Thursday, May 31, 2007

Oldies Versus Classic Rock

A recent post about a rock station top 350 countdown had a reader wondering what's the distinction between oldies and classic rock.

The concept of oldies in the rock era obviously couldn't start until the music had been around a few years. Still, teenagers have a high turnover rate, and Little Caesar & The Romans had a hit with ''Those Oldies But Goodies (Remind Me Of You)" in 1961.

By the end of the 60s, oldies compilations were being released. Even amid all those extended jams, there was a revival of 50s music; remember, Sha Na Na played Woodstock. By the early 70s, there was a huge nostalgic movement for early rock and roll (helped along by American Graffiti) and radio stations adopted the "oldies" format. At the time, oldies essentially meant rock music up to around 1964, when The Beatles conquered the world (and, to some, changed music for the worse). Meanwhile, "classic rock," as we'd call it today, was still being created.

As the 70s wore on, oldies stretched out a few more years--Beatles, Beach Boys and Motown were heard more often, for example. But at a certain point, "classic rock" started. The most convenient line of demarcation would be 1967, when The Beatles changed music yet again (for the worse, yet again, according to some oldies fans) with the Sergeant Pepper album.

By the late 70s, the "classic rock" format--The Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin--became prevalent. These stations didn't play much music from before 1967, and almost nothing past the mid-70s. Certainly no disco or punk. Furthermore, the playlists of oldies and classic rock station had little in common.

However, as time moves on, eras start to run together in people's minds. (I've written about this before regarding movies--I keep hearing about the great screwball comedies of the 1940s). By 1990, it wasn't unusual to hear stations advertise music from the 50s, 60s, and 70s--which would have seemed like three very different eras 15 years earlier.

So it's true, there's been plenty of leakage. What wouldn't be played by an oldies station in 1975--"Imagine"--can make the top ten list of all time today. In fact, oldies, which use to be almost all 50s stuff, has less and less music from that period. (Kids who grew up listening to Elvis are now retirees.) And those who program "classic rock" allow more and more recent stuff as well--though you're still unlikely to hear any doo-wop.

"Oldies" and "classic rock" are still terms that have meaning, but I wouldn't be surprised if someday, the top ten of both include "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

ColumbusGuy adds: Nice post. This is the thing LAGuy does very well. Still, I find myself unable to stop thinking of Phil Spectre's angus.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Have It Your Way

I have to admit, this is something new in the burger wars: Jack In The Box has ads suggesting competitors' angus burgers come from a cow's anus.

Now I find it hard to believe anyone will take this claim seriously. Are they simply hoping the association itself will be enough to turn people off?

(Of course, two can play at this game. Jack touts its sirloin burger. Do you really want meat from some sir's loin?)

Bill Clinton's Biggest Mistake

Al Gore may be my least favorite American politician, but even by his standards The Assault On Reason is pretty despicable. It's essentially a book-length whine about how people who disagree with him aren't using logic, while he is.

I'm not going to waste my time going into the particulars, but the book did bring me back to all the highly logical points Gore made in his run for President--exploiting his sister's death from lung cancer, and his son almost being killed in an accident--that sort of stuff.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Immigration bill must be in trouble

Hell, Bush doesn't even attack Osama bin Laden, much less Democrats, and now he's "attacking immigration bill opponents"?

That's a good sign. Must be trouble in Voinovich land.

Wonder what Fred has to say about this?

Charles Nelson Reilly

Charles Nelson Reilly just died. A bit of a surprise. I didn't even know he was sick.

He was a celebrity, no question, if not of the top rank. A friend just emailed that he thought Charles Nelson Reilly was really good as that pompous ass on M*A*S*H. No, that's David Ogden Stiers (though he is playing a Charles). Reilly was the tall, thin guy with the weird laugh.

He's best known for his TV work, but had a succesful career first in Broadway musicals. He was Dick Van Dyke's understudy in Bye Bye Birdie, then won a Tony as Bud Frump in How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, and got another nomination as Cornelius Hackl in Hello Dolly!. Unfortunately, he didn't recreate any of his famous roles on film--I especially miss his Bud Frump, since the film uses many from the original cast, and the part is perfect for him. (In fact, Anthony Teague seems to be channeling Reilly in the film.) He would occasionally return to Broadway throughout his career, usually to direct.

Reilly (it seems weird calling him "Reilly") became widely known in the late 60s as the finicky--finicky was his specialty--Claymore Gregg in the TV series The Ghost And Mrs. Muir. Even though he got an Emmy nomination for the part, he's probably better known as The Great Hoodoo, Butch Patrick's nemesis on the kids' show Lidsville.

He went on to even greater fame as a regular on game shows, especially Match Game, where he occupied the upper right-hand corner. (Trivia: host Gene Rayburn replaced Dick Van Dyke in Bye Bye Birdie--I wonder if Reilly understudied him.) In fact, I'd guess most people couldn't name anything else he did--they probably figured he was one of those people who are famous for being famous.

I actually saw him on stage. He starred in the LA production of Terrence McNally's It's Only A Play. I went with some friends on my birthday. While we were in the theatre, the Rodney King riots started. During curtain calls, he came out and said the town is on fire and we should all go straight to our homes. I don't remember much about the play, but that I recall.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Is this great or what?

"Gay Aussie hotel wins right to ban heterosexuals, lesbians"

The only problem is, it should be achieved by repeal of laws, not by exemptions for the favored groups. (And who in their right mind would want to ban lesbians?)

It Was Thirty Years Ago Today

Star Wars was released 30 years ago just in time for Memorial Day weekend. The studio told George Lucas it wasn't summer yet and kids are still in school, and he replied he wanted them still in school so they could see the movie and tell their friends.

No film ever affected me like Star Wars. I saw it over and over that summer. So I just wanted to note its anniversary.

Here's a piece I wrote a couple months ago about all six SW films. Some interesting stuff in the comments section.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Can You Top This?

K-Earth 101, an oldies station, counts down the top 350 songs of all time every Memorial Day weekend. It makes for good listening, but can be pretty annoying. Why? Well, you'll hear some song like, say, "Ticket To Ride," and they'll rate it #171, or something like that. And from that point on, every song you hear, you say to yourself, "This is better than 'Ticket To Ride'?"

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Retch

Just an absurd review of the Fletch DVD in Slate. Review is too nice a word, since Reihan Salam can barely be bothered to discuss the film--instead, it's all about Fletch's alleged politics.

I remember Fletch as a mildly amusing comedy that captured Chevy Chase's wisecrack style a bit better than most of his (generally forgettable) work. But Salam's main concern is the movie, rather than taking the correct side in class warfare, is trafficking in dreaded "right-wing populism." Weighing down a film like this with such political baggage (and even then getting the politics wrong!) is really missing the point.

What's Salam's prescription? Someone give Fletch a copy of What's the Matter With Kansas?. Unless your table is uneven, no one needs a copy of this book, which starts with false facts and then does poor analysis to come to its left-wing populist conclusions. I think a better idea is for people who own this book to get a copy of Fletch.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Mom And Apple Pie

The headline: "SCORSESE REVEALS CONTROVERSIAL FILM SET IN JAPAN." The film will take place in the 17th century (isn't Hiro stuck there?). According to the piece, it's
about Portuguese Christian missionaries who arrived in Japan in feudal times, [and] has parallels to America's role in Iraq. The Oscar-winning director (The Departed) said [...] "It raises a lot of questions about foreign cultures coming in and imposing their way of thinking on another culture they know nothing about[.]"
I reread the article then reread the headline. What is even slightly controversial about this project? I can see a claim that it's mindless, shallow, obvious and wrongheaded, but as subject matter nothing could be safer.

Congratulaions

After a weak finale to Heroes, I was quite impressed by Lost's season-ender. The ending was quite something. I'm not going to give away anything, but let me just say I watched the show with three other TV writers, and none of us were able to guess where it was going.

More Preaching

There's a bit of a debate in the comments section over what I said yesterday on hypocrisy and John Edwards.

Let me just add a few notes.

One commenter states "I doubt Edwards believes in helping the poor because as far as I can see he has never done anything to actually help the poor." Even if his programs don't work, I do believe that he believes they will. When it comes to hypocrisy, intentions trump results. Which I why I don't care much about hypocrisy, because in politics, results trump intentions.

Another commenter says it's not hypocritical to be rich and speak on behalf of the poor--in fact, this only makes your argument "more compelling." The compelling part is a stretch, but I agree this isn't hypocrisy. The reason Edwards is considered hypocritical is that he's asking a lot of people to pay more taxes--meanwhile, he's so rich (speaking on poverty at 50 G's a throw) that it won't effect his magnificent lifestyle, while others will feel the crunch. Asking others to sacrifice while you're rolling in it feels like hypocrisy. (To say higher taxes won't effect others' lifestyles wouldn't be hypocrisy, it would be more in the nature of a lie.)

There's also the feeling that a guy who gets $400 haircuts is out of touch. (This is why politicians like Edwards are quick to note they weren't rich growing up.) But just as I won't give him extra points for being noble because he says he speaks for the poor, neither should he be judged negatively because he doesn't have to worry about money--once again, the question should be does he have good ideas.

Finally, there was some debate about the morality of plaintiffs' lawyers. I know quite a few lawyers, but personally have no strong opinion on this--to me they're just another type of lawyer, and their job is to serve their clients as best they can. However, I also know a bunch of doctors, and their opinions, on the whole, are pretty consistently negative when it comes to ambulance chasers.

Edwards was a highly successful trial lawyer. He's been harshly criticized by conservatives for his tactics (which apparently include the ability to read sick children's minds). I really can't say how accurate they are, but I do find the accusations entertaining.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Those Who Can't Do, Preach

Hypocrisy is so low on my list of politicians' flaws that I'm often surprised how prominent a role it plays in debate.

For instance, this opening paragraph in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Democrat John Edwards has eloquently established his credentials as an advocate for the poor with a presidential campaign focused on the devastating effects of poverty in America. But the former North Carolina senator's populist drive has hit a series of troubling land mines: a pair of $400 haircuts, a $500,000 paycheck from a hedge fund, and now a $55,000 payday for a speech on poverty to students at UC Davis.
Who cares how rich he is? If you think his programs are good, vote for him.

It's the same with many of those who lecture us on the sacrifices we need to make for the environment. The belt-tightening measure they suggest could seriously effect the quality of most people's lives, but not theirs--they can afford carbon offsets (however that works) and continue to live in luxury. But, once again, if they're right about the environment, it's still good advice.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

J & B

Gotta go with Jordin on American Idol. I didn't think either contestant was that impressive, but I give her the edge since she was better on the last number, "This Is My Now."

Speaking of which, so they finally have a big songwriting competition, and this won? Thousands applied and the best they could find was a generic pile of cliches?

I'd expect Jordin to win anyway, since she'll probably get most of the Melinda vote. In fact, the final results show should less exciting than usual. Doesn't matter, I'll be watching Lost.

Last Lost

Tonight is the third-season finale of Lost. Some will die, but beyond that I'm not making any guesses.

Season one set up the basic characters, season two was about the Hatch, season three, the Others. Next season will no doubt concentrate on something else, but I have no idea what.

What I do know for sure is, after tonight, I'll have to wait 8 month for new Lost. Is that fair? For that matter, it's pretty much the end of the TV season.

Thank goodness I've got the Tigers to help me through the summer.

Go Get 'Em

Okay, they lost an exciting one last night, but the Detroit Tigers are for real. I feared, after their collapse last season, they weren't even a .500 team (even though they made the World Series). There's no question now they're a contender. I've been waiting so many years for this that I needed a lot of convincing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

George Foreman Grilled

Thirty two and a half years later, George Foreman now says he remembers drinking water with a medicine-y taste and started to feel tired in the 3d round of the 8-round "Rumble In The Jungle" in Zaire in which he was KO'd by Muhammad Ali and he now suspects he was drugged. (http://sports.espn.go.com/sports/boxing/news/story?id=2878507) .

This is a distantly-remembered present sense impression of a man who was then receiving blows to the head and had a long career of receiving such blows stated to improve the boxing reputation of the declarant.

Call Vincent Bugliosi.

Soprano di o di o

Great episode. Love the mixed messages- A.J.'s seemingly worthy desires to get engaged with the world and social issues and to abhor violence make him even more of a hopeless prick. Too many people have mentioned the possibility of A.J. getting involved with terrorists so I'm sure that won't happen now (although maybe the FLQ will pop up- I'm still partial to the French Canadian angle).

I still read the Soprano's exchange on Slate although its been a lot weaker this year (with the somewhat unfocused Timothy Noah) than when they had psycholigists/therapists and mob experts going at it. For reasons unrelated to the show however, its got to be interesting again now that they have added Brian Williams to the mix- who knew a network news anchor had ADD? While I'm sure scads of NBC attorneys review his every post (or else there are being written by a snarky intern from some college humor mag), its free wheeling enough to think he's one "SEND" button slip away from a nappy-headed Imus comment.

"Funeral returns Falwell to his roots"

I just figured out how to sign in so don't expect me to figure out the links too. Anyway that headline came from boston.com- the net version of The Boston Globe- it might be be the AP headline for all I know. Somehow I don't think they would have phrased it that way for, say, Coretta Scott King.

Microsoft is The Enemy

Hi I'm back and I was gone for reasons captured in the statement above.

[.....]

Please thank me for deleting my rant.

Voice Over

I just watched a repeat of Inside The Actors Studio. It's the episode where all the voices on The Simpsons appear.

And I had the same reaction as the first time. When I saw, say, Hank Azaria doing a familiar voice, I'd think "that's the best imitation of Chief Wiggum I've ever heard."

Disease And Unease

Michael Moore just premiered his film Sicko, about the American health care system, in Cannes. Its domestic release next month may lead to a discussion of how to reform health care in the U.S. (though the timing isn't great since, outside the war, immigration is the only issue getting any oxygen right now).

Since I'm in favor of reform, you might figure I'd think Sicko's a good thing. But, given Moore's track record, I have no confidence the movie will be fair, or even honest. So the question is: do bomb throwers add to the national conversation, by provoking debate, or do they detract from it, by moving that conversation into a bad area.

I'm not sure, but I lean toward the latter.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Is This Book Necessary?

So Vincent Bugliosi has a new 1632 (!) page book on the JFK assassination, Reclaiming History. He concludes Oswald did it. By himself.

Doesn't everyone know this already?

According to polls, no. In fact, it's pretty clear that this generation is lost--most Americans, not well-informed or perhaps misinformed, will continue to think something fishy happened that day. But once the murder is outside human memory, and the dust can settle, it'll be good to have some books out there that can set the record straight for anyone who wants to check out the evidence.

Big Week

Well, this is it, the final week of the prime time season. Of particular interest are the finales of Heroes and Lost.

Heroes is sort of a lighter version of Lost. They're both serials about a group of seemingly (at first) ordinary people finding themselves in an extraordinary situation. But even before I've seen their finales I know they'll be very different.

The Heroes finale will be a real finale. At least it better be. The whole season we've been waiting for the heroes to take on the supervillain (Sylar) and save New York--indeed, the world. If the producers don't definitively deal with these issues, a lot of fans will be angry. Their main trouble is to set up next season, rather than just end this one, because once the central problem is solved, a serial needs something to take its place. (It's what destroyed Twin Peaks.)

Lost, on the other hand, as big as the finale will be (and the producers have promised a game-changer) is still in the middle of its storyline, so, guaranteed, no matter what answers they give, or characters they kill, they will leave us as uncertain and confused as ever.

That I don't mind. Lost is in it for the long haul. But I must say if they kill Locke, I won't be happy. The only thing that could make me less happy is if they leave Locke's status unknown (like they did in last season's finale).

Sunday, May 20, 2007

That's Edutainment!

I don't watch The Learning Channel, but I like the idea. Nothing wrong with a little learning every now and then. So I figured I'd see what's on.

Here's this afternoon's schedule: Worst Drivers, World's Smartest Boy, World's Strongest Boy, World's Tallest Man, Smallest People In The World....

I thought there'd be shows about literature and geography. Just what are they trying to teach us?

Duking It Out

Prosecutors are worried. According to this article, they "believe that the Duke case is tarnishing their image, and could potentially hurt future cases." It's true. Defense attorney's are only too happy to remind juries of Nifong's prosecutorial misconduct. But is this is a bad thing?

Bringing up Duke may be a cheap shot, but too many jurors believe you don't get tried unless you're guilty, and that it's the defendant's job to prove his innocence. Wherever this is happening, introducing a little skepticism is probably helpful.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Log This

Last Tuesday I discussed TV log lines, and how The Sopranos is so tight-lipped in giving away plot (which is the way to do it).

As New England Guy noted, last week's log line was "Tony gets a revelation." I like it. But listen to tomorrow's episode: "Tony takes offense over an affront to Meadow."

Now that sounds cool.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Well, you see, it's funny because the pig wasn't expecting the horse to fly

"You couldn't quite tell if Mr. Thompson was telling Mr. Moore he ought to think more about Cuba, or might himself benefit from psychiatric treatment. It seemed almost . . . deliberately unclear."

Scooter Libby's Fate

I probably shouldn't get involved, because what I'll say won't please anyone, but let's talk a bit about Scooter Libby.

I'm not going to go over the whole case, again. Just let me say I doubt there was a concerted campaign by the Bush White House to smear Joe Wilson (with the truth) regarding Valerie Plame. In fact, when the investigation started, Richard Armitage told Colin Powell he may have been the one to leak the information, and Powell made the decision not to tell anyone, so the pro-war people in the administration didn't even know who the leaker was.

I also believe no crime was committed before the investigation, and that Fitzgerald pretty much understood this from the start. Also, the evidence they got Libby on (for lying to the FBI and to a grand jury) probably had enough reasonable doubt attached for acquittal, but the jury (based on statements they made after the verdict) were at least partly driven by improper considerations (not unlike the Martha Stewart jury).

But that's all behind us. The question now is what should be done with Libby. After all, Bush is leaving and I'm guessing he believes Libby doesn't deserve his punishment. Nevertheless, I'm against a pardon.

If Libby didn't work for Bush, sure, pardon him. But it really smells when a President, even if he's doing it honestly, let's someone go whom others believe was committing crimes on the administration's behalf.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Semi-Shocker

I admit I didn't see it coming. Melinda was kicked off American Idol. Still, I wasn't that shocked. Three reasons.

1) Melinda and Jordin were similar in style, at least compared to Blake, so they split their vote.

2) Melinda, as technically proficient as she might be, never struck me as that exciting--the other two may not have her pipes, but there's something extra when they sing (like they might screw up?).

3) Melinda has been the heir apparent so long, perhaps voters got tired of being told what to do.

As Simple As Possible, But Not Simpler

I don't know what's happened to Michael Kinsley. I can't recall anything he's done in years which has the snap, focus and wit of his work in The New Republic.

For example, his review in The New York Times of Christopher Hitchens' latest book is almost completely worthless. Literally half of it is spent discussing Hitchens' career before Kinsley notes this book has nothing to do with the author's past. And once he gets around to the book itself, the discussion is more piecemeal than unified.

So fine, a pointless review, it's not the first time. But I was bothered by how Kinsley, as have so many before him, misstates the principle of Occam's Razor: "simple explanations are more likely to be correct than complicated ones."

Kinsley misses an essential qualification--evidence matters. Keep the explanation as simple as you can, but don't ignore the facts. Indeed, we regularly accept extremely complex and non-intuitive explanations, rejecting simpler and even more popular answers, because we've done the research that makes these explanations more likely to be true.

WWTF

The WWF (used to stand for World Wildlife Fund, now I'm not sure what they stand for) has a new report out and guess what--we can solve global warming and do it without nuclear power, but we must do it in the next five year (though we may not discover it's too late until after the people who wrote the report are dead).

I take the threat of global waming very seriously, which is why I hate to see claptrap masquerading as science. As Mr. Rogers once explained to Lady Elaine, just because you wish something doesn't make it true, even scary wishes.

By the way, the WWF proudly notes, "Jorgen Randers, who in 1972 was one of the authors of Limits to Growth," praises the report. In other words, this man was associated with one of the biggest embarrassments ever to come out of the environmentalist movement, so listen to him.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Apres moi le deluge

What is it with the Left and Valerie Plame?

George Voinovich writes: Actually, it's more a plea for moderation -- which Columbus Guy also seemed to disdain in his review of the French election: "Hurrah for a real choice between true left and true right," -- paraphrase.

Good God, yes. Give me an honest Communist any day of the week over a "moderate," which has no meaning except, "I'm a nice person and everyone around me is a child-hating idiot." At least the communist has thought about things and adopted a position. What has the moderate done, except try to mix private property with no property?

SUCK (Slight Return)

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. Yes, it's the all-knowing cynicism of Suck, recreated by the originals, including my old friend Nick Gillespie.

America, judge for yourselves.

JC2

Last week I posted about the term "Judeo-Christian." I got a lengthy comment from "JGR." Let me reprint it and respond.

With all due respect, this post really comes across as uneducated. The term "Judeo-Christian" is used in rougly the same way that "Graeco-Roman" is used, to illustrate the historical continuity and similarities between two phenomena despite differences. One can easily imagine a Roman citizen criticizing the term "Graeco-Roman" by explaining numerous differences between their beliefs and customs, but that would appear trivial and provincial to a moderner who understood the context.It is generally said that most of our Western tradition is derived from two traditions - Our Judeo-Christian heritage and our pagan or secular inheritance from Greece and Rome. (See, for instance, Russell Kirk's The Roots of American Order, although one could substitute almost any book on the topic since this is not a controversial position.)In a recent article on the HBO series Rome, the writer Gerald J Russello illustrates how radical an impact Judeo-Christian values had on the West:"The Romans did develop a legal culture that is the basis of the Western legal system, including notions of natural law and rights, but that system was harsh: Testimony from slaves in court, for example, was not admitted absent torture. It had not yet been enlightened through the principles of equity that would make their appearance with the Catholic Church’s canon law and admonitions of charity. The brutality towards slaves evidenced in the show is echoed in its depiction of the family. Wives and children had almost as low a status as slaves, and again the show portrays harsh realities without exaggeration or superficiality. Husbands could, and did, beat their wives with impunity, their children were only extensions of the father’s will, and the wife was clearly not the equal partner. Marriage was a religious event, but not, as it would later become, a sacrament. Women without husbands would become destitute, be sold into slavery, or become prostitutes."http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NmM0Y2FhNzFmODQxMTlkMjY4ODA3NDllOTU0NzlkOWU=The blogger writes that everybody is opposed to murder and theft, implying that our Judeo-Christian inheritance is largely irrelevant. In fact, it was once acceptable to kill or steal from anybody not directly in your tribe. The poetry of Homer was once used as the moral edification of young Greeks the way Christians use the bible, and the acutal hero of The Odyssey (what we would today call an anti-hero)was a soldier-thief who bragged about ransacking towns and stealing whatever booty he could get away with. Nobody thought anything odd about that; It would not be until the triumph of Christianity that people began to internalize the belief that every human life had value because they were created in the image of God, and hence every human had natural rights - popularized in the Declaration of Independence. ("We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights"). This belief led directly to the abolition of slavery, among a hundred other things.

First, the term "Judeo-Christian" is of modern coinage, so whatever connection these two religions had over the centuries, no one thought much of it until recently. Presumably, it became convenient, for one reason or another, to show this connection after years of religions emphasizing their differences.

Second, "Judeo-Christian values" is itself used inconsistently. It's often (usually?) used today by conservatives to attack people they disagree with politically. That many, perhaps most of the people attacked are themselves Jews or Christians speaks volumes about how the phrase is more than merely some wise recognition of the morality shared by two great religions.

Third, the quotes above aren't about "Judeo-Christian" values--or even just "Christian values," though those seem to be the only values discussed--so much as the debate over Jersualem versus Athens. And the chip on the shoulder a lot of religious conservatives seem to have regarding Athens--along with a blind spot about their religion--I find alarming. Without going into the particulars of this tendentious argument, I'd claim much of what we celebrate about our world today (including modern concepts of liberty, democracy, property, personal virtue, bravery, and open philosophic and scientific inquiry), would be unlikley, perhaps unimaginable, without our pagan ancestors.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Log Lines And Titles

(I'm getting tired of giving spoiler alerts, but if you don't know want to know what just happened on The Sopranos, read no further.)

Those little plot descriptions you see in TV Guide are called log lines. The Sopranos has the best ones. Most shows try to drum up excitement, but The Sopranos, safe on its perch at HBO, never tips off anything important. No hard sell. If anything, it tries to make each episode sound like nothing big will happen.

The latest episode, "Kennedy and Heidi," is described thus: "An asbestos-disposal impasse raises tensions between Jersey and New York. Meanwhile, Tony has a revelation while Paulie gets upstaged." Not even the slightest indication that Tony will kill Christopher, or even that they'll be in a huge accident. (By the way, Paulie's "mom's" wake is upstaged by Christopher's, and Tony's questionable revelation comes while he's high on peyote.)

They also have great, evocative, titles. But I was confused by this one. When I first watched the show, a character, rather derogatorily, referred to Christopher's grieving widow as Jackie Kennedy. But I couldn't figure out the "Heidi" part.

So I watched it again. Turns out the two teenage girls whom Christopher swerves to avoid (leading to the accident) are named Kennedy and Heidi.

Back Door

ColumbusGuy (who somehow missed the story where John McCain called the press fair and objective or he would have written about that) wonders if Barack Obama isn't lying when he implies he'll end affirmative action as we know it. Well, I've read the statements in question and I don't think he said anything of the sort--in fact, like a good politician, I don't think he said anything.

But let's say Mickey Kaus is right to believe that Obama "seem[s] to be abandoning the affirmative action idea and shifting toward embracing a class-based preference system." Even then, I'm not sure this means much.

Let's assume class-based preferences, in principle, are a good idea. Still, anyone with eyes can see that people around the country--whenever judges allow them to--vote to end race-based preferences (as they would have at any time in the past 40 years), and it's also possible the Supreme Court will soon end such preferences, or at least make them highly suspect. It seems to me, then, an effective way to ensure race remains a major factor in admissions is to use some proxy that can pass legal scrutiny.

So when someone moves from race to class-bassed preferences, it can be a strategic retreat. Once educators are left alone, these standards may be flexible enough to give them a free hand.

Columbus Guy says: You mean to say that even Republican John McCain says the press is fair and objective? Well, Hell's bells, I stand corrected. Talk abut egg on my face.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Lookin' good, FredGuy

Praising Roberts to the teeth and calling for pardoning Scooter?

Sign. Me. Up.

Or maybe he's just lying

Mickey thinks Obama is an amazing political ju-jitsu artist, on the cusp of achieving a signal event in American politics, the end of affirmative action.

Mabye. But there are simpler explanations.

Locke's Odds

By now it's been widely reported what happened on the last episode of Lost, but if you don't want to know, stop reading.

Anyway, at the end of the show, Ben shot Locke. So here's the question: Is Locke done for?

Pro: Looked like he got shot in the gut--pretty serious. Furthermore, the producers have promised several deaths by the finale. Killing a highly popular character is the kind of shocking move they might make to shake up the show. Last year, Locke's survival was in question and he pulled through--would they want to repeat that trick? For that matter, last year Libby got shot in the gut and some (including me) thought she might survive, but she didn't. Also, Locke knows too much--he's on the verge of finding out big things and taking over; the show has 50 more episodes to go, so maybe they want to take a step back. Besides, he's been getting a bit too arrogant, even obnoxious--Eko said "you're next" and maybe it was time for him to go. Finally, Locke's back story is all done. We learned how he got to Sydney, all about his father, and how he was paralyzed--he even got to face down his father on the island. (Plus, outside the show, there's a rumor Terry O'Quinn has sold his house in Hawaii.)

Con: Locke is a (perhaps the) central character on Lost--kill him and the show loses its heart. Besides, Locke is close to the island and famously heals. On top of which, it's possible Locke was shot where his kidney used to be, so he can take it. The way it was done, Locke was still alive at the end of the episode--if they wanted him dead, why not kill him for sure, for maximum effect? Ben leaves him behind rather than finish him off. Also, Locke is still seeking, and has just been introduced to a big new mystery--it seems like the beginning of a major story, not the end. Furthermore, not only does Locke have unfinished business with Ben, Jacob and the Others, but the show has long been promising a showdown between Locke and Jack.

Odds: 3-1 in favor of Locke surviving.

Psycho Analysis

Unfortunate editorial by William Dalrymple in the Sunday LA Times. Turns out the 150th anniversary of the great Indian Rebellion against the East India Company reminds him of Iraq. Since anti-war stalwarts are reminded of Iraq when anyone blows his nose, I'm not surprised.

The whole story of the British in India is pretty much the opposite of what we're doing in Iraq, but I'm not going to argue that again. I just want to note a few things in Dalrymple's argument.

First, he attacks those who disagree with him as "Old-style Orientalists." Actually, as proper research shows, even old-style Orientalists weren't "old-style Orientalists." Not unlike the overused "neocon," this is simply a cheap catch-all that means little but implies all sorts of sinister things (including, especially, racism).

It's Dalrymple, ironically, who uses the trope that reduces our enemy to less than humans--they're simply responding in predictable fashion to what we're doing. Actually, countries--in the Middle East and elsewhere--have been invaded (usually not to bring down a dictator and introduce elections) from time immemorial, and they've responded in numerous ways. One of the rarer reactions is a bunch of people blowing themselves up among innocents.

Listen to him: "Today, suicide jihadis fight what they see as a defensive action against their Christian enemies, and West and East again face each other uneasily across a divide that many see as religious war." Guess what William, we don't need you to tell us how they see what they're doing--we know, they've told us. What we would like is you to follow up this sentence by noting the jihadis are wrong to believe something this ugly and stupid, and that they are blowing up people in the hopes of denying Iraqis basic freedom and democracy, and thus must be opposed.

Here's his actual follow-up: "As ever, it is innocent civilians who are slaughtered." Look at the cowardly way he hides behind the passive voice. Just who's doing almost all the killing, and ensuring the slaughter continues? The terrorists and theocrats who would like to kill us.

But saying that would be too judgmental. Dalrymple believes in reserving judgment--except when he has a chance to condemn the West, especially America.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Reminder

On Monday the price of a first-class stamp goes up to 41 cents. So go to the post office and get some new ones. Or start living your life on the internet and bypass all that stuff.

Funniest Sub-Head Of The Day

Ezra Klein has the lead editorial in today's LA Times. He's renting his garment over how we're not good enough for our government.

But what really made me laugh was the sub-headline: "Why we're reaching into our own pockets to pay for basic services." As if there's some other way.

Columbus Guy says: Isn't it rending? Or is the pay sufficiently low for LAT editorialists that they've got to let out those fancy duds?

LAGuy responds: Yes, even though you rent a garment, rending is correct. In fact, I thought I'd caught this, but I guess not. And rather than a silent fix, now your note will be in our archives forever.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

What I Am Reading

What am I reading? That's a question no one ever asks. I'm going to tell you anyway.

There are two books I'm halfway through. I got them both for my birthday. (I got a few others, but I'll start them later.)

First, there's Ethan Mordden's All That Glittered, about Broadway drama from 1919 to 1959. Mordden just finished a series of books on Broadway musicals, so I guess he's taking care of everything else. As always, idiosyncratic, but entertaining. I suppose he'll do one more up to the present and move on to another topic.

Second is The Making Of Star Wars, which goes into excruciating detail regarding the original film. I already had a pretty good idea of what happened, but it's pretty cool to have a step by step of how it came about. Certainly if you're a Star Wars fan this is the book you must have.

Friday, May 11, 2007

FredGuy

Uncle Fred joins the party, a bit late, but nonetheless welcome.

I have just one question: Can anyone name a single other collective right? I don't mean a standing argument; I mean a collective right. There isn't any, unless you're a citizen of either the Soviet Union or the United Nations, which, so far, at least remains only a chimera.

Dissonance

The local child pimps were all breathless this week, when one priapic halfwit flashed a squirt gun at another child on another bus. (Actually, it turned out to shoot plastic pellets. I used to have a Star Trek phaser that shot plastic disks; I wonder where that ever ended up?) A three hour school lockdown, saturation news coverage and felony charges all resulted.

Similar idiocy at UTenn, via His Virtualness.

Thank goodness the idiots are working hard to keep the children safe. This is probably even better than gun-free zones.

Do-gooders

Hmm. MSNBC describes 501 c 4's thusly:

A 501(c)(4) is the Internal Revenue Service term for a tax-exempt organization “primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the community.”

Note the unattributed quote. Only one problem. My copy of the code reads thusly:

Civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare, or local associations of employees, the membership of which is limited to the employees of a designated person or persons in a particular municipality, and the net earnings of which are devoted exclusively to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes.

So, whassup, NBC? Are we just pulling quotes out our ears these days? I mean, goodness, we'd all like to be able to shoot people to promote the common good and all, but doesn't attribution mean something?

(I know all you tax mavens and googlers like me will pull the real source, but is that our job?--"An organization is considered to be operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare if it is primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the community. See Treas. Reg. section 1.501(c)(4)-1(a)(2)(i). ")

Somethin' funky

If you've got a couple of minutes to watch drops of oil and care about golden ratios, etc.

UPDATE: Oops. Meant to thank the Freepers for that one.

The Light At The End Of The Wormhole

First The Sopranos will be done in a couple months. Then Lost announces the end is in sight.

Now it's been confirmed that Battlestar Galactica has only one more season to go.

No surprise--ratings were down and the show isn't cheap. But it's also the right thing to do. Starbuck found Earth and they've just about revealed all the Cylons. Anything beyond one more season would be stretching things out.

Quote Of The Week

From an interview with Christopher Hitchens.

Q: ...I get the feeling you think extremists such as Abu Hamza, the former Finsbury Park Mosque imam, should not go unnoticed. Would you eavesdrop on suspected extremists in Britain?

A: You don't have to eavesdrop on someone who gets up in public and says, "Kill the Jews."

[....]

Q: But you might want to tap the phone of the people who are listening to him.

A: If the Metropolitan Police are not listening to his phone and the phones of people like him, then they should be impeached and removed from office.

Intrusive fishing expeditions are one thing, but let's not forget that we have warrants for a reason.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

TV Reunions

I recently saw The Odd Couple: Together Again, a 1993 TV movie. It stars the original TV leads, Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. None of the other original cast are around except a short appearance from Penny Marshall. (We do get Jerry Adler as Murray and Toni Kalem as Felix's daughter--both now best known for their work on The Sopranos.)

The plot has Oscar recovering from throat surgery (Jack Klugman really had surgery to remove his cancer) and Felix's daughter getting married.

It's dreadful. Sitcom reunions always are.

It's one thing to get everyone back to discuss the old show, but trying to create a new episode always fails.

First, a sitcom that works usually captures the people (in front of and behind the camera) and a moment in time when things are clicking. It's hard to get that spirit back.

Second, these reunion episodes try to be bigger than an average episode. They open up the show, with more scenes--often outdoors--rather than sticking to the old sets. (Green Acres had gloriously fake outdoor sets--seeing Eddie Albert in a real field in the GA reunion was sickening.) And they have stories that are too big, and try to move the characters beyond where they used to be.

Third, and the biggest problem--they're not comedies so much as nostalgia fests. The show isn't about funny moments so much as warm ones.

Better not to have them at all.

The Great Debate

Former teen actor Kirk Cameron appeared on the O'Reilly Factor to respond to atheists. Apparently, he fancies himself a spokesperson for religion.

He warmed up by saying he was once an atheist so he understood how they thought. Then he said he was convinced otherwise by arguments that can't be denied. Quite a claim.

His first volley: the argument from design--any complex system implies a designer. So far so good, but this is the beginning of the argument, not the end--except for Kirk, who had pretty much shot his bolt.

What he said from this point on was, instead of an argument for a deity, merely anti-evolution twaddle, such as the claim that Darwin can't account for the eye and that there are missing transitional forms in the fossil record.

He ended by saying how angry atheists (such as the ones he's debated) are. O'Reilly noted that jihadis seem pretty angry, too. Kirk looked like he was about to respond, but it was time for a commercial.

That's too bad. Maybe Cameron was about to note that they believe in a false god--now that's a debate I'd like to see.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Lipbusters

He dislikes Nancy Pelosi, Democrats, Bush-bashers AND Angelina Jolie? Sign me up!

Another day, another dollar

"O.J. Simpson thrown out of steakhouse"

Branding

"Hilton Romance Package" indeed. Yeah, I'm thinking my dollar return on this one isn't what it used to be.

The Jaycees

A term I hear a lot from conservatives is "Judeo-Christian." I honestly don't know what it means.

First, I've never met a Judeo-Christian. (Okay, maybe Jews For Jesus.)

Second, it's usually part of the phrase "Judeo-Christian values." What are these? The Ten Commandments? Pretty much everyone's against murder and stealing and perjury, etc.

Is it the moral beliefs that Jews and Christians have in common? Jews don't even agree with other Jews, and Christians don't agree with other Christians.

It seems to be used as a shorthand for modern conservative values, but if that's what it really is, why not just say so?

Greek Quiz Answers

Here are the answers for Monday's quiz. Congratulations to all of you who got them right.

1. "Delta" -- Deltas are so named because as a river spreads out to a wider body of water, it's shaped like a triangle, as is the letter delta. The Greeks first used this term in northern Egypt, where the Nile spreads out to the Mediterranean.

2. "Hypocrites" -- Actors were hypocrites in ancient Greece. It came from the word for "acting out." And since actors are expert at saying lines in public which don't represent their own feelings, the term became associated with something untrustworthy.

3. "Tragedy" -- While there is some controversy over the origin of "tragedy," most interpret it as a compound word meaning "goat song." Why goat song? There are several theories. The most popular seems to be that Greek theatre grew out of someone singing a song at a religious festival to win a goat, or where a goat was sacrificed. Another theory is it relates to the lamentation of the goat being sacrificed. Yet another is that actors were paid a goat for a day's work. Still another claims it's about the satyrs--part man, part goat--who appear in the satyr plays about Dionysus (god of theatre--the original chants at these festival were to him).

4. "Sycophant" -- This is another controversial etymology, but most historians feel "sycophant" comes from figs. In Ancient Greece (perhaps just Athens) there were laws against exporting (or stealing, or perhaps even importing) certain figs. "Suko" was Greek for fig. Informers who told the authorities about those who broke these laws were sycophants. Eventually, it came to mean someone who tells powerful people what they want to hear, usually for personal gain.

5. "Ostracism" -- Every year the Athenians would decide if they wanted to ostracize someone. This meant banishment for ten years (though your property was held for you). To return early meant death. When deciding on the person, they would write names of citizens on "ostraka," which were potsherds, or broken pieces of pottery. Pottery was common, paper was not. The highest vote-getter was kicked out.

Plot Clog

I thought Spider-Man 3 started out promisingly, but soon got bogged down under too much plot. Not enough plot is always a problem, but the opposite can be just as bad.

MAJOR SPOILAGE AHEAD

I really can't show how there's too much plot without going into some detail. So here is a basic summary of Spidey 3's story:

Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, is finally achieving acceptance in New York City as a superhero. He stills lives in a cheap apartment, still works as a photographer for the Daily Bugle, still fights crime on a regular basis, and still is in love with Mary Jane Watson. She's on the verge of stardom, appearing in a Broadway show.

Meanwhile, Harry Osborn, friend of Mary Jane, is a sworn enemy of Spidey, since he (falsely) believes Spider-Man killed his father (who had turned into a supervillain). Harry is as rich and powerful as his dad, and seeks to avenge him.

Harry, as a new Goblin supervillain, attacks Spidey. Harry is seriously injured, and when he recovers consciousness, has forgotten many things, including his hatred of Spider-Man. He and Peter start being pals again. However, Harry starts recovering his memory, uses Mary Jane to get back at Peter, and sets up a huge fight with Spidey.

This is actually enough for an entire movie, but Spidey 3 is just getting started.

You see, there's another girl--and I don't mean Betty Brant, secretary at the Bugle, who likes Peter a lot, but rather Gwen Stacy, a hot blonde (played by redhead Bryce Dallas Howard, because blonde Kirsten Dunst is already playing the redhead). Mary Jane, who has been fired from the Broadway show after bad reviews (she really needs a better agent), is jealous of Gwen, who gets to kiss an upside down Spider-Man during a city salute she's speaking at. She happens to be a major model, who was in danger during a shoot, and was saved by Spider-Man. By chance, she's also Peter Parker's lab partner in his advanced physics class. And did I mention her dad is an important police captain?

On top of which, she's dating Eddie Brock--at least he thinks she is. Brock is a hotshot photogapher who wants to replace Peter Parker at the Bugle. If this isn't bad enough, publisher J. Jonah Jameson tells Brock and Parker he'll give the job to whichever one can make Spider-Man look bad.

Meanwhile, cheap thug Flint Marko has escaped from jail. It turns out, as opposed to what we were shown in the first movie, that Flint is the one who murdered Peter's Uncle Ben--the primal moment that turned Peter into a crime fighter.

But actually Flint wasn't a heartless killer, he just needed money to save his baby girl, and things got out of hand. While on the run, he stumbles onto a major government experiment on sand, and is turned into supervillain Sandman.

Meanwhile, Captain Stacy finds out about Marko's murder, and tells Peter, along with his Aunt May. Peter goes nuts and swears vengeance. Usually he wouldn't go nuts, except....

While Peter and Mary Jane are on a date, a shooting star hits the earth and this black ooze comes out and takes a hike on Peter's motorbike. It lays in wait and eventually takes over Peter, turning him into black-suited Spider-Man. This makes Peter, as Spidey and himself, much more aggressive and hateful, and he kills (or so he thinks) Sandman--even though Aunt May warns him against revenge, and Dr. Curt Connors, his physics prof and a rare scientist friend of Peter who doesn't turn into a supervillain, tells him of the danger of the black ooze.

After doing a lot of damage, Peter finally confronts the darksuited Spider-Man, and though he pulls off the ooze, he throws it onto nearby Eddie Brock, who by chance has just sworn to kill Peter Parker, since Parker (when he was under the influence of the ooze) informed on Brock, letting the world know his anti-Spidey photo was fake, getting him fired. Brock turns into supervillain Venom.

It actually goes on from there, but I think you get the picture: two cases of avenging a murdered father or father-figure, three damsels in distress, two people who don't think straight after losing their jobs, three to five (depending on how you count the black ooze) supervillains, etc.

Diagnosis: plot overload.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

30,000

That's 30,000. Not 300, not 3000. That's how many hits we've gotten. Okay, not much compared to The Drudge Report, but it's the size of a small city, and that ain't bad.

Collective punishment doesn't work in school, nor later in life

CBS News has decided temporarily to suspend all reader comments on articles about candidate Barack Obama, because of the volume and intensity of the racist and other personal attacks. I've got two thoughts on this. First, while the cure for hate speech is not silence, the cure also is not allowing unfettered attacks by a vocal few who swamp any reasoned debate. Fortunately, technology provides an answer. Moderating the comments before posting, as they do for the blogs at the NYTimes, is one answer, but requires a comparatively major investment of human resources. Automatic filters instead may play a useful role.

Fark.com has comments pages that are moderated only after the fact, i.e. if a mod sees something objectionable, they can delete it (and take other actions if necessary.) But there are automatic filters in place as well that convert your text to something unobjectionable. The most famous examples are: (1) if you type "first post" in a thread (no, I don't know why people do this), it automatically converts your text to "boobies" and time-delays your post by an hour; and (2) if you type the word "nigger" in a thread, the text is automatically converted to "attractive and successful African-American." There are many others, which sometimes lead to amusing results. The gist of the strategy is a neat bit of technological jiu jitsu, using someone's own hate speech to frustrate their aims.

What A Way To Go

While driving yesterday I had to stop for a funeral procession. I swear I haven't seen one in years. I remember as a child seeing them all the time. Has there been some change since then?

Columbus Guy says: You people in LA are eating your dead?

QueensGuy adds: This is largely a function of routing. Those of us who live along major routes from funeral homes to cemeteries (Western Queens and Eastern Brooklyn hold the vast majority of burial grounds for NYC) see them all the time. Presumably as a child you lived along the way from one or more funeral homes to a cemetery. It's always slightly embarrassing when you're cutting through a line of slow-moving, closely-packed cars, and suddenly realize that they're doing it for a reason.

Don't Know What To Make Of This

I'm a big fan of The Monkees. It's not their fault they're not The Beatles.

Here's a mash-up of "Paperback Writer" and "I'm A Believer."

An excellent job of musical editing, but something about it makes me queasy.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Ask, and ye shall receive

LAGuy previously suggested that Lost would be a better show if it had a fixed end date. Well, we've got one. Three more 16-episode seasons sounds just about right to me. Heck, if nothing else it'll give me something positive to focus on while I watch the end of the Sopranos approach like the headlight of a freight train.

Healthcare reform's unlikely ally: big business

Unlikely? As in, "In the unlikely event that the sun will rise again" unlikely?

Here's a little test. If you say to any business, "Would you like the taxpayers to pay part or all of your operating costs?" what is the likely response? (Sorry, no multiple choice. But we'll give you a hint: The answer is not "yes", it's "Hell, yes.")

It's All Greek To Me

English is a mutt of a language, with words borrowed from all over the globe. But the basis for most of our vocabulary is Greek and Latin.

That's why in reading ancient history, you often run across interesting stories that explain where common words come from. So here's a little quiz about five terms and their Greek origin.

I'll post the answers later this week. See how well you can do without any help from Google. (Note: there is controversy regarding some of the etymologies, and I will try to note that in my answers.)

1. We've all heard of the Mississippi River Delta. Why on earth is it called a "Delta"?

2. What profession were the original "hypocrites"?

3. What animal is at the heart of "tragedy"?

4. What fruit is at the root of a "sycophant."

5. What common household item is involved in "ostracism"?

LAGuy adds to his own post: Welcome, Volokh Conspiracists. The answers will be up on on Wednesday.

Don't Start What You Can't Finish

The Onion is the best humor publication around. (Not much competition.) Surprisingly, their arts coverage is pretty good, too.

However, I have a problem with the recent piece, "13 Failed Attempts To Start Film Franchises." (The paper version only had 5 failed attempts.)

They missed the best example of a failed attempt to start a franchise--Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. If you've seen it, you know what I mean. If you haven't heard of it, that just proves my point.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Come again?

"There used to be an almost complete scholarly and judicial consensus that the Second Amendment protects only a collective right of the states to maintain militias. "

Yeah, and I bet he doesn't know anyone who voted for Bush, either.

America 2012

Sorry, folks, but we're going to have to squeeze Clintonism out of our system one more time.

Sunday Morning Video

It's obvious, and it's cheap, and it's not even that original, but I have to admit I enjoyed "Lawrence Welk Meets Velvet Underground."

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Heh2

"The folks running it are afraid their readership is leaning left"

Just What I Need

As if I don't watch enough television, there's a new show I like.

It's called Dinner: Impossible, on the Food Channel. Previously, the only thing I watched there was Iron Chef, but this half-hour parody of Mission: Impossible fascinates me.

Here's the premise: Chef Robert Irvine is given an on-the-spot assignment where he has to do a big job (usually feeding a large group of people) with whatever food and equipment is available. Sometimes he has to cook outdoors, or use old ovens, or make do with almost no budget. Yet, he's got to put a menu together and get the food out there by the time the guests arrive.

I'm not sure why I find it so fascinating. Perhaps it's the mix of food and logistics. It's like a sports show you can eat (not unlike Iron Chef, come to think of it).

Friday, May 04, 2007

Not my favorite columnist, eh?

Never been a big fan of Jonah, but His Virtualness captures a nice line: "They replaced the Communist with a Canadian, which, even I had to concede, was a very poor substitute for a Communist."

More lists

Who does this guy think he is? Geoff Stone?

Columbus Guy says OOPS: My bad. The Guys (including this one particularly) were confused. The correct link is here.

More media bias

So where's LAGuy's piece on not watching the Republican candidates debate, huh?

LAGuy responds: I thought I made it pretty clear I generally don't watch political debates. I wasn't aware I had to reassure ColumbusGuy after each one.

However, I may make an exception for the next Dem debate since Dennis Kucinich's wife is really hot.

Columbus Guy hopes ColumbusGal isn't in the room: Hot, flaky and TALL. Not to mention British. But aren't those things one-camera sitcoms? How many shots of her do you get?

Not Just Me

I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in saying this is the most boring season ever of American Idol.

Previously, the worst was season three where Fantasia won, but the contestants this year, with a few exceptions, are much less memorable than in any other.

Let's just declare Melinda Doolittle winner and start over.

Make Way For Makeweight

Really dumb piece in USA Today on 5 reasons why the Republicans are in trouble for 2008. And not simply because it's still too early to do such analysis.

Certainly the Republicans are in trouble, but it's because the war is unpopular and they're the party of the war. That's pretty much it.

Here are the 5 reasons in the article: 1) Iraq, 2) excitement is contagious, 3) fewer say they're Republicans, 4) money flowing to the Democrats and 5) hunger for change growing.

To the extent that 2 through 5 are correct, they're all consequences of Iraq. But if you just said that, there's no article, and you're not allowed to have a bunch of white space on the front page.

No Time Like The Present

Time travel in a sci-fi series is often a cheat--an easy way to get around a problem. But something else often bothers me about it.

The biggest conceptual error in popular entertainment time travel is there's one "real" time, the present, while the past and future don't really count.

I was reminded of this recently when watching a rerun of Time Tunnel. The premise of this series was a couple of scientists get stuck going back and forth in time. Every week the government would try to get them back, and they'd end up in another time and place (sort of like Quantum Leap). Not much of a show, but it featured a cool set and a nice John Williams' theme.

Anyway, one episode had time travelers from the future messing with them. The heroes finally defeated them--in the future--and everyone acted like "well, that takes care of that." That's because there's only one real time, the present--otherwise, we'd have to worry about how the future guys can come back as many times as they like.

(I'm also reminded of Back To The Future, which actually handles the time travel issue quite well, making a blunder in the final scene. An agitated Doc appears and says Marty is needed immediately to go solve some problems with his future kids. What's the rush?)

What really got me thinking about this was the latest Heroes. Set five years in the future, it showed a horrible society if New York is allowed to blow up.

Hiro, the time traveler, meets a (potential?) future Hiro, and is told what he must do to save the planet. Now here's where we see the series succumbing to the time travel fallacy of one "real" time. Apparently, it is possible for Hiro to return to the present and fix things, because, after all, the future isn't real, our "now" (whenever that may be) is.

Good and fine, except in a previous episode we met waitress Charlie Andrews, an appealing character whose power is memorizing things immediately and perfectly. She's killed soon after she meets Hiro. So he tries to go back in time to save her, but can't, too late, she's dead.

So Hiro can go to the future and learn to change what will happen--from our present perspective--but can't go back to the past and change what's in their future. Because the present of the show is the only reality.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Say, where's ColumbusGal?

It's taken me awhile to get around to it, but I think I'm in love with Irene Done. Here's hoping she's a gal, or has a good sense of humor.

Is Fred writing his own stuff?

He's a bit edgier than the gipper, but he's pretty darned good. We've got lots of cunning linguists around these parts; what's the consensus? Is he writing his own stuff or not?

Enough to choke you up

As much as I like to slam my friends in the bedwetter media, I have to thank them for this one. I can hardly imagine it being done better. (Whaddya say, NeG? Is it a decent piece?)

The Invisible Man Whom No One Saw

Every now and then I catch of bit of Memoirs Of An Invisible Man (1992) on TV. There are a lot of good things about it--decent pre-CGI effects, a solid plot, even interesting twists on the concept of being invisibile. But it doesn't really work. Mostly because of the star, Chevy Chase. This isn't a comedy, but a thriller with touches of comedy, and he's not up to it. His tough-guy narration, for instance, is laughable (in a bad way).

Screenwriter William Goldman has written about the struggles behind the scenes. Ivan Reitman had planned to produce the film and Goldman wrote a few drafts. But Reitman and Chase fought over the style. Reitman wanted an out-and-out comedy, while Chase--perhaps hoping to grow as an actor--preferred to stick to the H. F. Saint novel (which I've heard is quite good) and have it be about the loneliness of invisibility.

At the time, Chase was a major comedy star, and Reitman a top comedy producer. Reitman dropped out of the project and Chase got his way. Even then, he allegedly wasn't happy with director John Carpenter, and thought, ironically, Carpenter didn't know how to make the comedy work.

By the time Memoirs came out, Chase's career was on a downward arc, and its failure only confirmed to Hollywood that he could no longer carry a film. Still, for all its flaws, it's an odd little piece that's worth checking out.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Still OK, O.K.

Orin Kerr over at The Volokh Conspiracy revisits three questions about the Iraq war that he asked back in 2004. I send him back to my original response. I might make a few minor changes today, but I think it still pretty much holds up.

Decomposer

Here's a pretty cool YouTube clip of George Gershwin playing a bit of "I Got Rhythm." He really was a great pianist (as opposed to, say, Irving Berlin, who wasn't good at all.)

The clip indentifies the performance as taking place in 1943, which seems unlikely, since he died in 1937.

Post On Poston

Tom Poston just died. (ColumbusGuy should handle this, since that's where Poston is from.)

He was a funny presence on stage and screen for about half a century. It's his TV work he'll be remembered for. He started as one of the ensemble on The Steve Allen Show, playing a confused "man on the street." He made numerous appearances on various shows, and was a popular panelist on To Tell The Truth.

In the 70s, he was a regular on Mork And Mindy as the nasty neighbor who writes greeting cards for a living, and had his best-known role in the 80s on Newhart as George, the simple-minded handyman. Newhart surrounded himself with eccentrics, and George's role was to radiate a gentle cluelessness.

What I liked about him was he managed to be funny without showing the effort. My favorite part of his was as The Peeper, Bob Newhart's old pal, on The Bob Newhart Show. Bob's wife was played by Suzanne Pleshette. Poston had known her for years when he appeared on the show, and a couple decades after the show was canceled, they married. Maybe they should have had a reunion where The Peeper is sleeping with Bob's gal.

Shallow Minds Think Alike

"Mahna Mahna" (or "Manah Manah" or "Mana Mana" or "Ma Na Ma Na") is that tune that everyone associated with The Muppets (and Benny Hill).

So I was surprised to see two separate companies are using it in their commercials: Saturn and BigLots!. The really freaky one is BigLots!, since they've actually replaced the "mahna mahna" part with "you never know."

Pro(mo) And Con

I understand why TV regularly shows promos for its programs. But I wish they wouldn't.

First, they give away plot, and I'd rather be surprised. Also, every episode is advertised as an especially good on, which is obviously a lie.

But what I really don't get are the promos for Deal Or No Deal, where they actually show how far someone gets in the game. All they have is the game, and showing part of it in advance destroys any suspense until you catch up.

(It's a sign of how few sitcoms I watch these days that I'm not complaining about how they give away the best jokes.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Cupboard Was Bare

I got no mail today. Has May Day become a postal holiday?

Gonzales must go

I've had about all the incompetence and disingenuousness one man can handle. Gonzales must go.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood

Slate has always been obsessed with The Sopranos, and as usual, they're featuring dialogues after every episode. Timothy Noah's latest entry discusses the Nancy Sinatra guest shot last Sunday. He thinks her dad would disapprove. As Noah explains, "The Chairman was reportedly furious when Mario Puzo wrote Johnny Fontaine, a thinly disguised Sinatra character, into The Godfather."

Hmm. While it's true in later year Sinatra liked to portray himself as a well-respected citizen, there seems to be plenty of evidence he not only knew many figures from the underworld, but actually cultivated their frendship.

What infuriated him about the Fontaine character is not that he's a stand-in for Sinatra, but the nasty particulars of his subplot. Fontaine is a heartthrob whose career is in the toilet. There's a perfect role for him in an upcoming film, but the producer hates him. The Don makes him an offer he can't refuse, and--voila--Johnny gets the part.

This is based on an old, ugly rumor. Fontaine represents Sinatra in the early 50s, career falling apart, seeking the role of Private Angelo Maggio in From Here To Eterinity.

The truth is Sinatra campaigned hard for the role. Allegedly, his wife (and big star) Ava Gardner put in a good word with Harry Cohn, and Eli Wallach turned down the role, clearing the way for Sinatra.

The movie was a huge hit, winning the Best Picture Oscar, as well as one for Sinatra. It revitalized his career. But no horse heads were involved in the making of this film.

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