Tuesday, July 31, 2007

If You're 41 Year-Old Unmarried White Male, Stay Away From The Rail

A study of ten years' worth of suicide data from the Marin County Coroner, published by The Bridge Rail Foundation, identifies the typical Golden Gate Bridge jumper: a 41 year-old, never-married white male who only came from within a few miles of the bridge to end it all.

If that's your demo, you might want to just take the ferry to Sausalito.

Monday, July 30, 2007

"He's A Habitual Line-Stepper!"

Ran across this again this weekend on Comedy Central. Artie Lange calls it the funniest bit in television history, and he just might be right...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Just Answer The Question, Al

Even in an administration consisting of nothing but embarrassments, surely this man is the dimmest star in the firmament.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The State Of The Originals

With the recent conclusion of "The Sopranos" consigned to everlasting debate (although David Chase does seem to show signs of eventually adding his two cents to the issue), where does that leave the lineup of HBO's original shows?

Mostly finished, if the list on the HBO website means anything. With "The Sopranos" joining "Six Feet Under," "Oz," "Deadwood," "Rome," and "Sexy City" on the pile of former shows (and the somewhat smaller pile of excrutiatingly expurgated basic cable rerun shows), that leaves a small pile of current shows:

"Entourage" - Jeez, has this show jumped the shark or what? As bad as the last "season" became, the current one is even worse. Every episode now consists of two half-episodes competing to see which can suck more. One half-episode involves Vince and Eric trying to get their so-called masterpiece Medellin off the ground. If the touted trailer for the Pablo Escobar biopic is any indication of the movie, then Ari had better get Vince into as many projects as possible between now and Cannes.

The other half-episode involves Johnny Drama and Turtle in a weekly comic relief descent into wacky hilarity. Newsflash. If your show is a piece of fluff already, you really shouldn't need any comic relief. But Drama and Turtle soldier on, with each week's escapade proving dumber than the last. This week's involved Agent Lipari talking the two of them into overbidding for a '66 Sandy Koufax jersey under the mistaken impression that the Dodger great was about to get taken yard on the sandlot of life.

No such luck ... and no surprise.

"John From Cincinnati" - The reviews on the so-called "replacement" for "The Sopranos" have been pretty harsh. "Deadwood" this ain't. Yet, anyway.

"Big Love" - Missed the whole first season of this one, but picked it up this year without much trouble and am liking what I'm seeing. It's not fast-paced, but what story about a whitebread Mormon family would be -- well, except for the three wives thing. And wife number three is just awful damn cute.

"Flight Of The Conchords" - Give Tenacious D some wicked Kiwi accents and you've got this Sunday night closer that just beats "Entourage" all to hell. Jermaine and Bret play eponymous doofuses who are utterly at sea as they try to make it big in the New York folk-rock scene.

Or something like that.

Not as concentratedly funny as The D -- blame it on 30 minutes vs. 10 minutes as the story length -- but their songs are at least within shouting distance and that's saying a lot.

Viddy as they signify...

"Extras" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" - Both of these cringefests are between seasons for the moment, so we can all take a moment to unscrunch our faces. With the recent news in Larry David's world, the next season should be particularly cringeworthy.

So where does that leave things? Oh yeah, leaving the best for last.

"The Wire" - The good news: a fifth season is in the offing and has begun shooting. The bad news: this will be the final season as well.

The best of all the HBO shows will obviously be the hardest to replace, but at least there is the delicious anticipation of that final season. Even if the Emmy Awards have a hard time separating the wheat from the chaff, you and I both know that the fourth season of "The Wire" was simply stunning. And if the past of this show is any indication, the fifth and final will be the best of all.

If it seemed at times as though "The Sopranos" was limping to the ribbon, it seems simply out of the realm of possibility for "The Wire" to finish with anything but a hard-ass kick to the finish line.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Is It Wrong ...

... to have a man-crush on Britt Daniel?

I think not.

Spoon on Morning Becomes Eclectic this a.m..

"I Think It's A Travesty"

Tom Friedman lays it all out in today's New York Times. After years of playing games with the blood of treasure of the nation, these wretches in the Bush Administration are no closer to seriously examining what they've done -- and how to complete it, other than spouting tired cliches -- than they were when they first undertook to lie and deceive us into an ill-advised war and an unplanned occupation.
I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I were the parent of a soldier in Iraq and I had just read that the Iraqi Parliament had decided to go on vacation for August, because, as the White House spokesman, Tony Snow, explained, it’s really hot in Baghdad then — “130 degrees.”

I’ve been in Baghdad in the summer and it is really hot. But you know what? It is a lot hotter when you’re in a U.S. military uniform, carrying a rifle and a backpack, sweltering under a steel helmet and worrying that a bomb can be thrown at you from any direction. One soldier told me he lost six pounds in one day. I’m sure the Iraqi Parliament is air-conditioned.

So let’s get this straight: Iraqi parliamentarians, at least those not already boycotting the Parliament, will be on vacation in August so they can be cool, while young American men and women, and Iraqi Army soldiers, will be fighting in the heat in order to create a proper security environment in which Iraqi politicians can come back in September and continue squabbling while their country burns.

Here is what I think of that: I think it’s a travesty — and for the Bush White House to excuse it with a Baghdad weather report shows just how much it has become a hostage to Iraq.

Something is wrong with this picture. First, Mr. Bush spends three years denying the reality that we need a surge of more troops to establish security and then, with Iraq spinning totally out of control and militias taking root everywhere, he announces a surge and criticizes others for being impatient.

At the same time, Mr. Bush announces a peace conference for Israelis and Palestinians — but not for Iraqis. He’s like a man trapped in a burning house who calls 911 to put out the brush fire down the street. Hello?

Quitting Iraq would be morally and strategically devastating. But to just drag out the surge, with no road map for a political endgame, with Iraqi lawmakers going on vacation, with no consequences for dithering, would be just as morally and strategically irresponsible.

We owe Iraqis our best military — and diplomatic effort — to avoid the disaster of walking away. But if they won’t take advantage of that, we owe our soldiers a ticket home.

Monday, July 09, 2007

A New Low?

It's been a week now since the President commuted Scooter Libby's 30-month prison sentence for lying to a grand jury, and the dust has settled enough to take a look at what (if anything) is significant about the story.

So is this a new low for George II?

Unfortunately, no. Unfortunately because this is merely more of the same hypocrisy that has come to define this President every bit as much as he has been defined by incompetence and hubris.

The President who has long called for tougher sentencing and mandatory minimums can lay all that aside when it's one of his own being sentenced. The sentence handed down by judge appointed by Bush, following guidelines established by his own "Justice" Department, following a conviction gained by a federal prosecuter also appointed by Bush, is now deemed "excessive."

I suppose that my considered take on the issue is that it would be cause for outrage or sadness if it wasn't so utterly, completely and cynically expected.

The cynicism shown in the action -- even the fact that it was a commutation not a pardon (yet! there will be one eventually) was cynical, as that merely allows Scooter to avoid the orange jump suit while still retaining his right to a 5th amendment stonewall of any further civil litigation or Congressional investigations -- is now only matched by the cynicism of the country which has come to expect so little from the smallest of Presidents.

If this were a parliamentary system he would have been ousted long ago, but it isn't. The unfortunate fact is that we are stuck with a man whose ability to lead is rapidly diminishing into insignificance, but who still has a hand on many, many levers of power -- from this pardon power, to the veto power, to the power established by his appointments to the Supreme Court and the rest of the judiciary ... as long as they don't lose track of who they should be sticking it to and who's felonies they should be ignoring.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Il Inferno

Lasciate i vostri pattini, voi ch'intrate.

Spent a beachy week with the family in North Carolina, and in case you weren't aware, it gets very hot in North Carolina at the end of June. Deep in the Gallagher family lore is the story of the hottest month any of us ever spent -- a week in Fayetteville, NC in the summer of 1965.

Anyway, first stop was Durham to meet with Noreen's cousin Rebecca for lunch at Mad Hatter's, including what was rightly billed as some of the best cake ever eaten -- we passed around a slice of Black and White, a slice of Boston Cream, a couple of cupcakes and a lemon bar.

Mmmmmm, caaake, ahhhgh.

Then we took a mini-tour of the Duke campus -- with Cait heading into junior year, it's unfortunately time to start getting into practice.

After dropping Rebecca off, we headed out of town by way of Chapel Hill and a mini-tour of the UNC campus. The early verdicts? UNC has an enormously beautiful campus, and even in the summer, Duke positively reeks of old money. Some pics.

From there it was on to Wilmington. Reminiscent of Savannah, but without quite as much history, quite as much candy, or quite as much sawmill smell.

Much walking around on Sunday (including a bit of browsing at CD Alley, where I picked up some Spoon-y vinyl) followed by lunch at the Dixie Grill. I had the curiously named, but nevertheless yummy Roethlisberger (mixing hamburger and sausage) with sweet potato fries. Curiously named because it's extremely unclear whether Ben Roethlisberger has ever set foot in Wilmington, NC.

From Wilmington it was on to Atlantic Beach, our vacation destination for the week.

On the southern end of the Outer Banks, hard by the ocean (guess which one), I hadn't really heard much -- call it none -- about the place before alighting there. Inland it was pretty scorching, but by the beach it was breezy and cooler, and everywhere it was non-stop sunny skies.

Played a little tennis, ran on the beach a few times, and ate a whole lot of seafood and East Carolina barbecue (chopped smoked pork, vinegary sauce, hushpuppies galore and Brunswick Stew to die for). At least three times -- including once at a pig-pickin' -- I ate enough to make a plausible Spartacus-style Roman of myself. Which way to the vomitorium?

Scenes from a beach.
Our one "big" side trip of the week was to Cape Lookout National Seashore, about 13 miles away as the crow flies, but about a 45 minute car ride + a 15 minute boat ride to get to.

But well worth the trip.