Great Paragraphs: On the rules of rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock

Scissors cuts paper, paper covers rock, rock crushes lizard, lizard poisons Spock, Spock smashes scissors, scissors decapitates lizard, lizard eats paper, paper disproves Spock, Spock vaporizes rock, and as it always has, rock crushes scissors.

Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), “The Big Bang Theory

Great Paragraphs: Jim Gaffigan on strangers talking to you about Jesus

I do want everyone to feel comfortable. That’s why I like to talk to you about Jesus. He better not. It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or not. Does anything make you feel more uncomfortable than some stranger saying “I’d like to talk to you about Jesus”. Yeah, I’d like you not to. You can say that to the Pope. I want to talk to you about Jesus. He’d be like “Easy freak, I keep work at work.”

Jim Gaffigan, “Beyond the Pale

TV Review: ‘The Crazy Ones’ Season 1 Finale



Season 1, Episode 21 and 22: “The Monster” and “The Lighthouse” | Original air date: April 17, 2014

An hour is too long to spend with the tepid “The Crazy Ones.” CBS broadcast the final two episodes of the first-year comedy back-to-back Thursday.

I don’t like these characters enough to spend that much time with them. I really don’t like them when they spread the filth of Romantic Comedy Disease, or RCD as it’s known in the DSM-5.

RCD is a terrible disorder that values pining for people already in committed relationships, dramatic gestures set to sappy pop music and a complete disregard of common sense or basic decency.

The story of these two episodes revolved around Sydney (Sarah Michelle Gellar) being jealous that her longtime friend, Andrew (Hamish Linklater), is happy in a relationship with another woman. RCD rears its ugliness here in several ways.

First, Andrew and Sydney kissed early in the season and she decided they needed to be just friends because she didn’t want to risk their friendship for a potential romantic relationship.

That was fine when Sydney fumbled through a variety of relationships, as are the rules with RCD, but when Andrew found someone he liked, Sydney was jealous.

So when her narcissistic hedonist mom (Marilu Henner) visits, Sydney decides to make a pass at Andrew. Andrew, of course, accepts because a generic syrupy pop song is playing and Gellar has second billing on the show so we’re supposed to root for her character.

There is no consideration given to what will happen to Andrew’s relationship with the women he has been enjoying spending time with and who apparently enjoyed spending time with him.

And they were probably having sex, which is meaningless in modern relationships, I suppose, unless it’s made into a BIG DAMNED DEAL by the conventions of Romantic Comedy Disease.

But there was a kiss and a smile. And people who can’t see how dumb and cruel this whole scene really is well probably be awed by it.

Me? Well, I’m glad the season is over. The show will probably get renewed.

I might watch so more because I still want to believe the actress who so beautifully rendered Buffy Summers has something left besides this nonsense. But I’m probably wrong.

At least I won’t have to think about it until fall.

Morning Mixtape: ‘Hero’ by David Crosby and Phil Collins

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I’m not sure what got me thinking about “Hero,” this lovely song by David Crosby and Phil Collins. I first heard it in 2001 or 2002. My friend Rick played it for me after dinner one evening. He said he always thought it was about Superman. I haven’t spoken to Rick in years. He enjoyed Neal Adams artwork on Batman when he was growing up. Rick never judged me as harshly as some of the people I knew during that time in my life. That’s a tough thing to do, to withhold judgement on people. I’m not as good as it as I’d like to be. So this one goes out to Rick, a hero of the human kind. Enjoy.

Morning Mixtape: ‘Milwaukee’ By Aimee Mann and Ted Leo

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Aimee Mann is one of my favorite singers. A few of her songs are among my favorite from any artist. Ted Leo is a guy I don’t know. His history is punk and rock in a series of bands I’ve never listened to. Mann and Leo have collaborated as the the Both since 2012. Their self-titled first album came out this week. It rocks a little harder than Mann’s stuff usually does, but I think I like that. This amusing track is called “Milwaukee” and features an odd, humorous interplay between Mann and Leo at the beginning of the video. Enjoy.

Morning Mixtape: ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ By Falco

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Somewhere my history and music teachers shudder as I admit that the majority of information I have about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart came from a voiceover in a pop song by Falco. That song, of course, was “Rock Me Amadeus,” which was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 this day in 1986. Enjoy.


Great Paragraphs: Eddie Izzard on God and dinosaurs

So, in the Christian faith God created Adam in his own image, yeah? So that was good, but 65 million years before that God created the dinosaurs using the image of his cousin Ted. And Ted was not the black sheep of the family—he was the huge fucking monster of the family. And there must have been God, I mean it’s not in the Bible, is it? It should have been mentioned somewhere around Genesis. You’d think God would grab someone’s arm—some scribe who was copying out and saying, ” … but before that, there were dinosaurs who were a bit crap, so fuck ‘em.”

Eddie Izzard, “Circle”

TV Review: ‘Person of Interest: Death Benefit’


Season 3, Episode 20: “Death Benefit” | Original air date: April 15, 2014

Person of Interest” doesn’t work for me as a drama anymore.

It doesn’t work because I spend most of the hour thinking how lousy the cops must be in whatever city Reese (Jim Caviezel), Finch (Michael Emerson) and Shaw (Sarah Shahi) have their massive gun battles.

This week, the cops in Washington, D.C., were made to look like chumps buy a guy with a limp and a former black ops government spook who kidnapped a U.S. Congressman to save his life.

There’s a reason they kidnapped the congressman. Conspiracy group blah blah is trying to do blah blah to get the new blah blah machine blah blah no privacy blah blah. It was probably explained better than that, but I stopped caring about the umpteen terrorist groups and extremist and corporate goons about 12 conspiracies ago.

At one point, Reese shoots at a congressman in broad daylight near the U.S. Capitol. Apparently in the post-Sept. 11 world, there are absolutely no traffic cameras or surveillance of any kind. I mean, sure, the whole plot of the show is based on a mysterious machine’s ability to access those kinds of cameras and data use them to predict who is going to be killed.

But that’s only when it serves to advance the wafer-thin plots. When people are having gun battles in the nation’s capital, nobody catches a stray glance. The cops, FBI and everybody else are a step behind — sirens in the distance just far enough away that our heroes can slip away without consequences.

This week, Reese thinks the machine is telling them to kill the congressman, who is corrupt and will support one of the blah blah conspiracy groups. They don’t do it. But they think about doing it.

Then a sappy pop song plays as the team — which, again, includes a guy with a serious limp — somehow manages to escape a manhunt by all the nation’s law enforcement agencies. Well, Shaw gets shot. But that really amplifies the absence of probability, doesn’t it? Now there are two wounded ducks outwitting an entire pack of bloodhounds.

The bad guys of one of the blah blah conspiracies get 24 hours to access all security cameras. They want to track down Finch. Because, you know, no government agency ever caught a terrorist or criminal without a massive, all-powerful surveillance machine.

Aw, forget it.

This is knitpicking. I know that. But the show has lost so much credibility that all I see now are a bunch of stupid scenarios that should be easily snuffed if the writers were even trying to make the show believable.

The challenge is to subvert reality through suspension of disbelief. But all “Person of Interest” does is manage to comically ignore reality and ends up suspending entertainment.

TV Review: ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Providence’

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Season 1, Episode 20: “Providence” | Original air date: April 15, 2014

“Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” wants us to believe they’ve always had a plan — that this long, mostly dull slog through forgettable episodes is finally paying off with this season-ending story tied into the “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” movie.

But it’s a sham. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” has always been a sham, despite the charms of Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson.

Now comic book-loving Patton Oswalt gets a guest spot as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent tending to Nick Fury’s secret headquarters. You know Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson. He was in the movies based on Marvel Comics that were interesting.

Jackson appeared as Fury appeared at the end of one episode of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” It was slight of hand. They brought on one of the interesting characters from these films to make viewers think this show is as good as the movies it is derived from.

But it isn’t. It never has been. The best “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” ever did was make references to Nick Fury, Captain America or Thor and hope the audience didn’t notice that any of the good characters weren’t around.

They’re trying so hard at “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” to make this thing where Coulson team member Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) is a bad guy working for HYDRA motormouth John Garrett (Bill Paxton).

The trouble is being a traitor is the only interesting thing Ward has done all season. I would have been just happy if the character was killed. He’s apparently seduced the useless nitwit Skye (Chloe Bennet), whose superpower is she can use the Internet.

Skye will likely consummate her crush next episode, choking up the password to the hard drive with all the S.H.I.E.L.D. data in the throes of orgasmic pleasure. The last time Skye had sex on the show, she betrayed the whole team.

Her learning curve is flat. Maybe she should use the Internet to look up her Wikipedia page and see how rubbish she’s been all season. Then she could keep her zipper up and her mouth shut.

I think the two annoying British characters, Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), encapsulated the season best.

Fitz is babbling on about how Coulson may be off his nut after S.H.I.E.L.D. collapses due to the events in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” (You know, the action that was interesting and was at the movie theater. This is the other stuff. Oh, nevermind.)

Simmons finally says, “Well, at least we’ve still got each other.”

“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” wants you to think she’s talking about the unspoken true love between the two annoying limeys. But it’s a trick, you see, another sleight of hand.

Because Simmons is swooned by the new guy, Agent Britt (Antoine Triplett), the hard-bodied black guy that Simmons has always secretly fantasized about, not some noodle-armed fellow science nerd like Fitz.

So Fitz says, “Yeah, I wouldn’t want anything to change.” Fitz is talking about their non-relationship, because he’s a mope who hides under desks when there’s a gunfight.

And Simmons says, “Oh Fitz, it’s too late for that.” And, oh, those clever writers, you don’t know if she’s talking about choosing beefcake Britt over callow Fitz or just how everything is all screwed up for S.H.I.E.L.D. now after the events chronicled in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” (Still in theaters, friends.)

I submit, however, that the spritely Simmons is not talking about the relationship or the events in the movie this show is designed to promote. Instead, I believe she’s talking directly to me.

I hoping, desperately so, that the show will change, that it will become interesting and fun and good. But dear, sweet Simmons has given me the answer.

“It’s too late for that.”

Great Paragraphs: Bill Hicks on advertising and marketing

By the way, if there is anyone here tonight who is in advertising or marketing … kill yourself. … Seriously, though, if you are, do. No, really, there’s no rationalization for what you do and you are Satan’s little helpers. You are the ruiners of all things good. … I know what all the marketing people are thinking right now. “Oh, you know what Bill’s doing? He’s going for that anti-marketing dollar. That’s a good market. He’s very smart.” I am not doing that you fucking evil scumbags. “Oh, you know what Bill’s doing now? He’s going for the righteous indignation dollar. That’s a good dollar. Lot of people are feeling that indignation. We’ve done research. He’s doing a good thing.” Goddamnit, I am not doing that you scumbags. Quit putting a dollar sign on everything on this planet. “Oh, the anger dollar. Huge. Huge in times of recession. Bill’s very bright to do that.”

Bill Hicks, “Chicago Funny Farm”

Morning Mixtape: ‘Thank God and Greyhound (You’re Gone)’ By Roy Clark

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Country music musician, performer and comedian Roy Clark is 81 years old today. Skilled in banjo and classical guitar, Clark filled in for Johnny Carson as host of “The Tonight Show” and was seen by more than 80 million people when he hosted the country comedy show “Hee Haw.” “Thank God and Greyhound (You’re Gone)” is one of two hits for Clark that crossed over to the pop charts, the other being “Yesterday, When I Was Young.” Enjoy.

Morning Mixtape: ‘Come With Me Now’ By Kongos

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Sometimes you’ve got to look at the other end of the Billboard Hot 100 to find a fresh song. The South African band Kongos cracked the chart at No. 98 with their catchy “Come With Me Now.” The song dates back to their 2012 album “Lunatic,” which they self-released in the United States in October 2013. The use of the track in commercials and movie trailers got it exposure and now it’s on its way up and, hopefully, so is the band. Enjoy.

Moments: On not being able to care everything


The New York Yankees, my favorite baseball team, played the Boston Red Sox on Sunday night. ESPN broadcast the game. I remember seeing the two teams were on TV and thinking, “Ugh. Not again.”

The Sunday game was only the fourth time they played this season. They’re scheduled to play 19 times. But I am already tired of the Yankees and the Red Sox. And it is only April 13.

This exhaustion is not really the fault of the baseball clubs. They have a schedule. They play it. It’s the hype machine. Whether it’s ESPN or Fox or the MLB Network or whoever is putting the game on TV, the hype machine tries to pretend every meeting between the two teams is another historic clash in an ageless battle.

Sure, both teams have great histories. And they’ve played a lot of interesting baseball games through the course of baseball history. But not every game is meaningful. Most of the games, in fact, are not meaningful, especially in April. That’s the point of baseball. It has no point. It’s a distraction, a pastime. It’s supposed to be fun.

But fun is not enough for the hype machine. It must be epic. There must be storylines and grudges and emotions running high and bulletin board material and tabloid headlines and, of course, tweets, always with the damned tweets.

It’s not just baseball. I was tired of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament a month before it started. I was sick of brackets and bubble teams in February. By the time the tournament actually started, I got angry when anybody mentioned office pools or used the word “busted” to describe their bracket predictions.

I don’t know what happened to me. I liked the NCAA basketball tournament as a kid. I liked the fact that there were teams in the tournament I had never heard of. I would always pick them to win a couple games. Why not them?

Now, though, every team in the country is obsessively scouted. I didn’t even know the mascot of most of the teams not from the Midwest. Now you’ve got “advanced statistics,” whatever the hell that means, on every player down to the student manager’s ability to hand out sports drink in late game pressure situations with less than 2 minutes on the clock.

I don’t care how the network’s panel of experts filled out their brackets. They will play the games and then we will know the actual answer.

I’ve heard so much about that former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and whether he will be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft that I hope the he is picked dead last and the commentators get laryngitis from shouting about it all day long.

It isn’t just sports. It’s everything. During the basketball tournament, CBS promoted the series finale of “How I Met Your Mother” so much that I went from never having watched an episode to actively resenting the show ever having been on the air.

Some of this, of course, is my own jangled nerves. I waited two years to see the movie “Pulp Fiction” because I was so tired of everyone telling me how great it was. That movie came out in 1995, just seconds after the Internet as we know it came into being. If that movie happened today, I probably would never see it just on principle.

All the cable TV news channels hype every story as if ragnarok was upon us. But they don’t know anything. They just keep repeating the same four paragraphs of facts (and many times rumors) while they call in “experts” to say what they think might have happened.

A buddy and I went to a classy restaurant in a northwest Des Moines neighborhood this weekend. At the bottom of the menu, they had a sign that said “Like us on Facebook.” I grimaced.

What they were really doing is asking me to advertise for them. The thing is, this was a nice restaurant. They don’t need my “like” on Facebook. They’ve been around for years. It’s one of the nicest places in town.

I eat lunch at a Mexican restaurant downtown. You can get 10 percent off your bill if you “check in” at the restaurant on Facebook. I just pay the extra dollar. The world doesn’t need to know where I’m eating, what I’m eating or whether I liked it.

This probably sounds hypocritical from a guy who writes a blog and works at a paragraph factory, but social media is just part of the hype machine, maybe it’s noisiest and stupidest sprocket. It’s no different than professional babblers making too big a deal about a baseball game in April or the finale of a TV series.

Everywhere we look, the world is shouting at us to care — no, more than that — to be relentlessly obsessive about everything. The problem is, there’s no context. It’s nearly impossible to tell what’s important and what’s nonsense.

When things become that murky, the best advice I can tell you is to regard it all as nonsense.

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TV Review: ‘Mad Men’ Season 7 premier ‘Time Zones’


Season 7, Episode 1: “Time Zones” | Original air date: April 13, 2014

“Mad Men” enters its seventh and final season with its characters very much on the edge of collapse.

The drunken, mentally unstable Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is still suspended from his advertising firm, but he’s pitching ideas through Freddy Rumsen (Joel Murray), the lovable recovering alcoholic accounts man, in what Rumsen describes as a Cyrano de Bergerac routine.

Don visits estranged wife Megan (Jessica Paré) in Los Angeles, where she appears to be thriving with a spacious house in the hills and a hot rod convertible. She’s uncomfortable being intimate with Don.

She’s even more uncomfortable when he buys her a huge color TV, ostensibly to celebrate her upcoming parts on TV but more likely so he has something better then her tiny black-and-white job to watch when he comes to visit.

Don is still lying to Megan, pretending he’s still a player at the firm, when it’s January he’s been out since Thanksgiving. Don manages to turn down sex offered by a widow he meets on the plane home, but it’s doubtful this rare display of fidelity will last.

Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) is a mess. She’s still seeking approval from her new boss, a fussy mope who wears cardigan sweaters. She doesn’t stand up for a Freddy’s idea for a watch company — which, of course, is actually Don’s idea. But she lashes out at Stan Rizzo (Jay R. Ferguson), calling him and the rest of creative “a bunch of hacks.”

Peggy is a landlord now, apparently, with a tenant who speaks a foreign language and has trouble with her toilet. She didn’t move into Don’s job as was seemingly predicted by her over-the-shoulder silhouette at the end of the sixth season.

And she’s still very angry with one-time lover Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm), who chose to move to California with rather than leave his wife and kids for Peggy. We see Peggy on her knees sobbing inside her home, seemingly overwhelmed by the utter lack of joy in her life.

Roger (John Slattery) has fallen into some kind of hedonistic sexual relationship with a woman and another man. His first appearance of the season comes with him nude on the floor, a phone over his genitals, taking a call from his estranged daughter Margaret (Elizabeth Rice).

By the way, God bless, John Slattery. That dude has shown his butt while taking acid in a hotel and all but a full frontal to open this season. Lena Dunham shouldn’t get all the credit for nudity on TV.

She summons her father to brunch, where she suddenly forgives him for all his transgression. Roger is more pissed than heartened and wonders if his daughter has found religion.

Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) is still a colostomy bag with legs and looks the part now more than ever after his transfer to Los Angeles.

Only Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) seems to flourish. An overwhelmed (and one-eyed) Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) hands a struggling shoe company over to Joan to fix. The company wants to leave, but Joan goes to a marketing professor and trades her insights into the advertising account fees for an academic review that will woo the young MBA at the shoe company.

Joan, for the first time, is trading on her brains rather than her boobs — and more importantly, she’s being sought after for that. It must be heartening for her after years of sexism.

It will all end badly, of course, because “Mad Men,” to its great credit, never gives the viewer what it wants. There are no happy endings in this great character study, only varied degrees of crashing and burning.