Wednesday, April 23, 2014

President Perry, Governor Abbott

Screw day trips to New York, I'm moving to Texas. Governor Abbott has written a strongly worded letter to the BLM. (Nor am I poking fun. I bet it's more effective than whatever it is we've been sending to Putin. Viagra-laced ice cream, I suppose.)

President Perry, Governor Abbott, Secretary of Homeland Security Cruz . . . a guy can dream, can't he?

Meanwhile we'll have the Boehner Border Security Act of 2014 and Texas turns blue in 2020 . . .

The Toll On The Washington Bridge Only Goes One Way

Here's Chris Christie on the Colorado laws allowing recreational marijuana:

For the people who are enamored with the idea with the income, the tax revenue from this, go to Colorado and see if you want to live there.

I'm sorry, but no governor of New Jersey should ever suggest his citizens sample other states.  Even day trips to New York are taking a chance.

Out Of This Orb

Happy birthday, Roy Orbison.  He had a voice like no other.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mad Game

I don't think I have the energy to fully recap both Game Of Thrones and Mad Men, but both shows were top notch this week.

Game Of Thrones episode, "Breaker Of Chains," showed us the new possibilities that open up when you kill a king.  Don't get me wrong--you don't need a reason to kill Joffrey.  But now that he's gone, a bunch of new plots can start.

For instance, Sansa's been moping around King's Landing for more than two seasons, and now she's finally on to a new adventure.  She's rescued by Littlefinger, who it turns out was behind the murder (along with unknown others)--using that necklace, as we predicted two weeks ago.  He's also been plotting to get Sansa to go with him for a while as well, so it's killing two birds with one necklace.  We might have some fun with this couple, the most naïve and the most cunning.

Meanwhile, Joffrey lies in state and except for Cersei, no one seems especially broken up.  Tywin uses the opportunity to lecture Tommen about what it will take to be king--which mostly means listening to Tywin-- while Jaime takes his sister by force.

Oh yeah, she wants Jaime to kill their brother, Tyrion, who's in a dungeon with only good old Pod to visit him. Tyrion has become surprisingly noble--he'll face his fate, and seems mostly concerned those close to him.  (Which proves he didn't do it--like Littlefinger, he'd have arranged to take care of these issues.)

Tywin, who never lets a murder go to waste, also goes to Prince Oberyn, offering him a spot on the Small Council.  Time to get close to Dorne, no matter how much they hate the Lannisters.  Oberyn knows a lot about poison, but doesn't seem to be involved in the murder--though now he'll be one of  Tyrion's judges.

Meanwhile, Olenna, the only strategist in King's Landing who compares to Tywin, discusses the new opportunities Joffrey's death opens up with Margaery, who wonders if she's cursed.  Maybe she isn't, but I wouldn't want to marry her.

At Dragonstone, Stannis received the good news, but tells Davos that they've got to make their move, but they don't have the soldiers or the money.  Soon after, Davos gets an idea--King's Landing has been borrowing heavily from the Iron Bank of Braavos for the wedding, so I think Davos will get them on Stannis's side, promising they'll be paid back if they help overthrow the Lannisters.

Things are a lot worse at Castle Black. They've got 100 not-so-great soldiers. Meanwhile, tens of thousand of wildlings are pillaging the land to the south, and massing at the Wall to the north.  How can they defend themselves?  Just as Samwell worries Gilly can't defend herself, so he takes her to Mole's Town where allegedly she'll be safer, though you have to wonder if it's Sam who can't take it.

Finally, there's the actual Breaker Of Chains, Daenerys, who, after Daario easily defeats Meereen's silly champion, uses a bunch of trebuchets to shoot all the chains she's broken into the city.  Show the slaves what'll happen if they revolt.  Not a bad plan.

There's one more thing, but I consider it almost a separate show inside Game Of Thrones.  It could be spun off into its own series--"The Adventures Of Arya And The Hound." This time they come upon a poor farmer and his little daughter.  He feeds the couple but before too long the Hound has robbed him of what little silver he owns.  Arya isn't happy but he figures the guy will be dead soon anyway in this new world.  They continue on to House Tully--isn't that where Littlefinger is going?  Maybe Arya and Sansa will have a reunion (though Arya's specialty arriving just in time to watch her family members die).

Mad Men's "A Day's Work" was a smart episode, filled with smart dialogue, taking place on Valentine's Day 1969.  Don is getting backdoor info from Dawn, who's still faithful.  However, when Sally--good to see her back--drops by the office while playing hooky, she meets Lou and starts to figure out something's wrong. Jerky Lou isn't happy with the intrusion, so he wants a new secretary.  Peggy is also mad at her secretary over some roses she mistakenly thinks are hers--Peggy was less sympathetic than usual this episode.  This happens on Mad Men--you never know how people will turn out.  Anyway, there was shuffling around of secretaries until Joan got kicked upstairs--time she took care of accounts, not personnel--opening a slot for Dawn, who's moving on up herself.

On top of all this, Roger feels he's losing his power under the new administration, while Pete feels he doesn't even exist, living out in California.  Will they bounce back?  Will they lose out?  Will nothing happen because that's how this show works?  Tune in next week.

Back to Don and daughter.  Sally finally meets her dad at his apartment.  He lies to her, of course, and then discovers she lied to him. He drives her back to her school, but at a gas station diner he finally opens up and tells her why he got the heave-ho, and how things are going with Megan.  Sally is still recovering from certain revelations last seasons (she tells him how horrible it was to go to his building where she might have to share a ride with That Woman), but they seem to reach an understanding by the show's end.  The last thing she says to him as he drops her off is "I love you."  A more hopeful ending than usual for Mad Men.


Happy birthday, Mel Carter. He had one big hit in the 60s and several other minor hits.

Monday, April 21, 2014

BC Sunday

I caught Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays on HBO.  The title refers to all the Sundays he spent with his father, who died of a heart attack when Crystal was a teenager.  Crystal did the one-man show on Broadway ten years ago, winning a Tony.  Now, at 65, he's revived it as a document for his kids and grandkids.

The stage set is the exterior of the house he grew up in on Long Beach, Long Island, and there are old photos and films projected onto it during the show. Still, 700 Sundays is all Billy.  It's not easy to hold the stage for two hours, but he manages, with no real dead spots.  Of course, he had plenty of time to prepare--in a way, it's the culmination of decades of standup, where many of these routines originated.

He talks about his childhood in the 50's, growing up in Yiddish culture.  But there was another world he saw--his father worked in a record store and put together shows, so great jazz artists would hang around the house. In fact, when his dad died, Duke Ellington and Count Basie came to the funeral.  Then there are other subjects, such as his early attempts at comedy, his love of baseball and the struggles of puberty.

There are a lot of laughs--some pretty cheap, but still funny.  Then, in the second half, when he deals with his father's death and the aftermath, it gets fairly serious.  But the sentiment is earned.  The last parts of the show take him through his mother's death decades later up to the present, and you really feel when it's done, he's left something of hinself behind.

The Cure For The Common Song

Happy birthday, Robert Smith, singer, performer and songwriter for The Cure.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Not Far To Go

A month or so ago I noticed an ad on the side of a bus promoting Fargo on FX.  I thought why would they go out of their way to advertise a showing of a movie that's been around almost two decades.  Only a bit later did I realize it's been reimagined as a miniseries.  The show's created by Noah Hawley and stars Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman, along with some other well-known TV faces like Bob Odenkirk and Kate Walsh.

I caught the pilot, "The Crocodile's Dilemma," and it was weird.  Not the show, exactly, but watching this world which is a parallel universe to the original film.  It takes place in Minnesota, with everyone talking in their Minnesota way, and it still features a criminal (Thornton) and a timid guy who's failing in his life (Freeman), but the resemblance, so far anyway, doesn't go much further.

The movie, you'll recall, was about a loser who needed money and got involved with some criminals.  Their plot falls apart and soon there are dead bodies and a big investigation.  That's sort of happening in this show, but the relationships are all different and so are the crimes.  (Spoilers ahead) Freeman is 40 yet still being pushed around by his old high school bully.  He meets Thornton and Thornton, already a badass criminal who messes with people, gets the idea he should kill the bully, which he does (after having killed someone else on an assignment).  Then Freeman gets fed up with his wife and kills her. Then the police chief shows up to ask Freeman questions and Thornton shows up too and shot the officer.  And we're off.

The show has been described as a dark comedy, though it seemed more dark than funny.  I also found the action a bit hard to believe.  I wouldn't call the show compelling, but at least it wasn't boring. I'll probably check it out next week--it's only a miniseries, I might as well stick around.


Happy birthday, Tito Puente, the Latin bandleader and composer.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

One thing I know

I enjoyed a rare matinee yesterday, without ColumbusGal, who, heh heh, was working.

I used an expired Groupon--you know, residual cash value--to watch "The Unknown Known" by Errol Morris.

Utterly fantastic.

I had read a review of it in our local events paper of the sort that every city has, and needless to say the reviewer was smug and snide, observing how careful Morris was to show how divorced Rumsfeld was from the, you know, truth.

But I'm experienced enough to know there was a fair chance the reviewer was projecting his own views, and sure enough, I left with more respect for Rumsfeld than when I entered. Truly remarkable man, delightful.

Now my main question is, what is Morris's view? Was he merely what one would hope he would be, a disinterested documentary producer? Or did he feel the evidence was so overwhelming that Rumsfeld was the clueless one? Or is he a closet conservative?

I lean to the middle choice, because one of those things the reporter mistakenly took for refutation was a dozen or so of the Abu Ghraib images, which Morris clearly intended to Shock and Appall. I  could only note that, for every image Morris added, he could have added 200 more of, you know, bodies falling, nay, leaping from the World Trade Center. But those images, of course, are verboten, proclaimed prejudicial. So let's all get in a tizzy over a hooded naked combatant. There were dozens of them, tortured don't you know. And then of course there's the poster's tag line, "Why is this man smiling?" I don't know, because he's smart, confident and a good and generous human being?

In any case Rumsfeld came off wonderfully, and Morris looks like a fair reporter. I call that a win-win

Ambassador Stone

Oliver Stone doesn't like international co-productions, based on remarks from a seminar at the Beijing International Film Festival.

Most international co-productions are bullshit. They often don’t work. Money is the dictator.  'Iron Man’? ‘Transformers’? Is it really a Chinese experience?

Chinese actors when they try and act in English, it doesn’t have the same meaning. Words are important. I hope you never bastardize yourselves to become American.

Stone's politics in general are so horrendous that it's a bit silly to cavil at this. Yet this is a great example of the condescending bigotry of so many multiculturalists.  They jet around, enjoying the best every culture has to offer, but tell the people there to stay in their little corner of the world and not mix with others, lest they lose their purity.  (Or I could be reading him wrong.  Perhaps this simply stems from a crazed hatred of America.)

Meanwhile, let's all enjoy a mini-Stone film festival this weekend, with such title as Salvador, South Of The Border, Castro In Winter and so many others where he mixes with other cultures and proves how he can come into another land and explain what's going on.

Finale Ultimo

So I watched the season finale of Community, "Basic Sandwich," thinking it might be the final episode ever. The ratings have been bad and NBC hasn't picked up the show yet.  No doubt the producers understood this, as they sort of wrapped things up--against all odds, Greendale was saved, which meant Jeff and Britta didn't have to get married.  (Don't worry if that doesn't make sense.)  Abed also noted just in case the show doesn't return it will mean all humanity has been destroyed by an asteroid, and that's canon.

The funny thing is the show has been on the edge of cancelation the last three years, and each of those seasons had a finale designed to wrap everything up.  If it's possible to look back before we're certain the show is over, here's what I'd say about the series.

Mainly, it's been the best comedy on the air during its time (with the possible exception of Party Down, which was of such short duration I'm not sure if it can be included in any such list).  Community never got the acclaim of Modern Family or the ratings of The Big Bang Theory (in fact, it was scheduled against TBBT and was regularly crushed), and there were some other shows that were pretty funny as well, mostly on NBC Thursday nights, but nothing was as special as Community, and nothing was anywhere near as daring.  It didn't always hit its target, but when it did, nothing could touch it.

That said, the last two shortened season were letdowns.  Let's put it this way--the "real" Community was the first three seasons.  Fans may argue which of those seasons was best, but each offered more than its share of classic episodes.  The fourth season was the zombie season, when we still had the same actors, the same sets, etc., but without creator Dan Harmon, the show didn't have the same insides.  There were some amusing moments, but the characters didn't have the same charm and the plots generally seemed off.  Then came season five, with Harmon back--better than four, but something was missing.  Pierce was gone the entire season and Troy most of it.  The show was built around the main seven and losing two hurt the chemistry, no matter how many guest stars and recurring characters they added.  Also, whereas previously it was seven students in a study group, now it was a bunch of adults trying to save a school.  Not a disastrous difference, perhaps--something had to be done with the fact they'd graduated--but still, not the same thing.  The fifth season offered some pretty good to very good episodes, but nothing I'd call classic.

So while I'm still hoping for one more year, if this is it, at least we know we got three amazing seasons.  I can't complain.

By chance, I caught another season finale that was quite aware it could all be over--The Neighbors. I watched the show its first season because it was on between The Middle and Modern Family. The premise was pretty stupid--a regular family moves into a neighborhood where their neighbors are aliens--but it turned out to be fun.  Hardly great, but Larry Bird and Jackie Joyner-Kersee made the show work for me.  (Once again, don't worry if that makes no sense.)  Then it moved to Friday nights and that was pretty much the end for me.

The final episode of the second season, "There Goes The Neighbors' Hood," had all the aliens leave the community except the main family, which meant regular humans are about to move in. Also, Larry Bird got pregnant.

So clearly they're set up for a third season which probably won't come. So if this was the end, they went out in a blaze of glory. Early on the two aliens recap what happened last week for Tim Allen fans who may still be watching (and for me, since this was the only episode I watched all season).  Later, Jami Gertz as Debbie Weaver admitted she can't believe the nonsense that's been coming out her mouth this season.  Finally, all the regulars stood together at the end, certain that they're up for another season.

I hope they get it.  I may not watch it, but it'd be nice to know it's around.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Making me nervous

Not sure how much credence I give this.

"When men and women are exclusively in the company of their own sex, for women it's often liberating; for men it's often anxiety-inducing."

I thought the idea was that when a woman walked into a room, every man looked at her, and so did every woman?

Mr. Woods, Man

Happy birthday, James Woods.  I wasn't planning to celebrate, but just by chance I was enjoying a rerun of Welcome Back, Kotter (and its overly demonstrative audience) the other day and there was James.  Clearly a sign.

They seem to be setting him up as the nasty, elitist teacher, but it was the only episode he ever did.  Not sure whose choice that was, but it probably was for the best.

Hey Mickey

Happy birthday to Miklos Rosza (put an accent over each O), the great composer.  He did concert works but is best known today for his grand, old-school scores for film.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Everybody knows


"If you are like most people, you probably spend a lot of time wondering, "What is the absolutely worst environmental policy on the planet?" And if you are like most people, you probably think itis America’s ethanol policy."

A simple majority, I guess. He should get together with Stephen Breyer (and George Will, intent on denying voters his essence).

Geena's Gender

Geena Rocera, a model I admit I'd never heard of, has just come out.  She explained at a TED talk that she was born a boy but became a woman.  The photos sure look like a woman.

The question is how will this affect her career. (I assume it wasn't widely known already, even inside her industry.)  Very possibly, as someone who already has a reputation, and someone who's relatively novel in coming out, it won't make too much difference, or might even help her.

But still, you have to wonder if people will look at her differently.  You can look at someone differently based on what you know about them.  To most men, of course, sexy is sexy, but we'll see if this challenges that concept.

Furious Music

Happy birthday, Billy Fury.  He was huge in England, but never made it over here in America--the fate of most British acts before The Beatles. 

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