What’s Blowing My Mind, 2016 Edition (Part 1)

Posted in Whatever Else on July 28th, 2016 by bill

My mind isn’t quite as easy to blow as it once was, but every now and again something sneaks past the gatekeeper and rearranges my neurons in a pleasant way. Let’s catch up a little bit.

On Monday Stephen Colbert’s Late Show opened its coverage of the 2016 Democratic National Convention with this stupendous bit of nouveau psychedelia:

Simply fantastic. I admit I’ve been a bit disappointed with Stephen’s CBS incarnation, and enjoyed it last week when the old “Stephen Colbert” returned for a few minutes during the Republican Convention. What the hell, let’s throw that in here too:

I once heard the Daily Show compared to an evening beer, and the Colbert Report to a shot of whiskey; the Late Show is more like a Manhattan. It can be great, and then sometimes the liquor is wrong or the ingredients are poorly balanced, and it just doesn’t work. One misses the dependable purity of the old show. It doesn’t surprise me to hear that the Late Show’s first year has been somewhat troubled, and that its future is not guaranteed. But I root for Stephen, and for this week, at least, he has me back.

R.I.P. Merle Haggard

Posted in Whatever Else on April 9th, 2016 by bill

I feel like I would be remiss not to note the passing this week of Merle Haggard, namesake of my most loyal reader. I was a latecomer to country music, and I would not claim Merle as one of my personal heroes, but I respect his style and his body of work.

Here’s my favorite Merle song, which shows off a sly, sardonic, and subversive sense of humor; the way he says the words “Bubble Up” is a joy in itself:

67 and counting

Posted in Golden (State) Years, Whatever Else on March 30th, 2016 by bill

After the game, Craig Sager asked Steph Curry if he was tired. Steph found this concept amusing. 'Silly human,' goes the thought bubble.

Last night the Warriors won their 67th game of the season, matching their total from all of last year, against only 7 losses. From this point the math is pretty simple: If they finish the season 6-2 or better, they break the 1995-96 Bulls’ record for most wins in an NBA season.

After the game TNT’s talking heads all opined on whether the W’s should pursue the record or prioritize resting players to prepare for the playoffs. I found myself in the unusual position of agreeing with Isiah Thomas, who argued that there was no reason for the Warriors to blunt their own momentum by resting when no one appears all that tired or injured. Andre Iguodala has been getting enforced rest caused by a sprained ankle, and he is the only key playoff contributor over 30 (sorry, Bogut).

The Warriors are on a roll right now. I don’t see any compelling reason why they can’t keep that going through the rest of the regular season and on into the playoffs. Yes, injuries are always possible, and that would suck. But why live in fear?

Keep calm and Curry on, people.

Death of a Counterrevolutionary Man

Posted in Whatever Else on March 26th, 2016 by bill

Garry rocked the Bulb like nobody's business.

We lost one of the greats this week: comedian and TV star Garry Shandling. I feel this one more than most celebrity deaths, maybe because he had that special quality of seeming like a regular person who just happened to be on TV. It helped that he was funny-looking and always had bad haircuts; in comedy these things can be turned into assets, and Garry Shandling did it better than anyone.

I am either proud or ashamed to say that, despite the fact that he was responsible for not one but two truly innovative, self-aware TV shows (It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and The Larry Sanders Show), the first thing I thought of when I heard he died was this:

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 2016

Posted in Whatever Else on March 21st, 2016 by bill

Party like it's 1992.

I don’t write much about politics, because there’s already so much of that out there, and because I hate getting into arguments. But this year’s presidential election has been so bizarre, so entertaining, and so frightening, that I feel compelled to put down a few words.

On the Republican side, it looks like the nominee is going to be Donald Trump. I can’t believe I just typed those words. Until very recently, no one took Trump seriously as a candidate, and with good reason. He is a walking cartoon character, a golem that someone put an orange toupee on and sent out into the world to wreak havoc. And yet he has continued to amass delegates while “respectable” candidates like Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio have one by one gone down in flames.

It seems to me that the key to Trump’s appeal is his certainty. He projects total confidence because he really believes that he could walk into the White House and fix everything, because he is smarter than everybody else and such a great wheeler-dealer. Nobody who has any actual experience in government, and knows how hard it is to get things done, can replicate that kind of clueless bravado. However fake most everything about Trump is, the swagger is real, and people respond to that. In the words of the great American philosopher George Costanza, “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”
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Coming Soon:

Posted in Whatever Else on February 29th, 2016 by bill

My one-act play about the late Abe Vigoda.

What will it be called?


“The Vigoda Monologues.”

Alert the Media: Rodent Does Not See Shadow

Posted in Whatever Else on February 2nd, 2016 by bill

Gobbler's Knob, indeed.

Well, will miracles never cease…for the first time in recent memory, that chubby little prognosticating mammal in Pennsylvania has predicted an early spring.

Of course, we all know, don’t we, that Groundhog Day is fixed? The town elders of Punxsutawney get together every year and decide in advance what the outcome of the shadow-seeing-or-not-seeing drama is going to be. It is all a cruel charade inflicted annually on the American public, who really ought to know better.

Still…this being only the second day of February, I’ll take all the good news I can get. Let’s go ahead and call this a positive sign, cause why not? Early spring for everyone!

Dead ones and the living

Posted in Whatever Else on February 1st, 2016 by bill

So here we are in February – normally my least favorite month, but this year it comes as a welcome deliverance from the death parade that was January.

A lot of famous people died last month, or at least it seems that way. In truth it was probably just business as usual. If you look up lists of deaths on Wikipedia, you’ll see that on any given day 10 or 20 or 30 “famous” people die (in this context, that means people famous enough to have Wikipedia pages). So I guess that’s just how it goes – time marches on, the old order gives way to the new, etc. etc.

Of the January deaths, Bowie, of course, was the big one. He will continue to be the big one for the rest of the year, and the rest of the decade, at minimum. The rest were just your regular celebrity deaths, with the notable names including:
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Welcome to Your Post-Vigoda Future

Posted in Whatever Else on January 27th, 2016 by bill

The youngest picture of Abe Vigoda I could find.

Earlier this week I wrote: “Bowie’s passing proves once and for all that no one lives forever.” But just in case there was any last, lingering doubt in anyone’s mind, the death yesterday of Abe Vigoda ought to silence it.

By my calculations Abe spent 94 years, 11 months, and 2 days on this planet, and for roughly half that time he made a living by looking like he could drop dead at any moment. This led some of us to believe that he might possibly be an immortal, and the monitoring of his aliveness became something of a national obsession, spawning a Firefox plug-in and abevigoda.com (which will now permanently switch over to “Abe Vigoda is dead” status).

Well, Abe’s continuing existence made for good entertainment; his demise, not so much. So rather than try to mine any more material out of the man, I will simply refer you to my previous Vigoda posts here, here, and here.

So long, Abe, and thanks for the memories.

The Increasingly Weird Life of Martin Shkreli

Posted in Whatever Else on December 21st, 2015 by bill

So just a few days after I wrote about Martin Shkreli, in the context of his status as the owner of the only copy of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, he was arrested by FBI agents on securities fraud and wire fraud charges. As a result he has been in the news even more than previously, and the more I learn about him, the more I’m impressed by what a weirdo he is – in that special way that only billionaires can be weird, by virtue of having the resources to indulge their eccentricities to the farthest extreme.

The day after his arrest, Shkreli was back on the streets and back on the internet, live-streaming five hours of his life during which he played online chess, strummed his guitar, and browsed OKCupid dating profiles. Or so I am told. I am not going to enable Shkreli’s colossal ego by by watching that shit, curious as I may be; it’s bad enough I’m writing about him.

Frankly, though, I’m not sure which is weirder: that Shkreli likes to live-stream his entire life –  he has previously posted video of himself working on his computer, and even sleeping – or that people seem to care. On his part it’s just raw narcissism; what’s the excuse of the people who are watching? Morbid curiosity? Lifestyle envy? Or just a simple case of nothing better to do?

Shkreli clearly craves notoriety, perhaps even more than money, and doesn’t seem to care how he gets it. In that sense, casting himself as a heel in the increasingly professional-wrestling-like world of modern celebrity is a shrewd move. He also apparently takes some amount of inspiration from the world of gangsta rap, and no doubt considers himself a “gangster” of one kind or another, which makes his recent perp-walk something to brag about. Well. Hopefully he will be doing hard time soon, and we’ll see then how hardcore he is.