Category Archives: Theater

While visiting home, I’ve been listening to some good ole country music. One of the artists has been James McMurtry. One of the songs that came up is this one:

This song was written in 2005, as a protest with an eye on the re-election of George W Bush. There were many of its kind, though this one was particularly good. It focused a bit on blood overseas but mostly depression at home. The title, “We Can’t Make It Here” relates to manufacturing and a nation basically feeling underwater. As far as economics go, the song isn’t great as it decries both the low minimum wage and the fact that those jobs are being sent overseas. To Singapore, of all places, which to my knowledge is not exactly known for low wages (though, importantly, does rhyme in the appropriate place).

mcmurtryWhat’s noteworthy about the song is that if you listen to it in 2016, it’s orbits around being something of a Trump anthem. Not just a matter of manufacturing and the like, but the haunting apocalyptic feel of it. The jobs are being shipped overseas and the factories are closing, oh and drug abuse and crime while people try to cope, “high on Jesus or hooked up dope.” He was talking about much of the same America that Trump was. McMurtry mightbe horrified by the comparison, and perhaps rightly as their prescriptions for what ails us do not perfectly overlap. But that gets into the specifics, and neither Trump nor McMurtry are models of internal consistency and deliberate policy.

McMurtry himself was at least somewhat aware of the potential for his lyrics to come across the wrong way, as he throws in what Clancy and I call a “Not Racist!” verse, in reference to Singapore:

Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I’m in
Should I hate ?em for having our jobs today
No I hate the men sent the jobs away

The view from Asia may be entirely different. Which is to say, you don’t hate them for taking the jobs, but hating that they have the jobs might still not go over super well. That’s not something Donald Trump has expressed particular concern about. And McMurtry sings about “Will I work for food, will I die for oil, Will kill for power and to us the spoils“… Trump has talked about the spoils of war, but without the air of disapproval. Though the slogan “America First” has a loaded history and a lot of baggage, I don’t consider the sentiment behind it – to an extent – beyond the pale. But it does run contrary to the one-worldism of the contemporary left, and explains the distance between McMurtrian discontent and the Democratic Party.

Category: Theater

Because I know you wanted to know! Given my track record, consider this advice on who not to bet on. I made some sort of mistake putting three on Louisville over LSU. But what’s done is done.

New Mexico over UTSA (3)
Houston over San Diego State (1)
Appalachian State over Toledo (1)
Central Florida over Arkansas State (2)
Southern Miss over Louisiana (2)
Tulsa over Central Michigan (3)
Memphis over Western Kentucky (2)
BYU over Wyoming (1)
Colorado State over Idaho (2)
Old Dominion over Eastern Michigan (1)
Navy over Louisiana Tech (2)
Troy over Ohio (2)
Hawaii over Middle Tennessee (1)
Mississippi State over Miami U (2)
Maryland over NC State (2)
Army over North Texas (3)
Temple over Wake Forest (2)
Washington State over Minnesota or Northern Illinois (3)
Boise State over Baylor (3)
Pittsburgh over Northwestern (2)
West Virginia over Miami (2)
Utah over Indiana (3)
Kansas State over Texas A&M (1)
South Florida over South Carolina (2)
Virginia Tech over Arkansas (2)
Colorado over Okahoma State (2)
TCU over Georgia (1)
Stanford over North Carolina (2)
Nebraska over Tennessee (1)
Air Force over South Alabama (3)
Michigan over Florida State (2)
Louisville over LSU (3)
Georgia Tech over Kentucky (1)
Alabama over Washington (3)
Ohio State over Clemson (3)
Wisconsin over Western Michigan (2)
Florida over Iowa (1)
USC over Penn State (2)
Oklahoma over Auburn (3)
Alabama over Ohio State (3)Photo by Parker Knight

Category: Theater

Saturday Night Live hit a home run with this one:

The initial response was along the lines of The Hill, wherein it say that Hanks was “mocking” Trump supporters. But the portrayal is clearly affectionate to at least some degree and it really took some blinders not to see that. Or, it takes the assumption of a blue collar cadence as inherent mockery.

Then there was a round of people saying that it was about unity. Which goes off a bit too far in the other direction, because it ends on a bit of a dour note. After forming passerby-relationships with the host and other contestants, the subject of Black Lives Matter (implicitly) came up. Before we can see what happens, the skit ends. Jamelle Bouie describes the importance of the ending well:

Because the bulk of the sketch is this humanizing back-and-forth between Doug, the black host, the black contestants, and the black audience, it’s easy to read the message as a plea for tolerance and understanding. There’s more that unites us than there is that divides us. You can even add a class analysis: Black Americans share more than just common culture with some Trump supporters; they share common interests. There are important limits to this, beyond the universe of SNL: Because of its roots in the South, black culture shares an affinity with the rural white life that Doug represents. It’s not clear this would exist between, say, a black audience and a Trump-supporting professional from outside Milwaukee. But at this point, the sketch’s argument seems barely implicit: We need to work together instead of pitting ourselves against each other.

Then comes the final punchline, “Lives That Matter.” Obviously, the answer to the question is “black.” But Doug has “a lot to say about this.” Which suggests that he doesn’t think the answer is that simple. Perhaps he thinks “all lives matter,” or that “blue lives matter,” the phrasing used by those who defend the status quo of policing and criminal justice.

The only real disagreement I have (except with some slightly different priors) is that I don’t know that they really went into it wanting to make much of a point at all. It was funny because it was intended to be, as opposed to en route to an explanation of the human condition. We assign meaning to it because (for some of us, at least) it rang true. The humor required elements of truth, and it delivered. But beyond that, I think it was mostly a humorous portrayal of the commonality as well as, as Bouie says, the divisions.

Category: Theater


-{This post assumes that you have not watched the Amazon series Alpha House and either have no intention to or don’t mind spoilers.}-

There will, evidently, be no Season 3 of Alpha House. This is not a huge surprise. Real life rendered the show redundant.

A brief explanation of what the show is about. It follows four Republican senators through their personal and professional lives. Keeping the character descriptions as short as I can, they go:

Senator Gil John Biggs, played by John Goodman. He’s a former UNC basketball coach who went into politics mostly on account of his wife’s (Julie White) ambitions. Over the course of the series he gradually drifts towards the center on climate change, military sexual assault issues, among others I can’t recall. He’s probably the most sympathetic of the lot. Senator Robert Bettencourt, played by Clark Johnson, an African-American from Pennsylvania and stylistically doesn’t deviate much from other characters played by Clark Johnson. Senator Louis Laffer, played by Matt Malloy, an effeminate Mormon from Nevada. Most of his story is his mentally dancing around his apparent sexual attraction to men, and some jokes about Mormonism. Senator Andy Guzman, played by Mark Consuelos. He’s intended to be a parody of Marco Rubio and is really the only character who takes the place of a real senator.

On the whole, the show was surprisingly sympathetic to its Republican characters given the givens. The only bad character was Guzman, and he was coming around. Even Laffer, the anti-gay gay guy, had endearing aspects. It even undercut one of its themes (Republicans are the party of Old White Men) by insisting on a diverse cast (giving us black Bettencourt, Hispanic Guzman, and a black and couple gay aides) It is what it is, of course, and I always have to grade such shows on a curve. But given the constraints of Hollywood, a failed Turing Test here and a lefty sermon there are somethings I can live with. I’ll take what I can get, and I lament that there won’t be more. I recommend the show to anyone who follows politics who is not either (a) a liberal who believes conservatives must be portrayed with horns on their heads, or (b) a conservative really sensitive about being made fun of.

The show ends with Laffer slowly realizing his homosexuality, Bettencourt waiting on the returns of a really close re-election race against real life Ed Rendell, Guzman gearing up for a presidential bid, and Biggs being urged by some to run. I was not surprise when the announcement of a third season was indefinitely delayed. The show weaved between reality (Obama is president, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul exist, Rendell and Schumer appear) and fiction (none of the principals are real, and Rubio doesn’t exist). And the entire point of the show is to ridicule Republicans. What could this show possibly do to the GOP that the GOP hasn’t been actively doing to itself?

The more I thought about it, though, I was thinking about it all wrong. There was actually a more fascinating story to tell that would have made Season 3 amazing. And very in keeping with the character, if not the original intent, of the show. One of the things I’ve constantly wondered was what it would be like to be a Republican congresscritter while all of this was going on.

There were a couple of ways that the show could have handled this. They could have inserted two of the characters into the race with Biggs as Kasich and Guzman as (of course) Rubio. They also could have inserted a new character in place of Ted Cruz and just kind of had at it. It would have been a great deal of fun if they could have pulled it off. I go back and forth on whether it would work better with the Kasich/Biggs thing or without it (if it would have made it too busy), but John Kasich’s campaign was so weird that there’s some comedy material in there somewhere. If they go this route, I would probably swap Trump out with a similarly atrocious reality TV candidate pattered off Duck Dynasty (Rip Torn may be available).

An alternative to that is simply to have any and all presidential runs fail and have them hanging out in DC while all of this is going on. This might be easier, and ultimately more fulfilling. Start the show right about the time Rubio (Guzman) drops out. Keep the three-person race as Trump/Cruz/Kasich or swap them out for Torn/somebody/somebody if you want them to appear on the show as characters or you want to avoid the characters endorsing real live politicians.

In any case, just as I believe House Slythrin would be the most interesting House to be a fly on the wall in Harry Potter, the Republican caucus would be a more fascinating (and more hilarious) venue than it was from 2012-14, the first two seasons. I can envision plots of people trying to get them on board the Trump Train (or Torn Train or whatever) and I’ll even take an eye-rolling scene where they refuse to endorse their party’s nominee (except I’ll be cheering instead of rolling my eyes).

Category: Theater


I know that I often talk about (and complain about) the liberal skew of Hollywood productions. Which I think is fair, but I should also point out when they do something I would like to see more of. I had an email exchange recently about politics and entertainment which reminded me of a post I’d long wanted to write about The Good Wife. This post assumes that you have not watched the show, and don’t care to, and will have some relatively inconsequential (or predictable) spoilers.

The basic premise behind The Good Wife is Alicia Florek as a protagonists whose husband is caught in a sexy political scandal, forcing her to transition from a Stay-At-Home-Mother back into the workplace, in this case a law firm. For the most part, though, it’s a political and legal drama with Alicia at the center of it, both in court and with her husband on the political stage.

The show takes place in Chicago, which means that almost all of its politics are going to be skewed to the left. Along these lines, it would have been easy and inconspicuous for conservatives to be notably absent and their view either unrepresented or poorly represented and liberal perspectives to be embedded in the show across the board. For the most part, this is how the show ran for the first few seasons. Though even early on, there were exceptions and indications that they weren’t going to stick with that formula.

The show had (basically) three elections over its run, with almost all of the participants being Democrats because Chicago. In all but one race[1], the Floreks found themselves up against somebody running to their left. This served to moderate the Floreks, comparatively speaking, as they pursued white and/or centrist voters[2]. This lead to a decent plot thread wherein a member of the Florek family figured out that they were targeting the white vote specifically against his black opponent. But it introduced a degree of ambiguity that served the show well.

Sometimes shows with politics to go out of their way to make all of the bad guys Republicans[3]. They managed to avoid that by recognizing that when they needed an unexpected racist that it might be better to make him a progressive liberal that everybody in the office looked up to. Little things like that matter, especially given “Family Values Republican actually a sexual deviant” is more a cliche than a twist, at this point.

They also introduced Kurt McVeigh (no relation), a reasonably well-developed rightwing character. He was introduced as a ballistics expert, but became the romantic interest to Diane, the most liberal character on the show. Setting aside political preferences and such, it interwove liberal and conservative characters in a way that I would really like to see more of. It’s not just about having different perspectives represented, but it makes for more entertaining television when everybody in the room doesn’t share the same basic orientation.

Where the show really hit its stride in this regard was in the later seasons, when I think they were running out of ideas to keep the show going. Among other things, they brought in Oliver Platt as a conservative character who hired the firm and used Diane to bounce ideas off of. This lead to a great episode where they talked about RFRA and gay wedding cakes. Platt and company talked about the prospects of a cake baker, and eventually isolated a wedding planner as the best case to find and bring suit. Diane, who fell squarely on the side of gay couples, got the last word. But nonetheless it was well done. And from there, Diane went on to help one of Platt’s intermediaries with a PP Video case that she viewed as a First Amendment issue, much to the chagrin of everybody else at the firm.

Though the above may give a faulty impression, The Good Wife falls squarely to the left, on the whole. But impressive-to-me, they never let that get in the way of telling a good or interesting story. I have multiple motivations for getting on my soapbox on the subject, but the most basic reason I want to see more variety is simply because it can make better stories that way. The legal aspects of The Practice were better than Boston Legal simply by having Helen Gamble (Laura Flynn Boyle) on the show[4]. This doesn’t just apply to legal and political dramas (for those in particular, a skew usually makes narrative sense and there is only one skew they can pull off), but more or less anything where politics is likely to come up.

[1] The exception was the Illinois Governor’s race, wherein Peter was running against Maura Tierney, who was running to his left, and then a general election against Matthew Perry, who played an ideologically nondescript Republican.

[2] Everything in this post is a simplification. They actually spent more time pursuing the black vote, with Peter forming a bond with a black preacher, and so on. But there were two plot threads wherein the Floreks pursued voters that at least some participants were uncomfortable with. Peter’s dogwhistling and later Alicia’s run against a rumored-to-be-gay David Hyde Pierce.

[3] One example, The Event, had a protagonist president and an antagonist vice president, so what were they to do? Why, they decided to make it a unity ticket. That way, the president could be a intimated Democrat and the vice president a Republican. Presto!

[4] Boston Legal did have a couple of conservative characters, but more as foils than anything. Denny Crane was crazy, and Brad Chase was ineffectual. It was – until the end, anyway – better than nothing, but it was what it was.

Category: Theater

One of the few football coaches I follow on Twitter is Mark Mangino, the former head coach of Kansas who was sacked after a moderate scandal but mostly because he was fat and unpleasant. He’s lost a lot of the weight, but as far as being unpleasant goes, well… he takes to mocking the schools that have fired him on Twitter. That’s… something coaches almost never do. He’s been going after Kansas for a while, though last year he was fired by Iowa State (as a coordinator) mid-season. Iowa State lost to FCS Northern Iowa, and he retweeted a potshot. Actually, it might not have been so bad if not for last year.

I suspect he’s not going to be on the radar for any good jobs any time soon. Which is a shame, because he’s a pretty great coach. (And his bitterness is not unjustified, particularly at Kansas, which has won an average of two games a season since he was tossed.)

A few seasons back, Southern Tech had a tremendously bad season opener. Deltona Poly is one of those schools we should never, ever lose to. We had a mostly new coaching staff and a new quarterback. But not only did we lose, we lost badly. It wasn’t even close. While head coach Harvey Fulbright was not a brilliant coach, he was brilliant in doing one thing: before he took over, he purchased The next day, there was a picture of him and the team with the words “Relax. It’s just one game.”

Fulbright did, however, fire his new offensive coordinator. After one game. Offensive coordinator John Breuk spent the rest of the season on a paid vacation, and then the next season got a job at a Division II school as a coordinator. As it happened, a scandal pre-dating his tenure erupted there, and suddenly he was a head coach. He went 11-3 and made the tournament final. The offense did very well.

Flash forward a couple of years and Fulbright needs another offensive coordinator. It became a common joke that there is this Division II coach who is really pretty good and maybe we should hire him! Just one problem…

When Fulbright got canned, we were in the market for a head coach. One coach that was mentioned pretty regularly was the head coach at Cal State. He seemed rather particular about what head coach job he would be willing to take, but he played football as a Southern Tech Packer. So maybe he would reconsider? Oh, yeah, he played for Southern Tech because his father was the head coach, and he was fired in a pretty messy situation. We were invited to a bowl game and he refused to coach it. His tenure at our school had kind of ruined Dad’s head coaching career. So nobody was surprised when he declined to interview.


I thought of these stories this weekend as there were a couple of instances of coaches who were fired getting the last laugh.

The first is Southern Miss offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, who was something of a fall guy at Kentucky when the Wildcats had a bad season last year. This year, Southern Miss opened up against Kentucky:

Dawson’s new team Southern Miss just happened to open at Kentucky, and the Wildcats jumped out to a 35-10 second quarter lead.

But Dawson’s Eagles offense moved 84 yards in three plays just before the half to pull within 35-17. Then they marched 84 yards to open the second half, and now the score was 35-24. And then Southern Miss moved 66 yards in eight plays to pull within 35-31.

On its next possession, Southern Miss again found the end zone, marking four straight touchdowns to turn a 35-10 lead into a 38-35 advantage.

Kentucky finally slowed down the Flying Shannon Dawsons on their final two possessions — sort of. Both traveled more than 50 yards, and both ended in field goals.

Overall, Southern Miss moved 409 yards over 55 plays and six possessions, producing 34 points over that span.

A more high-profile example was Lane Kiffin, who was infamously fired on a tarmac at LAX coming home from a game. He’s the offensive coordinator at Alabama, who just handed USC their worst loss in a very long time:

You might think Alabama’s play on the field Saturday night would do all the talking its offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin needed to say.

Fifty-two points, 223 passing yards (most of which came on the arm of true freshman Jalen Hurts), 242 rushing yards and 7.4 yards per play tend to say a lot.

So does your Twitter account, especially when you have 136,000 followers.

So on Sunday, after handing his former employer its worst opening day loss since the 19th century, Kiffin took a direct shot at USC with a hashtag that has surely never been used before, nor will ever be used again.

Kiffen never holstered his gun and ran up the score as much as he could. Which I, of course, have no problem so long as you let your backups play. And as the article mentioned, after the game he got another shot in:

Category: Theater

Category: Espresso, Theater

I kid you not, yesterday I started two posts, one of which that was supposed to go up today.

The first involved Blue Lives Matter, and Black Lives Matter, and the intersection between the two. The opening point, which I had actually written, involved an argument about how blue lives actually are more important than black ones and white ones, in a manner of speaking. (The second part, which I haven’t yet written, would go on to explain the limits of this idea and how we have extended beyond them.)

The second involves the sense of glee that some people feel for the Pitchfork Comeuppance. The notion that “they” (a political group on the opposite side of an issue) didn’t listen and now people are taking this up with threats of violence. And sure enough, at least a few people early on made comments about how this, the violence, is why police need to reform. Which is right, in a way, and also wrong. But it’s been deployed by all sides. Last night is a reminder that it’s not a completely abstract argument.

Anyway, I have to decide what to do with those posts. Neither will come up today. In lieu of that, I will simply post the song of the moment.

Category: Theater

Gaby Dunn complains about a common practice in media:

Not too long ago, I was desperate for paid work, so I gave away a lot of my ideas and rights. In 2013 I was a staff writer for the website Thought Catalog and they asked me if they could publish a book of my previously published TC essays. An editor and I put it together while I was a salaried employee for no extra money. I did not receive any bonus or commission on sales of the book. But wow! I had gotten to publish a book! Incredible! Three years later, I no longer work at TC. I am more well-known and have more fans. These fans find the book and excitedly purchase it thinking they’re supporting me. But I don’t see any of that money. The more high-profile I become, the more the book sells for Thought Catalog.

After that, I got hired at Buzzfeed, and it happened again. I was hired first as on-camera talent and then as a scripted series writer. I was excited to have a steady writing gig and thrilled by the $55,000 annual salary. Before being hired there, I had no idea the company had a huge YouTube presence, but I thought I’d stay a couple of months, find another industry gig, and peace out. I ended up staying eight months because the non-compete caused me to turn down other work and meetings that might have led to other work. There was a constant push-and-pull about how much we could do outside of Buzzfeed and how much other projects would take time from our full-time jobs. Even the concept of “time” was up for debate. I stayed because I felt trapped.

I went into it not entirely prepared to be sympathetic, but I thought she actually made some good points and the terms of “employment” really do seem excessive. Perhaps it can be chalked up to “the market at work” but at some point we’re going to miss our on talent if enough people actually start reading and considering the contracts.

Now, let me put on my White Male hat for a moment and say one thing about it… the focus on the demographic triumvirate (women, persons of color, LGBTQ was really something of a distraction, and I suspect lessens rather than expands the impact of the piece. Throughout the article, Dunn talks about how those groups are especially impacted. The contents of the article really are pretty important for anybody to understand, and the problem is a problem for anybody in media. The demographic framing runs the risk of telling others either “This is not something you want to worry about” or generally making them less sympathetic because they are on the “wrong” side of this. People who jump to the latter conclusion are not acting as their ideal selves… but most of the time, most people don’t.

Category: Theater

Here are some actors reading for parts in The Office:

It’s hard to say for sure since there is almost certainly some status quo bias going on, but I think they largely made the right choices.

Seth Rogan is very unimpressive as Dwight, but Judah Friedlander (who played Frank on 30 Rock) could totally have pulled it off in the direction I think he would have taken the part.

Bob Odinkirk is a good Michael Scott, but we knew that because he played a doppleganger in a late episode of the season.

Adam Scott was passable as Jim.

Category: Theater