Thursday, May 28, 2015

Come To Shove

Here's an LA Times article listing 13 major cases the Supreme Court will decide in the next month.  Looking over them, I really can't say what the Court will do, but I do have a few guesses.

The two biggest cases, I suppose, and therefore the most likely to be announced last (though I'm not sure why that should be) are the same-sex marriage case and the Obamacare case.  Regarding the former, I still think the Court will figure out how to punt on it.  Maybe they don't have a majority ready to declare it a right, but maybe there's also a majority that doesn't want to be remembered as denying a basic right, either.  As for the latter, considering how they protected the Affordable Care Act last time around, I'm not sure if they want to wade into it again (even though I consider the results of the decision not nearly so significant as many think).

Regarding some of the other cases:

--I think the Court will protect the right to "rant" on Facebook, even if the rants appear to be threats; generally speaking, such laws tend to be found overbroad under First Amendment analysis.

--I'm guessing they won't get involved with independent commissions redrawing districts.

--I think they'll leave it for state authorities to decide how to carry out lethal injections.

For the rest, I'd toss a coin.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Mac Attack or All Paul

I mentioned I was reading Peter Ames Carlin's bio of Paul McCartney, and now I've finished it.  Of course, after reading an intense history of the Beatles' early years, followed by a look at McCartney in the 70s, a lot of the material was familiar.  Still, the guy has had an amazing career, and is the most successful songwriter of the rock era, maybe of popular music in the past century.

A majority of the book deals with his early years up till the end of the Beatles in 1970.  Though this represents less than 40% of his life, it's his most important work.  As good as much of his music has been since, nothing can compare.  And too often, especially since John Lennon's death, McCartney has been considered the number two man in the Beatles.  Really it's an even split with him and John (followed by George and Ringo).

It was John's band to begin with, and he's the guy who decided to let Paul--and later George--in, but Paul's undeniable talent and drive was essential in them making it.  After all, one of the first things he did was teach John proper guitar chords.  John was brilliant at what he did, but Paul is the only one I think would have made it on his own, no matter what else happened.

And though I tend to prefer John's songs, Paul's tend to be more popular. If you think of their most covered songs, most are Paul's. In fact, "Yesterday," which may be the most performed song of the twentieth century, was entirely Paul's.  He came up with it, according to Carlin, in 1963, and sat on it for a year and a half, afraid it was too different.  The recording was just Paul with a string quartet--not really a Beatles' song at all (John even made fun of him for it).  Yet, look at the credits, and it's "Lennon-McCartney." (Originally they planned to put the main writer first, but manager Brian Epstein convinced them to keep it consistent, and when John died Yoko wasn't going to give in.)

He was always the Beatle-iest member of the band, wanting to perform, wanting to please.  So when they broke up, he took it the hardest.  In fact, his first four solo albums, McCartney, Ram, Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway, are hit and miss affairs. It wasn't until Band On The Run that he found his footing, and, in the mid-70s, had a streak of solid releases, getting back some of the critical respect he'd been missing.

He also formed Wings, but, as democratic as he wanted it to be, he was first among equals.  Only his beloved wife Linda could really speak out, but what was she doing there in the first place?  He thought she could be another partner, but she was no John Lennon.

In the late 70s he went solo again, and his work started to lose focus, but John's death drove him to put out one of his best albums--helped by Beatles' producer George Martin--Tug Of War. From that point on, however, most of his albums couldn't compare with the best of Wings, even though he wrote some interesting songs with Elvis Costello and, even in his weakest albums, had a few songs worth listening to.

Paul had lost his mother when he was a teen, and later, of course, lost John Lennon. But perhaps the worst loss of all was Linda, who died of cancer in 1998, only 56. More than ever, now, Paul felt adrift.  The first thing Paul did was release an album of rock and roll standards--the music that kept him going when he was a kid did the same thing for him as an adult.

Paul still releases new music, but in concert he's an oldies act. That's what the people want to hear, and Paul is enough of an entertainer to give them what they want.  But if he's not "relevant" any more, his music more than lives on.  The Beatles may have started out figuring they'd been over soon, but even though they called it quits 45 years ago, their music shows no signs of disappearing.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

And Now The Gift Has Ended

The latest Game Of Thrones, "The Gift," is already the seventh of ten episodes this season.  Hard to believe how fast it's going.  And though there was some table setting in the hour, we also got some results.  And I expect nothing but climaxes from here on in.

As for the title, my friends who read the books informed me it could refer to more than one thing.  For instance, the Gift is the area of land south of the Wall given to the Night's Watch. And the Gift is the gift of death the House of Black and White dispenses. Turns out the episode's gift was a completely different thing.

We start at the Wall.  Jon Snow is preparing to go with Tormund up north to invite the Wildlings down south.  Needless to say, this isn't going over well with the regulars, who have spent most of their time fighting the Wildlings.  But a Lord Commander's gotta do what a Lord Commander's gotta do. Still, even is Snow's plan makes sense (even if it dramatically sort of takes him away from the action), how can he leave behind a fort ready to mutiny?

Meanwhile, Maester Aemon, who's 100 or so, is on his deathbed.  He's amused by Gilly's boy, and reminisces about crazy old Aegon when he was a baby.

At Winterfell, Sansa is being held in her chambers.  The last episode caused a storm of protest--it seemed like a lot of people were surprised at how cruel Ramsay was, leading to the question: have they ever seen this show before?  She tries to give Theon the backbone to put a candle in the high tower as a signal it's time for her friends in the North to take action.  So is she going to get the revenge the audience is waiting for?  Theon/Reek finally agrees, but when he climbs to the top of the tower there's Ramsay waiting.  (I was a little confused at the causation--did Ramsay already know about the signal or was this by chance? Or did Reek go to visit Ramsay to begin with? You see how confused I am. More on this confusion later.)

Meanwhile, Brienne, in her only appearance this episode, is hundreds of yards away, looking pensive, waiting for a signal that doesn't come.  (Guess she heard from others about the signal.)  See you next week, Brienne.  I assume Gwendoline Christie gets paid for a full episode anyway.

Aemon finally croaks and Samwell does the eulogy.  Then someone points out to him, rather too obviously, that he's running out of friends at Castle Black.

Back at Winterfell Ramsay sends for Sansa.  Never a good sign.  He knows Stannis is riding toward them.  So much for that sneak attack. Told you you were wasting too much time, Stannis. Sansa has a surprisingly smart mouth, reminding Ramsay he's a bastard, and, while we're at it, so is Tommen, who naturalized him.  Ramsay--give him credit--has a good comeback.  Sansa, your half-brother, Jon Snow, is now Lord Commander of Castle Black--didn't know that, did you--so bastards can rise high.

Next Ramsay shows her the corpse of the Old Lady who was her "Friend In The North." So he knows all about her plans.  It's not clear to me if he knew the Lady was working against him because Reek said so, or if he knew already and decided to torture her for information.  And it's not clear to me if she gave up information, or died before he could start seriously flaying her. (It's also unclear to me where Roose Bolton is in all of this--has he left Winterfell?  Seems to me he wouldn't be happy with his son treating such a valuable wife so poorly, so I'm guessing he's gone.)  Anyway, we know at least that Reek has blabbed, which should teach Sansa to trust him--though I still believe Theon will eventually make his move when push comes to shove. I think he, not Brienne, not Sansa, not Stannis, will kill Ramsay before the season is out.

There's a huge storm in the North, making Stannis's march tough.  Horses are dying, sellswords are deserting, supply lines are cut off. Davos suggests they retreat to Castle Black until the time is better.  Stannis says he can't retreat again--wintering at Castle Black could take years. (Yeah, Stannis, but when you were there you acted like it was a timeshare and you wanted your money's worth.)  Davos leaves and Stannis turns to Melisandre.  They've both seen visions of a great battle in the snow. (Really, that's it? Not in King's Landing--isn't that more important?)  The Red Lady says sacrifices need to be made, and they need King's blood.  But where to get it?  Well, there's always his only daughter, Shireen. Is she suggesting what I think she is?  We're getting very Greek here.  Stannis tells her to get out, but if the snow keeps falling, will he waver?

Back at the Wall (a very Northern episode so far), a couple of jerky Night's Watch men mess with Gilly.  Samwell tries to defend her, but they beat him so badly I actually thought they killed him. It shocked me--I didn't think the show would do that to such a beloved character. And, so far, I'm right. He's just very hurt.  In a memorbale scene, Gilly tries to lift his spirits by giving him a taste of what he gave up when he took his Oath.  Hey, isn't this how Jon Snow and Ygritte got started.  And  that didn't end pleasantly.

Finally we're out of the north, at a slave auction outside Meereen.  Jorah goes for a high price, as expected (even if the seller exaggerates his tale a bit).  But he needs Tyrion, and vice versa. The Imp convinces the buyer to take him for comic value.  I have one question, though.  It's not the biggest auction, but it's a public event. No one can figure out this is Tyrion, the dwarf everyone in the world is looking for, worth his weight in gold if you just return his head to King's Landing?  I had trouble with that the whole episode.  Didn't Varys try to keep Tyrion locked up to avoid this problem?

Meanwhile, Dany is bedding down with Daario.  Hey, she's a queen, she can do what she wants, but is this seemly?  When Jorah made even the slightest move, she shot him down, saying he was getting above his station.  But then, he's not Daario, is he?  She explains her upcoming marriage to Hizdahr is strictly political. (I still don't get that either. How will that help her take Westeros when it comes down to it?) Marrying Daario and opening the Pits has apparently calmed down the Sons Of The Harpy.  Daario suggest if she wants a real solution, when the games start, she should butcher all the high families there. Now that's an idea.

At King's Landing (which used to be the center of intrigue, but with so many characters dead or AWOL, seems strangely depopulated), a distressed Olenna meets with the High Sparrow.  Jonathan Pryce is a fine actor who hasn't had to stretch much this season, so it's nice to see him with some decent lines.  Olenna demands Loras and Margaery be freed. She believes he's just doing Cersei's dirty work, and can be bought off. She doesn't get this is a fanatic who believes what he's saying--and (like many religious leaders) is very unhappy with the inequality in wealth, and thus happy to fight that by taking down the rich and powerful.  He also has an answer when she threatens to stop sending food to King's Landing--it's the poor who reap the grain, not the powerful, and they will support him.

Meanwhile, Cersei tries to explain to Tommen why he can't do anything.  It seems sort of ridiculous, but he is so young it's just buyable his trusted mother can prevent him from believing he has the power to get his queen out of prison.  (I'd like to see her try this argument on Joffrey.)  He says he loves Margaery, which is painful to Cersei, but Cersei makes sure to let him know she loves him above all...along with Myrcella.

And so we go to Dorne.  So far, the whole Dornish expedition has been a flop.  Jaime and Bronn, not to mention the Sand Snakes, had allegedly big plans to get Myrcella. But the plans turned out to be just try to grab her, and they got blocked.  Jaime is in a nice room--I still don't see why he have walked in the front door and asked for Myrcella back: "Thanks for holding her, we'll take it from here."  But the problem now is Myrcelle wants to stay--she's been there for years (so that's how long it's been since earlier seasons) and wants to stay and marry Trystane.  Okay, so what's the problem?  (Last week I wasn't quite sure if Myrcella had been kidnaped, but now we see not.)

Down in the unisex prison, the Sand Snakes are in one cell and Bronn in another.  He finally gets to sing his song, and has a nice voice--it's almost as if he were once a pop star.. He spars with one of the Snakes, who starts stripping to prove how beautiful she is. Then (good timing) he starts feeling woozy from the slow-acting poison on her spear. The show didn't kill Sam, but would it dare kill Bronn?  Nope.  She's got the antidote and aftet a little teasing gives it to him.  This seem pointless intrigue--and anyway, I was busy watching her take her clothes off, which was quite interesting enough.

At King's Landing Littlefinger meets with Olenna in the ruins of his brothel.  At first she blames him for the trouble, and says she'll tell who was behind Joffrey's death. He explains he was summoned by Cersei, he'd rather not have come. (I have no idea if anything he says is true, by the way--I can't keep track of his intrigues any more.) But he says he's got some information (a gift) that could be quite helpful, so they should team up.   Looks like things will be getting unpleasant for Cersei pretty soon.

Back at Meereen, we're seeing preliminary fights before the big match.  Tyrion and Jorah are not chosen to be lambs to the slaughter just yet.  Over at the arena, Hizdahr (rather conveniently for the plot) leads Dany in to watch some of the bouts.  It's not her idea of fun.

But Jorah hears the fighters acknowledging the Queen and rushes over to see what's happening.  We get his POV, looking at Dany, all in white.  After being banished, to see her again, and have a chance to make it up to her--it's all he could ask for.  Jorah grabs his sword and makes short work of the fighters still there. Meanwhile, Tyrion gets free of his chains.

Jorah presents himself, removing his helmet and revealing himself to Khaleesi.  Not what she expected. It's a powerful moment. She shakes her head and wants him gone. (Could have gone worse, actually.)  He cries out that he brought her a gift, and Tyrion enters.  Who are you, she asks (so she doesn't know either). He explains he's the gift--hence the title of the show--Tyrion Lannister.  That should shake things up a bit.

But the hour isn't quite over.  We're back in King's Landing. Cersei promised Tommen she'd plead the Queen's case to the High Sparrow, but of course, she glories in Margaery being locked up. (Hardly the first time a high-born foe of Cersei ends up in a dungeon.) Margaery is having a tough time, but knows enough that Cersei is behind it all, no matter what she says.

Cersei goes to the High Sparrow and tries to find out what'll happen next, but gets a surprise. A surprise we saw coming, but not Cersei; she's wily, but not coldblooded enough--Tywin would never have put himself in such a position.  It's Lancel,  If the Sparrows think Margaery deserves to be locked up, you can imagine what they think of Cersei after hearing this Lannister tell his stories.

They grab Cersei and toss her in her own cell. (Isn't that done after the first hearing?  I guess not.)  She's vows revenge, and you don't want to get her mad, but these are fanatics, after all.  I'm not sure who holds the cards here.  Everyone is plotting, but while the religious nuts seem to have the upper hand, will Tommen really stand for all this?  Haven't they finally gone too far?  Or will the people side with the religious, who speak for the people.  And what about the battle between Lannisters and Tyrells--the Sparrows want to take away all their finery, but can't they use their sway to strip away whatever powers the Sparrows have?

So that's the hour.  No Arya.  Precious little Brienne or Jaime.  No Roose.  No Varys (is he out for the count?). No Grey Worm, thankfully.  And almost everywhere you look, some sort of tragedy ready to strike. With only three more episodes to go, expect plenty of trouble.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Mnemonic Device

It's Memorial Day, time for patriotic music.  I've got nothing against such tunes, but as a change of pace, I thought we'd listen to some songs about memory instead, while we all think about the sacrifices of those who served our country.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Facts not in evidence

"Low functioning intellectuals" is a nice term, and "low functioning intellectuals with delusions of grandeur" a nice phrase.

Speaking of which, why does this columnist bother to presume an ability to entire Obama's mind? Why Obama has come to regret underestimating the Islamic State

This is like discussing self reflection among the Clintons; if there is any evidence in the record anywhere of Obama having a regret, I haven't seen it, and nothing in his behavior suggests any significant capability of it. One can't even really say with confidence that things ever go wrong in his world; unhappy events are really a product of the evil he is here to vanquish.

Not So Nice

Lately I've been listening to Have A Nice Decade: The 70s Pop Culture Box., a 7-CD box set I bought years ago.  It's got about 150 songs, and if you want to know the list, click on the link.

What I forgot was in between some songs they inserted newscasts of the day--generally bits related (vaguely) to the song.  Who thought this was a good idea?  You're listening to music and suddenly someone is talking.  This lowers the value of the set, seems to me.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Kasich May Miss Cut in Ohio Debate

Boy, that's a tough one. On the one hand I'd love to see him up there and marginalized, less stature than one of the Seven Dwarfs, but on the other hand, if it looks like he's getting ready to break into the top 10, that's a sign from God that we need more candidates.

Maybe they could ask him to moderate, since they can't find a reporter who isn't on Clinton's payroll. Isn't he a highly successful TV personality with bigger ratings than O'Reilly?

Key And Peel

Over the past few weeks I noticed my lithium battery car key was running out of juice.  The car wouldn't click on every time.  Then earlier this week, parked miles away from home, I pushed the button to unlock the door and nothing happened.  I tried a second time, same result.  I waited, tried it yet again, still no result.  (This is madness, according to some misquoters.)

What should I do?  I didn't think I was anywhere close to where I could buy a new battery.  Should I call a tow-truck.  Seems like such a waste.  Then it hit me--I had a key.  I could actually use said key to open the door.

It worked.  My car was frightened though, and started beeping until I put the same key into the ignition, after which it calmed down.

I only bought this car a few years ago, and this was the first time I had a battery-run key, but how quickly we forget.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Advice from 2002

“I think he could have used the veto power,” he added.

Now that's some power thinking, right there. Good enough to get you into Davos, I expect.

Jeb is going to be downright likable for up to about a year from now.

White Papers

Here something that's been making the rounds: "Books That Literally All White Men Own: The Definitive List."

I'm going to reproduce this lengthy list and, as an honorary white man, will note if I own it or not, or have even read it.  Actually, all of these books are quite popular in general, and likely owned by many women and non-white men as well.

1. Shogun, James Clavell [don't own, haven't read, no interest]
2. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut [own many Vonnegut novels, have read it]
3. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole [read and owned]
4. Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace [don't own, haven't gotten around to reading, may never]
5. A collection of John Lennon’s drawings. [own some writing by Lennon, but no drawings except as part of book]
6. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway [read it years ago, don't own, but own other Hemingway]
7. The first two volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin [don't own any Martin--have looked at some books in the library to see how it compares to Game Of Thrones]
8. God Is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens [read parts of it in library, don't own]
9. Catch-22, Joseph Heller [own, have read several times]
10. I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell, Tucker Max [don't own, no interest in reading]
11. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand [have read, not sure if I own]
12. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, Oliver Sacks [have read articles by Sacks but haven't read this, and don't own it]
13. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger [certainly have read it, may have a copy somewhere]
14. The Godfather, Mario Puzo [love the movie, haven't read book, don't own it]
15. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald [have read, may own it]
16. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov [have read, may own it]
17. Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk [don't own book, would only consider looking at it to compare it to movie]
18. The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov [don't own, haven't read]
19. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown [don't own, no interest in reading except perhaps to see why it was such a huge bestseller]
20. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck [never got around to reading--have read other Steinbeck and not been greatly impressed, and this one looks sort of long; have seen movie and found it overrated]
21. The Stand, Stephen King [haven't read--have read some King but only because friends insisted]
22. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson [haven't read, no interest--didn't like either movie version]
23. The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer [haven't read--not too much interest in it]
24. Tuesdays With Morrie, Mitch Albom [haven't read, no interest]
25. It’s Not About the Bike, Lance Armstrong (definitely under the bed) [haven't read, no interest]
26. Who Moved My Cheese?, Spencer Johnson [haven't read, no interest]
27. Portnoy’s Complaint, Philip Roth [read years ago, probably own]
28. Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand [haven't read, not too much interest]
29. John Adams, David McCullough [I think someone gave me a copy, may get around to it]
30. Ragtime, E.L. Doctorow [read and owned]
31. Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis [been planning to read it for years, don't own it]
32. America: The Book, Jon Stewart [looked at it in library, no interest in checking it out]
33. The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman [reading Friedman in small doses is bad enough]
34. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell [Gladwell strikes me as sort of silly, don't think I could take a whole book]
35. The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time, Mark Haddon [haven't read, don't own]
36. Exodus, Leon Uris (if Jewish) [haven't read, don't own, have seen movie]
37. Trinity, Leon Uris (if Irish-American) [haven't read, don't own]
38. The Road, Cormac McCarthy [had a friend who insisted I read it, don't own]
39. Marley & Me, John Grogan [don't own, no interest]
40. Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt [my book group made me read it--I don't disagree with the book but not sure if I'd have read it otherwise]
41. The Rainmaker, John Grisham [there's so much good literature out there, why would I read Grisham?]
42. Patriot Games, Tom Clancy [see Grisham above]
43. Dragon, Clive Cussler [don't own, no interest]
44. Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond [have read some essays by Diamond, seems questionable, don't own book]
45. The Agony and the Ecstasy, Irving Stone [haven't read, don't own, don't particularly like movie]
46. The 9/11 Commission Report [read a few selections in papers, don't own--has anyone read whole thing who wasn't required to?]
47. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, John le Carre [don't own, don't read spy novels]
48. Rising Sun, Michael Crichton [have read no Crichton, have seen many movie adaptations]
49. A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson [wouldn't have read except a friend suggested it last year]
50. Airport, Arthur Hailey [seen movie, no interest in reading book]
51. Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki [don't own, haven't read]
52. Burr, Gore Vidal [have read, probably own]
53. Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt [haven't read, don't own]
54. The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan [haven't read, don't own]
55. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer [have read, I think someone gave it to me]
56. Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer [haven't read, don't own, have seen movie]
57. Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson [haven't read, don't own]
58. Godel, Escher, Bach, Douglas Hofstadter [read, owned and met with author]
59. The World According to Garp, John Irving [read and probably own]
60. A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking [read much of it in library]
61. The Tin Drum, Gunter Grass [haven't read, did like the movie]
62. On the Road, Jack Kerouac [haven't read--looks like too much trouble]
63. Lord of the Flies, William Golding [read back in high school, may own]
64. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien [read as a kid, didn't like]
65. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe [read, owned]
66. Beowulf, the Seamus Heaney translation [have read, own a different translation]
67. Rabbit, Run, John Updike [read several Updike works, not this one--may get around to it]
68. The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie [haven't read, don't own]
69. The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [have read much Holmes, not sure if I have complete collection]
70. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler [great movie but I don't read detective novels]
71. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey [read years ago, may own]
72. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess [read in library]
73. House of Leaves, Mark Danielewski [haven't read, don't own]
74. The Call of the Wild, Jack London [read as kid, don't own]
75. Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon [have read other Pynchon, but haven't gotten to this yet]
76. I, Claudius, Robert Graves [haven't read, don't own, watched TV series years ago]
77. The Civil War: A Narrative, Shelby Foote [haven't read, don't own]
78. American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis (a glaring omission from the original, pointed out by Naomi Fry) [haven't read, don't own]
79. Life, Keith Richards [read selections in bookstore]

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