Sunday, September 20, 2009

Opinions on scattered current events

Senator Franken wins a seat-I was hoping having an SNL star crossover to the senate might make the Senate hip again. Perhaps, it's a sign of SNL's declining popularity (or probably the fact that Al Franken's Bad Boy era was so long ago and so less culturally relevant) that Franken's appoitnment hasn't had a lot of the youth following Senate affairs so closely. If someone from Gossip Girl or American Idol got elected to the Senate then, I guarantee you, all the youth would be following Senate proceedings.

Joe Wilson-I think what’s interesting about Joe Wilson is that there are people defending him on erroneous grounds and there are people chiding him on erroneous grounds. People say Wilson couldn’t have acted out of bounds because he’s a patriot. He’s a war hero and his son serves in the war. Never heard of anything less relevant. It’s also not relevant, Jimmy Carter, that people in the South are racists.

The Beer Summit-Definitely an interesting development. I fully agree that if people talk about their problems, things would get better. I think there might have been some perception that Gates could only look good to media exposure and Cawley would look bad. Cawley is just a lug-head cop and Gates is a distinguishged professor….Upon seeing youtube clips of both people being interviewed Cawley seems far more intelligible and, besides, did you see Gates' mugshot? Also interesting: Biden doesn’t drink beer ever. What an awesome thing to do: Abstain from beer your entire life.

Sarah Palin resigns-This lady was so adorable at first but then started revealing herself to be a vicious rabid bull dog. It was like the wool was slowly being pulled over my eyes with her and it took me a while to notice just how terrible she was. It’s one thing that Palin is just kind of an odd anomaly but she really gets pretty mad and crazy when she’s on the defense. I do think she still gets a little mischaracterized. I read a little more into that issue of her wanting to ban books from the library and Palin’s actions were totally misportrayed by the media. One thing’s for certain: She’s an anomaly.

Sarah Palin's talk of presidency-I think it would be impossible for Sarah Palin to win the presidency. People aren’t impressed by her directly. They’re only impressed by the fact that she could swing the “base.” In order to win the presidency, you can’t have entire segments of the population calling you out on lies that are moderately provable and you can’t have that many people hating you. She basically sunk McCain’s chances of beating Obama so how would she have been able to win without him?

Levi Johnston attacks Sarah Palin-I like Levi or at least I liked him based on the first two interviews I saw with Tyra Banks and Larry King. He’s dumb as a rock and he doesn’t pretend he isn’t. That’s about it. So many people going on talk-shows are intelligent or at least try to be. Johnston is pretty much showing us himself at face value, so I guive him credit for that. He also has this dumb-founded love for being a dad, has strong connections to his family (mom, sis, dad) and still said he would vote for Palin even though she hates him. I hear Johnston’s gotten a bit more Hollywood-like since, so now I’m not so sure until I see those interviews.

Two journalists freed- It sounds like a good question to ask….what is this TV network Al Gore owns? Is it on basic cable? Can the guy single-handedly produce that much content? He’s still kind of boring even if he won a Nobel Prize and while he's established himself as truly a deserving noteworthy person, it must have sucked to have his frenemy Bill Clinton be the hero instead of him. The event was interesting to me because it revealed the tension between Clinton and Gore if nothing else. Of course, this reinforces our belief that President Clinton is superman. Obama might be slowly rendering him irrelevant but here literally comes President Clinton to the rescue. I don’t know the details (and I don’t think anyone else does) of how exactly Clinton used his powers of negotiation but the fact that he succeeded was ridiculously cool and increases his mystique.

Governor Sanford falls under fire-What an exciting and interesting story! First of all, there’s a lot of hypocrisy in the “Governor Sanford deserves to be impeached because he votes for Family Values.” The only questions at stake were is it his personal business or does it concern the state? It’s true that he lied to the state about where he was but I think South Carolina has rightfully realized that it doesn’t cancel out his other accomplishments on the job. To vote him out is to vote him out on the basis of the affair, and just like we defended his rivals by this logic, an affair is someone’s personal business. If you’re going to form the view on whether Sanford deserves to go or not based on his votes on gay marriage or the Clinton impeachment, then you’re being vindictive. That being said it’s also a most entertaining story. Sanford is full of fun and amusing quotes.

Michael Jackson dies-Did people actually like Michael Jackson when he was alive? Seriously? I never even knew this. I remember elementary school kids starting to make fun of MJ’s weirdness. My whole life, I've never experience much but hateful xenophobia for Michael Jackson in the years leading up to his death that I think this outpouring of love is mixed in with a lot of guilt for how hard people have been on him. I don’t think people are admitting that at all. I also think his death is being cashed in on tremendously, but with the entertainment industry struggling so much, I don’t necessarily condemn them for it.

The health care debate-I think everyone should get basic coverage. Not amazing coverage but some basic coverage. I realize it’s complicated but I have to have faith that people are working on it. My basic question is "Are the guys who oppose Obama's plan being bought out by pharmacuetical or insurance companies?" I'm not really mad at these opposing congressmen if they just validly think that Obama's plan is bad but who can be sure.

Tom Delay on Dancing with the Stars-It's like the Governor Sanford thing where my political side of the spectrum is being shallow by attacking Delay for doing this. The number of hotshot liberal pundits (including Jon Stewart) who are taking advantage of him being on Dancing with the Stars to take all sorts of easy potshots at his character and use him as the butt of jokes. If the guy was still making laws, then I'd say it's ok to attack him, but the guy is on a dancing show. I should think he's still aloud to participate in society and I'll defend his right to publicly dance.

Blagojevich's nominee, Burris, makes it to the Senate and fizzles out-Well, duh! That Burris guy was obviously dirty. He was appointed by a dirty man who everyone knew was dirty. Why would the Burris appoitnment all of a sudden be legitimate? I sort of commend Sen. Reid and colleagues for being flexible enough to re-examine the case of Burris' appointment but we already knew that Blogojavech was the most laughably corrupt politician and he was specifically under pressure for selling the Senate seat.

John Edwards is a sleezeball-Seriously, this guy was so nice and charismatic but he lied 8 million times. OK, maybe we all pick and choose which scandalous affair we want to make a big deal of but Edwards was dangerously close to becoming vice president of America and practically discrediting the democratic party. I rank him at the bottom. OK, maybe I'm a hyppocrite?

Review of Extract

Extract is Mike Judge’s follow-up to the massively successful cult hit Office Space which came out 10 years ago. It’s told much in the same style so high praise should go to this guy for being able to establish himself as an auteur (in my book at least) within just two films. This is someone who has so many interesting connections between his two films that I’m happy to sit here exploring them and eagerly await his next project. The Office and Extract are sharp satires that holds no punches at the banality of working-class life even if it means painting the world as a pretty bleak place. Some really effective film comedies take you to places you’d love to live in: the free-wheeling madness of an academic’s life gone awry in Wonderboys, the small-town warm of Junebug, the music-filled self-discovery joyfests of Cameron Crowe’s films are good examples. Others like the TV show Weeds, Amrican Beauty, Good Girl, Napoleon Dynamite, Garden State, or Office Space (and this film) shine a light on the emptiness of suburban, corporate, or small-town life. The latter approach can be far more depressing than a comedy should be and can end up more like a Douglas Sirk melodrama than a comedy sometimes.

Office Space and Extract, however, avoids falling off the deep end, by making them stories of redemption for their main characters. In fact, Extract is a story that’s not necessarily notable for being funny. It has a little bit of humor and a few gags, but what drew me in was just that it had interesting characters. I’d be concerned that people would judge the film where it falls short. As a film, however, it’s terrific.

More thoughts on My Name is Earl damaging NBC

Again, please click on this link, because articles written for helium is where I get my revenue:
Click on the name and move around a little bit.

I’m not sure what NBC was thinking when they scrapped My Name is Earl in favor of having a line-up of Community, Parks and Rereation, The Office and 30 Rock.

The Office, 30 Rock, and My Name is Earl are all successes with built-in audiences. The My Name is Earl numbers might have been less strong but the show still had an audience. The president at NBC reportedly had difficult calls to make on Chuck and My Name is Earl and Chuck won him over because fans had a strong write-in campaign. They apparently mailed him Subway sandwiches. That’s the way to run a network?!

My first complaint is why are TV networks so oblivious to everything but Nielsen ratings? Just look up TV guide or Entertainment Weekly and see how often people are writing praises for My Name is Earl as opposed to a show like Yes, Dear or Two and a Half Men. Go to and and see how many people have posted votes or reviews on a series like My Name is Earl. See how active the message boards are. Talk to people. See how many fans of these shows exist on facebook. Look at Q ratings. Look at the volume of My Name is Earl-related twitter messages. Look at traffic on your site. Look at itunes sales and hulu sales. There are so many ready-made substitutes to Nielsen that a network can sell advertisers on. The fact that the network presidents are only looking at Nielsen ratings makes me annoyed at how oblivious to culture they are. It's also worth noting that Nielsen ratings have been thought to be statistically insignificant and are even more faulty in the digital age as people have more options for skipping commercials.

The NBC President’s decision only shows that Chuck has fans were more successful at mobilizing themselves. Chuck fans were a niche group who were strongly devoted to that show, but steady My Name is Earl watchers are more numerous I believe. Judging by the angry responses, I believe they existed as well.

Lastly, My Name is Earl was more important than Chuck because just think how good it would be for NBC to have a solid Thursday night line-up. Remember the days of Must See TV? How many years has NBC actually had 4 good sitcoms in a row and how excited were we as sitcom viewers to stay glued to our TV screens for two whole hours during those years? Remember those disastrous 8:30 shows like Union Station, Single Guy, Jesse, and that animated one King of the Pride? The brief My Name is Earl, Scrubs, Office and 30 Rock was one of the only years in my memory where that two hour block was solid. Scrubs moved networks and Parks and Recreation was worth a shot so the 2 hours were still pretty intact but most people agree that Parks and Recreation has a lot of kinks to rough out for the second season to be watchable.
Community is pretty promising but it could easily not live up to expectations either.

My bet? One of these two shows will bomb and the end result is that you’re only gonna have one and a half hours of comic gold to work with. Then My Name is Earl is going to be sitting there looking like a pretty attractive option. But, oh wait, you cancelled My Name is Earl and the actors have signed contracts for other things. Won’t you be kicking yourself when that happens?

The annoying thing: I’m not running a TV network but I can easily run it better than someone running a TV network because I see the same thing happening every year. In the meantime, I have to live with the decisions made by incompetent TV network execs.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cool Web Sites on my GoogleReader

Recommended from my google reader:

Of course, let's start everything by clicking here where I get my revenue (I don't get revenue from this site).

Also, I wrote an article on best websites of 2008 for helium that ranks #1 (

Here in Idaho ( and Que Sera Sera ( pair of female comedians. One is a humor writer and one does stand-up and brilliant impressions of Sarah Palin that go on youtube. Benincasa also had a humorous series on choosing a religion. Here-In-Idaho's recent posts have included minutes of the hobo quarterly clown meeting as well as numbers from Geometry the Musical

Indecision 2008 (off Comedy central's site)-The comedy central blog that I believe was run by the Daily Show staff, still has snarky pieces on politics that are pretty funny. Includes a lot of clips to the Colbert Report and Daily Show

Atomic Gadfly ( guy who writes in detail about movies inspired by comic books. He has a lot of posts, for example, on who should be the next Batman villain.

Lifehackers - Tips for saving time in your busy day and simplifying life now that the internet has sort of made things more complicated

The Film Doctor ( excellent analysis of film from someone who I believe takes a feminist perspective (I believe the author is a male, however0

Confessions of a Film Critic ( and The ( Both these sites are really good for straight-up reviews.

Film Experience ( incredibly prolific guy, Nathaniel Pfiffer, who runs one of the best Oscar-centered sites on the internet.

A.V. Club ( 4 Features that are pretty cool:
1. The Hater-Ironically, this is another female comedienne (maybe women are funnier with the pen). She is hillarious if a little pessimistic.
2. Inventory-Some pretty well-drawn out lists
3. TV Reviews-They review most of the hist shows on TV episode-by-episode. Reading TV reviews is more of an immediate experience than movie reviews.
4. Random Roles-Usually appearing on the press circuit to plug their latest project, actors usually are only talking about the here and now when they're being interviewed. This interview format has the interviewer picking selective items in their filmography and inviting the interviewee (usually an actor) to just comment on it.

Moral of the Story-The Ethicist's Randy Cohen who writes for the New York Times and tackles a bunch of reader questions and current events issues and argues the ethics of it. I don't know that there's a solid answer of right and wrong on matters but somehow he seems to make sense. He's looked at whether people have the right to post anonymously, whether Dave Letterman should have apologized to Sarah Palin, whether golf is a sport of the people, whether

The Movie Critics ( two movie critics from Entertainment Weekly write some pretty insightful angles on films. They leave the movie reviews in the paper and write more interesting stuff on the blog. A very good use of when a blog can be about writing something extra beyond the print edition.

Deadspin ( news with a twist. The articles generally expose athletes' shallowness and faults rather than putting them up on a pedestal.

Stuff White People Like ( don't read it as much. I think it's hayday was clearly last year. It looks at present day culture and analyzes it as if an anthropologist were looking at it.

The Official Cracked Blog ('s brilliant articles aren't available on google reader's feeds, but the blog is. A writer named Dan O'Brien writes outlandish love letters to people like Kristen Wiig, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Palin that you have to see to believe as well. Dan O'Brien also writes outlandish stories inserting himself onto the crew of the USS Enterprise and at Hogwarts. He also has another series of articles where he pretends he's a famous rapper and takes responsiblity for mismentoring Shaq and Kanye West among others.. Other hillarious articles are instructions on "punching Oasis in the face," psychological disorders of 10 video game characters, a book review of the holy bible, an imagined set of e-mails between Clay Aiken and Adam Lambert, the imagined first drafts of Indiana Jones and Transformers 2, an interview with Obama and McCain in the year 2012, and an imagined Joaquin Pheonix diary. In short, this is just really creative stuff.

Washington Post Metro and Washington Post DC Sports Bog-Written by Dan Steinberg for the Washington Post, firsthand accounts of the local sports scene. I also subscribe to Washington Post Metro.

Mark Cuban's blog ( and The Great Seduction ( Cuban has a lot of insight on the survival of media in the changing face of technology. Similarly, Andrew Keen is someone I consider one of the smartest people on the planet for his views on the negative effects on Web 2.0.

Ball Don't Lie and Fourth Place Medal (available off yahoo sports)-The former is about the NBA and the latter is about Olympic Sports. Both are excellent sources. The NBA blog regularly links to the best NBA articles around the web.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Patrick Swayzee dies with advance notice

Tragically, Patrick Swayzee died yesterday. I have more or less known Patrick Swayzee as the guy who looks kind of like Christian Slater and Kurt Russell and have never seen a single film of his.

If you wish to revoke my license to write about films, so be it. I am embarrassed to say that but it's true.

Nonetheless, my condolences do go out to Patrick Swayzee fans for the relatively young man (only 57) who was able to make the transition from young heartthrob to working adult actor quite well.

What I think is interesting is that anyone who was closely paying attention could have known that Swayzee was going to die very soon. I heard a report on the radio that the National Inquirer reported a week ago that said that Swayzee left the hospital where he was being treated for pancreatic cancer because he didn't want to die in a hospital bed. The Swayzee camp didn't confirm it but they didn't deny it either which they would have usually done.

I think this makes it interesting because rather than mourn the man, his fans had at least a few days before his passing to express his condolences and newspapers might have even published this news story before the man passes away so that for once we could have this celebration of a celebrity's life before it's too late.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

How to save the arts: An arts budget?

I just had a thought. One of those thoughts that I think could be somewhat revolutionary and want to expand more upon. I know it's kind of boastful to say this on a random internet message board:

Newspapers, tv revenue, music, it's all in decline and it's partially our fault. Sure more things are available for free, but that doesn't mean we have to take them for free.

I understand we used to get into the habit of saying, it's too expensive to pay for a song so we downloaded the song for free, but now so much is free that we are undercutting the very artists we love in all forms and the balance tips in our favor: writers, musicians, tv show producers and filmmakers.

We take the free content without paying for it often out of habit. The platforms that are giving out this free content like youtube are not servicing themselves financially (youtube's losing money for example) and not servicing their artists.

In order for anything to change, we need to take responsibility.

Here's a thought: I think we should allocate in arts budget within our disposable income. We used to go to the CD and buy CDs and that would be part of our budget. Let's each make it a point to spend that same amount of money on music in one way or another. I don't care how. Buy an mp3, donate to a band, buy a T-shirt if you know the proceeds will go to that band. Whatever it is, i think it hsould be seen that way.