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Friday Potpourri


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  • CP

    I don’t believe I’ve ever managed to make my way through a Fast and Furious film…

    As I recall, the first one wasn’t bad. The bits and pieces I’ve seen of the others just keep getting more and more over-the-top. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.

    • NonyNony

      I thought the first one was kinda boring. In fact I skipped them all after the first one until a friend told me that FF5 was the “dumbest yet somehow most awesome action movie I’ve ever seen”. And he was right – it’s hilarious how stupid it gets.

      That’s the big draw of the FF movies – the plots are inane, but the stuntwork is amazing and the characters are all ludicrous caricatures. In many ways they are to movies what pro wrestling is to sports.

      • CP

        So basically, “so bad it’s good.”

        • NonyNony

          Kind of? Except it’s really hard to do the “so bad it’s good” thing intentionally. And yet I think they’re making these movies ridiculous on purpose, so I don’t know how I feel about it.

          I usually reserve the “so bad its good” for the truly amazingly bad movies where they’ve accidentally gone off the rails in a way that the filmmaker didn’t intend and turn into a comedy. Like Birdemic or Troll 2 or other movies of that ilk. I’m not sure that the later FF movies really fit that description, so I hesitate to call them “so bad it’s good”.

          • postmodulator

            So like the Sharknado films?

            I didn’t watch the first one, but I remember reading the AMA the director and screenwriter did on Reddit the next day. At one point they gave an answer that made it sound as though they hadn’t watched the final cut, or even watched it when it was broadcast.

            • NonyNony

              Yes – the first Sharknado movie was in that category. You can see that they were trying to make something good and made something bad instead. And where it goes off the rails it really goes off the rails. (Haven’t seen the rest because frankly the first one was only “so bad it was middling good”).

          • CP

            I don’t think it has to be unintentional. If a filmmaker and his crew know their limits and intentionally aim for things that they know push a certain audience’s guilty pleasure buttons, they can totally produce a “so bad it’s good” film.

        • econoclast

          They’re definitely not “so bad it’s good”. It’s more that they’re willing to do something incredibly stupid in order to do something incredibly awesome.

          The example that sticks in my mind is one of them where two of the characters are stuck in a car on a cliff, surrounded by a paramilitary group. I thought “Fuck it, I want to see them drive off the cliff.” And then they do!

      • Brien Jackson

        Yeah, I’d say that’s why it works. Inane and ridiculously over the top can work as a form of pure entertainment if that’s what you’re actually aiming for.

        • ScottK

          It’s an action movie made by people who love action movies and don’t have any pretenses that they they’re making anything other than an action movie.

      • Domino

        I appreciate how in the 5th one, they spend the movie building up how they are going to pull of the heist, only to then have the plan fall apart instantly, where they then have to improvise, which features 2 Dodge Chargers dragging a bank vault safe through the streets of Rio and using it offensively to take out pursuing police cars.

    • As I recall, the first one wasn’t bad.

      That last race scene between ‘American muscle’ and ‘Japanese performance’ was moterhead gold. I still love that scene. But I agree that the rest of the franchise is just wasted popcorn. Although Tokyo Drift did have some gorgeous shots in it.

  • Cheap Wino

    Comey understood Trump’s people as having neither knowledge of nor respect for the independence of the law enforcement function.

    This is much more damning than it initially appears. Said in harder, more direct language it means, “The Trump administration is so ignorant and cavalier about the rule of law that they ignore it.”

    Also, Comey is 6′ 8″?!

    • Joe_JP

      He is pretty darn tall:


      (Him popping up at Fun Home after being fired was a coincidence; apparently, his daughter recommended it earlier.)

    • twbb

      Sasse is positioning himself as the “cool, young, non-crazy Republican.” He actually is one of the least objectionable GOP members in the public eye, which is not saying that much but still…

      • Srsly Dad Y

        Yep — warning — with the notable exception of all of his political views, Sasse seems like a genuinely cool dude. Scary. Also he is better educated than us.

        • twbb

          So I downloaded his dissertation to see what was up with him, and while I’m not going to read it (typical 400+ page history dissertation) even as a PhD student he seemed to be trying to seize the moderate Republican middle:

          In the 1960s and ’70s, millions of Americans credited Madalyn Murray O’Hair with masterminding a plot to criminalize school prayer, and thereby to drive God from the land. This analysis was wrong on multiple counts, starting with the fact that her supposedly unprecedented suit against Baltimore was only the third most important church-state case of 1962–63. But the factual errors of those outraged by the school prayer decisions are less consequential than the realities for which the “myth of Madalyn” stood as a place-holder: Public institutions did de-Protestantize in the middle third of the century; the ACLU and other actors did scheme to facilitate this shift; and many constitutional experts did share popular doubts about the evolving interpretation of the establishment clause and the consequent legal secularization.

          Grassroots Americans cried out against their nation’s “hijacking” at a nearly unparalleled volume, immediately inundating both the Supreme Court and Congress in mail. The House of Representatives evaluated an unprecedented 145 proposed constitutional amendments in 1964 to reestablish school prayer by changing the First Amendment, followed up by scores more proposals in 1966 and 1970. Polls showed that nearly 85% of citizens supported a pro-public religion alteration of the Constitution. O’Hair quickly became, to quote a Life headline, “the Most Hated Woman in America”—a role she relished.

          This dissertation is not about Madalyn, but about the culture-warring entrepreneurs who ascended partly by inflating her importance so they could denounce her cause and build their empires. It is also about Republican pollsters and politicians who stumbled across the widespread discontent about the apparent willingness of many Democrats to tolerate atheists. Most of all, though, by examining lay correspondence to elected officials during a series of related controversies over religion in public life, this project is about the vast middle of America sitting between the aggressive secularizers and the professional anti-secularizers. There may never have been a moral majority, but Cold War America surely contained an overwhelming anti-Madalyn majority concerned about the national soul.

          • BiloSagdiyev

            Oh, horrors! Somebody was tolerating atheists!

            Let me reach into my sack, let me see where I put it… oh, yes, here it is: Fuck you.

        • Manny Kant

          He is equally well-educated to me, except that he went to Yale and I went to Penn. I also suspect that I will not become, in the next year or so, president of a small university, so he’s got that on me.

  • NonyNony

    Is that Sasse in the red trunks and white T-shirt? He looks like he just finished a workout and is chilling on the steps.

    Schumer looks like he’s been up all night working on something and is ready to go keel over on a couch to get a powernap in before work starts.

  • Rob in CT

    Re: the Os…

    Team with dominant bullpen outperforms expectations/pythag record is entirely plausible, and the Yankees have also done that some years (in that regard, while you can certainly point to Mariano for Torre, under Girardi it was as much or more David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Miller, Chapman, and a gaggle of “no name” guys like Adam Warren – the team has gotten legitimately good at finding good middle relief from within their own system. I mean, Mo’s been gone since 2013). It tends to mean you win more close games than you otherwise would.

    Buck is a good manager, for sure, and I actually think the bullpen explanation might sell him a little short, because if you look at the numbers the Os have been overperforming by more than can be explained by just his bullpen value-add, which is supposedly +1.2 wins/162 games. They’ve got him as +3.5 wins/season overall, which is more than double that. And the actual overperformance (admittedly skewed by their absolutely ridiculous 2012, in which they were insanely lucky in 1-run games) 2012-present is over 10 games/season, relative to projections. Take out 2012 and the incomplete 2017 and it’s +8.75 wins/season. Assuming half of that is luck/random variance, it’s still more than 4 wins/year that you could attribute to Buck. It ain’t just the ‘pen, methinks.

    ETA: holy shit, Bobby Cox.

    Perhaps even moreso, Dusty Baker. None of the other names above Showalter surprised me. Dusty did.

    • Brien Jackson

      I’m not all that surprised by Dusty. The big problem with him is that his tactical decision making process is….lacking, and that’s had a history of biting his teams in the ass in crucial times during the postseason. But he’s won lots of games everywhere he’s managed.

      The other thing that helps the Orioles outperform their projections is that Buck and Dan Duquette have been REALLY good at using the entire 40 man roster over the course of the season. It’s hard to quantify that relative to everyone else, even just in terms of impressions, but watching the roster moves in isolation you can see where they make gains at the margins. But they don’t really “break,” the systems anymore than Greg Maddux and Mariano Rivera disprove the notion that pitchers don’t have a lot of control over turning batted balls into outs.

      • Dilan Esper

        I think Scott has pointed this out, but sample sizes for postseason games are very low. This isn’t satisfying for fans, who consider such games of crucial importance, but we don’t have near enough data to make firm conclusions about the postseason. A lot of the people we consider bad or great in the postseason may have just run unlucky / lucky.

        • Brien Jackson

          Well sure, but “luck” in these situations also functions as a factor of poor planning and putting yourself in unfavorable situations. It’s not a given, for example, that Mat Latos won’t battle through and not give up additional runs in the 5th inning of Game 5 in 2012. But leaving him in the game because you want him to have the chance to get the “win” at the end of the game is a really poor basis for deciding not to make a pitching change. Scott Rolen isn’t guaranteed to make a series changing error at third base, or to even have the ball hit to him, but “he’s earned the right to be in the game even though he was bad all year because of his accrued service time” turns out to not be a good reason to put him in that position.

          Baker’s postseason flaws aren’t so much a measure of trying to quantify above average vs below average, or even good vs bad, managerial outcomes as they are an obvious example of outliers. Someone who keeps getting “unlucky” because the means by which he makes decisions is uniquely stupid.

        • Rob in CT


          Yet individual decisions can still be critiqued.

          Example: Joe Torre was a fairly good manager overall. Not great, not terrible.

          2003 World Series, game 4. Tie game on the road. Mariano Rivera available. He puts in… Jeff Weaver.

          That’s the sort of decision a lot of managers make, particularly during the regular season (and during the reg. season it’s more defensible), but that’s a clear mistake.

          Just one example.

          • Joe_JP

            Yes, as the Orioles manager can tell you, not using your closer in such a situation might be critiqued.

            Jeff Weaver was a dubious option in the bottom of the 12th but Mariano Rivera would have had to be used there for at least two. He was used once for three, true, but many might think he should have been used in the 9th.

            He would have been out by the 12th anyway, and you’d use your lesser reliefs anyhow. Looking at the box score, it is surprising so little pen was used in those games. These days, starters going five seems notable.

        • jamesepowell

          A lot of the people we consider bad or great in the postseason may have just run unlucky / lucky.

          Certainly true of David Eckstein. Not true of Mariano Rivera.

    • Todd

      Watching O’s games also shows them to be very aggressive at the plate and on the base paths. Though, this year they seem to be forcing pitchers to go deeper in counts. But they consistently try to take the extra base and force really good throws from outfielders.

      Also, I think the article downplays the consistently terrific O’s defense. Other teams know Baltimore has excellent fielders all over the place and act accordingly. The best cornerbacks in the NFL don’t always put up the best stats because the opposition is wary of testing them too often.

      • Brien Jackson

        Yeah I’ve found the downplaying of Baltimore’s defense sort of odd myself. Although their outfield defense hasn’t been stellar for a few years now (though again, they do really well at the margins) and catcher is kind of hit or miss, I’m just not buying the metrics on the infield defense.

  • Brett

    The first Fast & Furious film didn’t launch a mega-franchise. It was a hit, and to a lesser extent its two immediate sequels did okay with the fourth one being a hit, but it was Fast Five that created the final template for these films that turned them into modern blockbusters earning a high fraction of a billion dollars per film (or even higher).

    • kped

      I think Fast and Furious (the 4th) is really where it became the franchise it is today, went international, bigger stunts, brought the original 2 leads back. Everything else has built on that.

      It’s funny how much it changed though. In the first, Diesel is a guy trying to steal DVD players…and the they don’t even do that (his cousin gets shot, the driver gets away). Now they are superheros that the government calls to jump out of airplanes (in cars of course) to take down international terrorists.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Ya know, if we could fight terrorism with the coolness of our customized cars in this country, we just might have a shot at success…

  • randy khan

    The Ben Wittes piece is more confirmatory than revealing, although that’s still pretty useful – Comey is very much an institutional guy, trying hard to protect the institution and its norms, and Trump has no interest in anything but himself.

    It’s also interesting to get a bit of a window into how Trump tries to bring people into his orbit; I could see it working even on people who aren’t impressed by him.

    • Gregor Sansa

      And it’s interesting to think how Comey’s strait-laced self-importance, which crashed so badly when Bill made his tarmac blooper, also turned out to be the perfect response to Trump’s you’re-one-of-us-now ploys.

  • jamesepowell

    I don’t believe I’ve ever managed to make my way through a Fast and Furious film…

    I thought the first one was pretty good, for what it set out to do – cars, girls, explosions, fights = but there is no way I would ever have predicted the huge thing the franchise became. It has grossed just over $5 billion.

    For comparison, the Star Wars franchise has grossed $7.5 billion. And that’s with one more movie.

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