Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sweep the leg!

The trailer for the Karate Kid remake is out.

Would be kind of awesome if the kids had to compete in kumite at the end instead of a sanctioned karate competition.

NORAD Santa 2010

Don't forget that the good folks at NORAD are putting the U.S. nuclear defense umbrella to use tracking Santa's flight path tomorrow night.

Merry Christmas!

Kick-Ass and Hit Girl

Everybody's going crazy over this clip from Kick-Ass:

To be honest, it doesn't do much for me. At all. I'm a giant Matthew Vaughn fan and I've been with Millar's book from issue #1. And I still think that this movie is going to stir up a giant discussion about comic books and the popular culture.

But that isn't quite what I pictured. It's cartoon-y, but in all the wrong ways. Maybe it'll play better in context.

Television Makes Strange Bedfellows

Galley Reader J.O. writes in:

poured a cup of coffee at about 6:30 this morning and here was the lineup on the only MSNBC show I watch, "morning joe":

Carl Bernstein
Tina Brown
Stephen A. Smith

Awesome. The only Green Room story I have that comes close is this: Several years ago I was slated to do some morning show. In the Green Room was Henry Kissinger, Jenna from the first Survivor, and me. We sat on three sections of a U-shaped couch silently, just blinking at one another. Eventually I introduced myself to Kissinger and tried to make small-talk. Jenna, clearly having no idea who he was, simply looked away disdainfully. She seemed a little irked at having to be around people who weren't famous.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


At least the science of Avatar gets a friendly review:

Pandora is a moon of Polyphemus, a fictional gas giant orbiting Alpha
Centauri A. I’ve always wanted to know what the view would be from
the moon of a gas giant. Can you imagine a quarter of the sky being
taken up by a massive cloud-covered planet visible night or day? We
get to see it in Avatar, and since Jupiter is the king of the gods,
maybe majestic is an appropriate word to describe it. I wonder if
Cameron’s choice to set this on the moon of a gas giant wasn’t a slap
in the face to Lucas, as if to say “this is RETURN OF THE JEDI done
right.” (I know it is ambiguous in the Star Wars universe whether or
not Endor orbits a gas giant.)

But what had me really geeking out is the choice of the star system.
Alpha Centauri A is perfect.

More Defense of the Empire

This time, a game theory explanation of Han Solo's decisions in Episode IV:

Hamermesh downplays the real game theoretical reason why it’s rational for Han to fight: His contribution is likely to be decisive to the outcome. After all, he’s got “the fastest ship in the galaxy,” and it can make mincemeat of Imperial tie-fighters (as we already saw earlier in the movie). Hamermesh’s payoff matrix implicitly represents this by positing that if Han fights, he increases his own payoff from 5 to 8, and that of the Rebels from 7 to 10. In truth, however, Han’s contribution might well make the difference between victory and total defeat (as in fact happens). Moreover, the speed of the Millenium Falcon minimizes the risk that Han takes should things go badly. He has a good chance of running away unscathed. I’ll ignore the fact that he also times his arrival at the battle perfectly, such that it’s clear exactly what he has to do to ensure victory at little risk to himself; if it looked like the Rebels were going to lose, he could have just as easily have destroyed Luke’s fighter instead of Vader’s and then claimed he was there to help the Empire all along.

A Bridge Too Far?

Well, now my environmentally conscious friends are going to have to give up their pets, too, if they want to halt climate change. But something tells me that, like non-essential air travel to vacation destinations such as Los Angeles or France, this little bit of environmental responsibility will be glossed over, too.

It's enough to make you wonder if even they really believe any of this stuff.

End of Decade Lists

Lots of "Best Of" lists everywhere the next couple weeks, which is fine--and often fun. But I've always thought that the more interesting list would be "Most Influential." As in, what were the most influential movies of the decade, as opposed to the "best." I suspect that there wouldn't be much overlap between the two.

As a for instance, some version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy shows up on almost everyone's "Best Of" list. It certainly would be on mine. But I don't know that those movies were particularly influential, either on movies themselves or the industry at large. By contrast, the first X-Men now looks fairly influential because it proved that even a troubled, mid-budget superhero movie could make money. Which lead to the explosion of comic-book movies; the giant grossing Spider-Man series and Dark Knight; and the eventual independence (and then acquisition) of Marvel. Not a great movie, but a very important one for the business.

Artistically, I'm not sure what the most influential movies of the decade would be. Maybe someone else (Santino?) has thoughts on the subject.

Update: Galley Friend DR has an interesting version of this: A list of the most detrimentally influential movies of the decade. He includes 300, The Ring, and Saw.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Total Effing Hotness

Peggy Noonan on the NFL Network.

Sheer, utter genius:

As America sits, in the snow, tired, and perhaps hungry—not for change, anymore, but hungry perhaps for optimism, or hungry to once again love and respect and feel warmly toward our on-air talent—what do they really want, besides a rest, for a bit? I think they want to watch professional football on a Saturday. Snowy professional football. And, I think, they are wary of digital satellites.
When I was a girl, America watched football for free. President Kennedy told us to be proud of our Founding Fathers, our moral courage, our free market of ideas, and as he instructed us to look to the stars, America received football from the sky, with rabbit ears and pride. Sometimes we drove cars and listened to football. I wonder—have you listened to football, in a car, recently? Has anyone? Did we lose something, as a country, when we stopped listening to football? I think so, sometimes. But some didn't. Some still do.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry

Paging George Will:

President Obama, for whom I voted because I believed he was the best choice available, is a profound disappointment. I now regard his campaign as a sly bait-and-switch operation, promising one thing and delivering another. Shame on me.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Way-Back Machine

A brief look at wrestling's late golden age. Hogan, Savage, Flair, the Andersons, Hall, Nash, Big Show--those were the days.

DeSean = Road Runner

A great little bit.

More Christmas Joy

From RedLetterMedia. Here's part two of his dissection of of Star Trek: Generations.

Among the many, many joys is him catching the film re-using an f/x shot from Undiscovered Country.

What If . . .

David Lynch had directed Return of the Jedi?

Lynch has the story of how it almost happened.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Gift to You

Merry Christmas.

Go ahead and follow the link. It's entré into the YouTube world of RedLetterMedia. I'd try to summarize it for you, but it's really beyond description. Make sure you hang with it at least until the 7:30 mark. There's a lot going on.

Just Asking

How long until Doctor Manhattan is photoshopped into screenshots of the Navi from Avatar? Days? Weeks? Hours?

After the Dinner Party

George F.'in Will seems to understand now that he was duped. Two instant classics here:

* "his incontinent hunger for attention"

* "And for disavowing a competence no one suspected him of. ("I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war." Note the superfluous adjective.) And for an unnecessary notification. ("Evil does exist in the world.") And for delayed utopianism. ("We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes." But in someone's.) And for solemnly announcing something undisputed. (There can be a just war.) And for intellectual applesauce that should get speechwriters fired and editors hired. ("We do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected." If the human "condition" can attain perfection anyway, human nature cannot be significantly imperfect.)"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Personal Milestone

I never, ever, thought I'd get professional mileage out of the Contra Code. But there it is.

Hundreds of hours with the Pig in front of the NES have been redeemed.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tiger Beat: Lefty's Revenge

Phil Mickleson is on top of the world!

Michael Steele = Tony Stark?

"I don't want to see this on your myspace page. Please no gang signs. No, throw it up. I'm kidding."

Crime Blotter

Good to see someone else stealing David Bradley's money for a change.

Tiger Beat

Galley Friend P.G. offers an interesting thought: "I've always thought of Tiger as our Ruth (not Ali or MJ). Turns out, he's more Ruthian than Ruth."

Is there a place in our culture today for a superjock who doesn't try to create a lovable public facade and instead just lets it all (or most of it) hang out? I'm trying to think of one, but the only examples that come to mind are more marginal greats, like Namath, Reed, Iverson.

Maybe Pete Rose? Maybe Wilt. Though I don't know that Wilt's lifestyle would today be considered so hip and funloving.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Messiah Watch

And in the East a star appeared, shining day and night above His head.

The Omnibus G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra Conspiracy Theory

Valerie D'Orzio explains how Cobra is tied to the Freemasons/Illuminati, why aliens are most likely behind the advanced technology the Cobras and Joes have, and how the Cobra/Joe fight is an allegory dating to ancient Egypt. And that's just the start.

Not to be missed.

Tiger Beat: The Merchandizing Begins

The Team Elin gear is in full swing over at CafePress.

Oslo Dreaming

Galley Friend X asks--not facetiously--which American luminary is going to be kicked off a coin or a bill to make room for President Obama's portrait.

I'll open the bidding with Grant on the $50 and set the initial over-under line at January 2013.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Surf Porn

The Eddie ran this week in Waimea for the first time in five years. Surfline has the video though, for my money, these still photos are even better.

Finally, the Answer has come back to Philadelphia.

I would have given just about anything in the world to have been there for this:

I'd argue that Iverson is the most beloved athlete in the history of Philly sports. (Dr. J is the only other guy in the discussion.) As much as any other jock who's ever been through the city, he's the embodiment of everything Philadelphians want to believe about themselves: He's great; he's troubled; he's authentic; and while ultimately successful, he's often fortune's fool.

I've defended Iverson's greatness in the past, so there's no need to recapitulate that here. He's a lock for the Hall of Fame, number 3 on the all-time scoring list, and one of the greats of the modern era. Arguments to the contrary simply aren't sustainable.

No doubt, the Answer has had problems--lots of them. But he was never your garden-variety delinquent jock. More often than not, he got into trouble trying to hold his marriage together or dealing with extended family problems. He wasn't just getting into fights at clubs or driving drunk with a trunkful of guns.

His problems were simply part of who he was, and he made no attempt to hide them, or pretend he was someone else. There were no Kobe-style image consultants trying to make him into a softdrink pitchman. He wasn't Jordan with a publicly-groomed perfect marriage and an entire clandestine operation for his girls on the side. Iverson never hid who he was. There's something touching (and maybe a little bit tragic) about a guy who isn't quite equipped to lead a normal lower-upperclass existence trying his best to figure it out on the fly and create what he thinks a normal life is supposed to be.

Like Philly itself, Iverson is a bundle of contradictions. People remember his "practice? you talking about practice?" rant--and he was a terrible worker when it came to practice. You can't be a Jordan or Bird level player without being obsessed with workouts, so Iverson's game and the franchise suffered because of his laziness. But while he was disdainful of practice, he was an absolute warrior in games. He never took a play off; never hesitated to give up his body. He never tanked games. Philly fans love Iverson because on any given night, he cared about the game more than anyone watching did. That's probably the rarest attribute in all of professional sports.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Fish on Palin

Galley Friend M.C. points us to Stanley Fish doing a very fair impersonation of Lorne Michaels in his assessment of Sarah Palin.

The lede, though, is what's really striking:

When I walked into the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan last week, I headed straight for the bright young thing who wore an “Ask Me” button, and asked her to point me to the section of the store where I might find Sarah Palin’s memoir, “Going Rogue: An American Life.” She looked at me as if I had requested a copy of “Mein Kampf” signed in blood by the author, and directed me to the nearest Barnes and Noble, where, presumably, readers of dubious taste and sensibility could find what they wanted.

A bookstore that purports to be the best of its kind refusing to sell the book of the moment simply because they don't like the politics of the author? Some businesses deserve to die.

Having a bad day yet? No? Then suck on this.

The Czabe runs the best single best sports-talk show I've ever heard, a nationally syndicated show on Fox Sports Radio during the morning drive time.

His show has been cancelled. This is terrible.

But wait--there's more.

He's being replaced.

By Stephen A. Smith.

Advantage: Jerruh

The 11th Wonder of the World--the Cowboys' new giant HD screen--is going to being doing a demo at this week's game: Converting normal 2-D HD image into 3-D.

You heard right. Glasses-free, auto stereoscopic three-dimensional, HD images on a 72' by 160' screen. The new software is going to render all replays (and maybe even the live feed?) on the big screen into 3-D.


I can't really imagine the computing power it'll take to make conversions like that in real-time.

Geek Pride


Monday, December 07, 2009

Google = Slightly Evil?

Google CEO: Only bad people keep secrets.

Sensitivity, NBA-stizz

Behold the power of a single aggrieved viewer: A long-time Clippers play-by-play team was suspended for making offensive comments about an opposing player during a game. Here's a transcript of the remarks that got them in trouble:

The Wednesday exchange began when Haddadi entered the game and Smith said, "Look who's in." Lawler responded, "Hamed Haddadi. Where's he from?"

Smith answered, "He's the first Iranian to play in the NBA."

Towfighi, in an e-mail to The Times, the Clippers and Fox Sports executives, took umbrage with the fact that Smith mispronounced Iran and Iranian.

Here is the rest of the on-air exchange:

Lawler: "There aren't any Iranian players in the NBA?" repeating Smith's pronunciation of the word "Iranian."

Smith: "He's the only one."

Lawler: "He's from Iran?"

Smith: "I guess so."

Lawler: "That Iran?"

Smith: "Yes."

Lawler: "The real Iran?"

Smith: "Yes."

Lawler: "Wow. Haddadi -- that's H-A-D-D-A-D-I."

Smith: "You're sure it's not Borat's older brother?"

Lawler laughed and Smith continued, "If they ever make a movie about Haddadi, I'm going to get Sacha Baron Cohen to play the part."

Lawler: "Here's Haddadi. Nice little back-door pass. I guess those Iranians can pass the ball."

Smith: "Especially the post players."

Lawler: "I don't know about their guards."

Umaga: R.I.P.

Another wrestler dies young.

Sexting: Warden Gentles Is Here to Help

Tiger Beat: Bro's before Ho's? Not in Sweden!

Jesper Parnevik went well beyond the requirements of chivalry the other day and it was awesome to behold:

"I would be especially sad about it – I really feel sorry for Elin – since me and my wife were at fault for hooking her up with him," Parnevik said. "We probably thought he was a better guy than he is. I probably would have to apologise to her and hope she uses a driver next time rather than a three-iron, I would say."

I can't ever remember one jock taking sides against another like this. It's kind of awesome. (I have a vague memory of Iverson saying something critical of Kobe during the Colorado affair, but I can't find anything in the magic Google machine about it.)

Woods has been the subject of much discussion among Galley Friends who seem disillusioned that he isn't the good guy that they thought he was. I argue that Woods is a good guy--by the standards of professional athletes. Compared to Michael Vick or TO or A-Rod, Woods is a great guy. But he's also a pro athlete--which means that on the continuum, he's probably closer to those fellows in general deportment than he is to Bob in accounting.

I'd argue that this sudden realization is the reason that the Woods story has become so fascinating. He's the premier athlete of his time and he's cheating on his wife. No surprise there. But he's not cheating with Jessica Biel. He's not having an affair with Miranda Kerr. He's consorting with the type of girls you'd expect your average NBA sixth man to be banging. I suspect that that's what people find so surprising, and hence interesting.

Bonus: Galley Friend X warns that Tiger appears to be headed for sex addiction defense:

It's OBVIOUSLY going that way. This has become so ridiculous that he absolutely has to do it for purely financial reasons: i.e., it's the only way he's going to be able to keep Elin out of divorce court for the near future.

But here's the real fun: he'll come up with some story that combines sex addiction with his lost opportunity to have a childhood. (You heard it here first!) Tiger Woods is about to construct nothing less than A Classic Michael Jackson Defense, except that he tastefully substituted NYC/Vegas partygirls and A PORN STAR for underaged boys.

I hope not. Just about the only thing that would make me think less of Woods at this point would be if he went into public-confessional/apology mode. Despite everything, there's something refreshingly old-school about him just disappearing and taking his lumps.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Trailer City: 44 Inch Chest

Count me in:

We Need More 26-Year-Old Pundits!

Imagine what the conversation was like on JournoList.

"Like The Day of the Jackal set in 1861 Washington."

That's a description of John J. Miller's new historical novel The First Assassin. Sounds pretty irresistible to me.

I know Miller slightly and he's one of the true gentlemen of the Washington press: a good guy, a diligent reporter, and a solid writer. I'm looking forward to reading his book.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

What if they played ping-pong in The Matrix?

Galley Brother B.J. sends along the goods. Awesomeness quotient: high.

The Problem with Capitalism

It's all about "value." What is value, I mean, apart from what someone is willing to pay for something? Because if YouTube, which loses almost $500 million a year was worth $1.6 billion three years ago. And Facebook, which makes no money whatsoever, turned down an offer of $8 billion and is valued at $10 billion. Then how can NBC/Universal be worth only around $14 billion?

Forget mere (mere!) profitability. Which entity do you think has a better chance of even existing in 10 years, NBC/Universal or Facebook?

"Think about the future."

And so they have over at the New Atlantis. A great new blog on futurism and the transhumanist project called Futurisms. Highly recommended.

(Also, a cookie for the first one to place that line.)

Airport Bars

Galley Friend C.L. sends a link to a fantastic blog about airport bars. In particular, don't miss the comments, which tend toward the brilliant. Sample awesome:

Drinking at the airport is usually like being a pigeon that keeps whappin' itself into a closed window. I'm not 100 percent sure what I mean by that, but I do know that it's especially true at the Fox & Firkin. If you like the whole idea of a traditional English pub--and sweet Lordy in heaven, I do--then you will regard this bar as a personal insult. Let's just start with the fact that you're in Dulles, where Stalinist realism had its last big hurrah, so the atmosphere isn't exactly Shropshire-on-Buggery.

Brief Afghani Aside

The people who work my side of the street seem to be reasonably happy with President Obama's decision on Afghanistan: his ordering of more troops into the theater while simultaneously setting a withdrawal date. The reason these folks are happy, I think, is because they believe that the troops are what matter and that Obama included the withdrawal date in his plan simply to give himself cover from the left. For the most part, the left--which is largely unhappy with Obama's decision--seems to agree with the right's reading on Obama.

Doesn't it seem just as plausible that in reality, the most salient part of the president's plan is the withdrawal date, and that the increase in troops is simply included to give him cover from the right?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Tiger Beat

About that little Tiger Woods thingie, there's more. Lots more. This looks like a Cat V super story.

Update: Woods has now issued a Clinton-esque statement acknowledging personal failings and asking for privacy, etc. under the strange header "Tiger comments on current events."

"Current events"? Like Obama's Afghanistan speech? Or Friday's coming unemployment numbers?

In any event, it seems like another ill-advised statement. If Woods has done nothing illegal--and there's no indication that he has--then he should simply clam up and refuse to speak about any of this, ever. Let the tabloids do what they do. You can't control them. Take your lumps. But refuse to participate and make clear to the mainstream media that you will not--not tomorrow, not three years from now--ever talk about this stuff. Private is private and while they're free to do what they want, you won't play along.

The problem is, by coming out and trying to promulgate his own series of events from the outset, that sort of principled hard line might not be available to him in any plausible way.

Hot Coffee!!!

Oh, how quaint Grand Theft Auto now seems.

Seriously. Watch the clip. You'll think it's parody.

A Contrarian View on Twilight: New Moon

Galley Friend Mike Russell has some surprisingly nice--albeit measured--words for New Moon. At first, I was a little surprised, given the general disparagement of the movie, but on further reflection maybe I shouldn't be so surprised: After all, it has a script not rushed out because of a looming strike and it's directed by Chris Weitz.

By the by, if, in 2002, someone had told you that the director of the really spare and wonderful About a Boy would follow his smart little movie up with two giant, CGI-heavy, and poorly regarded kid/teen movies, would you have believed them? Just a reminder of what a funny place Hollywood is.

Crime Blotter

Someone is stealing David Bradley's money again.

Should we care about Tiger Woods?

I have only a tiny appreciation for golf, so my investment in Tiger Woods is nearly nil. Yet the story of his minor car accident from early in the morning a few days ago stands out. The facts of the case--such as we think we know them at this point--are odd. Woods left his house to drive his SUV in the (very, very) wee hours of the morning. He struck a tree and a fire hydrant at very low speed. His airbag did not deploy. A 911 caller told police that she saw Woods lying on the ground, apparently unconscious. Woods' wife was nearby with a golf club. Woods apparently suffered superficial injuries, particularly lacerations to the face.

Everything else so far is speculation and, for whatever reason, Woods seems to want nothing to close the story down, issuing only a short statement and refusing to speak with police about the matter.

I wouldn't begrudge Woods any of that. If he wants to take this story to his grave and never speak about it, so be it. That's his right. The worst-case stories suggest that Tiger's wife might not have been heroically liberating him from the SUV, but that's fine, too. Whatever the law may say about the subject, morally speaking, wives have some leeway for minor violence against their husbands in exceptional circumstances. So long as that street only runs one way, it would be perfectly reasonable to keep omerta. And as far as not talking to the cops--that's every American's right.

What bugs me is Woods' statement. Again, if you're going to go silent, go silent. Instead, Woods gives an affirmative explanation of events which seems, at least on its face, very strange. Most importantly, his statement includes a couple key lawyer words (most notably "false" and "malicious") which are there to serve only one purpose: Tell media outlets that they pursue this story at their own legal peril. Or, to put it less charitably, to bully reporters into not reporting the story, wherever it might lead.

If something unpleasant happened to Woods the other night, so be it. We never needed to know about it, no matter how curious we all might have been. But if Woods was less than truthful in his statement--and is playing the part of the legal bully--that strikes me as (1) Reflecting more poorly on Woods than any other part of this incident; and (2) A provocation, similar to Gary Hart daring reporters to make a liar out of him.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Introducing the PUPNTTM

That's Positronic Universal Peggy Noonan Translator for those of you playing along at home. I trust everyone was out doing family stuff when she wrote this about Obama over the weekend:

This in turn reminded me of a surprising thing I observe among loyal Democrats in informal settings and conversations: No one loves Barack Obama. Half the American people say they support him, and Democrats are still with him. But there were Bill Clinton supporters who really loved him. George W. Bush had people who loved him. A lot of people loved Jack Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. But no one seems to love Mr. Obama now; they're not dazzled and head over heels.*


No, I do not know any black people, personally. Why do you ask?

Maybe Noonan missed the numbers--who would write about numbers when they have feelings?--but Obama's job approval number among blacks is 91 percent.

91 percent!

And here's the kicker: That number is up (by 1 percent) from January 2009.

*Emphasis in the original, of course.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Brief Political Aside

Sarah Palin's future is, of course, the subject of much discussion. Unfortunately, most people discussing Palin confuse their personal preferences with practical analysis, arguing "could" when they really mean "should." (This tendency has reached epidemic proportions, but that's a topic for another day.)

Yesterday Matthew Dowd tried to break out of that mold with a mildly analytical piece on Palin's chances: Dowd posits that presidents with favorable ratings above 51 percent before Election Day have never lost reelection, while no POTUS with a rating under 47 percent has won. In response, stat-head Nate Silver has done some math using head-to-head favorability ratings and suggests that Palin still makes a weaker candidate against Obama than does Mitt Romney.

Whatever the individual merits of Dowd and Silver's theses, they both deserve credit for not simply projecting their desires out into the future.

When looking at Palin, three things strike me:

(1) At this point, the only event "likely" to happen in 2012--that is, has a greater probability of happening than not happening--is that Barack Obama is likely to win re-nomination from his party. After that, every outcome is less likely than not. Three years out, presidential politics is like taking Tiger Woods vs. the Field: No matter how strong a contender looks, at this distance, the field is almost always the better play.

(2) I'm not the first to observe this (I think Michael Barone was), but you have to go back a long, long time--to FDR--to find a president who won re-election without expanding his support.

Since then, every president who won reelection did so by adding to his majority (or plurality). In other words, if you're not growing your base of support, you're losing. Obama was elected with a +7 margin. His style of governing and the ideological content of his policies do not, to my eyes at least, seem designed to increase his standing even further with independents and Republicans. (And he doesn't have much room to grow with Democrats since he carried them 89 to 10.) This isn't to say that Obama couldn't win with +3 in 2012--trends are made to be broken! That said, it seems like an interesting number to watch.

(3) It's hard to win both IA and NH. Since 1972, only three non-incumbents have pulled off the double (Kerry, Carter, Muskie). Two of them went on to win the nomination. No non-incumbent Republican has ever won the pair. That said, a candidate who does win both of the opening contests is very hard to beat under the modern rules of calendar, media, and money. Projecting out from here Palin would seem to have a reasonable (which is not to say probable!) chance to do just that. One assumes that she'll be very tough in IA, a state that typically rewards cultural conservatives. And depending on what mood NH is in, she could do well there: This is a state that went McCain in 2000 and Buchanan in 1996. In other words, they've been open to cutting against the GOP establishment and backing reform, or even populist, candidates in the recent past.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Saddest Thing You'll Read Today

This NYT obit for Dennis Cole. To think that you can be one minute marrying one of Charlie's Angels and then a few years later dying alone in Ft. Lauderdale while doing cruise ship acts.

"Like watching two monkeys fuck a football."

That's James Cameron describing the (lack of?) skills of one of his lighting guys in this month-old bit of awesome from Dana Goodyear. It's a pretty great profile although--not to take anything away from Goodyear--the subject is so good that it would be hard to mess it up.

More Good News for Newspapers

Go, Rupert, Go!

What makes a show a "hit"?

I take a backseat to no one in my Joss Whedon fandom and I'm thrilled to see that the PGA is giving him an award. But does this make sense?

Whedon is a producer, writer, director, and creator for such hit television programs as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Firefly,” and “Dollhouse.”

Firefly and Dollhouse ran for a combined two seasons! It says nothing about the quality of the product to note that these are definitively not hits.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Greatness of the Rowdy One

You probably didn't see it, but Roddy Piper guest hosted RAW this week and even though he was totally blotto by the end of the show, he still has spectacular stuff. I consider Piper one of the two greatest talkers in the history of wrestling, the other being Ric Flair. These top two slots are non-negotiable. But rounding out the rest of the top five is harder than I would have thought. I'd probably include Macho Man and The Rock. (Though I'm hesitant to include The Rock since his body of work is comparatively so small.) The fifth slot, then, is wide open. Galley Friend A.S. suggests Stone Cold. On the strength of this classic spot, I'm open to the idea:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Drilling for Amber Gold

Galley Friend R.M. once paid $800 for a bottle of scotch salvaged from a 100-year-old British ship, but even that's not as hardcore as this operationg:

A beverage company has asked a team to drill through Antarctica's ice for a lost cache of some vintage Scotch whiskey that has been on the rocks since a century ago.

The drillers will be trying to reach two crates of McKinlay and Co. whiskey that were shipped to the Antarctic by British polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton as part of his abandoned 1909 expedition.

Whyte & Mackay, the drinks group that now owns McKinlay and Co., has asked for a sample of the 100-year-old scotch for a series of tests that could decide whether to relaunch the now-defunct Scotch.

Workers from New Zealand's Antarctic Heritage Trust will use special drills to reach the crates, frozen in Antarctic ice under the Nimrod Expedition hut near Cape Royds.

I think we have the plot for the third Whiteout book . . .

Dirty New Mexico Part Deux: Dirtier

Some of you may remember Elizabeth Lambert as the UNM soccer player who's half Vinnie Jones and half Bill Laimbeer. Well now she's taken it up a notch, with what might be the biggest heel-turn in sports since the Honky-Tonk Man.

In yesterday's New York Times Lambert claimed that she's the real victim. Victim of what? Pretty much everything. A brief summary of people who have done Lambert wrong:

* The dirty BYU players who started it.

* Fans in the stands who taunted her.

* The ref, who made a mistake in not issuing cards (to Lambert?) sooner.

* Sexism in the media for focusing on her actions.

* Sexism in the culture for turning her into a villain.

* Bloggers and emailers who've said mean things about/to her.

And you thought she couldn't get any less likable!

The Greatest Thanksgiving Day Touch Football Game Ever

It could have been yours.

If you and a bunch of your friends--let's pretend there were 20 of you in total--had gotten together last week, you could have bought the Pontiac Silverdome. Former home of the Detroit Lions; the site of WrestleMania III. It sold at auction for $583,000. You read that correctly.

For that money, each of your pals would have needed to come up with just $29,000. Pretending that you could finance it like you would a vacation home (which you couldn't, or course, but play along for a minute), that meant that each of you would have needed to put down $5,800 for the downpayment and then $125 a month for the mortgage. That doesn't count taxes and upkeep, of course. But still.

For half the price of a used Honda Fit, you could have gone with your buddies and played your Thanksgiving football game in your very own domed stadium.

Monday, November 16, 2009

When Tom Met Peyton

I'd never heard this story before last week:

"My first start came against the Colts," Brady said. "And Peyton came over on our field and said, 'Hey, Peyton Manning.' And I said, 'no shit.''"

There's something so quintessentially American about that exchange, from both sides.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mike Russell's Lava Tornado

A genius CulturePulp.

Got a little Captain in you?

Sure the Eagles lost, but they spurred the creation of a new NFL rule.

Suck on that, Cowgirls!

The Death of Newspapers

On second thought, maybe it wouldn't be such a terrible thing. After all, some papers seem desperate to go out of business.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gladwell on Christmas

Galley Friend P.G. sends us this fantastic Gladwell parody:

Why baby Jesus? Research confirms there were upwards of 157 hotel-cum-stables in Bethlehem that night, with estimated 97 percent occupancy levels. So why did that star shine so brightly over his?

Imagine that I were to ask you to dress up as a baby and lie in a manger. Would you attract a comparable crowd of shepherds plus livestock and anything upwards of three kings from the East?

In a hugely influential 2004 experiment at the University of Colorado at Bollocks Falls, Professor Sanjiv Sanjive and his team asked 323 volunteers to wrap themselves in swaddling clothes and spend the night in a stable, lying in a manger.

Logic would dictate that at least one of them would be visited by shepherds, wise men, or kings from the East, right?

Wrong. The results—codified and analyzed on a specially devised and integrated grid system known as blsht—were astonishing. All 323 volunteers experienced a quiet night in. In other words, they waited up all night, but no one—specifically, 0.0000 percent of a total world population of 6,783,940,189 human beings—bothered to come by.

So what does this blsht metric tell you about your appeal, compared with the appeal of the baby Jesus?

It tells you this: he was special.

And—here’s another thing—you are not.

There's more. Go get it.

Under the Dome

So the NYT has a reviewer who actually reads books!

How novel.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why I Hate Children's Television

A note from Galley Friend A.W.:

The kids are watching a recent Dora The Explorer special episode ("Dora Saves The Crystal Kingdom," if you're interested). I just watched a scene in which Dora wanders upon a knight warding a giant dragon off with a sword. To intervene and stop the fight, Dora decides that the best course of action is . . . to take away the knight's sword! Pulling a lasso from her trusty backpack, she lassos the knight's sword, leaving the knight defenseless. At that point, the dragon looks confused for a moment, and then becomes friendly. Dora, the Knight, and Boots the Monkey climb on to the Dragon's back, and they all fly off together, best friends.

I would not necessarily argue that young children should be exposed to the power theory of international relations ("the strong do what they can; the weak do what they must"). But they shouldn't be plied with this insanity, either.

It's vaguely unsettling when children's TV offers inherently ridiculous views of the world--talking birds and talking worms who are friends, for instance. You need not tell a 3-year-old that birds actually eat worms: Some truths are hard enough that their revelation should be delayed. Nothing wrong with that.

But while we're eliding these hard truths, we have a duty not to teach untruths.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

End of the World Watch

Remember how we all laughed when Hollywood started turning comic books into movies? And then videogames? And theme-park rides?

That all seems so quaint now. Because CBS is building a TV show based on a Twitter feed.

Mel Candy Jr.

Can't figure out how to give you a direct link, so this gift comes with some assembly required. I promise--promise!--it's worth the trouble:

-Click here.

-On the light blue nav bar toward the middle of the screen, click on "The Sports Reporters."

-"The Sports Reporters" column will appear on the right-hand side of the screen.

-Scroll down to the Oct. 30 edition and listen to "Candy Breakdown."

-When you're done, check out Candy Part II, above it.

Czabe really efforts this bit. And it's awesome.

Monday, November 09, 2009

D.C. Mayor Flouts Law

But wait! It's actually kind of refreshing to see a D.C. mayor merely abusing his office for minor personal privilege!

Brief Political Aside

I'd love to get Jay Cost's thoughts on this very interesting piece by Fred Siegel and Harry Siegel. The piece is about New York City politics, but touches on Cost's central focus on parties. For instance, this:

In New York City, the traditional parties have atrophied. The Republicans exist largely as a ballot line ready to be sold--currently to the billionaire Bloomberg--while the leaderless Democrats will have gone, despite their dominance of the electoral rolls, nearly 20 years without electing a mayor. Locally neither party commands either enthusiasm or respect. In their stead comes a billionaire's party and a public sector union party. It's an exaggerated version of the national alliance between George Soros and the public sector unions that helps drive the Democrats' national agenda.

The Best News You'll Read All Day

Eventually someone in newspapers was going to call the internet's bluff and remind people that information does not want to be free. Murdoch looks set to do it.

If he does, I suspect others will begin following suit. It would be fantastic if it was Rupert who ended up saving the newspaper industry. Not that the people who work in newspapers would ever acknowledge it.

Worst Book Review Ever?

What does this even mean?

Palin bad! Obama good! Racists! Fascists!


King bad. King kind of good. But only good because sophisticates know how bad he is. Rubes who think he's good: Also bad.


Seems to me that King has earned a more serious effort from the New York Times. (Though on third read, I'm not sure it's clear that the reviewer actually read the whole book.)

Friday, November 06, 2009

Dirty New Mexico

Galley Friend and Soccer All-Star H.W. sends us this little video. She (not H.W.) might be the dirtiest player I've ever seen, any sport.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Just Asking

President Obama funnily pointed out his daughter's recent bad grade on a science test. Out of curiosity, have we ever seen any of Obama's academic performance records? SATs, LSATs, college grades?

The New Yorker and Truth in Advertising

The New Yorker has a piece by John Cassidy which offers the view that the Democratic push for healthcare reform is:

(1) Laudable.

(2) Dishonestly presented.

(3) Likely to incur giant costs, despite what Democrats say.

(4) Likely to incur a large set of unforeseen consequences.

(5) Likely to become impossible to dismantle once it becomes law.

(6) On balance a net good.

(7) Such a net good that it justifies--and perhaps even requires--the Democrats' dishonesty.

That's fine, as far as it goes. But one does wonder if Remnick would have published a piece in 2002 taking a similar view of the prospective war in Iraq. And if not, would it simply have been because of a disagreement over whether the "net good" of regime change was worth intentional governmental dishonesty, or would it have been a more high-minded objection?

I ask this not because I pre-judge what Remnick would say, but because I honestly have no idea. Remnick runs, for my money, the best book in the business. He also happens to be a seriously wonderful writer and an interesting mind. He's not Graydon Carter--he's the great magazine editor of our time. Which is why the Cassidy piece seems so strange.

Catching Up with Gladwell

Stumbled upon a Gladwell essay I'd missed from a couple months back, this labored indictment of Atticus Finch. It's a little like the moot court game where 3L students retry Shylock, only without the legal sophistication. Of particular note, however, is the part where Gladwell seems to suggest that Mayella Ewell is the first modern sex-positive feminist.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Flame On

Maybe the coolest thing every built in a garage. If they wind up selling it, I'm there.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Brief Political Aside

The most excellent Jay Cost has a sensible post up about today's three big races in which he argues that the outcomes don't really mean anything in the long (or even medium) term. I think he's right about that.

What Cost overlooks, I think, is the influence these elections may have on a very short-term matter: the Obama health reform movement. I'd guess that there's a real chance--maybe 1-in3--that all three Democrats lose. If Republicans hit the trifecta, it could scare the moderate Dems Obama needs to pass a major healthcare bill. I don't know that a GOP sweep would be enough to kill the bill outright, but at the very least, there would be Democrats who needed to be talked off the ledge. (Or, depending on your point of view, back out onto the ledge.)

So the real question is this: If today's results were to alter the healthcare calculus, would that outcome have any bearing on the medium-to-long-term future? It wouldn't be crazy to think that it would.

Monday, November 02, 2009

So, what was the worst story ever in Style?

There are so many layers to this report. It's kind of awesome.

Bonus: If Manuel Roig-Franzia was a running back for the Chiefs, he'd be suspended for two games.

"Fire Snyder"

The Redskins hive is buzzing with ideas for samizdat, but this one might be the best.

Japanese Ship Sunk By Giant Jellyfish!

This story is made only slightly less terrifying by the fact that it refers to the plural.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hey Peter! The Breast Exam Girl is On Channel 7 Again!

She kind of reminds me of Beth.

The Fightin' Phils Polka

It's fun for the whole family!

The Book David Stern Doesn't Want You to Read

Deadspin has excerpts of the spiked Tim Donaghy book up, and it's damning stuff. Doubly so because (true or not) it fits the narrative of the single most damaging critique made of the NBA. Like "see Russia from my house," this will stay with the league for a long time, even if only 2 percent of it is true

What's going to happen to this league? It's on a downward trajectory to begin with. My guess is that the Donaghy allegations are going to hurt most with marginal fans (like me), who catch the occasional regular season game and then try to tune in for the playoffs and Finals.

Galley Brother B.J. notes that the NBA might be able to save themselves by rebranding as "sports entertainment" . . .

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Letterman Update

From the beginning I thought it was possible (though certainly not likely) that Letterman's serial-sex-with-younger-employees could cause him real trouble. If his alleged blackmailer actually goes to trial and gets discovery, and more former employees like this woman come forward, those odds are going to start to tilt.

CBS has a big potential downside here. As things stand now, they get a lot more from Letterman than they stand to lose. But that could change. Also, it's entirely possible that some other experienced late-night host might be available in the medium-term future to pick up as a replacement.

All of that, however, is just wind-up for this: When are we going to get a NY Post Letterman-Steve Phillips crossover? It has to happen . . .

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Josh Friedman on Loss

His description of what it's like to have your show cancelled:

Everyone says having your show cancelled is like a death but I've been dead before and at least when you're dead you don't get thrown off the Warner Bros. lot for haunting your old parking space. They probably mean it's like the death of a friend or a family member but that shit only hurts when it's YOUR friend or family member and even then it's mitigated by age, lifestyle and whether that person was a Hollywood friend or a real one and whether that family member left you money.

Losing your show is more like a surprise divorce where you get served papers in the morning and your (ex)wife is fucking Human Target by three in the afternoon using the same time slot your child was conceived in and also where she did that one thing that one time on your birthday.

Right in the fella's.


Hugh Hewitt on David Frum: "[I]t is the worst kind of drive-by punditry that I have seen in a long time from you."

Courtesy Slack

Galley Friend R.M. sends along a link to this old Mark Jenkins piece about a life well-lived:

Mike and I gravitated to each other as teenagers. We both lived on the edge of Laramie, the boundless prairie our backyard. We were predetermined to be wild and became perfectly matched partners in misadventure. Climbing came naturally to us, and we scaled everything in sight. University buildings, boulders, smokestacks, mountain walls—our adolescent enthusiasm and daring far exceeding our ability. Soon enough even wide-open Wyoming started feeling small. We lied about our ages, got jobs on the railroad, lived in a tent behind the Virginian Hotel in Medicine Bow, banked the cash, then left high school to spend half a year hitchhiking through Europe, Africa, and Russia, climbing and chasing girls. We got arrested in Tunisia, Luxembourg, and Leningrad. We got robbed. We slept in the dirt.

Adventure sounds so innocent to our ears today. It's good to remember that it isn't.

Terrific, heart-breaking stuff. Treat yourself.

Herc Has Details on The Plan!

Don't miss it.

Streaming News

The big news yesterday was that Netflix is coming to the Playstation 3. But Joystiq noted that the manner in which Netflix is arriving (a Blu-ray disc, not a firmware update), may be the result of Netflix making an end-run around its exclusivity agreement with Microsoft:

Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities noted that the Blu-ray disc required for Netflix playback on the PS3 may circumvent exclusivity clauses instituted by Microsoft. "We believe that the exclusive arrangement limits Netflix's ability to appear on the 'dashboard' for the PS3 or the Wii."


The other interesting news comes from this release: You can now purchase HD streams of London theater productions for your PC. It's a little pricey ($15), and it's a pain to get onto your real TV screen. But it is kind of nifty.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Paging Christine Rosen

Extolling the virtues of the internet, Tyler Cowen writes:

The arrival of virtually every new cultural medium has been greeted with the charge that it truncates attention spans and represents the beginning of cultural collapse—the novel (in the 18th century), the comic book, rock ‘n’ roll, television, and now the Web.

It's unclear to me how this disproves the base charge. Imagine, for instance, putting forth this argument:

The arrival of virtually every social development since the 1960s--the rise of no-fault divorce, the birth-control pill, the spread of legalized abortion, the delay of first marriage--has been greeted with the charge that it depresses fertility rates.

Every one of those developments in fact was greeted with the argument that they would depress fertility. And sure enough, the American fertility rate has fallen steadily. Just because people keep lamenting new factors contributing to a phenomenon, doesn't mean the phenomenon doesn't exist. Pace Cowen, is there anyone who thinks television hasn't corrupted intellectual life?

If Cowen wants to argue that the internet is a net good for cultural life, that's fine. People on the internet love to hear that! And best of all, it's a non-falsifiable proposition.

I'd just ask this: We're almost two decades into the internet now. What towering works has it produced that will be read in 20 years? What intellects has it pushed forward that were hitherto ignored? Where is the web's Irving Kristol or Isaiah Berlin or Richard Neuhaus? Or even William Buckley?

The answer, of course, is that there isn't one. The web gives us Glenn Reynolds and Matt Yglesias and Kathryn Jean Lopez and Andrew Sullivan. I suspect that this is not an accident.

Update: Damon Linker takes another shot at the kind of intellectual rigor which the internet fosters.

Your Lucky Day

Ever wanted to see an anvil shot 200 feet into the air? Stupid question. Who hasn't?

Link courtesy Galley Friend B.W.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Babe Watch

Hey Matus, I'll see your Betty Draper and raise you a Cylon.

Whedon To Direct Glee

Young writers take note: That's how you write self-promotion without sounding like an ass. That probably took him, what, an hour? And it's so self-hating and funny! If you're going to pimp your work, you ought to be entertaining when you do it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

But does it get you a Betty Draper?

We all knew this was inevitable. But does it signify a Jump the Shark? Brooks Brothers is now selling the Don Draper suit, and for only $998. The question is, will they be selling the outfit Betty Draper wore on her night out in Rome anytime soon? (I know, I know, she looks good in anything she wears. Or nothing for that matter.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Brief Political Aside

Garrison Keilor, who may be the most over-rated commodity in American public life, criticizes conservative critics of President Obama by writing "Petulant fury isn't a winning hand in politics. Get over it."

That is, unless it's 2006, right?

Three Parts Cronenberg, Two Parts Lynch, One Part Björk . . .

So evidently, this is the denouement of Lars Von Trier's Anti-Christ. It's a spoiler!

Demography, Destiny, cont.

Gunnar Heinsohn has an excellent piece from a few days ago on Afghanistan's disposable sons.

If some academic press wanted to do a real public service, they'd publish a translation of Heinsohn's stuff, particularly his Sons and World Power.

Goodnight, Sweet Captain

Captain Lou Albano, dead at 76. Football player, professional wrestler, pop icon--all in all, a life well lived.

It's striking looking at the contrast between some wrestlers, such as Albano or Andre the Giant or Ted Dibiase--who really do use the sport to live big, wonderful, only-in-America kind of lives--and others, like Jake Roberts or the Von Erichs, who just get used up by it. What's sad is how much the latter category outnumbers the former.

The New Republic Is Against Transparency!

Can you imagine TNR running this cover in, say, 2001? Or 2003? Or 2006? If nothing else, it probably would have cut their subscriber base in half. But today it's just pleasantly counter-intuitive. Almost Kinsley-esque!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Redskins Make History!

I've been taking immense pleasure in the travails of the Skins this season. It seemed to me that they have had about the weakest schedule I've ever seen.

Actually, they have the weakest schedule ever. They're the first franchise to ever face six consecutive winless teams. During this run, they're 2-3.

Related NFL note: Ever wonder which parts of the country see which games? This guy puts together maps showing you. Can't even imagine the amount of work. He deserves a medal.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Death of Clover?

Starbucks has now removed Clover machines from several Boston-area stores. This on the heels not expanding the Clover project as promised pre-recession. Now they say they'll add more Clover in 2010 when, in theory, Americans will want $4 coffee.

Is Clover actually worth $4 a cup? My own sense is no. But it might be worth about $3.25. It makes awfully good coffee, particularly with premium beans.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Final Obama-Nobel Post(?)

Some on the right took pleasure from the left's (mostly) stuttering unbelief last week concerning the president's Nobel Prize. Many seemed to believe that the left's lament--"this is crazy, he hasn't earned it yet"--could be the first rumblings of a breakdown of the Obama myth. I don't know that I entirely agree.

Jay Cost and Steve Sailer hit on the truly unmentionable lens through which the prize could well be viewed: That the award was entirely in keeping with Obama's entire career history and that, in any case, he is not "less qualified" to have a Nobel today than he was "less qualified" to be president in 2008.

In a sense, cleaving to "he hasn't earned it yet" is actually a defense of Obama, in that it's a stance that allows his erstwhile defenders to avoid a more critical position. Also, I might well agree with Galley Reader C.L. who wrote in to suggest that at the end of the day, the Nobel stands on its own, becoming not a bug, but a feature. Instead of reminding voters of how unqualified Obama is, it becomes a listed qualification.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Shark and Chrissy America Split

Czabe captures the farce, particularly this insufferable SI piece which made excuses for their very bad behavior:

Strict moralists will look at the circumstances of their initial attraction—the messy entanglement of a wealthy sportsman with the wife of a good friend, Andy Mill; the Madison County--style longings of a hausfrau with three school-age children—and deliver a swift verdict of no. To bolster their case, the scolds need only point to the postseparation remarks of Laura Andrassy, who told an Australian newspaper that Evert had been "aggressive" in pursuit of her husband of 25 years ("In front of me, like I didn't exist") and that Norman's quest for superstardom in both golf and business had left her feeling "like a single mom."

Here, for example, we find Greg resting his bare feet on Chrissie's knees while he reads the Financial Times. "We both have foot fetishes," she explains, gently tugging on one little piggy while coyly eyeing another. "We rub each other's feet all the time." She tilts her head as she runs her thumbs up his calloused soles. "Boy, feet. I think all athletes know the importance of feet."

"Chrissie likes to do things with me," Norman says, kicking off his shoes as N1GN breaks through the clouds over Santo Domingo. "One of the greatest compliments a spouse can give you is to simply say, 'Hey, can I come with you? Hey, let's go for a hike in the Tibetan mountains.' My ex-wife never gave me that."

Listen to Norman: "She makes me feel alive again." Listen to Evert: "We're better people together."

What will those scolding, strict moralists say now? The prigs!

Annals of Gambling

Last November I asked a group of friends what they thought the over-under was on when Obama would get his Nobel Peace Prize. The general consensus was 2011--the theory being that the Nobel Committee would think they were handing him a boost for his reelection campaign.

In retrospect, it's clear that the over on that line was a huge sucker's bet.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

More on Spock and Fringe

Galley Friend P.G. keeps digging:

I just went back and checked the episode recaps for the episode where they discussed Trek. Sure enough, not only do they discuss Trek, but the guy who basically broke the case open for Fringe Division ALSO CLAIMS TO BE SPOCK! And he's the one who connected the dots between The Pattern and Bell. So a man who claims to be Spock also seems to know more about Bell than anyone else. Surely he must notice the similarities between William Bell and the man he claims to be?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Bye-Bye YouTube?

Or maybe Google will just spin it off. How much do you think someone would pay today for a massive website with millions of users that burns through money with no path to profitability?

[Ed: Probably about $10 billion. Oh, never mind.]

Bonus: Where did CNET get those great sources!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

George F'in Will

Has just noticed something peculiar about Barack Obama.

McCain-Feingold! Booooo!

Literary Tradition and The Atlantic

Good to the last drop!

Oh come on, you know you want to click the link.

The Big He

It'll be interesting to see what happens to Letterman going forward. One the one hand, consenting adults and all that. On the other hand it's really creepy to have serial affairs with women who are both (a) your employees and (b) much younger than you. But it's the former half of that equations that's the most troublesome. Unless Worldwide Pants is really insulated from Viacom, I suspect Letterman ran afoul of a book-load of corporate policies regarding the workplace.

Of course, those things are never apply to grand personages.

Update: I have no idea whether or not this Viacom Global Business Practices handbook is either current or applicable to Letterman (he might well be an independent contractor (or "supplier") through his production company. But just as a glimpse into the type of apparatus giant, multinational corporations erect to govern the conduct of employees, click on the link and scroll to page 24:

"Viacom recognizes that consenting romantic or sexual relationships may develop between a manager and a subordinate. these relationships frequently lead to complications for the parties involved as well as for others in the workplace. that is why, if a consenting romantic or sexual relationship develops between a subordinate and someone senior to him or her, Viacom requires the more senior person to promptly disclose this information to his or her company’s Human Resources Department."

My guess is that Viacom has some similar verbiage attached to dealings with their outside contractors.

Obama, Olympics, cont.

Did conservatives take pleasure in Chicago being snubbed for the Olympics?

Probably. But at least they weren't rooting for their country to lose a war.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Brief Political Aside

A number of friends chided me this week for wondering aloud how the Olympics decision might undermine the entire central premise of the Obama theory of foreign policy. My friends assured me that Obama would never put the prestige of his office (not merely the presidency but his personage) on the line unless he had a prior guarantee that the decision had already been made to move forward with Chicago.

In any event, I await Jimmy Carter's indictment of the IOC for their opposition to President Obama's plan.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

How Many Takes?

From FilmDrunk: Kind of annoying, but awfully impressive for the pure show-off mastery of choreography on the camera work. That's a single five-minute tracking shot with really interesting transitions. As a sign of how effing hard this is, note that there are only three hand-offs where the new subject shows that they're waiting for a cue. Everything else is butter-smooth.

Hate them if you want; but that's serious work.

Instant Classic?

Lorenzo Lamas . . . Debbie Gibson . . . Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus!

The trailer kind of gives it away.

Look, you can make fun of Michael Bay all you want, but you would have lined up to see this if he'd directed it with a $150M budget.

Fringe Watch

Galley Friend P.G. suggested to me last season that Fringe could be evolving from a mildly-interesting-X-Files-spawn to a seriously interesting and original sci-fi story. The inflection point P.G. was intrigued by was the moment when Fringe opened up the the multiverse and introduced the idea of a war brewing between the (so far) two universes. Since then, the series has only gotten more engaging.

Two minor questions:

(1) Leonard Nimoy plays William Bell in the show. But in the Fringe world, we've seen that Star Trek exists. Spock-Nimoy-Bell . . . who is real? Who is pretend? Head hurts now.

(2) What do we call the other earth? Hercules refers to it as Earth 2. I've been calling it Earth Prime. Maybe we need to consult Marv Wolfman.

Bonus nerd question: Is the Observer something like the Monitor? Only time will tell!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sports Economics

Why rent a stadium seat when you could own one?

Is there any way this makes economic sense? (For the buyers, I mean.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Proof That Precogs Exist

Via the Czabe we get this 2008 instant-analysis of the Jim Zorn hiring from Tim Tawakami.

So dead-on that it's a little terrifying. Read all the way to the end for the really scary stuff.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Reflections on the Age of the Moonball

Galley Friend C.L. spotted this strange NYT story about the longest rally in the history of professional tennis: a 29-minute, 643-shot point played on the women's tour in 1984. It's a bizarre, and kind of sad, story.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Star Is Born

KSK has delivered unto us another unbelievable character--Rex Ryan, head football coach, New York Jets.

This isn't their first spin around the block with Ryan, but it's their best to date. And I think we've got the makings of another Rex Grossman here. It's pretty good.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


You're likely to read a lot of stories about Jay Leno's new prime-time show bleeding to death as its viewership drops from the high-water mark of its premiere. I don't know that you can take such stories seriously.

Leno's actual rating numbers matter very little to NBC. What really matters is the show's profit margin, which NBC is not likely to share, but which could be very high, despite Leno's low numbers. Or it could be very low. Either way, we're unlikely to know until we see if NBC keeps the show around for three or more years. If so, then Leno is making a good buck; if not, then he isn't.

Think of the typical cost structure for an hour of scripted TV. A drama such as Heroes or L&O might cost anywhere from $1M to $5M an episode, which buys you 22 hours of programming. Leno's reportedly costs less than $2M per week--that's five hours of programming, which never has to repeat.

Factor in the development costs which Leno saves the network--with fewer hours to program each week, they can spend less money on pilots. It would not surprise me if even the cut ad-rate on Leno's low numbers wind up making good sense for NBC.

Remember that this was a defensive programming move by Jeff Zucker. He wanted to (1) substantially trim costs in the face of a monster recession that might well alter the entire face of network economics; and (2) keep Leno from another network, thus protecting NBC's very profitable late-night franchises. A pretty gutsy call on his part. We'll see if the numbers--dollars, not viewers--prove him right.

Update: L.A.-based Galley Friend, J.E. writes:

There's some truth to your post, but NBC is--and has to be--desperate to get its ratings up. If direct profit were all that mattered, NBC would be programming its Bravo content. But with broadcast networks, overall network ratings directly affect ad rates across the entire primetime schedule. If Leno could actually pull up the numbers, the network's other shows would be able to charge more. Now, it may be that NBC soon abandons the pretense of offering quality scripted
shows. But as long as 30 Rock is on the air, losing money hand over fist for NBCU, that's just a theory. It's not unimaginable that NBC will knock Conan off the air a year from now, then give Jay $50 million/year to go back to 11:30. Zucker would have to resign in the process, acknowledging he was wrong as a condition of his platinum parachute. Really, it's hard to think of a single good decision he's made. I have no idea why he still has his job.

Just in terms of ratings, this NBC situation reminds me of what was happening at ABC in the early 70s. Twenty years on, it was still the weak sister of primetime, unable to catch fire or even light a spark. Then in came Fred Silverman. NBC thought it had a new Fred in Ben Silverman, but he turned out to be Jimmy Swaggart.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Doctor Ivo: Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Galley Friend R.M. sends along this amazing bit:

After exchanging service breaks early in the first set, Karlovic and Stepanek combined to hold serve for 78 consecutive games on the indoor clay surface.

Final score: 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 7-6(6), 6-7(2), 16-14

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Buzz Does Not Equal Box Office

Why is Megan Fox plastered all over the world while Tyler Perry is nearly anonymous?

Perry has made seven movies since 2006. None of them had any budget to speak of. Five of them opened over $20M in the first weekend. Pound-for-pound that might make him the biggest movie star working today.

Mark Levin?

Apparently, he's a long-time fan of Stephen A. Smith because, "he was a personality, because he had an opinion, and he spoke his mind, and he entertained me greatly."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Brief Political Aside

Terry McAuliffe lost to this guy?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Geek Harmonic Convergence

Valerie D'Orazio has the rundown of actors doing voicework on Marvel's new animated omnibus superhero series. Ready to have your head explode?

* Kevin Sorbo

* Tricia Helfer

* Mark Hamill

* George Takai

* LeVar Burton

* Adrian Pasdar

* James Marsters

* Michelle Trachtenberg

It's like a DagonCon on every show!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sylar Wins the U.S. Open!

Now that he's eaten Federer's brains, there'll be no stopping him!

(That is, unless Serena's lineswoman can use the sword of destiny to travel back in time and prevent Sylar from ever winning Legg Mason . . . )

Athletes and Grace

Evidently Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame speech was less than gracious. Some highlights:

Jordan spent more time pointlessly admonishing Van Gundy and Russell for crossing him with taunts a dozen years ago than he did singling out his three children. When he finally acknowledged his family, Jordan blurted, in part, to them, “I wouldn’t want to be you guys.” . . .

No one ever feels sorry for Isiah Thomas, but Jordan tsk-tsked him and George Gervin and Magic Johnson for the 1985 All-Star game “freeze-out.” Jordan was a rookie, and the older stars decided to isolate him. It was a long time ago, and he obliterated them all for six NBA championships and five MVP trophies. Isiah and the Ice Man looked stunned, as intimidated 50 feet from the stage as they might have been on the basketball court. . . .

Worst of all, he flew his old high school teammate, Leroy Smith, to Springfield for the induction. Remember, Smith was the upperclassman his coach, Pop Herring, kept on varsity over him as a high school sophomore. He waggled to the old coach, “I wanted to make sure you understood: You made a mistake, dude.”

Which brings me to Serena's outburst in her semifinal. The entire incident was striking but the most striking aspect was that it was a woman doing the tirading. When most of the other women players on tour flip out, you'll see pouting or even crying. Serena's bad behavior was more like a guy's bad behavior than a gal's bad behavior. That's why it seemed so doubly shocking.

But let's say this for her: She took her medicine like a man, too. After the decision was made, she moved on. She was gracious to Clijsters and she faced the music in her post-match presser with a pretty fair amount of candor and perspective. She's certainly a much, much better sport than Jordan ever was.

(Also worth noting: Clijsters was going to win that match anyway.)

Get Your Fresh CulturePulp!

Galley Friend Mike Russell has a new CulturePulp out that's a comic-adaptation of his giant, sprawling interview with Steve Lieber. I recommend both, highly.

For those who don't know Lieber, he did the art (and lettering) for the comic Whiteout, which is in my top-10 books, all-time. (And recently turned into what looks to be a sub-par movie outing, but well worth your $11 for a copy of the original book.) Whiteout is a noir thriller set in Antarctica where a U.S. Marshall finds herself leading a murder investigation, and to say more would be telling. It's crazy, crazy good, the type of comic that even non-comics fans will love.

Lieber's art is just breathtaking. Perfectly pitched, beautiful. You'll think about it for a long time.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Andrew Sullivan: Above the Law--Updated

Consider this a gift.

So Andrew Sullivan gets caught for possession on park service grounds. The penalty is a $125 fine. But because he's Andrew Sullivan, the State quickly decides to drop the charges "in the interest of justice." The interests of justice seem to be that this $125 fine would create a record which would hinder Sullivan's immigration status.

The unequal treatment prompted Judge Robert Collings to write that fantastic memorandum. But Collings only briefly touches on what looks like the most grotesque part of the episode:

Sullivan and his attorney claim that paying the $125 fine would create a record of his being charged with possession of a controlled substance. Collings notes that whether or not Sullivan ever paid the fine, "if asked by immigration authorities, [he] would have to answer truthfully that he had been charged with a crime involving controlled substances." So why would it matter whether or not Sullivan just pays the $125? Because if he doesn't pay it, it makes it easier for him to answer untruthfully.

In other words, the State decided that it was in the interest of justice to help Andrew Sullivan lie to another agency of the State.

Look, if Sullivan's able to beat a minor charge, good for him. (Though can you imagine what he would say if the defendant was a guy named "Bush"?) There's no reason he shouldn't defend himself as zealously as possible. As always, the problem is the shame and dishonor he brings on a larger institution, in this case, the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Update: Galley Reader Z is less sublime about the implications for Sullivan. He asks:

(1) Given that there is strong evidence that Sullivan violated federal law, doesn't the rule of law require that he be prosecuted? That is (as he proudly quoted only a few days ago), "if you genuinely believe in the rule of law, you can't invoke political expediency as a guide to whether possible crimes should be investigated and prosecuted." Right?

(2) Given that the U.S. Department of Justice has provided Sullivan with a substantial benefit, shouldn't he recuse himself from any and all commentary on the Department of Justice? Or do those sorts of rules apply only to journalists with allegedly pro-Palin conflicts of interest?