What mental illness is next? Conservatism?
Monday, April 30, 2007
I didn't watch the Democrats' first debate. I generally don't watch political debates. Even if my vote mattered, I wouldn't.
First, I usually have a pretty good idea where the candidates stand, and if there's anything surprising said, it'll be reported. Debates are a way to simplify stances, not explicate them.
Second, I find talking points to score debating points tiresome.
Third, how quickly and successfully people answer questions tells you almost nothing about what kind of leaders they'll be.
Some say it's great theatre. I'll take real theatre. Or regular TV, for that matter.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
"McCain feels that his support for President Bush's Iraq policy has soured his erstwhile reporter friends."
Yeah, John, that's it. They're your best buds. Change this, and they'll drop Hil like a hot potato(e).
One step at a time, folks, one step at a time:
For future tests the team aims to speed up the simulation, make it more neurobiologically faithful, add structures seen in real mouse brains and make the responses of neurons and synapses more detailed.
As it's my birthday, there'll be no blogging today. Check out last year's entry for a list of people also born on April 29.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
". . . he also demonstrates a degree of discipline and docility . . ."
(All right. Heh oesn't work. How about this:)
(Nah. Too harsh. This:)
(All right. I give up. Let's have a nominating contest for CG's interjection of choice.)
The nudge progresses
Ever since we formed, for safety's sake, pajamaguys.blogspot.com, when Big Google started its heavy handed ways (we're Americans, dammit; we're entitled to free shit from them, and we'll ask the government to "partner" with them if that's what we need to do to get it) and forcing us to migrate to a newer platform, we've been fearful of the day when we won't be able to post any longer to this blog.
Out of pure stubbornness and a preternatural degree of laziness, I've been signing in the same way as the old one. Why? Because my fingers are trained to do it and it automatically routed me to the newer log in with my super-secret email already filled in.
But today it's changed. Now it routes me to the new login; the old screen no longer appears, and I have to fill in the form myself. Soon enough my fingers will be trained to do it, but back in the day, I tell ya, it was better, that's for sure.
The real question though is, how much longer will the blog be supported? PajamaGuy, where are you? We need our Gruppenfuhrer; Big Google doesn't allow migration without the proper credentials.
I was recently in a store buying the LA Times. That's actually pretty unusual, since if you buy the Times from a box on the street, it's 50 cents, but if you buy it from a human, it's 50 cents plus tax. (Yes, I know, it's ridiculous.) I only did it because I was out of coins.
Anyway, I gave the cashier a twenty, and he licked his finger before pulling out each bill from the register. Then he licked his finger and counted the money again before handing it over to me. Disgusting. I was tempted to tell him to keep it.
Licking your fingers is second only to smoking on the list of common but offensive habits. I can at least see how people get addicted to smoking, but is it that hard to break yourself from licking?
I've managed to live my life without ever licking my finger before turning a page or counting money or dealing cards. There's simply no need. If you absolutely must--especially in a business setting--use a wet sponge.
Friday, April 27, 2007
They Never Stop Trying
My friend Jesse Walker has a good piece on the Fairness Doctrine. Next to campaign finance reform, it's probably the biggest censorship threat to free and open political speech around today.
QueensGuy replies: A good piece indeed; I learned quite a bit. Though I'd disagree on what may be the biggest censorship threat. I'm going with net neutrality.
A Simpler Time
I was just watching The Music Man, a very enjoyable musical. (It beat out West Side Story for the Best Musical Tony. Good call.)
Set in the early 1900s, it's the story of a con man working a small Iowa town. Here's the con: he convinces the city to give him large amounts of money to form a boys' band, and all they get in return are instruments, costumes and sheet music.
That's some scam.
May Or May Not
Looks like it'll be the biggest moneymaking May ever for Hollywood, with the third chapter of Shrek, Pirates Of The Caribbean, and Spider-Man opening, and I couldn't be less excited. I found the second chapters of these films weak to exruciating, so I don't hold out much hope.
Still, there is something to be said for the experience of a packed theatre filled with anticipation. Who knows, maybe I'll be surprised.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
"The head of the Democratic Party said Wednesday that the best way to get presidential candidates to talk frankly about issues is to lock out the media."
Yes, the candidates would love to be able to promise each voter something individually, with no one else able to hear. Just as companies would love to charge a price to each consumer individually, with no one else able to see.
QueensGuy replies: Ah, the joys of price discrimination! Such a pejorative-sounding term for a useful concept. (Niggardly, anyone?)
How's about a compromise, though? The press are allowed in, but with no recording devices. This way, a politician might be willing to deviate a bit from the talking points, knowing they won't have a Dean-Scream moment on the evening news, and any single slip of the tongue can be explained away with context, mishearing, etc. That really is what I (mostly) meant about broadcast being different than print media, by the by.
Columbus Guy says: You're kidding. Someone lost his job over saying niggardly? What's next? Niggling? The people who should have been fired were the ones who took offense.
I'm Not Wild About Harry
I recently heard an NPR feature on the movie Hot Fuzz. (A big disappointment for me--went on way too long and an absurd plot twist made for a ridiculous third act.) They interviewed the filmmakers, and, for an "expert" opinion, talked to Harry Knowles.
Now Harry's created the Ain't It Cool News site, one of the best movie spots on the web, and he deserves his success. But he's one of the worst critics in the world.
Hot Fuzz is essentially a comedic homage to action films, done with a sly British take. I didn't expect too much from Harry, and he delivered. For instance, he noted a foot chase sequence is shot to be like a car chase, just more low rent, missing the open homage to the famous foot chase in Point Break, a movie Hot Fuzz mentions by name more than once.
There's nothing wrong with being a fanboy enthusiast, but when you can't write, have no insights, and know nothing outside film, you shouldn't be the go-to guy for NPR.
Things I Learned Today
I went to the Mets/Rockies game this afternoon, along with about 5000 or so kids (with their teachers) in the upper decks for Kid Fitness Day at Shea. Here were some of the highlights for me.
Best generation-gap moment: not one of the kids knew the words or tried to follow the bouncing ball on the screen to "Meet The Mets," our erstwhile theme song of the 60's & 70's they're trying to revive with a sing-along, but most every single one of them knew the words and loudly sang along to David Wright's at-bat song "We Fly High (Ballin')."
Best unintentional comedy moment: as part of the kids' fitness theme, DiamondVision showed, one by one, the thirteen teaspoons of sugar that go into a can of soda, followed by a cartoon of how that will rot your teeth, then immediately and abruptly cut to the "Budweiser Designated Driver of the Game brought to you by Budweiser Select." Clear message to the kids: don't drink that sugary crap, try a beer!
Best teaching opportunity thrown away: about half the classes were gone by the sixth inning when the Mets were down 11-0. One of the unique joys of baseball (vis a vis other popular American sports) is that you cannot run out the clock. The Colorado Rockies were going to have to throw strikes to the Mets, and make every last out, before that game was over. Heck, 11 runs wouldn't even take third place among the biggest comebacks in baseball history, and the Mets came back to tie a game on their very last strike just last night. Even accepting that the Mets probably wouldn't make it all the way back -- they eventually lost 11-5 -- do you really want to teach these kids that they should give up just because your team probably is going to wind up losing? I mean, we're talking elementary school classes from some pretty rough neighborhoods here. The kids are certainly observant enough to notice that most of their older siblings, cousins, etc. aren't heading off to college. Should they too then give up early if the odds are bad? And even if that lesson is a bit too deep for a mere baseball game, what's wrong with just staying and enjoying the game for whatever it offers, regardless of the final score? Were there really any kids up there saying "we canceled math for this? Let's hurry and we can get back in time for social studies."
Boulevard is one of countless alternative papers in the LA area and I don't mean to beat up on it--the writers aren't paid enough (though they're paid more than bloggers). But the error I'm about to mention is of a type one sees too often--a carelessness in chronology; an ignorance that says "it was years ago, so who cares if I'm off by a decade or two."
This is from the "Movie Talk" column in the April issue:
...Gray Matters [is] as whacky romantic comedy opening with a ballroom dance sequence [...] reminiscent of Ginger Rodgers [sic] and Fred Astaire in those 1940's musicals...It's true the duo reteamed in 1949 for one last film, but the Astaire/Rogers musicals, one of the glories of the cinema, are a 1930s phenomenon. A political pundit who wrote about the Great Depression of the 1940s would not be taken seriously. Is it too much to ask entertainment scribes get it right?
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
"Court skeptical of law's ad limits"
QueensGuy says: From your lips to Roberts' ear. But unfortunately they're not looking to take on the real meat of the issue here, and instead are focusing on a silly pretextual loophole where nobody is being fooled:
Wisconsin Right to Life argues it was not trying to influence an election, but rather rally people to lobby senators on an issue before the Senate.
The week before the election. Naming ol' Russ, in case you forgot who your senator is. In the words of the Church Lady, "how conveeeeeenient."
If only we could get a court to say "it's your money; political speech is the heart of the First Amendment; go spend it on whatever political ads you damn well please."
According to the producers of Lost, at least five characters will die by the end of the season.
I don't mind speculation about the show, but I'd prefer the show runners not give away what's coming up--even in fairly vague ways. I'd rather be surprised. The show's already working, they don't need to pump it up.
Who will die? I don't know but I have two guesses. First, they sure have been hinting at Charlie's death, and that would be fine with me. Second, I'm guessing at least two of the Others go--they got plenty of them and you can't have wholesale slaughters of the original castaways. I'd think at least Juliet or Ben (or both) will go. Also, it's possible some outsider from a flashback will go--say, Locke's father.
The big question is which majors will die. The show is far enough along that they may be willing to kill one of the fantastic four, Jack, Kate, Sawyer or Locke. And since the rumor is the long-awaited showdown betweeen Jack and Locke is coming, it's certainly possible one of them is gone.
But killing either is a problem. Locke is probably the most popular character on the show, and Jack is not only the castaways' leader, but part of the central romantic triangle. If one is going, it seems to me Jack is more likely, since his arc seems complete, while Locke has just gone off in a new direction. (Of course, if one of the actors wants off the show for movies, all bets are off.)
As a fan, I'd rather they not kill the big four, or Sayid or Hurley. Or Desmond, I guess. The rest are fair game.
Nobody Living Can Make Me Turn Back
I was trying to watch Bound For Glory yesterday, and, as always, didn't make it. The movie, about Woody Guthrie, seems to go on forever.
But it got me thinking about Guthrie's most famous song, "This Land Is Your Land." The lyric stinks. The first couplet is so bad, I can't even listen to the rest. (It was written in response to a song by Irving Berlin--now there's a guy who knew how to write a lyric.)
Yeah, yeah, I know, it's a folk song. We don't judge them by normal standards, like rhyming and scanning, because it's about authenticity. But this sucks so much I have to say something.
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
First, the way it's sung (to make the rhyme work), you pronounce "Island" "EYE-LAND." No one says it that way. They say "EYE-lnd."
Second, no one says "the New York Island"! They say "New York." In fact, I'm not even sure what he's talking about. Manhattan? Staten Island? Long Island? Ellis Island?
As you may know, Woody ripped off the melody. Couldn't he have taken all that time he saved and spent it making the words work?
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
A while back, ColumbusGuy and I were discussing whether GeeDub gives sincere answers to press questions. The latest example I can cite to that the President either sees the world through a different set of filters than the rest of us, or happily gives wholly insincere answers, is:
President Bush said Monday that the Congressional testimony of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales last week, roundly panned by members of both parties, had “increased my confidence in his ability to do the job.”
Umm, no, Sir. I simply do not believe you. Saying it did not meaningfully decrease your confidence, fine, I can buy it. But unless the "job" you are talking about is evading questions, increased confidence is simply out of the question.
AG Gonzales said that he did not recall the answer to a question at least 40 times before lunch (according to the Daily Show), including questions about what took place at a meeting he had attended 4 months ago, questions about when he made decisions that he specifically recalled making, etc. etc. etc. I watched about an hour of the testimony, and it was frankly painful. Anyone who came away with increased confidence in the veracity of the witness should be given a lifetime exemption from jury duty for congenital inability to recognize evasiveness.
No wonder Karl didn't want to shake her hand
What I want to know is, has LAGuy ever met Sheryl Crow?
"al-Zawahiri was chiding the Dems a couple of months ago for failing to live up to their campaign promises. He wanted the Dem Cong to get on with it. "
QueensGuy replies: That's just ever so much more subtle and helpful than Republifascists.
In an intriguing if not entirely convincing think-piece on the Virginia Tech killer, I came across this quote from Francis Fukuyama: “It really is young men between 15 and 30 who are responsible the vast majority of crimes, although it is politically incorrect to say this too loudly.”
Actually, it's politically incorrect to say almost anything else.
It's Only TV, It's Not Like It's A Magazine Or Something
From a Nicholas Lemann book review in The New Yorker:
...in the realm of broadcasting, compulsion works. One way to get radio and television stations to do more local coverage is simply to order them to do so. That may sound like a shocking intrusion on freedom of the press, but it is in no way inconsistent with the history of American broadcasting.Yes, and it's also not inconsistent with American history to try to deny African-Americans the vote. So?
How about this? Let's have the government make sure The New Yorker fires every writer whose work show a contempt for our basic freedoms. I realize it's a shocking intrusion on freedom of the press, but hey, compulsion works.
QueensGuy replies: Eh, the racial discrimination analogy's pretty weak, and press is different than broadcast in some ways. I like this analogy a whole lot better.
LAGuy Responds: First, it's not an analogy. I'm merely pointing out that an argument that something's been done historically doesn't come close the making Lemann's case.
Second, the broadcast media is part of the press covered by the First Amendment. In the past the Supreme Court allowed many restrictions on magazines, books and movies which are now seen as unconstitutional, and they have an equally lamentable history of allowing improper interference in broadcatsting. They stripped away basic freedoms when they decided early on that the magic of invisible waves should somehow be treated differently from ink even when the end result--delivering information and entertainment--is the same. Therefore, the public (i.e., the government) can control things. But something being potentially legal doesn't make it just. Furthermore, there are limits to these limits, and Lemann goes well beyond them.
The lame arguments that have been used to deny freedom over the airwaves are sometimes based on indecency (which Lemann isn't talking about) and scarcity (which was never any good, but in these days with numerous TV, radio and satellite channels, and very few local newspapers, is hard to maintain with a straight face). As bad as they are, they're not relevant to Lemann's wish to have the government directly regulate political content on TV and radio. If it makes sense to do it there, it's just as good an idea for the government to do it in magazines and newspapers--the only difference is then Lemann would be personally affected and start screaming that the First Amendment is over (and he'd be correct--he just wants the end to freedom of speech in a medium he disapproves of).
Monday, April 23, 2007
"And another thing," DeLay said, "If they issue bullcrap indictments against you, don't be a candyass and resign your office."
Let me get this straight: The Frenchies rejected the mushy moderate, the third-wayer, the wanna-looks-like-Clinton-looks, and set up an out and out dual between Left and Right? Get out. I'm packin' up my paints and movin' to the Seine, baby.
Oh, wait. It's the New York Times. Nevermind. Bring on living wages for the students.
I was at my favorite place, recently, the 99 Cent Store, and the guy ahead of me was buying some alcoholic beverage. I heard the following dialogue.
Customer: It's okay to drink, you know. That's what the Bible says.
Cashier: You don't have to tell me that, I just got back from church.
Customer: The first miracle in the Bible was turning water into wine.
Cashier: That's right, Jesus loves you no matter what you do.
A current commercial for Yoplait Light yogurt uses the song "Itsy, Bitsy, Teenie, Weenie, Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini." However, it's not the 1960 #1 hit version by Brian Hyland, but a cover. Perhaps they didn't want to pay the licensing fee.
But the weird thing is it's pretty clear that English is not the first language of the guy who does the new version. In fact, it sounds like he's singing the words phonetically. Did they outsource the cover version to Eastern Europe?
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Answer Me This
Here's something I hate. You call a friend's number and get their answering machine. Instead of recording their own message, they have the machine's mechanical outgoing message.
Why would a friend do this to me? When I call I want to hear a voice I recognize. Otherwise, I don't know if I've got the right number, and I don't want to leave a message.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
A few days ago I gave the thumbs down to a new improv show on NBC, and improv as well. It turns out Dan Kois in Slate hates the show, too. He makes a very good point within a very bad point.
The good point--the show's not really improv. The guest star is shoved in with the regular cast and the cast has a general plot they must follow. Okay, this is still a form of improv, but a degenerate one. (Having a scenario to work within is actually a well known type of improv, but seeing how one cast member not in the know will react to twists is a stunt.)
The bad point--Kois has done improv and keeps claiming how wonderful it is when done right (and how wonderful he's been in it).
Here's a representative line: "It's funny to see someone come up with a quick-witted joke; it's astonishing to see a team invent an entire well-structured, hilarious scene from scratch." I agree, it's astonishing, because it never happens.
Ask someone to write a well-structured, hilarious five-minute sketch in five minutes. Can't be done. Expecting two or more people to do it, while trying to keep up where the others are going, is even tougher.
As I said, the main attraction of improv is the knowledge it's being created on the spot, not that something truly great is being made. It's been my experience that improv is a lot more fun for the performers than the audience.
Friday, April 20, 2007
Kitty Carlisle (a pretty cool name) Hart has died at the age of 96. When I was a little kid she made an impression on me with her graciousness and charm as a panelist on To Tell The Truth.
Years later, I saw her (not realising it was the same person) co-starring with the Marx Brothers in their 1935 film A Night At The Opera. This was a major turning point in their career--they went from the anarchy of their Paramount work to the more conventional story structure of their MGM movies. While not the best trade, it did give new life to their careers, and, at any rate, A Night At The Opera is a classic. And I'll give one thing to Kitty--of all the ingenues the Marxes had at MGM, her romantic subplot was the most bearable.
She married playwright Moss Hart, no mean feat. He was a noted bachelor. The joke around the time was if he went out with someone--let's call her Anne Smith--they'd say "there goes Moss Hart with the future Miss Anne Smith." Hart died young, and Kitty Carlisle was a widow for over forty years. Even though Hart allegedly had demons, it was apparently a happy marriage. I also heard that Kitty encouraged him to write his memoirs, and out of that came one of my favorite books, Act One.
I saw a huge billboard for a local radio station, KFI-AM. They must be pretty popular, since they're the ones who have Rush Limbaugh in the LA market.
Anyway, the ad shows a bottle of pills labeled "KFI-AM" with the copy "Side effects may include intense brain stimulation." So far so good. (Their regular slogan is "More stimulating talk radio.")
But then they add a parenthetical comment: "(and possible vomiting and loose stools)."
I understand this is an attempt at humor, but all I can say is...eww!
Thursday, April 19, 2007
While It Lasts
I used to watch sitcoms, now my three favorite shows are Lost*, House and The Sopranos. For the first time in a while, they're all presenting new episodes.
However, they'll run out (in The Sopranos case, permanently) in about a month and a half. I guess I should enjoy it while I can. If I only had the will power, I'd tape all the upcoming episodes and hold them to watch over the long, hot summer.
*Speaking of Lost, some have claimed the series is on its way out, pointing to a significant ratings drop. While I still think the producers should plan to end it at a date certain (either five or six seasons) to keep the show tight, there's no question it remains a hit. First, the ratings have stabilized (they even went up last week) and the show regularly ranks in the top 20. Second, it's one of the most popular shows internationally. Third, no network show sells as many DVDs. Fourth, and probably most important, it ranks very high (top ten) in the coveted 18-49 demographic--the only ABC show that does better on a regular basis is Desperate Housewives.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
New England Guy is among those shocked and appalled by my insensitivity and that of others.
Here's the lead sentence for one of NPR's top two or three stories at 6 a.m., moments ago: "Even following the shootings at Virginia Tech, gun control is a tough sell on Capitol Hill." How do you feel about that one, NG? Anonymous? I am I more predictable, or less predictable, than NPR?
(Keep in mind, that's the "news." If I provoke LAGuy about it, he'll say he was talking about newspapers, not radio, and then he'll tell me the news section is different from the op-ed page.)
I can't quite figure out the nut graph of the story. I think it was that the Brady Bill has expired. I'll have another listen when NPR gets it posted on its "Breaking News" site.
Within three years, this will be the legal definition:
"Holocaust": (1) global warming; (2) election of Republicans; (3) actions taken by the government of Israel.
I'm Outta Here
There's a new prime time show on NBC where guest star celebrities walk into new situations and have to improvise their way out. I recently caught an episode.
I've seen a lot of improv, even done a little myself, and I don't like it. Someone juggling three balls isn't that impressive, but someone doing it while walking a tightrope is. That's improv--people are so impressed it's being made up (or think it is) in front of them that they forget if it were a written sketch, they'd be yawning.
So even if the show were done well, I wouldn't watch. But from what I saw, the celebrities aren't even that good at improv. They regularly break two cardinal rules. First, don't be jokey, stick to the reality of your character. Second, don't deny the reality of your fellow improvisers.
Anyway, if you like improv done poorly, this show is for you.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Not Big Enough
I think The Big Lebowski is a classic. It came out after Coen Brothers' Fargo--a film I'm not so enamored of--so a lot of critics gave it the back of their hand at the time.
However, since then, its stock has only gone up. A cult has grown around it. Most people get it's pretty special.
It was recently playing on TV and I checked it out. I was surprised to see when I pressed the info button that it got only two stars. I expected four stars, and would have understood three, but someone in charge of official ratings is giving it two? How did that happen? White Chicks gets two stars.
Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?
Mike Nifong is obviously in trouble, and he deserves to be. But the tricky question, that will likely determine the extent of his punishment, is what was he thinking.
In general, prosecutors have a lot of leeway, because we don't want them to be constantly second-guessing themselves. As long as they act within certain ethical rules, they're immune from prosecution. But Nifong went so far that the question isn't just ethical breaches, but criminal activity.
There's an entire pattern of questionable actions. Outrageous statements, public and private. Refusing to consider exculpatory evidence. Not releasing exculpatory evidence. Odd investigative techniques. The dishonest lineup. And so on.
What matters a lot in judging Nifong is was he consciously railroading the accused, or did he honestly believe they should be tried? Usually, lawyers on either side of a case identify with their clients and interpret everything in that light. (In theory, prosecutors are supposed to see that justice is done, not that defendants are convicted, but everyone knows it doesn't always work that way.) Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I'll assume the prosecutor honestly believes he's seeking justice. But Nifong's actions were so extreme, and there are such obvious ulterior rmotives, that I don't think I can give him the benefit of the doubt.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Thank goodness for gun free zones
I'ts a beautiful spring day here in Columbus. I imagine it's the same in Virginia, and everywhere where there are gun control laws and gun free zones, which prevent terrible things from happening.
QueensGuy replies: We have no useful facts yet but, as a general matter, (Concealed-carry-permits-on-demand + no-background-check-gun-show-purchases) > (gun-free-school-zones), as state law trumps go.
You know what? It feels rather tasteless to even have this conversation now. My deep condolences to the victims and their families and loved ones. Fin.
I think it's largely undisputed that pay differentials between chief executives and blue collar workers have been trending toward larger and larger multiples over the past decade or so. But I'm far more interested in the why than the how much. I can hypothesize lots of reasons why: some commonly-held but sorta dumb, such as "greedy" executives writing their own pay packages (we're all greedy, and executives likely haven't found a new secret way to get greedier); some plausible but unlikely, such as boards of directors' recognizing a strong correlation between executive pay and subsequent corporate performance; and some where I have no data or instinct either way, such as a relative shortage of qualified CEO candidates. So if anyone's got something more concrete than hypotheses, I'm all ears.
In the meantime, the question of what effects will occur at a particular corporation -- and more broadly -- is a subject that also deserves greater academic attention. A shareholder proposal and management response in GE's latest proxy statement neatly lays out the gist of the "bigger differentials are bad" and "bigger differentials are necessary" arguments, nicely highlighting the paucity of rigorous research. In the end, I support any company's right to create whatever pay differentials they darn well choose, whatever the consequences that follow, but their being able to do so as an informed choice would be better.
Columbus Guy says: Oh, geez, I was told there would be no math.
Every major sport seems to have one team that historically has dominated as no other. In baseball, it's the Yankees, basketball, the Celtics (sorry, Lakers fans), hockey, the Canadiens, and football--well, that's the tough one. The Packers? The Steelers? The Cowboys? The Patriots? Okay, no clear winner there.
Recently, my brother pointed out that just as there's one dominant team, so does every sport have one that seems cursed. They often have good players, and even come close to winning championships, but just can't manage to go all the way.
In baseball, there's no question. Okay, there was a question until a couple years ago, when the Red Sox won the World Series. The cursed team is the Cubs. They were the first team to win two World Series in a row, but next year will be the 100th anniversary of their last triumph. In fact, if they don't do something soon, eventually there'll be no one around who was alive when they won.
The other sports are trickier.
For basketball, it's probably the Jazz. They're not one of the original teams, but they've been around over 30 years. (Also, since they moved from New Orleans to Utah, they've had the silliest name of any team.) They've had some great players, especially Malone and Stockton, and great years, but they've never been able to put it all together for one season.
Hockey, it's a tie. The Sabres and the Canucks. They're both expansion teams who've been at it almost forty years. They've both had a couple shots at the Stanley Cup, but no go.
Football, once again, is the toughest. Should I pick teams that came so close and failed, or those that weren't even within sniffing distance of the Super Bowl? In the former category, you've got the Bills and the Vikings, who've both been to four Bowls and came back with no rings. But for the most hapless team, there's one that's been around forever, had the greatest running back ever, and has been completely worthless in the playoffs, there's only one choice. Since the Super Bowl started, the local baseball, basketball and hockey teams have won a combined total of eight championships, but this team has never come close to playing in the big game. I'm talking about my old home team, of course, the Detroit Lions.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Saw a neat license plate from Arizona today: DRKSITH.
He's not just a fan, he knows what side he's on.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
While LAGuy was wasting his time studying biology or whatever the hell it was at Big Blue, I was toiling away with the sexy engineering chicks. Once in awhile I've thought it's something I should have pursued, instead of seeking my Guy qualification.
But this is the first time it's ever been visceral. It shoulda been me.
"Some like what they see; others are less certain."
There's balance for you. First you talk to the likes what they see side, then you talk to the thinks and wants to like what they see side.
James Lileks, from a recent Bleat:
I love rock and roll, but the idea that four people on stage, one of whom has an amplified lyre, can match the power and drama of orchestral music is simply ridiculous.Can't say I think much of this "proof." A movie can have a cast of thousands, with hundreds of settings and fancy costumes, but that doesn't mean, even if well done, it must be more powerful than a stage show with two people talking to each other. It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it.
Friday, April 13, 2007
What Is Power?
Stephen Metcalf in Slate has a silly piece on Don Imus. Here's the particularly dumb part:
Imus was exploiting a cynical confusion, a common one on the AM dial. In talk radio, the P.C. bogey is kept on life support, the better to allow the heaping of abuse on the marginal and disenfranchised to pass itself off as speaking truth to power.A few stray words of mockery gets one of the most famous veteran broadcasters fired. Hide behind any excuse you want, Metcalf, that's power. (We can worry about truth another day.)
QueensGuy says: Silly indeed. The most interesting part of this process for me, from a Machiavellian (Rovian? Carvillian?) perspective, was Imus' appearance on Al Sharpton's radio program to apologize -- again. Imus pretty much screwed the pooch when he lost his temper a bit and referred to Sharpton and unspecified others as "you people," a phrase loaded with history. But the bigger question was what the heck he was doing there in the first place. There was precisely zero chance that Sharpton was going to do anything other than what Jesse Jackson did to Michael Richards on his program after the last incident -- i.e. let him hang in the wind, shooting down anything other than an abject mea culpa as a further offense, and even taking the apology under advisement. South Park nailed that one perfectly with the recent"naggers" episode. Say what you will about Mel Gibson, but at least he knows how to hire PR people who can control the message.
Kurt Vonnegut just died. He was 84. Not bad for a smoker.
He was one of my favorite writers. I've read every novel and short story and quite a few essays. I've also re-read most of his stuff.
He had the ability to write in an easy, humorous style so enjoyable that a lot of critics distrusted him. How could something this much fun be any good? But he was able to take on deep subjects, come at them from odd angles, and crack a lot of great jokes along the way.
Early on he was typecast as a science fiction writer, but he really wasn't. First, he wrote too well (okay, a bit unfair, but there's something to it). Second, he was capable of writing in other genres and most of his novels couldn't be described as sf. Even early on, in a straightforward WWII novel like Mother Night, he showed his chops. (His alter-ego Kilgore Trout--now that's an sf writer.) Vonnegut himelf said he didn't mind being thought of as an sci-fi author, except that critics confused the category with a urinal.
He had a strange career. He was a successful short story writer back in the days when you could make a living at it. Then the market dried up (thank you, TV) and the novels he'd written hadn't sold that well. He had to seek regular work and might have given up writing. But he had a publisher who believed in him, and Cat's Cradle (one of his best works) started selling. Next came Slaughterhouse-Five, his best known book, and in his mid-40s he was suddenly a superstar author.
CC and S-F are still the best introductions to his work (along with Welcome To The Monkey House, a collection of his best short stories), but really he never wrote a bad novel. All his stuff is worth looking at. And I think they're still in print.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Half And Half
I've recently written about the sitcoms 30 Rock and Andy Barker, P.I., both last seen trying--and failing--to garner ratings in NBC's Thursday 9:30 slot.
I prefer 30 Rock, but like them both. NBC, perhaps figuring it can't keep afloat too many failures, has picked up the former and canceled the latter. Since I feared both would be going, I guess I should be happy.
Word is they're hoping 30 Rock will get word of mouth like The Office. I hope it does better, since the Americanized Office, even after winning an Emmy, still doesn't do it for me.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
I just watched The Green Mile. It was a hit, but a lot of critics compared it to The Shawshank Redemption (which wasn't a hit) and found it wanting.
I can understand the comparison. It was Frank Darabont's first film since Shawshank, and both are period prison movies based on Stephen King.
Still, the resemblance is superficial. Shawshank is a fairly straightforward drama, while Mile is fantasy.
That said, I prefer Green Mile. Shawshank's bloated reputation (IMDB ranks it #2 all-time!) is a mystery to me. It's reasonably well done, with a nice escape sequence, but it's an episodic story with dull stretches and cliched characters.
Mile has a more entertaining plot and I'd say more interesting people. Sure, it's too long, has a "Magic Negro" (King is not good at creating African-Americans) and a horrendous framing device, but when it works, which is most of the time, it works pretty well. It even has an emotional punch which I don't really see in Shawshank.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
"Clinton, Obama just say no to Fox"
This is great. I think Bush ought to expel the New York Times and CBS. As they say about a bus full of lawyers into Loch Ness, it's a start.
QueensGuy says: Paul Krugman's op-ed in the April 9 NYTimes titled "Sweet Little Lies," (I linked, but it's members-only) lays out the purported justification. To summarize, Fox is a de facto extension of the worst elements of the Republican party that does hatchet jobs by spreading the "little lies" to create a climate of FUD through "pseudo-scandals" like "Whitewater, Troopergate, Travelgate, Filegate, [and] Christmas-card-gate." He doesn't try to pin Fox with what happened to McCain in 2000, but let's not quibble, shall we?
The flap over Imus is interesting- calling the women athletes at Rutgers "nappy headed hos" was cruel, racist and designed to be offensive. The word "Nappy" with its connotation of the more overt racism of the days of yore of is probably what propelled this controversy into mainstream awareness although I think the main reaction comes from how mean it was.
I listened to him for many years in Boston in the late 90s (ironically until his show was eventually pulled from the air for being too soft and replaced with something called "guy radio" whose hosts were shortly thereafter suspended for joking that an escaped gorilla from the zoo looked like an inner city student waiting for the bus)- and this is not very different than what he's been doing for years. (OK Timothy Noah on Slate has already made the same point). The Cardinal John O'Connor sketches- where a thickly Irish accented O'Connor character would tell the racist/sexist/otherist jokes were probably offensive to everyone from true believers & Irish Catholics to the minorities that were mocked. This particular nastygram happened to catch a perfect storm of opposition (and of course got much greater circulation as a result)
Of course the issue is not really that Imus is offensive on lots of grounds- thats his shtick. The apologies and how Imus actually feels are not the point. The issue is that he is very popular (as are the Boston knuckleheads) and this humor finds favor. Why is that? This was no angry tirade where he actually spoke his mind- this was his act. Chasing him off the air will not change why he is popular-in fact it may propel him into cool version of Rush (there's a contradiction in terms) and Poster PC victim. The better way to go at this would be to accept Don's misery and sorrow, bring him to a couple prayer breakfasts and then go big time after the networks that make big bucks playing to this audience- the bigwigs have had it pretty easy so far -with their pablum "we were horrified blahblah and we deplore blahblah..." organizational blather (I get the feeling however that Al Roker won' be going after MSNBC).
They might even get Imus on their side- going after hideous corporate weasels would play to his strength. Coul be more fun to watch.
LAGuy adds: "Nappy" was the offensive part? Are they gonna ban Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" from the radio then?
Imus goes way back. I remember seeing his 1200 Hamburgers To Go album in the record stores when I was a kid. When I moved to New Jersey, he was the big morning man on WNBC, and Howard Stern did the afternoon. I've been a big Stern fan ever since, but found Imus too boring.
Director Bob Clark, and his adult son, died in a car crash last week. He'll be remembered for two films, Porky's and A Christmas Story.
I was living in Ann Arbor when Porky's came out. I'd actually heard about it before it opened--it was supposed to be this amazing gross-out comedy. I'd loved Animal House, so I was looking forward to it.
It wasn't for me. While everyone in the audience was cracking up, I just thought it was stupid. This is why a friend of mine calls Porky's one of the most influential films of the last fifty years--Animal House, for all the wild humor, had wit, while Porky's was a lot more obvious, so Hollywood realized how easy it would be to imitate this formula, and countless such comedies followed.
The thing I remember best about the film is scenes where people on screen were trying to suppress their laughs. I had no problem.
When A Christmas Story came out, I was living in New Jersey. I saw it in a theatre in Upper Montclair. It was relatively unheralded (no one expected much from the director of Porky's) and turned out to be a pleasant surprise.
It starts with narration by Jean Shepherd, whose stories it's based on. I grew up in the Midwest, and he was more a phenomenon of the East Coast, so I found his voice rather off-putting. But once the story settled down, and concentrated on Ralphie trying to get his Red Ryder BB Gun, it worked pretty well.
The film is no classic (though it has a cult that thinks it is), but it does capture a period, and a feeling, and is certainly unlike anyting else Clark directed. Clark worked most of his career on projects that got little respect, so it must have been nice for him to have a film that critics and audience alike fondly recall.
Monday, April 09, 2007
Can't abide Fox, can we? Nobody but us objective journalists here. This would be a good place for them to repeat the canard that the WSJ news pages are conservative.
Well, I'm back to blogging (though I still may miss a few days this week). I'm glad to see while I was gone the rest of the crew has filled in, though I'm surprised to find they don't work weekends.
Another guy who's back, after a much longer break, is Roger Ebert. He's fought off a serious illness and is writing again.
I've noted Roger's deficiencies in the past, but it's always out of love, and this post is no different.
In Awake In the Dark, a collection of "reviews, essays, and interviews," I ran across a mistake so bizarre I still can't believe I'm reading it right. It's in a piece on Tom Hanks, written around the time of Forrest Gump. Ebert looks back at Hanks' work and has this to say about Big (which still might be his best peformance)--sorry, before I look at the mistake, I gotta discuss the previous paragraph about Splash, which is so wrongheaded.
Ebert says he thinks Hanks, whom I thought delightful in Splash, was miscast. He believes co-star John Candy would have made a better lead. This would have turned a fine romantic comedy into a one-joke stunt. Alas, both Ebert and Siskel, in addition to reviewing films, would regularly give bad advice on how to make the movies better. (Guess we can't all write scripts as well-wrought as Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls.) Ebert continues "[Hanks] is never at his best in movies where he's the one who has the answers." Around the time Ebert wrote this, Hanks decided the problem with his careeer was he didn't play enough parts where he was the one who has the answers. He changed course and has had one of the most succcessful film careers ever.
Anyway, back to the mind-boggling mistake, regarding Big. Take it away, Roger:
Look at [Hanks] instead in Big, where in the early scenes he plays a pint-sized adolescent. (If you think this is easy, see how Martin Short handled it in Clifford.) He is at just that age when all of the girls in his class shoot up into Amazons, while the boys remain short and squeaky-voiced. At an amusement park, he is in line next to the girl of his dreams, and hopes to sit next to her on a thrill ride, but the ride operator won't let him on board because he's too short. Hank's face is a study in tragedy here; he portrays his humiliation so completely that it sets up the rest of the film, as his thirteen-year-old mind is magically transported into a thirty-year-old body...I'm still rubbing my eyes. Does Ebert (even thinking back a few years) truly believe Hanks played a thirteen-year-old in a thirteen-year-old body in Big? As clearly stated in the credits, and even more obvious on screen, it was another actor. David Moscow, if you want the name.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Mess o' Sopranos
Spoiler Alert. [but I'll try to be obtuse]
I've been seeing plenty of on-line polls about who will be whacked next. I don't recall seeing Bobby Bacala on any list but I think he'll be way up on the list soon (No more appearances on the Best Damn Sports Show with Big Pussy) Not a particularly memorable episode but I think the short"Piss of Death" scene will live on. The new Canadian angle also is potentially promising- -Celine Dion references are in our future
Friday, April 06, 2007
So Pelosi committed a treasonous felony, eh? The calls for her resignation must be deafening. Waxman must be preparing his investigations as we speak (no doubt he would if he could; where does he stand in the successor hierarchy, anyway?)
"U.S. v Pelosi." One has to like the sound of that. But what do you say, QG? Does she have to be impeached first?
QueensGuy replies: Why, that's a heck of a good set of questions, CG, and I happen to have a bit of time and a free Westlaw password, so let's take a crack at it.
First, I think the statute is unconstitutionally vague in violation of the Sixth Amendment, because the words "defeat" and "measures" -- as used in the statute's "to defeat the measures of the United States" -- probably "are not abstractions of common certainty and do not possess a definite statutory or judicial definition," as discussed in the only case substantively interpreting the statute, Waldron v. British Petroleum.
But as any good court should (and the Waldron court did), let's try to decide without reaching the broader constitutional objection if we don't need to. Here's the only freely-available, non-crackpot analysis of the statute I could find. I think the relevant precedent is Senators Sparkman and McGovern's trip to Cuba, where the State Dept. took the position that the executive having authorized travel to Cuba after learning the purpose of the trip took them outside the scope of the law. Presumably the same is true of Senator Pelosi and Syria, just as it was for Sen. Wright's trip to meet with the Sandanistas, etc. Unless, of course, she went there and did something different than she had said she intended to do when getting her visa. . . . Hmm, too bad there's nobody to call her, her aides, her travel agent, and the doctor who gave her the malaria pills to testify about whether there were discrepancies. Maybe that wacky CG has a point after all? Nah. Pain-in-the-arse congresscritters wandering the globe acting the fool with our enemies and accomplishing nothing are practically a hallowed institution by now. Why mess with it?
Anyway, I certainly agree with the sentiment behind the law, as I've already expressed, and I'm wondering whether anyone ever considered at the time using it againt ol' Hanoi Jane.
David Lennon's NY Newsday piece on the relative lack of marketing exposure of the Mets' All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, compared to the explosive marketing growth of the Mets' All-Star third baseman David Wright, is a terrific read. Reyes is a brown-skinned Dominican; Wright is a white-skinned Virginian. A lazy effort at answering the question could have started -- and ended -- there. Instead Lennon bothers to talk about language (Reyes spoke no English when he came to the Mets and has made huge strides), fan demographics (ccontrasting Ichiro's Japanese/Seattle experience), and cross-cultural efforts the team has made (such as the extremely entertaining "Professor Reyes" Spanish lessons at home games).
Reyes is, at least to this Mets fan, the most exciting player in the game. He has remarkable talent, but just as importantly, the best attitude I've ever seen in a professional player in any sport. He's constantly smiling, laughing, and joking with his teammates and coaches, and is one of those people whose cheerfulness and joy is simply infectious. I love to take my daughter watch him play because his every action conveys to her that you can play a sport with complete concentration and effort and still have fun.
It's Primary Season
Living close to New Hampshire, I've been watching 2008 prmary commercials-some 9-10 months before before the event. Is this happening elsewhere too? Given the coverage given to whatever numbers are available, I suppose this makes sense from an individual candidate's point of view but it still seems bizarre.
Lately I've been watching Romney spots- I've got to say that if this is how he's going to spend his $ 21 million in investments/contributions (shots of the candidate inveighing against a future Congress that might send him an objectionable budget, "I like to veto! I vetoed alot in Massachusetts!" in his Boy Scout-y best) , I don' t think he can ever go back to venture capital.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Somebody is getting an A+ this semester at Evil Genius School. There are enough Craigslist posts offering free stuff to make this plausible to readers, and when people are moving out of an apartment people come and go with stuff, sometimes you renovate the place etc., so neighbors might pay no mind. Note to self: if ever evicting a tenant, change the locks immediately.
Barone firesa subtle broadside (can yu do that?) at our man Fred.
Fred'd be nice, maybe, but his Obamablip is more about the weakness of the movement than anything substantive. He's a conservative fantasy for conservatives who aren't gettin' any. Hillary will beat him by 10 points. (And Giuliani won't even finish the race.)
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
ColumbusGuy and I were discussing the idea of whether international law as a reality rather than a misnomer will accrete or spring forth; he used the term "Orwellian." I'll give you Orwellian: "Of Britain's 4.2 million interconnected CCTV surveillance cameras, a whopping 32 are within 200 yards of George Orwell's home."
Columbus Guy says: Oh, this calls for an update, for sure. "George Orwell's house" made me laugh out loud.
QueensGuy adds: I would assume hat's how it's listed on the Map of The Stars' London Homes that you can buy at Paddington Station. It's just down the road from "Posh'n'Beck's Flat."
Remember the scene where Sonny expressed how impressed he was with the percentage cut that Solozzo was offering for the Corleone Family to protect his drug trade? And how Don Vito later reprimanded Sonny to never show division within the family to an outsider? And how Don Vito was proven right when Solozzo attempted to whack Don Vito, thinking he'd then have a more willing audience in Sonny with the Don gone? Same principle here. The sole authority to conduct foreign policy rests with the executive for good reason.
I get it that there are some neighborhoods where you either have dealings with some bad guys against other bad guys or you get nothing done at all, but at what point do we start thinking about declaring ourselves a state sponsor of terrorism? Is funding the key inquiry? Logistical support? Jeez, Saddam having met with an Al Qaeda figure was enough for some folks.
C'mon, Guys, LAGuy has put up the Bat Signal. What's happened to QueensGuy? He's been lurking (albeit productively) since his insightful transcript comment eons ago. I happen to know he's young and he's got his health, so no excuse there.
And where's his cohort, NewEnglandGuy? A cute techie shows up and he can't boot up anymore, it seems.
Maybe Ann ArborGuy could grace us; he's been awful scarce.
And don't even get me started about ChicagoGuy; we think he's become The Good Shepherd.
And PajamaGuy? We can't even find him to migrate the blog.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
I heard el presidente's press conference today, and he was fabulous. Moreover, it filtered through what little press I heard about it reasonably well. Usually they ignore his substance and harp on whatever will hurt him or help the Dems.
Of course, it's just one conference. It takes a sustained effort to win the race when you're wearing 10-lb ankle bracelets.
Happy Pesach. It's always been my favorite Jewish holiday. I have fond memories of traveling from Detroit to Montreal when I was a kid to celebrate Passover with my relatives.
Like Thanksgiving, it's a time for family members to get together, look at the past, and appreciate what they have. All while eating good food.
Anyway, dear reader, I might not be posting for a few days. Not on religious retreat--just not available for a while. I'm sure the other Guys will step up in my absence.
Columbus Guy says: Boy, talk about faith. I suppose you believe man evolved from apes, too. No, wait . . . didn't evolve from apes. I don't know; isn't there a Cliff notes for this sort of thing?
Monday, April 02, 2007
Tissue for transplants could be available within three years if trials are successful
And to think Anonymous thought Republicans had no heart.
What I want to know is, how does she hold her rifle above her head and chant, "This is my rifle, this is my gun, one is for business, the other's for fun"?
ColumbusGal is traveling, leaving me to my own devices. I rented Idiocracy. The title sounds like an Al Gore production, but it isn't. Its story is Sleeper for goyim: A fairly dumb guy wakes up in 2505 to find out that, due to LAGuy's second-favorite topic, evolution, the population has become pure idiots, morons, imbeciles. It's all because of AMerican Idol. The fairly dumb guy is now the smartest man on earth.
There's a great scene where the suspended animation chamber, due to a collapse of the garbage mountain, slides into an imbecile citizen's apartment. The man is watching a TV show, "Ow, My Balls," and the screen is surrounded by a dozen advertising buttons; it looks like any Fox or CNN screen, or a slot machine, or any newspaper's web site. In the screen in the middle a teaser is playing, in which a man has his balls asaulted by all manner of manner.
Why do I tell you this? Just to note that this is the scene that starts the DVD. I watched it four times before I realized it was only the root launch menu recycling.
Feat Of Clay
I was a bit surprised to find Andrew "Dice" Clay has a reality show on VH1. (Not that I'd ever watch it--I avoid this type of show like the plague.) I guess he's going for a comeback.
About 15 years ago, he was as big as a stand-up could get. His shows were like rock concerts. But the perceived ugliness of his material had plenty of people hoping he'd fail, and eventually he did.
He's actually not a bad actor. Check out his turns in Pretty In Pink and One Night At McCool's. But it's as a comedian that he'll be remembered, if he's remembered.
I'll give him credit for one thing. He's the rarest of comedians--one who can make me laugh without any wit.
Sunday, April 01, 2007
So Battlestar Galactica is done for the year. Luckily, next Sunday the new Sopranos start. Of course, when they're done, I don't know what I'll do.
Guess I'll have to get a life.
PS But before I do, I want to comment on a Newsday article about the top ten Sopranos moments. Some I understand, but how can any list exclude the killing of Big Pussy?