Friday, November 30, 2007

Che What?

From a recent letter to Newsweek:

...Back in the late '60s, we stood right on the precipice of true change for the better—we said that we believed in no more going to war, ending poverty, protecting the environment, eliminating the nation's racial and social divides, and saving our souls. Forty years later and the '60s are cold and dead, the '70s blocked out in our collective consciousness like some embarrassing moment, and Martin, Bobby, Che, the kids at Kent State and Jackson State, those noble self-immolating Buddhist monks and Czech student Jan Palach gave up their lives, and for what? Men and women who passed me joints on the beaches of southern California and whispered pledges that "things will be so much better when we take over" now drive SUVs, wear designer coats and don't give a damn about Dick Cheney or that their cell-phone records are not private. Cindy Sheehan is derided for having a broken heart, and these same boomers who protested the Vietnam War in college (while applying for military-service deferments) voted against John Kerry and apparently raised their kids to do so as well. We were right there and it was within our reach. What a bunch of phonies we proved to be.

Personally, I'm a big fan of the 60s. There were great strides made in civil liberties, racial and sexual equality, and personal freedom. And all that amazing music.

At least that's how I feel most of the time. But then I read stuff like this letter and I'm almost forced to say good riddance. (Except that I'd guess every age has ninnies like this guy.)

You've Seen The Movie, Now Read The Book

People often talk about how you can't enjoy a movie if you've read the book, because all you can think is how the movie falls short. Less often, people don't like a movie and then enjoy the book. (Maybe because few read a book after they don't like the movie.)

I've noticed this personally a number of times, usually for non-fiction. Somehow, knowing something really happened works in a book, but often seems fake or dull in the semi-fictionalized world of film.

For instance, I didn't particularly like the movie Casino--it seemed like Goodfellas II: Vegas Baby!. Yet, when I read the book, I found it fascinating, and the movie actually stuck to the facts pretty closely.

More recently, when I saw The Prize Winner Of Defiance, Ohio, I wasn't impressed. Julianne Moore in the title role was fine, but the "bad guy," who gave the movie a sense of plot, was Moore's husband (Woody Harrelson), who drank too much and spent all the family's money. The character simply felt like a cliche.

On the other hand, the book, a rather unassuming but true story about a women raising ten kids in the 50s and early 60s who keeps her family going by winning contests, was quite enjoyable. And, by the way, the father was an abusive drunk, and at the time, society's main advice to a wife was to put up with it as best she can.

Why the different reaction? Expectations, I guess. A movie is a story told in one sitting, so you expect it to follow certain plot conventions, whether the story is entirely fictional or based on actual events. A book, however, is looser, and since it (allegedly) describes real action, and doesn't have actors playing roles, seems more direct and straightforward, and doesn't need to be tricked up so much to entertain. That's my guess, anyway.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Heavy Lifting

Here's a piece on Ron Paul by my friends Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch.

Here's another piece on Ron Paul by Ian Bremmer and Willis Sparks.

What is it about Ron Paul that requires two people to write about him?

Misty

From Anthony Lane's New Yorker review of The Mist: "The finale—a cruel Stephen King joke—is designed to convince us that we have been watching something more than hokum, but I am unpersuaded."

Actually, the finale was written by screenwriter/director Frank Darabont. It's the one thing that's not from King.

Unexpected Power

A few characters on Heroes, such as Hiro and Peter, have powers that allow them to move quickly, even instantaneously, through space. The rest are just regular folks in that respect.

Or are they? It sure seems like everyone on this show can zip as fast as they need. Suresh shoots Noah on the west coast, and the next thing you know they're both on the east coast. (Is it that easy to move a corpse around?) Niki's in New York, very ill, but next thing you know she's in New Orleans. Sylar's at the Mexican border, but then he's in Virginia, and then in New York (with super-snooping powers since he's found Molly's place and broken in). Adam goes from Montreal to Maine in no time (no inspection at the border?), and the next scene he's in Texas.

One of the neat things about the show is how it takes place all over the world--made even cooler by how it's all filmed near me--but they move so quickly, and with so little trouble, I have to assume they all have private jets.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Meaningless Comparisons

Ever wonder how much you'd be making if you lived in the past? Just go to The Inflation Calculator and find out.

Let's say you're making $50,000 and feel pretty good about it. Guess what? In 1970 you wouldn't even be making 10 G's a year. (That can't be right, can it?)

On the other hand, if you feel bad about making $15,000, imagine if you had that kind of dough in, say, 1950. It'd be like making over six figures today.

Handsome Is As Handsome Does

I put the odds of an Edwards versus Romney election at about 4%. But let's imagine it'll happen.

All I can say is we've never had two such pretty boys repping the main parties.

Right Place, Right Time

Mickey Kaus, in discussing the media interest in electability:
I don't think 'electability' is a bogus concern in the primaries. But I think Iowa's discredited caucusers are lousy at spotting it. Howard Dean was a more "electable" candidate than John Kerry (and, in retrospect, than John Edwards).
I agree that Iowa means nothing--or at least should mean nothing. It's bad enough New Hampshire has as much power as it does. A handful of party regulars in Iowa telling us wha'ts what is worse.

But I'm surprised to see him buy into the Kerry-was-a-rotten-candidate myth. Okay, maybe he wasn't that inspiring, but the truth is Bush was going to beat anyone they ran against him, Dean more than Kerry. Bush was still popular enough, and the war was still popular enough, that he simply wasn't going to lose. (On the other hand, almost anyone would have beat him if he were running in 2006. Politics is all about timing.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Debatable

"We could be on the verge of seeing human development reverse for the first time in 30 years."

I mean, yeah, Disco was bad, but a reversal of human development? Or is he talking about Jimmy Carter?

Wound Up

For a week I decided to walk around without a watch, just to see how it would feel. I mean, there's a clock at my place and in my car and in pretty much every office you go to.

So how did I feel? Slightly more tense. Isn't it supposed to be the other way around?

Policymakers, Not Tastemakers

The latest TV Guide has a survey of the Presidential candidates' favorite shows. Their taste isn't bad.

My favorite show these days is Lost, also Mitt Romney's favorite. Here's the reason he gives: "...if you live a busy life, escape is always welcome."

Lost may be escapist (or is it?--it's pretty darn serious), but it's also the most complex, complicated show I've ever watched. If you live a busy life, watch Gilligan's Island--Lost requires your undivided attention.

Razor's Edge

Finally, a new episode of Battlestar Galactica. It was a special two-hour show filling us in on what happened aboard the Pegasus as well as showing the early Cylon experiments on humans.

I thought it was pretty good, even if it concentrated on Apollo, my least favorite character, and a number of non-regulars. As long as the show doesn't lose sight of the main plot, it can be great sci-fi drama. Too often last season, they'd have stand-alone episodes that didn't add anything to the overarching storyline, as if the producers were stretching things out. With this new, final season, the end in sight, I'd hope there's no need for that.

The one thing I could have done without was the ominous prediction about the future. Mystical portents in a realistic show (even sf) tend to strike me as silly. Perhaps I misunderstood what it was all about.

Anyway, four more months till the next episode.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Overautomation

We're all used to dealing with automated voices on the phone. But lately I've heard something that seems to be overdoing it.

After I've done what I have to do, they'll say "To end this call, press nine." I have a better way ending the call. It's called hanging up.

(I have this vision of hanging up and getting an automatic call back from the computer asking me why didn't I press nine?)

Creationists

I just read Creationists, E. L. Doctorow's collection of essays, mostly about writers. While I prefer his novels, it's always interesting to hear what a writer says about other writers. He has some intriguing insights on how authors go about creating.

For instance, he believes--in one of his most speculative moments--the Melville realized after about 100 pages that Moby-Dick would have to be long because at that point it was still on land, and he'd have to spend a lot more time on the water before the final battle. More important, Melville deconstructed the concept of the novel, no longer using the adventure narrative of Typee and Omoo, but instead threw everything he knew into Moby-Dick, stopping the plot every other chapter for learned discourse, from a narrator who was aware of everything.

On Mark Twain, Doctorow talks about the different ways kids and adults read Tom Sawyer, and also how Twain eventually read it. Tom is the bad boy (who's actually good) while brother Sid is the "good boy" who's puts on a show to convince everyone. But, for Twain, it wasn't enough. It was a new kind of book for him, and he can barely bother to create any dimension in his secondary characters (save Huck Finn)--he's just telling a happy version of his childhood. After a while, it had to grate. He knew about the ugliness of the past, and had to comment. But more important, Tom Sawyer himself started to look like the "good boy" who was happily a member of society, a fake rebel. Twain was able to take Huck Finn, an outsider, and, in the first person, instead of the third he used for Sawyer, say what he wanted to say. Still, he had trouble ending his tale and fell back on Tom to sew it up. The triumph of Sawyer over Finn is paralleled in Samuel Clemens' life--he was an upstart, an outsiders, but he married up and moved into society. It may have been a society he burlesqued, but one he was willing to become a respected member of. Mark Twain may have felt like Huck Finn, but he acted the part of Tom Sawyer.

Kafka never finished any of his three novels. Doctorow takes us into his first, Amerika (not Kafka's title). There was a lot of European literature (especially dime novels) about the new, rugged country overseas, much of it more about what the authors hoped to find than the reality. Kafka himself did some research, though his statements about the USA, where he'd never been (Kafka didn't even travel that much in Europe) are nothing short of surreal. The Statue Of Liberty brandishes a sword, for example. Doctorow notes, however, that much of the misunderstanding, if that's what it is, is simply Kafka making America seem more like Central Europe. More important for literature, this is a young writer who abandoned the novel after two drafts, all the while figuring out what he can and can't do. Kafka isn't Kafka without claustrophobia, and much of Amerika has the protagonists stuck in small rooms or areas. Doctorow figures it's ultimately the openness of America that defeated Kafka.

There are plenty of other interesting thoughts about Poe, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Hemingway and Harpo Marx. Recommended.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

It's Getting Late

Let me reprint a post from April, 2005:

I'll take that bet

One Muslim scholar claims that analysis of the Koran shows the US will be destroyed by a huge flood from both the Atlantic and Pacific in 2007.

I love when religious people make testable claims. So here's what we've got to do. Before 2007, I want everyone who believes in this prediction to go on record--put your money where your faith is.

If you're right, you're right. Good work. Everyone should go over to your side. But if you're wrong, admit it. No weaseling out. No claiming some normal, annual-type disaster--earthquake, hurricane, drought, even a minor flood--is the same thing. No claiming you misread a number and the date is actually 2017. No claiming Allah changed his mind and decided to be merciful.

No, just admit you were wrong, and you don't understand how things are, and it's time to consider other ideas.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Revolution, Not Evolution

Toni Vernelli got sterilized because she wants to protect the planet. The people who do this better hope their strategy works within one generation. (This is not what's known as an ESS.)

Friday, November 23, 2007

When cultures collide

I don't know the advertising model over at moviefone, but I love the current banner ad:

"Help guard yourself against cervical cancer and genital warts . . . Roll over to learn more."

Ah, the holidays.

The Usual Suspects

In honor of Thanksgiving, the Moviefone website lists the "Top 25 Turkeys: Biggest Box Office Bombs" ever.

It's mostly the same predictable names you've seen on these lists before. Fine, expected. But I don't agree with some of the commentary.

For instance, here's what they say about Bonfire Of The Vanities:
Tom Wolfe's scathing novel about the excesses of the 1980s could have been a brilliant, era-defining movie, particularly with Brian De Palma at the helm. But nice-guy Tom Hanks was all wrong to play Sherman McCoy, the yuppie "Master of the Universe" brought low by a fatal car accident; and with the story rewritten to make McCoy more likable, Wolfe's satire lost its teeth -- and 'Bonfire' went down in flames.
First, the novel is a good start, but it has serious problems. It gives a panoramic view of New York in the 80s, and the film, if it doesn't want to be a miniseries, simply won't have the time to give all the characters justice. Also, the book has no third act.

Second, Brian De Palma is the wrong director. He's great at flash, action, suspense and imaginative visuals and camera movement. What he's not great at--as we can see from the start to the end of his career--is politics.

Third, Tom Hanks was a fine choice for the role. Some suggested William Hurt, who might have been okay, but Hanks was the right age and look and had the talent to pull this off. What he needed was a decent script. As far as making the character likable, it makes sense if he's going to anchor the film--Sherman McCoy as written is a cipher, and you've got to do something with him.

The real problem was the rest of the cast. Sherman is at the center, and everyone else is secondary, spinning around in his orbit. Thus, casting major stars like Bruce Willis and Melanie Griffith in these roles throws the story out of whack. What was a tale of all the vultures feeding off Sherman McCoy becomes a story of one man falling while another rises. (And the Willis character would have been better as an ex-pat Brit.)

Worst of all was the casting of Morgan Freeman. (That he had unbearable lines only sealed the deal--they actually thought they could make his character carry the moral weight of the film by having him lecture everyone on decency.) He took the role of what in the novel was a white, Jewish, old-guard judge in the Bronx, who tries to uphold the law and is destroyed in a new, racial era of politics. To give this part to an African-American, no matter how talented, makes it meaningless and shows that De Palma (or whoever was in charge of casting) didn't get the book, or was too scared to do it justice.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Plenty To Be Thankful For

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It's a chance to be with friends and family, and count your blessings, things that get more precious as the years go by.

One thing I'm thankful for is, since pages views are low anyway during holidays, my blogging will be light to nonexistent over the next few days.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

They Didn't Do This For THE FOG

LA has been overcast and foggy as never before this week. This coincides with the opening of Stephen King's The Mist. Good work, you guys in the promo department.

WWPGD

If ColumbusGuy were still blogging regularly, he'd probably have something to say about the first major Supreme Court Gun case since 1939. He'd perhaps mention the two main interpretations are the Second Amendment confers a right to individuals, or a right to a state. And that suddenly, liberals have discovered states' rights.

If AnnArborGuy were still blogging, he'd probably have something to say about recent research making it possible for skin cells to be reprogrammed to act like embyronic stem cells.

But I have no idea what Pajama Guy would do.

Take It Back

"...so we must take back our cities, and take back our culture, and take back our country." Pat Buchanan, 1992.

"This is our government. This is our America. And this is our moment to take it back." - John Edwards, 2007.

With all the differences Americans have, we're in this together. John Edwards uses the language of division, and though I care more about programs than rhetoric, I think I find him the most disgusting of all the major candidates.

No subgroup of Americans are at fault for most of our problems, and no group holds the copyright on moral superiority. I don't know who I'll be voting for next year, but it won't be Edwards.

And Then There Were Two

Just two more Heroes before the season is over. I'm about to discuss Monday's episode, so if you don't want to know, stop reading.

It was entitled "Cautionary Tales" but it should have been called "Dead Dads."

Continuing the feeling of deja vu this season, Hiro returns to the present (for some reason, at the point after Ando has read all about his adventures--why not just return earlier and tell him what happened), finds his dad has been killed, and goes back a week to save him. Didn't he learn last year with Charlie you can't go back in the past to change things. You can only come back from the future and change that.

The main story was about the Bennet's. A lot of reversals here as Claire did in one episode what it took all last season to do--go from suspicion to hatred to love of her father. Meanwhile, Suresh has done the 180 and was working against Noah. His life was in danger yet again, and even though he has no superpowers (his blood doesn't even work anymore), he has the support of Tim Kring, who spared him. It's not like a lot of fans would mourn his disappearance from the show.

But the heart of this plot, like a Greek tragedy, was about an ending that had already been foretold. With Claire and her boyfriend in the background, Noah would be shot in the head. We knew it was coming, but it still worked rather well. What we didn't see coming--the sort of shock ending that the fans loved in the first season--was Claire's blood saving the "dead" Noah.

Mr. Bennet is one of the best characters on the show, and also a rare non-hero--which ironically makes him special--so it was shocking that they would kill him off, even if everything was pointing to it. I didn't want to see him go, but it's pretty cheap to kill him and then bring him back. It does follow the Heroes policy of only killing the less popular leads.

We now see that Adam won't age, but is it really that hard to kill him (or Claire, for that matter)? You just separate his head from his body, and then keep cutting it into smaller parts. Claire can regenerate a toe, but a head? Speaking of Adam, why was George Takei so surprised that he was the one who'd murder him. He'd be my suspect number one.

More deja vu--not only is Claire another Adam (or vice versa), but Matt's new power to convince others sure seems a lot like the Pixie Chick's from the first season.

As usual, a lot of characters were left out--no Niki, no Micah, no Nathan, no Sylar, no Peter, no murder twins, and so on. And now that we've had a chance to see all the newbies, I'd say Kristen Bell is the best addition to the cast.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Guy With Two First Names

Ron Paul has, of course, no chance of being our next President. Still, it's fun to have guys like him around to keep the debates interesting.

Some people are making too big a deal of his poll numbers. For example, here's a comment I found on The Volokh Conspiracy:
I wish you paid more attention to his central role in our revival as a movement. Can you imagine that Newsweek, Time, New York Times, etc. would have written so many positive and serious articles about the rise of libertarianism without Paul? Paul is now getting 8 percent in New Hampshire. Compare that with Ed Clark’s 1 percent.
I think this misses the point. Ron Paul is getting higher numbers than any Libertarian before him because he's not running as a Libertarian, but a Republican. There's always been a decent number of Repubs and Dems with a libertarian streak, so it's normal they'd respond to someone in the big parties representing them. If Paul ran as an L and not an R, I doubt he'd be getting any more attention, or votes, than Ed Clark did.

Layers

LA Times Sunday Calendar letters section: "...between the three of them, the Bronte sisters produced (in addition to their copious juvenilia) seven books, not six."

Three inches below: "FOR THE RECORD: An article in last Sunday's Calendar section [...] said that between them the three Bronte sisters wrote six books. They wrote seven."

You know the editors should get together now and then.

It's Still My Toilet Paper Of Choice

Dick Wilson, better known as Mr. Whipple of "please don't squeeze the Charmin" fame, has died.

And on both coasts, all those striking writers for Letterman, Leno and Conan are saying "Oh what I could have done with that."

Night Lyin'

Now that the writers are on strike, the people at ABC's post-Koppel Nightline are suggesting you might check them out, since they're not in repeats.

One of the hosts is Terry Moran. He wrote something earlier this year that might be the dumbest thing I've ever read, and highly offensive at that. In essence, he sneered at the Duke students who were accused of rape, saying they're low morally, and since they're privileged, will turn out fine, while the Rutgers women's basketball team had it much tougher.

If you recall, Don Imus, a DJ, following his usual (unfunny) MO called them "nappy-headed hos." It was a stray, stupid comment that no one in the world took seriously. For some reason, it got blown up into a national scandal (Imus regularly says stupid things that no one cares about) and Imus was fired. The Rutgers team, not known to most of the country before then, enjoyed a few days of non-stop lionization.

Meanwhile, the Duke students were falsely accused of a felony; persecuted by a crazed and powerful prosecutor aided by crooked health professionals and cops going along for the railroading; presumed guilty by the powerful on campus; had their faces spread all over the media while millions thought they were guilty; had serious jail time and ruined lives hanging over their heads for a year (even though there was never any serious evidence against them--in fact, there was overwhelming evidence for their innocence); had to pay over a million in legal fees; and could regularly read and hear lies about themselves in the media.

So no thanks. I don't see any reason to watch a show hosted by Terry Moran.

Monday, November 19, 2007

We're Number One!

Detroit just passed St. Louis and has been declared the most dangerous city in America. This is quite surprising since no one I know ever thought it wasn't first.

I see Flint is #3. Keep trying guys, but if you really want to learn something, drop in on the Motor City.

I Wish Someone Would Buy Us Out

Here's a little piece by my friend Matt Welch on the sky-is-falling activists who keep insisting, against all evidence, that the media is getting more monopolized, and therefore Congress must keep making law abridging freedom of the press.

Three To Go

Only three more Heroes before the end of the strike-shortened season. (I hope for a deal, but I hear the producers have dug in.)

I read some fans on the internet complaining about the last episode, where the show finally explained about what happened after last season's finale. They actually liked it, but thought it should have been done earlier.

There's an obvious reason why Tim Kring waited this long, and not that he thought he had a full season to tell his story. Rather, he couldn't show the past until the modern Adam was revealed, and that didn't happen until the previous episode.

On the other hand, if Kring had just gotten Hiro out of feudal Japan earlier, he could have got Adam out earlier, too.

Force The Controversy

Both Dems and Repubs have official stands which may play well with their base, but lose with the middle. So they've got to thread the needle.

This can lead to interesting (if not necessarily illuminating) moments in televised debates, when a question is designed to trap them. For instance, driver's licenses for illegal immigrants (excuse me, undocumented workers--that correction got Dennis Kucinich applause). The nation is deadset against the idea, but it's the kind of solution that most of the Dem candidates would support if they could do so secretly.

The previous debate, Hillary seriously hurt herself when she wouldn't unambiguously oppose the idea. (Or maybe she got around to opposing it, but it took her a week--see, her thinking is so complex on the issue it takes her that long to answer). You'd think her main opponents would have been ready, but Obama fumbled the same question last time. But that's why it's a trap--you don't want to come out and say you'd fight the idea (or the partisan crowd might boo, plus you don't really think that) but if you say you like them they'll tie it around your neck.

Meanwhile, Hillary was able to turn the beat around, making it seem like everyone was unfairly ganging up on her if they criticized her at all. But I don't see how it'll stop the criticism since as the actually voting is coming up soon (not soon enough), Obama and Edwards have to do something.

One of the most depressing aspects of watching the debate (or in my case, reading the transcript) is how deadset against free trade the candidates are. Clinton fought for it--why did the Dems pick this issue to be wrong on, when there are so many other ideas they could reverse?

Just yesterday, Obama criticized Hillary not because she supports NAFTA, but because she used to support NAFTA. It's not enough to be against free trade today, you've got to be ideologically pure.

I'd like to at least think this is another one of those positions where, if they had a secret vote, they wouldn't actually do what they say they'd do. It's a slim hope, but what else have I got?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

This Is The End

Well, that was a miserable ending to a mediocre season. Michigan started with two losses and ended with two losses.

I've seen a lot of UM/OSU games, and this was one of the least interesting. An underwhelming Michigan gets an early lead, and OSU responds with two touchdowns, and that was it. The Wolverine defense did an okay job, but there was simply no offense. A series of dropped passes and failed third-down attempts sealed the deal on what was a Buckeye team ripe for the taking.

Let's just forget all about it. Next season will have new challenges. The defense will have to improve and the offense will have to reconstitute itself. I don't know if they can, but I won't have to think about it for a while.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A-list

Boy, the acting chops on this list are pretty solid. Together, I'll bet Cruise and Travolta have taken in more box office than this crowd.

Today Is The Day

Today is the big game, so don't bother me, I need to concentrate on this momentous occasion. Admittedly, with both teams losing last week, it takes the edge off a bit, but this is still the biggest game of the season.

The Michigan-OSU game has been THE game in the Big Ten (heck, the country) for decades, and even more so since Bo shocked Woody in 1969. (Check out the recent HBO documentary about the rivalry to learn more about it). And for all our other classic rivals--Notre Dame, MSU--really nothing compares to this. Even the Rose Bowl doesn't.

OSU has a bit more to lose, with only one loss. And they've been whomping on Michigan for years now. But maybe the Wolverines are due--though with the questionable health of its two top players, they'll have to figure out new ways to win.

Ohio is heavily favored, moreso than in the past several years, but I know, beating within the breast of every true Michigan fan, is that little spark of hope that says this is the year.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sparky

Fascinating slide show/essay in Slate by Brian Doherty on the melancholy life of Charles Schulz.

He says a sequence in Peanuts where Charlie Brown saw the sun as a baseball is a favorite of many fans. I remember reading those strips. I thought Schulz had lost his mind.

Doherty also discusses the world of Peanuts merchandising. I remember years ago I was playing the title character in You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. The cast charged me with picking out a gift for the director. So I went to the store and checked out the voluminous amount of strip-related stuff. Since I played Charlie Brown, I wanted a little Charlie Brown doll, or something like that. Couldn't find any. All they had was Snoopy stuff, and maybe a few Woodstocks. Good grief!

Deja Vu

Lions For Lambs is the first production for the Tom Cruise-run United Artists. Though the price was low (for a Cruise film--only $35 millions), it's flopping, and everyone knew it would flop. So why did a guy who could make any film he wants agree to it?

Maybe he thought the part worked (I've heard he's the best thing in it). Maybe he just wanted to work with two superstars from his childhood.

Or maybe it's that he's worked in political films before and they were popular and critical hits. And what were the plots? One had a patriotic guy who joins the army, becomes paralyzed and turns into an anti-war activist. Another was about soldiers torturing someone down in Gitmo. He must have figured this new script was gold.

Thirty Minutes More

After some sampling, the only new prime time show that I watch this (soon to be over) season is The Big Bang Theory. It's not that great, but I guess I have a soft spot for shows about nerds.

Washington Behind Closed Doors

I've recently had friends recommend two books that really give a nice behind-the-scenes look at American politics for the past 40 years or so. I haven't read them yet, but I'll pass along the titles.

First, there's Thomas DeFrank's Write It When I'm Gone. No matter what you think of Gerald Ford, he was a man who served at the highest levels of our government, and saw a lot. Now that he's gone, DeFrank is finally releasing a lot of inside stuff.

Then there's Robert Novak's memoir, The Prince Of Darkness. While I often disagree with the old coot, I'm sure he's got some of the best war stories.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bringing Up Baby

You see this story a lot. Since I'm not ColumbusGuy, I'll actually tell you what it is: Stats say the U.S. has higher rates of infant mortality than other industrialized nations. (See, that's not so hard.)

But isn't it true that we don't measure them the same, since we try to save a lot of premature babies, while other nations don't and then don't count them? I'd at least like to see this mentioned, or debunked if meaningless.

Ask Not What Your Product Placement Can Do For You

Does Ask.com have some sort of deal with Hollywood? Like most people, I use Google. Yet, in the past few weeks, I've seen a close-up of the Ask screen in the movie Lars And The Real Girl and the TV show Weeds.

Yikes

Larry King recently had a panel of doctors discussing the pros and cons of plastic surgery. I'm assuming this is because Kanye West's mother just died due to complications of a "cosmetic surgical procedure." I didn't stick around long, but I did hear one doctor, trying to reassure the public, say things work out "nine out of ten times."

Math

Everyone's talking about how the guys are ganging up on Hillary, though that's what happens to frontrunners. But Hillary's recent drop in the polls opens up an interesting question. Even without the aura of invincibility, she still looks like she has a solid lead, but what happens if one of her two main opponents drops out? Hillary's commanding lead is still just a plurality. If most of the other voters are anti-Hillary, the last man standing has a reasonable shot.

Oh Mandy

Over at my favorite Ann Arbor blog, run by Mandy Kay, we see this:

One of the reasons this country is wallowing in the quagmire [come on baby light my fire] of a senseless war is because the men currently in power stood aside when their brothers were called to serve a generation ago.
What's this, the chickenhawk argument?

This is not a serious argument. Actually, it's not even an argument. It's just name-calling.

Mandy, I thought you were better than that.

PS We have civilian oversight of our military, thank goodness, and no President is required to have served (or say farewell Hillary, bye bye Barack, hello Mike Gravel). But I am intrigued by certain claims about the relation of military service and politics. For instance, I'm pretty certain that those who are or were in uniform are more likely to support the war than those who haven't served. Another point worth discussing (more opinion than objective fact) is who have historically made better war presidents, those who've seen battle or those who haven't. Who do you like? Lincoln? FDR?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

In his hands

"Buffett backs U.S. estate tax and decries wealth gap"

How fortunate for him, to have reached a time and position in life where he can put his money where his mouth is. Few people could singlehandedly do more to eliminate it than Warren could. I anxiously await the follow story informing us he has done so; look for it every day, several times daily, here on Pajama Guy.

So you say

"King Corn is as relevant as Supersize Me and as important as an Inconvenient Truth."

Transparently false. This movie is obviously relevant and important, which distinguishes it from both. Hell, it even looks like it might be entertaining.

That Is The Question

I recently saw Before The Devil Knows You're Dead. I assume the erudite readers of Pajama Guy know the title is the second part of a famous Irish toast.

Many film titles come from famous quotations (feel free to list any in the comments) but there's usually no reason to explain the origin unless it comes naturally in the plot. Unfortunately, this film demonstrates little faith in its audience and directly shows where the title comes from right at the start.

They must have had a conference at some point. "Should we tell them? They may be confused, otherwise?" Here's my advice. Even if you pick a quote that no one knows, leave it alone. The few who get it can pat themselves on the back, and the rest will either let it pass, or perhaps be piqued, which can only make your movie seem that much more interesting.

Prog Talk

More than once, Hillary has said she wouldn't call her self a liberal, but a progressive. She believes the world liberal has been twisted into something negative. (She's probably right. Why did that happen?)

This always makes me laugh, because when I was in college, "progressive" was considered a code word for "communist."

Toobin v. Thomas

Jeffrey Toobin reviews Clarence Thomas's book in The New Yorker. This bit about Thomas's belief in a color-blind Constitution comes near the end:
...Thomas dismisses diversity as “a faddish slogan of the cognoscenti,” but it is one that has been endorsed in state houses and school boards whose leaders, unlike Supreme Court Justices, are democratically elected. Thomas pays them no mind. “Old Man Can’t is dead” —so, according to the Justice, says the Constitution.
Obviously, Thomas's opinion on race-based affirmative action matters a bit more than Toobin's. But which one is right? (Not about the delightfully anti-Toobinesque implication that Thomas should listen to the public on deciding a Constitutional issue, but whether the public actually supports the program in question.)

I think Thomas hits it on the nose. Okay, maybe "faddish" is wrong since the use of diversity as a slogan rather than a true belief goes back decades. But as to which side the public supports, it's not close. Whenever the people are allowed to vote freely, despite all the money from the powerful trying to convince them othewise, they oppose government sponsored race-based discrimination, no matter how benign. It's been forced on them by an elite, more often unelected than elected.

Toobin is apparently part of this cognoscenti. Whether he knows his beliefs can't stand up to a referendum (and thus uses rhetorical dodges), or actually believes that the people must agree with it because all his bien-pensant friends do, I can't say.

So That's How He Got Burned

The latest Heroes finally answered all the questions we had about the transition from last season to this one. Since they could have done it bit by bit, I was glad they did it all at once. (Actually, they left open what happened with Sylar, though we already have some slight idea about that.)

We also discovered out of a possible five or six, no one died during last season's finale, not even D. L Hawkins, making it even a bigger dud. It turns out Hawkins, after being shot last season, survived only to be shot again.

The Company returned to feeling sinister, after a few episodes where it seemed practically enlightened. Stephen Tobolowsky actually had the best moment in the hour, when, without any special effects, he walked up a hospital hallway and magically appeared to Niki from behind a doctor.

Speaking of Niki, it looks like she may have another double personality. I hope not--we've already done that and it wasn't so great the first time.

And with all the characters they have to juggle, no Claire or Noah Bennet, no Hiro or Ando, no Matt or Molly or Mohinder (though he still narrated), no Monica. But a lot more Elle. Do the actors get paid for every episode?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Another Inconvenient Truth

This article in The New York Times discusses geoengineering remedies for global warming. Some scientists worry, however, "that the potential for a climate fix, even an imperfect one, would only encourage people to continue the profligate burning of fossil fuels that got the planet into trouble in the first place."

This has it backwards. The truth is, as noble as we may feel about adopting conservationist protocols, it's doubtful they can have that much effect. Even if we succeeded in slowing down or even reversing the growth of carbon emissions (and other pollutants), we'd still be putting them out at or above the rate that allegedly got us into trouble to begin with. (Anything less would probably mean a cure worse than the disease.)

There's no shame in fixing the environment to our liking. Humans (actually, all animals) have been attempting to do it forever. What do you think a house is?

So instead of fearing we won't deny ourselves enough if they fix the problem anyway, scientists should worry that the moral belief that we must get used to a new lifestyle is slowing down the development of far more important solutions to our problems.

Bad Investment?

I've got little use for Joe Lieberman, but when he's right, he's right. As he said last week:
Democrats have remained emotionally invested in a narrative of defeat and retreat in Iraq, reluctant to acknowledge the progress we are now achieving...
Okay, maybe what he said is too obvious to rise to the level of an observation, but I'm still surprised when I hear someone like Nancy Pelosi claim (just yesterday) "It's a war without end. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. We must reverse it."

This in spite of all the positive news coming out of Iraq for the past several months, e.g., violence down significantly in Baghdad and elsewhere, Al Qaeda in disarray and being forced out of most of their territory, Sunni insurgents changing their minds. I don't go as far as saying that we've won, as some conservatives do, but claiming the situation hasn't improved requires willful blindness. And it's all been reported in The New York Times, so even Speaker Pelosi should know about it. (To be fair, it's not usually on the front page).

But what interests me is how Iraq will play in the 2008 election. The anti-war mood swept the Dems into power last time, but is it possible there'll be a reversal on the issue by late next year?

My guess is no.

First, the Dems can only change so much. Hillary has positioned herself best, but even she can only go so far. So much of their base is built upon withdrawal and defeat that it constrains their leaders. Can the base change? Hey, most of them believe, after four years of growth, that we're in a recession. The war is even more emotional.

But in addition, the nation in general is so soured on the war that for the electorate to do a 180 seems unlikely, regardless of the news (though bad news will still play just fine). It'll be very hard for Repubs to run on an "I told you so" platform.

So what will happen if the good news continues? We're seeing it already. Iraq will become less important as an issue.

Which means we'll focus more on the economy, health care, education, etc. To me, the wild card in 2008 won't be Iraq, but immigration.

Monday, November 12, 2007

But they'll have to hang out with Christ

"Dean says Jews can go to heaven"

Can we Godwin this, too?

"The late film critic Pauline Kael is reported to have said that Nixon couldn't have won because she didn't know anybody who voted for him."

I suppose this is a conservative trope-wouldn't make too much sense for the bedwetters to trot it out-but regardless, I'm a bit tired of hearing it, especially when it's namby-pamby crouched in I-don't-think-she-ever-really-said-it "reportedly" crap.

LAGuy adds: Actually, I've long thought about writing on this quote, but didn't want to do the research. I've read most of Pauline Kael's published work (as well as a book of interviews she'd given), and while it wouldn't surprise me if she voted for McGovern, this doesn't really sound like her. In fact, she attacked a number of Hollywood films pretty harshly from a conservative, or at least libertarian, viewpoint. In particular, I recommend her lengthy discussion of Hud in I Lost It At The Movies.

As a side-note, I remember when George Bush was behind Michael Dukakis in the polls by 17 points. It was reported to me that someone who worked in a major law firm, someone ColumbusGuy knows, said Bush will win because everyone he knows is voting for him. Turned out to be good analysis.

Cinnamon Sister

Whenever I see another blog with our template, I always feel a sense of kinship. Adding to the ever-growing list, here's Cinnamon Stillwell.

Who's Shot? J.R.

No Country For Old Men might be the best-reviewed film of the year. But Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader pans it. Fine, I like contrarians.

His main reason seems to be he's tired of films about psycho killers. I can appreciate that--I don't see half as many films as he does, and I'm a bit tired of them, too. (I have a friend who's so tired of killers as leads that he won't see The Godfather.)

Alas, Rosenbaum then starts analyzing our taste for crazed murderers by making all sorts of fatuous political connections. Okay, it's been his MO for years, but I can always hope he'll snap out of it.

Here's a good example of his political thinking:

The waves of love that went out to [Hannibal] Lecter [in Silence Of The Lambs], epitomized by the five top Oscars the movie received in 1992, were a mix of giggly fascination, twisted affection, and outright awe for his absolute lack of remorse. This was during the first gulf war, a time when we were grappling with our own feelings about killing masses of people on a daily basis. I suspect Lecter represented a savior of sorts, a saintlike holy psycho who made us feel less uneasy about wanton slaughter.
To quote this is to refute it.

Why does he do it? My guess is that he knows deep down his opposition to the war on terror means he supports fascism, so he represses it and projects his fears onto the public.

Shut Up, He Explained

At the Ibero-American summit, King Juan Carlos told Hugo Chavez, who kept trying to interrupt Spain's prime minister, to shut up. The prime minister was taking exception to Chavez, who had claimed that Jose Maria Aznar, the Spanish leader who fought fascism and then stepped aside (his party lost, too) after two terms, was a fascist.

While it's generally a good idea to tell Chavez to shut up, this wasn't the real story.

Much more interesting was how Daniel Ortega then surrendered his time to Chavez. Chavez responded by saying he was telling the truth, so he's allowed to go nuts any time anyone anywhere has the nerve to disagree. Backing him up, the Cuban vice president said being elected doesn't make you a legitimate leader, you have to rule properly.

Sounds like a lot of fun. Sorry I couldn't be there.

Who Owns The Candidates?

Nikki Finke has got the best coverage of the Writers Guild strike available. She recently noted the producers were mad when Barack Obama (soon followed by other Dems) supported the writers. Finke wrote, ironically (I'd say), "I can't believe the CEOs are naive enough to think that just because they've been hosting political fundraisers and giving donations to him that gives them any clout. "

Cynical people who imagine they're sophisticated believe politicians are bought and sold, but the truth is, especially at the highest level, you can't buy them because, for one thing, they're too expensive. They've got numerous sources of money and they'll throw you under the bus in a second if it hurts them with the voting public. And if you represent one part of their constituency fighting against another, it's devil take the hindmost.

My main point, which isn't cynical at all, is that money doesn't lead, it follows. It's more common to give money to candidates not because you believe you can influence them much (if at all), but because they're already going to do what you want them to do. Politicians can change their minds, but it's usually to chase voters. It's actually pretty hard to find a politician who voted the way she wasn't planning because of a contributor.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hillarity

That's pretty good.

And yes, this is merely part of the drama. Hillary must have seine Kampf before she emerges victorious.

Norman Mailer

I really don't have much to say about Norman Mailer. I've read a few of his books and essays, but never really developed a strong opinion of his work. Okay, he stinks as a film director, screenwriter and playwright, but no one's making claims for him there.

One thing though--he certainly was a character. Whereas many writers prefer anonymity, he loved the limelight. Unfortunately, he got so involved in his flamboyance, not to mention macho posturing (if that's what it was), that I fear he spent a lot of time acting like a jerk. I think he also wasted a lot of time commenting somewhat mindlessly on the passing cultural scene. I wonder if it wouldn't have been better for him to stay home and just write.

Will his best work live on? Critics might make the case for a few novels (and some journalism too, though that interests me less), but not having read most of them, I can't even offer a guess.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Please Please Please

Only one more game till OSU. Please let us win this one. I know Wisconsin isn't a joke, especially in Madison, and I know we can't be looking ahead.

But please, let's just get this one out of the way. It's not just for Michigan. It's so THE GAME will be as important as it deserves to be.

Friday, November 09, 2007

This Is My Lucky Day!

I may be away from the blog for a while. I just received an email from the United Kingdom Lottery Company. It seems I've won 850,000 pounds sterling, so I might go out there to pick it up. All they need is for me to send them a bunch of personal information and I can claim my prize.

More Coinky-dinkies

Last week I noted some things seem like they could be coincidences, but you're never sure.

I recently saw a trailer for Juno. It's about a teenager, impregnated by her boyfriend, who decides to give up her baby to a yuppie couple.

It occurred to me the young man is played by Michael Cera, and the yuppie man by Jason Bateman. Cera was Bateman's son in the Emmy-winning series Arrested Development. Is this a coincidence?

My guess--yes. It's not uncommon for actors to be teamed up more than once by chance. For example, just this year Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig co-star in two films, and it's not as if they're considered a team.

The Horse's Mouth

Heroes sucks. That's according to Tim Kring, the show's creator. Funny, since it's one of the few shows I regularly watch.

Kring spoke to Entertainment Weekly about fan complaints, which he apparently agrees with. (I think it was more he looked at his droopy ratings and decided to be proactive.) Here are the problems he notes, with my comments.

1. THE PACE IS TOO SLOW. Hey, what's the rush? The build-up is half the fun. (In fact, last season, it was most of the fun, and it was the finale that failed.)

2. THE WORLD-SAVING STAKES SHOULD HAVE BEEN INTRODUCED SOONER. This is just a corollary to point #1. Once again, what's the rush? You already had a serial murder mystery going on, and a bunch of other stuff. Isn't that enough? To be honest, when Peter went in the future and saw New York will be ravaged if nothing is done, I thought I'd stumbled into a repeat of last season.

3. THE ROOKIES DIDN'T GREET THEMSELVES PROPERLY. In other words, the newbie heroes should have been introduced in storylines with established characters, rather than their own separate plots. I don't know. Maybe it would have been more smooth, but after all, we got a whole bunch of new characters in season 1 and that was no problem.

4. HIRO WAS IN JAPAN WAS TOO LONG. This is probably my biggest complaint of the season so far. I don't even think he should have gone back to feudal Japan at all, but if he had to go, let's have him in and out and back in the main action. Otherwise, you're, in effect, benching your top player.

5. YOUNG LOVE STINKS. So the cheerleader got a hero/boyfriend. I don't object to occasional mushy stuff, as long as there's tension in the story. I agree the present story isn't that great.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

No Way

According to Anthony Lane's New Yorker review of Lions For Lambs:

The three stories are intercut through-out the film, to lend it at least the illusion of momentum. Sadly, unless you are Jean-Luc Godard, the sight of your characters discussing the political ethics of their own actions is unlikely to ravish the eye, and “Lions for Lambs” is most charitably described as Ibsen with helicopters.
Unfair. Ibsen's most famous plays have characters going through difficult personal problems. Except for An Enemy Of The People (which in any case has pretty good dramatic momentum), I really can't think of any Ibsen where they sit around and discuss political ethics for any length of time.

PS The New Yorker hyphenates "through-out"? I didn't know there was anyone still doing that to-day.

Sauce For The Gander

Some are claiming all the guys ganging up on Hillary amounts to sexism. I find it hard to believe anyone's making this claim, even as a tactic.

She's the leading candidate in a hotly contested race. What else does she expect? Not ganging up on her would be closer to sexism.

It Only Happens In The Movies

Certain things seem to only happen in the movies (and TV). Sometimes because they cheat to make the plot go more smoothly. Sometimes because drama, as Hitchcock once said, is life with the dull bits cut out.

One thing I've seen in countless medical dramas (and quite a few comedies, come to think of it) is someone out in public having a seizure. I thought the only place I'd ever see that is a movie.

Well, last week, I actually saw a woman on the floor in a public place having a fit. I couldn't tell if she was conscious, but she was shaking uncontrollably. A crowd had gather around. I don't know how long she'd been doing it, but an ambulance arrived about a minute after I came upon the scene.

And where did it happen? In the lobby of a movie theatre.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

How not to report

"We decide, you report" doesn't quite work, but here's a good example of a reporter wanting something to be true:

Even Fred Thompson doesn't think he will become president. Chatting off-air to a television reporter, a stunningly candid off-the-cuff quip from the Hollywood actor cemented the impression that his heart is not in the 2008 race.

Trying to encourage his studio to hurry up so an interview could start, Carl Cameron of Fox News said into his microphone: "The next president of the United States has a schedule to keep." Standing beside him, a deadpan Mr Thompson interjected: "And so do I."

As some Thompson aides looked bemused and others cringed, a taken-aback Mr Cameron, Fox's chief political correspondent, exclaimed: "You can't do that kind of stuff!"


Goodness, no, can't be genuine even for a moment.

The only thing stunning there is the stupidity and dishonesty of the entire news organization that printed it. So here's the pool: How many U.S. media will pick this up? After all, it fits their narrative that Fred lacks fire in the belly; there's probably no room for it, what with all the cancer.

That Was A Quick Season

Due to the writers' strike, the ending of Heroes' December 3 episode has been re-shot. That way, if there's no settlement soon, this eleventh episode can function as the season finale. I'm sure no one wants that, so let's hope a satisfactory deal can be struck.

Meanwhile, some odd developments.

First, Matt's dad was taken out of the picture more easily than expected. In fact, Matt advanced from novice to master in a few seconds, it seemed, to deal with him. This is actually what I like about the show--the action comes thick and fast. As it turns out, though, Matt's dad is not the true danger (and the real bad guy was the shock "reveal" at the end of the episode).

We also got to see Niki on a rampage, which is always fun. Nathan talked her down, which seemed like a strange strategy when you've got the option of flying away. Niki now needs the cheerleader to save her. Didn't we do this last season?

The best news is Hiro has finally left old Japan and is back in the present. He's back in the game, where he should always have been. And he's back with Ando.

The worst part of the episode, as so often lately, was Suresh. Here he's been fighting to take the company down from within, and in no time flat, he does a 180 and decides to back the company, telling them everything. Considering the paintings we've seen, this doesn't look good for Bennet.

He Didn't Have A Prayer

Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher, a Republican whose lone term was dogged by a hiring scandal, lost badly Tuesday despite an election-eve effort to woo conservative voters by displaying the Ten Commandments in the state Capitol.

Rosie Outlook

MSNBC is in talks with Rosie O'Donnell. She may be hosting a talk show.

I get she's a celebrity, but do they really wants to hire a 9/11 truther?

Porn Free

Interesting article in reasononline about pornography and sexual violence. Since the rise of the internet, there's been far more pornography available than ever before. Many who had been trying to limit or ban pornography claimed it gave rise to sexual assault, but the numbers don't seem to bear that out.

In fact, since 1993, the rate of reported rape has dropped a heartening 72%. It's true violent crime in general has been dropping as well, but at only at a 58% rate. Furthermore, in the past two years, while violent crime had been rising slightly, rape continued to fall.

If anything, the actual rate may have been dropping even faster, since with public education on sexual violence, one would expect a higher level of reporting.

In addition, a recent study shows that states with higher levels of internet access saw rape decline most.

While it's plausible that greater availablity of pornography could lower sexual assault rates (since it could be an outlet for sexual urges), I have to admit that, as yet, the evidence is far from compelling.

Nevertheless, after looking at how things have been going, we should admit, at the very least, that pornography is not as great a factor in inspiring sexual assault as its opponents claim.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Aim for the Dot

Don Shula suggests the Patriots' record this year should be dubbed with an asterisk. Forgetting the fact that Coach B was found guilty of videotaping information visible to the naked eye-in other words not exactly Markus Wolf- I wonder if Don would say the same thing if urine specimens kept for 35 years.

Get The Knack

A local sheriff, Mike Corona, is in big legal trouble. The particulars don't matter. I just want to note whenever I hear about this case, I can't help but start humming the opening riff to "My Sharona."

It Wasn't

I just watched a PBS special on Jack Benny. It was a low-rent sort of affair, but I was still shocked when they claimed To Be Or Not To Be is from 1945.

First, it's a special, they should get the basic facts right. Second, this is Benny's most famous film, the only one people actually remember (aside from The Horn Blows At Midnight). Third, To Be Or Not To Be was shot in 1941 and came out in March 1942, and is noted for being one of the earliest Hollywood productions to attack the Nazis.

Little things like that make you lose faith in the overall production.

Thanks, But No Thanks

I heard radio show host Dennis Prager interview Clarence Thomas recently. Thomas was saying how the perception created by affirmative action made it hard for him to find a job after he graduated from Yale.

Prager noted this was the best argument against affirmative action--that it stigmatizes the intended beneficiaries. This strikes me as being the worst argument against affirmative action.

Why? Let me illustrate in dramatic dialogue form.

Affirmative Action Critic: I oppose affirmative action since it discounts any achievements by those who belong to the group favored by the affirmative action program.

Affirmative Action Beneficiary: Yes, I recognize there can be a stigma attached, but, all in all, I'd still rather have the extra break (a break, by the way, that I deserve).

Affirmative Action Critic: But you don't get it, it makes life worse for you, not better.

Affirmative Action Beneficiary: I understand that's how you feel, and you may even be correct, but if it's alright with you, I'd rather we keep the program in place.

Affirmatve Action Critic: But this is for your own good. I'm helping you.

Affirmatve Action Beneficiary: I appreciate your nobility, but please, I'd just as soon not have your help on this issue.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Does she have her own Central Bank?

Gisele Bundchen wants paid in anything-but-dollars.
Here's how Drudge describes it: "World's top supermodel dumps US dollar... "

Recursion

Drudge has a tease about newspapers trying to save their ass:

New technology allows newspapers to track where their content may have been pirated online... Developing

Given newspapers' adaptability, the new approach is probably "Type 'google.com' into your address bar.'"

In any case, the link doesn't go anywhere; it just reloads the page. I guess the technology isn't working yet.

TGIF

I can hardly wait for Friday, when Lions For Lambs opens.

That'll mean I'll never have to see those awful trailers again.

Nancy Pelosi's Greatest Accomplishment

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, responding to Congress's low approval ratings, says she disapproves as well. Why? "We haven't been effective in ending the war in Iraq."

Doesn't she understand the utter failure of Congress to change our course in Iraq has been their greatest achievement?

Fame Is Fleeting

Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale, was one of the most famous women in America 150 years.

Last week, in Los Angeles City Beat, she was referred to as Jenny Lund.

Take that, George Clooney.

More Wills

I've written previously about Garry Wills on religion and abortion. He seemed to me to be using a bait and switch argument; he was saying that since abortion wasn't technically a "religious" question to Christians (I'm not even sure if I'd grant him that), then they all can choose whatever belief on the issue they want and still remain members in good standing in their church. At the very least, this is for the church to decide, not Wills.

The LA Times just had a piece adapted from his latest book, expanding on his views. Oddly, I'd say it detracts from his shorter argument since some of the stuff it adds are about how we can't respect all life or we couldn't eat vegetables, that we can't protect all human life or we couldn't cut hair, that we don't defend all human life or potential human life since we don't protect all semen or ova.

Even if he's merely doing this to center his argument, I'm not sure why he bothers. These are not arguments that anyone takes seriously (as he knows) and, as far as I can see, not arguments that strengthen his conclusion.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Obama calculates

Sen. Barack Obama leveled a fresh round of criticism at Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday, accusing his rival for the Democratic nomination of following a campaign plan that prizes calculation over candor and that is aimed more at winning the election than uniting the country.


Dangerous path, dude. Start telling the truth and talking substance, you'll find yourself in a place you don't want to be.

Wow!

That was the most exciting game for Michigan (and thus, for me) this season.

It didn't start out that way. In fact, this was the first time I remember thinking at halftime this season we've got the game in hand. We were ahead 14 - 3, but we'd been dominating. Sure, it should have been a bigger lead, but I felt confident.

Then we had a classic Michigan collapse, and with about 7 minutes left, we were behind by 10 points. Two whole scores.

Then Michigan showed its character, as it has since its loss at Oregon, and played perfectly, scoring two touchdowns so quickly it gave State way too much time to come back.

The Spartans moved down the field pretty well, and pretty fast, but sputtered out around Michigan's 30, and that was the game. I know I can't look past Madison next week--Wisconsin is a better team than State (though not as motivated, I'd guess)--but I can't wait for the OSU game. Even if we (bite your tongue) lose to the Badgers, we still control our Big Ten destiny at this point.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Take It Easy

Some people are mocking Jerry Seinfeld for being an arrogant jerk on Larry King. I just thought he was being funny.

The Big One (Till, You Know)

Today's game with Michigan State is the biggest this season so far. It's certainly the biggest for MSU, who've had a rotten year.

The Spartans have been the mirror image of the Wolverines--they started great and have fallen apart. The only way to salvage their season is to beat Michigan, and with the game in East Lansing, they've got a fair chance.

I still have to go with the Wolverines, especially if Hart is healthy, but I'm sure nervous. If Michigan can just get back to Ann Arbor for the OSU game with an unbeaten Big Ten record, they'll probably be in the top ten and that game will have the significance it deserves.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Wife Power?

CG is rightly outraged at the ten-plus million dollar jury verdict handed down against the Westboro Baptist Church for protesting military funerals with rather obnoxious signage, on grounds that the protests constituted intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) and incitement to riot. It's kind of a neat case to illustrate that sometimes the speech you hate is precisely the speech you have to work hardest to protect, if you take the First Amendment seriously.

However, I don't think it's much of a "what's next?" problem, as CG fears. The judge here drew a distinction between what was on the group's website and what they could do at a funeral, based on First Amendment considerations. And the basic underlying tort of IIED has existed since about the 18th or 19th century, in one form or another. You just rarely -- if ever -- hear about it because the standard for how outrageous the conduct has to be has always been set really high. The historical formation has always been that it's conduct which would make any reasonable person exclaim "outrageous!" The modern formation, I suppose, is whether it's the equivalent of saying someone lost his virginity to his mother while drunk on Campari in an outhouse.

To me the real issue is First Amendment protection for purely political speech directed at a non-public figure which would otherwise meet the standard for IIED and/or incitement to riot. Heck, here's a much more palatable example of political speech directed at non-public figures that certainly could be construed as incitement to riot, and which the subjects obviously found quite emotionally distressing. What's good for the goose, eh?

It's Potahto, Dammit!

My old friend Tom Berg over at Mirror Of Justice quotes (approvingly, I'm guessing) former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson on the problem conservatives have with libertarians in their midst.

As Tom notes, Gerson's book Heroic Conservative, focuses "on the Republican Party's internal divide between the vision of libertarianism and the vision of empowering the poor."

Harrumph.

I've known a fair number of libertarians and as far as I can tell, all of them believe they're the ones empowering the poor. They also believe that poorly-designed and run welfare programs (i.e, just about all of them) enfeeble the poor.

A fairer description, from either Tom or Gerson or both, would be there's an internal divide in the party between two visions of empowering the poor.

A True Politician

I wish I could find it, but it doesn't seem to be on the Web.

Max Baucus, Senator from Montana, was talking about the SCHIP bill yesterday and--this is not the slightest exaggeration--in a soundbite not much longer than five second, repeated the phrase "health care for kids" four times. It makes you proud.

Coinky-dinkies

Sometimes you see connections and you wonder if they're coincidental or intentional.

Two I've noticed lately, followed by the chances it's a coincidence:

In Bee Movie (opening today at a theatre near you), the lead character, voiced by Jerry Seinfeld, is named Barry B. Benson. Obviously the B's are no coincidence. But what about that last name, Benson? Back in 1980, Jerry played a recurring character (until he was fired unceremoniously) in the sitcom Benson. It was his first major professional role.

Odds it's a coincidence (1 is pure coincidence, 10 is completely intentional): 9.

I was watching the movie adaptation of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying recently. It's a tricky show to revive, since its sexual politics take place in the era when the show opened on Broadway, 1961. It occurred to me this is the same milieu that Mad Men is trying to recapture (though How To Succeed had a satirical, cartoonish slant). Then it hit me that Robert Morse, the star of the musical (on Broadway and onscreen) has a featured role in Mad Men.

Are the producers trying to harken back to that era?

Odds it's a coincidence: 4

November 6 Update: I've since since Seinfeld on Charlie Rose, and he said the name came from Benson, so we can move that 9 up to a 10.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dan Aykroyd Wasn't Available?

Meryl Streep to play Julia Child.

Good God

"Church ordered to pay $10.9 million for funeral protest"

This cannot stand. Sure they're jerks, sure you ought to be able to bury your dead in peace. But unless you're on private property from which you can be excluded, you ought to be able to say anything you damn well please, short of libel.

Flashback

Fred Thompson tags Hillary for her palpable corruption, saying it reminds him of something.

Yeah, it reminds me of something too. The Clintons were obvious, corrupt buffoons, and in one instance there were absurd violations of campaign finance laws. To bring these dastardly doings to light, the Republicans put some ineffectual milquetoast to the job. (Ibid.) The name escapes me at the moment, but I do remember that he made John Glenn look like Viagra on steroids. That's right, John Glenn, the man who has all the skill and charm of a Rhesus monkey, or for that matter a potted plant. (All right, I admit that's unfair; it's a lot easier to tell if a Rhesus monkey is still functioning.)

It's Magic

I've never seen Criss Angel perform, though he has two shows on TV. From what I can tell, he's a fine magician, but there's no way he's as good as CNN thinks.

He recently appeared on Larry King and, onscreen, under his name, they wrote "Can walk through glass, catch bullets in his teeth, and survive." Now that's impressive.

Republicans' Best Strategy

By all accounts, Hillary performed abominably at the latest Dem debate. I've heard a lot of Republicans are thrilled about the debacle.

But is it truly best for the Repubs?

Like them, each major Dem candidate has serious flaws. It's far from clear who'd be best to run against. So how does Hillary doing badly help?

Is it because she's the best candidate and they want her to fail? Is it she's still inevitable so anything that hurts her is good for use in the general election? Is it because they don't want a clear leader to sail into the convention?

It seems to me unless you know who's easiest to beat (and I sure don't), you can't really tell if Hillary's ups and down are good or bad.

Link Yourself To Jail

Interesting discussion by Dahlia Lithwick in Slate about the Supreme Court debate over a child pornography pandering law. It's illegal to buy or sell child porn, but what about letting others know where you think they might find some? Or what about representing to others that you're passing on kiddie porn even though it's something else?

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