Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sometimes They Can't Pay

There's a ruckus in California as the state bar prepares new ethics rules.  The biggest bone of contention is a rule to ban all sex between lawyer and client.

Certain situations are already considered unethical--coercive sex, to pick an obvious example.  But some feel any sexual relationship is unequal, and so want to create a bright line rule.

People are making lots of jokes, but underneath is a serious matter, and a clash of world views.  There are those who see all sorts of sexual relationships as unfair and want to ban them or punish those involved.  I think a better view of relationships is, by and large, they're not anyone's business.  Sex between consenting adults should be presumed acceptable, and that presumption should only be overturned if there are excellent reasons to do so.  What the bar is suggesting is far from excellent.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Is This It?

Over the summer, on Tuesday night I'd watch a drama--Halt And Catch Fire--and a comedy--Atlanta (I guess you'd call it a comedy).  Both their seasons have ended, and now on Tuesday I watch a sitcom--either Brooklyn Nine-Nine or The Middle, both on at the same time--but have room for a drama. I know I could spend that time taking a walk or reading a book, but who are we kidding? A new Tuesday show that seems to be doing well is This Is Us, on NBC.  Is this the answer?

I recently checked out the pilot, and am now deciding if I want to put the show into regular rotation.  It starts with a bunch of separate people, all turning 36 on the same day, and taking stock.

There's Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), whose wife Rebecca (Mandy Moore) is pregnant with triplets.  Though she isn't due, she goes into labor, which pretty much takes care of their plot.

There's Randall (Sterling K. Brown), a successful businessman who decides to contact his biological father.  He's never actually met the man since he was left in front of a firehouse when he was a baby.

There's Kate (Chrissy Metz), who struggles with weight and self-esteem issues, and who decides to join a support group to deal with her problems.

There's Kevin (Justin Hartley), a successful actor on a sitcom about a male nanny, The Man-ny.  He hates the show and has a meltdown in front of a live audience, quitting.

It turns out these people are all connected. If you don't want me to spoil it, skip over the next paragraph.

We find out fairly early that Kevin and Kate are twins.  Later, we discover Jack and Rebecca's story takes place 36 years ago.  She loses one of the babies and the two that survive are Kevin and Kate. On top of that, Randall is brought into the hospital by a fireman and Jack and Rebecca decide to adopt him.

The pilot was well-written and acted. Apparently it's hooked an audience, since its ratings have held up.  The question is do I want to sign on.  A series can be a real commitment, and the show threatens to go into soap opera territory if they don't watch out.  I'm also not thrilled by the double-timeline.

The show was created by Dan Fogelman, which is a bit of a surprise, since I've generally associated him with half-hour comedy.  Over the past few years he was responsible for the odd but likeable shows The Neighbors and Galavant.  (He also created Pitch, a new show I'm not watching.) Those shows were wacky, and This Is Us, good or bad, is a family drama, though it does have humor.

I suppose I'll try another episode or two.  But if it gets too much like a soap opera, I'll just wait until the next season of Halt And Catch Fire.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Least needed column ever

Where Republicans Go From Here By Jeb Bush

Second least:

Thanks, But No Thanks

Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving. It's one of American greatest traditions.

But in the last few decades, we've got a new tradition than I don't appreciate as much--the Thanksgiving sitcom episode.  I don't recall that many Thanksgiving shows from the early years of TV, but since the 80s or so, it seems most shows with a decent run throw in a salute to the holiday, sometimes an annual one.

Who doesn't love a Thanksgiving meal?  But the whole point of a sitcom is something goes wrong, so, predictably, every Thanksgiving episode ends up with the food ruined. Either the turkey isn't ready on time (the most common problem), or there is no turkey, or the all the food is missing, or there's a food fight, or whatever.  I find this frustrating.  Maybe it's too easy to relate to, especially around the time of year when all Americans are enjoying the Thanksgiving bounty. (And then, to add insult to injury, a lot of these episodes end up with everyone learning important lessons and being thankful anyway.)

I can think of quite a few Thanksgiving episodes, but very few I find satisfying. The only one I'd say is considered a classic is "Turkeys Away" from the first season of WKRP In Cincinnati.  The plot, as you may recall, involves a radio promotion where live turkeys are dropped on a shopping center from a helicopter--trouble is, turkeys can't fly.

PS  There are also a lot of Halloween episodes, but for some reason, those work better.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Never Went To College

They're still counting the votes in the Presidential election.  Hillary Clinton is now ahead by over 2 million votes (so she has a plurality but not a majority).  I still don't get where all these votes are coming from and why they're taking so long to count.

It's unlikely new votes will overturn any single state. Of the states Trump won, the closest is Michigan, and he's still ahead by 12,000 votes there.  Though if there are a bunch of outstanding votes from Detroit, who knows?  He'd still have a reasonable lead in the Electoral College even if he lost Michigan.

Which brings us to EC news.  There's a claim that at least six Electors are planning to not vote for the candidate their state chose. (The linked article, if I read it correctly, implies these are Trump electors, but wouldn't it make more sense that these people are Democrats?--is the reporter a Hillary fan who's messing with us?)  If the Electoral College vote were closer, faithless Electors would be a mind-bogglingly huge deal.

One Elector says:

The Founding Fathers created the Electoral College as the last line of defense, and I think we must do all that we can ensure that we have a Reasonable Republican* candidate who shares our American values.

I'm not entirely sure why the Founders created the Electoral College, though I'm guessing the reasons weren't that strongly related to the system as we have it today.

Many are saying this election will make people look at changing how we elect Presidents.  Perhaps, but scrapping the Electoral College would require constitutional reform, and I can't imagine small states would agree to give up the extra power this system confers upon them.

There are end-runs around the Electoral College that don't require constitutional amendments, but the point here is that it's mostly the losers who want to change the system. (I don't personally have any strong opinion on what to do either way.)  The irony is if they ever get the change they want, it may mean they lose in the other direction.

Actually, I'm wondering if there'll be a counter-reform movement.  Just who are all these Electors who think they can ignore the will of the people?  States can set their own rules, so maybe they'll make a serious fine for Electors who don't vote as the people direct them--say, a million dollars, that they must pay and no one else?  Or real jail time--how about a year in the big house?

The only reform I want is a system where votes are counted faster. I don't like the idea of boxes of uncounted votes lying around in a close election.  If they're not all counted within 24 hours, toss 'em.  Or how about this?  Any vote not counted the night of the election becomes less and less potent each day.  After 24 hours, it's counted as half a vote, then a third of a vote, then a quarter vote, and so on.  That'll light a fire under the vote counters.

*"Reasonable" is capitalized in the article.  I don't know if the Elector told the reporter to do this, or if "Reasonable Republican" is some sort of trademarked thing.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Let No Man Tear Asunder

French President Francois Hollande, perhaps unwittingly, raises an interesting question.  Discussing the Paris Agreement on climate change, which Barack Obama helped to negotiate, and which has been ratified by many countries, he states:

"The agreement was historic.  But what we must say here is this agreement is irreversible."

He's worried, of course, that Donald Trump will back out of the deal.  Any worldwide agreement on the environment without U.S. support is, if not entirely meaningless, a lot less useful.

I think Hollande may be confusing the Agreement with climate change.  It may be too late to do anything about the latter (though the Paris Agreement assumes it isn't), but the Agreement itself is man-made, and can be tossed out by any country with the will to do it.  There may be consequences (not just environmental ones, but political ones), but there are consequences to any big decisions, including signing on to the agreement in the first place.

The first question Americans may ask is did Congress assent to the agreement.  No--as far as I can recall, President Obama bypassed the Senate and did this on his own.  And this is where we get to the interesting question.  Can a President do something on his own that commits the U.S. to a policy irrevocably, or can the next President start anew, picking his own policies and tossing out the old ones?

In general, as far as I understand, the new President is not bound by unilateral decisions made by the old President.  There may be certain things hard to get rid of--something completed, like a monument. And it may be bad policy to change too many things, since the public relies on a certain consistency.  But any ongoing policy (even if other countries are relying on it) can be overturned.  If the previous President didn't want anyone to touch what he did, he should have gone to Congress and gotten a law passed, or a treaty ratified.  (Even that is no guarantee--laws can be overturned, and even constitutional amendments can be undone.)

Hollande knows this, of course. So his tough talk comes across more as desperation.  I don't know what Trump will do when he takes office, but I don't imagine he'll be impressed by Hollande's claim.  In fact, I don't think a stern lecture will get to Trump--perhaps a personal plea to his vanity makes more sense.

Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl

Grammar is your friend and diction is a close cousin:

"Your Majesty I am returning this MBE in protest against Britain's involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against Cold Turkey slipping down the chart.

"With love John Lennon."

Cold Turkey? He'd a been a fisherman if he could.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Owen Has A Boyfriend

I swear I'm not coming back on a regular basis. But when I see something like Owen Gleiberman's review in Variety of Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened, I have to comment.

The film is a documentary about the original production of Stephen Sondheim's cult flop Merrily We Roll Along.  Along the way, Owen notes "For my taste, it goes a little heavy on the Sondheim gush..."

I couldn't agree more.  Sondheim may be the greatest living Broadway composer, but that's no excuse for overdoing it.  But then I said to myself "isn't Gleiberman the same guy I took to task a month ago for his crush on Lin-Manuel Miranda?" Yes he was.

Here are some highlights from his previous piece: feel as thrillingly enveloped in the soul of [Miranda's vision] as you do when standing in front of a Jackson Pollock painting or reading a novel by Jane Austen.

...[Miranda's show Hamilton] has done nothing less than rewrite the way Americans think and feel about the Founding Fathers....

With his long hair and goatee and big glistening dark eyes, he looks like a softer, puppy-dog version of Al Pacino [....] He's got a gregarious smile and a bright, warm, open-for-business charisma [....] Miranda [...] gives off a glow. There's a light of insatiable eagerness inside him.

[Miranda] tosses off a rap of such savage density and insouciance, and makes it look so easy, that we're awed by his gift.  [He is] one of the five or six most virtuoso MCs in the history of hip-hop.

Whatever, Owen. Whatever.


I think in honor of LA Guy's retirement, we should replay his greatest hits both from here and the beforetime (sorry reading a lot sci-fi).

How about the lyrics to the Bankruptcy Song

There are bad times just around the corner....

Seems appropriate

An image I've been waiting 24 years to see

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