Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

Michael Jackson once told Gotham Chopra, “I don’t want to go out like Marlon Brando. I want to go out like Elvis.”

I remember where I was and what I was doing when Elvis died (listening to KILT-FM; Jim Carrola broke the news, and followed with hours of non-stop, first-class coverage of the Death of the King.)

Michael Jackson was the Elvis of my son’s generation.
He set the gold standard for creativity, showmanship, and marketing savvy in a tough business…he also plumbed the depths of personal weirdness.

Michael Jackson leaves behind a legacy of good and bad, and in the end he indeed went out a combination of the two entertainment icons he identified with. In a way, he was Elvis Brando.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Girl from Argentina

Antonio Carlos Jobim wrote a song back in the '60's called "The Girl from Ipanema," which was based upon the daily comings and goings of a 15-year old ingénue past a bar.

Somehow, the South American connection, the physical attraction, and the hopelessness of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's predicament reverberate in an updated version of the song, which we humbly present to you as
"The Girl from Argentina:"

Tall and tan and young and lovely,
The girl from Argentina goes walking,
And when she passes, each one she passes goes – ah

When she walks, she’s like a samba
distracting heads of state with e-mails
that when she sends them, each one she sends him means = ah.

Now, how she watches so sadly…
As he tells the world how he madly…
Threw his career for her, gladly…
And each day as we watch on TV,
It seems it’s about all we see..

Tall with tan lines and young and lovely,
The girl from Argentina goes walking.
The wags are squalking, the press is stalking…
But we cannot see…it just cannot be…the governor of S. C.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Review: "Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen"

Saw the new Transformers movie last night:
Like watching a two-hour version of WWE sponsored by WD-40.

Some of the most interesting transformations were the cliché shots that continued to evolve on the screen…and when the final scenes of activity were staged at the ancient Petra temple site, I half-expected Harrison Ford or Brendan Fraser to show up, parchment maps in hand, guiding Shia Lebeouf and Megan Fox past mummies and snake pits to their technological holy grail.

"And the academy award for Archeological Locale Most-used in Filming an Action Adventure Film goes to..."

Interesting factoid about the Transformer movies: The first film used 20-terrabytes to render the special effects. Revenge of the Fallen required over 150-terrabytes to render.

And while Megan Fox may have riveted male audience attention, especially during the running sequences, Julie White is the scene stealer as Sam Witwicky’s dingbat mother. Her over-the-top comedic reflief, particularly in a scene involving “green brownies” at Princeton University, resulted in some of the best laughs in the movie…and the school denying producer Michael Bay the rights to identify the University in the film.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “this is the sort of thing you’d like, if you like this sort of thing.” Transformer fans and gear-heads will like this movie, and the script provides some tasty tidbits of clever dialogue. On the whole, it’s two hours of sensory overload for most adults.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Racing to Apologize

There is no such thing as a little freedom. Either you are all free, or you are not free.
--Walter Cronkite

Believe it or not, Congress is getting close to finally issuing an apology for slavery. Coincident with Junenteenth, the Senate voted unanimously this week for a resolution that is similar to legislation in the House, with one significant difference: The Senate version specifically states that the resolution can't be used to support claims for reparations.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), lead sponsor of the resolution, said, "You wonder why we didn't do it 100 years ago."

What a stupid remark.
100-years ago, the emotional wounds were too fresh, our understanding too shallow, but our sensibilities were still sufficiently intact, to reach this point.

"It is important to have a collective response to a collective injustice,"opnined Sen. Harkin.
Or be collectively ridiculous.

Apologizing for something that happened for which no currently-living human being has any responsibility is moronic.
Slavery happened.
It was bad.
We don't do that here now.
Get over it.

You want to apologize about something that should pain the social conscience? Let’s first get rid of the silent segregation that still exists in this country today, and then apologize for how we’ve all turned a blind, winking eye to the issue of Race in these otherwise united States.

Race is still an issue in this country, whether anyone wants to admit it or not. That's why Barack Obama's election was such a big deal. Beneath that great, natural tan, he's just another politican who needs a teleprompter to effectively rally the masses. Remove the Race issue, and the Obamification of the White House is not nearly as interesting.

That Race is still such an issue is a shameful legacy for which there is likely no apology deep enough to absolve. Apology is hollow when the problem is allowed to remain.

We are all different: Red and yellow, black and white. And Brown.

The irony of this country is that our strength is rooted in diversity--but diversity should not be a cause célèbre, if that’s only as far as it goes. Why not replace diversity with inclusiveness--a collective sense that would aggregate the strengths of all, and mitigate the weaknesses we also possess?

Because we’re all only human beneath our veneers.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dear Abby: Bad Advice

So we’re working without Internet this morning at the CBS Broadcasting Complex and Deli. I’ve seriously considered running a long mic cord down to the 12th floor, where they’ve always got free WiFi you can just suck right out of the ether. But then my secret would be out, and tomorrow, I’d have to fight for a place to sit. So scratch that.

I’m reading the paper more deeply than usual before the
show starts, and I've happened upon today’s Dear Abby column, which I think is written now by one of Abigail Van Buren’s daughters
or something. I can’t fact-check that, because…I have no Internet.

There's a big headline over today's column, "Bridesmaid wants to bow out," which catches my eye because we’re working on a couple of weddings-in-progress at The Clanton Hacienda.

There are few areas of life more potently political, and fraught with landmines and opportunities upon which to impale oneself than wedding planning. Don’t let the depictions of wedding planners in movies like “Father of the Bride” or “The Wedding Planner” fool you: This is high-level, cerebral stuff.

You notice there have been no Reality TV shows about weddings? We’ve had shows about the processes of getting to the point where weddings occur—“The Batchelor,” “The Batchelorette,” “The Dating Game,” or “Dawg.” That’s because weddings are a take-no-prisoners proposition. They don’t call these babes “bridezilla” for nothing.

So Dear Abby is taking on an issue where a 20-year old young pup gets roped-into being a bridesmaid for a co-worker she really doesn’t know. Being an impartial observer for the past few months at my house, I can tell you, picking bridesmaids and determining the pecking-order is no less intricate a political dance than divining a path to peace in the Middle East. One wrong move, one mis-placed ingénue in the retinue, and you wind up with something that looks a little like the aftermath of the Iranian national elections.

This 20-year old reluctant bridesmaid is whining about making an impulsive decision to agree to be a part of her co-worker’s wedding—which, it is disclosed, is a year and a half away, and this nimrod is worried it might cost her a little cash. Don’t bridesmaids have to buy their own dresses?

Did you ever see that movie, “27 Dresses?” If you’re not careful, you can wind up with your own mini bridal boutique in your closet if you’re not careful about getting roped into participating. What does Abby tell this girl?
Bow out.
Gracefully, of course, but welch on the wedding, boot the bride, and keep your mouth shut. Only the last piece of advice is good—keeping things quiet.

I think Abby is wrong.
Think about it—why did the co-worker ask a relatively casual acquaintance to participate in her wedding? Obviously, according to Abby, the bride to be has no closer friends than the co-worker…and so the lot fell to her to be asked.

Here is an opportunity to impact a day in a person’s life that will be a memory for a lifetime. Here is an opportunity to serve a friend—albeit a casual one—who had no one else to whom she could turn. Here is an opportunity to ease some of the anxiety that will come from planning a wedding day with limited friends, and maybe limited funds. Abby tells the co-worker to buzz out. Wrong. Yes, bridesmaids buy their own dresses. The wedding is 18-months away. With a little planning, that’s definitely doable. In fact, with some strategic thinking, the cost of the wedding can be diminished by getting together all the gals in the wedding party and buying the dresses en masse, demanding a discount.

I know you might find this hard to believe, but in some cultures—like in Texas—it is considered an honor and a privilege to be called to make the bridesmaids’ dresses. In this economy, what are the odds you might find a seamstress willing to take on that project? Again, we’re talking about being an integral part of the most special day in a woman’s life: Why not make the most of it?

Dear Abby’s wrong on this one, with the exception of telling the co-worker to keep it quiet; wouldn’t want to embarrass the bride-to-be. If she does bail on the bride, she’d better keep it on the down-low, because she’d going to be marked as a snake and a low-life for not being as good a friend as the co-worker thought that she was.

There is a plaque that hangs in our kitchen that says, “help me to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am.” Here is an opportunity about to be missed to strengthen a relationship with another human being… and isn’t that what we’re placed on this planet to do—help one another?

Abby, your dog would be ashamed of you.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Digitial Dilemma? No.

So today is the day all the TV stations turn off their analog transmitters and fire up their new digital blow torches. Meaning, those of you who’ve been sucking your TV signal from the airwaves for free for all these years must now have a digital decoder to operate that old Farnsworth-tube box TV.

The FCC delayed the switch over for additional months, because they believed too many people hadn’t had time enough to make preparations; it’s estimated two million Americans are still not ready for today’s switch-over.

I’m thinking they’re going to figure it out.
Or they just don’t care.
And that’s fine.
You’ve had two entire communications industries—television and radio telecommunication—held hostage by a small group of technical Neanderthals. So if they like watching the Snow Channel today, more power to them.
I predict two things will happen as a result:
Cable prices are going to get more competitive.
Over the air digital TV allows existing stations to provide multiple streams of programming, so now there are nearly 40-different offerings in the ayer-a-ayer.
How many channels of TV do you really need?
Secondly, the hand wringing and nanny-government whining is finally going to come to an end. People who have not acquired digital converter boxes apparently don’t want them, so let them stew in their own analog juices, and the rest of us can get on with our digital lives.

For most of you, this has been a non-issue: If you’re already pumping televised garbage into your household via cable or satellite, it’s going to be business as usual at midnight tonight, when analog joins kerosene lanterns, washboards, and General Motors as relics of a time gone by.

Monday, June 01, 2009

When You Come to a Fork in the Cabinet...Take It

(The CBS Broadcasting Complex and Deli) Radio stations are strange places in the wee-hours before everyone arrives.

There is a barely-perceptible buzz in the hallways, either from some station monitor standing sentry in an empty cubicle, or a muffled, dull thumping from a production studio already in use by a morning team finishing up pre-show production.

I generally arrive before 650AM has even signed on for the day, but there is still an urgency that drives all activities towards the time the mic is first opened for the morning.

Today I began my morning on a quest for a plastic fork, with a tub full of chopped fruit teasing me for breakfast.
You would think that in a facility with four kitchen areas, there’d be one left over plastic-ware pak from a Chik-Fil-A visit, or maybe a half-used box of Chinette crystal.

In one cupboard I did find an opened box of plastic ware with no spoons or forks, and half of the knives remaining. Good to know in case anyone needs an emergency appendectomy up here on the weekends.

Hudson and Harrigan even helped me comb through the relics of fast-food repasts past, trying out a few of their un-used jokes on my food-starved brain.
No forks, though.

In the Executive coffee bar was an assortment of items, including a drawer full of IBM Selectric typewriter ribbons, and an extra font ball. (If you don’t know what those are for, perhaps a separate essay may be in order on the virtues of composing content on the keyboard of a machine designed solely for the purpose of mechanically imprinting sheets of cellulose fiber with individual letters to form words and sentences.)

Also in the Executive kitchen were the final resting places of morning show coffee cups from Radio stars of the past, including the Lisa Dent Show, which used to air on KIKK-FM, back before it was Smooth Jazz, back before it was Hot Hits. Such is the legacy that Radio stations leave behind.

It looked like my only option was going to be a bastardized usage of coffee stir sticks, pressed into service as plastic chop sticks. Not the most efficient way to eat fruit…but you get the idea.

Finally in the last cupboard in the last kitchen area in the farthest corner of the complex…almost in a galaxy far, far away, I discovered a lonely matched set of plastic-handled utensils, Mr. and Mrs. Cheesy Knife and Fork. Probably left over from some picnic basket giveaway from a food promotion from a summer gone by, now standing at attention in a ceramic mug, filed under September.

Breakfast was worth the wait.
Nothing like fresh fruit in the morning, sliced days ago in a grocery deli.

Now, I wonder where I can find a styrofoam cup for some ice water this morning…?