Thursday, February 28, 2008

He was a friend of ours

The late William Buckley Jr. on "The Sopranos" finale. (Hat tip to The House Next Door.)

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"Roads? Where we're going we won't need any roads."

The only things missing from tonight's "Lost" were a De Lorean, a flux capacitor and Crispin Glover.

Seriously, though, it was another great episode -- one of the most intense and poignant in the show's history. Then again, just about every episode that features Desmond is a good one.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

"This is one doodle that can't be undid"

Last night the wife and I saw "Juno." I sat through the first half-hour or so of the film thinking it was far too clever for its own good, with all the one-liners getting in the way of the story. And where were all the hip, witty girls who wanted to have sex with awkward boys when I was in high school?

But the film eventually found its rhythm, in large part thanks to a great ensemble cast led by Oscar nominee Ellen Page. Michael Cera was a delight in "Arrested Development" and his off-beat delivery and timing served him well here. J.K. Simmons (aka J.Jonah Jamison) and Allison Janey turned in warm, finely tuned performances as Juno's father and stepmother.

"Juno" invites comparisons to "Little Miss Sunshine", simply because the latter was last year's quirky, feel-good independent film that garnered major critical acclaim and several Oscar nominations. But "Juno", to me, is the superior film. As my wife noted, the cast of "Little Miss Sunshine" tried so hard to portray their characters' eccentricities that they lapsed into caricature. The characters in "Juno" seemed more genuine, despite the glibness that made unwanted teenage pregnancy out to be an inexhaustible source of shtick.

The film stumbled, however, when it came to Mark and Vanessa (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner), the couple who planned to adopt Juno's baby. Bateman got off some great lines (his timing and deadpan delivery are spot-on, which is probably why he clicked so well with Cera in "Arrested Development") and Garner gave a restrained and believable performance as a woman desperate to have a child. Still, they were stuck with two-dimensional characters, and the filmmakers never took the time to develop their relationship. Given the outcome of the film, that was a significant flaw -- though certainly not a fatal one.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Your government in action

So for years, law enforcement turned a blind eye to neighborhood video poker machines, and now the state is pumping money to local police agencies to crack down on bars with machines that pay out. Funny, this get-tough approach is happening just as state-licensed casinos are opening across the state.

Tavern owners have a good point -- if county officials didn't think that poker machines were paying out, then why do they charge more to license the machines than they do to license pool tables and video games? (I'm a little mystified as to why video games and pool tables have to be licensed. If there an official reason, or is it just a naked attempt to squeeze more revenue out of business owners? That's a rhetorical question.)

Meanwhile, the state plans to sink $25 million into a soccer stadium in Delaware County. I hope that everyone in Pittsburgh who cheered when the state agreed to ante up for the new Penguins' arena can make it out to Chester for a soccer game. You paid for it; you might as well enjoy it.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hodge podge

This article suggests the long knives are out for the Clintons. Closer to home, the URA is finally lowering the boom on Bernardo Katz. (More here and here.)

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

With superdelegates like these...

Ed Rendell doesn't think white Pennslyvanians are ready to vote for a black candidate for president, but Tony Norman would like to think otherwise. Congrats to Tony for getting linked by The New Republic.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Pittsburgh's bridges falling down

Business on the South Side are taking a hit from the Birmingham Bridge closing. I wonder how much money they've lost? Given the sorry state of bridges and other infrastructure (remember this?) in Pennsylvania and nationwide, you'd have to multiply that figure by thousands -- at least -- to get some sense of the economic impact of this collective neglect. That would also give you some idea of the payoff were public funds invested in infrastructure repair, rather than in convention centers, arenas and luxury condos.

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That's going to leave a mark

Frank Rich delivers a smack-down to Hillary Clinton in today's New York Times.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

What's eight inches among friends?

I decided I'm cool with taxpayers picking up the tab for a new hockey arena after all. After all, what else are we going to spend that money on?

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Gridiron ghosts

Sports Illustrated has a good article this week about the battle between long-retired NFL players and the players union -- and in particular their grudge against Executive Director Gene Upshaw -- over retirement and disability benefits. The writer, Gary Smith, is sympathetic to Upshaw -- the former players' real beef, Smith implies, is with the owners -- but he certainly gives the old guard a fair hearing.

The article should quiet anyone who begrudges superstar athletes, particularly in the NFL, their astronomical salaries. Imagine working your whole life for a career that may very well be over within 10 years, and that could leave you crippled and addled by the time you turn 50? I'm not sure it's such a great deal.

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