Assume the worst

So far, this blog seems to be pretty Ken-Jennings-driven.

The first thing to know is that I’ve been reading Ken’s blog and posting in his forums.

The second thing to know is that in a recent blog post, Ken poked affectionate fun at the venerable old formula behind Jeopardy!

The third thing is that humorless NY Post reporter Michael Starr has a tin ear for satire and informed the world that quiz-show darling Jennings was now biting the hand that fed him.

The fourth thing is that this story was picked up by the AP and appeared far and wide in the media. A stampede of indignant dittoheads flooded Ken’s site, posting outraged ad hominems on his message boards. Most would make a sailor blush. Ken shut down his message boards and deleted most of the offensive ones, but good-humoredly kept a few of the less stomach-turning ones.

In the aftermath, after message-board access was restored, I posted the following. (Follow the link to see the original on Ken’s message boards and the creative discussion that is now ensuing there.)


Good grief: I got a glimpse of one of the nastier comments last night before Ken took it down, and I gotta say, whether or not people can muster a sense of humor, the very least they can do is to mind their manners.On the bright side, it inspired me to write the following: my bid to make the inevitable Ken Jennings biopic (I see Bruce Willis as Jennings) into a musical. I call this showstopper “March of the Easily Led.”–

Assume the worst!
Assume the worst!
First things first:
Assume the worst!

Is it possible he joked?
Never mind, ’cause I’m provoked

Assume the worst!

“I kid because I love”
Is not something I’ve heard of

Assume the worst!
Assume the worst!
It’s for scandal that we thirst
Assume the worst!

[interlude]

My friend told me a rumor
It was some left-coast thing called humor
Does Ken expect us all to be brainiacs now?
In pop culture he’s enshrined
For the motley in his mind
It’s holy to me but he tipped the sacred cow

The world may be on fire
But the things that raise my ire
Are the ones that I can quickly comprehend
Global warming, Middle East
I can follow not the least
But mess with Jeopardy! and you mess with me, my friend

[spoken:]
And to think I thought I could leave all the thinking to thoughtless over here!

Assume the worst!
Assume the worst!
By the Post I’ve been coerced
Assume the worst!

Should we give him the doubt’s benefit?
I just can’t see the zen of it

Assume the worst!

Must leap to TV’s defense
Into Ken I’ll knock some sense

Assume the worst!

We thought that he was one of us
‘Til he started making fun of us

Assume the worst!

He cashed the check
Then trashed Trebek
He won the prize
Now he cracks wise
A household name
Has he no shame?

His fame must be reversed!

Assume the worst!
Assume the worst!
Except when George Bush does it first…
Assume the worst!

Of course these are just lyrics. I would love it if someone played Loewe to my Lerner, Rodgers to my Hart, Rodgers to my Hammerstein, O’Sullivan to my Gilbert, and composed a melody for it.

Cheers,
– Bob

Iconoclasm

Ken Jennings’ blog topic for today is iconoclasm, which put me in mind of an essay I had on my old website about James Bond, now resurrected for your reading pleasure.


I’m a James Bond fan who hates nearly all the James Bond movies.No, I don’t mean to say that I’m a fan of Ian Fleming’s written adventures instead; I’ve only ever read one (Goldfinger, and it was just OK). I mean that the promise of the first two movies — Dr. No and especially From Russia With Love — was squandered in every movie thereafter.In the beginning, the James Bond series was for grownups; now it’s for kids. Sure, there always were exciting action sequences and nifty gadgets, but they were by no means the focus of the movies. The focus was James Bond’s worldly bachelor, gentleman-adventurer lifestyle. A story, possibly apocryphal, is told of casting the role of James Bond for Dr. No. Sean Connery auditioned for the producers, Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli, giving an adequate but unremarkable reading. A few minutes later, one of the producers glanced out the window to see Sean Connery walking away down the street “striding like a panther,” and that’s when they knew they had their man. This story underscores that the original emphasis in the movie series was simply on Bond’s manliness, aspired to by millions of the burgeoning Playboy generation.

In From Russia With Love (which had a plausible and somewhat sophisticated story that actually centered on authentic-seeming espionage, the only one of its kind in the whole series), the familiar James Bond musical theme swells as Bond simply arrives at the airport in Istanbul looking for his contact, then again as he checks into his hotel. That’s because those are the minutiae of the lifestyle, which is what audiences came to see. In modern James Bond movies, that music is reserved for the dozens of credibility-defying stunts that the screenwriter has contrived, performed with vanilla action-hero aplomb by a generic Bond who isn’t really a character at all, and certainly has nothing that can be called a lifestyle.

By the time of Goldfinger, the third movie, the series had begun to descend into self-parody. The easily identifiable components of the first two movies — girls, martinis, guns, explosions, gadgets, saying “Bond, James Bond” — became ingredients in a formula that lacked the one truly essential element: savoir faire.

My new blog

I am finally motivated to start my own blog, though what I’ll put here I really don’t know. For now I’ve got to get something written down to surmount the first-post obstacle.

I’ll probably write about fatherhood from time to time. I may give updates on my various self-improvement projects, such as learning to play music and improving my fitness. (“Self-improvement is masturbation.” –Tyler Durden. To which I say, “OK.”) Perhaps I’ll post some greatest-hits articles from my old website (now offline) and from e-mail, etc. And I’ll almost certainly relive past glory from my pre-fatherhood days of book-writing, plane-flying, company-starting, etc., though you should not get the idea that fatherhood put an end to my adventures; on the contrary, it’s my biggest one yet, and I’ve still only just begun.

Among the things that made me finally start this blog is Ken Jennings’ blog. Ken is the Jeopardy! über-champion from a couple of years ago. He’s also a terrific blogger; his blog is among the handful I read daily. Coincidentally, the day I started reading it, he blogged about the unavailability of the Kevin Kline Pirates of Penzance movie on DVD, while a DVD of the Central Park version of the same production arrived at my home from Netflix. So I sent him mail about that coincidence and we began a correspondence in which I posed some of my clever movie-connections puzzles to him, and eventually to the readers of his message forum. Oh yeah, those puzzles are something else I can put here.