Category Archives: Popular culture

Wishing away reality of 2016: Top Five Fictional Presidents

Notice how I chose an image that included Leo, my very FAVORITE character from the show?

Notice how I chose an image that included Leo, my very FAVORITE character from the show?

2016 is such a political annus horribilis, the choices before us is so dispiriting (although quite clear), that we may choose to escape into fiction, and dream of better choices, or at least better presidents.

Over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal indulged in such wistfulness, listing “44 Fake Presidents From Worst to Best.” As the paper explained:

The 2016 U.S. presidential campaign has often seemed stranger than fiction. On the eve of the national conventions, it’s a fitting time to look back at fictitious presidents from movies and TV shows. We watched dozens—and ranked them, based on their accomplishments in on-screen office. The best commanders-in-chief rise to the challenges presented by plot twists. They make tough decisions, defeat evil forces and save the nation. The worst don’t uphold the duties of the fake presidency so well. They waffle and whine, lie and cheat, give in to temptation. Based on those loose criteria, here is our complete ranking of 44 fake presidents.

You may be surprised to learn that Frank Underwood didn’t come in last. That dishonor was reserved for Cliff Robertson’s “President Jack Cahill” from “Escape from L.A.,” which I confess I’ve never seen. Oh, I’ve thought about seeing it, but “Escape from New York” was so perfect (the talented Miss Adrienne Barbeau!) that I just didn’t want to risk the disappointment. Call me Snake

F.U. was next to last.

But the fictional presidents who got the lowest ratings don’t interest me as much as the ones who got the highest.

Unfortunately, the WSJ got it wrong. They did not pick Jed Bartlet as No. 1. He came in second (which at least tells us he wasn’t completely snubbed for being a liberal icon) to…

Harrison Ford’s President James “Get off my plane!” Marshall, who kicked terrorist butt in “Air Force One.” OK, he was awesome. And as you might imagine, I loved his foreign policy (spelled out in his “Be Afraid” speech in Russia at the beginning). If you’re gonna have a fantasy president, he should definitely be one who takes no guff from the bad guys.

But Jed was all-around great. I didn’t agree with all his policies, but I liked the general thrust, and the thought that went into them. You could definitely see why all his people loved him like a father. When’s the last time we got that from a real-life president, or a candidate? FDR, I’d say. Or maybe we even have to go back to Father Abraham, who embodied it best.

I also felt like the list didn’t give enough love to a sentimental favorite, “President” Dave Kovic from “Dave.”

So here’s my own slightly amended Top Five, which I invite you to answer with your own:

  1. Jed Bartlet from “The West Wing.” No contest. Think about it: He’s a president who loudly complains to God, in Latin! He’s the all-around best ever, which even Republicans can see — just ask Ainsley Hayes. And I think of him as real, not just some figment of Aaron Sorkin’s imagination. After all, Sorkin created the title character in “The American President,” and he’d never make my list.

    BN-OW172_0711FK_M_20160711195925

    “Well, let me finish, Dmitri…”

  2. President Merkin Muffley from “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” Yeah, I’m being a little bit ironic here, but he was just so reasonable and inoffensive: “Now then, Dmitri, you know how we’ve always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the Bomb… The Bomb, Dmitri… The hydrogen bomb!… Well now, what happened is… ahm… one of our base commanders, he had a sort of… well, he went a little funny in the head… you know… just a little… funny. And, ah… he went and did a silly thing… Well, I’ll tell you what he did. He ordered his planes… to attack your country… Ah… Well, let me finish, Dmitri…” This was sort of a forerunner of Chance the Gardener in “Being There.”
  3. The President from “Fail-Safe,” the serious version of “Dr. Strangelove.” Because he’s Henry Fonda! Wouldn’t you vote for Henry Fonda to be president under pretty much any circumstances? I would. So what if he ordered the U.S. Air Force to drop nukes on American cities? He was in a tight spot! You had to be there! And besides, he’s Henry Fonda, Mr. Roberts! And because, near as I can recall, Gary Cooper never played a president. Or did he?
  4. “President” Dave Kovic from “Dave.” Possibly the most likable fictional president in our history, even though his “a job for everybody” goal may have been a bit pie-in-the-sky. And he’s an “outsider” who gives the word a positive spin (which is hard to do with me) — Trump without the malevolence and proud cluelessness, Bernie Sanders without the class resentment.
  5. President James Marshall from “Air Force One.” He’s certainly way better than the president in my very favorite Wolfgang Petersen flick, “In the Line of Fire.” And in the “atavistic presidents who personally lead us into battle” category, he beats out President Thomas J. Whitmore from “Independence Day” because think about it: All Whitmore did was give a give a speech and fly an airplane — there was no hand-to-hand, and no firing of automatic weapons. The wimp.

OK, that’s my list, just based on these 44. There may be someone not on the WSJ list that I should have included, but I’m drawing a blank.

And yeah, it’s all white guys. I don’t think I saw any of those pictures in which a woman had the job (tried watching Veep, but couldn’t get into it). And while I love Morgan Freeman, I’m not a fan of “Deep Impact.” He was better as God than as the president. He was a pretty fair acting president in “Olympus Has Fallen,” though.

You?

OK, so he ordered a nuke strike on U.S. cities. But hey, he's Henry Fonda!

OK, so he ordered a nuke strike on U.S. cities. But hey, he’s Henry Fonda!

Right! What’s all this, then…? What are you on about?

Our regular contributor Jeff Mobley raised this question today on Twitter:

What followed was a clip showing the end of David Cameron’s presser when he announced he’d be leaving as P.M. After which he walks into the house humming to himself.

I could only answer that I wasn’t sure, but what I truly loved was that perfectly British, clipped “Right!” at the very end… Like that’s that, then! Stiff upper lip, what?  Stay calm and carry on…

back of Cameron

Game of Thrones recap: Finally, the Khaleesi gets off her duff

emilia-clarke-game-of-thrones-hbo

ALERT: SPOILERS THROUGHOUT!

Actually, there were a lot of “finally” moments in the finale, which is fitting:

  • Arya finally gets to employ her new skills in obtaining what she wants — revenge. That is to say, she had her “My name is Inigo Montoya” moment.
  • As a result, we don’t have to look at Walder Frey’s ugly, nasty, antisocial puss any more.
  • Jon Snow, the bastard who was never treated as a true Stark and who ended last season suffering the ultimate insult-to-injury treatment, finally comes into his own, winning the esteem and devotion of the entire north (if you don’t count Littlefinger, which I don’t).
  • Everyone acknowledges that, as chief Westerosi meteorologist Ned Stark told them so emphatically long ago, Winter is indeed Coming.
  • Tyrion Lannister, whose drinking problem arose largely from his never getting any respect back home, finally gets a promotion — and not a grudging, degrading one like he got that time he was the Hand of the King.
  • All that futzing around with the High Sparrow is at a cataclysmic end, and we know who’s in charge in King’s Landing. True, it’s the wrong Lannister — if the Iron Throne had to be occupied by one of that incestuous pair, we’d all be better off with Jaime (as was noted in commentary after the episode, now that all her children are dead, Cersei has no redeeming qualities at all) — but at least all that uncertainty is over.
  • Samwell Tarly, who has so wanted to become a maester, has that glorious moment beholding the ultimate dream library, which is his to dive into.

And as I said in the headline, the Mother of Dragons finally, finally stops with the big talk and the hemming and the hawing and the messing around with local politics over across the Narrow Sea, and heads toward what she has told us with unrelieved monotony for years is her destiny. Sheesh! About time. At last, the girl will put up or shut up.

Anyway, I found it all fairly satisfying, and now I can happily drop my HBO Now subscription, and not think about it any more until next year. Since, you know, Amazon Prime give me everything else HBO has to offer…

Below, you see Jon being acknowdged as King in the North. Yay. But it reminds me I’d like to see one more “finally” moment. I’d like to see someone finally pay the light bill in Westeros. Why does everything have to be so dark that I can’t tell what’s happening if I try to watch on my iPad in a room with any lights on at all?

Jon_Snow_is_declared_King_in_The_North_Season_6_Episode_10_Preview.

Cranston, others are AMAZING in ‘All the Way’

I intend to drop my subscription to HBO Now, as an economizing measure, after the last episode of “Game of Thrones” this weekend. (I’m not giving up much; my Amazon Prime account gives me access to pretty much everything I value about HBO.)

Before doing that, I made a point last night to watch the new HBO movie, “All the Way,” starring Bryan Cranston as Lyndon Johnson.

I was blown away. Wow. I did not know Cranston could act like that. Sure, a lot of it was a brilliant makeup job, but that was just the start. And it wasn’t just the voice impersonation; plenty of people could do that. It was his physicality — the way he positioned and moved his body, the subtleties of his facial expressions, that made him seem to inhabit LBJ.

The constant Grimace of Anxiety

The constant Grimace of Anxiety

Just watching his mouth shape the words was hypnotic. As much as I liked “Breaking Bad,” it persuaded me that he had a limited set of expressions. In the early seasons, I got really tired of that grimace of extreme anxiety that he wore constantly — although, in retrospect, I suppose that was masterful, too, as it so effectively communicated his stress to me, which was part of what I didn’t like about it.

But to watch that jaw and lips and teeth become those of LBJ was astounding.

But the quality of this production extends far beyond Cranston. You’ll also be impressed by Bradley Whitford as Hubert Humphrey, and Melissa Leo as Lady Bird. Frank Langella as Sen. Richard Russell and Steven Root as J. Edgar Hoover are both wonderful as well, but then those guys always are.

There are less impressive parts, of course. The actor who plays Strom Thurmond only has a line or two, but I still fault him for doing too little with it.

But the greatest letdown is Anthony Mackie as Martin Luther King. For one thing, he doesn’t seem old enough. Yeah, I know — MLK was only 35 at the time and Mackie is precisely that age. But King had a bearing that made him seem older than he was.

Perhaps I expect too much, but it seems that in everything I see — the disappointing “Selma” comes to mind — the actors portraying King fall far short of capturing him. Mr. Mackle simply lacks the gravitas — in the shape of his face, his voice, his manner. King had a presence that impressed. Why is there not an actor out there who can communicate it, or at least approximate it?

But let’s not linger on the shortcomings. “All the Way” is excellent, and if you have access, you should take the time to see it.

all-the-way-bryan-cranston

To give you chills on a summer’s day: Ralph Stanley singing ‘O Death’

My old friend Richard Crowson, a bluegrass musician who is a master at picking anything with strings on it — would likely disown me for admitting this, but I pretty much knew nothing about Ralph Stanley before he died this week.

To give you who are similarly ignorant a little schooling, I share this:

He was a short, gaunt man in a white cowboy hat and gray suit, his features seemingly chipped from granite with a stony gaze to match. When he sang “O Death” at Wolf Trap in 2006 as part of the Great High Mountain Tour, Stanley’s scratchy high tenor made the Grim Reaper sound like an acquaintance of long standing. This traditional lament had revived his career when he sang it in the Coen brothers’ 2000 movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” but Stanley’s ghostly vocal made clear that the song was older than that movie, older than the whole history of talking movies.

Even in the 21st century, there was an echo in his voice of 19th-century mining and lumbering (his father worked in an old-fashioned sawmill) and of the 17th-century songs that immigrants from the British Isles brought to the Appalachian Mountains. It was in the southwest corner of Virginia, in Dickerson County under the shadow of Clinch Mountain, that Ralph Stanley was born on Feb. 25, 1927. Together with his brother Carter, two years older, Ralph learned the eerie harmonies of a cappella Sacred Harp singing in church and the spry rhythms of old-time string-band music at dances.

“Three groups really shaped bluegrass music,” Ricky Skaggs told me in 1998. “Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, the Stanley Brothers and Flatt & Scruggs. Everyone who came after them was just following in their footsteps. . . . Ralph’s still out there 150 dates a year; he’s the last of the giants still in action.”…

But he is in action no more. And this video sounded to me like a voice from Beyond when I listened to it over my coffee this morning.

What it does is profound. So I thought I’d share…

 

Recap: Game of Thrones decides to throw us a bone

Having a bad day, Jon? Well, it's the consequence of your own decisions...

Having a bad day, Jon? Well, it’s the consequence of your own poor decisions…

Yeah, I know how other sites give you the Game of Thrones recaps the same night the episodes are first released, but that is SO-o-o-o- 20th Century. I watch them in the modern way — when I feel like it.

So here’s my recap of Episode 9 of Season 6, “The Battle of the Bastards.”

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER — BASICALLY, NOTHING BUT SPOILERS FROM HERE ON.

Let’s cut to the chase and deal with the battle itself. Bottom line, the good guys win, which in and of itself is remarkable. For once the writers throw us a bone.

But here’s the thing — they don’t deserve to win. Not tactically speaking. In fact, they do everything they can to throw the battle into Ramsay Bolton’s nasty lap.

What was the one thing that came out of the Council of War the night before? Make Ramsay come to us. He has the numbers; he has the cavalry. Choose your ground, hold it, shape it with trenches and other things that will prevent the enemy from enveloping you, and you have a chance.

Um, remember how the plan was NOT to get enveloped?

Um, remember how the plan was NOT to get enveloped?

So what happens? Ramsay does something entirely predictable — as Sansa said, there’s no way Rickon is walking out of this episode — and Jon et al. do exactly what he wants them to do, what even a split second of thought would tell them he wants them to do. And they do it anyway, without hesitation.

This seems particularly egregious to us as viewers — or me, anyway — because who is Rickon to us? Yeah, in the abstract we know that Jon watched the kid grow up, but we have not been made to feel that. To us, Rickon is just this guy, you know? Has he ever spoken a word of dialogue? Maybe so, but not that I recall. Yeah, he’s the last legit male Stark heir who hasn’t gone north of the Wall and become a hallucinating oracle, but were any of us pinning our hopes on him to save the family fortunes? I don’t think so. The poor boy was a born victim. I didn’t seen any of Ned in him. In fact, I didn’t see any of anybody in him, because we never got to know him.

So we see Ramsay do Rickon in in a cruel manner, but not a particularly cruel manner by Bolton standards. Which we expected him to do. Which, since we don’t know Rickon really from Adam’s off ox, makes it seem especially egregious when Jon reacts by doing everything he can to throw the battle away.

And in fact, he succeeds in that. The battle, as far as the forces Jon went in with, is entirely lost when Littlefinger comes to the rescue — a deliverance we had no reason to expect, making it the plot equivalent of dealing with a nightmare situation by writing, “And then the boy woke up.”

Yeah, it’s satisfying to see Ramsay come to an ignominious, gruesome end. He brought out the cruel beast in us all.

But the good guys had this one handed to them. They didn’t earn it.

Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, the Khaleesi is in a fix and her dragons deliver her from it, yadda-yadda. Personally, this girl isn’t going to impress me any more until she finally makes an appearance in Westeros and delivers on all her big talk.

But what did y’all think?

Meanwhile, Daenerys and her dragons, yadda-yadda...

Meanwhile, Daenerys and her dragons, yadda-yadda…

Game of Thrones: A girl tells a man where he can get off

A girl sees that a man failed to pay the light bill again. A girl is out of here...

A girl sees that a man failed to pay the light bill again. A girl is out of here…

Lots of websites, including some run by respectable newspapers (how respectable? in one case, so respectable that Donald Trump has banned it from his campaign), drive traffic by posting weekly recaps of “Game of Thrones.”

Any interest in that here? After all, I stayed up too late a couple of nights ago to catch up on it, and I hate for that lost sleep to count for naught.

SPOILER ALERT

I was glad to see that Arya woke up and decided that, after all, she does have a name. Jaqen H’ghar had been one of my favorite characters, based mostly on his idiosyncratic speech habits. But at some point, damn, girl — it’s time to realize you’ve had enough, head home and use some of your new assassin skills on Ramsay Bolton, or someone else who richly deserves it.

OK, so the Khaleesi’s back home. But is anyone besides me tired of waiting for her to actually get it together and head for Westeros? Enough stilted, grandiose talk! Get with the program or put your dragons out to pasture!

As to the scene with the fugitive Ironborn heirs in the brothel (poor Theon!)… Anybody besides me wonder how they cast a scene like that? Do they place an ad asking for “beautiful young women with shapely boobs; no skills required?” Hollywood is a ever-weirder place as we descend further into cultural decadence.

Take a good look at Jon Snow, with his perpetual petulant, worried, put-upon expression. He looks like a boy-band member who didn’t get his bowlful of red M&Ms. Would you follow this guy to almost-certain doom? Neither would most of the noble houses of the North. When Sansa, habitual victim, comes across as the stronger sibling, House Stark is in trouble.

Finally, is Winter ever going to come? There’s a whole army of zombies up there north of the Wall, and did we get to see any this week? No.

Personally, unlike all those fanboys out there, I’d like to see all this get wrapped up….

Seriously, does this face inspire confidence?

Seriously, does this face inspire confidence? Do you want to follow it into battle?

Sometimes ‘realism’ is taken to unreal lengths

With all the talk about guns in the wake of the Orlando massacre, we got to talking on an earlier thread about the role of firearms in American history, which started me (as a child of the ’50s, who felt naked without a toy six-gun on my hip) to start riffing on that peculiarly American art form, the Western, and how it has evolved.

So I thought I’d expand on the subject in a separate post…

I, and others my age, grew up on unrealistic westerns in which every man went around with a gun in a holster, except for wusses such as shopkeepers or bankers. I’m pretty sure that is an exaggeration, and I suspect that people who went obviously armed were probably looked at askance by the townspeople, although it may have seemed marginally less bizarre than it would today on Gervais Street.

Just as gunfights were nothing like the ritualized affairs we know from movies, with two men approaching down the dusty street, pausing with their hands hovering over their holsters, scrupulously waiting for the other guy to go for his gun before drawing.

Gunfights such as the one at the OK Corral were wild, confused affairs more akin to what happened at that video game storethe other day…

Modern westerns, of course, go for realism.

SPOILER ALERT!

I’m belatedly watching “Deadwood.” I’m not binge-watching because, as one whose ancestors stuck to Civilization — by which I mean the East Coast — I can only take so much profanity, filth, crudeness, naked avarice and utter disregard for common decency at a time. (As much as it would scandalize my 6-year-old self, I have come to suspect as an adult that had I lived back then, I likely would have been a “dude.” Which wasn’t as cool back then as it sounds today.) Thirty seconds with the “Deadwood” character Al Swearengen (based on a real guy) can make you want to write off the human race as beyond redemption. At the very least, it should persuade a discriminating person to give the Wild West a wide berth.

I would not want to live in the same territory as this guy.

I would not want to live in the same territory as this guy.

Anyway, I’m in the first season, and in the last episode the death of Wild Bill Hickok was depicted — VERY realistically, with him being shot in the back without warning while playing poker.

Such realism is preferable, I suppose. And the clean-cut, 1950s-style western was ridiculous (compare above the guy who played Hickok on TV when I was a little kid and it was my favorite show, the version from Deadwood and the real guy).

Although enough of “Deadwood” and you can start to long, at least a little, for the Disneyland version, with the good guys in spotless white hats.

Or at least for characters you give a damn doggone about. So far the only relatively likeable person on this series is Calamity Jane, and you don’t want your kids in the room when she’s talking.

Bottom line, I’m sure something like everything you see on “Deadwood” actually happened at one time or other in the Old West. But not distilled to this extent, not as unrelenting with the soul-wearing nastiness. Just like, unlike on cop shows, real cops can easily go their whole careers without discharging a firearm in the line of duty.

Surely they had to let up and give it a rest sometime — go through a day with a killing, or maybe speak two sentences in a row without an F-bomb, just to give their profanity mills a rest.

Or else it seems that after a couple of days, they’d get exhausted with it all and skeddadle back East. I know I would have.

Quick: Whose catchphrase was, “Hey, Wild Bill! Wait for me!” The answer is below…

Sorry, Paul, but I’ll pass on that

I'd like to pre-order this one. I'd also like it to be 1967 again, please...

I’d like to pre-order this one. I’d also like it to be 1967 again, please…

I’ve seen this Tweet more than once in the past week or so:

Yeah… no offense, Paul… you’re awesome and all… but a retrospective on the 45 years after you stopped doing awesome stuff just doesn’t get me excited.

I mean, what do we have from that vast period that is innovative and exciting? There’s “Maybe I’m Amazed,” and “Another Day” — both from the first couple of years after the Beatles. I mildly enjoyed “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey,” but let’s face it — it was a bit on the silly side.

This should not make you feel bad. What you have to show from the eight years or so before that 45-year period is unparalleled in popular music. No one has ever produced a more impressive body of creative, appealing and varied songs in the history of pop. You and John are the undisputed champs, with George in a respectable position behind you.

Now, if John and George came back to life and you all teamed up for a new album, I might want to put in an advance order for that. But you know, I suspect I’d be disappointed. It could never be as good as it was.

And there’s no need for me to pre-order a collection of songs from your genius period, because I already have them.

Thanks anyway…

Memorial Day music: Dire Straits’ ‘Brothers in Arms’

Heard this on the radio this morning, and as usual it shifted me into a different state of consciousness.

It’s not the words or anything obvious like that. It’s just the otherworldly mood that the song creates.

Anyway, it occurred to me after I heard it that maybe it was being played in honor of Memorial Day.

In that spirit, I share it.

I find myself reminded of this other little-known James Taylor song — a song fragment, really — from his “Mud Slide Slim” album, which I’ve always thought had its own mildly hypnotic effect. I was always struck by the sudden shift in tone — from the battle-weary soldiers “with eleven sad stories to tell” to the narrator and his very different reality — after which the song abruptly ends. It was like suddenly awaking from a dream — or, to invoke an obscure reference, like the effect when Don Juan suddenly slapped Carlos Castaneda on the back, sending him into a state of heightened awareness.

It may seem an odd way to mark Memorial Day — these lyrical expressions from pop musicians who never heard a shot fired in anger. But that’s what I have for you today.

The Great Reality TV Divide: It explains so much

MI0000286367

This felt like quite an epiphany when I thought of it several days ago — scale falling from my eyes and all that — but then I immediately realized it was perfectly obvious, and not in the least profound, so I didn’t post it.

But I did put it on Twitter yesterday, and received a little reinforcement there and on Facebook, so I’ll go ahead and share it:

I kept wondering why the problems with Trump — the fact that he must not ever be considered for even a split second to hold the highest office in the land — are not painfully obvious to everyone. What’s the cognitive barrier?

That question, and my puzzlement, had a certain flavor, and suddenly I recognized it. It’s the same confusion I have when I wonder why on Earth anyone can tolerate Reality TV.

I hated it from the first moment or two (and that’s all I could bear) I saw of MTV’s “The Real World.” All that false drama concocted and acted out with all seriousness by excruciatingly uninteresting, self-involved people. It seemed deliberately devised to make us all want to hurl.

And yet people watched it. And I still don’t get that, either…

donald-trump

OK, it’s time to start the ‘Vision Quest’ regimen

I experienced a shock yesterday. I stepped on my bathroom scale, and it read 187.0.

Yeah, I was fully dressed, including a sport coat, wallet, keys, iPhone and very heavy shoes. But still. Almost 190 pounds? I’ve never come close to that before, and I’ve been weighed at doctor’s offices while similarly burdened many times.

That weight will seem like nothing to you if you’re built for it — saying if you’re a tall, big-boned guy like Doug.

But I’m not. Look at me. I’m a skinny guy. I’ve always been a skinny guy.

This is unfair. I did not earn these additional pounds, most of which are gathered around my middle, making it very difficult for me to perform such everyday tasks as, say, wearing pants.

I put on about 10 of them when I took two courses of prednisone trying to get rid of poison ivy earlier in the spring. Then, for the first time in years (and I suspect there’s a connection here), I started having trouble with my asthma. I’ve had to switch medications, and haven’t fully stabilized yet — which means I haven’t been working out.

If the added weight IS contributing to my breathing trouble, that’s a vicious cycle. I really need the exercise to drop the pounds; changing diet alone won’t do it.

Shute, the undefeated state champ at 168.

Shute, the undefeated state champ at 168.

But I’ve been doing better with my breathing the last couple of days, and so it may be time to begin the push toward a normal weight. Full paleo, of course, and at least 40 minutes a day on the elliptical — that should do it.

The goal, as always with me, will be to get under 168 so I can wrestle Shute, should the opportunity arise. “Vision Quest” speaks to me, as a former (undistinguished) high school wrestler.

If you see someone sprinting across the Gervais Street bridge in a rubber suit with Red Ryder’s “Lunatic Fringe” playing in the background, that will be me. (Actually, I think it was John Waite’s “Change” in that scene — see 1:22 on the clip — but people remember the other song better, so…)

1-lAHHlTuhDZVm5fhGhvmCYg

Of COURSE they should play ‘Creep,’ because it’s the best thing they ever came up with

From the universe of self-involved artistes comes this bit of good news:

Radiohead actually played “Creep” during their concert in Paris this evening

All this makes tonight’s setlist in Paris a really big deal, because Radiohead actuallyperformed “Creep”.

“This is for the funny guy shouting ‘Creep’ in the back,” Yorke said prior to the performance. “Only to shock you.” That’s an understatement. 

In addition to “Creep”, Radiohead performed “True Love Waits” for the first time since the release of A Moon Shaped Pool, and delivered the tour debuts of “No Surprises” and “Pyramid Song”….

Nice of them, isn’t it, to actually play what the fans who’ve made them rich actually want to hear?

Radiohead has produced quite a few listenable songs — “No Surprises,” “Fake Plastic Trees,” “High and Dry,” and so forth — but the one song that made them so effing special that we stopped to listen to the other songs they produced was “Creep.” It was the one that reached out and grabbed us, and pulled us in.

And so we’re willing to listen when Spotify offers us such recent recordings as “Burn the Witch” and “Daydreaming,” even though they’re more like Muzak than they are like the songs we love.

Fortunately, after “Burn the Witch,” Spotify offers “Creep,” which wakes our senses back up…

Fortunately, after "Burn the Witch," Spotify offers "Creep."

Fortunately, after “Burn the Witch,” Spotify offers “Creep.”

The difference between Pope Francis and the High Sparrow

13051743_1361057993910346_6040582378793946820_n

I mean; aside from the fact that one is fictional.

Anyway, someone brought the above to my attention this morning.

OK, yeah, there’s a superficial resemblance… and as my interlocutor (my son-in-law) said, “The high sparrow takes his vow of poverty seriously, displaying a humility that makes me wonder if the actor actually IS portraying Pope Francis…”

But here’s the difference: The High Sparrow is WAY more interested in directly exercising worldly power.

The High Sparrow is more like a medieval pope in that respect. And in Westeros, that’s an innovation; things are moving in that direction — in our world, they tend the other way.

When the Pope holds a head of state (or anyone else) prisoner, or forces another to atone for his or her sins by walking naked through a city, get back to me…

Candidates as Game of Thrones characters? Fail.

Tyrion and Lindsey have a lot in common...

Tyrion Lannister is far more like Graham than Cruz…

I think Chris Cillizza does a great job at The Fix, and I enjoy reading his stuff.

But his effort over the weekend, “If the 2016 presidential candidates were ‘Game of Thrones’ characters,” was sort of lame.

He should leave the silly pop-culture analogies to someone else, such as, I don’t know… me. I’ll stack my “Candidates as stock characters in WWII movies” against this any day.

OK, the “Hillary Clinton as Cersei Lannister” isn’t bad, although I don’t picture Cersei making the same clothing choices. But these comparisons are terrible:

Donald Trump: Robert Baratheon

There was a succession plan in place for how you picked kings. Then, Robert decided to ignore all of those rules and take the kingdom by force. Sort of like Trump just did with the Republican Party. Also, they are two men who have big appetites for everything in life — and don’t feel the need to apologize for it….

Bernie Sanders: Ellaria Sand

She’s down there in Dorne. People — including Oberyn’s brother, Doran (RIP) — don’t take her seriously. But she is a true believer and has more of a following than anyone initially thought. And you sort of suspect that she’s going to have a biggish role to play in the main plot by the end — but you can’t figure out how yet.

Ted Cruz: Tyrion Lannister

Neither one comes out of central casting. Perennially underrated. But without question, the guy who honestly diagnoses his own strengths and weaknesses best, and who not only sees the whole playing field better than anyone else but also puts in place a plan that is three steps ahead. Also: Someone most people don’t like in his world — and who doesn’t care….

All right, I can almost see Trump as Robert Baratheon — both are ill-suited to governing and take little interest in matters of policy. But Robert was a semi-sympathetic character, scoundrel that he was, and he had the wisdom to appoint Ned Stark as Hand. Trump would never do that. In fact, Trump would go on at length about how he doesn’t need a Hand, because his own hands are perfectly adequate no matter what you’ve heard, in fact they’re terrific…

Bernie as Ellaria Sand? How absurd. Bernie as a really hot woman who is pure, murderous evil, who seems to have no human feeling at all? No, if anything, Bernie is old Grand Maester Pycelle, the crotchety guy at court who makes out like he’s more decrepit than he is.

But the worst is Ted Cruz — the least likable member of the U.S. Senate as Tyrion, possibly the most sympathetic character in Westeros? I’d see Lindsey Graham as Tyrion — neither is of imposing stature, they’re both given to wisecracks about the other characters, and they both think everybody should drink more. (Cillizza cast Lindsey as Ser Davos, which is OK, but I think Tyrion is more on the money.)

There are characters on the show who would be a closer match for Cruz, but for reasons I find inadequate, Cillizza decided to leave out Ramsay Bolton and Joffrey Baratheon. He didn’t want to be that mean to any of the candidates — even if they deserved it…

The calming influence of Daryl Dixon

CBS46 News

I liked this fun news item:

An Atlanta TV station shared photos from witnesses at a May 12, 2016, accident scene in Peachtree City, Ga., that show two stars from the hit show “The Walking Dead” helping out.

The report from CBS46 quoted witness Mikail Turan, who said Norman Reedus and Steven Yeun looked like they had stopped their motorcycles near the scene in the town southwest of Atlanta to “kind of calm everybody.” Turan said he took photos for a few moments and left when the police arrived….

Yeah, that makes sense, because if I were shaken up after an accident (no one was hurt, reports say), the one thing that would calm me down and restore a sense of normalcy would be seeing Daryl Dixon ride up on his motorcycle. Oh, great! First I wreck my car, now the Zombie Apocalypse!

Just kidding, Daryl! In truth, when said apocalypse arrives, I want Daryl and his crossbow to have my back. He’s the best there is in a zombie fight in any fictional universe, bar none (and apparently the only one to figure out that gunshots draw more walkers). And Glenn Rhee in charge of scrounging supplies, of course.

"Everybody OK? Can we help?"

“Everybody OK? Can we help?”

Trump envisioned as the Baron Harkonnen

13166021_10153508840119147_4024795156990540639_n

Apparently, I’m not the only one to draw an analogy between Donald Trump suddenly seizing control of the Republican Party and the Harkonnens crushing the Atreides and taking Arrakis.

My son-in-law brings my attention to the above — which I appreciate even though I think David Lynch’s “Dune” is the Worst Movie Ever Made. Or at least, the Worst Movie Ever Made That Should Have Been Awesome. Which was why, on my previous post on the subject, I used a picture of Germans taking Paris rather than something from the movie…

The Don, unlike The Donald, did not utter threats

The Don: Man of Reasonableness who never utters threats.

The Don: Man of Reasonableness who never utters threats.

Don’t you hate it when people use pop-culture analogies and get them wrong? Check out this one, from an editorial in The Wall Street Journal today:

But the Republican Party is not one of his golf courses for which he can determine who has what tee times. A political party is an alliance of people who share enough principles to unite to win elections and run the government. They can’t be ordered around by Don Corleone-style threats. They have to be persuaded and mobilized. Are Mr. Trump and his campaign going to require loyalty oaths of every Republican officeholder who wants to attend the convention?…

No, no, no! It most assuredly was not the Don’s style to make threats! He was way too cool, too smart, too self-contained — and therefore dangerous — for that.

Sonny made threats. Neither the Don, nor Michael, ever would. Some screenshots from the book, in case your memory is flawed:

threat 1

threat 2

threat 3

See what I mean? Case closed. Be more careful in the future, WSJ.

Yeah, there was that time he was rumored to have threatened the bandleader on his godson’s behalf. But even if that was true and not just a story people told about him, it’s the exception that proves the rule.,,,

The Donald: Man of Bluster who does little else.

The Donald: Man of Bluster who does little else.

ICYMI: C.J. Cregg returns to the briefing room

All of y’all probably saw this already, but I would have missed it if Kathryn Fenner had not brought it to my attention via Facebook over the weekend.

Of course, Facebook being Facebook, I had to go hunting elsewhere to find an embed code. (I couldn’t even find it at the White House, which is where Kathryn had gotten it — apparently, they only posted it on FB — unless I’m just looking in all the wrong places on the website.)

It was great to see her back in the saddle. And seeing her as press secretary instead of chief of staff takes us to those wonderful days when Leo was still alive. Sigh…

I was a bit disappointed in her when she ducked the one question she got from the actual reporters assembled: “Who is President Bartlet supporting in the Democratic primary?”

But she ducked it with typical C.J. aplomb…

CJ Cregg

Allison Janney fields an actual question from an actual reporter in the actual West Wing.

Check out the often chilling ‘Look Who’s Back’

Just wanted to bring to your attention a fascinating dark comedy that recently made its appearance on Netflix, in case you haven’t seen it already.Er_ist_wieder_da_(book_cover)

In English, it’s called “Look Who’s Back.” But it’s a German film, and the original name is “Er ist wieder da.” It’s based on a satirical novel of the same name. Here’s the premise…

One day in the present, Adolph Hitler wakes up, disoriented, in a park located on the site of the Führerbunker. He meets up with a desperate man who has just lost his job at a TV network, who uses the Führer to turn his fortunes around. Subsequently, Hitler becomes a huge draw on a popular show called, “Whoa, dude!”

The idea is that no one knows this is actually Adolph Hitler. People think he’s a brilliantly ironic comedian or method actor (since he never drops out of character). They love him. And many come to love him for the wrong reasons.

SPOILER ALERT!

What makes this interesting is that it punctures our smug assumptions that we moderns are so much better than those awful people who live in the past. Two of the most chilling moments:

  • Hitler is delighted by many aspects of modern life. He particularly is drawn to the Web, especially because anyone can make use of it, without editors or other conventional controls being in the way. When he learns that no one ultimately controls Wikipedia, he is delighted. He sees the opportunity that provides.
  • HUGE SPOILER ALERT: Repeatedly, the Führer runs into everyday people on the street who are filled with indignation over the way nonEuropean immigrants are flooding into their country. Hitler encourages them in this, and declares, in the very last line of the film, “I can work with this.”

Because, you see, while everyone else thinks their using Hitler — to drive TV ratings and such — he is single-mindedly bent on rising to power again.

Oh, and don’t think this is just a German problem, given how well politicians with similar messages are faring in this country in this election year…