Lancelot Links postsTuesday January 08, 2019
Monday December 24, 2018
- Outgoing chief of staff John Kelly says the man responsible for the “zero tolerance” border policy that separated families was Jeff Sessions. Kelly says the White House was surprised by it but doesn't say anything on why they didn't immediately push back. Also stuff about the wall. Old news.
- Robert Horton's 10 best/worst movies of 2018. I don't necessarily agree but I like the way he says it.
- Dave Barry's review of 2018. Wasn't pretty, kids.
- I am still in love with “Ben Franklin's Song” by the Decembrists, via Lin-Manuel Miranda. What I didn't know? The Ben Franklin Institute wrote about it!
- Via The New York Times, photographer Li Zhensheng tries to make the Chinese remember its recent past—specifically the Cultural Revolution.
- Good Q&A with Jena Friedman on the latest Louis CK controversy. Good because it's tempered. She acknowledges both the faults and the genius of the man. In the new routine that has people up in arms, secretly recorded and posted by others, she acknowledges that stand-up is a process. Exactly. To me, this is like people getting angry at an author over a rough draft that someone stole off his desk.
- Chris Rock is kind of funny on not being able to be funny anymore.
- Elina Shatkin makes a list of complaints about the things Millennials are supposedly putting out of business through lack of interest—including Buffalo Wild Wings, Applebee‘s, Hooters, golf and breakfast cereal—and says, “You go, kids.” Then she offers up a few other targets.
- Recommending again the New Yorker piece on how Mark Burnett revived Donald Trump’s sad career with “The Apprentice,” setting up our current predicament.
- From the same issue: the Trump-Merkel contretemps. The horror of what Trump is blithely ending. How it may end the world as we know it.
Wednesday December 12, 2018
- In the wake of the Harold Baines debaccle, Joey Poz had a great piece on the long sad history of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Baseball Writers Association of America, and the Veterans Committee. I know a lot about baseball history but the specifics he brings are new to me. It's basically how underreaction can lead to overaction, and over to under. Balance is tough.
- But Baseball's sure as hell beats the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. One of my guys, John Mulaney, did a great, brutal bit on the Rock HOF on Seth Meyer's show, and this Rolling Stone interview is an expansion on that. It's funny, chastising, but mostly heartwarming. He's reminding the honorees, “You mean a lot to all of us. Your music made happy days happier and sad days happier, or sometimes made normal days more poignant and sad, and that was necessary. ... Go ahead and enjoy it.”
- Life-lesson from John Cassidy: He who rises by the tabloid shall fall by the tabloid. Not that the lessonee will listen.
- Seattle Film Critics (sans me) announced their best of 2018 and it's the usual suspects: “Roma,” Cuaron, Hawke, Collette, etc. Not their fault; other film critics get to see and announce first. And none are bad choices. By now it's just ... familiar. They do give some love to tentpole films “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and “Black Panther,” but even there, it's not unfamiliar. Here's what I think has been missing from the conversation this awards season: “Wajib,” “Love Education,” “The King,” Sakura Ando, Jun Jong-seo, Hawke for “Juliet, Naked.” Maybe “Avengers: Infinity War.” Why I wrote, I suppose.
- The good folks at SABR have written a clear-eyed portrait of baseball's greatest loveable loser: Charlie Brown. The fact-checking graf on his exact birthdate alone makes it worth reading.
Friday August 17, 2018
- The U.S. box office hit “Crazy Rich Asians,” which some U.S. critics sadly keep touting, debuted two weeks ago in China—and bombed. It wound up in eighth place, grossing the equivalent of $1.1 million, $23 mil behind “A Cool Fish” in its third week. The website Sixth Tone tries to sort out why. Too shallow? Too Mary Sue—“a pejorative referring to the trope of shallow, unconvincing female characters in works of fiction”? How about too Asian? The article mentions how an All-Asian cast is a breath of fresh air in the U.S. but kinda not in China. It also doesn't mention the arms-length reaction of many Chinese to overseas Chinese or huaqiao. At the same time, the movie did OK in smaller Chinese markets like Taiwan and Hong Kong. But China said 不要。Could make a good dissertation someday—the why of all of this.
- Hey, guess what didn't bomb in China? “Aquaman.” It's opening weekend gross was $93 mil, which is the 21st biggest opening in China ever. Go know.
- Larry Stone has a good eulogy on Robinson Cano's five-year tenure with the M's: PED suspension, yes, occasional lapses, yes, but two top-10 MVP finishes and 23.6 WAR. He delivered. Mariners management didn‘t. Not enough. It was a bad deal, and now we’re out of it for the worst part of it, but I‘ll miss him. He was fun to watch. What Yankee fans saw as laziness, I saw as the usual nonchalance of great baseball players turned to 11.
- In an interview with Bob Schieffer, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says it was difficult to work for Trump because he’s “pretty undisciplined, doesn't like to read, doesn't read briefing reports, doesn't like to get into the details of a lot of things, but rather just kind of says, ‘This is what I believe.’” Not a huge shocker. Nothing about Trump is a huge shocker to anyone who was paying attention in 2015 and 2016. And all the years previous.
- Speaking of: If you know anyone who says “They didn't know ...” what Trump was like, kindly direct them to this 2006 piece by Mark Singer in The New Yorker. He nailed it all then. There have been no surprises.
- Can't recommend enough George Packer's mid-November piece on the demise of a moderate Republican. Mostly because it's not about that. It's about Packer holding the GOP accountable for its 50-year-long slide into the muck: from the Southern strategy to welfare queens to Willie Horton. “They pushed conspiracy theories into the mainstream,” Packer writes. “They kept raising the bar of viciousness. ... Trump is the movement's darkest realization, not its betrayal.” His Mitch McConnell metaphor is brilliant.
Wednesday May 09, 2018
- Via my friend Andy, the best Shakespeare movies of the 1990s. Agree with the top 3.
- Trevor Noah and Roy Wood Jr. on the 50th anniversary of the first appearance of Franklin in “Peanuts”: its origins, breakthroughs and TV/movie oddities.
- Should this be in contention for greatest rock song ever? It's never mentioned. Nothing. It's not even mentioned among top 10 Elvis songs. Time to change that.
- What's your NPR name? According to Lianablog, you add your middle initial somewhere in your first name, then choose the smallest foreign town you‘ve visited for your last name. Don’t really know the smallest foreign town I‘ve visited, but how’s this: Erika Enkhuizen. I'm Erika Enkhuizen and this is “Fresh Air.” I'm Erika Enkhuizen and let me interview Wisconsin farmers who are hurt by Trump's trade war but still support the president “because he's the president” and not ask one decent follow-up question. Yeah. Works.
- Are Netflix movies from China actually helping American cinephiles appreciate Chinese cinema? Via China Film Insider.
- MLB.com gathers the coolest baseball cards every year from 1950 to today, with guest editors for every decade. Quibble: I love Joey Poz, but how was Josh “Cardboard Gods” Wilker not chosen for the ‘70s? Secondary quibble: I think the ’65 card, with the team name within a pennant, is the greatest card created. But guest editor and M's broadcast Dave Sims goes with a blurry Bob Gibson? I might go Tony Oliva. Because c‘mon. Or maybe I’d save Tony for the ‘68 “Manager’s Dream” card with Chico Cardenas and Roberto Clemente. It not only introduces the first great Latino players, it gets all of their first names wrong. Welcome to America, guys.
- Speaking of: Did you get see the A's Ramon Laureano's throw the other day? Shouldn't you?
- Amazing story by Jayson Jenks on everyone's favorite new Mariner, the continually upbeat Dee Gordon. Two things I didn't know: His father is former pitcher Tom “Flash” Gordon, about whom Stephen King wrote a novel (which I reviewed for the Times); and his mother was shot to death by her boyfriend when Dee was only 7.
- My friend Jerry had a stroke and lived to write about it.
Lancelot Links Asks What's on Weibo?
All previous entries
- Via What's on Weibo: Best 30 books to explain Modern China. Does not include “Be a China Expert in One Day” ... which I believe is sitting on Donald Trump's bookshelf. If he had a bookshelf.
- Last month, Weibo decided to crack down on three things: pornography (sure), “bloody violence” (makes sense) and ... homosexuality? C‘mon, China. It’s 2018. But it led to a trending hashtag, #我是同性恋, or #IAmGay.
- From last year, and intriguing for its timing: How film-loving Weibo users are tired of “Domestic Film Protection Month,” during which no foreign films, particularly Hollywood films, are allowed to open. What's intriguing about the timing? That piece appeared just when “Wolf Warrior II” was beginning to break all Chinese box-office records ... without Hollywood competition.
- A lot of what the Chinese Communist Youth League thinks of the recent US/China trade war/sabre-rattling is pretty much what we think: It's Trump being Trump (sadly); it will backfire on Americans (see: soybean farmers). But comparing it to the Japanese invasion of China? Really? Someone's not reading their history. Also worrisome: They‘re using the same damned Hitler/Chamberlain metaphor that American hawks use to argue against appeasement. That said, the art print being shared on Weibo, of Trump on a tank with a rifle and an eagle and explosions and a big flag, which apparently sells in the U.S. to Trump supporters, is the new nadir of kitsch.
- A man on a Sichuan bus violently throws down a 7-year old kid (who had been kicking him) and kicks him in the head, and this leads to a discussion of what’s the matter with ... the kid?