Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Screw Cruz, I'm going with Trump

Barry Diller Says He'll Leave the Country If Donald Trump Wins the White House

Are these people really so clueless that they can't remember the parade of idiots making this promise? Just hold to your word, Barry, that's all I ask. Well, that and add the entire list of Republicans to your list.

Genius is as genius does

You see apple pie and flags and eagles coming out of his ass when he talks.

Sunday, Sunday

A couple dramas just returned to cable, The Leftovers and Homeland.  Let's see how they're doing.

The Leftovers, based on Tom Perrotta's novel and created by Perrotta and Damon Lindelof, now starting its second season, is critically admired, even though it got no Emmy nominations.  The premise is simple--2% of all people on Earth mysteriously disappear.  The show is essentially about how people react to this event.

The first season concentrated on a small town in upstate New York, and centered on the Garvey family.  It featured good writing and solid performances, but had a serious flaw (which some supporters say is its strength)--there's no engine behind the show. It's all about people adjusting to loss.  There's no endgame, they're just living their lives, and for that matter there doesn't seem to be any headway on figuring out why those people disappeared, that's just a sad fact in the background.

The first season generally followed the novel, but apparently we're off book in the second.  We change setting to the renamed Texas city of Miracle, where no one disappeared.  To make it even more disorienting, we spend most of the show following an entirely new family, the Murphys, and don't even see any Garveys--who have just moved into town--until the second half.  (Actually, it's even weirder.  We start with a prehistoric prologue, where a woman loses her tribe, has a baby, gets bitten by a snake and dies.  Don't ask.)

The show once again features good, evocative writing.  The characters have their reasons--not always obvious--and their troubles, and things happen, including an earthquake at the end that causes a lot of pain.  But the show is still not going toward any goal.  Which is what makes The Leftovers more a mood piece than a mystery or a thriller.  It may be well done, but it doesn't feel first rank.

Homeland--a show that's won plenty of Emmys--is more familiar territory.  This is its fifth season and by now we know its tricks.  It's about CIA agent Carrie Bradshaw, along with boss Saul Berenson and special ops Peter Quinn, fighting terrorism. Sure, it's "sophisticated"--the terrorists are smart and allowed to make arguments for their side--but the fun stuff is the intrigue, the oversized emotions and the bursts of violence.

This season starts a couple years after the last.  Carrie is working for private security, which breaks Saul's heart.  She also seems better adjusted, and is raising her daughter. (The early hook of the show was her mentally instability, but apparently she's on her meds now and we've left that behind.) There's been a major leak and the CIA's work for the German government has been exposed.  So it looks like this season will spend most of its time in Germany.

In a way, Homeland has never recovered from its first season. It was fresh and new, and dealing with the specific story of a POW coming home and treated like a hero, while Carrie was the only one who could see he'd been turned. Maybe it would have worked better as a miniseries.  But the show has continued, and is a well-done thriller. There are a lot worse things.  This season looks pretty promising, actually, and I like the change of venue.  Now if only Carrie would rejoin the CIA we've got something.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

na na na na

Gov. John Kasich plunges in new poll of New Hampshire

Good word, "plunges." Life would be better if we had a bit more plunging.

Hillary accidentally says something true

No question about that. Even flatworms know her character.

A bit of an odd juxtapostion that every word out of her mouth, including "and" and "the," is a lie.

They Grow Up So Fast

When you start a TV show with children in it, you're taking a chance.  Sure, they're cute now, but will it last?  I could give some examples, but let's be kind.

Wednesday night on ABC is lousy with sitcoms featuring kids.  Two of them--The Goldbergs and Black-ish--are still fairly new, but two of them have been on long enough that the kids are no longer kids.

I'm referring to The Middle and Modern Family, both recently returned for their seventh season.  The shows are still pretty good, but can't help have lost their sense of novelty.  And people notice.  Modern Family for the first time ever is returning without having just won the Emmy for Best Comedy. Perhaps that'll spur it on--it was getting a bit complacent.  The Middle is more under the radar--it doesn't get nominated for Emmys--so it has to keep going on its own.

Anyway, both shows are stuffed with kids.  Modern Family at present has six regulars who are, or started out as, youngsters.  The Middle has always been about a family with three children. There's no question the cuteness factor among some cast members has gone down, but will the new experiences the kids are having make up for it?

Both shows, in fact, started this season with a second child, a daughter, going to college.  It's fascinating that the shows were essentially mirror images.  In The Middle, bubbly Sue Heck (maybe the best character on the show) tries to make a big deal of the day she leaves for college but ends up sorely disappointed.  On Modern Family, Alex Dunphy, the smart one, leaves for college early, disappointing her parent who wanted to make a big deal of it. Then when they get to their respective dorms, Sue, all excitement, has to deal with a cynical, hardened roommate, while Alex, fairly cynical herself, has to deal with a too-bubbly roommate.  Sounds like crossover potential.

Questions of cuteness aside, this points to the another problem with kids.  When they grow up, the show changes, and not necessarily in a good way. These shows started as tales of a group of people living in close proximity, who, though they could drive each other crazy, clearly loved one another.  Having these characters live far apart changes the dynamic.  Sure, you want change on a show, but not so much that you lose what you once loved about it.

The Dunphys in Modern Family were, in a way, the odd man out of the three families featured.  One had a patriarch marry a much younger divorcee from Colombia, one was a gay couple with their adopted Vietnamese child, and in the middle of this was the un-modern Dunphys, who wouldn't have been out of place in a 60s sitcom.  And yet, due to sharp writing and fine performances--especially from the parents played by Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell--I think their family was the best thing in the show, and the one that anchored everything else.  Modern Family has enough characters that they can stand moving Alex away from the nucleus, but it's not necessarily a change that bodes well.

The Middle may have a harder time of it.  This is a show that's always been about how the parents deal with their odd kids Axl, Sue and Brick.  With Axl and now Sue out of the house, leaving only Brick--even if he's the oddest--it just isn't the same thing.  The Middle has been on for seven seasons, going about its business, not much talked about. It has its audience, but the ratings have never been that high (they're in the middle, actually).  I wonder if it isn't about time to wrap it up.  I suppose the cast is still game, but with the kids leaving home, is it time for ABC to show it the door?

Monday, October 05, 2015

Separation Of Entertainment And State

Saturday Night Live debuted its 41st season last weekend.  It was a lackluster show. Miley Cyrus was both host and musical guest, which didn't help, but honestly, there wasn't a single sketch that really hit.

What's getting the most attention is Hillary Clinton's appearance.  She played Val, the bartender, who served Kate McKinnon's Hillary Clinton.  McKinnon has become a breakout performer, and her Hillary is probably the best political impersonation on the show since Tina Fey did Sarah Palin.

Nevertheless, the real Hillary's appearance made me uncomfortable.  I know this is what SNL does, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.  I don't need to see that a politician is a regular person (or a real person).  I don't care if a politician is a regular person.  He or she can be a heartless bastard who doesn't care about anything as long as they get the job done.

By the way, the sketch criticized her for being a little too slow in accepting gay marriage. Except this isn't criticism so much as Hillary looking like she can admit to mistakes.  What the sketch wouldn't suggest is her stance was cynical: she was against it when the public was against it--in particular her constituency--and changed her mind around the time they changed their minds.  If they were still against it, she'd still be against it.  Just like President Obama.  And you can bet when conservatives change their minds, Republican candidates will come around as well.

But forget about particular political points.  Ultimately, all Hillary's appearance does, quality-wise, is ruin the sketch, and not just because of her amateurish acting.  It ends up being about nothing except "hey, that's really Hillary." It was designed to show she could laugh at herself, but I'd rather have something I can laugh at.

Sunday, October 04, 2015


It's funny.  For years, the Detroit Tigers were a lousy team.  Then about ten years ago, things changed, and they became a winning team, regularly making the playoffs.  But now, after four years straight finishing first, they fell apart and are now the worst team in their division.

During this time, Michigan--as regular a winner in college football since the late 60s--fell apart.  The final year of Lloyd Carr then were 9-4, which used to be considered a weak season.  Then coach Rich Rodriguez took over and they were 3-9--unbelievably bad for a team that hadn't had a losing season since 1967.  Rodriguez then got the team up to 5-7, followed by 7-6, before he was let go.  Brady Hoke took over and the team went 11-2, and it looked like they were back.  Instead, they kept getting worse so that by last year, the team was under .500 again, finishing 5-7.

It seemed like the Wolverines, after 30+ years of glory, had settled into being a mediocre team.  But there was one last hope, Jim Harbaugh.  A former Michigan and NFL quarterback, he became a top coach, turning around Stanford and then doing a fine job with the San Francisco 49ers.  Could he save his alma mater?

The season started inauspiciously with a 24-17 loss to Utah, but even then the team showed some fighting spirit.  Since then, it's been four big wins, including yesterday's 28-0 defeat of Maryland.  I've been burned too many times in recent years, but I'm a believer again.

The team is full of exciting players, like QB Jake Rudock, (even if he has thrown too many interceptions) and Jabrill Peppers.  But Michigan has always had great recruiting.  The trick is--thanks to Harbaugh, I assume--they're finally playing like a team.

The best numbers are the points scored against the team. After a shaky start, there were two games with one touchdown apiece, and the last two game have been shutouts.  The best Michigan teams have always made it on their awesome defense, and that's the best sign the team is back.

Now that they're back, I think this team may be worthy of the top twenty, but top ten?  Not yet.  Still, for better or worse, they'll soon be tested (which is why I need to write this now). The Big Ten is the toughest conference in college football, and next week they're going up against an undefeated Northwestern ("undefeated Northwestern"--a phrase you didn't hear much in the 70s or 80s.) The week after, they'll play a top five team, nemesis Michigan State.  That'll be something.

I'll be surprised if they get through both games unscathed, but if they did, it would be amazing.  It would likely mean final game against arch enemy Ohio State could be another classic, like the old days.  Hasn't been for a long time.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.  One week at a time.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

New England shall rise again

So I'm watching various football games in my favorite, er coffee shop, and Michigan who had been up 6-0 at the half has moved well ahead 21-0, nice, but lo Purdue is shockingly close to Michigan State with two minutes left, and given the noise in the, er, coffee shop, there is closed captioning. Turns out this is all significant to a New Hampshire championship.

I'm not as smart as LAGuy, so it took awhile. My first thought was, what stadiums are in New Hampshire, and why in the world would they play the title game there?

I blame it on the fact that they're letting women be announcers. President Trump will fix this.

He's The Man

Fleetwood Mac has three major songwriters--Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks and today's birthday boy, Lindsey Buckingham.  He not only adds his only special sound to the mix, he's also an accomplished singer, musician and producer.

Friday, October 02, 2015


Is Martin O'Malley a Democrat or a Republican?

A Little Chubby

Hey everyone, it's the centennial of bluegrass fiddler Chubby Wise.  You didn't think we'd forget, did you?

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Eat A Peach

Today is World Vegetarian Day.  I don't think it's widely celebrated by non-vegetarians--or vegetarians, for that matter.  But still, there it is.

It's hard to pin down the number of vegetarians in America.  Various studies suggest anywhere from 2% to 13% of the U.S. population identify as vegetarian.  Of course, identifying as one doesn't make you one. (Reminds me of how many people call themselves writers.)

A lot of people try it out but apparently most go back to eating meat.  It's understandable, since, as tasty as vegetarian and vegan food can be, nothing quite tastes like meat.  Perhaps it depends on the reason why people become vegetarians.  Some for moral reasons, some for health reasons, some for religious reasons, some, I suppose, because it's hip or because the person they live with is a vegetarian.

If you're doing it for health reasons, it'd be pretty easy to slip back and say "okay, I'll cut down, but let's not go cold turkey." And if you're doing it for certain moral reasons, you can probably get meat from animals that were treated alright.

So anyway, eat what you want today, but you might try a vegetarian dish.  And November 1 is World Vegan Day, so start thinking about that.

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