Odds and Ends Vol 30

Odds and Ends

Welcome to another Odds and Ends. I don’t have as much this week as before because the whole thing got past me. I was busy working away, making money. And then it hit me, “It’s Thursday night!”

A lot has been going on. In fact, I’ve been really depressed. I’ve been concerned about the Post Office and Republican efforts to kill it for over a decade. But now that process is on warp speed — at the moment when we need it for the upcoming election.

What’s always most bugged me about the Republican attacks on the USPS is that they make such ostentatious claims about loving the Constitution. “It’s the greatest document in the history of history!” You’d think that they would thus love the Post Office. Of course, that assumes they’ve read the Constitution — and it was always clear that they haven’t. It’s a holy relic, not a document.

Anyway, it’s time for a couple Odds and Ends.

Racist US Senate

We all know how non-representational the US Senate is. Jonathan Chait noted the following: the four least populous states (Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, and North Dakota) represent 2.7 million people. The four most populous states (California, Texas, Florida, and New York) represent 110 million people. Yet both groups get equal representation in the Senate.

That’s a ratio of roughly 40 to 1. But if you look at just California and Wyoming, the ratio is 70 to 1. It is totally unjustified. But Chait also notes that the more populous states are more diverse. And he quotes some numbers worked out by David Leonhardt.

This table shows how much representation different groups have per one million people.

GroupRep
White0.35
Black0.26
Asian0.25
Latino0.19

You might think that the equal protection clause of the Constitution would have something to say about that. But it seems that only applies to rich white men.

Washington Generals

When I was a kid, the Harlem Globetrotters were a big thing. They had their own Saturday morning cartoon! (With Scatman Crothers as Meadowlark Lemon!) And you would occasionally see them on the Wide World of Sports. So I knew about them. In fact, I knew that they always played the Washington Generals. But I was all wrong about what they were.

I figured that they were just local teams who came to play for the money or charity or something. But not that I think back on it, that would be an organizational nightmare. So instead, there was a standing team that traveled around with them called the Washington Generals (and other things at times).

Better Than You’d Think

The team is generally thought of as a bunch of clowns, but of course, they are all excellent players. All over the world are people who are almost at the top of their professions. In most areas, it doesn’t much matter. In anything entertainment-related, it matters a great deal.

So the guys on the Generals aren’t as good as people in the NBA or on the Globetrotters. Looking at the players, they mostly seem to have been very strong players in NCAA Division II teams. They mostly have degrees in business or communications. Many of them also play in professional leagues outside the US.

I love this. It’s a great joy to be good at something. There’s a certain point you reach in a skill where doing it is something akin to a religious experience. And the fact that these guys get to do this for a few years, I think it should be applauded.

What’s more, it pushes against the idea that you should only do something if you can be the best. That’s the philosophy of a society that is on its way down. These young men, who are employed to lose to the Globetrotters are probably better at basketball than I am at anything I can do.

Now I want to pay the ridiculous prices for a Harlem Globetrotters game just so I can see the Washington Generals. (Of course, the Globetrotters are interesting for the same reasons.) There is, however, the question of which Washington Generals. The truth is that there are three different Washington Generals squads. That’s because there are three different Harlem Globetrotters squads. On a given night, they all play in different cities. Each squad plays about 130 games during their 5-month season — sometimes two games in a day!

The Legend of Haggard Vance

This is from a recent episode of Late Night With Seth Meyers. I seem to be the only one of my friends who likes Meyers. I’m not sure what the problem is.

Anyway, they presented the following film poster parody that I had to grab. It reminds me of the great days of The Daily Show — you know: when it was still hosted by someone who cares about politics.

The Legend of Haggard Vance

The Woman in Black

Back in 1989, a filmed version of Susan Hill’s Gothic horror novel The Woman in Black was made for British television. (This is not the Daniel Radcliffe film!) Normally, this would be the moment to yawn. But it’s amazingly good.

The truth is that I find most modern horror films amusing. I’m easily startled, but otherwise, there’s just a lot of silliness to them, as in last week’s film Frogs. Ghost stories are one kind of horror that consistently scares me.

And this film is amazing in this regard. What’s more, it does it with some of the simplest things. That’s the thing about ghosts: you don’t know what they are going to do. So just showing them hanging around is enough to give you chills.

But we get a lot more than that here. There are a number of really effective moments. I highly recommend watching this. In fact, I’m so keen on this film that I ordered the new Blu-ray release of it from the UK. As is becoming a thing with me, the films I most like aren’t released here at all. Thank God for all-region Blu-ray players!

The Woman in Black is playing over at Psychotronic Review. Watch it now!

Until Next Time

Hopefully, I’ll have something different in the next couple of days.

7 thoughts on “Odds and Ends Vol 30

  1. How can anybody not like Seth Myers? (Unless they’re devout Republicans, which I doubt your friends are.) I absolutely live for “A Closer Look” three times a week. Maybe they hate the Sea Captain character, which I find hilarious.

    Looking forward to watching “Woman In Black.” There was a Guardian article about its release on Blu-ray recently and readers were gushing about it being the scariest thing they remember ever being on British TV. I actually like good ghost stories. Many “Twilight Zone” episodes were essentially ghost stories in sci-fi drag.

    • I think my friends are Stephen Colbert fans and they think they must dislike Myers. I like them both! And I agree about the Sea Captain but I was disappointed that they never really pushed the lobster story.

      A friend of mine read that article and then asked me about it. That’s how I heard about it. I got email from the distributor saying that they were backed up and so it would take longer to get it. That’s fine. But I’m keen to see a good print!

  2. Just watched The Woman in Black — great recommendation! Reminded me a little of the M.R. James ghost stories, but actually scary. Who burns a trunk full of papers in their office though?

    • I was wondering that too. It seemed pretty extreme! But I guess he was at the end of his tether. As it was, he almost killed his boss!

  3. The thing with the Globetrotters is it’s very much like the card magic you’ve featured on here before — these are basketball tricks any high level college basketball player can easily duplicate. It’s all about the style of showing them. People watching know these aren’t quite NBA-level guys and that isn’t the point. It’s about demonstrating a skill which took years to acquire and doing it with humor. Most everyone has some hobby they’ll never be world class at and still is proud of: we appreciate it when we see it in others.

    • That’s another thing about the Nationals: they know how to fade back when the Globetrotters start doing a bit. I also like that it highlights the fact that sporting events are ultimately just entertainment. I really don’t understand the obsession of saying the “very best” play. It’s enjoyable to watch a game when you have two teams that are well matched. I could see watching the Globetrotters just to root for the Nationals to do well. Unfortunately, the prices are ridiculous!

      • Yes! The hardest job in comedy is usually being the straight man. The thing about card magicians is they’re generally the straight man and the main comic and the person who practiced for years to get the tricks just that right, it’s a helluva skillset.

        The Nationals are the straight men, they’re brilliant.

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