Monday, May 02, 2016

One true thing

"I've been endorsed by over 70 newspapers. Wish it mattered."

(Isn't it "more than"?)

And universities will begin correcting for Democrats

That's nice. What about bias toward spelling, grammar and the ability to tell a story?

(Ah, what am I saying. They corrected that last long ago.)

Hart To Hart

You get the feeling Lorenz Hart didn't have many happy birthdays.  His troubled life ended at the age of 48 in 1943.  But while he was alive, he was half of the best songwriting team the Great American Songbook had.  So happy birthday, Larry.

Not only don't they recognize the tune--the can't tell Larry Hart from Oscar Hammerstein.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

What's the spot price of morphine, anyway?

Free To Be You And Me

Donald Trump has been out in California and he's gotten a lot of protest, sometimes violent. But even after that I wasn't prepared for the reaction of the West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath.  Here's a letter she sent to Trump:
To Donald J Trump & staff –
I am compelled to state for the record how deeply disturbed I am by the Trump presidential campaign. The hate speech and implicit calls to violence coming from your campaign are beyond the pale and have no place in any community in our country.
The people of West Hollywood have seen the devastation and destruction that hatred and hate speech can bring. We are home to Jewish immigrants who escaped Nazi occupation in Soviet Russia, to LGBTQ people of all ages including survivors of the AIDS crisis, and to many other diverse constituencies, of which we are most proud. We know firsthand how charged language can incite dangerous activity that puts our residents and neighborhoods at risk — and at great cost. While we must always make room for free speech and reasonable — even passionate — debate, your reckless rhetoric is wrong at every level.
With the primary making its way to California, as West Hollywood's mayor, I want to make very clear that your campaign of violence and intimidation is not welcome in our city. I demand that you renounce calls to violence and consider the role you play in shaping public discourse, specifically with the words you choose and the behavior you exhibit and encourage.
We do not have to agree or like one another, but as Americans and political figures in the public eye, we share a responsibility to lead by example. I take that responsibility very seriously, and I ask that you do the same.
Lindsey P. Horvath
Mayor, City of West Hollywood
Regardless of what you think of Trump, Horvath has outed herself as an intolerant thug with contempt for basic American freedoms, and a politician who panders to the lowest instincts in her constituents.  Shameful.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Who will they get to read it?

Bloomberg . . . was forming a 10-person team to lead a study on how to use more automation in writing and reporting [and] called the robot-generated copy “smart automated content (SAC).”

If they can just find robots to pay for it, they'll be all set.

Part 2

Following yesterday's birthday blowout, we now have musical offerings from people born on April 29th after 1940.

Klaus Voorman

Duane Allen

Tammi Terrell

Tommy James

Michelle Pfeiffer

Carnie Wilson

Uma Thurman

Friday, April 29, 2016

What units would that be in?

"One minute of arduous exercise was comparable in its physiological effects to 45 minutes of gentler sweating."


"If you are someone, like me, who just wants to boost health and fitness and you don’t have 45 minutes or an hour to work out, our data show that you can get big benefits from even a single minute of intense exercise.”

So, if I have sex twice, that's as good as three-quarters of an hour workout time. I'm in. I suppose it all depends on the meaning of "arduous." Next time I'll take a survey and find out what my partners think. (Now let's see, population N = P(1|0) . . .)

That guy stinks!

(I though Voldemort was the Dark Lord?)

Today Is The Day

Today is my birthday, but I share it with many others.  So today, and tomorrow, I will offer you various pieces of music from my co-birthdayites.  First, people born before 1940.

Duke Ellington

Donald Mills

Celeste Holm

Big Jay McNeely

Lonnie Donnegan

Rod McKuen

Zubin Mehta

April Stevens

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Speaking of Columbo

I'm seeing Jack Cassidy as Tim Cook.

The (Secret) Word Is Out

Time for celebration: our friend Matthew Coniam will have his book That's Me, Groucho released a little latter this year--you can order it now.  His previous book, The Annotated Marx Brothers, is one of the best yet written about the team, and this is a follow-up.

That's Me Groucho promises to focus on Julius Marx, the most famous and successful of the brothers, in his solo career.  There are already a fair amount of books looking at Groucho's life--including some from Groucho himself--but Matthew has shown, through diligent research and deep insight, that there's still plenty more to discuss.

Groucho started performing in Vaudeville before his brothers were a team.  After they stopped making movies, he continued to work in all aspects of show biz.  He made solo films, but, more important, was a huge hit in radio and television as the emcee on You Bet Your Life.  This wasn't like any other game show--it was just an excuse for Groucho to talk to people and crack jokes.  A simple enough formula that few could have made work.  And for a generation, this was the Groucho that people knew best.

The book will also (as far as I can tell) look into his private life.  Groucho had a public persona--one which he himself tried to maintain--but how much do we really know about him?  Over the years, certain stories get repeated and beliefs solidify, but Coniam--as he showed in his other book--was able to think things through and question conventional views.  I assume he'll do the same with solo Groucho.

I admit Groucho alone isn't nearly as entertaining as the best of his work with his brothers, but then, what is?  He still had something, even to the end, and anything that adds to knowledge of life is worth checking out.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How to file papers dissolving the corporate form?

What will Republicans learn from 2016?


I've been watching Johnny Carson reruns (are there any other kind?) on Antenna TV.  It's a different world--less frantic, for one thing.  It's interesting to hear him do political jokes to see how things have changed.  Or haven't.

Just last week I saw Paul Ehrlich on a 1980 broadcast.  He's a biologist still with us, and had already been famous for over a decade by this appearance.  He was (and is) renowned for his doom-and-gloom forecasts, saying in his classic The Population Bomb (1968) that it wasn't long before there'd be major starvation in America (though he would claim he was just discussing a potential scenario).  Though he seemed to have been proved wrong by 1980, he was still pushing for Zero Population Growth.

We had 220 million Americans then, which he thought was too much.  He'd prefer to go back to around 150 million.  We now have 320 million, if you're wondering, and are not only not starving, but have a much bigger obesity problem than we used to. (Oddly, he was worried about illegal immigration.  What's that got to do with anything?  Even if it increased the population here, it'd help lower it elsewhere, so it's a wash.)

He made arguments which he should have known were questionable, but Johnny and the audience seemed to eat it up.  First, he said the pie is only so big, which is, I suppose, the central argument for keeping population down.  Except the size of the pie can change based on human ingenuity.

He also said--and this goes along with the limited pie--the fewer people there are, the bigger the share for everyone will be.  Really?  First, of course, we don't live in a hunter and gatherer world, we live in a world where people work to make products, including food, that others buy.  The more people there are, the more people there are who need things but also the more people there are to make things.  More important, in our modern economy, we have programs like Social Security and Medicare and public pensions that people pay into but don't fully pay for.  To keep these programs going, you need a bigger pool of earners or pretty soon every worker or two is responsible for keeping someone disabled or retired afloat.  If your population goes down, or even remains stable, someone's going to lose out.

Ehrlich also noted, when it comes to energy, that we'll be out of oil in twenty or thirty years, so we better figure out an alternative.  Well here it is 35 years later and we're still awash in the stuff.

So what's my point?  Nothing, except it's a mugs game to predict the future.  What he was saying then (and similar things he's saying now) were accepted by many as conventional wisdom.  CW doesn't have to be wrong, of course, but the future has a way of making even the smartest prognosticators look foolish.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Do they have Robot Union Enforcers?

Robot longshoremen

Red Is The New Black

It's nice to have Game Of Thrones back.  "The Red Woman," which opened season six, didn't have a tremendous amount of action, but it allowed us to see how most of our characters--just about all of whom were brought low last season--are faring.

It starts with a long, traveling shot that brings us to Castle Black, where we see Jon Snow lying in the snow and (his own) blood.  Yep, he's dead. Got it everyone?  Dead, dead, dead.  Here's the thing though--killing the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch has ramifications.  Things aren't going back to normal right away.

Davos (he's still back in Castle Black--I had to think to remember where everyone was) discovers the body and with the help of some faithful friends, Snow's soon laid out on a table in a room behind a bolted door.  Then in comes Melisandre (Davos figures she's someone they might be able to trust--is he coming around?).  She saw a lot of potential in Snow, so why is nothing working out lately?  After she leaves, the guys discuss what to do--they know they'll have to fight, but Davos knows they don't have the numbers to win.  Davos sends Dolorous Edd out to get some Wildlings and even the playing field.

Meanwhile, the traitors who killed Snow, headed by Alliser Thorne (Game Of Thornes), are in the big hall explaining why they did what they did--it's wrong to assassinate the LC, but he was about to destroy the NW, so what else could they do?

At Winterfell, Ramsay is mourning Myranda, the one girl who truly got him.  He promises revenge a thousand times over--and he's just the man to do it.  Then he has her body sent out to feed the hounds.  Next comes slick dad Roose, who explains that Ramsay won the war (against Stannis) but lost the battle (losing his big prize, Sansa, along with Reek).  This won't do.  He needs Sansa, with a baby boy in her, to secure the North.  If he can't do it, Fat Walda's child--if it's a son--can run Winterfell.  Ramsay gulps and promises he's sent out the (well-fed) hounds to capture the escapees.

Sure enough, there's Theon and Sansa fleeing barking dogs and crossing an icy river like it's a 19th century melodrama.  Theon has become a man again, it would seem.  And not a moment too soon. He's been pretty awful, sure, but I think he's suffered enough--is it okay to root for him now?  (Does Sansa still believe he killed Bran and Rickon?  I can't remember.  That would be hard to forgive, but we know better.)

Ramsay's men catch up, and Theon is willing to give up his life to divert them, but no go. Then Brienne, the woman (Roose thought it was a man) who killed Stannis--probably not that far away from this spot--and Pod, ride to the rescue.  (Not sure how they knew where to be, but Brienne was keeping an eye our for Sansa half of last season, so I'll give it to her.) After everyone has been dispatched, Brienne lays down her sword and offers to serve. This is what she does--she's offered her service to Renly (died), Catelyn (died), Arya (didn't want it) and Sansa (didn't want it).  This time Sansa, ceremoniously, accepts.  The four make a motley crew, but beggars can't be choosers.  Where do they go next?  I'd suggest some place warm, though Theon thinks Jon at Castle Black could help out.  I wouldn't count on that, Reek.

A boat from Dorne is docking at King's Landing.  Cersei, who needs some good news, rushes out to meet her sweet daughter Myrcella.   When she only sees Jaime, she knows there's trouble.  She's heartbroken--Myrcella was her greatest creation (though she never had to see her as a whiny teenager).  Jaime promises (not unlike Ramsway) that everyone will pay, and no one else matters but them. Okay, but shouldn't Cersei be thinking I better go protect Tommen right now?

Over at the church (or whatever they call it) we see Margaery is still locked up, and that tough Septa Unella still trying to make her to confess.  The High Sparrow comes in and tries a softer approach (good sparrow, bad sparrow?), but Margaery won't admit she didn't anything wrong.  Is she hoping Loras can help her?  Or Olenna?  She certainly can't be expecting any help from the Lannisters.

Over in Dorne, we get more action in five minutes than we got all last season.  The Sand Snakes are tired of weak men running the country.  Before you know it, they've murdered King Doran, his guard and Trystane. Good--if we've got to have Dorne figure in the story at all, let's wipe the slate clean and start over.  Are the Snakes (still can't tell them apart) going to sail against King's Landing? Others have tried and it hasn't gone well.

Now we cut to Meereen and the one thing that makes no sense in the hour.  We see Varys and Tyrion walking through the city, amongst the people, in common garb.  Tryion says they can't learn to rule 800 feet up in a pyramid.  But this is the city where the Sons Of The Harpy ambushed the Queen out in public---if Drogon hadn't smoked a bunch of them and flown her away, they'd have succeeded.  The best strategy right now would be for Varys and Tyrion to hide in the pyramid, occasionally ordering the Unsullied to get some takeout, and praying that Dany gets back soon.

Don't tell me they can walk through the street unnoticed.  Kings dressed as commoners is a popular fairy tale trope, but this is the Imp and Uncle Fester.  Easy to spot.  Anyway, one thing they discover is the Lord of Light is getting bigger and bigger among those who speak Valyrian.  And these religious nuts (who, like zombies, are everywhere in Westeros and Essos) are awaiting Dany's return.  Meanwhile, the terrorists decide to burn all the ships in the harbor.  I don't get it.  It may be Dany's fleet, but she's gone--are they unhappy with Meereen's trade policy?

Speaking of Dany, Jorah and Daario are on the trail.  Jorah's greyscale is spreading, so he better find her soon.  He picks up some clues.  We cut to Dany, who's being led along as a prisoner by two Dothraki soldiers.  They make crude comments in Dothraki which she pretends not to understand--we've seen her pull this trick before.

As a beautiful woman with light skin, blue eyes and platinum hair, she's presented to grand poo-bah Khal Moro.  Everyone makes jokes about killing her or raping her until Dany, imperiously, lists all her titles (in Dothraki).  Feisty, just the way Moro likes 'em.  Then she mentions she was married to Khal Drogo--this seems to be all the proof they need, they take her at her word.  So she's safe, but they won't escort her back to Meereen--she'll be required to hang out with all the other Khaleesi widows for the rest of her life.  Do these women get a pension of something?

Then we cut to a guy walking down a street and we're thinking where is this? King's Landing?  Meereen?  Oh, of course, it's Braavos, we haven't been there yet.  And there's a blind beggar girl collecting coins, otherwise unnoticed, hearing stray conversation.  Is this what Arya is reduced to after being kicked out of the House of Black and White, or is this her new assignment? Whatever, she soon has to face the Waif, who kicks the crap out of her in a street fight.  But Arya's a quick study and soon she'll be kicking the Waif's ass--or at least we hope.

Back to the Wall, where we started.  Davos and the guys are still locked in, and Alliser is getting impatient. He promises amnesty (and mutton) if they'll come out, though they know what a promise from Thorne is worth.  They're just going to have to wait until Edd gets back. Or maybe the Red Woman can birth another shadow baby.

Speaking of Melisandre, she's getting ready for bed.  She takes off her clothes, looks in the mirror, and then removes her necklace.  Now she looks like an old crone.  The necklace apparently casts a spell (or a glamour, as my friend Virginia Postrel would say) making her appear young and beautiful.  Just how old is she?  Where does she come from?  What does she know?  All we know right now is the show is over.

All in all, pretty good. As I said, not a lot of action (only in GOT could a bunch of people die in gruesome ways and it still not be thought of as much action), but smart dialogue and a chance to catch up with many of our favorites. Not all of them, though.  No Gilly and Samwell, no Littlefinger, no Bronn or Bran (Bran is supposed to be back this season), no Qyburn or revived Mountain, no Missandei or Grey Worm, No Jaqen, no Olenna, no Pycelle, no Tormund, no Hodor, no Hound (if there's a Hound to be found), but hey, the show is only an hour.

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