Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ingmar Bergman

Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman is dead. He was the name that practically defined "art movie" for the last half century. In fact, his style, or what people believed to be his style--foreboding, super-serious, ticking clock in the background--became so well known that he was parodied countless times. (In college I wrote a sketch that combined Bergman's style with a Japanese monster movie.)

But, as they say, if they're satirizing you, you must be a success. Bergman may have taken on difficult themes, and done things with no compromise, but he wanted his films to play to the widest possible audiences, and when all is said and done, not only was he artistically successful, his stuff was widely seen--it even made a profit. (Bergman himself claimed he didn't care much about money. In later years, he was arrested for tax evasion--that's what happens when you don't pay attention to your finances--and was so anguished and angered that he lived in Germany for the next 8 or 9 years.)

He started his film work in the 1940s, and gained worldwide fame with his mid-50s masterpieces (one after another) Smiles Of A Summer Night, The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries. In some ways, he never really surpassed these. The latter two are both contemplations of death, but that also makes them about life. Smiles Of A Summer Night, being a comedy (yes, Bergman made comedies), is more about love--and sex--and demonstrates Bergman's insight into humanity as well as any other film he made.

In 1960, he directed (but didn't write) his first film to win an Oscar (there'd be two more), The Virgin Spring. After that he made three films in a row, often considered a trilogy, that are so austere, so serious, that they practically define "Bergmanesque": Through A Glass Darkly, Winter Light and The Silence. He has simplified his art and, to me anyway, his later films, as celebrated as they are, never topped these three.

These later works include Persona, Cries And Whispers, Scenes From A Marriage (originally a TV mini-series) and his grand summing up, Fanny And Alexander. He was an acknowledged master by the time he made these, perhaps his most famous and popular films, and though I like them, I find them a bit indulgent in places.

There's an unfair belief that his films are hard going. Okay, maybe some, but while his work is often spare (he didn't usually have big budgets, for one thing), and may seem a bit dry, once you explore beyond that cold Swedish exterior, there's a lot of life inside, a lot of emotion, even if it's not always expressed. His films were hardly intellectual exercises--if anything, he was an intuitive artist, driven by his strong feelings about sex, violence and death.

He had what could be called a stock company--Max Von Sydow (who's still working regularly--look for him in Rush Hour 3), Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Bjornstand and--a little later--Liv Ullman. I don't know if they were the best available, or he just liked working with them, but they always ably fill whatever part they're called on to play.

His influence is still felt to this day--and it's not always positive. I dread to think of all the awful art film imitations. Woody Allen has made a number of movies clearly inspired by Bergman, which he apparently thinks means people mooning around, talking about their feelings. (I prefer Woody's faux-Fellini.)

But forget the epigones, we still have his films, and that's what counts.

Whip It. Now.

Zimbabwe is to start circulating a new 200,000 Zimbabwe dollar note, in a bid to tackle the country's inflation, the highest in the world.

Monday, July 30, 2007

TS PS

Just like New England Guy, I remember a lot of the great Tom Snyder punk interviews, especially the night Wendy O. Williams did "Master Plan" and performed on chainsaw.

Snyder may have been a respected newscaster and interviewer at one point, but not after Aykroyd started doing him. He seemed to have a sense of humor about it, but thanks to Saturday Night Live (and, in some ways, to his own personality), Snyder became a punchline.

Somewhat ironically, one of the few extras the first season SNL box set has is the short interview Snyder had with Lorne Michaels and the cast before their premiere.

Tom Snyder R.I.P.

One of the true icons of late-night TV just died. He was a respected newsman for years and hosted thousands of guests on the Tomorrow Show, but he will remembered it seems most for his forays into pop culture in the late 70s/early 80s and his verbal battles with punk and New Wave artists. He was the establishment voice of dismissal and authority in his tirades against his guests (though to be admitted, Johnny Rotten and Elvis Costello, to name two, were pretty obnoxious and baited him) but he kept having these people on and and at least in my small outpost in rural collegiate Pennsylvania at the time, he was almost an appointment show after the midnight munchies. He was a condescending boor, but he was our cool condescending boor.

Dan Ayckroyd did a well-known & often hilarious parody of Tom Snyder for SNL, but Snyder in full flower was even better. The DVDs of Tom interviewing punks and NewWavers has been available for awhile (I think Wendy O Williams makes an appearance). Take a gander.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

I'm Not Here

I'm still on vacation and may not be able to get on this blog till next Sunday. We'll see.

I'm happy to know that the other Guys have been blogging daily. I expect some in-depth analysis of the world scene from them in the upcoming week.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Yes, dear

Possibly the funniest correction in all history was made by the Friday New York Times:

An Op-Ed article on July 17, about a new birth control pill that suppresses periods, incorrectly described premenstrual dysphoric disorder. It refers to severe irritability, tension and depression before periods, not to debilitating periods.

Only fools tread.

Friday, July 27, 2007

That'll Show Them

"Film-maker Steven Spielberg may quit as artistic director of the Beijing Olympics unless China takes a tougher stance against Sudan, reports ABC News."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Improvingly

Goodness, I'm to chapter three of Harry Potter, and I don't think anyone has said something smugly, nervously, tellingly, sarcastically, absent-mindedly, or, well, any of the -ly's.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Mathematical impossibilities

"100 percent vegetable juice . . . with added ingredients"

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Talks?

So, if someone is attacking your troops, isn't that an act of war? What could we possibly be talking about? Is this a variation of the acceptable Jew-kill rate, where nations negotiate how many Jews it's acceptable to kill each year?

Can we just rewind the whole thing and go back and kill Arafat the right way?

Truer words

"Whether that leads to the presidency is the country's problem, not mine."

Monday, July 23, 2007

The lies of Tammy Faye

No, I don't mean lies by Tammy Faye; I mean the standard AP "news" lies:

"For many, the TV image of then-Mrs. Bakker forgiving husband Jim's infidelities, tears streaking her cheeks with mascara, became a symbol for the wages of greed and hypocrisy in 1980s America."

Sure. That's Hillary Clinton's America all over.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sighin', Are Ya?

Looks like I'm gonna be out of town for a week or so. I'm sure the other Guys will pick up the slack while I'm gone.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Huh?

Jack Shafer makes some questionable claims in his overview of Billy Wilder's Ace In The Hole (1951), just released on DVD.

First he says it's "rarely screened." Okay, it's not seen as much as Wilder's Sunset Boulevard or Some Like It Hot, but it wasn't the hit those films were. Personally, I've seen three screenings of Act In The Hole in the past 15 years, and it also shows on up TV occasionally.

"Ace in the Hole disturbs journalists because they recognize too much of themselves and their colleagues in the film's loathsome protagonist, Charles Tatum (Kirk Douglas)." Actually, I think most journalists love the film. First, it's very entertaining. Second, I don't think they see too much of themselves in Tatum's more disgusting side. Third, the stuff he does is awful, but he gets things done, and in movie terms, he's the one you're rooting for. He's actually a descendant of the lovable rogues in The Front Page. (If there's anyone you can't stand, it's John Q. Public, going wild over the slow motion death of a man trapped in a cave--I'm guessing giving the finger to the American public is what made this Wilder film a flop. Shafer seems to agree.)

Finally, Shafer claims "there are no laughs in Ace in the Hole." Not true. There's the patented Wilder snappy dialogue, and it gets quite a few laughs--the humor is there, even if most of it is dark.

Who Cares?

I was going to do an analysis of the Emmy nominations, but, for the second year in a row, they've ignored Lost in the Best Drama race. Three years ago, Lost won this category and I thought the Emmys had turned the corner, but they've gone back to their old tricks, so forget it.

Still, there are a few nominees worth rooting for, and perhaps I'll take it back up before the show airs.

Friday, July 20, 2007

LAGuy And The Great Lake State

As faithful readers know, I'm from Michigan. (I can't think of a single friend here who's from LA.) And I recently found two interesting Michigan websites.

First, I always like to keep in touch with Ann Arbor, and I found a great blog that discusses the scene there (which right now includes the Art Fair--it's not art and it's not fair): The Brouhaha. Apparently--according to the July 4th entry--Trader Joes has finally made it into town. The website wonders if TJ's could sustain a second store in town. Well, since we have one about every other block in LA, I'm guessing yes.

Anyway, check out The Brouhaha if you're going to Ann Arbor, or even if you're not.

Then, in a fit of nostalgia, I checked out this site on Michigan drive-ins. Those were the days--bad movies, uncomfortable seating, bad food, horrible sound. Why did it die out? I guess it was Daylight Savings that did it in. But maybe global warming will allow them to stay open 12 months a year up in Michigan, and someone will give it another shot.

Quiz Answers

Here are the answers to the "Street Smart" quiz.

1. Halsted, Rush, Wacker -- Chicago

2. Crenshaw, Figueroa, Mulholland -- Los Angeles

3. Benning, Independence, K -- Washington, D.C.

4. Market, Sansom, South -- Philadelphia

5. Ashbury, Kearny, Lombard -- San Francisco

6. Eight Mile, Gratiot, Woodward -- Detroit

7. Canal, Delancey, Fulton -- New York

8. Crescent, Saint Catherine, Sherbrooke -- Montreal

9. Chouteau, Lindbergh, Tucker -- St. Louis

10. Beacon, Boylston, Newbury -- Boston

11. Decatur, Peachtree, Ponce De Leon -- Atlanta

12. Biscayne, Brickell, Flagler -- Miami

13. Babgy, Fannin, San Jacinto -- Houston

14. Alaskan, Denny, Pike -- Seattle

15. Bay, De Grassi, Yonge -- Toronto

16. Basin, Desire, Metairie -- New Orleans

17. Bruce Randolph, Colfax, Montview -- Denver

18. Buckeye, Camelback, Indian School -- Phoenix

19. Beale, Danny Thomas, Union -- Memphis

20. Queen, Xerxes, Zenith -- Minneapolis


Congratulations to all those who participated (though a number of you sent me private emails--next time, why not just put it in the comments column?).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Emmy Question

LA Guy might write something more knowledgeable about the Emmy's but I had a quick question- How good have they been a predicting good or enduringly popular TV- i.e. how many Emmy winners are reshown in syndication (or, I guess, purchased as DVDs). This award show has seemed almost as nebulous as the Grammy's - they seem to make up new categories each and then proceed to mis-categorize nominees. I have a fairly good memory of Oscar winners though I don't see that many movies but I can't remember any Emmy -winners and I watch a lot of TV.
Is TV more ephemeral- M*A*S*H and Hill Street Blues tripped over awards in their day, but I haven't seen much of them on my 157 channels or video on demand menus.

How well do the Emmy winners from 30 years ago stack up vs. Oscar, Grammy, Tony and Booker/National Book Awards. Enquiring minds want to know.

None Of The Above

Here's a poll about the best and worst of the recent TV season. You'll note each category only has five responses, and the percentages add up to 100%. This means those polled were only given five choices. I'm seeing this sort of thing all too often lately.

I realize the entire poll is fairly trivial, but come on now, let's make it less canned and get some useful information.

Second Hand Information

A group calling itself Truth apparently gets a lot of free money to make anti-cigarette ads. (I'm not sure where they get the money, but I assume they don't earn it.)

Anyway, in the latest, they're outraged that the tobacco industry said ten years ago a glass or two of whole milk a day is worse for you than secondhand smoke.

I haven't done the research, but that claim sounds quite plausible. Does Truth have any evidence otherwise, or do they just think bluster is enough to win the day?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Non-Spoiler Alert

Nothing will be revealed here but the web is awash with much hand-wringing over somebody that posted pictures of the pages Book 7 of Harry Potter Septilogy (a made-up word but one that I think goes with the Book)) which gave away the the ending. I have a hopeful belief that these are either inaccurate or publisher-induced disinformation designed to devalue the hackers (though I don't know if Scholastic goes in for that kind of cloak-and-dagger more applicable to the CIA and state government lifers).

Of course by about Noon on Saturday, the number of people knowing the true secret will be in the thousands and thousands and things will get out and many more fans will find out early about the ending then than those who have found out now- 72 hours earlier. The current spoiler is pretty easy to avoid- mainstream media is not broadcasting it and you do have to search a little on the web (though not very hard) to find it.

To Fight Sin, You Have To Know Sin (Apparently)

(This is from last week but LA Guy is on my back to post something)


By the rules under which we operate, hypocrisy is always news.

1.Thank you Senator David Vitter and your quotable bride for further proof that the last stage of the old republic will resemble a Jacqueline Susann novel. P.S. Senator, I'd sleep face down for the next few nights & lock up the kitchen.

2. Along the same line see what becomes of a gone-bad hooch-enforcer.

Have they no sense of irony?

Good Luck

Tom Franck has announced he's made the finals in the Famecast stand-up comedy competition. He'll be flying out to Texas later this month for a live webcast.

We plugged him here last week, and for those of you who voted, you should know the competition was fierce, and you helped put him over the top.

JR of WV on TV

Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) is proposing legislation that will allow the FCC to regulate violence not only on broadcast television, but, for the first time ever, on cable and satellite programming as well.

Since the original (flawed) reasoning that allowed limited government regulation of TV content only applied to broacasting, clearly Senator Rockefeller believes he's come up with a new way to circumvent the First Amendment. In fact, he must have such a powerful rationale that I don't understand why he's limiting his law to television--if the hand of government can reach this far into our homes and personal choices, why is he still allowing us free choice in movies, newspapers, magazines and books? Come on, Senator, don't be a piker, you know what's best for us--don't let us make all these decisions for ourselves.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Street Smart

I've driven across this country several times, and found, to no surprise, many cities use the same street names. Numbers are popular, of course, and, to a lesser extent, letters. Plenty of cities have a Main or Broadway. Trees are big. So are Presidents. Other people's names show up a lot, especially Martin Luther King.

But certain addresses are more particular, so I thought I'd try a quiz. Here are well known street names, taken from well known towns. I'll list three, you tell me the city. I admit this is the kind of quiz where if you don't know the answer right away, it'll be hard to figure out.

No tricks, though I did remove any reference to "street," "road," "avenue," "boulevard," "way," "place," etc. If the quiz seems too easy, take the streets one at a time until you figure it out.

I'll list the answers later this week.

1. Halsted, Rush, Wacker

2. Crenshaw, Figueroa, Mulholland

3. Benning, Independence, K

4. Market, Sansom, South

5. Ashbury, Kearny, Lombard

6. Eight Mile, Gratiot, Woodward

7. Canal, Delancey, Fulton

8. Crescent, Saint Catherine, Sherbrooke

9. Chouteau, Lindbergh, Tucker

10. Beacon, Boylston, Newbury

11. Decatur, Peachtree, Ponce De Leon

12. Biscayne, Brickell, Flagler

13. Babgy, Fannin, San Jacinto

14. Alaskan, Denny, Pike

15. Bay, De Grassi, Yonge

16. Basin, Desire, Metairie

17. Bruce Randolph, Colfax, Montview

18. Buckeye, Camelback, Indian School

19. Beale, Danny Thomas, Union

20. Queen, Xerxes, Zenith

Update: Here are the answers.

3+3=?

USA Today had a squib this week about the popularity of the Harry Potter films, stating they'll soon pass the James Bond movies in domestic gross. In fact, the only series that's made more money is "the seven-film Star Wars franchise..."

Seven? Let's see, there's the first trilogy, then the second trilogy--they must be including the Christmas special.

What Ben Said

A new production of Gypsy just opened on Broadway. Directed by the book's writer, Arthur Laurents, it stars Patti LuPone as Rose, a part she seems born for.

I've read a number of reviews and they all say her performance is a triumph--except for one, Ben Brantley's in The New York Times. He has serious reservations.

The musical is part of the "Encores!" series and thus will only have a limited run. But if it were a regular production, Brantley's review would probably determine if the show were hit or not.

So I have to ask, once again, why does The New York Times have this power? It's a fine paper, and Brantley may have excellent taste (I haven't seen enough productions he's reviewed to have an opinion), but why should his voice be louder than all the others?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Bin There, Done That

Some people think Congress isn't doing enough to fight the war on terror, but the Senate just showed them.

But an 87 to 1 vote, they doubled the bounty on Bin Laden's head from $25 million to $50 million.

So we're now twice as likely to catch him.

Bad Ad

I haven't seen Michael Moore's Sicko yet, but I have seen the latest ad. It shows Moore taking George Bush's temperature.

The film is an investigation of our health care system compared to others. While I realize Moore fans would like nothing better than a Bush-bashing film, I don't quite get how showing the President, who isn't particularly associated with health care, relates too closely to the subject.

Sloganeering

An interesting little essay in Time by Amy Sullivan on the rise of personal religion in modern American politics. She says the Democrats really started it with Jimmy Carter but the Republicans soon ran with it, leaving the Dems in the dust.

I think this is essentially right, but then, when talking about Bill Clinton, something stopped me short: "Democratic leaders were happy to let Clinton sermonize. They had no interest, however, in changing their approach on abortion to reflect his 'safe, legal and rare' mantra."

Am I reading this wrong? How could Democrats, the pro-abortion rights party, possibly object to this? Obviously they want it safe and legal. And even if you support abortion, it doesn't mean you want a whole lot of it (and if you do, it doesn't mean you care what the slogan says as long as it's safe and legal).

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Shock Corridor

I recently watched The Interns, a far from great 1962 film about young doctors (not to be confused with 1961's The Young Doctors). What fascinated me was the change in medical techniques and social attitudes.

There's a lot of overacting (including a favorite, Nick Adams, as a goofy doctor who learns to take things seriously), bad comedy, and astonishing dialogue (such as when surgeon Telly Savalas makes it clear how much he despises lady doctors).

Perhaps my favorite moment is when the doctors assist in a dramatic birth. Afterwards, they sit around in the maternity ward and smoke cigarettes.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Wreck 'em Like Beckham

LA is making a big deal out of David Beckham and his wife, Posh Spice. His joining our Major League Soccer team the Galaxy has become a huge media event. But I doubt it'll sell.

Soccer is the most popular sport around the world, but it just can't seem to take root here. Perhaps it's because we already have our own form of football, but for whatever reason, it's been tried, and it doesn't work.

We already have all the stars out here. What's Beckham to us? Look at Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player ever. He came out here about 20 years ago, with his movie star wife Janet Jones, and even won the Stanley Cup. Still, no one much cared.

If LA's that jaded, who's gonna go wild over soccer?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Paraskevidekatriaphobia

Why do people think Friday the 13th is unlucky? In fact, why would any Friday be unlucky. It's practically a national holiday.

I guess the superstition started before people get Saturdays off.

Maybe Han Solo

I was stuck in traffic today behind a Pontiac Grand Am with vanity plates that read OBI WAN.

First, Obi-Wan wouldn't be driving a Pontic Grand Am (at least not one with wheels).

Second, he wouldn't have vanity plates--that's not the way of a Jedi. It's not even the way of a Jetta.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Vote Early And Vote Often

My friend Tom Franck, who has a great blog, is competing in an online stand-up comedy contest. There's money involved, so he needs your vote. (Money for him, not for you--sorry.)

The voting ends on Saturday morning and the race is tight. I guarantee your vote won't make a difference in the 2008 elections, but it sure could matter here. Let's show those people the power of the Pajama Guy readership.

You can REGISTER HERE and VOTE HERE.

Charles Lane

You don't know his name, but you know his face. He was an officious jerk who'd come into a scene and spoil everyone's fun.

Charles Lane just died at 102. (I was surprised he was still alive.) He made a specialty of playing no-nonsense killjoys for over 60 years in hundreds of movies and TV shows.

A lot of his best known roles were in Frank Capra films, where he was practically a regular. He's in, among others, Mr. Deeds Goes To Town, You Can't Take It With You, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and It's A Wonderful Life. Whenever Capra wanted a wet blanket, he brought in Lane.

Later, in TV, he regularly played the annoyed boss or irritable official on I Love Lucy, The Andy Griffith Show, Bewitched, Get Smart, Green Acres, The Odd Couple, Maude, Mork & Mindy, L. A. Law--in fact, if it was on from 1950 to 1990, assume he was in it unless you know otherwise.

It must have been tough on Lane. Anyone who saw him on the street must have thought "I've seen this guy before--not sure where--and all I know is I don't like him."

That's how typecasting works, I guess. But it sure kept him busy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Something More About Mary

As readers know, I think There's Something About Mary is the bee's knees. I was watching it yesterday and something struck me about the famous "zipper" scene. Ted is standing at the toilet, glancing sweetly out the window at two birds in a tree. They fly away and beyond them he sees his prom date, Mary, dressing in (presumably) her bedroom--and she sees him. He tries to zip up quickly, and this leads to trouble.

Think about this. Ted looks from the bathroom across a courtyard to see Mary in her bedroom. All I can say is that colonial in the suburbs has one funky floor plan.

I guess it just shows if things are working, you don't really notice these things.

Something More About Larry

John McCain's campaign is clearly in trouble. With a lack of funds, it may even implode.

Earlier this year I made my annual predictions. I'll discuss them in about six months, but I remembered that some of the commenters also made predictions. I'm now going to unfairly pick one out, by Lawrence King, and see if he wants to retract it yet.

After I said there'd be no clear Republican leader emerging from the pack, here's how Larry responded.

I disagree, and predict that by Fall 2007 it will be clear that McCain is the frontrunner. In fact, he will be seen as difficult to beat.Even if leaders of the Conservative Movement attack McCain for not being conservative enough, they will get very little traction. The fact that these "leaders" were silent while Bush increased spending drastically has compromised their authority. Meanwhile, McCain is positioning himself closer to Bush -- supporting his troop increase request and sounding more like a social conservative. As proven in 1968 and 1988, Republicans give the benefit of the doubt to frontrunners who claim conservative credentials, even when these are dubious, and McCain is much more conservative than Nixon ever was.

I'll give Larry credit--his predictions are specific and fearless.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Version Versus

Over at Teahouse On The Tracks, Gaucho has an interesting discussion about Blade Runner--studio release versus director's cut.

I don't like either--the film is still a case of good design, bad story. But if I had to choose, I'd take the studio cut.

One thing, though, Gaucho. I don't think the original did well at the box office.

A Galaxy Far, Far Away

I was just reading an old interview with George Lucas, recently published in Empire magazine. It's from December 1975, when Lucas was in the middle of making Star Wars. Here's an interesting quote:
I came to realize that very few films were being made for young people between the ages of 12 and 20. [...] So instead of making important, gripping, isn't-it-terrible-what's-happening-to-mankind movies, which is what I started out doing, I decided it would be much more useful for me to make movies that made kids have a fantasy life and feel good, so they could go ahead and have a more productive life.
I love Star Wars too much to note how ironic these lines sound now.

Monday, July 09, 2007

No Filthy Talking at CBS

Katie Couric won't say certain things on the air i.e."Sputum, which refers to expectorated matter especially from the air passages in diseases of the lungs, bronchi or upper respiratory tract, was banned from future [CBS Evening News] broadcasts."

Given that the majority of her viewership is in the stage of life where vile bodily fluids are viscerally important, this does not bode well for the continued experiment at CBS.

Poll Position

From Sunday, April 30, 2006

**

Today's /LA Times/ has a front page poll that seems designed to get
certain results rather than find the truth. The headline: GUEST-WORKER
PROPOSAL HAS WIDE SUPPORT.

How do they conclude this? Well, they asked people which approach they
prefer to illegal immigration, "only tougher enforcement of immigration
laws" or "enforcement and guest worker program." Not surprisingly, given
a choice of solution A or solution A plus B, the vast majority picked
the latter (Californians 70% to 22%, the nation 63% to 30%).

The paper's excuse is these are the two choices being offered the
public. Even if this were true, it doesn't mean they shouldn't try to
find out what people actually believe. For instance, they could have
offered a third choice--only a guest worker program--and see how that
played. Or they could have asked, straight out, which is more important,
greater enforcement or a guest worker program. I guess they were afraid
of what they'd discover.

(They also might also have mentioned more about plans to make illegal
immigrants citizens, since "guest worker program" in the question above
was apparently described as a plan that "would allow undocumented
workers to work legally in the U.S. on temporary visas.")

PS They did ask further questions about different proposals. It's
touching to see how they lovingly describe the guest worker program and
make tougher enforcement sound quite harsh. Here's the wording they used:

*Do you support or oppose the following proposals.*

/Create a guest worker program that would give a temporary visa to
noncitizens who want to work legally in the United States. The program
would provide a path to permanent resident status if certain
requirements were met./
//
/Allow undocumented immigrants who have been living and working in the
United States for a number of years, and who do not have a criminal
record, to start on a path to citizenship by registering that they are
in the country, paying a fine, getting fingerprinted, and learning
English, among other requirements./
//
/Fence off hundreds of miles of the border between the Unted States and
Mexico, and toughen immigration laws by making it a felony to be in the
United States illegally./

by LAGuy

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Green Shirt Gauntlet

from Thursday, March 23, 2006

After bragging on Elvis Costello's lyrics, one of our anonymous readers
challenged me to interpret "Green Shirt."

I was afraid of this. "Green Shirt" is one of those early songs where
the words come fast and quick, but aren't always clear. The main point
about lyrics, anyway, is how they sit on a tune, not how they read
without it. "Green Shirt," like any Elvis song of this period, has lots
of delicious phrases, so even when you have no overall theory, it still
sounds great.

In fact, the song has the famous phrase "Quisling clinic," which Elvis
claimed in an interview was just a place he saw when he toured the USA,
nothing more. Well, perhaps nothing more, but when Elvis saw it he must
have thought this is a great term for where they deal with traitors in
one of my paranoid songs.

I'll be honest--until today I had never attempted a unified
interpretation of the song. I just let the little bits here and there
entertain. But looking at it as a whole, it's not necessarily that tough
to bring together.

Elvis of this era has three main topics: sex, politics, and sex and
politics. And while he throws a lot at you, he's usually not that hard
to understand. He's rarely cryptic, like Steely Dan can be. He's rarely
surrealistic, like Dylan can be. He's rarely annoying, like Bernie Taupin.

So, "Green Shirt." This is one of Elvis's songs where sex and politics
merge. (Dont forget the working title of his Armed Forces album was
Emotional Fascism.) Of course, sex to him isn't about silly love
songs--it's about lust and hatred and rage and paranoia. The title
conjures up the fascistic image of brown shirts, only a little more
colorful--the emotional color of green.

The song starts with a woman on a blue screen who comes into the
singer's house. The blue screen is TV, but perhaps this is the Orwellian
version of TV, where she's watching him. She takes all the colors of the
spectrum and turns them into black and white. In this Orwelllian vision,
emotions are corrected and simplified.

But there are those in their green shirts, who try to play the game of
love their own way, against what Big Sister demands. You don't want to
get caught, lest you be tortured in the Quisling clinic. Big Sister
listens to the "Venus line"--where people are talking about their own
version of love, against the state. If she catches you, they're in
trouble. People are trying to please themselves, they're trying to play
the game their way, but they get caught up in the game and get in
trouble themselves.

Of course, you don't have to read the politics as being anything but
metaphorical, and the whole song is about the emotional minefield you
get stuck in if you wish to play the game of love.

by LAGuy

Saturday, July 07, 2007

07-07-07

Today is supposed to be the perfect day because of our date notation system and apparently an auspicious day for nuptials. ( it probably is more depending on it being close to a midweek holiday and close to the ideal June wedding).

I'm wondering though what was the record on weddings on 30 years ago? (7-7-77) Perfect then probably meant unbearable hair wings and lapels

*Plain Jane*

from Monday, December 12, 2005
(Memories n!)


Interesting Kinsley piece in /Slate/ about how today's Jane Austens are
the HBO shows about show biz. The argument is strained, but fascinating.
(He also puts down /The Sopranos/, which I didn't see coming.)

But I want to talk about Kinsley on Jane Austen, not on HBO. At least
Kinsley seems to like her (compared to others). Nevertheless, here's
what he says about the opening line of her masterpiece, /Pride And
Prejudice/:

"Jane Austen's famous opening sentence ('It is a truth universally
acknowledged... [, that a single man in possession of a good fortune
must be in want of a wife]') is intended to flatter the reader with
feelings of worldly superiority to the claustrophobic society she writes
about."

I'm no Austen expert, but that's not how I read it. I think Kinsley is
missing the irony and humor. The "universal truth" has nothing to do
with what is being openly stated, nor are we supposed to feel too superior.

The next sentence makes the joke even clearer:

"However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his
first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds
of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful
property of some one or other of their daughters."

Austen's point is not that rich single men all want or need a wife, but
that young women and the familes that can't wait to marry them off feel
it's their duty to convince every rich bachelor that he must get
married, usually to someone in particular, and before he knows what hit
him. And I'm not so sure, as Kinsley is, that times have changed so much.

by LAGuy 7/7/07

Ahem

I think I speak for all of us when I say, It's about time LAGuy got back to the blog. His shameful slacking will not stand.

Friday, July 06, 2007

*The Voice Of The People*

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Once again, I was surprised by the /American Idol/ vote. Ace Young lost.
This in itself is not surprising, since his head has been on the
chopping block for a while. But this week?

Ace was better than usual. Meanwhile, Kellie Pickler, by her own
admission, butchered "Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered." I thought at
first her innocence worked well with the lyric, but soon her pitch was
off and, worse, she was racing the band to see who could finish first.
It was the worst performance I've ever seen from an /Idol/ finalist.

And yet, Kellie made it through. In fact, she didn't even finish in the
bottom three. Instead, Chris Daughtry, whom many thought was safe, did.
Consider it a wake-up call, Chris.

One interesting factor in /Idol/ is as contestants are eliminated,
voting blocs change. The question then is will Kellie's bloc grow, or
eventually fall below the winning level.

Meanwhile, it looks like, along with Kellie, that Taylor and Katharine
are untouchable. Expect two of them to fight it out in the finale.

by LAGuy 7/6/07

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The new Pierre Salinger?

"They’re so worried about leveling the talk radio playing field because there’s one thing so-called free market conservatives are afraid of. It’s called competition."

Wow. Is Mr. Press not quite clear on the concept? According to him, competition is when the government makes it illegal for Toyota to sell a car until General Motors has sold one.

Unclear On The Concept

From Friday, April 14, 2006

Dave Chappelle is interviewed in the current Esquire. What everyone really wants to know is why he walked away from a $50+ million deal with Comedy Central. Here's one of his reasons:

"The bottom line was, white people own everything, and where can a black person go and be himself or say something that's familiar to him and not have to explain or apologize?"

As an honorary white, I must say, it's news to me (and to Oprah) that we own everything. But let me answer his question in two parts.

1) If white people own everything, you know what's a great way to start changing that? Have a black man make more than $50 million.

2) You want a place that's familiar, where you can go and not have to explain yourself? I would suggest returning to a hit show where you are given carte blanche.

I liked it better when Chappelle wasn't explaining himself.

PS: If Dave Chappelle reads this, you are invited to respond by being yourself and saying something familiar to you without having to explain or apologize

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Memories Interrupted

Happy July 4th. Time for our annual display of fireworks!

Smile When You Say Liberty

From Monday, October 31, 2005

Stephen Breyer, the soft-spoken Justice, has made some waves with his book Active Liberty: Interpreting The Constitution.

The work expounds on his judicial philosophy. It's at least in part a response to Antonin Scalia's book, A Matter Of Interpretation. Scalia believes judges should strictly interpret legal text, following the original meaning of the words. Legislative intent should not be used--if the legislators intended something, they should have written it down.

I find Scalia's approach both insufficient and extremely difficult to do properly. (I note it's extremely difficult because many act as if strict interpretation is a piece of cake. In fact, the one time I spoke to Scalia he agreed his approach was not meant to be easy.) But I'm here to write about Breyer's methods, which I also find faulty. What is the right approach? I don't know--I hope some day I will.

Breyer believes we should use a document's underlying values to aid in our understanding. I generally agree. There will always be ambiguities and we need something to help us interpret the language. But there is also danger in this approach. It's easy enough to get the words wrong--it's easier still to get the values behind them wrong. This approach invites extremely wide variation, allowing one to go so far as use words against themselves if you believe the people who wrote them would agree with your outcome (and as long as you're reading their minds, why wouldn't they?).

Specifically, Breyer believes in "active liberty." He believes those who created the Constitution had an underlying belief in promiting citizens' participation in government. At least Breyer has laid his cards on the table. There are two obvious problems here: one, he's wrong (or at least may be) and two, even if he's right, what to do with text that seems to go against him--ignore it? interpret it away? grudgingly accept it?

When I read the Constitution, especially the Framer's version, what I see is as much a fear of public participation as an embrace. The Founding Father's put in plenty of buffers to prevent "the people" from having too much say. Of the three branches of government, only one-half of one is chosen by direct voting. Now one may claim the Constitution has changed since then (and I believe the Constitution evolves, whether you like it or not, but that's a separate argument), but it sure seems like Breyer's already on shaky ground.

Worse, though, is Breyer's application of his theory. In practice, it seems to make him favor programs liberals like and disfavor programs conservatives like. (Scalia, many would claim, has this problem in reverse.)

Some note that Breyer, showing he believes in active participation in government, defers to legislators more often than most of the others Justices. This sort of "judicial restraint" can be a fairly meaningless stat. Because the present-day Court leans to the right, it's more likely to question laws the left likes, hence we'd expect Breyer to leave things alone--when laws the right likes come before him, he has no trouble striking them down.

Let's look at Breyer's opinions. Remember, he's trying to "promote democracy."

When it came to campaign finance reform, Breyer upheld the McCain-Feingold law that regulates a system that creates a lot of political speech. Some might have thought the "no law" clause in the First Amendment meant "no law," but this doesn't faze Breyer. He believes that reducing the influence of money (or at least trying to ) in our politics will help build public confidence in the system overall, thus encouraging democratic participation. It's not that Breyer's wrong about the effects of the law--though he is, he is--it's that this is the sort of social engineering considerations a legislator should make, later to be judged against the constrictions of the First Amendment.

Then there's affirmative action. Once again, Breyer has a "just so" tale to make it agree with his thesis. It turns out allowing affirmative action promotes the public's belief in institutions. There are two obvious problems with this. It doesn't, and if it did, so what?

But at least one could claim these two examples show a Justice willing to defer to legislators in tough cases. Let's see how he performs on laws that liberals traditionally don't like.

He disallows school vouchers on religious grounds, on the basis they might create disagreement among sects, against the unifying intentions of the First Amendment. Once again, he's carefully selected his view of both our history and the present-day situation, this time to strike down what many legislatures want. Then there's abortion, which Breyer backs all the way, even when the vast majority of the public would like to pass laws that don't make abortion illegal, but merely create certain hindrances. Is there a single issue in the history of the United States where public participation has been more notoriously denied, and with such little textual justification?

I have serious questions about Breyer's approach, but perhaps someone should actually try it before I reject it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

It's Too Graphic

Memories VIII

From Thursday, August 04, 2005

Carol A. Wells, founder and executive director of the Center for the
Study of Political Graphics in Los Angeles, reviews /The Design Of
Dissent/, a collection of protest graphics. Well, it's not really a
review, it's closer to boosterism. Looking over the many examples in the
book, she concludes it "shows the...continuing need for protest
graphics." How? She discusses the material, and the /LA Times Book
Review/ reprints some of it, but has anyone proved a need, much less a
continuing one?

Furthermore, she says "Some works are beautiful, others horrific. Some
are clever, others manage to elicit humor in the midst of death and
dying." The one thing she avoids saying is all these graphics are
propaganda. (I'm guessing it's because she agrees with much of the
propaganda, though that shouldn't matter). These pieces are designed to
make quick, sharp statements that bypass complex thought and get you in
the gut. They can be effective, of course, but that doesn't mean they
lead toward the truth.

Wells claims the book "will challenge preconceptions and assumptions."
Okay, but will it help us think more clearly, or will it help us believe
lies and nonsense. To pick an example, there's a poster (reprinted in
the /Times/--sorry I can't find a link) trying to spook you out over
genetically modified foods (a strangely big deal in Europe) showing a
hairy lemon. This intellectually amounts to pseudo-scientific hysteria
which, if believed, could lead to millions starving--but hey, at least
we've been challenged.

She believes the most challenging section is on the Israeli/Palestinian
conflict, at least for Americans, who "if they rely on the mainstream
media, rarely hear about or read about Israelis opposed to their
government's politicies--not unlike the lack of dissenting views
presented in our own country."

I'm afraid this mixture of smugness and detachment from reality does not
make for a reliable review or reviewer.

by LAGuy

Monday, July 02, 2007

Ben Dover

"....Putin suggested there would be "further substantial intercourse on this issue." link

Snickering

Memories VII

From Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Snickers has a new ad campaign. They use the familiar logo but replace SNICKERS with newly coined words. Just yesterday I saw SATISFECTELLENT on the sides of two buses.

SATISFECTELLENT?!

Some people know how to mix two words together--Lewis Carroll took "furious" and "fuming" and came up with "frumious." SATISFECTELLENT is apparently a joining of "satisfaction" and "excellent," and it should make the people who paid for it frumious.

The first part of the word is closer to "satisfactory" than "satisfying," not nearly good enough for the most popular candy bar of all.

The second part sounds a bit like disinfectant.

But worse, much worse, the word it most reminded me of is "feculent." Even if you haven't seen the Baby Ruth scene in /Caddyshack/, it's obvious the last thing you want to associate a small, brown chocolate bar with is feces.

Now a good dump, that's satisfeculent.

by LAGuy

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Lost Odds

Memories VI
From Wednesday, September 21, 2005

/Lost/ makes its second-season debut tonight. There's probably been more
written about this series, lately, than any other, even /Desperate
Housewives/. (By the way, I didn't like it at first but it's become my
favorite show since then.) It's certainly had more influence than /DH/,
with every network premiering a /Lost/ knockoff or two.

The first season was well-received, but now everyone wonders if they can
keep up the mystery and answer questions at the same time. But this
isn't what I meant to discuss.

The show is about castaways on a strange island. To show their plight
was serious, the producers killed off one of the main characters in the
first season. The rumor is they will do it again this season. (If
nothing else, this must mean it's tough to be an actor on this show--if
the ratings don't kill you the producers will.) The question is who?

There's always that chance they'll introduce a new character and kill
him off. They even did it in the first season, where they had Arzt
(Daniel Roebuck) apear a few times before they blew him up. But that's a
cheat.

Another possibility is there's an actor wants to leave anyway, so why
not kill him? But as far as I understand, the actors are quite happy to
be on a hit.

More informative is in the regular they did kill, Boone (Ian
Somerhalder), they avoided killing any of the more popular or central
characters. I had nothing against Boone, and his episodes with the
character Locke were giving him some depth, but he was far removed from the central triangle of Jack-Kate-Sawyer, for instance. Essentially, he was one male-model too many on the island.

So who's next? Let's list the characters, alphabetically, and their chances.

Naveen Andrews as Sayid. Fairly Safe. One of two Emmy nominees. He's
their Third World poster boy and a strong character who offers many plot
possibilities.

Emile de Ravin as Claire. Not safe. She was a rare Australian on the
Australian flight. She's also cute, but there are plenty of hot babes on
the island, and the show can add more. Her main character trait in the
first season was being pregnant, and she's had the baby.

Matthew Fox as Jack. Safe. If there's a lead, he is. He may not be the
most intriguing character, but he's the moral center of the show and
leader of the island (at present). The producers wanted to kill him off
in the pilot, and realized it wouldn't work.

Jorge Garcia as Hurley. Fairly safe. Hurley is well-beloved and
essentially the only comic relief they've got.

Maggie Grace as Shannon. Fairly safe. She's one of the babes and has a
character with a long way to grow. The two things that protect her most
are 1) they fake-killed her in the first season, so it'd be weird to
kill her again, and 2) they already killed her brother, so it'd be cruel
to kill off the whole family.

Josh Holloway as Sawyer. Safe. He's not only part of the central
Jack-Kate-Sawyer triangle (which might be less important in the second
season), he's also the bad boy who's become the favorite of the ladies.
Killing him off would make a lot of woman stop watching.

Malcolm David Kelley as Walt. Fairly safe. I'd have said not safe at
all, since he's a kid who'll be growing up faster in real life than the
plot allows, except I heard the producers say they had a way of taking
care of it (short of killing him). Also, though he's been kidnaped, he
seems to have mysterious powers that have yet to be explored.

Daniel Dae Kim as Jin. Not safe. While having a Korean couple adds to
the diversity of the cast, losing one would still allow for the other to
stick around. And since Jin can't speak English and his wife can, he may
be more expendable. Also, his character is liked, but I don't think he
gets the amount of swooning fan letters that the other handsome men get.

Yunjim Kim as Sun. Somewhat safe. She could be killed for the same
reason they can afford to kill Jin. In either case, a death opens up
plot possibilities. But she does speak English and has been, I'd say, on
the whole, the more intriguing character in her marriage. It helps that
she's a babe, but as mentioned before, there are other babes around.

Evangeline Lilly as Kate. Safe. She's the female lead of the show (if
there is one), the babe of all babes, and the face of the show. If
anything, one would expect the producers to explore her more this
season, not kill her.

Dominic Monaghan as Charlie. Fairly safe. I think they did a lot with
this character and I'm not sure if the audience wants to see that much
more. In his favor, however, is he may be the most famous actor in the
show (due to his work in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy) and therefore
helps with its international popularity. Furthermore, he was fake-killed
in the first season, and it would be cruel to kill him again.

Terry O'Quinn as Locke. Safe. One of the two Emmy nominees, and the
heart of the show. He was the most intriguing character in the first
season and the second season is setting itself up to be the battle of
faith (Locke) and reason (Jack). More than anyone, Locke is the spice
that makes the show special, and killing him would be quite a blow.

Harold Perrineau as Michael. Not safe. While one of the most respected
actors in the cast, he never quite found his footing, certainly not as
well as Sawyer or Sayid did. Might be tough to lose the single black
adult character, but not impossible.

by LAGuy

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