Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dialect Tragedy

Oh, my, the confluence of incident,reportage, scanning, and transcription that adds up to oddities in this segment of a report from the Old Bailey, which I accurately paste below--though I will add some emphasis. From the testimony of James Fitzgerald, allegedly robbed of a watch on 25 Feb 1725:
For it ish my Way to make Love upon a Woman in the Street, and go home with her, whenshoever I intend to lie alone. But ash to the Preceshoner, she wash after making me shit upon the Bed with her, and sho tumble together; but I wash after shitting in the Chair, and then she was coming to shit in my Lap; but I would not let her, and sho she shit beside me; and then I wash hoping that she would be eashy; but for all that she would not let me shit at quiet, for she wash after being concerned with my Breeches, and got away my Watch whether I would or no; and I pulled, and she pulled; and sho for fear she should get it from me, I let go my Hold, and went for a Constable, and he carried her to the Watch House, where he took the Watch upon her. He found it in a Plaushe that my Modesty won't suffer me to name; for ash I am a living Chreestian, she had put into her ***.
[OldBailey's text here, and image of the original page here.

These scattered uses of "Shit" I believe are early examples of dialect transcription from the Old Bailey Proceedings. where the reporter used "sh" when the speaker said "s" with an Irish accent. Susan Grimes, the accused says that Mr. Fitzgerald [note her speech is reported without the unneeded "sh"] "....said he was an Irishman, and could swear farther than ten Englishmen."

Ms. Grimes was found Not Guilty. One can impute anti-Irish bias. But the countours of Fitzgerald's statement are self-contradictory and (even without the added dialect) hilarious.

Susan Grimes' rebuttal is terse but fairly coherent. She says Fitzgerald followed her home, knew the premises and pawned his watch to her landlady to pay for brandy (and she says both Susan and her landlady felt "He was so impudent, that we were both found to fall upon cut Knees to keep his Hands from under our Petticoats.").

Grimes' acquital seems to have some craftiness about it, too: "It appearing upon the Prosecutor's Oath, that she took the Watch from him violently, and with his Knowledge; and she being indicted for stealing it privately, and without his Knowledge, the Jury acquitted her."

Snap! But what did the Landlady testify to? Apparently to nothing. Did Fitzgerald buy a bed? Does she claim he pawned his watch? Was he grasping? The Proceedings are silent.

Who knows what really happened. Some London reporter wrote a dessicated account of a trial and gave the poor London lass the benefit of the doubt, as did the jury, on what some now would call illogical grounds (If the landlady took the watch in pawn, how did Susan end up with it that very evening?)

The whole trial from swearing in to verdict was well under an hour, probably under half an hour or even merely ten minutes long.

I'm not sure Susan stole the watch. I'm sure James was drunk and was trying to tumble with Susan. I think there was some anti-Irish bias in the trial and in the reporting of it, but Fitzgerald was a scamp regardless.

Since they are all long gone, there is a lot there to wonder at from just this one entry in the Old Bailey Proceedings from 1725. It's brief and worth a read.

[Note: My family is in America due to proceedings in Old Bailey -- not these above-- from early 1700's. I'll delve into Old Bailey occasionally in the future since there are fascinating things there.]

Update: I was surprised that no potty-mouths on the internet had yet found this Old Bailey transcript. But this case is quoted in a book about Irish English -- so my surmise about the dialect appears to be correct. Here's a few pages on Google Books from Irish English: history and present-day forms by Raymond Hickey which uses part of this passage to illustrate the use of "after - [verb]-ing in old Irish English. Nifty.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Palin's slapped her name on a 400-page book titled Going Rogue that was ghost-written in under four months.

It will have a number-purchased-vs.-number-read ratio greater than A Brief History of Time Volume 2: The Computations.

Brian Beutler started a "Failed Palin Book Titles" quasi-thread via Twitter which didn't go on for long. I'll rescue a few I enjoyed:

My favorite of all:
@msbellows: "Suck It Up + Board The Plane: Obstetrics the Alaska Way."

My favorite of my own: "Moose, Mousse, and Moues"

and more:

@brianbeutler "The Bridge to Nowhere: How John McCain Ruined My Life"
@keefs "The Origin of Specious: My Evolution"
@kcivey "Dress for Success on $2500 a Day"

To be a bit more serious, Palin isn't exactly known for being fully candid with those she's working with (ask the McCain campaign). Add to that tendency 1) the extreme rapidity of putting together 400 pages in three or so months; 2) the fact that her ghostwriter isn't a journalist; and 3) the notoriously poor fact-checking of book publishers and you have a recipe for a tome full of errors, blunders and falsehoods.

There's speculation that the publication date was pushed up to rush release prior to some critical books by real journalists. Makes sense to me. Even if not, the second edition is likely to be twice as big to incorporate all the corrections.

UPDATE: Wow, that was quick-- rewriting of history noted just a day after I wrote the above. I figured we'd have to wait weeks for errors and falsehoods to trickle out.

And there's this, too, from Rupert Muroch's NY Post no less:
Palin's bookers are said to be asking for $100,000 per speech, but an industry expert tells Page Six: "The big lecture buyers in the US are paralyzed with fear about booking her, basically because they think she is a blithering idiot."
The fact that she's very popular with the Republican base tells you a lot about what's wrong with this country.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Light Cavalry Ovituary

I'm amazed that Dennis Brain, one of the finest 20th-century hornists, was only 36 years old when was killed in the crash of his Triumph TR2 in 1957.

As a (very difficult) lark, Brain famously played a horn concerto by Leopold Mozart [Wolfgang's father] on a length of rubber hose fitted with a mouthpiece and trimmed with garden shears to the correct tuning.

Brain performed this amusement during one of the kooky Music Festivals thrown by Gerard Hoffnung.

Hoffnung was only 34 years old when he died on this date exactly fifty years ago: 28 September 1959. In a grotesque homonymic coincidence, it was a brain hemorrhage that killed him.

Here's one of those brief Oxford DNB "Life of the Week" biographies about Hoffnung that will last a short time. The Wikpedia entry should be up longer.

Which makes me consider the death of classical music familiarity. Now that few recognize compositions by Wagner, Haydn, Brahms, Dvorak -- or even lighter stuff that used to be in cartoons, like von Suppé, Ponchielli, Rossini, fewer will make jokes out of them. I don't care greatly for the light music (as opposed to some of the "heavier" stuff) but I will miss the jokes.

Speaking of jokes, Hoffnung's instrument was the tuba and I'm sure he would have enjoyed a practical joke that made the rounds, perhaps apocryphally. It's true that Anthony Braxton wrote his Composition No. 19 for 100 Tubas in 1971, and the existence of the piece was famous among brass players. Purportedly some prankster called every tuba player in the New York musicians union and hired them to rehearse the piece at a specified place and time.

Of course, the tuba players showed up, scores of them milling about with their unwieldy instruments and ... there would be no actual rehearsal. Just a lot of irate tubists.

The piece sat unperformed for decades. Until, in 2006, the Bang on a Can festival recruited tubas (and Sousaphones, double- and single-belled euphoniums, Wagner Tubas, contrabass bugles, helicons, and perhaps others) and put on an outdoor performance in Manhattan.

It looked something like this:

Video of the performance is here. It's a serious avant-garde piece and the performers mill about with the audience. Braxton conducts, such as it is.

As with the Hoffnung Music Festival performances -- you had to be there.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Free James Brown and Roman Polanksi!

WFMU's Beware of the Blog: Free James Brown: ".....the incident began when Brown dropped in on an insurance seminar in an office building he owned and demanded to know who had been using his restroom."

It's a fair cop. Visit the linked site a bit more and a rare mp3. And RIP James Brown.

Now I guess we'll see such a movement for Roman Polanski. He certainly got jerked around abysmally by the Los Angeles County prosecutor and courts.

Knife in the Water is a great movie of his few have seen (as opposed to the many great ones many have seen), and I've always thought it played a small and circuitous role in the ascendence of Nicole Kidman, for which I forgive him.

On the other hand he drugged and raped a 13-year old.


Hey Czechs!

Some expensively dressed and housed 82-year old German virgin wants you to cease using birth control. And to give him huge amounts of money and property, but stop being materialistic.

Why aren't you greeting him enthusiastically, Jan Hus?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Preserved Funny Names

America does not have the most hilarious English names. This must surely fall to the British Puritans with their virtue- and slogan-naming craze. We Yankees had some good ones, but not the breadth and richness. Humiliation? Fly Fornication? Kill-Sin Pimple?

But the US takes pride in one of most perfectly absurd Quaker monikers. The Fish family was wealthy and powerful, with Hamilton Fish becoming US Secretary of State, and many notable relatives including several congressmen named "Fish" and descendants including the two Presidents Bush.

The gold-standard of funny names in this clan is Preserved Fish. "Preserved" was a shortened slogan, meaning "Preserved in Grace" or "Preserved from Sin." (Purportedly it's pronounced in three syllables, but this is a sin against humor.)

This is mainly an excuse to put up a picture (click to enlarge) I took some years ago of a plaque at the cemetery (the second nonsectarian one in Manhattan) where he's buried.

The NY Public Library has an image of him looking perfectly spiffy. I'm sure the artist was asked by a friend "What are you doing today?" and he replied "I'm rendering Preserved Fish." "I bet that smells great!"
[Preserved Fish.] Digital ID: 421566. New York Public Library

Astoundingly, there were at least two other men in the family named Preserved Fish:
President Preserved Fish (1766-1846) of Bank of America was born in Portsmouth, R. I., son of Blacksmith Preserved Fish, whose father was another Preserved Fish, whose father's name was Thomas.

As an aside, someday I'll have to read Fischer's Albion's Seed all the way. When I've dipped in it's spectacular.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jargon and In-Jokes

Excellent idea from John Cole and the folks at Balloon Juice: The Balloon Juice Dictionary.

Some of the terms are specific to Balloon Juice and its comment threads but most are in general use around the U.S. political (especially liberal) blogosphere. I remember when it took me some searching to parse IOKIYAR.

There's a danger when a political movement communicates in jargon and concepts that don't speak to the broader public. That's more a Republican problem nowadays than a Democratic one, since so many of their tropes reach back to hoary days of Reagan or Clinton and they expect relatively apolitical folks to understand them. For the most part, Dems keep their funny argot on blogs rather than in Senators' mouths.

It's hard to top the shorthand term "Two wetsuits and a dildo." Defined here:
Two Wetsuits and a Dildo- A quip often used to make fun of the hypocrisy of the Republican family values crowd and various other religious scolds, which finds its genesis in the police report following the death of Alabama Baptist Minister Gary Aldridge in which his corpse was found wearing, among other things, two wetsuits, rubberized underwear, with a dildo inserted in the anus. Also notable, it is illegal to purchase a dildo in Alabama.

The Lord works things into anuses in mysterious ways, Reverend Aldridge.

Reminds me of a page from long ago on the Internet (1997!): Rectal Foreign Bodies, with mostly medical reports of same. Glad to see it's still around.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


With their Get Me Hennimore! sketches, written by Toby Davies and David Mitchell, Mitchell & Webb have been paring down to the essentials and streamlining ultra-cheap TV farce. I find these Hennimore sketches totally hilarious-- by the end of Series 2 of That Mitchell and Webb Look, just a shot of Hennimore's boss's office and the mention of the first element of the farce machinery would have me howling.

Trivia: Apparently Hennimore's name -- if nothing else -- was based on that of the gifted comic writer John Finnemore, who created the great Radio 4 series Cabin Pressure as well as bits for Mitchell & Webb.

Most of the Get Me Hennimore! sketches are on YouTube. Here are two:

Golf Clubs


That latter clip includes a skillfully implemented "blah blah blah" and ends with a Mitchell standup to audience mentioning YouTube and torrenting costing them money-- sadly. Fortunately for non-UK fans of Mitchell and Webb, there's more of them on YouTube!, for the casual criminals among you. [We really should -- and I have -- bought BBC DVDs. discounts prices, ships them fairly quickly and reasonably, and converts currency seamlessly, too. Support your BBC!]

I'm heartened that on their radio show That Mitchell & Webb Sound, the gents have one-upped themselves in the abject farce sweepstakes with an sketch about farceurs (one carrying on an affair), a stripper, a policeman, cats, and an adult entertainment business (with bakery) downstairs, a Ming vase, an executive washroom, Penang, etc. Very farcically done in under five minutes.

The sketch I'm referring to is the concluding one in Series 4, Episode 5. It's currently up on BBC Iplayer for another week. Iplayer works for those outside the UK (though only for radio, not for TV content).

I've also put a clip of just that radio farce up. It's most enjoyable, and not just in an "approaching theoretical limits of radio farce" manner, either.
< - - Click the little triangley-arrow-in-a-circle thingy to the left to play. (Other than this Yahoo player, I haven't found a simple MP3 widget that won't preload the file.)

These sketches are all funny even if they're also Meta. Farce.

UPDATE: via the invaluable Mitchell and Webb Log from Project 76, I see this farce sketch was written by Toby Davies and Chris Pell. Davies co-wrote the Hennimore sketches. This sketch is called "The Last Farce" which I hope doesn't mean these exercises won't be continued.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Howard Kurtz - Sheri Annis Pillowtalk

Howard Kurtz is probably -- and this is really sad -- the most high-profile news media critic in the USA. He has a column in the furiously oxidizing Washington Post and a weekly media criticism show on CNN.

I realize a media critic has to accept a paycheck from somewhere, but perhaps only one of the largest news organizations should be paying him and not two.

Wonkette noticed that Kurtz Twittered quite pissily about Obama's appearance on David Letterman's show Monday night. Some of his comments were unbelievably ignorant, churlish, and misplaced -- he seems to forget that Obama appeared on five hard news Sunday shows the day prior, and that Late Night with David Letterman is a comedy talk show. Here's Kurtz' real-time media "criticism" of a late night gabfest:

Hey, Howard, if the show regularly features "Stupid Pet Tricks," it's not likely going to include harshly interrogatory questions. Go figure, Mr. Media Critic.

I wonder if Kurtz' disappointment with Letterman's grilling of Obama was in any way related to the fact that Howard's wife is a Republican operative of long standing? I'm sure Sheri Annis was pulling for Letterman to unload on Obama, and perhaps her standard-issue Republican ire rubbed off on Kurtz a little bit?

Yes, Howard Kurtz' current (second) wife is Sheri Annis, a professional Republican operative now working at (running?) an outfit called Fourth Estate Strategies. She's written for National Review, was a spokesperson for the Arnold Schwarzenegger, and helped run anti-affirmative action, anti-bilingual education, and anti-immigration campaigns.

If she's also worked against gay marriage, Howard married the Full-Metal-Wingnut!

How can someone married to this person be one of the most important news media critics in the USA? It would be like having an oncologist whose husband was a pro-cancer lobbyist.

So, now I wonder if Sherri Annis and her Fourth Estate Strategies are dealing with any insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, or any health industry-related organizations of any kind. I wonder if I could trust Howard Kurtz to reveal his wife's client list accurately?

Iin the midst of a massive health care legislative push, it would be a real shame if Howard Kurtz's bank account depended in any way upon the outcome of legislation and if his healthcare coverage was slanted by his wife's pillowtalk. It's bad enough that his wife is a Professional Republican Operative.

Howard Kurtz and Sheri Annis were married in May 2003 [PDF file]. Purportedly Annis " gave up political work after their marriage. " But, if so, she only gave up working for specific political candidates, and continued to work advocating for Republican positions on public policy issues.

For instance, as recently as 2007, Sheri Annis was representing Americana Consumer Institute, with a push to kill carbon cap and trade legislation -- another hot issue in DC nowadays.

American Consumer Institute appears to be an astroturf organization (Surprise!) also fighting Net Neutrality.

That's what I could find with a quick Google. I presume all her clients wouldn't be so easily located. And Howard Kurtz hasn't always been sensitive when he's dealing with his wife's clients during his work.

If only David Letterman could have Howard Kurtz on and ask him how his family's financial future could be altered by whatever issues his wife may be lobbying for or clients she may be representing.

Bills are Long

Ezra Klein posts about the length of bills and why whining about it is a lameness.

Some weeks ago on The Daily Show (TDS), Jon Stewart even pulled this complaint out when questioning someone about Health Insurance reform (was it Howard Dean? Not sure.)

I thought a great way to answer it would be to ask Stewart a question in response:

"Jon, your contract should basically be a short sentence: 'I, Jon Stewart will host TDS for x years and Comedy Central will pay me Y dollars.'"

"Now, Jon, how many pages long is your actual contract?"

Monday, September 21, 2009

Our Gay Brothers and Sisters...

...really know how to do -- and mashup-- protest signs.

This guy is justifiably proud for covering up "SIN" with "Great."

"We can't ALL marry Liza Minelli," I presume David Gest isn't holding that one up.

Quote the Bible back at them. I'll have to remember this Bible verse.

More funny protest signs here about all kinds of political things (not just gay issues).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Difficult quiz:

Who said the following, and when:
Here's one of the most exciting and emulsified carboniferous acts that I've ever had the pleasure to introduce. She's hermetically sealed and egregious beyond my companionship. Miss Libby Morris.
Answer: 1966, and the "who" is in the linked video

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Numbering the Teabaggers

Another datapoint about attendence at the Teabag event: DC Metro has released ridership figures for the weekend. Look on that page for most of the raw figures below.

September 12, 2009 - Rail ridership: 437,624 Bus ridership: 236,347
(I sum that to 673,971 total trips)

That is well lower than average workday rail/bus ridership (which is over one million: 700,000 rail and 450,000 bus on most weekdays).

But let's compare the Saturday of 9/12 to Saturday one week earlier:
September 05, 2009 - Rail ridership: 300,963 Bus ridership: 236,347 * see note below *
(Sums to 537,310 total trips)

This past Saturday was about 26% above the previous Saturday's rail ridership. Bus ridership was the same. Teabag day didn't even come close to ridership levels for a regular weekday with commuters.

There were about 137,000 extra trips (that would include both to and from trips) the past Saturday over the previous one, meaning probably around 68,500 excess round trips on the subway this weekend compared to last. I wouldn't attribute all that transit to the TeaBag event, and one would have to figure in the people who drove, but that seems in line with official estimates of around 60-70 thousand protestors on Friday. Also, there were other events that same Saturday 9/12 (American triathlon and Black Family Reunion), so ridership would have been up for them, too.

However, it's apparent there was no huge unparalled ridership surge on Saturday that would have come from more than 100,000 protestors.

Let's compare ridership with Inauguration day:

January 20, 2009 - Rail ridership: 1,120,000 Bus ridership: 423,000

About 800 thousand more trips for Obama's inauguration than on last Saturday.

To throw in a weekend day for a comparison without weekday workers, how about the Sunday two days before inauguration?
January 18, 2009 - Rail ridership: 616,324 Bus ridership: 152,108

So, even the Sunday two days before inauguration had more ridership (especially by rail, but even by rail and bus combined) than the teabaggers had on Saturday.

I wonder what university Beck got his figures from?

None of the above is meant to estimate the numbers of people there on Saturday. It' s just to show that those estimating some huge crowd of over a hundred thousand or even a million are smoking weed from another planet.

* I realize Metro gives the same figures for bus ridership on both Saturdays 9/5 and 9/12. I'm presuming that's an artifact of how they count their ridership and not an indication that the number of trips were precisely the same -- still it's the figure they give both days.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Not a Comedienne, Either

The invaluable Instaputz brought back joyous memories by posting this brief but compelling video of former Saturday Night Live performer Victoria Jackson on Fox before the election.

Lest we forget, the right was calling Obama a communist even before the election.

Victoria's whole schpiel is elegant but particularly this segment of her run-on sentence:

"I don't see why people are afraid to say the word Communist and I've done a lot of research and I've read the book 1984 by George Orwell twice ... "

Ahem. I presume she considered 1984 a cautionary tale, which is why it's assigned to pre-teens. But Orwell was certainly a socialist (Does Jackson know the difference?), another epithet hurled at the President.

Ah, memories. I recall Victoria Jackson, in her pre-Saturday Night Live days, as a kooky performer on late-night talk shows, particularly Johnny Carson. Her act, as I recall, was reciting poetry in her Betty Boop voice (or possibly singing a quite dopey song and playing ukulele) while doing a poor junior high school gymnastics pose.

That was her act.

Initially I assumed this was faux Dada or intended ironically. (What hath Andy Kaufman wrought?) After a few interviews it was apparent she was serious -- and therefore seriously un-self-aware, untalented, and vapid. Somehow she she extended her show biz career by getting the gig on SNL, left that and did a few tv and movie appearances, and finally disappeared until she ended up Tourretting rightwing non-sequitors on Fox News. Quite a sad career arc, even for second-tier SNL alums (though not quite as pathetic as poor Charles Rocket).

Now I see that she "writes" for Breitbart's "Rightwingers trashing Hollywood in hopes of getting jobs in Hollywood" site Big Hollywood. Scroll around there a bit in amazement: it's even worse than this blog.

The sad thing is, there were sixty or so thousand people on Capitol Mall this weekend talking like Victoria Jackson, sometimes with a lagniappe of casual racism.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Poop Show

David Mitchell has an amusing column in The Guardian that mildly disparages politicians of all sorts and David Cameron particularly. But at the end he points to something that those of us in America should despair of:
The solution is to tighten expenses rules but pay MPs more, but that's a difficult argument to win and politicians would have to be brighter to do it, particularly after they've all been caught pilfering House of Commons toiletries.

Ultimately, it's not in Cameron's interests. He doesn't need the money – many Tories don't. Lower pay and cutting things like each MP's communications allowance, which they'll then have to find from political funds, will always tend to benefit the right wing, the advocates of the rich. What sounds like selfless parsimony for those who aspire to govern translates as voicelessness for people without private wealth or contacts in big business. It turns out he's not stupid.

That's utterly sensible and, while communicated with a humorous tone, solid advice for the UK, I think.

Here in the US this week, it's pretty apparent from Supreme Court argument that the justices nominated by Genius George W. Bush will gut campaign finance laws. This means that corporations will not just be able to dump ungodly amounts of money into some parts of the political process, but that there will be no area of political discourse that will be even slightly off-limits to their sewage.

Expect the Bush Supreme Court to soon rule outright bribery "protected political speech," so long as Republicans are the ones raking in the payoffs.

Why are lower-middle class and poor southerners screaming in anger for the right to die bankrupt and untreated rather than have insurance companies regulated? Because some of the richest people in the world are pumping their heads full of rank bullshit.

Hard to believe, but expect it only to get worse, until the USA is a premodern state with a microthin gilded upper crust seperated from poorhouses, workhouses, and a seething underclass of Dickensian proportions: but an underclass that loves rich corporations bankrupting and killing them. Scrooge will never have to change his ways.

I appreciate David Mitchell's amusement at the irrationality of what Cameron is doing. I wish we had that problem here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

More Media Maron

I wrote about Marc Maron's new podcast the other day, and since then he's added two more: One with some angsty entertainment industry inside ball, movie chatter, and the insanely funny Jim Earl (Episode 2), and another with the also insanely funny Patton Oswalt (Episode 3) and a visit from Kent Jones' alter ego Lawton Smalls.

Give them a try. They're free on Itunes and not on Itunes. He plans on doing two a week, which will be great.

Republicans: Putting Government between you and your emergency care

Wingnuts such as Joe (The Palmetto Prat) Wilson are worried that immigrants will get coverage under health care reform.

That is false. It is false.

Illegal immigrants won't be covered--that condition is not only in various reform bills but it's also in pre-existing statutes the reform will conform to. Since that can't be true, maybe they are concerned that, whether covered by insurance or not, immigrants might receive care from physicians and hospitals?

I presume so: I think what they're indicating is that if anyone is brought to an ER injured badly after an auto accident, the Doctors will have to determine whether the patient is an illegal immigrant or not -- be forced to check papers -- before delivering care.

You can't tell merely from looking at an injured human being what country they are citizens of.

Which means that as we American citizens lay injured and bleeding in the ER, medical personnel won't be able to give care until they've checked our citizenship and immigration papers. If we don't have papers, we don't get treated. If you, as even a native-born American citizen, have papers but they were destroyed in the car crash and fire you barely survived, the hospital won't be able to treat you because you can't prove you're not an illegal immigrant.

I'm not sure how Republicans expect to deny emergency care (again, we're discussing mere medical care, not insurance coverage, which will not be part of the reform plan) other than immigration-checking every injured person in every emergency room in the USA. I can't figure out any other way of denying all medical care (not coverage) to immigrants besides this except for tattoing or implanting 'US CITIZEN" on every citizen of the USA. Of course, even tattoos and implants can be removed in traumatic injuries, so that wouldn't be foolproof either.

I would like to ask Rep Wilson and every other Republican trying to demagogue this issue: Why will you prevent my doctor from treating me if I don't have my citizenship papers on me at the moment I need life-saving emergency care?

PS: Rob Miller is running against the wingnut Joe Wilson who shouted "You lie" during Obama's speech. Send Miller some money.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Media Maron

A little more comedy now-- but for a change, it's about an American. The main news, should you want to skip the rest, is that Marc Maron has a new Podcast and it's great. It's called WTF and it's free on iTunes or not on iTunes

I didn't know of Marc Maron much before he started the ill-fated morning program Morning Sedition on Air America way back when. The show was a revelation: smart and powerful hilarity. There was plenty of satire, but very little of "let's have someone imitate a given politician" or "let's write a gag that's not funny but is remotely topical" that passes for satire nowadays, and none of the "Wow, lesbians and midgets are hilarious" that has bizarrely become a standard of unfunny "funnymen." He's left-of-center but I'd be hard-pressed to call him a "political comedian" because most people who do that are about as funny as Jay Leno with chin cancer, and Maron's stuff and that of his writer/performers is usually much more oblique than just reformulating headlines.

Someone has kindly put up an archive of the comedy bits from Morning Sedition, and they are still funny. Especially if you can cast yourself back to the very dark days when Bush was running things but it was somehow treasonous to mention you were ashamed the President was from Texas (unlike now, when the preferred term is for a sitting President is "Stalinist African-born Hitler" -- get right on that Diane Sawyer).

Give these bits a listen -- they're still hilarious. (also they feature Kent Jones, who appears as Rachel Maddow's sidekick now, the multifarious Jim Earl, Wyatt Cenac, and a lot of other good comics).

Maron parted ways with Air America (meaning they shafted him several times), but he's kept a unique and darkly hilarious take. Here's an hour-plus long standup set he did a few weeks ago. It's great how relaxed and natural he is. I'm not a fan of mere "Setup. Punchline. Repeat" comedians and he's certainly gone way beyond that. It's theatrical in the most basic sense, and had me roaring with laughter.

Go check out Marc Maron's new WTF podcast, either on Itunes or not on Itunes. He tells a few stories, rants a bit, and has a long and interesting conversation with Jeffrey Ross (who I respect a lot more after this interview).

There's a lot of Maron's history I've left out-- I've just put up mostly what drew me to his work. If you want to read more, you can start with Wikipedia and visit his website.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

BBC America, Hear Our Plea

Regular readers will know that I'm a hardcore fan of British media -- especially comedy. Here's an American who knows which radio sitcoms are airing on BBC4 most weeks -- and often who wrote them. BBC (radio and TV and even their website) is a world treasure. So much great stuff.

But even for those not so involved, if you asked most Americans what entertainment forms you think of when prompted with "British," it's worth a wager that in the top five responses would be "comedy" (even higher if you eliminate music and musical groups).

This is to point out that BBC America for the past few weeks has aired no comedies -- no sketch shows, no sitcoms, no Monty Python, no comedy quizzes no news parodies, no historical comedy-dramas. There are a couple talk shows with comedy caulking (Graham Norton and Jeremy Ross), but no straight comedy. Here's a paste of the lineup for today:

BBC America Schedule, Wed. Sept 2
01:00:00 AM  You Are What You Eat
02:00:00 AM Dragons' Den
03:00:00 AM The Graham Norton Show
04:00:00 AM How Clean Is Your House?
04:30:00 AM How Clean Is Your House?
05:00:00 AM BBC World News
06:00:00 AM BBC World News
06:30:00 AM BBC World News
07:00:00 AM BBC World News
08:00:00 AM Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares Revisited
09:00:00 AM Cash in the Attic
10:00:00 AM Antiques Roadshow
11:00:00 AM Bargain Hunt
11:30:00 AM Bargain Hunt
12:00:00 PM You Are What You Eat
12:30:00 PM You Are What You Eat
01:00:00 PM How Clean Is Your House?
01:30:00 PM How Clean Is Your House?
02:00:00 PM Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares Revisited
03:00:00 PM Gordon Ramsay's F Word
04:00:00 PM Hotel Inspector
05:00:00 PM Gordon Ramsay's F Word
06:00:00 PM Kitchen Nightmares
07:00:00 PM BBC World News America
08:00:00 PM Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares
09:00:00 PM Gordon Ramsay's F Word
10:00:00 PM BBC World News America
11:00:00 PM Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares
BBC News is great, and I'm glad they expanded it. Some of the other shows are okay timewasters, but there's nothing there which would make me say "I have got to see that." Much of it is just dross of the drossiest sort.

On other days they have more interesting programs in the evening, and I don't hate Gordon Ramsay -- I'm just not that interested and he's on every day it seems.

There's tons of great entertainment on BBC and other UK stations: please, BBC America, air some of it in America.

One example is QI, which is Stephen Fry's entertaining, bizarre, and interesting (Quite Interesting) comic quiz show. There's a bit of a push to get it aired somewhere on US TV, and that's a cause to get behind. Here's a Facebook page devoted to getting QI aired in the USA. Go pitch in and read about the program. It's great that John Hodgman will be a panelist this season!

I'd love to see QI on BBC America, but there's a lot of other stuff that would be wonderful to see, too. I've often wondered if some shows they are airing (e.g. How Clean is your House?, You Are What You Eat?, and The Hotel Inspector) get much viewership, or if they're just nearly free to license.

I'd be extremely interested -- and, of course, surprised -- to see ratings for BBC America's various programs, but there is no way their current strategy is the strongest lineup they could put forward, even giving viewership, licensing, and pecuniary issues. If IFC can air The IT Crowd and Graham Duff's wonderful pot-dealer sitcom Ideal, with those Mancunian accents that regularly cause even an anglophile like me to use Closed Captions (I love you Johnny Vegas, but Moz's slurred rasp can be a bit hard to decipher), then surely BBC America can run some of the many great shows that are on offer on UK TV nowadays.

Adult Swim is airing The Mighty Boosh, fer chrissakes, which is as funkily British as Melton Mowbry pies with gooseberries, jellied eels, Stilton, and HP sauce.

[I'm sure competition from stations like IFC and Adult Swim--and of course PBS for the tonier productions-- is a challenge to BBC America. But BBC A weren't airing Ideal anyway and it's been years since they aired The Boosh, so that can't be the driving force behind their odd programming choices.]

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