February 09, 2008

Blane Lives: I can't let the week end without mentioning the fine series of posts in Slate by one Andrew McCarthy, a Brosnian diary of the mundane tasks and activities that one goes through when acting in a TV show. For example, on the time-honored ritual of rehearsal:
Traditionally, table reads are notoriously dull affairs in which the director, writers, actors, and producers, along with various crew members, hear the script aloud for the first time. It can be a stressful moment—up to this point, the show has just been words on a page, and it can be nerve-wracking when it suddenly begins to take on three-dimensional life. Typically, actors react in one of two fashions: They either mumble their lines into their laps, or, worse, "perform" them with a gusto that I always find embarrassing. For years I had been a mumbler (most young actors are), until somewhere along the line I realized that I was going to be judged by everyone anyway, so I might as well speak like a normal human and be heard by the 20 or so assembled in the chairs lining the walls around us.
Or what a bad day is like for a professional actor:
And then there is the one day in 10 when nothing feels right. It's all a struggle, I have no rhythm, I strain to remember lines I know, and everything seems to be working against me. My body mic keeps cutting out, and the sound man has to keep shoving his clammy hand up my shirt to adjust the wire. I'm too pale under the lights, so the makeup lady must relentlessly bounce a puff at my nose, and the wardrobe man keeps plucking invisible lint off my shoulders ("It's very dusty in here"). It is on days like this that I tell myself it's high time I did something else for a living.

February 08, 2008

It's funny, because it's true:
And shortly thereafter I walked over to Ann Coulter's clandestine speech (she was banned from the main ballroom for last year's gay slur against John Edwards) sponsored by YAF and realized that it was really, really self-selected. A terrible Henny Youngman routine in a sound-sucking underground room drew about 9 times as many people who stopped to chat with the LP, most of them wearing "I WANT ANN COULTER" buttons. Even the sweatier, more "seasoned" men. Especially them. They probably hadn't seen so many cameras since their run-ins with Chris Hansen.
--David Weigel, Reason.

February 07, 2008

Ezra Klein has some nice posts today, two on Obama and the internet, and one on a phenomenum I alluded to a few weeks ago when I wrote about Rachel Cusk and the micro-culture of people who actually read Serious Fiction. Klein notes:
Bookshelves are not for displaying books you've read -- those books go in your office, or near your bed, or on your Facebook profile. Rather, the books on your shelves are there to convey the type of person you would like to be. I am the type of person who would read long biographies of Lyndon Johnson, despite not being the type of person who has read any long biographies of Lyndon Johnson. I am the type of person who is very interested in a history of the Reformation, but am not, as it happens, the type of person with the time to read 900 pages on the subject. More importantly, I am the type of person who amasses many books, on all sorts of subjects. I'm pretty sure that's what a bookshelf is there to prove. The reading of those books is entirely incidental.
Awhile back, I read (I think it was Harpers, but I might be wrong) that some goof put a note on the same page of a book that had received a great deal of hype among the literati, inviting the recipient to send it back and receive a cash reward equal to the price of the book. The rebate was placed so that it wouldn't fall out or be seen unless the book's purchaser actually turned to the page it was located, presumably forcing the recipient to actually read the book to collect the reward. In the end, only two out of one hundred coupons were redeemed, thus showing that most of the books in the realm of Serious Fiction are purchased to be seen, and not read. Or perhaps it only shows that most of the people who indulge in the reading of Serious Fiction are too wealthy to be bothered by rebate offers under $50.

February 06, 2008

A Tsunami Tuesday Primer: As much as I hate to say this, you really can't call last night a "victory," or even a draw, for Senator Obama, as Prof. Kleiman does here. And contrary to the impression left here, simply holding down Clinton's margin of victory from what she was pegged to receive back when she was the best-known name in the race is not a "victory." There simply aren't enough primaries left for the Obama Magic to work. Sip will I not thy KoolAid, Professor.

Every state where the battle had been joined last night was won by the former First Lady, in most cases by surprisingly large margins. Irrespective of delegate counts from states like New York and California, Clinton's decisive wins will give her a big head-start in terms of capturing those state's SuperDelegates, that motley collection of political hacks and elected officials who will attend the summer's convention free of any electoral mandate to vote for a specific candidate. Being the popular choice of the party in those states will better enable Senator Clinton to pick up the support of those pols, who will comprise a fifth of the delegates in Denver, and whose influence will become more decisive as the primaries continue to produce an even split in elected delegates. And due to the party's arcane rules, SuperDelegates disproportionately represent states that have reliably voted for Democrats in the past, so Clinton's edge will be more decisive.

Obama needed a decisive, sweeping win on Tuesday, and he didn't get it. That isn't to say he's out of the running, since he does have a financial edge (although it has not helped him that much so far) and wins in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania in the next two months would create a sense of inevitability in his nomination, as well as giving him actual, real-life "large states" in his column, rather than the assortment of caucus states and regions where Democrats don't have a chance this November (ie., who knew the first major black Presidential candidate would have such an appeal in states with large Mormon populations?). But in spite of what Prof. Kleiman and others say about delegate counts, the real battle will be for the SuperDelegates from the large states, and Clinton's wins last night are way more important in that battle than the even split in elected delegates allocated to the candidates last night.

Which is a shame, since he's clearly shown himself to be the more electable of the two candidates, and the one who promises to have the more historical Presidency. While most eyes were on California, New York and Massachusetts last night, Obama narrowly won the four "Purple" states up for grabs, the contests where the last two Presidential elections have been decided by razor-thin margins: Missouri, Minnesota, Colorado, and New Mexico (UPDATE: New Mexico still hasn't been called, as of 10 p.m. Wednesday). Clinton, on the other hand, continues to be more adept at capturing the low hanging fruit among the base of the party, voters who will vote Democratic no matter who the nominee is, and thus less valuable in choosing a winning candidate. Obama also kicked some serious ass in Georgia, a southern state that any Democrat seeking a large national mandate would love to pick up.

A Clinton-McCain match-up in November has always been the nightmare scenario for Democrats. Although much attention was played to The Maverick's win in California, which effectively ended Romney's candidacy, the tipping point was probably his extremely narrow win over Huckabee in Missouri. In spite of it being one of the closest battles of the night, he ended up winning every delegate in the Show Me State, giving him a decisive total for the night. He now has a comfortable, and probably insurmountable, advantage.

McCain has done much better in Purple States than his likely Demcratic opponent, and his defiance of his own party on symbolic issues gives him greater credibility with swing voters than Clinton, a bland but partisan technocrat. Since he's not identified by the media or the public as a run-of-the-mill conservative, and he's distrusted, even hated, by much of the VRWC, he can begin making centrist appeals almost immediately, while Hillary Clinton has to fight and scrape for the backing of SuperDelegates. An Obama nomination would have drawn a much brighter line between the two parties, and been a decisive break from the Clinton-Bush Era. While he could still win, the chances of that happening are less than they were twenty-four hours ago.

February 05, 2008

The Blogosphere and its Discontents:
A blog is generally a loathsome, tedious creation of the electronic age, an opportunity for even those with nothing to say to reach thousands and perhaps millions of people who own computers and say it. I intend taking advantage of that.
--Al Martinez, of the local paper of record, on starting a new blog today. [link via LA Observed]
Just voted for the Junior Senator from Illinois. Looks like we have a long night ahead of us.

February 04, 2008

A football fan reacts to last night's Super Bowl:
For one night, hardened New Yorkers acted like shameless tourists in Times Square, begging one another to take their pictures in the middle of a moment that felt a long time in coming.

"It's all about the Giants winning," said Greg Packer, 44, a retired highway maintenance worker. "I'm as proud as I was in the Yankees dynasty years."
Quite the opposite reaction, after a bitter defeat by the Yankees' cross-town rivals in 2006:
For most of the drizzly night, the Mets gave its towel-waving fans plenty to cheer about, including an acrobatic home run-robbing catch by left fielder Endy Chavez.

Through it all, Cardinals fan Andy Cohen cheered the St. Louis highlights, quietly.

"I am very excited, but I am trying to be very quiet about it," said Cohen, a Clayton High School graduate who lives in New York and attended the game with comic Jerry Seinfeld.

"There's another Cardinal fan over there, and I am BlackBerrying people in St. Louis."

Greg Packer of Huntington, N.Y., stepped forward to offer grudging congratulations after the Cardinals took the lead late in the game.

"It looks like you guys are going there," Packer said. "I just can't believe what I saw. … Heartbreaking for us."
Earlier that year, though, things were much cheerier for the fan of the Giants, Yankees and Mets:
Greg Packer, 42, a lifelong Steelers fan from Huntington, N.Y., wanted to see it in person after failing to bag a ticket to the Super Bowl.

"I couldn't get into the game, so I decided to make a detour to Pittsburgh to root for the team here at the rally," said Packer, who staked out a front-row spot near the stage at 5 a.m. "There was no way I was not going to be up close for this. It's fantastic."
So who is Greg Packer? Why, he's a Jets fan:
No. 1 in line is Greg Packer, a 43-year-old "retired highway-maintenance worker." He's been here since 5 a.m. Monday, 110 hours before the iPhone goes on sale. No one else showed up until midway through the afternoon.


At the moment, he's shirtless, to display his round and hairy belly for morning TV. Littered around him are the provisions for his five-day techno-vigil: two camp chairs, a small New York Jets bag of clothes, an umbrella, an entire box of Kettle gourmet potato chips, and a large bag of Flava Puff Cheese Balls.