Thursday, July 24, 2008

Various nonsense

Ah, a week off from the draining profession of blogging does the mind wonders. I’m in a potpourri mood tonight. Get ready for nonsense.

Best reality show
Why haven’t we seen a reality show called “Take my virginity – please!”? It can’t be because it is too low. Could it be lower than a show about women competing to marry a millionaire they don’t even know?

I see it like this – one young woman, safely over the age of 18 (even thought it is legal to have sex younger than that in many places) has the taking of her virginity competed over by 10 great looking young men.

The men will be differentiated by age, at least one a little younger than the woman (the “baby” or “kid”) and one twenty years or so older (the “old man” or “grand pa”) and of various ethnicity, at least one of African, Asian, Hispanic and Northern European descent, with the rest other ethnic groups. If basing this partly on ethnicity offends, remember, we are not creating a government, we are making a reality show, and ethnicity can actually be an interesting and positive thing as it sometimes was before the age of hyper-sensitivity.

One man will turn out to have a wife or a girlfriend who is ok with his experiment, another will be a laborer, another an executive. You get the idea.

The woman may be of any ethnicity, occupation, etc. She can be older as well, so long as she is beautiful, a virgin and willing to tell a camera how her loins ache for a man. This is not a politically correct show, which is why it will draw millions of viewers.

The men compete over her, but do not get to meet her for weeks into the show. They engage in sports (a different one each time, but I suggest naked Graeco-Roman wrestling for the first one), trivia contests, double blind massage with the virgin, singing and poetry writing (limericks one time, sonnets another). Maybe they can rescue her from a dragon. I’ll leave that to special effects.

The victorious champion and the virgin get to go to a resort, are followed around by cameras, but have adjoining suites of which only she can open the door. When the deed is done, I guess I should say if it is done, he will ascend to the top of a tower and ring a bell. Naturally, the virgin does not have to go through it, just as they can back out on the shows where participants seek a spouse. However, if she does, she has to go through a walk of shame in the morning.

Of course, there will be legal problems. Although I see no prostitution here, I’d suggest locales where it is legal (e.g., Nevada) and the producers even have to be careful about America’s antiquated Mann Act which almost snared NY’s disgraced governor, Eliot Spitzer. The participants are paid, of course, but only for their on screen performances at a flat rate. There is no additional money for winning the contest or to her for going through it. If there is a legal problem from the Henny Youngmann estate over the name, they can just call it “Take Me”.

Spin offs will follow, as sure as the night follows the day, such as where the virgin is a male. There will be a spin-off for lesbians and another for gay men, another one for lesbians (I know I said lesbians twice, but that’s the only one I’ll watch – I hate reality shows) and one for convicts, another for wives and husbands with permission. They can even do (no pun intended) different ethnic groups (Take me, guido, Take me, boychik, Take me, Mr. Moto). Does it matter just as long as the people on it are attractive? There can even be destination events like Take Me, Polynesia, Take Me, Vegas and Take Me, Rio.

Raise your hand if you think this would not make money. I’d say it is a lock. If only my entrepreneurial skills were in were in line with my ability to think of degrading reality shows.

Why aren’t comedies in the running for Oscars?
We all love to laugh. Some comedies are great. Movies like The In-laws (the Peter Falk version NOT the Michael Douglas version), Play It Again, Sam, My Cousin Vinnie, Midnight Run, Back to the Future, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Duck Soup, The Return of the Pink Panther, Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, 48 Hours, Beverly Hills Cop, When Harry Met Sally, Borat, You’ve Got Mail (am I the only guy who loves that movie?), Hitch and so on deserve at least a nomination, if not to win.

Take the last suggestion, for example. I’m not saying Hitch was one of the all time great movies. But it was fun and I have watched it numerous times. It was better than Million Dollar Baby, Finding Neverland, The Aviator and, what may have passed for a comedy for the Academy that year because it was so un-funny, Sideways, all of which got nominations. Million Dollar, Baby won. It was an ok movie, but not great in my mind.

You might think this year’s nomination for Juno broke the ice. I don’t think so. The film was a typical teen comedy, but its topic, teen pregnancy and its occasional darkness made it just “serious” enough for the Academy. I just didn’t think it was all that good.

In my professional opinion (that is, I pay good money to see movies) it is a lot harder to make a good comedy than a good drama and it is time that was recognized. And, as Mike Meyers just proved with his Love Guru, it’s really hard to continue to make good comedies, even if you have done it repeatedly before. Meyers took his “art” too seriously and forgot how to be funny. If you don’t think so, listen to an interview of him talking about it. It was enough to kill any possibly interest I had in seeing it.

No doubt, the Academy doesn’t want to undermine its own credibility and you can see how they might think it would do so by nominating some of these silly films. But, that’s because, like any self-identifying wealthy group of people, they become self-important, uptight, power hungry and just plain ridiculous. In my humble opinion, anyway.

The fact is that including great comedies that people love to see would in no way reduce the stature of the Academy or the awards (you can hear the argument – what next -- should we include great porn movies? Well, why not, if they were actually good enough. Someday, some is going to make a great porno movie, but it would be dangerous to hold your breathe.

There is a compromise position. Have a separate category for comedies. The problem might be that there will be consecutive years with very slim pickings. That’s because being funny is a lot harder than being dramatic. Honestly, I think Jim Carrey is more talented than Robert DeNiro and I like DeNiro. However, I think lots of actors, known and unknown, could have played DeNiro’s roles, many worse, but some as well and probably some better. But replace Jim Carrey in Me, Myself and Irene or the Pet Detective movies. Go ahead and try. Wouldn’t work.

The Bus
Politicians are distinctly disloyal when running for president. For me, a little loyalty for people who were trying to help them along the way and aren’t didn’t do something heinous would go a long way. Here’s an idea. Let’s rate our candidates not on how they cringe before the media and their political correctness, but on how loyal they are to their friends who make a mistake, or, much worse, tell the truth when they weren’t supposed to.

How many people will be scolded or thrown under the bus this year by the candidates? Let’s see. Obama’s has already “thrown under the bus” –

Jeremiah Wright, whom he first likened to family. Thrown under because of his wacky anti-whitey theories and other “bombastic” hyperbole like the government created AIDs and that blacks and whites learn on different sides of their brains. After the very strange Reverend Fleger spoke at Obama’s church, Obama had enough and threw his whole church under the bus. By Obama’s own analogy, it meant he was also throwing his own “white” grandmother under the bus along with his church.

Jim Johnson, who was one the small committee vetting VP possibilities was thrown under because due to his connections he derived benefits from Countrywide, the mortgage company. Why would Obama, who allegedly received a deal on the price and mortgage for his own house, care about that? Because he had already castigated Clinton for having advisors with connections to Countrywide. Thus, the phony attack on Clinton backfired and he had no choice. “Jim, come here a second.” Had he refrained from scoring the cheap political point he would not have needed to fire Johnson.

Samantha Powers, a writer, teacher and voracious Obama supporter was thrown under too because she said that the 16 month pull out of Iraq would be re-examined by him after he was elected. Her mistake was not that what she said was false but that she gave Obama too much credit. He didn’t wait until he was elected to back pedal. He has already re-thought Iraq and acknowledged when we leave will depend on circumstances. It was inevitable. As I’ve said here before, the candidates can say what they want about Iraq, once they become president the situation will determine what they do, not their rhetoric. Doesn’t Obama owe her an apology now after making a speech that went further than she did in her speech.

Enough for Obama. Let’s look at Mr. McCain who I heard Peggy Noonan tag this week as pale and white as a pillar. Not fair, but I kind of like the description.

Phil Gramm, former senator, good friend and co-chair of McCain’s campaign was just recently cast under the bus. His crime -- saying that we are a nation of whiners. Well, we can’t have that, can we? We don’t want to lose voters by telling the truth, do we? Of course, Phil Gramm is right and McCain knows it. But, can he say it? Absolutely not. He has to pet us and stroke us and tell us we are wonderful. Why? Because we are a nation of whiners, that’s why. Meanwhile, Phil Gramm has tread marks on his face. I have to give McCain some credit and note that he didn’t actually fire Gramm.

John Hagee, the kooky anti-Catholic, anti-semitic evangelist was thrown under the bus by McCain too. Now, there’s an example of a divisive, anti-semitic, anti-Catholic man who should get thrown under a train of buses. But, that’s not my problem with it. McCain didn’t just accept Hagee’s endorsement blindly, he sought it out, along with those of other leaders of the Christian right. You might say McCain was hoisted by his own petard. McCain should have at least symbolically tied himself to Hagee when he threw him under and taken the blame for his own pandering.

Wesley Clark. A little twist on this one. The weird thing was, McCain tried to throw this former candidate and Obama supporter under Obama’s bus and, to his credit, Obama wouldn’t do it. I said a lot about Clark about two weeks ago, so I’ll be brief. Clark spoke a truth – getting shot down and imprisoned doesn’t qualify you for the presidency, and that was enough for McCain to ask Obama to lose him. Lighten up, McCain. Have you gone from not talking about your captivity to insisting that everyone celebrate it? Ironically, who was McCain willing to throw under the bus – A highly decorated member of the armed forces you would expect him to be supportive of if he were not running for office.

Politicians, at least successful ones, apparently think they must be prepared to sell their own grandmothers. The conventional wisdom is wrong here. We’d respect them more if they would stick to their guns, particularly when someone tells the truth.

Thoughts of the week

Flop flops: When I hear a newsperson, politician or poll use the phrase “flip flop” about their adversary, I just turn off. It’s usually unfair. If there was ever anything to flip flopping, it is now just political name calling, up there with “card carrying liberal” and “right wing nut”. It is Republicans hoping to recapture their spearing of John Kerry, an easy target if there ever was one, and Democrats desiring to turn the fearful flip flop tag against those who wielded it so successfully against them. Accusations of flip flops are tales told by idiots, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.

The run to the middle: Are we all so jaded that although we know politicians will run to their base during the nomination phase and then head to the center when it is all sewn up, we will not call them on it? Apparently so. It happens every election and if anybody gets called on it in passing, it doesn’t seem to lose them any votes. How can it when they all do it?

McCain has a tougher job in this election than Obama in this respect. Obama can move center and despite some irritation among his base, where are they going – to Ralph Nader or Ron Paul? I think not. McCain’s base has always been shaky, and therefore he must satisfy those on his far right in order to get them to the polls, yet find a way to make the independents who will decide the election happy too.

Waterfalls in New York City: Oh, brother. Now, generally speaking, I like Mayor Bloomberg. He is smart and pragmatic and fairly non-partisan. But watching him yahoo about the artificial waterfalls, really just fountains set on top of high steel girders, made him a little ridiculous to me. But, his statement that "[t]hese waterfalls will be just as awe-inspiring as any found in nature" made me laugh while I sat under a real hundred foot tall waterfall last week. It was stone and water flora and fauna, the way waterfalls are supposed to be. No, Honorable Sir, although my waterfall was seasonably reduced to a trickle, yours was still not as awe-inspiring. Not even close. Metal waterfalls and the like are pathetic attempts to pass for art in the age of the camera phone and made for people who are starving for something real. New York paved its real waterfalls under long ago (and I mean long, long ago) to make room for the greatest city in the world. They should have kept some waterfalls. After all, don’t we all love Central Park?

I may be trying to shoot a mosquito with a cannon, but these contraptions are a little ridiculous. Reminds me of those ridiculous gates they set up in Central Park a few years ago under the auspices of art. Amazing how many more people will come to see phony art than real art.

Banks: Sometimes it appears that we have gone insane in our efforts to govern ourselves. Would you say that it is a good thing to lend money at a low rate to someone who is trying to make it and needs a break? Haven’t many of us counted on that a little in our lives? Do you have any idea how many big companies or people started their march to success with a loan they didn’t deserve on paper?

Would you also say that it is the responsibility of the borrower to make sure they can pay it back and that we shouldn’t blame the lender for trying to help make someone’s dreams come true?

Well, we have reversed all of that now. The banks that lent money at rates less than the prime rate are now called “predators” and we are supposed to want to bail the “victimized” borrowers out. Isn’t that what bankruptcy is for? Are we now not just forgive the debt (which I’m not against in certain circumstances) to make heroes out of them?

Now, I’m not arguing that the banks weren't foolish in lending money to so many people who couldn’t pay it back. The really strange part, though, is why they did it. We, that is, the government, apparently created this situation. So testified Stan Liebowitz, an economist at the University of Texas before Congress just last month. And if you need to decide that he is just being political, consider that he started writing about this in economic publications in 1998. No one listened.

Here's what happened. Remember redlining? This was the political catch phrase that accused banks of discriminating against blacks and other minorities by turning them down for loans. The study upon which this was founded, claiming that a quarter of minority applicants were turned down were for discriminatory purposes, may have been seriously flawed (Mr. Liebowitz claims ridiculously so, as has been proved by his examination and others).

Yet, based on this study, the federal government used its muscle to force lenders to work with minorities to an unprecedented degree, meaning giving loans to people with bad credit and little income, and by insisting that relaxing underwriting rules would not lead to an increase in defaults. Get it? Hence, my favorite Ronald Reagan line – The scariest words in the English language are – I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.

Who does it turn out was the ballyhooed leader in ignoring good banking practices to loan money to lower income minorities? Countrywide, that’s who -- today’s villain. Oh, brother.

It gets worse, though. Just now, the Federal Exchange, the guardian of our financial system, has announced it is going to crack down on lenders who give loans to those who might not be able to pay them back. The media is all on board, forgetting about the earlier policy and castigating banks who lent money to poor people as evil. Huh? Picture your favorite movie scene where someone’s head rotates and shakes vigorously before exploding. That’s what your head should be doing right now.

Now, thanks to government intervention, banks will only be able to loan money for houses to people who can afford to pay it back (good idea), in fact, they will probably be denying many who could afford it but don’t meet the new strict standards.

I know this sounds crazy, but shouldn’t we just let banks lend money to who they believe are qualified, just like we want to do ourselves? I’m not saying there is no discrimination, but, real discrimination is a far cry from the phony over-protective discrimination that our overly legal and sensitized world has created.

Maybe it’s just me.


  1. Anonymous8:01 AM

    Ah, the interesting weave of your mind. Disagree completely about the waterfalls. Though Bloomberg overstated it (what politician doesn't overstate any and all positive accomplishments?), bringing natural elements into any city, anytime, is a good idea, even dressed up as "modern" art. Comparing them to real nature is unfair, you cudmudgeon, you.
    Generally, why so serious? I expect a minimum of one laugh per blog and this one was all sturm and drang.

  2. Take My Virginity -- Please! was sturm and drang?

    The Curmudgeon was my second choice for a blog title.


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About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .