Saturday, September 30, 2017

YK Today

Today is Yom Kippur.  Actually, it started last night, and we're right in the middle of it.  Which means, if you observe it, you're in the middle of a fast.

Not to make light of Yom Kippur, but here's a video on what happens if you stop eating altogether (at least that's what it's about for the first 2:50).


Friday, September 29, 2017

Sign Of The Times

There's a neighborhood nearby that I often cut through to avoid traffic on the main roads. Guess I'm not the only one, because recently they've put up signs on every street.

What sort of signs?  Well, one says:

Drive Like Your Kids Live Here

Another says:

Drive Like Your Pets Live Here

Another one had a slightly different message:

Slow Down, This Is A Neighborhood Not A Race Track

There was one message I did not see, however:

Drive Like Your Spouse Lives Here

Does that not get the proper reaction?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Game Changer

I just read It's All A Game, a history of board games.  It starts with ancient games like chess and backgammon, and takes us up to the present.

I'm fascinated by games--both the playing and the theories behind them.  Reading the book, with the many stories of people coming up with and figuring out how their game worked, it made me think how much fun it must be to invent a game.

When I first played Apples To Apples (not in the book, but I guess there's no board involved), I remember thinking it's such a simple concept, yet it's so entertaining--wish I'd thought of it.  And not just for the money, though that would be nice, too.

But another thing you notice, in chapter after chapter, is how many great modern board games were rejected by the game industry at first.  Monopoly--too complicated.  Mousetrap--not really a game.  Twister--too dirty.  Trivial Pursuit--too obvious and expensive.

Why didn't people who make a living at games see what they had?  I suppose those in charge expect more of the same.  When you show them the new direction, they're likely to think this doesn't follow the old formula.  I guess it happens in any industry, though you'd wish game people were different.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Hope You Liked Our Show

I was glancing through Sheldon Leonard's memoir And The Show Goes On.  He was an actor, and then a director and producer, so I figured he'd have some good stories to tell.  It was published around 20 years ago, and two things stuck out today that might not have back then.

Back when Leonard was starting out as an actor on Broadway, Jed Harris, one of the top producers around, wanted to meet with him. Leonard was excited, but it turned out Harris just wanted a bunch of tough actors to go out and beat up people marching in favor of the Nazis.

Leonard had no love for Nazis, but understandably declined the illegal activity.  But hey, it sounds like the beginning of the Antifa movement.

A lot of the book is taken up with stories of shooting the TV series I Spy, since they traveled the world.  But the weird thing about it today is all the fond stories Leonard has about Bill Cosby.

I'm sure Cosby was fun to be around (and Leonard helped make him what he is--Cosby was already big in comedy, but Leonard turned him into an Emmy-winning actor).  Still, all that stuff seems weird today.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

That's Them

Tonight is the second-season premiere of This Is Us, the show that brought drama back to the big networks.

It's a family drama--not the sort of thing I usually go for. But I was surprised by the pilot, and not just by the plot twists, but the smart writing.  Though I had some problems with the two-timeline premise, I became a regular.

I thought it was pretty good.  Still, more and more, as they had to keep the tension going, and jerk tears each week, they kept threatening to descend into pure soap opera.  While they avoided it overall, there were some troubling signs along the way.

So I will be watching tonight.  But if they don't watch out, I'll be gone.  (And their millions of fans won't be bothered at all.)


Monday, September 25, 2017

The Battle That Vexes

There's an odd sentence in Ignatiy Vishnevetsky's A.V. Club review of Battle Of The Sexes, a film about the 1973 Billie Jean King/Bobby Riggs tennis match:

...the most damning proof of the sexism of the era's tennis culture is the fact that Riggs was ever considered a favorite to win.

Far from being the "most damning proof," it's not proof at all. Riggs--and the movie shows this--had already easily beaten Margaret Court, who herself had beaten Billie Jean King.  After that it made sense he'd be the favorite.

When challenged on this point in the comments section, Iggy notes that anyone who knows tennis knows that Riggs would do better against Court's style than King's.

So that's his most damning proof?  That the people of 1973 were flawed because they didn't have the complex technical knowledge of tennis that explained after the fact why Riggs lost?

The odd thing is it's easy to find sexism in that era, so it's weird that Iggy picked something that doesn't show it.

One can only guess he wrote this either to remind us of his moral superiority to people back then, or to demonstrate his arcane understanding of tennis.

Meanwhile, in April Wolfe's review in the LA Weekly, she complains that the concerns about sexism back then are still relevant today:

Hell, John McEnroe said in June that Serena Williams would be "like No. 700 in the world" on the men's circuit.

And this is sexist because why?  Because she believes Williams would be truly competitive on the men's circuit, or because it's not nice to even bring up the differences between men and women in sports?

I'm starting to like this guy

Putin reveals fears that robots with artificial intelligence will one day 'eat us' and asks head of Russia's largest tech firm how soon it will happen

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Here Comes The Judge

I caught the first episode of Mike Judge Presents: Tales From The Tour Bus on Cinemax.  As the title suggests, each episode tells us stories about a musical act.  And being presented by Mike Judge, much of it is done via animation--even the sit-down interviews are turned into cartoons.  There are also old photos and footage tossed in occasionally.

The first episode tells the story of Johnny Paycheck.  I'm not a fan of country (Judge deals with this directly in his introduction, saying even if you don't like the music, the stories might be worth watching), so I had no idea Paycheck was such a hell raiser.  He had a fair amount of success, but also had substance abuse problems and a violent streak that got him tossed in jail more than once.

I found the show fairly entertaining, and, in its own way, educational.  Next week will be Jerry Lee Lewis.  I know a lot more about him (and I like his music--at least his rock and roll), but who knows what will be revealed?

Later episodes feature names like George Jones, Tammy Wynette and Waylon Jennings, so it seems that Judge will be concentrating on country music.  Either he's a big fan, or he knows there are stories about these acts that are not often told or not well known (compared to rock or rap, where excess is their stock in trade).  Based on the first episode, they should be worth checking out.

Renaissance Man

Oh, look! Bill Clinton wrote a novel!

With James Patterson!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

That's It

The movie It has become one of the biggest horror movies of all time.  It's all the more impressive in that this is not a big-budget film, unlike every other Hollywood blockbuster this year.

I saw the film, but haven't read the book, so I have no idea how faithful the movie is.  And since the book is 1000+ pages, I'm sure there was a lot to cut.  But I heard about one scene they removed, and it fascinates me.

Apparently, the gang of twelve-year-olds, fighting an evil clown in the sewer system, decides at one point that they all need to have sex.  There are a bunch of boys and one girl, if you're counting.

This is the kind of thing you can maybe pull off in a novel, where the writing can control to some degree how the reader perceives what's happening.  But in a movie, with actual child performers, no matter how tastefully it's done (assuming it could be tastefully done), it simply wouldn't play.  It would probably turn off the audience so much they'd walk out.

In other words, they'd get the same reaction that mother! is getting now.

I'm just a bill

"Mr. McCain told Politico on Wednesday that he still wanted “regular order” — Capitol-speak for an orderly and open debate that bubbles up through committees and compels bipartisanship."

Oh, *that*'s what it does, compels bipartisanship.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Game Over

Game Of Thrones is a worldwide hit.  Probably the biggest TV show presently in production.  HBO is thrilled to have it, but also knows it'll soon be gone. Which is why HBO is planning GOT-related shows to fill the vacuum. Not just one show, or even two.  At present, HBO has five prequels planned.

And I don't care.

I like Game Of Thrones, but it's not the kind of thing I usually go for. It just worked out the GOT was a smart show with compelling characters. (Even though it's been having trouble holding it all together in the past couple seasons.)

These other shows may hope to borrow some of the luster of Game Of Thrones, but to me they'll be completely new programs, all done in a genre I don't particularly like.  I'm not sure if I'll even sample them.  I have no idea if they'll do well, but I hope fans will demand quality, and not just dungeons and dragons.

HBO's old slogan was It's Not TV, It's HBO.  Now it's like the rest of TV.  When you've got something that works, ride it into the ground until everyone's sick of it.

And what's Oregon State's position?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

CS

Guess whose birthday it is?  The most cited American legal scholar.  Happy birthday, Cass Sunstein.





Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Bringing Up Baby

I just finished reading The Seeds Of Life.  It's about the search to find where babies come from.

It might seem obvious to us today, but this was a vexing question that confused serious thinkers and scientists for centuries.  They made lots of guesses (read the book to discover all the bizarre theories that were out there), but they didn't even have a framework for figuring it out.  Remember, they didn't even know that the blood circulated around the body until the 1620s.  You'd think that'd be easy to figure out, but it was a revolution.

As for how babies are created, imagine it's just several hundred years ago, before there were even microscopes.  What sort of evidence can help you?  Well, you know there are men and women, and they have sexual relations and that seems to lead to babies. (Most cultures figured that one out.)

But how is this baby formed, and how does it develop in the womb?  What counts and what doesn't?  Was it preformed, or did it grow into something?  And if it grew, how did it know to do that?  Does the woman supply the baby, or the man?  Is one more important than the other?  What does ejaculate do?  What is the meaning of menstrual blood?

All you can use is logic and observation.  You can look at other animals, and even dissect humans.  But how much does this help you?

Even after the microscope is invented, you've got problems (beyond the numerous biases that people naturally have). Now you can see sperm.  But what do they do?  Are they animals themselves?  How would semen fertilize an egg?  And if you do find an egg--though this isn't easy to do for women, or mammals in general--what does it do?  Does it develop into the baby, or does it just nourish the baby?  Or is it something else completely?

For centuries research zigged and zagged, sometimes moving forward, sometimes rushing into blind alleys.  While physics was making tremendous strides explaining things like the movement of planets, biologists had it rough.

Believe it or not, the answer--that the sperm and the egg fuse to form a single cell which then starts dividing--wasn't discovered until 1875.

I'd recommend the book, which is quite informative and surprisingly funny at points.  It also teaches us not to be too arrogant.  Who knows what tricky questions today will seem obvious in a few centuries?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Beat

I've been rereading Tune In, Mark Lewisohn's book about the early days of the Beatles.  It's the best book ever written about the band.

Though it's over 900 pages, it only takes us up to the end of 1962, just before the Beatles broke out.  The idea from the start was he'd write a three-volume work on the group. Presumably, the next book will take us right up to Sergeant Pepper, and the one after that up to their split..

Tune In was published in 2013, so it's turning into a long wait for volume 2.  I think Lewisohn may be running into a George R. R. Martin problem.  Each book in his "Game Of Thrones" series (I know the series has another name, but that's how most people think of it) is longer and takes longer to write.

Martin, of course, writes based on his imagination, but the storyline sprawls out further and further, the character list keeps growing, and he has more and more to say.  Lewisohn's story is based on research, but he was able to dig up so much from the Beatles' early days, before too many were paying attention, that I'm thinking he's overwhelmed with how much there is to say about their recording years.

My guess is he may slice the cake thinner and thinner.  He probably know he could easily do 900 pages on 1963 and 1964, but if the readers expect it go through 1966 there's no way he can keep it under 1000.  So maybe, from this point on, he'll do two years at a time and make it five volumes.  (And if he lives long enough, a final volume on their solo years.)

Actually, that's more like the Mad Men problem.  The original idea was each season would skip ahead and be part of a two-year span, but Matthew Weiner had something big on his hands, so he decided to slow it down and have seven seasons instead of five (though five would probably have been better).

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Word About Awards

I don't have too much to say about the Emmys, but let's look at some of the winners.

The two biggest winners of the night were The Handmaid's Tale and Big Little Lies. I didn't see the former, so it's hard to say if it deserved all those wins over some stiff competition, but I did see Big Little Lies, and thought it was mostly dreary.  I'm shocked it took so many awards over superior competition such as Feud, The Night Of and Fargo.

Donald Glover won both for directing and starring in Atlanta (though not for writing).  I like Glover, but was a bit surprised to see him do so well for his first season.  I guess his show was the hot new thing (but not hot enough to win best comedy, which went to Veep).

Julie Louis-Dreyfus won yet again for best actress in Veep.  The Academy just loves her. I'd say spread the wealth around, but her competition for the most part wasn't that great.

One of the best categories was supporting actor in a drama series, won by John Lithgow for his Winston Churchill in The Crown.  I've never seen The Crown, but he must be pretty good to beat Jonathan Banks, Mandy Patinkin, David Harbour and Ron Cephas Jones.

Lots of decent competition in supporting actor and actress in a comedy, but Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump and Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton swept everything away, and I guess that makes sense. In fact, SNL won for best variety sketch series.  You may not think that's a big deal, but SNL hasn't won a variety show Emmy in decades. Thank you, Donald and Hillary.
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver took some major awards. Is it becoming the new Daily Show With Jon Stewart that wins the big Emmys year after year?  Stewart's show won the variety award ten years in a row.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Heading For A Fall

On this day of the Emmy Awards, let's think way back.  Remember when you used to get excited about the new fall TV schedule?  No?  Is that because it's too long ago, or you never cared?

In any case, there was a time when the unveiling of the prime time lineup on CBS, NBC, etc., was a big deal.  Before Netflix, before HBO, before basic cable.

For better or worse, these prime time network offerings are still the most-watched shows (if you don't include The Walking Dead, Game Of Thrones and a number of others).

So let's see what we've got.

Sunday:

Sunday has become the best TV night of the week, mostly thanks to cable--for some reason, there's a tradition of putting their best shows on then.  But we're just looking at the networks right now, so what have we got? Well, there's pro football, but I don't care that much.  There's The Simpsons, which used to be my favorite show, but I don't believe I've watched it in a decade.  I still watch Family Guy, though, so there's that.  And as long as Fox is on, I sometimes stick around for Last Man On Earth.

Monday:

Not much here for me, though I do still watch The Big Bang Theory, even if it's getting tired.  Who knows how much longer it'll be around, so might as well stay with it.  I also like Melissa Benoist on Supergirl, though the show isn't my cup of tea.

Tuesday:

Now we're getting somewhere.  The night starts with The Middle--its last season.  The rest of the ABC comedies that night I'll probably skip. In fact, I may switch over the Fox to catch The Mick and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.  Though this is the same time as This Is Us, so I'll have to choose.  (I know you can watch anything any time, but if you don't catch it the night of, it can start to pile up and you forget about it.)

Wednesday:

There's good old Modern Family and nothing else.  The other ABC comedies I don't care about, and I care even less about all the drama on the other channels.

Thursday:

Thursday used to be Must See TV.  Is it still?  Well, CBS will move Big Bang Theory from Monday to Thursday in late fall, so I'll presumably check that out.  I'm not thrilled about the whole idea of Young Sheldon, but I'll give that a chance.  Anything else?  I might give The Orville a shot.  But for years, this night was owned by NBC's comedy lineup.  I don't really care about the new/old Will & Grace, or Great News, but Superstore I don't mind--though I'd pick BBT against it.  Then there's my favorite new comedy of last year, The Good Place, with a new, less enjoyable premise.  I'll check that out for sure--sorry, Young Sheldon.

Friday and Saturday:

I'm usually out.  Maybe that's why the worst shows are on these nights.

Metaphor alert

Coach seating on airplanes is a ‘Titanic waiting to happen’

I don't think small seats and big butts was the problem on the Titanic. Dinky little aisles? Maybe.

But they should look at the upside: The tighter they're packed in, the lower the expected offal disposal costs.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

...And Answers

Here are the answers to yesterday's Emmy quiz:

1. Cloris Leachman holds the record with 8 Emmys.  However, Julia Louis-Dreyfus has 7 and is up for her eighth this year. 

2.  L.A. Law won four Emmys as best drama, but not in consecutive years.

3.  In 2013, Louis C. K. was nominated 9 times in various categories—acting, writing, directing, producing, editing—for his show Louie, for his stand-up special and for a guest appearance on Saturday Night Live.  He only won one Emmy for writing his special.

4.  Henry Fonda was nominated for 3 Emmys, but never won (while his daughter Jane already has one—she also won an Oscar before he did.)

5.  2006 was the last year a broadcast network won for best drama.  The show was the Fox series 24.  However, NBC could break the cold streak if This Is Us wins this year.

6.  Jessica Fletcher herself—Angela Lansbury—has never won an Emmy.  But don’t feel too bad—she’s got an honorary Oscar, five Tonys and a bunch of Golden Globes.)

7.  Many have been nominated, but the only host of the Oscars to win an Emmy is Billy Crystal, who did it twice in 1991 and 1998.

8.  Jonathan Banks is getting his fifth chance to win his first Emmy this year.  He’s been nominated for playing Mike Ehrmantraut on Breaking Bad and now on Better Call Saul.  In 1989, he got his first nomination for playing Frank McPike on Wiseguy.

9.  Eddie Murphy was nominated for his work on SNL, but did not win.

10.  Werner Klemperer won the supporting actor Emmy in 1969 as Colonel Klink on the comedy Hogan’s Heroes.  He was up against Leonard Nimoy in the drama Star Trek because back then the category was for any genre.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Questions...

The 69th annual Prime Time Emmys will be awarded this Sunday.  As a warm-up, here’s a quiz about previous Emmy winners and losers.
 
The answers will be posted tomorrow.  (You could Google the answers before then, but what fun would that be?)
 
1.  Which of these women holds the record for winning the most Emmys as a perfomer?

Candice Bergen
Tyne Daly
Edie Falco
Cloris Leachman
Jane Lynch
Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Mary Tyler Moore

2.  Three shows have won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series for four consecutive years.  Which of the following did NOT do this:

Hill Street Blues
L.A. Law
Mad Men
The West Wing

3.  What comedian was nominated for 9 Emmys in one year?  (Hint:  It happened in 2013)

4. Movie stars are often up for Emmys.  This year alone there are nominations for former Oscar-winners Robert De Niro, Reese Witherspoon, Jane Fonda, Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon and Geoffrey Rush.  Of the following names from the silver screen, which did NOT win an Emmy?

Fred Astaire
Henry Fonda
Jack Lemmon
Paul Newman
Al Pacino
Brad Pitt
Barbra Streisand

5.  The broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox) used to win most of the Emmys, but not any more.  When was the last time one of these networks won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series and what was the show?

6. What performer has been nominated for 18 Emmys without ever winning?  (Hint: It’s a woman who is now in her nineties)

7.  Which of these is the only person to win an Emmy for hosting the Oscars?

Bob Hope
Johnny Carson
Billy Crystal
Whoopi Goldberg
Neil Patrick Harris
Ellen DeGeneres
Jon Stewart

8. Who is the only person to be nominated for an Outstanding Supporting Actor Emmy for three different shows? (Hint: he’s nominated this year.)

9. Which of these Saturday Night Live names never won an Emmy for performing on that show?

Chevy Chase
Gilda Radner
Eddie Murphy
Dana Carvey
Tina Fey
Jimmy Fallon
Kate McKinnon

10. In 1969, Leonard Nimoy as Star Trek’s Mr. Spock had his third and last chance to win an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor.  He lost.  Who won? (Hint: the winner was playing a military man)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Now You've Done It

I'm reading a book called The Seeds Of Life by Edward Dolnick.  In a footnote that has little to do with the book's subject, he discuss the lyrics of Cole Porter.

He think the phrase "the birds and the bees" may have come from Cole Porter's "Let's Do It." The song famously opens with "Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it."

Except that wasn't the original opening.  As Dolnick notes, it was "Chinks do it, Japs do it, Up in Lapland even little Laps do it."

A few notes.

1)  There's no "even" before "little Laps."  It wouldn't scan.

2)  The "educated fleas do it" was originally in the song, but placed later.  In fact, it's still in a later chorus, making for an unfortunate repetition. (Except, because of a different number of syllables required, it's "even over-educated fleas do it." If the Lapland line that Dolnick mentions were moved down there, it would fit perfectly.)

3)  The rewrite was necessitated, as you can probably guess, by changing standards.  Dolnick either doesn't know, or doesn't have the time to note, how this change broke up the formal beauty of the song.  In the original, each chorus stuck to related items.  Thus chorus 1 is peoples of the world, chorus 2 are creatures of the sea, chorus 3 is insects and chorus 4 is mammals.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Alas, Alec

I was looking at Alec Baldwin's memoir Nevertheless.  He certainly has proved, over his lengthy career, that he has talent.  Still, would he have gotten as far as he did if, as a young man, he weren't so stunning?

This is not to put him down.  It's just how show biz works.  In the same way that if you want to make it in sports, in addition to hard work, you have to be born with the physical potential (and for some sports like basketball, a height gene).

It may not be fair, but if you want to make it in movies or TV in front of the camera, it helps an awful lot to be good-looking.  There's some leeway for comedy, but otherwise, if you don't inspire lust in the audience, you're probably destined to be a character actor. (This is more true for women--even the "average-looking woman" in most movies and shows is pretty hot by normal standards--but it doesn't mean the rule has no application to men.)

Some of Baldwin's stories of his early years deal with powerful men who hit on him.  That's also how show biz works.

Of course, once he got his opportunities, he showed he could act.  And then--something rare--he managed a highly popular second career as a character actor when his looks faded.  Not that he's ugly, by any means, but he's not the same heartthrob he once was.  He also showed a surprising talent for comedy.

Some stars seem to be able to keep their looks forever.  Cary Grant quit the movies in his early 60s, embarrassed to be paired with women half his age, but he could have continued if he wished. (Around the same time he retired, he married Dyan Cannon, who was less than half his age.)

Others manage to show their versatility--if they can't be romantic leads any more, they can play intriguing character roles.  A good example is Jon Voight.  While not the leading man he once was, he's as busy as ever, playing an enormous variety of roles, including an Oscar nomination for his Howard Cosell in Ali and four Emmy nominations including two for his character in Ray Donovan.

Baldwin is still much in demand (even if you don't include his Donald Trump impression).  Perhaps some male stars feel humiliated when they don't get the girl any more, but if they're smart, they should be glad they've proved they're about more than that.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Premise Versus Plot

Caught the premiere of HBO's The Deuce, a drama created by David Simon and George Pelecanos of The Wire.

New York City, 1971.  42nd Street.  It's dirty, drug-infested and crime-ridden. (I wasn't there then, but I've seen enough movies to know.)  Vinnie Martino has trouble making ends meet.  From Brooklyn, he works at a couple bars (I think), sells drugs (or maybe just gives them away--I don't recall any money changing hands) and owes a large gambling debt--not his own, but those of his twin brother, Frankie.  His wife is sleeping around, but so is Vinnie, who leaves his family to live in a cheap hotel.

Vinnie is the central character, if there is one, but there are also a bunch of pimps and prostitutes, and we spend a lot of time in their company, learning how the business works.  There's Lori, from Minnesota, who's comes into town looking to be a hooker and gets put on the street pretty quickly by C.C., though his other earner, Ashley, is jealous.  And there's Candy, a rare prostitute who doesn't have a man to handle her career.

There's also Abby, a smart NYU student who's arrested for trying to buy speed. Ultimately, the officer let's her go--as was his plan so he could hook up with her--and they go to Vinnie's bar where she and Vinnie click.  Later, Abby decides to leave school, though what she'll do next isn't entirely clear (presumably it'll have something to do with Vinnie).

There's a fair amount of well-done dialogue, often in street language (and, this being HBO, plenty of nudity).  But while things are happening, overall, it's not clear what the story is about.  The Wire had a large setting--Baltimore--but had a focus (especially in the beginning) on a police unit trying to infiltrate the drug world.

So far The Deuce has a milieu.  But it'll need more than that to hold interest. I've read the show is about the growing porn industry of the era. Perhaps it will be, but it isn't yet.

Still, The Deuce is colorful enough to keep watching.  The actors include James Franco (as the twin brothers), Maggie Gyllenhaal and Zoe Kazan.  And as the creepy cop, Don Harvey--an old friend of mine from college. Don has played creepy cops before.  I wonder if he's getting typecast.

I also caught the new Seth MacFarlane show on Fox, The Orville.  It's set in the future and if you turned down the sound, you'd think it's a new Star Trek series.

MacFarlane, who created Family Guy, stars as Ed Mercer, a guy who catches his wife Kelly (Adrianna Palicki) cheating with an alien.  It knocks him for a loop, and off his career track. A year later, he manages to get what he's always wanted--the captaincy of a starship--but it's a midlevel cruiser not meant for the most meaningful mission.

He has a crew made up of a mix of genders, races and species.  The big twist is when the XO assigned Ed turns out to be his ex-wife--she wants to make it up to him but he isn't having it.  (It's no surprise of course because Palicki is a name so she had to figure in the story.)

Each of the crew has clearly defined characteristics but none really stand out in the pilot, except for Malloy (Scott Grimes), the helmsman who's also Ed's best friend.  Unfortunately, what stands out is he's a bit of a jerk.

The jokes are so-so--some might work better when does as an aside in a cartoon, which is what MacFarlane specializes in.  But somehow, as part of a plot that we're supposed to be taking somewhat seriously, they don't quite play.  And the action is, so far, not that compelling.

But I like sf, so I'll give it another chance to see if it hits a groove.  But it better hit warp speed soon.  (A different show on Fox that is truly funny but still is willing to take its plot seriously enough as Brooklyn Nine-Nine.  Admittedly, that's a straight half-hour sitcom, while The Orville is a different creature.)

Yes, but how?

Hackers could program sex robots to kill

Monday, September 11, 2017

Let's Not Forget

Hard to believe almost a whole generation has grown up since.

There have been small attacks in the U.S. since then, there's been nothing comparable.  (It's been considerably worse in Europe)

It's hard to be grateful for something that didn't happen, but let's not forget they'd do it every day if they could.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Two Cheers For Michigan

Congratulation to the Wolverines for defeating the Cincinnati Bearcats, 36-14.  (Who'd win in nature, a wolverine or a bearcat.  Just what is a bearcat anyway?  Any relation to Manbearpig?)

The score looks like a decisive victory, but it was far from that.  In fact, like last week, it was well into the game before Michigan put it away.

This seems to be a hallmark of the team, and it's no way to go, especially when playing inferior teams.  If there's 8 minutes left in the game and it could still go either way, sooner or later you'll make a mistake somewhere and there goes your perfect record.

The team looked okay, though was still a bit sloppy and ragged.  I hope much of that is due to the new players who are still learning.

Because Michigan's got some easy games ahead, but can take any for granted.  And eventually they'll be playing some tough teams, and what we saw out there yesterday wasn't good enough.

Respite

It always makes the ColumbusGuy household happy to see Ohio State lose early.

We keep a calendar of home games on the refrigerator. Because we live within a mile of the Horseshoe, we have to know which weekends to be out of town.

Now Michigan is sure to move up two spots, even though it's not clear they deserve it. OSU and Blue seem to have some magic power in the rankings, right up to the time they lose their bowl games.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Namely

Here's an interesting list: "The Most Common Unisex Names In America." Before you look, see if you can guess some of them.

Parents are allowed to name their kids whatever they like, and if they want to name their boy like a girl, or vice versa (or no longer believe they should burden their child with any particular gender), that's their business.  But some names seem to be battling each other to see which sex will dominate.

Here are the top 20:

1.   Casey
2.   Riley
3.   Jessie
4.   Jackie
5.   Avery
6.   Jaime (will this change with Game Of Thrones?)
7.   Peyton (even with the QB being around so long?)
8.   Kerry
9.   Jody
10. Kendall
11. Payton
12. Skyler (after Breaking Bad?)
13. Frankie
14. Pat
15. Quinn
16. Harley
17. Reese
18. Robbie
19. Tommie
20.  Justice (Justice?)

If you want to see the particular percentages for each name, check the link.

Friday, September 08, 2017

The Final Word

I've been reading The New York Times Book Of Broadway.  Published in 2001, it's a collection of the Times' reviews of 125 of the most significant production of the 20th century.

I like reading contemporaneous discussions of art and entertainment, before everyone knows what they're officially supposed to say.

What you often get is a timid approach.  Even though almost all the reviews in the book are positive, critics prefer to compare a production to the past, and not say this is a breakthrough.

Thus in the Kiss Me Kate review, it's said this is Cole Porter's "best score in years." In years?  What was better?  Not even Anything Goes compares to Kiss Me Kate.  Regarding Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night (performed in 1956, 14 years after it was written and a few years after O'Neill's death), the reviewer states the play is so powerful it ranks with Mourning Becomes Electra and Desire Under The Elms.  Today, few O'Neill fans would put those plays (which have not dated that well) as high as Long Day's Journey.

Perhaps most astonishing, in the review of A Streetcar Named Desire, while well-known lead Jessica Tandy gets a paragraph for her work, relative newcomer Marlon Brando--in a performance that changed American acting--gets a pat on the head for half a sentence.

The reviewers are also not necessarily good at picking out the big hits in musicals.  Discussing Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun, it's stated there's no tune that will become the same sort of standard as "White Christmas" or "Easter Parade." Very few songs get that big, so perhaps the critic--Lewis Nichols in this case--felt safe making this prediction, but the score produced a number of hits, and one, "There's No Business Like Show Business," became the very sort of anthem Nichols couldn't hear in the score.  In other reviews, the critics don't bother to mention the title tunes in both Hello, Dolly! and Cabaret.

Most of the reviews, written under deadline, aren't much, literarily speaking.  For instance, the review of The Odd Couple (by Howard Taubman) is mostly a rewind of the plot, sprinkling in many of Neil Simon's best gags.  I'm sure Simon was glad to get a rave, but couldn't have been happy with all those spoilers.

There are also odd moments here and there.  For instance, The Front Page is called a melodrama.  While the plot by itself could be considered melodramatic, I don't see how it can be called anything but a comedy.

Then there's Brooks Atkinson's notorious 1940 review of Pal Joey.  It had a rather seamy subject for a musical of that era, and Atkinson famously wrote "Although Pal Joey is expertly done, can you draw sweet water from a foul well?"

The musical was still a hit (the book mistakenly claims it only ran 198 performances, when it lasted almost twice as long--not the only such mistake in the book), and Atkinson himself all but apologized when he saw the highly successful revival 12 years later.  Unfortunately, that review didn't make the book.

PS  A popular word among these critics is "tatterdemalion." I saw three uses and for all I know missed others.  Now maybe three uses in a book that spans decades doesn't seem like a lot, but most books I've read didn't see the need to use the word even once.

I think we can do something with these penumbras

"In Pennsylvania it’s illegal to tie a dollar bill to a string and pull it away when someone tries to pick it up."

I've been looking for a way to put politicians in jail, and I think I  might have found it.

Now about that prohibition on urinating on someone . . .

Thursday, September 07, 2017

The Future Isn't What It Used To Be

I've been reading a book about Steven Spielberg. Spielberg was different from his noted contemporaries--Lucas, Coppola, Scorsese, etc.--in that they were into movies of all sorts while he was more an entertainer.  They worked on film projects, often experimental, for little money while he signed a seven-year deal at Universal to direct TV.

The book notes one of his early works was a sci-fi 1971 episode of The Name Of The Game entitled "LA 2017." (Odd already in that TNOTG was set in the present.) So what happens in this far off future?

Well, things aren't going too well in Los Angeles.  The air is unbreathable so the survivors have moved underground.  And while they pretend to have a democracy, it's actually despotic.

I'd love to see the whole 90-minute episode.  Luckily, someone made a trailer for it:


Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Toppermost Of The Poppermost

Over Labor Day weekend, the Beatles channel on Sirius Radio counted down the band's top 100 based on votes from fans.  Here it is, all bunched up so it doesn't take up too much space.

1. A Day In The Life 2. In My Life 3. Hey Jude 4. Abbey Road Medley 5. While My Guitar Gently Weeps 6. Here Comes The Sun 7. Strawberry Fields Forever 8. Something 9. Let It Be 10. Yesterday 11. Eleanor Rigby 12. Blackbird 13. Hey Bulldog 14. I Am The Walrus 15. Norwegian Wood 16. Across The Universe 17. Here, There And Everywhere 18. Penny Lane 19. Dear Prudence 20. Sgt. Pepper's... 21. I Saw Her Standing There 22. Help! 23. Tomorrow Never Knows 24. Nowhere Man 25. All You Need Is Love 26. Revolution 27. Don't Let Me Down 28. If I Fell 29. The Long And Winding Road 30. A Hard Day's Night 31. Rain 32. All My Loving 33. Come Together 34. For No One 35. Get Back 36. You've Got To Hide Your Love Away 37. Ticket To Ride 38. I Want To Hold Your Hand 39. And Your Bird Can Sing 40. And I Love Her 41. Day Tripper 42. I've Just Seen A Face 43. Paperback Writer 44. Oh! Darling 45. She Loves You 46. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds 47. Two Of Us 48. Eight Days A Week 49. Twist and Shout 50. Helter Skelter 51. We Can Work It Out 52. I Feel Fine 53. I Want You (She's So Heavy) 54. This Boy 55. Back in the USSR 56. Hello, Goodbye 57. Things We Said Today 58. I Will 59. You're Going to Lose That Girl 60. When I'm Sixty-Four 61. The Night Before 62. The Fool on the Hill 63. I Should Have Known Better 64. You Never Give Me Your Money 65. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da 66. Got to Get You Into My Life 67. Taxman 68. Within You Without You 69. Do You Want to Know a Secret 70. Can't Buy Me Love 71. Please Please Me 72. Michelle 73. Girl 74. Ballad of John and Yoko 75. Drive My Car 76. Lady Madonna 77. You Can't Do That 78. Yellow Submarine 79. Birthday 80. I'm Happy Just to Dance With You 81. Octopus's Garden 82. Good Day Sunshine 83. You Won't See Me 84. Anna (Go To Him) 85. Magical Mystery Tour 86. P.S. I Love You 87. I'm A Loser 88. From Me To You 89. Love Me Do 90. Happiness Is A Warm Gun 91. Please Mister Postman 92. She's A Woman 93. Roll Over Beethoven 94. You Really Got A Hold On Me 95. I Don't Want To Spoil The Party 96. She's Leaving Home 97. I'm Only Sleeping 98. Rock And Roll Music 99. Thank You Girl 100. Boys

A few comments.

As much as I disagree with it, it's a great list--it could hardly help but be one.

I wouldn't put "A Day In The Life" at #1, or "Hey Jude" at #3, but I get their high rankings.  But how did "In My Life" at #2 get so big?

Several covers, which makes sense.  The highest-ranked is "Twist And Shout" at #49.  Okay, but where's "Money"?

Too much George. I can see "Here Comes To Sun" in the top ten, but the lugubrious "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" his top-ranked at #5?  And that crapfest "Within You Without You" at #68?

The Abbey Road medley is not a song (or a suite, for that matter), but it's being treated as such.  Fine, but all the better to ignore it, rather than put it at #4.

In fact, there's too much Abbey Road in general:

4. Abbey Road Medley 6. Here Comes The Sun 8. Something   33. Come Together   44. Oh! Darling 53. I Want You (She's So Heavy) 64. You Never Give Me Your Money 81. Octopus's Garden 

I think (not sure where the medley starts) the only songs they left out are "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," "Because" and "Her Majesty"--which I prefer over most of the songs that did make it.

For that matter, too much stuff from the later albums.

Magical Mystery Tour:

7. Strawberry Fields Forever 14. I Am The Walrus 18. Penny Lane 25. All You Need Is Love 56. Hello, Goodbye 62. The Fool on the Hill 85. Magical Mystery Tour 

The White Album:

5. While My Guitar Gently Weeps 12. Blackbird 19. Dear Prudence  26. Revolution (though presumably the single version) 50. Helter Skelter 55. Back in the USSR 58. I Will 65. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da 79. Birthday 81. Octopus's Garden 90. Happiness Is A Warm Gun 

Let It Be:


9. Let It Be 16. Across The Universe 27. Don't Let Me Down 29. The Long And Winding Road 35. Get Back 47. Two Of Us 

Not that all these songs are bad.  It's just that so many could have been left off to allow earlier, better songs in their place.

Guess I should be happy they didn't include "Blue Jay Way" or "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?."

To be fair, the list honors many of the great songs from earlier albums, and I don't just mean Rubber Soul and Revolver. Look at how much love they gave to Help!.

10. Yesterday 22. Help! 36. You've Got To Hide Your Love Away 37. Ticket To Ride 42. I've Just Seen A Face 59. You're Going to Lose That Girl 61. The Night Before 

Still, top-heavy with the latter half of their career. To be expected, though you always hope to be surprised.

Don't put my love up on no shelf

"So instead they disingenuously blamed Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, who had to shelf the bill, and for that was the target of mass protests and death threats."

 I guess we've lost the ability to shelve things. But at least we've got ponies.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Another Peek

Twin Peaks: The Return ended this weekend.  It was fascinating to come back to the town we left so long ago, and to see the old faces (now truly old--and some dead).

But the best part was getting, in essence, a new 18-hour David Lynch movie, doled out at the pace of one hour a week.  The old series was the basis, but it was Lynch's project all the way, and he could (and did) take the story anywhere he wanted it to go (helped by co-creator and writer Mark Frost).

He indulged (in a good sense) in all the weirdness and surrealism so well-known by now that there's a word for it--Lynchian.

Kyle MacLachlan was the lead with two, or perhaps three, major roles.  Everyone else did supporting work. Some were central to the plot, some were more like bizarre detours, but just about everything was fun.

The show took its time, and maybe a few hours could have been cut, but certain bits that would have been the easiest to excise--all the backstory of "Part 8," for instance--were often the best stuff.

My only complaint is the ending.  I'm not denying it was haunting, and powerful, but without giving too much away, let's just say it was open-ended, leading into a new mystery.  Why, David, why?

The original series was built around a single mystery--who killed Laura Palmer.  When that was answered, the show lost its way.  It was a network show (back when that meant something) so had to go on, but really, its raison d'etre was gone, and forcing new mysteries weren't going to fill that hole.

So Lynch gets this great chance to finally give us closure.  Twenty-five years after the series was canceled and the movie version flopped, Lynch can return to Twin Peaks and create a whole season of whatever he wants.

But what we don't want (me, anyway) is a continuing series.  This miniseries should have been enough.  The Showtime Twin Peaks was expensive and didn't get great ratings, so I don't think Lynch will get any more episodes.  But he shouldn't have wanted more.

So I'm thankful.  And for me, this is it.  (Unless more come out.  Then we'll see.)

Monday, September 04, 2017

I Could Watch it For Hours

Happy Labor Day.

Sit back and watch some people laboring.






WB

Very sad to hear that Walter Becker has died.  He and Donald Fagen were Steely Dan, and as such, were two of the strongest songwriters of the rock era.

Steely Dan was mostly a 70s phenomenon, releasing their best albums in that decade.  They broke up in the early 80s and both recorded some decent solo albums (though I'd call Fagen's work better).  They got together in the early 90s and recorded a couple of decent Steely Dan albums.  But the stuff I still listen to is almost entirely their 70s output.

Steely Dan was a rock band, but incorporated a jazz feeling and sophistication in their work. In fact, there one of the few bands I know that mixed to two sounds successfully.

Their first six albums are so good I could sample them randomly and come up with three great songs. (I'll put them in chronological order, though.)






Sunday, September 03, 2017

Not So Great Dane

Hollywood is a crapshooter's game.  And sometimes certain people seem like the right bet--especially if you can sign them before they blow up and demand more money.

I guess that's how a bunch of producers felt about Dane DeHaan.  A few years ago he was in the surprise hit Chronicle, and since then he's done this and that. But 2017 looked like it might be the year of Dane, since he got to star in A Cure For Wellness, Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets and Tulip Fever.

Have you seen any of these films?  Have you even heard of them?  Or Dane DeHaan, for that matter?  I noted this trifecta a few months ago, and now they've all opened and flopped.

I don't know if DeHaan is to blame, but he certainly didn't help.  Valerian was one of the most expensive films of the year, and DeHaan played Valerian himself (though some people who saw the film weren't sure).

What I do know is DeHaan will probably not be offered leads in any major films for a while. I'm not saying his career is over, but it's not looking as good as it was a year ago.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Here We Go Again

Hard to believe, but college football is back. In particular, the Wolverines go against the Gators today.

Some think it'll be a rebuilding year for Michigan, but Harbaugh says no.  Michigan lost a lot of starters, so we'll see.

The Gators will be a real test.  Michigan is ranked, but so is Florida.

If they can get past this game, it won't exactly be smooth sailing, but they won't face another team presently ranked until they go to Penn State in late October.

They'll also end the regular season with the one-two punch of Wisconsin and Ohio State, but by then everyone will have a good idea of how things stand.

Go Blue!

PS  Michigan won, but it was a lot harder than it should have been.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Simon Says

I recently picked up Uneasy Stages, a collection of John Simon's theatre criticism.  I read it years ago and I wanted to see how it held up.

Simon was (is?--he's still alive, but I don't think he's writing) noted for being the harshest critic around.  He didn't like most of what he saw, and wasn't known for sparing anyone's feelings, going so far as to make fun of how actors looked.

I was surprised how well I remembered many of his reviews. I guess vituperation sticks with you.

There was one thing I forgot.  He criticizes playwrights, actors, directors, set designers, costumers, whomever.  He also takes on other critics.  But what surprised me was that he even trained his sights on the audience.

More than once he complains that an audience was too appreciative of a piece, or didn't understand it.  Now that's a critic.  Plenty of them have the people who put on the play worried, but only Simon could make those sitting in the house with him nervous.

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