Question of the day

After serving blood red meat to the clapping seals at CPAC, Ted Cruz took questions from the biggest clapping seal of them all. Predictably, Sean Hannity went the fanboy route, starting by asking Cruz how had he “bravely” survived criticism for helping to shut down the government in 2013?

He ended on a particularly obsequious note:

“Why does Ted Cruz love America?”




Super Bowl smackdown

The best Super Bowl preview you’ll read:

Compared to America’s official secular holidays (the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving), honoring America’s founding or the importance of family seems like work next to “Super Bowl Sunday,” which goes to all the effort of honoring itself. After even a perfunctory amount of pregame feature pieces, anyone watching will know how much the average seat cost, in order to reinforce the specialness of attendance. Pregame and halftime performers are introduced with a citation of the number of records they have sold, in case you are unaware of the rare cost of the treat.

More specifically, one guest at every party will have memorized the statistic printed in that morning’s paper and repeated on every pregame show indicating exactly how much 30 seconds of commercial airtime cost during the game. Despite the lack of creativity in the vast majority of commercials, many people watch the game solely to see how much money was spent selling them products, leading to the inevitable curse hurled at the screen, “Four-point-five million dollars for that?” This is serious business, and we are seriously invested, regardless of the fact that this is the act of insane people—like bitching not about the existence of Muzak, but because your favorite shoegaze band isn’t being played when the local cable company customer-service flunky puts you on hold.

At every step of the way, someone should laugh at this, and at every step of the way, every person involved in serving you this spectacle will completely fail to accomplish this basic human function. The NFL is all business at every given moment, because of that very serious $7 billion annual cost to the networks that broadcast it and are the primary source of “adversarial” journalism about it. On a workaday basis, this elevates insignificant bullshit like coaching and “game plans” to geopolitical high art, like two kids playing Risk thinking they are Talleyrand and Metternich about to vanquish Napoleon and establish the Concert of Europe.

When actual news breaks, the integration of the NFL as entertainment with its own reporting wing becomes unmistakable. At this point, Sports Illustrated‘s Peter King can’t speak when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is drinking a glass of water. ESPN’s Adam Schefter initially responded to Goodell’s preposterous two-game suspension of Ray Rice for knocking out his fiancée Janay by asking, “Was the Commissioner lenient enough?” There were, after all, the hundreds of thousands of people paying for fantasy leagues for whom Rice’s existence manifested solely as someone Starting or Not Starting in the NFL.


They make idiots bigger in Texas, too

Molly White

Politician · 1,607 Likes

· 7 hrs · Belton, TX ·

Today is Texas Muslim Capital Day in Austin. The House is in recess until Monday. Most Members including myself are back in District. I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws. We will see how long they stay in my office.


The making of a classic ending

The story behind Being There’s final scene is every bit as endearing as the movie itself (only “The Third Man” has a better denouement):

The script for Being There ends as both Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine take walks in the wood. They run into each other. She says “I was looking for you, Chance.” He says “I was looking for you too.” They take hands and walk off together.

But near the end of production, somebody went up to Hal and said “How’s it going?”

“Great,” Hal said. “Sellers has created this character that’s so amazing, I could have him walk on water and people would believe it.” Hal stopped and thought. “As a matter of fact, I will have him walk on water.” …

[Ashby] had to deal with keeping the shot a secret. There was this one, very well dressed kid around the set who was officially called a PA, but whom Hal suspected of being the studio spy. Hal called him into his office and read him the riot act.

“I’m going to ask you to make a decision right now that’s going to affect the rest of your life,” he told the kid. “I’m going to ask you to decided whose side you’re on. I know you’ve been watching me because you want to learn how to make movies. I also know you’re watching me to make reports to the studio behind my back. I’m about to change the end of this movie because I’ve come up with a better one. The studio can’t know about it or they’ll shut me down. This is it, kid. Decide. Are you on the side of art or commerce?”

The kid kept his mouth shut. The shot got made. The studio was pissed but they used the shot anyway. Hal didn’t give them a choice. He didn’t even shoot the ending in the script.

It goes without saying that would never happen today.


The Internet: Where everything is important

If Naomi Wolf’s vagina had its own website, it would read much like Salon — the homepage of progressive scolds who blog almost exclusively about phobias and “Girls.” Their dream headline would go something like this: “Why you should be concerned about Islamophobic critics of Lena Dunham.”

Salon likes to tell us what matters and why we should care, even if it doesn’t and we shouldn’t. Take this item about tossing salad, Brian Williams and … “Girls”:

In praise of “cool dads”: Why Brian Williams’ support of Allison’s “Girls” sex scene is important

If you were on the Internet at all this week, you know that. It was big news. So big it was as if the Golden Globes didn’t even happen. But — butt! — this rare — rear! — moment in TV history managed to spawn an even bigger news event than the fake butt-munching itself. Cue the headlines: “Brian Williams Watched Daughter Allison Williams in Raunchy Girls Sex Scene: Gross Details,” “Here’s How Allison Williams’ Dad Feels About That Butt-Eating Scene,” “Allison Williams and Her Dad Talk About That Time Her Butt Was Eaten on ‘Girls,’” “Brian Williams Reacts to His Daughter’s Anilingus Scene in Last Night’s Girls,” “Here’s How Allison Williams’ Dad Feels About That Butt-Eating Scene” and ”Allison Williams Motorbutted on Girls: How Did Brian Williams React?”

With great pride, of course.

He was supposed to cover his eyes and squirm in his seat and announce to the world how awful it was to have to see his daughter perform in a comedic sex scene. Instead, he announced to the world how proud he was of her. That’s what cool dads — that’s what good dads — do.

Every decision must be validated. Changing the subject, which I do whenever sex and relatives come up in the same sentence, is no longer enough.

It’s important that you understand that. Very important.


Scenes from a Buffalo tavern

I came across this item about defunct Buffalo bars while conducting “research” for a “project” I’m working on about the overuse of apostrophes.

 the place was so dirty that people were afraid to use our john’s. I use to bring mixed drinks in the back parking lot to the Buffalo, P.D.- I remember once when we were closing up a guy was shot outfront- he was crawling towards our front door so we locked it- we were afraid if he died in our bar we would lose our liquor license. We had students- cops- bikers- seniors- homosexuals- pimps- prostitutes- and thieve’s as our clientel.


The gentrification of a Hollywood landmark

I’ve always had modest ambitions. When I was a kid I wanted to have my own apartment and work in a newsroom like Mary Tyler Moore and now  I’m living the dream!

At one time I hoped that apartment would be located inside the historic Villa Carlotta, located at the base of the Hollywood Hills.

The Villa Carlotta, four stories and 50 units of embattled and endangered Old Hollywood noir that has for generations housed all manner of strivers and connivers on their ways either up or down the precipitous Tinseltown social ladder, was seedy from the moment the mortar set. The developer Luther T. Mayo built the Italianate villa at the corner of Franklin and Tamarind Avenues in 1926 from a design by architect Arthur E. Harvey, with rumored financing from William Randolph Hearst. Upon completion, it belonged to Eleanor Ince, widow of silent-film magnate Thomas Ince. According to legend, Hearst gave her the building as a gift after accidentally killing her husband on his yacht in 1924. The bullet, so the story goes, was intended for Charlie Chaplin, whom Hearst suspected was having an affair with his mistress, Marion Davies (Rosebud herself). Supposedly, Ince’s wife received the luxury residence hotel for her grief. Edward G. Robinson, George Cukor, and Marion Davies were among its early celebrity tenants. Louella Parsons, the most famous gossip writer of the era, penned her column from a two-story apartment on the courtyard. A personal favorite of Hearst’s, Parsons was on the yacht the night of Thomas’s alleged shooting, and is said to have received The Carlotta’s finest apartment for her silence.

I lived next door and would often make my way up to the roof, a great place to smoke a joint and stare at the Hollywood sign, or the menacing Scientology Celebrity Centre across the street. I could crash parties thrown by people I didn’t know, make a scene, and still be welcomed back the next day.

But those days are gone. Developers have taken over, hijacking the Villa Carlotta’s history to sell luxury hotel rooms while forcing me to sound like a hippie.

Still, it sucks to lose personal institutions. My favorite Hollywood drinking hole, Boardner’s — where you could get fried chicken cooked by a homeless guy who lived in the upstairs office — has transformed into a slick faux dive with, according to one Google review, “a frat party crowd.”

As Villa Calotta resident Stinson Carter reminds us, there’s a dark side to economic recoveries:

The Carlotta was a culture, and now it’s a quaint arrangement of brick, plaster, and wood. The courtyard is barren, the lobby is empty, and the hallways are dead quiet. The smells of rooftop barbecue, Nag Champa incense, and Humboldt Fog have been replaced by smells of old paint, crumbling drywall and dusty carpet. I could point a finger at the new owners, but that seems too easy. Artists make a place cool, and eventually “cool” acquires a dollar value. So money replaces it and the cool either moves on or dies off. Multiply that a thousand times, and across the 3,000 miles from coast to coast, and you understand why the most interesting urban neighborhoods in the country are becoming so beautifully bland.


Muslims, modernity and Maher

“I know most Muslim people would not have carried out an attack like this,” the host of HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher said on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live. “But here’s the important point: Hundreds of millions of them support an attack like this. They applaud an attack like this. What they say is, ‘We don’t approve of violence, but you know what? When you make fun of the Prophet, all bets are off.”

When you’re outspoken about the beliefs a group of people you better have your numbers straight, and Maher has no way of quantifying his claim. But dismissing him as a bigot overlooks significant evidence that a large faction of Islam remains at odds with modernity. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center study of Muslim attitudes in 38 countries from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, a majority of those polled supported making Sharia law officially binding. The Pew study notes that “Muslims differ widely in how they interpret certain aspects of sharia, including whether divorce and family planning are morally acceptable.”

The survey – which involved more than 38,000 face-to-face interviews in 80-plus languages with Muslims across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa – shows that Muslims tend to be most comfortable with using sharia in the domestic sphere, to settle family or property disputes. In most countries surveyed, there is considerably less support for severe punishments, such as cutting off the hands of thieves or executing people who convert from Islam to another faith. And even in the domestic sphere, Muslims differ widely on such questions as whether polygamy, divorce and family planning are morally acceptable and whether daughters should be able to receive the same inheritance as sons.

While the poll can lead you to divergent conclusions, there were some disturbing findings that only the most rabid apologist would dare parse.

In fact, according to the 2013 Pew Research Center report, 88 percent of Muslims in Egypt and 62 percent of Muslims in Pakistan favor the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion. This is also the majority view among Muslims in Malaysia, Jordan and the Palestinian territories.

And just yesterday we learned

A Saudi blogger sentenced in May to a decade in prison and 1,000 lashes will be publicly flogged Friday in Jeddah, The Associated Press is reporting, citing a person close to the case.

Raif Badawi was found guilty of insulting Islam on Free Saudi Liberals, a website he created, and also ordered to pay about $266,000 in fines. A court originally sentenced him to 600 lashes and seven years in prison, but a judge increased the sentence after an appeal. Amnesty International said he will receive 50 lashes each week for 20 weeks.


What’s another half billion?

From April 2012:

The estimated $948 million price tag for a retractable roof stadium for the Atlanta Falcons would probably prove to be significantly low, experts say, adding to questions about how the facility would be paid for.

Two professors who study stadium deals said estimates are generally low to make such projects palatable to governments and the public.

“One of the real rules in these analyses is they always underestimate cost,” said J.C. Bradbury, chairman of the Health, Physical Education, and Sport Science department at Kennesaw State University.

“When they say it will cost $900 million, I’m thinking, ‘How much over a billion is it really going to be? ‘”

The answer: $400 million, for the stadium few want and Atlanta doesn’t need.