Friday, March 31, 2017

Nancy Says

Not too long ago we had a discussion about a certain cola. Is it called "R.C." or "Royal Crown"?

I did a little digging, and according to Nancy Sinatra, either is fine.



Thursday, March 30, 2017

Money Chase

I'd like to write something today, but I just got a very important email I have to deal with.   Here's what it says:

Αs Ρart οf ουr secυrity measυres, ωe regυlarly υpdate all accουnts οn ουr database system. We are υnable tο υpdate yουr οnline accουnt and therefοre ωe ωill be clοsing yουr οnline accουnt tempοrarily tο enable the υpgrade.

Το Ρreνent an interrυptiοn ωith yουr Chαse serνices, Ρlease take a feω mοments tο υpdate yουr accουnt by filling ουt the νerificatiοn fοrm manυally.

Then it's got something for me to click on so I can log in to my account.  So I'd love to stay and chat, but this is too big to ignore.  We'll talk later.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Horror And The Haha

I recently saw The Last Laugh, a documentary about how humor has been derived from Nazis and the Holocaust.  The filmmakers interviewed a lot of comedians, including Mel Brooks, Gilbert Gottfried and Sarah Silverman. (Silverman has done a lot of Holocaust humor, but then, that's pretty much her act--a cute girl who says outrageous things, seemingly unaware they're offensive.)

They talked about what's okay and what isn't. Ironically, the one thing most of the comedians agreed is offensive was Roberto Benigni's Life Is Beautiful.  Perhaps you remember the plot--a father and his little son are sent to a concentration camp, and the father fools the son into thinking it's all a game.  (To add to the irony, Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, also interviewed, if offended by almost everything else, but loves Life Is Beautiful.)

The film was a big hit, and won three Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Benigni.  I've never felt strongly about it either way, but I can see the problem.  While the film features plenty of comedy, the story doesn't work unless you take the threat of the Nazis seriously.  But the film ends up prettifying the Holocaust--the father and son would have had it much harder.  A schmaltzy story inside the greatest horror of modern times is an odd mix.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Food Fun

I recently watched Chaplin's Modern Times with some friends.  I'd noticed in the past how often Chaplin uses food in his comedy (for instance, the two most famous bits in The Gold Rush are about food--cooking and eating his shoe, and the Oceana Roll), but I'd never noticed just how much in Modern Times.

Every sequence (or faction, as Chaplin called them) of the film has food gags.

--the opening section in the factory has Chaplin subjected to the feeding machine

--in jail, he ingests the "nose powder" while eating his lunch

--Paulette Goddard is introduced stealing bananas, and then meets Chaplin after stealing some bread

--Chaplin and the minister's wife drink tea and their stomachs gurgle

--Chaplin goes into a cafeteria and eats a whole bunch of food so he can get arrested

--his dream of life with Paulette is mostly built around food gags, such as picking fruit just outside his window and getting milk directly from a cow

--as a night watchman in a department store he serves Paulette large amounts of food and later gets drunk with burglars

--when he and the girl live in a shack, there are gags about the meat and bread they eat

--when he works at the factory again, he feeds lunch to his boss who's stuck in the machinery

--his last job is as a waiter in a café, where he creates his own Swiss cheese and had several gags with a roast duck

I'm not trying to make any deep claims, like Chaplin never forgot his days of hunger as a child. I'm not saying other clowns didn't work in similar areas.  But I am saying you'd have to go pretty far to find another comedy that has so much of it built around food.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Good Morning Starshine

Former astronaut Alan Bean, who walked on the Moon, believes that aliens haven't come to Earth and there's a reason.

One of reasons I don't believe they have been here is that civilizations that are more advanced are more altruistic and friendly — like Earth, which is better than it used to be — so they would have landed and said 'we come in peace and we know from our studies you have cancer that kills people, we solved that problem 50 years ago, here's the gadget we put on a person's chest that will cure it, we will show you how to make it'.

Bean believes there are alien civilizations, many far more advanced than we are, but  is it that they don't think we're ready yet for them to appear?

Look, I've watched Star Trek, I know all about the Prime Directive and all that.  But if there's an alien civilization out there that is altruistic, knows how to get here and knows how to cure serious diseases, then they're just being jerks if they haven't shown up yet.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday, Sunday

Tonight is the fourth episode of Feud, the miniseries dealing with the fight between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis when they made Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?.  I thought it was a pretty thin concept, and would descend too easily into camp.

To my surprise, I'm quite enjoying it.  The creators, including Ryan Murphy of Glee fame, know the story inside-out and care about what happened.  And Jessica Lange as Crawford, Susan Sarandon as Davis and Alfred Molina as director Robert Aldrich are doing good work.

It's odd how so many of the top dramas seem to be scheduled on Sunday.  Maybe it started with The Sopranos, but now it seems to be the rule.  And what this means is I've got way too many shows to watch Sunday night.

None of them are must-see, exactly, like Game Of Thrones is (and will be once again when the new season starts this summer).  But still, it's quite a list.  Along with Feud, these past few weeks I've been watching, Homeland (my favorite of the night), Billions, The Walking Dead and Big Little Lies, not to mention half hours including Family Guy, Crashing and John Oliver's show.

This adds up to over six hours of (alleged) viewing pleasure.  And it doesn't even include 60 Minutes, or the silent and foreign films TCM airs on Sundays, or the sitcoms they show on the channels that feature old show, all of which I occasionally check out.

Of course, I don't watch them all on Sunday.  Everything is repeated, and available On Demand.  So I watch a few of them Sunday night and try to catch up with the rest later in the week..  Which means I spend more time on the internet avoiding finding out what happened on TV than finding out what happened.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Super Duper

Last week I paid tribute to Bob Holiday, who played the title role on Broadway in "It's A Bird...It's A Plane...It's Superman".  Since then I've been listening to the original cast album quite a bit.  The show was not a hit, but apparently a lot of people have fond memories of it based on the testimonials I've seen on the internet.

Anyway, thought I'd post some more of the show's songs.  Last time I concentrated on material featuring Holiday, but the numbers are distributed pretty equally among the cast.

For instance, Patricia Marand as Lois Lane gets several solos. I think my favorite is "It's Superman," taking the show's anthem and turning it into a lament.



Then there's Jack Cassidy as Max Mencken.  Cassidy had already won a Tony when he did this show (and wife Shirley Jones had won an Oscar) and he is, nominally, the lead.  Max is a heel who gets to show off his oily style and impressive pipes in a few numbers.  Maybe his best is when he's trying to make some time with Lois (and failing).



Max Mencken hates Superman, but the top villain in the show is Dr. Abner Sedgwick, played by Michael O'Sullivan. Not as good a singer as the rest of the cast, but he explains himself pretty well in this number.



Finally, the most famous song from the show--really the only one that's had a life outside it.  It's sung by Linda Lavin, who plays Sydney, Max Mencken's girl Friday. The song works on its own, but is even more effective in context.  Her character, rebuffed by Max, looks at generally unnoticed Clark Kent and sees a fixer upper. She's essentially trying to undress him, which not only shocks his sense of propriety, but threatens worse--if she unbutton his shirt and finds that red S underneath, his cover is blown.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Cast Out

I was recently watching Cast Away (2000), a huge hit for Tom Hanks (and the last time he was nominated for an Oscar).  This time around something stuck out that I'm sure didn't occur to anyone when they made it.

I assume you know the story--after a plane crash he gets stuck on an island in the middle of the ocean.  He works for Federal Express, and many of their packages wash ashore.  He opens them all but one--it keeps him going knowing he's got something to deliver if he ever gets back.  (Kind of silly, but okay).

So he finally gets off the island and at the end of the film delivers the package.  He's driving away and stops at a crossroads, trying to figure where to go next.  (I guess it's a metaphor, but I ignore them in films.)

The woman who owns the place he just delivered to drives by and gives him some directions.  And it occurred to me this looks really weird today. Anyone under, say, 20, might have trouble figuring out his problem.  Everyone has GPS on their phones now.  No one needs to look at a map to figure out which way to turn.

The last shot of the film is his looking in the direction of the woman.  Will he go after her?  All I know is GPS would have ruined the ending.

Been there, pal, been there

Periodical cicadas emerge only briefly to mate, lay eggs and die.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Let's Skip Over That

A pointless article entitled "5 Most Politically Incorrect 'Seinfeld' Moments" starts with this line:

NBC's "Seinfeld" did far more than introduce "yada yada yada" into the lexicon.

I can't believe how often I've heard this.

Seinfeld may have popularized the phrase "yada yada yada," but it was around a long time before the show aired.

In fact, not only do I remember a friend of mine using "yada yada" in the 1980s--I remember being charmed by how old-fashioned the phrase sounded back then.

But you know what they say--nothing happens until it happens on television.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

March (And Other Months') Madness

Basketball is a weird sport in that essentially nothing matters until the final quarter.  The score bounces up an down, but it's usually close enough that it's decided near the end.  A goal in hockey, a run in baseball, a touchdown or even field goal in football makes a different early on, but 50 or 60 or 80 points scored early in basketball--who cares?

Unfortunately, this leads to the worst thing in basketball--the final two minutes.  Now both coaches have a good idea of what's needed, and the fun of the game is lost.  The coach that's ahead wants to waste time, while the coach that's behind needs to score fast and then get the ball from the other team.

What this leads to are lots of fouls and endless (they seem endless) timeouts so the coach can discuss the latest strategy, while the game practically grinds to a halt.  And usually it's pointless.  If you're behind by 15 points with 1:40 left it's over, stop playing like it matters.  Even if you're behind 8 points with 30 seconds left it's over.  But the fans have to wait forever for the game to finish.

I'd like to change the rules to get things moving.  How about this:

First, only one timeout allowed in the last five minutes of the game.  (And maybe none in the last two mintues.)

Then, a different foul structure in the last two minutes.  First foul, you keep whatever situation you're in.  But then future fouls--if they're intentional--give the team that's been fouled an option (or maybe not even an option, since that might slow up the game)--they can have the normal foul shooting situation, or they can take one foul shot and retain possession.  The other team, as far as I'm concerned, is just gaming the rules to get the ball back, so let's deny them what they want most and play this game all the way through like it's normal.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Bangin'

After a lot of negotiation, The Big Bang Theory has been renewed for seasons 11 and 12.  For a while I wondered if the people behind it wouldn't just say "we've done enough, time to move on."

But it's still the biggest hit CBS (or any network) has (especially taking the demos into account), so what were they to do?  Some people like to go out on top, but others like to keep on going until it's definitely over.  It's hard to imagine making that much money, but it's also hard to imagine giving it up when you don't have to.

The central five stars have been re-signed, though the two "junior" cast members, Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch, are still working out their new contracts with CBS.  I'm sure they'll come to some sort of agreement. (Though I'm intrigued--how much leverage do they have?  They are regular cast members and it would be hard to write them out, but CBS knows they've got to be pretty happy with the money they're already making.)

There's also going to be a spinoff called Young Sheldon, which sounds awful.  Sheldon, unquestionably the breakout character, works fine playing off the ensemble, but I don't want to see him surrounded by new characters, I don't want to see his "origin" and I don't want him played by a new actor.

Still, who knows?  I recall, a decade ago, seeing a huge billboard near where I live advertising this new show called The Big Bang Theory. It featured the three leads, Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons.  And I remember thinking "isn't it sad?--here are these young actors all excited about landing a network sitcom, and by the end of the year they'll probably be canceled and forgotten."

Monday, March 20, 2017

What Does S Stand For?

In the LA Weekly, Hillel Aron has a piece about the crushing defeat of Measure S in the recent election.  He tries to analyze its meaning.

This is pointless. Being a citizen here, I can guarantee him no one had any idea what Measure S was about.  We got about 100 mailers calling it either a disaster or something that will save the city.  And most of the material was against.  We could vaguely tell it dealt with development in some way, but that was it.

But that doesn't stop Hillel:

...the rejection of Measure S is a watershed moment in the history of Los Angeles, a confirmation that the city wants to become more urbanized, more dense, less reliant on the automobile, more inclusive and, perhaps, a more unified city.

This is a litany of nonsense.  No one understood Measure S, so you can't read anything into how people voted.  When people are unsure, they vote no.  But even if Measure S read "do you agree with everything Hillel Aron says in that quote above," and they voted Yes, Aron's claims would still be nonsense.

Here's what people want, no matter how they vote, no matter what Hillel thinks:  They want a better home or apartment.  They want their mortgage or rent to be lower.  They want more space.  And they want less traffic, especially so they can enjoy their automobiles more. (They also wouldn't mind better mass transit while enjoying their automobiles.)

It's bad enough we get stupid Measures that no one understands.  If people start thinking the vote actually means something, it'll only make things worse.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Ultimate

It's funny but just last week I was telling a friend it's surprising how many rock greats from its early days are still around.  Sure, Buddy Holly died young, and so did Elvis, but Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino are still around.

Heading that list, actually, was Chuck Berry, who just passed away at 90.  He was the greatest of all the originators.  He sang, played guitar, knew how to put on a show, and, above all, was rock and roll's greatest songwriter.  He created the template that so many followed--it's hard to imagine the Beach Boys, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and so many others being what they were if Chuck hadn't come first.  If I had to name a single person most important in inventing rock, it would be Berry.

I don't know what's the first song of his I listened to, but I do remember the first time I heard "Johnny B. Goode." I was at some sort of outdoor fair and the song was blasting over the PA.  It stopped me in my tracks.  I loved the rock, of course, but what really got to me were the lyrics.  They flowed so well, and were so entertaining they almost made me laugh.  Chuck Berry was really the best lyricist ever in rock--I don't think anyone since has topped him.

I've paid tribute to him many time before, and, with a heavy heart, it's time to do it one more time.  Trouble is, you don't know where to start, and you don't know when to stop.












Saturday, March 18, 2017

PG Rated

Here's an interview with P. G. Wodehouse in The Paris Review.  (Done when he was well into his 90s.)  I read a lot of Wodehouse in law school.  It was literally comic relief.

He's one of the best comic writers in the English language.  He may not be the deepest, but he sure knows how to keep you reading.

Here's part of the reason, according to the man himself:

...always get to the dialogue as soon as possible.  I always feel the thing to go for is speed.  Nothing puts the reader off more than a great slab of prose at the start.  I think the success of every novel--if it's a novel of action--depends on the high spots.  The thing to do is to say to yourself, "Which are my big scenes?" and then get every drop of juice out of them.  The principle I always go on in writing a novel is to think of the characters in terms of actors in a play.  I say to myself, if a big name were playing the part, and if he found that after a strong first act he had practically nothing to do in the second act, he would walk out.  Now, then, can I twist the story so as to give him plenty to do all the way through?  I believe the only way a writer can keep himself up to the mark is be examining each story quite coldly before he starts writing it and asking himself if it is all right as a story.  I mean, once you go saying to yourself, "This is a pretty weak plot as it stands, but I'm such a hell of a writer that my magic touch mill make it okay," you're sunk. If they aren't in interesting situations, characters can't be major characters, not even if you have the rest of the troop talk their heads off about them.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Near Miss

I was watching an episode of What's My Line? aired some time in the 1950s.  A female guest signed in and host John Daly asked "Is it Miss or Mrs.?"

I watched with the Closed Captioning on, and the CC typist decided to spell it rather than use an abbreviation, so we got "Is it Miss or Misses?"

Misses?  Daly wasn't asking if she was one or more than one unmarried young woman.

It's spelled "missus," though I suppose you don't see it that much in print these days.  Perhaps the typist was too young to know.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The King Of Cola

I was asked to bring soft drinks to a party recently, and something occurred to me in the grocery store--I didn't see any Royal Crown Cola.  Not that I was planning to buy it.  Which is maybe the problem.

I assume it's available if I look for it, but it's not like Coke or Pepsi, which you have to try to avoid.

Even years ago, back when I drank cola on a semi-regular basis, I rarely had RC.  (Was it just as unavailable then?)

But I remember when I was at the University of Chicago.  Sometimes we'd go to Harold's Chicken Shack, and they had a cola machine that only offered RC.

So I would buy it, and perhaps my palate is poor, but I couldn't tell the difference.  How did it become such a poor third to the Big Two?

I also wonder, did Harold have some sort of deal with Royal Crown, because I don't think I've seen it in too many other vending machines.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hopeless

I was reading this year's Hollywood edition of Vanity Fair, where they publish a bunch of fancy celebrity photos by Annie Leibowitz with accompanying text from James Wolcott.  And I ran into this:

"Help us, Oba-Wan Kenobi--you're our only hope," went the distress call beamed to Earth into the distant heavens after the election of Donald Trump, but no answer has been forthcoming.

He then goes on to discuss the deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. 

So as part of a celebrity obit, inside a piece that's pure glamor, he couldn't help himself.  He's got to drag Trump in for an easy slam.  Even if his audience were in complete sympathy with his partisanship (and they're not, not even Vanity Fair readers), why do it?  I would hope that even the most virulently anti-Trump people would occasionally say "enough, there are other things in life."

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

It's Name Is

Legion has already aired five times, but I gave up after the second episode.  Based on a Marvel comic I haven't read, I decided to check it out because it's from Noah Hawley, who does the television version of Fargo.

Legion is about a man who's been in psychiatric hospitals since he was a kid.  He's diagnosed as schizophrenic though actually he's not crazy, but has all sorts of powers emanating from his mind.  The government has been watching him, trying to exploit his abilities, while a secret society rescues him to try to help him and harness his powers for good.

Or something like that.  The story, shooting back and forth through time, and fantasy versus reality, is so intricate I could barely follow it.  That's why I stopped.

Of course, if I cared more about the characters, I'd have stuck with it. Instead, it plays as yet another X-Men tale, but with lots of flashy, alienating technique when I could have used quieter scenes of people just acting like regular people.

The first season will be over by the end of the month.  Maybe if I hear enough good things, I'll give it another chance, but for now, no thanks.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Holiday

I just found out the Bob Holiday died earlier this year.  You've probably never heard of him, but to me, and quite a few Broadway fans, he was Superman.  He played the title role in the 1966 musical It's A Bird...It's A Plane...It's Superman!

He might be remembered better if the show hadn't flopped.  It had a lot of talent behind it--produced and directed by Harold Prince, it featured songs by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, a book by Robert Benton and David Newman, and starred, among others, Jack Cassidy and Linda Lavin.

Some say it failed because of timing.  Prince had been planning the show for years.  It was a fun, 1960s pop art version of Superman.  However, by the time it opened in March 1966, the Batman TV show had just debuted, stealing its thunder.

Anyway, we've still got the very lively cast album, with as good a score as Strouse and Adams ever turned out.  It shows how evenly distributed the songs are--all six main characters each get their moments to shine.  But today, let's listen to material that features Holiday.






Sunday, March 12, 2017

Not This Day In History

Don't ask me why, but I was looking at some old posts and hit this one.

For those of you who don't like to click on links (and I'm with you on that), it's from September 2006, and it discusses two similar shows NBC would soon be premiering--Tina Fey's 30 Rock and Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip.

We now know what happened.  30 Rock, if not a gigantic hit, was a beloved show, running seven years and winning multiple Emmys.  Studio 60 was an expensive flop.

So that's why I get the cheap thrill of enjoying the one comment made at the time (by anonymous, and glad to be so):

Prediction: Sorkin's show will be picked up, Fey show will bomb immediately.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Saturday Night At The Movies

Hey, looks at this.  Eraserhead is getting it's first theatrical release in Russia (along with a few other David Lynch titles).

It's my favorite David Lynch movie, and one of my favorites in general.  But I'm not sure how I'd prepare the audience.  It's spooky, but isn't a horror film.  It's funny, but is definitely not a comedy.  It's surreal, but does follow a plot (of sorts).

Just go in and be open to the experience.  And don't treat it like Rocky Horror or some other midnight movie--there may be an audience around you, but this is a very personal film that individuals have to experience in their own way.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Timely

I was thinking about time travel.  Imagine you're transported back to September 10, 2001.

I assume you'd want to warn the government about the attacks that are about to happen.  But how would you do it?  How could you warn them in a way that would have them take notice, rather than ignore you, or write you off as a nut?

And as a secondary question, is there any way you could provide enough information without having officials think that you must have been in on it?

Sometimes I think time travel is more trouble than it's worth.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Raining Money

I recently watched Rain Man (1988).  A memorable performance by Dustin Hoffman---the film either succeeds or fails based on whether his character plays.  He deserved his Best Actor Oscar (though the protagonist of the film is Tom Cruise as Hoffman's brother--he's the one with the arc).  I wonder how much came from Hoffman, how much from director Barry Levinson, how much from the screenplay?

But one sequence still confuses me.  The boys are driving across the country and they stop in Vegas.  Cruise realizes Hoffman, with his mathematical brain, can count cards.  So he hocks his watch and they go to the blackjack table, where he makes enough to cover his debts (which have been driving the plot).

Except that just having a guy sitting at the table next to you, generally letting you know what cards are left, isn't a very efficient way to count cards.  Sure, you might get lucky in the short run, but the film treats it as if it's a sure thing.

Then we see casino security taking notice, and saying amongst themselves that Cruise isn't counting cards because no one can keep track of a six-deck show.

1)  Actually, it's not that hard to keep track of a six-deck shoe, since most systems will just have a running count divided by the number of decks left to get a true count--you don't have to know every card.

2)  Cruise's betting patterns along (upping the bet when the odds are good) would probably be enough to give away he's counting.  (If he's not upping the bet when the odds are good, then he has no particular advantage.)

3)  Cruise and Hoffman talk at the table out loud about what sort of cards are left, so that pretty much gives away the game.

Later, Cruise meets with the casino manager who tells him he has to leave. (This is necessary for the plot--if he's not barred, why not stick around and make millions?) Cruise acts offended, and says how dare they accuse him of illegal activity.  Except card counting is not illegal (though using a device to help you count might be).  The casino could bar him from playing, yes, but they couldn't have him arrested.

PS  Hoffman's character has certain rituals he needs to perform to get by.  One is watching Judge Wapner (RIP) at a certain time every day.  Fine, except that show was syndicated.  As they travel across the country, wouldn't it play at different times, if at all?

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

It's Over

Yesterday was election day here in Los Angeles.  I have no idea what happened, but I do know this--it's over.

I'd been getting political garbage in my mail for weeks, and near the end it was about ten mailers a day.  I'd toss them immediately, but it was still annoying.

Worse, much worse, were the phone calls. In the past week or so, I got about twenty--from teachers, from police, from people I don't even know--telling me how to vote.  Under the best circumstances, this is aggravating, but when it wakes you up from a nap, something must be done.

But there's nothing to do, except wait till Tuesday is over and the pain passes.

Oh yeah, we'll be getting some new officials and some new laws, but that's just the way is goes.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

The Osborne

Let's say goodbye to Robert Osborne

If it just showed great old movies with no commercials, TCM would be the best channel on TV.  But that it also had such a charming host for so many years, made it that much better.

Whether he was doing an introduction, or an interview, you could tell Osborne both loved classic Hollywood (and other) film, but knew it inside out.  He was the perfect mixture of fan and expert.

They have other hosts on the channel, but they'll never replace him.


Monday, March 06, 2017

Merchantilism

If you're a working actor making movies, you have no control over when the movie opens, or even if it opens at all.  Once the shoot is over, you're done, unless you're called back to do promotion.

So I wonder how Stephen Merchant felt this weekend when two of his projects opened, Logan and Table 19.  The first is a huge hit, the second a barely-noticed flop.  Merchant does major supporting work in both, and he may be proud of both.  But does he have mixed feelings?

Of course, for every person who sees Table 19, where he looks like himself, there are 50 who'll see Logan, where he's almost unrecognizable under his makeup.  Yet I bet a lot of his friends, and people on the street, for that matter, are congratulating him on Logan, not even aware he's in something else.  (I'm talking about the release dates in America.  Merchant is British, and I'm not sure where he lives, or even if he's been doing much publicity lately.)

So congratulations.  If you average the two films, they did pretty well.

Lost in translation

"I won't make comparisons but here, people don't have access to guns. Here, you don't have people with guns opening fire on the crowd simply for the satisfaction of causing drama and tragedy,"

Tell it to the Bataclan.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

We Need More Variety

I don't have much to say about Trump claiming he was wiretapped, or whatever.  But this coverage in The Hollywood Reporter is weird.

First, of course, why is this political story in The Hollywood Reporter?  Apparently, like the rest of Hollywood, they consider themselves partisans, when formerly everyone thought their job was to tell us the latest in show biz news.

Then there's the headline: "Trump Alleges, With No Evidence, Obama Wiretapped Trump Tower During Election"


That's a long headline.  Isn't there any way to shorten it?  Like sticking to the facts, and cutting the argumentative "With No Evidence"?

In fact, Trump had evidence.  The Reporter could say it was questionable evidence, or insufficient evidence, or absurd evidence, but Trump didn't just make it up out of nowhere--he read about it (and it was easy enough to find what he read, though apparently the Reporter--along with their original source, the AP--didn't think it worth the effort).


Or perhaps the Reporter is saying Trump's tweets (we don't capitalize "tweet," do we?), where he made the accusations, didn't include any evidence.  True, I suppose, but barely worth noting in a headline, since the accusation is the story, tweets tend to be short, and simply saying there's no evidence could be misleading.

Then we get to Obama's response: "A spokesperson for Obama refuted Trump's claim in an official statement posted to Twitter." There's got to be a better verb than "refute." Yes, it can mean to contradict, but its main meaning is to disprove. How about "questioned" or "dismissed"?

(And then you read the statement, which doesn't say much, simply noting Obama didn't order surveillance since that's what the Department of Justice does, as if that's responsive.)


Then they go into a long section where they note all the issues regarding Trump and the Russians, which would seem tangential at best.  But suddenly the Reporter doesn't seem too interested in providing "evidence," preferring to bring up the charges against Trump.

Funny thing is, if they honestly believe Trump is making crazy claims, the best way to get that across is to report it straight.

PS  Trump also tweeted that Arnold Schwarzenegger didn't quit Celebrity Apprentice, he was fired.  The Hollywood Reporter headline: "Trump Claims Schwarzenegger Was 'Fired' From 'Celebrity Apprentice'"

Now that's a headline.  Trump, you'll note, offered no evidence for this belief, but the Reporter didn't feel the need to state that.  Perhaps they're naturally better at it when it comes to reporting show biz news.

That's just funny

If I see another 45-year-old white woman from Williamsburg saying ‘black lives matter,’ I’m going to punch you in the mouth.”

I doubt our politics coincide much, but that's a great line.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

I Always Suspected That

Here's a 1967 interview in The Paris Review of Jorge Luis Borges, one of my favorite writers from South America.  It's mostly about literature, but this quote caught my eye:

"During this century, as I say, the epic tradition has been saved for the world by, of all places, Hollywood. When I went to Paris, I felt I wanted to shock people, and when they asked me—they knew that I was interested in the films, or that I had been, because my eyesight is very dim now—and they asked me, “What kind of film do you like?” And I said, “Candidly, what I most enjoy are the Westerns.” They were all Frenchmen; they fully agreed with me. They said, 'Of course we see such films as Hiroshima mon amour, or L’Année dernière à Marienbad out of a sense of duty, but when we want to amuse ourselves, when we want to enjoy ourselves, when we want, well, to get a real kick, then we see American films.'"

Friday, March 03, 2017

Good Times, Bad Times

I recently gave a friend some Community DVDs for his birthday. (The show has been over for a while, but we're still waiting for the movie).

My favorite episode is "Remedial Chaos Theory." It's a lot to ask readers to watch the whole episode, so here are all the timelines in under three minutes:


Thursday, March 02, 2017

Ain't It The Truth?

I finally got around to reading John Lahr's Notes On A Cowardly Lion, first published in 1969. It's a biography of his father, the great clown Bert Lahr.  He had a long and varied career, though most of his best performances were on stage--his work in movies and TV was minor. In fact, if he hadn't appeared in The Wizard Of Oz, he'd probably be forgotten today.

One thing I didn't know was he took part in a theatrical experiment in 1966, when Ypsilanti (just down the street from Ann Arbor) attempted to revive ancient Greek theatre in a baseball park.  The enterprise was economically doomed, lasting four months.  But I recall hearing about it when I took a class in Greek tragedy at the University of Michigan.

Bert starred in Aristophanes' The Birds and got embroiled in a controversy.  He wanted to add certain shtick to the show, and modernize some of the lines--even ad libbing--whereas the director insisted he stick to the William Arrowsmith translation (which was not the translation he thought he'd be acting in).

Critics and academics, watching the experiment from afar, wrote about whether he had the right to do this.  Some intellectuals, like poet (and translator himself) John Ciardi, wrote that Lahr should follow the original lines, while others thought his clowning was part of a tradition.

I'm with the latter camp.  Perhaps classics written in English shouldn't be messed with (though even there, who knows--and even if Shakespeare's lines aren't changed, they can be pared down), but old work in another language needs to be translated, so why not translate it for a modern audience?

Especially Greek comedy, so obscure, and so different from comedy today. (Roman comedy we understand better.  And Greek tragedy.)  First, of course, any comedy loses a lot in translation.  Second, Aristophanes often makes timely, local references which modern audiences wouldn't understand.  Third, his style of writing, even when well-translated, doesn't necessarily play as it once did.  I like to think Aristophanes would accept changes to his work, as long as they follow the intention of what he wrote.  Aristophanes' work may have been many things to his contemporaries, but it wasn't stiff, so why should it sound like that in modern times?

By the way, it was intriguing to see the name William Arrowsmith.  Whenever our class was about to read one of his translations (he was well known for his work on Euripides), the professor would remind us that Arrowsmith was a lousy translator, forcing his interpretation of the play on the unsuspecting reader.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

The Ads Of March

There's an election out here on March 7.  For weeks now I've been getting promotional material in the mail telling me what and who to vote for.  Yesterday, I got six separate pieces--an average day, believe it or not.

It's not even that important an election--we vote for mayor, a few regulations, and the Board of Education, but from the tone of what they're sending, you'd think it's the apocalypse.  Almost all the stuff I receive attacks someone or something, telling me of the tremendous damage ahead if I don't vote correctly.

I have a simple rule--whoever sends me the most mail, I vote against. But this time they're actually sending me useful info.  There are four people running for the Board of Education, and I've received countless pieces of colored cardboard warning me that two of them actually support--gasp!-- charter schools.

This is treated as if they want to send kids to death camps.  Anyway, I now have to figure which of the two to vote for. It'd be great if they started attacking each other so I can figure out

Recursion

"Isitdownrightnow.com also appears to be down."

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