Mention Top Gear and, sure as night follows day, the do-gooders will start harrumphing. But there's no point moaning about Jeremy Clarkson for being anti-environmental, irresponsible, or politically incorrect.
It's like taking Katie Price seriously on the subject of marriage. We Top Gear addicts don't tune in for an intelligent comparison of torque or petrol consumption.
Precisely the right analogy, eh?
And then there's this:
I would rather my children watch that than another episode of vacuous Z-listers being trailed by cameras as they shop for jeans, undergo cosmetic procedures, or are trapped together in fake, bitchy confinement.
Exactly. I'd rather watch a Top Gear repeat for the fifth time than any of the reality crap that passes as television in the US these days.
And then finally there's this:
And then, of course, there is Clarkson himself, with his booming voice and faintly bullying manner: the Marmite of television presenters. ... Clarkson articulates what a huge tranche of the population knows they shouldn't be saying or thinking, but still somehow do. His persona is arrogant, unapologetic, infantile (watch his childishly ungenerous demeanour when he doesn't win a challenge).
Sigh. No wonder he's my role model.
I've started watching The Good Wife on a regular basis. I like the cast, the writing, the semi-realistic portrayal of law practice (the scene where Cary goes out for drinks with a bunch of fellow laid off lawyers struck me as very plausible), and the complexity of the relationships between the characters.
As fellow fans know, one of the recurring questions this season has been whether investigator Kalinda Sharma (played by the brilliant Archie Panjabi of Bend It Like Beckham fame) is bisexual or lesbian. As the LA Times Show Tracker reports, the season finale left us as confused as ever:
To anyone who's been watching "The Good Wife," the lack of resolution in last night's finale won't come as much of a surprise. If anything, the loose ends and ambiguity are all part of the pleasure of watching this show, and this episode is no exception.
Let's start with Kalinda, shall we? The mystery of her sexuality has only grown deeper throughout the season, and at this point, quite frankly, I am still baffled. Here's what we know: Kalinda was in a storage unit with Lana, the world's most attractive and sexually aggressive FBI agent. There were all sorts of breathy whispers and loaded statements. Then, all of a sudden, the camera moves outside and we see their feet from outside the storage unit, whose door has been pulled halfway down. It appears their feet like each other a whole lot. In fact, there's no way to look at the position of their feet and come to any conclusion other than they are totally making out. Add to that the fact that a few moments later, Will calls Kalinda and asks her, "Are you alright? You sound like you've been running." So why did the show get so coy at the moment of truth? I doubt they were squeamish about showing a lesbian love scene -- this is, after all, a show where last week we saw a half-naked dead woman covered in blood.
No, this was a strategic decision to keep us all confused but curious -- which, coincidentally, might be the best way to describe Kalinda's sexuality. Though at this point, I am genuinely mystified about what's going on there. Was she just using Tony, or is Lana the chump? Kalinda looks more serious and talks even more quietly when she's with Tony -- in fact, I can barely make out what the heck she is saying when she's with him, which doesn't help matters much. Is she so guarded because she likes him or because she's trying to protect herself from trouble? And while we're on the subject, what did she give to Tony at the end of the episode? Was she trying to get the truth out about Arkin's wife? Please share your theories. At this point, I'm beginning to think Kalinda only has sex when she can get some sort of info -- a manila envelope full of photos here, a toxicology report there -- and not for pleasure. What do you think?
FWIW, here's what I think. Last week, in the season's penultimate episode of the season, Alicia (played by Julianna Margulies) asked Kalinda point blank: "Are you gay?"
Notice that Alicia said "gay" not "lesbian." Granted, gay is sometimes used inclusively to refer to lesbians and bisexuals as well as male homosexuals. In ordinary discourse, however, if one friend were so bold as to inquire into another friend's sexuality, wouldn't she used the preferred term "lesbian" rather than gay? I therefore wonder whether the show writers' had a hidden agenda in using gay rather than lesbian.
The less interesting possibility is that Alicia was using gay as a generic so as to be open to the possibility that Kalinda is bisexual. After all, you woudln't ask a friend "Are you lesbian or bisexual," would you?
A more interesting possibility, however, is that Alicia used "gay" because she suspects Kalinda is a (bisexual?) MTF transsexual. The generic term would be the best shorthand to encompass that possibility.
The possibility that Kalinda is a transsexual would be consistent with her oft-referenced "mysterious past." Formerly being a guy would be a pretty big mystery It also would explain why she remains closeted in an environment that likely would be fairly gay-friendly. It also would make sense of the ambiguity about her sexuality by making her sexuality even more complex. It might even explain her wardrobe choices (did you notice that she always wears jackets with pockets so that she never has to carry a purse, for example?).
Anyway, it's a great show and a great character. I'm looking forward to next season.
Here at PB.com, we're feeling the need for a mental health break from the impending disaster that is the Dodd Wall Street Reform Bill. So we present 23 of Top gear's Greatest Hits:
In my effort to educate a dear friend, colleague, and co-author on the greatness of Top Gear--possibly the finest contribution to human culture in the last 100 years--I present the followup to the amphibious car challenge: The Channel Challenge.
Speaking of Top Gear, here's a couple of favorite goodies:
A friend, colleague, and sometime coauthor of mine stopped by the office today to quiz me on why I'm such a Top Gear fan. He just doesn't get it, I guess. But in hopes of educating him, here is my all time favorite Top Gear challenge:
Of course, the amphibious car across the English Channel challenge is pretty good too. And then there's the time they tried to kill a Toyota Hilux. I'll post them over the next few days for his further edification.
If you caught Top Gear on BBC America this week, you saw the episode in which James May flies a caravan that's been converted into an airship. Here's the bit:
I figured it was done with models, but it turns out they actually made a working airship. Here's the video of how it was done:
Here at PB.com, we are devoted Anglophiles. Besides our regularly expressed admiration for Top Gear, we dote, inter alia, on Winston Churchill and Stephen Fry, admittedly an odd pairing, but which brings us to this amusing anecdote:
A fan vid (not by me):
In the Top Gear episode I was watching last night, Jeremy Clarkson was testing the Range Rover Sport. In a typical Top Gear challenge, he took it off road while being pursued by a Challenger II tank. (Clip below)
During the set-up, Clarkson noted:
"The thing I'm interesting most interested in, though, is the big gun, which, as you can see is rifled for greater accuracy. Unlike those smoothbore American ones, which just hit something [pauses and waves off at the distance,dismissively]
Which got me to wondering. Suppose you matched up equal forces of US Abrams M1A2 tanks and UK Challenger IIs. No supporting artillery or infantry. No air support. Just tank on tank, with the best troops of both nations. All else equal, who would win?
BTW, Wikipedia reports:
The Challenger Lethality Improvement Programme is a programme to replace the current L30A1 rifled gun with the 120 mm Rheinmetall L55 smoothbore gun currently used in the Leopard 2A6. The use of a smoothbore weapon allows Challenger 2 to use NATO standard ammunition developed in Germany and the US. This includes more lethal tungsten-based kinetic energy penetrators, which do not have the same political and environmental objections as depleted uranium rounds. The production lines for rifled 120 mm ammunition in the UK have been closed for some years, existing stocks of ammunition for the L30A1 are finite.
A single Challenger 2 was fitted with the L55 and underwent trials in January 2006. The smoothbore gun is the same length as the L30A1, and is fitted with the rifled gun's cradle, thermal sleeve, bore evacuator and muzzle reference system. Early trials apparently revealed that the German tungsten DM53 round was more effective than the depleted uranium CHARM 3.
So the smoothbore gun's ammo is "more lethal" and "more effective." So much for the vaunted superiority of British rifled gun tubes, eh?
Update: To answer a reader question, I'm not unaware of the prodigious Leopard 2A6. A formidable main battle tank, it is (to quote Yoda). But it's not in the video, now is it?
These videos remind me of one of those credit card ads:
Jay Leno on Top Gear: Priceless
Jeremy Clarkson admitting America is a freer country than Great Britain: Priceless plus a few bucks
(The Leno segment starts at about 2:50 of the first video)
"I have no interest in explaining, defending, reinterpreting, or adding to what is there," he says of the final scene.
"No one was trying to be audacious, honest to God," he adds. "We did what we thought we had to do. No one was trying to blow people's minds, or thinking, 'Wow, this'll (tick) them off.' People get the impression that you're trying to (mess) with them and it's not true. You're trying to entertain them."
So Sepinwall offers his own theories:
Theory No. 1 (and the one I prefer): Chase is using the final scene to place the viewer into Tony's mindset. This is how he sees the world: every open door, every person walking past him could be coming to kill him, or arrest him, or otherwise harm him or his family. This is his life, even though the paranoia's rarely justified. We end without knowing what Tony's looking at because he never knows what's coming next.
Theory No. 2: In the scene on the boat in "Soprano Home Movies," repeated again last week, Bobby Bacala suggests that when you get killed, you don't see it coming. Certainly, our man in the Members Only jacket could have gone to the men's room to prepare for killing Tony (shades of the first "Godfather"), and the picture and sound cut out because Tony's life just did. (Or because we, as viewers, got whacked from our life with the show.)
One of my readers also suggested the latter theory in a comment on an earlier post, proving once again that I've got some very smart readers. Personally, however, I'm inclined towards theory # 1. The war was over. We know of no one who was gunning for Tony at the time. Plus, hasn't a major theme of The Sopranos been decline? Tony's world is smaller, less glamorous, less rewarding, and much more dangerous than the days when his dad and uncle ran North Jersey (a point brought home forcefully by Tony's visit to Junior's asylum). Looking over your shoulder while having dinner in an ice cream parlor is a pretty big step down from the "good old days."
I should put up a SPOILER ALERT, but if you really care, you've already seen it.
Don't stop believing. Family is what matters most. Life goes on while hope endures. Even if you're staring down both literal and figurative barrels.
So did David Chase just pull off the perfect ending or did he give America the finger? Was Meadow coming to announce she was pregnant? Did the guy who went to the restroom come out shooting? Or did the hip-hop guys pull guns? We'll never know. I think the ending was absolutely in keeping with the tenor of a show that's about family and rarely offered closure (just like life itself).
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on
In contrast, my good wife is seriously annoyed with the lack of closure. (Not unlike Dave's wife.) Is that a gender difference?
Update: E&P is collecting MSM critics' comments.
In the course of a thoughtful post on the prospect of Rupert Murdoch controlling the W$J, Larry Ribstein makes a broader point:
In my Public Face of Scholarship, I explore the sources of journalist bias, by way of indicating the benefits of offsetting academic involvement in the journalistic enterprise. I identify “demand” and “supply” side theories. On the demand side, journalists try to give readers what they expect to hear. On the supply side, journalists arguably lean leftward and against markets. See David Baron, Persistent Media Bias. This comes from, among other sources, personal predilection. ...
I point out that journalists’ bias can help shape public policy, particularly where interest groups are closely divided. For example, enactment of SOX followed highly negative coverage of business in the first half of 2002: 77 percent of the 613 major network evening news stories on business concerned corporate scandals. See Roberta Romano, The Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Making of Quack Corporate Governance, 114 YALE L.J. 1521, 1559 (2005). ...
And the press can directly affect corporate benavior. I note evidence that firms reduce the incentive effects of their compensation in response to news stories distorting compensation practices. See Core, Guay & Larcker, The Power of the Pen and Executive Compensation.
All of which provides an academic background to Matthew Sheffield's post:
American media elites often deny that they attempt to influence the national agenda. They're professionals, so the story goes, and completely capable of not letting their personal viewpoints intrude accidentally into their stories. It's laughable given the mountain of evidence to the contrary and the fact that journalists support affirmative action on the grounds that white reporters can't cover minority issues as fairly.
Every so often, however, you hear journalists privately say the complete opposite--that not only do they have the ability to influence news, they also choose to influence it. Such statements are usually more common among the non-American press where the sham of "objectivity" is not perpetrated on the public.
With that in mind, I was still quite surprised to see the following statements said at a panel discussion in Israel on the influence that country's media has had on its foreign policy:
A former Israel Broadcasting Authority news editor admits: "We slanted the news towards a withdrawal from Lebanon - because we had sons there."
What do you think? Which will it be for Tony -- death, prison or witness protection? Since it seems unlikely that Tony's former associates are actually terrorists, could the Feds have contacted them so they would testify against Tony? Does Detective Harris actually care about Tony, or does he want him to stay alive so they can arrest him and finally present their case against him? Does AJ's obsession with terrorists and suicide bombers foreshadow some final act of sacrifice, in which he saves his family from harm? Give us your final predictions!
But consider Slate:
I predict that David Chase will, on the night of June 10, somehow leave us at loose ends.
The reason I predict this with some confidence is that I just reread the Slate dialogue Jerry Capeci and I had with Terry Winter, a Sopranos writer, three years ago. In that dialogue, Terry wrote, "As you know, to the never-ending frustration of some of our viewers, we often fail to pay off what happens in one episode in the next and sometimes don't pay things off at all. (The next guy who asks me what happened to the Russian gets kicked in the nuts.) This is by design, for such is life, even if such is not network television, where everything is wrapped up in neat little bows."