Saturday, June 30, 2007

*The Lure Of Cliche*

Memories V

From Thursday, August 04, 2005

I was just re-watching /Searching For Bobby Fischer/, a 1993 film
written and directed by Steve Zaillian, based on the book by Fred
Waitzkin about his son Josh, a chess prodigy. It reminded me of the lure
of cliches in Hollywood.

The movie was well-reviewed, and does have plenty to recommend it,
including fine cinematography by Conrad Hall and an excellent cast,
including Joe Mantegna, Joan Allen, Laurence Fishburne, Max Pomeranc (as
Josh) and especially Ben Kingsley. Furthermore, while it's not a
big-budget item, I'm sure it was tricky for Zaillian and his producers
to get any money to make a film about chess.

Still, to turn it into a story that works as a movie, Zaillian had to
take what was an exciting real life tale and, essentially, falsify it.

I'm not trying to single out Zaillian. There's a reason for cliches.
They work. The final battle has to be the toughest, or your climax will
fail. And it has to be won by the protagonist, not his helper, or we'll
wonder why we were wasting our time following the wrong character. But
it all becomes tiresome formula unless you can do it differently, rather
than repeating what we've seen countless times.

Here are a couple examples of Hollywood Screenwriting versus real life:

Hollywood: Josh combines the agressive "street" moves he learned from
Laurence Fishburne, with the stricter, conservatory style he learned
from his instructor Ben Kingsley, to become a better, more-rounded player.

Real Life: There's no replacement for serious study (especially with
someone like Bruce Pandolfini, Josh's real-life instructor, who is
nothing like Ben Kingsley), and shortcut tricks that may go over playing
speed chess in the park will ruin you in real competition.

Hollywood: In the climactic game, Josh sees a tricky combination and
realizes he will win. He gallantly offers a draw--a shared
championship--which is turned down. This demonstrates not only external
growth in Josh as a player, but internal growth as a human being.

Real Life: Josh screws up and barely holds on for a draw, which wins him
the championship. If he had seen a winning combination, he would have
grabbed at it.

This got me thinking of the low-budget /Hustle & Flow/, out now. The
basic story has problems (without even getting into the
misogyny)--beneath the grit, it's got one of the hoariest of all movie
plots, about trying to make it in show biz. And it seemed to me that
everyone surrounding the pimp (who wants to be a rapper)--the producer,
the musician, even his pregnant whore who sings on one of the
tracks--has more talent than he does.

But I'll give it points for one thing--maybe the toughest thing--the
ending. The story leads up to a showdown: will DJay the pimp meet Skinny
Black and sell him on his demo tape? To the film's credit, they resolve
it in a way that is neither obvious nor ridiculous.

by LAGuy

Friday, June 29, 2007

Box(ing) Office

(Memories IV from Saturday, June 18, 2005)

Michael Medved, conservative film critic, has been known to play fast and
loose with numbers. One of his big claims--that Hollywood lost most of
its audience in the 60s when it stopped making audience-friendly
films--is simply wrong.

So perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised by a brazenly incorrrect
claim he made today. He was discussing the puzzling failure of his
favorite film this year, /Cinderella Man/. He suggested it was because a
previous boxing film, /Million Dollar Baby/, flopped, and people were
tired of such movies.

Medved didn't just hate /Million Dollar Baby/, he led a virtual crusade
against it. Here are the facts:

/Cinderella Man/. Budget -- $88 million. Domestic gross -- $34.8 million
(and running out of steam).

/Million Dollar Baby/. Budget -- $30 million. Domestic gross -- $100
million (and another $107 million internationally).

by LAGuy

Thursday, June 28, 2007

LA Guy's Memories III

Memories III

From Tuesday, June 28, 2005

*Looking Back, Looking Down*

Senator Barack Obama recently made some statements about Abe Lincoln
that have already been mocked over at Kausfiles. But there's still a bit
more to say.

Obama notes "I cannot swallow whole the view of Lincoln as the Great
Emancipator. As a law professor and civil rights lawyer and as an
African-American, I am fully aware of his limited views on race."

This is true. Back in the 1800s, people simply weren't the moral giants
they are today. Thank goodness we finally know what's true and have no
reason to feel humble about how people will view us in 150 years.

And what might Lincoln have thought of Obama's personal success? "I like
to believe he would have appreciated the irony."

Let's see. Lincoln prosecuted an extremely bloody war that freed the
slaves. More than a century later, a black man is elected Senator of his
home state. I think Obama and I have some disagreement over what "irony" means.

LA Guy

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

and IMPLIES he's a complete nutjob

(From a story on boston.com about a Bigfoot investigatory gathering in Michigan)

"......The late Grover Krantz, a Washington State University professor who specialized in cryptozoology, the study of creatures that have not been proven to exist, believed Bigfoot was a "gigantopithecus," a branch of primitive man believed to have existed 3 million years ago.

(This version CLARIFIES that Krantz is dead and that he was a professor, not a medical doctor.)"

LA Guy's Memories II

There were some technical difficulties, but here is a cut and paste version of a post from May 28, 2005.


Mr. Douglas.

Eddie Albert just died. He was either 97 or 99. In any case, he lived a full life. He was a trapeze artist, a Broadway star and a comic sidekick in countless films. But he'll always be remembered as Oliver Wendell Douglas in Green Acres. Green Acres was one of several country comedies on CBS in the 60s (all purged by Fred Silverman in 1971--that's another story), but this one was different. While shows like Petticoat Junction and Mayberry R.F.D. had fairly cornpone humor, Green Acres trafficked in the surreal. The basic premise is simple--they sing it every episode. Albert, as Harvard-trained lawyer Oliver Wendell Douglas, is tired of the big city. He and his unwilling wife, Lisa, move out to a farm, though Oliver is ill-suited for the job. After a fairly normal first season, the writers started taking chances. Soon, Lisa, could see the show's credits. County agent Hank Kimball couldn't say two sentences in a row that made sense, while Arnold Ziffel, the pig/son of a local farmer, could communicate with everyone (except Oliver).

A good episode might have Oliver wake up and, over an inedible breakfast, have a conversation where his wife would mention some bizarre theory. Then he'd go out and meet others in town who, almost by magic, would repeat and build on the bizarre theory (which often turned out to be true).

Without Eddie Albert, who is in practically every scene, the show would fall apart. He was the anchor. Albert was our stand-in. While everyone else was acting crazy, frustrating him beyond endurance, he would react as we would--sensibly at first, then with anger. Watch the show and count how many times each episode he's in a single shot saying "Oh for Pete's...!" or "For the love of...!" (he never gets to finish).

At least that's the conventional view. I subscribe to a more radical reading. I believe, at its best, Green Acres is a joke on Oliver. He's not the only sane man in a crazy world. Rather, everyone understands they're in a TV show, except Oliver. They've all read the scripts, seen the fake backdrops (in the awful Return To Green Acres (1990) you could tell right away they didn't get it when they shot outdoors), they even know about the actors over at Petticoat Junction. Only Oliver Wendell Douglas thinks he's in the real world, and thus can't understand why everyone in Hooterville acts so strangely.

I once pitched a movie version of Green Acres. I was never so nervous. I loved the show so much I really wanted that job. Perhaps it's just as well they didn't buy my take since the rumor was Bette Midler was interested in Lisa. Lisa is a good character, but the emphasis must be on Oliver. Bewitched can have equal leads, but not Green Acres--the show is about how Oliver Wendell Douglas reacts. And because he reacted so well, Eddie Albert deserves to be remembered.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

That's because the Democrats are soft on national security

"The GOP is adept at painting Democrats as soft on national security."

Memories I

It's too hot to work, so for the next week or so, I'm going to be featuring some of my old posts from our archives.

First, from November 7, 2004, back in the days when Pajama Guy himself was still posting:

Don't Get Cocky, Kid

Now that the Republicans are done congratulating themselves it's time to get back to business. It was a solid win, but there are plenty of reasons not to get cocky. My favorite is simply that if you screw up big, you're out. That's how democracy works.

In 1964, Lyndon Johnson took 44 states and 61% of the popular vote. The Democrats also ran the House and Senate. Some feared Republicans would become a third party. But within four years, Johnson was so unpopular he didn't even run for reelection and a Republican took the White House.

In 1972, Richard Nixon took 49 states and 60.5% of the popular vote. He didn't even finish out his term. By 1976, people were embarrassed to call themselves Republicans. Jimmy Carter took office and the Democrats--holding the Congress--looked poised to run things for a generation. But four years of Carter's management drove the public back into the arms of the Republicans.

No party owns the White House, no party owns the Congress. If either thinks so, time to think again.

Monday, June 25, 2007

All The Bright Young Men

I just watched The Paper Chase for the first time in years. It has flaws--more caricatures than characters, a dreary love story, not much of an ending--but overall, a fine movie.

Timothy Bottoms is in practically every scene, and, even with his 70s hairstyle, and all that whining about his Contracts class (doesn't he care about Torts or Civil Procedure?), he doesn't wear out his welcome. His fellow law students are a lot of fun, with Edward Herrnman and Craig Richard Nelson in particular providing a lot of comic relief. (Though I find it hard to believe that the James Naughton character, who has photographic memory, simply can't hack it because he doesn't know how to put all the facts together--if he were that hopeless, he'd have failed half his courses as an undergrad.)

Above all, there's John Houseman as Professor Kingsfield. Maybe he doesn't have a lot of range as an actor--some claim he was simply playing his normal, imperious self--but he's the most memorable thing in the film and deserved his Oscar. Houseman apparently was proudest of the scene near the end where he's with Timothy Bottoms in an elevator and has to ask who he is. Houseman said he played it so you're not sure if Kingsfield honestly doesn't know, or is messing with the guy.

The dialogue gets the legal stuff right (rare in films). In general, it's a very literate film coming from a major studio. Why don't we see stuff like this any more? Is it because no one writes them, or studios won't make them?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mr. Vice President, do you like apples?

Yes? Well, then, how do you like them apples? For those who missed the original story, VP Cheney has made the argument that his office is not subject to ISOO oversight because, Cheney claims, the office of the Vice President is not an "entity within the executive branch." Leaving aside the merits of Cheney's argument, of which there are essentially none, Emmanuel's stratagem is a lovely example of why our Congress is viewed by the public with slightly less confidence than HMOs. Playing tit-for-tat with my tax dollars is not amusing to me in the least. If you've got a point here, Mr. Congressman, make it in court.

This Is Why We Have YouTube

A collection of bad movie scenes--there may be worse stuff out there, but it's hard to argue with these choices.

Rule #1

Yesterday I attended a law school graduation. I was reminded, as I always am at such occasions, that the number one rule in public speaking is KEEP IT SHORT.

Here We Go Again

I thought I was done with The Sopranos, but now a new theory arises--it was all a dream. Some of the reasons seem a bit strained, but hey, why not?

I read this at Ain't It Cool News:

1. Previous episode (Blue Comet) ends with Tony going to sleep -- this episode begins with Tony waking up so it seems to be the next day. However, he wakes up in what seems to be a different setting (though the same room): namely, sheets on bed, alarm clock present, different clothes. BUT I think there may have been some mention that some time has passed from the previous episode -- so maybe it's different because it's not supposed to be the next day. 2. Before Tony goes to bed in Blue Comet, we get the flash back of what Bobby said on the boat in Soprano Home Movies (when you die, you don't hear anything). How often does the show do flashbacks like these -- to something from a past episode? I don't know how this supports the dream theory. 3. AJ straightens out and becomes more like the kind of son Tony wants: he gets together with the model (not explicit but given the attempt in the SUV before the explosion, they probably do end up getting together later). So, AJ and the girl are more then friends -- something that Tony seems to have wanted to happen. AJ also gets his act together regarding his career. And, he becomes more like Christopher with respect to getting into the movie business. Tony wanted Christopher to be like a son, which never happened -- now AJ is (pretty randomly) becoming the son Tony wanted. This is reinforced with things like AJ coming down in a bathrobe for breakfast when his parents introduce the idea of working in movies. He wears an undershirt with the bathrobe like Tony does and even says something like "Always with the drama!" to Carmela -- something Tony seems to have said before. In the final scene, AJ is wearing a shirt that is very similar to Tony's in color. 4. Meadow becomes what Tony wants: a success. Although a law student, she is getting a potential job offer with a small firm that gives a starting salary of $170,000. Now, the LARGEST firms offer $160,000 as a starting salary -- how can Meadow be getting $170,000 starting salary from a small firm? It seems to be something that Tony and Carmela have wanted. Additionally, when Tony and Meadow are sake bombing, she says that she is going down the career path because she saw him being dragged away by the police all those times in the past. Seems something that Tony wishes were true - that his criminal acts have brought on something good. 5. Meadow's friend Hunter appears out of the blue after serious problems and is now in medical school -- something Tony and Soprano wanted for Meadow. 6. Patrick Parissi (Meadow's fiancee) is now a high paid lawyer -- not just a law student anymore. He is working on important cases. He seems to be the perfect guy: speaks favorably about marriage and dotes on Meadow (I think he says, "don't undervalue yourself"). 7. The cat staring at Christopher's picture -- very dreamlike, regardless of any symbolism (the orange cat reappears as a tiger on the wall in the restaurant behind Tony). As Melfi recently read, sociopaths love animals -- Tony protects the cat from Paulie. 8. Phil's death -- are those Phil's grandkids? In an earlier episode, when Phil was telling some young children about their Italian heritage (when he laments the butchering of the family name) he says that he never had any children. Where do the grandchildren come from? Sociopaths love babies -- Tony's hit on Phil gets Phil away from the babies. 9. Agent Harris helping Tony find Phil and then cheering about it (although this is apparently based on a true story so not necessarily something that only happens in a dream). Agent Harris acts more like Tony in this episode -- he is clearly married but it seems that the female FBI agents is his girlfriend. While in bed, his facial expression seems to resemble Tony's post-coital look. 10. AJ saying: you're all living a dream (during the breakfast scene where the family discusses his possible movie career). THE FINAL SCENE 11. The final scene's beginning -- song that plays as Tony walks into the restaurant is called All That You Dream. 12. The weird sequence of: a. Tony walking in; b. cut to Tony seeing the layout,; c. cut back to Tony; d. cut to Tony sitting within the layout, identical to shot b. It is as if Tony sees himself. 13. The various people walking into the bar who RESEMBLE Janice, Phil, two black hitmen from season 1. 14. Tony eating onion rings -- earlier in the season (after Tony gets out of the hospital) he specifically notes that he can't eat onions or onion rings. 15. The way Tony, Carmela, and AJ eat the onion rings -- placing them whole in the mouth (Eucharist). MISC: 16. Carmela getting back into her construction work 17. First shot of the episode -- Tony looks like he is in a coffin. 18. The title Made in America -- anagram: I am a nice dream. 19. Tony seems to make piece with Junior. 20. The feud with Phil is resolved very quickly -- even a quick agreement to compensate Janice for Bobby's loss. 21. AJ's therapist -- resembles Melfi in her actions (if not her appearance). 22. Paulie agreeing to run the crew. 23. The family's last dinner spent not eating at Artie's or their usual Italian restaurant but a diner. 24. Guy in members only jacket -- clearly suspicious but no one suspicious should be around given that there is no one left that would put a hit on Tony or more importantly, no one would know where Tony would be eating dinner (last minute decision to eat here, everyone arrives separately). 25. Tony playing the music on the jukebox -- Journey's song immediately comes on, syncs perfectly with Carmela's enterence. So the CUT to black? Tony waking up and the story goes on, just without the audience? Tony dying in his sleep? The entire episode being a dream is consistent with the rest of the show being focused on Tony's psychology. One problem, however, is that we see things happening to characters other than Tony. Has this ever happened in Tony's dream before? Have we followed someone other than Tony in Tony's dream

Saturday, June 23, 2007

One More To Go

One more episode and Studio 60 will never trouble prime time again. Someone asked me why I thought it failed and I said in TV, you never need to explain failure, it's the norm--success is what's hard to understand.

I guess the show lived or died on Aaron Sorkin's writing, which just didn't work in this context. His style works better with "serious" issues, like politics and court martials.

Of the "big three," Matthew Perry was fine as the head writer, and I've always liked Amanda Peet, who played the network president. However, Bradley Whitford, so memorable in West Wing, didn't really have much to do as the producer.

I thought Timothy Busfield's director (not a regular?) stole the show. He demonstrated what the program could have been--a fun look behind the scenes at an SNL proxy.

The biggest surprise was Steven Weber as the network's chairman. I've never been a big fan, but he really showed something here. (Though it was tough to force him into the plot--it's hard enough to have the network president constantly hanging out at one show.)

The other leads who played the "big three" on the show within the show never really found their place. They did drama, they did comedy, they did sketches and we were never quite sure where we were with them. (The recurring characters who played the writing staff were far more interesting). And I think most people agree the biggest mistake was Sarah Paulson as Harriet Hayes. We don't buy her as super-talented, we don't buy her as really sexy, we don't even buy her as deeply religious. Her relationship with Matthew Perry, which seemed to be the centerpiece of the show (the centerpiece should have been the show within the show), laid an egg. I don't know if any other actress could have pulled it off, but Paulson sure didn't.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Harry Potter Spoiler

As many of you may have read, a hacker named Gabriel claims to have hacked into the publisher's website for the final Harry Potter book ("...and the Deathly Hallows") and disclosed the the surprises on, of all things, an internet security discussion board. I would be tempted to disbelieve this but the publisher's denials seem so moist and tepid (which would be good names for clerks in the Ministry of Magic).

The truth is that in while Harry's in the midst of his final showdown with he-who-must-not-be-named, he racks his brains for any spell that can help and mutters some nonsense words "Badabingus" and winds up in a diner in New Jersey with what he takes for banshees wailing in the background ("....believin', "). Back in England, Hermione becomes a (may)pole dancer.

Marketing Geniuses.

Listing

The American Film Institute just updated their top 100 films list. What interests me is not the list, but how it's changed from a decade ago.

The biggest upticks, for the most part, make me think the new list is worse--Raging Bull up 20 to #4, Vertigo (well-titled) up 52 to #9, The Searchers up 84 to #12--none of these films should even be on the list.

And while I was glad to see The General enter (!) the list at #18, I didn't need to see a Lord Of The Rings films (don't care which one) enter at #50.

If you check out the link, you'll also see the 23 films that fell off the chart. I must say, I'm surprised I pretty much agree with all these choices. I only hope in future decades, they'll be joined by quite a few others presently perched too high.

PS There seems to be some problem with the link. Try this one.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Old Friends

I was flipping through the channels yesterday and caught part of the Friends double-episode where Ross plans to marry Emily in London. It's also the one where Monica and Chandler first hook up.

This was the beginning of the end. The off and on Ross-Rachel relationship had already gone on too long (and would continue far past the point of caring, up till the last episode), but when Chandler and Monica fell in love and eventually married, thus sidelining two of the funnier characters, that (no matter what my friend Jon Hein thinks) is when the show jumped the shark.

PS Quite a few guest stars in this episode, and the best is probably pre-House Hugh Laurie as a passenger sitting next to Rachel on a transatlantic flight.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Final Finale Thoughts

The web has been full of speculation on what the ending of The Sopranos meant. I don't have anything to add to all the ingenious theorizing, except to say I come down on the side of ambiguity. I don't believe series creator David Chase knows what happened to Tony, but simply isn't telling.

Supposedly, he's known how he wanted to end the series for a long time. And while he could have gone for a definite ending--life goes on, everything's closing in on Tony, Tony gets whacked, the audience gets whacked, etc.--Chase put in all the possibilities and wanted us to ruminate on it. Any way we want it. And to judge by all the discussion it's caused, I think he succeeded.

Ambiguity is no fun, and, to be honest, not usually a great way to end a dramatic work. But if The Sopranos didn't have a Lady Or The Tiger ending, we'd have something much worse--Chase wanting us to believe something, but his writing and directing being so cryptic (or incompetent) that we can't tell what it is.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"You and I"

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Hillary Clinton's campaign just picked a Celine Dion song as her campaign theme song. The inevitable just became the inedible.

(As in its hard to stomach)

LAGuy PS: I'm surprised you didn't link to the Sopranos parody where she picks the song.

Star Track

He's a comment about Star Trek from Lawrence King:

The cylindrical "universal translator" appeared once in the old show: in the second-season episode Metamorphosis.

Obviously, such a device is totally impossible, unless it uses telepathy [....] if all this were possible, then why couldn't this same device read the mind of someone who wasn't speaking? That would have been very convenient on many occasions.

And no matter how you slice it, a translator would contradict those occasions that the Enterprise crew encountered a semantic misunderstanding with the aliens they met.

As far as parallel development -- they encounted a parallel Roman Empire on one planet [....] (The Romans were expressly stated to be speaking ENGLISH, which is impossible if you think about the history of the English language and how it depended, in so many ways, on Britain not being controlled by a single empire.)

You could go mad trying to make Star Trek consistent. I think Gene Roddenberry was just happy to get a show out each week. Occasionally it might occur to him or some writer to try to explain some general question--like why there seem to be humanoids throughout the galaxy--but as long as the story was good, few people really cared.

In general, I think shows back them were less consistent. Why? I'm not sure, though maybe part of the reason was a smaller staff and more free-lance writers. Also, a feeling TV was more disposable--certainly no one figured we'd still be watching and discussing Star Trek 40 years later.

Star Trek was still one of the least consistent shows. I guess creating a whole new galaxy is trickier than something set in the real world. In one episode, the computer ran the whole ship, in another, different computers run different parts of the ship. On one show, Kirk will blow up the Enterprise without flinching, on another, he won't consider it. Sometimes the Prime Directive is everything, sometimes it's a joke. And their scanners would change in ability week by week.

As far as parallel development, they do take it to extremes. The worst case is "Bread And Circuses" which Larry refers to above. It's not enough they've got the Romans, they've also got the slave culture, whom Spock considers primitive sun worshippers. The big reveal at the end is they're actually worshippers of the "son." For some reason, this mightily impressed Kirk and crew. Whether you're a Christian or not, why would you care about what they worship on a different planet?

Monday, June 18, 2007

To Applaud A Finch

I recently watched To Kill A Mockingbird. Hadn't seen it in years. Atticus Finch is the ultimate Gregory Peck role, and that's not a compliment. He's a walking, talking symbol of rectitude. What I'd forgotten is how it's not his film--except for his big courtroom speech, the kids really get all the attention.

In fact, I'm surprised he won the Best Actor Oscar for this supporting role. I'd have gone with Jack Lemmon in Days Of Wine And Roses, and I suppose a lot of others would have chosen Peter O'Toole in Lawrence Of Arabia.

I Don't Believe It

There's a story going around that Steve Perry of Journey wouldn't let David Chase use the song "Don't Stop Believin'" until three days before The Sopranos finale. I don't buy it--that's cutting it way too close.

The show cut to black after we heard the words "Don't stop..." Seems to me if Perry (does he even control the rights?) said no, Chase would have just called Fleetwood Mac to get what he wanted.

PS For the first time in my life, I listened closely (alas) to the lyric of a Journey song. "Just a city boy, born and raised in south Detroit"? There is no south Detroit. What does he mean, Windsor?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Irony Within Irony

My friend Jesse Walker notes that fairy tales being modernized and commented upon didn't begin with Shrek:
"...Disney spent the '90s trying to create hip, pop-savvy, and at least mildly ironized versions of classic stories, filling flicks like Aladdin and Hercules with Poochie-style 'contemporary' gags. The chief difference between those movies and Shrek is that Shrek's gags were actually funny."
I don't know, I thought Aladdin was pretty funny--funnier than Shrek. Maybe Jesse has a problem with Robin Williams.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Formal Complaint

Lately, is seems whenever I go to a bank, or a pharmacy, or places like that, I'm addressed by my first name. I don't appreciate the easy familiarity. I always feel like saying "do I know you? Are we old acquaintances and I've just forgotten? Because, otherwise, thats Mr. LAGuy to you."

Friday, June 15, 2007

Who's Sorry Now?

Mike Nifong announced from the stand today that he will resign as district attorney. I think I speak for most people when I say "he's still district attorney? Why was that allowed to happen?"

To be fair to the guy, it's actually much worse than it sounds. First, he tried to avoid blame by using the passive voice: "My community has suffered enough." Second, it's fairly clear this is a tactic to avoid disbarment.

Another Sister

We always like to point out sister blogs, i.e. those that use the same template. Well, we've got another--Garbo Writes. Good luck, Greta.

How I Learned To Stop Worrying

Dr. Strangelove is one of my favorite movies and I mostly agree with Paul Malcolm's paean in the LA Weekly. But then I ran into this: "Kubrick exposes [...] zero-sum games like [...] capitalism." Malcolm may understand zero-sum games, he may understand capitalism, but no one who makes this statement can understand both.

She Must Have Been A Good Tipper

I just read Thorton Wilder's farce The Matchmaker. It's best known today as a precursor of Hello Dolly!, but it stands on its own. It was actually a rewrite of an earlier Wilder version that had flopped, which itself was based on a German play from the 1800s, and that was based on a British play.

One interesting item: the third act takes place at a fancy restaurant, and there is no mention of Dolly Levi (a character Wilder added to the plot) ever having been there before. This is because she's not the type that would have gone there, at least not much--certainly not enough for anyone to remember her.

Yet, the famous title number in Hello Dolly! is her grand return. It always bothers me. Allegedly, Harold Prince was asked to produce (or direct) the show, and said he would only do it if they cut the "Hello Dolly!" number, because it made no sense. He's right, but I guess some big numbers don't need to make sense.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ask Me No Questions...

Polls are useful snapshots of the electorate, but when the LA Times, as always, asks questions about immigration seemingly designed to avoid finding out how voters actually feel, what's the point?

Turn Out The Lights

Timothy Noah, in Slate's 48th article on The Sopranos this season, sticks by his original thumbs down on the finale. He feels the final blackout is an intentionally ambiguous stunt that leaves us nowhere. He continues:
I wouldn't, therefore, rate The Sopranos finale anywhere near the final, heartbreaking shot in Charlie Chaplin's City Lights: a tight close-up of the Little Tramp's expectant face as the once-blind flower girl he loves finally takes in who he really is. The point there is simply disappointment.
Huh? Say what you want about The Sopranos, there's a lot more going on at the end of City Lights than "simply disappointment."

Why Am I Really Writing This?

I've often wondered why so many people believe in huge conspiracies. Here's an article that gives six reasons:

1. People don't want to believe a nobody like Lee Harvey Oswald could change history.

Plausible. People might figure big events need big explanations.

2. People want to blame those they loathe for everything.

Perhaps. It certainly seems consistent with human nature.

3. People want life to be more exciting.

Seems likely. Rather than accept the simplest explanation, why not go for a more thrilling one?

4. People who feel powerless want to believe in secret forces that control their lives.

I've always felt this is a central reason--that conspiratorial thinking is a childish way of looking at the world. If super-powerful people pull all the strings, you as an individual can't be held responsible for what you do.

5. People like the feeling of having secret knowledge.

This one also seems a pretty major factor. Who doesn't want to be part of the inner circle? This sort of pseudo-sophistication extends far beyond conspiracy theories. It's about being hip in general.

6. "In Western societies, it appears that secular people are more likely to believe in hidden conspiracies than the more religious," because non-believers have a gap they need to fill to explain things.

This argument is unintelligible to me. First, note the author all but admits this only works in the West, because he's well aware of how popular conspiracy theories are in the Muslim world. But I question if his claim (much less the reason for it) holds up to scrutiny anywhere in the world, and he presents no evidence that it does.

Another potential reason is simple laziness. Most people don't study these issues closely, and aren't engaged in critical thinking, so while they may not originate conspiracy theories, they're willing to go along for the ride.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What does he call "Hillary!"(tm)?

A leading Democratic lawmaker lashed out at the former leaders of Germany and France, calling former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder a `political prostitute.'

So Tom Lantos thinks the Krauts and Surrender Monkeys stabbed the U.S. in the back by not supporting us in thewar on terrorism. But what does he think of his own leadership?

Some bonus

So my cell phone tells me I've used 1,000 whenever minutes (1,000 being my plan) and 18 "bonus minutes."

I get charged 40 cents a minute over my plan. I'll bet T-Mobile considers that a nice bonus.

Wasn't that in T2?

"Plastic That Heals Itself"

Just how do you mean that, sir?

First Amendment needs the Second

I think we should give the courts a chance to fix this first. A nice, fair summary judgment process.

Then we start the revolution.

Taking pictures of cops in public. If the camera can handle it without breaking, so can the cops.

At Least There's No Rhinestone II

Yesterday both Rocky and First Blood (the original Rambo movie) were on. Stallone got to embody two iconic characters--a lot of stars don't even get one.

What's interesting is, as big as the characters got, both started in small, stand-alone films. Rocky, a fine movie that won the Oscar, was a small film that seemed to come out of nowhere, not a pre-packaged smash. First Blood, not nearly as good a movie, is also pretty small--a drifter who ticks off small-town sheriff has to open up a can of Green Beret whup-ass.

Rocky is a washed-up boxer who proves himself worthy not by winning, but by going the distance. Rambo is a Vietnam vet who can outwit the authorities, but can't deal with the regular world--he breaks down in the end, and turns himself in rather than be killed. But after these originals, both Hollywood and Stallone changed. In the sequels, these characters became almost superhuman. Rock could beat up the toughest guys in the world and take almost any amount of punishment. Rambo became, literally, an one-man army (an army of one?).

What got lost was the human level. The original films had a story to tell, and the protagonists had an arc. For the sequels, you only had the character, not the story--so the second (and third, etc.) time around, you're just seeing what amazing new tricks the character can do.

Rocky and Rambo aren't the only examples of this hero inflation. My favorite case might be the Katrate Kid films. In the first one, Mr. Miyagi is a handyman with a black belt. By the second, he's the greatest karate master in the world. By the third, I think he could take on Superman.

Broadway's Best

Last Sunday's Tony Awards were the lowest-rated ever. There was a time Broadway was America's entertainment. Today, it just doesn't translate to the mainstream (even as millions attend). CBS airing the Awards at all seems like a charitable act.

For myself, I cared even less than usual this year. The big winners were Tom Stoppard's The Coast Of Utopia and the musical Spring Awakening, but I didn't see any of the nominated works and knew very little about most of them.

I thought the best thing about the show was Raul Esparza's rendition of "Being Alive" from Company (which won Best Revival). It's actually one of my least favorite big Sondheim numbers, but Esparza gave the song tremendous power.

It's hard for me to judge who deserved their Tonys, but I was glad to see Christine Ebersole win for her performance in Grey Gardens. I saw her many years ago in a great production of Geniuses at Playwrights Horizons, and I've been a fan ever since.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

My Brain Hurts

Every Sunday night, the local NBC affiliate plays the old Star Trek with remastered special effects. The latest was "Spock's Brain." This episode, which started off the ill-fated third season, is considered one of the worst episodes.

It's not that bad. (When I was a kid, I thought it was great.) Its main trouble is not the silly plot, but that it lacks drama. There's not that much in the way of Kirk and company finding Spock's brain and putting it back where it belongs.

I haven't seen the episode in a years, and here are a few of the things I noticed:

There's a shot that I don't believe they'd ever done before. Looking over the Captain's chair and control panel, the characters act in front of the main viewscreen.

Humans can live on life support quite a while with no brain, but a Vulcan (as both McCoy and Spock know) can last only 24 hours.

They're still using fahrenheit.

There is some bad writing, but I think the worst is when Kirk questions a surface inhabitant of the glacial planet. He's essentially a caveman, and, for no good reason (except it will matter in the plot), Kirk starts asking him about their cavewomen. (You could argue this is part of the search for Kara, who stole Spock's brain, but Kirk seems to be off on another tangent.)

Kara presses a button on her wrist and this knocks out the landing party. They wake up wearing belts so that when she presses a button they'll be immobilized. Were these belts necessary?

What's the deal with Scotty's hair?

When Spock is reunited with his brain, he starts talking about how the planet had a great civilization thousands of years ago, but it regressed to where they don't know anything. He then says (and I doubt many have noticed this, since the point is he's just talking while the others laugh at how he won't shut up) this hasn't happened since the fall of the Roman Empire. So, with all the planets and civilizations they're aware of, there's no example of regression as significant as what happened 2000 years earlier on Earth, not throughout the entire galaxy? How odd.

Richard Rorty

Richard Rorty recently died. He was one of the biggest names in philosophy of the past half century. He wrote on many subjects, but I'd say he's best known as a pragmatist.

I thought he had an interesting approach in how to deal with the world, when there's so little we're sure of. (Don't ask me to sum up his philosophy--ask an expert.) He rejected the analytical approach, and was far less dogmatic than most philosophers. He was also a real "American" philosopher, in that he had an optimistic, even cheerful attitude, which was quite refreshing.

There are still major problems to pragmatism as a philosophical approach. (There are problems to any approahch, I guess.) One problem that stands out to me is it's hardly clear just what approach a pragmatist should take when it comes down to specifics. If the pragmatic approach turns out not to be pragmatic, then where are you?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Edged Out

This is the logo for the 2112 London Olympics. It took a year to come up with and cost a bundle. Now it's controversial because so many find it ugly. I sure do.


One of the guys who chose it said it's good people are up in arms--the design is meant to be "edgy." Really? Looks to me like something left over from the 80s.

We'd Like To Thank You Once Again

In an allegedly revisionist piece, critic Jody Rosen claims Sergeant Pepper is actually an album all about England in 1967. Well, maybe. As to this being revisionism, so much has been spoken and written about the album that I don't think there's any consensus to be revised. Even the backlash has been around almost as long as the music.

I've heard the album countless times and it means a lot to me. It introduced (or re-introduced) me to The Beatles a few years after they broke up. Except for George's contribution, I like all the songs, but I'm not going to discuss them at length here.

Rather, reading the Rosen essay, about how the album evokes a time and place, I was brought back to a street festival in Mount Clemens, Michigan. I was in junior high, and didn't own Sergeant Pepper yet, but was familiar with it. I was walking along, with hundreds of other, checking out the deals, as store owners had their stuff out in the street. A block away was a giant outdoor grill, and the smell was wafting through the air. And someone was blasting a tape of the album, loud and clear. I was transfixed. I stuck around, listening to the whole thing--it seemed like the most magical music ever.

As Rosen notes, sometimes something becomes so familiar, we can't hear it any more. But even when that happens, there are moments, like those 40 minutes in Mount Clemens, that you can always return to.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Don't Stop Believin'

Obscure (but still a) spoiler alert

Take that, all you wimps who need closure.

LAGuy objects: Hey, New England Guy, doesn't post anything until the West Coast has had its chance.

New England Guy ripostes: I'm sorry if what I thought was an obscure reference posted 7 minutes before the episode aired in the West Coast harmed anyone's enjoyment. I wasn't thinking about the time zone difference. That being said, this episode was unsatisfying in a very satisfying way. All of the sudden Journey seems deep (at least it did during the five times I heard it during my three hour drive up to Maine this morning)- something I never would've thought possible. (PS I think it was the Russian sitting at the counter)

LAGuy replies: I was planning to watch the show after the Tonys. I was afraid spoilers would be all over the internet, so I went to what I figured was a safe haven, and, in one easily readable sentence, you gave away the ending. (By the way, a lot of people claimed the trucker in a nearby booth was Robert Patrick, but that's nonsense.)

New England Guy changes the subject: There are a lot revisionists today stating that the episode did provide closure in some kind of deeper fuzzy kind of way. I do like the idea that multiple interpretations exist as to what they were getting at. Its not accidentally confusing- its deliberately vague. Enraging the fans at the end was one way to make sure it lives on. Would the show be half so interesting if it weren't for all the superliterate types talking and writing about it?

Foxy yokels

'The tragedy is that the compromise bill was written to bring these restrictionists along, with punitive, detestable provisions that many supporters of comprehensive reform agreed to endorse for the sake of a “grand bargain.” The bill was badly flawed but fixable, as long as there was the possibility of leadership and courage in Congress.'

Gee, you mean the racist yokels wouldn't go along with the detestable, badly flawed, fixable compromise? You mean they, too, thought it was fixable, only they didn't like the fix? That sounds a lot like the immigration plan itself. "Yeah, yeah, shut the border, pay a fine (oh, how detestable). Can we issue the visas now?"

No Easy Checkout.

Paris Hilton's travails have been getting a lot of ink lately. I wasn't planning on wasting any of my pixels, but I'd like to note 1) all the celebrating over her hard time is unseemly and 2) the judge seemed to have a chip on his shoulder and, perhaps, a fear of public opinion, which doesn't make for good decisions.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

That's a lot of lettuce

"Every bit of lettuce consumed in the United States is from Yuma County Arizona, and it's huge."

If this is the accuracy we can expect from Sen. Kyl and the Wall Street Journal, that's a shame.

The Journal likes amnesty (you can tell by the title, 'The "amnesty" canard').

All sorts of hemming and hawing about poor American markets and employers to justify a massive conspiracy to break the law. Pfui. Either adopt the libertarian position of purely open borders and have done with it, or either close the border to illegal immigration or imprison and deport those who are caught--and make a strong effort to catch them.

But the main problem with Kyl and the Journal's position is that these people are such unrepentant liars that they simply will not be believed at all, end of story. There is no compromise, there is no comprehensive solution. Protect the border or throw it open; don't legalize and then say, "We promise somebody else will close the border down years from now, and by the way no one will want to come across anyway."

Maybe I Spoke Too Soon

Last week I said I'll miss Studio 60. However, since the latest episode, the first of a three-parter (!), has a main plot of a character's brother taken hostage in Afghanistan, and a subplot of a pregnant character who might lose her baby going to emergency surgery, maybe I spoke too soon.

The show promised to be a behind-the-scenes-look at a sketch comedy show. That should be drama enough.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Luke In A Tube

I was just watching The Empire Strikes Back, in particular the confrontation between Luke and Vader, a high point of the series.

There's been a lot of discussion regarding just what Vader is planning. Does he want to help the Emperor by fetching Luke, or overthrow the Emperor with Luke at his side. And what is the Emperor's plan? Does he want to use Luke along with Vader, or replace Vader with Luke? (The prequels may also change their motivations).

But what I wondered this time is just what is Luke thinking when he drops away. Something like "I'll fall about a mile then go into a tube, slide along for a way, then--in a bit of a surprise--drop down a different tube out the bottom of Cloud City, where I'll use to force to call someone." If not, what did he expect to happen? His death, or escape? Or is all he's thinking "I must get away from Vader, no matter what the consequences."

Say It Ain't So

A really bad piece in Time by Joe Klein. He intimates he's going to discuss "a fierce, bullying, often witless tone of intolerance that has overtaken the left-wing sector of the blogosphere," but his heart's not in it. (By the way, "overtaken"?--that's a hoot.)

What he mostly says is how evil Republicans are, and how Bush 43 is one of the worst presidents ever. Then he goes on to note how wonderful most leftists are, and lauds the great work they're doing. And even when they lose it, they're justified by Bush's actions. But lately they've gone too far--i.e., they've attacked Joe Klein.

He concludes if the worst Democrats get even worse, they're in danger of being as bad as average Republicans. Why do people take this guy seriously?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Wonderfulness

I find Hillary Clinton's claim that faith helped her marriage less interesting than the query that gave rise to it.

Here's the Soledad O'Brien statement (the transcript has no question marks) that set her off: "...I'm going to ask you a delicate question. Infidelity in your marriage was very public. And I have to imagine it was incredibly difficult to deal with. And I would like to know how your faith helped you get through it."

Wow. Why not just say "We all know you're a wonderful person. Would you please give us some examples of how wonderful you are?"

It's Like This And Like That

A few days ago, the top Democrats sat down to discuss religion and values. Looking through the transcript, I think the high point was Edwards' evasiveness. Listen to this:

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Do you think homosexuals have the right to be married?

EDWARDS: No. Not personally. Now you're asking about me personally. But I think there's a difference between my belief system and what the responsibilities of the president of the United States are. It is the reason we have separation of church and state. And there are very good people, including some people that I'm very close to me, my daughter who is sitting in the front row here tonight, feels very differently about this issue. And I have huge respect for those who have a different view about this. So I think we have to be very careful about ensuring that the president of the United States is not using his belief system and imposing that belief system on the rest of the country. So what that...

O'BRIEN: But if it's...

EDWARDS: So what that -- I'm sorry. All I was going to say is I think what that means in this case is the substantive rights that go with partnerships, civil unions, for example, and all the subsequent rights that go with that, should be recognized in this country, at least in my judgment, should be recognized. And I think it is not the role of the federal government to tell either faith-based institutions, churches, synagogues, what they should or should not recognize. Nor should the federal government be telling states what they should recognize.

I'm sure there's an answer in there somewhere, but I don't have the time to find it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

He Doesn't Know, Jack

Dr. Jack Kevorkian, just out of the jug, states "I don't have to talk about assisted suicide now, because it's explicit in the Ninth Amendment."

Here's the Ninth Amendment: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

I'm a big believer in the Ninth Amendment. Nevertheless, I think the good doctor should look up "explicit" in the dictionary.

The Phantom Menace

There was an interesting article in yesterday's LA Times about early visitors to South America. According to the latest evidence--carbon-dated chicken bones--it now appears that Polynesians were there before the Spaniards.

Impressive work. Less impressive was the reaction of Terry L. Jones, an archaeologist who didn't even do the research: "...I think maybe [this] makes us recognize the ethnocentrism in our longstanding views of the prehistory of the New World."

Is this really a problem? Sure, if you go back before WWII, you'll find cheerleading for the West among anthropologists, but since then, if anything, they've been in the vanguard of those fighting against ethnocentrism. Scientists have been open to the idea of Polynesians traveling across the Pacific, but they asked for actual evidence, not just theorizing. Now they have it. And what seems to excite Jones most about this new information is it gives him a chance to accuse others of not being as politically correct as he is.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Higher and higher

"Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is the highest-ranking official convicted of a crime since the Iran Contra affair."

Really? Chief of Staff to the Veep is higher than the National Security Advisor? Or does this mean "highest ranking official that we choose to write about to further our own biases, plus it's another chance to say 'Iran-Contra'"?

Liberal rag

Here's a hoot. "Top Democrats open up on faith" begins, "Democratic presidential contenders Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards all got personal last night during a forum focused on something much less commonly mentioned on the campaign trail: their religious faith."

Not commonly mentioned? Give me a break. You can't get more calculated. It's as if these folks haven't heard of the preacher Ted Strickland.

The Washington Times, what a liberal rag.

IV, V, VI, III, II, I

There was recently a marathon of all six Star Wars films on cable. I was interested to see how many stars each got. On a system of one to four, here's what my TV told me:

I: 3 stars
II: 2 stars
III: 3 stars
IV: 4 stars
V: 4 stars
VI: 3 stars

I don't think anyone's gonna argue with IV or V, and I got no problem with VI. But the ranking of the first trilogy is odd. All three films have considerable weaknesses, but it seems to me each is better than the last, so the first beating the second seems a bit odd. (On the other hand, the worst moments of II are worse than than anything else in the series, so maybe they have a point.)

Monday, June 04, 2007

Leadbelly Blues

(SOPRANO -MINOR SPOILER ALERT)

(I posted a version of this on another message board earlier today but since it looks like Al Gore is getting popular again, I thought I'd show my commitment to recycling.)

Only one more to go


Some thoughts on last night's show:-
  • 4 deaths and one coma- slightly over-average body count
  • Phil when making his decision to off the NJ family goes on about the improper ceremonies that they have over in Essex County- he sounded a little like a wacko Taliban terrorist discussing theology
  • Something happened to Phil in prison that made him really hate Vito (that tissue speech a few weeks back was a giveaway)
  • "You don't need a gynecologist to know which way the wind blows"-ultimately one of the most misogynistic statements whether Tony realizes it or not
  • Melfi gave up on Tony due to peer pressure (partially) - in some ways she's no different from the tough guys
  • AJ can even screw up grief
  • Although understandable given the circumstances, the focus on Patsy Parisi's flight made him look like a total coward. Meadow (if she isn't offed or abused by Phil) will dump Patrick.
  • Homage to Zip Connolly* in the FBI scene- they know Tony is going to be hit but don't stop it but do tell Tony so he can kill some people too. Don't think its the FBI's plan to kill as many mobsters as possible (and innocent "Ukes") but possibly intramural rivalry between NY and Newark office.
  • Big dream sequence coming next week with all of the dead.
  • There was some weird statue in the background in Junior's (or whosever house) living room when the boys all decided to stay- was it a saint or some otherwordly emanation? (somebody said its a cardboard cutout of Sil- maybe something to draw fire at the window?)
  • Will the Bing Dancers wear black pasties next week?
  • Accidental Ukrainian crime victims?- Is this a hook for the Russian to emerge from the Pine Barrens?
* Former FBI Agent who handled Whitey Bulger in Boston. Currently serving time for murder.
Was alleged to have tipped off Whitey as to people that were ratting /threatening him which people Whitey is alleged to have offed

What if Eleanor Roosevelt could fly?

In a ridiculous non-story about conservatives' Fantasy Supreme Court League, ABC "News" is opining thus: "and would galvanize the base at a time when Bush desperately needs its support" and "But Owen's friendship with Karl Rove could hurt her, especially in a White House vulnerable to charges of cronyism".

Doubtless all true, but not news. But why discuss nominating either Janice Rogers Brown or Priscilla Owen? Hasn't ABC heard there was an election, and Newt Gingrich isn't in charge any longer? (I know, I should have named a conservative in the Senate, but except for Hillary!, there isn't one.)

Every Boy And Every Gal That’s Born Into The World Alive

Peggy Noonan may be a great speechwriter, but I've never thought she's a great thinker. From her perch on the Wall Street Journal, she tends to makes vague, imperious pronouncements that don't add up to much. (In fact, these qualities, which make her analyses generally worthless, might be what make her such a good speechwriter.)

Still, her latest column is causing a stir. It's a pretty strong attack on the Bush White House. As a barometer of mainstream conservative feeling, it has meaning, but as a rational, measured argument, there's not much there.

She says like father, like son--both Bushes are "wasters of political inheritance." Both failed to stick to their conservative principles and, thus, sundered their party. With Bush the younger, it's a number of things, immigration being the final straw. With Bush the elder, it's the old tale of the tax hike.

It's true, both 41 and 43 are dealmakers with centrist tendencies, but this is still a conservative just so story.

I don't deny Bush's immigration plan would be a hard sell in any case, and his strident rhetoric has not been helpful, but his problem is the same as his father's--not any particular policy, but that he became unpopular. When that happens, you get all sorts of after-the-fact explanations on how someone failed to live up to his conservative birthright.

Bush the elder was highly popular after he broke his "no new taxes" pledge. It was only later, after the economy was moving downward and the war boost had worn off did his polls numbers fall. If he had remained popular, there'd be criticism of the tax hike, but it would be an afterthought.

And if Bush the younger had, for whatever reason, remained popular during the war in Iraq, conservatives would still oppose his immigration plan--perhaps successfully block it--but they wouldn't be giving laundry lists of how he's betrayed his party.

Any President has to make compromises, and go against some of his base at times. Look at the beloved Reagan. He was a "useful idiot" for cozying up to Gorbachev. He found several ways of increasing revenue without officially calling them tax hikes. And he signed an amnesty bill--if you don't like Bush's plan, Reagan's was far worse.

But Peggy Noonan still thinks he's a hero--the very model of what a conservative in office should be. Why? Because in politics, nothing succeeds like success.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Decimated

Seth Rogen, hell. They killed off the entire cast of Freaks and Geeks.

Rogen is our new Sandler. We're Rogen's people.

Lost In Translation

As I safely predicted, Knocked Up is doing pretty well. And since the subject is common to all cultures, it's expected to be successful worldwide.

Which got me thinking: "knocked up" is an American expression. I'm not even sure they understand it in England. So I would love to see how the title is translated. Anything literal would be nonsense. (Though that's what happened to The 400 Blows and no one seemed to mind.)

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Thanks For Nothing

Here's the headline: "Al Gore against any attempt to impeach Bush." For a second I thought he was being sensible, but a better headline would be "Gore regrets it's not possible to impeach Bush."

Basically, he says there's simply not enough time or consensus to do the deed. In other words, it's a great idea, but Congress couldn't pull it off.

What he should have said is Bush hasn't committed any impeachable acts, and it would be a sad day when we start impeaching people just because of political disagreement.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Not A Prediction (Too Obvious)

Look for Knocked Up to do quite well. A raunchy, well-reviewed comedy right now can hardly fail.

(The only thing that personally bothers me is its long running time--comedies shouldn't be over two hours.)

ColumbusGuy adds: When did Seth Rogen die? It's really incredible, how Industrial Light and Magic transported his "Freaks and Geeks" appearances to "Knocked Up."

Conspiracies

While discussing Rosie O'Donnell, Vincent Bugliosi and others, I heard the following argument: big conspiracy theories can't be true because it's impossible for even a small group of people to hide all that evidence for a long period of time--no one can name a single case where this has been pulled off.

That it's hard, maybe impossible, to get away with a huge conspiracy may be true, but this argument has an obvious flaw--if anyone did get away with such a thing, we wouldn't know about it.

Last Licks

Now that the TV season is over, there's not much to look forward to on network prime time. But Thursdays are must see for a few weeks longer while NBC burns off the final episodes of Studio 60.

Considering how weak their schedule is, it's too bad they couldn't pick up the show for one more year. I guess it was just too expensive. They're certainly right its audience wasn't going to grow--Studio 60 was the most talked about show of the season yet the viewers rejected it from the start. But I enjoyed it.

Somewhat ironically, the show's central theme was give the viewers quality and you'll succeed.

Meanwhile, the House finale ended on a strange note. All his staff either quit or was fired. I wouldn't call this a cliffhanger, exactly, but you do have to wonder how--or if--he'll get them back next season.

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