Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Lattanzi Ten - 3/3/15

Originally, I was going to do a Ten on annoying characters in children's programming, but I can only stand so much aggravation in a week. Instead, I am going to do ten great sitcom theme songs that I enjoy. Some are well known; others are only known to those of a certain era. 

The theme song is a dead art form, unfortunately. At one time, it could be used to establish the premise of a program to a new audience, or provide an identifying mark to the returning audience. With the ever-inceasing advertising market, shows have decreased their length as well as eliminated their theme songs. It is tragic in the sense that we have lost the ability to pass along the joy of singing or humming the tunes in short bursts; they are great bridges of generations and easy for children to learn. Now, we identify shows by catchphrases or annoying character traits. And that's a shame. -- J.L.

The classic fish out of water sitcom from the 1960's, and the picking of the banjo is absolutely wonderful. The theme songs of that era tended to give the "how we got here" story, and this was no exception. The visual of Granny sitting on her rocking chair in the back of the truck has given to lots of delightful parodies and jokes. Y'all come back now, hear?

This is the quintessential "how we got here" theme song, and for many people, the gold standard of theme songs (although I disagree with that). The interesting thing is that I prefer the original, more folksy (and mellow) version of the theme song. The one that most people know, which includes the naming of the Professor and Mary Ann, more resembles a sea shanty. Either way, a classic and don't forget the ending theme, either. It is also worth knowing.  

Just to hear the back and forth on this one is great. My old scoutmaster used to sing this one around the campfire, with both voices, to great hilarity. One of the catchiest beats ever devised in the history of theme songs.

I much prefer Bewitched as a television show (and I prefer the natural classic beauty of Elizabeth Montgomery to the sultry look of Barbara Eden), but the theme song to Jeannie is head and shoulders above many others. The jazzy song along with the little cartoon explaining how everything came to be is everything opening credits ought to be. 

I spent a semester in college being the "Oscar Madison" of the dorm room (my first semester of freshman year). It wasn't that I was filthy, but my then-roommate was very Ungerish. Anyway, the link is to the "classic" Odd Couple opening with the explanation of how they ended up living together along with the juxtaposition of their habits in the credits. It was a very funny show with a very catchy tune, which by the way, came from the 1968 film.

Full of soul and the source of one of the funniest moments I can ever remember in my class. While most intuitively get the whole "movin' on up" concept, when you realize that the Jeffersons lived next door to Archie Bunker in Queens, it takes on a whole new meaning!

The song is great, but watching it with the opening credits is even better, especially with the chant at the beginning. It is kind of amusing that this made the list, but its parent series, Happy Days, did not. 

8. Cheers

This is the gold standard of theme songs, full stop, which I mentioned in last Tuesday's Ten. If we were to come up with the top ten theme songs of all time, every other theme would be competing for number two. I love the art in the credits as well, how every figure represents the character played by the actor displayed. Even when the cast expanded, the art changed, and fairly seamlessly. The only exception was the clearly created picture to stand for Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth) in the last couple of seasons. But that is such a minor quibble.

This is a very sweet sounding theme. It's too bad they had to step into the slop that was 80's rock and give it a power-anthem sound in the updated version. The original theme is one of the most underrated songs, for a pretty underrated show. 

My entire generation ought to be able to sing this one in unison. It was one of the last great theme songs to come about. By the end of the 90's, the art form of the theme song was nearly dead, left to be a relic in the wake of ever-expanding corporate harlotry. Even better is the fact that it was Will Smith himself singing it. 

A great song to show (unwittingly) the growing relativism of the age. I say "unwittingly" because it is supposed to be about different families can still be nurtured and such, but still unintentionally sends another message. Nevertheless, it is very catchy, and although it was 1978 when it started, the song itself reaches back to the previous decade in that "how did we get here" fashion.

Bonus #2. Friends

Love the song. Absolutely loathe the show.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Lattanzi Ten - 3/2/15

The first Ten of March. I'm glad to have gotten back in the swing of things. It's pretty amusing that I have put more content out in the past two weeks that I had the previous two years. Actually, forget amusing, that's just sad. Alas, today we have a more diverse Ten. -- J.L.

They could just use budget reconciliation to pass a bill, or the Senate could have passed the "clean" bill with the House having the ability to tack on amendments that required only 51 Senate votes to pass the amended version. But of course not. McConnell is what he is (I won't repeat the earlier image from last week) and Boehner "doesn't do messy." Mencken was wise, at least when it came to the nature of the democratic process.

I need to step outside. Pardon me...
Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor who is likely to seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, took a veiled shot at a potential rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a speech in South Carolina on Saturday, criticizing the politics of “triangulation” that have historically been associated with the Clintons.
“The most fundamental power of our party and our country is the power of our moral principles,” Mr. O’Malley said, according to a transcript of his remarks provided by an aide.

Ok, I've calmed down. Just needed to get that out of my system, especially the part about "potential rival" and the quote about moral principles. Seriously, I don't even think Mrs. O'Malley believes that the former governor has a prayer. Considering that despite all of his appearances on Meet the Press, most people don't have the first damned idea who he is.

And that's not a bad thing. The only one who has a prayer taking on Hillary is Elizabeth Warren, and that's only if Hillary drops out, which I peg at about a 50-50 shot. Good luck, O'Malley. You'll need it.

(I only included that last part because I am tired of the Verizon pitch. The "half-fast" is nothing more than an update of the old "sofa king" nonsense. Oh, look at me, I can swear without swearing! Aren't I sooooo clever!!?)

Anyway, as much as Vox annoys me with its patronizing "Voxsplaining" (as if people don't know how to read things for themselves) not everything it puts out is totally bad. What's interesting about this link is that the conclusion is mostly correct, but the premise and process of arriving there is wrong. Not taxing something isn't the same as subsidizing it. It's the same premise that I hear from liberal think tanks and Congressmen about how we have to find a way to "pay" for tax cuts. It doesn't quite work that way. Budgeting is based on what you have, not what you assume you are going to bring in.

The "President" of Venezuela is being tragically ludicrous, claiming that an American pilot is there to help stage a coup against him. He is truly in the finest tradition of Hugo Chavez!

The Pope has been discovered, to the horror of many people who were hoping for some Episcopalian social justice warrior, to be...Catholic! I'm not sure what people are complaining about. He was merely reiterating what Jesus himself said (and St. Paul reaffirmed in his epistles) that money was a means and not an end. Once it becomes an end in itself, the individual who makes it an end is committing idolatry.

Do I think Francis is a little too loose-lipped at times? Yes, but this wasn't one of those times. 

On the very first Ten, I posted an article about Jesuit colleges hiding their Catholic identity. In this link, it's an eight-year old column from Rusty Reno (now the editor of First Things) about college educations and how there is a "closing of the American mind." Reno's thoughts turn to how Catholic colleges, who ought to be at the forefront of a full and challenging education, also fall into the closure:
Every Catholic university has its own story. But the basic dynamic tends to be the same. For all their good intentions, most Catholic administrators are hopelessly confused and inconsistent when it comes to the goals of education. Just talk to a Catholic dean or college president. They do not want non-Catholic students to be “uncomfortable,” and they want everyone to feel “included.” Then, not a minute or two later, the conversation shifts, and the very same proponents of inclusion will insist that we need to challenge our students with critical thought and diverse perspectives. Hello! You can’t have it both ways—making students comfortable and challenging them.
Of course, what most Catholic educators usually mean is that a professor should challenge the traditional beliefs of Catholic students and challenge any conservative political or economic beliefs that students are foolish enough to expose. This critical project, which is conveniently well-coordinated with the agenda of secular education, has the desired effect of making administrators and faculty feel good about their great vocation as critical educators while—miracle of miracles—making anybody who disagrees with the teachings of the Catholic Church feel comfortable and welcome.
Much as with society at large, we have a very mistaken notion of what "academic freedom" means. Liberty in society doesn't mean "libertinism" or hedonism. It means being free to seek the truth and seek what's right without fear of retribution. And it's the same in academia, rather than just being able to espouse whatever is the trend du jour

A certain man once said "the truth will set you free." Maybe if we listened to him for a while.

So Google wants to rank searches by "fact"? What could possibly go wrong with this? Talk about control of information! Who gets to decide what is factual and what isn't? And we keep being told that Net Neutrality was only about putting the smackdown to big eeeeevil corporations. 

8. Life And Death

I was saddened to hear about the death of Anthony Mason over the weekend at the age of 48. He was part of those New York Knicks teams that made you fear driving down the lane. I didn't like those teams one iota, but Mason was my favorite player on it. Mostly because a) he was left-handed and b) he had the funkiest foul-shooting form I have ever seen.

Also of note was the first black Major League player in Chicago, Minnie Minoso, who died at age 92 (or however old they are saying now - there are conflicted sources on his age). He was one who slips through the cracks when discussing that era, especially with Ernie Banks playing on the other side of town, but any good fan of baseball should know who Minnie Minoso was.

As an avowed Sabermetrician, I really enjoy how the use of advanced numbers has opened up the understanding of the games. The story (from Grantland) demonstrates that the statistical war is over; advanced numbers won. Now, the war is about who rather than what. This is a much more visceral element, because it has become personal. It gets to the heart of Howard Cosell's criticism of what he called the "Jockocracy," that only those who played, who were there, get to make commentary about the state of the game and everything within. Does the view of the player matter? Of course! Is it the only view that ought to be considered? Not really. 

The Phillies lost their first spring training game...to a college team!

Yay, this is going to be a fun season. Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sunday Observations - 3/1/15

It's Smarch March! And of course, the weather brings us 20 degree temperatures and a mix of snow and sleet. Good times! Off to the stream of consciousness...

- At Mass, I heard a sermon that actually tackled tough issues facing the world as Catholics, namely how the current culture is not working in our favor. I can count on one hand the amount of these kinds of sermons I've heard at my parish in now over 25 years of attending Mass there. Actually, the amount prior to this one resembles a closed fist.

- This winter has been just about the most aggravating as a teacher that I could ever remember. Even the famed winter of 2009-2010 (the "Snowpocalypse") didn't actually disrupt the ability to gain momentum. It may sound counter-intuitive, but completely shutting down for a week actually does less harm than what we've had for the past two weeks. Behold:

Monday (2/16) - President's Day (Scheduled Off-Day)
Tuesday (2/17) - Off: Snow Day
Wednesday (2/18) - 2 Hour Delay
Thursday (2/19) - 2 Hour Delay
Friday (2/20) - 2 Hour Delay
Monday (2/23) - 2 Hour Delay
Tuesday (2/24) - On-Time
Wednesday (2/25) - On-Time
Thursday (2/26) - Off: Snow Day
Friday (2/27) - 2 Hour Delay

As I joked with my students on Friday, we have actually had more off-days (including Presidents' Day) than we've had full uninterrupted days. And...we may end up with a 2 hour delay tomorrow! Even the short unit I have planned for the next two weeks may be in jeopardy. So on we turn...

- My daughter is now two-and-a-half, and one of the things I end up having to deal with is her selection of television programming (If you don't have kids or you can't bear any more discussion of children's programming, skip to the next one). Lots of Sprout and lots of Disney, Junior. But as with most things, there are shows in three categories - 1) I don't mind, 2) I tolerate, and 3) I loathe. The Wiggles, Doc McStuffins, and Chica fall into the first. Super Why!, Thomas the Tank Engine, and the current incarnation of Sesame Street are the second. Barney, Bob the Builder, and Caillou are completely and totally intolerable and loathed. Maybe at a later time, I will do a Ten on children's programming. But for now, as Forrest Gump would say, that's all I have to say about that.

- I was hoping to get some tennis in this weekend, but that won't be happening for a while. Alas. At least bowling is an indoor sport.

- Speaking of which, I am still bowling, although not as well as I have in the past. Part of it is the shifting in lanes that seems to happen every couple of years. New house means new lanes, which means a year of adjustment. I had peaked at 191 in average about five years ago; I am hovering around a 160 now. I blame Bush.

- We'll be back with the next Ten tomorrow evening. In the next couple of weeks, we'll have some guest blogging on these, especially on days when I may not be able to continue. Stay tuned, and if there are any stories or links about which you'd like to see commentary, send an email to the address on the right hand rail. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Use Of Letters In M*A*S*H

One of the cool things about M*A*S*H was any episode that is premised on a letter being written. Nearly every season had some kind of “deeper look” into the nut house that was the 4077. The fascinating part about many of these is that it gives a look into the individual writing the letter just as much as the subjects of said letters.

By my count, there are 14 episodes that the plot is entirely revolved letters being written to the outside. There are others in which letters make for a minor plot point – The Pilot itself, when Hawkeye wrote to his father at the beginning; “Kim”, when Trapper is looking to adopt an ostensibly orphaned Korean boy; and “Bulletin Board”, when Trapper writes to his young daughters explaining what it is he did at the 4077.

There are a few odd ones involved. Some aren't, strictly speaking, letters, and there is a handful that goes outside the bounds of established practice of these letters. Let’s take a look; I rate the episodes on a scale of 5-10 out of 10. I don’t go lower than five because of my longstanding view that from a technical sense, there are no bad episodes of the series. My complaints would be mostly plot, dialogue, and directionally-based.

Dear Dad (Season 1: 8/10) – the first to use the letter trope from start to finish. Hawkeye is writing to his father at Christmas time and shares the humorous side of the 4077, such as Radar mailing a jeep home piece by piece and Frank and Margaret’s attempts to hide their relationship. The ending, with Hawkeye jumping to the front in a chopper in a Santa suit, really drove home the ugly side of the war, without being preachy.

Dear Dad…Again (Season 1: 9/10) – I always find this one to be exceptionally humorous, especially with the scenes in which Hawkeye bets Trapper he could walk across camp naked. He succeeds until Goldman drops his tray. My brother and I maintain Hawkeye actually won this bet, but the episode treats it as if he lost. The “Charity No-Talent Night” is also a good scene and is the first time we see Hawkeye in his famous tuxedo.

Dear Dad…Three (Season 2: 8/10) – this one takes on a slightly more serious tone, due to the bigoted attitudes of a wounded sergeant named Condon. The doctors also had to deal with a live grenade in the wounded body of a soldier. Even Henry’s home movie was on the serious side, although the addition of him messing around with his next door neighbor adds a light touch to it.

A Full Rich Day (Season 3: 9/10) – this was the first to do a letter format without the written word; Hawkeye uses a tape recorder to give a look at a day in the life of the 4077. The missing Luxembourg soldier plot line was pretty funny, but the best one was clearly the crazy Turkish guy. Good Joe. Damn good Joe!

Dear Mildred (Season 4: 9/10) – Sherman Potter had only been at the 4077 shortly, and this is the first real insight into his character. It is his 27th anniversary and his is writing to his wife about adjusting to life at M*A*S*H. The ending when Radar presents the horse (eventually known as Sophie) to Potter is one of the most touching scenes in the entire series. Sophie was as much a part of that unit as any person.

Dear Peggy (Season 4: 8/10) – out of the three letter episodes of Season Four, this one was the weakest. What “Dear Mildred” did for Potter, this one does for BJ. I’m not going to lie: the Ned Beatty character, who was a superior officer in the chaplain corps to Fr. Mulcahy, was one of the most annoying guest shots this side of Robert Alda (Dr. Borelli). The line, though, about how Frank became a doctor after washing out of embalmers’ school is a classic.

Dear Ma (Season 4: 9/10) – the sweet, innocent Radar is in full force here, writing to his mom in Iowa about the monthly foot inspection, Frank’s paranoia regarding Koreans, and Potter having to hide being shot from his wife. What sets this apart from the rest so far is that we have the point of view from an enlisted man rather than an officer, especially someone who has such an important role to play in the unit.

Dear Sigmund (Season 5: 10/10) – this is one of my top ten M*A*S*H episodes (#4) of all time. Sidney Freedman comes to the 4077 after dealing with a rough patch in which one of his psychiatric patients commits suicide, and ends up “taking vacation” in the dead of winter at the unit. For therapy, he writes a letter to Sigmund Freud about the characters of the unit. I always enjoy this one because it is the outsider’s view of the unit and its people. In some ways, Freedman stands in for the audience.

The Winchester Tapes (Season 6: 9/10) – this is for Charles what we saw in Season Four with Potter and BJ. It is mostly a complaint filled audio recording of Charles to his parents begging them to get him out of front-line duty. Such was mostly what Charles did in the early days of Season Six.

Dear Comrade (Season 7: 9/10) – the second of the “outsider” letters, this time from a North Korean spy who infiltrated the 4077 as a houseboy to observe the medical success of the unit to emulate it. The conclusion was that the unit was too insane to even try to mimic. Which, I suppose, would be true. The 4077 is a lot like a sports team. You can teach technique and have good coaching, but talent wins the games. The 4077 had the talent. No talent, no success.

Dear Sis (Season 7: 9/10) – it’s Christmas at the 4077 and Fr. Mulcahy feels completely useless and writes to his sister about those feelings. Throughout the episode, though, his actions, small and large do make a difference. Another very touching scene in the series is when Charles finds his hat from his mother. I have long been about the little things making life enjoyable, and the glee Winchester has with his hat is a great demonstration.

Dear Uncle Abdul (Season 8: 10/10) – this was the final letter written by a main character to a family member. Klinger has finally adjusted to being the company clerk after Radar’s departure and he takes the time to write to his uncle about what he’s done. Some of the bits are still among the funniest in the series, such as the competition between Hawkeye and BJ over who can tell a joke better, and Margaret shooting her footlocker with Charles’ shotgun. Klinger’s final bit to Hawkeye and BJ in the Officers’ Club is one of the best comeuppances of the show.

Letters (Season 9: 8/10) – this episode breaks from the previous style by using a fourth-grade class from Crabapple Cove. They wrote letters to the personnel of the 4077 in a plethora of different tones and manners. Some are frivolous, some are touching, and some are full of angst, such as the boy who wrote about his brother being killed after being treated at a field hospital. The only negative to the episode is that falls prey to the late-season Alan Alda-fueled anvilicious moralizing.

Give ‘Em Hell, Hawkeye (Season 10: 8/10) – Hawkeye writes a letter to Harry Truman after getting frustrated with the lack of peace talks. It is a very well-done episode, even to the point that I’m willing to overlook a lot of the late-season malaise (mentioned with the previous episode). The Klinger-Margaret dynamic is always an underrated and forgotten one; here it is on full and glorious display.

For the record, I have rated every single episode. Eventually, that will be compiled into a database that I’ll keep here. Hope you enjoyed reading this. Please let me know if you think I have neglected anything.

Friday, February 27, 2015

This Or That, Entertainment Style...

One of the more annoying things about the entertainment industry is a lack of creativity and originality these days. However, in the past, there were some great songs and movies that were performed by different artists. In many cases, multiple versions became iconic. In the case of multiple iconic versions, it is interesting to see who prefers what version.

The first song to put out there is "Twist and Shout." It was originally recorded by a group called The Top Notes in 1961, but has become best known for the cover versions by the Isley Brothers and the Beatles (The Who also covered it, but it doesn't reach "iconic" status). Here are the two, and there is a poll at the end...which one do you prefer?

polls & surveys

The Lattanzi Ten - 2/27/15

End of the week stories and reactions...

1. The Fun Of The Euphemism Game...

"Net Neutrality" was passed in an FCC vote of 3-2. This is even more oligarchical than the Supreme Court, which at least has public oral arguments. The reclassification of the internet to a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 is only going to benefit a few:

1) Those who play ball with whomever is in charge

2) Civic ISPs who can undercut commercial ISPs by forcing the latter to pay for them. Of course, by "the latter", it will come in the form of a) higher costs of the service and b) taxes on the bill, just as we have on our phone bills.

This is going to be part of an eventual move to a) institute decency standards, since the internet will be treated as public airwaves, and b) institute a "Fairness Doctrine" of sorts. I realize this sounds paranoid to those who think this is merely about making sure Comcast can't charge Netflix a higher rate, but when one reads the plenary powers of the FCC under Title II...well, let's just say it isn't for the faint of heart. It won't happen today, tomorrow, or even next year. But the proverbial nose of the camel is now in the tent.

Related is this piece from Reason, showing the development of internet infrastructure by private ISPs in contradistinction to the logic offered by the FCC for ruling the way they did.

He's at it again - this time using executive orders to ban 5.56 mm ammunition for the AR-15 rifle.

But of course, government agencies can still buy it. Why should I have expected anything else?

This is nothing more than backdoor gun control. What he couldn't get done by Congress, he exercises his tyranny "executive power". After Newtown, I wrote a very long piece criticizing the nature of gun control and the President's tantrum:
I get why a government would want to restrict gun ownership; an armed populace is the ultimate check on unfettered government power. It's a form of the old Cold War doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). The Second Amendment is not primarily about sport, hunting, or even protecting oneself from criminals. It is about the tyranny of the overbearing State - as all the amendments in the Bill of Rights are, which is why gun-control advocates that says the Second Amendment being either a) a collective right or b) outdated are being disingenuous at best, and outright liars at worst.
 Gun-control is about people control, because even the most irrational gun-grabber (like Michael Bloomberg, Andrew Cuomo, and Martin O'Malley) understands (or maybe he doesn't), that a gun is an inanimate object that can't load, cock, and fire itself. It's a tool (like all objects) that is useful in the hands of one who understands its purpose, and is harmful in the hands of someone with bad intentions or no knowledge of its use. No law is going to change that latter fact.
But hey, as long as I can see dresses on the internet and continue to play Angry Birds...

ISIS is destroying everything in its path, including historical artifacts. This is the behavior of savages - no appreciation for history and very short-sighted and linear in their thinking.

And yes, they are Islamic. Islamic Bronze Age troglodyte savages.

...his real name, according to friends and others familiar with his case, is Mohammed Emwazi, a Briton from a well-to-do family who grew up in West London and graduated from college with a degree in computer programming. He is believed to have traveled to Syria around 2012 and to have later joined the Islamic State, the group whose barbarity he has come to symbolize.
If they were only starting businesses instead of beheading people...

This is a tragic story, and shows once again, there is no clearer irony than proving the point of the individual you seek to kill:
[Avijit] Roy "was the target because of his crime against Islam," the group [Ansar Bangla 7] said on Twitter.
Roy was a prominent voice against religious intolerance, and his family and friends say he had been threatened for his writings.
About 8:45 p.m. Thursday, a group of men ambushed the couple as they walked toward a roadside tea stall, with at least two of the attackers hitting them with meat cleavers, police Chief Sirajul Islam said. The attackers then ran away, disappearing into the crowds.
Savages attack with meat cleavers. There is nothing to "understand" about them or their alleged "grievances".

Writing a book calling for a carbon tax and supporting tyrannical EPA regulations is apparently not enough for a politically-driven "witch hunt" (Pielke's words, not mine) in the name of raiding our wallets caring for the environment.

I sympathize with Pielke, to an extent. He seems to be pretty honest in his research and conclusions (though I disagree with his prescriptions). I do wonder if he ever thought he'd be targeted, or as long as he agreed with the central premise, he'd be untouchable? This is the thing that is going to take people the longest to which they ought to awaken - no one is untouchable. We have Pharisees who are testing for ritual cleanliness, and the slightest bit is an eliminator, no matter how much you support their mission.

In a just world, this would automatically disqualify a candidate for president, and quite frankly, she ought to be brought up on charges of bribery and influence peddling. One cannot claim to represent our government and then take money from foreign governments. I don't care that it went to lining their pockets "charity," it's still completely unethical and needs to be investigated thoroughly. If Hillary Clnton goes on to become the president despite all of this, then we have a political that is broken and beyond repair.

I know, following the Affordable Care Act as written is so passé. However, a plain-language reading of the law says that the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell should win their case 9-0. They won't, of course. That being said, the subsidies are the hook, and if they are gone in states without exchanges, then the law falls apart on its own weight as people will feel the full pain of overpaying for the ability to have another company pay for the cost of their medical bills.

I think this is a relative non-story, but in our oversensitive age, it gets more press than it would have even 15-20 years ago. I think the apology ought to be sufficient, since he didn't slap the daylights out of the kid.

I saw this on social media last night briefly, and wondered what the deal was. THEN, I heard the morning hosts on Baltimore's sports station (Steve Davis and Ed Norris) talking about it and I thought the whole world had gone insane. It's. A. Dress...

We're not doomed because politicians say or do stupid things. We're doomed because we expect government to be our mommy, providing for all our needs, wiping our asses, and making sure we're taken care of so we can go off and get distracted by moronic things like the perceived colors of dresses.

By the way, under Net Neutrality, would websites need to have equal time for comments saying it's blue/black and white/gold? Just asking. You know, for a friend.

Ok, I'll admit, I got caught up in this one, at least for a while. It was just funny watching people try to capture llamas the old fashioned way. Only when the lassos came out were they finally brought in. Dumb as hell, but the stories are right, it did captivate the nation, for some reason. I'll leave that to you to figure out what that actual reason is.

Presented without comment. Live long and prosper.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Lattanzi Ten - 2/26/15

Much like the Tuesday Ten, in which I wrote of the shows I still watch, these are the ten movies that I have to watch if I see them on TV, regardless of where it is in the plot. It could be five minutes in or fifteen minutes remaining. We all have these movies, and what makes it interesting is that we probably own them on DVD, and yet we'll sit through the commercials, bad editing, and bowdlerization nonetheless.

George C. Scott is Patton. And what I really enjoy about it (aside from the great score) is how we see him through many sets of eyes, including those of the German High Command. World War II is really just the setting and not the plot. It is a biopic in the purest sense, but of only 2-3 years of his life. Enrapturing is the word.

My favorite movie of all time, and in my estimation, the greatest film ever made (which can and will be disputed, but that is expected). It is amazing to look back and realize that the only star in the film at the time was Marlon Brando. The rest were either unknowns or on the fringes. Only retroactively can we say "wow, this was a star-laden film!"

This is a movie that I often quote at random spots. "You'll get nothing and like it!" and Chevy Chase's "wisdom" on the golf course to Michael O'Keefe, i.e. "a flute with no holes is not a flute, and a donut with no hole, is a danish." Na na na na na na na.

It's the old "environment vs. heredity" argument originally proffered in comedy by the Three Stooges (in their famous short "Hoi Polloi"), but provided by the Duke brothers (Ralph Bellamy representing environment and Don Ameche representing heredity). The switch of Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy and their discovery of said plan leads to one of the most satisfying endings in the history of cinema.

Note: This is the only movie on this list of which I do not own the DVD.

Fish out of water is a long-used literary and entertainment cliché, but traveling in time certainly brings a new angle to it. It is by far the best of the series (as 99.7% of originals are), and has several quotable phrases to it. The one that always gets me rolling is Marty's first encounter with Doc Brown in 1955. All of the 80's references in 1955 and the notion of "Johnny B. Good" as an "oldie" is always good for a laugh.

This one isn't superior to Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it is a close second. First of all, the killing of Nazis is always a good thing, full stop. Secondly, while the theologian in me quibbles at some of the notions in the film (such as the nature of the cup itself), the drama of the chase and the final quest is fantastic. Also, the best laconic quip in a movie comes from this one.

This has sort of a sentimental value to me, as it was the first movie I can remember seeing in the theater (Good old Academy Center 8 at Beltway Plaza...those were the days!). It was every kid's fantasy back then, to be the king of the house and then to beat off the bad guys. My grandmother (who took me to see the sequel a couple years later) still has to throw cold water on the whole premise. Alas, it was original, refreshing, and cartoonish enough to enjoy. Also, Joe Pesci!

This was on my list of baseball movies from last Thursday's Ten. I'll just reprint what I said then...
This is one of those films that could only be done in a baseball setting: kid inherits team from deceased grandfather, fires the manager and takes over the job himself. Team initially resists and then finds itself and begins winning. It's fairly formulaic in many ways, but part of what makes it endearing is a) you root for them to win, but b) they ultimately fall short. Losing is a part of life, although I'm not going to lie and say that I particularly enjoy the "but we're ALL winners!" shtick that tends to permeate such films. Nevertheless, this one is a keeper.

Ridley Scott has had a fairly good run in his life as a director, although I have to admit, his Exodus was horrendous (I reviewed this on the site I run for my students). Gladiator was his attempt to resurrect the sword-and-sandal epic, and while it wasn't successful to that end, what we have is a fantastic film from start to finish. Yes, Russell Crowe is epically hammy at times, but that adds to the legend of Maximus.

I actually reviewed this film on this very blog five and a half years ago. It still pretty much holds up. It's an enjoyable film, despite CG wolves, heavy-handedness, and a completely useless story line (the kid with cancer).

If it's December, and this is on TV, you bet your last dollar I am watching it if I am home. The music is wonderful, the dancing is great, and it is just not the kind of film that would be made now. Yes, the plot is weak and it has a sappy ending, but that's part of the charm. Part of the problem with many films now is that they fall into two categories - a) separate the consumer from his money or b) try to say something Very Important™. It used to be that a movie was an affordable exercise in escapism. Now it is neither too often. Watching Bing sing and Danny dance is alone worth the 2+ hours.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Lattanzi Ten - 2/25/15

Some headlines and points of aggravation on this Hump Day...

On Monday's Ten (Item #8), I said it was time for McConnell and Boehner to put up or shut up on the funding for the Department of Homeland Security. Well, McConnell has tucked his tail and is ready to give in. I apologize in advance for the image I'm about to cause your mind to conjure...

Mitch McConnell is a steaming pile of excrement. No, he's not completely diarrheic like Harry Reid, but frankly, when the s--t storm is falling, one cares very little about the differences in texture. The public sent the GOP this year to put the brakes on this kind of thing, but how it is shaping up is going to be a disaster for the Congressional and Senate races next year, due to the Lattanzi Ironclad Law of Voting:
If people are given a choice between the real thing and an imitation, they will always choose the genuine over the facsimile.
We know what we are getting when we vote Democratic: identity-based grievance mongering combined with eternal promises of ever more "free" stuff for said identity-based groups in the name of "compassion". If the GOP wishes to try and emulate that, then I can guarantee they will be this century's Whig Party. This is why we're doomed.

How serious are we about human rights? We already know the current wave of feminism is a fraud, and I am guessing that all the so-called "opponents" of capital punishment are nowhere to be found either. Because multiculturalism!

I've been down this road before, reminding people that I support being good stewards of the earth. I find it amazing that I have to defend myself here, but because I don't subscribe to the Faith of Anthropogenic Global Warming Climate Change Bad Weather, I have been accused of hating the environment and wanting dirty air and water. Demagoguery is always fun, but it gets tiring, especially when the alleged accusers just jam their fingers into their ears and shout incoherent slogans about Mother Earth and other sorts of environmentalist nonsense.

Muriel Bowser, the new mayor of DC, is heading for a standoff with the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives over the legalization of marijuana in the city. The usual complaints emanate here - why are we beholden to the Congress? Why can't we be free?

a) You are a federal district, not a state. You are not entitled to representation. DC was never intended to be a permanent residence to people, hence its designation.

b) Apply to become part of Maryland, then you can have your representation.

I am completely opposed in all forms to marijuana legalization, but that's another issue for another day. My real complaint is why, out of ALL the things the Republicans in Congress could be doing, are they concentrating on this? Idiocy, I'm sorry to say.

Stupid Party, indeed.

"Net Neutrality" is delightfully numbing euphemism for burdensome governmental regulations of the internet, in the same way that "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" was for medicine. While it's not exactly the same as the issues of the ACA, the similarity which bugs me is that I don't hear a lot of complaints from the big providers of broadband. This tells me that they got theirs in some kind of deal, much as medical insurers signed on to the ACA knowing that it was going to shoot mandatory business their way.

My questions are: 1) Why does this have to be kept secret? 2) What is being hidden that the FCC Commissioners and the Obama Administration not want us to see? 3) Why is this being decided by a literal oligarchy of five FCC Commissioners?

Presented without comment:
The Internal Revenue Service is the enforcement arm of Obamacare, and with tax forms due April 15, Americans who did not purchase coverage and who have not received one of the many exemptions already offered by the administration are discovering they will have to pay a substantial fine. For a household with, say, no kids and two earners making $35,000 a piece, the fine will be $500, paid at tax time.
Tax filing season is enlightening many Americans for the first time about the "mechanics involved" in Obamacare's fee structure, Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett wrote to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on December 29. "Many taxpayers will see the financial consequences of their decision not to enroll in health insurance for the first time when they make the Shared Responsibility Payment."
That is why Doggett, who has since been joined by fellow Democratic Reps. Sander Levin and Jim McDermott, asked the administration to create a new signup period for anyone who claims ignorance of the penalty. On Friday, the administration complied, creating a "special enrollment period" from March 15 to April 30.
Great, another unilateral re-write. Oh, we live in a Constitutional Republic? Could have fooled me.

When most scientists step outside of their comfort zone, they look and sound like fools. 

Actually, this is a story from FOUR YEARS AGO, and it isn't really a story, but an "opinion" piece. Therefore, the people who don't want to hear about it can just gleefully pretend it doesn't exist. 

Anyway, the point is, the nonsense of 77 cents (or 75 cents, or whatever number is being trotted out) is nothing but an unsubstantiated and demagogic cudgel. But, no, it doesn't matter that Hillary Clinton pays her lady employees 72 cents for every dollar a male employee earns, or that the Obama White House pays their ladies 82 cents on the male dollar, because they are compassionate, especially when making proposals that require other people's money to be spent.

Tanking is a problem; it destroys the integrity of the game. While I realize people like to make jokes about it in the professional ranks, the amateur levels (below Division I) of sports are played for pride and for the competition. The very idea of shooting at your own basket, or deliberately taking ten-second violations just so you can get weaker playoff opponents is poor and anathema to those of us who take the integrity of the game and winning seriously. So much for beating the best in order to be the best. 

Cowards. All of them. Coaches, players, and athletic directors. 

This is the same guy who burned bridges at ESPN previously, MSNBC, and Current. Maybe we're not the problem. It was only a matter of time. Olbermann is what he is: an insufferable and arrogant jackass. That isn't going to change. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Lattanzi Ten - 2/24/15

Today's Ten looks at the TV shows I still watch regularly. None of them are currently on the air in first run. Whether it says more about my tastes or that most shows now are complete and total crap, I will leave to the reader to discern. These are done in the order of which they first left the air. -- J.L.

1. Fawlty Towers (1975-79)

British television programs (or programmes, to be proper) are very different than their American counterpart. There are fewer episodes; most seasons (or "series" as they are called in the U.K.) run anywhere from six to ten episodes, with the timing being sporadic. Americans are finally getting this sort of thing with various cable shows that run only for thirteen episodes and have half the season in winter and half in the summer.

Anyway, Fawlty Towers only had twelve total episodes, and each one is a gold standard in and of itself. Written by John Cleese (of Monty Python fame and also the titular character of the show, Basil Fawlty) and his then-wife, Connie Booth (who also played the maid, Polly), it truly is a high point in the use of farce in television. Unfortunately, there are only twelve episodes; I am not sure how many Cleese and Booth could have written at such a high level before having to recycle plots and character foils. The sign gag at the start of each episode alone is worth the watch.

2. M*A*S*H (1972-83)

I have a whole section of this blog dedicated to M*A*S*H. Are there any questions? And by the way, I cannot have a family dinner without a M*A*S*H reference being made by someone. It could be my mother, father, brother, or wife who makes it.

3. Taxi (1978-83)

This was the original "workplace" sitcom. Full of very witty dialogue, great characters, and some fantastic gags. It tends to be overlooked, because it was a short-lived series, but groundbreaking in many ways. Hell, Louie DePalma, the wicked dispatcher (played by Danny DeVito) was ranked by TV Guide as the greatest sitcom character of all time.  And let's not forget a cast that included Judd Hirsch, Tony Danza, Christopher Lloyd, and the late, great Andy Kaufman.

4. Are You Being Served? (1972-85)

The second of the British shows on this list takes place in the men's and ladies' wear departments of the fictitious Grace Brothers department store in London. It's a show that won't make a whole lot of sense unless you a) understand the British class system and b) enjoy a hell of a lot of sexual innuendo and double entendres.

Johnny Carson was once (apocryphally) asked on The Tonight Show by Zsa Zsa Gabor if he wanted to "pet [her] pussy", clearly meaning a cat, but Are You Being Served? will make that kind of comment at least once per episode, as Mrs. Slocombe (Mollie Sugden), the head of the Ladies' Wear and who rarely has the same hair color two episodes in a row will make reference to her cat as her "pussy"; hilarity ensues.

Obviously, that's not all there is, as there are plenty of sight gags with mannequins and plenty of interaction between the oh-so-proper members and the "working" and "lower" classes who are employed by the store. It was on a while, but only 69 episodes made (I'm sure there's a joke to be had there too). All the same, wit and precise acting are on display, and there isn't a bad one in the lot.

The greatest politically based fictional television show ever. Full stop. The West Wing and Commander-In-Chief and Spin City can all go blow. There has never and will never be a politician like Jim Hacker ever again. There will never be a manipulative and eloquent civil servant as Sir Humphrey Appleby ever again. This is entirely a dialogue-based show, and had to be incredibly sharp in order to make it through five series. What makes it so funny is how close to reality it is, and when you watch the manipulation take place, one may sense how close it is to current reality.

6. Cheers (1982-93)

Always a good laugh, no matter who is the center of the plot. It's one of the few shows that did a really good job seamlessly changing cast members, and also has the best theme song out there. I prefer Rebecca (Kirstie Alley) to Diane (Shelley Long), but my favorite character of the series is Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer), although with the caveat that the love of Frasier did not extend to the spinoff series that bore the name of the titular character. Have a drink at the place where everybody knows your name.

7. Full House (1987-95)

Yes, it's sappy, it even has its own Piano Music of Sap™. Everything was eventually about Michelle and Uncle Jesse, and the finale was one of the stupidest I have ever seen. And yet, I can't... seem... to... turn... away. I'm watching it now as I pound the keys of my laptop. Ah, the 80's and 90's!

The most annoying question I got as a kid was being asked if I liked this show because the name "Philadelphia" was in the theme song, all because I am a masochist Philly fan. I liked (and I like) the show because it was and is a fun show to watch, although it is waaaaaay dated and way too topical. The beauty of a show like Cheers is that it ages very well. The Fresh Prince, not so much. Nevertheless, the first three seasons especially (when Will and Carlton were still at Bel Air Academy) were very good and have a high rewatchability to them. Seasons Four through Six, on the other hand...well, that's another story for another Ten.

9. Everybody Loves Raymond (1996-2005)

Most people don't realize it, but Raymond broke the trend in family/domestic sitcoms being centered around the kids. It's been off the air for ten years, but it is another show that I believe will age well. It had the benefit of creators who knew when to stop and didn't have that final limp-along season (as a few of these shows on this list had). There are a couple of things I hate in the show, but it doesn't stop me from watching it, although there are some episodes I will just avoid if I see them in the guide. But still one of my favorites...HOLY CRAP!

10. Law & Order (1990-2010)

This runs on WGN, TNT, Sundance, and WE. It is still everywhere.  For me, I watch re-runs that aired up through 2004, when Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) retired from the NYPD. It just wasn't the same without him. The characters from this series (and its sister series) are a Ten unto themselves. Best DA? Best ADA? Best partner to Briscoe? Cragen or Van Buren? Greevey or Cerrota? The opportunities are endless. I think I am going to need my brother's help on that one.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Lattanzi Ten - 2/23/15

A wrap up on the weekend and other interesting stories...

The constant digging on Scott Walker is quite amazing to consider. Quite frankly, this is a Hail Mary if I ever saw it. The Post has the sniffles as public-sector unions have been "crippled."

Good. There shouldn't be any public-sector unions. I get why there could be unions in the private sector - and normally the union and management come together because they need one another. Public-sector unions are a pox on this nation. They exist solely for dipping the hand into the public treasury. I have not much sympathy for them as they have lived off the money of the taxpayer for years; God forbid (!) they should have to contribute more to their own medical costs or retirement savings like the rest of us.


2. The Story That Will Not Die, Part I

It's interesting that the media and the Democratic Party keep it alive because they think they can get mileage out of it, but the reality is that the longer this stays in the foreground, the more people will have to be forced to consider it. Obviously the "true believers" will always answer in the affirmative about the President's patriotism, but it is continuously fascinating that the only response is a weird combination of ad hominem and tu quoque.

I am not generally a fan of Ann Coulter (for reasons I will explain later), but she is absolutely right here, especially about the double standards.

3. The Story That Will Not Die, Part II

Remember all the stuff about desiring to "fundamentally transform" America? The best answer I can come up with is that the President loves America as he wishes it would be

4. Extremists Gonna Be Extreme And Do Extreme Things...

If you only looked at the headline, you could be forgiven thinking that the grievances of "Somali extremists" were geo-politically driven. Only when digging down and putting two and two together do you realize that it is religiously motivated. Naturally, we are told by our Political Masters (and now the media as well) that terrorism has "nothing to do" with Islam. Doesn't this violate the fundamental tenet of multiculturalism, that self-identification is the most important aspect? Who are President Obama, John Kerry, the Sorority Girls, and the rest to tell the terrorists extremists what they are and what they represent?

Check your privilege, Mr. President, Mr. Secretary, and the rest of you!

5. On The Employment Front...

This made me laugh. It is a series of job applications if jihadists filled them out. Take a look for yourself. If you don't have a sense of humor, I'm sure you will be offended by this. Because grievance!

6. The "Real" War On Women

For all the talk of "equal pay for equal work," certain individuals don't do a good job practicing what they preach. The money lines come at the end of the piece:
Mark Perry, an economic scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who has written extensively on the White House hypocrisy related to gender pay equality, said that the data on Clinton shows that she is guilty of the same hypocrisy.
“Politicians like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can’t have it both ways,” Perry said. “They use raw, aggregate, unadjusted gender differences in pay and then claim that those pay gaps are the result of gender discrimination, like the 23 percent national gender pay gap in aggregate median income.”
“They would then have to admit that they themselves are guilty of gender discrimination and have their own glass ceilings to explain, because they have gender pay gaps that are much greater than the average gender pay gap in Washington, D.C.”
Perry said Clinton needs to either put an end to her rhetoric on the issue or admit that she too is guilty of gender discrimination.
“Either Clinton is guilty of gender discrimination and pays her female staffers significantly less than men, or she is guilty of statistical fraud for spreading misinformation about the alleged gender pay gap at the national level,” he said.
Exactly. My complaint (shared with numerous others) is what is summarized in the second paragraph - you can't just compare all jobs with all sorts of hours and then come up with the 77% rhetoric. As my brother is fond of saying...context! Apples need to be compared with apples and oranges need to be compared to oranges. Of course a full-time single man is going to make more than a part-time working mother. Most of the alleged "gap" is the result of...CHOICE!

Of course, choice is only good when it comes to the choice to murder a child in the womb, I forgot.

My bad.

David Catron's work in The American Spectator on the issues of the Affordable Care Act is always worth the read. I have long been opposed to this, ahem, "legislation" (that bears not much resemblance to what was actually passed in 2010). Nancy Pelosi, Faithful Catholic™, said we had to pass it to find out what was in it. We did, and let's just say this video is apt (quality of video is iffy).

It's time for Boehner and McConnell to put up or shut up with the funding bill that excludes funding for President Obama's vote-buying executive amnesty within the Department of Homeland Security. The Democrats keep blocking the bill in the Senate. It is time for the souses gentlemen who lead the GOP to stiffen up and go on offense. Of course, they won't. And this is why 2016 is not going to go well.

9. Just For The People Who Care...

Whoop-de-do. Now back to regularly scheduled programming.

Because he won the Daytona 500! How many Super Bowls of NASCAR did Rusty win?

While I'm not a big NASCAR fan, I can speak knowledgeably about it. It was interesting to listen to the race on the radio, but I am not a fan of the Green-White-Checker finish. It needs to be more than just two laps. It should be at least three, and probably five or more for the shorter tracks. Decent race, nonetheless.