Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford has died.
Ford has been on my mind a bit lately. Partly because I noticed that we hadn’t seen him much any more (something that I reflect on when looking at his book on humor and the presidency). Partly because he had just achieved being the oldest living ex-president ever. And partly because, well, I’m looking into a possible project about how we select our presidents, and him having achieved that rank without ever winning a national election makes him an important example of much of what can happen.
He wasn’t a great president in either of the meanings of that. He was a mild president, meek, a caretaker of an office he was rather oddly thrust into. He did not try large things, and often I wish I could say the same about some of our other presidents. But more importantly, he didn’t do much of anything at a time when not doing much of anything was a vital step toward restoring some confidence in the presidency
Of course, all of that helped make him joke fodder… but in the long run, he was known as the president that both accepted and appreciated the humorous aspects of the job. As best as I can tell, he was a good man.


So now we’re down to having three ex-presidents (which is three more than what we had just before Ford took office), and at this point all three are active forces for good. They’re in position where they can inspire, but not where they can do much damage, and we’re better off having them right there. Now if we can get a president of that quality…

Published in: on December 27, 2006 at 1:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Unreasonable surgery

A disturbing search warrant has popped up in Texas. Prosecutors have gotten the right to obtain a bullet… from inside a 17 year old’s forehead.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, they think this slug will prove that that guy tried to murder someone, and quite possibly he did. But one of the principals of our law is that the government cannot do anything and everything to make a case, and that we can’t do anything we want to someone just because we suspect he’s guilty. At base, the government here is forcing someone to undergo surgery because they want information. If you think that sounds okay… would you still think that if the person they had to perform surgery on wasn’t a suspect?

Published in: on December 21, 2006 at 8:50 pm  Comments (1)  

Famous people call me…

I got a phone call yesterday from the star of a late ’80s sitcom – not a big hit, but it ran a couple years. The call wasn’t related to his fame; someone had pointed him to me to answer some comics-related questions. But dadgummit, I wish it was a show I’d been into, or could remember watching at least once, so I could get a little bit of that pointless-but-genuine celebrity contact thrill!

Note to Valerie Bertinelli: Call me!

Published in: on December 21, 2006 at 12:41 am  Leave a Comment  

What I've been watching

With the network shows almost all in reruns (tonight’s Studio 60 is a rerun of one from two weeks ago… although tonight’s The New Adventures Of Old Christine is the one worthwhile episode the series has done so far, and is well worth watching) I’ve been watching things I might not were the ReplayTV filled with good stuff.
I’ve watched some episodes of an old Sherwood Schwartz series. You know the one. Bob Denver plays the title character. And the rest of the cast is people he got lost with – the big, chummy leader of his voyage, the wealthy guy and his wife, the showgirl, the sexy dark haired normal gal, and the brainy guy.
I’m speaking of course of Dusty’s Trail, a show which ran just for the 1973-1974 season. I got four episodes on a $1 DVD at Target… and it was worth it just for such a blatant example of someone trying to recapture lightning in a bottle.


Also in the DVD player are episodes of Trouble With Father, a sitcom from the early ’50s. Despite its status as an early sitcom, the basic setup is one that lives with us today – the goofy dad who gets into shennanigans through his presumptuousness. It’s the According To Jim of its day. The one real laugh I got out of the first episode on the six-episode disk (found at the 99 Cent Only store) was when the elder of the family’s two daughters answered a question about her boyfriend with “oh, he’s not really a boyfriend” when the impertinent younger daughter clucks “he’s certainly not a girlfriend!” And the only reason that’s even vaguely funny is that the actress delivering the line is a pre-teen Sheila James Kuehl… who is moved both up and out in this world, now known both as a state representative and a lesbian, thus giving the line some vague and certainly unintended overtone. (Actingwise, Kuehl is better known for The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, a series with an off-kilter sensibility that hasn’t truly been captured again.)
Oooh, I’m on the second episode now, and the father who said that housekeeping was easy is finding himself unable to keep up the duties while she’s gone. Ahhh, the basics of sitcommery!
Added moments later: oooh, father just put too much soap in the washing machine at the laundromat, and bubbles are coming out! Sitcom 101!

Published in: on December 18, 2006 at 9:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chase's choices

I just got a notice of my privacy rights from Chase, my credit card company.
We offer you the following two choices about sharing information that identifies you:

  • Choice #1: You may tell us not to share information about you with non-financial companies outside of our family of companies. Even if you do tell us not to share, we may do so as required or permitted by law.

So it’s nice that I may tell them something that they will then feel free to ignore. I’m on the edge of telling them to go perform a physically awkward act upon themselves, a suggestion they may ignore as required or permitted by law.

Published in: on December 15, 2006 at 10:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Between there and a hard place

After 50 minutes of this morning’s This Week With George Stephanopolous, largely talking about Iraq, an ad comes on, and I hear “Iraq can fill you with wonder. Iraq can inspire your imagination. Iraq can touch your heart. Iraq can soothe your senses or help you enjoy a little free time.”
It’s an ad for Prudential Insurance, and what they’re really talking about is “a rock”. I’m sure the ad copy looked good on the page, but someone should have listened to it at least once before airing it.
(And my best wishes for a safe return to all of those enjoying a little free time in Iraq.)

Published in: on December 10, 2006 at 1:20 pm  Comments (1)  

Peaked early

Just watched Thursday’s Daily Show. The guest was the only American who has climbed the 14 highest peaks in the world.
Which sounds impressive, but then you start thinking about what it takes him to increase that number. And the answer is “climb a series of ever-smaller peaks”. I mean, it’s not like they’ll be building higher mountains any time soon.

Published in: on December 9, 2006 at 9:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lunar proof

If we ever needed to disprove the claim that the moon landings were actually a big hoax staged by actors on a soundstage somewhere, we need do no more than watch the Sesame Street episode “Cookie Moon”. Seeing Buzz Aldrin give the most awkward cue card readings make it clear that this accomplished man is no actor.

Published in: on December 9, 2006 at 2:03 pm  Comments (1)  

The Never Ready For Prime Time Players

According to the top of the Amazon.com listing, the Saturday Night Live – The Complete First Season dvd set stars “Mel Brandt, Fran Brill”.
Yeah, those are the two people you want to name when recommending that set.

Published in: on December 9, 2006 at 11:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Relatively rich

I just started watching something that’s been sitting on the TiVo for a while, an October 17th recording of the PBS special Buffet & Gates Go Back to School. The show starts by introducing Warren and Bill as the “world’s richest billionaires”. Well sure they’re rich… for billionaires. If you want to pick from that limited pool.
(I’ve sometimes imagined Bill Gates going on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and when he wins, they take away 99.998% of his money.)

Published in: on December 8, 2006 at 5:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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