Our 30-year program of maleducation continues to bear fruit.

Anthony Lane's year-end review.

My saddest moment in a movie theatre came a month ago, when I screened “All About Eve” to a bunch of acquaintances, one of whom came up to me at the end. “What happened?” she asked.
“Well,” I replied, “Anne Baxter got the award, and Bette Davis sat there all steamed up, and George—”
“No,” she said, tapping her foot, “what happened to movies like that? Movies with four great parts for women and lines you want to quote? Where did they go?”
No idea, but they sure as hell aren’t coming back.
At one point they had migrated to TV. But no longer.


Your cheeseburger destroyed New Orleans.

I'm half-serious. Livestock generate more greenhouse gases than transport(ation, as we Americans would say).

How about hog lagoons? Are hog lagoons okay?


Our 30-year campaign of maleducation continues to bear fruit!

Spencer Ackerman on Left Behind:

If ever you should think that millions of people couldn't all be wrong about a piece of fiction for so many years, let this awful thing stand as irrefutable counterexample. Leave aside for one second the hideous plot. The series' two authors, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, mangle the language in a way I haven't seen since high school. At one point they employ the image of a juggernaut sailing across the waters. You tell me what that's supposed to mean.



How can Christopher Hitchens live in the same city as Judith Martin and claim that women aren't funny?

Present at the Creation

Over at Ken Levine's blog Peter Casey is talking about how he and his partners created Frasier. Of particular interest is how they don't have to bring casting candidates to the network. Network mucking about in casting is probably as big a cause as any for the decline of the sitcom. (There are multiple causes, of course, but I'm writing about this one now, and so during the duration of this post it's the biggest.

Worst electorate ever

Here's another worst-president-ever post. I enjoy the sentiment only somewhat. Because, check it, we re-elected him. Bush's first term was a bait-and-switch, but nothing has happened in the second term that wasn't evidently underway in the first term (with the possible exception of zealous Social Security dismantling). We asked for this. This term is what we signed up for. Don't go crying to me that you voted for Kerry, either; plainly it wasn't enough. To quote Parcells, you are what your record says you are.

The war on terror: Victory is ours

Spencer Ackerman takes apart Stanley Kurtz's assertion that: Islamists might actually gain and retain control of a substantial portion of the globe–or perhaps even defeat the West. What bullshit! As hard to define as "the West" is -- is Russia "the West"? Japan? -- nevertheless we're undefeated, partly because we're so hard to define.

To be "Western," to me, is to be assimilative, so it is much more likely that the "Islamists" (which I put in quotes because I'm not sophisticated enough to define it) make an accomodation to our way of life than we do to theirs.

The post-profit future

Increasingly I find myself agreeing with the sentiments expressed here, by Yglesias:

Peer-production of digital media probably will produce a fair quantity of awesome popular stuff lurking amidst the vast pool of dreck. And well-designed services will let the awesome stuff rise to the top and the dreck fade to the background, rendering those services awesome and popular. But -- and here's the rub -- having something awesome and popular just may not prove to be especially lucrative. In the past, a popular television show or a popular album or a popular film or a popular distribution channel guaranteed you vast sums of money. In the future, that just may not be the case. The very most popular things will generate some income, enough to live off of and continue financing new projects, but not the sort of gigantic windfalls associated with 20th century media hits. And lots of other things -- including reasonably popular ones -- will only generate trivial levels of income. And they'll continue to be made. Made by people who think its fun, or who derive some benefit from their work other than direct monetary income.
I have several thoughts (outside of "but I bought my house under the old rules!" which is only germane to me and my presumed future seller).

1. This is already happening in network TV as quotes are being cut left and right. BUT I think what will evolve is more of a winner-take-all type of pay structure: creators of shows will hit big, but everyone on staff will work for peanuts. The kind of upper-middle-management, haute-bourgeois lifestyle of the career staffer is what's going to disappear. (Aren't doctors going through the same process?)

2. Network shows, and TV shows in general, will only find an audience if they give the audience something they can't get anywhere else. TV Dramas already do this very well -- you can't duplicate The Sopranos or Heroes in your garage, because you can't aggregate the talent or money needed to bring off the effects (including emotional effects). It's harder for TV comedies. In fact, while writing my pilot I've realized that my competition now is every funny thing ever made. Why should anyone watch my show when they could watch South Park, or Faulty Towers on DVD, or failed demolitions on YouTube, or read Deadspin?

3. The interesting emotional effect of this is to strike fear into the heart of the writer, executive, etc., at precisely the moment when fear will only make the problem worse.

4. Also, I bought my house under the old rules. Dammit.


Cleaning out my net news wire, I really should be writing edition

• Throw WFMU some money. I'm a fan, in particular, of Mr. Fine Wine, whom I listen to in podcast.

• New frontiers in torture.

Yglesias v. Ditka!

• I tend to think of the Westside as beginning on La Cienega. I'm a non-native, though. I once knew a guy who wouldn't date women from 310; too much hassle. I tend to agree. Also LA-related: No Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector? (I listened to it recently while trimming the tree and, if you don't regularly listen to Phil Spector-ish stuff, the effect is pronounced.) I call tinselly bullshit!

On my pilot

I'm writing my pilot right now, and this is the good phase, the time when it's mine and not theirs (though I like my producing partners). This is the time where all the various compromises, negotiations, and heartbreaks are off in the distance, theoretical; they're known, but not yet felt. Right now all you feel is pleasure -- and why wouldn't you, when you hear your excellent writing being done full justice by the great actors who live in your head. It's a lovely time.

A few weeks away, probably, lie bitterness and failure, but they can't take this time away from me, and I count myself lucky that I am supposed to get paid for it (a whole different cycle of future compromise-negotation-heartbreak).

And it's only been a couple of months. It's the screenwriters who really have to suffer. That stuff takes years.


It begins

Posting reduces from trickle to irritating, random drips because a zillion Xmas cards must be addressed over the near term. If I'm posting, then you know I am being a bad friend-you-hear-from-once-a-year.

To be festive, here's a link for MacLamps.

Age and comedy

I have very little to add to James Wolcott-slash-Ken-Levine post. Except that I was chilled by Wolcott's ending:

What I come back to is the delicate matter of how the inevitable thickening of age leaves so many comic actors looking too old for what they're doing, and how much we can or should overlook it, and make allowances. I'm a big fan of Chistopher Guest, interviewed him for Vanity Fair (drawing quotes from him was like harvesting fog with a butterfly net), yet I've put off seeing For Your Consideration because even in the trailer the cast looks too old for their antics, too encumbered with wigs, glasses, padded wardrobes, and gewgaw jewels--as if they were the stuffed-turkey cast of a Broadway farce. I have too much affection for most of the cast (esp Catherine O'Hara) to watch them labor to so little avail. It's like trying to read S. J. Perelman in his late mandarin phase, his comic spark a faint ember under all those layers of rigamarole.
As an aging writer myself it makes me wonder, Is this me? Have I lost my fastball? And I have no idea whether I have; my shit is still as unstinky and refulgent as it ever was -- to me. But I am more conscious of my bag of tricks as a bag of tricks. That's good because I don't make dumb mistakes. It's bad because at times I think it robs me of enthusiasm, which is the thing I'm most scared of. I don't want to be some hack droning on about how we did it on "Hazel" and worrying about lunch; I want to be excited to go to work.

Fortunately there are still funny (warning: also dirty) posts like this one that make me feel like my appetite for comedy is not yet sated.

UPDATE: How come no one's tried a pilot that a multicultural version of "Hazel"? They tried to re-do "Mister Ed," after all (with Ol' Dirty Bastard's voice as Mr. Ed? I never saw the pilot).

What working in TV is like

Here's an article in the WSJ ($, probably) about "The O.C." Now I know that every business has interfering bosses, but when it happens in TV you fuck up in public:

Ms. Berman's successor, Peter Liguori, got deeply involved, too -- but not in a way that Mr. Schwartz appreciated. Arguing that Fox needed something fresh to promote about the show, Mr. Liguori asked Mr. Schwartz to add a new character and cast a brand-name celebrity in the part. The problem: Mr. Schwartz had outlined seven full episodes and had to figure out how to insert the character without destroying the story lines. "We didn't really have an option," Mr. Schwartz says.

Actress Jeri Ryan ended up joining the show as a con artist -- which many fans thought was a clunky and unbelievable plot twist. Ms. Ryan has since moved on to the CBS drama "Shark." Asked if he regrets ordering the stunt casting, Mr. Liguori responds: "I think Jeri Ryan is doing great work on 'Shark.' "

Stunt casting sucks, but networks are convinced it works. I'm not so sure, unless it's a really Big Star, which doesn't describe Jeri Ryan, although I'm sure she's a lovely person.

Also of note is this WSJ article about clean comics, which I haven't read. I always like Brian Regan, though, who's quoted in the last paragraph (which I did read):
Meanwhile, Mr. Regan explains his conversion to clean routines by telling of an epiphany he had some years ago, while standing in the back of a comedy club. The guy on stage "wasn't doing well, and so he dropped the F-bomb," Mr. Regan recalls. Two men in the audience found that profane outburst so funny that they stood up and slapped hands.
I saw this happen myself once in NY with, if memory serves, Marc Maron. The audience had little appetite for his tart political humor that night, and I thought I saw a look of (self?) disgust cross his face as he shifted to his blowjob material -- which killed, of course.

It couldn't happen to a crappier restaurant

Cheesecake Factory stock gets creamed, apparently.

One of the great mysteries of LA is going to the Grove and seeing people waiting 45 minutes to get into the Cheesecake Factory. The Cheesecake Factory. I realize that others may not share my revulsion at the differently-shaped pieces of extrusion they refer to as "food," but to wait 45 minutes for it? Just walk to Farmers' Market and get some Gumbo Pot. Sheezus.

I wonder what all the LSU people in for the Rose Bowl will make of the Gumbo Pot. I'm very excited to see them wandering around the Grove.

Department of "heh".

From Brian Schmidt:

One of the nice things about radio is that you can turn it on in the middle of a news interview and listen to what the interviewee says without the bias of knowing who he or she is. The other day I listened to some Washington politician talk straightforwardly and intelligently about her aims next year, and was very impressed. At the end I found out it was Missouri's new Senator, Claire McCaskill. Same thing happened the first time I heard Barack Obama. And a year or so ago, I listened to someone talk about a gas tax and some other things I basically agree with, and felt that even though I agreed with him, he was so condescending that I wanted to reach through the radio and slap him. That turned out to be Tom Friedman.


More on vices

No smoking in Atlantic City? What will obscure people's views of all the urban degredation?

This is not what I should be reading first thing in the morning.

Rye! Rye whiskey!

In some ways, these are indeed awesome times for me.


Cleaning out my net news wire...

Gin! I love gin and disdain vodka, which I really is fussy and fusty and stuff. But gin has flavor -- I always suspect vodka drinkers of just wanting to get shitfaced, which privleges the destination over the journey. The other thing I like about this post is that it delicately implies that Bombay Sapphire is shit. My own prefs, as noted, are Plymouth for martinis, Tanqueray for G&Ts (although really anything not store brand will do).

• The cranky people at Martini Republic are starting to sound like right-wing talk radio. Dig:

Yes, the City Council that tried to bilk you of a billion dollars for an Afforable Housing Bond that would only make housing more expensive thinks that palm trees are the enemy of Los Angeles.
This is a "midnight basketball"-type argument, I think -- "the same people who want you to pay for midnight basketball think that global warming is a problem!" Also, palm trees suck (this is one liberal whose car has been mugged by a palm tree).

Tommy Smothers hates Bill Cosby. I think you have to be my age or older to care. Still:
He didn't have the balls to do it when I was looking. He slipped behind Hefner and sucker-punched me.


I keep thinking I will write to Digby and offer to buy him a burger at the Corner on Ocean Park since that's where his P.O. Box is. (Or Gary's, which I secretly like better. But you can drink beer at the Corner.) And I'm again picking up what he's laying down lately. In this here post he makes the following point:

I would actually posit that the real problem is the liberal punditocrisy which reflexively rejects anything that is tainted by its association with grassroots populist sentiment.
I have two thoughts.

1) What could be more grassroots populist than the phrase "I would actually posit"? Nothing. None more populist. Maybe, "I would aver," but that's about it.

2) The Democratic Party is successful when it's in touch with the street. That has been true since Tammany and even before. Even if the street is a Wal-Mart parking lot, the Democrats have to represent that street or they have no reason to exist. Accordingly, the liberal punditocracy exists to serve the streetwise Democratic party, not the other way round. FDR was in the same class as the pundits of his day, but he knew that Jim Farley et al. were buttering his bread, and that the Brain Trust was there to be used post-bread-buttering. Whatever else you can say about Kos, he gets it (perhaps because he's a veteran, another form of street wisdom).


More sports

This man is unhinged. He's unhinged because he thinks big-time college football, with the BCS and everything, is unfair. The BCS makes college football unfair? I much prefer college football to the NFL, but, like a fine cheese, its consumption is made more palatable because of the air of corruption.

Besides, college football is entertaining and stuff, but do your really need to know who the best football team is? I suppose you do, if you are:

1) a car dealer in Tallahassee, Florida, or
2) 19 years old.

And, in either case, drunk. Honestly, now: wouldn't a playoff system be boring? Isn't the Final Four kind of boring? (It's only the first two rounds of that tournament that are interesting.)

• Speaking of aesthetics, I direct the sports fan's attention to this book. From the review:

Gumbrecht rails against political and sociological interpretations: "Counter to many academic (and highly incompetent) "readings" of sports, athletic competitions do not express anything, and therefore do not offer anything to read." ...Gumbrecht traces this reluctance to praise sports to the Enlightenment legacy of criticism: a "reduction in the range of permissible discourses" that makes praise (especially of sports) not just unfashionable, but a reversion to pre-enlightenment intellectual values. So in addition to developing an aesthetic of sport, "In praise of athletic beauty" is a critique of class privilege in declaring what may be claimed in the name of "culture" or "art"... His goal is to "lay open the complexity of sports" as a music critic does with music.
I'm down.

• Speaking of highly incompetent readings of sport, Peter King wakes up and smells the triple-latte:
The NFL on TV is one giant commercial interrupted by football.

Sweetheart, get me rewrite!

Tarzan want to know

Why Versus (ne OLN) no show CBC feed of Hockey Night In Canada? Or show hockey on Saturday, make Saturday Hockey Night in U.S.?

Tarzan just asking.

(P.S.: Tarzan also want to know why Delicious no know how to put diacriticals in posts.)

Climate: so crazy it just might work department

If I were a rich dude I could hire someone to read this post by the Engineer-Poet and tell me whether it's crackpot, visionary, or both. Here's the skinny:Anyway, it's supposed to solve all our carbon-generation problems. Unless this does! (Giant magnifying glasses -- I mean, "Concentrated Solar Power" -- in the Sahara.)

While I can't assess the validity of ideas like this, they do keep my pessismism over climate change to going to full-on, Bill McKibben-meets-commenter-at-the-Oil-Drum run for your lives mode.

UPDATE: More on the mirrors (or is it? As I confess in comments, I'm out of my depth) here.

Bits'n'pieces Monday

Really the next series of posts will be cleaning out my NNW, but I'll try to segregate them by topic...maybe. I'd like to start by agreeing with Joshua Fruhlinger on newspapers' anti-comics attitude:

Print circulation at American newspapers is in free-fall, and editorial space continues to shrink. The shriveling of the comics is another symptom of a disease metastasizing throughout the newspaper business.

But maybe one reason readers are fleeing print is because the papers don't give them enough reason to believe print is anything special. Few comics fans would dispute that the funnies look best on paper, or that reading the comics in newsprint over breakfast is a pleasing ritual. Going back to the childhood of the modern newspaper business — in the graphically rich Hearst and Pulitzer papers of the early 20th century — one of the main attractions was always the Sunday morning treat of page after vibrant page of full-color comics. But when was the last time an interesting-looking comics page caught your eye, let alone invited you to a full-spectrum visual feast?
Newspapers are probably dying, but they're hastening it by having an anti-content attitude. It's hard to read any newspaper (any broadsheet, anyway) and not get the feeling that their main objective is to calm you down, to make sure you're not that excited about the story they're going to tell you.

My son likes the comics, when he reads them, but I don't really push them on him because they're hard to find; and on Sundays, the LA Times buries them under all the ads, even covering the section up with an ad you have to remove. Screw that; if the LA Times doesn't care about its content, why should I?

The parallels with the network business, and their glee with changing the content-ad ratio to the detriment of content, should be obvious.


And the fair land

I'm a sucker for recurring things like the And the fair land editorial the WSJ publishes every year on the day before Thanksgiving. This year's money quote (even though it was written in 1961):His [the "traveller's"; perhaps it was overwritten in 1961] countrymen cannot forget the savage face of war. Too often they have been asked to fight in strange and distant places, for no clear purpose they could see and for no accomplishment they can measure.

On the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, no less! Anyway, I have my own tradition, and it involves William DeVaughn:

Though you may not drive
A great big Cadillac
Gangsta whitewalls
A TV antenna in the back
You may not have
A car at all
But remember, brothers and sisters, you can still
Stand tall

Just be thankful
For what you got...


Cleaning out my net news wire...

• Some climate stuff: We are all fucked (Warning: unsafe levels of whimsicality). Also this:

If new rules ultimately impose controls on emissions, environmentalists say, TXU seems to be betting that restrictions will not apply to plants that are already up and running; environmental groups say that TXU’s ambitious coal construction plan is intended to be built and running before any new rules go into effect.
On the other hand this is reasonably good news.

• From a Variety e-mail I got: ""Snakes on a Plane" director David Ellis won't helm a film if he's not allowed to surf during the shoot. " Sleep well, Robert Altman: the medium is in good hands.

• Franklin Avenue says that the LA Times might be getting better. I think so too. They have an LAUSD columnist, which they should have had ages ago. If they would print letters to the sports editor every day (my single favorite thing in the paper), I would be even happier.

• Finally, Every Day Should Be Saturday interviews Michael Lewis. My favorite quote:
[EDSBS]: What sort of inefficiencies as a whole do you see in the college system? You mention that college football is a black market–what are some other inefficiencies you see?

ML: I’ll tell you my favorite. It’s a sociological one. One of the big problems in our country is the presence of ghettos. Inner-city America is a large, growing, festering social problem, and it’s being cordoned off from the rest of society. There’s a brief moment when the most dangerous people in this environment–18-22 year old men with a talent for violence on the football field–come in contact with the broader culture. And the broader culture of rich white businessmen take a real interest in them.

Yet we’ve created a system that prevents those two groups from having anything meaningful to do with each other. It’s called the NCAA. If the rich white businessman so much as buys lunch for one of these poor black kids, it’s a violation. So the only way the relationship occurs is illicitly and out of sight.

There’s a huge social opportunity–instead of saying these boosters can’t do anything to make these kids want to play football for their school–instead of saying that, say just the opposite. Let’s take this brief moment in these kids’ lives when the broader society is interested in them and cultivate it. Say you have to have these relationships, you have to be mentored, you have to have jobs in the offseason, so they have when it’s over and there’s no future in professional football they have the kind of connections a white kid has to get on. That strikes me as a grotesque inefficiency of the current system.
• As to Michael Richards, all I could say is, "oy, actors."


Cleaning out my net news wire...

More writing someday, I promise, but I owe so much writing to my corporate masters...

This Houston janitor stuff needs more air.

(((If we simply returned to the security situation status quo ante on 9/10 instead of 9/11, it would be like the civilized world suddenly got over a massive, self-inflicted stupidity virus. Furthermore, we'd be a lot safer.))) (Via Boing Boing

"Joyce Carol Oates" wants Shea Hillebrand for MVP.

• Final sports note: A Michigan-Ohio State rematch means that it doesn't mean anything to win your conference. I thought Nebraska 2000 taught us that was a bad idea.


Little-known fact

The guy who invented the high-five? Gay dude.

Fun with the Writers' Guild Awards

An errata e-mail crosses my in-box:

“Reba” ... should not have been included in the DRAMATIC SERIES category; “Reba” is eligible in the COMEDY SERIES category.

“The Shield”...was inadvertently listed in both the DRAMATIC SERIES and COMEDY SERIES categories. It is a DRAMATIC SERIES...
Chiklis does look a little funny with the shaved head, though, come on.



I have to get this pilot done, I'm afraid, but until I return please enjoy this movie of Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer chasing fried chicken.


Sitcom food

I can, from long experience, assure the reader that this is true, except that there is also sometimes ice cream. Remember Jim Broadbent in "Bullets Over Broadway"? That's what we turn into.

I once worked on a hit show, and a friend of mine came on staff after having been on a succession of non-hits. At our first table read, he took one look at the craft service table and said, "Now I know I'm on a hit." (There were cupcakes, I think, at 10 in the morning.)

Actually the food isn't as plentiful as it used to be back in the day, and now the studio nickel-and-dimes you, like they won't pay for writers' meals in pre-production -- unless, again, you're on a hit. It's not unreasonable, really. But some studios won't pay for Starbucks runs -- for God's sake, that's a drug we need to write!

True-life experience of someone burned by Borat

At Tobias's.


November 11

The War in the Air
by Howard Nemerov

For a saving grace, we didn't see our dead,
Who rarely bothered coming home to die
But simply stayed away out there
In the clean war, the war in the air.

Seldom the ghosts come back bearing their tales
Of hitting the earth, the incompressible sea,
But stayed up there in the relative wind,
Shades fading in the mind,

Who had no graves but only epitaphs
Where never so many spoke for never so few:
Per ardua, said the partisans of Mars,
Per aspera, to the stars.

That was the good war, the war we won
As if there was no death, for goodness's sake.
With the help of the losers we left out there
In the air, in the empty air.

(A whole bunch of poems about war here.)

A plan for climate change

Here. Note that it's British -- where Monbiot says "coach," we would say "mustard," for example. (That "lorry" is a British term for "one of our dollars" is one of my favorite joke tropes.) Looking it over it seems like life would be very different (he proposes banning incandescent lightbulbs, for example, also new roads) but it wouldn't be that very different, unless you fly a lot.

Second-order quoting

Ellen Willis, via The Rest Is Noise:

...far from being a grass-roots art form that has been taken over by businessmen, rock itself comes from the commercial exploitation of blues. It is bourgeois at its core, a mass-produced commodity, dependent on advanced technology and therefore on the money controlled by those in power. Its rebelliousness does not imply specific political content; it can be — and has been — criminal, fascistic, and coolly individualistic as well as revolutionary. It can simply be a more pleasurable way of surviving within the system, which is what the pop sensibility has always been about.
Maybe I really respond to this because I work in TV, for which this is true squared. Actually I feel this way about all art; we think it elevates but it doesn't necessarily; think of the moment in "Schindler's List" where the Nazis have busted into a house and one of them plays Bach. Art is against the market, or alongside of it, and in this day and age that's a useful corrective. But that doesn't mean you know what it's for.

Also, Alex Ross has been blogging his ass off. Example here and here.

"As an X, N is a great Y"

A bunch of formulae over at Language Log. I'm really tired of #5 on the list.


Ah, Yard Work

It's actually better than baseball, I think.

Dems take house

When does my abortion coupon come?



I like Billmon, but I have only been saying this about the New York Times until I'm tired of hearing myself saying it (which means, twice, probably):

Note this key quote from Halperin's recent appearance on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor. It pretty much lays bare the motivation behind the kowtowing:
"As an economic model, if you want to thrive like Fox News Channel -- [if] you want to have a future -- you better make sure conservatives find your product appealing." [Emphasis added.]

This is about moving product, not producing good journalism.

I don't think I've ever heard it put quite so bluntly -- except, maybe, by Ruth Brown:

�If I can't sell it, I�m gonna sit on it. Why should I give it away?"

An endorsement we can all get behind


So many votes, so few people who care

Real work and a visit from my parents will force radio silence for a time, but I thought I'd share my ballot before I go:

Governor: Angelides. I'm not too enthusiastic about it. And Schwarzenegger's such a good bullshit artist (really like W.J. Clinton) that I don't think he'll make a conservative mis-step again. But four years of business writing regulations...I don't like it.

Other state offices: Whatever. Probably the Democrat. Haven't I voted for Garamendi for like twelve different offices already?

Senator: Todd Chretien, the Green. Partly because I'm in a French-Canadian mood, partly because I think the loony left deserves a little more play, but mostly because I don't like voting sitting Senators third terms. That's just one of my bizarre sets of political principles.

Props: Yes to the Prop 1 series, except for 1A, because I don't like voters determining the tax code. That's what a legislature is for. In my Tory way, I dislike initiatives in general: Hence no to 86 (tobacco tax, plus I dislike anti-tobaccoism), and, yes, 87. I'm tempted to vote for 87, and might change my mind at the booth, but ultimately, even though I'm in favor of raising the gas tax, I think the money should have gone either in A) the general fund or B) to offset the Vehicle License Fee. Yes on 89, though; if we can get some of the money out of the campaigns I can watch the World Series in peace.

The LA propositions require more research (=cursory research). I'm inclined to vote "no," though. I'm always inclined to vote "no."

Je suis un bloguor

Eric McErlain, the lord of the hockey blogosphere, was interviewed by La Presse in Montreal, and offers Google translation of the the articles here and here. I know it's fish in a barrel, but I still liked reading the translated La Presse articles with a French accent in my head:

While large newspapers like NewYork Times and the L.A. Times put the axe in their cover of hockey, the blogists of hockey push like mushrooms in the fertile compost of the Web.

Gradually, they are being made a place, nested between the sites of the traditional media and the forums of discussion which preceded them. Several are animated by fans see for example Battle of Alberta (battleofalberta.blogspot.com), where the partisans of Flames and Oilers are given some to heart joy, without much claim with objectivity.

Attention entertainment executives! The secret of "Borat"!

No notes.


Improving the robocall idea

We all know that the Republican robocalls are a superbrillant idea -- but I have a way to "plus" it, if you will:

They should have had the guy calling pretending to be a Democratic campaign worker use a super-faggy voice -- or in Tennessee, a super-black voice (super-Jewy, I mean "New York," would have worked as well). In Arizona, super-Hispanic.

I know, you can't believe the Republicans missed a chance to be racist either. Maybe that's why they're losing their edge.

Cleaning out my net news wire...

• There's a long Digby post on neocons and how they're full of shit, but the thing that jumped out at me is that they are pussies:Adelman was so happy that he burst into tears at the door of the vice president's residence that Sunday. He hugged Cheney for the first time in the 30 years he had known him.

• Drinking: More on the virtues of Plymouth Gin (although a more Londony gin is better for G&Ts, even a more of-the-people brand like Gordon's).

• Hurry, everyone! Shit up the environment before it's too late!

• A Sunday atheistical sermon:

Yes,I did have an epiphany. I saw with greater clarity than ever before in my life that when I say "Thank goodness!" this is not merely a euphemism for "Thank God!" (We atheists don't believe that there is any God to thank.) I really do mean thank goodness! There is a lot of goodness in this world, and more goodness every day, and this fantastic human-made fabric of excellence is genuinely responsible for the fact that I am alive today. It is a worthy recipient of the gratitude I feel today, and I want to celebrate that fact here and now.

A comment on the Ted Haggard thing

When gay sex is outlawed, only ministers will have gay sex.

Politics is depressing

It is inherently useless for me to blog about politics, but usually I like it. Today it's depressing. This depresses me. This depresses me too, but not as much, because it's also pretty brilliant:

Three TPM readers have reported a phone scam with a double whammy. The call purports to be for John Hall, the Democratic challenger, but makes negative assertions about Hall. If the caller hangs up, they are called again and again, as many as seven times, according to one report.

So either the recipient hears a negative message about Hall, or they think Hall is harrassing them with repeated phone calls. Either way it's a win for Hall's opponent, Republican incumbent Sue Kelly.

This, basically the first step to exit visas, is also depressing and a little scary:
The Department of Homeland Security has proposed that airlines and cruise ships be required to get individual permission (”clearance”) from the DHS for each individual passenger on all flights to, from, or via the U.S.
Try fleeing to Canada now, Alec Baldwin!


Everything only connected by "and" and "and"...

I really enjoyed this Language Log post, on sentence-initial "But" (or "And"). I, too, was taught never to begin a sentence with a conjunction. As a consequence, I think I overuse "accordingly" -- yet, I continue to do so, because of some inner music only I can hear. But I still don't like sentences that begin with "and"; in my own shitty writing, I always wonder why I can't just join that sentence to the preceding one. "But" is a different matter, you may need that beat of the period before you sail in with the "but".

(I thought the poem referenced in the title would be easily available online. It isn't. It's discussed here.

Quis custodiet etc.

I hate to keep agreeing with Billmon, but I was thinking the same thing when I heard about the "Rummy Must Go" editorial in the Army Times:

The Dems may applaud now, but if I were them, I'd be extremely wary of the precedent. As a group, the joint chiefs are developing a taste for bureaucratic blood -- they're trying to destroy Rumsfeld just as they destroyed Les Aspin and emasculated Wesley Clark. Only now they're doing it openly (or at least semi-openly) and in the middle of an election campaign.

That's usually not a good sign for a republican government -- and I'm not talking about the political party.
From Wikipedia:

Although its name has become synonymous with intrigue, conspiracy, disloyalty and assassination, it could be argued that for the first two centuries of its existence the Praetorian Guard was, on the whole, a positive force in the Roman state. During this time it mostly removed (or allowed to be removed) cruel, weak and unpopular emperors while generally supporting just, strong and popular ones. By protecting these monarchs, thus extending their reigns, and also by keeping the disorders of the mobs of Rome and the intrigues of the Senate in line, the Guard helped give the empire a much needed stability that led to the period known as the Pax Romana.

Only after the reign of Marcus Aurelius, when this period is generally considered to have ended, the guard began to deteriorate into the ruthless, mercenary and meddling force for which it has become infamous. However, during the Severan dynasty and afterwards during the Crisis of the Third Century, the legions, the Senate and the emperorship along with the rest of Roman government were falling into decadence as well.

Downtown LA Disneyland

This is very long but it's kind of a neat summary of a downtown-LA tour done by noted retrologist Charles Phoenix, with the controlling principle being that downtown LA is just like Disneyland.

The "sunken garden" -- a public park right below the Music Center, which is referred to late in the tour -- is indeed an example of the loneliness of mid-century public architecture. It is also home to the lonliest Starbucks in the world (although I imagine at 8:58 on a weekday morning it's busy enough with civil servants).

Via LA City Nerd.

Free agency

From Baseball Prospectus (I'm pretty sure that it's subscription-only), on the new revenue-sharing agreement:

How much a team spends, though, is dependent not just on how much revenue it gets to keep, but on how much it can generate in the first place--and that calculation of how much new money a player can bring in is going to vary wildly from team to team. Even if an influx of talent would result in the Yankees and the Royals putting the same number of new fannies in the seats, those seats are worth two to three times as much in New York as in Kansas City, and that's before even accounting for the increased value of eyeballs attracted to the team's cable broadcasts.

This discrepancy in teams' marginal revenue potential goes a long way toward explaining why the top-revenue teams hog all the big names at free-agent time. It's not so much that the Yankees have more money than the Twins-[...] It's that players are worth more to the Yankees than the Twins, solely by virtue of the fact that the Yankees play in such a high-marginal-revenue environment.

(Italics original.) See, this is why I can't feel that sorry for Kansas City; New York is a huge town with a huge interest in baseball. Why shouldn't it have the best players?


Hoo boy

I have so much other shit to do, like get over this cold, but Hoo boy:

NBC also wants Sorkin to make some creative changes to "Studio 60." ... NBC entertainment president Kevin Reilly has been working directly with Sorkin on some possible fixes, the source close to the show says.
Alt. to "Hoo boy": "That'll work."


Cleaning out my net news wire...

• Alex Ross on your many classical music options available via internets. A series of musical tubes!

• Ladies and gentlemen, The Commodore. Maybe I'll go make one after I get done typing this.

Rail to LAX v. subway to the sea. Much as I like the idea of a subway to the Westside I suspect this is more practical. Predictably the LA Times story doesn't come with a map. Other good LA Times bitching can be found here.

Catapults!. (Apologies in advance to linking to boing boing, which is only more popular than the internet itself. But catapults!)

Colby Cosh likes Miss Manners, as do I.


Is it too early to be on the Borat backlash? That's what I thought when I saw him on SNL. I also had these two thoughts:

1. I don't think Sasha Baron Cohen uses his voice as well as he could. What I mean by this is that he doesn't get enough out of the "instrument." I also thought that in "Talladega Nights" -- he had the right attitude, and he was funny, but I wanted his voice to be funnier.

2. This is just a dirty "now are the foxes."

Then I remembered: because he's on NBC he can't be anti-Semitic, and I think that's kind of at the heart of the character; all the "sexy time" stuff is funny, just like any dialect stuff is funny (cf. "tooth hurty"), but what's really got Cohen pissed off is casual anti-Semitism, and that's the fuel the character is running on.

All of which is to say that I'm still sky-high for the "Borat" movie, but I think there's probably a greater chance than I thought that I will, somehow, be disappointed. Oh, and SNL wasted Hugh Laurie, I thought. Now there's a guy who knows how to use his voice.


I saw this over to Crooked Timber:

It seems that for Western Europe to regain its dynamism, it has to move to a freer market economy, higher rates of childbirth, higher immigration, and greater religiosity.
I wish I could figure out why I find this so funny. Maybe it's the naked utilitarianism -- it makes Pascal's Wager look like the Port Huron Statement, or something. Maybe I'm just imagining little Francois early on Sunday morning in Lyon:

"Do we hafta go to church?"
"Yes" [literally, "But yes." -- ed.]
"Because the conseqences of a reduction in the overall rate of growth are too horrible to contemplate."

I think this will be rather less successful as a motivator than the idea of Hell. But then I am not an economist.



I'm fond of rye whiskey myself in my mixed drinks, such as a Manhattan or an Old-Fashioned (which I make in an idiosyncratic way, muddling a lemon slice with my sugar and bitters. My father makes his with orange marmalade.) It's nice that the author singled out Wild Turkey since that's tops on the affordability/quality scale. You can get it at BevMo. Why, I think I'll have some now...


You are here

is a site by a guy in Stuttgart, devoted to Downtown LA. LA Observed plotzes. As they should

Cleaning out my net news wire...

• Kevin Vranes is bringing it: Here's a good post on Rove, and did you know that the President reserves the right to appoint the unqualified to FEMA? I'm not saying "are you surprised" by that fact, just whether you knew it or not.

• Drinking: The high cost of esoteric ingredients. I've got a bottle of Peychaud's Bitters gathering dust, myself. Also Pernod, which I really can't stand, but fortunately my dad (Father Delicious, I should maybe call him) always has some when he comes around.

• And Billmon, of course:

to me it looks as if a conscious, corporate decision has been made to try to hold (or win back) the conservative "red state" audience even if it means losing the liberal "blue state" audience. Whether this is because the conservative audience is larger and more affluent, or because the strategists at Viacom, Disney, GE and Time Warner have decided that liberals are less likely to change channels when their ideological beliefs are offended, or because the more demographically desirable blue state audiences have long since "self selected" their way out of old media's reach all together, I don't know. But when Mark Halperin promises Bill O'Reilly he will feel his pain, or the CBS Evening News gives every conservative nut job in America a spot on "Free Speech," or NBC refuses to accept an ad for the Dixie Chicks because it disrepects Shrub, or Time puts Ann Coulter on the cover, I think they're making economic statements as much as journalistic ones.
I completely agree and, if pressed, I guess B -- liberals don't get as pissed off. I choose B because I've been watching Fox cover baseball and it's obvious they don't give a shit about baseball fans because, after all, where are we going to go? So I think that permeates the whole corporation.

Sportings: rain rules all the time, please.

On BP, Nate Silver offers some "rain rules" that MLB could use in the event of cold weather. I think they should happen all the time:

Between-inning breaks are shortened from 120 sections to the usual 90 seconds. Any missed commercial time would be made up to the sponsor during the next season's All-Star Game.
The seventh-inning stretch is limited to two-and-a-half minutes. If you still want to sing God Bless America, by all means go ahead and do so. But none of the Ronan Tynan, seven-minute remix version.
Each team is limited to three mound visits over the course of the game that do not result in pitching changes.
If more than one pitching change is made in the same inning, the second relief pitcher is limited to three warm-up pitches.
The home plate umpire is given broader leeway to award a strike or ball based on excessive delay on the part of the batter or pitcher, respectively, including superfluous pick-off throws.
Finally and most importantly, FOX and MLB should jointly pledge to Americans that under no circumstances shall alternative programming during rain delays involve Michael Rapaport.
I can't stand the God Bless America myself, but I'm not into the patriotic self-love. Did they sing it during the seventh-inning stretch at the '43 World Series? Then why are you doing it here? (A similar case is Ike not saluting when he was saluted once he was President and therefore civilian. Post-Reagan presidents, though, think they're all CNC and shit.)

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the idea that MLB has become the NHL, and you can stumble around in a fog all year and still win the World Series. Actually, it's worse than the NHL -- the team that stumbles around and gets in at the last minute usually winds up losing in the Cup Final (Edmonton, Anaheim, Calgary, Washington).


Annals of capitalism, campaign division

LA Times, on the race for California controller. Strickland's the R, BTW:

In recent days, Intuit has placed $1 million into a committee called the Alliance for California's Tomorrow. That group has spent $66,000 on Strickland's behalf so far...Neither Intuit nor the tribes siding with Strickland would discuss their motives. Instead, they issued statements.

Intuit supports "candidates of both parties who are champions of good public policy." The tribes' statement said they are "just helping to move California forward by supporting strong leaders — Democrats and Republicans — who will move the state in the right direction."

The tribes and Intuit each have one reason to support the GOP nominee: taxes.

The state controller sits on the Franchise Tax Board, a three-member panel that oversees state income tax policy...The controller also serves on the five-member Board of Equalization, which oversees sales and property tax issues. Additionally, the controller votes for that board's chairman, who also sits on the Franchise Tax Board. Whoever wins the controller's race Nov. 7 will determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the boards.

Intuit has inserted itself into the controller's campaign as part of its fight to block the Franchise Tax Board from simplifying the state income tax filing process. From his post on the Board of Equalization, Chiang embraced "ReadyReturn," a program designed to remove some of the agony of tax season by having the government complete low-income Californians' tax returns....If it were to be fully implemented, ReadyReturn could threaten sales of one of the company's most successful software programs: TurboTax. Facing a fierce lobbying effort by Intuit, the Legislature this year blocked the state from spending money on ReadyReturn.


While we're on LA

This makes me laugh just because the mayor sounds like every other person who's ever been to a more efficient country:

"We've got to start rethinking—," he began, then paused and restarted unprompted: "Los Angeles has to recommit to itself to great architecture. You go to great cities to see great architecture...We've got to reimagine what L.A. looks like. We can and should have great architecture here." He also called LAX all but a joke compared to airports in Asia and was wowed by the bullet trains and other transit modes he saw: "America has got to catch up to everybody in its commitment to infrastructure...Asia is on the move."

In his excitement at seeing transit lines that actually connect to places of interest, the mayor expounded that "we need to connect the Green Line to the airport." That position runs counter to his own airport's chief, Lydia Kennard.

I got nothing today

Just working on New Project #937. Although I saw an awesome arrow guy today -- you know, the guys who twirl arrows on the corner. He was getting so into the twirling it was clear that he either didn't care or had forgotten where the insurance office was he was ostensibly pointing to. Then he sat the arrow down and began to row alongside of it -- with a grin that was all, "Yeah, that's right, I'm pretending I'm in a rowboat. What do you got, asshole?"

Oh, and I agree with Kurt Andersen, although not as much as he agrees with himself, of course.


Should I waste away from cancer? Or should I treat it by stabbing myself?

Here's the goddamn article:

If the traditional broadcasters are to save themselves, the main argument boils down to a question of investment. Should the networks respond to the new environment by cutting their losses and surviving as leanly as possible, as NBC seems to be doing? Or is now the time that executives should be investing heavily in development, trying to suss out the next generation of hits that will enable them to stem the encroachment of new media?
Do we think that this crew of development people is going to suss out anything successfully? It's like, the only thing that can save us from being the Tampa Bay Devil Rays is to be more like the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. (All the extra money would just go to Aaron Sorkin anyway, or hacks like me.)

Plus, didn't NBC order, like, 80 comedy scripts a few years back? How'd that work out? I appreciate the idea that you should try harder, but when you have a ton of pilots, it just spreads the limited frosting of comedy acting talent thinner across a bigger cake, among other things.

I think the networks would achieve more by trying less hard. Let go. Have a cocktail. Let the writers choose their own supporting cast without interference. Don't make people rewrite story outlines when they should be writing actual scripts. Remember that we writers are more likely to get you executives a bigger house than the other way round.

On Irritation

I've been working on a bigger post about this, but when I work on bigger posts nothing ever seems to happen, so I'll just put it out there.

After the failure of the pitch our pod partners have graciously tossed me an idea that's floating around one of the networks. And in working on it I realized what a central sitcom emotion is: irritation. Think about it: Lucy irritates Desi. Ted irritates Mary and Mur. Oscar irritates Felix. Everything irritates George Costanza. Conflict is the essence of drama, hubris is the essence of tragedy, but irritation is the essence of sitcom -- the grain of sand that produces the 22-minute pearl.

Oh, and I had this exchange with an executive:
Me: "Well, I'm not officially pitching this, but it seems like this could be a good idea to be purely silly."
Exec: "I get it, but that would never get on the air."

See? What they're not selecting for is comedy.

Further note on the LA Times

I was going to blog something from their excellent "Channel Island" column (about NBC giving up the 8 o'clock hour), but I can't find it anywhere on the website. Their website stinks. I find a lot of good articles in the LA Times, but the presentation and management reeks of people who think their jobs beneath them.

An example of what happens when you exercise the Crap Option

Peter King:

You know there's been a shift in the tectonic plates when, while working a bit Saturday night, I choose the fourth quarter of Rutgers-Pitt over the opening of the World Series.
I attribute this solely to the quality of the Fox broadcast. I mean, all sports television has been crapped up, and I imagine the producer who says, "Let's simplify" getting fired, but I think the noisy way Fox chooses to do its broadcasts turns off baseball fans.


The Los Angeles Times thinks I'm an idiot

I agree with Kevin Drum: the LA Times news-reduction redesign does nothing for me.

What drives me nuts about the LA Times is that they're still chasing the dream of being in every driveway in the Southland, which means they get dumber, as opposed to being a product for a specialized group of people who like consuming news, which means they'd get smarter. (Their op-ed page is beyond the pale.)

All would be forgiven, however, if they'd just print letters to the sports section every day. That shit cracks me up.


Cleaning out my net news wire...

I like to start the week with a clean soul, but I like to start the weekend with a clean feed reader (long "e" sounds are funny -- e.g. Ned Schneebly, Mike White's character in "School of Rock"):

This is disgusting to me. Washington sure as hell didn't think his civilian overlords were taking orders from God. And what if God is joking? It wouldn't be the first time.

• Whereas this is just sad and wistful. Farewell, old friends.

• Climate: a nerdy discussion which I can't follow about wind power, here. Yet it leaves me feeling strangely optimistic.

• LA's disrespect for transit, here. It is getting a little better, though. Once gas goes up to >$3/gal again I bet there'll be another push to spruce up the system.

NBC layoffs

No news here -- the "no scripted programming in the 8 o'clock hour" seems chilling, especially to comedy, but it's kind of what they're doing anyway. I do want to note these two quotes from Variety (sub required, probably). First, from the Zucker article:

More than cost-cutting, Zucker said NBC U 2.0 is about a new way of doing business. He pointed to the net's hit of the fall, "Heroes," which airs on NBC Mondays; goes online with advertisements the following day; is then made available for download via iTunes for $1.99; and finally heads to the Sci Fi Channel, where a rerun airs on Friday.
Then, from the Reilly article:
Meanwhile, with talk of a writers strike continuing to percolate, Reilly said the industry should "tread carefully."

"We're on thin ice as an industry," he said. "A strike can take us right through that ice."

Reilly said he agreed that talent must be properly compensated -- "They're the lifeblood. We're all for that. But we're all trying to get a piece of a (new media) model that's very unclear."
It doesn't sound so unclear to me!

As far as comedy, I think that the nets (NBC especially) are too infected by fear of failure. Because most of them fail, and the ones that don't look like they're failing get so noted (out of love!) that they stop seeming simple and natural and then they fail.

My crackpot idea is that they should, Rove-style, go on the offensive and take a low-risk night like Saturday and schedule four sitcoms -- multicams, probably, because of the expense involved.

And at least one of the multicams should be as unprofound as Green Acres! That kind of thing is definitely not being done now.

Dark as a dungeon...

...way down in the Bush Administration. (via WSJ):

President Bush on Thursday went around the U.S. Senate to put a longtime coal industry official in charge of the federal agency that regulates mine safety.

Bush waited until the Senate had recessed for next month’s election, and re-nominated West Virginia native Richard Stickler to be assistant secretary of labor in charge of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Twice this year, the Senate sent Stickler’s nomination back to the White House without a vote, citing opposition from the United Mine Workers and other safety advocates, along with this year’s spike in coal-mining deaths.
That's the Republican-controlled Senate. He's too anti-labor for Republicans. Just another spot of black lung on the body politic.

Okay, so let's talk about this piece

Why cities succeed:

At least part of the answer stems from their underlying cultures. In his "Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia" (1979), E. Digby Baltzell argued that Boston Brahmins, with their belief in authority and leadership, embraced a sense of responsibility for civic life, while Philadelphia Gentlemen, with their inward but judgmental Quaker ways were deeply unconcerned about their city's welfare. Over the course of the 19th century and well into the 20th, they abdicated their role in government and watched indifferently as Philadelphia became, by the 1960s, the worst run city in the nation. The Brahmins might have been intolerant and unpleasant while the Philadelphians were open and charming, but the Brahmins cared about their city -- and so, subsequently, did the Irish politicians with whom they warred and the Italians who replaced the Irish.

I have no idea if this is true -- it's not supported in the piece. And just the fact that it's on an editorial page of the Wall Street Journal makes me think it's probably wrong. But it does fit my prejudice -- that elites matter. Indeed, modern conservatism to me is nothing more than an ideology that tells elites that they should be selfish and irresponsible, that they are owed rather than they owe something.

I also want to note this:
What flourishing cities often have in common, instead, are two crucial cultural characteristics: combativeness and cunning. New Yorkers, for example, fought back from their 1975 bankruptcy with every tool at their disposal, fair and unfair...

Yet New York armed itself with brilliant leadership, cut its bloated operating and capital budgets, cajoled the federal loan guarantees from Congress, poured money into fixing up thousands of units of abandoned housing, fought crime and graffiti -- and emerged triumphant. It might have done even better: It barely reduced its onerous tax burden, regarded by many analysts as the highest in the country. Indeed, one of New York's most notorious, anti-enterprise taxes is the 4% unincorporated business tax, which was targeted at wealthy physicians but which instead hits every bodega and small business. Surely this tax has done serious harm, if not enough to force its repeal. Somehow New York's entrepreneurial spirit drives forward, scattering even the grossest of obstacles -- almost against reason

See? See? Taxes don't matter as much as the conseratives tell you they do. The wealthy physicians and bodega owners may also like having big public parks and lots of police (the police per-capita figure in NYC is like twice LA's, I think). So the anti-enterprise tax may be seen as a tax that gives them an environment that make enterprise worthwhile.

Not that I love taxes, or anything -- I just paid my property tax, which is low, but as an unemployed dude is sure didn't seem low. But I'm not afraid of them, and those of us who feel that there needs to be a strong public thing to both promote and stand against that sorcerer's apprentice capitalism need to argue for them as well.

The Wall Street Journal is free today

Some promotional stunt. Go read it. If I only had to take one paper, it would be the WSJ, even though it has no sports section, even in spite of its editorial page, which I have after long training learned not to read. (It helped when they moved the Arts page away from editorial.)







Miami and FIU weren't the only college football teams involved in a brawl last weekend -- players from Dartmouth and Holy Cross fought at the end of their game when the teams lined up for postgame handshakes.

The fighting started on Dartmouth's Memorial Field after Holy Cross won 24-21 in overtime Saturday.

After Holy Cross players celebrated atop the Dartmouth ''D'' painted on the field, fights broke out between the teams when the Division I-AA teams lined up for customary handshakes.

Witnesses said some players were thrown to the ground and kicked. Coaches, campus security and Hanover police broke it up.



What's wrong with TV

I think I should start a little list of my bitches about that sweet bitch TV. Here's number 1:

The demise of theme songs that tell you the premise of the show. It's hard to pitch premise-y shows now, because the feeling is you numbskulls out there can't follow something that begins with a complicated story (e.g. Gilligan). Well, of course it is -- if you're not telling the complicated story in song! That this also gives you a little marketable property to sell is completely lost on them, also.

I never have commenters, but if I did, they would be invited to leave their own bitches in comments.

More Public Thing notes

Here's a post by my boys at CT about "The Great Risk Shift," a book that I'm not going to read but am willing to debate and summarize, like so: The conservative revolution means that, while we could have a goverment ease your worries about the end of your life or when you get sick, it won't -- your worries are good for you. The point that's made in the post (and more clearly in comments) is my favorite point for universal health care: it helps entrepreneurship by making it possible for you to quit your job without being scared that your kid will bankrupt you if he/she falls off his/her bicycle. Instead, with universal health care, you can start your own business, become rich, and your kid can bankrupt you by becoming a hopeless, worthless drug addict! (But that's just an argument for an estate tax right there.)

While I'm bullshitting (as I find myself to be) I might as well add that I don't believe higher marginal tax rates really act as a disincentive, unless they're crazy high. People like to succeed for the money, but there's more to success than just money. Put it this way: if you're running GE you're going to have a primo mistress no matter what the top marginal rate is, and that's going to be plenty of incentive for most of your captains of industry right there.

• So you can torture the shit out of your fellow citizens now. I see via the Daou report that some dudes think this is not a big deal, since we're obviously not turning into a totalitarian state. No, but, if we decide not to stand for anything, we're turning into something else: just another empire. Not Mao's China, but Philip II's Spain. And necessarily then we go the way of all those empires.

Reprint: a comment I had at Delong's place

We could have mashed up the brains of John Quincy Adams and Dean Acheson, shoved them into the hole in Henry Kissinger's soul, let that guy run the Iraq war, and it still would have been screwed up, because the idea that we could bring in an imperial army into Mesopotamia and not come to ruin is absurd. This is a very old folly that we are repeating.

Cleaning out my net news wire...

Annals of capitalism, union-busting edition.

• A short anti-libertarian defense of capitalism.

Annals of cocktails: "First of all, it has to be Coca Cola, Coca Cola. Not Cola Pumba or Super Cola, if you really want to drink the kalimotxo. Other brands’ colas have a too sweet taste that destroys the mix, it is very easy to recognize them." You really have to read the whole thing.

Three rhetorical sports questions

Could low MLB postseason ratings have anything to do with the fact that MLB has allowed Fox to shit up its product?

Could the out-of-whack price levels for hockey tickets have anything to do with low attendance (Also: the Kings stink. And they're in trouble at the B.O. I know this because I now get mail from them twice a week with new ticket specials.)

Why us?


Cleaning out my net news wire...

Blunt talk from the "I Dislike Your Favorite Team" squad about NASCAR and the Confederate Flag.

• Annals of Capitalism, Regulatory Capture division:

Here’s [utility executive] Dick Kelly on his “top-of-mind issue”: “ We have gone to the regulators and the state legislative body and have it written in law that we’re going to recover our investment before we spend a dime. We’ve got about $5 billion worth of projects that we’re going to recover before we actually start spending the money. If you have that kind of up-front support, then you can go to investors and they’ll lend you the money.” (Translation: Xcel's bad credit rating has limited its financing options, so Xcel requested that ratepayers assume the risk of the coal-fired plant which Xcel freely admits in filings is being built to satisfy Wall Street; regulators like COPUC Chairman Greg Sopkin attend utility meetings where he learns, according to the Denver press, “how utilities can win a rate case.” Sopkin’s shindigging in fancy hotels with the utilities clearly worked for Xcel.)
• Bob Cringely thinks YouTube is not the future of television. I still think it hurts comedy some (more so than drama or reality, which leverage the resources of professional TV more.)

Every 52 seconds, someone cites a bullshit statistic.

• Two Defamer things: Those Fox menus are pretty funny. I worked there for a little while and was starting to collect them. Also:
China suspends the premieres of Miami Vice, World Trade Center, and, potentially, Casino Royale to clear room for the propaganda films scheduled for--and we're not making this up--"October Golden Autumn Excellent Domestic Film Exhibition Month."

Quick crackpot theory on the decline of the sitcom

Theories of comedy are kind of a subordinate hobby of mine; I don't think I've shared too many of them on this site but maybe I'll throw in some more.

This is a new theory, though, not one of my hobbyhorses. (That is, they look like hobbyhorses to you. To me they look like magnificent sleek warhorses.) And it's about why you can't get audiences to look at the ol' multicamera sitcom much anymore. My theory: children's television is at fault, in two ways:

1. Children's television is actually pretty funny. I see plenty of jokes on "Fairly OddParents" or "SpongeBob," which, while a tad obvious, I would be glad to have written. And you have an audience that starts out watching this, switches to adolescent fare like "Beavis" (back in the day) or "South Park" or "Simpsons", and when they finally hit their mid-20s, have jobs, and are ready to become watchers of prime time television, there's...nothing. Prime-time shows aren't as funny as the shows they grew up watching. (And the networks don't select for funny, they select for "relateableness" or whatever the fuck it is.) So who needs it?

2. Note that none of these shows are sitcoms, even if they have sitcom rhythms at times. When I was a kid, a million years ago, you kind of had to watch "Dick Van Dyke" (still the best version of "Raymond") or "Lucy" or, in my house, "Barney Miller." Sitcoms were my TV cradle-tongue. Nowadays, my kids don't ever watch a multicam show; I suppose, when they're a little older, they might watch some of those "Hannah Montana" Disney Channel shows. But that just associates the multicam format with kid stuff. It's starting to seem unnatural.

Anyways, I freely admit this is a crackpot theory and am willing to fold if a good countertheory is proposed. But I'm just throwing it out there.


Annals of Capitalism (4)

We're appalled by Chinese repression, except when we aren't:

China is planning to adopt a new law that seeks to crack down on sweatshops and protect workers’ rights by giving labor unions real power for the first time since it introduced market forces in the 1980’s

The move, which underscores the government’s growing concern about the widening income gap and threats of social unrest, is setting off a battle with American and other foreign corporations that have lobbied against it by hinting that they may build fewer factories here.

Schwarzenegger Bullshit Watch (24)


Read, as they say, the whole thing

You ask, "D.P., with all these terrible things going on in the world, how does one cope?"

Here's how (WSJ):

Cash-strapped consumers are eating out less often, leading Bennigan's, Applebee's and other so-called casual-dining chains to lean harder on some of their most profitable menu items: alcoholic drinks.

Beer, wine and liquor-based concoctions often have profit margins more than double those of food -- making them just the ticket for a restaurant's sagging bottom line. And the timing is right: Americans' alcohol consumption, after dropping for nearly two decades, is on the rise again -- due in large measure to recent effective marketing campaigns by wine and spirits makers.
The thing I love about the Wall Street Journal is that there's no hand-wringing about the "cash-strapped consumers" -- it's more a question of, "How can we still make money?" This sounds sarcastic but I really mean it. The LA Times, in particular, does a lot of that "Blacks, Jews Suffer Most" handwringing, and there's a place for it, but one doesn't want it in every goddamn newspaper you pick up.





Dear Tamar Jacoby


...But in recent years, healthy differences of opinion have been giving way to unhealthy polarization — unnecessary, overly emotional or unbridgeable disagreement that's deadlocking our politics and making it impossible to reach the kind of consensus we need to solve the problems before us.





Weather Channel gets religion

Not really, but all through the 90s, while I was worrying about climate change, it irritated me that the Weather Channel didn't say a mumbling word about it. Well, just in time to be behind the curve, they've launched their own site devoted to it.

Once climate change gets the cool endorsement of the Weather Channel, there's no stopping it!

Hello again

I'm only back briefly, because I'm still pitching my project and also trying to figure out if a harebrained (note proper spelling) scheme I'm working on is a MILLION DOLLAR IDEA. Plus the fam. and I were in the beautiful South for a wedding (the advantage of unemployment is that extra time can be taken for weekends like this, at least until the money runs out).

In the meantime I wholeheartedly support this idea. LA needs a tabloid.


I guess Todd Jones's mom isn't very hot

Tigers reliever Todd Jones ups the metaphorical ante:

“As we were walking in, they were handing us wild-card hats and wild-card shirts,” Jones said yesterday at Yankee Stadium. “It was worse than kissing your sister — it was like making out with your mom. There was no enjoyment, nothing. It was horrible.”

Nietzsche Family Circus

One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.

Here. A random Family Circus panel is paired with a random Nietzsche quote. I know, I know, it's too easy, but at least it's not as snotty as that Marmaduke thing.

(Via Franklin Avenue.)


This is how we do it in Hollywood

From Variety (sub, natch):

Paramount has closed a $300 million film financing deal with international investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort for production coin that will fund 30 films for the studio.
See? The movie business is all about getting people with money to forget that one of the reasons they have money is that they never went into the movie business. It works with people from back East and it works with the Japanese and, remarkably, it still works with the Germans. Good going, Brad Grey!

Another thing about the Foley scandal

Someone needs to make a joke about Hastert being a former wrestling coach.

Why WFMU's "Beware of the Blog" should be on your newsreader

Because of stuff like "The Long Hair Fad".

You know who's pissed at the Foley scandal?

Bob Woodward. When you're a powerful Washington journalist, I bet you start to think you can control the weather and stuff, and then your revelation-stuffed book is kicked to the curb by a dirty-minded congressman. It's just not fair!


Off Wing:

Yes, I know I haven't been keeping up with all the preseason news the way that I should, but I've been on something of an extended vacation since the week before last, and I've wanted to get some more rest before the start of the regular season on Wednesday night.
The NHL season starts Wednesday? I'm nowhere near ready! I'm not even at my I-don't-really-care-till-after-the-holidays level of caring! It's still 85 degrees here!

This is ridiculous. Rooting for the NHL is like rooting for the Buick division of GM.

BREAKING: Plaschke is right, blind dog finds bone

Bill Plaschke is one of the worst columnists I've ever read, so I all but spit-taked all over his column today:

The news that the drug hounds have finally been unleashed on Roger Clemens sent me to the guy who knows something about being chased.

So, I asked Barry Bonds, do you think Clemens will have his heels nipped and his neck poked and his breath shortened like you have?
"I like Roger, I respect Roger, so I won't comment on that," said Bonds, smiling. "But I'm feeling your question."

On the eve of the steroid era, a 34-year-old pitcher is sent packing from his longtime team because, his boss says, "He's in the twilight of his career."

One year later that pitcher increases his strikeout total by 35, throws the most innings in the last 10 years, and wins a Cy Young Award.

And Roger Clemens is not above suspicion?

In the middle of the steroid cleanup period, a 44-year-old pitcher sits out the first two months of the season while contemplating retirement.

Then he shows up in June and fashions the fourth-best earned-run average of his career, finishing decimal points short of his career average of strikeouts per nine innings.

And Roger Clemens skates?

[...]Although Clemens' and Bonds' careers have taken the same arc toward eternal athletic life, they are perceived as differently as, well, white and black.

America does not want to believe the dirt on Clemens because he is a nice guy, a family guy, a good ol' guy and, let's be honest here, a Caucasian guy.

America likes its sport villains dark and moody and everything that has always been Bonds.
(Note that he hasn't become a better writer just because he agrees with me.)

But, here's the other thing I think: how evil is this? I was reading this SI.com piece and this quote jumped out at me:

Both Clemens and Pettitte are notorious workout freaks, and both have many backers among teammates and close friends. Some Houston teammates were stunned that Pettitte, especially, was named in the Grimsley affidavit.

"Andy Pettitte is one of the finest individuals I've ever been around," said Lance Berkman. "You could knock me over with a feather if this is true."

I have no way of knowing if Andy Pettitte is a fine individual, of course, but the point is that I can't figure out how bad this is. I'm sure it's not as bad as the MSSM (mainstream sports meida) are making it out to be.


Your LA subway system

In about 70 years from now. (Via Green LA Girl, also check out the discussions, some of them peevish, at metroblogging la and curbed LA.)


Cleaning out my net news wire...

I don't know when I'll be able to post a lot, for reasons discussed earlier this evening, so here's some stuff that's been lying around for the past few days...

• Yglesias on the cocktail of public policy (how we must cut the Hogarthian gin of capitalism with the Continential-style vermouth finesse of socialism).

• I've always liked Long Beach. I'm glad to see things picking up there.

• The Oil Drum is often super-engineery, so when they have a post with the hippie-ish title of Burning Buried Sunshine you notice it. Short answer: as a species, we've stopped living off the interest and are dipping into the capital.

Pilotblogging: Is the single-camera comedy fully theorized?

Help me help you

This was one of the scripts I liked the best in the spring; the ending is a little different, somehow (I no longer have the script), but it's pretty much there. But all the way through I was thinking to myself, why is this single-camera? Subsequent chat has confirmed that I was not alone in this thought.

The benefits of single-camera are obvious: more movie-type shots, elaborate setups, no idiot crowd hooting at people kissing, and a general increase in pace. There's also a certain underplaying, deadpan kind of joke you can't do in multi-camera (cf., again and again, The Office). It's great to be able to write a scene where you don't have to cross your B story in, with all that entails -- justifications of why they happened to come over, and why they happen to be leaving just in time for the A story discussion to resume.

On the other hand a certain kind of super-theatrical tone is lost in single camera. Help Me Help You is about a therapy group, so it's like a summit of Kooky Karacters. Maybe it's because you associate such K.K.s with multi-cam, but in some ways I felt their over-the-topness wasn't landing enough (and I think the actors are all really good, so it's not a performance issue).

I don't know why they're not shooting this multi-cam without a studio audience, is all.

Another thing that hurts it is ABC's insistence of three commercial breaks, which means you have to find three act breaks in your story. Act breaks are like crying children demanding delicious plot twists. Three crying children in a half-hour are difficult to satisfy. Maybe it's okay in drama, where dramatic, commercial-spanning developments are part of the job, but it really fights rhythm and pace, two of the ineffable allies of comedy.

I don't know when I'll get to Ugly Betty, but I'm eager to see it.

They passed

Pitched my ass off, too. At least I got a free coffee out of it. Communication will necessarily be sporadic, as scrambling must begin.

Now I really feel unemployed.

I apologize

for not doing more yesterday, but I am too busy crafting diversions for my fellow subjects of our military-industrial-infotainment state.


My personal domestic politics analyst insisted to me tonight that the Democrats are still going to win one or both houses of Congress this year. I disbelieve her, but even if she is right, all it means is that a Democratic Party that has already ceded the principle that “our security depends on hiding people away and torturing them” will take power. That party will not have the self-confidence or ambition to spend political capital undoing what it allowed this week to be done. That party will be able to provide a nice living for its officials, do a tidy business in fundraising and maybe push marginal tax rates up a point or raise the gas mileage requirements on new cars - in a country whose official policy is that “our security depends on hiding people away and torturing them.” It will not be a party that opposes anything worth opposing. It will not be a party that can sustain majority support for an alternate philosophy of governance. In important ways it will hardly even count as a second party. And that’s the pleasant scenario.

There is, as they say, a lot of ruin in a nation. I expect the yoke of our weirdly Brezhnevite future to fall relatively mildly on most necks for quite awhile, including mine. People like me and all the other cranks with blogs are fundamentally unimportant, and the genius of one-party rule in this country is, so far, to let the unimportant slide. There remains an escalation problem. Four years ago, the “crises” were a rush vote on a manufactured war and the creation of a new bureaucracy. Two years ago it was the imperative not to admit that the manufactured war was pointless and counterproductive. This time it’s the overpowering need to hide whoever the executive claims is a terrorist away and torture them. Next time, if the economy is a little worse and the people a little more restless, what will it take? And the time after that? We can’t say. We can only say that Republicans will slaver and Democrats will whicker, shuffle and, finally, shrink.









If the United States

were a promotional giveaway, it would without a doubt be Bubblehead Night.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2)

I never really had a guilty pleasure -- as far as TV goes, anyway -- until now. It's all I can do not to liveblog it, but 1) I don't watch it live, and 2) I think that leads to a terminal snarkiness that will be commented on negatively by one of the characters on "Studio 60". We already know what Aaron Sorkin thinks about reality shows, the New York Times, and bloggers. Next week expect Bradley Whitford to direct an elaborately grammatical jibe against people who get in the express lane with 16 items.

See, I'm snarking again.

But seriously, Gilbert & Sullivan? And nobody says, even lovingly, that that's a wee bit, I don't know, twee? I have worked with some show queens, gay and straight, and we wouldn't dream of foisting "I've Got A Little List" on in prime-time. Well, we would dream of it.

If "Studio 60" show is in prime time. If it is not in prime time, then the network president -- to say nothing of her corporate boss -- is spending too much time on it.

Anyway, I just lap it up, enjoying the notes of contempt that Aaron Sorkin has for me and other TV lifers, since the message of the show is that there's nothing wrong with television that can't be cured by replacing its current workers with people from superior mediums like film and theater.

I feel some more snark coming on, so I'll stop, at least till next week.