Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Good Vibrations

It's Red Norvo's birthday. Not that many guys make it as a vibraphonist.

Time Gets Reasonable

Time Magazine got some attention for it's "5 Reasons Republicans Should Let Go of Health Care." There's nothing I like better than the left giving the right helpful advice, and vice versa.

There have been a number of Democrats trying to help out the Republicans by telling them to accept the health care bill. And no matter how many reasons they give, it always comes down to these two (which, for some reason, they never mention):

1. We like health care reform, so don't mess with it.

2. We know it's pretty unpopular--why do you think we're still trying to sell it?--so the last thing we want is for you to unseat a bunch of Democrats by campaigning against it.

Package Delivered

Back with a timely Lost recap/analysis. Before I start let me note during the show there was this annoying countdown to V clock in the bottom righthand corner of the screen. I don't think V or Flashforward are going to make it past this season, but that's no excuse for ruining the final season of Lost.

This week's episode, "The Package," was all about Sun and Jin. But it was also like a first season episode in that while the flashback, or flashsideways, concentrated on a character (or two), the stuff on the island involved everyone--even if the action is been split into three camps.

This week starts with Widmore's people watching monster Locke's camp. They're aware of what's going on, and are ready to strike. At the camp, Flocke wants to talk to Jin (because this week is his episode). Flocke wants to bring Sun over. He needs the Candidates to get off the island--just like how they were needed to get back to the island? Is he going to recreate what was already a recreation? (And I still don't see how anyone can fly the Ajira plane, even with Smokey power). It also seems Flocke isn't sure which "Kwon" he needs--so does that mean he had no knowledge of how Jacob created the Candidates list?

In Altaworld, Jin is released from custody at LAX, but the $25,000 he was carrying is confiscated. He was to meet some people at a restaurant and hand over the money and watch. He's missed the meeting, too. Sounds like trouble.

Jin and Sun check in at the hotel and we get the first stunner. Just as altaLocke is married to Helen and altaJack has a son, turns out the shows main couple, Sun and Jin, aren't married in this world.

Flocke leaves Sayid in charge while he goes to get Sun. Sayid notes he feels no emotions. Sayid has been good at hiding emotions in the past, but he's always felt things strongly. Flocke says maybe it's best, it'll help him get through what's coming. That doesn't sound good. Even Flocke is nervous about the upcoming war, I guess. Jin tries to leave, too (he doesn't trust Flocke) but before Sawyer can stop him, Widmore's people shoot darts into everyone and knock them out. Old Other tactics. Flocke may be Smokey, but he can't be everywhere all the time--guess they waited for him to leave. They take only Jin (because, once again, it's his week). (BTW, I thought I heard a new musical cue--this late in the show's history?)

Back at Ilana's camp, her strategy is to wait for Richard to return. That's some strategy, but since she's failed at everything else, maybe doing nothing will work. Ben is doubtful, but Jacob has never led her astray before.

Sun is unhappy. I'm unclear about her motivation. She's seen an awful lot in the time since Ben convinced her Jin was alive, but even after the Temple incident, why isn't she running off into the jungle to find Jin, Ilana or no? Instead, she's plants her garden (really?) while Jack tries to explain the Lighthouse. She doesn't care. Jack sounds like Locke, talking about destiny, but Sun just wants it to be over.

In altaworld, Jin visits Sun's room. They're having an affair. Another surprise. Let me add at this point we haven't seen Sun speak English yet. In this new world, has she never had the chance to learn?

Island Sun is met by Locke. He offers to bring her back to Jin, but she doesn't trust him. She runs away and knocks herself out on a tree like she's Buster Keaton. Couldn't he go all Smokey on her when she runs? He can't kill her, but can't he pull her back? Sun doesn't trust him since the Temple massacre (but not the Statue?). Not quite sure why or how she got these feelings. Did Ilana tell her what to think?

After the loving, Sun tells Jin they should run away. She didn't come to America just for a shopping trip. She's got a secret account they could live off. There's a knock on the door. Jin hides in the bathroom. Sun stops and looks at herself in the mirror. Ha! She seems a bit unsettled, but we get our guaranteed weekly mirror shot. Keamy's at the door. He can't find Jin, whom he expected to see last night.

Ben finds Sun, knocked out. She can only speak Korean, even though she can understand English. Quite a bump. Is it aphasia, or is part of her head flashing to the sideways world, where she can't speak English?

Flocke returns to camp and wakes emotionless Sayid. He explains they've been attacked. Locke wants to know about Jin...

..who's now on Hyrda Island, in Room 23. We even get to see a little of the propaganda film. Turns out this was part of the experimentation of the DI, working on subliminal messages. (Very hippie era concept). Ben later coopted it, I guess, but since the film (if I recall) has messages about Jacob, did he do any reshooting?

Zoe comes in and explains to Jin he's safe, but Widmore's captive. He worked for the DI and they want him to verify some maps about electromagnetism. Convenient that he signed off on them. (And how did Widmore get them? I guess they're from the 70s originally, but wasn't he off the island before Jin took over?)

Flocke prepares to take the outrigger to Hydra Island with Sayid. (Still waiting for the outrigger scene.) But first there's trouble with Claire. Flocke's camp is full of unhappy campers (and Flocke is the camp counselor). Claire wants to know if she's a name on the wall--a Candidate. She's not. (I thought there was a "Littleton," but maybe it was crossed out.) She figures she isn't needed to get off the Island, but Flocke reassures her. She's also worried Aaron won't know her when they get home, and will think Kate's his mother. But Flocke tells her Kate name isn't on the wall, either--no longer, anyway. So once they're on the plane, "whatever happens, happens." (A lot of character speak gnomically this episode.)

Sawyer wonders why Flocke needs a boat to go over to the island--why not fly smokey express? He says he would if he could but he can't--yes, that would be ridiculous, Sawyer notes (in the funniest line of the night).

In altaworld, Keamy finds the watch, but no cash. Sun still can't speak English. If she could here, maybe she would. Keamy and his partner Omar find Jin hiding and decide to have a talk. But the two only speak Korean. (Keamy says it's like being in a Godzilla movie--another good, if uglyl, line). So they send for a compatriot who can speak a bunch of languages--a Russian named Mikhail (whom we knew was coming from the credits, alas). He looks a lot younger and, of course, well kempt here. He's also the fourth white character in the history of Lost who can speak Korean--who'd have thought it's that popular?

Sun says she'll go and get the money. Keamy takes Jin for safekeeping while Mikhail takes Sun to the bank. The two are separated. Will they ever see each other again?

No one believes Ben's story about finding Sun knocked out. Jack, acting like it's season one, does a little doctoring. Can't really help her, but at least can diagnose her. Then who should return but Richard (with Hurley). It's the old, confident Richard, who's seen another (Jacob-related?) miracle and is on the path again. Pack your bags, we're leaving.

Flocke appears (Sayidless) on Hydra Island. The sonic fence is up. Widmore's commandos shoot at the dirt, though they could have shot in Flocke with the same result. Widmore shows up and says something very interesting. Not too long ago, he told Sawyer it was sad how little he understood. But how much does Widmore know? Is he like Ben, kept at arm's length by Jacob (and Richard), having vague ideas of the game, but not really understanding what's going on? Ben hardly knew anything about the "Monster," and Widmore sounds the same. He meets Flocke face to face, and says he's not John Locke, but "everything else I know is a combination of myth, ghost stories and jungle noises in the night." Very interesting. Widmore knows a war is coming, but does he know what it means?

He won't admit he has Jin. Flocke says he guesses the war is now on. It now seems clear both Widmore and Ilana are fighting against the MIB, but are they on the same team? Ilana is definitely with Jacob, but waht does Widmore want?

Speaking of Ilana, Richard is taking over. (Ilana, Richard, Lapidus, Jack, Ben--the camp is full of leaders.) Richard knows MIB wants to leave the island on the plane (really?) and wants to destroy it. Sun can't believe it. She wants to get off the island with Jin, not destroy the plane and save humanity for some silly reason. She rants in Korean, and even with no one around who can understand her, they understand her.

At the altabank, it turns out Sun's account has been closed. Her dad found out. He's apparently known everything all along. You can't fool him (in this world, anyway). Not good. Does this mean he also knows about the affair?

They put Jin in the walk-in fridge, like we saw in the Sayid episode. The first time we thought they beat him up, but now (retrofit?) they just didn't handle him well. Before we're done, we get Jin reflected in the metal door--a double mirror day!

Keamy tells him (in a language he can't understand) the $25,000 (which didn't exist in season one) was payment for killing Jin. That's what you get for messing with the boss's daughter. But, as Keamy notes, "The heart wants what the heart wants."

Widmore has words with Zoe. Things are moving too quickly. They panicked when Jin was leaving the camp, and captured him too soon. So there's a timetable. Zoe notes she's a geophysicist, not a mercenary. I think she's done a good job for not being a commando, and anyway, she's working out better than Naomi.

He tells her to bring the "package" from the sub to the infirmary. She exits and Jin enters. BTW, it's interesting that in this show, for the first time, Jin is the one who knows English while Sun is stuck without it.

Widmore gives him Sun's camera, and he looks at his daughter for the first time. A moving scene. Widmore knows about lost daughters, too. Then he says the most interesting thing in the episode: "I understand thet one thing you want is to be reunited with your wife and daughter. But it would be shortlived if that...thing...masquerading as John Locke ever got off this island. Your wife, your daughter, my daughter, everyone we know and love, would simply cease to be. I came here to make sure that doesn't happen."

Wow. Didn't he send John back to the island to begin with--I thought that's what caused the trouble. (Or did he try to send back a live John, whom he thought was a candidate.) He certainly knew a war was coming, but didn't that hasten it?

But the bigger deal is what this may mean. He doesn't say everyone dies. He says everything Jin knows would "cease to be." Could this possibly mean if Flocke gets his way, and puts the whole island underwater, that we'd see this new world, this altaworld, where everything and everyone is different--all the old verities are gone? And if this is correct, by the way, is it such a bad thing? Is this alta-world a horrible place, and we just don't recognize it yet?

Widmore says it's time for him to see the package. As Flocke said abut himself earlier this season, it's not a what, it's a who. Two weeks ago, a lot of people surmised the hidden thing on the sub was Desmond. I think this verified it for most viewers.

Jin, tied up, hears Sayid shooting everyone. Sayid enters (as we knew he would) and doesn't know what to make of the situation. He gives Jin a blade to cut himself free, then leaves.

Not long after, Mikhail comes in with Sun and looks at the bloodbath in the other room. Keamy is hurt, but not dead (yet). Jin comes from behind and puts a gun at Mikhail's head. They tussle and he shoots Mikhail in the eye. He'll need an eye patch for that except, as Broadway Danny Rose had once noted, the bullet keeps going on into the brain, killing the person.

Sun was hit in the crossfire. Jin starts to carry her out. Looks like she could use a good spinal surgeon. Then she announces she's pregnant. (Wonder if Jin figured at this point he should just leave her there.) Guess it's not from her English teacher this time around.

In a beautiful shot, Sun is sitting near a fire on the beach at night. A reassuring Jack comes along, once again acting like it's season one. He talks to her about aphasia. He gives her a notepad and, sure enough, she can at least write in English. Ain't the brain a wonderful thing.

He asks her about Locke. She explains she didn't go with him because she didn't trust him (or I think she wrote that--the V countdown was in the way). Jack promises to help her find Jin. How many people have promised her that? He promised he'll get them off the Island. Last time he said that, Jin got blown up.

Back at Camp Flocke, Sawyer and Kate talk. I don't think he's forgotten about Juliet, but a man's gotta move on. Flocke returns, once again Sayidless. He's been left behind for recon work. He's gonna find out what the package is. Flocke hates secrets. (Certainly he hates them more than Jacob.)

Over at the Hyrda dock, the very still Sayid watches Widmore's commandos unload, in an unwieldy manner, a very knocked out Mr. Hume. If Sayid could feel anything, he'd probabloy be pretty amazed. (I think the last time they looked at each other was when Desmond refused to leave the freighter because he never wanted to go back to the Island.)

So looks like next week will be Desmond-centric.

LOST

The episode had a lot of fun stuff, but even if The War has started we still don't know what the sides are, how the fighting works, what the goals are, or who's winning. We still don't understand the strategies of any of the players. We also still don't know what the altaworld is about, either. And there's only one more major player in the LAX world to deal with--Hurley. No doubt he'll come right after next week's Desmond (whom the Island certainly wasn't through with).

I don't know if this episode will resonate with fans the way "Ab Aeterno" did, but I thought it had a lot of good stuff and some curious intimations. Still, it's amazing with more than half this short season over, that there's still so much we don't know. The big mysteries are practically untouched, and a bunch of little mysteries abound. Plus, will we see certain characters again? Juliet? Shannon? Walt? And what about Naomi?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tune Tone

Last time I watched Parks And Recreation I had the CC on. When the theme played it was described as "triumphant music." I guess, though that makes me think of something like "Pomp And Circumstance" or the "1812 Overture."



Of course, some people hear different things:

Suits Me

I just read Walter Mirisch's Hollywood memoir I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History. Mirisch was a top producer responsible for many highly respected films, some of which are even good. The list includes Some Like It Hot, West Side Story, In the Heat of the Night, The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, The Apartment, The Pink Panther,
Fiddler on the Roof, One, Two, Three, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, The Thomas Crown Affair, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, The Party, A Shot in the Dark
and Irma La Douce

With so many books concentrating on directors and actors, and treating producers like suits--philistine money men who get in the way of the artists--it can be be interesting to see movies from a different angle. In the real world, producers put the films together, finding the story, developing the script, hiring the talent and so on. (If they're the suits, does that make the artists the spoiled children?)

Unfortunately, Mirisch, who had to be at least somewhat tough to rise to the top--he was involved in some notable firings in the midst of major productions--comes across as too nice. He honestly doesn't have a harsh word to say about anyone. Every stressful moment, and there are plenty, is treated with an equanimity that may have made him great to deal with, but also makes for a dull book.

He obviously loves movies, but the passion is missing. However, I do like it when he notes, good or bad, how the film did financially.

I may check out Norman Jewison's autobiography. He worked with Mirisch on a lot of his top films. I wonder what he'll say on his end.

Making Up For Lost Time

Sorry it took me a whole week to write up the latest Lost, "Ab Aeterno," but at least I got it in before the next episode. Also, I taped over the hour (yes, I still use videotape) so I'm doing this from memory.

Anyway, it was quite an episode. Fans have been waiting a long time to find out about Richard, and they finally got answers. But only so many--we see his origin, but not the first century of his work on the Island, for instance. I guess catching him from the 50s on gives a good idea of how he works.

This episode was different from any other this season. So far every week has offered a flash-sideways that showed us some Lostie in the alta-world. Furthermore, this season has been a funhouse mirror version of the first season, where we learn all about who the main characters are. "Ab Aeterno" was an old-fashioned flashback that spent almost all its time with Richard. We've seen episodes like this before, but they're rare on Lost.

On the other hand, this was more like a first-season episode than any other. Back then, we'd watch every week to learn not only what the past of the character was like, but how this characters ended up on the island. Well, we got that with Richard. It's just that he got to the island much earlier than anyone else.

It's been an interesting season for Richard. Up till now, he was the most self-assured, mysterious character around. Now he's been cut loose, losing his faith and being very, very afraid. When we see into his past, turns out he was originally just another mug, fearful and in trouble. His beloved Isabella is dying, and he'll do anything to save her. (I though Jacob might come in here with one of his deals.)

Before we continue, let me cut back just a second. How do we get to this flashback? First, we see more of Jacob's meeting with Ilana. She's going to protect the candidates (even though she doesn't know why or what they're for). Like her mission to protect Jacob, she does a rotten job. She forces Sayid onto the plane, but before they land, most of the candidates have disappeared.

Anyway, she's got to ask Richard what to do next, but he's not in the mood to answer questions. I thought he might have calmed down after meeting Jack (who's even crazier) but now he runs off. He figures he's in hell and might as well join the other side.

That's when the flashback kicks in, and it takes almost all the rest of the show.

Back at Ricardo's story, he tries to get a doctor to save his wife (would that really have worked back then?) but accidentally kills him when he won't help. His wife dies and he's thrown in jail, set to be executed. We keep waiting for Jacob to show up, but all we get is a corrupt priest. Because Richard can speak English, he gets signed up for a trip--in chains--on Magnus Hanso's boat. I thought we might start to learn something about the Hanso clan, but we got nothing. The show better do something soon, they're running out of time.

We know where the good ship Black Rock will end up, but last we saw, it was on the horizon of the Island, during daylight in calm waters, as Jacob and MIB watched its approached. But as Richard watches from below, it's a dark and stormy night. Someone claims to have seen the devil. Is that the Statue, or Jacob, or MIB, or just his imagination? The ship is flung well into to Island, destroying the Statue (but not the ship). Was this a regular storm, or Smokezilla, or something else?

Note, by the way, we don't see the direct landing. Just like Jack (twice) has appeared on the island, Richard is suddenly there and isn't quite sure how.

From the dialogue at the end of last season, you might figure the shipmates would come out, start a camp, be corrupted by MIB, and kill each other. But MIB isn't so patient. Smokey kills almost everyone, but looks at Richard and sees possibilities. Then he appears as Isabella, or the real (dead) Izzy appears, and tells Richard they're in hell. (Lost has some fun with the island-as-hell idea, but I don't think we're supposed to take it seriously.) Then Smokey appears as the MIB (we knew he was coming if we saw the credits) and he explains he's the good guy, Jacob stole his body and is holding him on this horrible island. But (echoing Dogen), if Richard will just stab the guy in the heart before he says anything, he'll be killed and they can escape with Isabella. MIB does seem to believe what he's saying, and it's also pretty clear he can't kill Jacob (why? can't kill his own body?).


So Richard goes to the Statue and confronts Jacob. But this isn't the peaceful Jacob we've gotten to know. Someone so calm he allows Ben to stab him repeatedly. This is a kick-ass Jacob. He sees someone who means him harm and takes him out. Then he harshly explains the facts of "life" to Richard by baptizing him in the ocean a few times until Richard begs for mercy.

Then they have a calmer discussion. MIB warned that Jacob's a silver-tongued devil. He explains the Island bottles up the evil that is the MIB and Jacob is on the island to hold him there. He brings people to the island to help him, and disprove MIB's dark view of the world, but he refuses to tell them what to do: if they're merely automatons, doing what's "right" doesn't count.

He can't bring back Isabella--the afterlife apparently isn't his domain--but he has enough power to keep Richard alive forever. It sounded good at the time, but Richard will later call it a curse. Anyway, Richard agrees to be Jacob's intermediary. (Some go-between. The people we see who lead the Others seem to do a pretty damn poor job of it. Do any of them get to meet Jacob in person? Actually, when you think about it, Jacob isn't that great at picking helpers. But then, MIB has been even weaker at recruiting.)

Ricardo returns to MIB, who sees Jacob has beaten him again, but says the offer is still open. He gives Isabella's cross to Richard, who buries it. Cut to the present, and Richard is coming back to find the cross (I thought stuff didn't stay buried on this island) and take MIB up on his offer (though he wasn't in the mood for it several episodes ago, even after Flocke threatened him of the dire consequences of turning him down). But as a surprise, and a pretty touching scene, instead of Flocke showing up to pick up his latest recruit, Hurley, who was muttering in Spanish to a ghost earlier, shows up. He's been talking to Isabella. (If movies teach us anything, it's don't talk to the dead, or all they'll do is ask for favors.)

She is reunited, through Hurley, with her old love. She convinces Richard to return to Jacob. As Flocke watches on from far away.

One more flashback. Jacob and MIB have another talk, and it's clear they're both pretty determined to have their way. Though, when MIB smashes the wine bottle that Jacob has used to represent the island he's holed up in, it makes you think MIB isn't just planning on catching the latest plane out, but has big plans for the Island as a going-away present.

LOST

Lotta fascinating stuff about Richard, but I was surprised how much time they spent pre-Island. I figured his story would be about what he did on the Island, but it must have been halfway over before we got there.

We have to fill in the rest. Since Richard devoted his life (and then some) to serving Jacob, he certainly must have believed in the guy, even though Jacob was notoriously tight-lipped about his goals. I guess he wanted free choice. Ben notes Richard doesn't know much about the Island (he's one to talk) and, like so many Others, was, I guess, just pleased to be part of something bigger. At first he just wants to see his wife again, but he's able to all but forget her for over a century before the big return.

I think the fans liked this one. It reminded me more than anything of a Desmond episode, especially "The Constant." Unlike the Losties, and even Ben and Juliet and the Freighter Folk, Desmond was always off in his corner, doing his own thing. Shows that concentrate on him seem removed from the main action, and so did "Ab Aeterno." And it also had the story of lost loves reunited. It worked surprisingly well since we didn't even know Isabella, or even Ricardo, before this episode.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Red Hot And Blue

A drummer friend recently sent me a video of Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Pepper's playing the National Anthem at Auburn Hills.

Most people I've talked to think this is stupid, but I kind of like it.

Mini Macs

McDonald's is offering new "mini meals." For $2.99 you get a double cheeseburger, fries and a drink.

1) I seem to recall not long ago they offered regular meals for $2.99

2) Isn't a double cheeseburger with fries and a drink a full meal?

Second Thoughts


I recently listened to a CD of classic Second City sketches through the years. I wasn't as impressed as I expected. They weren't horrible, but they weren't that much better than what you'd see from a clever college troupe.

I should admit off the bat I'm being unfair, because these CD was compiled from old tapes not meant for release. (Sometimes the sound was so bad it was tough to listen to). Also, these were live performances meant for live audiences, and recordings of such generally don't capture the spirit of being there.

But were there other reasons for my lack of excitement (beyond, perhaps, expecting too much?). One thing is the Second City style. They develop character-based material, and rely on the personalities of the performer, sometimes at the expense of clever dialogue. Audiences may like it, but more purely written material tends to have sharper lines. Also, they pride themselves on seeming up to date, even cutting edge--that sort of material can date fast.

One thing I liked, though. Because of their improv training, they listen to what others say and respond to it. This means they avoid a common cliche in comedy, which is one person operating at cross-purposes with another--in other words, one guy doing something totally incomprehensible to the other, with the other guy constantly smiting his forehead. Their characters try to communicate, and generally understand each other, which opens up different areas for humor.

The list of people who performed at Second City is impressive. Their experience there was valuable, but I think the main reason so many great names are attached to the institution is that the place attracted people who were top talent to begin with.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Relative In Delaware

Here at Pajamaguy, we're always happy to recognize sister blogs who have decided to utilize the same clownish template we picked out. Considering our name, we've got a good reason. Why anyone else would take it I'm not quite sure.

Anyway, hello Delaware Libertarian. Nice to see you proudly waving the colors.

No Turkey

When YouTube shows old entertainment clips, you invariably get comments bemoaning the state of show biz today.

I've previously shown the Tony Awards' performance of "Turkey Lurkey Time." But what the heck, it's always worth another viewing.

The song features Donna McKechnie with Margo Sappinton and Baayork Lee, as well as a bunch of Michael Bennett's go-go dancers in business clothes:



And what do we see in a recent comment?

... I just wish they still did musicals like this... Nowadays it's flying green belting bitches and other glitz and whatnot... But this here is a true showstopper! No belting demons and no special effects! Just some amazing fucking dancers and singers putting on an amazing fucking number. Bravo.

Who could argue with that?

After Moby-Dick, Before Coffee

I was surprised to see I had a vinyl Starbuck album in my collection. (It cost a buck. That's the only explanation.)

Most of the songs are pretty much what you'd expect, if you're familiar with their (only) hit, "Moonlight Feels Right." Starbuck was easy-listening rock in the mid-70s, with perhaps a slight jazz inflection. What set them apart, however, can be heard in their single. Out of nowhere, we get a marimba solo, and suddenly it's a whole new ballgame.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

South American Way

Here's one of many interviews Michael Emerson has done in the past few years about Lost. I like Emerson, since he seems to recognize (or at least acts like he does) how lucky he was to enter a hit show in mid-stride and become a regular. Ben Linus could have been killed off at any point along the way--Lost isn't shy about doing that--but instead he's made it further than a lot of the originals, and seen new cast members drop inand then fall out.

I believe he and Terry O'Quinn are the only actors on the show to win Emmys. I guess if you're gonna pick two from the show, they're the ones.

But what actually interested me is one of the comments below. I love fan enthusiasm, especially when done in a second language. Which is why it was so nice to read this comment from "denisecastelocastelo":

You are don´t now who I am.Of course!But...I from Brasil.I love Michael
Emerson and...guys!He could to be my dad!
He´s amazing and is teaching me english!This is wonderful!
Plis Michael!Come for Brasil!The fãs need it.And me too....
I would like of give you a embrace!My country need
this...Plissssssssssssssssssss sssssssssssss!!!ok?I fine!I gonna be fine!
Thank´s moderator of this group...for the space!
And thank´s for Michael to be my live more happy and helpe me to
breathe!

Guten Morgen Sternschein

I don't think any language can capture the hopeful sweetness of Hair's "Good Morning Starshine" better than German:



And no other tongue can properly express the anti-authoritarian, stick-it-to-the-man attitude of Hair's title song

Steve's Show

Hey, I just noticed the Freud Playhouse at UCLA is putting on one of my favorite musicals, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Here's how they describe it:

We'll take you to ancient Rome where courtesans wiggle and woo and desperate slaves plot and connive for their freedom in Stephen Sondheim's hysterical A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM. Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart add mayhem with a script that will have you laughing from start to finish. Sexy, silly and Sondheim, it'll be "Comedy Tonight" at the Freud.

Interesting, calling it "Sondheim's" show. When it opened in the early 60s, Sondheim wasn't such a big name. The production won the Tony for best musical, but his score wasn't even nominated.

Maybe I'll check it out, even if theatremania isn't thrilled:

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, now being presented by Reprise Theater Company at UCLA's Freud Playhouse, is a tricky musical comedy -- one that needs finesse to not devolve into 150 minutes of tired shtick.

Pretty nasty. Shevelove and Gelbart called their script a "scenario for Vaudevillians." I agree it needs inspired comic performance--what comedy doesn't? But if the cast has talent, the libretto will serve them well. It's not as if they have to start with a script full of "tired shtick" that they've got the make work.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tea Party Education Levels

As support for his contention that Tea Party members were even less likely than the average white person to yell "nigger" at a black congressman, one of our anonymous readers suggested earlier this week that Tea Party members "tend to be better educated than average whites."

The latest Quinnipiac poll found the opposite: "The Tea Party movement is mostly made up of people who consider themselves Republicans," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "They are less educated but more interested in politics than the average Joe and Jane Six-Pack and are not in a traditional sense swing voters."

I'd be interested in other sources that address the question, if anyone has some. But the most interesting parts of the survey for me were the 15% of self-identified Tea Party supporters who believe that government is not doing enough, the 15% who voted for Obama, and the 4% who trust government to do the right thing most of the time. Talk about cognitive dissonance...

On a related note, the Tea Party movement has been taking some pretty bad hits this week for purportedly fomenting violence and threats, or so they've been tarred in the "lamestream media," as Sarah Palin so lamely coined today. Video of one man at a rally verbally abusing a retired engineering prof suffering from Parkinson's didn't help, although I suppose it's some consolation to Tea Partiers that the guy stated as part of his apologia that he had never before attended any protest (and never would again). The one saving grace the movement had this week was that the Tea Party organizer who stupidly posted a congressman's brother's home address on a discussion board and urged people to "pay a visit" -- leading to the family having their gas line dangerously sabotaged -- was himself black. Although it supported the accusation of fomenting violence, at least it undermined the claims of racism and of the Tea Party movement being universally lily white (the Quinnipiac poll lists the Tea Party respondents as self-identifying 88% white).

Spock Catches Up

Gee, it seemed like only a few days ago it was Captain Kirk's 79th birthday, and now it's Spock's.

Take It Back

James Mottram's The Sundance Kids: How The Mavericks Took Back Hollywood was a big disappointment. I've read a number of books on indie filmmakers of the past few decades and this is the worst. The author regularly makes pronouncements, both political and artistic, without any backing.

I like a guy with a point of view, but he doesn't seem to think any mainstream Hollywood hit has any value. He doesn't argue the point, he just assumes it.

Also, just how did these mavericks take over? I must have missed that.

St(r)ay Thought

Somehow it's fitting that the shortest #1 song ever is "Stay," which includes the line "Stay just a little bit longer."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lost Off The Treadmill

Once again my review of this week's Lost will be postponed. I can only promise I'll try to get it in before next week's episode airs. Sorry.

As a replacement, let me present, in all its Goldbergian Rubeness, Ok Go's "This Too Shall Pass."

The first time I saw this, I thought there was trickery involved. But no, it's real. (BTW, it was shot just a few miles from where I type this.)

Telephone Line

Here's a great game. Go to Yahoo's Babel Fish, a translator program. Then take a simple phrase, put it through a few languages, and have it come back i the language you started with.

For example, I'm going to try "Let us see how this translates back and forth." (I'm avoiding contractions just to keep it simple.)

First I translate it into German. Then I take that and translate it into French. Then Italian. Finally back into English. And what do I get?

"Left to see them, since quest' last it translate davanti and behind."

Looks like most of the information got left behind. Oh well, it sounds better in the original Klingon anyway.

Leo And Son

I finally got around to seeing Leo McCarey's My Son John (1952), an artistically and commercially horrendous miscalculation. It's an anticommunist film, common around the time, but I think it's an earnest attempt from conservative Irish Catholic McCarey to deal with the issue. Still, it is weird. Robert Walker plays the weak (probably gay) intellectual son of the title. His brothers play football and go off to war, while he goes to college and learns to question his country. Meanwhile, he's got a mother who smothers him and a father who's essentially an ignorant, jingoistic buffoon who tries to beat religion into him. Seems designed to drive a guy into the arms of the commies, but it would also seem McCarey wants us to side with the father. Better to be stupid but right.

(It didn't help the film that Walker died during production and McCarey struggled to fill in for the missing scenes. He even used footage of Walker from Strangers On A Train, and the finale has a law school class listening to a tape recording of Walker's big speech.)

McCarey, with his improvisational style, was able to get the kind of personal performances out of actors that more conventional directors couldn't approach. He also had masterful comic timing, cutting his teeth on Laurel and Hardy and other great clowns. But his great decade was the 1930s. It starts with great clowns (L&H, the Marx Brothers) and then moves into great story-based comedies (with the occasional drama).

He was even more successful in the 40s, with Going My Way (which won seven Oscars) and The Bells Of St. Mary's, both giant hits. But something's been lost. The films are slower, and not as smart. By the 1950s, he seems to have lost it. But I'll give him credit--My Son John may be a disaster, but it's a delirious, personal disaster.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Je Suis Le Centre

Tom Friedman's usually pretty good about recognizing others' points of view, even if he usually dismisses them as wrong without particularly deep analysis. But today's op-ed piece made me laugh. His premise is that innovative structural electoral reform will be required to stop the "race to the extremes" required for moderate candidates and elected officials to survive the two-party primary process. Whether that is the case or not, I think the ideas of non-partisan redistricting and alternative voting have merit, and should be pursued. But I almost couldn't continue reading after this paragraph:

The radical center is “radical” in its desire for a radical departure from politics as usual. It advocates: raising taxes to close our budgetary shortfalls, but doing so with a spirit of equity and social justice; guaranteeing that every American is covered by health insurance, but with market reforms to really bring down costs; legally expanding immigration to attract more job-creators to America’s shores; increasing corporate tax credits for research and lowering corporate taxes if companies will move more manufacturing jobs back onshore; investing more in our public schools, while insisting on rising national education standards and greater accountability for teachers, principals and parents; massively investing in clean energy, including nuclear, while allowing more offshore drilling in the transition. You get the idea.

Well, I get the idea that Tom Friedman thinks Obama's campaign platform was the definition of centrist. This list is so far off from what I would consider the "center" of American public opinion that I almost don't know where to start. It's certainly pretty close to the "center" of moderate Democratic public opinion, with the occasional sop to moderate Republicans, but equating that with the views of moderate Independents is just wishful thinking.

The wishful thinking and willful blindness then reaches its climax here:

Obama won the presidency by tapping the center — centrist Democrats, independents and Republicans who wanted to see nation-building at home “to make their own lives and those of others better,” said Tim Shriver, the C.E.O. of the Special Olympics. They saw in Obama a pragmatist who could pull us together for pragmatic solutions. But hyperpartisanship has frustrated those hopes. (Alas, though, it is not equal. There are still many conservative Blue Dog Democrats, but the liberal Rockefeller Republicans have been wiped out.)

So, just to be clear, the Democrats have moved right, and the Republicans have moved right. And this proves that the center is being underrepresented because of hyperpartisanship. I don't think that word means what he wants it to mean.

Random Idea for a web 2.0 service

I've been spending time on ebay looking for a particular set of golf clubs (Callaway HawkEye tungsten/TI irons). We lefties are about 10% of the golfing population, which makes the used selection significantly more limited. Thus, I watch similar auctions even if they're not exactly what I'm looking for, to keep abreast of the pricing, which I have noticed to significantly increase across the board as the weather has warmed. I'm thinking a service that is similar to Bing's new predictor of airline price trends, but for ebay items. It would have great value both for buyers and sellers. It would obviously be far more difficult -- there are significantly more variables and data sets, but you could start off with some things that are more easily predictable, like golf clubs. There is already a PGA Value Guide that you could mine for the basic data. Any ideas for other, maybe even better item categories to start from? I mean, skis seems even more obvious, so maybe non-sports items?

49 Years Away From The Big Birthday

One of the leading artists of the 20th century, Nena turns 50 today. It's good to see the war machine that worried so many Germans in the 80s spared her and her city.

Same M.O. As Always

The latest Simpsons, "Stealing First Base," was different. Oh, the basic A- and B-plot--Bart with a psycho girlfriend and Lisa being too nerdy--we've seen before. The show stopped having original plots some time around the 200th episode.

What made this different were two things.

First, they had a couple of lengthy bits only tangentially related to the plot, both inspired by arty films of the 1980s. The Simpsons practically originated this reaching out style of comedy (and Family Guy ran with it), but both these bits were far more complex than usual. The first was an Itchy And Scratchy cartoon--common enough--that turned into a parody of Koyaanisqatsi (which would have been quite a callback even if they'd done it on their first episode). The other parodied the cut kisses scene from Cinema Paradiso.

The other difference came from a guest appearance. The show doesn't do that much topical humor (with such a huge lead time to deal with) but occasionally takes on specific politicians, including Bush, Clinton and many lesser figures along the way. This episode featured an appearance by Michelle Obama (voiced by Angela Bassett) where the jokes were premised on how wonderful she is. I guess First Ladies are generally off limits, so I can see how this happened. But I am waiting for the day when they catch up with America and make fun of Michelle's husband.

Two If By The Sea

Two days ago I celebrated Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday. While looking at videos of his songs, I saw an odd project. Some people loved the film version of Sweeney Todd so much they re-created a number. It's one of my favorite songs from the show, "By The Sea," as well as one of the more imaginative stagings by Tim Burton.

The original:



The remake:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Thorough Bureau

A couple weeks ago I got a letter from the U.S. Census Bureau informing me I'd be getting a letter from the U.S. Census Bureau. Next week, sure enough, I got a letter from the U.S. Census Bureau. Well, this week I got a letter informing me I'd received a letter from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Thank goodness we're finally putting these people in charge of our health care.

Critics' Corner

The A.V. Club on The Runaways:

The dead-eyed talent vacuum that is Kristen Stewart co-stars as Joan Jett, a snarling badass whose tomboy attitude and songwriting perfectly complemented Currie’s purring sex kitten onstage, on record, and in bed.


The LA Weekly:

Jett's unique blend of allure and threat, apathy and determination, gets a mumbling hypernaturalized take from Stewart — more Brando than Bella Swan. Her performance is largely internal — risky considering that the built-in audience that probably made the Twilight star appealing to producers might not know what to make of the actress playing a character with so much going on in her head.


When you keep your performance simple, you never know how critics will read it.

Mas

The third-year premiere of Breaking Bad, "No Mas," promises another great season. It looked like it would mostly be setting the pieces in place, catching us up with where all the characters are, but it turned out to be more than that.

First we start with two tough Mexican killers (Tuco's cousins?) who appear to be out to get Heisenberg. The show has hinted at this before, but it looks like it will be a major concern this season. Throughout the episode, we keep cutting back to the duo, as they make their way toward America, and, in case you didn't get how bad-ass they are, shoot up then torch a truck carrying illegal immigrants.

Meanwhile, Albuquerque is still reeling from the double-plane collision, which ended season two. It's been weeks and everyone knows how it happened--but only Walt knows the inside story, the chain of events, started by him, that ended in the death of 167. He's seen some of the damage he's created, but now he can't hide. Either he'll have to admit what he's doing, or start lying to himself.

Of course, Walt's got other things on his mind, in particular the dissolution of his marriage. In fact, Skyler is seeing a lawyer, who will want to go into Walt's finances. Hmm. All those close to Sklyer--son, sister, brother-in-law--can't understand why she's doing this. Of course, she won't tell all the dirty secrets she's found out. From the outside, it does seem pretty weird--no matter what happened, the guy has terminal cancer. Can't she at least wait him out?

At the same time, Jesse is still in the best rehab meth money can buy. He goes to group therapy, where the counselor (who, by the way, is a former addict who killed his daughter) teaches them they have to learn to accept who they are before change is possible.

At Walt's school, a big assembly is held to deal with the students' grief (shades of Heathers). Walt, who due to his condition gets treated tenderly, makes a big speech about how people can move on from tragedy. I guess we see where he's going--better to lie to himself that everything can still be okay.

Then Skyler goes to visit Walt at his new place. This is the scene that changed the show. She wants him to sign divorce papers, but he still loves her and doesn't understand why she's doing this. Okay, they've got problems, he has secrets, but they can work them out. She blurts out he's a drug dealer. Guess you don't have to be a brilliant chemist to figure it out. She's seen him with Pinkman and how else could he get all this money. He seems prepared to lie again, but admits the truth--even tells her the drug of choice.

For the first two seasons of the show, so much time and energy was spent hiding this fact from her, that it's stunning to hear him say it to her out loud. He's also taking an awful chance. Just he and Jesse knowing is bad enough. When they added Saul to the circle, okay. Even Gus, the top dealer who manages Los Pollos Hermanos. But a wife who's divorcing you having the goods? I guess he figures he needs to play it this way to get her back.

She says she won't tell anyone if he agrees to the divorce. The weird thing is I'm not sure if she understands the jeopardy she's putting herself in. Walt would never do anything. Jesse probably wouldn't have the guts. But if anyone else who depends on Walt for product finds out, would they hesitate to do whatever they had to do?

Next Walt is picking up Jesse and bringing him to his temporary lodging. In some ways, Jesse is the only real family he's got. Jesse has seen the news about the plane, and, understandably blames himself. Walt tries to explain how it's not (but can't say the real reason why it isn't). Jesse says he learned at rehab to accept himself, and he's the bad guy. He won't run from things any more. So the new Jesse won't lie to himself, but the new Walt (or the darker Walt--he keeps descending) will.

Walt goes to Los Pollos Hermanos to tell Gus, out of respect, he's done. (If he were really done, would he even show up.) Gus obviously has made a lot of money on Walt, and recognizes the great artist he has here. He has an offer to make, but Walt says it doesn't matter--he realizes he's not a criminal (there he is, lying to himself again) and he has enough money but has lost his family. No mas. The offer turns out to be $3 million for 3 months of his time. This gives even Walt pause, but he turns it down. Somehow, I think he's going to get to Yes for one reason or another. Will it be because he's threatened (by Gus?), because he realizes he needs the money, because it'll somehow get Skyler back? Stay tuned.

There were only two things I didn't like about the show, a cliche at the start and at the finish. In Walt's first scene, he puts all his money on the grill and lights it up. Come on! No matter how much pain he's in, he's worked too hard to get that money. This is a mindless sort of Hollywood moment where the protagonist destroys everything he worked for--I've seen it in too many movies and I never buy it. At least Walt realizes quickly what he's down and throws everything in the pool.

Then at the end, when the two killers torched the truck, they walk away as it explodes in the background, not looking back. Maybe the first time this shot was done it looked cool, but boy is it tired now.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Reconciliation Redux

LA Guy wisely suggested that we move the continued discussion over reconciliation of the health care reform bill to the top of the blog.

When our heroes last met, Vermont Guy was asking me:

QG (or Veronica, if you will), I assume you're on board with this bill, or at least some major portions of it, but for the moment, I'd like to ask you how you would handle reconciliation, if you were on the other side of it.

I'm not at all happy with the bill. It lacks the vast majority of the possible cost-containment measures that I think are vital to our future survival as an economically prosperous nation, focusing instead on emotionally meaningful but big-picture trivial issues such as policy recission and pre-existing condition denials for children. Every case is heartbreaking, but the fact is that not that many kids have pre-existing conditions. I think those large-scale cost-containment measures either could be regulatory-based or market-based, but likely not both (we covered this a few weeks ago). This is neither, and unless it's heavily amended over time, will go down in history as a big give-away to the very insurance companies crying about being thrown into the br'er patch. That said, it can be fixed, and is better than the alternative of waiting another generation to even try anything because another set of politicians got their fingers burned. In a big-picture sense, it will have its own momentum that will need to be steered, but sideways momentum is better than a standstill.

To answer your question, VG, I would give a nice long speech focusing on the (lack of) merits of the reconciliation and health care bills, followed by a "no" vote. There is a real danger here of alienating the moderates by seeming a bit too rabid, and poisoning the well of your own election issue by refusing to eliminate the worst part of a law because you believe the only way to address it is to tear it out root and branch. That's a level of zealousness that plays poorly outside the base.

To the anon. poster who continues to maintain that it is more likely that Rep. John Lewis is lying or mistaken than that a random group of protesters called him a nigger, I will say only that Rep. Lewis has served in congress since 1986 without once previously publicly accusing someone of using racial slurs, and he has no good motive to start now. Unless you can come up with a good reason why he it would make sense for him to start doing so while his party was winning on a major piece of legislation, I will reject your analysis. Emotions are running irrationally high on the losing side, as exemplified by the "baby killer" comment you've so quickly forgotten about.

Master Thespian

Happy 79th, Captain Kirk.

Still In The Masters

Some people think Tiger Woods return to golf--he'll be playing in the Masters--is too soon. But what is he supposed to do? Be sorry forever, and give up the game? The man was put on earth to hit a small ball with a long club. His personal life may be in shambles, but that's not my concern.

What intrigues me is how his return will be greeted at Augusta. I have no doubt the crowds will turn out. Even without the curiosity factor he draws big. But the question now is will they look at him the same way. I don't suppose anyone would be rude enough to boo--this is golf, after all, not hockey. But he's no longer just the best golfer ever, he's now the best golfer with the biggest scandal. It's not quite O.J. returning to football, but it will be a different dynamic.

Still The Master

Happy 80th, Stephen Sondheim!

Here are two of my favorite early Sondheim numbers. The productions are recent Broadway revivals, but as these are bootlegs, I must apologize for the quality.





Let's look at some movie versions of Sondheim, where at least the sound and visuals are good.

Here's a classic from Company, the middle-aged lament "The Ladies Who Lunch," performed in Camp by a very young Anna Kendrick. (Has she ever not been very young?)



Finally, something from the big screen adaptation of Sweeney Todd.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Why Fight Reconciliation?

Maybe I'm misunderstanding the process, but assuming the House passes the Senate version, what are Republican senators hoping to gain by slowing or stopping the reconciliation bill? All they would accomplish that I can see is keeping in the hand-outs for Nebraska and Louisiana and leaving the abortion coverage exclusion less concrete. All things they rail against in the Senate bill. So what does this get them? Not rhetorical at all here -- I just can't seem to get a good answer to the question from any of the news sites, and hoping someone here has an answer.

Breaking Good And Bad

Oh boy, new Breaking Bad tonight. I recently rewatched season 2, and it held up. The show has gotten pretty dark, though, and I'm not sure where they can go from here. But then, it was pretty dark in the pilot, and things kept getting worse.

Just one note. After watching everything a second time, all the stuff with the main plot--the travails of Walt and Jesse--were fine. On the other hand, the story of Hank on his own, not quite so fine. And the story of Sklyer on her own, no fun at all.

I realize the show is more than Walt cooking meth and all the trouble surrounding that, and that creator Vince Gilligan wants to flesh out all the characters, but I'd recommend they stick with their strengths. I've got nothing against Skyler and Hank, but they're more interesting when trying to deal with the disastrous trail of Walt's good intentions.

Once In Love With T.A.M.I.

The T.A.M.I Show is finally out on DVD. I saw it in college, and just a few weeks ago on PBS. It's a 1964, shot live (with no lip syncing) in Santa Monica, featuring a lot of the best rock act of the time. In fact, the roster is stunning. It includes:

The Beach Boys
Chuck Berry
James Brown
Marvin Gaye
Gerry & The Pacemakers
Lesley Gore
Jan and Dean
Smokey Robinson and The Miracles
The Rolling Stones
The Supremes

It represents a special time in music. The separation between rock and roll and R&B wasn't so great that the acts couldn't appear one after another. Indeed, the audience (mostly white, mostly girls) doesn't distinguish who does what in their screams. There's even a transition early on where Chuck Berry (by 1964 an elder statesman) has his song taken up by Gerry & The Pacemakers. Okay, sublime to ridiculous, but the message is it's everyone's music.

Also, rock was still considered music for teens (T.A.M.I. stands for Teen Age Music International), so it was allowed to be fun without needing a bigger message. The performers are into performing (as opposed to say, "art" or "authenticity") and they put on a show above and beyond playing music. (There are also a lot of go-go dancers onstage who look pretty strange now.)

It also in glorious black and white. Probably the last year that would be allowed.

The sound isn't always great, and not all the performers are at their best, but some of the acts--especially James Brown--burn up the stage. It's been noted he made the Rolling Stones, who played after him, look pretty sick.

Bold Statements In Italics

At the conservative website Power Line, John Hinderaker has a bunch of Controversial Propositions:

* The most under-rated man in modern history was U.S. Grant.

* It is odd that people keep talking about the Great American Novel, since American novelists are, and always have been, sub-par by international standards.

* The greatest athlete of modern times, in any team sport, was Bobby Orr. Sorry, no room for discussion. It's just a fact.

* The most over-rated man of the 20th century was Gandhi. Nelson Mandela is runner-up.

* Much as Bob Dylan was the most authentic spokesman for his generation, Taylor Swift is the most authentic spokesman for hers.

* The three most desirable actresses in movie history are Paulette Goddard, Anna Karina and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

* There is over-rated, and then there are the Rolling Stones.

* How is Vermeer like Flaubert? They might have been the best ever, if they had produced more. Stendahl could go in that category, too.

* London is the world's greatest city, and Israel is the world's most exciting place.

* America's youth have never been the same since Saturday morning television went from real programming (Fury, Sky King, the Cisco Kid, etc.) to cartoons.

* The only good lawyer show in the history of television was Perry Mason.

* The title of world's greatest man has bounced back and forth between England and the U.S. for a while now: last half of the 18th century, George Washington; first half of the 19th century, the Duke of Wellington; second half of the 19th century, Abraham Lincoln; first half of the 20th century, Winston Churchill; second half of the 20th century, Ronald Reagan. But I very much doubt that the pattern will continue.

* The greatest benefactors of humanity, by a mile, are the pharmaceutical companies.

* But for World War II, Franklin Roosevelt would have gone down in history as the worst President since James Buchanan.

* Anyone who uses the word "sustainability" has no idea how the world works.

* The worst person in the history of the world was Lenin. Not only was he a mass murderer, the three biggest mass murderers in world history--Mao, Stalin and Hitler--were all his legitimate heirs, and may not have been possible without him.

* The smartest person whom most Americans see on a regular basis is Simon Cowell.

* Minneapolis's Institute of Arts is the most under-rated museum in the country. Among other things, it has the best painting Rembrandt ever did.

OK, maybe one or two of those are tongue-in-cheek, but I really do think they are true. There's more where they came from, too. I'd be happy to argue any of these propositions with any of our readers in a bar of your choice, as long as you're buying


I don't know if I agree with any of these, but I like bold statements.

U.S. Grant is certainly low-rated. All I can say is that helps if you're gonna be underrated. Same for Gandhi and Mandela being highly rated.

The two most common nominees for Great American Novel are Moby-Dick and Huck Finn, but historically there are greater novels elsewhere. Yet, based on my limited reading, I'd say that since WWII American novelists have been leading the pack.

Bobby Orr is a fine athlete (he says through gritted teeth, seeing the Bruins as his mortal enemy), but he's not even the greatest hockey player.

I have nothing against Taylor Swift, but the only way she compares to Bob Dylan is I think they're the same height.

Goddard, Karina and Zeta-Jones might all make the top fifty list, but not the top ten.

I haven't been to enough foreign cities to make a judgment on the best, but is London--wonderful as it is--really better than New York, or Paris? And for exciting places, can Israel beat Detroit?

There have been a few decent lawyer shows on TV, and Perry Mason wasn't one. He did have a great strategy, though--represent only innocent clients.

FDR may be overrated, but the worst since Buchanan?

The institute of arts claim is the sort of thing you hear from locals all across America.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Big Man And A Young Man

Fess Parker and Alex Chilton recently died. I don't have too much to say about either, but they both made their contribution to the world of popular culture.

Parker's heyday was before my time, but from what I understand, it's hard to overstate the popularity of his Davy Crockett. Yet I always preferred the Daniel Boone theme song:



I have a 45 with Fess Parker singing the song:



The B-side features the Davy Crockett theme.

Chilton made some good music, and was a major inspiration to a lot of melodic rockers, especially The Replacements, who even wrote a song about him.



People mostly talk about Chilton's work with Big Star in the 70s, but to me it's amazing that when he sang lead for the Box Tops, he had a huge hit when only 16:



It takes less than 2 minutes. If you think that's too short, I suggest you play it again.

Logic Takes A Holiday

From A. O. Scott's review of The Bounty Hounter in The New York Times:

Back in the old days, when our grandparents were courting, the volatile magnetism of heterosexual monogamy — the power of men and women to attract and repel each other in equal measure — was the motor that got many a screwball comedy rolling. Remember “His Girl Friday”? “Bringing Up Baby”? “Holiday”? (If not, it’s never too late.)

And it's never too late to get these plots straight. The first two definitely had the attract and repel plot, but Holiday? Not really. That story is about Cary Grant loving one sister then falling for the other, played by Katharine Hepburn, who suits him better.

Maybe Scott was thinking about Grant and Irene Dunne in maybe the most basic screwball comedy of all, The Awful Truth.

A Ford In Your Future or Recon Recap

The latest Lost, "Recon," was another satisfying episode, this time Sawyercentric. Nevertheless, the central issue of the final season is still unresolved--just what do these flash-sideways have to do with the main story. We're almost halfway through znd so far they exist on a parallel track. I never thought we'd go this far without an explanation, even on Lost.

This is unparalleled, as it were. Lost has always had a back and forth structure, but we've always understood how the two stories related (beyond thematically). Indeed, the characters we're seeing in the sideways section don't even have the connection of being the same characters we've gotten to know.

The show starts on the island with Sawyer helping out the still-hurt Jin. They both may be with the MIB, but they're both still the same basic characters they were before. We can't say the same for Claire or Sayid, who now march back with the rest of those who survived the Temple massacre.

Kate and Sawyer have slight reunion. Okay. Has it been 24 hours yet since they had their last talk?

Now we're on the mainland, and it looks like Sawyer is pulling yet another con, the pigeon drop. He's with a woman, but late for a meeting. He pulls a suitcase and the money falls out. I'm suspicious. Not of the con, but of who this sideways Sawyer is. We've seen all this before, more than once. He's not only pulling the same con, we've also seen the story where he redeems himself as a con man. They can't be pulling the same stunt.

Turns out the women sees through him. (Not the first time.) She pulls a gun on him. But he explains he's a cop, undercover (I'll say), and he's actually going after her crooked husband. She doesn't believe him, but he says the magic word--"LaFleur"--and his gang, headed by his partner Miles, knock down the door. (Watching the credits can be dangerous, but at least when regulars are doing different things you can't see it coming.)

Hmm, Sawyer and Miles, sounds like the makings of a decent buddy cop flick. So altaSawyer is a good guy now. But how good? How much has he changed?

Back on the island, Claire is taking care of squirrel skull Aaron. She grabs a knife. A big one. Yes, that's a knife. Kate, whom she's sworn to kill, wants to know what's going on. Kate is confused, but who wouldn't be. She's finally found Claire, but it's not the homecoming she was expecting. And good friend Sayid is acting strange. Oh yeah, Locke is alive too, and may even be Smokezilla.

Speaking of the Devil, Flocke gives a speech (since he's taken over Locke, he does this a lot). He's sorry for their trouble, but they need to march, no time for explanations yet. Cindy wants to know what happened at the Temple and he says the black smoke killed them. It may not be a full answer, but it's a lot better than Jacob--you can serve him for a century and he won't tell you anything.

At this point, we still don't know Flocke's plan, which this season is about. Jacob is dead, to begin with, but Flocke still can't leave the island--apparently there's a lot more to do. But what? And why? It does seem, good or bad, that Flocke believes in what he's doing. He honestly seems to think the Jacobins are nuts. And when he talks to others, and far as I can tell, he tells the truth--he's not just lying to lead them on.

He's taking them to Hydra Island (though he'd rather go to Disneyland). Not sure why, though he did say to Ben last week he'd do this, so at least he's consistent.

Sawyer wants to know from Kate about the rest of the gang at the Temple--did they survive? Including Miles, his old, and sideways, partner. Back on the mainland, Cop Sawyer--make that James Ford--is cold calling for an Anthony Cooper. Aha. So just like the old con man, he has a quest to find the man who killed his parents. (We might have thought from the Locke episode Cooper had gone clean, but I guess not.)

Miles is suspicious, but can't read minds until they're dead. Sawyer's even lying about his trip to Australia (just like Locke). Miles sets up a date for Ford--a gal who works with his dad at the museum. So Pierre Chang lives! Does he still make videos? Miles wonders if Ford will die alone. We've heard that before.

Flocke tells his group they're going to make camp for a while. Sawyer, like the viewers, wonders what's taking this guy so long to get off the island. He pulls Flocke aside and learns he's the Smoke Monster. Flocke doesn't really want the others to know about this, but I think he figures he needs to get Sawyer's attention. (He does "forgive" Sawyer for getting out of line.)

He also explains the way things work, it's killed or be killed. "And I don't want to be killed." He may have supernatural powers, but underneath he still seems like a regular human being.

He leads Sawyer to the outrigger. (They're still teasing that scene.) He wants him to check out Hydra Island and find the Ajira flight. (Flight 316, on a show aired 3/16.) Flocke fears people on Hydra may mean them harm. Flocke says he plans for them to fly off the island on the plane. Really? He's the Smoke Monster, not the Mechanic Monster.

Ford goes to the museum and meets--as the credits warned--well-known archaeologist Charlotte Lewis. She and Ford are a goodlooking couple. He explains how he became who he is--he had two choices, become a crook or a cop. Got that right.

They hit it off and she goes to his place. No con. But looking for a t-shirt (really?) she stumbles onto info about his childhood, and he goes nuts and throws her out. So he may be Ford the Cop, but underneath he's still pretty similar to Sawyer.

On Hydra Island, Sawyer sees the old cages, and Kate's old dress. Happy days.

Back on the regular island, Kate tries to talk to Sayid, but Kate grabs her and plans to carve her a new mouth. The freakiest thing, though, is Sayid watches, emotionless. It takes Flocke to come in and pull off Claire. He slaps her and gives her a time out.

Meanwhile, Sawyer finds the plane, right on the runway he helped build. I don't see it flying any time soon--wouldn't that bother Sawyer?

I was actually curious to see what was going on at the island. Last season all the main characters left, but did they leave anyone behind?

Sawyer finds a pile of bodies (not the first on the show) and catches one survivor, Zoe (which means life), played by Sheila Kelley, who may just be the last new recurring character the show has.

Ford passes by Liam, looking for his brother Charlie, whom we last saw screwing up at LAX. Sorry buddy, can't help you.

Miles is pissed. Not about Charlotte, though. He's found out Ford went to Australia, not Palm Springs like he claimed. James won't explain what he's doing--we definitely see flashes of the old Sawyer here. Miles says fine, you don't have to tell me, because we're no longer partners. He walks off and Ford punches a mirror. We knew there'd be a mirror sooner or later. The shattered image is like the shattered soul that Sawyer is in the other world. (Poetic, man.)

Zoe and Sawyer compare notes, but neither tells too much. She seems pretty scared. I'd be, too. They walk back to the outrigger.

Meanwhile, Flocke has pulled Kate aside. She's not taking all the changes well. He commiserates. He seems to honestly feel for her. He explains the Claire deal--having her hate the Temple kept her going, and then that hate focused on Kate. Flocke seems to need Kate for some reason, probably having to do with Aaron. How important is Aaron? How much is Flocke using the look of Locke (sounds like a song) to gain sympathy? How much is the personality of Locke coming through Flocke? He takes Kate to the best view of Hyrda Island available.

Sawyer and Zoe are at the outrigger now. She's asking questions. Too many. He pulls a gun--she's conning him. Ford the cop easily dealt with his woman, but Sawyer the con man has it tougher. This time she's the one who calls for reinforcements. A bunch of guys with guns pop out from the weeds. "Alright, alright, you got me. Take me to your leader." He's pretty calm. Does he know as a candidate he'll be protected?

Locke and Kate sit down and talk some more. On a lot of shows, we may want more action, but we're invested enough in the characters, and know so little about them, it can be a relief when they start talking. Flocke says he knows what Kate is going through. (Didn't Ben say that to Ilana last week?) Flocke says his mom is crazy, so he understands. Wait a second, Locke's mom was crazy. Whose memory is this?

In any case, Claire is now a crazy mom. (Is Claire Flocke's mom? Certainly possible on this show.) Kate asks "why are you telling me this?" This is usually a poor line, indicating we've just heard bad exposition. But on Lost it's more an expression of surprise--no one tells anyone anything. Looks like Flocke may just insist Kate raise Aaron.

Sawyer is led to--who else?--Widmore. We all live in a private submarine.

Ford comes home and watches his favorite show, Little House On The Prairie. (As always, there were callbacks on the show--we see Sawyer's book Watership Down there.) Michael Landon is talking about how life is about loving each other, and how no one's gone when they die, since we can remember them until we see them again. This could mean so many things I don't want to go into it. (The only thing we know for sure is the Lost producers didn't write it.) Ford figures he'll apologize to Charlotte with a sunflower, but like eating chocolate before dinner, it's a no-go. (Will Sawyer meet his true love, Juliet, next?)

Sawyer goes down in the sub and meets Widmore. The sub was last seen off the Beach--is there a reason Widmore "proceeded as planned" to Hydra. More important, who is he fighting for? Flocke seemed nervous, but was he scared of Ilana's gang? The young, impetuous Widmore seemed to be on Jacob's side--and Jacob was trying to call someone to the Island--but did Widmore turn when he was exiled? Widmore seemed to want to help Locke, but was that to kill Jacob? Certainly Ilana's gang wanted nothing to do with him.

Fairly big sub, by the way. There's a hidden room, even. Zoe says keep moving. What's on this boat? A coffin with the body of Desmond?

Widmore wants to make a deal. He knows all about Ford, of course. And Sawyer knows Widmore's the guy who financed the freighter that tried to kill everyone. By the way, trying to kill everyone can be something that Jacob followers believe in as well--in fact, wasn't Widmore behind the Purge? But if he's doing it for Flocke now, what does he hope to achieve in the end? He says to Sawyer "It's sad, actually, how little you know." Is he mocking us all?

There's definitely something big afoot, but we still don't know what this War is about, or even who the sides are. Widmore, like Ben, believes he's on the side of the "good guys." He doesn't even believe he murdered those in the Purge. Meanwhile, Sawyer is one of those guys who's never really cared about the bigger mysteries--let Jack and Locke fight that out.

So we're wondering will Sawyer talk. You bet he does. He spills it all--Even sells out Locke. (Would Widmore want to attack Flocke, or greet him happily?) They make a deal--Sawyer will tell Flocke the coast is clear. This is a bit odd, since Sawyer knows how powerful Smokezilla is. But Sawyer is still decent, bargaining for safe passage off the island for him and his friends. They shake on it.

Kate and Claire have it out. Claire has been admonished, and she seems to feel sorry. She even thanks Kate for taking care of Aaron. They hug, and she doesn't even pull out a knife. How much normal Claire is still in her noggin?

Sawyer returns on the outrigger. He tells Flocke everything that happened. I guess he figures it's wise not to fight the Smokie The Monster. I hope he's not lying, since Smokey can look into your soul, and would kill you as quickly as look at you. Flocke appreciates his loyalty, but who's scamming whom?

Charlotte is gone, but Ford tries to make up with his real partner, Miles. (Since "LaFleur" they've been a team.) Miles asks the great question "who's Sawyer"--thematic, but fitting. Ford tells the story of the con man who destroyed his life. He's now tracking him down, and plans to kill him. Good to know Ford is still Ford. Though I don't know if in this world Ford has written his letter. More on this below.

Instead of asking why are you telling me this, Miles wants to know what he hasn't been told before. Then a car slams into their car. It's Kate, on the run. Ford chases her down. Does he recognize it's the hot chick from LAX who was handcuffed? Small world. Are all the survivors going to get together? Jin and Sayid are involved in crimes, and sooner or later everyone needs to go to the hospital to meet Jack.

Kate and Sawyer also meet at the island camp. He explains he's playing Locke and Widmore against each other (which'll work fine unless they're working together--since both Flocke and Widmore's plan were to go to Hydra Island, I wonder). In the meantime, he and Freckles will take to sub off the Island (and this time Locke won't blow it up).

LOST

After watching this episode, it gave credence to a theory that's going around: altaWorld shows the true character of the Losties. It's what life would be like if "free will" Jacob had just left everyone alone. He intervenes at important moments and sets people on paths (that generally lead to the Island). Without him, this is what the world would look like. If true, does this mean the Losties will have to make a choice, and, even if they like the other world, go back to the Island to take care of business? Is this what the War is about--which vision of the world we get?

By the way, Lost titles are often plays on words, and this was one of the best. "Recon" refers to the job Flocke asks Sawyer to do on Hydra Island. But it's also a second chance to revisit con man Sawyer, and see how his life looks if he takes the other path.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Greg And Ginger

When the RKO Astaire/Rogers series of musicals ended in 1939, Ginger went straight into a series of successful comedies and dramas on her own. Still in her twenties, she didn't need to dance or sing to show how talented she was.

Even before 1939, she'd shown what she could do in Stage Door and Vivacious Lady. But then came Bachelor Mother, Primrose Path, Kitty Foyle (for which she won an Oscar), Roxie Hart and The Major And The Minor.

Perhaps the oddest film she made around this time is 5th Avenue Girl. She was a favorite of director Gregory La Cava, and here he features her in a sort of female version of My Man Godfrey. Rich Walter Connolly hires beautiful young Ginger to move in and shake her family up. However, in Godfrey, the rich family was nutty and fun. This one is more annoying and a little bit depressed. Godfrey himself was charming--Ginger's character is more unsettling.

Also, the film is even more explicitly political, with the chauffeur spouting Marx. The other domestics mock him, but the rich daughter loves him. However, being rich, she can do nothing right. Finally, Ginger has to shake things up, going after him with a knife and threatening to cut him another mouth. That's not the kind of line you hear much in 1930s comedy.

The main set--the 5th Avenue domicile--is dominated by a massive, central staircase. I'm sure it looked impressive when they built it, but it seems to weigh down the action.

I could be wrong, but I think La Cava, at the height of his career, was trying to make a big statement, at least something bigger than the slight political background of Godfrey, and it lends a heaviness to the final product. This movie has a surpisingly dark tone for a comedy. It even leaves a sour taste--maybe after all the unhappiness, we don't buy the happy ending. (Allegedly the ending was reshot to make things a bit more positive.)

Arc De Triomphe

This is why, if you ever fall out of a tree, you don't want to grab two power lines:

Ernst And Ephraim

This excerpt from Ephraim Katz's Film Encyclopedia on Lubitsch is strange. It's a decent enough discussion of his career, but gives short shrift to his work in talkies. In particular, it doesn't even mention Trouble In Paradise and The Shop Around The Corner, which are probably his two greatest achievements.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Going To The Hatch Once Too Often

Due to circumstances beyond my control, my weekly Lost recap/analysis will be delayed. Until I can put it up, please enjoy this video.



PS I thought you might like some Lost speculation I blogged a year ago:

The latest Lost, "Dead Is Dead," was all about Ben. But the issue referred to in the title intrigues me. Ben says it to Sun--the one thing that even the island can't do is bring Locke back to life.

It reminded me of how you figure out magic tricks. First you figure out what they could show if there really was magic. And since there's no magic, what is it they're covering up--that's where the trick is. If Locke couldn't be brought back to life, but seems to be, that's where the trick is. (Unless Ben is wrong--he certainly has been, just as he certainly lies. He even lied to Locke this episode when he said he expected him to come back to life after he murdered him.)

So maybe the Locke we're seeing isn't Locke. But I don't buy that. We've seen Christian, and now Alex, and others (perhaps Claire) come back from the dead in ghost form, but they seem to act differently from Locke. Locke seems to mostly be the same old Locke. (Though he was acting a bit arrogantly--in fact, I thought he was gonna get his comeuppance. Instead, at least for now, it looks like the island wants to protect him. Ghost Alex was pretty insistent that Ben not do the hat trick and kill him a third time. Clearly he's got work to do, and it's time for Ben to help, not to take over.)

So if Locke isn't a ghost, and couldn't come back to life, then here's the trick--he never left the Island. At least not some corporeal Locke. Perhaps he split in two (an old
Star Trek trick) or perhaps when he moved the donkey wheel, the real Locke stayed on the island while some doppelganger went back.

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