Thursday, March 31, 2016


Like many movies fans, I knew Illeana Douglas as an offbeat actress who pops up in a lot of interesting movies (and also as Martin Scorsese's girlfriend).  So I wasn't expecting much from her memoir I Blame Dennis Hopper: And Other Stories From A Life Lived In And Out Of Movies.  I certainly didn't guess it would be so delightful.

She writes with charm and wit, and there's not a chapter that doesn't tell a great story.  This is not a book that concentrates on the chronological details of her life--some of my favorite stuff she's done (such as Ghost World) doesn't even get a mention--but instead she describes memorable moments, ones that are often as much about the people she meets as about herself.  That's because even though she's been in the business for decades, she's never lost that young girl who loved the movies.  She's never become cynical.  She still loves what she does.

The first few chapters are the most conventionally autobiographical, and are among the best.  We learn of the moment in her childhood when her father saw Easy Rider and decided to drop out of society to become a hippie.  And little Illeana, along with her mom and siblings, went from the upper middle class to a world of poverty.  Hence the title.

Next we see her as a teenager trying to get into a theatre program, performing a song by her favorite, Liza Minelli, even if the material was beyond her years--and demanding the pianist play it in the "key of Liza." And the days when she was a starving artist, pestering theatre directors with ideas to liven up her small roles.  She also had a plan where she'd live in relative splendor with her grandfather, aging legend Melvyn Douglas, who, alas, died in 1981 before that could happen--but she did get to see him work on the set of one of his last films, Being There (he won as Oscar for the role), also meeting Peter Sellers and director Hal Ashby.

She eventually got a job working for publicist Peggy Siegal.  This put her in touch with big names in the movie business, though she never imposed on them by mentioning she was an actress--if anything, she liked being treated as a fellow professional and not just another hopeful begging for a job.  Then  one day, at the last second, someone needed a young woman for a one-line role opposite Shelley Long in Hello Again, and Illeana had her first screen credit.  Next, Martin Scorsese, working in the same building as Siegal, needed someone who could scream--he was doing sound work on The Last Temptation Of Christ.  One of Douglas's great talents was a bloodcurdling howl, and suddenly she was hooked in with Scorsese.

He went on to cast her in his films, including the ill-fated Lori Davis in Cape Fear, picked up in a bar and killed by Robert De Niro's Max Cady.  This was her first major movie role, and a lot of actresses would have wilted one-on-one with the screen's most respected actor, but Douglas knocked it out of the park.

I could mention many more of her stories--making Alive, about people stuck in the Andes after a plane crash, in a shoot that was only slightly less difficult than the story it's based on; meeting Marlon Brando, where she tries not to gush and ends up all but breaking down (and Marlon eats a lot of food); collaborating with director Gus Van Sant to make her character in To Die For come to life (even if at the last second Van Sant gave her a pink outfit in her big skating scene that made her look like cotton candy); playing the lead in Grace Of My Heart, the story of a songwriter who's a lot like Carole King but also a lot like Illeana Douglas; creating and starring in Easy To Assemble, the fictional web series set in an actual IKEA and shot while it was open for business--but really, why ruin it?  Check it out yourself.  The book is a bit under 300 pages and I wish it were longer.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Herman's Been Gone

I don't usually review movies out in theatres, saving them for the year-end wrap-up.  On the other hand, I regularly discuss new TV shows.  See, there is a method to my madness.  So how do I deal with Pee-wee's Big Holiday, which is definitely a movie, but debuted on Netflix? I'm making a call--it's TV, and will be discussed now (and not in the wrap-up).

Pee-wee's Big Adventure, the first feature starring Paul Reubens' character, is a minor miracle.  Not too many thought you could get so much out of Pee-wee, but Reubens, with the help of first-time director Tim Burton, turned out something truly entertaining, even iconic.  Hard to believe it was 30 years ago.  There was a follow-up, Big Top Pee-wee, which didn't really work.  The magic of the character at full length proved to be tenuous.  Then Paul Reubens had some public relations problems and Pee-wee went away for a while.

Now Pee-wee is back.  Reubens at 63 is kind of old to play a man-child, but he looks pretty good, considering.  So at least we've gotten over that hurdle.  Spoilers ahead, though knowing the plot of the film shouldn't hurt your enjoyment too much.

The story starts with Pee-wee waking up (from a dream) and doing his morning routine, using all sort of Rube Goldberg machinery.  In other words, we're back in the world of the first movie.  I guess I can't blame them for repeating what worked before.  In general, the film feels like a remake--a long trip where Pee-wee goes outside his comfort zone on a sometimes dangerous journey.

Pee-wee is a model citizen of the model town of Fairville--Pee-wee's even made a model of it in his backyard.  The people there are simple, cheerful and somewhat stuck in the past (and still influenced by the feel of Tim Burton).  Pee-wee, the cook in the town diner, is beloved, and sees no reason ever to leave--change is his enemy. Until actor Joe Manganiello (played by actor Joe Manganiello, in the movie's best turn after Pee-wee himself) comes into the diner, demonstrates how cool he is, and then invites new friend Pee-wee to his big birthday party in New York.

Thus Pee-wee starts on his cross-country trip to celebrate with his new best friend.  He meets all sorts along the way, including a trio of female bank robbers, a novelty gift salesman, a farmer with plenty of daughters, hairdressers with bizarre stylings, a woman who flies in her car/airplane (played by Diane Salinger, Pee-wee's love interest in his first feature), a grizzly mountain man, the Amish and so on.

Pee-wee gets to New York just in time, but then falls down a hole.  A despondent Joe Manganiello thinks his friend has deserted him, but when Pee-wee's plight is discovered, the city rallies around him.  Everyone and everything comes together for a happy ending.

Did it work?  It wasn't bad. My main complain is it's no Pee-wee's Big Adventure, which had a better plot, more memorable gags, and even, within this odd world, stronger characters with deeper motivations.  If I paid to see it in a theatre, I might have felt it wasn't worth it. But as something available on Netflix, not bad.  So I guess it's right to review it like a TV show.

I wonder how long these distinctions will hold up.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Go Ahead and Parse It

“Well, let me be clear: Donald Trump may be a rat, but I have no desire to copulate with him.”

Better go now

Tycoons plan base on moon by 2026

See It Now

A lot of TV shows start with a quick catch-up of relevant scenes from the past.  I'm not a fan of this--these moments give away what's coming--but I can understand them, as some might have missed previous episodes.

Far worse is letting you see what's next.  You've already got me, why are you ruining what's about to happen? Yet this strategy seems to be happening more and more. The first time I ever saw such a thing was, I believe, on Hill Street Blues.  But I don't recall anyone imitating that strategy for a long time.

Now, however, there's so much competition that producers figures they have to grab you and hold you as never before.  So it turns out many of them feature coming attractions, as it were, at the end of an episode to show you what to expect next week.  However, on some channels--HBO comes to mind--they rerun the coming attractions just before the show officially starts.  Why?  Would you want to watch a film's trailer just before the film itself?

Yet there's something much worse, and I've seen it on two new shows, Colony and Hap And Leonard.  During commercial breaks, while the show is playing, they give previews of what you're about to see--actual footage that will be aired in a few minutes.

Who okayed this?  These aren't helpful, these are spoilers.  We're already in the middle of watching the show--presumably we like it.  Do they figure viewers are so jittery they need to be reminded of the great moments coming up? I hope these two shows are an anomaly and this sort of promotion is never featured again.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Oh, she will, Rachel, she will

Really, what happened provides an excellent learning opportunity if Microsoft wants to build AI that’s as intelligent as possible. If by chatting online Tay can help Microsoft figure out how to use AI to recognize trolling, racism, and generally awful people, perhaps she can eventually come up with better ways to respond.

Man To Man

With a new Batman/Superman movie opening, The Hollywood Reporter had a piece ranking all the old Batman movies (not including the serials).  I'm not a big fan of most of them, so I don't feel too strongly about the list.  Anyway, here it is top to bottom:

1.   The Dark Knight (2008)
2.   Batman Begins (2005)
3.   Batman Returns (1992)
4.   The Dark Knights Rises (2012)
5.   Batman (1989)
6.   Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm (1993)
7.   Batman: The Movie (1966)
8.   Batman: Dead End (2003)
9.   Robin's Big Date (2005)
10. Batman Forever (1995)
11. Batman & Robin (1997)
12. Catwoman (2004)

A few observations.

First, a lot more love for Christopher Nolan than Tim Burton.  I guess that's fair, though I imagine Burton has his supporters--and without his revitalizing the title, Nolan may have never had his crack at it.

So The Dark Knight comes first on the list.  But while it does have the very memorable Heath Ledger Joker, it's also too long and has plot problems.  I prefer Batman Begins.

Batman Returns beats Batman.  I don't love either, but the whole concept and look that brought the franchise to life was invented in Batman. Batman Returns just copies it, mostly.  I like Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman, but she doesn't make the rest of the movie any better.

Numbers 8 and 9 are quirky shorts--I don't think they should be on this list.  Were they added to puff it up a bit?

Next there was a follow-up piece on Superman movies.  Here's that list:

1.  Superman (1978)
2.  Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (1980/2006)
3.  Superman II (1980)
4.  Man Of Steel (2013)
5.  Superman Returns (2006)
6.  Superman And The Mole Men (1951)
7.  Supergirl (1984)
8.  Superman III (1983)
9.  Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987)

It gets one thing right--the only good Superman films are the first two with Christopher Reeve.  The original Superman is probably the most powerful, though it's all over the place--the sci-fi Krypton story, the heartland origin tale, the romance at the Daily Planet, the farcical comedy surrounding Lex Luthor and the action which takes over at the (bizarre) end.

Superman II as originally released is more coherent than I, generally playing as a romantic comedy with (not the greatest) action sequences.  The Donner cut is fascinating, making the first two films (which were planned together) more consistent.  I don't know if it's better, however.

Everything else has been a mess.  The third film with Reeve has moments, but is part Richard Pryor film, which just doesn't work--though I'd still take it over the recent Superman films.  The fourth is a message film with bad action, bad everything--it probably deserves to be at the bottom.

Man Of Steel is just the wrong take on the story.  It's a reboot, but nothing's fun about it--it's trying to turn Superman into the Dark Knight.  Unfortunately, it's the Superman we're stuck with right now.  Superman Returns has a lighter tone but a disastrous story line.  The Mole Men movie really isn't comparable to the rest.  Supergirl was a missed opportunity.

Finally, here's a list of all 35 DC comics movies rated.  The Dark Knight beats Superman for #1.  I would flip that.  The only non-Batman/ Superman films in the top 10 are A History Of Violence at #5 (you don't generally think of that as being DC) and The Lego Movie at #10 (though that arguably is a Batman movie).

Sunday, March 27, 2016

For The Duration

Ian Dury died (too young) on this date in 2000.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Who doesn't love Thomas Sowell?

For you liberals who won't read a black man unless he's liberal, Sowell states the obvious: Obama is a fascist, not a socialist.

Although apparently he's actually communist, which I suppose is the best of both. Whatever works.

Just Serve The Coffee

Starbucks, run by CEO Howard Schultz, has taken out a full-page ad in The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.  It's a call for the "common bonds that hold us together" including "compassion," "belief in service" and "a willingness to unite despite our differences." Furthermore, we should "pause and reflect" and "go beyond the hatred and vitriol."

Though the message claims to be non-partisan, many see it as an attack on Donald Trump.  Either way, I don't care.  We don't need the guy who sells coffee to tell us what to think.  You want to help?  Cut a buck per cup. (I don't go to Starbucks, so I have no idea if they serve good coffee--I assume they must have a product people want since they're so widespread.)

Even better is the "choice" the ad says we have to make.  There's a list of presumably good and bad things. For instance, division versus unity, or limits versus opportunity.  Some of the words in opposition are interesting:

Isolation versus community.  I like community, but the real question should be is it voluntary.  The last thing I want is community forced on me.  A lot of the time, I choose to be alone.

Ego versus humility.  This from a guy who sells a cup of joe and thinks he knows how the world should work.

Bystander versus upstander.  Upstander is a neologism we can all do without.

Exclusion versus inclusion.  Sounds good, if "inclusion" hadn't become a code word for excluding everyone who doesn't toe the line.

Partisanship versus leadership.  Why are these in opposition?  You can be a leader and a partisan at the same time--in fact, that's usually how it works.

Nostalgia versus vision.  I've got nothing against vision, but this seems to be knocking nostalgia.  Nostalgia isn't bad unless you overdo it, but almost anything is bad if you overdo it.

And here are two words I would have liked to see on the good side, but aren't to be found anywhere--freedom and individuality.

Friday, March 25, 2016

This Was Garry Shandling

Garry Shandling has died.  Quite a shock.  He's been one of those guys doing great work for so long that it's hard to believe he's gone.  He wasn't that old either.

I remember the first time I saw him, along with millions of others, on The Tonight Show.  He came out and said he looked like a cross between David Brenner and Jimmy Carter.  In fact, I remember quite a few of his jokes, even though I haven't heard them in decades.

For instance (I'm paraphrasing, but I think you'll get the point), he had a date with Miss Maryland, which was fine except when they drove to the restaurant she stood up through the sun roof and waved at people.  Then there's that awkward moment at the end of the date when you're wondering who'll pick up the check.  Another woman asked how long was his foreplay, and he wanted to know if that included driving to her house.  After they did it he asked if it was good for her and she said that wasn't good for anyone.  Then there was the time he told his doctor his penis was burning and the doctor said that's because someone is talking about it.

Shandling was also great on panel.  He had a really good story, for instance, about being invited to the White House by George H. W. Bush.  I still use a line from it whenever I can--he was brought into the Oval Office, which he noted, by the way, is not perfectly round.

It turned out he had quite a story before even becoming a stand-up.  In his mid-20s he sold some scripts to Sanford And Son.  Only then did he seek out an agent.  The agent asked him what he had and he mentioned the scripts which the agent figured were specs, not sold and aired.  Shandling was so new to the business he didn't know how unusual that was.

But he felt hemmed in as a sitcom writer.  Lying in the hospital after a near-fatal car accident, he decided he wanted something else, and worked his way up through the ranks as a stand-up.  He was big enough by the mid-80s to get his own program on Showtime, the wonderful It's Garry Shandlng's Show--a self-referential sitcom where he played (a version of ) himself and was aware he was in a show.

When that ended, he topped it with The Larry Sanders Show, which ran for six seasons on HBO.  Shandling had guest-hosted The Tonight Show and many thought he should have his own talk show. Instead, Sanders was a backstager about the goings-on of a fictional talk show.  Shandling was arguably playing another version of himself, but his Larry Sanders was a deep comic creation--Shandling could act.  (And he was generous, allowing other characters, especially Jeffrey Tambor's Hank Kingsley and Rip Torn's Artie, to shine.)  If he's remembered for anything, it'll be this show.

Larry Sanders ended in the late 90s, and Shandling turned to movies.  His biggest role was in a Mike Nichols' comedy from 2000, What Planet Are You From?  Shandling, who co-wrote the film, plays an alien who comes to Earth to impregnate a woman.  The film flopped, however, so Shandling's film career never took off.

He's probably best known to young people today, ironically, for action films--he's the nasty Senator Stern who's in both an Iron Man and a Captain America.  But in the world of comedy, he was known as, and will be remembered as, one of the greats.

The Guys all died years ago

As well as Anonymous.

Microsoft has created a new artificial intelligence chat bot that it claims will become smarter the more you talk to it.

UPDATE: Oops. Pulled it down already. Couldn't meet the unleashed demand for Hitler loving sex robots.

Speaking of AI, I'm thinking Cass never really left his position as Minister of Propaganda. It's the affect of a teenage girl that gives the game away. Maybe we can track down Richard Windsor and ask him.


"the Ohio governor is still out on the trail running a delusional vanity project masquerading as a presidential campaign."

Actually, there is a payoff to Kasich staying in the race. The entire nation will see what an indelible idiot he is, and it will become the primary component of his brand. I call that a win-win.

(Was it Lowry that can't dance, or Tucker Carlson? Well, since I've never seen them both in the same room, what difference at this point does it make?)

UPDATE: Here's a temperate and fair analysis, titled "Is The Kasich Campaign Huffing Paint? Kasich's role in the race has been like an Easter egg that was hidden too well -- no one pays any attention until it starts to smell."

The level of incompetency and overall lack of self-awareness that has plagued this son-of-a-mailman’s campaign is probably what’s keeping him from seeing the light and dropping out, which Cost put nicely here:

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Raises, dearie, raises

"Poor Gov. John Kasich. He can't catch a break. . . .Kasich actually found himself in fourth place, despite there only being three Republican candidates remaining in the race. This, of course, begs the question: why is Kasich still in the race?"

Because we have dignity, we have standards

"When passions flare, ugliness is sometimes inevitable. But we shouldn't accept ugliness as the norm. If someone has a bad idea, we tell them why our idea is better. We don't insult them into agreeing with us. We don't resort to scaring you, we dare to inspire you."

So that's what "wacko bird" means?


The A.V. Club does a good job covering popular entertainment.  If they have one problem*, it's their reflexive politics. To give an example, more than once they've noted in reviews the desirability of a "diverse" cast--which may be nice for political or business reasons, but has little to do with the quality of a movie or TV show.  (I've loved a lot of foreign films that only seem to have people from one ethnicity--do they need more diversity, or do they get a pass?)

People are always going to have political opinions, but at the A.V. Club their beliefs often play too significant a role in their reviews.  I could give many examples (if I weren't so lazy--I did once discuss something similar relating to their coverage of Game Of Thrones), but let's look at something I just read, Donna Bowman's review of the latest Better Call Saul, which focuses on the character of Kim Wexler, law associate.

The only way her gender enters into it is that she believes[**] she needs to play the game without any mistakes, staying later, working harder, and complaining less than her male counterparts, to get the same rewards. That’s a bind that women (and other minorities in the workplace) readily recognize[***]. Portraying that reality as the central concern in the life of a television character probably shouldn’t be revolutionary. That doesn’t make it any less thrilling to witness here.

The first sentence is a questionable reading of the show.  Wexler has to work hard because she's an associate in the doghouse who needs to prove herself. Must the character believe it's happening because she's a woman?  And can Bowman not imagine a straitlaced male associate who puts his nose to the grindstone to get ahead, doing all the thing Wexler is doing?

It's bad enough Bowman's political opinion may be leading her astray, but before too long she's stating her opinion is "reality." She simply dismisses the idea there could be any other explanation.  And then, because she believes her politics are being reflected on the show, she makes an aesthetic judgment that it's more exciting to watch.  So I guess a show that suggests women or minorities don't, in every situation, have to work harder and complain less, would be no fun and get a thumbs down from Bowman?

*I have a second problem in how I often disagree with their aesthetic beliefs, but that's pretty much how it's got to be for any such place.

**It's possible Bowman is simply saying this is about Wexler's perception, not necessarily what true, thought the rest of her piece seems to go against this argument.

***Perhaps the enlightened bosses at The A.V. Club should look into this--sounds like Bowman may feel underappreciated.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Holiday And Holy Day

Yes, Purim stats tonight, a joyous holiday.

But let's not forget this is also National Puppy Day.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Remains to be seen

Court says inmate who survived '09 execution can be put to death

Ah, there's the Geoff Stone I know and love

HuffPo, eh? The market at law reviews must be getting tight.


William Shatner turns 85 today.  Should be a national holiday. No, he's Canadian--an international holiday.  No, he's Captain Kirk--a galactic holiday.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Must be a hard headline to write

The wisdom of our elected officials

As God is my witness, my goal is not to make it worse.

(Actually, what this really demonstrates is idiot headline writers.)


Tomorrow is Stephen Sondheim's birthday, so let's celebrate.  We could wait till tomorrow, but I'm celebrating an even bigger name then.  (You have 24 hours to guess.)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Mitt's math

At this stage, the only way we can reach an open convention is for Senator Cruz to be successful in as many of the remaining nominating elections as possible,”

So he says March 18. March 14, he was campaigning with Kasich.

Come to think of it, maybe he was working for Cruz then.

If so, it was like all Romney political efforts--useless, or worse.

A Barrel Of Laughs

Critic Maureen Ryan has a piece in Variety on how this is a golden age of comedy on TV.  According to her, the first decade of the 21st century was a widely-agreed upon golden age of drama with The Sopranos, Mad Men, Breaking Away and so on, but laughs have since taken over.  She calls it the Unicorn Age (I'm not sure why).

Maybe, maybe not.  Ryan lists quite a few titles to prove her thesis, including Master Of None, Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Broad City, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, BoJack Horseman, Survivor's Remorse, Fresh Off The Boat, Black-ish, The Grinder, Transparent, Togetherness, Catastrophe, Silicon Valley, Veep, Last Man On Earth, Girls, You're The Worst, Louie, Inside Amy Schumer, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and "best show on TV" Jane The Virgin.

This list shows, if nothing else, we've got a lot of channels--including Netflix and Hulu--but does it prove we're in a golden age?  It doesn't matter how many shows you have--what counts is how good the best ones are.  Unfortunately, I haven't seen, or have only slightly sampled, most of these, so it's hard to make a judgment regarding this era.

But was it so barren last decade?  Let's go back to the end of the aughts--2009--and look at some of the comedies we could check out: The Office, 30 Rock, Parks And Recreation, Better Off Ted, Glee, Flight Of The Conchords, Entourage, Weeds, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Late Show With David Letterman and Late Night With Conan O'Brien, not to mention shows still with us, such as The Simpsons, Family Guy, The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family.  Then there were my two favorite comedies of the century so far, Community and Party Down.  Was it that awful then, or is Ryan just trend-mongering now?   All I can say I don't feel more comedy-fulfilled at present than I was last decade.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

You know, I think I'm going to enjoy this

Mitt Romney to Vote for Ted Cruz

Mitt Romney who was campaigning with Kasich on Monday--but not endorsing him, at Kasich's request, because we saw how that worked out in Michigan.

And Team Kasich's response:

Kasich for America Statement on Mitt Romney
"The fact is the establishment has gotten it wrong this entire primary . . . This is just the old establishment trying again to game the political system, but John Kasich's defeated the Republican establishment his entire career."

Heh. Heh-heh. Hehhehheh. . . , 

(Just like always, Mitt, a day late. Now it's John Kasich's turn to burn down America, because he's more important than that.)

On The March

More March musical memories from birthday boys and girls.

Bill Henderson:

Clarence "Frogman" Henry:

Ruth Pointer of the Pointer Sisters (happy 70th):

Ricky Wilson of the B-52s:

Friday, March 18, 2016

Our long national nightmare

GOP Primary Outcome Is in Kasich's Hands

Does It Ring A Bell?

Happy birthday, Broadway and TV star Sutton Foster.  But this post isn't to celebrate her birthday so much as discuss this piece about her show Bunheads.  It only lasted one season, from 2012-2013, and I was sorry to see it go.

It was about down-on-her-luck Vegas showgirl Michelle Simms who decides to move to a city called Paradise, California and marry an admirer.  He dies, stranding her in this quaint town. She gets to know the people there, in particular four teenage girls who are taking a ballet class.

The show featured dances and songs, and was filled with fast, funny dialogue.  There were serious problems, however.  For instance, new characters kept being introduced before we even felt we knew the original characters. Also, the town and most of the characters were too quirky for their own good.  Worst of all, it often seemed Foster was in a different show from the four girls, though their interaction was the best things Bunheads had going for it.

Anyway, this article offers a selection from the show which was one of its best sequences, where one of the teenagers works out a number from Bells Are Ringing in front of Michelle, who's in a bad mood for other reasons.  We get to see flashes of the famous Broadway star Foster here.

Okay, fine, but we get this claim:

...a hungover Michelle casts off a “Sing out, Louise!” to one of her charges. Only the most well-steeped in their musical history would get the Gypsy allusion, coming from Michelle in a fit of maniacal-stage-mother pique. Either way, Foster always made it work.

Well-steeped in their musical history? If you're even a moderate fan of musicals you know Gypsy--it's considered one of the greatest shows, and is regularly revived on Broadway.  And "Sing out, Louise!" is a classic line.  It's like saying you have to be steeped in theatre history to know "To be or not to be."

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Good luck with that

There are a great many things in politics about which reasonable minds can disagree. This is not one of them.

So, your basic liberal?

This hot robot says she wants to destroy humans

Cutlass Ken

After reading a Stevie Nicks' biography, I started listening again to Fleetwood Mac's biggest album (almost anyone's biggest album) Rumours.  Which led me to Ken Caillat's book, Making Rumours: The Inside Story Of The Classic Fleetwood Mac Album.

Ken, who originally came to LA to be a songwriter, had been working as a recording engineer for a few years when he got an assignment to help mix the Fleetwood Mac single "Rhiannon." The song was from their Fleetwood Mac album, often called the White Album.  Mick Fleetwood, leader of the band, was impressed enough that he hired Ken (I'm going to be using first names because it's easier with two McVies in this story) to be an engineer--along with another relative newbie, Richard Dashut--for the band's new album.  They were so instrumental in making the album that before it was over they were promoted to full producers--which gave them a piece of Rumours, by itself almost enough to make them rich.

Ken went up to the Record Plant in Sausalito where the band spent a few months coming up with and working on new songs.  He arranged things so, from the POV of his booth, there was Christine McVie on the near left with her keyboards in front of Lindsey Buckingham and his guitars, and John McVie as bassist on the near right in front of Mick Fleetwood and his drum set.  Stevie Nicks didn't really play an instrument, so sometimes she'd stand in the middle, dancing and shaking her tambourine--which wasn't miked.  (In any case, the actual tambourine part would later be recorded by Mick). There were also two isolation booths on the sides of the control room where the band could play acoustic instruments--guitars, pianos, etc.--without leakage from other sound.

This was only the second album for the new lineup with Lindsey and Stevie aboard. Their singing and songwriting helped changed the sound of the band into something more pop-oriented, and considerably more commercial. At the time, their first album had only just come out and would spend several months climbing the charts.  Soon after starting, they found out "Over My Head" from the White Album was a top twenty hit--their first in America--and they started to realize how big they were.  Then "Rhiannon" (Ken's mix) went to #11, and so did "Say You Love Me." For the first time, Fleetwood Mac was a phenomenon in this country.

Dealing with rock stars is like dealing with children.  Children who can fire you.  The band was not especially temperamental, as such things go, but you had to treat them properly.  And each was different.  Mick was maybe the easiest to work with, but as the guy in charge he demanded the band and staff work long hours with almost no vacation.  John was fine, until a few hours in when the drinks started getting to him.  (In general, the British members of the band--Mick, John and Christine--were the drinkers, while the Americans working on the album tended to prefer pot. And, this being the 70s, everyone needed a bump now and then, so cocaine was always around.) Lindsey was usually pretty easygoing, but could suddenly go nuts.  And not just verbally.  He attacked his girlfriend during this period and at one point tried to choke Ken.  Christine was no-nonsense, and would tell you exactly what she thought, good or bad.  Stevie, not playing an instrument, was often not around.  She'd be in a nearby room writing her songs.  She sometimes felt she had to fight to get the attention her material needed.

The three songwriters, Christine, Lindsey and Stevie, would come in with their tunes, sometimes only partially written, and the band would work them into something.  Ken was painstaking--it took him a week to set up the drum mikes--but the band was professional and knew what they were doing.  They also had a great sound when they worked together.  At one point, Christine brought in "Songbird," which was so beautiful and so simple that Ken rented out a local auditorium so she could sing and play a grand piano while he recorded her in that setting.

The album was named Rumours because of all the rumors swirling about the band. In fact, every single band member was in the middle of relationship problems.  John and Christine had just broken up, and were dating other people.  Steve and Lindsey were in the middle of breaking up. And Mick's marriage was falling apart--during the Sausalito sessions, his wife back in England, Jenny Boyd, left him for an old friend of his. It's also possible, during the process, that Stevie and Mick got together, though Ken isn't sure.  But the band knew they had something special and didn't let their personal problems slow them down.  In fact, most of the songs are about their emotional tumult, one way or another, and some of the members ended singing back-up on lyrics that were, in effect, attacking them.

The sessions ended, but they had a long way to go.  Warner Brothers, their label, saw the band was getting big, and booked them into a stadium where Ken and Richard did the sound.  The reception they got was the first major indication to the band members how big they were about to be.

Back in Los Angeles (mostly at a studio just up the street from where I live) Ken worked on the tapes with various band members coming in to add or change parts.  Mostly it was Lindsey, the resident musical genius.  He'd play one brilliant guitar lick after another, but started insisting John and Mick play their instruments his way--a little tricky when they'd been around from the start and Lindsey was a recent hire.  This reworking went on much longer than the original sessions, though it was on and off since the band was on tour some of the time.  Ken's inside stories make you want to listen to the album again to hear special moments and effects that were added to create the magic.

There were some last-minute changes to the album.  Stevie's song "Silver Springs," which Ken felt was one of the best they recorded, had to be cut. It was too slow--too many slow songs could make the album feel lethargic--and too long--you could only put about 22 minutes per side before the quality went down.  Stevie wasn't happy about this, since it was an especially meaningful song for her.  The next day, Lindsey suggested they replace it with "I Don't Want To Know," a song of hers that the two performed before they joined Fleetwood Mac. The band recorded it without Stevie and when she came in the next day, Mick told her it was in, "Silver Springs" was out--and Stevie could sing lead on it now and collect the royalties, or have one less song on the album. Then they came up with a new version of "Keep Me There" which they renamed "The Chain" and was the only song on the album written by the whole band.

After that they had to come up with the song order.  This can be tricky, though to be honest, as long as they didn't put three slow songs in a row, I don't see how they could have failed with such stellar material.  In fact, I think they made a mistake ending the second side with "Gold Dust Woman" when "The Chain" would have tied things up better.

Caillat's book, written with author Steven Stiefel, is quite informative and sometimes fairly technical--which you'd expect from an engineer.  It also spends a lot of time on Ken's personal life--his romantic relationships, the drugs, his dog Scooter (who'd appear on the cover of the band's next album Tusk).  Rumours ended up winning a Grammy, and is the classic soft rock album of the 70s, so it's good to know there's a book that shows it didn't appear magically, it just felt like it did.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Boehner spinus minimus? McConneltestical peribit? There are so many

Just mix in a little more color

So ColumbusGal and I finally finished Mad Men, and while I found the "second half" of the final season pretty directionless, that's nothing to the appalling state of the last two episodes. Did Matthew Weiner die, or get absorbed into Richard Simmons household? It was like, "whip me up six happy endings," and I'm not talking about the good kind, either. It's like he jumped up from the table and announced "I'm done," and somebody said, "er, Matt, you've got four hours left, and the suits are here to make sure."

You say Betty's wasn't a happy ending? Really? She told her daughter she loved her and made her feel all loved and mature. Talk about faithlessness to the story. (Although looking back on it, her final line, "Why was I ever doing it?" is an apt epitaph for the series.)

Ugh. You were much too kind, LAGuy. Really, was there a single major character wrap up that had anything to do with anything in the first six years of the show? It probably would have improved things if they'd made the last episode a musical. Or maybe taken a page from Community and made it a Pokemon card game.

And we wonder why

"He's not articulate. He's not poised. He's not informed. All he has going for him is a lot of votes."

Go ahead, Roger. Finish it. "And they're the votes of idiots!"

You can't blame, him, really. They've been voting for his candidates and Obama, so he's got that point locked down.


Today is the 90th birthday of Jerry Lewis, one of the great clowns.  He hasn't always gotten the credit he deserves, but he carved out a special place in comedy.  Sure, sometimes he went too far, but I often wish he went further.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The same thing he'll do if he loses

I hope to God this is just wishful thinking from the home towner paper. Win or lose, Kasich will decide the people love him by acclamation and the Republican Party should nominate him above all others.

If God loves America, Kasich will come in third. I fear, though, he might well finish first. Godspeed, Trump voters.

Unless it's Obama or Clinton

This country does not believe in rule by strongmen or cult personality figures.

Good thinking

There's a pool for you: Who's the sentry asleep at his post?

Isn't he getting on in years?


Last week I put up a post about Mark Eden Horowitz's book Sondheim On Music.  Horowitz was kind enough to leave a comment:

Your article was forwarded to me and I thought it might be useful to comment. I'm the author of "Sondheim on Music," and wanted to make sure you were aware that there was a second edition of the book in 2010. It adds two new chapters, one just on "Bounce," but the other is a fairly lengthy interview that tries to cover all the earlier shows -- albeit much less fully. When I did the original interviews, there was no notion that it would become a book and I worked backward chronologically just because I thought it would be easier for Sondheim to recall his process and decisions on his more recent shows. (The reason for the song listing and discography was merely because I'd been maintaining it for my own purposes and when the interview was going to become a book, it seemed like it might be a nice added bonus that might prove of some use.) Everbest, Mark

Good to know there's an updated edition that deals with the shows mostly left out of the first (that was the main complaint in my post).  If you're interested in Sondheim's music, and want to get into the mind of the composer, it's hard to imagine a better book.


It's the Ides of March.  A true turning point in human history, but also the name of a band.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Bitch session

Here's some good reporting and some good research:

And, of course, many people regret other things, sometimes more than not traveling enough. Respondents in the Censuswide study noted that losing touch with friends was a bigger regret than not traveling enough, and Pillemer’s research revealed a number of other regrets among older people including that they worried too much while they were young and chose the wrong mate.


Let's say goodbye to jazz singer Ernestine Anderson. She knew jazz and she knew the blues.

Votes And Violence

There's a lot of speculation about where the voters are going this November, and pundits are looking at different scenarios--a game that's fun but mostly pointless.

An argument I've heard more than once is that violent racial unrest helps the GOP.  And now here's a piece by poli sci prof John Sides in The Washington Post with confirmation.  He quotes from findings of Omar Wasow, a professor at Princeton:

Examining county-level voting patterns, I find that black-led protests in which some violence occurs are associated with a statistically significant decline in Democratic vote-share in the 1964, 1968 and 1972 president elections.  Black-led nonviolent protests, but contrast, exhibit a statistically significant positive relationship with county-level Democratic vote-share in the same period.

Sides notes in his piece that what was true then isn't necessarily true today, and that the protests of the 60s were (so far) considerably bigger than the ones we're seeing today.  And I'm curious about how the study looks at things county by county--couldn't everyone, at least in the next county, if not state or nationwide, hear about the protests?  Then there's always the "correlation is not causation" problem.

But the odd thing is I've seen some Republicans use this sort of data to suggest they're in good shape.  Really?  Look at that study again--protests allegedly hurt Democrats in 1964.  This is the election where Lyndon Johnson got 61% of the popular vote. Imagine how well he'd done if the protestors had just kept quiet.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sealing the deal

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

Spring forward, it's Daylight Saving Time.  Which means it's time for another rant.

Why do we have this?  Having the same time all year 'round is...what's the word?  Oh yeah--sane.  Changing your clock back and forth on a regular basis sounds more like OCD than rational public policy.

I'm aware of the historical purpose of the change, which is why I oppose the idea even more, since that means I know it never made any sense.

But the consequences are even worse today.  Aside from upsetting sleeping schedules and the like, the people who came up with this dumb idea did it in an age when you had only one clock or two in the house, operated mechanically.  Changing them were easy enough.

Now we've got clocks all over, most of which (in my place, anyway) don't automatically switch over.  There are clock radios, clocks in your microwave, clocks in your DVD player, clocks in your answering machine, clocks in your car and a ton of other places.  They have to be adjusted, often in complex ways that have you wondering if it wouldn't be better to just let them be an hour off six months each year.

So as I watch tonight's "later" sunset (at a time when the days are getting longer anyway--we need later sunsets in winter), it will give me another hour of sunlight to curse this idiotic idea that only continues, as far as I can tell, due to bureaucratic inertia.  And the powerful Daylight Saving lobby.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Welcome to today's edition of, "Who's the Bigger Socialist?"

We Still Have An LP Left

Keith Emerson, the E of ELP, has died.  (Only March, and it's already one of the worst years for rock deaths in memory.)  It made sense he was the first letter, since his keyboards were the signature sound of the band.

March Medley

A bunch of birthdays today.  Let's sing a verse or two for them, and then have them perform something for us.

Jack Kerouac.

Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas:

Al Jarreau:

Liza Minelli:

Mike Gibbins:

Friday, March 11, 2016

A heart full of love

This is funny:

Barack Obama said Thursday that he has “not contributed to” dividing the country.
Blame for that, he said, lies at the feet of Republicans and Obama-critical media outlets.

“I’ve said at the State of the Union that one of my regrets is the degree to which polarization and the nasty tone of our politics has accelerated rather than waned over the course of the last 7 1/2 years.”
“I do all kinds of soul searching in terms of, are there things that I can do better to make sure that we are unifying the country. But I also have to say… that objectively it’s fair to say that the Republican political elites and many of the information outlets, social media and news stations, talk radio, television stations have been feeding the Republican base for the last seven years a notion that everything I do is to be opposed, that cooperation or compromise somehow is a betrayal, that maximalist, absolutist positions on issues are politically advantageous, that there is a ‘them’ out there and an ‘us’ and ‘them’ are the folks who are causing whatever the problems you’re experiencing and the tone of that politics, which I certainly have not contributed to.”

“You know, I don’t think that I was the one to prompt questions about my birth certificate, for example. I don’t remember saying, ‘Hey, why don’t you ask me about that?’ ‘Why don’t you question whether I’m American or whether I’m loyal or whether I have America’s best interests at heart.’ Those aren’t things that were prompted by any actions of mine, and so what you’re seeing within the Republican Party is, to some degree, all of those efforts over a course of time creating an environment where somebody like a Donald Trump can thrive.”

Yes, just like lawyers

Um, I mean, like, totally.

George M

As promised, here's a collection of music produced/arranged/recorded by George Martin.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

How many idiots does Google employ?

Computers will overtake us when they learn to love, says futurist Ray Kurzweil

Taking Sides

We've been living in the ago of TV anti-heroes for about a generation now.  Before then, you'd have flawed characters--think of a show like Hill Street Blues--but down deep they'd be decent and do the right thing.  But since The Sopranos (and a few other contemporaneous dramas) hit it big, anti-hero is the way to go.

The thing about such a show is you might not approve of the protagonist, but you followed things from his point of view, and, more often than not, were probably rooting for him.  Tony Soprano was a killer, but he had family problems and faced other killers worse than he was, so you'd generally want him to succeed.  Which is why, I think, David Chase kept making him worse and worse, to see how far the audience could go.

Then there's Breaking Bad, where we meet Walter White, master meth cook.  But the show starts by putting him in a corner.  He's got one kid with cerebral palsy and another on the way that he can't afford.  He works two jobs to make ends meet.  Then he finds he's got terminal lung cancer.  So he decides to apply his underused chemistry skills for fun and profit in the drug game.  We know it's wrong to manufacture and distribute meth, but it's hard not to be on Walt's side.  At first, anyway.  He keeps sinking lower and lower until, I think, most viewers finally turn against him.

Or then there's a guy like Don Draper of Mad Men.  Sure, he's not a killer like the guys above, but he's a bad husband, a bad father, not much of a human being.  He's charismatic and a genius in the ad game (when he bothers to show up), but it's hard to call him admirable.  Which is the point of the show--people can be pretty awful, because that's what people are like.

Anyway, the point of this long preface is that I see a new trend in the offing.  Right now I offer only two examples, and I think you need at least three, but perhaps there'll be another soon.  And that trend is the double-protagonist/antagonist anti-hero show.

I don't mean a show with two leads--that's common.  Or for that matter, numerous leads, like Game Of Thrones, some of whom are awful, some of whom are nice, most of whom are in the middle. (The first season may have seemed to be centered on Ned Stark, but fans were soon disabused of the notion that he was the protagonist.)  I mean two leads who oppose each other while the audience isn't sure who they're supposed to root for.

Exhibit A: Colony.  You've got Will (Josh Holloway of Lost) and Katie Bowman (Sarah Wayne Callies of Walking Dead), husband and wife.  They're both stuck living in a closed-off section of Los Angeles, now run by a provisional government set up by aliens (whom we never see) who have invaded Earth.  Will is caught trying to leave the colony to see their lost son, and can either lose everything or become a security officer for the government. He chooses the latter.  Meanwhile, his wife joins the rebellion, and uses the information her husband gives up, unwittingly, to help them.

I suppose in most stories the sympathetic character would be the one fighting the oppressive government, but the show doesn't give us enough information to know what's going on for sure.  The government might not be great, but can the rebellion offer anything better?  So while both Will and Katie are leads, their causes are in opposition (though they still love each other) and we don't know whom to root for.

Colony may be an imperfect example, since I think Holloway gets a little more screen time so I'm not sure if you could say they're equal leads.  Exhibit B, however, is exactly what I'm talking about.

And that's Billions.  It's about crusading U.S. attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) trying to take down Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis), the hedge fund king. Or is it about Bobby Axelrod, high-flying financier who's got an ambitious prosecutor on his tail who wants to bring him down regardless of what the law says?  Both characters are leads, and both are antagonists (Damien Lewis was the male lead of his last Showtime drama, Homeland, but, for all the sympathy created for his character, there was no question he was a terrorist and CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) was the one we rooted for).

Both men are good at what they do, and regularly win their scenes against secondary characters, but they're also capable of being pretty awful.  They crush people who get in their way and don't care much about the wreckage.  They expect everything to go their way and are willing to sidestep the rules to make sure it does.

I'm not sure which one I like better on the show.  They're both allowed to make speeches explaining why what they're doing is right, but that's not how dramatic logic works.  We're drawn to the charismatic side, the exciting side, the fun side.  I guess Axelrod is a bit more fun (and I suspect the producers may be working harder to make him a good guy since super-rich people aren't naturally sympathetic), but really, I don't think either one is that great.  But maybe that's the point of the show.

In general, popular drama comes from giving the audience a clear rooting interest.  But if these shows are hits, we may see a lot more like them.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Go Blue!

Thank you, Michigan!

Let's pray for some intelligence in Ohio and Florida, to rid us of this man once and for all.

And prohibits vampires from appearing in mirrors

That's some authority.

For One Thing, I Don't Like Your Tie

I was recently thinking about George Martin, who just died. I attended a lecture about how the Beatles recorded their music, and any such lecture has to deal with Martin, the real fifth Beatle.

He chose them to begin with and gave them their head when most producers wouldn't have.  Their relationship changed over the years--first they were working for him and then he was working for them.  But there's no one who influenced their sound more.

So I listened to some of his stuff and wondered how much longer he'd be with us.

I'll do a tribute of the music he recorded and produced in a couple days.  (I don't need much excuse to put up videos of the Beatles.)

Gaming The System

If you need to get your blood flowing, here's the first trailer for the sixth season of Game Of Thrones. It comes a month and a half before the premiere episode, but not a moment too soon.

Here's what I saw.  You can look all over the internet and find more learned analysis than mine, but here's the only place you'll get my opinions.

We start where we ended season five—with a dead Jon Snow.  And Davos reminding us he’s gone.  Yeah, we get it, he’s dead.  But this is Game Of Thrones, where a whole lot of dead people are still up and about, doing damage.

Next we see a ship sailing toward a castle—don’t recognize the ship or the castle, but I'm guessing it's a big deal.

Now we see Jamie back with Cersei, swearing vengeance.  The last couple seasons the Lannisters, who were in charge, have been getting hit pretty hard.  Maybe they're poised for a comeback.  Alas, I don't like to see Jamie with Cersei.  It's not the twincest.  It's that he's a more interesting character when they're apart--he grew a lot more hanging out with Brienne, for example. And she's not a great leader, but do we need them together making decisions--I like an angry Cersei on a rampage.

 We see the Boltons looking deep into each others eyes.  I thought they just won a major battle, but I'm not sure if they're happy or sad.  Did someone just discover his wife and favorite slave took a powder?

 Then we see Melisandre, for the first time ever doubting her visions.  I have to say I like the new Mel.  She’s been one of the most annoying characters up till now, a religious fanatic who's often proved right.  Giving her a crisis of faith brings her new depth, and sympathy.

We see Jorah (and Daario, I assume) searching for Dany, and picking up evidence.  I get the feeling he’s a good tracker and knows his way around Dothraki territory--better hurray though, with that greyscale.

Then we see Dany herself, not quite a queen anymore, walking into Dothraki headquarter.  Will they remember her?  Will she want them to?  Will she shake things up, or will she have to prove herself?  And where her dragon?  Will she get to fly it again?  (Btw, as I've been saying for a while, enough with the detours--this season better get her heading for Westeros.)

We see the High Sparrow making threats, and we know he can carry them out.  Cersei may be out of his clutches for now, but he’s still holding other royalty and may have enough people to hold King’s Landing.

We see Sansa and Tyrion give meaningful glances, though not at each other.  Just to remind us they’re still around, I guess.

We see Cersei choosing violence, happily unleashing her Frankenstein monster on the religious people who held her.

Then the editing picks up tempo and we only get glimpses.  There’s Arya being punched (?).  There's Littlefinger.  I think I see Theon and Brienne, and the Red Lady taking off her shirt. Is that Arya making a big jump?  Did I catch Tormund?  I think I see the King’s Guard attacking the Sept.   And is that Bran having what I assume is a vision of the Night’s King?

Now things slow down a bit and we come back to Davos, ready to get violent--probably to save Jon Snow, or at least his body.  I think most people are guessing Davos and Melisandre, leaderless for the first time, are going to back Jon Snow.  Though why?  They were wholly devoted to Stannis.  Mel may believe in visions, but not Ser Onion.  Is this a way to avenge Stannis?  To bring him back?  To save the world?

We'll know is six weeks, I guess.  Anyway, that's it.   Pretty action packed for a minute and forty seconds.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016


This is not  . . . where we stuff the ballot box, okay?”

No, it's completely different. It's where the public have overwhelmingly rejected you in favor of others, and you think you are going to win by acclamation.

God willing and the creek don't rise, today will give us more clarity that does not include vain Midwestern governors.

Did I miss @ShallowObama?

Words And Music

Having recently read Ethan Mordden's new book on Sondheim, I thought I would tackle a couple of older book on the same subject.  So I went to my library and checked out Art Isn't Easy: The Theater Of Stephen Sondheim by Joanne Gordon, and Sondheim On Music: Minor Details And Major Decisions by Mark Eden Horowitz.  They may just be the best books on the work of Sondheim.

Art Isn't Easy (the title is taken from a lyric in Sunday In The Park With George) is probably the most comprehensive guide to Sondheim's shows.  Published in 1992, it ends with Assassins, and thus doesn't include Passion or Road Show, but every other major work of Sondheim is represented, most getting a full chapter.

Gordon takes us through each show literally song by song, concentrating on the lyrics (which are liberally excerpted) but also commenting on the music.  She's done her homework and has solid insights, explaining how Sondheim fits his art around the character and plot--how his songs are little plays themselves.  She may be a bit too laudatory, but then, who would go through such a project if she didn't love Sondheim to begin with?

Gordon's book is fairly rigorous, but I could still recommend it to the general reader.  Sondheim On Music, however, requires technical knowledge, and probably would be of limited interest to those who can't read music.

Horowitz is a music specialist from the Library of Congress, and he's gone through Sondheim's working manuscripts.  The books is a lengthy interview with Sondheim on what his intent was, often asking the composer to explain what personal notations in the music mean.  (The interview is only half the book, actually.  There's a short section listing songs Sondheim wishes he'd written, and a lengthy list compiled by Horowitz of Sondheim songs, listing different recorded versions and publications.  But it's the interview that's of the greatest interest.)

The interview is a fascinating look at a composer's mind.  Sondheim has often been called cold, even calculating, in his music, and while that's not entirely fair, it is true that he tends to see his scores as puzzles to be solved.  He believes content dictates form, so each show has to have certain types of tunes and certain types of words to fit the situation.

For example, Company is contemporary.  Follies includes a lot of pastiche of older Broadway composers while Assassins uses different styles based on the era of the character.  Pacific Overtures starts simple and gets more complex and Western as the world invades Japan.  Sunday In The Park With George starts with single notes the way Georges Seurat worked with dabs of paint.  And so on.

Horowitz reproduces many of Sondheim's sketches and the two discuss what's going on--character themes, leitmotifs and so on.  The biggest problem for me is the main discussion is of Passion, Assassins, Into The Woods, Sunday In The Park With George, Sweeney Todd and Pacific Overtures.  Fine shows, but I'd just as soon hear about A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Anyone Can Whistle, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music and Merrily We Roll Along.  Maybe Horowitz can do a sequel.  (Actually, most of those titles are earlier shows, so let's call it a prequel.)

Monday, March 07, 2016

Democrat donor refutes charges of liberal bias

Disney CEO Bob Iger Defends ABC News Over Accusations of Liberal Bias

Ninety New Minutes

There are a couple new TV shows I just sampled, very unalike.

First there's a sitcom on ABC, The Real O'Neals.  It's about a perfect Irish Catholic family that turns out to be not so perfect.  One kid's a thief, another is anorexic, another is gay.  Plus the mom and dad are planning to get divorced.

The mom is played by Martha Plimpton, the dad by Jay R. Ferguson (Stan of Mad Men, without a beard).  The gay son, who narrates the show, is Noah Galvin, who I've never seen before.

The cast is game and the writing is slick, but there's no inspiration.  I already watch two ABC family sitcoms, The Middle and Modern Family.  If I don't have room for The Goldbergs and Black-ish, I don't think I'll have room for The Real O'Neals.

Then there's Hap And Leonard, a gritty six-episodes miniseries on the Sundance Channel.  It's based on characters from a series of novels by Joe R. Lansdale that I've never read.  As far as I can gather, the action is set in the late 80s, and the two title characters are close friends who've known each other since they were kids.  One's white and one's black, and both are working class types who get involved in sometimes unsavory adventures.

Also, Leonard (Michael K. Williams) is gay, but Hap (James Purefoy) isn't.  Still they both love each other, and argue and fight just like lots of buddy-buddy couples do.

Into their life comes Hap's ex-wife Trudy (Christina Hendricks), who still holds tremendous attraction for Hap, though Leonard thinks she's bad news.  Her latest beau knows of a million dollars in cash that was lost under a bridge years ago.  (We know it's true since the chase that led to it all was the opening scene.)  Sure enough, Hap and Leonard get involved, and Trudy introduces them to a pack of guys who are in on the plan. (Though how much plan is there?  You either locate the money or you don't.)

Then there's also a creepy guy with a bizarre girlfriend who seems to be on the trail of these people, though it's not clear what their plan is.  The guy is played by Jimmi Simpson, who is Hollywood go-to guy when they want someone creepy.

The show has action, but is mostly about the characters, especially Hap and Leonard.  The larger mission will take the entire miniseries to unfold, I assume.  In that way, it's not unlike the first season of True Detective.  The dialogue isn't as good, but the main characters are interesting enough that I suppose I'll stick around for a while.

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