I’m still waiting…

for Sorkin to apologize for The West Wing, but I suppose it’s good that he has finally recognized he has a problem:

At Tribeca Film Festival on Monday, April 21, Aaron Sorkin apologized for trying to teach us a bunch of lessons on “The Newsroom.” As the show moves into its third and final season on HBO, Sorkin admitted that he is only now beginning to figure out how to write it.

“I’m going to let you all stand in for everyone in the world, if you don’t mind,” Sorkin said to the audience. “I think you and I got off on the wrong foot with ‘The Newsroom’ and I apologize and I’d like to start over.”

Sorkin added that he chose to use the recent past, not to revel indulgently in how things ought to be done, but because he did not want to make up fake news. “I wasn’t trying to and I’m not capable of teaching a professional journalist a lesson,” he said.

Continuing in his overwhelmingly humble mea culpa, Sorkin admitted he is “just now starting to learn how to write” the show, while lamenting the fact that he had to practice for a public of several million people and longing for the simplicity of debuting a play with previews.

Sorkin has just realized that it’s possible his writing style might be a bit too didactic? Seriously? I wonder whether, with his new-found self awareness, he has any regrets about this gem:

For better or worse, The West Wing has always been a didactic series, but it took finally the urgency of the recent news events for Aaron Sorkin to write an episode that was literally didactic — that is, teacherly — by setting it in what was for all intents and purposes a classroom. The set-up: in response to a reported security breach, the White House “crashes” — no one is allowed to enter or leave — just as aide Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) is speaking to a class of honor students.

The class decamps to the basement; the nervous kids only want to ask Josh questions about terrorism. And from here on out, for the bulk of the episode, class is in session for Professor Sorkin, who doesn’t need to bother even with the scanty dramatic figleaves he usually knits together in order to deliver himself of soliloquys through his characters. Here, the kids just serve up one setup question after another — “Why are they trying to kill us?” “What do we do now?” — that allows for a series of well-meaning, well-expressed, but by now well-worn disquisitions on how Islam does not teach terrorism, spy satellites can’t replace human intelligence and killing innocent civilians is not noble. After a few questions, Josh announces that he needs to get “some of my friends” to field the tougher questions, allowing him to usher in the rest of the White House staff cast. It’s a little like the scene in a kids’ dental-hygiene film where the host says, “Now I’m going to get our old pal Mr. Floss to sing us a song about tooth decay!”

Posted in Television | 4 Comments

Revenge is a dish best served cold

Hockey players are in a class all by themselves when it comes to fighting and revenge:

Philadelphia Flyers head coach Craig Berube accumulated nearly 3,200 penalty minutes during an NHL career that last 1,052 games. He earned all that time in the penalty box protecting each and everyone of his teammates. So, in 1990, when Berube saw his goaltender, Ron Hextall, get run by some young punk on the Chicago Blackhawks named Jerey Roenick, he knew what he needed to do.

Berube, however, didn’t get his chance during the ensuing melee. He wouldn’t get back at Roenick until the 2003-04 season.

Read the full story here.

(h/t J.R.)

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The AUMF

From time to time, I’ve linked to Radiolab podcasts that I thought might be of interest. This one in particular is worth an hour of your time:

This hour we pull apart one sentence, written in the hours after September 11th, 2001, that has led to the longest war in U.S. history. We examine how just 60 words of legal language have blurred the line between war and peace.

In the hours after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a lawyer sat down in front of a computer and started writing a legal justification for taking action against those responsible. The language that he drafted and that President George W. Bush signed into law – called the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) – has at its heart one single sentence, 60 words long. Over the last decade, those 60 words have become the legal foundation for the “war on terror.”

Posted in Foreign Policy, History | Leave a comment

Places I do not intend to visit

Marionville, Missouri:

Like many people who spoke to the press in the wake of this weekend’s deadly shootings at two Kansas Jewish facilities, Marionville Mayor Dan Clevenger felt the bizarre need to point out that the vocally anti-Semitic gunman, Frazier Glenn Miller, otherwise seemed like a decent guy. “He was always nice and friendly and respectful of elder people, you know, he respected his elders greatly. As long as they were the same color as him,” said Clevenger, whose small Missouri town is the closest one to Miller’s home (hat tip, TPM). “Very fair and honest and never had a bit of problem.” However, the mayor differs slightly from others who vouched for Miller’s niceness in that he was also willing to say that he wasn’t totally opposed to the shooter’s beliefs.

“Kind of agreed with him on some things, but I don’t like to express that too much,” Clevenger told local television station KSPR. Though he said that Miller “didn’t have any right” to kill three innocent people, he wasn’t shy about mentioning, “There some things that are going on in this country that are destroying us. We’ve got a false economy and it’s — some of those corporations are run by Jews because the names are there.” (A decade ago, he also wrote a letter to the editor identifying himself as “a friend of Frazier Miller helping to spread his warnings” about “the Jew-run medical industry” and the “Jew-run government.”) He also speculated that Miller would use his trial to “really state his views on things” and “go out with a bang.” Basically, it’ll just be another opportunity for Marionville’s most prominent residents to do the place proud.

Posted in News and Current Events | 3 Comments

Corruption Is Worse Than Quid Pro Quo

In McCutcheon two weeks ago, Justice Roberts again limited his discussion of the ill effects of campaign contributions to “quid pro quo”.

In reality, we have far more to worry about than that:

That’s from Bartels; here’s Gilens: Continue reading

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The Centrist’s Eternal Search For Bipartisan, Technical Blame

Neat graphic, but it misdiagnoses, and doesn’t capture the asymmetry of, the polarization:

More context shows the asymmetry of the polarization: Continue reading

Posted in Media analysis, News and Current Events, Politics | Leave a comment

How do I set my DVR to record 48 straight hours of television?

I’m guessing about 90% of my favorite episodes will fall in the first two days of this twelve-day marathon:

This summer, the FXX network will launch “The Simpsons” in style with a 12 day marathon, showing all 552 episodes consecutively. The marathon will start August 21st and continue through Labor Day.

“It will be the longest continuous marathon in the history of television,” said chief executive of FX Networks Jon Landgraf at an upfront presentation held in New York on Wednesday, reported Variety.

Posted in Television | 2 Comments

Obama’s a Muslim, and God is Hard of Hearing

Pat Robertson, ladies and gentlemen:

Pat Robertson today asked God to “deliver” the US from President Obama before it’s too late. After implying that Obama is a Muslim, Robertson told 700 Club viewers: “We need to do something to pray to be delivered from this president. He is a disaster, an absolute disaster. Democrat, Republican or whatever, this country is into serious decline unless something dramatic is done about it.” Such sentiments are nothing new from the right-wing televangelist. Robertson has previously suggested that Obama is a “crypto-Muslim” and once during George W. Bush’s presidency prayed for God to remove justices from the Supreme Court.

While I am curious (and terrified) to find out what the “something dramatic” is that Robertson is praying for, as long as he and his followers are content to limit themselves to prayer, my view is let them keep on waiting for God to take matters into his own hands. Here’s the video:

Via TPM

Posted in Media analysis, Religion | Leave a comment

Wind, Inherited

Aaron Miller will be the Republican candidate in Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District race this coming fall. You’ll never guess what inspired him to run for office:

He said he can also reach out to the youth vote, which he said would be important for a Republican in the race. During this speech, he had about 20 college Republicans who work with his campaign standing in front of the stage.

He also called for more religious freedoms. He repeated his story about his daughter returning home from school in tears because evolution was being taught in her class. He said the teacher admitted to not believing in the scientific theory to his daughter but told her that the government forced him to teach the lesson.

“We should decide what is taught in our schools, not Washington D.C.,” Miller said.

Miller has declined to provide any more information to verify his story.

You see, when the Millers of this country talk about religious freedom in public schools, what they really mean is the freedom to have the government impose their particular religious views on american students of all different religious and non-religious backgrounds. Meanwhile, something tells me that his daughter’s story will prove to be about as verifiable as Noah’s Flood.

Posted in History, Religion | 3 Comments

Canola Oil, Maybe?

How genuine do we want our folk music? That’s the question posed in Jeff Tweedy’s guest appearance on the most recent episode of Portlandia, with some pretty hilarious results:

Posted in Music, Television | Leave a comment

The Middle Class Disappears

A graphic from Daniel Kay Hertz, via CBS Chicago. Family income 75-125% of the metropolitan median are in gray.

Posted in Economics, News and Current Events, Politics | Leave a comment

Cattle and the Creeping Things

An eight-year old South Carolina girl pointed out that the state had no official fossil. A Democrat in the state legislature responded by nominating the wooly mammoth, because one of the earliest discovered mammoth fossils was found in South Carolina. Then South Carolina state Sen. Kevin Bryant (R) got involved and hilarity ensued:

The lawmaker, state Sen. Kevin Bryant (R), is pushing an amendment that would add language designating a woolly mammoth fossil as the state fossil that reads “as created on the sixth day with the beasts of the field.”

“I just had a notion that we ought to consider acknowledging the creator as we acknowledge one of his creations,” Bryant said according to Reuters.

Bryant had previously tried (and failed) to insert the following Bible verse into the legislation itself: “”And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.”

Posted in Law, Religion | Leave a comment

A Dumb Strategy For The Stupid Party

Well, I did not see this coming:

The position of “the policy guy” in the Republican primary was pretty wide open indeed, but that’s because Republicans don’t care about policy.  Ted Cruz’s Yosemite Sam strategy risks alienating senior Republican politicians, but at least there’s a lot of grass-roots support and some elite support for that style.

Posted in News and Current Events, Politics | Leave a comment

Deeply Compelling?

The New York Daily News‘ Andy Martino searches desperately for a reason to feel good about the Mets starting Dillon Gee against the Nationals’ Stephen Strassburg:

Phenom stories are tiresome: Guy is born awesome, guy stays awesome, fans get all hot and excited, guy will soon be filthy rich. Yawn.

Want a truly, deeply compelling sports moment? Wander into Citi Field at about 1pm on Monday, and really think about what you are seeing when Dillon Gee — a smart, tough, regular person who nearly fought fires in Texas instead — makes an Opening Day start for a pitching-rich organization. And then think about how this 21st-round pick made use of his mind and guts to get there.

Yes, Matt Harvey and Jon Niese had to clear the way by hurting their arms, but Gee stood as Terry Collins’ obvious substitute for this assignment. While Bartolo Colon’s resume is more distinguished, and Zack Wheeler’s repertoire more exciting, no Met pitcher was better in the second half of last season than Gee, a righty whose fastball overpowers no one, but who finishes every season among the league leaders in self-awareness.

Perhaps Mr. Martino can point us Mets fans to the place in the boxscore where a pitcher’s “self-awareness” stats are published. Is it somewhere between Wins, ERA, and WHIP? Those are the numbers I tend to care about….

In any event, Happy Opening Day!

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“We just explain the situation”

Classic:

Russia threatened several Eastern European and Central Asian states with retaliation if they voted in favor of a United Nations General Assembly resolution this week declaring invalid Crimea’s referendum on seceding from Ukraine, U.N. diplomats said.

The disclosures about Russian threats came after Moscow accused Western countries of using “shameless pressure, up to the point of political blackmail and economic threats,” in an attempt to coerce the United Nations’ 193 member states to join it in supporting the non-binding resolution on the Ukraine crisis.

According to interviews with U.N. diplomats, most of whom preferred to speak on condition of anonymity for fear of angering Moscow, the targets of Russian threats included Moldova, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as well as a number of African countries.

A spokesman for Russia’s Mission to the U.N. denied that Moscow threatened any country with retaliation if it supported the resolution, saying: “We never threaten anyone. We just explain the situation.”

Posted in Foreign Policy | Leave a comment

Matters of Consequence

The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates and New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait are in the midst of a blogger debate that is definitely worth your time. The discussion was prompted by Paul Ryan’s recent remarks about an urban culture of poverty (“We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with”) and TNC’s subsequent claim that Ryan wasn’t saying anything all that different than what President Obama has said in the past.

Here are the links:

TNC’s Motion
Chait’s Opposition
TNC’s Reply
Chait’s Surreply

Posted in History, Media analysis | Leave a comment

I want all you people to listen to my song

“Mr. Johnson’s Blues No 2″ is one of my all-time favorite blues songs. Take a listen and note in particular all the tone and tempo shifts in the first 25 seconds of the song as it hits its groove. Johnson came to be known more for his instrumentation and his early contributions to the evolution of jazz than for his vocals, but here his singing is front-and-center and simply beautiful.

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Breaking the Rules

Hasbro is promoting a new “House Rules” version of Monopoly. Reading the New York Times coverage, I have come to realize that my family apparently never played the game by the rules:

According to the official rules, largely unchanged since the 1930s, whenever a player lands on an unowned property and decides not to purchase it, the bank sells it to the highest bidder in an auction, speeding up the game and increasing benevolent sparring among players. Each player is to receive $1,500 — no more or less — to start the game, and the limit of 32 houses and 12 hotels that come with the game can add offer an additional layer of strategy by creating a housing shortage.

Perhaps most overlooked by lay players is the rule that if the owner of a property fails to ask for rent before the next throw of the dice, no rent is collected. It’s the cardboard version of “you snooze, you lose.”

Posted in Fun | 4 Comments