Wednesday, July 11, 2018

themes sung by the stars

I was watching some reruns of Frasier, and noticed the ending theme. Specifically, the fact that it was sung by series star, Kelsey Grammar. Which made me start to think about what other TV series featured theme songs performed by stars of the show. Here is a (partial -- duh!) list of 10. I am opening to being reminded of others.

But first, note that for some of these, you have to catch the right season. For example, season one of The Brady Bunch featured a theme song sung by other-than-cast. For the theme sung by the Brady kids, you have to go to season 2.

All in the Family

Alice

The Brady Bunch


The Monkees

The Partridge Family

Eight is Enough

My Two Dads

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

21 Jump Street

Green Acres


Monday, July 9, 2018

clerking again...

For the third year in a row I clerked at the LIDS annual flower show. Two years ago I wrote about my first experience.

Mostly more of the same, though this year I had a couple of realizations...

I wasn't really planning on entering anything, but I was open to the idea. In the morning I was out in the yard to see if anything I had seemed worthy of entry. But nothing passed muster. I was all over, thinking "that one has a crease, that one has uneven color, that one's not symmetric. So I didn't enter anything. But during the judging I was mentally checking out all these flowers and realizing that some of the flowers I had passed up could have stood proudly. I wouldn't have won best in show or anything like that. But I would probably have ribboned with some of my flowers if I had entered them.

Maybe next year. Well, no not next year. Next year LIDS is hosting the regional meeting so we won't do a show. Maybe in two years.

The other realization isn't so much a realization as an observation. The rules for judging are clear about scapes with more than one bloom. The judges are to grade based on the worst bloom on the scape. Given that, I have trouble wrapping my head around the fact that people enter scapes with multiple flowers. In theory, there's no potential loss from removing a bloom. If the bloom you remove is the worst on the scape, then your score will be higher. If you remove a bloom other than the worst, your score won't go down. It's Operations Research 101. That said, I can think of a few reasons to keep multiple blooms on a scape:

  • For whatever reason, you think that the extra bloom(s) improve(s) the aesthetic appeal of the entry, and that will sway the judges who are, afterall only human.
  • If two entries are tied for best in show, the judges can use number of blooms as a tiebreaker. But seriously...For that to work you have to have a scape with multiple blooms where they all score exactly the same. Then you have to tie another scape. How likely is that?
  • Your as rational as pi.

So...uh...what was my point?

Oh yeah. If I enter the contest in a couple years, I'll be sure not to enter any scapes with multiple blooms.

who needs a red shirt to serve?

For those who don't know, we don't work with Stack-Up anymore. It wasn't a real surprise the organization made its decision that we should go our separate ways; the writing had been on the wall for a while, and it was really more a matter of when and how than whether. If I recall correctly the split came on June 26. But it had been coming. Since then, there have been developments that have surprised and pleased me.

During the last year or so we've made a lot of connections with the local veteran community, and the last several months of our events have reflected that. We did several service projects with The Mission Continues, and we've been at several of their social events as well. Our last activity for Stack-Up consisted of attending a Veterans stakeholders meeting in New Jersey. At that meeting, Ethan spoke about what Stack-Up can do. We've have spent time helping fix up VFW posts and an American Legion Hall. In fact, the American Legion Hall in Weehawken honored us at their reopening on May 26. At the time of our departure, we had plans to attend an event at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn -- an event at which there would be thousands of veterans and current members of the military. The fact is that we went to more events than we had really wanted to. But when local groups (and in one case a politician) asked us to be at events, it was hard to say no.

So, I was uncharacteristically at a loss for words when I was asked what we'll be doing next. That's a question we had thought about, but hadn't come up with any definitive answer. But Ethan and I went to the American Legion  Hall in Weehawken to celebrate July 4. One of the people we knew there -- one of the very people who had given us a plaque a month ago -- asked me the simple question of what we would be doing next. I had to admit that I wasn't sure.

But someone else asked about a possible event. If they could get the equipment could we run the event? It seemed strange for a second. But, thinking about it, it makes sense. There's no reason we need to be members of any specific organization in order to serve. So, while there are no guarantees that it will come to fruition, there's every likelihood that we will be putting together an event. And if we put one together, there's no reason we can't do another... And, while we're at it, The Mission Continues has made it clear that we're welcome to keep signing up for their service projects.

Now, Ethan is talking about his ideas for what kind of charity is really needed. So the future has yet to be written.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

cinema history class: bride of frankenstein

Session: Bring Your Own Movie Month 2018, Week 1
Movie: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Directed by James Whale
As always, there may be spoilers here. And the trailer may be NSFW and/or NSFL




Plot:
The monster has survived, but he's lonely. Frankenstein and Pretorius work together to find him a wife, but we're not exactly talking match.com. Hilarity ensues.

Reaction:
First, I should probably acknowledge two relevant facts. First, I've never seen the original Frankenstein, to which this was a sequel. For some reason I had been under the impression that Bride was generally considered an inferior film, hokey in execution. I'm not sure why I had that impression, but I had it. So I was somewhat surprised when Keith noted (or was it Dave? I'm not sure) that this is generally considered to be one of the situations where the sequel is better than the original. And, while I can't say whether this was better than the original, I can confirm that it's a great film.

In some ways, I kept thinking of this as a kind of mirror image of a Spaghetti Western. What I like about Spaghetti Westerns is that the heros, far from being icons of goodness, are conflicted and -- at best -- mixed. They're more sympathetic than the antagonists, and they do some good. But they ... how do I put this? Let's just say that they typically have their own selfish agendas. Here, the Monster is, well, a monster. But he's clearly a victim -- of his circumstances, of the townspeople, and of his creator.

All he wants is to have a connection to someone else, but he just can't have it. The sequence with the shepherd girl illustrates it beautifully. He sees her and approaches, clearly just wanting a friend. She sees him, screams in terror and falls off a cliff into a pond. He pulls her out of the water, thereby saving her life. But when she regains consciousness, she sees him again and starts screaming, which causes local hunters to come and shoot him. Later, he manages to find a potential friend in the form of a blind hermit. But then hunters show up (those damn hunters again!) and ruin everything.

In some ways the movie -- or its title, anyway -- is a tease. I expected that Mrs. Monster would be a major character, but the fact is she doesn't even show up until the end, serving the Monster his final humiliation. After all that effort and pain he's gone through, wanting a companion, you're really rooting for him, expecting -- or at least hoping -- that he'll finally have found love. But, well, you know how these things end.

The visuals in this movie were incredible. The sets, the lighting...everything. ANd the use of odd camera angles, inspired by the German films of the 1920s, did a great job of adding tension, as did the extreme closeups of the scientists during the scenes where the Bride is being brought to life. But what really did it was the sequence showing Dr. Pretorius' creations in their jars. With modern technology, that would have been nothing special. But this was made in 1935, and is incredible, given the vintage.

I was thoroughly impressed.

Ratings:
Me: 10
Ethan: 10
Joe: 10
Keith: 10
Sean: 3 out of 4

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

the fighting was totally predictable

That said, I would have preferred that the Republicans had given Garland a fair hearing. Perhaps they could have kept us off the road we're on now. With Scalia, the opening came nine months before the election. But the slope can get slippery very quickly. Next time it could be an opening eleven months before the election. Then thirteen months. Where does one draw the line? And why there? Politicians may start making assertions couched as principled stands, but -- as with Biden's and Schumer's arguments, these will be matters of naked political expedience.
I wrote that in April, 2017, when I was talking about the Senate confirmation of Judge Gorsuch. And I was right, as we are now seeing with the rhetoric over Judge Kennedy's announced retirement. That post was here.

And don't start with the disingenuous arguments about how this isn;t an escalation because we're less than nine months away. Everyone knows that all the rhetoric about Garland (and the Biden and Schumer quotes that the Republicans used for cover) were references to Presidential elections. By the way, it's also important to remember that Kagan was nominated and confirmed in 2010 -- another year of midterm Senatorial elections.

But, rhetoric aside, the Democrats are really limited in their weapons. Blame Harry Reid for his destruction of the filibuster.

Still, there are a couple of aspects that I find interesting:

The Republicans only have 51 Senators, and John McCain is incapacitated. So, for practical purposes, they have a bare majority of 50-49. They can't afford any defections. Which brings us to Susan Collins of Maine who has indicated that she won't support a nominee who she thinks is hostile to Roe v. Wade. That effectively gives her a veto. It kind of strengthens the argument that McCain should have retired earlier. And if Ginsburg dies in a circumstance where Trump (or a Republican successor) gets to pick her replacement, it will strengthen the argument that she should have retired when Obama was President.

Trump and the Republican senators are in a rush to nominate and confirm a replacement for Kennedy before the midterms because there's a very real possibility of the Democrats winning back the Senate. But that's not guaranteed. It'll be kind of interesting if Trump picks a relative moderate in order to secure Collins' vote, and then the Republicans have a net gain in the midterms.

And, on that note, keep in mind that Ginsburg is 84 and Breyer is 78. Trump could, conceivably, nominate their replacements. You think the fighting is nasty now?