IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Plead The 5th Avenue

After a year or so of strategic obfuscation and baseless appeals designed to muck up the system and delay the game (“run out the clock” is the modus operandi of his legal dealings), Donald Trump finally appeared for a deposition in front of the New York Attorney General (Trump and business and fraudulent practices yada yada yada). And here, the former president, who six years ago, less than six weeks before the election, had pilloried anyone who ever pleaded the Fifth (“If you’re innocent, why you taking the Fifth Amendment?”), himself took advantage of his constitutional right 440 times. That’s almost as many times as he golfed while president.

Of course, it’s Trump’s right to do so. But it’s always been, for Trump and his supporters, his entitlement to be a hypocrite without consequence.

Last night on the TV a former Republican strategist, Stuart Stevens, appeared, and summed up the current state of the GOP, whose leaders long ago bent the knee to Trump: “I don’t think Donald Trump changed the party. He revealed the party. I used to think it was about ‘character is destiny.’ But all they care about is power.”

Yup.

That’s So Raven

Tonight the Baltimore Ravens host the Tennessee Titans in an NFL preseason game and zzzzzzz…..

But wait! There may be a reason to, if not watch, then to at least pay attention (and it’s not just for Raven rookie Kyle Hamilton… smart pick, Coach Harbaugh). It’s because the Ravens are the owners of one of the most dubious streaks in sports in the present era. Baltimore, inscrutably, has won 20 consecutive preseason games. Now, during this period the Ravens have not advanced to the Super Bowl, but they are the kings of August. And those who choose to wager on them are able to do so.

PP, Phone Home (Or Third)

You’ve probably seen this video already, but in case you haven’t. Who will be the first MLBer to tweet from the diamond while the game is live?

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner

Confession: We’ve never seen Scent Of A Woman. We know. No excuse. But over the years we have watched clips from the 1992 film on YouTube and pretty much pieced together the story, which really revolves more around the relationship between Al Pacino’s character (Lt. Col. Frank Slade) and Chris O’Donnell’s (Charlie). Anyway, there are at least three scenes that prove beyond a doubt that Pacino deserved to win the Best Actor Oscar, which he did (and which he should have at least twice before this film), but the one we’ve included above may be our favorite. Sure, his monologue at Baird, the film’s climactic moment, is gold. But this scene is incredible, as he goes from deliberately provocative to the one provoked. And notice the subtlety, as the “hoo ah’s” change in volume and inflection. All the while, you believe Pacino really is blind. He’s simply incredible here. And to think Randy (Bradley Whitford) would go from here to hosting young black men at his home for dinner and then exchanging their brains with those of rich elderly white men. What a transformation. Then again, not so much of a stretch.

If you’ve never seen this, enjoy….

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Goodbye to Sandra Dee

You wanna talk crush? An entire generation of older boys and tweens walked into movie theaters in the summer of 1978 to see Grease and two hours later departed having experienced the epiphany of a lifetime. Ohhhhhhh! Hello, Puberty. Olivia Newton-John died yesterday at the age of 73 after a three-decades long, off-and-on battle with breast cancer. Yes, she was an incredibly successful Aussie pop star in her own right (arguably, the first from Down Under, even if she was born in England) but it’s her role as Sandra Dee, the goody two-shoes who breaks bad in the final scene of the musical, that will forever stamp her in my memory.

You can learn a lot about someone if you ask them which version of Sandy they prefer. The innocent, sweater-wearing lass or the “What’s it to you, stud?” black-leather diva that shows up in the final scene for “You’re The One That I Want,” filmed at Venice High School in California. Me, I’ll tell you if we meet in person, but you can probably guess. Anyway, some of us never got over or past our first crush.

And then, ruthlessly, ONJ released this song and video only a few months later. Game, set, match. No fair, really.

In the early Seventies, before the Grease mania, ONJ was a very successful pop star whose singles often bordered on country: “Let Me Be There” comes to mind, though “Have You Never Been Mellow” and “I Honestly Love You” also stand out as pure pop hits (the latter two reached No. 1 on the pop charts).

What did ONJ represent to us confused lads in the Seventies? Beauty, sure, but also innocence. At least until she watched that drag race in the L.A. aqueduct. Do yourself a favor at some point today and go back and watch “Summer Nights” and “You’re The One That I Want” on YouTube. Plain ol’ fun songs, and funny to me as they were evoking a nostalgic past, the Fifties, that had only been over for 20 or so years. Does anyone now feel that way about the year 2000? I doubt it.

Later in life, going from sex-addled to word-addled, some of us would have fun with ONJ’s name. What if she married John Salley (Olivian Newton-John Salley)? Or if she did a triple bill with Juice Newton and Elton John? Newton, John and Newton-John. But that’s just our own warped mind.

It was a magical childhood for those of us raised in the Seventies. Thank you, Olivia, for both adding to it and, in a sense, terminating it.

Going, Going, Con

It was a terrible day for grifters yesterday as two of the nation’s most infamous charlatans, Gene Takavic and Donald Trump, finally saw the first stages of their long-overdue comeuppance. Takavic, a.k.a. Saul Goodman a.k.a Jimmy McGill, is ratted out by Marion (Carol Burnett) in the penultimate episode of Better Call Saul and now must once again put his life on the run (Have you considered Alaska, Jimmy? It worked for Mr. Pinkman). Marion is too smart and when Gene makes the error of noting the difference in bail policies between Albuquerque and Omaha, an alarm goes off in her brain. We wondered why a legend such as Burnett took this role, but it’s all worth it when she looks Gene square in the eyes and says, “I trusted you.” Devastating

• The former president, meanwhile, had his home searched by the FBI, whose agents legally obtained a warrant. Of course TFG said his estate, Mar-A-Lago, was “raided,” but when has he ever been all that concerned with accuracy? Also, you have to think how many of his dimmer acolytes will have that same Marion-like epiphany about him some day. Or if they’re simply too far gone as cult members.

A few thoughts:

• A critic effusively praising BCS (or BB) is nothing new, but you have to love Vince Gilligan’s and Peter Gould’s endless attention to detail in episodes, paying off the devotion of the shows’ viewers. When Kim Wexler and her Florida boyfriend are hosting a cookout, “Escape: The Pina Colada Song,” is playing, a callback to a Season 1 or 2 episode where Jimmy fibs to a school principal that Rupert Holmes, the song’s writer and singer, attended that school (in Albuquerque; yeah, right). Or later, when Kim pulls up to the parking lot entry at the court house and the booth once occupied by Mike Ehrmentraut is now empty, as the lot is now automated. And he’s, of course, dead.

• The phone call between Gene and Kim tells you everything. This is your break-good-or-break-bad moment, your final shot at redemption. Kim, as we almost always assumed she would, falls onto the side of the angels. She chooses remorse, penitence and atonement. Jimmy, with his final shot at salvation, blows it. In fact, he amps up his skulduggery and mischief. Then again, his life is so empty at this point, and he knows there’s no road back with Kim, so he’s at that stage where Bill Murray was in Groundhog Day where he figured out new ways to kill himself each day. Jimmy needs a stiffer drink, metaphorically, and he won’t stop until it wrecks him.

• Also, the phone call is another example of the wizardry taking place in the writers’ room. We see it from outside the phone booth last week, only seeing Gene’s reaction but not hearing the conversation. There week we’re in on it. Same event, different perspective. And it explains why Gene did what he did in the final 15 minutes of last week’s episode.

• A little symmetry here. The final episode of Breaking Bad opened with Walt driving back to Albuquerque. Seems as if the final episode of Better Call Saul will open with Jimmy fleeing Omaha, perhaps also headed back to New Mexico’s largest city (and most centrally located).

Also, when we first met Kim six seasons ago, she’s standing in an underground parking lot of a law firm, taking a drag on a smoke, and she shares it with Jimmy. In her final scene last night (will she show up next week? Anyone’s guess), she leaves Saul Goodman’s office (another law firm), having just signed the divorce papers, and as it’s raining buckets, stops for a smoke under the awning. A stranger, Jesse Pinkman, bums a smoke off her. A short conversation ensues. She’s at the end of her story arc with Jimmy, the marriage is over. He’s at the beginning; he hasn’t even started cooking with his old chemistry teacher yet. Whoever conjured that scene deserves a bonus. The circle of life. An inspired idea. Jesse: “Is [Saul] a good guy?” Kim: “When I knew him, he was.”

Kim (Rhea Seehorn) may appear in the series finale, but if that’s her walk-off moment, you cannot improve upon it.

In Talking Saul last night, host Chris Hardwick asked Vince Gilligan to preview the series finale in three words. Gilligan replied, “Buy some Depends.”
Wow. It’s difficult to see how the final episode will be a banger. After all, who’s left on the villain side (I mean, except Saul himself)? So as an audience we’re completely in the dark as to how this series, really the entire Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul universe, will end. And that’s a credit to the show’s creators.

• As for Mr. Trump, what have we said from the beginning? Anything he accuses anyone else of, he’s doing himself. Anything he suggests happen to someone else is something that will and should happen to him. so, in short, “Lock him up.”

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Viking Quest

Soccer’s next big thing? Meet 6’5″, 21 year-old Norwegian native Erling Haaland, who on Sunday made his debut at striker for the reigning EPL champs, Man City. In Haaland’s debut he scored once in the first half (on a penalty kick) and once more in the second as Man City won its season debut at West Ham, 2-0 (that’s nil). To play the marquee position on the defending champs is a feather in the cap for any player, much less a 21 year-old who hails from a nation not known as a soccer power. In fact, you will not be seeing Haaland at the World Cup this November, as Norway failed to qualify.

But you’ll be seeing plenty of him on NBC and Peacock the next few years. And yes, in another world he’d have grown up to be an outstanding NFL tight end, most likely.

A Night At The Garden

We thought of bringing you coverage of the CPAC convention (no, we did not; by the way, is it just me or do they stage about three of these a year?), but then this 7-minute film of the inaugural CPAC convention staged in 1939 surfaced. That’s Madison Square Garden (on its former site; not the one on 33rd and 7th Ave) and this is mere months before Adolph Hitler invaded Poland. By the way, you should probably know, and we’re not making this up, that a favorite mantra of these people was “America First!” You have to also wonder if this historical event—which we were completely unaware of before this weekend—inspired the famous and devilishly dark Seinfeld episode about O’Brien and Murphy, in which a white nationalist was scheduled to speak at the Paramount Theater, which abuts MSG. As we’ve said many times before, there’s always a Seinfeld for that.

It is chilling, though, when you watch this. Rule No. 9: It’s all happened before. That applies here. Everything you’re seeing with the modern GOP was happening in this country 80 years ago, except it was Jews they were mostly afraid of, not Mexicans and blacks.

Baltimore’s O Face

Rookie catcher Adley Rutschman, a May call-up, has ignited the O’s. Rutschman played at Oregon State, so he never had to alter his uniform colors

A few notes from a baseball weekend:

• The Baltimore Orioles are 21-8 since July 2nd and now only one game out of a playoff spot. The O’s have been the American League East doormat for quite some time, finishing fourth or fifth in each of the past six seasons.

•The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (terrible, terrible name) set a Major League record by hitting seven solo home runs and losing, 8-7, at Seattle. Never happened before. Rule No. 7

• The Yankees were swept in a three-game set at St. Louis. The Bombers, who no longer have baseball’s best record, are 0-7 against 1st place teams since the All-Star break and 12-18 since July 2nd.

• The Dodgers, baseball’s best team, swept the Padres. Tyler Anderson and Rob Gonsolin are now both 13-1 as starters for L.A., and yet their teammate, Clay Kershaw, started the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium last month. And a fourth pitcher, Walker Buehler, is the staff ace. Four Dodger pitchers have WHIPs at 1.03 or below. They’re the team to beat.

Butt’s End

Turns out there’s another story from the Titanic we’d never heard of, and unlike the star-crossed tale of Jack and Rose, it’s true. A somewhat lurid story from The Washington Post examines the likely romantic relationship between Archibald Butt, an aide to president William Howard Taft, and Francis Millett, a war correspondent. The pair lived in a mansion in Foggy Bottom (heh heh) and were sharing a cabin on Titanic when it struck an iceberg. Too many jokes, and we’re too classy to make them. Ironically, the two had been traveling abroad with the expressed purpose of Butt delivering a message from Taft to the pope, and their relationship at the time would have been enough to cause quite a furor with the Vatican.

Nature Is Wild

We might have seen this before, but if we did, we’d forgotten about it. If you ever spot an armadillo in Amarillo, please take a photo and send it to MH HQ.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Alex Jones’ Diary

We don’t know why Alex Jones’ lawyers turned over the entire contents of his iPhone over to the plaintiff’s attorneys in the InfoWars ghoul’s damages trial in Texas. We only know that he belongs in the “Accidental Text On Purpose” Hall of Fame. If this was truly an accident, this attorney might want to find another line of work (like hosting a right-wing conspiracy theory podcast). But maybe he was just being, uh, patriotic.

We still don’t understand why otherwise decent American folks root for and supports Biffs like this guy. We, as a country, used to despise such flop-sweating fat asses. He’d be the hapless villain in a Home Alone sequel. It all comes back to what I’ve written before about how to define the modern MAGA Republican: “He hates all the same people you do.”

Anyway, Alex Jones has been lying up and down—about whether or not he believed Sandy Hook was a hoax, about his finances—for years. Yesterday he was caught red-handed in the lies.

“Mr. Jones, do you know what perjury is?”

Diana’s Bagel

We don’t know if it has ever happened before in her career, and it certainly never happened in Storrs or Hartford, but Diana Taurasi, the most prolific scorer in WNBA history, was held pointless in the Phoenix Mercury’s loss at the Connecticut Sun in Uncasville, Conn., Tuesday night. We did personally watch Diana go scoreless in a game at Pepperdine in the very first month of her college career, but she was coming off the bench at the time and barely hoisted the rock. On Tuesday the 40 year-old went oh-fer-6 in 11 minutes.

For the record, we checked: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had one scoreless game in his career, as a Laker pre-Magic at Milwaukee (his former team) in 1977, but he played only two or three minutes. Kareem, like Diana, is the all-time leader in points scored in his league. Michael Jordan, the all-time points-per-game leader, never was held scoreless. Wilt Chamberlain was held scoreless once, in 1967, and he was being guarded by Nate Thurmond.

Worth watching: Taurasi’s Mercury are back in action tonight, again versus the Sun in Uncasville. These are her college fans. Even though she’s no longer even the second scoring option on this club, I doubt she disappoints them twice.

Cramer Vs. Cramer

Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of Jim Cramer’s Chicken Little moment on CNBC with Erin Burnett (and probably, sadly, the last time she wore that giraffe-skinned dress). It’s an amazing piece of television, made even better because history proved Cramer 100% right (“14 million people took a mortgage in the last three years; they took teaser rates or piggy back rates; they will lose their homes”). Remember, he’s saying this in early August of 2007. A full 13 months before the market crashed, but he saw the warning signs.

As Cramer recounted yesterday, the next morning he was invited on The Today Show and the host (as Cramer said, “who’s no longer involved in the television business,” i.e., Matt Lauer) asked him if he was off his meds. That, he said, was the last time he appeared on that show, as the people in the C-suite offices don’t like people coming on air and announcing the economy is on fire (at least not before warning them first so they can short it).

I’m not always aligned with Cramer. He’s way too soft on oil companies, I feel, and disregards the true impact of climate change (they should get Al Gore to come on Squawk Box and tell him that what Cramer was trying to do in 2007 is what he’s been trying do with climate for 20 years). But he nailed this one. And earlier this year, back in February, he predicted the market would bottom on July 13. That, back in February, was when the bear market was only a month or so in. He turned out to have hit the nail precisely on the head, down to the day.

Stick with Cramer. Even if he occasionally annoys you.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Vin, Fin*

*The judges will also accept “Vin de Siecle” and “Dodgers, Blue Today”

After 94 glorious years, the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers and truly, the voice of baseball, Vin Scully, is headed to the showers. Scully’s was a baseball life, but also his life epitomized the 20th century while bleeding into the 21st. Born in the Bronx and raised in Washington Heights just a month or so after the ’27 Yankees’ Murderers’ Row won the World Series, Scully grew up during the city’s halcyon baseball era: the Giants and Yankees both played within blocks of his stoop while the da bums from Brooklyn were just a long subway ride south and east.

Like most of America, Scully survived World War II—he did serve two years in the Navy just after it— and eventually migrated westward. To Los Angeles, with the Dodgers (though the Giants were his boyhood team; he was able to attend games at the Polo Grounds for free as a member of the PAL and CYO, sitting in the way distant center field bleachers), in 1958.

What made Scully such a legendary broadcaster? First, that rich voice. He was made to intone before a microphone. Next, his warmth. You could feel it in every syllable uttered. Then, his genuine and earnest appreciation for the game and those who played it. Vin never made it about Vin and he always understood that the diamond was an escape, a haven. And he was our tour guide, honored to have the role. He did his homework, of course, and he understood the pace of baseball, so that he was able to sprinkle in a colorful vignette here and there.

A cursory glance of Dodgers whose endeavors were narrated by Scully over his seven decades with the franchise: Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Fernando Valenzuela, Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser, Mike Piazza, Clayton Kershaw and, of course, James Outman.

Upon Scully’s passing, Bob Costas, another New York native who now mostly resides in SoCal and knows a thing or two about calling a baseball game, remarked that a long-time nugget of wisdom was that God would never allow a line-drive, inning ending double play when Vin Scully was in the middle of a story. This piece of tape illustrates that.

It almost goes without saying—and we nearly did—that when doing Dodger games, as opposed to national broadcasts, Vin worked solo. No partner in the booth. And it never, ever, seemed like a handicap. A total pro’s pro, and a gentleman. Another legend exits.

Enter Sand Ban

So this is a fun little story: Speaker of the House (not to be confused with master of the house, not to be confused with Sacha Baron Cohen) Nancy Pelosi decides to visit Taiwan, literally an island of democracy surrounded by monolithic communist governments in Asia. And they make semiconductor chips in Taiwan, which are a big deals in terms of national (U.S.) security. But China does not like that Taiwan is a democracy, and they certainly don’t like that such a prominent American legislator (and a chick, no less) is making such a symbolic visit (no one that important in the U.S. government has visited Taiwan in two decades).

So what does China do in response? Well, it turns out that you need sand to make semiconductor chips, and it turns out that China supplies sand to Taiwan (you have heard of China Beach, after all). And thus China has reacted by telling Taiwan, not in so many words, to “go pound sand.” Yes, they’re cutting off the sand supply.

So does this mean we patriotic Americans are going to have to sacrifice Waikiki and Laguna Beach and Montauk just so our smartphones will work? It sounds like the beginning of a Kurt Vonnegut novel.

Where Beagles Dare

The MH editorial staff had been reading these headlines about “4,000 Beagles Rescued” in Virginia but we never quite dove in to the story. Perhaps you have. What we did know is that “beagle” is a word that welcomes word play and just hearing “4,000 beagles” makes us grin. Almost as much as “4,000 labradoodles” would. So we looked into it. Apparently 4,000 beagles in Virginia (random number, random breed, random state) were designated for animal testing, mainly because they’re so docile (libtard dogs). But the testing facility was behaving inhumanely (ya think?), so enter the aptly named Rebecca Goodhart of Homeward Trails, an animal rescue operation.

And so now there are orphaned Snoopy types, given a new leash on life, being dispatched all over the country to safety and new homes.

The perfect story for the dog days of summer.

Bill, Boards

We would be remiss if we failed to mention the passing, Sunday, of NBA legend Bill Russell (and, since we’ve already eulogized a white sports legend, we’d likely be pilloried by a woke mob, perhaps made up of grad students, for not being racially sensitive), at the age of 88. You’ve probably read plenty about ol’ No. 6 in the last few days, and while his playing days were a few years before we began following the NBA, here are the nuggets not to be forgotten:

• In 21 win-or-go-home games that Russell’s team participated in from the NCAAs to the Olympics to the NBA postseason, Russell’s teams went 21-0. Stop. Read that again. Then read it one more time.

• Russell played in 11 NBA Finals, and he won 11 NBA Finals.

• Russell was the first African-American head coach in any of the three major team sports in North America.

• Russell averaged 22.5 rebounds per game over the course of his career. Only Will Chamberlain, his on-court nemesis, averaged more (22.9) thoughout NBA history.

• Where does Russell stack up? We’re all allowed our subjective thoughts. I will always, until otherwise, consider Michael Jordan the greatest all-around NBA player facing the basket, Wilt Chamberlain easily the most dominant player, and Russell the greatest teammate, greatest defensive player and greatest winner. Russell regularly went up against Wilt and though Wilt won statistically, Russell’s Boston Celtics (the only team he ever suited up for) always won. Russell’s also known as the Picasso of the blocked shot, a statistic they did not even keep when he was active so we cannot objectively measure him agains the current era of players. If anyone is most like Russell, though they played different positions and excelled at different stats, it’s Magic Johnson. He did whatever it took, he led in the selfless stats, and his teams (almost) always won the big series.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Absence of Palace

No, actually, that is not an overhead shot of Dua Lipa’s set from the Glastonbury Festival last month (bizarre stage set, if it were). That’s tens of thousands of protesters in Sri Lanka, storming the presidential palace last weekend. You saw the photos, as did I, but perhaps like me you were relatively incurious as to why. Turns out a series of bad policy decisions since the advent of the pandemic has left the south Asian island nation, which sits directly below the India, broke and hungry. And that’s no way to be.

So the people in this densely populated country of 22 million have stormed the presidential palace, demanded the resignations of the prime minister and president (the former of whom has already fled the country; the latter had his home set ablaze), and taken over state radio. Our favorite things about this populist revolt is that they didn’t all tote Sri Lankan flags into the palace, did not use bear spray, and even threw an impromptu pool party a la Caddyshack or Anchorman.

Yankees Lose! Thuuuuuuuh Yankees Lose!

If you were the wagering sort, yesterday should’ve been a fantastic day to place a money line bet on baseball’s best team by far. Consider:

• The New York Yankees (61-25) were coming off two straight losses at Boston and had only lost three in a row once all season.

•The Yanks were coming off an off day.

• Staff ace Gerrit Cole was on the bump.

• The Yanks were facing the last-place Cincinnati Reds (32-54), among the worst teams they have faced all season.

And so, after eight innings, with the Yanks up 3-0, your -320 wager was looking solid. Especially with All-Star closer Clay Holmes, whose 32 1/3 scoreless innings streak earlier this season and broken Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera’s team record.

So, of course—of course!— Holmes surrenders four runs (without allowing an extra-base hit) and New York loses 4-3. If you took the Pinstripers on this one, it’s a defeat you won’t soon forget (note: we did not as we wager about once a year these days, if that).

Somewhat Fewer Than 12 Angry Men

The “profane” meeting that took place in the White House on December 18, whose number included Sidney Powell, Michael Flynn and former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne (all three of whom somehow “gained access” to the West Wing as if it’s someone’s parents were out of town) as well as a number of White House senior officials, and of course Orange Julius Caesar himself, well, this should become a David Mamet play at some point. Or an Aaron Sorkin work.

What a freaking clown show. Trump knew he lost. He always knew. He was just a presidential version of the spoiled brat he’s always been. I shot a double bogey on that hole? Gimme par. You don’t wanna screw me cuz you’re married (and you find me loathsome)? Well, I’m not taking no for an answer.

And yet, millions of people worship him. Broken people. I recall when Trump lost in November of 2020 that a good and old friend, a Trumper, told me that he’d leave the White House without causing a fuss. I laughed at that prediction and asked for a money wager. He said no. After everything happened, my friend never took the L. He sort of just let the topic drop. I’m sorry, but there’s something missing in your brain if you believed, even for a moment, that Trump would not exhaust every possibility, legal and illegal, peaceful and violent, fair and foul, to remain in the White House. And what’s funny to me is that even though the evidence of his deadly malfeasance and crimes have been laid bare, no Trumper I know is willing to stand up and say, “Yeah, I got that wrong.” But admitting you’re wrong when you’re wrong is exactly the kind of thing that a Trumper would never do. So I’m not really surprised.

Star, 80

Actor and pilot Harrison Ford, a.k.a. Han Solo or Indiana Jones or Dr. Richard Kimball, turns 80 today.

Gravelanche

Who expects an avalanche in July? Who goes on vacation in Krygyzstan? Who can believe we actually spelled Kyrgyzstan correctly on the first try? Anyway, they lived, but more importantly, this will look so cool on their Instagram stories page.

Across The Universe

We should have posted that yesterday with our Webb Gem item, but forgot. So, enjoy.

IT SAUL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Alaloha Means Goodbye

A fond adios to Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton), a cunning and charming cartel villain who was killed off in last night’s episode of Better Call Saul. Lolo committed the unpardonable sin of the James Bond supervillain: having your prey dead to rights, and then allowing your hubris to buy him a few extra moments, during which time he (here, Gus Fring) turns the tables on you. Let’s just say Lalo’s error had grave consequences.

We’ll miss you, Lalo, and now with only five episodes remaining in the series we wonder who’s left to conquer or kill? Lalo is dead. As is Nacho. As is Howard.

We all know that Gustavo Fring, Mike Ehrmentraut, Mike’s granddaughter, Hector Salamanca, his twin cousins and, yes, Jimmy/Saul will survive this series. So who’s the wild card? Yes, it’s Kim Wexler. Although we also know via the promos that the last few episodes may be jumping forward to the present, i.e., Omaha and the Cinnabon. Will Jimmy finally have his day of reckoning beyond Albuquerque? We believe so.

Webb Gem*

*The judges will also accept “Across The Universe” and “GalaxyQuest” and even “A Thousand Points Of Light”

We don’t know who James Webb is or whether he used the new iPhone 13 to snap this photo, but it’s supposedly the deepest anyone has ever looked into the soul of the universe. There are blips of light in this photo designating the earliest galaxies in creation, more than 13 BILLION years old. What was happening before that? Well, if time is a flat circle, maybe they were trying to decide between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis (“Do I want the poop sandwich or the poop sandwich with all the fixins?”).

Anyway, each point of light here, we’re told, is its own galaxy. Just as our entire solar system is one part of a larger galaxy. And here’s our cute little species just trying to blast off to the nearest planet. Kind of makes you think about just how significant it is as to whether Notre Dame should join a conference.

Alone Rangers

We were watching a bit of Three Days Of The Condor (starring Robert Redford, from 1975) and it occurred to us that there were a series of films, from about 1968 to the mid-Seventies, where big-name male movie stars were pitted as singular rogues or renegades who were either pitted against the system or against a bad guy. Often, there was corruption involved at a bureaucratic level and he was taking them on. Consider all of these films, where the male protagonist goes it alone to solve a mystery or rescue himself: Bullitt (1968, Steve McQueen), The French Connection (1971, Gene Hackman), Serpico (1973, Al Pacino) Chinatown (1974, Jack Nicholson), The Conversation (1974, Hackman), Night Moves (1975, Hackman), and Marathon Man (1976, Dustin Hoffman).

There’s not a stinker in the bunch here—if you’ve never seen Night Moves, it’s like an episode of The Rockford Files but darker— and with some of the greatest male talent of the generation. So we’re wondering what was happening in the zeitgeist that inspired so many similar films? And did All The President’s Men—with a PAIR of lone rangers fighting corruption as a team—kill off the genre, or at least cool it off for awhile?

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

It’s The Guns, But Also, It’s The Guys

We step away for one week (after stepping away for nearly a year) and there’s a mass shooting in Chicago at a 4th of July parade and a former Japanese prime minister becomes the second-most famous political figure named Abe to be assassinated. And so many people cry, “It’s the guns!” And they’re right. But also? It’s the guys. If you look at the top 30 mass shootings in the history of the United States, not to mention perhaps every assassination dating back to Julius Caesar, it is always a male that is behind it (the lone exception: a husband-and-wife killing duo in Riverside, Calif., a few years back) .

Now, I’m not sure that we can outlaw men, but it is an interesting fact that no one ever seems to mention. Mental health? In a few instances, but really, it’s testosterone misdirected.

The GOPfather

Over the weekend a few pointed films (All The King’s Men) or docs (“Hitler and The Nazis,” on Newsmax, natch!) appeared on TV, interspersed with clips of the 45th president speaking in Alaska, redefining the meaning of “bully pulpit.” And it occurred to me that his ultimate nickname should be “The GOPfather.” Why? Remember when he first appeared on the political scene in 2015 and career Republican pols such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Lindsay Graham were describing their rival for the party nomination as a scourge. And then… what changed? He became the populist putz who rallied around all the disenfranchised white folk sick of their country being taken away from them (as opposed to black folk, who 200 years earlier were taken away from their countries).

Anyway, what you notice now is how Republican pols scurry for his blessing as they seek election or reelection. Here in Batshit Crazy, Arizona, a Trump endorsement is mentioned in every political ad if that pol has it (if that pol were truly Trumpian, he or she would simply claim they do have it even if they didn’t… let the truth catch up later). Whereas one GOP gubernatorial candidate is defamed in ads with “She Donated To Obama,” because that’ apparently a terrible thing to have done. After all, how many two-term, elected-by-the-popular-vote (without benefit of a hanging chad) presidents have we had in the past 50 years? Answer: two.

Anyway, it was particularly fascinating to check in on “Hitler and the Nazis” last night on Newsmax, an episode before he came to power, . a veritable blueprint for what Trump and the Proud Boys/Oathkeepers (see: Hitler Youth, all growed up) are doing right now. As someone tweeted this morning, “If you always wondered what you’d have done as Hitler rose to power, you’re doing it right now.” Personally, I believe the war has already begun. And out here in the desert, there’s no shortage of angry white men in pickup trucks who’d only be too happy to use their arsenal to mow down the libtards if a certain someone gave ’em the thumbs up. And who’s going to protect you? The police? Ha ha.

These are not YET dangerous times, but we edge closer to the brink. Hearings and recommendations are nice, and all, but that’s the difference between the elephant and the donkey. The former only cares about winning and has no regard for the rules. The latter seems to care more about the rules and being, what—respected?—than they actually do winning. There’s no reason why right now the justice dept. should not arrest Trump and Bannon and Stone and Flynn and hold them in jail without bond until their trial comes up. So Fox News and millions of Americans will cry “Bloody Murder!” So what? They already hate you, Joe. They’re not the people you need to win over. You never will.

Abraham Lincoln understood all this. Someone in Democratic leadership needs to do so.

A few months ago, on MSNBC (maybe the last night I tuned it), a black pundit weighed in that the Jan. 6 Committee should not seek indictments against any of the aforementioned because that would make them extremely unpopular with hard-line conservatives. And it was at least somewhat uplifting to see Roger Steele, a black man and former RNC chairman, go apoplectic on the dude (my thoughts, too, Roger) as he basically said in not so many words, “What the (bleep) is wrong with you people?!? Who CARES what they think? Why are you trying to appease people would not give two thoughts to stringing up Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi if they could do so? Have you learned nothing from the late 1930s?”

Anyway, what was our original point? Oh yes, that Donald Trump is the GOPfather. And as long as he has this stranglehold on one political party, inducing men to abandon their integrity or values (if, in fact, they ever had any) in exchange for their own political survival or favors, the country overall is blighted. You wanna clean out the neighborhood? You take out the Mafia. You wanna clean out the country? Begin by taking out Donald Trump.

Go Midwest, Young Man?

So USC and UCLA announce that they are joining the Big Ten, and yes we consider that a colossal mistake. For many reasons: 1) travel, and not just for the football teams, but teams from L.A. do not trek to Chicago and parts east after October and win. Not even at Rutgers. Mark it down. 2) The American West is the fastest-growing part of the nation. Sure, take the B1G TV bucks now, but you are creating a vacuum in which schools such as Oregon and Washington and BYU and perhaps even ASU, if it ever gets its act together, will flourish. The Pac-X After Dark is still gonna be a thing, but now Bruin an Trojan players are just gonna hope their charter flight TVs get it as they’re flying home over Nebraska.

How To Talk To Fox News

Here’s Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg giving it to hair-dye guy on Fox News on Sunday morning. Notice how, without raising his voice or having a vein bulge in his neck—calm is his superpower—Secretary Pete continues speaking and does not allow the host to interrupt him. Honestly, he should be the Dems’ presidential candidate in 2024. And here’s a female representative in Pennsylvania, Joanna McClinton, providing a lesson on how to speak to Republican pols:

In A State of Denali

We were only too happy to add Denali to our list of national parks visited and Alaska to the list of states trod upon last week. It’s a park that is the definition of wilderness, as most of its SIX MILLION acres are not reachable by vehicle. That’s okay, because you can still see North America’s tallest peak (20,320 feet) from up to 100 miles away on a clear day. And we were lucky to have a few of those.

Yes, I visited Alaska the same week as Trump. Only a coincidence, we assure you.

What stands out, to me, about Alaska, is how much better the Earth looks in places where man has not encroached upon it. The Last Frontier is a magnificent sight to behold, particularly in those numerous spots that look untouched since the dawn of time. No, I did not see a bear or moose in the wild. Maybe next time. If you’re scoring at home, that’s all 50 states and all seven continents visited. Next up, Mars, I guess. A list of A__________a spots visited or lived in over the course of the years: Arizona, Alabama, Atlanta, Australia, Antarctica, Africa. Ideas, people? What have I missed?

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

June Swoon (Dating Back To New Year’s)

It’s July 1st. Thus endest the worst month the stock market has experienced since 1970. That’s 52 years. And the past six months have been horrible. It’s funny (and scary) how the market seemed to peak right at New Year’s before beginning its inexorable decline. But things still seemed sane until late March. Oh, a dip here and there, but nothing too crazy. Then April happened. And May. And, finally, with a shudder, June. A look at a few major companies’ declines over the year’s first half:

Company January 1st June 1st July 1st

AAPL $183 $151 $136

TSLA $1,118 $775 $673

DIS $158 $110 $95

And on and on and on. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. China’s shutdown. Inflation (or, if you’re cool, “stagflation”), primarily due to the invasion of Ukraine. Folks, it cannot get much worse. If you were caught blindsided, well, my condolences. No advice here, other than to say the good news is that there are plenty of jobs available. Almost any place I visit lately I hear that they are “under-staffed” and just last night a 22-year employee of Basha’s told me “nobody wants to work any more.” That’s only half-right. The correct statement is “Nobody wants to work at that salary.” Oh, an undocumented/illegal immigrant might, but that’s about it.

What goes up must come down. And, almost always (thanks, Lehman Brothers), what comes down and eventually goes back up. Stay the course. Courage. Or, as William Wallace once exhorted his men, “Hoooooold!”

Flight On!

Effective in 2024, UCLA and USC will be leaving the Pac-12, America’s glamour conference, for the Big Ten. Why? Because FOOTBALL IS KING and the schools’ leadership did not want to be left behind by what they see transpiring with the SEC and Big Ten TV contracts. So now you’ll see UCLA’s baseball and swim teams venturing to Madison or College Park for games/meets simply to sate KING FOOTBALL? I guess so.

It’s sad and wrong and what’s no better is the muted response from national college football media. Hey, will this affect my boondoggle trip to Scottsdale in May for Pac-12 meetings? No? Okay. From the little I’ve seen written thus far, the overall reaction is a sanguine tone. Oh, this is happening, it’s inevitable, just role with it. Thanks, Maggie Haberman.

But we digress. College football is healthiest as a regional and parochial sport. That’s part of its fabric, its culture, its identity. But the suits at ESPN and Fox simply do not care. They believe that they can make any alteration they please and the FOOTBALL IS KING is so robust that it can survive it. It reminds me of when U2 released Pop and Bono and the gang had a rude awakening. So shattered were they by the reaction that they came out the next time with arguably their best album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind. The boys from Dublin got back, got back, got back to where they once belonged. College football will experience that day of reckoning soon. Even if national college football writers are, to this moment, slow to decry the apostasy of the game’s guardians.

Maybe when they stage the UCLA-USC game at Met-Life Stadium in 2026 people will finally realize…

It’s The Hard That Makes It Great

Happy 30th birthday to A League Of Their Own, which was released on July 1st, 1992. At the time Madonna was arguably the world’s biggest pop phenomenon (when MTV and such titles still mattered) and this film was seen as another effort (see: Dick Tracy) to turn her into a bonafide movie star. Instead, it proved that A) Madonna would not be but that B) Tom Hanks would be. You’ve got to remember, in 1992, Tom Hanks was not yet Tom Hanks. Sure, he’d had major hits such as Splash and Big, but he was also two years removed from A Bonfire of the Vanities (a career-killer of a film for almost everyone involved) and had yet to bounce back. His future was still unwritten.

The film was promoted as a Madonna vehicle, or as Madonna-and-Rosie O’Donnell are the new Crosby and Hope, Martin and Lewis. Fortunately, director Penny Marshall understood that she had a dynamite script and a couple of true pros in Hanks and Geena Davis. All credit to Lowell Ganz, whose screenplay crackles. From the lines you remember—”There’s no crying in baseball” and “It’s the hard that makes it great”— to the ones you maybe forgot (“Ever been married?” “Twice.” “Any children?” “One of them was.”).

Even better, the film eschews the Hollywood ending. I didn’t enter the theater that day expecting to like this film. Instead, I loved it. And came away with a whole new appreciation for Hanks, who—watch it again— performs as if his entire future depends on it. Which it does. He really is Jimmy Dugan, which is perhaps why he embraced the character so fully. Up next? In quick succession, Forrest Gump, Philadelphia (vomit, but okay), and Saving Private Ryan. I don’t know if all of those triumphs happen without this movie… the one he truly deserved a Best Actor for.

*****

postscript: We’re going on a little trip, and will be radio silent for at least a week. It’s really not the best time for us to be traveling, with no job and a massive gut punch to the savings, but as Professor Keating once advised his students, Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. And so it’s rosebud-gathering season. We’ll be back. We think. Happy 4th. And before we go, please carry this wisdom from George Carlin with you….

NOTHING’S WHERE YOU THINK IT IS

by John Walters

Of all the terrible 6-3 calls the Supreme Court has made in the past fortnight, two that should stand out as the worst are 1) the reversal of Roe v. Wade and 2) today’s decision that the EPA cannot regulate carbon dioxide emissions. And those two decisions should reveal to anyone who cares to keep score what Mitch McConnell’s race-baiting and all the “Take Back America” rallies and “They’re not sending their best people” rallies have always been about: the white money that runs this country was always about putting FEAR into white voters’ hearts about the Dems taking away white supremacy and GOD (read: Christian values) in order to elect Trump in order to gain control of the Supreme Court (three justices added during his term) in order to make decisions that will maintain the power structure of white males (the abortion ruling) and the oil companies (today’s).

Look at this list of the Top 10 market cap companies from 1980. What you’ll notice, and quickly, is that SIX of them are oil companies and two others are traditional fossil-fuel burning automobile manufacturers. These are the corporate monoliths that ruled the world when the septuagenarians and octogenarians who are now keeping their old, decrepit hands on the wheel of Congress and the Supreme Court were coming up in the world. These are the corporations to whom McConnell and company are beholden. And if you don’ believe this line of reasoning, just listen to Ned Beatty’s famous diatribe from 1976’s Network:

Alas, it is all true. Mitch and his cronies have never cared about the rights of the unborn (or of the past-born), much less Christian values (get a load of Donald Trump’s lifestyle, from Epstein parties on down). They only care about power. And they married Big Oil long ago. And the traditional White Male Power Structure. So you fast forward to a relatively recent period (not sure of the exact date), and you’ll see that SEVEN of the 10 largest companies are TECHNOLOGY companies, two are health, and one is basically a giant holding company. ZERO oil companies. And Mitch & Co. already have one mistress. He’s got no interest in courting tech companies run by brown people from Asia or woke progressives in hoodies. So they took their fight to Supreme Court nominations and ratifications, playing dirty in the last days of both Obama and Trump (using directly conflicting logic to validate their actions on each occasion; if A is true, B must be false, but Mitch & the boys just said, “F**k it. Try and stop us.”)

And so while insolent or ignorant Americans drone on about gun rights or Christian values or “they won’t replace us,” Mitch and his cronies chuckle. They’ve secured the six Supreme Court justices, who are either bought and paid for (Kavanaugh) or so backward (Barrett) or both (Thomas) that they can run/ruin this country from beyond the Oval Office. That’s all they ever cared about. They just used those shadow issues to manipulate voters into giving them the seats they needed in Congress (and the White House, for four years) to have their way. They basically slipped a date-rape drug into the conservative Christian American psyche.

Yesterday Clarence “Uncle” Thomas provided a sound byte about “north is north,” that right is right and it’s inalienable. But he wasn’t talking about legal matters. He was talking about values. Which, last we checked the Constitution, is not the Supreme Court’s bailiwick. Never was supposed to be. And here’s the funny thing. North is not necessarily north. It’s completely arbitrary. There’s no outside frame of reference that dictates that the northern hemisphere (where most of the white people are from) should be at the top of the map and the southern (mostly brown people or white colonists from England, Spain, Portugal, Holland) should be at the bottom.

Take four minutes if you have not already seen this clip from The West Wing and change your life/have your mind blown. Chances are that if you are a Democrat—or a centrist/exhausted majority member like me—you’ll be amazed or you’ve already seen it. Chances are that if you’re a conservative you won’t last the full four minutes or you’ll find some way to rebuff it because the last thing most conservatives ever want to do is have the truth alter their politics.