Friday, June 30, 2006

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING!! Travelling Once Again...

...and the kitties aren't pleased.

(Greetings from Oklahoma City, by the way.)


Thursday, June 29, 2006

Howard steals my thunder...

...via Avedon, I find this speech from Howard Dean about a "return to the '60s".

America is about to revisit one of the most turbulent decades in its history, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean told a religious conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. "We're about to enter the '60s again," Dean said...
I'd say this must mean that he reads Good Nonsense, but I'm only one part into the series. Bummer. Plus, it's not like I actually had an even remotely original thought by beginning to compare the '00s to the '60s. But can dream...

By the way, I hope to crank out Part 2 (of, I dunno, 20 or so) of the '60s series next week. Your heart's a-twitter just thinking about it, isn't it?


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Betty La Fea (Betty the Ugly) Mas Bella Update VII

The big news of the day, of course, was that Univision's "La Fea Mas Bella," its remake of the classic "Betty La Fea," was third in the latest ratings for that whatever age demographic that has less money than older people so the networks decided they're the ones who should be sucked up to with advertising. And now that Leti has effectively been given ownership of her company by the "clever" manueverings of her boss, hero, and love ideal, the main plotline of the series has now kicked in. It's followed the path of its classic predecessor pretty well, but with enough variation for changing times (they call each other "hombre" a lot now, even the women) and for the differences in the companies so it won't surprise me much to see some deviations as it rolls along. But so far, they've been smart enough not to mess much with the original. (We'll be here to keep them in line if they do.)

Which brings me to the subject of this post, which you can see in the title. ABC, as we've noted in past posts, is planning a US version of the show, "Betty the Ugly," for the fall, and I've also mentioned concern that it won't be as faithful to "Betty." So I'll be watching the promos and notices and, when it hits on September 22, start giving it the benefit of my wise counsel, which has so benefited "La Fea Mas Bella" to this point.

My major concern with the ABC version is what I've said before: a telenovela typically runs 20-30 weeks, an hour a night 5 days a week. Do the math. That's 100-150 hours. Now, since some padding of plotlines and stories does occur to fill the time and since each new episode generally starts with a portion of the last (the length varies--usually about 5 minutes or so, although "La Madrastra" practically reran an entire episode once), you can probably cut that by 10-15%. So, 85-120 hours, say.

US tv does 22 episode seasons as a rule. See the problem? A faithful remake of "Betty" for US tv would require a 3-4 year commitment from ABC. It gave "Betty the Ugly" a 13-week commitment. Now this means that some of the secondary plots and characters that give "Betty La Fea" so much of its flavor will have to be cut or shrunken, and I don't see how this happens without hurting the show.

Example. Betty (Leti) is a brilliant but attractiveness-challenged "economista" who can't find work because of her looks, demeanor, twitches, and frightful laugh. So she ends up applying for a secretarial position with a large arty company. The hero (Armando/Fernando) has just taken charge of the company from his noble and revered father and is trying to establish his leadership. His fiance (Marcela/Marcia) wants her best friend to get the job, but he resists because the best friend is a vain pain and because, since he is something of a hound dog, she will report back to the fiance. So, showing his independence and control, he hires Betty (Leti) instead. In the ABC show, however, apparently the father doesn't want the son, a HOUND DOG, to have an attractive assistant so that's why Betty the Ugly gets hired. What took a week or so of episodes to set up and play out will only likely take the time between commercial breaks in the US series.

Why does this matter? Because the circumstances of Betty's (Leti's) hiring set up the entire show, in a couple of ways. Betty (Leti) knows the beautiful best friend is up for the job, too, yet she gets it and knows Armando/Fernando overrode objections to give to her. No man but her father has ever stood up effectively for her against the pretty people. This leads to a commitment and devotion from her that turns to love and causes her to compromise principles through actions that otherwise would have you think less of her. Second, the hero himself, a cocky but insecure, spoiled but basically decent young man trying to follow in his father's place but stumbling badly because of inexperience and self-delusion, reveals all those things in his decision to hire Betty (Leti). His story is the reverse of hers, the swan into the ugly duckling until Betty's (Leti's) love redeems him after betrayals and loss, and you need the backstory to be well understood to get those points. A 15-minute "rich dream boy meets ugly, brilliant beauty" pass at it won't get it done, yet, to do so, might take a third of the season for that alone.

So. While it's good that the "Betty" story gets to a wider audience (there have already been versions in Germany, Russia, and other countries), it's very likely to suffer in the US and risks being cancelled before it can even get interestingly underway. Still, there are two things that give me some hope.

One, the show is being produced by Salma Hayek. (Why God let His prototype for Woman walk among us in my lifetime is a Mystery I'll never solve but always appreciate--and, yes, my wife knows--she's okayed my laminated card of 5 movie stars I can sleep with and the first 4 are Salma). Salma (we're on a first-name basis--I call her "Salma" and she calls me "Vaya!!" which I believe means "Sweetie") is not only a brilliant actress and director and person but also a telenovela veteran from early in her career. She knows what they're about and seems to have a commitment to "Betty."

The other hopeful thing is the lead, America Ferrara. She got terrific reviews in "Real Women Have Curves" and was one of the better parts of "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" (don't ask). Since I watch telenovelas more than US tv, I don't recognize many of the others, although I know that guy who played Marissa's stepfather on "The O.C." (don't ask). One I do recognize is Vanessa Williams, the only true symbol of this nation ever named Miss America. I say that in a good way, actually. She proved she could act in "Soul Food," and I'm still a sucker for that song she did about the snow coming out in June or something. The one she did for "Pocahontas" will likely be our national anthem once global warming floods Central Park. (Have you seen "An Inconvenient Truth" yet????) I read somewhere that Charlotte Ross might be on board, and she's usually good. I'll be glad to see her with real work again after that Billy Banks' Tae-Bo infomercial, although it did give her a nice tummy. A lot will depend on the chemistry between "Betty" and her boss and love interest, whom I don't know. (Wait. Wasn't he in a few episodes of "The O.C."? Not that I would know that.) If they click, it could cover a lot of the holes caused by the formatting and time restraints. They may have to click a lot.

We'll watch and be your go-to place for insight and knowledge on the new show, just like we are for "La Fea Mas Bella." If Salma's hands are really on the wheel, it may be okay.

And, Salma? If you need any help, just know that you can always count on your "Vaya!!"


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

My Month of Entertainment – June 2006

This is going to be bad. Real bad. Let’s just say that this month was something of a perfect storm. June saw a bonus sale for employees at Barnes & Noble (I work there on the weekends), a “Buy 2, Get 1 Free” DVD sale at B&N, and a lot of traveling (I always spend more when I’m traveling, even when it’s stuff that I could buy at figure it out because I can’t), not to mention a nice “The Butterfly got a new, higher-paying job...hooray!” end-of-month splurge. I’m posting this before the actual end of June to guilt myself into not spending any more money on this crap over the next three days.

So anyway, here’s the carnage...hopefully this will shame me into spending less next month. Hopefully.


A Long Way Down, Nick Hornby – And...
Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby – And...
How to Be Good, Nick Hornby – That’s right, I’ve got ‘em all now...except Songbook, anyway. Like probably thousands of others, I see Nick Hornby as a much more talented, much more British version of myself. Similar tastes, similar sports and music nerddom. I’m almost afraid to read Songbook because I’ll just be mad that I didn’t write it first.

Top Ten: The Forty-Niners, Alan Moore – I guess I should really be glad that I’ve never attempted any drugs beyond alcohol and Benadryl. I get addicted and obsessed with things pretty easily. As it relates to books and music, once I have one album/book from an artist, I need them all (see: Hornby, Nick). A friend of mine has pretty much read every graphic novel that ever existed, and for the moment, I’m trying hard to stick to Alan Moore. But even within the Moore realm, I’ve already special-ordered the other two books of the Top Ten series and all five books of the Promethea series. I need help. Can you help me?

Breach of Trust: How the Warren Commission Failed and Why, Gerald D. McKnight * - This is a loaner from Berlin Niebuhr, but since it’s staring down at me from my bookshelf, I’m counting it. Lord only knows when I’ll get to it. I need to quit my job and just read all day. Then again, I wouldn’t have money, and money pays for My Month of Entertainment.

Clemente, David Maraniss * - Also a loaner, only Berlin wants this one back, ASAP, so I started it this week.

Bob Dylan: Performing Artist: The Early Years 1960-1973, Paul Williams – I was in Cleveland a couple of weeks ago and (of course) stopped by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Sadly, this was the only Dylan book in stock that I didn’t already own. Once I got over the pitiful sadness of that last sentence, I snatched it up. Focusing on his performances and not just his bio make it an interesting read, but it makes me no less pitiful.

The Mind of Bill James: How a Complete Outsider Changed Baseball, Scott Gray – This was a natural progression from the Baseball Prospectus stat nerd book I read last month. The one nerddom I have that Nick Hornby doesn’t appear to is baseball statistics nerddom. That makes me proud, I think.

The Death of Rhythm & Blues, Nelson George – Nelson George is one of my absolute favorite writers. He’s probably the most astute, prolific writer of hip hop (and ‘black music’ in general) around, and he knows his stuff. If I find myself disagreeing with him, I tend to go back and read the passage again because I’m probably wrong.


John Coltrane, Giant Steps – There’s a music store on State Street in Madison that has a decent selection of cd’s and dvd’s, but it has a neon sign outside advertising the “jazz room” downstairs. Being that my parents are moving from Madison and that I was making my last trip there for who-knows-how-long, I had to buy something there. Was looking for Coltrane’s Ascension, since that’s supposed to be one of his weirder ones (and I like weird jazz much more than standard jazz...which is why Miles’ A Tribute to Jack Johnson and Mingus’ Black Saint and the Sinner Lady are my two favorite jazz albums), but they didn’t have it, so I got this. Not bad. Not weird enough, but not bad.

Lizzie West, I Pledge Allegiance to Myself – At some point in the next couple of weeks, I’ll need to post a review of this album. Lizzie West is one of my favorite female acts right now, and as far as I’m concerned, she’s keeping folk music alive (even though she can be found in the Pop Rock section of your local record store, if at all). She combines a unique voice with interesting instrumentation (you’ll hear some drum loops, some reggae bass with horns, some straight-up acoustic guitar)’ll hear lots of things, but each song has a reliable groove. She plays Columbia (MO) a lot, too, so she gets some bonus points for that.

Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere – I haven’t bought a good hip hop album in quite a long time. There’s a long list of hip hop acts I follow, and nobody’s putting anything out right now. Jurassic 5’s coming up at the end of July (after a mere 4-year wait), but Gnarls Barkley is the closest it’s come for me in a while. I don’t know if this counts as hip hop, but it’s fun. The songs are short, the beats are creative, and, well, Cee-Lo’s insane...sorry, craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazaaaay.

Counting Crows, New Amsterdam, Live at Heineken Music Hall – I’ll be posting a review of this at some point as well. I have no idea why they released this set of performances from early-2003, other than a) fulfilling label requirements and/or b) they’re touring this summer and wanted to have something new to sell. That said, it’s quite lovely. Counting Crows are one of those bands who surprise you constantly. I made a mix cd of CC music a few years ago and was shocked by just how many songs of theirs that I liked. I really struggled to cut it to 20 songs or so, and that was before their latest album came out. I’m sure everybody has bands like that.

Dixie Chicks, Taking the Long Way – Copy #2, this one for The Butterfly.
Dixie Chicks, Top of the World Tour: Live – It was bound to happen that I picked this up. It’s solid. It’s twangy, much more so than Taking the Long Way, but there are quite a few good songs. Twang or no twang, they’re great musicians.


Pittsburgh Pirates: 1979 World Series Collection – Oh yeah. The glory days. Back when I was 1. Announcers: Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell. That’s worth $70 right there.

Huff, Season One – I wrote about the show here, surprised with just how good it is. Of course, Showtime, like our Internet connection, goes in and out, so we’ve managed to miss something like the last four episodes. Bitches man. But we’ve got a few discs’ worth to watch right here. This is what’s great about discovering a show midway through the second season (like we did with Veronica Mars). You find out you like it, then you have 1.5 seasons of episodes to watch. Yaaaaaay.

Entourage, Season Two – Hug it out, baby.

The Spike Lee Joint Collection (Crooklyn, Jungle Fever, Mo Better Blues, Do the Right Thing, Clockers) - This set was $22.95. Seriously, how was I supposed to pass that up? Never mind that I’ve only actually seen Do the Right long as I like one of the other titles, this was worth the money. And how can I not like Mo Better Blues? It comes very highly recommended. Wish I could say the same about Crooklyn...

The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg * – Another loaner...this from a friend at Barnes & Noble. It comes highly recommended. I asked if it was a documentary or a work of fiction, and the answer was “yes.”

Three Kings – This is one of the hundreds of movies I have on VHS that I look to own on DVD at some point once the price gets low enough. If I were smart, I’d have gotten this (and the next one on the list) at, but I’m not, so I didn’t. Great movie, by the way.

Clueless – It was $9.99 at Best Buy. And it’s for The Butterfly. Honest.


So here’s the pop quiz for the month:

1) With all the money I spent on entertainment this month, what else could I have done?
2) Which Hornby book should I read first?
3) What are your two favorite jazz albums?
4) Which Spike Lee joint should I watch first (Do the Right Thing doesn’t count)?


It’s Worth Mentioning...

…that we had a visitor from Tehran reach our site yesterday by, you guessed it, Googling “La Fea Mas Bella”.

I think we’ve seen a clue to world peace. Never mind nation-building, and never mind diplomacy. It’s all about telenovelas. Watch La Fea Mas Bella, save the world.


In the "Remind me never to piss them off" crowd...

...Bérubé ranks right up there with Wolcott and Juan Cole. Take it away, fellow blogofascist (h/t Avedon)!

Seriously: people should not call Lee Siegel names. Remember, Lee Siegel is one of the most fatuous and self-regarding writers in the English-speaking world, and as such, he is ripe for parody. Why, from Jon Stewart to Stephen Colbert to the Witty Leftists of blogofascism, Siegel has been flailing at people considerably more talented than he for months now. Occasionally he reminds his critics, whom he suavely calls “pissants,” that

I was writing for magazines like Dissent, The Nation, and Radical History Review while you were still worrying whether it was safe to walk around the Upper West Side at night. (Maybe you still do.)

That is so street. Why, it positively reeks of authenticity! It is at once leftish and dangeral—a potent combination in any neighborhood.

So please, please don’t get angry at Lee Siegel. Don’t descend to angry name-calling. Instead, use the hard Microfascisoft power of the blogofascisphere to parody him! It’s more fun, and, most important, it’s more sophisticated.


Tuesday Pirates Rant™ – Best 26-51 Team in the League!!

"Until next week, when the Pirates are recovering from being swept by the Royals..."

Oops. When I wrote that line, it was supposed to be something of a joke. But alas, the Pirates really did get swept by the Royals. The Kansas City Royals. The Kansas City “George Brett would still be their best player even though he’s 53 years old” Royals. The Kansas City “Buck O’Neill would be their best player even though he’s 95 years old” Royals. The Kansas City “I thought David Glass was the only owner worse than Kevin McClatchy and the Nuttings, but now I must rethink that” Royals. The Royals.

Yes, these are the Salad Days for the Pirates Rant™. That’s what happens when your team has an 11-game losing streak and now gets to play 10 games against the three best teams in the majors, the White Sox, the Tigers (the team managed by a former Pirate manager, with a staff completely full of former Pirates, and a 1st baseman who the Pirates let go because they needed to free up a roster spot for Raul Mondesi), and the Mets. We’re looking at 21 losses dead in the eye, baby.


Now starting for the National League, leftfielder Jason Bay of the Pittsburgh Pirates, current owners of a 24-game losing streak…”

Man, I don’t even know where to start. Let’s go chronologically, I guess.

* Not only did the Pirates get swept by the Royals, but they managed to blow back-to-back 4-0 leads in the process, giving up 31 runs in three games to a team that can’t score. Not only did this suck because it sucked, but it also sucked because it prevented me from truly enjoying the fact that the Cardinals got outscored 33-11 in two games by the White Sox (and have lost 7 in a row overall).

* Not only did the Pirates get swept by the Royals, but the General Manager still didn’t get fact, owner Kevin McClatchy actually gave Dave Littlefield a
vote of confidence this week. That could always turn out to be a kiss of death, but McClatchy’s history doesn’t really suggest that. I asked a buddy of mine what a guy has to do to get fired around here, and he responded, "Well, hire himself as coach, I guess." Touché.

* The Pirates went from KC to LA and got swept by the Dodgers in a series that included possibly Oliver Perez’ worst start ever. Granted, that is a pretty heated competition at this point. He did manage to make it out of the third inning, but he managed to walk 7 of the 23 batters he faced and gave up a HR to Jeff Kent on a pitch described in the blogosphere as a “
hanging fastball”. It dropped his record to 2-10 (!!!) and raised his ERA to 6.63.

* Kip Wells returned this week. Hoorah! And he picked up right where he left off last season. Through two starts, he’s 0-2 with an 11.88 ERA, and a 2-7 K-BB ratio. That’s some serious trade value right there.

Actually, I’ll stop there because there’s plenty more coming in the Blog section...


* The only good thing I can think of is the fact that Jason Bay is (somehow) the leading All-Star votegetter for the NL outfield. That’s kind of nice, but it’s also almost certain proof of voter fraud at PNC Park. Oh well.

* Oh, and Jeromy Burnitz won’t be in a Pirate uniform after about another month. Of course, neither will Craig Wilson.

* One more good: I was on
YouTube yesterday, and out of sheer morbid curiosity I searched for “Francisco Cabrera”, and there were no results. So maybe that play in '92 really didn’t happen. (On a side note, the “RBI Baseball” recreation of Game 6 of the ’86 World Series is the single greatest and single most terrifying creation in the history of the internet. I cannot even imagine how long that took. The time spent could have gone into cancer research or something, but hey...this is way cooler.)


I really, really had trouble picking just one blurb from each blog this week. Adversity, despair and humiliation bring out the best in blog writers.

Charlie from
Bucs Dugout lists his 20 least favorite Pirates of the Littlefield era. Seriously, Littlefield’s been on the job for almost exactly five years, and this list could have easily been 40 players long. What does that say, exactly? I know...“DAVE LITTLEFIELD NEEDS TO BE FIRED, STAT.” Highlights:

20. ABRAHAM NUNEZ: A perfectly capable glove man who Lloyd McClendon used as his top pinch-hitter because Nunez could switch-hit. This was like deciding that a jockey would be a good fighter in the WWF because of his tendency to wear colorful clothing. For his career, Nunez is hitting .204/.222/.426 as a pinch hitter. In 243 at bats. In 2004 alone, he had 62 pinch hit at bats.

12. RYAN VOGELSONG: It isn't Vogelsong's fault that he was dealt for Jason Schmidt, who eventually became one of the best pitchers in the National League. But Vogelsong's tenure with the Pirates has been horrifying, and what's even more horrifying is that it seems it will never end. Vogelsong was a disaster as a starter, and he's nearly as bad when relieving. The Pirates rarely bother to put him in games that matter, earning him the nickname "White Flag."


7. JOSE HERNANDEZ: Hernandez first joined the Pirates in 2003 as a player the Pirates just had to have in the Aramis Ramirez trade. He was no substitute for Ramirez, hitting .223/.282/.326 for the remainder of 2003. Jim Tracy brought him back in 2006, and he has played just as badly, occasionally while taking playing time from Craig Wilson.


4. KEVIN YOUNG: Young was good in 1997 and 1998 and downright excellent in 1999, but he was awful from the minute his four-year, gazillion-dollar contract kicked in at the beginning of the 2000 season. By the 2001 season, he was blocking Craig Wilson.
Here's what Baseball Prospectus had to say about the contract in 1999:

As long as they make these kinds of mistakes, the team isn't going to get better, and after the novelty of the new park wears off, attendance will plummet when the team is still lousy and wondering what went wrong. The problem is that the Pirates are operating under a false assumption, one that's guiding what I'm beginning to think of as the Age of New Mediocrity.

Teams are using salary as a proxy for talent and quality, assuming that expensive players must be good; that is exactly the lesson that this team, on the strength of what it accomplished in 1997, should not have drawn. But instead the Bucs have joined the rush to perpetuate the careers of perpetually mediocre (or worse) players, players who haven't earned the right to keep their jobs, but who keep them because they were expensive, and possibly even good once or twice in their careers. That's no way to build a ballclub, unless your organizational goal is play patsy to the Astros for the next decade.
I'd say they pretty much nailed that one.
The difference, of course, is that the last General Manager actually got fired for his offenses.

Billy from
Romo Phone Home, well, rants:

The definition of a fan is "an enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or a performing art) usually as a spectator." When applied to a sport, this implies that, in almost all cases, the fan of any particular sporting contest wants his team to win. I call myself a Pirates fan, but now, today, I want the Pirates to lose. I want them to be swept by the team that people used to think was the worst team in baseball. Then I want their blowhard of a new manager to be humiliated and embarrassed in his former place of employment by the team he used to manage. Then I want the Pirates to be swept by the White Sox (can't wait to see those games), Tigers, Mets, and Phillies, so that they host the All-Star Break as the owners of a 24-game losing streak. I want that losing streak to be the focus of stories by every good baseball writer in the country, so that they all can investigate and describe in depth to the rest of the country the mendacity and ineptitude of those responsible for this mess.
Bones from Honest Wagner does too:

Meanwhile, the "extremely disappointed" McClatchy drags DL, Tracy, and the players under the bus with him: "There's accountability that will go everywhere, and I will be at the top of that list. But I think that accountability goes through to not just the general manager or manager but also the players." DL, as usual, sticks to his usual vague meaningless bullshit: "We're always looking at situations," he said. "Certainly, where there are subpar performances, that's something we're going to look at." Certainly we're going to look at subpar performance situations? Uh, yeah. We will. Thanks to you, dipshit.
Bucco Blog, as usual, remains level-headed:

With all the failures David Littlefield has experienced as General Manager of the Pirates, you have to really question the ownership's motivation in signing him to a contract extension in 2006. In fact, you have to question how he even remains employed.

I'm not going to sit here and state all of the obvious Littlefield shortcomings - Littlefield has simply failed. Whether a majority of the blame can be cast on the disjointed ownership group through the years or not, only the owners know. But if the owners have any intention of salvaging the sunk Pirates ship, it has to start with replacing David Littlefield as his welcome mat has worn through much the same as Lloyd McClendon's had and Kevin McClatchy's is.

Littlefield lost control of the team two years ago, he has lost control of the farm now, and he continues to plan poorly, imo. It has gotten to the point where coaches in the farm now question his moves, players openly talk to the media about his failures, and few in the industry respect his position nor want to deal with him.

I suspect that the ownership group will use David Littlefield as their scapegoat if they continue to push a non-competitive, maximum profit, business model and want the fans to feel a sense of new found hope so they buy tickets for 2007.

In fact, I expect this to happen after the All-Star game and I propose this was the reason Littlefield was given a contract extension - he knows it too. After all, that has been the Pirates ownership group's MO - put false hope in the fans and they will keep walking the bridge.. competitive or not. The only hope the owners have left to throw at the fans is to replace the GM.
Hands down, the winning blog post this week has to be Where is Van Slyke’s amazing live blog of game 1 of the Royals-Pirates series. I can’t even take a blurb from it, just read the entire thing. It’s phenomenal. And by ‘phenomenal’, I mean ‘horrifying’. Read from the bottom up.

Until next week, when the Pirates are losers of 18 straight...

And now you know that when I say that, I'm not being bitter, I'm being realistic.


The A-Team weighs in...

...I'm not going to add anything to this because I'm tired of talking (and thinking) about it, but since Billmon weighed in on the Kos issue, I thought I'd pass it along.

[T]here's no question Kos made a dumb mistake when he asked his blogging buddies to pipe down about the "story." It kind of put them in a no-win position, particularly once the TNR's GOP counterparts in the corporate media (David Brooks and Newsweek's Jonathan Darman) decided to get their licks in. If lefty bloggers ignore the story, then they're keeping silent to protect the tens of dollars they receive each month from the all-powerful blog ad cartel Kos supposedly controls. If they defend him, they're just pathetic monkeys dancing on his string. And if they criticize him, no matter how gently, well, they've only confirmed that the vague, unsubstantiated accusations against him must be true -- "see, even his own paid minions admit it."

Not that anyone cares what I think about all this, or should, but if the Swiftboaters want to slime me for defending Kos, they'll have to find another lame excuse. In the three plus years I've been blogging, I've never accepted a blog ad -- not from Advertising Liberally; not from anyone else. One reason, one big reason, is precisely to avoid situations where my credibility and motives might be smeared. I realize some bloggers badly need the money, but I don't. I do my whoring elsewhere. In any case, it's worth every penny of revenue forgone to be able to tell a bunch of supercilious little shits like the trust fund babies at The New Republic (and their boss, the man who married the Singer sewing machine fortune) to go fuck themselves, I'm not for sale.

Of course, there are other ways to slime people: guilt by association, for example. Most people who know me know I began blogging as a guest poster at Daily Kos -- way back in the neolithic age, when it was just another blog with a small group of regular commentors, and not the Mighty Wurlitzer of the liberal blogosphere. There's no question Whiskey Bar has benefited from the connection. I've always gotten a lot of traffic from Daily Kos, and my name is listed first under "Kos Alumni" on the home page. I'm sure that fact alone is enough for anyone who wants to bother to accuse me of being a diehard Kossak. I've already heard it from the kind of right-wing bloggers who seem to spend practically every waking minute sucking up to Michelle Malkin and Hugh Hewitt and wheedling for spots on their blog rolls.

Whatever. The truth is that while I admire Kos's energy and enthusiasm, and am impressed by the online community he's nutured, his politics are hardly mine. He's a Democratic Party activist and loyalist; I'm not. He wants to be a mover and shaker in the party establishment; I regard the party establishment as -- at best -- useful idiots. And that's stretching it. Most of them are just idiots, period.

To be perfectly honest, my impression is that Kos the blogger has long since been swallowed up by Kos the aspiring politician. I would say he's sold out, but Kos has never, to my knowledge, claimed to be anything other than a Democratic (big and little d) political activist. Which is probably why we haven't corresponded in years. (We've never spoken or met face to face, and I seriously doubt we ever will.)


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Get Ready for the Show

Billmon has another typically brilliant post up on the recent news items that Iraq "independently" is calling for a US troop withdrawal timetable and that our military is saying troops will start coming home soon. He gives the implications in better detail than I could. I would add only one thing--expect the local tv news in your area to have features almost every night on the troops getting back home, complete with tearful, loving families reuniting and declarations of the good that was done for freedom in Iraq. Repubs won't have to run an election commercial.

I've been yelling about this happening for a while now, and fortunately Feingold gave the Dems a possible hook for saying it was their idea all along and Bushnev just folded to pressure. They'll likely blow that, however, just as now they'll just continue in the "me, too" chorus on Iraq, as they have from the beginning. "Success" will be on our local screens every night (with few challenging the BS response we'll get to "how many will still be there and will stay there after the first Tuesday in November?"), and it will give enough Repub incumbents, including Lieberman by August, enough cover to pull through the election. (How does a conservative like Webb win in VA, for example, if Iraq and superior military experience to Allen's are off the table and he's just as bad on most other issues for Dems who might otherwise turn out?) As Billmon says, some of us have been here before with Nixon and the 1972 elections, but the older you get, the more you see that "the only lesson of history is that we don't learn the lessons of history."

The first Wednesday after the first Tuesday in November could be a real hoot here on the blogs. For Repubs.


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Big Saturday (Sabado Gigante)

I've made clear on this site my interest in telenovelas, but I haven't said much about the other thing I watch on Univision. "Sabado Gigante." Three hours of what basically amounts to a cafeteria of American tv condensed in what is usually a pretty frantic evening. It has everything--buxom, leggy women, game shows, beauty contests, talent shows, gong shows, buxom, leggy women, comedy skits, music acts, buxom, leggy women, specialists like hypnotists, fortune tellers and gossips, team competitions among audience members, zoo animals with their telegenic keepers, buxom, leggy women, confessionals, and DNA testing. (Yes, DNA testing--guys who doubt their paternity of kids have the results announced on stage in front of the world, the kids sometimes theirs, sometimes not, the news sometimes good, sometimes not.) They used to have a Johnny Carson kind of talk show for a segment or two, but that's been expanded into its own show on Wednesday nights, hosted by the star of both--Don Francisco.

For those of you who are coffee fans, this is not that Don Francisco. This Don Francisco (DF) is actually a Chilean named
Mario Kreutzberger. (Yes, Mario Kreutzberger.) His parents fled Nazi Germany and he was born in Chile. As a young man he spent some time in the US and went back to Chile determined to develop a show featuring the best (everything's relative) of US tv. He started in 1962 and has been going ever since. In 1985 he started a Miami-based version of the show and gathered what had to be millions of dollars in air miles by continuing the Chilean version each week as well. He did stop the latter a while back, turning the reins apparently over to the most talented person he could find, his daughter. That show is still rolling as well.

"Sabado Gigante" is an acquired taste. DF speaks a Chilean Spanish, which means my wife, with her degree in Spanish, still can't understand him. (One of the weirdest things about some of the telenovelas on Telemundo which come from South American countries is they have to be dubbed in Spanish for the North American Hispanic audience. It's worse than watching "The O.C." dubbed in Chinese. Not that I've ever done that or anything.) The humor is broad and, as I noted in my last "Betty La Fea Mas Bella" update, not always politically correct. The skits and the games can be quite suggestive. One of my favorite games is the one where three couples have to go behind a lit screen so we get their shadows, take off their (outer) clothes, put on their partners', and then run back out from behind the screen and ring the bell first. I also like the one where the female has to bust balloons on her male partner in a variety of positions including a bed and facing each other on a chair. Just don't see that much on US tv. The females, the skit players and the co-hosts, are straight from a Matt Helm movie of the '60s, and they have three or four female dancers who just show up, usually just before or after commercials, in various stages of undress. They tried having a guy dancer a while back, but somehow it just didn't work.

Anyway, it's right at 7:00 right now as I type and I thought, rather than a bland overview to tempt you, I'd live blog the entire show tonight. Besides showing my wife is out of town and I have no imagination, life, or hormones left, I think it could be the experience of your lifetime. So hold onto your seats.

7:00--We're greeted with this weird futuristic kind of opening that leads us to the set and the three dancers of the night, in short tops and shorter skirts in your favorite Trix colors. The Voice of the show has just introduced "DOOOOOOONNNNNNNN Francisco!!!!" DF points out the sections of the audience coming from different Hispanic countries, I think, and introduces his sidekick Javier and the latest set of female co-hosts. Haven't understood a word he's said, and I mean translated or untranslated, but the audience in front of him is wiping off their necks and shoulders.

7:03--They've launched directly into their beauty contest, which consists of the contestants in strips of costume "dancing" with male professionals until they get 30 seconds with DF. This group is apparently made up of waitresses, complete with video of them delivering menus and/or meals to booths. Lots of leg, cleavage, and far more gluteal material than you find on our programs, unless it's Cinemax about 11:00 at night. Number 3 has my vote so far, although the first two were better than usual. Number 4 is actually dancing, but she turned sideways once and disappeared. I get surprised by the votes sometimes but I don't think she's got enough, and I mean that literally, to get her to the top of this contest. Now the audience is voting electronically (not sure if they're Diebold machines), and we'll wait eagerly through a Hyundai commercial (doesn't that strike you as globalization run wild?). Turns out there must be more later in the show because they just eliminated Number 2, who was the most physically impressive, which just shows how important true talent is for these contests. More later, I trust.

7:11--"Cuatro" just appeared. This is a character, a female with a blond wig and schoolgirl outfit complete with white kneesocks and black, patent-leather shoes (she's probably in her 50s now), who fakes love for DF (I hope it's faked), interrupting him in the middle of the show to do a comic dialogue. I'd probably like this if I ever understood DF. It reminds me of that "What a dog hears" cartoon, only I'm the dog. I like watching the audience watching the action taking place up in the seats with them. Tonight she's reading him a letter from her "novio" that is apparently romantic but she's sad about something. She tells him why, he gets exasperated and makes her leave. The audience thought it was funny so I smile. Sometimes that's best.

7:15--DF and the tallest of the blond, leggy co-hosts, who happens to be buxom, are introducing a Hellman's commercial, "Dales lo mejor." Gives the best? Oh, "give them the best." Okay. Now there's a commercial for "Cantando por un Sueno" (sorry, don't know how to do the tilde). This is the sequel to "Bailando por un Sueno," Univision's version of "Dancing with the Stars" with a twist of having "people with a dream" dance with celebrities, so the dancing wasn't always impressive from either partner. My biggest problem with it was that it took three hours every time, which meant mucho filler. Singing for a Dream looks like a less interesting version of the same. Not likely to watch.

7:19--Okay, as you might expect, now they are showing a replay of the Argentinian goal against Germany in the World Cup. DF has passed the camera to Fernando Fiore, one of Univision's sportscasters, and we get the replays again. Never cared much for soccer (aka "futbol"), even when I coached The Boy's little league team, but a well-played goal, with multiple assists, is very impressive in replay, like a well-run 3 on 2 break in basketball. This is something the US didn't really have to worry about this year.

7:23--Off to a skit with two old women in shawls lamenting something about their "memorias." One ends up knocking on wood for luck, then going to answer the door. By the time I get it, they've moved on.

7:24--Okay, the waitresses are back, competing for a car. They're racing to a revolving tray of beer bottles, which they carry back to their positions and open. 19 seconds left, 13, 10, 7, 4, 2, 1 . . . . Number 1 got 8 done, Number 3 got 7, Number 4 got 7. A playoff!! Overtime!! But Number 3, my favorite, fell down. It's still close. Time's up!! Not sure if Number 4, the really skinny one, won or lost the playoff. I'll find out when the finals come on.

7:27--A Domino's commercial. "Abre la puerta. Es Domino's!!"

Gotta hit the head. Back before the next segment.

7:30--Commercial for "Christina," their "Oprah." Will probably miss the next one.

7:31--Javier helps introduce a Reggaeton performer, but then he and DF switch to an Allstate commercial. Is Allstate presenting this guy? DF just said "Here we go!" Only took 3-4 seconds for me to get it. Now we're watching Hispanic guys do rap, complete with choreography and smoke. Muting. The audience is dancing and clapping. Lot of participation expected on this show. What's weird about this isn't just Hispanic guys rapping, it's that sometime tonight we may have some guy in a big sombrero and black sequined jacket doing a traditional number, at least traditional for non-Hispanics. I love this show. Do I have time to go get a snack? Nope, number over. The guy's showing DF how to do the moves. He mumbles worse than DF. This might go on a long time. Nope. DF's moving him off quickly. Another Allstate commercial, Javier and the tall blond co-host. She's buxom.

7:37--Javier runs back to DF to lead into whatever's coming now. He's really a good Ed McHahon.

7:38--Uh-oh. This is a new skit. A doctor's office, complete with doctor lusting after his nurse, who got her uniform from an adult lingerie website. Not that I know that, for sure. The skit is over quick, or I was shell-shocked. Before going to commercial, we see waitresses #1 and #4 dancing, waiting for their next turns. She must have won the playoff, eliminating the best looking one. This is turning into a talent contest, like the Miss Wisconsin pageants.

7:40--New telenovela coming! "Heridas del Amor." Apparently the heroine loses a boyfriend (the guy who played "Greco" on "La Madrasta"--he's good) to her sister (played by a long-time villianess type, be interesting if she's "good" in this one). Hmm. I've seen other commercials with the hero guy, who doesn't get used very much. These guys tend to rotate, and I think there's a "star system." The heroine had a brief but unimpressive role on "La Fea Mas Bella." This looks like one to pass on, even with Greco. Ooop. Here's a quick commercial for "La Fea." What a good show. And here's one for "Don Francisco Presenta," the talk show that spun off "Sabado Gigante." For once he doesn't have any interviews with a leggy, buxom celebrity. How's he going to get an audience?

7:44--Trix dressed dancing girls. Okay, back to the waitresses. They're apparently going to have to pour and take champagne to a customer. It's just like being in a real restaurant, only with a fake acting scene. The customer takes an interest, now they're liplocking. This can't end well. Sure enough, here comes the dwarf boyfriend, pulling out a gun. I'm not kidding. He shoots them both. They fall down well. The audience is applauding. I love this show. Here comes Number 4, doing the same scene. She may actually be better at this. Oh, no. Dwarf time. He shoots them both. Then DF shoots the dwarf. The audience votes with applause for the two. Another tie! Lord, the pace is hectic. Back to a Hyundai commercial. Now they're having the two roll big dice down the audience steps to determine the winner. Number 4, of course, rolls a 6 to Number 1's 4 so the worst looking of the bunch wins. Now she's picking one of three mechanical horses to win a race, just like at a fair, only a little more complicated, to win her car. Blue horse is beating yellow and red horses. The audience is into it. I wish I'd heard which she picked. Blue still leading, now red ties it. Now down to her last pick (sorry, I'd have to explain it, no time). RED WINS and she's sad so she must have picked blue. Too bad. In a fair world, she's never there anyway.

7:52--Cingular commercial with Fiore. He's everywhere. "La Fea" upcoming episode commercial. Why aren't you watching this yet? Now a commercial from those WalMart bastards. They're everywhere. The US may be gone 100 years from now, but not them. They'll be the first in Antartica as global warming works its magic, wait and see. Copa Mundial commercial. This really is the world's game. Just can't watch it.

7:56--Back to DF. He just brought out this little boy in a suit and sat him down to ask him questions about US history. He's astounding them all. He just named the 7th President. (You do that.) Now the 34th. And he gives their middle names. He'll be a hit with the ladies at parties. This show uses little kids the way Cosby and Art Linkletter did, although the talent contests with little Jon Benets looking like Thalia can be more than a little disturbing. Now the kid just named the shortest and tallest Presidents. DF asks if he has a girlfriend. He's reading my mind. The boy doesn't. Not even his mom? He's handling DF like a pro. We'll see him in Congress someday. I don't mean that in a good way. Now the parents are getting applause. We should have put The Boy on tv. He could have named the mascot for every college team in America. I'm not really kidding.

8:02--The latest episode of "Cuatro de la Cuatro," the neverending chapters of the woman I mentioned earlier. Not big on this one, except for the guy dressed as the old woman who always falls down. Going to get my nightly Cocoa Puffs. Wait. The female who played the nurse just came in in a pink and purple "dress." Okay, she's gone. Time for my snack.

8:08--Kool-Aid commercial with Javier and the tall blonde who is buxom. Here's Hyundai again. Have I mentioned how weird this seems? Almost as weird as the Home Depot commercials that are really pronounced "Home Depot." Shouldn't it be Casa Depot? Of course, there's also the "Tylenol Time Gels" so I guess it's consistent.

8:13--A swami in a bejeweled turban just showed up in the audience with DF. Now a companero shows up and DF moves off. Oh, I get it. We're doing the comic hypnosis act. Hypnotized, the companero can "see" that one of the audience members has a watch on her wrist. No time for this. Got to wash out my bowl. I love Cocoa Puffs.

8:16--Okay, now DF's hauled up a couple from the audience who've been married 7 years. DF asks if the husband's ever sung to his wife. He hasn't, but he does now, complete with accompaniment. We see why he's never done it before. Oh, now I get it. This is one of DF's favorites, talking to an audience member about something, then pulling out a long-lost family member for a reunion. This time it's the husband's dad, not seen for 15 years. I'm never sure how up-and-up these are, but here comes dad and the tears seem real. . . . The hug's still going. . . . still going . . . . wife looking left out . . . . here come the grandkids . . . . okay, wife finally gets a hug. Fade out.

8:20--Onto to shorter blonde, who is buxom, and DF and an "Ingles sin Barreras" commercial. I can't see these without thinking of "Spanglish," which caught Spangler as much crap as "Click" did in yesterday's reviews. I like what Spangler's trying with his career, and "Spanglish" was great, the critics can kiss mi . . . don't know the word. I should get "Ingles sin Barreras."

8:23--Commercial for "!Que Madre Tan Padre!" which I can roughly translate and scares me. Jeez, here's Fiore again with a spot for his Sunday morning sports show. He's todo el mundo.

8:24--DF comes back to the missing padre. Wife is smiling, son is under control, very appreciative. DF can milk every tear from a crowd. Now, Javier is back helping to introduce a new band--brought to us, I guess, by Home Depot, not to be confused with Casa Depot, as a Spanish speaker might. DF walks up to the wrong guy in the band to get info on their new CD. Don't usually see him do that. "Trio Camela" is the group name. Not too bad. Definitely not reggaeton. It was interesting the last time I was in Best Buy. The CD section had a full row of nothing but Hispanic and Latino music, and I'm really not in a part of the country where you might expect this. I figure I have maybe 20-25 years left, and one of the things I think will be the most dramatic will be watching the Latinization of our country, anti-immigration types kissing mi . . . god, need to call my wife for that word. It's a good thing overall, even for us white Anglo Saxon types. There's a chance all our children will look like Salma Hayek. Lord, DF just called for "applauso" before the band was finished. Does he have a date or something after the show? He goes weeks without one mistake. Okay, short blonde, the one most likely to have a blowup dolls named after her, comes out to help DF introduce another comedy sketch, two guys on a park bench saying something funny about a drunk and Italians and Filipinos. One guy has a bird poop on him. This is good.

8:33--DF has moved to a segment on HIV and prevention with a guest representing an info group out of Texas. DF makes the point that Hispanic women are also possible victims. For all the grief I can give him, the guy has a social conscience and has organized a lot of charity for worthy causes. He gets the guest some kind of award and the audience is suitably impressed.

8:37--Now to a Tecate commercial. This is the first one that makes sense. DF was with the dark-haired Indio female who's been there the longest now. I remember the days when I had bigger breasts. Those days are long gone, impressively so. Okay, another replay of the Argentina goal for the sports show. Horizon Wireless. "Heridas de Amor." A commercial for Despierta America, their version of the Today Show, only with more singing, dancing, and comedy, the face of US morning shows to come.

8:41--Now we come to the weirdest part of the show. Even with the murdering dwarf figured in. They have this version of the Gong Show, with six singing contestants. First, "Molding Control" (aka a fancy girdle) with the tall buxom one and DF. Their Gong Show features a guy in black with a total white face mask who plays the trumpet for bad ones and takes them to the Lion's Cave. I'm not kidding. Number 1 tonight doesn't even get three notes out. Number 2 looks like my third grade teacher. Oh, no, she's salsa-ing. I'll never get this out of my mind. Looks like she'll clear the trumpet and finish her number, even gets to dance with DF, who loves to dance with the women. Number 3 gets to dance with Indio, for good luck, I guess, sings three notes and off he goes. I haven't seen the lion yet, a really bad costume job that gets to eat the losers as they're dragged into his Cave. Number 4 will clear the trumpet. DF has on a bizarre hat and is dancing around her. Off to short blonde and Javier hyping the girdle. I'm wondering what happened to trumpet boy's partner he's had for a few weeks, yet another leggy, buxom, well, you know, dressed in the same get-up only basically bare from the cheeks down, and I don't mean face. Number 5 had a short hook.

8:48--Off to a Splenda commercial with DF and taller blonde. Did you know Splenda is an official sponsor of the Mexican World Cup team? Commercial for "Peregrina," a typical telenovela that we blew off pretty quickly. Good twin falls in love with naive beauty who mistakes his evil twin for him and marries him. Complications follow. Now they're into their "ultimos capitulos," which means just 2-3 weeks left. The good twin is in prison for taking the fall for Peregrina who was charged with killing evil twin when really it was the maid. I caught up in about 30 minutes last week. This is the recommended way to watch most telenovelas that just get cranked out. Only about 1 in 6 is a "Betty La Fea" or "La Usurpadora" or "La Madrastra."

8:53--Back to the last Gong Show contestant. All dancing so far. Oh, there's the lion, at least a doll on trumpet boy's belt. There in spirit, I guess. Wonder where the "real one" is. Blew the trumpet on him but the audience protested. The guy's trying too much with voice inflection but he might make it. Okay, he did. That means 2, 4, and 6 made the finals. They gave it to 6, the guy who almost got tossed. He's running off in happiness, missing his chance to get his 1000 US dollars from the Indio, who is mucho mas noticeable up top tonight. Nope, she gets it to him. At least my third grade teacher didn't win it.

8:56--Yes!! They're doing a DNA segment! Guy "doubts his paternity of his daughter" (only in Spanish). Giving his side of the story. He has no doubt (no duda) that she's not his. Now here's the video from the mama. She disputes his no duda. Ooop, here's the daughter. Seems nice, cute. She seems to like him. He wants to know for sure. Here comes the cute lab technician with the results, having trouble spitting out the long words . . . she's not his daughter. With zero probability. This leaves everyone a little down. Even the technician. Off to commercial.

9:03--Little blonde with DF for "Dove Energy Glove" which is pronounced "Dove Energy Glove." Kool-Aid. Wendy's. Allstate again. Back to the mayonnaise.

9:05--Javier and DF introduce . . . yes!! The Mariachi band!!, complete with sombreros and black outfits with gold trimmings. This guy apparently won one of their singing contests, according to the archive tapes they're showing. I love music that still can find a place for an accordian. Wow. The guy has his own CD now. Need to look for that next time I'm at Best Buy. He actually is good. I wish I could do the sombrero look. I'll check with my wife.

9:11--Restaurant skit. Five dollars for coffee?? Throwing coins in the air. Didn't get this one at all.

9:13--DF's got a guy on stage who's been separated from his wife for 6 weeks. This is always a weird segment. He brings on these guys who have done something, usually cheated, sometimes physical abuse, who want to ask their sweeties to forgive them. DF questions them, sort of gives them a hard time, tough love Larry King style. Then he shows a tape of the woman in question and gets her side of the story. Once that's over, he sends the guy over to a door to open. Sometimes the woman's there, sometimes not. When they're not, it's more awkward than the DNA thing. This guy seems sincere (but don't they always?). The wife is skeptical. DF says there's a nina (nino?) involved, a familia, right? Yes, yes. The guy looks like we may get tears, behind the door or not. Come on, you're milking this a little too long. Okay, off to the door. Slowly . . . no one there. Back to her tape. She's not buying his story, whatever it was. DF sends him on his way with wisdom. The guy nods. I just noticed he's wearing a Miami Hurricanes shirt. Don't feel sorry for him now. Lord, they must be running long tonight. This poor guy got more time than the waitresses. Finally, out the door and back to the Twix dancers.

9:21--Now we have a Ford commercial. This just seems better somehow. Now "Heridas" again. The show can't last as long as these commercials. "Home Depot" and soccer (futbol). A commercial on what Hispanic women suffering abuse can do to get help. This is clearly a case of a television network taking responsibility for righting a real problem in its society. I wonder what that's like?

9:24--One of the dancing girls has a little bit of a tummy on her. I like it. Okay, here comes probably the most annoying part of the show, where the unibrow "police officer" of the police station skit about to come on comes out and dialogues stupidly with DF. Tonight it's about soccer (futbol). At least he's on and off quick. I actually like the skit. The female officer, the nurse from before, is sort of in uniform and is leggy, bux . . . never mind. I notice that the one female in the cell is the one who helps the zookeeper when he's on. I'd actually thought she might be his real helper. Well, maybe she is and is just a real trooper pitching in. Nice cheeks.

9:28--Okay, this one is new and strange. A segment on a boy who grew up, underwent plastic surgery, and is now, after 38 operations, "Barbi." Bet every Mexican guy watching in a bar right now just had Tecate come spewing out his nose. DF is going in depth with his questioning. She's a good sport and the surgeon had to make a ton just for those breasts. We see her on tape playing with her dogs on her bed. Okay. Moving on now.

9:32--Commercial with Indio and DF for "Century 21." Shouldn't this be "Century Viente-Uno"? They're in 42 countries, I see, so maybe not. You can keep up with all the World Cup scores with Verizon Wireless, I should inform you.

9:37--DF pulls out another couple from the audience. He's apparently asking what kind of food they like to eat. Don't get the point of that at all. I wish I spoke Spanish for this show. Is the program running short tonight? Did someone cancel? Short blonde again with the girdle.

9:39--Now the Shakira impersonators come on. Actually this one sort of looks . . . are they doing male impers . . . no, he's talking to her, seems more female. The second one's impersonating someone named Olga. Sounded good, no clue if it was a good impersonation. I don't know . . . is this a guy? That "Barbi" thing must have freaked me. The third one is really named "Luis" so I guess my question's been answered--calls himself "Lilu." Didn't catch who he's impersonating. This is officially the strangest "Sabado Gigante" I've ever seen. And I've seen the bobbing apples contests. Here's a Juan Miguel being an Alejandra Guzman. Juan Miguel prefers to be called "Brenda." The audience seems impressed. They're doing the arm sway thing. He just did the splits, even in those thigh-high pink boots. Just said hello to his folks. Seems like a nice person. Never thought I'd be glad to see the girdle commercial again. Javier and the tall blonde, about whom I begin to wonder. DF brings out the four contestants for audience applause vote. Juan Miquel wins 2000 US dollars!! And gets some roses from the shorter blonde, whose body is only marginally better. I need a break.

9:49--Disney's "World of English" commercial, with that "girl" in the short skirt and top who does the weekend kids' shows and gives every 11-year-old boy in Mexico his first strange feelings. Great legs and pigtails. I need my wife. Another Kool Aid commercial. Actually it's strangely welcome at this time. Splenda again. "Cantando" again. Commercial for "Que Dice La Gente?," a big hit show on Telefutura that's just come to Miami for a US version, featuring Marco Antonio Regil, who actually does it better than any of the US "Family Feud" hosts. We just hope the Family Feud curse doesn't . . . not even going to say it.

9:54--Final segment. Javier and tall blonde picking the audience members to come play for the Ford Escape along with the winners of the night's contests. The Gong Show winner picks the Ace of Diamonds immediately. The Indio is displaying the car right now. The same guy who did Bambi must have done her. Now the guy gets to pick from 12 numbers that light up and get four tires before getting 3 "ghosts" to win the car--first one, blank, second, ghost, third, tire, fourth, tire, fifth--DF keeps hyping his talk show, yes, yes, this Wednesday, we know--ghost--does the guy want to quit now and take $1000? Yes. Es no estupido. Very quick goodnight from DF, Javier, and co-hosts. Trix dancers. They're out of here.

I swear I've never seen a show like the one tonight. But that's why I like it. I've been watching for years now, even after Rachel, my favorite co-hostess, a brunette in a mainly blond world who always smiled like she knew exactly how wonderfully unreal this show really is, and Sissy, the best calendar girl, left. I promise I won't do this again. It's too hard, really, and takes up too much space on the blog, but now you know what it's about now. It's better in real time. Let us know when you've watched one. Thanks for hanging in. I really need to go to . . . well, goodnight.


One Last Time

This is the last post I'll be doing on the Kos-Armstrong/TNR debacle. In fact, the way our side has responded has made me seriously consider dropping participation in and (except for Digby and Billmon) following the blogworld. No great loss to anyone but me since I've been reading the Ted Barlows and Chris Andersens since there were only three of us online. But the reaction to this mess has been too similar to a National Review approach for comfort, with no apparent recognition that there is a world outside the blogosphere that may catch glimpses of this and not see at all what our insular colleagues see.

The stuff about Kos paying people, blackmailing, whatever. If it's not true, he does need to sue. It would be called for. But he better win and he better outdo the Pravda on the other side. If he was worried about giving oxygen to this story, that would do it. And it would encourage even more digging. ("Was he really even in the Army? There's a guy who served in his unit at the same time who swears he never saw him.") And laughing off the "Kos is gay" stuff will go the same way. His is not the face that should be leading the way, even in his uniform. That face is Jane Hamsher's. Frankly, I think the outing of bloggers that hit his Armando would go nuclear, but it might anyway. I'm a firm believer in taking the offensive and not letting challenges go unattacked, but be ready for the battle. Don't think it won't be brutal.

But, as someone more outside than inside, I just want to warn people that the case that seems so apparent to all the insiders, the Yearly Kossers, is not clear at all. Right now, if anyone is paying attention at all, it comes off as he said/he said, and everybody looks like people we should change the channel on. Gilliard says he never sent the incriminating memo and Greenwald backs him? So f******g what? Zengerle says he did. Are we going to claim that bloggers aren't journalists so shouldn't protect sources? Really want to go down the "outing sources" road? It happens that I believe my side on this, but that's because I respect Greenwald from his blog. The people who don't know him from their school board member just hear "blah, blah, blah."

The fact is that this is primarily just a flame war, but it's setting some precedents and showing some predilections that I am very concerned about. There are two questions here that, if either is answered "yes," the progressive blogs are making a big mistake in their approach:

1. Did Armstrong accept a settlement that punishes him in his civil suit with the SEC?
2. Did Kos try to organize a blog effort to keep that very relevant point about an A-lister's credibility from the rest of the community?

We know the answers. With all due respect, the "I was too poor to get an attorney" and the "You haven't heard my side" laments are weak and embarrassing. We depend on the demonstrated integrity and honesty, the willingness to admit mistakes and take responsibility for them, to distinguish us from the other side. If we don't or can't, then, when we need to win our arguments based on the evidence and cases we can provide in the external society, we can be impugned on our own histories. Armstrong needed to say, as soon as this came out, "I'm older and wiser now than I was then, and I pledge to everyone that I will commit myself to open and transparent dealings with my community and the larger society." The transparency is key, which is why Kos' effort to cover it over is not wiped away by "he knows I'd kick his ass" or "I've pissed him off before." It's the effort, not the response. From now on, to those who do pay attention will either have this in their minds or reminded to them every time push comes to shove over whose issues or positions or candidates are right. Our side has not been wrong in asserting its independence, but it's done it in that snarky, smart-ass way that sounds cool before the long-term damage of it becomes known.

I've run campaigns, I've been elected to local public office twice, I've taught election techniques and political communications, I've held relatively important policy positions. Not an A-list blogger, but I've had some experience. I feel there is a self-imposed ignorance of the impact and consequences of what's going on. It's the way GM responded to Nader, not the way Tylenol responded to the poisoner. I'm not saying not to fight back. God, there's way too much of that. But there's a way to do it, and it's not what's being done.

Kos and Armstrong needed to come clean and upfront, pledging commitment to total transparency and challenging Zengerle and his backgrounders to do the same. Without any of the sophomore snark. While they were doing that, following Steve Soto's "two-tier approach" that no one anywhere ever seems to see the brilliance of, the C-listers who will never be the serious focus of counterattack needed to do the dirty work, outing Zengerle on the e-mail problem and questioning the timing of the outburst right after the positive notoriety of Yearly Kos. "We're above the youthful exuberance of the '90s now, let's move on" and "Jason is a dishonest tool of a once-proud, now desperate screed" on different tracks. As it's been, we've had plenty of the latter and little of the former. People who might care or form opinions outside the blogosphere needed to get both in equal measure. That they've basically only gotten one speaks not just to the maturity of our side of the sphere but to our actual political talent.

Neither comes out well. And, as a long-time blog reader, one of the people who is there to be convinced and not to be lost, I just wish someone in the tempest right now seemed to care.


The March of Folly

Absolutely brilliant (typical) post by Arthur Silber (h/t Crooks and Liars) on comparisons of Iraq and Vietnam. Excerpts won't do it justice. Go read.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Everybody Knows Lance's Name

I'm a big Lance Mannion fan, maybe because he seems to come up with posts on unusual topics that you don't find many other places and usually they're unusual things I have a particular interest in. For instance, I've been a Nero Wolfe fan for decades, and guess who has an excerpt from one of the stories up right now? And for the last few days, as The Boy noted earlier today, Lance has had some thoughts on "Cheers" that are more than worth reading. Where else would you read in depth analysis of whether Shelly Long made the right career move in leaving the show?

As it happens, I agree with his answer, that she was right, not stupid, to leave the hit when she did. Her subsequent choices weren't shrewd, for reasons he goes into, but her Diane Chambers character had run out of room on the show and she was smart enough to know it. Like Larry Linville's "Frank Burns" and Gary Burghoff's "Radar" on "M*A*S*H*," she created a great character that had reached its logical conclusion. It was time to move on. (Note I said nothing about Maclean Stevenson or Wayne Rogers.) And Lance is right that "Cheers" was a funnier show with Kirstie Alley.

But I liked "Cheers" better in its Shelley Long days, and the reason was Sam. Beyond their extraordinary chemistry, with Diane on the scene, Sam from the very first episode saw a greater potential for himself. The "dumb" lifetime jock and cocksman really had a depth to him that she gave him a chance to out, even when he frequently didn't want to. To me, the show wasn't just about how Diane did or didn't change through her interactions at "Cheers"; it was also in those early years about how she challenged Sam to be someone new and better himself. As Lance notes, that was why Carla feared Diane so much. With Diane gone, Sam reverted to type far more often, frequently becoming a caricature of the guy of the five Diane years. It provided a lot of funny plots and new romances, but it was sad to see Sam lose what he might have aspired to, at least until the very last scene in the finale.

His last scene with Diane makes my point. The last two Diane "Cheers" are, while not the funniest, my favorites, and for the endings of both. In the first, you get to see what would (might) have happened if she and Sam had gotten married, with elderly Sam coming inside their house, seeing elderly Diane knitting or something, then offering his hand to her to dance, which she does, still in love and affection, the lust that filled their storyline transmuted into something very lovely. In the second, when she leaves their wedding to go get that novel finished before tying herself down, Sam reaches that sense of self-knowledge and what his future holds. It's not her. And he lets her go. "Have a good life," he tells her as he watches her walk up the outside steps and out of his own. I'm not proud to say that I got goosebumps just typing that. It was a special moment for a character and a show, and for tv actually, and it wouldn't have happened for any other actors than Ted Danson and Shelly Long as Sam and Diane. That bond made those five years special and would have made any more difficult to pull off with anything like the care and quality. Which is why she was smart to leave (and why her return in the finale was a slap at the entire history of the show, as Lance also more or less says).

So, yes, "Cheers" was funnier with Kirstie than Shelly. But I have the first two seasons of "Cheers" on DVD and may eventually get the fifth one. I won't buy any of Kirstie's.

And to The Boy, Lance was right about one more thing and there's no reason to doubt him. While Kirstie's legs were attractive, Shelly's were great. Case closed.


Full or Self-Service Pumps, Sir?

This is the last time I harp on this, because I'm more tired of it than you, but Lance Mannion has yet another Barbara O'Brien quote that demonstrates the weakness of the voting first and holding responsible second position (aka "winning" is more important than what's "won"). She thinks she caps her argument by saying:

The house is on fire in other words. Some of us think our first priority is to put the fire out any way we can. We can argue about what wallpaper pattern would look best in the master bedroom some other time.

With all due respect. The question isn't wallpaper patterns. The question is, will the Dems really put out the fire? They only got halfway after Watergate but let Ford and Nixon's pardon off the hook, even controlling Congress and with a Dem in the White House. After Iran-Contra and its pardons, they folded up completely, even controlling Congress and with a Dem in the White House. If they had taken care of business either time, we wouldn't be here now. Winning one or even both houses now makes a difference how?

The assumption that mere election puts out the fire or brings in the firemen (Casey? Webb? The existing crew of Sunday morning Dems?) hasn't been proven by our recent history. It's not irrational or stupid, it's not "wallpaper," to fear that this election will be more of the same, not the transformational change and rededication to the American Legacy that must come before we have gone too far to return. Merely stopping some of the gasoline from being poured isn't enough. As we've noted, strong Dems worth voting for would put forward those themes, require allegiance, and be prepared to act on it from Day One, as the Repubs did with their famous 1994 Contract on America.

The Dems O'Brien wants us to vote for without question or conditions haven't shown us that they want anything more than simply to get power back. They will more likely gladly accept O'Brien's vote and then eventually hand the fire back to the next round of Bushes after voters react to the Dems' problems dealing with the mess they'll be facing, with the Repubs and their Pravda again able to blame everything on them. O'Brien and those who support her thought are caught in a Catch-22 they refuse to acknowledge, much less deal with, dependent on the good faith, wisdom, and courage of people who have demonstrated little of them in the last 30 years. Maybe that strength and leadership will come from a Lamont or Tester (assuming they don't fail between now and November). Maybe the Dems' current leaders will see that their only sure path to consistent majorities is to place winning "what" over "winning." But there is little there to indicate any of that at this point. Until she and her colleagues get that, her vote just slows how fast the gas gets poured.


It's the Oil, Stupid

Sadly, No! has a great post up on why we're in Iraq and going to stay there, Iraqi "government" timetables be damned. We're there because powerful people believe that we will need oil for our economy for the foreseeable future. We can't allow that to be debated, in their view, because it might lose so we get secondary, once defensible reasons. But oil has always been key and the argument for it, while ultimately weak, has never been irrational. Nations and similar leaders throughout history have been willing to war for vital resources. Pretending it's not the key reason only leads to silliness and disillusionment, as seen in the recent Congressional "resolutions." We do need a real debate on how/whether we transition from oil to other energy sources, but we won't have it until reality forces it on us. In the meantime, read the whole post. You won't see better.


Higher Standards and Double Standards

I've been very disappointed and concerned by the reactions of my favorite and not-so-favorite bloggers to the Armstrong stock swindle problem and the subsequent effort by Kos to cover it up. I'm not talking about Kos blackmailing people or controlling funds. I don't believe that. I do believe that Armstrong has accepted a plea with the SEC that allows him to go around saying, "Well, I didn't really do anything wrong. Wait until you hear my side of the story." That's the attractive thing about taking the plea. I'd bet good money those were Spiro Agnew's last words. They're the words Frist is going to say if/when he strikes his deal with the SEC. Are we going to say, "You know, he must really be an honest guy because that's what Jerome says"? Look at the high ground this is going to cost us. And I do believe that Kos tried to keep the issue off his buddies' blogs when it is a legitimate thing for those of us who read blogs for reliable information and not just the preferred version of events to know.

I'm sorry, but this gets to an essential issue of trust and credibility that can't be swept away just because he's on our side. It goes to the heart of what I had hoped was the difference between us and the Repub blogs. It's how so much evil is done by professionals who shut down knowledge of their colleagues' mistakes and incompetence instead of policing them as they should, no matter how hard it is and how much ammo it gives opponents. Armstrong's history should have been common knowledge. He didn't do anything wrong? Then don't plead. He's learned from the experience and is now a better person and pledges himself to never being questioned again? Sorry, haven't heard that yet. What you don't do is gather all the followers together, just like Karl calling out the lackeys, to get the talking points straight and to shut down discussion of it.

And even if it doesn't bother you personally that one of our own got punished by a federal agency for misleading for financial gain, how about the use it's given to those who would discredit everyone he associates with? It's already happening, and our response has been pure Repub smoke machine, complete with reverse charges of "Swiftboating" of Armstrong. Swiftboating? Jesus. Kerry has the medals and the wounds. Armstrong has the plea agreement. I've also seen blogs talking about us as increasingly sectarian. You don't think this isn't going to feed and confirm that?

This is a big deal, folks, whether you want to believe it or not, whether you think it's fair or not, and the way it's been treated by us demeans all of us trying to have an open, honest medium. Armstrong and Kos, along with Atrios, ARE the face of our blogs, despite all its diversity. If they get cut effectively, we all bleed. Our opponents know that if you cut off the head, the tail dies. I can't believe this is the only skeleton, real or unreal, that will be hauled out as the Big 3 gain more and more notoriety, and, if our response is this very Repub-like insularity and IOKIYAKos, then we're in for a long, sad haul. We should be holding them to higher standards, not applying double standards, and tough shit if they don't like it. They've put themselves there.

I'm just a nobody Z-lister, not tied into what are increasingly sounding like Kewl Kidz. I'm really more a long-time fan of our blogs than a participant, an outsider looking in at the network, at people I thought I could trust, someone who, because of this, is coming to question the utility and integrity of what I had once hoped would make a real difference. I'm shouting into the wind that this looks bad. This is bad. Don't laugh it off, don't minimize, and don't think the fact that Zengerle is a first-class tool wipes everything away.

Fix it.

Before it's too late.


Kidnapping Jesus

It's time to once again reproduce the latest cover story by Frosty Troy (the Molly of Oklahoma) at the Oklahoma Observer. As always, The Observer is 0% web-based, but this is good enough for me to take the time to type out...any typing errors are mine, not his...

The Republican Party's Shame: Kidnapping Jesus
by Frosty Troy

There is no end to the wanton misdirection of the Bush Administration which is determined to turn American into a theocracy even if it means kidnapping Jesus.

The White House is paying down its political debt to the religious right (which is neither) by using billions of your tax dollars.

The Bush Administration says it is making steady progress in steering more federal taxpayer dollars to religious bodies, despite the fact that the country is broke.

In the last budget year, religious bodies received $2.15 billion in federal grants including Pat Robertson's misnamed Operation Blessing and Jerry Falwell's university. That represented 10.9 percent of the total grants from the seven federal agencies such charities were eligible to apply to in fiscal 2005.

Meanwhile, a war that Pope John Paul said was unjust has passed the $210 billion mark, with no end in sight. Corrupt contracts are revealed on an almost daily basis, spewing from an utterly corrupt Defense Department. This is Bush Christianity in action?

We take issue with the president's insistence that religious bodies that receive taxpayer dollars retain the right to hire and fire based on religion. It is rank discrimination.

We dropped our support of the Salvation Army when they announced they would discriminate in employment. As Catholics, we quit contributing to the Bishop's fund when he used the church newspaper to politick for George W. Bush. We support Catholic Charities and our parish.

We dropped out of the American Legion when the leaders turned the magazine into a cheering section for the Republican Party--especially Ronald Reagan, who holds the record for heading the most corrupt administration in history.

Oh, how Reagan could play the religious card while seldom attending church, donating virtually nothing to charity.

How can the VFW and American Legion give standing ovations to Bush, a combat-dodging coward while veterans returning from Iraq are treated like dirt? Who died in Bush's place while he was AWOL working in an Alabama political campaign? No greater love hath any man....

Talk to the Norman couple whose wounded son (he can never have children) suffers from severe post traumatic stress syndrome. The VA would pay for only half of his prohibitively expensive medication.

Look what Bush has done to the public schools under his faux reform, No Child Left Behind, all in the interest of vouchers for private and parochial schools.

Governing Magazine's national survey shows it would take $30 billion in new funding for public schools to break even under NCLB.

Please don't take our word for it. Check his '07 budget--a $4 billion cut in education funding. He's added as much as $1,500 to a student's cost of a college education.

Bush's gravest offense is to zero fund CareerTech, the most successful education program on the planet, one modeled by nation after nation. CareerTech is mostly high tech today but it still includes carpentry, an honorable profession practiced by a young man from Nazareth.

That $1.5 billion cut may not sound like much, but it's the $1.5 billion funding CareerTech needs to upgrade equipment, buy new tools and train the people who are the backbone of the economy. Even Congress told him to take a hike.

We're not putting down English majors, but don't compare them to auto mechanics, aviation mechanics, electricians, nurses, plumbers or computer managers.

When Tinker Air Force Base, the nation's air logistic center, found itself an alarming 200 aviation mechanics short, they turned to Oklahoma's magnificent CareerTech system who filled the bill.

I dream of a press conference called by [Oklahoma] Gov. Brad Henry to attack George Bush by name because he won't let the states negotiate for prescription drugs such as the VA does. What would Jesus do for 40 million uninsured?

I yearn for legislative Democrats who draw a line in sand on mindless federal mandates--The message should be what Utah sent: Mr. President, in all due respect, you can kiss our rear. God bless Utah. They told him to buzz off and take his NCLB mandates with him.

If the man is a Christian, why would he grossly underfund mental health for the sickest and most vulnerable among us? If he is a Christian, why would he propose abolishing all training programs for our youth and the after-school programs that keep kids out of gangs? Would Jesus oppose an increase in minimum wage?

Only Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson has had the grit to slam the president for defunding drug enforcement money at a time when Mexican meth is reaching our states in unprecedented amounts.

Bush's "faith based" initiative is designed mostly as a political tool, since the plan is popular with religious leaders who are influential in the Republican Party, his core base in the GOP.

GOP historian Kevin Phillips' terrifying new book, American Theocracy, points out that for the first time in our history, we have a religious party--one based on intolerance, greed and false piety.

He's funding fundamentalists and D.C. Catholic schools--often no consultation with Congress, no mandate from the majority of Americans who firmly oppose it.

It's a payoff to his 30 million fundamentalist supporters and the Catholic hierarchy. Like everything else he does, he thumbs his nose at the critics and dares them to do anything about it. Nice to know your tax dollars are going into their collection plates.

If you think you don't have a stake in this fight, guess again. Bush has put our country on the low road to a political theocracy--precisely the kind of politics the Colonists fled.

Bush is not the dummy he's pictured by the midnight comics. His rhetoric is garbled but he's very clever, especially good at manipulating the Catholic hierarchy who want abortion abolished and yearn for vouchers. Their silence on the war is a disgrace to their Roman collars.

The late Pope specifically declared Iraq an unjust war to Bush's face, yet the Catholic hierarchy in America has yet to open its mouth and the new Pope is mum. War is obviously far down on their list of priorities.

Bush has a lock on the Bible-thumping fundamentalists who would censor the Internet and libraries, gut the arts and turn public schools into holy roller Sunday school classes, teaching kids the earth is only five thousand years old.

The worst crime against humanity is not what Bush is doing, it's the cowardice of the silent American majority who know it is wrong but "support the troops" and don't want to have their patriotism or their religious beliefs criticized.

An Oklahoma City minister, Robin Meyes, is one of the few clergymen we've heard take off the gloves in secular public forums. If there are others, we applaud them.

As for the Democrats in Congress, not a single Democrat would sign Sen. Russ Feingold's resolution to censure the President for clearly violating the law by illegally eavesdropping on American citizens and by approving torture of American prisoners.

This nation needs a rebellion similar to that which finally ended the putrid Vietnam killing--a war that took 55,000 of ours and several million of theirs--and for what? Today they are a valued trading partner.

Every time the news comes on, more have died in that fruitless war in Iraq--a place we should have never been and a place we will never leave until enough of us find our conscience. Blessed are the peacemakers.

We think we can't lose this beautiful little experiment called America. We can and we are.