Sunday, May 31, 2015

Or maybe it reflects the behavior rate

What I want to know is, of all students named DeShawn, and all students named Jake, what are the actual rates of misbehavior? I have a dollar that says Stanford won't tell you, and indeed didn't even ask.

Mucking It Up

From a piece on Game Of Thrones in The Hollywood Reporter: "Stannis is mired in the snow, attempting to get to Winterfell."

Can you be mired in snow?  "Mired" literally means to be stuck in mud. There's no mud when Winter Is Coming.

I'm reminded of a metaphor I saw during the Iraq war. I couldn't track down the original use, but enough people thought it was smart that I saw it quoted in a few places--Bush had "galvanized a quagmire."

So he ran electricity through a swamp?  That would be weird.

Who Asked?

I watched all seven episodes--I think that's all--of 500 Questions, the Mark Burnett-produced game show which has been on ABC every night for a week.  It didn't exactly burn up the ratings, so we may not see it again. (So why am I reviewing it?)  It's the kind of game show I like--some razzmatazz, but mostly questions, as the title implies.  It's a game of knowledge, not luck.

500 Questions is simplicity itself.  It's the job of the contestant to get through 500 questions without ever getting three wrong in a row.  Since no one came close, I'm not entirely sure what happens when that plateau is achieved.  The game ends?  For all time?

There's also a challenger, standing nearby, ready to take the place of the contestant.  All potential contestants are certified "geniuses," and their qualifications for the title are listed when they first appear (in what strikes me as the most embarrassing part of the show).

The contestant has ten seconds to answer each question, each worth a thousand dollars.  The contestant can give as many answers as time allows, but the money is won only if the first answer is correct. The game goes by 50-question boards, each featuring ten categories with five questions.  The contestant only collects winnings after going through all fifty questions.

Most question are regular ones, but there are a few exceptions. There are Battle questions, where the contestant and challenger face off--the contestant decides who goes first.  The question allows for several answers, and the two go back and forth until one can't give a correct response in five seconds, or the two have exhausted the category (which is a tie, not right or wrong for the contestant).  There are Triple Threat questions, with three answers--worth three thousand, but the contestant has to get them all.  And there are Top Ten Challenge questions that require five out of a possible ten correct answers in fifteen seconds.  Before the question is revealed, the contestant can hand if off to the challenger--if the challenger fails, it's as if the contestant got it right.

While the main thing is simply to know as many answers as possible, there is some strategy, particularly in the how the contestant picks the categories.  Most players, presumably, have strong and weak subjects, so the trick is to go back and forth, avoiding too many tricky questions in a row.  Also, if the contestant gets two wrong in a row, the challenger gets to pick the next category, so it may be a good thing not to signal your weakness if possible.

The questions are wide-ranging and, I'd say, approximately mid-range Jeopardy! level.  I like the host, British journalist Richard Quest, who keeps things moving and doesn't mock the players. (Not to name and names, but he also doesn't act like he knows all the answers.)

In a way, the game is exhausting, since it's hard not to get involved, wondering how you'd do if you were in it.  How would I have done?  Well, it was rare I couldn't answer three in a row, but a lot of it is luck of the draw.  Getting through fifty would have been tough.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

1 in 4 Harvard Grads Didn’t Have Sex in College

Good Lord, I think I did that many myself.

Maybe they need this app, which must be called, GiveMeSTD.

Bob's Your Uncle

Bob Schieffer on his retirement:  "I wanted [...] to be able to walk away from this job when people still thought I could do it."

What a shame.

What Up, Chuck Chuck

The latest internet craze is "Charlie, Charlie." The basic idea is you put one pencil on top of another, yell out "Charlie, Charlie are you there?" and the pencil will move, pointing to a pre-written answer.  Sort of a poor person's Ouija Board of Magic 8 Ball. Who's this Charlie?  Some dead Mexican kid, or something like, that who's helping you with the answers.

Seems fairly harmless, if stupid.  Of course, there's always a crowd that sees communing with the evil spirits as dangerous.

In fact, just by chance (or was it?) I recently saw a film about the occult produced in the 1980s.  It was talking about all sorts of new age doings, such as past-life regressions where people speak different languages, not to mention mediums who tell folks things "they couldn't possibly have known." Then in comes the film's expert to explain it all.  Since we know from the Bible, for instance, that there's no reincarnation, there's only one explanation--it must be demons.  Seems to me there are other more obvious explanations he was missing, but what do I know, I'm not an expert.

Friday, May 29, 2015


Armed Bikers Plan to Draw Cartoons of Mohammed Outside a Mosque in Arizona

Great Americans, great Americans. I guess we'll get to find out whether Eric Holder in drag is still serving as AG when they get prosecuted for federal hate crimes. We'll get back to you later on such things as what statutes might apply.

(If "armed bikers" isn't redundant, it certainly should be.)

True truism department

Well, I'm scared of that picture, anyway. Us patriarchists are definitely scared of dismantling patriarchies.

Weather man

Christie: Dump Common Core education standards

Voters in New Jersey . . . er, Iowa, must love this heartfelt, raw emotional honesty.

What Up, Chuck?

Darwin's Origin Of Species was a thunderbolt, changing the scientific landscape as few other works have.  When published in 1859, he was already a naturalist of some renown, but this made him a name for the ages.  He couldn't be ignored--everyone had an opinion.

Thomas F. Glick, in What About Darwin?, has collected many of  those opinions--philosophers, politicians, clerics, authors and fellow scientists are quoted.  Paging through it recently, here are a few things I discovered.

--Darwin impressed almost everyone who met him as a kind, charming, genial host, not to mention piercingly intelligent.

--both Gilbert and Sullivan had something to say: Gilbert wrote a poem (a lot of poems mention Darwin) stating "...a Man, however well-behaved/ At best is only a monkey shaved" while Sullivan found it unfortunate that Darwin could not find any obvious, direct use in the evolutionary scheme for music.

--John Stuart Mill (whose classic On Liberty was also published in 1859) thought Origin Of Species brilliant.

--Darwin loved Mark Twain's work, often reading him at bedtime.

--Nietzsche, who in general had a low opinion of the British mind, didn't think much of Darwin, partly because Nietzsche saw Darwin arguing for how the fittest survive, when Nietzsche's philosophy regarding humanity had to do with how the weak get the upper hand over the strong.

--C.S. Lewis had strong doubts about Darwin (as you might expect), but refused to write a preface for an anti-Darwin book, explaining that as a Christian apologist he didn't wish to lend his name to a project that could prevent people from taking his own work seriously.

--Anton Chekov was a big fan

--Communists, including Marx, Stalin and Mao, saw a useful analogue in Darwin, since he wrote about the struggle for life and they saw history as a class struggle (just as many capitalists also exploited Darwin, but they're not as strongly featured in the book).

--Schopenhauer, who died in 1860, was perhaps the first major philosopher to find Darwin's ideas depressing on a metaphysical level.

--Theodore Roosevelt was impressed by Darwin's work, though he felt some of his success was attributable to how well he wrote (and he also felt Darwin's earlier success, Voyage of the Beagle, was one of the greatest travel books).

There's plenty more. If you want to understand Darwin, this is not the place to start, but still worth checking out.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Come To Shove

Here's an LA Times article listing 13 major cases the Supreme Court will decide in the next month.  Looking over them, I really can't say what the Court will do, but I do have a few guesses.

The two biggest cases, I suppose, and therefore the most likely to be announced last (though I'm not sure why that should be) are the same-sex marriage case and the Obamacare case.  Regarding the former, I still think the Court will figure out how to punt on it.  Maybe they don't have a majority ready to declare it a right, but maybe there's also a majority that doesn't want to be remembered as denying a basic right, either.  As for the latter, considering how they protected the Affordable Care Act last time around, I'm not sure if they want to wade into it again (even though I consider the results of the decision not nearly so significant as many think).

Regarding some of the other cases:

--I think the Court will protect the right to "rant" on Facebook, even if the rants appear to be threats; generally speaking, such laws tend to be found overbroad under First Amendment analysis.

--I'm guessing they won't get involved with independent commissions redrawing districts.

--I think they'll leave it for state authorities to decide how to carry out lethal injections.

For the rest, I'd toss a coin.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Mac Attack or All Paul

I mentioned I was reading Peter Ames Carlin's bio of Paul McCartney, and now I've finished it.  Of course, after reading an intense history of the Beatles' early years, followed by a look at McCartney in the 70s, a lot of the material was familiar.  Still, the guy has had an amazing career, and is the most successful songwriter of the rock era, maybe of popular music in the past century.

A majority of the book deals with his early years up till the end of the Beatles in 1970.  Though this represents less than 40% of his life, it's his most important work.  As good as much of his music has been since, nothing can compare.  And too often, especially since John Lennon's death, McCartney has been considered the number two man in the Beatles.  Really it's an even split with him and John (followed by George and Ringo).

It was John's band to begin with, and he's the guy who decided to let Paul--and later George--in, but Paul's undeniable talent and drive was essential in them making it.  After all, one of the first things he did was teach John proper guitar chords.  John was brilliant at what he did, but Paul is the only one I think would have made it on his own, no matter what else happened.

And though I tend to prefer John's songs, Paul's tend to be more popular. If you think of their most covered songs, most are Paul's. In fact, "Yesterday," which may be the most performed song of the twentieth century, was entirely Paul's.  He came up with it, according to Carlin, in 1963, and sat on it for a year and a half, afraid it was too different.  The recording was just Paul with a string quartet--not really a Beatles' song at all (John even made fun of him for it).  Yet, look at the credits, and it's "Lennon-McCartney." (Originally they planned to put the main writer first, but manager Brian Epstein convinced them to keep it consistent, and when John died Yoko wasn't going to give in.)

He was always the Beatle-iest member of the band, wanting to perform, wanting to please.  So when they broke up, he took it the hardest.  In fact, his first four solo albums, McCartney, Ram, Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway, are hit and miss affairs. It wasn't until Band On The Run that he found his footing, and, in the mid-70s, had a streak of solid releases, getting back some of the critical respect he'd been missing.

He also formed Wings, but, as democratic as he wanted it to be, he was first among equals.  Only his beloved wife Linda could really speak out, but what was she doing there in the first place?  He thought she could be another partner, but she was no John Lennon.

In the late 70s he went solo again, and his work started to lose focus, but John's death drove him to put out one of his best albums--helped by Beatles' producer George Martin--Tug Of War. From that point on, however, most of his albums couldn't compare with the best of Wings, even though he wrote some interesting songs with Elvis Costello and, even in his weakest albums, had a few songs worth listening to.

Paul had lost his mother when he was a teen, and later, of course, lost John Lennon. But perhaps the worst loss of all was Linda, who died of cancer in 1998, only 56. More than ever, now, Paul felt adrift.  The first thing Paul did was release an album of rock and roll standards--the music that kept him going when he was a kid did the same thing for him as an adult.

Paul still releases new music, but in concert he's an oldies act. That's what the people want to hear, and Paul is enough of an entertainer to give them what they want.  But if he's not "relevant" any more, his music more than lives on.  The Beatles may have started out figuring they'd been over soon, but even though they called it quits 45 years ago, their music shows no signs of disappearing.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

And Now The Gift Has Ended

The latest Game Of Thrones, "The Gift," is already the seventh of ten episodes this season.  Hard to believe how fast it's going.  And though there was some table setting in the hour, we also got some results.  And I expect nothing but climaxes from here on in.

As for the title, my friends who read the books informed me it could refer to more than one thing.  For instance, the Gift is the area of land south of the Wall given to the Night's Watch. And the Gift is the gift of death the House of Black and White dispenses. Turns out the episode's gift was a completely different thing.

We start at the Wall.  Jon Snow is preparing to go with Tormund up north to invite the Wildlings down south.  Needless to say, this isn't going over well with the regulars, who have spent most of their time fighting the Wildlings.  But a Lord Commander's gotta do what a Lord Commander's gotta do. Still, even is Snow's plan makes sense (even if it dramatically sort of takes him away from the action), how can he leave behind a fort ready to mutiny?

Meanwhile, Maester Aemon, who's 100 or so, is on his deathbed.  He's amused by Gilly's boy, and reminisces about crazy old Aegon when he was a baby.

At Winterfell, Sansa is being held in her chambers.  The last episode caused a storm of protest--it seemed like a lot of people were surprised at how cruel Ramsay was, leading to the question: have they ever seen this show before?  She tries to give Theon the backbone to put a candle in the high tower as a signal it's time for her friends in the North to take action.  So is she going to get the revenge the audience is waiting for?  Theon/Reek finally agrees, but when he climbs to the top of the tower there's Ramsay waiting.  (I was a little confused at the causation--did Ramsay already know about the signal or was this by chance? Or did Reek go to visit Ramsay to begin with? You see how confused I am. More on this confusion later.)

Meanwhile, Brienne, in her only appearance this episode, is hundreds of yards away, looking pensive, waiting for a signal that doesn't come.  (Guess she heard from others about the signal.)  See you next week, Brienne.  I assume Gwendoline Christie gets paid for a full episode anyway.

Aemon finally croaks and Samwell does the eulogy.  Then someone points out to him, rather too obviously, that he's running out of friends at Castle Black.

Back at Winterfell Ramsay sends for Sansa.  Never a good sign.  He knows Stannis is riding toward them.  So much for that sneak attack. Told you you were wasting too much time, Stannis. Sansa has a surprisingly smart mouth, reminding Ramsay he's a bastard, and, while we're at it, so is Tommen, who naturalized him.  Ramsay--give him credit--has a good comeback.  Sansa, your half-brother, Jon Snow, is now Lord Commander of Castle Black--didn't know that, did you--so bastards can rise high.

Next Ramsay shows her the corpse of the Old Lady who was her "Friend In The North." So he knows all about her plans.  It's not clear to me if he knew the Lady was working against him because Reek said so, or if he knew already and decided to torture her for information.  And it's not clear to me if she gave up information, or died before he could start seriously flaying her. (It's also unclear to me where Roose Bolton is in all of this--has he left Winterfell?  Seems to me he wouldn't be happy with his son treating such a valuable wife so poorly, so I'm guessing he's gone.)  Anyway, we know at least that Reek has blabbed, which should teach Sansa to trust him--though I still believe Theon will eventually make his move when push comes to shove. I think he, not Brienne, not Sansa, not Stannis, will kill Ramsay before the season is out.

There's a huge storm in the North, making Stannis's march tough.  Horses are dying, sellswords are deserting, supply lines are cut off. Davos suggests they retreat to Castle Black until the time is better.  Stannis says he can't retreat again--wintering at Castle Black could take years. (Yeah, Stannis, but when you were there you acted like it was a timeshare and you wanted your money's worth.)  Davos leaves and Stannis turns to Melisandre.  They've both seen visions of a great battle in the snow. (Really, that's it? Not in King's Landing--isn't that more important?)  The Red Lady says sacrifices need to be made, and they need King's blood.  But where to get it?  Well, there's always his only daughter, Shireen. Is she suggesting what I think she is?  We're getting very Greek here.  Stannis tells her to get out, but if the snow keeps falling, will he waver?

Back at the Wall (a very Northern episode so far), a couple of jerky Night's Watch men mess with Gilly.  Samwell tries to defend her, but they beat him so badly I actually thought they killed him. It shocked me--I didn't think the show would do that to such a beloved character. And, so far, I'm right. He's just very hurt.  In a memorbale scene, Gilly tries to lift his spirits by giving him a taste of what he gave up when he took his Oath.  Hey, isn't this how Jon Snow and Ygritte got started.  And  that didn't end pleasantly.

Finally we're out of the north, at a slave auction outside Meereen.  Jorah goes for a high price, as expected (even if the seller exaggerates his tale a bit).  But he needs Tyrion, and vice versa. The Imp convinces the buyer to take him for comic value.  I have one question, though.  It's not the biggest auction, but it's a public event. No one can figure out this is Tyrion, the dwarf everyone in the world is looking for, worth his weight in gold if you just return his head to King's Landing?  I had trouble with that the whole episode.  Didn't Varys try to keep Tyrion locked up to avoid this problem?

Meanwhile, Dany is bedding down with Daario.  Hey, she's a queen, she can do what she wants, but is this seemly?  When Jorah made even the slightest move, she shot him down, saying he was getting above his station.  But then, he's not Daario, is he?  She explains her upcoming marriage to Hizdahr is strictly political. (I still don't get that either. How will that help her take Westeros when it comes down to it?) Marrying Daario and opening the Pits has apparently calmed down the Sons Of The Harpy.  Daario suggest if she wants a real solution, when the games start, she should butcher all the high families there. Now that's an idea.

At King's Landing (which used to be the center of intrigue, but with so many characters dead or AWOL, seems strangely depopulated), a distressed Olenna meets with the High Sparrow.  Jonathan Pryce is a fine actor who hasn't had to stretch much this season, so it's nice to see him with some decent lines.  Olenna demands Loras and Margaery be freed. She believes he's just doing Cersei's dirty work, and can be bought off. She doesn't get this is a fanatic who believes what he's saying--and (like many religious leaders) is very unhappy with the inequality in wealth, and thus happy to fight that by taking down the rich and powerful.  He also has an answer when she threatens to stop sending food to King's Landing--it's the poor who reap the grain, not the powerful, and they will support him.

Meanwhile, Cersei tries to explain to Tommen why he can't do anything.  It seems sort of ridiculous, but he is so young it's just buyable his trusted mother can prevent him from believing he has the power to get his queen out of prison.  (I'd like to see her try this argument on Joffrey.)  He says he loves Margaery, which is painful to Cersei, but Cersei makes sure to let him know she loves him above all...along with Myrcella.

And so we go to Dorne.  So far, the whole Dornish expedition has been a flop.  Jaime and Bronn, not to mention the Sand Snakes, had allegedly big plans to get Myrcella. But the plans turned out to be just try to grab her, and they got blocked.  Jaime is in a nice room--I still don't see why he have walked in the front door and asked for Myrcella back: "Thanks for holding her, we'll take it from here."  But the problem now is Myrcelle wants to stay--she's been there for years (so that's how long it's been since earlier seasons) and wants to stay and marry Trystane.  Okay, so what's the problem?  (Last week I wasn't quite sure if Myrcella had been kidnaped, but now we see not.)

Down in the unisex prison, the Sand Snakes are in one cell and Bronn in another.  He finally gets to sing his song, and has a nice voice--it's almost as if he were once a pop star.. He spars with one of the Snakes, who starts stripping to prove how beautiful she is. Then (good timing) he starts feeling woozy from the slow-acting poison on her spear. The show didn't kill Sam, but would it dare kill Bronn?  Nope.  She's got the antidote and aftet a little teasing gives it to him.  This seem pointless intrigue--and anyway, I was busy watching her take her clothes off, which was quite interesting enough.

At King's Landing Littlefinger meets with Olenna in the ruins of his brothel.  At first she blames him for the trouble, and says she'll tell who was behind Joffrey's death. He explains he was summoned by Cersei, he'd rather not have come. (I have no idea if anything he says is true, by the way--I can't keep track of his intrigues any more.) But he says he's got some information (a gift) that could be quite helpful, so they should team up.   Looks like things will be getting unpleasant for Cersei pretty soon.

Back at Meereen, we're seeing preliminary fights before the big match.  Tyrion and Jorah are not chosen to be lambs to the slaughter just yet.  Over at the arena, Hizdahr (rather conveniently for the plot) leads Dany in to watch some of the bouts.  It's not her idea of fun.

But Jorah hears the fighters acknowledging the Queen and rushes over to see what's happening.  We get his POV, looking at Dany, all in white.  After being banished, to see her again, and have a chance to make it up to her--it's all he could ask for.  Jorah grabs his sword and makes short work of the fighters still there. Meanwhile, Tyrion gets free of his chains.

Jorah presents himself, removing his helmet and revealing himself to Khaleesi.  Not what she expected. It's a powerful moment. She shakes her head and wants him gone. (Could have gone worse, actually.)  He cries out that he brought her a gift, and Tyrion enters.  Who are you, she asks (so she doesn't know either). He explains he's the gift--hence the title of the show--Tyrion Lannister.  That should shake things up a bit.

But the hour isn't quite over.  We're back in King's Landing. Cersei promised Tommen she'd plead the Queen's case to the High Sparrow, but of course, she glories in Margaery being locked up. (Hardly the first time a high-born foe of Cersei ends up in a dungeon.) Margaery is having a tough time, but knows enough that Cersei is behind it all, no matter what she says.

Cersei goes to the High Sparrow and tries to find out what'll happen next, but gets a surprise. A surprise we saw coming, but not Cersei; she's wily, but not coldblooded enough--Tywin would never have put himself in such a position.  It's Lancel,  If the Sparrows think Margaery deserves to be locked up, you can imagine what they think of Cersei after hearing this Lannister tell his stories.

They grab Cersei and toss her in her own cell. (Isn't that done after the first hearing?  I guess not.)  She's vows revenge, and you don't want to get her mad, but these are fanatics, after all.  I'm not sure who holds the cards here.  Everyone is plotting, but while the religious nuts seem to have the upper hand, will Tommen really stand for all this?  Haven't they finally gone too far?  Or will the people side with the religious, who speak for the people.  And what about the battle between Lannisters and Tyrells--the Sparrows want to take away all their finery, but can't they use their sway to strip away whatever powers the Sparrows have?

So that's the hour.  No Arya.  Precious little Brienne or Jaime.  No Roose.  No Varys (is he out for the count?). No Grey Worm, thankfully.  And almost everywhere you look, some sort of tragedy ready to strike. With only three more episodes to go, expect plenty of trouble.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Mnemonic Device

It's Memorial Day, time for patriotic music.  I've got nothing against such tunes, but as a change of pace, I thought we'd listen to some songs about memory instead, while we all think about the sacrifices of those who served our country.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Facts not in evidence

"Low functioning intellectuals" is a nice term, and "low functioning intellectuals with delusions of grandeur" a nice phrase.

Speaking of which, why does this columnist bother to presume an ability to entire Obama's mind? Why Obama has come to regret underestimating the Islamic State

This is like discussing self reflection among the Clintons; if there is any evidence in the record anywhere of Obama having a regret, I haven't seen it, and nothing in his behavior suggests any significant capability of it. One can't even really say with confidence that things ever go wrong in his world; unhappy events are really a product of the evil he is here to vanquish.

Not So Nice

Lately I've been listening to Have A Nice Decade: The 70s Pop Culture Box., a 7-CD box set I bought years ago.  It's got about 150 songs, and if you want to know the list, click on the link.

What I forgot was in between some songs they inserted newscasts of the day--generally bits related (vaguely) to the song.  Who thought this was a good idea?  You're listening to music and suddenly someone is talking.  This lowers the value of the set, seems to me.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Kasich May Miss Cut in Ohio Debate

Boy, that's a tough one. On the one hand I'd love to see him up there and marginalized, less stature than one of the Seven Dwarfs, but on the other hand, if it looks like he's getting ready to break into the top 10, that's a sign from God that we need more candidates.

Maybe they could ask him to moderate, since they can't find a reporter who isn't on Clinton's payroll. Isn't he a highly successful TV personality with bigger ratings than O'Reilly?

Key And Peel

Over the past few weeks I noticed my lithium battery car key was running out of juice.  The car wouldn't click on every time.  Then earlier this week, parked miles away from home, I pushed the button to unlock the door and nothing happened.  I tried a second time, same result.  I waited, tried it yet again, still no result.  (This is madness, according to some misquoters.)

What should I do?  I didn't think I was anywhere close to where I could buy a new battery.  Should I call a tow-truck.  Seems like such a waste.  Then it hit me--I had a key.  I could actually use said key to open the door.

It worked.  My car was frightened though, and started beeping until I put the same key into the ignition, after which it calmed down.

I only bought this car a few years ago, and this was the first time I had a battery-run key, but how quickly we forget.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Advice from 2002

“I think he could have used the veto power,” he added.

Now that's some power thinking, right there. Good enough to get you into Davos, I expect.

Jeb is going to be downright likable for up to about a year from now.

White Papers

Here something that's been making the rounds: "Books That Literally All White Men Own: The Definitive List."

I'm going to reproduce this lengthy list and, as an honorary white man, will note if I own it or not, or have even read it.  Actually, all of these books are quite popular in general, and likely owned by many women and non-white men as well.

1. Shogun, James Clavell [don't own, haven't read, no interest]
2. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut [own many Vonnegut novels, have read it]
3. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole [read and owned]
4. Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace [don't own, haven't gotten around to reading, may never]
5. A collection of John Lennon’s drawings. [own some writing by Lennon, but no drawings except as part of book]
6. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway [read it years ago, don't own, but own other Hemingway]
7. The first two volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin [don't own any Martin--have looked at some books in the library to see how it compares to Game Of Thrones]
8. God Is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens [read parts of it in library, don't own]
9. Catch-22, Joseph Heller [own, have read several times]
10. I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell, Tucker Max [don't own, no interest in reading]
11. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand [have read, not sure if I own]
12. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, Oliver Sacks [have read articles by Sacks but haven't read this, and don't own it]
13. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger [certainly have read it, may have a copy somewhere]
14. The Godfather, Mario Puzo [love the movie, haven't read book, don't own it]
15. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald [have read, may own it]
16. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov [have read, may own it]
17. Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk [don't own book, would only consider looking at it to compare it to movie]
18. The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov [don't own, haven't read]
19. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown [don't own, no interest in reading except perhaps to see why it was such a huge bestseller]
20. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck [never got around to reading--have read other Steinbeck and not been greatly impressed, and this one looks sort of long; have seen movie and found it overrated]
21. The Stand, Stephen King [haven't read--have read some King but only because friends insisted]
22. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson [haven't read, no interest--didn't like either movie version]
23. The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer [haven't read--not too much interest in it]
24. Tuesdays With Morrie, Mitch Albom [haven't read, no interest]
25. It’s Not About the Bike, Lance Armstrong (definitely under the bed) [haven't read, no interest]
26. Who Moved My Cheese?, Spencer Johnson [haven't read, no interest]
27. Portnoy’s Complaint, Philip Roth [read years ago, probably own]
28. Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand [haven't read, not too much interest]
29. John Adams, David McCullough [I think someone gave me a copy, may get around to it]
30. Ragtime, E.L. Doctorow [read and owned]
31. Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis [been planning to read it for years, don't own it]
32. America: The Book, Jon Stewart [looked at it in library, no interest in checking it out]
33. The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman [reading Friedman in small doses is bad enough]
34. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell [Gladwell strikes me as sort of silly, don't think I could take a whole book]
35. The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time, Mark Haddon [haven't read, don't own]
36. Exodus, Leon Uris (if Jewish) [haven't read, don't own, have seen movie]
37. Trinity, Leon Uris (if Irish-American) [haven't read, don't own]
38. The Road, Cormac McCarthy [had a friend who insisted I read it, don't own]
39. Marley & Me, John Grogan [don't own, no interest]
40. Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt [my book group made me read it--I don't disagree with the book but not sure if I'd have read it otherwise]
41. The Rainmaker, John Grisham [there's so much good literature out there, why would I read Grisham?]
42. Patriot Games, Tom Clancy [see Grisham above]
43. Dragon, Clive Cussler [don't own, no interest]
44. Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond [have read some essays by Diamond, seems questionable, don't own book]
45. The Agony and the Ecstasy, Irving Stone [haven't read, don't own, don't particularly like movie]
46. The 9/11 Commission Report [read a few selections in papers, don't own--has anyone read whole thing who wasn't required to?]
47. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, John le Carre [don't own, don't read spy novels]
48. Rising Sun, Michael Crichton [have read no Crichton, have seen many movie adaptations]
49. A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson [wouldn't have read except a friend suggested it last year]
50. Airport, Arthur Hailey [seen movie, no interest in reading book]
51. Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki [don't own, haven't read]
52. Burr, Gore Vidal [have read, probably own]
53. Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt [haven't read, don't own]
54. The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan [haven't read, don't own]
55. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer [have read, I think someone gave it to me]
56. Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer [haven't read, don't own, have seen movie]
57. Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson [haven't read, don't own]
58. Godel, Escher, Bach, Douglas Hofstadter [read, owned and met with author]
59. The World According to Garp, John Irving [read and probably own]
60. A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking [read much of it in library]
61. The Tin Drum, Gunter Grass [haven't read, did like the movie]
62. On the Road, Jack Kerouac [haven't read--looks like too much trouble]
63. Lord of the Flies, William Golding [read back in high school, may own]
64. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien [read as a kid, didn't like]
65. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe [read, owned]
66. Beowulf, the Seamus Heaney translation [have read, own a different translation]
67. Rabbit, Run, John Updike [read several Updike works, not this one--may get around to it]
68. The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie [haven't read, don't own]
69. The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [have read much Holmes, not sure if I have complete collection]
70. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler [great movie but I don't read detective novels]
71. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey [read years ago, may own]
72. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess [read in library]
73. House of Leaves, Mark Danielewski [haven't read, don't own]
74. The Call of the Wild, Jack London [read as kid, don't own]
75. Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon [have read other Pynchon, but haven't gotten to this yet]
76. I, Claudius, Robert Graves [haven't read, don't own, watched TV series years ago]
77. The Civil War: A Narrative, Shelby Foote [haven't read, don't own]
78. American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis (a glaring omission from the original, pointed out by Naomi Fry) [haven't read, don't own]
79. Life, Keith Richards [read selections in bookstore]

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Let's recap this week's Game Of Thrones, "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken" because it's never too late.  It's a fairly dark episode--a lot happens in dark places, and a lot happens that isn't particularly pleasant. (And one thing happened that seemed particularly dopey, but we'll get to that.)

We start with Arya, and her new hairdo, in the (dark) House of Black and White. She's doing her apprenticeship, washing a corpse. She wants to see where they're taken, but she isn't ready, according to the girl who's apparently a level or two higher.  The girl knows how to lie convincingly, which Arya can't quite do yet.  You don't get to be no one until you can be anyone.

At night, Arya is woken by Jaqen, who continues playing the game.  He asks her questions, and every time she lies--he can always tell--he hits her with a stick. The best moment is when she notes she left the Hound behind to die because she hated him. Jaqen knows she's lying, as do we.  Only Arya doesn't know her true feelings, yet.  Of course, Arya doesn't want to stop being Arya--and we don't want her to either.  Can we just make her half faceless?

Meanwhile, Tyrion and infected Jorah are walking to Meereen (sounds like an old Fats Domino tune). No villages yet, so it's berries and roots. They find out a little about each other (you try to stop Tyrion from talking). Tyrion explains he killed his father and all that other stuff that happened in King's Landing. He also lets slip that on his trip to the Wall he met Mormont's father, who's now dead, killed by a mutiny.  Jorah isn't happy to find this out, of course, but the two seem to be growing closer.

Just in time to be captured by slavers.  Mormont would make a good sale, and so would a dwarf penis (which Tyrion assures them is full size).  But when they find out Dany has reopened the fighting pits, the two captives convinces the pirates to take them to Meereen, where Mormont--old but tough--will fetch a great price.

Back at the House of Black and White, Arya lies well enough to convince a sick little girl to drink the waters.  Another corpse for the House, and now Arya is ready to see where they're kept--these are the faces they use?  Jaqen knows she's not ready to leave her old identity behind, but she at least seems ready to become someone else for a while.  Hooray, we may be getting some Arya action.

At King's Landing--remember that place?--Petyr returns. (Because this show films all over the place, the actor has to actually fly to another land to be in these scenes, not just walk to another studio set.) He has a run-in with newly religious Lancel Lannister before meeting Cersei, who summoned him.  Littlefinger and the Queen Mother are both playing each other, of course, but he's got huge news.  He knows where Sansa is--perhaps the one Cersei hates most after Tyrion.  She'll allow him to march his Vale army up North to see what he can do, but what game is Baelish playing?  Has he set up Sansa?  He explicitly says he wants to be put in charge of the North, but is that his endgame, or does he have designs on all seven kingdoms?  He's certainly willing to let Roose Bolton and Stannis go at it, and he'll sweep up after, but is he willing to put Sansa's head on a spike, and stay loyal to the Lannisters? (It does seem like Brienne is right--you just can't trust Littlefinger.)

Down in Dorne, a grown up and beautiful Myrcella (all Lannister women are beautiful) trysts with princeling Trystane, while Doran and his guard look on.  Not far from the Water Gardens, Bronn and Jaime approach, disguised in local garb.  At the same time, the Sand Snakes are ready to make their move.

They get to Myrcella at the same time and have a bit of a fight. (Jaime missing a hand has more trouble than he'd like). The Sand Snakes vow is where the title of the episode comes from, but this moment is why it all seems dopey. I thought Jaime had a plan, and I thought the Sand Snakes had a plan.  But they both simply walk up to Myrcella to take her away. Anyone off the streets can do this?  Why isn't she more protected? Can just anyone get into the Water Gardens?  Eventually Doran's guards come in and round up the people (though I think Myrcella is taken by one of the Snakes, or did I get that wrong?).  Why weren't they there already? Why do I get the feeling the show had to cut the scenes where we see these groups strategizing to get close enough to grab her? Anyway, Jaime's cover is blown. But hey, he's a Lannister.  Why can't he just ask Doran for his niece (niece, that's a good one)?

Olenna approaches King's Landing. I'm not so enamored of this character as others--she seems to me a wan version of the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey.  But you've got to expect her--Loras is in trouble and Margaery can't save him.  She meets with Cersei. Now that's interesting.  Cersei has just had two meetings with the people directly responsible for Joffrey's death, but she's too busy plotting her pointless revenge to notice.

Loras is to be part of an inquest run by the High Sparrow. It'll be over quickly, Cersei assures Olenna.  But these are religious fanatics, who won't accept the lies of royalty over the truth of a squire.  So they're going to hold Loras--and Margaery too for lying under oath!--for further investigation.  For some reason, Tommen let's it happen. Why not shut down this whole thing by royal decree? He may be a kid, but his nookie is being taken away.  Anyway, this may be Cersei's plan, but certainly she can see that letting religious kooks be in charge of royalty can't be a good precedent.

And now we get to the darkest part of the story, Sansa at Winterfell.  Myranda gives her a bath (how does the kennel master's daughter get this duty?) and tries to scare Sansa regarding how Ramsay tires of his women, but Sansa will have none of it--this is her home, and she's going to be queen, not a kennel-related lover.

Theon is required to escort her to the wedding, but she wants nothing to do with him.  They go outside to the weirwood tree, where vows are exchanged.  Sansa may not be thrilled, but she knows enough about the game by now to play along.

Ramsay's finally got his girl. Winter is coming, indeed.  He may be a good boy in front of daddy, but now that he's husband, he's in charge in the boudoir.  He has one especially odd request--Reek must watch as he deflowers Sansa.  She was forced to marry Tyrion, but the Imp was kind enough to leave her alone. We can expect no tender mercies from Ramsay. It's a cruel scene, but exactly what would happen in such a situation. Not that some viewers haven't complained--have they, unlike Reek, not been watching?  Ramsay regularly tortures, hunts and flays men--he tortured Theon for months and cut off his penis--but harshly taking his wife on their wedding night is too much for them?

And that's where we end.  We'd like to see Ramsay dead more than ever. And it would make sense if Reek finally becomes Theon again and does the deed.  Let's hope it happens soon.  Other things we can look forward to--Arya killing again (still think it'll be Meryn Trant), Jorah and Tyrion (and Varys?) getting to Mereen, Jaime finally dealing with Doran, and Cersei getting swept up in her own net.

Meanwhile, large swathes of the story were left untouched.  No news from Dany in Meereen, where things are ready to explode.  Nothing at the Wall, where Jon is on the move and the Night's Watch is reeling.  And nothing from those approaching Winterfell--we didn't see Stannis's army, and nothing from Brienne either.  No doubt we'll catch up next week.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wave To Dave

I've written about David Letterman so many times I don't have much to add, but I suppose I should note tonight will mark the end of his show.

It's been a long, wild ride.  After a short-lived morning show, the relatively unheralded Letterman was give an NBC late night talk show in 1982. His timeslot followed Johnny Carson--the king of late night--but he changed the form.  Certainly he owed plenty to precursors like Carson, Steve Allen and Jack Paar, but Letterman had his own take, one that was more attuned to the attitudes of a new generation.  To pick one example, his band played rock and roll. It may not seem like much, but after Carson kept big band music going for decades beyond its time, this was something that made you take notice.

Of course, he did so much more. He went out on the streets and looked at the world with an ironic, yet engaged, eye. He played pranks.  He'd crush things just to see what would happen.  He had odd guests (probably couldn't get the top guests in the early days) like Harvey Pekar, Brother Theodore and Kamarr the Discount Magician, and he'd explore their full potential weirdness. And he didn't play the game--he expected guests to be entertaining, and if they were stuffy or pretentious, he'd go on the attack.

He also did weird comedy bits with his staff--Paul Shaffer, Chris Elliott--as well as with finds, like Larry "Bud" Melman (okay, he was on staff, but not professional show biz) and Arnie Barnes, a slacker he met in a bit and kept using. And we got Top Ten Lists (started as a gag, but they became his longest-running bit), Stupid Pet Tricks (one of his most popular bits, though I actually never liked it that much), Small Town News, Brush With Greatness (I attended an early taping with a friend who was interviewed for the segment--too bad we didn't have a VCR then), Viewer Mail and countless other routines, including attaching a camera to anything that moved.

Further, while Letterman took his show seriously, he didn't take himself too seriously, and was always willing to mock what he was doing.  And he had legendary run-ins with certain guests who seemed a bit off--Crispin Glover, Sam Phillips, Nastassja Kinski, to name some notable examples.

All in all, his original late night show was a revelation. And then, after Jay Leno was given The Tonight Show when Carson retired, he jumped ship for CBS in 1993.  Many feared he'd lose his edge, but though he opened up a bit for a larger crowd at an earlier hour--bigger names, more gentle interviews, larger band--he was as great as ever. Some of his remotes, such as driving around in Los Angeles (on a trip out West--Dave was a New York boy) or taking over a Taco Bell, were classics. He also used locals just outside his street-level studio, such as Sirajul and Mujibur, or Rupert Jee, who became regulars.

The viewers responded, and he beat Jay Leno's flailing Tonight Show for a couple years.  But the tireless Jay did everything he could to give the audience what it wanted (part of which included imitating Dave rather than Johnny) and wormed his way into their hearts, while some tired of Letterman's crankiness. Which, if anything, made him more cranky, and perhaps more entertaining.

Overall, Dave, popular or not, was flying high for almost two decades. Sadly, I find something lacking in his final decade.  He was still entertaining, but no longer essential. He just got a bit tired, and other things weighed him down (or maybe freed him from caring so much about the show): he had heart bypass surgery, was involved in a love affair scandal, had a son, and--let's face it--got older.  At some point, he stopped doing remotes himself--I've always considered that the turning point.  Some liked, even preferred, this later Letterman.  He was more open and honest, and more explicitly political, but that wasn't why I had ever watched him.

Regardless, Letterman was one of the most imaginative broadcasters of our day, and I think he changed the face of late night more than anyone else, even Carson.  Of course, no one will ever rule the roost as Carson did, but that's another change Letterman wrought--when he moved to CBS, he busted it all wide open.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Wrong tense

Sinking? More like Truck Lagoon. We're talking decades-old catastrophes, still leaking sludge.

Whose Birthday?

Pete Townshend turns 70 today, so let the party start.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Ad hocery

I love Justice Scalia; heck, who doesn't?

But if the guy is upset at fraud in the judicial system at this point in his life, I have to say, with all due respect, he hasn't been paying attention.


States saying 'no' to cities seeking to regulate businesses

Maybe we should turn this over to university administration.

The World Is No Longer Mad

Usually I start the week with a review of Game Of Thrones, but this week we saw the last episode of Mad Men, "Person To Person."  This was one of TV's greatest shows, so let's discuss it instead.  We'll return to regular coverage of GOT later this week.

The show, even in its later years, when it sometimes seemed it was repeating itself (Matt Weiner doesn't believe people change, and if they don't his shows shouldn't run more than five years), always remained its witty, intelligent self.  Plots didn't go how you expected, characters didn't say what you thought they would--amazing for TV, when you think about it.

Don has packed up and taken off in the past, but he's in the middle of his longest picaresque tale yet.  He has apparently quit McCann--which makes me wonder how much money does he actually have that he can walk away from millions. He even gave away his Caddy last week.  So we start the show with him driving a fast car on a Bonneville salt flat.  Huh?  Turns out he's now a mysterious stranger bankrolling some mechanics on a trip to LA. (And he's almost rolled by their gal, whom he's sleeping with. We see him sleep an awful lot in this episode.  And each day he may hope to awake as someone else, but it never happens, does it, Don?)

Meanwhile, Joan, out of McCann, is away with Richard.  I don't buy Richard--he's a bit too perfect for her, and in any case too bland a character.  Joan, thanks to Ken, gets a shot at becoming an industrial films producer.  We know she'd be great, and already running something like this if she were a man--but will she have to choose between the business and Richard?

Pete is leaving, but actually we say goodbye to Harry, whom we last see eating cookies because he can't hold out till Pete's goodbye lunch.  Harry (and Ken, too) got to stick around till the end, but was ill-used by Weiner, seems to me.

The one person back home Don still calls is Sally, and she lets it drop that Betty is dying.  This wakes Don from his dogmatic slumber. Surprisingly, after talking to Betty, he decides to honor her wishes and won't come home.  And he'll let the kids go to her side of the family.

Joan gets Peggy to write the film script.  Easy money, and Joan suggests they go into business together as producers--the letterhead needs two names, after all, or people won't take you seriously.  Peggy thinks about it, but she hasn't been burned as badly as Joan.  She talks about it with Stan, but they end up having a fight.

Don goes on to Los Angeles, where he drops in on Stephanie--of the real Draper family.  Stephanie is going to an Esalen-type retreat (or maybe it is Esalen, as we don't hear the name)and she takes Don along.  It's full of that new age stuff that was starting to hit it big in the late 60s and would turn the 70s into the "Me Decade."

Roger is still with Marie, Megan's mom.  They fight, but they seem to get along. Not sure if I buy it, but hey, it's Roger--they'll probably break up in a year or two. He also plans to leave a lot of his dough to Joan's boy.  Okay, Roger, even if he won't need it.

Joan can't give up her business, and Richard walks out.  Just as well, though I'd have preferred it if Joan left Richard. (But she did, didn't she?  Still, she waited a bit over ten rings to answer the business call--in those days, people would give you ten rings and hang up.)

Stephanie skips out of the retreat, taking the car.  Don is stuck there for a few days.  He calls Peggy--finally he's contacted someone from his old world.  This phone call had to happen--perhaps the single most important relationship in the show is Don and Peggy, and they never properly said goodbye.  Peggy is concerned, but also annoyed at Don.  He should come back, they'd be glad to have him--doesn't he want the Coke account?  He, however, confesses what an awful person he is.  It's a good scene--too bad we've seen Don hit rock bottom a few times before.  Five seasons, Matt, five seasons. (Still, Jon Hamm does a good job--it's ridiculous he's never won an Emmy.)

Don hangs up and Peggy calls Stan to discuss it. Somewhat surprisingly, he admits he loves her.  She says she loves him.  He comes to her office and they embrace.  Okay, a surprise ending for Peggy, but I don't think it works.  Nothing against Stan, but he's never really been one of the gang, and the chemistry between them has always felt more like brother and sister.  Weiner isn't going to tie everything up in a bow no matter what, but this is too neat.  (And maybe they break up a few weeks later.  I'd like to think that.)

Anyway, Peggy has decided to stay at McCann, where no doubt, as Pete predicts, she'll be creative director in ten years.  So Joan starts a business on her own, Holloway-Harris--two names, if both hers.

Pete and Trudy fly away on a Lear Jet to an exciting new future. (Alison Brie was in the credits, but this was all she got to do. I think Weiner was just glad to have her free from Community so he used her whenever he could).

Betty is resigned to her fate, and Sally, who seemed so likely to be screwed up, now seems ready to be the mature one, and help her brothers get through it all.

But above all, we want to know the fate of Don.  And for a while, I thought Weiner blew it.  Then he pulled a rabbit out of a hat.  Don attends a session where some dull guy gives a confession and Don cries and hugs him. Next morning, he's sitting in the lotus position on a cliff overlooking the ocean, saying "Om" with a bunch of other new agers.  The camera closes in and he smiles.  What a lame ending. But we're not done.  We cut to the famous "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing" Coke commercial of the era--so that's what Don was smiling about.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Is that you, Cass?

Here is a delightful column by Tyler Cowen in the New York Times.

It's astounding that the Times published it, for one thing.

Mostly, though, it's wonderful how it is couched:

It is hard to avoid the feeling that our current economic problems are more than just a cyclical downturn.
One relatively optimistic view
Another commonly heard view
but there is a much more disturbing possibility that could turn out to be more accurateFrom this perspective
we may be responding to these difficult revelations
In this troubling view, we have finally
Let’s consider an analogy to see how this might work in practice.
Such processes are scary because we may be watching
There are signs that a comparable story may apply
Here is another change that might be a broader sign  
All of these factors could indicate
In short, are these economic problems transitory, or are we glimpsing the beginnings of a grimmer future?
If a reset is underway,
No one knows whether or how much

Yes, indeed, it may be so, according to what some could say.

Entertain Us

I recently watched two HBO documentaries on a couple of 20th century musical icons, Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All and Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck.  Both are well done and I recommend them to anyone interested in these men.

They affected me very differently, though.  For as much a case as the special made about Frank Sinatra as a major artist, I'm not really a big fan.  He led a colorful life, full of ups and downs, and he had a fine voice, but his recordings don't do much for me.  I'm glad he helped keep tunes from the Great American Songbook alive, but his versions are rarely the ones I listen to.  And as an actor, he's got a presence, but can't compare to contemporaries like Marlon Brando in drama or Cary Grant in comedy. (For that matter, Marlon Brando was funnier in Guys And Dolls and Cary Grant was more dramatic in The Pride And The Passion.)

On the other hand, seeing Kurt Cobain's life--home movies, notebooks, interviews with so many close to him (Dave Grohl a noticeable absence)--reminded me what a special presence he was.  He had demons (as did Sinatra) which helped drive him into punk.  No one in his time would go into that type of music expecting to be a huge star, certainly.  But that's what happened.  And when it all came to be too much, he took his life, only 27.  Though that fact hangs over the whole documentary, the show mostly reminded me of how amazing Nirvana was, how exciting and new the band sounded when they first came out.

Cobain wouldn't even be fifty yet.  It's hard to say what he would have done next, but considering how much we got in such a short life, it's painful to think about.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

College professor regrets that she is being criticized

An incoming Boston University professor who called “white college males” a “problem population” and was publicly criticized by the university’s president said on Tuesday she regrets making the remarks.

Don't worry, cupcake. This won't mess up your tenure. It will ensure it.


No music sounds more like the 60s than Burt Bacharach's, which is funny, since no one else sounded like Bacharach.  It was his birthday this week, so let's celebrate.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Congressman David Almasi

Boeing Shareholder Challenges Ethics of Company’s Relationship to Clintons

Not sure "challenge" is the right word. "Aghast at," maybe.

This probably gets shut down pretty quickly. Pretty hard to argue that bribery doesn't advance the bottom line, and since only foreign bribery is illegal and crimes committed by Clintons aren't heard in the American courts or media, there's no criminal code violation. Moreover, I can't imagine the courts starting to parse lobbying strategy. (And if they do, we know which way they'll parse it.)

But I do like the cut of that man's jib.

Digging deep

Holy cow, Boehner found something, possibly either a spine or a brain.

"Are you really going to ask such a stupid question?" he said at a news conference as a reporter started to ask about Democratic complaints that the government shortchanges the railroad.

It's only 21 years of this nonsense from the Clintons, and John's finally figured it out. Probably won't hear it from him again before he's chased out of the House.

Say, speaking of 21 years of the Clintons, whatever happened to Steffi Stephanopolous.

The Trouble With Harry or Not Excellent

For years I wondered what would happen if one of The Simpsons voices died, or couldn't continue.  It's finally happened--Harry Shearer has left the show.  Not sure why.  It's got to be one of the best gigs in town--do a little voice work (no costumes, no memorizing, etc.) and make millions.  Who'd quit that?

But he has (and it figures it'd be the prickly Shearer).  When Phil Hartman, who did recurring bits, died, the show retired his characters.  But it can't be done so easily with Shearer.

There are six main voice actors on the show (along with a few other regulars who fill is generally less important voices).  There's Julie Kavner, mostly Marge, but also her sisters Patty and Selma.  There's Yeardley Smith, who's Lisa.  There's Nancy Cartwright, who's mostly Bart, but also does Todd Flanders, Ralph Wiggums, Nelson Muntz, Kearney and a few others.  These three, as important as they are, would be a lot easier to replace than the other three, Dan Castellaneta, Hank Azaria and Shearer.  Combined, they probably do about 80% of the audience favorites.

Castellaneta, first and foremost, is Homer.  But he's also Krusty, Groundskeeper Willie, Grampa Simpson, Barney Gumble, Mayor Quimby, Sideshow Mel, and quite a few others. Azaria is Apu, Chief Wiggum, Professor Frink, Moe, Comic Book Guy, Duffman and a whole bunch of others as well.  And among the numerous Shearer voices are Ned Flanders, Monty Burns, Smithers, Otto, Kent Brockman, Reverend Lovejoy, Principal Skinner and Doctor Hibbert.

Yes, I know there are people who can duplicate these voices.  But I have to think someone with a good ear could tell the difference. I guess it's a good thing I stopped watching regularly a few years ago.

The King Is Gone

Just heard B. B. King died.  Truly one of the greats.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Happy birthday, Will "Dub" Jones.  He was the singer who did the low parts in the Coasters but may be best known as the lead in the Cadet's "Stranded In The Jungle."

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A rose is a rose is a rose

"Automated sedation device could replace doctors"

Is that what we're calling death panels now?


Stevie Wonder turns 65 today.  He started working early, so if he wants to retire that's up to him.  We can let his music do the work for him.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Game On

Before going over the latest Game Of Thrones, "Kill The Boy," let me note that Mad Men's penultimate episode, "The Milk And Honey Route," was the best this season, reminding us why the show is so special.  Don was off on another adventure outside New York, which so often reveal his Dick Whitman side, while ex-wife Betty got some bad news and Pete and Trudy are ready to move on together.  Even without any Joan (have we seen the last of her?), Roger or Peggy, but with a little Duck, the show seems near to closing time.

"Kill The Boy," on the other hand, was probably the weakest episode this season, but even weak Game Of Thrones is enjoyable.  Too much of the episode seem to be stalling--restating what we already know before taking a few baby steps forward.

The episode starts with Barristan on a bier--so no mistaking it, he's dead.  I guess he didn't get his throat slit last week so he wouldn't look too bad.  But Daenerys is feeling it.  The Sons Of The Harpy have gotten to her. How will she respond?  She decides to have all the leaders of the great families brought to her--sure, they may not all be guilty, but a queen can't just take it.

She brings them into the dungeon holding her two dragons.  One family leader is shoved forward. The dragons burn him and eat him--guess they like their food well done.  This is enough for the day, and it sure got everyone's attention.

Dany's deeds have not gone unnoticed. Indeed, Samwell reads a raven's message to Maester Aemon, her only living relative.  Not sure why the Night's Watch gets this info, but then, The New York Times reports news from all over, even stuff you don't care about, so maybe that's how the raven system works.  The message notes (are those raven writers editorializing?) that she won't leave Slavers' Bay until the freedom of the slaves is secure.  And I say come on Dany, you don't owe them anything.  Take Westeros first, and then you can sent out garrisons to deal with Meereen.  You've always been at your best on the move, why are you getting stuck here?

At Castle Black, new Lord Commander Snow has a tough decision to make, but he knew the job was tricky when he took it.  After a quick consult with Aemon (who tells him to "kill the boy" so the man can take over), he talks to Tormund.  (Tormund and Stannis both represent thousands upon thousands of people, but we only ever see a handful--TV budgets).  Snow's revolutionary idea turns the Night's Watch concept on its head.  The "realm of men" they protect should include the Free Folk--the real enemy are all the White Walkers (who have been threatening from literally the first minute of the show five seasons ago, but still haven't made their move).  He'll let those north of the Wall come through the gate, and Tormund agrees to talk them into trusting Jon as long as Snow comes along (in Stannis's boats, no less).  So Snow will be gone? Who'll mind the Castle?

Snow explains his plans to his men, and, as expected, they're not happy.  Yes, The Gift has abandoned villages, but that's because the Wildings raided them. Just ask Olly.  Stannis watches, though, apparently impressed (when he's not correcting vocabulary words).  He's still here?  For weeks he's been saying he's got to go.  Get moving on Winterfell before winter falls, already.

Outside Winterfell wait Pod and Brienne--which we already knew.  Sansa is home, but Brienne still worries for her. She talks to a servant, judging him to be loyal to the North, and wants to get a message to Sansa.  Maybe it's the only way, but couldn't she vet him a little more?

Meanwhile, Ramsay has to let down his girl, the kennel master's daughter Myranda (whom we've met before but barely remember).  Not much of a scene, perhaps, but we get to see her naked (what would GOT be without some breasts each episode) and learn, as expected, that Ramsay likes it rough.

Meanwhile, Sansa, sans Littlefinger, stews in her room.  The old lady reminds her (and the audience, which is getting a lot of reminding) that the North Remembers and will help her if she's in need.  She goes to look at the tower (where Bran fell from?) and who should meet her but the Myranda, with a surprise gift.  Sansa, all alone, goes along--even with Roose supporting her safety, should Sansa trust Myranda this much? Anyway, Myranda opens the kennel door (I thought Ramsay was at another castle--was her dad a traveling kennel master?) and at the far end, sure enough, is Theon. We've been waiting for this meeting.

Except Theon is now Reek.  He didn't want to be rescued by his own sister, and he certainly doesn't want to see any Starks.  Later, while serving Ramsay, he admits Sansa dropped by.  Ramsay seems ready to flay a finger, or whatever he does when Reek misbehaves, but instead he forgives him.  It's amazing what a new last name can do.

That night it's a very uncomfortable dinner.  Littlefinger is long gone, so Sansa gets to eat alone with the man who killed his mom and older brother, and his son whom she'll be marrying.  Ramsay has the brilliant idea of bringing in Reek to apologize for (supposedly) killing Sansa's younger brothers Bran and Rickon.  So things get even more uncomfortable--though we in the audience are wondering if Theon will ever get his guts back. (He won't get his balls back, that we know.)  Meanwhile, Theon will be giving away the bride.  Huh?

Ramsay is later upbraided for this by daddy Roose, who may be cruel, but is smooth.  But Ramsay is more concerned that Roose's wife Walda is having a baby, probably a boy.  At one time, Winterfell seemed his, but if Roose has a proper son will he lose it all?  Regardless, they've got bigger fish to fry (and Roose has a bigger Frey to fish)--Stannis will be marching soon from Castle Black. See, I told you, he waited way too long. Any element of surprise is long gone.

Back at the Wall, Gilly looks at all the books and worries that Samwell treats her like she's stupid.  Samwell mentions how he wanted t be a Maester, learning at the Citadel in Oldtown.  (He comes from a good family--I think he explained in season one why he took the black, but I forget why).  Anyway, I wonder if something will come from this--Aemon is pretty old, after all.  Then Stannis comes in and we have a fascinating scene between two people who have never met.  Stannis wants to know how Samwell killed a Walker, and we hear about dragonglass and all that.  Stannis, who's softened quite a bit since coming up North, tells Tarly to keep reading up on this stuff.

Next, Stannis goes to tell Davos it's time to march on Winterfell. No, it was time two months ago. It's way past time now.  His wife and daughter will come along, as well Melisandre.  Davos isn't thrilled.  As they leave, Melisandre looks at Snow (and all that power).  I get the feeling Stannis isn't going to make it--will the Boltons stop him, or maybe Brienne? In any case, the Red Lady may be hedging her bets, ready to return to pick up Snow.

Back in Meereen, Grey Worm comes to, watched by Missandei.  They love each other and it's the most boring relationship the show has ever had.  After a quick kiss (how much else can you do with the Unsullied) she goes to Dany, who asks for advice.  He tells the Queen she should do what she wants to do.  So Dany marches into Hizdahr's cell. He fears he'll be thrown to the dragons, but instead she agrees to re-establish the fighting pits, though still no more slavery.  Not a bad idea, perhaps, but she goes one step further--she'll marry into the city, and Hizdahr, from a noble family, is as good a suitor as any.  What?  It's not just that they don't have a spark (and she's sparked with others), but really, this is just Meereen, a city on Slaver's Bay. There'll be plenty of time for strategic weddings when she gains control of Westeros. Don't waste your time on this provincial.

We get to Jorah and Tyrion.  Jorah is going from Volantis to Meereen by ways of Valyria (means nothing to me either), except this is an area of ruins, where the Stone Men live.  These are the guys with greyscale (I think), which keeps pirates away.  And immediately I saw what would happen.  The guys with this plague would attack and one would get the disease, since they've been talking about it all season.  And it had to be Jorah--they wouldn't dare do it to Tyrion.

Sure enough, after seeing Drogon (a nice moment, and useful info if Jorah ever gets to Dany again), the Stoners board the ship.  Not sure why, actually--what do these lepers get?  Are they zombies who crave human flesh, or do they just like messing with people?  Anyway, Jorah fights them off. To escape, Tyrion jumps overboard and is dragged down into the murky depths. He awakes, saved by Mormont. But we see (though Tyrion doesn't) that Jorah's been infected.  The disease will overtake him eventually--but not, presumably, before he gets to Dany. (Or can he get a raven from Shireen explaining and find out how she got better?  Really, if Stannis knows how to do this, he could make a lot of money selling the cure.)

And that's where the show leaves us.  A few plots moving forward, but a lot of them reminding us where we've been.  Meanwhile, a lot was MIA.  Nothing in King's Landing (a rarity)--no Cersei, Tommon, Margaery, High Sparrow and so many others.  No Dorne. I thought this season was all about Dorne, but so far we've gotten very little.  I'd like to see how Jaime and Bronn are progressing, and then there's Prince Doran and the Sand Snakes as well.  Worst of all, no Arya.  With all the new training she should be killing up a storm in no time.

So we've reached the midway point.  Plenty of action coming up.  The fight for Winterfell, the religious fanatics in King's Landing, a possible kidnaping in Dorne, some fun in Braavos and a lot of activity planned for Meereen.  Already the season seems too short.

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