funding from Washington.

I too received funding from Washington. In college, in the form of a Pell Grant. Screw with me and you'll wind up in John Gotti's 23 1/2-hour-a-day solitary cell, bucko.


Another failing of our educational system

I don't believe they still teach "civics" in high school, which goes part of the way toward explaining why the undoubtedly-earnest Ms. Redington has never heard of the concept of jury nullification. Too bad, that. Seemed to me a wasted, lovely opportunity for the exercise of that rarely-exercised prerogative. [cough] drug possession cases [cough, hack].

A nice point of usage

QueensGuy's culinary inklings (dig the orange, BTW) contains this gem:

It praised the crab cake at Chops restaurant in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., but said the meal there over all “was expensive and disappointing, from the soggy and sour chopped salad to a miserably tough and fatty strip steak.”

"Over all": at first I thought it was an error, and it probably is, depending on what the reviewer was trying to say. But I admit I don't have my AP Stylebook handy or my Fowler's, or even E.B. White, and the only Safire nearby has to do with politics. Any way, if the stinkin' libeler meant, "over all," I salute him. (Now to wonder: Did I really mean "any way" or should I correct it . . . )

QueensGuy replies: Admit it, you only brought this up to shame me for my grammatical error; "over all" was the Times' usage, not the reviewer's. "There's [sic] good reasons," indeed. And thanks, the orange is Mets (inherited from Giants) livery orange. I first tried Mets (inherited from Dodgers) livery blue, but it just looked like a hyperlink. (Now to wonder: am I allowed to use "Christendom" without a British accent? Better ask Madonna.)

Columbus Guy says: It ought to be painfully obvious that I don't know grammar; I'm only amused and confused by it. (And I did consider the distinction between the Times's usage (their stylebook calls for Times's) and the reviewers', but it purports to be an indirect quote (a mixed direct and indirect, for you persnickety's) and so I decided to take refuge in holding them to a high standard of accuracy.)

YOu see why lawyers are so expensive and never get anything done (until the money runs out, when thihngs happen quickly)?

Battle of the Edubots

In this corner, the Conservative Gaia, fresh from six weeks' spa training in Palm Springs:

After all those years of educators focusing on improving the basics in public schools, how is it possible that the National Assessment for Educational Progress just gave America's high school seniors their lowest score for reading since 1992?

and in this corner, the Conservative Nick Charles, fresh from bourbon on the rocks on Capitol Hill:

NCLB injected into the federal aid to education program important doses of accountability -- yearly testing of kids from grades 3 to 8, consequences for failing schools, disaggregation of data by race and ethnicity -- and it seems to have resulted in some modest improvements in test scores.

Meanwhile, the Godfather of Intellectual Soul says, "I'm sorry, all right. I'm sorry for your sorry ass."

QueensGuy responds: The Godfather's best line is:

Possibly, the whites who voted in support of the declaration were mau-maued into it or they felt guilt over our history of slavery. In any case, they should know that their actions mean little in dealing with the day-to-day plight of many black Virginians -- which has nothing to do with slavery.

I had heard the term "mau-mau" before, and always assumed it was a reference to the Russian roulette scene in The Deer Hunter, where they should "di di mau!" (or something similar) to goad the players. Turns out it's from a bit further back, in a whole 'nother language. Voracious gobbling of hyenas, eh?

Fweet! Fweet! Flag on the field!

C'mon, Tom:

Not even in our education system are logic and evidence the touchstones. Not since the days of the Hitler Youth have young people been subjected to more propaganda on more politically correct issues.

QueensGuy muses: If I can no longer help but Godwin my own editorials, does that mean the memetics experiment is finally over? Oh, and in case any of those beleaguered kids were thinking about citing me as a source, I say "Don't be stupid, be a smarty!"

Game Boy

I was just watching WarGames. One of the fun things about looking at movies of your youth is to see how they've held up. I thought it was still a pretty good film, with a well-constructed screenplay. But some of the dated stuff made me laugh.

Matthew Broderick, who was in his 20s at the time, plays a high school student, and almost looks too young for the part. But his engaging presence holds the somewhat extravagant movie together. If you recall, he's a computer whiz who breaks into the government system and almost starts a nuclear war.

What's funniest is how some of his computer stuff is so old--no graphics, just words on screen (kind of like the complaint of certain critics of Pajama Guy)--while other bits--in particular a computer program that can talk almost like a human--are probably not possible today.

Then there's the music. Nothing places a film more firmly in the 80s than the ditzy little sounds they liked then. It's such a particular sound, but, like smoking in restaurants, it's not something I really noticed back then. And since WarGames is about computers, the music at points is even sillier.

Then there's the ending. This was the time of the nuclear freeze movement, and calls for unilateral disarmament. The ending of WarGames seemed silly to me even then. After a short-lived victory (not caused by Broderick, so I knew it wasn't the real ending), the computer goes out of control and starts planning to launch some bombs. Broderick gets it to "play" games against itself and it quickly "learns" that no one can win in a nucelar war, so refuses to start. You'd think they might have figured that out before they installed the program.

Columbus Guy says: After this graphic, I don't think we'll ever run graphics again. I'd comment about it, but these days if you call someone "John Edwards," you have to go into rehab.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Be Careful What You Wish For

I apologize for being scarce. I've had what I thought were serious "connectivity" issues. Turns out after 3 days of fiddling and four different helpdesk jockeys, one bright bulb asked me to push a barely noticeable soft little push-button on the modem right next to where you would grip it if you picked it up. I did and everything came back to life. According to the nice young techette, "more people get thrown by that pointless stand-by switch. Its only purpose is apparently to baffle people." A triumph of design and engineering!

To think that earlier in the day, I was bemoaning the fact that I only hung around with lawyers.

Columbus Guy says: A nice young techette shows up and you consider it a curse? Forget be careful what you wish for; count your blessings. (We don't buy lottery tickets in our house. We consider it a tax on the stupid, and while we count ourselves among the stupid, we don't like taxes. So the other day in the midst of the huge-hugest ever-buy-your-tickets-now frenzy, ColumbusGal wwanted to buy a ticket, at one point asking what I would do with the winnings. "Buy a better trophy wife," I said. She laughed really hard. I love ColumbusGal.)

Credit where credit due

For all the kvetching I do about the Manhattan Media--and despite QueensGuy's silly title-denial, it's done nothing but preen--it behooves me to note when one of its member institutions steps up to the plate. (Part way, at least)

That's it?!

So this is the dread Ann Coulter joke? Give me a break. Given the pretensions of the Grey's Anatomy crowd--I haven't seen worse since the day Cheers went off the air and they showed up drunk on Carson (Johnny, that is; he was a widely known figure--look it up in Wikipedia) it's actually pretty funny. If those dolts were known for being conservative, the story about Washington would have been based on his race, not the sexual peccadilloes of his erstwhile colleagues.

Heroes, Good And Bad

I'll give one thing to Heroes--that show sure has a lot of plot. The stuff that happened on Monday's episode--the last till late April--was enough to fill half a season on Lost. (Yet, I like Lost better--plot speed isn't everything.)

But I still have one complaint. Too many heroes. You gotta have regular people so the heroes stand out. Instead, most characters turn out to have special powers, and producer Tim Kring promises more next season.

Also, and this is related, the more we find out, the more we discover just about everyone is in on it. Everyone knows about these "secret" people, and is doing something about it one way or another. Once again, this makes the secret less special.

We're not worthy

Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to a good performance (via His Virtualness):

. . . you are never more than one click away from accidentally plunging into an overpriced galaxy of idiocy, which, rather than politely restricting itself to news headlines and train timetables, thunders "BUFF OR ROUGH? GET VOTING!" and starts hurling cameraphone snaps of "babes and hunks" in their underwear at you, presumably because some pin-brained coven of marketing gonks discovered the average Orange internet user was teenage and incredibly stupid, so they set about mercilessly tailoring all their "content" toward priapic halfwits, thereby assuring no one outside this slim demographic will ever use their gaudy, insulting service ever again.

An overpriced galazy of idiocy . . . ah, I can die happy. Though I must quibble; "priapic halfwits" is surely more than a slim demographic.

Freakin' Good

I've been watching The Sopranos reruns on A&E and the show sure holds up. It may be the best drama ever on TV. And, to my surprise, removing all the swearing and nudity hasn't hurt it too much.

The final episodes (so they say) will debut next month on HBO. All good things must come to an end--I just hope it goes out at its best.

QueensGuy adds: I had precisely the same reaction. There are some quick breaks in suspension-of-disbelief when they dub in "freakin'" or the like, but those really are just momentary. It's nothing nearly like the experience of watching Big Love right after Deadwood, where the sudden switch to "gosh darnit," sometimes is quite jarring.

Some Sopranos episodes are even better the second time around. E.g. when you know that Tony's going to apply Dr. Melfi's advice about giving older people the illusion of control to propose Uncle Junior as (figure)head of the family, it sheds a whole new light on the way Tony reacts during the session.

On a related note, am I the only one who really enjoyed the "johnny cakes" story arc? I thought it was the best psychological examination of the past season.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Preening? Methinks not.

Libby's "lying to the FBI" conviction will stick post-trial and on appeal -- it almost always does -- unless there's an appellate court willing to make a major change in direction. Here's why. You want to push for broad expansion of federal criminal powers in this Time Of War™? Want to make an example of folks like Martha Stewart? Sow, I'd like to introduce you to my friend reap.


(Despite ColumbusGuy's challenge, I can't seem to figure out how to respond out on the front page, and this is important enough not to stick in the back.)

Columbus Guy says YIKES: If all of this sounds complicated, it is. Whether you speak, what you say and how and when you say it can have a profound effect on your future when you find yourself involved in a white-collar criminal investigation. The time to realize this, hire an experienced white-collar criminal defense attorney and develop a strategic plan is before the feds come knocking at your door.

I heard on the radio today that the lottery is something huge, maybe hugest ever, so they asked a couple of yokels what they'd spend it on, then they asked an attorney about it, and the attorney said it was important to seek out an attorney and a financial advisor BEFORE claiming the prize, because how you claimed it affected the payout.

I'm sure there are plenty of attorneys willing to do that on a one-third contingency.

Really, though, I think they're missing a niche market. I think everyone who plays the lottery should hire an attorney.

Anyway, I was equally appalled by Marth's conviction. Of course, I'm appalled by Martha's existence, too.

QueensGuy responds: Hey, there's good reasons nobody ever asks you to send economists, guns, and money.

Now the deluge

Looks like Scooter's roots were showing.

Nonetheless, a contemptible verdict and a contemptible prosecution. Let's see if the judge and the court of appeals have the integrity to make it right, or if Scooter works a deal to give them Cheney's head.

Can't wait to hear the Manhattan Media preening on this one.

Getting It Wrong

I once considered turning this blog into a review of reviewers. Because their words are in print, I think they get more respect than they deserve. Often, they even get basic plot points wrong.

A couple recent examples:

In LA City Beat, during a questionable discussion of Sarah Silverman and her Comedy Central show, Mick Farren writes it's
one of those Seinfeld-inspired concepts in which a throwaway stand-up line is inflated into a full half-hour plot. As in, Sarah is so bored (titter) [once someone writes "(titter)" you can pretty much stop there, so I apologize for taking Farren seriously], she gets an AIDS test.
Let's ignore that he's wrong about the plots of both Seinfeld and the Silveman show. He misses the point of the AIDS episode. First, this isn't merely boredom--Sarah's activities place her at high risk. The joke of the show is not about the AIDS test, but how Sarah is so self-involved she starts a huge crusade against AIDS--not because she cares, but because it's a great self-promotion. (Once she gets the negative results, the whole crusade falls apart.)

Then there's Andrew Sarris in the New York Observer. His states The Game, starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn, is "a real-life cat-and-mouse game involving two brothers—one of whom torments the other." Not really. Douglas is tormented, but neither during the movie, nor at the end when everything is revealed, would you claim it's mostly Senn Penn doing it.

But they have free health care

A household receiving £28,000 a year in disposable income pays 47.9 per cent of that in tax, while earners in the top income bracket pay 46.9 per cent.

Coup de Theatre

The Fantasticks, which ran off-Broadway over 40 years, has just been revived in New York. It's a delightful show, well worth checking out. (Ben Brantley of The New York Times unwittingly reveals in his review that he had better taste at the age of nine when he liked the musical.)

The production features Tom Jones--not the singer, but the writer-lyricist of the show. He plays the Shakespearan actor, just as he did when the show opened in 1960.

Years ago I did The Fantasticks in community theatre. We performed outdoors in a park. If you've seen the show, you might remember about half an hour into the first act, a trunk is pulled onstage and out of it pop the Shakespearaean actor and the Indian. Well, we didn't have any "offstage" in the park. For that matter, with the sparse set, there was no place to hide the trunk.

So what did we do? We put the trunk right up front where anyone could see it from the start. When the two actors came out, the audience would gasp, then applaud.

How'd we do it? The only way possible. Thirty minutes before the show, the actors would get into the trunk. They had to wait an hour for their entrance. We did cut out the bottom half of the back so they could stick their leg outs, but aside from that, there was no trickery. Sometimes, the simplest effects are the best.

Monday, March 05, 2007

There really was a simple answer all along

The latest semi-meaningless tidbit is that Sen. Domenici may have had something to do with the firing of one of the 7 or 8 US Attorneys that were pink-slipped, because Petey was unhappy about the slow pace of a corruption inquiry implicating Democrats in his state just before the '06 elections.

I don't recall who in the administration originally announced that the group all were fired for performance-related issues, but he's the person who needs to be let go for incompetence. The answer was, and should always be in cases like this, that US Attorneys are appointed by, serve at the pleasure of, and may be removed without cause by the President, and he has chosen to appoint others to those posts. Note the full stop at the end of that last sentence -- it's really the key to the argument. For all the talk of expanded powers and unitary executives, these guys often just don't really grasp that "because I say so" is sometimes the complete, right answer.

Of trade deficits and tithes

"In other times and places, such arrangements have been referred to as tribute, and were not handled through global 'free' asset markets."

It has always been the case that when a debtor gets too big to be allowed to fail, creditors will give you a whole lotta rope for a mighty long time, then bail you out in the end.

Columbus Guy says: Those aren't creditors. Those are partners.

Fair and balanced reporting

Who do these people think they are? They New York Times?

The Arizona senator snubbed CPAC, and a McCain spokesman called the annual gathering a bunch of Washington insiders even though the poll showed that 85 percent of its 4,800 registered attendees came from 47 states outside of Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

How's her Christopher Walken?

So Hillary's adopting a southern accent for the southern folk. I look forward to Boston.

ANd I can't wait to here her Bill Clinton impersonation. Oh, wait, we're already hearing that one.

UPDATE: QueensGuy spanks me for taking President Mrs. Bill Clinton out of context. Doubtless it was unfair of me to imply she was a fraud. What rely fries my grits, though, is that he doesn't have the cojones to come out here on the main page and do it. C'mon, QueensGuy, get yourself a color and come out front with the, er, adults.

BG Lately

Battlestar Galactica's plot has been moving around a lot lately, just not always forward. Some episodes concentrated on one character or another, while the big picture--fleeing from the Cylons, searching for Earth--seemed to be forgotten.

In an interesting development last week, Baltar sent out writings from jail. He claimed to be a man of the people, and his thoughts were spreading. I admit I didn't see this coming, though it did remind me of a similar development on Babylon 5. (Not that they created the concept. It at least goes back to Martin Luther King.) Unlike the B5 case, Baltar's motives seem to be selfish. (Actually, a number of famed jail-writers did it at least in part to get out.)

This week, however, was a plot about Starbuck, and I have no idea what's going on. Anybody have any clues?

StAnndards

The blogosphere is abuzz re Ann Coulter's idiotic joke about John Edwards (she used the word "faggot"). It was made all the worse by the fact she was speaking at a conservative gathering.

Republicans candidates have condemned her, as have many conservative bloggers (I didn't know that was their job, but I guess they feared if they didn't some might think they thought what she said was acceptable).

It got me thinking, just what are the standards of acceptable speech? Are they based on ideas or particular words? Actions? Does it differ depending on who the speaker is?

Just as tricky, what do you when people go over the line? Do you freeze them out permanently? Do you boycott them until they apologize? Do you give them another chance?

What if you agree with someone a lot of the time but then this person says or does something deeply stupid or offensive. Does that mean it's time to cut him off? What if you know of others who are far more offensive, but still get treated with respect? Should you care about what seems to be a double standard?

Sorry this post is so abstract. (Okay, here's a specific example--a lot of people would like us to negotiate with Holocaust deniers. Should we understand it's a cultural thing, and we don't have much choice?)

Anyway, no answers today, just questions.

Welcome

As many of our faithful readers may have noticed, we have two new Guys aboard, QueensGuy and New England Guy. They can introduce themselves personally in their own posts.

So let's just say welcome for now. It's good to know there are others to fill in if ColumbusGuy or myself ever slack off.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Spring Training

Baseball season is finally back. I put down $14.95 so I can listen to any game any time (almost) to either team's broadcast all season long. This is a great deal if you think baseball on the radio listening to a couple of elder blowhards desparately trying to fill airtime with whatever is cascading through their heads (which I do).

The package included the rites of spring so I tuned into the Minnesota v. Boston exhibition on Sunday which only the Twins were broadcasting. There I was delighted to hear from Rik Aalbert "Bert" Blyleven who I think has the most wins by HOF-elegible player who is not is the HOF (289) and I remember he was complainer member of the 1979 "We Are Fam-a-lee" Champion Pirates where he had 20 no-decisions in 37 starts which I someday will check to see if its a record. Anyway Bert had severe oral diarrhea during the game and in between his multiple Safe Driving Ads for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (the set up is, acting (badly) as a Philip Marlowe-ish character, he announces some promotion for a Twins game and then somehow alerts the cops to arrest all the Twin fans who speed or otherwise drive unsafely in the rush to the park (Gee, thanks, Dik!) ) and then he went off for about 10 minutes on minor leaguers who never made it past A ball as being whiny failures who blew their chace and do not deserve sympathy. Must have had a bad ice cube. Ex-jocks can be really fun to listen to. Frank Gifford used to have a similar problem when Howard Cosell, Dandy Don, Alex Karras, or his later cohosts, Simpson & Namath -the Slasher & the Flasher- would get quiet.

I guess the theme of this post is practice before the real season starts. I wanted to see how this all worked as I promised LA Guy a week ago I would start writing. I promise I'll be more interesting & address more important topics as I go on- Hillary, Iraq, American Idol, the new Star Wars TV series etc...but today I missed the Sunday morning shows & just listened to the game.

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