Friday, February 29, 2008

Is Hillary Endorsing McCain?

I think this ad is effective but I don't think it has the effect she intended.

McCain Has Failed

According to the latest Rasmussen poll, "voters currently trust John McCain more than Barack Obama on issues of National Security, the War in Iraq, the Economy, and Taxes. Obama is trusted more when it comes to Reducing Government Corruption."

I can hear the gnashing of teeth in the McCain camp already. McCain would trade everything else to have clean government. As he himself put it, "I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected."

Better luck next time, John .

Happy Leap Day

Don't blow it or you have to wait four years to make it up.

Analyze This

The LA Times had a piece on New Line Cinema and its troubles. It's going to be gobbled up by Warner Brothers. (I have friends who work at New Line and I wish them well.)

In a previous piece, they discussed the outlook for today's New Line release, Will Ferrell's Semi-Pro. I thought they were a little fast and loose with the numbers. They note that Ferrell in a sports comedy is gold, but this one might be a bit different because it's R-rated. Then they note how much weaker R-rated comedies Old School and Analyze This opened, compared to Blades Of Glory and Talladega Nights.

This isn't fair. Old School opened before Ferrell and, for that matter, Vince Vaughn, were big stars. If you had that cast now, you'd save it for summer and make a fortune. And Analyze This opened almost a decade ago, when tickets were cheaper and grosses less front-loaded. I don't deny R comedies that appeal to the young artificially limit their audience, but that's no excuse to play with numbers.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Going once . . .

Ann Coulter says it's 100 names.

Wikipedia says it's 2,000.

LAGuy missed his chance to settle it, but fortunately knew French.

Do I hear 500?

More Free Advice

Unfortunately Hillary seems to be ignoring my campaign advice. So it looks like it'll be Obama versus McCain. In that case, I have some advice for the latter.

People will say Obama's vital while you're tired. Use this to your advantage. Run on the line "Give the old guy a chance--if it doesn't work out, Obama will still be around in four years."

Also, "I Write The Songs" Is By Bruce Johnston

Philosophical question: Can someone live his life based on the song "My Way"?

William F. Buckley Jr

William F. Buckley Jr. has died. He's probably the most important political figure in America since WWII who never served in office. His books and magazine--The National Review--helped form the intellectual basis for the modern conservative movement. And for years, his show, Firing Line, was TV's oasis of rational argument and probing discussion.

I had lunch with him once. He was scheduled to speak at the University of Chicago and I picked him up from another speech in the West suburbs and drove him to Hyde Park. But first he wanted to stop for lunch at a place where he could get a nice glass of wine, so we drove into the Loop.

We walked on the street a bit and several people recognized him--I saw what it was like to be a celebrity up close. Some wanted to stop and speak to him. He brought that out in people.

At lunch, he told anecdotes about great people he'd known. (One of his stories had a punchline in French.) He asked me what my politics were and I said I was an independent--I think he might have been surprised since I'd guess most students chosen to drive him around were conservative. He was kind enough to pay for lunch--though considering how much we were paying him for his appearance it was the least he could do, now that I think of it.

At his speech, someone asked him if the way he talked and acted was affected, and he said for something to be affected, you have to affect it, whereas he acted naturally. So I guess he was just naturally intelligent, charming and erudite.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

RIP Bill Buckley

Now I'll never get to ask him: Exactly how many names of the Boston phone book was it?

I'll try anything

Male spiders play dead for sex

Hmm. "SpiderGuy." I think that's got some potential.

I Like It

A friend just turned me on to one of the hottest new sites on the web. (So why should I help them out--we're the ones who need help.) Anyway, here it is: Stuff White People Like.

Come Hear The Music Play

Whenever Simon Cowell thinks someone is too MOR on American Idol, he calls their performance "cabaret."

I think someone should inoculate himself from this criticism and sing "Cabaret."

False Premise

I've heard a number of comedians and commentators joke about how long the Oscar ceremony was. I don't get it--this was one of the shortest Oscars I can remember.

Don't Say Nothin' Bad About My Baby

With a message no one wants to hear, Hillary Clinton, like Doug Piranha of the notorious Piranha Brothers, has resorted to sarcasm. While I agree Obama's empty promises deserve derision, this is still no way to campaign. Besides, Obamamaniacs are too in love to take this as anything but an unfair attack.

I guess Hillary saw her dwindling poll numbers and figured she had to change something about her campaign. But I doubt getting meaner will do the trick.

Crazy

I was in a store recently when a guy came in and starting shouting on a cell phone how he was going to kick someone's ass. And he didn't say it once or twice. He kept it up for about ten minutes.

I passed him as I was leaving and noticed he didn't have a phone. I just assumed, since he wasn't talking to anyone in particular, that he had one. It's a lot harder to seem crazy these days.

I'm reminded of Lily Tomlin's old line: "Wouldn't it be great if all those people who wander around New York talking to themselves could be paired up so they'd look like they were having a conversation?"

The Bluetooth has taken care of that problem.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Obasm

Holly mo-lee. I just saw my first Obama commercial and it's insane.

I get to text "Hope" to a number.

And I get kind of excited to hear, "We can end a war."

Hmm.

Reminds me of living in a nuclear free zone 20 years ago; I remember thinking at the time, "Gee, I hope someone told the Soviets."

I'm thinking even McCain can beat this guy. And if he can't, it ust means America is over, and the sooner we settle on that the better.

UPDATE: Up to three --scratch, no. 4 as I type -- obasm commercials, and nary a Hillary commercial anywhere. Is she out of moolah?

Polls Apart

Various polls, national and statewide, are showing distressingly disparate results in the Democrats' race--"above the proper average that statistics have laid down for our guidance," as Lady Bracknell would say.

Is the race close, or is it an Obama blow out? I guess we'll know next week. But considering how Obama has been overperforming in the last few primaries, Hillary must not be too happy.

Talkative Teller

While waiting for my cash to be dispensed at an ATM, I noticed the message "please wait while your cash is being dispensed."

Apparently the machine was programmed by one of those people who can't stand any lull in the conversation.

Tomfoolery

Tom Shales is the Washington Post's TV critic, which may explain why he doesn't know much about movies. This ignorance is in full display in his review of Sunday's Oscar telecast.

For instance, he writes "Marion Cotillard's victory as Best Actress for playing legendary singer Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose was an upset over newcomer Ellen Page as a pregnant teenager in Juno." It was an upset, but over favorite Julie Christie, not Ellen Page.

Odder still was this statement about the night's big winners: "The Coens generally make cynical, gloomy movies, with the exception of the breakneck comedy Raising Arizona." Cynical, maybe, but gloomy? Has he not seen The Hudsucker Proxy, The Big Lebowski, Intolerable Cruelty and O Brother Where Are Thou? Every other film the Coen Brothers make is a comedy.

Did I Read That Right?

In Mark Harris's excellent Pictures At A Revolution, a book about the five film nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 1967, one sentence made me stop short. At the beginning of Chapter Thirteen, Harris notes there were two kinds of young New York theater actors, as far as Hollywood was concerned--those handsome enough to recruit for movies and those that weren't. (His larger point is someone like Dustin Hoffman had no place at all in mid-60s Hollywood.)

Of those who could make it, there were the square-jawed leading man types--Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, George Peppard, James Farentino--who could be signed to big contracts after which the studios hoped they'd catch on.

Harris goes on:
The second tier of actor was understood to be a victim of genetic bad luck, someone who, whatever his talent, could never be groomed or reshaped or prettified into a movie star and was left behind to ply his trade in New York. The studios assumed that actors who looked or sounded like Robert Duvall, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight and Alan Arkin would be of little interest to the American public; they might be useful in a comic or supporting role now and then, but nothing more.
Jon Voight a victim of genetics?! Mark Harris is gay, and perhaps a better judge of male pulchritude than I, but Jon Voight in the mid-60s was as pretty as a girl.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Questioningly

Whenever I read Parade magazine, the first thing I check out is Walter Scott's Personality Parade.

Here's some Q and A from the latest:

Someone asks who was the best Mama Rose ever, Ethel Merman or Angela Lansbury? WS answers neither--Bernadette Peters. I actually saw Peters do the role on Broadway, and she was fine, but really?

In discussing Fred Thompson leaving Law And Order, Scott writes: "We assume Thompson, 65, now regrets leaving the show on his quixotic quest for the Presidency." Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul, Ralph Nader--that's quixotic. Fred's run was unsuccessful, but it wasn't ridiculous.

Finally, we get a question asking why hasn't Hurley lost weight (on Lost) when Tom Hanks in Cast Away became emaciated when stuck on an island. This is the kind of silly question I love, and so does Scott. His response is there's plenty of food on the Lost island. That's part of it, but the better point that he leaves out is that Hanks was stuck on his island for years while Hurley's been gone only about three months.

Meanwhile, over in the Calendar letters section, here's an interesting response to a piece on Dexter, the show about a serial killer. A Tanya Rutter of Manhattan Beach writes "Until the media takes a least some responsibility for the increasing violence in the country, we are lost as a nation."

Well, I suppose you can argue about how much responsibility the media should take for violence (increasing or not), but I'm surprised anyone claims our nation hinges on it.

The Phone Company Which Must Not Be Named

I just had to order a DSL line to get better internet service in my work apartment. The process wasn't too hard and Verizon sent me several emails keeping me apprised of process and containing useful information. All fine and good but somebody at Verizon On Line decided the emails should come from an address called "Volconsumer"

Is is too late? Have I sold my soul? Will Death-Eaters be dropping in.? Will Verizon receive immunity from Congress?

Do you think the tech support folks talked to marketing department?

Addenda: Just talked to a friend who also just ordered a line- she said I'm way over-reacting, the address made her think of a kindly efficient Mr. Spock looking out for her technical needs.

An Interesting Cloning Wrinkle

There are all sorts of good (and not so good) ethics arguments why human cloning may be a bad idea. But sharks, fish, and now dragons provide a good counter-argument against the position that it's "unnatural."

Isn't This Why We Have An FCC?

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. But sometimes not.

Ender's Game, Here We Come

It's only a matter of time before the military starts recruiting at video game competitions. Their new slogan will likely be a picture of this with a simple caption like: "You Get To Drive." Maybe the next generation will have a version incorporating a passenger compartment -- it could be the land-based equivalent of a rescue submarines and choppers for downed pilots, surrounded small units, etc.

Ok, So It Wasn't That Close

Pajama Guy just came really close to our first NYTimes citation, when they said that George Polk Award-winning blogger Joshua Micah Marshall "operates a long way from the clichéd pajama-wearing, coffee-sipping commentator on the news." But I'll have them know I far prefer a venti no-classic black iced tea when commenting.

Dem Debate

Previously, I've characterized the Democrat's debate on Iraq as sounding something like this:

Obama: I accuse you of once saying something rational.

Clinton: No I didn't!

Now they seem to be making the same argument over economics. Obama's people sent out a mailer claiming she stated NAFTA was a boon to the economy. Hillary is going red-faced denying such a scurrilous charge.

The funny thing is Edwards was worse.

Another Year Another Oscars

It's not exactly live blogging, but here were my impressions as they gave out the Oscars. Not on the show, just the categories.

Best Costume--didn't they used to start with supporting actors? Elizabeth wins. I had no clue. Could have been any of them. Enjoy your short stay on top, Elizabeth.

Animated film. Boy it would be amazing if Persepolis won, but there's no way--it's Ratatouille. Well, at least it's a good film.

Makeup--I'd love to see Norbit win just because it's generally considered to be the worst film of the year. But the winner is, predictably, La Vie En Rose. The aging they did of Marion Cotillard was great.

Visual Effects. All blockbuster style, and Golden Compass wins. Could have been any. I would have chosen Transformers.

Art Direction. Amazing how many awards they go through before you get anything anyone cares about. Winner, Sweeney Todd. Why not?

Finally, Supporting Actor. It may be a lock, but people across the world start paying attention. Winner, of course, is Javier Bardem. Only real competititon is sentimental fave Hal Holbrook.

Short Film means nothing to anyone, since no one's seen them. When they used to let anyone vote even if they hadn't seen them, you could pick to winner based on the best-sounding title.

Animated Short--see above.

Supporting Actress--now we're talking. The most competitive category of the night (that anyone cares about). The Academy goes for Tilda Swinton, a surprise victory. Does this bode well for Michael Clayton?

Now they're announcing technical awards--they must be even more boring than they stuff they're showing, since they already gave them out.

Wow, Adapted Sceenplay Award, another biggie. To no one's surprise, it goes to the Coens for No Country For Old Men. I get the feeling they're not done for the evening.

Sound Editing--one of the two sound awards, that no one can distinguish. Bourne Ultimatum wins because, I think, the Academy liked both the sound and the editing in the film. Right on its heels the same guys give the Sound Mixing award because no one would set for a second introduction to set it up. Bourne wins again for that great sound.

Hey! Best Actress. They're really mixing it up. There's a strong favorite here, but not a lock, in Julie Christie. And the second favorite wins! Marion Cotillard. 1) If Christie didn't have one already, who knows what would have happened? 2) A very continental night. We've given out three acting awards and not a single American has won yet. 3) This sort of stuff makes the Oscar poll more interesting. 4) When Daniel Day-Lewis wins I assume it'll be the first time no Americans got an acting prize.

Editing. Will Bourne keep winning the tech stuff? Yes, it does. I guess the lack of above-the-line nominees must mean the script sucks.

Foreign language film--the only controversy here is the great films that weren't eligible or nominated. The expected winner is The Counterfeiters and the expected happens. I haven't seen it, and though I've heard it's good, it's also a topic that often wins Oscars.

Best Song. Since Enchanted had three nominations, it split it's vote so of course, "Falling Slowly" from Once wins.

Cinematography, maybe the most interesting of the technical awards. Oscar goes to There Will be Blood. Does this help in its shot at Best Picture? No, I'd say.

Best Score, always fun. Atonement, which had a main theme I found memorably annoying.

Now the moment no one is waiting for, Short Documentary. Apparently the winner is about some worthwhile topic. Maybe it's even good, I don't know. Now, much worse, best Feature Documentary, which'll either be something against Iraq or Michael Moore. It's one of the Iraq pieces. The audience applauds their nobility.

Best Original Screenplay. I've been waiting for this since I simply want to hear what Diablo Cody has to say. Her victory is a done deal. It turns out to be tearful but not that funny. Come on, Diablo, make with the Juno wisecracks.

Best Actor, lock of the night. Daniel Day-Lewis fumbles through his speech. (Still sounds like George Harrison.) There Will Be Blood seems to be leading in the major awards battle, could that mean....nah!

Best Director, as predicted, goes to the Coens. Two brothers, two awards. Makes sense.

Finally the big award. Once again, no surprise (no major surprises tonight, though a few minor ones): No Country For Old Men. And Joel and Ethan come up on stage for the third time tonight, though Scott Rudin accepts.

By the way, the show ran pretty smoothly. It's a good thing they didn't have a lot of time to prepare.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Big Day (When I Can't Drive On Hollywood Boulevard)

As a reminder, here are my Oscar picks and Oscar choices. (I did not mention Marion Cotillard and Ruby Dee, though they can't be totally discounted.)

My guess for the film that will take it all is No Country For Old Men, though there should be an interesting vote split.

Anyone else want to go on record?

Dear Ira

Ira Glass of This American Life is speaking in town today. I considered attending, but then I discovered that this storyteller of regular American folks is charging $100.

Guess what? This American ain't going.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Giving New Meaning To "Persistence Of Memory"

Princeton researchers have discovered a neat hardware hack for getting around some software encryption. A worthy reminder that software geeks need to keep hardware limitations in mind before making security claims.

Infrastructure

Geez, I hope LAGuy doesn't start suffering plumbing problems.

Unnecessary Observation

So the superdelegates are following the voters and moving toward Obama. Doesn't that make them supererogatory?

Saturday's Test

Tonight will be the first new Saturday Night Live since the writers' strike ended. With all the fascinating political stories they've missed, it'll be interesting to see what they've come up with.

There's no way they can ignore the Democrats' fight, it's the story of the day. The question is how they'll deal with Obama. It's too easy to mock Hillary, and they've been doing it for years. Obama, on the other hand, is ripe for being taken down a peg.

I remember when they did the Gore-Bush debates. They took on both, but the Gore mockery was probably more devastating, with all his talk about the "lockbox" he'd put social security in. It seems to me it'd be even easier to make fun of Obama's contentless "change."

PS Turns out SNL did a pretty good job mocking how the media kisses up to Obama. (Fred Armisen was the choice to play the part.) And Mike Huckabee appeared in Weekend Update--he was quite funny.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Because They're Young

Obama, they say, gets young voters excited. I can understand why. They've never seen anyone like him, since a politician such as Obama only comes along about one every decade. Maybe twice.

Driving In LA

I used to take Highland to the Valley, but it's always crowded and slow. Then I found out how to slip in through Cahuenga. You spend a lot of time thinking about traffic in LA.

Last Friday, early in the evening, I took Cahuenga, from Melrose to Barham, on my way to Burbank. Here was my internal monologue--if I stopped to consciously think about what I now do automatically.

The light at Willoughby is always green [one reason I take Cahuenga] but I better bear left since there's that truck always parked about a block up making the right lane crowded. But once I pass the truck, I have to cut into the right lane since I don't want to be stuck in the left--the light at Santa Monica takes forever and with lots of opposite traffic, and you could have to wait several times through if anyone is turning left at the intersection. But once past Santa Monica, I should get into the left lane since the traffic always moves way too slow on the right. Still, if I see anyone ahead at all at the light on Fountain, I gotta cut back right before them. However, by De Longpre--not very far--I have to be back into the left lane since there's always a pileup trying to park underneath Amoeba records right before Sunset. It's that does open up a clear right lane, but it's probably best to be in the left lane at the light on Sunset since anyone in front of me might be turning right and will always have to wait for pedestrians. (And watch that intersection--there are cameras!). However, by the next block at Selma, I better be in the right lane since anyone turning left will screw me up. The section between Selma and Hollywood is tricky. Some cars stop for valet parking on the right, and at the light they often have to turn, but have to wait for foot traffic first. On the other hand, if it's past 7, they can turn left, and they always do--just one or two cars will get through per green. Also, watch for pedestrians crossing in the middle of the street. Altogether, I guess the best strategy is to stay on the right, but maybe I should consider taking a side road to my side road--instead of staying on Cahuenga, cut right a few blocks back at Ivar and then rejoin Cahuenga via Yucca. Okay, I'm past the light--better switch from left to right lane since people also stop for valet north of Hollywood. Things are moving reasonably well now. Almost doesn't matter what lane I take, though under the bridge, it's best to be on the left. Now that they've put a new light where the 101 lets out, it's great for those people, but slows down this shortcut. I guess I'd better stay on the right--I'm not thrilled with the blind corner anyway. Okay, past the light at Vine--that never takes long. But we merge here. Good thing the traffic isn't too bad. All it would take is an accident to shut down this part of the pass. Now there's more merging from the 101--no problem really. I'm more worried about the jerks who sometimes treat this road as a walking path. Alright, coming down the hill--traffic can be bad at the light. And make sure not to get stuck in the far left lane--you can't turn right there. Once I get over the hill, I'll decide if the right or middle lane is best. I like the right better, but incoming traffic from the right and potholes are worse there.

Next I get onto Barham, and the process continues.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Acquittals? We Don't Need No Steenking Acquittals!

Several JAG officers have resigned from the Office Of Military Commissions saying the process is rigged. Whether true or not, appointing William Haynes as Pentagon General Counsel was almost, but not quite, as politically tone-deaf as nominating Harriet Myers for the United States Supreme Court.

I Hope It's On Netflix

Documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman has a new movie coming out called State Legislature. It's a four hour study of the Idaho State Legislature, which sounds absolutely brutal if you haven't seen his prior work. I've seen a couple of Mr. Wiseman's past documentaries and enjoyed them very much, so I'd like to catch this one. Saddened me a bit that New York Magazine felt they needed to throw Obama into the article's title to perk up interest, though I guess I understand it.

Times Timing

Surprise, surprise, another politician has a girlfriend issue (Well the NYTimes is not exactly saying that about McCain's relationship with a young woman lobbyist in 1999, but thats clearly on everyone's mind along with the influence peddling) I always approach these kind of stories with a jaundiced eye as I have never understood why some hank-panky tales get airplay and others don't -there are a lot of political "dalliance" stories out there that are not being reported (Thank God) - but thats the topic for another post. I'm interested in why this is being talked about now.

While I'm sure the McCain folks would rather this issue not be talked about at all in the news cycle, if it had to be discussed, this is not bad timing. He basically has the nomination wrapped up in numbers so any risk from a values-based backlash from his own party is minimized (but not eliminated) and despite a few fitful references, the general election has not started and is 9 long months away. Best for him to go through the shitstorm now, shake the trees and get it out there and let the media attention span run its course. I'm sure the Republican challengers (and maybe the party leadership) would have rather this come out in December or January in the heat of the campaign and the Democrats would have preferred something closer to next November.

Applauding His Grasp Of The Tissues?

A couple of bloggers have seized on the fact that a Dallas crowd cheered for Obama having said he had a bit of a head cold and had to blow his nose. I saw the speech, and thought it was their way of thanking/encouraging him for toughing out the speech even though he's feeling ill.

Not John Huston

I saw Daniel Day-Lewis on Charlie Rose. Boy does his normal voice sound a lot like George Harrison.

Silver Lining

With all the endorsements going to Obama, Hillary's looking more attractive. She doesn't owe anything to anybody.

Sez Who?

Ryan Seacreat recently opened American Idol with "people are saying that this year's talent is the best yet."

Yeah, those people being the producers. This has been the season's catchphrase. Maybe they're right, but I'd say it's a bit premature.

Leaps

I sometimes wait so long to jump into the latest technology that I get culture shock. I went from no internet to cable, never had to deal with dial-up (sounds awful) or DSL.

Now, after holding out, I finally got an iPod. 80 gigs. I've downloaded my CD collection onto it. Just a few months ago I still had a Walkman which could play on tape at a time. I hope I can handle walking around with 20,000 songs at a touch.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Like Scales Falling From My Eyes

I'd always considered right-wingers criticizing of Bill Clinton as a dirty fighter to be the height of hypocrisy. I mean, Rove et al. were the dirty tricksters, right? Bill was just defending himself.

But now, with her back against the wall, Hillary's starting to pull out old tricks that make me wonder whether I had perhaps been a wee bit (willfully?) blind to their past methods. First, she has her campaign accuse Obama of plagiarism for taking a couple of speech lines without attribution from one of his best friends. I mean, come on. All politicians take lines from each other. She's had almost exact quotes from everyone from Bill to Obama. Unless there's a five sentence rule (like the 5 second rule with food that falls on the floor?), this is just silly.

Then she (or her campaign) denies that she pushed the issue, saying reporters took off with it on their own. Yeah, right. You can't claim the press is giving Obama a free pass in one breath, then with the next breath expect us to believe they suddenly turned on him without provocation.

Then her campaign floats the idea of poaching delegates Obama earned via elections, a move I think would set the party back 20 years in convincing young people their votes matter.

I think this is good seasoning for Obama, who I expect will face far tougher attacks in the general election. But I also wonder how much Bill's going to regret the taint on fond memories some of us had of him. Particularly when the moves are being played by someone who's just not as good at it as he was.

Dolly's Folly

I sometimes watch the late-night Poker After Dark. Recently, they've added an intro where Doyle Brunson sputs gnomic wisdeom such as You Don't Stop Playing Because You Get Old, You Get Old Because You Stop Playing.

Doyle, you're the master, and I'd be glad to hear your war stories, but I don't watch poker on TV to learn lessons.

Ten Years After

Los Angeles, for you foreigners, has grades clearly posted in all restaurants so you can see how they're rated by health inspectors. We've had this system for ten years.

"A" means passed with flying colors, "B" means a minor problem or two, "C" means more problems. (At least that's how I see it.) Lower than that and they shut you down, presumably, since I've never seen a "D."

Most of my friends would never eat anywhere that posts a "B." They don't even like walking by a "C." Surveys show this attitude is common. My attitude is who cares. As long as they close the ones that fail, I don't mind getting lunch from a C student.

Is It Over?

Yeah, it's probably over. Though voters in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania shouldn't care what other voters think, they do. And Hillary losing pretty big yet again, this time in Wisconsin, shows that her constituency has migrated enough to Obama that she can't come back.

The schedule's been working against her in the past few weeks and whatever lead she still holds in some polls seems likely to evaporate. She needs to win convincingly in the major states coming up, but the question is can she win at all. I don't think even the Soggy Bottom Boys could save her now.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

That Was Fast

Hey, we just got our 55,000th hit. Sure wouldn't have guessed that on Sunday.

You know, he may just be on to something here

Drew Curtis of fark.com speculates that the odd timing -- 3AM local time -- of the announcement of Fidel Castro's retirement, in the form of a letter read aloud by others, was precipitated by his death, which will be made public about a week after his brother Raul takes the reins. It fits my favorite category of conspiracy theory -- ones that should be true whether they really are or not, because they'll make for a better movie ending.

Sitting Shiva Tour

David Brooks is normally not a very funny guy, at least in his NYTimes Op-Eds. But this was the best laugh line of the presidential campaign to date:

"Patients in the grip of [Obama Comedown Syndrome] rarely express doubts at first, but in a classic case of transference, many experience slivers of sympathy for Hillary Clinton. They see her campaign morosely traipsing from one depressed industrial area to another — The Sitting Shiva for America Tour. They see that her entire political strategy consists of waiting for primary states as boring as she is."

The Evil Empire Strikes Again

A small town boy from the wrong side of the tracks in Newton, returns home

Thank You Instapundit

As faithful readers know, I put up a post every time we get another 10,000 hits--which takes us a while. My last such post was just a couple days ago.

But thanks to just one link on Instapundit (I'd link back but who am I kidding?), we're almost halfway to the next 10,000.

Goodbye Larry King

"Lawrence ‘Larry’ King was allegedly gunned down [...] and died in hospital two days later after being removed from life support."

For those of you who don't understand why I link this, Larry King is a regular reader and commenter. But he's not the slain gay teen, nor is he the superannuated talk show host.

Substantial Problems

After accusations that he's all style and no substance, Obama released some specific economic plans recently. They're pretty much what you'd expect. Higher taxes plus savings from surrendering to terrorists going toward many more government programs to solve all your problems. (To be fair, Hillary's plans seem worse--she wants to freeze foreclosures and mortgage rates. What is she thinking?)

This is an old trick. Whenever anyone asks Where's The Beef, you just put out some papers that the electorate will never read. It quiets the media down and you can go on saying anything you want at speehces.

Nostalgia

I was recently in an electronics store. (As I entered I was treated to 50 TVs playing Michigan's loss to Appy state--isn't it time to move on?)

Anyway, I actually saw three separate people, all clearly born since 1980, wearing Beatles T-shirts. Would anyone have predicted in the sixties people still listening to this band forty years down the road? Okay, maybe they would--they were pretty big, and after initial resistance, everyone got how good they were.

But I noticed then, playing in the background, someone had put on The Ramones greatest hits. Thirty years ago, when this band was at their height, they were considered too scary to play on the radio. Now people were walking by, humming along. They've become a nostalgia act. I guarantee you no one saw that thirty years ago

Monday, February 18, 2008

Afta NAFTA

Barack Obama just received the endorsement of the Service Employees International Union. They represent almost 2 million voters.

In a speech aimed at labor, Obama said Hillary Clinton "supporting NAFTA didn't give jobs to the American people."

Let's look at the numbers. NAFTA took effect in 1994. The unemployment rate in the three years before was 6.8%, 7.5% and 6.9%. While it had been as low as 5.3% in 1989, in general, it was normal for unemployment to be above 6% and often above 7% in the fourteen years before NAFTA.

Here are the year by year rates through the rest of the Clinton administration: 6.1%, 5.6%, 5.4%, 4.9%, 4.5%, 4.2%, 4.0%. Next we have the "worst since Hoover" Bush recession, and the unemployment rate rises to 4.7%, 5.8% and 6.0%, then back down to 5.5%, 5.1%, 4.6% and 4.6%.

In other words, after NAFTA, unemployment drops precipitously and stays down. It's impossible to know how much effect NAFTA had, though it sure does seem likely it led to a net gain in jobs. At the very least, it's hard to claim it led to a net loss.

Does Obama know this? My guess is yes. But he also knows what people want to hear.

PS We've been linked before, but never Instalinked. Hello, everyone. You know what they always says--"look around the rest of the blog"--so why should I be any different?

If I Ran The Zoo

I've already given my predictions for the Oscars, even before the nominations were out.

Now it's time for my choices. If I got to vote for the (often slim pickings) offered Academy members, here's where I'd go, without any explanation.

Best Picture: Juno

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Actress: Ellen Page

Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem

Bust Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett

Best Director: Julian Schnabel

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Diving Bell And The Butterfly

Best Original Screenplay: Juno

Best Animated Feature: Persepolis

Best Art Direction: Atonement

Best Cinematography: No Country For Old Men

Best Costume Design: Atonement

Best Editing: The Diving Bell And The Butterfly

Best Makeup: Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End

Best Score: 3:10 To Yuma

Best Song: "That's How You Know" from Enchanted

Best Visual Effects: Transformers

Best Sound and Best Sound Editing (two separate awards): No Country For Old Men

Do You Know What I Mean?

David Brooks had a pretty good piece on commodity providers versus experience providers. Commodity providers: Safeway, PCs and Hillary. Experience providers: Whole Foods, Mac and Obama.

But he missed the irony. Was it that long ago that she represented the Politics Of Meaning?

She's Got Something Better To Do?

This is odd. Hillary is leaving Wisconsin a day early (and a dollar short?). I realize she badly needs to win in Texas and Ohio, but Wisconsin is coming right up and though Obama has a lead, it's close. (Maybe internal polls shows it's not so close?)

Couldn't she at least stick around one more day if it might mean an extra point or two in the voting? A close race in Wisconsin (not to mention a victory) might do more for her chances on March 4th than anything else.

Retire This Number

Richard Schickel reviews Mark Harris's fascinating book about the five films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 1967, Pictures At A Revolution. Alas, in the second paragraph, we get this:

Weekly attendance at the movies had been steadily, alarmingly sliding since its modern high of 90 million achieved in 1948, the last year before network television was established. In 1966, it was less than half that (38 million). In 1967, that figure, without warning, had been cut in half again: Only 17 million Americans were going to the movies each week.
Without warning indeed. While there is one study of questionable provenance that offers these numbers, all other evidence debunks it.

I've written on this before. Michael Medved has practically made a career of trumpeting these bad numbers, but I'm surprised Shickel has been taken in. They don't even make sense on their face. No matter what supposedly happened between '66 and '67 (and note the five biggest hits of '67 all made more money than the biggest hit of '66), you're simply not going to get attendance cut in half overnight. Even during the early days of TV, when attendance was dropping quickly, you didn't see this. It's not as if more people buying color TVs would cause a bigger problem.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

50,000

We've now had 50,000 hits since we started counting. Not much compared to some of the superblogs, but not bad. 50,000 would make up a decent-sized town. Big enough that people could live their entire lives without knowing who lives on the next block.

Thanks to all you faithful readers out there. Tell your friends so we can hit 100,000 even faster.

Relax And Enjoy It

"Democrats Look for Way to Avoid Convention Rift" says The New York Times. I can understand why they'd want to, but I don't understand how. If the election and the delegate count is close, you can't expect either candidate to give in. Right now, how tricky the convention will be is in the hands of the people--as it should be.

The funny thing is super delegates, partly created to avoid this sort of problem, are now seen as the cause of the problem. Unless the Dems can go back in time and change the rules, there's not much they can do at this point.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

What's Your Point?

In attacking Hillary, Obama sometimes goes out of his way to attack Bill, too. But this still struck me as an odd statement: “Keep in mind, we had Bill Clinton as president when, in ’94, we lost the House, we lost the Senate, we lost governorships, we lost state houses.”

I guess that means even if Obama goes on to be a popular President, it's certainly possible the Democratic Party will sustain significant losses during that time. Good point, Barack.

Tall, Skinny, Conservative Blondes For Hillary

Ann Coulter continues her crusade against John McCain. To be fair, she makes better arguments than most, but she's still crazy. As imperfect as McCain is, I don't see how a conservative could prefer the Democrats' nominee.

Think Before You Talk

Nancy Pelois on how super delegates should vote: "It would be a problem for the party if the verdict would be something different than the public has decided."

However, when it comes to Florida and Michigan, "I don't think that any states that operated outside the rules of the party can be dispositive of who the nominee is."

So there you have it. Listen to the voters except when you don't listen to the voters.

Meanwhile, I heard a super delegate interviewed on radio. He said he thought the whole super delegate system was undemocratic. Congratulations on recognizing the obvious. Now I must ask why you agreed to take the job?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sports Metaphor Misuse Alert

I have read three articles today mentioning Hillary Clinton's big "gamble" on the Texas and Ohio primaries. I agree she needs to win these states, by a substantial margin, to keep her hopes alive but where exactly does gambling come into play. Gambling implies some sort of choice and she really has none. It does not mean engaging in an effort with little chance of success (except thats how the headline writers are using it.)

You could argue that Rudy Giuliani "gambled" on the Florida primary because he chose to ignore those that came before it- but here what are Hillary's alternative choices for winning the nomination- inventing some other big states to win? kidnapping super delegates? a coup?

Its like saying that teams in the 7th game of the World Series are "gambling" on the outcome. Taking a chance cannot mean exercising your only available option.

The better sports cliche would be "make or break" or "must win."

Q: What do get when you cross really bad potatoes with penises ?

I saw a banner ad that Parade magazine was going to have its typically hard-hitting investigative piece this Sunday containing a list of the "World's Worst Dictators" and I assume it will be a fairly non-controversial selection- probably the bigger question is who actually qualifies as a dictator (i.e. I note that Ahmadinetc... doesn't make it (probably because the mullahs have the real power) however Pervez Musharraf comes in at number 8)

Of course this led to the question of who would be at the other end of the list? Therefore I invite Pajama Guy readers to submit their nominations, living or dead, for the "World's Best Dictators" list and use & discuss your own criteria for best. (not-so-bad a guy vs. really good at dictating)

The Streak Is Over

Hillary just won New Mexico. Sure, they voted on February 4th, but what's the rush?

Terrorist Tension

Imad Mughniyah was active in terrorism all his adult life. He was behind, for instance, the 1983 bombing in Beirut that killed 241 American soldiers. Here's what the LA Times front page article said about his death by car bomb: it's "likely to further aggravate tensions in Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East."

That was in the first sentence. Seemed kind of odd to me. I'd have thought the story would concentrate on the killing--who was killed, how, who's suspected--with a mention of its effect on the situation further down.

Beating Linus

I've been enjoying the new season of Lost quite a bit. They've gone in a new direction and there's as much drama and mystery as ever. If only I didn't know the season was so short I could enjoy it even more.

One thing, though. They sure beat up Ben a lot. In fact, above being a master manipulator, I think his greatest talent may be the ability to take a punch.

B.S.

Add Ben Stein to the list of conservatives who have gone crazy over evolution. I've seen him ranting about Darwin on TV, and now we have this piece.

Stein believes evolution was a theory that arose due to the politics of the era, not due to any evidence. Here's a taste:

But it fell to a true Imperialist [Darwin], from a wealthy British family on both sides, married to a wealthy British woman, writing at the height of Imperialism in the UK, when a huge hunk of Africa and Asia was “owned” (literally, owned, by Great Britain) to create a scientific theory that rationalized Imperialism. By explaining that Imperialism worked from the level of the most modest organic life up to man, and that in every organic situation, the strong dominated the weak and eventually wiped them out.

Darwin offered the most compelling argument yet for Imperialism. It was neither good nor bad, neither Liberal nor Conservative, but simply a fact of nature. In dominating Africa and Asia, Britain was simply acting in accordance with the dictates of life itself. He was the ultimate pitchman for Imperialism.

Now I'm not going to argue science with Stein, since the few scientific arguments he makes are so laughable that I have to assume he hasn't the slightest knowledge of evolution. And I won't go into (as others have) how fascinating it is to see a conservative make such a post-modern claim--that's there's no objective truth, only the interplay of power structures.

But I will note that Stein doesn't even get history right. Darwin was no more or less "imperialist" than others around him, including opponents of his theory. (And if anything, he was less racist.) While we're at it, Alfred Russel Wallace, who came up with the idea independently, wasn't at all in Darwin's position, socially or economically.

No one needed Darwin to prop up British imperialism. It was doing fine and felt fully justified long before the theory of natural selection was around. The idea, in fact, that Darwin, consciously or otherwise, created evolution to support his nation's policies is bizarre. Darwin himself sat on his theory for many years because he knew how revolutionary and unsettling it would be. Most of the criticism of his work was--far from raising whites over dark-skinned people, or Europeans over Africans, or the British over other nationalities--that it brought us all down to the level of animals.

We still hear echoes of this argument today. What we don't hear is any rationality from Ben Stein.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

It's Instrumental

Every year American Idol tweaks the show to keep it fresh (supposedly). We're now at the Hollywood audition stage and the big change this year is they've allowed the contestants to play instruments while they sing.

I don't get it. This is a singing competition. Letting them play while they sing makes no more sense than letting them dance while they sing. It's a separate talent that should have no bearing on the judges' choices.

Extra Grace

Yesterday in the LA Times, there was a jazz review of Grace Kelly--a 15-year-old saxophonist. Right next to it, there was an article about last year's number one hit in Britain, "Grace Kelly." One more mention and it's a trend.

We Need A Better Argument

Senator Jay Rockefeller uses a common but weak argument to defend his voting against waterboarding and other "harsh interrogation methods" (just what does that mean?). He says it'll boomerang: "Retaliation is the way of the world. What we do to others, they will do to us—but worse."

Well, we supposedly didn't torture people in the past and that sure didn't stop our enemies from torturing us. On the other side, countries that don't support torture won't change their stance based on what we do.

Overall, I doubt this bill would have any effect on how our soldiers are treated, but even if it did, note that this is a strategic argument--that we shouldn't do it because it doesn't "work." If that's the main reason, let's look into it (as the Senate hasn't, it would seem) and measure the pluses and minuses. Do we get better and more information with these techniques? Do we deter our enemy better with these techniques? Does just the threat of these techniques get more from detainees? And so on.

Once again, the argument against torture (no matter how you define it), should be based on principle--it should be stopped even if it means more Americans die or get tortured. Otherwise, this is just a debate about the numbers.

On Wisconsin

Recent primaries featured states that overrepresented Obama's constituency--African-Americans and elite (high income, high education) whites. His victories were still impressive in their size, yet isn't it a bit odd that the Democrats seem ready to pick their winner in what amounts to a 50-50 race simply due to who has the most beneficial states coming up?

In other words, if the huge March 4th primaries of Ohio and Texas, where Hillary was leading by wide margins in recent polls (she's got to lead somewhere when national polls show her about even with Obama), had been held on February 4th, would she seem to be the unstoppable front runner? Would voters be moving toward her because they figure it's time to vote for the winner?

Unfortunately for Hillary, March 4th is still pretty far away, and there are states coming up first that could be close but look like Obama victories. He should take North Carolina, though the question is will he be helped by Obamamentum elsewhere? A week ago, Hillary looked to take Rhode Island, but who would bet on her now?

The state to watch is Wisconsin. Obama's expected to win, but if Hillary can stay close, she can then hold on until March 4th, and if she wins (less and less likely), she can claim the people have turned to her. I still suggest she try the "They're saying it's over but you know better" approach.

Because of how the Democrats award delegates, Hillary has little chance of catching up to Obama, but I don't see why that should matter. First, if she can rack up the big victories, they'll only be separated by a small amount, and she can claim the people have turned back to her. (Could the Dems easily turn her away if the most recent contests had her beating him big?) She can also claim if Michigan and Florida had counted, she'd be ahead. The main thing is at this point, no one can get far enough out front to not need the super delegates to make it over the top.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wrong word

Wouldn't it be better as an Obasm? I guess this guy doesn't find that suggestive enough, so he adopts Obama-gasm.

If I Had My Druthers

I see there's a production of Li'l Abner in Westwood. I hear it's pretty good. I might go check it out. (I did the show in high school.)

The show was a hit on Broadway in 1956--same year as My Fair Lady--but it's never been revived. This is probably because it's a satire on the era, not to mention the Li'l Abner comic strip stopped running about 30 years ago.

It should still be a lot of fun--colorful characters, nice tunes and clever lyrics. Maybe it's time for New Yorkers to see it again.

I Saw The Light

Here's a nice website (sent to me by reader Larry King) that collects many moments of Obama hysteria.

To me the interesting question is how long it can last. Enough to win the candidacy? Enough to win the presidency? Enough to stay popular during the presidency? (The answer is less likely to be "yes" for each question.)

Thanks, Dad

There's a ubiquitous ad for Juno (a film I loved) that ends with the line Juno's father says: "The best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are." This is probably the worst line in the movie.

I agree, it's great to find someone who loves you for exactly what you are. (The line continues "Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person will still think the sun shines out your ass. That's the kind of person that's worth sticking with.") But as advice, which is what Juno wants, it's about as helpful as saying you should buy low and sell high.

Of course this is what you want. The question is can you find someone like this, and how do you know when you do?

Death Watch?

Many are calling on Huckabee to drop out, since, statistically speaking, he will not wrest the nomination from McCain. Is he sticking around because, as he says, he's got nothing better to do?

I don't want to be gruesome, but perhaps Huckabee figures something might happen to McCain. I'm not saying he's consciously hoping for it, and I'm not necessarily saying death, but perhaps an accident or stroke. Then he'd be the last man standing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Happy Darwin Day

If you ever forget why you should be scared of Huckabee (though somehow I doubt too many readers of this blog support him), let's look at the wonderful folks in Florida who want to balance the teaching of evolution in schools with non-scientific explanations.

For example, let's take Putnam County school superintendent David Buckles, who favors an "open dialogue" regarding the beginning of life. (For some reason anti-evolutionists are obsessed with the beginning of life, even though it's not really what evolution is about, and isn't even generally taught in high school biology.) Buckles asks "Did life begin in ice? Or was it the Genesis version? Or intelligent design? We want the pros and cons of all of it." So there you have it, ice, Genesis or ID. See how simple it is? First you give the kids one of those science books that uses the widely accepted explantion of life beginning in ice, then the Bible, then one of those creationist science books that favors Genesis. Now that's good education.

Helping Hillary

Everyone's talking about how much trouble Hillary's in. Since I want an open convention, here's my suggestion for some ads in Texas and Ohio.

Play on the people's sense of importance. Say in the ads "They're telling you it's over. It's not over. It's up to you." The general theme should be that all the pundits say it's done because they're taking the states of Texas and Ohio for granted--they'll fall in line just like all the other voters have lately, they won't dare to make a difference. But you're not like other voters, are you? You're smart and can make up your own minds, and you know that Hillary's the one--or do you want the party insiders to have decided things for you already?

How Stupid Do You Think We Are, Carl?

I almost admire the chutzpah.

Carl's Jr. introduced higher-priced burgers a few years ago and how did they do it? By saying you're lucky you're getting them so cheap. They called it the "Six Dollar Burger"--i.e., the amount you'd allegedly pay elsewhere. So charging $3.95 is a break--heck, you're making money.

I could almost buy this pitch, but now they've gone too far. They've got the new portobello burger which goes for around five bucks. The ad shows these guys sitting in an office lunchroom and one of their compatriots comes in with the portobellos. How much did this cost? they wonder. Twenty bucks, one of them guesses. At least, another adds.

Come on. A guy brings in burgers and--even if he's removed them from the bag--you're guessing they're twenty bucks?! If I worked in an office and some guy came in with twenty dollar burgers and asked me to pitch in, I'd never let him get the food again.

You can see the ad here.

Crazy

Apparently Willie Nelson is a 9/11 Truther. The funny thing is, like so many who are easily taken in, he calls everyone else "naive."

The Krug-Man

When Paul Krugman became a columnist for The New York Times eight years ago, to many he traded respectability for visibility. His over-the-top Bush bashing has been noticeable even on the Grey Lady's editorial page.

But now that Bush is leaving, it's interesting to see what he'll take on next. His latest, "Hate Springs Eternal," is an odd piece. He's a Hillary sort of guy and complains, with some justification, that Obama supporters are much more venomous than Hillary supporters, and treat any criticism of their man as unfair if not racist.

But look at how he backs this up. He believes there are special "Clinton rules" that allow them to be attacked over nothing. He looks back at Bill's term of office and says how unfairly the media dumped on them, and apparently the same thing is happening now.

Hold on a second. As far as I'm concerned, both then and now, the main thing the media did was report on controversies that Clinton's were involved in. Let's not forget Bill was impeached and later disbarred. And now Hillary is in a close and heated race, so the accusations are going to fly. But even if I thought the media were behind all this, does Krugman seriously want me to believe that just as today they try to help Obama, they used to slant things to make Ken Starr look good?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Guy can't make a list

So His Virtualness is pimping a poor sap who wants to form a party because he's fed up with the Republicans. Sensibly enough, the guy started with a statement of goals or principles and posted them at the beginning.

All I can say is, the guy doesn't know how to make a list, so here's a little help:

1. Individual liberty and personal responsibility.
2. A strong national defense - peace through strength and, if attacked, peace through war.
3. A free market and a respect for the wealth-creating power of reasonably unfettered capitalism.
4. Smaller government. 4. Less intrusive government. 4. Less expensive government.
5. A federalism approach to those issues originally - and best - left to the states by the constitution.
6. American nationalism - sometimes called patriotism.

Roy Scheider

Roy Scheider has died. Close to but never quite on the A list, he still did some fine work and appeared in a fair number of major films.

He started acting in the 1960s, but really got noticed in 1971 when he did memorable supporting work in both Klute and The French Connection (Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor). In 1975 he starred in what's probably his best film, Jaws. He didn't have a flashy part like co-stars Richard Dreyfuss or Robert Shaw, but as the steady though overwhelmed Police Chief Martin Brody, he anchored the film. He also got to speak the immortal line "You're gonna need a bigger boat."

Jaws became the biggest hit of all time and Scheider could choose his roles. Unfortunately, he chose to appear in French Connection director William Friedkin's Sorcerer (1977), a remake of The Wages Of Fear that was an expensive mess. But he rebounded with his role as director Bob Fosse's stand-in in All That Jazz (1979). It was odd casting since Scheider, who could neither sing nor dance, played a song and dance man. And in the few moments near the end when he tries a little of both, he demonstrates his lack of talent. Still, as Broadway director Joe Gideon, whose whole life is "showtime," Scheider was compelling, and he deservedly got a Best Actor nomination.

His career never again reached the same heights. In the 80s, he was the lead in a lot of minor, not especially successful films such as Still Of The Night (1982), Blue Thunder (1983), 2010 (1984) and 52 Pick-Up (1986) (actually I'm sort of fond of that last one).

By the 90s, he was more a supporting actor, appearing in a series of mostly forgettable films. But the great thing about being a movie star is your lesser work drops away, and your best work will always be around.

Say Hello To The Petard

Aside from the super delegates mentioned below, with the Democrats' race so close, many are noting that all those unseated delegates from Florida and Michigan--366 to be exact--might make the difference. But there's no easy way to decide what to do with them. Either Clinton or Obama's side will howl with protest almost no matter what is done, and setting up new elections is logistically a nightmare, if even doable.

And after the Democrats made such a stink about counting all the votes in 2000, don't they at least have to pretend they care about the subject this time around?

The Washington Post writes about the issue as if states like Michigan must regret their decision to hold elections earlier than allowed. I think they got it backwards. It's the Democratic National Council, as I've noted, that should now be regretting its high-handed way of slapping down states that got out of line

Actually, It's Called THE BEATLES

Having recently read Dave Marsh's book-length essay on The Beatles' Second Album, I moved on to David Quantick's book on the White Album.

Marsh's book is kind of a manifesto on rock, while Quantick's is a more straightforward song by song approach to a much more well known album.

It's hard to give this book a thumbs up. Quantick makes unsupported claims, is repetitive and has wacky taste. Yet, that's some of the fascination. As he goes through the numbers on all four sides, you never know if he'll declare something a disaster or a masterpiece.

This book should have been a lot better, but I still enjoyed it.

Blame The Process

Democrats are worried about super delegates deciding their nominee. Well if you didn't want their votes to count, why have them?

Senator Bill Nelson says "We're headed for a train wreck if we don't get this resolved. It is a flawed system that has to be changed."

But the reason you made all these changes in the past were to avoid previous problems. What happened was simple--you've got a close race that may remain close. (Though with Obamamentum, we'll see.) Close races can always happen. That's not a flaw in the system, it is the system. And that's one of the reasons you created super delegates.

Sure, you can say no super delegates and Florida and Michigan delegates don't even count in figuring out the majority and even go back to winner take all (which would have given Hillary a bigger edge, I'd guess). But then you'd just have new problems to deal with.

Just sit back and enjoy it. What's the big deal? Some Democrats worry too much in-fighting when they should unify and attack McCain will hurt the party, but I doubt it. As long as they can make up their minds before the convention is over, they'll be fine. No one really pays that much attention until after Labor Day anyway.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

"Local Girlfriend Always Wants To Do Stuff"

This American Life just had an hour called "Tough Room" that included a report on the making of The Onion. (I know a guy who wrote for The Onion, incidentally.)

We get to hear the editorial staff reading out their ideas. There are hundreds every week and only 16 are chosen to be headlines. It was fascinating to hear the time and effort spent on getting it right. Of course, anyone who's written humor knows how you can spend an hour just figuring out the perfect word. Sort of the opposite of blogging, actually.

McCain Redux

Here's NewEnglandGuy responding to my post on McCain's surprise victory:

Mcain won... well because McCain won. Maybe the timing was affected by the arcane scheduling and process rules. The other candidates were in the mix and didn't emerge and McCain proved victorious against all of them and the double blast of the talk radio performers. His victory may largely be that he is not an ideological adherent. His victory does not seem related to his positions (this seems true on the Dem side as well) but more to the fact of who he is not - a card-carrying member of some movement. It also shows the waining influence (this year at least) of cartoons like Coulter and Limbaugh.

Here's my response to his reponse:

For all McCain's alleged popularity, he didn't win most states he ran in and up till Super Tuesday (and in most states on Super Tuesday) when he won it was by a plurality. And Huckabee was whipping him still this weekend while Romney won in the CPAC straw poll. When you look at the votes, you realize he lost most of the time if it was just Republicans voting, and just about all the time among the conservative base. Luckily for McCain, Huckabee rose in Iowa--otherwise, he might have had to go up against just one other candidate and he probably would have lost. Follow Iowa with non-Republicans allowed to vote in New Hampshire and elsewhere, and then the big McCain states on Super Tuesday being winner-take-all, and McCain lucks out.

The voters liked him for a number of reasons, but it's not as if they rejected conservatives for being conservative (not the Republicans, anyway). McCain is seen as a staight-talking man of honor, but he's best known for strongly supporting the war in Iraq.

All this has nothing to do with the influence of Coulter and Limbaugh and I'm surprised to hear people talking up this meaningless point. It's as if they want to pretend that conservatives can't think for themselves, but simply get their marching orders from columnists and talk show hosts.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

What Are The Odds?

This is from Steve Chapman over at Reason.com on the terrorist threat:
...after the Irish Republican Army failed in an attempt to blow up British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, it said, "We only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always." Al Qaeda [...] faces a very different challenge: For it to carry out a nuclear attack, everything has to go right. For us to escape, only one thing has to go wrong.
The may be correct, but even if a nuclear attack were the only way to kill large numbers of people, the IRA quote above is still true.

Barry Morse

A few days ago I watched a Twilight Zone episode faturing Barry Morse. He's best known as the implacable Lt. Philip Gerard who chased David Janssen for five years on The Fugitive.

Watching the episode, I wondered what happened to Morse. I knew he'd helped run the Shaw Festival in Ontario, which I've attended, but that was about it.

The next day I read in the paper that he died. You don't think about a guy for years and then he's everywhere.

Friday, February 08, 2008

TGIF

The local McDonald's are now offering a half-price Filet-O-Fish on Friday's. Whenever I see this kind of promotion, I always wonder if it kills the business the rest of the week. Let's say you feel like a Filet-O-Fish on Thursday but then realize if you just wait a day, you can have it and save some money.

I realize the prices are already pretty low, but people are drawn in by these deals.

No Time

I just saw an ad for Chase that uses a cover of "Any Time At All." Though hardly as well known as "Revolution" of "Hello Goodbye" (also used in ads), it's always been one of my favorite Beatles' songs.

In other words, that's a pretty deep cut to destroy.

Someone Had To Win

As if there was any question, it's now over. McCain will be the Republican nominee.

I still think he's a weak candidate. There's his age, of course, and his temperament.And where will his votes come from? His attraction to independents is that he's a "maverick" willing to go against his party. Will they stay with him when he stands for his party--as his opponent will remind us every day. Meanwhile, the base hates him--his big victories on Super Tuesday came despite the conservative vote. Overall, I wouldn't be surprised if Republicans soon have buyer's remorse.

Really he backed into victory. If it had just been him versus Romney, Giuliani or perhaps even Thompson from the start, he wouldn't have prevailed. But the combination of states, voting rules and candidates served him well at every turn.

I'll eventually get around to posting on what kind of president he or Clinton or Obama would make, but I guess there's plenty of time for that now.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Front Window

I was walking recently and noticed as I passed by someone's house that they were watching Rear Window. Suddenly I had the impulse to stop and watch until they discovered what I was doing and confronted me.

I Know That Place

I watched the Welcome To The Captain pilot on Tuesday. Pretty weak. And it's taking the time slot of The Big Bang Theory, the only new show of the season I liked.

I only bring it up because it's set in the El Capitan apartments, just around the block from where I live. It's the physically closest of anything I've seen on TV or in the movies since Enid Coleslaw walked past a strip mall one block closer at the end of Ghost World.

Prove It

The CIA has recently gone into some detail describing how and when they used waterboarding. This has reopened (if it was ever closed) the debate about "enhanced interrogation techniques." One common argument against torture (no matter how you define it) is that the information you get is no good--people will say anything if coerced.

This seems obviously wrong. Yes, people will say a lot of things under coercion, true and false. They'll lie under any kind of questioning if it serves their purpose. The point is, once you have the raw material, you try to corroborate it. If you get information that someone is a terrorist, you can start surveillance. Another situation is where you get the same information from different sources. It's not as if interrogators accept anything anyone says.

Many who speak against waterboarding are trying to take the easy way out, saying it doesn't work. Actually, how and when it was used comes pretty close to the extremely limited acceptable situations that some would allow for (and others deny exist). If you believe the CIA, it was only used three times, five years ago, on high value captives who weren't speaking otherwise, during a time it was believed an attack might be imminent, and seems to have gotten a lot of valuable information.

In other words, the argument should be it's wrong even if it saves (or saved) many lives, not it's wrong because it doesn't save lives.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Defining Moment

I heard some right-winger noting a Constitutional amendment declaring marriage to be betweeen a man and woman would not change the definition of marriage. Perhaps not, but it sure would change the Constitution's definition of marriage.

By the way, until today I never heard of the term "Boston marriage." Is New England guy familiar with it?

Pop Rock

Downloading some Beatles' CDs on to my computer, I noticed some were listed under genre as "rock" and others "pop." Who makes these calls?

For those curious, all the original albums are "rock" except Revolver, Magical Mystery Tour and Abbey Road. I don't get it.

That's Just Super

Super Tuesday is over and, on the Democrats' side, things are far from settled. It seems quite possible this uncertainty will continue on to the convention where, perhaps, the winner will be chosen by Super Delegates.

This is at least in part thanks to the complex, even mind-boggling rules the party has created to award delegates. And isn't this symbolic of the Democrats? They respond to problems (real and perceived) with complex super-structures of laws and regulations, figuring they can take into account every factor and solve it before it happens. Or is that the problem of both parties?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Exercising My Franchise

So I just got back from voting. To my surprise, not that crowded.

I'm not registered with any party, so I asked them which party will let me vote for their candidates. They said the American Independent Party and the Democrats. Not Republican? That's gotta be good for Obama, I figured.

So I took a Democratic Ballot and did my duty.

Very Interesting

John McCain on his qualifications: "I can lead this nation and motivate all Americans to serve a cause greater than their self-interest."

What greater interest is that? I guess that's for John McCain to decide. In general, I'm all for people rising about their own small self-interest, but I don't need McCain, or Obama, or any politician, telling me how to do it. I want politicians who can rise above their own self-interest.

Separated At Birth

Can someone explain to me why the posters I've seen all over town for Charlie Bartlett, which seems to be a teen comedy, look just like Carlos the Jackal?

Decadent Comedy

After having been inside Steve Martin's mind, I've stepped back and just read a book about comedians of the 70s, Comedy At The Edge. In a way, it's an unofficial follow-up to (a book by a different author,) the far lengthier Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s.

The 70s was an interesting era for stand-up. You had two leading comics, George Carlin and Richard Pryor, dropping their highly successful careers to become more personal and political, and becoming bigger than ever. On the other hand, you had people like Albert Brooks (who started on TV and then did clubs), followed by Steve Martin and Andy Kaufman, dropping politics altogether, and hiding their personalities. It was also the beginning of a comedy boom that created a glut by the late 80s--so much so that I'm still a bit sick of stand-up.

Richard Zoglin does a good job in what amounts to a bunch of separate essays. He hits the biggest names, but also spends some chapters discussing the milieu. Best of all, he's not afraid to make judgments. For instance, he notes Lenny Bruce, though groundbreaking, wasn't all that funny. David Steinberg was controversial in his day, but never really hip enough (for instance, not hip enough to be invited to host Saturday Night Live). And Robert Klein is the most influential white comic of the past forty years.

The book does have an unfortunate subtitle: "How Stand-Up In The 1970's Changed America." Since Zoglin only makes a token effort to substantiate this silly claim, I'm guessing it was forced on him.

Check Out That Standard Deviation!

Many Democrats, seeing their two choices agree on most issues and are about equally popular, may vote based on which one they think has the best chance in the general election.

The way I see it, there's no way to tell. But there is a clear difference. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, but Obama is the more unknown. Hillary, love her or hate her, has been around long enough for people to have strong, even set, opinions. Who knows how the image of Obama will change once things really get going?

In other words, while they both have a decent chance of hitting 50% of the votes, Hillary's got about a 95% chance of being somewhere between 47% to 53%, while Obama's range is more 45% to 55%.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Go, baby, go

I just want to say how tickled pink I am to see Juno kickin' ass and taking names. I don't supppose it'll follow My Big Fat Greek Wedding's run, but it looks like it might still have some steam.

Took the daughter to see Bladerunner on the big screen; what a hoot. Even better than I remember.

No Joy in Mudville

Yeah- the Giant Killers made Don Shula & co. enjoy their champagne but the big question of the night was- what the hell was the Audi commercial supposed to be about?- This is the car for ex-Nazis on psilocybin?

I was expecting Dieter from "Sprockets" to come on afterward.

NE Guy is enlightened- I just read that it was a Godfather parody and that the giant cell phone was a Mercedes grill (like I know what that looks like). That helps. But only a very little.

See Ya Later

I'm having computer problems, so I'm putting up a bunch of posts in case I'm down for a couple days.

Who knows, what with the Super Bowl, Super Tuesday and a possible settlement of the writers' strike, perhaps we'll get some posts from the other Guys while I'm gone.

It's Been Done

"Across The Universe" is being sent across the universe. NASA's transmitting an MP3 of the Beatles' song to Polaris. (And as we know from Independence Day, aliens have compatiable equipment.)

I'm reminded of the sketch from Saturday Night Live, where, after Voyager sent out numerous bits of music to outer space, the first message received back is "Send More Chuck Berry."

Deadhead

Apparently there's a battle going on among right wing talk radio over which Repub candidates are authentically "conservative." (Is there anything comparable over which Dem is authentically "liberal"?)

I know this because last week I heard about ten minutes of Michael Medved complaining all the other talkers are ganging up on him for his support of John McCain. He then invited callers to argue against McCain.

The first called brought up, quite properly, the McCain-Feingold law. As far as I'm concerned, unless you support government regulation of political speech, this law is indefensible.

Medved responded with a classic specious argument. He said the law is misguided but it's done no damage because people are still as free as ever to speak. While I question the conclusion, the claim it's done no damage won't do. McCain fought hard over the years to pass a law that limited our most precious right. That his law hasn't been as successful in this aim as he'd hoped is no excuse.

Furthermore, the ultimate solution is to have the law completely overturned by the Supreme Court. (It's been partially overturned thanks to a couple of new Justices, one of which McCain has allegedly said is too conservative.) It's not good enough for Congress to repeal it (though that would be nice) since that would imply they still get to decide if we have free speech or not. And while Medved claimed McCain would pick conservative Justices, I have trouble seeing him choose someone who'd overturn his own law.

American Runs (?) On It

The latest Dunkin' Donuts campaign has an amusing song by They Might Be Giants that announces "doing things is what I like to do." Still, even with tongue in cheek, isn't selling donuts as an energy food a bit bizarre?

No Surprise

Now that Super Tuesday is almost upon us, we're starting to see a lot of ads here in California. Obama's are probably the slickest, but my favorite one is where they show Hillary while discussing this crazed liberal. But it turns out the one they're describing--duh duh DUHHHH!--John McCain.

What Could Have Been

The polls are fluctuating wildly in these final days (Romney and Obama ahead in California?). Still, it looks like McCain will probably get the nomination and no matter what the Democrat split, there'll be serious pressure put on Clinton and Obama to wrap this up soon.

What a shame. Just a few weeks ago, if only Florida voters hadn't abandoned Rudy for McCain, and if Edwards had just gotten a few more percentage points, we could still have a wide open race.

But no, voters rush toward winners, and all the fun is taken out of the race. Oh well, maybe in four years.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Respect For Elders

Reader Larry King doesn't have too much trouble with John McCain's politics, but he does have a problem with his age. I agree it's a huge negative for his campaign, but I feel the opposite. I'm quite troubled by McCain's politics and question if he has the proper temperament, but his age doesn't bother me.

I admit he's not nearly as healthy and hearty as Clinton or Bush--in fact, he's fairly frail--but this job isn't ditch digging. It's not even like being in Congress, where you've got to hunker down for days and make deals. Also, you've got a huge staff around you to lean on if need be.

We don't hire a President because he promises to put in the most hours. I'd pay most politicians to work less. What counts in a President, above all, is getting the big things right. (Knowing how to get stuff done is also helpful, and McCain's good at that.) But what you need for that is a sound mind, not body.

McCain wouldn't be the oldest President. He'd be younger than Reagan was in his second term. (There's a rumor Reagan was suffering from dementia during his final years in office, but it's not true, though his hearing loss did occasionally make him appear out of it. Of course, the Left was mocking his age and sanity before he was even elected.) The odds he'll stay mentally alert during his four years--and another four if we pick up his option--are quite good. True, you never know, but you can never be sure anyway. We've had extremely ill presidents before--Cleveland, Wilson, Eisenhower, Reagan. We've also had a number of deaths. But unless someone is very sick while he's running (Paul Tsongas?) I don't think worrying about these things should be a major consideration.

Weekend Wings

I noticed a wings place has opened down the block. Just in time, too. Super Bowl Sunday must be to wings what Christmas is to Macy's.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

X-act-LII What You Expect

Try as I might, I can't get excited about the Super Bowl. It's usually a dull game, and this one promises to be duller than usual. I haven't been following the pros as closely as college, but does anyone really believe the Giants have a chance? The only question is by how many touchdowns the Patriots will win.

Weekend Reading

My friend Matt Welch has a fine book out on the soon-to-be Republican nominee, McCain: Myth of a Maverick. Good timing, Matt. Didn't look like great timing about a month ago.

And now he's written two fine articles about his subject. Check them out. One thing he notes is the public doesn't know that much about McCain and what they do know is wrong. How else to explain McCain the hawk getting so many votes from doves? (They're lovey-dovey?)

Wouldn't it be funny if the race turns out to be McCain versus Obama, and the public discovers too late they've got a choice between a crazed hawk and a wild-eyed leftist?

Friday, February 01, 2008

America's Hero

I really thought he was gonna get the book thrown at him, so it's surprising to see Wesley Snipes got off pretty lightly in his tax evasion case.

I haven't been following the story too closely, so I have to guess it either wasn't as good as trumpeted, or he had a very sympathetic jury.

Biggest Surprise Of 2008

January is usually when they release the dogs. Bad movies generally come out now because if they were any good, they'd have been out the previous year, or held for later.

That's why I was so surprised to see such a fine comedy last weekend, Trailer Park Boys: The Movie.

I'd never heard of the original Trailer Park Boys before, but apparently it's a Canadian series about Nova Scota trailer trash. The three main characters--small time crooks--are Ricky, the "brains" of the operation who can talk his way out of anything, Julian, who carries around a mixed drink at all times, and Bubbles, who lives with a bunch of cats in a shed (not even a trailer).

Not knowing about the show, I was impressed by how well-developed the characters and the world they inhabit are. The movie's plot is about the boys, having gotten out of jail, planning a "big dirty"--a major heist--so they can retire and get back to the simple things, like settling down and growing pot.

Perhaps it's not for everyone, but I recommend it. It's supposed to be opening wide today, but it's only playing in two small theatres in LA right now, so who knows what they mean by "wide."

Damn Politicians

I was driving through Hollywood yesterday and ran into a huge traffic jam. I couldn't figure out where it came from until I remembered--the Clinton-Obama debate in the Kodak Theatre. Huge crowds had gathered outside, just like the Oscars. How thoughtless of the two--they should have done this in Malibu where all the money is.

ES BS

I taped Lost last night. Haven't watched it yet, but I did overtape and catch the premiere of Eli Stone. It's a comedy-drama about a lawyer representing big companies who starts having visions and goes on a spiritual quest.

The case that shows just how much he screws over the little guy is when he represents a pharmaceutical against a mother. Apparently they've refused to remove an ingredient in a vaccine that might cause autism. Eli changes sides. This might be trendy, but as far as I understand, such lawsuits are groundless. (Here's a new study released the same day as Eli Stone.) Couldn't they have had a different case to show how noble he is?

I'm reminded of Eddie Murphy's The Distinguished Gentleman. He plays a con man who gets elected to Congress. To show his growing conscience, he tries to get a bill passed to help people who get sick because they live near high-tension wires. More bad science.

PS Eli sells his pro-bono switch by promising to set up "Chinese Walls" to separate his case from the rest of the firm. Everyone keeps asking him to repeat the term. Anyone who's gone to law school knows all about Chinese Walls, even if the phrase isn't as popular as it used to be for political reasons.

Bi

Obama is a decent enough candidate, though his widespread appeal I don't get. Of course, if you've seen enough races, you've seen this kind of candidate before--the one that excites a younger crowd because they've never seen this kind of candidate before.

One of his biggest selling points is he'll bring us together--he believes in bipartisanship. Can anyone take this seriously, no matter what their age? We've just had a 20-year run of centrist presidents and they inspired outrage in the other party (or at least the other party's base).

The truth is it's not candidates who are bipartisan, it's the public. If they want both sides to work together, they'll let it happen. A sweet-talker (or even a straight-talker) can only bring people together so much.

There's this idea that we can all get together and solve our problems as if politics were a barn-raising. But people simply believe in different solutions. They can change their minds, of course, but it's usually a long, painful process.

By the way, looks like Hillary should be worried. As I read the polls, McCain's won the nomination unless Romney has an amazing rally, but Obama and Clinton are essentially tied. Since the Dems don't have winner-take-all, even if Hillary wins a lot of states by small margins, that's not enough to get Obama--who's got plenty of money--out of the race.

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