Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Let's Play Politics or Know Your History

Antonin Scalia

With the passing of Antonin Scalia, many a thing has been put forward but history was not one of them.  Suddenly there were rules that never existed. There is the Constitution.  There is no such thing as the Thurmond rule.

Before the death had barely been announced, it was stated, tweeted, announced and put in a debate that President Obama should not nominate a successor and that the Republican-led Senate would not and should not consider any nominee.  This instantly means that the President is only President for three years and no one, no matter how qualified, will be considered. I also would point out that some of the harsher statements were walked back.

Benjamin Cardoza
There are the statements that no president has in at least the last 80 years nominated a justice in the last year of their presidency.  I have one thing to say: know your history.  The 80 year one referenced as the only one for nomination and approval took place in 1932.  Hoover's nominee, Justice Benjamin Cardozo took all of seven days to be nominated and confirmed. The average is now 70 days.

Abe Fortas
In fact, there have been several nominations in an election year in the modern era. Only one failed due to filibuster by cloture.  The last successful filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee was in 1968 when President Johnson nominated an Associate Justice, Abe Fortas to become Chief Justice.  Johnson then had to also withdraw Homer Thornbury who he had nominated to replace Fortas when Fortas was blocked. There were 22 hearings for Thornbury and Fortas.  The longest time a court appointment confirmation took was 125 days.  There are over 300 days left in Obama's term.

Robert Bork
The other statements that I love are that Obama voted for a filibuster by cloture in 2006 -not an election year- and that it is karma.  Obama admitted that the filibuster thing was not a wise choice. The cloture failed. By the way, the Justice involved, Samuel Alito, was approved.  The actual filibuster movement was not led by Obama.  The other "it's payback" was the blocking of Robert Bork in the 80's.   I would  like to point out that Bork was not filibustered and was not blocked without a hearing.  The senate acted exactly as the Constitution's "advise and consent" clause is supposed to work. Six republicans in the 58 total voted not to confirm  Bork. The next Reagan nominee, who had not supported Jim Crow laws and a number of other contentious decisions, Justice Anthony Kennedy was confirmed 97 zip.  The Bork battle did change the nomination process, but it did not stop it.

Alexander Polk
Bork was not the only nominee to not be approved by the senate.   The court did sit with an empty seat for 27 months just before the Civil War.  President Polk who replaced Tyler after his death held the record for rejected or withdrawn nominees at eight. This is the longest example I could find. There is no time in history I could find that the Senate has announced that it would not even consider a nominee.

There must also be irony in that the call for blocking any appointee by Obama because it is an election year.  Ironic because Scalia believed the Constitution should be interpreted literally.  He abhorred people who tried to re-interpret the Constitution by trying to put a context around it. Even conservative and retired Justice Sandra Day O'Conner has stated flatly, "I don't agree (with Republicans)," O'Connor, a Reagan appointee, said in an interview with Phoenix-based Fox affiliate KSAZ. "We need somebody in there to do the job and just get on with it."

To announce that no nominee will receive even a hearing or a vote is actually the only part of this mess that is unprecedented.  Playing politics is not new when it comes to nominations. Even  if we put the whole thing down as this is payback for Bork or Obama voting for cloture in 2006, I am still reminded of one thing: This is the Supreme Court of the United States whose members appointments are controlled not by an amendment but the Constitution.  It says very clearly the President shall nominate and the Senate will use "advise and consent" on the nomination.  The Constitution does not say that a group of politicians shall stand and claim that they are getting even for past actions like eight-year-olds on the playground.

I have one more comment about the arguments that this is payback or an election year choice and "elections have consequences":

If what was done was wrong in the past, does doing it wrong in the present make it right? Does the election we had in 2012 not count in its consequence? One cannot ignore the election of the past because you have an election in the future.

I am not a Constitutional expert but I see nothing about Presidents losing power to nominate in an election year. I also see nothing about the Senate refusing or delaying its "advice and consent" because it is an election year.  This is what it says in The Constitution, "he (The President) shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law..."

Two wrongs still do not make a right.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Gentleman's Guide Laugh-Out-Loud Funny

The Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder is a hard one to explain. There may be some spoilers in this review, but little that is not in the program or the opening numbers. The music is complex and not something you will find yourself humming for hours after or running out to buy the cast album.  It is also perfect for the show. It has a wonderful set that combines projections and lighting that is both subtle and fantastical.  I would also hate to be the prop master for this show because, like most bawdy farces, it is prop after prop after prop.  More than anything else it is one of the funniest pieces of  visual musical comedy that I've seen hit the stage in some time.  It is a true gem.

So let me try to explain to you what I can.  Meet  Lord Montague "Monty" D'Ysquith Navarro, Ninth Earl of Highhurst, whose mother died penniless because she had been disowned by the wealthy and powerful D'Ysquith family for running off and marrying a Spanish musician.  Monty did not know he was a D'Ysquith and when he discovers this, he attempts to reunite with his estranged and strange family.  They treat him as they did his mother: horribly.  So in order for Monty to claim his inheritance and eventually become the Ninth Earl of Highhurst, Monty must eliminate all those in between including the Eighth Earl.  That number would be eight extremely odd human, and I use the term loosely,  beings.

And so it begins that Monty creatively begins to kill off his cousins.  In the show, Monty's D'Ysquith cousins are all played by the same actor.  I always worry when I see a show that involves one actor playing several roles that the show will become like a bad Jerry Lewis movie.  Let me allay your fears.  The same actor playing all the cousins makes the show wonderful because John Rapson is amazing as is the entire cast. Kevin Massey who plays Monty is a wonderful serial killer too. (You may recognize Rapson and Massey at the two guys who sung The Star Spangled Banner at the Bronco's overtime win against the Patriots.) The wonder of this show is that the audience is rooting for Monty despite the fact that he has a married mistress and is also married to his cousin, the only D'Ysquith he doesn't need to kill.
The musical is based on 1907 novel Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal by Roy Horniman. The novel also inspired the 1949 black comedy movie Kind Hearts and Coronets. The eight roles played by Rapson were also played by one actor, Sir Alec Guinness. The family name in the movie is D'Ascoyne. The musical is based on the novel since the writers did not have rights to the 1949 movie.

The show is marked not only by a spectacular set but also wonderful music that often breaks into counterpoints involving trios and duets.  The blending of music and voice is mesmerizing and the show from physical and classic farce-style acting to the songs and dialog are all tremendously funny. By the time the curtain call rolls around you will find yourself standing there grinning like a foolish D'Ysquith.

See it.

Friday, February 19, 2016

It's the Little Things

First, I started writing this before Christmas, so please forgive me if it's not as topical as it was then. It is, however, still applicable.  People are still calling each other names over absolutely trivial things and acting like these little things matter.

You know there is a boatload of things that people are upset, outraged, indignant, angry, perturbed, dismayed, bothered, ruffled by.  I have one thing to say about it: most of it does not matter and get a sense of humor. When did we become so many spoiled junior high adolescents?  This is not a new rant, but the whole "we did this because so and so did it" is getting old.

Before Christmas came the infamous red cup of Starbucks.  Was there a huge outcry about the lack of decorations celebrating the season? Actually, no.  There was an infinitesimally small group of extreme something or others that were outraged by the fictional war on Christmas that posted something on social media. It went viral.  The news reported it like it was a big deal and voila outrage over a red paper cup.  I mean you would've thought Starbucks had put a menorah on the cup or put out a rainbow colored cup in honor of the anniversary of the release of the Wizard of Oz.  That is why you would have a rainbow cup, right?

There was also the usual blizzard of those horrible stores wishing everyone a "happy holiday" instead of "Merry Christmas." After all, why would any retailer or any person who has a friend that isn't of their belief system want to wish them good days during the holidays?

Then came the outcry by one or two people who had their humorous bone (actually spelled humerus in your Grey's Anatomy) removed about a tee-shirt which said, "I have OCD: Obsessive Christmas Disorder." Again it was reported and made important by going only slightly less viral than red cups.  Apparently, no one among the angry denizens of "Ihatemylifeandeveryoneelsestoo" land has not seen the multitude of other tees that include: "just add alcohol; I have CDO which is like OCD except in the right order"; and or a host of other potentially offensive tee shirts. Humor apparently does not reside in their layer of the stratosphere.

Look, I was in education and there are more than a few teacher jokes out there.  Some are actually pretty funny. I am not immune to the more slanderous ones, but I am not going on a viral tear about the humor someone's attempt at humor.  Besides the vast majority of us get that it is a joke.  Contrary to what the average sit-com or TV show would have us believe, all men are not idiots, all teenagers do not all suffer from angst, all blondes are not dumb or bimbos, and not all overweight people are funny.  It still remains true if you want to know the best lawyer jokes, ask a lawyer.

Let's face it, people have always been upset over things that do not matter, but to make a big deal over which is better: Coke or Pepsi or that some movie star or singer have endorsed something or someone is just ridiculous.  First, I no longer drink cola but if I did, it would be a ginger ale or a root beer. I've met many a celebrity and please believe me when I say this, I wouldn't trust their educated opinion any more than I would trust a mirror not to reflect.  For the most part, they have done as much research as someone who post articles and memes from partisan Facebook pages.  They don't.

So before it goes viral, give this a shot.  Don't comment. Don't repost.  Let news organizations know they might want to try to report real news. I just want to go back to arguing over whether the dress is gold or blue.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Pull of Deadpool

I was curious about why the movie, Deadpool, needed to be R-rated. The comic book was originally written for 12 and up.  I've now seen the movie, loved it, and still don't know why it needed to be the hard R it is.  Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of reasons it is R-rated, I just don't get why it "had" to be this hard of R for it to work.  I am also like James Gunn and worried that Hollywood will take the wrong lesson from the success of Deadpool which is generally clever in its unique way.  Hollywood has already started to look for other comic book movies to turn into R-rated franchises. That's the wrong reason.  So the real question becomes would Deadpool remain R-rated if it cut all the swearing and nudity? The answer is that if it did, it would be a much softer R.

What makes Deadpool work is not the ability of the characters to go to strip clubs or drop F-bombs at any time the script writer deems it necessary.  It is the gritty humor and bent point of view that makes the movie and the comic work.  Deadpool, the character, is a killing machine and it is this violence that would probably keep the movie out of the PG-13 range because there is a huge difference between a comic book drawing and a live action flick.  Deadpool, the merc with the mouth, has in both movie and comic something unique.  Deadpool is aware that he is in a comic book.  Unlike his first movie appearance in Wolverine Origins, the movie often is more of a true origin story.  Deadpool, being aware of his fictional status, in fact, takes aim at that movie as well as Ryan Reynold's other super-hero failure, Green Lantern. Them movie actually works because it has so much fun with other Marvel franchises especially the X-Men series.  It is this moment to moment humor that makes Deadpool so much fun.  There are also plenty of more adolescent gags that would be ripe for a PG-13 version of the film, but at times were a bit out of place for the more adult themes of the hard R.

No, Deadpool doesn't need to be the swear fest it is. It is clever and original, and that is what makes it work and succeed.  The characters, like most comic book movies, are not particularly multi-dimensional, but it is the awareness of his fictional status by Deadpool that makes the comic book and the movie work.  Is it my favorite, no.  It's a fun one in the same tradition of Guardians of the Galaxy.  Deadpool was not the first R-rated comic book movie, and it will not be the last.  It is, though, currently the most successful.  I look forward to its sequel, but if you go see it, leave the kids at home.   You have been fairly warned. Oh, and be sure to read the opening credits.

 I liked it and will probably buy the DVD.