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.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Observations - 2/22/2015

I used to do these every Sunday for a long time. It's not going to be like The Ten; this is much more of a stream of consciousness set of random thoughts, like Peter King's "Things I Think I Think" but much MUCH better. -- J.L.

- How about this weather? It's February, and on several consecutive days, we have had a) numerous squalls, b) record low temps, c) wind that could simultaneously knock people over and freeze their faces off, d) 6-7 inches of snow followed by an inch of ice, and e) today - 45 degrees with bright sunshine. Bets on people who are ill tomorrow? 

- I always used to use this set of ramblings to comment on how high the price of gas was. Almost exactly three years ago, the price I paid per gallon was $3.57; yesterday, I paid $2.29, although that's 35 cents higher than the low from about a month ago, and it was $1.76 on 1/20/2009.

- The Oscars are going to be on! And I don't give a damn. The Oscars is just a thing that I want to read the list of winners. They are answers to trivia questions. I've never cared for awards shows, or ceremonies for that matter. Graduation is pretty much the only "awards" ceremony I like. 

- Have I mentioned that I love British television? Sunday nights until it's baseball season is a great time to catch up on some old BBC classics such as Are You Being Served?, Fawlty Towers, and Blackadder

- It is amusing to see the media twist itself into knots just to try and get Scott Walker into a gotcha! moment. It speaks volumes that the best they can do is ask him his views on evolution and whether he thinks Barack Obama is a Christian. I gave my thoughts on this four years ago. I still believe that the media takes the Seinfeldian view while denying that the President is a Muslim (i.e., "not that there's anything wrong with that").

- It's the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. While many may think it has to do with an actual chair, it's more akin to the seat of authority than to an actual chair. It's a reminder of the authority vested by Christ himself in Peter: "thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I shall build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not defeat it" (Matthew 16:18).

Tomorrow is the next Lattanzi Ten. Come on back, y'all, hear?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

We're Doomed...

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the Public Treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the Public Treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy always followed by dictatorship.”
While this quote is often (mistakenly) attributed to Alexander Fraser Tytler, a Scottish scholar of antiquity in the 18th century, the truth of its substance is undeniable. Are we at the tipping point? I think if we read the way the winds are blowing, we are:
Six in 10 Americans favor raising the minimum wage, including nearly half who are strongly in favor, the AP-GfK Poll shows, while only 2 in 10 are opposed.
Who is going to pay for such a raise? We should raise the minimum wage to 50 dollars an hour! That's the ticket.
Most Americans see that as a valuable goal, with 72 percent saying the government does too little to help the middle class. Slightly fewer — about 6 in 10 — say the government does too little to help the poor, and more than half think too little is done to help the unemployed.
This is an unfortunate premise that needs to be reversed, but it's very hard to reverse once people start buying into the idea that it is the government's job to actively be involved. They would do a lot more good by getting out of the way in most cases. Don't get me wrong, I support a safety net for the truly indigent and for those who truly cannot help themselves. There is a purpose to it as temporary assistance to help people get back on their feet. They key word: temporary.
More than half of Americans — 56 percent — favor a plan put forward by Obama for the government to pay for community college for any student who maintains a certain grade point average and makes progress toward earning a degree, the AP-GfK poll shows.
Nearly 6 in 10 Americans think the government doesn't do enough to help students, the poll found.
You know, the reason we are in the mess we are with college costs is...THE GOVERNMENT! The loan program is what enabled colleges to keep raising tuition. It is what allows college presidents to make high six and seven figure salaries and professors only teaching one class while devoting 30 hours to researching useless things like why bisexual women have a higher rate of smoking than lesbians or straight heteronormative women. 

Doomed, are we.

Friday, February 20, 2015

This Is Why I Can't Take Feminism Seriously...

We've listened to all the nonsense about Wars on Women and how even the slightest restriction on abortion is an affront to "women's rights" everywhere, but when it comes to the treatment of women in places like Saudi Arabia, there is...


If there is going to be all this talk about sisterhood and the like, then stand up and speak out! Or else, one might think you approve of the oppression of women overseas. 

One might, indeed.

The Lattanzi Ten - 2/20/15

The Friday headlines and a week in review...

Remember how Global Warming Climate Change Global Climate Disruption bad weather was going to destroy us all with rising seas and sun-baked parched earth? I guess that cooling trend is well underway, because it was just about the coldest I can ever remember for a late February day. I remember last winter in December and January getting into the single digits (the famous "Polar Vortex" that was really just a cold snap, but why bother with semantics?). We have had multiple two-hour delays because PG County is a bunch of sissies cares about the children! One of my favorite tweets just reading random replies to the announcement tweet of the delay this morning:

There has been a lot of hyperventilating over the news from Oklahoma about the potential banning of AP US History from the state's curriculum. A few things to remember:

a) It has only passed a legislative committee. A committee! It hasn't been voted on yet by the full legislative body of Oklahoma.

b) AP US History is not a required course; it's an offering that may or may not be made available in the curriculum. If the Oklahoma House Education Committee (again, a farking COMMITTEE!) voted to ban US history from the curriculum, then I'd see why there might be a problem.

c) Any school can offer an advanced US history course; it doesn't have to be Advanced Placement. The issue with any AP course is that it is inherently teaching to the test. I took the course 17 years ago and my instructor flat out told us that much of the preparation we did was in anticipation of the AP Exam.

d) The real issue at hand is who gets to control the curriculum? The state (i.e. the local jurisdiction) or some corporate entity. Wait, I thought the liberals were against corporations interfering with societal function? Oh, this time is different? My bad. In all seriousness, though, this is a proxy for the larger looming war over Common Core, at least regarding the principles of it. Stay tuned...

On Wednesday, I made fun of Marie Harf, the deputy spokesmouthperson at the State Department for putting out there that...if we just give terrorists jobs...maybe they'll stop cutting people's heads off. Well, apparently her boss (Jen Psaki) is moving to the White House, and poor Marie will NOT be promoted to #1:
Marie Harf, the embattled State Department deputy spokeswoman who insisted this week that helping ISIS jihadis find gainful employment was a better strategy than killing them, is not in line for a promotion when her boss moves to the White House on April 1, a State Department official said Thursday.
Those mockworthy moments, a State Department official said Thursday, 'are going to keep her from the top job.'
What a pity. It was just getting good too!

That is a serious question. For all the hub-bub of the Affordable Care Act, it has been an unmitigated disaster from the start, whether in getting it passed, or the discovery of the misleading and lying, or in the fudging of the numbers, or the scandal of ever-expanding Medicaid rolls. Now, we have the IRS (as the chief enforcement agency - what could possibly go wrong here?) screwing up the tax forms for people who enrolled via And it isn't a negligible amount, like 120, but rather 800...


Yes, 800,000 screwed up forms and people who are going to have to wait to get their "refund" (another issue for another day). But remember, if you liked your plan...

5. Language Is All We Have...

Byron York writes that the Obama Administration has boxed itself in regarding the language of Islamic terrorism:
Obama's semantic preferences have left his spokesmen struggling to find words to describe one of the United States' top national security concerns. It's a particular troubling problem now, with the rise of the Islamic State, but it has deep roots; the president has long appeared conflicted on how to refer to Islamic terrorism.
This is a problem because rule number one in engaging in any kind of battle: identify your opponent. You fail to do so, you lose by default. Unless of course, he wants to lose, which is something I can't really ascertain as I don't know the man's soul. Nevertheless, it is troubling to see the refusal to do something as simple as calling something for what it is.

The former mayor of New York and former presidential candidate has caused a stir by saying that President Obama doesn't love America. The problem is that no one is actually addressing the substance of Giuliani's remarks and instead have descended into ad hominem attacks and erecting strawmen. Ok, if he's wrong, why is he wrong? Is it actually racist to criticize the President? Have we already forgotten this gem of American wisdom?

I suppose we have, or will it be instantly remembered as soon as we have President Bush, Cruz, Paul, Rubio, or Walker?

7. What's the First Thing An Italian Soldier Learns In Basic Training?

I really, really hope that old joke about waving a white flag/raising arms isn't going to be proven true in the near future. ISIS makes everything known about what they want to do, so I take it seriously that they would like to invade Italy and fly their flag over St. Peter's Basilica. 

8. Mike Rowe and the Presidential Qualification Issue

This is a great story told by Rowe about how he got his start on TV. The fundamental premise of credentialism is nonsensical; having a four-year college degree doesn't make you more valuable as an employee or as a human being. The fact is that since everyone is being encouraged to line administrative pockets go to college, it actually cheapens the degree. 

It's essentially a supply and demand issue. Thirty years ago, every got MBAs; ten years ago, it was a law degree; now it's STEM-related degrees. The elitism is a bit grating, and quite frankly, advanced degrees over the past 20+ years have done more to screw up this country than anything else. Perhaps it may not be a bad idea to have a doer rather than a thinker.

9. Fun in the L.A. Sun!

Rams, Raiders, and Chargers to L.A.? Say it ain't so, Comrade Goodell! It would be fun to see the Chargers and Raiders share a stadium. And they think Eagles fans are bad.

10. What, You Mean College Is For...Education?

Since the University of Maryland joined the Big Ten, it is interesting to watch, listen, and read everything from a more Midwestern point of view. The latest goodie to come is the hope of "starting a national conversation" on reinstating freshman ineligibility in football and men's basketball. 

On paper, I have no problem with this. Is it impractical? Probably. The money is too great, the tentacles of outside forces are in too deeply, and no one is going to really put in the effort to remove said tentacles. The professional leagues (NBA/NFL) enable the abuse of the system because they don't have any kind of farm system (NBDL doesn't count!). The free market should reign - eliminate any age requirement and let kids go pro at 18 if they think they can hack it.

The only way this ever gets traction is if every single Division I conference adopts the standard. If there are self-imposed standards unevenly applied, recruiting will be in an awkward spot. I just can't see the SEC going along with this, since they are the kings of the one-and-done basketball players and the factory-made football players. The NCAA is a joke, and they roll in the money, so you can expect to do...nothing. I see this as only taking time and a grass-roots movement. Any top-down imposition will inevitably backfire.
As it should.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Lattanzi Ten - 2/19/15

In honor of pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training, especially of my beloved Phillies, The Ten today consists of my favorite baseball movies. These are in the order of release rather than in the order of favorites. Just as important are the ones NOT on the list; those may surprise. -- J.L.

Don't even try to convince me that the remake from 2005 is anywhere near the goodness of the original. The remake doesn't even rise to the movie equivalent of a Low-Single A affiliate. Great dialogue, and who can forget the kids on the team - Tanner, Ogilve, Kelly Leak, Ahmad, Jose and Miguel, Rudy, and of course, Whurlitzer. Walter Matthau perfects the bum coach that becomes the model for every later bum coach in a film.

One of the finest dramatizations of a real-life series of events. The Black Sox were the first huge scandal to rock MLB and had many repercussions that are still felt to this day.

The funniest baseball ever made. Full stop. This is not even up for discussion. There are so many quotable scenes that it probably needs to be the subject of it's own Lattanzi Ten (now there's a thought!).

Historical fiction is probably my favorite genre of literature, and that extends in a lot of ways to film as well. What makes the movie memorable not only the development of the characters and the rise and fall of the AAGPBL, but it also marked the start of Tom Hanks' ascent into the stratosphere of acting. How many actors had the incredible streak of great roles and films as Hanks?  Look at his run from 1992 until about 2002. I'm even willing to forgive later monstrosities such as The Polar Express and The DaVinci Code just because of the joy that his roles in that time period gave me, but none more than the great Jimmy Dugan. Remember, avoid the clap. That's great advice!

This one took me a while to come around on, but thanks to the persistence of my father and brother, I see the genius of it. It's a fish-out-of-water story, but unlike something such as Coming to America, it's the American who has to adapt, and yet, Tom Selleck is still the victorious Yankee Imperialist Dog!

The ultimate wish-fulfillment film of my youth. Although I wasn't going to try and break my arm and wind up my tendons just to throw 100 miles an hour. Long before Thomas Ian Nicholas went on to be Kevin Myers, he was Henry Rowengartner, the next Nolan Ryan! The most memorable role, in my opinion, was Daniel Stern as Brickma, the pitching coach:
"Baseball is 162 grueling games played in more than a dozen cities. On the field, we conserve our energy; on the road, we conserve our food. Everywhere we go there's free food! Take this cake, for example. I wrap it up in my vomit bag, take it back to the hotel, put it on ice, and in the morning...voila! BREAKFAST! Conservation, Henry! Managing resources! That is the key to baseball!"
Yes, that was typed from memory. No need to comment on what a big loser I am I already know!

No offense to the original 1951 version (which I also like, but not enough to put on this list), but this one is a little more dynamic. There is the standard Disneyification of the plot, although it certainly does deal with some massively adult topics - family breakup, smoking, faith, and hope. My favorite character, though, is the "villain" Ranch Wilder (Jay O. Sanders), which would probably downgrade this in many people's eyes, but it's a fun experience, even in my thirties.

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.

I enjoy Sabermetrics; Billy Beane was one of the first users of such an approach in baseball, which, by the way, is just a good business model. Who knew that trying to get the most value for your dollar was a bad thing in baseball? The movie is well done, but like many critics, I have to also say that Oakland didn't win the division in 2002 or have a 20-game winning streak because Scott freaking Hatteberg got hot! I'm not a fan of Brad Pitt normally, but he's allowed the occasional decent movie. Here, he did a great job as Beane.

Making "based on true story" films in the age of the internet is just asking for trouble. And there are a few issues, but as a narrative arc, there aren't many better films covering a short historical period than this one. I can let the inaccuracies pass because it portrays the time period so well that you felt like you were in the stands there listening to the people harass Robinson, or behind Ben Chapman as he disgraced himself from the dugout. That's the beauty of 42. It also doesn't hurt that it did the baseball scenes well, and didn't allow the emotional stuff to descend into parody.

Bonus. The films that I don't like - Bull Durham, The Natural, and Field of Dreams. All overrated, and no, I don't really tear up at the catch scene of Field of Dreams. I tear up when Andy and Red hug at the end of Shawshank Redemption instead. Bull Durham? Chick flick masquerading as a baseball movie; it should never make any list, unless it is a chick flick list. The Natural? Meh.