Monday, March 31, 2014

Here We Go Again

According to the Washington Post, a lot of insider Republicans are pushing Jeb Bush for President in 2016.  And while money can't make you, its lack can break you, so this may mean something. I guess the insiders have to start acting around now, even though the public won't be thinking about this seriously for at least another year and a half.

As for Jeb, I have no strong feelings about him either way.  I don't know that much about his politics and I don't what kind of candidate he'd make.  But I bet the Dems love this idea.  Can you imagine a battle of the bands like Clinton versus Bush?  They'd try to paint it as if it's a contest not between Hillary and Jeb, but Bill and George.

Could they get away with it?  Why not.  A lot of voters don't pay that much attention, after all.

PS Obviously, we've never had the wife of a former President take the office.  We came close to having a brother, but that didn't end well.  Not that Jeb Bush would ever compare himself to RFK, and if he did, we'd have all those stupid lines about how W was no John Kennedy.  (I still consider Lloyd Bentsen's line a low point in American politics.  Yes, I know it provided a memorable moment in what would otherwise have been a completely forgettable debate, but the canned line was idiotic.  Not that Quayle and his people should have been dumb enough to walk into something that they had to know Bentsen was prepared for.)

Keeping Up With Jones

Shirley Jones turns 80 today.  I just read her book with the no-nonsense title Shirley Jones: A Memoir.  (When did people stop writing autobiographies and start writing memoirs?) In it, the simple country girl from Pennsylvania truly opens up.  There are plenty of stories about her show biz career, but also plenty about her sexual adventures.

Actually, I read it for the show biz stuff.  How she was discovered is an amazing story.  Still a teenager, with no stage experience, and about to attend college, she auditioned for a Broadway agent while in New York.  Before she knew it, Richard Rodgers and then Oscar Hammerstein were called in.  She was such a powerful combination of beauty and singing talent that they signed her on the spot, and after a bit of seasoning on stage she was chosen to play the lead role in the film version of Oklahoma!.  She followed that with another R&H film adaptation, Carousel (which was supposed to star Frank Sinatra, who walked out as shooting started).  In the early 60s, she played another classic musical role as Marian the Librarian in the screen version of The Music Man.

Meanwhile, she met and married stage star Jack Cassidy.  They had an affair while touring in Oklahoma!, even though he was already married.  Cassidy was Jones' great love. (Here's where we get a lot of the sex stories). Once they were together, though, he cheated on her.  On top of that, he was jealous of her career, since he never made it in movies or even TV as she did.

She generally played roles where she was pure as the driven snow, so the public was surprised to see her as a prostitute in the Richard Brooks' film Elmer Gantry. It may be why she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.  (I think the movie was overrated in its day since 1960 Hollywood rarely dealt head-on with subjects like religion and sex).

As her film career was petering out, she moved to TV.  She turned down Carol Brady in The Brady Bunch, but took the part of Shirley Partridge in The Partridge Family, a show based on The Cowsills. Only after she accepted the role was David Cassidy--her stepson--cast as her oldest son Keith.  She loved doing the show, and sometimes felt like a mother to the kids in the cast.

The show was a hit and the Partridge Family albums became big sellers. David became a pop sensation (as did Shirley's biological son Shaun a few years later).  Meanwhile, Jack's career was going nowhere. (He was offered the Ted Baxter role on The Mary Tyler Moore Show but turned it down.  In one episode he played Baxter's twin brother.)  He was also acting erratically--turns out he was bipolar.  The couple separated and Cassidy died in 1976 when he fell asleep holding a lit cigarette and his apartment went up in flames.

When The Partridge Family was canceled, Shirley continued to work regularly, doing live shows as well as TV and movies, but she never regained the same prominence. She also married crazy comic Marty Ingels, and they're together to this day. (And we get more sex stories, including sex among septuagenerians.)

I think Jones will be remembered as the innocent ingenue in those film musicals, but now we have a lot better idea who the real Shirley Jones is.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Last Chance?

Quite a game the Wolverines played against the Volunteers.  I don't know if you caught it, but it came down to the end.  Michigan had a ten point lead late in the game, but then started to fall apart.  Still, they looked like they had the win with a five-point lead, possession of the ball and less than a minute on the clock.  Then they made several mistakes in a row and suddenly Tennessee had the ball with a one-point deficit and only a few seconds left.  Michigan finally did something right and managed to take the game 73-71 (though Tennessee was allowed a last-second desperation shot that didn't come close).

I watched the game on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.  It was pretty tough to take, especially with all those annoying Tennessee fans cheering when the Wolverines screwed up.  Afterwards, I walked down the street in my Michigan sweater, and people were giving me high fives.

Overall, though, I wasn't that impressed.  Michigan couldn't seem to put it away, and the teams are only going to get tougher.  Which is why I'm writing this now.  Later today they'll play the Wildcats, and that may be the end. I'd love to see them in the finals, but every game at this point could be the last.

Don't Hurt 'Em

Happy birthday, MC Hammer. Lately no one wants to touch him, but he's still there, in the back of our minds.






Guess Which One?

Happy birthday, Al Goodman, best known as part of the soul trio Ray, Goodman & Brown, originally part of The Moments.






Saturday, March 29, 2014

My Way Or Conway

I recently sampled two comedians' autobiographies, Still Foolin' Em by Billy Crystal and What's So Funny? by Tim Conway.  I've enjoyed the work of both Crystal and Conway, but it's not like I'm a huge fan of either.  Still, the books were both there in the library, so I skimmed them.

I didn't go in deep enough to review them, but I think I can contrast them. Crystal's look back (he just turned 65)--in the parts I read anyway--punch up the story with plenty of one-liners. In fact, it can get relentless. I'm not saying the lines are bad--some are quite funny and they're all professionaly composed, but while being jokey may work well on a panel, does it play in the long haul?

Meanwhile, Conway, though he's trying to be funny too, let's the story breathe a bit more.  Most of the humor comes from the tales themselves, not snappy lines he adds on top of them.

Both styles can work, but if I'm actually interested in the subject, I think I'd prefer the Conway approach in a book.

Have They Ever Watched Modern Family?

There's a controversy over a tweet from the Stephen Colbert people. It's based on a bit he did on his show. (I don't regularly watch it so I'm going by what's being reported.)

In his comic (and often ham-handed) way, he was making fun of Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder creating a foundation to support Native American--the "Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundations." Colbert's response, according to the tweet: "I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.”

Apparently, some Asians (and others?) took offense.

This is the problem with satire. To mock something, you have to take on parts of it--mocking means imitating, after all.  And this is Colbert's entire act--pretending to be a conservative and saying outrageous things in that guise.  The whole point of this particular bit, of course, is that what he's saying--if meant seriously--is highly offensive.  But, just as obviously, we can tell from context it's not meant seriously.  So are some claiming, no matter what the context, you just can't ever say these words?

I've heard the tweet has been deleted, which isn't a great precedent. Also, many news stories note Colbert didn't himself send out the tweet. They even claim he's distanced himself from it (though they may just not get his sense of humor).  I don't see why this is relevant as it's directly based on a routine he performed on his show. (Are they going to delete the show, too?)

Colbert regularly satirizes people and groups and I'm sure his Asian audience is just like the rest of his audience--they laugh, especially if they agree with his politics.  I don't recall him ever making fun of Asians, though, as I said, I rarely watch, so maybe he has.  But if he ever did, they may think he missed the point.  Then again, that's probably how most of his targets feel.  But that's how things work, and no person or group out in public life, no matter how kind or noble they believe they are, should feel immune to mockery.

I've often felt people offended by jokes should first have to explain why the joke is supposed to be funny. They don't have to think it's funny, they just have to explain why anyone could think it is.  If they can't, maybe they just don't get it.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Mur

I'm always up for new information about The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Thus last year I read Jennifer Armstrong's book about the show (excellent, if decades late) as well as Valerie Harper's memoir.  And now I see Gavin MacLeod has an autobiography out, This Is Your Captain Speaking, so how could I resist, even if MTM was only one relatively small part of his career.

He was born February 28, 1931 (I finished the book a while ago and decided to post this on a 28th).  He grew up in Pleasantville, 30 miles and a world away from New York City.  His parents were Irish Catholic and, while he generally has pleasant memories of his childhood, there was one problem--his father drank, which could lead to unpleasantness.  His father also died young, when Gavin was a teen, which made things tough.

Gavin wasn't the rough and tumble kid his father wanted--he preferred to act, and seemed to have a knack for it.  He even won a scholarship to Ithaca, the first of his family to go to college.  Not leading-man handsome, and bald at 21, he left for Manhattan in the early 50s.  There he spent several years getting the occasional job but not earning a living at his craft, and also getting married to his first wife, Rootie, a Rockette. (He also changed his name. He was born Allan See, which didn't cut it. "MacLeod" he got from an acting teacher, and "Gavin" just sounded strong.)

Then he got his break--he was cast in a small role in the hit Broadway show A Hatful A Rain, which was in its day a tough look at drug addiction.  After it closed in New York he toured with it, understudying larger roles and getting a reputation.  He decided to uproot and move to Los Angeles.  In Manhattan it was tough to be cast as a young bald man, but on the West Coast he found he could get roles with and without hair. One big break was hitting it off with writer-director-producer Blake Edwards, who cast him in his TV shows as well as movies like the huge 1959 hit Operation Petticoat, where MacLeod worked with Cary Grant and Tony Curtis. (MacLeod does a lot of name-dropping, but he did work with practically everyone, and, in any case, he still seems starstruck, as if he can't believe how lucky he's been.)

But Gavin's first love was always theatre, and he appeared in a significant Hollywood production of Jack Gelber's The Connection, a revolutionary play about, once again, drug addiction.  MacLeod gave a particularly memorable performance as the creepy drug dealer Leach.  Many producers and directors saw him and he became one of the busiest character actors around.  He met a lot of stars before they were stars, hanging out with Steve McQueen, Robert Redford and so on.  Then there was another actor trying to get a foothold, Ted Knight--Gavin and Ted met in 1957 and became close friends.

In the early 60s, with two kids and more on the way, he figured he could use a steady income, so he took a role on the sitcom McHale's Navy.  I expected him to write about how this gave him greater exposure than ever (certainly it was a breakthrough for Tim Conway, whose book I just read), but MacLeod thinks it was one of his biggest mistakes.  He was, as his friends told him, little more than a glorified extra in the show's huge ensemble.  He eventually left, but it took its toll. He started drinking, and his relationship with Rootie was falling apart. Things got so bad at one point he considered driving off a cliff in the Hollywood Hills.  He eventually stopped drinking, and his career got back on track, but his marriage was never the same.

By the late 1960s he was a well-known quantity, regularly sought out by producers.  He generally played heavies (and not just because he had a problem with ballooning weight), but was known as an actor who could make any character still somewhat sympathetic.  Norman Lear had him read for the lead in All In The Family--though MacLeod says he didn't think the script was for him. (Throughout the book MacLeod seems fairly accepting that he didn't get some roles--one door closes, another opens.  It could be how he feels looking back, and not then, but it comes across as honest.)  Anyway, it's just as well that Carroll O'Connor got to play Archie Bunker, because it freed MacLeod up for the role of his life in a better show, as far as I'm concerned--Murray in The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

The producers actually wanted him for Mary's gruff boss, Lou Grant.  MacLeod read for it, did well, but asked if he could also read for news writer Murray.  He'd worked with Mary before (he'd actually worked with most of the cast) and felt more comfortable playing her co-worker than her boss.  So they let him, even if Lou Grant was a better role.  He got the part (and Ed Asner, waiting outside when MacLeod left, got Lou Grant, of course) and changed it. News writer Murray Slaughter was originally envisioned as an angrier character, but, as the writers followed MacLeod's cue, he became a nicer, more decent guy.

Murray was the least flashy of all the supporting characters--one reason MacLeod was practically alone in the cast in not winning an Emmy, not even being nominated, in fact.  But he was one of the most identifiable characters. Every office has your basic brown-bagger, who may dream a lot, but mostly keeps his nose to the grindstone and never rises too high.  MacLeod's basic sweetness came through, as did his appreciation for Mary Tyler Moore.  Murray got his share of episodes, but mostly he was on the sidelines, making wisecracks about the stupidity of anchorman Ted Baxter (played by old pal Ted Knight, of course), or the sluttiness of Happy Homemaker Sue Anne Nivens. It's impossible to imagine the show without old Mur there, backing up Mary.

MacLeod appreciated the role.  The show was both a huge hit and critically admired.  And here he was in his forties, for the first time a recognizable star. And, at least in the series' later year, making pretty good money.  Also, as a star, he was able to indulge in his love of theatre, appearing in plays--often musicals--when the series wasn't shooting.

But for all that, his marriage was still in trouble.  Then he met another woman, Patti.  Before he knew it, he divorced Rootie and married Patti.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show ended after seven seasons and MacLeod felt it was time for something different.  He didn't think, however, he'd step into another hit series right away when producer Aaron Spelling called him in to read for this new show called The Love Boat.  In fact, Spelling had shot two pilots before which had failed to sell, but felt MacLeod could lend something to the show that could make it work.  He was even willing to work around MacLeod's theatre schedule.

MacLeod played Captain Merrill Stubing.  It's his best known role, I suppose. After all, the book is called "This Is Your Captain Speaking," not "Memo From Murray." The part was originally written to emphasize the Captain's stern authority, but once again, MacLeod turned it around a bit, to point out how caring and decent the Captain was, always watching out for his crew and passengers. Maybe that's what made the difference.

The Love Boat was a hit, running nine seasons. An hour-long format, each episode would be a cruise with three different couples having their own story, mostly comic, sometimes poignant.  The critics hated the show (and it is pretty corny and mindless), but MacLeod enjoyed doing it.  Here he was, approaching fifty, finally a star and even a romantic lead. He also got to meet a lot of the movie stars he'd idolized as a kid among the hundreds who came aboard over the years.

Meanwhile, his second marriage was floundering.  It seemed to be sort of a mid-life crisis (his second?)--he wanted to concentrate on himself and his career, so he said goodbye to Patti.  But then he had a spiritual crisis, and became a more committed Christian.  After some time apart, he called Patti back and she'd also become more religious, and they had a second, born-again wedding.  Indeed, while the book is mostly about his career, he often notes how central religion has become to his life, and how, looking back, he believes there was always someone watching over him.

After the series, he certainly had enough money and fame for any career. He kept busy, not only working, on and off, but also being a spokesperson for Princes Cruises--The Love Boat had helped revive the cruise industry in general.  Then, a few years ago when he turned 80 he (apparently) retired.

He's also spent time spreading the message of joy and love he's found. One role that means a lot to him is a 2008 film entitled The Secrets Of Jonathan Sperry, about an old man who teaches some kids about the meaning of the Bible.

MacLeod was lucky.  Talented, yes, but a lot of great character actors never find that perfect role that makes them famous, much less get to star in even one hit series.  He did a good job as the Captain, but I can't help thinking he'll be remembered for Murray.

KC

It's March 28, so you know what that means--it's the birthday of the official incorporation of Kansas City! If that isn't worth celebrating in song, what is?





Thursday, March 27, 2014

Who Cares?

At The Hill yet another discussion of how Obamacare will hurt the Dems this November. Ho hum.  The real news is hidden away, well into the piece:

In the short term, ObamaCare’s supporters argue that a surge in enrollments is still possible and that, in any event, the chances of the law collapsing under its own weight have been greatly exaggerated. Republicans privately acknowledge that repeal is now off the table, in part because taking new healthcare coverage away from people would be political suicide.

That's what Repubs are privately saying?  If that's so, why should anyone vote for them ever?  Obamacare has been political suicide and they can't do anything about it?  If you can't get rid of an unpopular law that you presumably think is a bad idea, you're worthless.

Okay, I understand certain aspects of the law--the parts where the government hands out things for free--are popular.  This is not news--taxes aren't popular, refunds are.  This doesn't mean you can't get rid of the law. Let's assume the GOP takes the Senate (which I don't think will happen).  Repeal isn't going to happen anyway as long as a Democrat's in the White House.  So vote on numerous popular anti-Obamacare bills and if they don't become law at least all Dems will have to go on record.

And then, if you can take the White House (which is more important than everything else combined--just the Presidency could get you most of what you want) and hold the Congress, go into full gear.  First, if you can't get rid of everything in one fell swoop (and I think you can, but that's another argument), gut it by either stopping dead or repealing every part of the law you can. A death spiral is possible but it may need a nudge.

Cancel paybacks to insurance companies to cover losses.  Allow people to get any insurance they want, "substandard" or not. Don't fine or punish anyone for failing to buy from the exchange.  Give states greater leeway in making their own rules.  Cut the legs out from under the law so it can't function.

If you can't take some part of the law head on, you can change it by tinkering--after all, that's what the President's been doing since the rollout.  For example, you don't have to repeal a giveaway like letting young adults stay on their parents' insurance till they're 26--just limit what sort of insurance this can cover, raise the price faster (to reflect the actual cost), don't cover anyone under 26 above a certain salary level, etc.

It's really not that hard.  But if the GOP wants to give up before they start, what's the point of having parties?

The Divine One

Today is the 90th birthday of Sarah Vaughan, who's got to be one of the most highly regarded jazz singers of all.





Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Arkeology

With the movie Noah set to open this week, Dennis Prager is writing about the Biblical version.  You can decide if you agree with his take that this is one of the most moral stories ever told.

But what caught my eye was this:

Q: Isn’t the biblical flood story just a fairy tale?

A: Two responses:

First, this is so only if you believe that the biblical flood story states that the entire earth from the North Pole to the South Pole was flooded and that every living creature from penguins to polar bears, except for the animals and the people on Noah’s ark, was killed. But that is not what the story says. The narrative speaks of the world where Noah lived: It is expressly stated in Genesis 9:10 that there were other animals in the world that were not killed by the flood.

Wow!  That's a blockbuster.  So what millions or more likely billions of people believe and have believed for centuries is not true.

If you're wondering, this is Genesis 9:10...

And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.

Now Dennis may believe he's got the proper understanding and, for that matter, translation of the Bible on his side, but I wonder how many scholars agree.  I mean, I thought Genesis was pretty clear on the issue.  For instance, from Chapter 7:

21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man:

22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.

23 And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.

It's not much of a story if everything doesn't die.  Why bother to invite all those dirty animals onto his ark if they as a species were going to survive anyway?  Why go to all the trouble of making Noah build an ark when you can just tell him to take a hike until he's outside the flood zone? And how wide is the flood, anyway?  Just a local thing that bothered the evil people in Noah's village?  Enough to kill all the humans on Earth?  Is it a bunch of separate floods that cover just where humans live, or one big flood that happens to fit around every place where people are?  And don't forget, Noah was on that boat a long time--couldn't he have found dry ground faster if the flood were local?

I don't know--seems to me unless it's about the entire planet, it seriously takes away from the majesty of the narrative.

Also note Prager seems to claim you can take the story literally if you believe it's not a worldwide flood.  So we can believe that several thousand years ago a 600-year-old man, on direct orders from above, builds a huge ship, gets a gigantic menagerie aboard, it rains so much for a long time that a large area is flooded and every other human dies (I get the impression Prager believes all other humans died in the flood, though I'm not 100% sure), and then some time later he gets to dry ground and every person alive today is descended from the people on that ship.

Okay.  As long as we're clear.

Diana The Diva

Happy 70th, Diana Ross.  As lead singer of The Supremes she had twelve #1 hits and then had six more on her own. (Years ago I was at a Broadway show when Diana Ross came in and the entire audience watched her take her seat.  That's star presence.)











Tuesday, March 25, 2014

NB

Today is the centennial of Norman Borlaug's birth.  His research in genetics and breeding helped develop wheat with drastically increased yield.  Some say his work saved a billion from starvation.

There was some opposition to his work from environmentalists. (This opposition has, if anything, grown stronger since.)  He had a pretty good answer:

Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. They have never produced a ton of food. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for 60 years, they’d be crying out for fertilizer, herbicides, irrigation canals and tractors and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things.

And:

We all owe a debt of gratitude to the environmental movement that has taken place over the past 40 years. This movement has led to legislation to improve air and water quality, protect wildlife, control the disposal of toxic wastes, protect the soils, and reduce the loss of biodiversity. It is ironic, therefore, that the platform of the antibiotechnology extremists, if it were to be adopted, would have grievous consequences for both the environment and humanity. I often ask the critics of modern agricultural technology: What would the world have been like without the technological advances that have occurred? For those who profess a concern for protecting the environment, consider the positive impact resulting from the application of science-based technology.

This Is The End

Here's a little piece on the seven worst TV finales ever.  The titles?  Lost, Seinfeld, The X-Files, Roseanne, Prison Break, St. Elsewhere and Dexter.  Note there's nothing from the first 30 years of TV. Perhaps the author doesn't know those shows, or maybe it's because that was a different era. Shows then didn't tend to have arcs and didn't generally have finales--the series would be canceled and that would be the end.

I never watched The X-Files, Prison Break or Dexter, so not only can I not comment about them, I didn't even read the material to avoid spoilers. As for the other four, they are generally considered disappointments.  Still I'm not sure the author was correct in her judgment.

For instance, we get this regarding Seinfeld:

"The Finale" episode's failure to live up to expectations was all the more surprising considering co-creator Larry David returned to write the script.

Is it really more surprising it failed because David returned?  It sort of makes sense when the original creator comes back he'd swing for the fences, so if he failed (and I agree he did) it would be a huge whiff.

Then there's St. Elsewhere:

...in possibly one of the most poorly written and cliched endings to a television show ever, the finale episode of "St.Elsewhere," explained through a strange snow globe that the entire show had been the fabrication of autistic child named Tommy.

1) Yeah, I hate that cliché of series being the dream of an autistic child.

2)  It's not as if Tommy came out of nowhere--he was an established if minor character.

But the real shocker is about Lost:

Instead of answering the audience's questions, the two hour finale "The End" ended up smoothing over most of the show's most important and unresolved problems by explaining that they all were in purgatory, though if they had really been there the whole time, no one knew.

As I noted last week, it's hard to believe some still don't get it.  They were not in purgatory, they were on an island.  An island with many strange properties, but a real island.  Since there's dialogue in the finale saying everything that happened on the island was real, I'm not sure how anyone would miss that.  The finale was disappointing enough without getting this wrong.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Reading Rex

One of Rex Reed's favorite criticisms is to say a plot doesn't make a lick of sense.  Sometimes he's right, but more often you get the feeling he simply didn't get it.  For an example of how he misses things, look at his review of The Grand Budapest Hotel.  He generally hates Wes Anderson so I was surprised he liked this one.  But that doesn't make him any less sloppy.

[Monsieur Gustave's] stories and adventures are related in the year 1985 to an author (Tom Wilkinson) who wants to collect them in a book, just as they were observed in the 1930s by the hotel lobby boy, an immigrant named Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who is now the owner of the once-splendid resort.

Wes Anderson has framing device upon framing device in this film, but Reed could have been considerably clearer.  Gustave's stories aren't related to Tom Wilkinson's character in 1985, they're related to Jude Law's character--the younger version of Wilkinson--in the 1960s.  F. Murray Abraham, as the owner of the resort, tells these tales, but he doesn't play the lobby boy who saw it all--that role is taken by Tony Revolori.  Reed ignores this actor though he's got the second-biggest part in the movie.

The den of villains is crowded with amusing cameos by Mathieu Amalric as the suspicious butler, Serge X; Jeff Goldblum as Madame D.’s evil executor, Kovacs; a sadist in leather (Willem Dafoe); and the dead woman’s son (Adrien Brody).

I think we can call Dafoe and Brody villains, but Amalric is a tougher call and Goldblum is, if anything, a good guy, as the lawyer trying to do an honest job against enormous pressure.

Agatha does miraculous things with buttercreams that look like Faberge eggs and has a scar across half of her face that looks like a map of Mexico.

It's not a scar, it's a birthmark.

Everyone makes mistakes, but if you're going to be pronouncing on something, you should at least pay attention.

La Perfectly Swell

Happy birthday, Patti LaBelle, who turns 70 today.





Sunday, March 23, 2014

Shadows Conspiracy

I'm a fan of Penn & Teller, but I don't think I'm a fan of Teller's recent lawsuit.

Teller's best-known trick is probably Shadows, where he cuts the shadow of a flower which makes the real petals fall. He created the illusion--indeed, he copyrighted a description of the trick over 30 years ago.  Then a Belgian entertainer Gerard Dogge put up a copycat version on YouTube, and offered to reveal the secret for $3050 (I'm guessing the amount was a round figure in Belgian currency?).

You can't copyright a magic trick.  Thousands of magicians do the same card tricks, for instances, and you can find many magic secrets on YouTube and elsewhere.  But Teller's theory was his trick was a dramatic performance, done in pantomime, and that you can copyright.  The Nevada district court judge agreed.  The judge also noted even if the Dogge's secret to the trick were different, it wouldn't matter--what matters is what the audience sees.

I understand Teller's complaint, and it makes sense.  Imagine you had a play about a magician and he performed tricks in it, and you did the entire play including the tricks--that would unquestionably be a copyright violation.  But just a single trick that a performer does?  That's trickier. I understand a magician may work hard to devise a great trick, and much of that work is not about how the trick is done, but how it's presented, so if someone else does it they seem to be appropriating what you've created.  But it's just as easy to see it as another performer as doing his own version/tribute, like an impressionist singing a song in the style of a famous singer.

Based on the judge's decision, it would seem to me the Belgian can still put up a YouTube video describing Teller's trick and saying he'll sell the secret, he just can't perform it to prove that he knows how to do it.

Johnny G

Happy birthday Johnny Guarnieri, the jazz pianist.





Saturday, March 22, 2014

Don't Say His Name

Here's a story sent in by a reader.  Some dumb kid at Georgetown made ricin in his dorm. He showed it to his R.A. who called in the authorities and now the kid is up on federal charges.

As the reader suggests, this guy was probably inspired by Breaking Bad, which featured ricin--in fact, we had to wait a long time on that show from the time it was synthesized to the time it was used.  This kid must be a weirdo, since most people who watch BB want to make meth.

Actually, making meth--or so I've been told--is a dangerous process.  Probably safer to make ricin, though I wouldn't recommend that either.  Now that I think of it, I've known lots of people over the years who have owned or made dangerous chemicals.  That can be fun but hazardous to your health.  A few of them had to deal with the government, and that's never any fun.

So is there a lesson here?  Yes.  When you make something dangerous, don't show it to your R.A.

One Less Stooge

We're a little late with this, but Scott Asheton, drummer for and one of the founders of the Stooges, has died. He also played for other popular groups in the Michigan scene, Sonic's Rendezvous Band and Destroy All Monsters.  Let's play him out.





SS

Happy birthday Stephen Sondheim, Broadway's top living composer.












Friday, March 21, 2014

Partner Therapy

Won't be long before we get season 4 of Game Of Thrones.  I've been watching last season in preparation, and I noticed that the show is often at its best with two characters thrown together for one reason or another.  Still, sometimes it doesn't work out. So here are the five best couplings in the show in season 3,  and the five worst.

Best Couples:

1.  Arya and The Hound.  The oddest of odd couples, they almost play as a comedy team.  The hate each other but are forced together for mercenary reasons.  Ironically, down deep they're not that far apart--the Hound does have feelings but he won't show them, and Arya is a remorseless killer in the making.

2. Jaime and Brienne.  They bring out the best in each other.  Jaime was an amoral joker, but he's opened up, learning to respect and maybe even love Brienne.  She's too earnest and is afraid of a world where she's been treated badly, but is learning to reach out a bit more.

3.  Jon and Ygritte.  She does have a tiresome habit of telling Jon he knows nothing, but when they're together they can melt the snow beyond the Wall.

4.  Littlefinger and Varys.  The two biggest schemers in King's Landing, they're fair rivals to see who's the last one standing.  Varys seems to care more about the Realm, but that hardly guarantees he'll succeed.

5.  Samwell and Gilly.  Okay, she's a bit simple-minded, but that's probably the type you'd need to fall for Sam.


Worst Couples:

1.  Tyrion and Shae.  A pity, really.  Tyrion is probably the most popular character, and almost any scene he plays--with Bronn, Cersei, Joffrey, Tywin--is riveting.  But somehow he's stuck with a shrewish prostitute he brought into King's Landing.  Instead of appreciating the great risk he's taking and all he's done for her, every scene they have is her complaining about what he's doing, even though she knows he can't do anything else, or her life will be in danger.

2.  Theon and Ramsay.  At first there was a little mystery as to what Ramsay wanted from Theon, but since then it's been nothing but sick, perverted torture.  Enough already.

3.  Stannis and Melisandre.  Two of the most humorless characters in the show can get tiresome.  Thank goodness Davos is around occasionally.

4.  Daenerys and Daario.  If Daenerys doesn't want Ser Jorah, who truly pines for her, fine, but does it mean she has to have a schoolgirl crush on this preening pretty boy?  Act like a queen, Dany.

5.  Robb and Talisa.  Both so earnest about everything.   Well, I don't suppose they'll bother us much in season 4.

PS  I just saw Emilia Clarke and Lena Headey on late night talk shows. Both had dark hair.  Freaky.

Roger That

Happy birthday, Roger Hodgson, co-founder, singer, songwriter and musician for Supertramp.





Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ten Years Lost

Nine years ago I attended the PaleyFest at the Directors Guild for a celebration of the new series Lost.  There was a long line but I was lucky enough to make the cut.  It was an exciting time--a new show had me hooked and there was so much still ahead.  We didn't even know who'd be the first major character to die (even though we know someone was going to buy it before the season ended).  I remember the showrunners asking the audience if they thought Locke was someone they would trust.  A lot of people put up their hands, and slowly, Ian Somherhalder did as well.  (Spoiler:  In the first season, Somerhalder's character, Boone, follows Locke and ends up dead.  Somerhalder knew this already when he raised his hand, but we in the audience only knew him as the guy who was Locke's acolyte.)

Anyway, Lost went on to be a big hit and a major disappointment in its finale. And now, four years later, the PaleyFest hosted the producers, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, and some of the actors for a look back.  I'm hoping it'll be available on YouTube soon*.

It's hard to believe, but some still subscribe to the theory that the characters were dead all along. Cuse made it clear that isn't so.  However, Cuse also claimed (spoiler alert) that ending the show with characters in some sort of afterlife was a decision made early in the run.  As I've written before, this was a horrible idea, and I don't know if it makes it worse or better than they planned it for a long time.

As for who was in the outrigger shooting at Juliet and Sawyer:

According to Lindelof, there was a scene written for the finale in which it was explained who was on that boat and what they were doing.

"We wrote that scene, and it was going to air in the final season, and it definitely answered who was on the outrigger," he said, adding: "But all the writers … thought it would be much cooler not to answer. … The scene exists on paper. Years from now, for some excellent charity, we'll probably auction it off."

The writers honestly thought that?  They were that dumb?  You don't set up something like that and not pay it off. It's not even slightly cool, it's just annoying.

They realized fairly quickly that Nikki and Paulo weren't working, and they decided to spend an episode giving them a memorable death rather than just forgetting about them.  That made sense.  Though I'd still rather know who was shooting from the outrigger.

As for other unanswered questions about Lost, Cuse said to answer every single mystery would have been "didactic and boring."

"We [preferred] to tell an emotional story about what happened to the characters," he added, to applause. "I cared more about the characters' journey and what happened to them."

They didn't have to answer everything, just the basics, with satisfactory answers.  There was so much teasing along the way I think they owed it to the viewers. And they did actually answer most things, though some feel they left out some of the big questions.  I'm in favor of an emotional story about the characters, but if they're all placed within an overarching format, that's got to be dealt with as well.

*Here it is. 1:08 long. Coincidence?

Rockin' Robin

Happy birthday, Robin Luke.  He's a rocker who had his first and only hit before he was 18.  He later became a professor at Missouri State University, but he's retired now. Who knows, maybe he'll have another hit.






Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Koch-Blocked

The Atlantic has a piece with a title that threatens to be reasonable--"The Democratic Party's Foolish Koch Obsession"--but it's more than author Alex Roarty can manage.

Lately, the Dems have gone Koch-crazy.  Majority Leader Harry Reid has condemned them by name in his speeches--kind of scary to see private citizens not breaking any laws called "un-American" on the floor of the Senate.  You'd think Democrats would say this sort of activity shouldn't be encouraged.  But according to Roarty, what's wrong with this is it doesn't work.  It's "foolish" because no one cares. Polls show the public has other things on its mind.

It's not as if the Koch brothers are peripheral to the 2014 midterm elections. Their most visible political group, Americans for Prosperity, has spent roughly $30 million pummeling Democrats, mostly senators up for reelection, for their support of Obamacare. With good reason, Democrats worry that money has fundamentally shifted the 2014 map in the GOP's favor, especially in Southern battlegrounds such as Louisiana and North Carolina.

Sounds like Democrats being foolish again, blaming the messenger, not the message.  The Kochs may be helping to get out the word, but any fundamental shift in voter preference comes from the unpopularity of Obamacare and the weakness of the economy.

Roarty also notes some of the Dem candidates have taken money from the Kochs for one reason or another in the past, which threatens to make any attacks look like hypocrisy.  This is missing the forest for the trees.  The Kochs are merely one source of funding, so to concentrate on them as if they're something different or special is dishonest.  For instance, there are millions of dollars coming in from all over the country to defeat Kentucky's Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, whom many see as very beatable.  Good or bad, that's how politics works.

Indeed, over the past few elections, if the money has been going anywhere, it's to the Dems.  No one has ever raised money like President Obama.  And if you look at top fifteen organizations that have been the biggest political donors over the past 25 years, ten of them are pro-Democrat and the rest are neutral.  (And then, of course, there are the billions and billions of dollars worth of editorials--and some would say biased reporting--delivered by the media, most of whom are Democrats.)

I can't blame the Democrats for striking out at any available target in an election year that looks like trouble.  But if they honestly believe the Kochs are the real problem, then they may be in bigger trouble than anyone thinks.

Hey Ricky

It's Ricky Wilson's birthday.  During his short life, he was a guitarist and songwriter for The B-52s. When he died in 1985 at the age of 32, the band, including sister Cindy, continued on, but never truly replaced him.






Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March Madness

There's a foofaraw (video starts when you click on the link) over at Shaker High in Albany.  Someone created brackets on a Twitter account to determine over several rounds the best-looking girl in the school.  This created outrage and soon the contest was pulled.

This was rude, certainly, but I think people should take it easy. All guys unofficially rank girls on their looks, and everyone knows this.  And girls rank guys on their date-ability as well--and I suppose also rank other girls on their looks.  It's called high school (and real life).  It's not polite to be too obvious about it, but to pretend this is some sort of beyond-the-pale bullying is absurd.  Apparently, however, Something Must Be Done.

There's an investigation to find the student (presumably it was a student) behind the account.  The principal even called in the cops. Really? What are you going to do?  This is like finding someone passing notes around.  I'd think a warning not to do it again would be sufficient.

But I guess the anti-bullying movement would like another scalp.  After all, you can't be too tough teaching people it's wrong to bully.

OK RK

Happy birthday, Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov. They say he was a master of orchestration, and who am I to argue?






Monday, March 17, 2014

Trip To Mars

I saw the Veronica Mars movie over the weekend.  It was interesting in that I never watched a second of the show. I'd heard good things about it, but never got around to it.  I knew Kristen Bell played the title role, a sort of modern Nancy Drew.  That's it.

The film is notable in that it was financed by $5.7  million raised through Kickstarter.  So far, the film has gotten decent reviews and looks like it has a shot at making a profit.  (The plot leaves room for as many sequels as they can get away with.) The audience I saw it with were clearly fans, who greeted favorite characters with applause and laughs.

It's interesting to go in to see such a movie without the slightest knowledge of the backstory (the basics of which are explained in a prologue).  It was a bit like seeing Serenity before I saw any Firefly. The movie was reasonably enjoyable, though sometimes I felt it was a joke I wasn't in on.  The movie's story, by the way, is different from the TV version in that it's set a decade later--they're not trying to hide the fact the actors got older.  (I don't remember how far in the future Serenity was from Firefly, but it was mostly the same crew still on the same ship).

I'd heard my favorite sitcom, Party Down, was created by the Veronica Mars people.  After watching the movie I'm not surprised, since it featured no less than seven people in the cast who were on that show. For the record:  Regulars--Ryan Hansen, Ken Marino and Martin Starr; recurring character--Kristen Bell (of course); one-shot appearances--Kyle Bornheimer, Enrico Colantoni and Eden Sher.

DC

Happy birthday, Dick Curless.  Known as the Baron of Country Music, he was big in trucking music.





Sunday, March 16, 2014

DB

Let's say goodbye to David Brenner.  He hadn't been quite so prominent in recent years, but there was a time--in the 70s and 80s--when he was arguably the most popular stand-up around.  He was a mainstay on Johnny Carson and appeared on any other show that featured a comedian.

He was never able to translated this popularity into a sitcom or movie career, but who cared, so long as he made millions laugh.  (The joke I remember best, and one of his best-known, is where he's on the subway sitting on a newspaper, and someone asks him if he's reading it, and he says yes, stands up, turns a page, and sits back down.  In fact, his first album was entitled Excuse Me, Are You Reading That Paper?)



Half-Hearted

Happy 60th, Nancy Wilson, sister of Ann Wilson, who make up the core of the great rock band Heart.








Saturday, March 15, 2014

Leftover Vanity Plates Of The Month

On a Lexus.  DEL SELS. Is Del a car dealer, or does he sell something else?

TGR BAIT.  "TGR BEAT" would be more fun, but they know what they want.

TRXXXIE.  Good ol' X-rated Trixie.

Two clever boys:  EXZLR8D and SNDC8D.  The first is pretty clear.  The second anywhere else I'd maybe think is a columnist, but syndication out here probably means TV.

4U SELAH.  Very religious.

SHYNBRT.  If you're gonna shine, it might as well be bright.

Dr. Science

I recently watched the first episode of the revamped Cosmos, hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson.  I thought it wasn't bad.  It didn't say much I didn't already know, but it did give a nice summation of certain basics about the universe with colorful graphics.

But now there's this article by Hank Campbell (not to be confused with Hank Kimball of Green Acres) about the five things the show gets wrong.  It at a website called The Federalist, which isn't what I'd call any place that offers serious scientific criticism, but you never know what you'll get these days.  Campbell himself has written a book called Science Left Behind, an expose of bad science on the left.

Let's take his arguments one at a time:

1.  Venus Was Not Caused By Global Warming.

This surprised me, since I didn't remember this claim.  The show goes through the planets in the solar system (poor Pluto is mentioned but doesn't make the cut) and says something about how incredibly hot Venus is, but that's about it.  But then, here's how Campbell puts it:

...we have to ask why [Tyson] thinks Venus is the way it is due to the greenhouse effect — which is another way of saying global warming. Venus is almost 900 degrees Fahrenheit and the clouds are sulfuric acid. Even the most aggressive climate change models and their 20-foot ocean rises don’t predict that for Earth, no matter how many Chevy Volts we don’t buy.

So Cosmos apparently doesn't claim Venus was caused by global warming, but its weather is.  Okay, this is something we can check.  Venus is hotter than Earth, perhaps in part due to its proximity to the Sun, but as far as I understand there's also a runaway Greenhouse effect at work. (If this is wrong, I'd like a citation from Campbell--he does go on to claim, as doubters of global warming do, that the CO2 comes from the horrible conditions on Venus, not the other way around; this is what his side believes, I guess, but I don't think it's what's commonly believed among scientists who study this matter.) And it's just bizarre to claim that because the greenhouse effect won't be the same on Earth that the show gets something wrong.

Campbell goes on:

We can allow that catchy buzzwords make something timely and that they are a snapshot of the culture of the period. James Cameron used the term “shock and awe” in the futuristic “Avatar” film not because he actually believes solders will be using that term when we invade other planets, but because he was selling an anti-military message to viewers at a time when George Bush was president.

I quote this because Avatar was released in late 2009. "Shock And Awe" was undoubtedly taken from the Bush era, but Campbell's fast and loose concept of dates, while perhaps acceptable in a social critic, won't do for science.

2. The Multiverse Is Not Science

Tyson speculates at one point about a multiverse, but doesn't claim it as fact.  He's trying to discuss what may be.

Is this getting something "wrong"?  No. Even if it's not science, discussing it is not incorrect, it's a choice.

By the way, Campbell claims it's not science because "it can't be proved or disproved." How does he know that?

3. There Is No Sound In Space

Tyson travels in an imaginary spaceship.  Arguing that it wouldn't make sound is ridiculous nitpicking.  And who knows, since we're inside the ship with Tyson, maybe it would make the sounds we hear.

(There's a famous story about George Lucas at an early screening of Star Wars.  When the lights came up, the first thing he said was "yes, I know, spaceships don't make any sound.")

4. Giordano Bruno Was Not More Important To Science Than Kepler And Galileo

Now we're getting to the heart of the matter. The show spends a fair amount of time discussing Bruno, whose story is told in animation.  He had cosmological beliefs ahead of his time, and was ultimately put to death for heresy.  He's generally seen as a martyr for science.

It seems quite likely the creators of Cosmos were trying to make a political point, but they certainly didn't say Bruno was the leading astronomer of his day--in fact, they admit he wasn't a scientist, but rather was a man who saw a new universe that most didn't imagine.

That was the central point of the tale--that scientific advancement often comes from thinking that others reject.  Today, that rejection is  more likely to come from other scientists (or people like Campbell), but 400 years ago it was the Church that could make life difficult.  (In some places religious authorities can still destroy your life if you don't profess certain beliefs, but the West has mostly moved beyond this.)

What does Campbell have to say about this?

First, let’s examine this freedom of thought concept. Yes, this was the time of The Inquisition — no one is defending that — but most people brought up on charges of “heresy” (a moving target, to be sure) apologized for whatever they did and went on their way. So in some cases The Inquisition suppressed freedom of expression, not freedom of thought. Bruno was excommunicated from three different religions, which means two of them accepted him after he had already been excommunicated from others. If freedom of thought was really suppressed, they wouldn’t have taken him at all.

Huh?  Campbell seems to be agreeing with Cosmos--Bruno was punished for his ideas.  Yes, there's also the fact he wouldn't deny them, which Campbell apparently thinks was just part of doing business then--deny your basic beliefs and get on with your life.  If you can't express your thoughts, the freedom to think them (which no one can take away--not yet, anyway) is, to put it lightly, greatly diminished.

As for being excommunicated from three different religions, once again this shows the trouble Bruno's beliefs got him in, and how he still wouldn't give them up.  How this goes against his story in any way I can't see.

The cartoon we get about Bruno shows him getting run out of Oxford also, but the audience must realize he got invited to talk at Oxford even though they knew what he was about, so clearly they were not suppressing freedom of thought.

Once again, what's the point?  The point in Cosmos was that no matter where he went, his ideas, as commonplace as they may be now, were rejected.

Campbell goes on to list the odd and at the time heretical beliefs Bruno had beyond thinking our Sun was just another star--pantheism, various beliefs we now consider mythological and so on--but once again he misses the point.  It's worth knowing this, just as it's worth knowing that Newton believed a lot of odd things as well, but Bruno was still asked to give up his beliefs about the cosmos and he refused, even though it meant his life.

5. The Universe Was Also Not Created In One Year

While this Campbell complaint is a stylistic point, it's also so silly he should have left it out.  Maybe "Four Things Cosmos Gets Wrong" isn't as catchy as a title, but it would have saved him a lot of embarrassment.

On January 1st, we had the Big Bang and on December 31st, I am alive, less than a tiny fraction of a millisecond before midnight. That can’t be right — it took me a whole day just to write this article.

Oh, Cosmos is not being literal?  Oddly, a number of religious critics, Tyson included, insist that too many religious people believe the Book of Genesis is taken literally by people who read the Bible. Unless we accept that figurative comparisons help make large ideas manageable, a year is no more accurate than six days — it is instead a completely arbitrary metric invented to show some context for how things evolved.

It seems odd to be critical when religion does it and then invent a new timescale for how the universe came to be. It’s almost like we are to believe that short timescales are opiates for the masses.
While I have never met any, I know there are people who truly believe the universe was created in just six days, just like there are people who believe in the multiverse or that Bruno was a champion of science and free thought. But extrapolating the behaviors of individuals out to an entire culture is a mistake Sagan said we should be immune from making.

Complaining that Cosmos takes 14 billion years and shrinks it down to a year is just dumb.  Humans have trouble conceiving of what 14 billion years mean, but one year--far from being an "arbitrary metric"--is something we're used to and can appreciate; so when you realize how so much of life, and so much of human history, happens on the last day, even the last minute, it drives the point home.  Such analogies are quite useful in teaching.  Tyson certainly doesn't "invent a new timescale" in a literal way, he just uses it as a pedagogical tool. Meanwhile, tens of millions of Americans, at least, accept a literal Bible, including a young Earth.  (As to whether the original people who wrote down the Bible were doing it as some exercise in figurative comparisons, I'm not so sure.)

Campbell continues:
 
Rather than seeking to take jabs at religion, science should be embracing it. From a science perspective, religious people are involved in the largest ongoing experiment of all time. The major religions all disagree with each other in ways large and small and yet people are turning knobs in their lives and making adjustments to try and solve a grand mystery. What, if anything, comes next?  And they are persisting despite all obstacles. Fans of free thought should be inspired by that.

Religion may be a lot of things, but it is not a scientific experiment.  It is part of our past and present, and may be a way people struggle with grand questions--and as such is of interest to historians and anthropologists.  But scientists?  Religions, when they're trying to figure out most of these questions (and not fighting wars or suppressing heretics--this might seem like a cheap shot, but the fights that go on in the world of science, in contradistinction to religion, tend to be about scientific matters using the scientific method, so Campbell's analogy is not apt), are simply using different techniques, not generally those that would be recognized as scientific.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Satcoms

When I first moved to Los Angeles one of the first show biz anecdotes I heard was about this veteran writer pitching at All In The Family.  Norman Lear asked him "what do you have for us?" and he pulls out a sheet and says "same stuff as always: the old flame, the high school reunion, the cabin in the woods...."

And it's true. Sitcoms try to come up with novel situations, but there are only so many. Heck, watch a Simpsons and whatever it is they've done four or five times already.  But by coincidence, on Wednesday, when I watch The Middle, Suburgatory and Modern Family, each one reminded me of a specific sitcom from the past.

First was The Middle.  One of the characters was in big trouble with the law due to a library book long overdue.  This reminded me of an early Seinfeld built around a library book out for a very long time. (Philip Baker Hall has a memorable guest shot in the episode.)

Next, Suburgatory, and this one was almost note for note (so it's interesting the AV Club gives it an A and doesn't even note the similarity): Tessa meets her male counterpart, and at first she's thrilled but by the end of the episode she realizes it won't work.  This is precisely what Seinfeld (once again) did.  At the end of season seven, Jerry meets a character played by Janeane Garofalo, who's just like him.  He falls in love and proposes, but soon regrets it and wants out.  They break up in the first episode of season eight.

Finally, on Modern Family (which has at least three plots an episode, so they run through a lot), Claire and Gloria take Lily out to by her a flower girl dress.  When Gloria finds out Claire didn't have a wedding dress, she insists Claire try one on.  Admittedly, Claire didn't much go for it, but it did remind me a bit of the Friends' episode were all the women, even if they're not getting married, try on wedding dresses.

There are only so many plots.  It's really what you do with them.

Byrne, Baby, Byrne

Happy birthday, David Byrne. Okay, his stuff in the past couple decades hasn't gotten that much attention, but there were a bunch of years before then when he was amazing and people knew it.











Thursday, March 13, 2014

True dat

"We have our blind spots and we have our dogmas and we've got our crazy folks."

I have to say I'm impressed by the president's self reflection here. You usually don't see this kind of honesty from an elected official even a term-limited one. Unless he's just talking.

Disappointed

I'd heard that George R. R. Martin is taking too long to write his books, and the TV series Game Of Thrones might catch up before he finishes.  So I checked up on the Song Of Ice And Fire series on Wikipedia (carefully avoiding spoilers) to see how things were working out.

He's written five books in the series so far, and plans two more to finish it out.  The books seem to be getting longer (and with their success Martin can afford to be self-indulgent--happens to a lot of sequels).  The first two series of GOT dealt with the first two books, but the third and fourth seasons covered the third book.  So it sounds like two season per book from now on, except the fourth and fifth books take place simultaneously, and amount to one huge book, so how many seasons they represent I can't say, but let's guess seven seasons will take us to the end of the five books.

At a season a year, that means we'll run out of stuff already out there by 2017.  By then, one would hope, Martin will have finished the sixth book, giving GOT two more seasons at least.  He's been taking longer and longer to write the books but 2017 (or earlier) sounds reasonable.  That'll get us to 2019 or perhaps 2020, however, and unless Martin rushes maybe he won't finish in time.  However, he never had the TV series to think about until this last book, so maybe, somehow, he'll move faster. I doubt it, but it's a hope.

Best of all (though Martin may not think so), he's told the producers of the show the main plot points in case he dies.  So, if nothing else, we'll get an ending (unless the producers both die).

Martin does feel a commitment to the fans, and to himself, to do it right. He says he wants an ending worthy of The Lord Of The Rings (which some people think is a high goal indeed, but not me), and he's stated he wants to avoid an ending that disappoints a lot of fans, like Lost did.  I don't quite see how that can happen. Lost was, at its heart, a mystery. You can either like the solution or not. Game Of Thrones is a massive work with hundreds of characters and numerous locations, but, even though there's magic, there's not much mystery.  It's about a bunch of characters who are fighting to be in charge.  While there are countless permutations, one still expects, at the end, many of the contenders to be dead, and, in fact, much of the landscape to still be smoking, while the "winner" (Daenerys?) takes the Iron Throne, to the delight/dismay of those left alive.

What's The Deal With Neil

Happy birthday, Neil Sedaka.  A great singer, musician and songwriter.  He had a bunch of hits in the pre-Beatles era and a pretty good comeback in the post-Beatles era.










Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Best headline ever


Let us know what does, Al, let us know what does.

TV Here, TV There

A few stray comments on TV lately....

...there are a lot of new shows on, such as About A Boy, Growing Up Fisher, Believe, Resurrection, Mind Games, Mixology and others that I haven't checked out.  Probably won't unless word gets out they're something special.  Luckily, with On Demand and other methods, you can catch up pretty easily....

...from The Hollywood Reporter, Tim Goodman claims the appeal of True Detective lies in its writing and acting more than its plot. I loved the show, and it may be true that the finale couldn't live up to what came before, but when critics start making excuses, and saying the plot isn't that important, it's usually a bad sign.  Yes, characters draw us in, but in a limited series like TD, if the plot isn't working, you're in big trouble...

...a lot of people have seen this piece from Truth Revolt:  '"Girls’ Star Lena Dunham Gets Nude, Mocks Bible on SNL." This is rather silly.  The sketch was about Adam and Eve, but if it mocked anything, it was Dunham and her show.  The comic point was taking her self-involved character and making her Eve, the original Girl, and having her whine about everything in the Garden of Eden. (If you want to see something more anti-religion, may I suggest the first episode of the new Cosmos series hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, though it mostly attacks the Church of about 400 years ago)...

...when we last left Once Upon A Time (actually, I left it after the first season, but I checked back), the Storybrooke curse had disappeared and all the characters went back to Fairy Tale Land, never to return.  Meanwhile, Emma and her son lived happily and blissfully ignorant in New York, forgetting their pasts.  But something happened, and a year later Captain Hook gets Emma to remember everything, and she goes to be the savior of Storybrooke again.  Once there, she finds her parents, Snow White and Prince Charming, who can't remember what happened over the last year, though Snow is pregnant (so we know at least one thing happened).  Meanwhile, it looks like we'll have flashbacks where we see the battle between the old characters and a new one--the Wicked Witch from Wizard of Oz, portrayed in all her greenishness by Lost's Rebecca Mader.  In other words, this is a complete reset to the original plot, except everyone is self-aware, thus, everything is far less interesting.  Maybe they should change the title to Twice Upon A Time?

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