Sunday, April 30, 2017

Double CC

We're lucky in that we get two doses of the delightful Carrie Coon each week.

She was barely known to the public until a few years back, mostly being a stage actress.  But now with her work on TV as well as her memorable supporting role in Gone Girl, I think we can call her an up-and-coming star.

On Sundays, she's Nora Durst on The Leftovers.  As the woman whose whole family disappeared during the Sudden Departure, she's turned into perhaps the most compelling character on the show.  Maybe the best episode of season 1 (the weakest season) was when Nora attended a Departure conference in New York.

And just last week the show had a Nora-centric episode when she left town to visit Mark Linn-Baker--the actor playing a version of himself--who claimed he could reunite her with her children.  Now, as part of the deal, she (and the show) will travel to Australia where who knows what will happen.

Meanwhile, she's on view every Wednesday in Fargo.  Each season--as well as the original film--features a calm, smart female officer who unravels the mystery (with a Minnesota accent, you betcha). This season it's Coon's Gloria Burgle. So far, her stepfather has been killed, and not much else, but she's hot on the trail.

Interestingly, both Gloria and Nora have a similar problem--in their latest episodes, they're not noticed by electronic devices.  I suppose this means something deeper in each show.

Must be time for Alien VIII

"Ridley Scott: Aliens exist and they will come for us"

His expert advice: ""When you see a big thing in the sky, run for it," warns the veteran director. "Because they are a lot smarter than we are."

Yeah. They'll never think of that.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Birthday Announcement

Just thought I'd announce today is my birthday.



Also, I want to note that I'm still semi-retired from this blog.  I announced I was ending it last year, though I might come back when I had something to say.

So far, I've had enough of something to say on a regular basis, so it may seem like the blog is up an running like always.  Not really.

So what's the difference?  For years, no matter what, I made sure I posted something every day no matter what.  Now I just write something when I feel like it.  It may seem the same to readers, but it feels different to me.

So if you don't see something every day, or nothing for long stretches, don't be shocked.

About freaking time

"Gun Ownership, Shooting Classes Surge Among Black Women"

Next, voting Republican.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Looking Down

Perhaps some of you read this piece a year ago in Vox by Emmett Rensin--"The smug style in American liberalism."

It makes a decent case that Democrats have become too condescending in their political arguments (or "arguments"), simply calling the opposition "dumbass hicks" or the equivalent.

I agree with much of what he says, so it's odd that I get stuck on one tangential remark.

He's discussing Hamilton Nolan, who openly calls large portions of America "dumbass hicks."  Rensin quotes Nolan:

Inequality of wealth--or, if you like, the distribution of wealth in our society in a way that results in poverty--is not just one issue among many.  It is the root from which blooms nearly all major social problems.

And how does Rensin respond?

He's right about that. But who does he imagine is responsible for this inequality?  The poor?  The dumb?  The hicks?

Wow. "He's right"?  The root of our social problems is the distribution of wealth? I'd say this is essentially false--in fact, it's a notion that's the root of a lot of bad political ideas and legislation.

What's weird is how offhand Rensin is.  He's written a lengthy piece on how Democrats fail to take the other side seriously, yet he has no doubt that this claim--and it's a big, contentious claim--is accurate.  To him, this belief goes to why Democrats should try to understand the other side, because it explains the roots of their problems.

Perhaps I shouldn't take him to task for a side-note, when he at least seems to want to reach out.  But it's hard to get beyond the flawed assumption.

A new perspective on dietary laws

"Wild boars mauled three Islamic State (Isil) fighters to death near the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, according to Kurdish fighters."

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Count On Me

From a piece on the new book Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign:

"Mr. President, I'm sorry," she said, according to a Washington Post review of the book due out today.

The White House urged Mrs. Clinton to concede as Mr. Trump claimed battleground states--some by slim margins--because Mr. Obama wanted to avoid a messy recount.

They simply didn't want a messy recount?  And because the White House didn't want that, Hillary complied?

I'm certain Hillary wouldn't have minded a messy recount if she thought it could have made a difference.  Same for the White House.  If they urged her to concede, it's because it was over.

Let's recall the margin of Trump's victory.  Electorally, he won handily. The three surprise states that put Trump over the top were Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.  He could have lost any two of those (assuming no faithless electors) and still taken the Presidency.

He won Michigan by over 10,000 votes.  He won Wisconsin by over 20,000.  He won Pennsylvania by over 40,000.  Close elections, but not really recount close.

Reminds of the 1960 election, which some Republicans are still whining about.  The popular vote was close, but not the Electoral College.  Even if Chicago chicanery handed Illinois to Kennedy, that state alone wouldn't have swung the election.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Update

I should wait till the end of the year, but with 2017 one-third over (wow!), let's have a quick look at whether or not my crystal ball was cloudy.

The following are predictions I made on January 1.  My comments are in italics.
     
Domestic Politics:

The Republicans will repeal Obamacare, despite ferocious opposition from the Democrats. However, they will use half measures, not really pleasing anyone.
 
Looks like it may soon be happening, though we'll see.

Trump's first nominee to the Supreme Court will please conservatives and will be confirmed.  A contingent prediction--if the Dems try to filibuster, the Repubs will use the nuclear option.

Called it.

There will be no hearings for another Supreme Court nominee in 2017.

We'll see.  Some are saying Kennedy or Thomas should retire to let in a new person, but I ask why would they do that voluntarily?

Strong rifts will appear among the Republicans--and both Trumpians and establishment GOP will complain about certain things the Trump administration does.

I guess this is so.

Trump will have trouble getting the entire amount he wants for infrastructure.

He hasn't really tried that hard so far.

Trump will start building The Wall, but construction will go slowly.

If he's started at all, it's going very slow.

The Keystone Pipeline construction will continue apace.

Seems to be.

Trump will attempt to cut off money to sanctuary cities.

He's certainly attempted it.

Former President Obama will speak regularly in public about the direction of the country.

So far wrong.  He's been too busy enjoying himself and making money.

There will be a fair amount of civil unrest in the U.S.

I think this is true.  Perhaps depends on what is meant by unrest, but there have been huge demonstrations and certainly lots of trouble on campus.


International Politics:

Cuba will remain solidly communist.

I think so.
The U.S. will seriously consider pulling out of the UN.

I think not.  Same for NATO.

Trump will have trouble renegotiating trade treaties.

We'll see.
There will be more than one major terrorist attack.

Alas, yes.

The EU will be on the verge of falling apart.

I'd say yes, though it depends on how you define "verge."


The Economy:

By the end of the year, the Dow will be above 20000.

A decent chance.

By the end of the year, unemployment will be over 5%.

Let's hope not.

Gas prices will not be significantly higher than they are now (which is a bit over 2 bucks a gallon).

We'll see.


Sports:

The BCS Bowl will be a repeat, with Alabama defeating Clemson.

Called it. (Though is it still call the BCS Bowl?)

The Patriots will win a hard-fought Super Bowl.  (My team, the Lions, will not get past the first playoff round.)

I'm not sure if hard-fought is strong enough to describe the Patriots' comeback.

The Wolverines will take the Big Ten Conference.

We'll see.


Popular Culture:

Movies:  The Great Wall will disappoint. [correct] The Fate Of The Furious will not be as big as Furious 7[correct if you're talking domestic]  Wonder Woman won't come close to Batman V. Superman numbers.  Dunkirk will be a fiscal disappointment, as will Blade RunnerStar Wars: Episode VIII will be the highest-grossing picture of the year (including its 2018 receipts), but it won't surpass The Force Awakens.

TV: Game Of Thrones:  Season seven (with only seven episodes) will have Arya reunite with at least one sibling.  Jon Snow will not find out his real parents.  The Hound will either fight his brother or meet Arya (or both).  Dorne will support Dany.  Dany will meet Davos, or Brienne, or both.  Ser Jorah will see Khaleesi again. Samwell will become a maester. White Walkers will broach the Wall.  Littlefinger will not die.  Tyrion will not meet Cersei.  We haven't heard the last of the Iron Bank of Braavos.

The Walking Dead:  In the rest of season seven, Negan will die, Rick, Carl, Daryl, Carol, Morgan and Michonne will not. [wrong about Negan]

Better Call Saul:  Jimmy will finally become Saul.  Mike will start working for Gus. [Jimmy is taking a long time to change, but we'll see.  Mike is already working for Gus]

Oscars: Some tricky choices here.  Best Picture will come down to La La Land and Manchester By The Sea, with the former winning. [wrong, unless you go by Faye Dunaway's word] Best Director: Damien Chazelle. [yes]  Best Actor: Casey Affleck (though his personal scandals might bring him down).  [yes] Best Actress:  Very cloudy here--especially with the Adams/Huppert/Portman/Stone quartet.  I'll go with Portman, though I may change my mind later. [did change my mind, but too late]  Best Supporting Actor:  Mahershala Ali (though it won't be fair if Dev Patel is nominated, since he's the lead in the second half of the film) [yes].  Supporting Actress:  Michelle Williams or Viola Davis.  It's Davis's turn, but Williams had the more memorable crying scene. [Davis won] "City Of Stars" will take Best Song. [yes]

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Goes Good With Tomato Soup

Did you know April is grilled cheese month?  Such a simple yet satisfying sandwich.






Inside baseball

I admit this made me laugh out loud.

But really, how iconic is the first image? I wouldn't think it would be enough to sustain the joke.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Also "Racketeer"

A lot of people have been mocking Howard Dean for claiming "hate speech" isn't protected speech.  As they should, since "hate speech" is as protected as any other speech.  Dean tried to claim he was referring to the Chaplinsky case, but, as everyone knows, that's about "fighting words," which is not the same thing at all.

But let's look a bit at the case.  It's about a guy named Chaplinsky who called a city official names and was fined for using offensive language in public.  He challenged the law on First Amendment grounds but it was upheld by the Supreme Court.

And what was it he said?  Well, a couple things, but one of things he called the marshal was "a damned fascist."

Got that?  Calling someone a fascist is fighting words, and not protected by freedom of speech.

So, I assume from now on, Howard Dean and all those protesters who don't want certain people to speak on campus will show their respect for the law by no longer calling anyone a fascist.

Everything you need to know about John Kasich

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Up In The Valley

Silicon Valley, season 4, debuts tonight. You always wonder where they'll go each season, because it's a tricky concept--the guys have to always be on the verge of success, but always failing.  In fact, tonight's episode is entitled "Success Failure."

Anyway, we're just about back to full strength, TV-wise.

Homeland and a few other shows recently finished their seasons, but look what we've got: new Fargo (with a great new cast), new Better Call Saul, new The Leftovers (which just keeps getting better), new Veep, new Brooklyn Nine-nine.

That should hold me until we get to new Rick And Morty and Game Of Thrones in the summer.

In other words, no need to start reading books just yet.

Heavy snowfall with large flakes in calm wind

And I thought this was just a funny concept in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

But the revered Icelandic language, seen by many as a source of identity and pride, is being undermined by the widespread use of English, both for mass tourism and in the voice-controlled artificial intelligence devices coming into vogue. Linguistics experts, studying the future of a language spoken by fewer than 400,000 people in an increasingly globalized world, wonder if this is the beginning of the end for the Icelandic tongue.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Main Man

Cuba Gooding, Sr. has died, a week short of his 73rd birthday.

Even if his son weren't famous, we'd be mourning his death, since he was lead singer of the great soul group The Main Ingredient.



Friday, April 21, 2017

The Igster

I don't do birthday tributes like I used to, but can you believe Iggy Pop turns 70 today?












Thursday, April 20, 2017

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

So 4/20 is a big holiday for marijuana users.  For instance, there's a big celebration in Denver.

But it's not just Colorado, there are events around the country (and I guess around the world).

I don't know why 420, or 4/20, means something special.  Perhaps someone can put the weed down for a second and enlighten me.

I mean, in Ann Arbor, for decades they've had the Hash Bash, and that takes place on 4/1--a day that sort of makes sense.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Not Far To Go

A new season of Fargo starts tonight.  The idea seemed bizarre when it was announced in 2014--a mini-series inspired by the movie Fargo but with an original story. (On top of that, I didn't like the movie as much as the critics did).  But somehow it worked--in fact, was compelling.

So I'm looking forward to the new season.  Like the first two, it's written by Noah Hawley.  I have no idea what the plot will be, but Hawley's done it twice before, so why not again?

Even better, it has a cast of actors I love--Carrie Coon, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ewan McGregor, Scoot McNairy and David Thewlis (who was in The Big Lebowski--Fargo the TV shows loves to echo other Coen Brothers movies).

So unless something goes very wrong, one more hour is spoken for in my week.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Fruit-Monsters

Tomorrow is the anniversary of Charles Darwin's death.  That's just by chance, since I was going to post this anyway.

I heard an argument from an anti-evolution person. (Not personally--it was on a video.) Someone had been talking about dog breeding, and how amazing the varieties of dog were.  The anti-evolution person made the "point" that no matter how much breeding was done, you still had a recognizable dog.  In other words, I guess, just because you can get major changes, it doesn't mean one species can turn into another.

I have to ask, then, just what is this insuperable barrier between species, if you're allowed to change size, shape, color, activity and any other thing controlled by genetics?  It's true all dog breeds are dogs--no one, as far as I know, is trying to breed dog-monsters--though maybe I'm wrong about that, not really being up on dog breeding. (Didn't people breed wolves into dogs?  Or does that count?)

But while no one wants a dog-monster (I'm assuming), they're not so fastidious about fruits and vegetables.  There you breed for better eating (and perhaps certain aesthetic values).

So I was pleased to find a video that actually compares wild versions of plants with domesticated versions we eat.  In some cases, if just shown the wild version, I don't think you'd be able to guess what it became.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Moon Men

A lot of people think Monday is the worst day of the week.  I think Tuesday is--on Monday, you're well-rested and still have memories of the weekend, but by Tuesday you're tired of the week already and still have a long way to go.

No matter.  Monday comes from Moon Day.  And I just noticed something about two songs relating to the moon. (There are hundreds of songs about the moon--I bet it beats the sun and all the planets combined.)

Both are from classic rockers, and both are sort of sequels to earlier, more famous work.  Here they are, followed by a moon song that doesn't get much love.






Former Clinton adviser and Obama cabinet member Tom Bosley


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Jive Clive

I was paging through More Opening Nights On Broadway, Steven Suskin's delightful collection of excerpts from reviews of Broadway musicals 1965-1981 (and sequel to Opening Night On Broadway covering 1943 to 1964).

Here's Clive Barnes, New York Times critics, on the 1972 Phil Silver's revival of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum:

"Everyone ought to have a favorite Broadway musical.  Personally my favorite for 10 years has been A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum."

Here's Clive Barnes on the 1976 Zero Mostel revival of Fiddle On The Roof:

"Everyone must be entitled to a favorite musical.  Mine, apart from Aida, is Fiddler On The Roof."

I bet he thought he'd get away with it.

Keep correcting, guys

Gotta love those unbiased geniuses at AP:

"This story has been corrected to show that in six counties, more than 3 in 10 people are on Medicaid, not 1 in 3."

In a story that purports to be serious, about Democrats organizing to infiltrate Republican congressmen's town hall meetings. (Speaking of which, why are the Republicans stupid enough to play that game?)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Lost Game

From a piece in the A.V. Club (linking to Entertainment Weekly), it turns out Lost originally had a fancier idea for their ending, with a major fight atop an erupting volcano.  They didn't do it because it would have cost too much and, they later realized, would have looked pathetic next to the fight in Revenge Of The Sith between Obi-Wan and Anakin.

This does explain why the kids in the Dharma classroom are learning about volcanic activity.  But one thing I don't like in the article is this:

You’d be forgiven for not remembering, though, because it was in season three, a.k.a. “The season that mostly sucks because the writers didn’t yet know if they’d be allowed to end the series on their own timetable.”

I like season three.  I even like the mini-series at the beginning--that so many fans didn't go for--which has our heroes imprisoned on a separate island.  And then when they get back to the main island, there's some amazing stuff. Okay, some episodes are weak, but we also get classics like "The Man From Tallahassee," "The Man Behind The Curtain" and, above all, the finale, "Through The Looking Glass," with an ending that was one of the greatest moments in television history.

Elsewhere, The Hollywood Reporter has an article on Bran's story in Game Of Thrones, where we get this:

There's also the unsettling prospect that Bran can do much more than witness major moments in history, but actually impact these moments with his abilities.

I suppose you can call it a "prospect," but I see no evidence that he has any impact on history.  Some fans claim he has--they point to the flashback where Bran calls out his father's name and young Ned Stark seems to respond.  Okay, but is there any reason to believe that Ned had lived this moment previously without hearing something?

Friday, April 14, 2017

Get A Loder Him

I recently saw Colossal, a movie with a weird premise--a huge monster rampaging through Seoul, Korea is unwittingly controlled by Anne Hathaway (or anyway, the character she portrays).

This is all in the trailer, so I'm not giving anything away.  But from there, the movie goes in certain directions you likely won't see coming.  And Kurt Loder, in his review, doesn't like these directions.

That's his business.  Critics can think what they want.  But his summing up is pretty weird.  Here's how he ends his piece (slight spoiler):

When we're compelled to watch [one of the characters] smacking [Anne Hathaway's character] and beating her to the ground, it's hard to find much else about the movie enjoyable.  I hope I'm not alone in this response.

Hey, Loder, give us your opinion, not your hurt feelings.  Movie's often feature characters having a rough time--it's called drama.

I don't like the implication in that last sentence--that a decent person would feel bad, like he does.  Whether or not others agree with you shouldn't be your concern.  Judge the film, not my morality.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Hitch

It's Christopher Hitchens' birthday. He's been gone for over five years.  Hard to believe he's not out there still, mixing it up

I certainly didn't agree with him all the time, but that's the point.  A committed man of the left, he was heterodox enough that I don't think anyone could agree with him all the time, or maybe even most of the time. (Some thought he was no longer on the left once he started attacking the Clintons and supporting the War on Terror, but that just shows you how simplistic and polarized the political debate has become.)

A lot of people miss his strong, fearless voice.  Even when you thought he was way off, he was fun.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

J

J. Geils has died.  The funny thing about the J. Geils Band is it's not like he was the most significant member--guys like Magic Dick, Seth Justman and Peter Wolf were just as important, maybe more.

But he founded the band, so he got to call it what he wanted.  And now whenever we hear their hits, we think of his name.





Tuesday, April 11, 2017

More Such Gorsuch

With Neil Gorsuch confirmed, people are writing think pieces about what it'll mean for the Supreme Court.  The answer is not much, probably--at least so far as replacing Scalia.

Still, you get articles like this in The Hill with lines like

But some court watchers say Gorsuch may be even more conservative than Scalia, his mentor and fellow adherent to the originalist view of the Constitution.

The piece then goes on to offer almost no evidence beyond some slight hysteria.

The big argument for some is Gorsuch's view on Chevron deference.  They call Chevron a precedent "even" Scalia upheld, as if a court's level of deference to executive branch officials falls in a clear place along the liberal/'conservative spectrum.  In fact, in the Mead case, the eight-Justice majority limited Chevron deference with only Scalia dissenting.

Truth is, it'll be most unlikely if Gorsuch is somehow more "conservative" (a term neither he nor Scalia would use) than the man he's replacing.  Sure, if Justice Kennedy or even Roberts left, I could see some concern, but Scalia?

In fact, there are opinions Gorsuch wrote that suggest he has, at the very least, a "liberal" streak, and anyway, the general experience with "conservative" Justices is they get more "liberal" through the years.

No one knows how any Justice will turn out until they're on the Court.  If Gorsuch distinguishes himself, it'll likely be through his style and demeanor.  Scalia was reportedly well-liked by his colleagues, but his opinions, especially in dissent, were often caustic, suggesting he was not willing to compromise.

Perhaps Gorsuch will compromise.  What would this mean?  It could mean he'll draw more people to his side, which would mean more "conservative" victories, though they may be watered down. Or it could mean the opposite, where he'll be willing to join the "liberal" side, but in opinions that don't go as far as they would have otherwise.

It's true liberals lost huge when Gorsuch became Scalia's replacement, but that's no reason to exaggerate the damage.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Calling It

Season 3 of Better Call Saul debuts tonight.  Good news, I guess.  The show is no Breaking Bad, but it's fun.

Even so, it's got problems.  It's good to have more from our favorite BB characters, but I don't really need to see the origin of Saul Goodman.  If he came out of his mother's womb a crooked lawyer, that'd be fine with me.  Okay, Mike's beginnings needed some explanation (which we've already gotten), but Jimmy McGill doesn't need some troubled past to whine about.

Worse is the Chuck plot, which is what helps turn Jimmy into Saul.  It wasn't the greatest idea (especially the ridiculous disease Chuck imagines he has, which has wasted quite a bit of the show so far), but to have to sit through a tiresome story where he turns on Jimmy and causes trouble for him--I don't care to see it. It would be great if it was dealt with in the first episode, and Jimmy turns into Saul right away, so we can have fun again.

On the plus side, we finally get to Gus Fring.

I guess my point is what I want is more Breaking Bad adventures, or at least as close as we can get.  The new stuff that belongs solely to this show isn't as interesting.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Why Can't They Be Like We Were?

Here's an article by Patrick Deneen, a professor at Notre Dame, about how ignorant the kids he teaches are.  Nothing personal--they're nice, they're honest, they just don't know basic things about our civilization.

Perhaps he's right, but haven't we been hearing this forever?  In fact, Deneen mentions previous Jeremiahs like Allan Bloom and E.D. Hirsch.  Except they were complaining thirty years ago--it was Deneen's generation they thought was hopeless.

So if Deneen comes from a cohort that didn't know anything, how can he be surprised that the kids they've been teaching don't know anything?

There may be plenty of problems with the present generation, but ignorance is natural.  Almost no one has comprehensive knowledge of our culture entering college, and few have it exiting.   The country may be facing serious problems, but in the past we've gotten by with more than enough ignorance of history, literature, science and so on to go around.

I'm surprised Deneen doesn't know that.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Over

A bunch of shows have just finished their latest season, or are about to (making way for new seasons of Fargo, Better Call Saul, etc.--such is the constant renewal of peak television).

The Walking Dead, as big as show as there is, even if viewership is down, just finished season seven. The main plot was about going to war with the new bad guy, Negan.  And after the finale--yep, they're going to war with Negan.  Was this season necessary?  Is this show necessary?

Colony finished season 2, and has been picked up for a third.  The show has given more indications of a global perspective on an Earth taken over (allegedly) by aliens, but the action remains almost entirely in the Los Angeles bloc, which is a sort of the equivalent of Vichy France, where there's a resistance, there are collaborators, and most live in fear.

It's a decent show, and I look forward to next season.  The central characters escaped from Los Angeles, which was going through complete rendition.  The show is created, in part, by Carlton Cuse of Lost.  Like Lost, it has constant action and lots of secrets, but a lot less complexity and substance.  Oh well, you can't have everything.

Finally, there's the Showtime's award-winning Homeland.  I remain a fan, but the show has never recaptured the power of its first season (and the first four episodes of season two where they resolved season 1).

But this latest season, its sixth, is its worst.  There's been sluggish action, but worse, it's gotten too silly.  The show has often exaggerated the power of terrorists, but that's understandable--that's how action stories tend to work.  And we know that what we're seeing is what some terrorists would do if they could.

But unless the finale on Sunday completely changes things, this season has gotten a bit absurd.  We now have, as far as I can tell, powerful forces in the CIA working with some Alex Jones sort of character to overthrow (through violence) the U.S. government.  This is a conspiracy worthy of Alex Jones himself.

Now don't get me wrong--I know the proud paranoia of partisans in our country, who think this group or that (almost always including the CIA, which has backed coups in foreign countries) is going to take over the government.  Right now, in fact, many are hoping Trump can be impeached for some conspiracy they believe landed him in the White House (and if somehow he is forced out, then both left and right can claim there was a coup).

Indeed, I remember otherwise intelligent people arguing, for various reasons, that Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama were all planning to keep running things after their term of office ended.

This is a common argument of pseudo-sophisticates. But to see a show play into the silliness of it, as if what they're doing is relevant and ripped from the headlines, is tiresome.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Poetic License

I used to blog about my favorite vanity plates (and Los Angeles must be a leader in that category), but I stopped a while ago.

Recently, however, I was stopped at a light behind something that confused me.  The license plate read:

ASSUWSH

It didn't take long to figure out this means "As You Wish," probably quoting from The Princess Bride. (And perhaps ASUWISH was taken.)

Fine.  But the problem is, on first glance, you think "ass wash." At least I did.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Mr. Warmth

Don Rickles was one of my favorite comedians, and maybe the greatest guest late night talk shows ever had.  Even in his later years, when he appeared as a beloved entertainer who could do no wrong, there was still a sense of danger about him.  And he did it all off the cuff.

I could say a lot more about him, but instead, let him talk for himself.






Wednesday, April 05, 2017

End This

A nice excerpt in The Hollywood Reporter from the new Sherry Lansing biography.  It's about when she was producing Fatal Attraction.

As a producer, she had little heat at the time, and was desperate for a hit, but only wanted to do films she believed in.  It was hard to put Fatal Attraction together, but now it was done and being tested.  The audience scores weren't great, but Lansing and others noticed that they just hated the Glenn Close character, who stalks the married Michael Douglas after having an affair with him.

The point of the film was actions have consequences, and the earlier ending had Douglas paying for what he did. (Close didn't fare well, either.) The studio made it clear--scrap that ending, kill Glenn Close and save Douglas.

It went against the point of the script, and Close refused to do it. Ultimately, everyone had to suck it up and give the public what it wanted.  Filmmakers may have a message, but if they want a hit, sometimes they have to bend to audience demand.

Sure enough, the new version of the film was a blockbuster, nominated for numerous Oscars and helping everyone's career.  Was it worth it?  The people who made the film have to decide that for themselves.  I think the new ending makes more movie sense, even if it's less subtle and turns Close into a psycho who must be terminated.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Disconnected

Over the weekend I noticed my local Radio Shack had a going-out-of-business sale.  (It's on the corner of Melrose and Vine.  That may mean nothing to you, but if you've ever seen Ghost World, near the end, when Enid crosses the street and looks across it to see the old man at the bus stop, she's at the mini-plaza which houses that Radio Shack.)

The next closest one, about a mile away, also had a clearance sale. Turns out the Shack is closing numerous Southern California locations. (The odd thing was I thought Radio Shack had shuttered a few years back.)

Radio Shack has been a mainstay in my life.  I almost never go there, but when I need a cord or a splitter or something like that, it's nice to know it's around.

In fact, seeing the sale signs, with 30% to 60% off everything, I felt I should drop in and just start buying stuff.  I don't know what connections I'll need in the future, but it couldn't hurt to have some backup.

Monday, April 03, 2017

On Message

HBO's Big Little Lies had its finale last night.  The critics seemed to go for it, though I didn't think much of it.  There was an impressive cast, and some decent acting, but I felt the pacing was poor, the domestic drama and a number of the characters were dull, the social satire was weak and the big action (featuring rape, adultery, spousal abuse and so on) was a bit too soap operish.

There was a hook that was supposed to get us into the show: in the first episode, we find out someone has been killed--but instead of a whodunit, it's a who done what.  We don't find out who got killed or who did the killing until the final episode.  I didn't find this clever, just annoying.  (And let me note, without spoiling anything, that the finale involved a ridiculous coincidence and, dramatically, was an example of chickening out.)

A.V. Club critic Gwen Ihnat liked the show and the finale.  In her review, she reveals that she was in an abusive relationship and became a board member for a battered women's network.  Then she notes:

If Big Little Lies inspires even one woman to [get out of an abusive relationship], it will already be more important than the average TV show.

I understand her point, but it depends on what "important" means.  Critics can note the message of a show, but what they should care about (or what I care about when I read them) is the aesthetic side.  It doesn't matter what the politics or message of something is.  There are, for instance, thousands of films with the message that crime is bad--a worthwhile lesson that in itself doesn't make a movie worthy.  What matters are how successfully a show entertains, or even enlightens--but through, say, shedding light on the human condition, not by making you take action. Ads (and propaganda) make you do specific things.  Entertainment (and art) make you feel things.

When Fonzie got a library card, apparently thousands of kids across the nation got one, too. This is all to the good, but that wouldn't (by itself) make Happy Days more "important" than the average TV show.

Having a good message is easy. Even having an "important" one is easy.  Creating something that's great entertainment, or true art--that's hard.  And that's what makes a show important to me--as a show, I mean.  Unless you're measuring shows as Public Service Announcements, which is a different standard entirely.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Rickster

This is weird.  A new episode of my favorite comedy, Rick And Morty, was streaming on AdultSwim.com.  Unfortunately, it was only available yesterday--April Fools' Day.

This doesn't mean the show will now start its weekly airings.  As far as I can tell, this will be the only episode available until the season officially premieres on TV some time this summer. (And fans have been waiting for the third season since 2015).

I found out about it too late to watch.  (Though maybe someone caught it and put it up on YouTube.)  On the other hand, I'm not sure if I would have wanted to.  Watching one would whet my appetite for more, and I'd be stuck for three months with nothing.

I don't need to binge watch, but at least I'd like to know once the seasons gets going I'll be able to enjoy it week after week.  So stay in prison just a little longer, Rick.  Don't worry, you'll be out before you know it.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

No Joking

Happy April Fools' Day.  I'm not a fan of practical jokes, so I'll treat this day as if it were March 31, or April 2.

This year it falls on a Saturday.  I wonder if that'll make it worse?  I mean, most working days (or school days), people are too busy to get into much mischief.

But if you want to pull some stunt on the weekend, you're free the entire day to set it up.  (Is there any measure of the amount of practical jokes people play on this day?)

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