Posts Tagged ‘Entertainment’

As early as the second grade, I had an idea what I wanted to be, or rather I had two ideas. Having visited the United Nations on a previous trip  to see my grandparents, I was certain I wanted to be a translator. My mother put me immediately into French classes. In retrospect, Farsi or Russian or Mandarin would have been far more useful, which is to say I didn’t have a prayer of working at the UN. Probably just as well and in any case I can now order off the menu in a French restaurant with reasonable confidence.

The other career I wanted to pursue was in journalism. Then again, I grew up in an idealistic time, in the era of Woodward and Bernstein back when they acted like journalists and the New York Times published “The Pentagon Papers” instead of erroneous stories about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Those were the days but my desire to work in that “noble” field has disappeared faster than you can say “reporter.”

These days, our news delivery system is chaos, all noise and bluster and so falsely “fair and balanced” that every opinion and every story carry equal weight. In a world where we are all so enamored of our own opinion that listening to others or even sharing the same viewpoint as others is less important than getting noticed, the bizarre proliferation of opinions spewed across cyberspace (some backed by some sort of intelligence, thoughtfulness or consideration, others apparently backed by nothing other than anger, agenda, an ax to grind, what have you) become news. These opinions are given equal time and, worse yet, equal weight. The media mavens grab a story from the blogosphere, work it to death and regurgitate it back into the web. The same story gets recycled over and over again, skewing opinion even more. For example, Obama’s relationship with his ex-pastor Reverend Wright continues to be a hot topic but John McCain’s with another religious leader and supporter, Pastor John Hagee is not (Wikipedia carefully states that Hagee “has incurred some controversy for his comments regarding Catholicism, Islam, homosexuality, women, blacks, and hurricane Katrina.”). Good journalists, by the way, are caught in the middle.

Actually, I care less about who the candidates are hanging out with (yeah, yeah, I know, goes to judgement and all that) and more about their plans for health care. No I haven’t heard enough or I don’t understand it well enough. I’d like the media to help me but apparently, the media isn’t in the business of helping us stay informed anymore.

There are other people making noise about the state of the news, thank goodness. For starters, catch Elizabeth Edward’s op-ed piece on what the media does and doesn’t cover (for those of you with really, really short attention spans, she’s the wife of the “third” Democratic candidate, John Edwards, who dropped out of the race). Seriously, go read it; she makes some hugely important points about corporate control of media outlets and what kinds of stories those outlets chase. It’s depressing but worthwhile. Then read this article by Michael Ventre that addresses the John Stewart issue. While “traditional” media critics and “real” journalists have been lamenting the fact that the under-thirty set have been getting their news from a comedian, said comedian, apparently aware of his influence, appears to be putting more thought and, yes, analysis into his interviews and “reporting,” displaying more than a rudimentary understanding of the issues at hand. If he brings a certain detached irony to his delivery (he is, after all, still out to entertain), that is far better than the gonzo showings of some of more “esteemed” mainstream media colleagues these days (yep, I’m referring to the Democratic debates on ABC).

It’s small comfort, but comfort nonetheless, to know that I’m not alone in my despair over the way news is made, made important and then delivered. As much as I might like the sound of my own voice or the appearance of my own words, I really do want to hear what others are thinking about a particular subject. If they are as upset as I am or as I hope you readers will be, even better, especially because lately I’ve been feeling alternately isolated, afraid and mad as hell.




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A friend and faithful reader (hopefully I don’t have any faithless readers) has asked me to say something about the Writers Guild of America strike. Fair enough. I admit that the quality of TV, which I keep on in the background, has seemed to me to be sinking for some time. I tend to multi-task. Still I’d kind of enjoyed watching Christine Applegate’s marvelous comic turn in “Samantha Who?” and the addition of Joe Mantegna to the “Criminal Minds” cast.  So yeah, I could say I have a personal interest.

Actually, I know writers on the picket lines and it’s no laughing matter to them – or to the hundreds of boutique businesses, from caterers to hair stylists to limo drivers whose livelihood is taking a serious hit while the studio heads apparently tough it out in their second homes or on the golf course. My rudimentary understanding of the arguments is that they relate to DVD residuals, animation and future revenue from the Internet, among other issues. I don’t know why the producers don’t just make a deal, although I’ve heard stories about how disrespectfully writers are treated.  Maybe that’s the game in Hollywood. Maybe the producers are figuring they can ride out the strike and make a buck on tenth-rate reality shows.  Maybe they think the viewers won’t notice the dip in quality, which is pretty disrespectful too.

Hopefully at some point, Los Angeles officials will feel the pinch, via their constituents and someone will step in and get this thing settled, maybe even the Gubenator. In the meantime, I thought I heard on TV (I wasn’t paying attention) someone mention George Clooney as the guy who could get both sides to the table. What a great idea.  Who’s gonna say no to George Clooney?

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I was amused to see a new Rambo movie on the horizon (less than two weeks). After all, Sylvester Stallone has always been a kind of loveable lunk, even as he took out the bad guys with as few words and as much hardware as possible. He’s not nearly as much fun to watch as Bruce Willis but he’s nothing if not sincere.  But an article in the paper today suggests that aging eighties heroes are making a comback because we (well maybe the male version of “we”) yearn for iconic heroic types in this uncertain world. Thus we have Stallone stomping, Chuck Norris stumping (for Mike Huckabee) and Hulk Hogan hosting a new version of American Gladiator. Is this cause for proto-feminists to panic? After all, in the coming election, gender seems linked to the issue of toughness in a less than enlightened way.

It’s not that women don’t get to kick their share of tail nowadays, at least in the fantasy world. There are plenty of video examples, although how those gals work around their Barby-like curves is beyond me. Fox’s new show, “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” features a very tough-love heroine and “Live Free or Die Hard” showcases a throughly lethal villainess who almost gets the upper hand until Willis’ character realizes it’s okay to punch a woman if she’s trying to kill you. These ladies strike me as a lot more dangerous than the pumped-up young studs who seem to have acquired their muscles for the purpose of snagging babes at the beach (e.g. Matthew McConaughey). In general, though, the young guys don’t make much more headway than the women for the legions of mostly male fans who apparently like their testosterone delivered with an air of world-weary authority. I don’t know if this signals a yearning for the good old eighties, although it’s true that half our candidates seem to think the Reagan years represent the last time America had it all figured out. I prefer to think of this mini-phenomina as a way for aging baby boomers to prove they can still bring it to the table – well, in entertainment, if not in politics.

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