This, though, happily is some video, from an appearance on The Tonight Show, one of my favorite of their sketches, "The Slow Talkers of America."
I love Bob and Ray. Just love them. There isn't all that much video of them, though a bit of audio, mostly from their Broadway show, The Two and Only.
This, though, happily is some video, from an appearance on The Tonight Show, one of my favorite of their sketches, "The Slow Talkers of America."
Hat's off to the Associated Press and Time magazine for boycotting White House press briefing that blocked four media outlets -- the New York Times, CNN, Politico and the Huffington Post. More media organization should boycott, as well. Because they should know that they could be next.
Rule #1 of news coverage is "Never get into a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel." This will NOT keep these "blocked" outlets from covering the news. They'll not only continue to cover the exact same stories as everyone, they'll a) cover them even more aggressively, and b) they'll cover them using your opponents as sources without you being able to comment, since you've blocked from from you. Furthermore, the White House Correspondents Association just released a statement that they encourage media outlets to share whatever information they get from a White House briefing to outlets that were blocked.
That aside, blocking any news outlets, but especially some of the most respected ones makes you look like you're an idiot, like you're scared and have something to hide, and like you're willing to shred the First Amendment, and if so, then the rest of the Constitution.
I've always thought that Louie Gohmert (R-TX) was one of the most disingenuous and weaselly members of Congress, which considering the competition is an impressive honorific. And it's even more impressive when he can come up with something new and top himself.
On Thursday, Gohmert released a statement explaining why he wouldn't be doing any town hall meetings. Well, okay, let's rephrase that -- he gave a reason he hoped people would believe is why he wouldn't be doing any town halls, since "I don't want to be the subject of an onslaught of vitriol from my constituents and yelled at during the entire meeting" doesn't tend to sound as good as a public official would prefer. Instead, he said it was because of concern for being shot.
"At this time," his spokesman wrote for him, "there are groups from the more violent strains of the leftist ideology, some even being paid, who are preying on public town halls to wreak havoc and threaten public safety.”
Given that it's the far-right which is the most vocal proponent of guns, and the same far-right which is most identified with militias and anarchic white separatist groups, and it's the left that has long been fighting for gun control, it's not quite certain who these "violent strains of the leftist ideology are", and from the woeful lack of specificity I suspect Louie Gohmert isn't certain either. Nor do I suspect he or anyone has yet found a paycheck stub for any protester on the left who was hired to go to a town hall and yell -- an especial challenge since you know these tree huggers -- they're bleeding heart enough to to go yell at people for free. Then again, I don't recall Louie Gohmert ever being concerned about right-wing Tea Party groups "wreaking havoc and threatening public safety" as they filled town halls in their outraged fury at President Obama But then, that's the sort of disingenuous thing weaselly people say. Never mind too that the Tea Party wasn't an actual political party but was itself a paid-for organization financed by people like the Koch Brothers, who funded FreedomWorks, and Dick Armey, who was responsible for financing Tea Party Express.
But even better -- or sickeningly worse, depending on how you prefer to couch such things -- in defending his decision, Louie Gohmert didn't pull out statistics or show threats he'd received, but used former Rep. Gabby Giffords having been shot at a public event as his excuse.
“Threats are nothing new to me, and I have gotten my share as a felony judge," the statement apparently quoted Louie Gohmert, trying to make him sound Texas Macho, despite not referencing any actual threats he's received. "However, the House Sergeant at Arms advised us after former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot at a public appearance, that civilian attendees at Congressional public events stand the most chance of being harmed or killed — just as happened there."
In other words, I want to swagger amongst you with a Bowie knife between my teeth, but my mom says I have to be home for dinner.
Seriously, the "House Sergeant at Arms" warned him not to have public events because of Gabby Giffords?? The Sergeant at Arms keeps order in the House of Representatives and is in charge of protocol. The only reason I can think of that Louie Gohmert brought him up is because the job has the word "Sergeant" in it, which make it sound militaristic and tough, and the weaselly and disingenuous Louie Gohmert wants you to think of him that way, too.
By the way, Gabby Giffords was shot in 2011 -- almost SIX YEARS AGO. Is Louie Gohmert actually trying to tell us that it wasn't until right now that he realized maybe he shouldn't do public events??? Is Louie Gohmert not aware that members of the House of Representatives have been attending public events for the past SIX YEARS. And I'm going to bet a lot of cash money that he has, as well. But now -- now! -- he just figured out that maybe it's not safe for him.
Of course, using Gabby Giffords as his human shield wasn't a great idea. Not just because of the awkward perception of it, but more because it gave Ms. Giffords herself the opportunity to respond.
“I was shot on a Saturday morning. By Monday morning, my offices were open to the public,” she said in her statement. And it continued continued, bluntly. “Ron Barber ― at my side that Saturday, who was shot multiple times, then elected to Congress in my stead ― held town halls. It’s what the people deserve in a representative.” She ended even more pointedly, “To the politicians who have abandoned their civic obligations, I say this: Have some courage. Face your constituents. Hold town halls.”
When I read the Louie Gohmert statement about his concern at being shot -- and honestly, I do understand that we live in a difficult society where people do get shot, and where there are mass shootings -- my immediate thought was that Louie Gohmert is one of the representative who voted last week to allow people who were severely mentally ill (so severely mentally ill that they cannot sign contracts for themselves) to buy guns. So, if Louie Gohmert was really, truly all that concerned with gun violence, and with himself being shot at his own town hall meetings, not voting for that would have been a really good place to start. Unless you're disingenuous and weaselly.
Indeed, if Louie Gohmert is really, truly all that concerned with gun violence, and especially with members of Congress being shot at town halls, I would have expected him to be a major proponent of gun control and making it his mission to convince all members of Congress to stop holding town hall meetings, period. Unless you're disingenuous and weaselly.
Besides, as a major proponent of guns, I thought that Louie Gohmert, more than most people knew that guns were perfectly safe, because guns after all don't kill people. So, what does he have to be concerned about? He knows that!
Unless you're disingenuous and weaselly.
Okay, following the lead from The Netherlands, here's another of those videos that comedy TV shows around the world are putting out, based on Donald Trump calling "America First," and all these other countries making the case why they should be second.
This one is from Switzerland. Yes, neutral, non-political Switzerland. Even they think Trump is a someone worth ridiculing. It's pretty good.
Even if you don't care about sports stories -- and especially those about cycling --this recent 60 Minutes investigation is absolutely fascinating, fun even in a revealing way, and well-worth watching. It's about corruption in the sport, but not (as you might presume) with drugs that have plagued cycling for years. Instead, it revolves around the use of small, electric motors hidden inside the bikes! Even at the crown jewel of the sport, the Tour de France.
It would seem to be a very resolvable problem, now that it's known. Not just with one of the tip-offs that the story gets into, but with the advent of TSA x-ray scanners, that would appear to be an easy way to deal with the issue. It would certainly add an expense, though that would be a small price to retain your sport's integrity. Also, it's not like every race would need a scanner, just the high-end ones where it's worth the risk to the riders, since the cost of the manipulated bikes are so expensive.
I've mentioned my pal Wally Podrazik here a few times. We met in college at Northwestern when we both worked on the radio station, WNUR. Now, among a great many of his accomplishments, he is the curator for the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago. He also teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and is the co-author of Watching TV, a season-by-season look at the history of television, now in its third edition. (He co-wrote the book with Harry Castleman, who I also knew at Northwestern.) Wally is also a major expert on those Beatles folks, and has written several books and lectured about them. And he has been in charge of media at something like six Democratic National Conventions. Or something like that. But yes, it's true, Wally is living out a school kids dream, that of being able to tell his parents that he has to watch television because it's an assignment for school. Only he has to do it for a living.
This past December, he was a guest on C-SPAN, where he talked about his book and the history of TV for an interesting half hour. You even get a twofer here -- at the 14:30 mark, he talks at length about Newton Minow (father of the oft-mentioned here Nell) and his famous "Vast Wasteland" speech, which Wally explains was really mostly intended to be about public service.
The one thing that surprised me was personal: when he does his professional work and curating and lecturing, he does so by the more high-end Walter J. Podrazik." But here he's identified as just good ol' Wally. I asked him about that, and he said that C-SPAN told him that they'd worked with him for so long at the Democratic conventions that they felt it didn't seem right to call him anything but "Wally."
Wally is a very good guy, and it's an interesting, informative half hour. The early few minutes are a bit technical as he gets into the very beginnings of television, but it soon moves on. He's always been well-mannered and detailed in how he presents himself, but boy howdy, does he know his stuff.
Anyway, after my various mentions of the good fellow, here's the video of Wally, in glorious living color. And if you're interested in his book, Watching TV, you can find it this link at Amazon.
Unfortunately, C-SPAN doesn't provide a code for embedding their videos. But you can watch the talk about TV past and where it's going here.
Today we have a few words about baseball...but surprisingly it isn't about the joys of pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training.
For several years, Major League Baseball has been trying to figure out how to deal with a problem the sport has -- that games are taking a significantly longer time than in the past. Once upon a time, baseball games could be completed in between 2 to 2-1/2 hours. Today, however, it's common for games to take between 3 to 4 hours.
One solution with MLB just announced, after testing it in the minor leagues briefly, is to eliminate the intentional walk. Instead of the pitcher having to throw four pitches outside on purpose, now the manager will be able to inform the umpire, and the batter will get his walk.
This is insane.
The Wall Street Journal did a study, and reported that on average this new rule change will save 14 seconds per game.
Furthermore, though it happens rarely, an intentional walk always allows the possibility of the pitcher throwing wildly to a target he's unused to, and the ball getting away, allowing any runners on base to advance. This doesn't happen much -- rarely is an apt word -- but it does happen, and it's why fans do watch intentional walks when they do. Can an intentional walk be boring to watch? Absolutely. For 14 seconds. Most people can deal with that.
More to the point, though, is that there are two reasons which I've long believed are why baseball games take so much longer these days and are the real culprits -- and both of which are things that MLB is unlikely to ever change.
The first is that several decades back, the sport added an extra minute between innings for commercial time. That means two extra minutes each inning. So, right there, you have 17 more minutes every game. (No extra minute is needed for the bottom of the ninth inning if the home team is winning.)
The second is that the game itself has changed. In decades past, pitchers very often threw complete games. No relief pitcher was even needed. And on those games when a team did have to use a reliever, it was generally only one. Maybe sometimes two, but that wasn't regular. The other team might do the same -- or need no relievers. But one was perhaps it, or zero.
Today, though, relief pitching is a specialty. It's become essential that most teams even have a left-handed reliever who's such a specialist that he just may be brought in to only pitch to a single left-handed batter and then he was done for the game. It's not a rare thing for a team to use three relief pitchers in just one inning. Then maybe bring in another reliever later, and then in the eighth inning have a set-up man. And finally use their closer in the ninth inning. Just this week, in fact, Hall of Fame reliever Goose Gossage -- who pitched as recently as 1994, only 20 years ago -- chided today's top closers for only going one inning, when he would often pitch two or three innings during an appearance.
So, how does this work out with time?
A manager is allowed to make two visits to the mound before a pitcher must be removed. They don't always do that, but it often happens because two visits gives their relief pitcher in the bullpen more time to warm up. From the slow saunter to the mound, and then time talking with the pitcher, that's probably a minute -- two minutes for the two visits. Then the relief pitcher who's just come in takes another minute walking to the mount, and a couple minutes warming up. That's three more minutes.
So, it might be five minutes for every pitching change. And a team might use three relievers each game on average. (It could fewer, to be sure -- but it could be as many as six or seven.) That's 15 minutes. But don't forget, the other team will be doing the same thing. So, at a minimum, we're now talking a half-hour every game. (In fairness, in decades past, a team might have used one relief pitcher, maybe more. So, all this time today isn't necessarily extra over years before. But in equal fairness, as I said, it's not uncommon for teams to use five or six relievers in a game. It could be an extra hour of time for pitching changes. So, using "three" as a new base here and an extra half hour is very conservative as an average.)
Add that to the new commercial time, and you have 47 extra minutes slowing the game today that existed before.
That's the core foundational reason why baseball games today take so much longer. Not because you're using up 14 seconds to make an intentional walk.
Take away those 47 new minutes from a 3-hour game today, and you have games taking only 2 hours and 13 minutes. Which is about exactly what baseball games were in the past, when there wasn't "a problem."
Changing the intentional walk rule is idiotic. If baseball wants to truly address why games take so much longer today, these two issues are where they have to look. But it would mean losing revenue, and changing substantive rules about pitching changes. Neither of those are likely to happen. But -- again -- if baseball really does want to address the issue, that's where they have to start.
Major League Baseball just swung and missed.
Boy, sometimes timing really is everything.
The clock just passed midnight to Wednesday as I post this, but I began writing it late Tuesday night. So that means it was just this morning that I wrote about a wonderful GE commercial that uses a renowned scientist, Millie Dresselhaus -- the first woman to win the National Medal of Science in Engineering -- as its centerpiece. The point of the ad being what if we treated scientists like we do other celebrities. It's an absolutely lovely spot that has the real Millie Dresselhaus, a gray-haired, hunched, sweet-looking elderly lady, seen in all manner of celebrity settings -- covered on the news eating lunch, stopped for autographs, on t-shirts, walking slowly on stage to cheering crowds and more.
It turns out that Millie Dresselhaus passed away the day before, at the age of 86.
I discovered this by accident. I have a friend who's on the writing staff of a talk show, and I was sending him a note to suggest that they book Millie Dresselhaus as a guest. I wanted to check first to see her age, so that I could include it in my note. When I saw it listed as Monday, I did a double-take and quadruple-checked to make sure I was looking at the right line or that wrong information wasn't included in the wrong space. Unfortunately, it was all accurate.
I'm sorry to learn about it. But I'm so glad that the TV ad had already begun to air and brought her some national notoriety while she was still here to see it.
If you haven't seen the ad yet, do scroll down to yesterday morning's first posting and check it out.
This may be one of my favorite TV ads. I don't mean "of recent years," I mean...ever. (I don’t expect others to feel the same, but it hit me right. I love what it says, and I love how they say it. And what they selected as the center point.)
It’s from GE, which has another ad I love, equally understated and offbeat about a sad "idea" that wanders around the streets, treated like an outcast, avoided by everyone because it's different.
I don’t want to give away the “twist,” but I’ll just say – actually, no, I won’t. Why give anything away. I’ll only say instead that I put "twist" in quotes because it’s not really an actual twist, but a tiny moment and where we discover something.)
There's one thing I'll add. It's probably clear, but just to make certain -- Millie Dresselhaus is real. That's the "twist" I was referring to, the discovery that she is not a fictitious character as some ads might do, but a renowned, legendary scientist.
Outfielder Dexter Fowler played for the beloved Chicago Cubs last year and helped them win their first World Series in 108 years, though he left them to join the rival St. Louis Cardinals. He recently made a statement critical of the Trump-proposed travel ban (helped, in part, because his wife is from Iran, one of the countries banned).
As you might expect, he came to some harsh, ugly criticism from a small, harsh and ugly segment. Yet he defended his statement with thoughtfulness and graciousness -- even offering free baseball tickets to some fans who disagreed with him. He was a good guy with the Cubs and remains so. Just, alas, for the wrong team...
How good a guy is Dexter Fowler? Even though he left the Cubs and even though (worse) he went to the hated St. Louis Cardinals, several fans put together thank you "appreciation videos" to him. Here's one of the nicest. If you don't want to watch all the baseball highlights, just jump to the 4:20 mark to see him talk with Bill Murray and then address the mass of fans at the Cubs victory rally.
So, even if you supported the travel ban for your own personal reasons, if you can't disagree someone as good as Dexter Fowler (who, again, has a wife from Iran) without being ugly about, that speaks solely about you and not the issue at hand. And most definitely not about Dexter Fowler.
Even if he's on the wrong team.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, is a regular columnist for the Writers Guild of America and was for the Huffington Post. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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