Saturday, September 20, 2014

The High Cost Of A Reputation

I caught The High Cost Of Loving, a 1958 dramatic comedy starring Jose Ferrer and Gena Rowlands.  It's a minor film about a low-level executive, stuck in a rut at his company, who's worried he's about to be let go.

What intrigued me, however, was the cast, which features Richard Deacon, Nancy Kulp, Jim Backus, Edward Platt and Werner Klemperer.  To those of you who are fans of 60s sitcoms, that's Mel Cooley of The Dick Van Dyke Show, Miss Hathaway of The Beverly Hillbillies, Thurston Howell III of Gilligan's Island, Chief of Get Smart and Colonel Klink of Hogan's Heroes.

All of them played characters who were in positions of authority, more or less.  But it was hard to see them as anything but their sitcom incarnations.  This isn't the only 50s film where this happens. Notably, in Rebel Without A Cause you've got Jim Backus and Ed Platt amongst all the brooding. But I've never seen so many in one place.

The Best Things In Life Are Relative

Here's an interesting piece in The Washington Post entitled "How much $100 is really worth in every state".  It's a map from the Tax Foundation, based on government data, telling you the relative worth of your money.  (Actually, I bet the differences are more stark if you want to buy a house.  For what a so-so ranch costs a few blocks from me you could get a mansion in a lot of the country.)


So my hundred bucks in California (it doesn't break it down by state regions, but it's probably only worse in Los Angeles) is worth $88.57.  In Illinois, where I used to live, it's $99.40.  In Michigan, where I grew up, it's worth $105.93.  I'm moving in the wrong direction.

You want your money to go far?  Try the golden triangle of Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Money, Television and Bullshit

"Only 36 percent of Americans can name three branches of government"

Truly a parliament of whores.

Wave

Some people think 2014 may be a "wave" election, where one party--in this case, the GOP--makes large gains.  Others say the Republicans will do well (no one thinks they won't win some seats), but it won't be a wave.

They're both right.  Just what makes a wave is in the eye of the beholder.  Okay, sometimes it's so obvious no one can deny it (leftist publications denied Reagan won a landslide in 1980, but they shut up after 1984), but right now, for instance, some are saying the Republicans could take back the Senate and it still won't be a wave.  Well, I guess that'd be good enough until the real wave comes along.

There's little question the Republicans are well positioned compared to, say, 2012. (Then again, some believed things were looking good for the GOP in 2012.)  But when it comes to the Senate, which is really what we're talking about, since the House will remain Republican and the White House isn't in play, we're talking about state by state races, each one different.  There are only 36 (not a typo) races and only about a third are truly in play, so with such a small sample, it'd be easy for a wave to fall apart before it hits the shore.  Bad candidates, foot-in-mouth disease, scandals, new issues and peculiar state practices come into play much more than they would with the larger number of seats in House elections.

Let's say it's time for a wave.  That might simply mean that Republicans will receive a few percentage points more than usual.  Okay, but that could translate to four net seats in the Senate, or six, or eight, all depending on other factors. So let's say bye-bye to the wave and, if we must, come up with some better metaphor.

Ernie

British Composer Ernest Tomlinson turns 90 today.  He's best known for light music.





Thursday, September 18, 2014

I hate myself

David Gregory hits media 'laziness'

Turns out Gregory has discovered there's a 'narrative.' You won't believe what he thinks it is.

Booked

A friend sent me a piece in the Chicago Tribune by none other than Cass Sunstein, reminiscing about the Seminary Co-op Bookstore in Hyde Park.  It is a pretty special place, though Sunstein, now at Harvard, hasn't been at the University of Chicago for a while so I wonder when he was last there.

I'm not sure what occasioned the piece, but it's clear the essay is deeply felt.  (Though sometimes in his mistiness the prose goes a bit astray: "Spend 30 minutes at the Front Table, and your mind would both focus and wander.  You could not be distracted.  You were on an island, or in some kind of warm sea.")  I wouldn't be surprised if he's found a new favorite in Cambridge, but your first bookstore will always be special.

Hyde Park is not the most lovely place, but I do remember certain spots with fondness, and that includes some great bookstores.  Of all the changes in retail that have occurred during my life, the one that fills me with the most nostalgia is the death of the bookstore.  I wonder if anyone's started a pool on when the last one will close.

PS  Don't ask my why, but the piece reminded me of a personal story about Cass--maybe because in it he's surrounded by books.  When I was in law school, the finals were three hours, but sometimes they'd give you take-home tests where you'd leave the class and have eight hours to work on it. I didn't like this--three hours was enough to get out any ideas you had, and the extra time simply existed to make you feel guilty for not coming up with more insights.

I had a take-home on some soft subject, so I went to my room, read the question, and immediately turned on my tiny black and white TV to watch Green Acres. (I think I was able to work the episode into my answer--Green Acres did feature a lawyer, after all.)

After that, only about seven hours left, might as well start working on it.  So I went to the law library, where it was fairly quiet and, if necessary, I could look up something.  After about two hours, I felt I had pretty much said what I had to say.  Oh, I'd polish it a little, but for all intents and purposes, I was done.  And just then who should walk by but Cass.

We were sort of friends, so he stopped and we started chatting. I don't remember what about.  Maybe about Green Acres--he liked TV as much as I did.  And we're talking maybe five or ten minutes and then he gets this look on his face.  He's just realized I'm in the middle of a test.

He's horrified at the intrusion. He apologizes and rushes off.  For all I knew, he left for the solitude of the Seminary Co-op.  Of course, I would have been glad to keep on talking. Who knows, maybe something I could have worked in something he said about Green Acres.

There's No Stoppin'

Happy birthday, Dee Dee Ramone.  All the originals are gone, but it doesn't mean we're going to stop playing their music.









Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Been Up So Long Looks Like Down To Me

In The New Yorker, Jill Lepore writes about the feminist background of Wonder Woman.  It's a decent piece, and then we get this:

In 1972, Wonder Woman was named a “Symbol of Feminist Revolt”; the next year, the Supreme Court legalized abortion. But the aftermath of Roe v. Wade didn’t bolster the feminist movement; it narrowed it. If 1972 was a legislative watershed, 1973 marked the beginning of a drought. The movement stalled. Wages never reached parity; social and economic gains were rolled back; political and legal victories seemingly within sight were never achieved. .

"Social and economic gains were rolled back."  Which ones?  Could she name them?  I would think in the last 40 years we've seen little but major steps forward for feminism, so much that its basic tenets, dubious to large numbers in the 1970s, are barely questioned today (and woe to those who do).

She does get around to giving some vague examples in the next paragraph, but it's hard to believe this is what she's referring to:

Wonder Woman [...] ran for President on the cover of Ms. in 1972. She’ll run again; she’s never won. The Equal Rights Amendment never became law; in 1982, the deadline for its ratification expired. A century after [Margaret] Sanger started The Woman Rebel, even the fight for birth control isn’t over.

So there hasn't been a woman President?  In the past few decades, for the first time ever, women have had a serious chance of winning the office, and have also been nominated for Vice President by both major parties.  We've also had female Supreme Court Justices, Secretaries of State, a Speaker Of The House and many other high position never before attained.  And who cares what the sex of the President is anyway?  If John McCain had been elected and then died, and Sarah Palin were the first female President, would Lepore consider that a great moment in feminist history?  Meanwhile, we've had some Presidents in the past few decades who would happily describe themselves as feminists.  But no go, Lepore refuses to accept any victories.

The ERA?  Not exactly a rollback when it hadn't passed yet.  Furthermore, sexual equality has been written into the law so many times since then that I'd like to know what difference Lepore thinks passage would have made. 

The fight for birth control isn't over?  This is a good case of moving the goalposts. The main battle today is whether or not the government should force private parties to pay for it.  Doesn't sound like a rollback to me.

Even the wage gap, if you think that's a meaningful statistic, has gotten much better.  In the 70s, women made 59% as much as men.  There's been regular upward movement since then and today the number is around 77%.

You see this too often--someone behind a cause who didn't get absolutely everything (which is always the case) thus feels it's okay to say things are moving backward, no matter how huge the gains.

Like almost any widespread movement, feminism has struggles, within itself and with others. (The ones within may be more important.  Feminism tends to see itself as a leftist cause, which for some reason means many feminists believe they should be opposed to capitalism and individualism.  Unfortunate.)  But it's rather tiresome when movements that have been advancing for a long time take the line that things are moving backward.

JJ

Happy birthday Danish composer Jorgen Jersild. (The "o" has a line through it.)






Tuesday, September 16, 2014

They missed one

A little bit of blog stir over a NYT guest column over decay, decay everywhere, but they missed a pretty good item.

The state of Washington Supreme Court has held the legislature in contempt for disobeying an order to spend more money on schools.

There is no excuse for this and no cure. The court and legislature should be impeached in their entirety, or at least those who did not dissent-the legislature for its mewling we-will-comply response.

Could there be a more basic separation of powers issue? The legislature ought to defund the court altogether for two months or a year, or impeach the affirmative votes, but of course they won't.

This is common in the states, where there has been an active campaign for more than 20 years to cause courts to order funding increases for education, although I'm not aware of others who actually reached the contempt stage. Ohio flirted with it, but the court eventually backed off, mumbling something about how its orders were important.

If we had competent civics programs in the U.S., we would now be teaching that Nebraska has a unicameral state legislature and Washington is run by its supreme court, but the other states at least pretend to separation of powers.

Big Mac

The voices from the earliest days of recording are mostly forgotten.  But if you were buying wax tracks in the 1910s, you couldn't have avoided the most famous Irish tenor of all, John McCormack, who died on this date just as World Wars II was ending.





Jazz På Svenska

How many Swedish jazz pianists do you know?  I know one, which is more than most people, I'm guessing.  Happy birthday, Jan Johansson.





Monday, September 15, 2014

The Big Ten

Today is Pajama Guy's tenth anniversary.  The blog was started by Pajama Guy himself, who is no longer with us (on the blog--he's still alive and well and living in New Jersey). He saw the blog as a political one, and often focused on the media.  In fact, his first five posts were all about the hot story of the time, Rathergate.

Indeed, that's what gave us our name.  It comes from Jonathan Klein's response to bloggers who dared to question CBS news, as quoted in the upper left-hand corner of the blog.

Here's the first post ever:

Viacom to CBS News: Good Riddance?

Is it possible that the Viacom suits aren't worried about Rathergate? After the CNN merger cratered, they may be happy to see the news division implode. What better way to get rid of Dan and the whole lot?

I joined September 19th. Here's my first post:

Hello

Hi. Thought I might as well introduce myself. I'm LAGuy. While Pajama Guy is out East in his PJ's, fingers ready at the keyboard, scrutinizing the New York Times, the Washington Post and the rest of the MSM, I'm out West at some premiere or Hollywood party (B-List).

I've been invited to share my opinions, which may be about politics, but just as often won't. Hope I fit in.
 
I think I called it pretty well.  In fact, by the next day, I was dealing with the Emmy Awards. (A few days later I gave a thumbs down to this new show called Lost.)
 
Eventually Pajama Guy dropped out, but I kept going.  There have been other Guys along the way, but I've been the main supplier of text.
 
I certainly didn't think I'd be at it for ten years.  At the start, I often wondered how I'd think of something to write about each day.  But here we are. So let's celebrate it while it lasts.

Oh Johnny

Hard to believe, but Johnny Ramone died ten years ago today.  One of the founders of The Ramones, as well as a major songwriter, he stuck with the band all the way--only Joey lasted as long.  He also was the martinet who kept them in musical shape, allegedly.

He'd often play four down strokes measure after measure--I don't know how his wrist took it.













Sunday, September 14, 2014

Is she more stupid than John McCain?

"The thought going through my mind was, I owe America a global apology."

Huh? She doesn't know she was just a target of convenience?

Who's The Best?

The New Yorker's TV critic Emily Nussbaum looks at FX's two new sitcoms, You're The Worst and Married, and agrees with me (see, it can happen): the former is pretty good, while the latter is disappointing, especially with the whiny husband at the center.

Before their debuts, based on the casts and premises, I would have guessed the opposite.  But Chris Geere and Aya Cash, as the awful couple at the center of You're The Worst, are very charming and resourceful actors with a surprising amount of chemistry.  You never know.  I've already given up on Married (which FX had more confidence in, since it gave it the better slot) but still check out You're The Worst.

I'm less enamored with the leads' best friends/sounding boards, which brings me to my biggest disagreement with Nussbaum:

[The lead male's closest friend is] Edgar Quintero (Desmon Borges), an eccentric veteran with P.T.S.D. [...T]he show is daring enough to tease both his tendency to tell horrific war stories and the V.A.’s shoddy treatment of veterans.

Why would Nussbaum believe this is even slightly daring?

BC

Today is the birthday of Barry Cowsill, drummer in The Cowsills.  He founded the band with brothers Bill and Bob.  Alas, he died at the age of 50 as a result of Hurricane Katrina.







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