• Wildly funny new series about minor league baseball . . . and sex: “Brockmire”

    0 No tags Permalink 0

    I laughed out loud at the first two episodes, all that IFC has telecast so far.

    The Simpsons‘ Hank Azaria is brilliant, playing a washed-up baseball announcer. Amanda Peet is excellent as the team owner, trying to revive the forlorn team in a forlorn town.

    If you liked “Bull Durham” and like raunchy humor, you’ll love it. Here’s the New York Times’ very positive review.

    (I wonder how long I’ll enjoy it, but that’s another matter. Won’t know til I try.)

    The premise is simple. Brockmire is a great major-league announcer (think “Bob Uecker”) until, on his anniversary, he comes home to surprise his wife and finds her (we are told) in the midst of a sexual Bacchanalia. He goes back to the stadium, broadcasts the game, but gets drunk and goes into a career-ending rant about what his wife did.

    A decade later, we find him back at a minor-league baseball park in a declining small town, making one last stab at getting back in the broadcasting booth. His self-pity hysterically funny, matched, as it is, with his pitch-perfect announcer’s voice.

    This clip is not from the series itself–it’s from the Funny or Die shorts that preceded it–but it gives you a sense of Brockmire’s life before he ended up in Pennsylvania, broadcasting for the “Frackers.”






  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, March 6

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     The new healthcare bill, replacing Obamacare, has been introduced in the House. Keeps several key (and expensive) features of Obamacare and adds tax credits (direct cash payments) to help poor pay for coverage. No mandates.

    • As specialists begin offering detailed commentary, I will include summaries.
    • As political battlelines form, I will include stories and excerpts.

     Robert Osborne, warm and knowledgeable host of Turner Classic Movies, dead at 84. (New York Times)

    He got us excited and reawakened to the greatest stories ever told with the most charismatic stars in the world. –Steven Spielberg on Robert Osborne

     Self-driving bus with no backup driver will soon be on the road in California. Part of a pilot program. (Reuters)

    The bus project in San Ramon, at the Bishop Ranch office park complex, involves two 12-passenger shuttle buses from French private company EasyMile.

    The project is backed by a combination of private companies and public transit and air quality authorities, with the intention of turning it into a permanent, expanded operation . . . .

    California legislators late last year passed a law to allow slow-speed testing of fully autonomous vehicles without steering wheels or pedals on public roads, with the Bishop Ranch test in mind. –Reuters

     South Korea receives US missile defense system, strongly opposed by China  (CNN)

    Comment: Quick heads up for Beijing: A lot more of this is coming, including stronger US-Japanese ties, and you know why. It’s your wingman in Pyongyang, plus your own aggressive moves in the South China Sea. The THAAD missile system is, of course, solely to defend against North Korean missiles. China has a large arsenal that could overwhelm it.

     Big new Exxon investments in chemical and oil refining plants. $20 billion, 12k permanent jobs, plus 35k construction jobs building the plants in Texas and Louisiana (Reuters)

    The plants had been planned for some time but their scope has grown significantly.

     New findings from the University of the Obvious: “Sex might make you happier at work, study says”  (New York Daily News)

    The U of O always does great work.




  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Sunday, January 5

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Goldwater Institute proposes model free speech code for public universities–one that legislatures could pass

    The key provisions in this model legislation are inspired by three classic defenses of campus free speech: Yale’s 1974 Woodward Report, The University of Chicago’s 1967 Kalven Report, and the University of Chicago’s 2015 Stone Report.

    The model legislation presented and explained in this brief does several things:

    • It creates an official university policy that strongly affirms the importance of free expression, nullifying any existing restrictive speech codes in the process.
    • It prevents administrators from disinviting speakers, no matter how controversial, whom members of the campus community wish to hear from.
    • It establishes a system of disciplinary sanctions for students and anyone else who interferes with the free-speech rights of others.
    • It allows persons whose free-speech rights have been improperly infringed by the university to recover court costs and attorney’s fees.
    • It reaffirms the principle that universities, at the official institutional level, ought to remain neutral on issues of public controversy to encourage the widest possible range of opinion and dialogue within the university itself.
    • It ensures that students will be informed of the official policy on free expression.
    • It authorizes a special subcommittee of the university board of trustees to issue a yearly report to the public, the trustees, the governor, and the legislature on the administrative handling of free-speech issues.

    Taken together, these provisions create a system of interlocking incentives designed to encourage students and administrators to respect and protect the free expression of others. –Goldwater Institute’s “Campus Free Speech: A Legislative Proposal”

     Hundreds plan to moon Chicago’s Trump Tower in protest  Below is the actual ad for the event:

    Comment: Expected to show up at the event

     Obit for an old-time Chicago Cop who kept his nose clean. Instead of being promoted to Superintendent of Police, he was demoted to the midnight shift in a high-crime area (Chicago Tribune)

    In 1979, when Pope John Paul II came to Chicago, Joe DiLeonardi was Acting Superintendent of Police and expected to be named to the job permanently. Highly regarded, he working to clean up the department and promote minorities. Yet, within two years, he was working at a low-grade police job at the airport and then demoted even further to the midnight shift in a high-crime neighborhood.

    What did he do wrong, you might ask?

    Simple enough, he wanted to root-out organized crime and its political connections. Mayor Jane Byrne, elected as a “reform mayor,” wasn’t having it. In 1980, DiLeonard told the Chicago Tribune that

    two of Byrne’s top aides demanded the ouster of the department’s most prominent fighter of organized crime, and blamed influence from the mobbed-up 1st Ward organization. DiLeonardi’s successor, Richard Brzeczek, denied the allegations. …

    DiLeonardi was said to be the inspiration for “Kojak,” the nattily attired TV detective played by Telly Savalas. –Chicago Tribune

     “Judge Breaks Precedent, Orders Google to Give Foreign Emails to FBI” (Gizmodo)

    A potentially major blow for privacy advocates occurred on Friday when a U.S. magistrate ruled against Google and ordered it to cooperate with FBI search warrants demanding access to user emails that are stored on servers outside of the United States. The case is certain to spark a fight, because an appeals court ruled in favor of Microsoft in a similar case recently. –Gizmodo

     “China Assails U.S. Pledge to Defend Disputed Islands Controlled by Japan” (New York Times)

    The disputed [Diaoyu or Senkaku] islands have been among a number of potential points of contention as China builds up its presence in the East and South China Seas.

    Chinese and Japanese vessels regularly maneuver at close quarters in the waters as China tries to challenge Japan’s control of the islands. –New York Times

    The islands have different names, depending on the nations claiming them.

     Great Tweet:

    Actually, Fielding Mellish looks like ZZ Top.

     If you don’t know who “Fielding Mellish” is, then you really ought to see Woody Allen’s early movie, Bananas. The best 1-minute scene in it doesn’t star Woody; it stars a mad dictator




    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Clarice Feldman
     for the Goldwater Institute’s Free Speech proposal


  • RIP Barbara Hale, who played “Della Street” on Perry Mason

    I love the Perry Mason show. I still watch it, mostly for the camaraderie–a combination of friendship and professional respect–among the three principals: Perry, Della, and Paul. One reason Della (Barbara Hale) joined the show was her old friendship with Raymond Burr.

    I had just finished watching another old episode when I read the sad news that “Della Street” had died.

    Barbara Hale was 94. The New York Times obituary is here.

    She never seemed unhappy about being identified with one character throughout her career. In 1993 she told the Chicago Tribune that Della Street was “a woman who knew what everybody was thinking.”

    “She was informed and very observant of everything that went on,” she continued. “That was my challenge as an actress, to be a necessary part of the office without being too aggressive.” –New York Times

    Variety’s obituary is here.

  • California Dreamin’…about abolishing the First Amendment

    The California Legislature, in its wisdom, passed a law in 2015 requiring an internet site (IMDb) not to disclose any actor’s age if that actor requests that it not be published. The same law applies to directors and writers.

    Jerry Brown, who raises money from these folks, just as the legislators do, naturally signed it into law.

    If these people thought it was constitutional, then they have IQs smaller than their shoe sizes.

    A sixth-grade civics class could tell you it violates the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.

    A pro-bono attorney, who graduated last in his class from the Lionel Hutz School of Law, could win this one.

    Now, IMDb is suing. (Digital Trends)

    It will win.

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . .Sunday, January 8

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Positive, human-interest story on medical marijuana, with a moving headline: “I made my autistic son cannabis cookies. They saved him.”

    At the time [our 9-year-old son] was consumed by violent rages. He would bang his head, scream for hours and literally eat his shirts. At dinnertime, he threw his plates so forcefully that there was food stuck on the ceiling. He would punch and scratch himself and others, such that people would look at the red streaks on our bodies and ask us, gingerly, if we had cats.

    But when I got the cookies right, he calmed down. His aggressions became less ferocious and less frequent. Mealtimes became less fraught. He was able to maintain enough self-composure that he even learned how to ride a bike — despite every expert telling us it would never happen.

    It seemed like a miracle. And seven years later, it’s still working. –Marie Myung-Ok Lee (Chicago Tribune, originally in Washington Post)

    ◆ Democrats want to delay hearings on Trump’s cabinet picks That’s the report in The Hill.

    Comment: The political wisdom of the Democrats’ strategy depends on their reasons. If they want essential financial and ethics information, the delay will be seen as justifiable. If there are not substantive reasons, then the Democrats will be seen as obstructionist, part of the swamp Trump promised to drain.

    ◆ “The stuff that dreams are made of” I just learned that Bogie ad libbed that line. It wasn’t in the script.

    ◆ Goodbye to two fine men: Nat Hentoff and Mario Soares

    ◆ Hentoff, aged 91, was a great jazz critic, a fierce defender of free speech, and prolific author. A true mensch.  The NYT obituary is here.

    ◆ Mario Soares, 92, played a crucial role in Portugal’s transition to democracy after decades of right-wing, authoritarian rule. The BBC calls him the “Father of Portuguese Democracy.”

    ◆ Putin wins his last round against Obama, says The Economist. Now, they say, he will have to hang on to power with that scapegoat. The story is here.

    Comment: We’ll see. Putin is currently jousting with plenty of dragons around the world; perhaps they can serve as scapegoats. Trump clearly wants to shift relations with Russia; that explains his overtures and smooth relations with the Kremlin before he takes office. The question is what will happen to those relations after Trump faces his first crisis with Russia. (Remember, things went smoothly with Ted Cruz, too, until their interests clashed directly.)

    ◆ Taiwan’s leader is coming to the US, and Beijing is not happy about it. CNBC has the story.




  • A wonderful, steaming bio of actress Mary Astor, reviewed with zest by Woody Allen

    Woody’s review in the New York Times is here, and it’s a pleasure to read, much like his early writing.

    I loved Mary Astor as the femme fatale, played against Humphrey Bogart, in The Maltese Falcon.

    She is also remembered for Meet Me in St. Louis.

    Off-screen, it turns out, she loved rollin’ and tumblin’, as the blues songs put it.

    And, while blues men wrote songs, Mary wrote a diary. Alas for Mary, her husband discovered it.

    Woody loves the book and recounts the main themes with characteristic humor.

    The link to the book at Amazon, Mary Astor’s Purple Diary by Edward Sorel, is here, if you want to read the juicy details of Hollywood scandals in the golden years.