Monthly Archives: March 2013

Jimmy? Jimmy? Jimmy?

So I saw this post on Salon about how there’s going to be a fight over who gets to host The Tonight Show when Jay Leno retires (again).

First of all, Jay Leno is still alive? And The Tonight Show? Seriously, is that still on? Haven’t all the people who watched it died yet?

The choices are Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon. Definitely saw the Mom-dancing thing, and that film Sarah Silverman made about their break-up, but I just didn’t register these were two different people. They’re both smirky-white man-children who still use the same childhood nickname, and they both have last names with six letters and two consonants in the middle.

And what’s up with the “Jimmy”? Are they both Jimmy because Johnny Carson was Johnny? Hasn’t Jon Stewart proved you can be funny and still have an adult version of your name?  Hasn’t that Jimmy over in the UK sullied the name for all television hosts forever? It’s 2013, would you trust a man over twenty-one who called himself Jimmy?

And The Tonight Show on NBC is still some kind of prize worth fighting over?

So I put together some fun facts below. Some of them are about Jimmy K. and Some are about Jimmy F. Some may apply to both. Can you guess? No answer key as you can look all this up on the Intertubes.

Fallon, Kimmel or Both:

Mom-dancing with the First Lady

Dated Sarah Silverman

Announcer looks kind of like original Tonight Show host, Steve Allen

SNL alum

Slow Jam with the President

Looks kind of like Seth McFarlane

Show on ABC

Show on NBC


From Brooklyn

Maternal Italian Descent

Does impressions

Plays a musical instrument

Show is called, “Live” but it’s taped.


No prizes for winners. Sorry.

Your Saturday Book Review: Zeitoun

Zeitoun is a terribly sad and terribly uplifting book by Dave Eggers, who is of course famous for writing another terribly sad but uplifting book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.

I would first and foremost recommend this to anyone who does not actually live in America, and whose stereotype of Americans is fat yahoos with guns. Off-topic but whenever I’m in say Guatemala (which is more than you might think) I’m always amazed at how much people there don’t hate me because I’m an American, how they really do understand there’s a difference between “the government” and “the people,” and know that it is both prejudice and bad manners to make assumptions about individuals based on their nationality.

Zeitoun is the story of the brave and noble eponymous hero, Abdulrahman Zeitoun and his wife Kathy. Zeitoun chose to stay in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina although his wife and children evacuated. He helped other stragglers until he was rounded up and swept into a nightmare.

The word I’m avoiding here is Kafka-esque, which seems too small somehow. Kafka wrote fantastical fiction. What happened to Zeitoun was completely real, and while rampant Islamophobia no doubt played a part, so did garden variety racism, zenophobia, and bureaucracy. There were many Zeitouns whose stories are less known. There were too many bodies left to rot on flooded streets, too many stranded on rooftops waiting for help that never arrived. It’s still amazing that no government official was ever charged with anything, that W avoided jail and impeachment, that his buddy Heck-of-a-Job-Brownie merely had to resign his job – and then only after a lot of bad press.

One thing I love about Zeitoun is that it’s a story of the America I know. Not only is it an America of immigrants, but one that tolerates difference. Zeitoun isn’t simply about a man caught up in a moment of history, it’s about character. It’s about choosing again and again to do the right thing even when it isn’t the easy thing. It’s a book that makes clear that a sense of community is not incompatible with the desire to carve out your own piece of the dream. In fact, they are both as American as apple pie.

This is a book that your book club should be talking about, your high school should require, and everyone should read.

(Update: 5/7/13 – Despite being something of a news junky, when I wrote this review back in March, I had completely missed all the stories regarding Zeitoun’s arrest for assaulting his now ex-wife in July, as well as other allegations against him and questions.)

Binge Watching – Now Officially Sanctioned: House of Cards

Of course once everything started to be streamed and put on DVD, people began to binge-watch television series, but it wasn’t how those episodic episodes were designed. You were supposed to be subscribing to HBO, and spending every Sunday with the Sopranos, and then once they went on hiatus, waiting patiently (or impatiently) for the next season to start.

These days many folks don’t bother with the premium channels and simply rent entire seasons on DVD a year or so later. Some shows like those on AMC are available for instant download the day after they are shown, and almost everything can be found illegally somewhere on the Internet – not that I’m advocating that.

I somehow didn’t get around to watching Breaking Bad for years, but began a Netflix-binge that brought me up to date in three lost days. Lost was a series I’d watched on and off for a season or two. Then I heard it had gotten better. Time travel was involved. The whole thing was up on Hulu, and I was off. I watched four seasons of Dexter over a weekend once. It’s nothing to be proud of. It is no more boast-worthy than a weekend of compulsive masturbation or cookie-eating.

Netflix has upped the ante by releasing all 13 episodes of the first season of House of Cards at once. It’s an all you can watch buffet.  I just spent the last two days watching the totality, which comes out to probably just under eleven hours that no doubt could have been better spent.

It certainly wasn’t the worst thing to watch. I’m now curious about the British series on which it was based – which is also available on Netflix. But it wasn’t riveting either. The pace seemed somehow “British” a lot of talking, less on the action. Still it’s not the worst accompaniment to online mahjong or scrabble.

Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of Francis Underwood is undermined by the device of having his character often speak directly to the audience, revealing his true intentions. We should have been able to work out for ourselves when he is lying. Like the old joke about lawyers, it would be whenever his lips his are moving.

Continue reading Binge Watching – Now Officially Sanctioned: House of Cards

Idiots at the Opera: Francesca da Rimini

We decided to see Francesca da Rimini because the better half is a history buff, and couldn’t resist the idea of an opera inspired by a story from Dante’s Inferno that had been the basis of a play by d’Annunzio. Also we were trying to get a few more operas in before the end of season at the Met. Due to our habit becoming costly, we decided to forgo our usual seating choice (balcony) and go for the cheap-seats in the family circle. The sound was fine, and we could see everything, even if we couldn’t make out facial expressions without opera glasses. (A small investment in binoculars could save you a lot on opera tickets.)

It was the final performance (3/22/13) and too many seats were empty, which is a shame because Eva-Maria Westbroek and Marcello Giordani were outstanding, as were just about all the singers that night. Continue reading Idiots at the Opera: Francesca da Rimini

Your Saturday Book Review — Call It Sleep

Call It Sleep (paperback cover image)I’m not sure how well-known Henry Roth’s Call It Sleep is outside of the United States. Then again I’m not sure how well-known it is within the United States.

In researching the book’s history, I found though it was greeted with critical acclaim when it was published in 1934, it didn’t sell well, and went out of print quickly. It was reprinted with some fanfare in 1964 when it became the first paperback to receive a front page review in The New York Times Sunday Book Review.

The 1964 paperback edition is the one I own, culled in my adolescence from my parent’s basement. Despite being a voracious reader, even of books written for adults, I found it a tough slog at first, but my father saw me with it and said, “That’s a great book.” The way he said “great” I knew he meant more than merely a good read, and I knew if I didn’t finish it, he would have been disappointed. Soon I found myself immersed in the world of the very young protagonist, six-year old David Schearl.

It’s quite a technical feat to write a novel in the close-third person point of view that manages to convey a world through a child’s eyes, while allowing the reader to see what he’s missing, what he can’t yet figure out. We’re in his head, but our perspective is always bigger than his. Continue reading Your Saturday Book Review — Call It Sleep