Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Not My Reality

So I have a theory...

I see a direct correlation in the timeline between:

·    The complete disregard and dismissal of reason
     The birth of 'alternative facts'
    The school-yard-like knee-jerk labeling of "FAKE NEWS FAKE NEWS" to ANYTHING that anyone does not WANT to be true (or at least not reported as true)
    The complete dumbing down of America

AND ...

'Reality' Television

Putting aside for a moment that our clueless leader was himself, a reality TV Star ...

This so-called reality of reality television IS 'fake news' and it is an 'alternative' reality.

I don't get it. I don't know why someone would come home from a hard and stressful day and not want to relax with a good old-fashioned sitcom. Instead they watch cat-fight shouting matches and the manufactured 'drama' of producer-induced/goaded neo-celebrities flipping tables over and spewing anger.

I get it from the TV BUSINESS side of it. Yeah it's great we have HUNDREDS of television stations now. But more choice just means more bad television to choose from. But alas, all those stations means they need a whole LOT of programming to fill that air time and by far, the two cheapest ways to fill that are ... infomercials of how to get a Brazilian Butt for example, Penis Enlargement (sugar) pills and The Best Bra ever) and then of course the other cheap air filler - reality television.

Reality television requires no writers, no scripts, no THOUGHT. Just pay (peanuts at first) to a generation of fame-seekers who would do anything for their 15 minutes - hand pick them to get the best combination of unlikeable morons to go at each other and  ... your work is done here.

I get it. America come home from work and wants something 'mindless' so they don't have to think about their jobs, their spouse, their kids, the growing gap between the impoverished and the super rich etc. Mindless entertainment is nothing new. It's was Dwayne Johnson movies exist.

But we always knew this form of entertainment was FICTION. Now... I'm not so sure we know that as we should.

There was a prevailing theory many years ago, that if all there was on television was opera, Shakespeare and ballet, that people WOULD watch it because there was no other choice, I don't know if I believe that to be true as this theory came along long before the advent of the internet (and free porn).

But surely there is a middle ground of watchable entertainment somewhere between Othello and Duck Dynasty?

So we are collectively dumber as a nation as near as I can tell, seem happy to be so. We deserve what we get because WE THE PEOPLE allow it to happen.

Not only do we like being dumb, it has led to a distrust of those who ARE intelligent, educated and rational. Hysterically, the right called Obama (a black man) an 'elitist' simply because he went to Harvard Law School.

Yeah sure ... Goof 'Ole "W" went to Yale but come on ... he got in because his Daddy went there and we're pretty sure Ole W was only there to party. We knew W was not the sharpest knife in the drawer but hey ... he was a guy you could sit down with at the diner and share a beer and some meatloaf with. Well that's very nice. But the kind of guy I could enjoy a brewski and the diner special with is the kind of guy I would want to go to the diner with ... not run my country.

Trump often uses all 87 words he know to claim to be the smartest, most ejamacated genius since Einstein - in factor smarter probably - Einstein never had a TV show, a fake university or his own airplane.

But middle America did not vote for him based on his intelligence or there lack of, they voted for him because he was a regular guy billionaire (multi-millionaire more like) who wore a baseball hat just like the rest of us in the trailer park.

We knew Trump waned to run America like a business. We just didn’t know he was going to run it like one of HIS businesses.

The conservative write George WIll recently said (and I paraphrase) that he hopes there is no impeachment because he wants Trump to serve out all four years. Because WE voted for him (at least in an electoral college sense) and that we NEED to experience all four years of Trump so that we are never ever ever tempted to vote so stupidly again.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

There's a Soccer Born Every Minute

With apologies to all who call it football, futbol or ‘the beautiful game', I am writing today (after a brief five year hiatus) about soccer, as World Cup 2014 is about to come to merciful conclusion.

 So the Spanish disappointed, as did the Italians, and yet again the English. The Americans were OK but never a legitimate threat. But soccer skill and acumen is apparently plentiful in the German DNA.

Unfortunately for the team from Germany though, German DNA has also been plentiful in Argentina since about 1945. How painful it must be for the English to watch a final, rooting against BOTH teams.

Much like the Olympics, I looked forward to the tournament at the start but within a week was thinking, “when will this thing be OVER?”

Now we can look forward to the next World Cup in four years in Russia. And we can be thankful … thankful that it is not for another four years.

 Apart from taproom owners who enjoyed an increase in mid-afternoon drinking, the World Cup is generally greeted in America with the enthusiasm one reserves for C-SPAN highlights. I’m not saying that soccer is devoid of devotees in America. Indeed an entire generation has now grown up playing the sport.

When I was a kid, if you drove around on any given Spring or Summer Saturday morning, you would invariable hear the ‘ping’ of aluminum striking a baseball coming from the nearest little league field. Now on Saturday mornings you only hear the moans of a diving soccer youth lobbying for a foul call.

 But as adults, soccer can never penetrate our mainstream. It’s not because soccer is as boring as some make out a nil-nil draw to be. Indeed there are strategy and tactics to observe if one is roughly acquainted with the off-sides rule or the difference between a direct and an indirect free kick.

The reason soccer will never be the new NFL is two-fold. Firstly, the sport has one statistic. Goals scored. Far as I can tell, that’s it. Can’t lead to much excitement for a ‘fantasy soccer’ league with one lousy statistic.

But more importantly, the clock never stops. No stoppage in the action means no commercial breaks. No commercial breaks means no commercials. No commercials mean no commercial revenue. No commercial revenue means no television. No television means no interest. In England, soccer is broadcast on the BBC (a non-commercial, state-funded network).

Soccer is king in England. They invented the bloody sport for one thing. They even managed to win the World Cup … once … a LONG time ago … back when the ball was made of stone I think.

That's Got to Hurt
I am confused though. In the Olympics, England competes ... not as England ... not even as The UK ... but as Team Great Britain and Northern Ireland ...  which is by the way what the UK is … The United Kingdom of Great Britain (meaning England, Scotland and Wales) and Northern Ireland.

But in soccer, theoretically at least, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could each qualify for the World Cup. So this potentially could increase the chances of a UK team winning four-fold as opposed the one squad they ship to the Olympics. Given the (lack of) success of those four countries though, would it not be in their interest to compete as one nation and draw from a larger pool of talent?

I mean, you see only one USA team on the soccer field (pitch, ground whatever you want to call it). You don’t hear them say, “Well South Carolina has qualified by knocking out Iowa. But Montana continues to struggle in their match with Delaware.”

 I do admit a certain geo-political ignorance to international sports competition. For example, in the group stages round of the World Cup, I heard that Iran lost, 3-1 to Bosnia and Herzegovina. And I thought, “well no wonder they lost. Iran had to play against Bosnia AND Herzegovina. That hardly seems fair. At least let Bosnia and Herzegovina play against someone like Trinidad AND Tobago. That sounds at least more balanced.”

So now the World Cup moves on to Russia in 2018. Russia, the country that hosted the Winter Olympics in a SUMMER resort town, that actually had to BUY snow and have it delivered to Sochi.

Seriously though , I do wish the Russians well. This will be the first World Cup hosted in Eastern Europe. And that alone, is pretty exciting stuff.

Perhaps they can re-purpose that one stubborn Olympic ring that wouldn’t light up and make it into a soccer ball.

They are building many new stadiums across the country for this. And that will be great news for some local economies.  In an effort to minimize travel though, they are only using venues west of the Urals. So sorry Vladivostok, no new stadium for you.

They are building a stadium in the city of Samara though. Samara is a large though little known (outside of Russia) city on the Volga and one that I have a special place for in my heart. It is hometown to my wife and my wonderful extended family. I have been there twice … once in summer … once in winter. Like Napoleon before me, when it comes to Russia, I recommend the summer.

The only question that remains though, is who will Russia invade immediately following the World Cup? The Ukraine? No … been there … done that. That’s so 2014.

Hmmm… I like the idea of them invading Germany for a little payback. Might be biting off a little more than they could chew though. The whole Germany being part of NATO thing is sure not to go unnoticed. No. It’ll probably be something smaller, closer to home and easier to gloss over.

Sleep with one eye open Belarus!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Nothing Super About Supermarkets

Almost all "Super” markets have now installed loads of self-checkout lanes where you can scan, pay and bag without the assistance of an employee. Great ...right?

Not so fast (Literally).

Good luck trying to figure out whether your fresh produce was organic, large, loose, or any other description (so always just select the cheapest and play dumb if questioned on the way out).

Every other item scanned - if you can get the scanner to recognize the bar code - will be followed by a message to "wait for assistance" - an ordeal requiring some after-school-working, nose-picking samsonite monkey to mosey over at their convenience (think "continental drift") … who invariably will need to call the assistant manager for "the key".

Don't kid yourself. This was not some kind-hearted attempt by the stores to give you a more hands-on experience or in ANY way speed your checkout. This is solely a way for them to cut down on employee’s wages and health benefits ... much like ATMS have greatly reduced bank payrolls to give the banks even more money to buy worthless mortgage-backed securities.

What you think was about $80 worth of groceries will end up be closer to $200 since in every aisle you can never figure out which of the 8 price stickers on the shelf applies to the 28 products shelved above (or is it below?) them.

There’s always some smart arse who is in the queue whilst his/her partner continues to shop … dropping items off into their cart every few minutes or so and then dashing off for something else.

The innumerate lummox in front of you thinks you haven’t noticed he has 27 products in the ‘express’ lane. And a OK-Magazine-reading octomom with bored brats has given up and let them cry, whine and generally run amok with their destructive behaviour now being measured in kilotons.

After watching the befuddled rocket scientist in front of you finally manage to scan all his goods, that process will be followed by excruciating minutes of watching him scan all 542 of his “buy 20 get one free” coupons. (Note: folks you ain’t saving money if you buy more than you need!). And then trying to stuff those coupons into the machine will take longer than the cooking time of all his products combined.

When I was a kid, I had a job stocking shelves in a supermarket AT NIGHT - WHEN THE STORE WAS CLOSED. Now they stock during open hours, blocking the aisles with massive dollies of processed crap and then they (the courtesy-challenged employees) give YOU (the customer) a dirty look when you ask them to move.

When you do check out with an actual cashier, there is always some blue-haired fossil ahead of you who actually seems startled by the fact that there is to be money involved in this transaction ... then goes hunting through his/her (but c'mon, we really know I mean HER) purse ...trying to find the exact change.

"Wait ... I think I have the 93 cents" - (TIP) If the cents part is over 50 cents, there is no value in finding the exact coins. Find the pennies to round it off to a 5 or 10 cent figure and then return every tissue you have ever used back into your carry-on-sized handbag. To pass the time, you try to guess who was president when she was born and decide it was probably Roosevelt (Teddy).

Today there were 15 people ahead of me in line; all with products that had incorrect bar-coded pricing (some of those products were probably not even from that supermarket's inventory). They all had no ID and wanted to pay with out-of-state starter checks. It was the cashier's first day on the job and she did not speak English.

But no matter how long it takes to do all my grocery shopping, wait in line at the deli, find everything on my list and check out ... it STILL always takes longer than that whole ordeal when you stop at the "customer service" (hahaha) counter on the way out?

There is usually one or less people (teen aged dolt) "working" there who devotes more attention to the customers on the phone than the ones ALREADY IN the freakin' shop. He/she can never find anyone's developed photos in less than an hour, has to page the manager for every transaction, can't find or figure out how to use the key that unlocks the glass cigar case, spends most of his/her time hiding in the back and has the IQ of sewage and the attention span of an opiated lab rat.

Then there is always one semi-evolved knuckle-dragger holding up the works because they want to check six hundred individual lottery tickets to see if they have a winner and then purchase 600 more ... each one some specialized specific combination of numbers ("Then one daily number, 6-3-8 ... 50 cents boxed, a dollar straight ...then 1 daily number 8-4-2 ... a dollar boxed .... One pick four 1-6-4-5 ... blah blah blah.")

And when they don't have Pall Mall Extra Light Menthol 100s in the soft pack, there is always some tar-lunged nimrod who then can't decide on a second choice of smokes. (This is usually the same guy who takes 40 minutes to specify the mix of flavors/varieties of a dozen artery-choking treats at the Dunkin Donuts).

And yes, there is always some socially-parasitic mouth-breather with limited language skills and body odor that could choke a rhino, trying to return an already-mostly-consumed item for some stupid reason like "the ratio of marshmallow clovers was too small compared to those bland untasty bits in my Lucky Charms cereal."

As a conscientious and intelligent member of society, you begin to feel woefully out of place; like Debra Messing in a Russ Meyer film.

And to top it all off, the line is dominated by acne-plagued employees seeking to cash their minimum wage checks or purchase some item with their 0.3% employee discount. And all I want is ONE freakin scratch off!

Watch in amazement as the non-functioning bottom feeder in front of you can’t figure out how to swipe their ATM card because instead of focusing on the task at hand, they are yammering on their cell phone.

“No I like got the small mushy peas in the can instead of like the fresh ones because mom likes the water in the cans. They didn’t have tofu burgers. And like … I got Trix instead because like there are never enough marshmallow bits in the Lucky Charms. So anyway, I heard that like Marcie likes Dave. Are you like going to Courtney’s party?…. Blah blah blah”

Thursday, July 19, 2007

America's Biggest Losers - TV Watchers!

Sorry for the prolonged absence. It was down to technical difficulties. That being that life gets in the way of blogging and all that. And whilst there are many topics to rant about … having tackled children’s television last time, it is time to turn my attention and wrath towards so-called adult-television.

I don’t mean “Adult” television as in trying to play ‘beat-the-clock’ during your 5-minute ‘free-view’ of “Spankovision” … though frankly, the insidious lack of socially redeeming material is not limited to cable porn.

The ‘plots’ of some really bad porn stories are actually better developed and thought out than the wafer-thin offerings on so-called conventional television these days.

When we returned from five years of living in England, I welcomed the return to where prime time television was not monopolized by – I kid you not – hours of …often consecutive nights of - darts tournaments and snooker!

I tried to get into watching snooker but was eternally confused by a woman on one of Britain’s gazillion ‘fashion’ TV shows who said that “brown was this year’s black.”

And don’t get me started on darts. Fat guys in polo shirts participating in a pub game hardly constitutes athletics in my book. So imagine my surprise to come back to America and see TV over-run with a plethora of competitive eating and poker tournaments!

Poker? TV has gotten so bad that we consider watching people playing cards to be entertainment? Strip poker maybe … but poker? Why not Old Maid or Go Fish? Oops, I may have inadvertently given an idea (undoubtedly their first) to TV “programming” executives.

I remember the excitement at the advent of cable TV in the 1980s … and dawn of all the new TV stations. 900 channels? WOW! Now there will ALWAYS be something good on!

Remember thinking that?

The 24-hour Fishing Channel!!!! Sounds riveting! I wanna be the first one in the trailer park to have it!


I recall the “experts” predicting that all those stations will have 24 hours per day of airtime to fill and it wasn’t exactly like the quality of TV was going to improve! It was not about quality. It was quantity baby!

Air time to fill? Why not use FILLER? Appeal to the late night lowest common denominator with infomercials and Infotainment.

Lord knows there are enough bad horror movies and nymphotainment/soft core porn to air (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

It about the year 2000 when I realized that ‘Gore vs. Bush’ wasn’t just a presidential race but an accurate description of your Friday night choices on Showtime and Cinemax.

And just who would sponsor this fluff? Phone Sex Chat hotlines of course!

Hands up anyone who thinks those gorgeous models in lingerie chatting on the phone look the same as the actual females who use those lines! Millions must. Such is the power of TV.

Combine those revenues with the cash cow of the daytime plethora of “have you been injured on the job” ambulance-chasers … and then cap the ‘production’ costs of the actual programming to the equivalent of the daily take of a child’s lemonade stand … and you too can become the next Ted Turner!

Incidentally, doesn’t it seem odd that the invention of television (delayed by World War II) took ages after the invention of radio because of the limited technology of the day in an effort to B-R-O-A-D-C-A-S-T the signal?

After all the toil and sweat of perfecting the system, we then regress the process into a (cable) wire-to-wire system? Hell, we could’ve done that in the first place and skipped all the time figuring out how to send the signal through the airwaves?

That would be the equivalent of say … the Romans inventing the aqueduct, vastly improving the lives of people by bringing water directly to their homes, and then dismissing that in favor of buying bottled water! Oh wait, that’s been done too.

Here I go sounding like my dad but …

When I was a kid …

We had three VHF stations; the network affiliates (CBS, ABC and NBC. Fox didn’t exist yet). We had three UHF local stations showing a mix of ‘classic’ syndicated reruns like I Love Lucy, Gilligan’s Island and The Munsters along with some kids programming and local sports. And there was one PBS station. And that was it.

Ask anyone under the age of 30 what UHF and VHF are and they’ll look at you like you just asked George Bush to define the concept of having an exit strategy.

Oh and if you missed your favorite show you had to wait until it was rerun in the summer (repeat season) because there were no VCRs, DVDs, DVRs, etc. Just what the hell is a podcast anyway?

And you know what? IF they had nothing good to air, they simply shut down overnight and ran a test pattern until the next morning. There’s an idea worth revisiting!

WE had ONE [black and white] TV in the whole household when I was a kid but it was (for the time) a ‘big screen’ with a whopping 25 inches!

I recall (in the late 1960s) getting up at 6 AM as a small boy and waiting for the National Anthem to play, indicating “the start of our broadcast day” which was then followed by a half-hour of some guy in a suit teaching sentence structure, or the alphabet or something kind of lame, followed by Dennis the Menace.

The urban skyline was dotted with television antennae. It looks the same now; only the elongated twisted metal antennae have been replaced with circular and oval Tivo and DirecTV dishes.

Back in the day, the urban landscape almost inexplicably included countless pairs of old sneakers tied together by the laces and flung up in the air until they dangled from utility wires over the street.

Hey why not … back then I think a pair of sneakers cost like 49 cents or something … not like today where you have to take a “one-time lump-sum (involving the deduction of outrageously predatory and exorbitant fees) on your annuity or structured settlement” in order to get your Nikes. Throw them over a phone line? What are you kidding?

Now I am not saying that Bewitched or Hogan’s Heroes constituted the second coming of Shakespeare, or that Family Affair broke new ground in cutting edge entertainment.

But bad as the jokes were, at least there was somebody writing them! Even those awful jokes they give to the hosts of America’s Funniest Videos were written (most likely minutes before airing).

Who remembers the TV writers’ strike oh 1988?

I dare say coincidentally, television has not been the same since. Hollywood in a panic began to stockpile scripts in anticipation of the walk-out. Scripts? You mean TV shows are actually written? By human beings?

To paraphrase a famous quote …

If you give an infinite amount of monkeys an infinite amount of typewriters, they will eventually write an episode of Desperate Housewives.
The plague of “reality” television can be partially blamed on the British who ‘developed’ Big Brother, Celebrity Big Brother, Survivor, Wife Swap and American Idol (called Pop Idol in Britain) amongst others.

Can’t you people see you are being hoodwinked? Are you THAT gullible that you can’t see that the TV people just don’t want to pay writers so they hook you with this crap? TV was long ago referred to as “the opiate of the people” but today it’s more like crack cocaine.

Are people THAT ignorant and apathetic that they don’t realize that the people with REAL power want you hooked on ‘reality’ TV, Inside Edition and Entertainment Tonight so you won’t occupy yourself thinking about (and perhaps doing something about) how they – the people with money and power – are screwing you and keeping you in your place?

“Well hell Bubba, so longs as I gots my 72” plasma HDTV, I is happy to go on living like a moron with a dead end job and no prospects for the future!”
The irony is of course that there is nothing ‘real’ about reality TV. And whilst some people say, “yeah I know that but it is still entertaining,’ the fact is that most people do think it is “real”. You put a camera on someone and I am sorry but they do NOT behave the way they would without one. And the producers deliberately goad and coerce outlandish behavior out of their hand-picked talking props.

Virtual reality? What the hell is wrong with virtuous reality?

The latest wave of reality shows are the so-called “America’s Next …. (Fill in the blank).

Next top model, pussycat doll, Donald Trump flunkey, designer, top chef blah blah blah. The surest way to disappear into obscurity is to ‘WIN’ one of these “contests.” When is the last time you ran out to Kmart to by the latest CD by Reuben from American Idol?

Wouldn’t it be nice if by the time we got around to picking this year’s American Idol, last
year’s winner hadn’t already blown the winnings, become more obscure than Ron Paul and working part time at his or her hometown Jiffy Lube?

You see the worst part is that for an entire generation, they won’t know anything but this mind-numbing mush. I am not one of those who advocates that TV be filled with nothing but opera and Macbeth. But God knows if that was all that was on, people would watch it.

But I do think we owe it to the younger generation … the “y” generation …or as I call them, the “Y Bother?” generation that there is more to life than this mental anesthesia.

Even the Gen Xers can recall when the “M” in MTV stood for music. You’ve got about as much a chance of seeing an actual music video on MTV as Britney Spears has of winning the mother-of-the-year award.
One on hand, I never liked music videos. Music should be an aural experience. The pictures should be provided from your own experiences of when you heard the song. Pick any song from the 70’s before music videos and I see an elaborate visual with colors truer than a Bollywood production. But the images are of my youth, the people I knew and the things we did when the song was on the radio.

But on the other hand, I’d rather watch an AHA video for 24 straight hours than three minutes of “Pimp My Crib” or whatever the hell it’s called.

Video did indeed kill the radio star. Can you imagine Meatloaf trying to make it as a new performer today? He doesn’t have “the look”. Simon Cowell would rip him a new one and then send him over to the folks at America’s Biggest Loser!

I’ve begged my wife and pleaded with all sincerity for her not to get hooked on one more “reality” show. A mere nano-second of one of them being heard by me in the next room starts to make me physically ill. But to no avail. Not only does she watch America’s Biggest Loser – which by the way … I think the title reflects any/all of its viewers – but she DVRs all the episodes she might otherwise miss.

She says she needs to rest her (Oxford educated) mind. But I fear it may lapse into a coma!

Has it come to this? Has watching fat people lose weight become mainstream entertainment? These people represent millions of Americans with a serious health problem … a problem that is (pardon the pun) growing at an alarming rate.

But watching them shed the pounds in the guise of a competition is a huge hit with the audience … most of whom (my wife excluded) I ironically imagine to be the very type of couch potato sloths who, when they lose the remote, the first place they look for it, is in the Doritos bag!

I can’t watch this. I CAN’T. Quick change the channel! Oh good … that’s better … It’s Takeru Kobayashi winning another hot dog eating contest! Most of the world is starving and we compete to gorge ourselves and then compete again to take off the weight! No wonder the world hates America.

And just what message are all these “America’s Next” shows sending the “Y Bother” generation?

Why bother WORKING … God forbid focusing all your power-drink-enhanced energy … on actually paying your dues and earning success when you can WIN a career, like some sort of church picnic raffle? They’ve turned the American work ethic into a game show.

All this insta-celeb culture leads me to rephrase the famous Andy Warhol quote because these people are getting 15 seconds of fame. These “stars’ have a shorter shelf life than an open tub of cream cheese on a hot afternoon in the Mojave.

I could launch into the whole psychobabble discussion of America’s (and indeed the world’s) addiction to fame, the famous and the paparazzi.

But as I see it, The National Enquirer outsells Time Magazine. So the dumbing down of America is inevitable. The powers (dare I say conspiracy) that want it that way are too strong to fight.

Wait …what’s that? There was another recent … almost unnoticed TV writers strike and the (12-person) writing staff of America’s Next Top Model became the first reality TV writers to go on strike?

They have WRITERS? What were they striking for? Etching there ON STRIKE sandwich boards gave them a chance to actually do some writing perhaps? All of which begs to ask the question ... where are America's Next Top Writers?

What’s next? America’s Next Top Plumber? America’s Next Top Janitor?

Why not launch America’s Next Top LEADER, in which all the Presidential candidates live together at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and we get to vote them off one at a time? I bet we’d get greater voter participation that we do in the elections!

Of course the top designer, top chef, top model shows all have the obligatory token caricature of the over-the-top overly campy, “I shoulda been on Will and Grace" gay guy. I’m not a homophobe …in fact … IF I were gay; I would be deeply OFFENDED by the clich├ęd and hackneyed single-minded portrayal that I feel borders on exploitation.

To me (and I respect your right to disagree) it would be like if every black man on television was forced to act like Rochester from The Jack Benny Show.

I hope I hear a murmur of support amongst the out-of-the-closet-without-being-extremely-effeminate male gay community? Not EVERY gay man prances around and flounces about like it’s some sort of Village People reunion at Rip Taylor’s house.

You don’t see Ellen Degeneres lifting weights or spitting tobacco to assert her sexuality now do you? She’s lesbian. We get that. But she is on TV because she is FUNNY and entertains us. If TV execs truly feel that just being gay is entertaining, then shame on them!

Not to be assumptive, but maybe the author of the following open letter MIGHT agree with me?

So what other choices are there?

Well let’s start with “The View” … which I often refer to as ‘The Vagina Dialogues.’

I think of it as …”PMTV” (In England, PMS is called PMT – substituting the word “tension” for the word “syndrome” – the rest is still pre-menstrual).

A bunch of cackling females, whining and moaning is fine if they served the purpose of elevating their predominantly house-wife (sorry … domestic engineer) audience. Instead it’s the coffee klatch from hell, like a beauty parlor on acid. It’s the only place you’ll see more bitches fighting than at Michael Vick’s house!

Though I personally reject the notion of being a “post modernist” and its smugly arrogant notions like, “we are at the end of history.” (Of course we are dipsh*t … everything else is the future) … I do prescribe to the theory that there is no originality left … or maybe it's just more cost efficient not to pursue it.

TV is not the only medium afflicted with this plague of spin-offs (of other spin-offs) franchising (see CSI, CSI Miami, CSI New York, CSI Hoboken etc.), blatantly copying successful shows from other networks etc.

Those attached to the more prestigious ‘big screen’ are just as bad. And by big screen I mean movies (not your 400-inch, rear projection, plasma, digital, HDTV, wall hugging ostentatious monstrosity that dominates your living room)

We are at a time when cinematic Hollywood is completely starved for a single original thought as well… leading to the regurgitation of every bad 60’s 70’s and 80’s sitcom and police drama as a ‘full length feature without the original cast of course … who are either too busy working as guest judges on “America’s Next …” shows, or perhaps are also working at Jiffy Lube.

We live in a time where Hollywood is making a movie about every comic book ‘superhero’ this side of Cuckoo Man … and spewing trilogies and sequels and prequels rather than (God-forbid) come up with something new.

My personal [least] favorite is the Ocean’s 11, 12 and 13 trilogy which not only is jumping the shark in every sequel but you must remember (and of course Hollywood is banking on the fact that most of the audience will be too young to remember) that Ocean’s 11 was actually a REMAKE of a classic Rat Pack film.

Did I just have an LSD relapse or did Sylvester Stallone REALLY release another Rocky movie last year? I mean come on. I guess we are about due for Police Academy 25 by now?

I read the jump-the-shark website
( which goes through a litany of TV shows and when exactly they “jumped the shark”

The phrase “jump the shark” is derived specifically from an episode of Happy Days when Fonzie jumped over a shark on water skis (Fonzie wearing them, not the shark) and has come to mean the obvious point, in which a television show has outlived its purpose … when, after hitting its peak, has begun a downward slide.

And I put it to you …that TV itself … has jumped the shark.

I used to enjoy the History Channel except that it is besieged by a program called 'Modern' Marvels. To me the words ‘history’ and ‘modern’ are mutually exclusive.
I watched the English version of The History Channel whilst we lived there and they seem to omit nearly all of the over 1,000 years of post Normanic Conquest, in favor of the six-year period of 1939-1945.

It’s essentially “Hitlervision” - All Hitler … All the time.

The obsessive Nazification of British franchise of the History Channel is the only place you’ll see more swastikas than at Marge Schott’s house.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go read a book.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Before I tackle the more general topic of the decline of television … I shall rant firstly about children’s television. As the father of a 4-year-old, I only get a few moments per week of control of the remote and I try to reserve them for an occasional sports event.

When I was a kid, if you missed your favorite kids show, you missed it – plain and simple. Now in the age of VCRs, DVRs, Recordable DVDs, and “On-Demand” cable … the kids can watch their favorite shows whenever they want. And in theory this is good. When I was young, I remember the hell we put our parents through trying to rush them through the Friday night supermarket trip to get home in time for The Brady Bunch.

What an innocent time, when kids’ prime time TV favorite was the story of a semi-functional step family … headed by the only architect in the world who would choose to raise six kids in a three-bedroom house.

I learned two great life lessons watching this show …

First … thanks to Greg

When mom finds cigarettes in your jacket pocket, be thankful she didn’t dig further and unearth the condoms.

And second … thanks to Marcia

When catching a football pass above the shoulders, one must place his/her thumbs together, and watch the ball into your hands ... otherwise one’s nose might be fractured.

But even with all the recordable options today, the kids still want the DVDs of the shows … episodes they have seen hundreds of times mind you, or could access through ‘On-Demand’ … but at $14-$20 a pop, the kids want what the kids want!

Like grown-up TV, kids TV has suffered from the expansion of available television channels. The vast quantity of stations has spawned a quality vacuum as the air time must be filled with something … anything … to get those little buggers to watch … preferably something that one can use to market teeth-rottening sweetened cereals … or better yet … the merchandising of the show itself.

Queen of the 30-minute commercial / kid’s shows is “Dora the Marketing Opportunity Explorer.”

From blankets to books to crayons to clothes … Dora is the Martha Stewart of Kids World. My child has Dora toys, cups, shirts, pajamas and of course … a backpack.

But let’s examine this show a little.

Dora is praised by children's tv critics and by educators, for teaching kids Spanish. She is clearly Mexican, much to the slight of our Cuban and Puerto Rican Spanish-speaking Americans. One of her gang is always “swiping” things. How does that go down as a stereotypical portrail of the Spanish-speaking community in this, our supposedly enlightened age of political correctness?

Dora engages in adventures that always require her to traverse three obstacles (with the aid of a talking map – I see an opening for some cross marketing with Garmin GPS inc.) She makes her audience repeat those three obstacles with her … For example ..

“To get to the prize (maybe a job as a migrant fruit picker) we have to get past the Rio Grande River …. The border patrol … and Fear-mongering Republicans … Say it with me … Rio Grande River … border patrol … fear-mongering republicans!”

Dora was so popular that she launched a spin-off of more adventures with her male cousin Diego ... thus furthering the angst of people like Pat Buchanan ... promoting xenophobia ... that once one gets in, they'll bring in their relatives!

Another extrememly popular kids’ show is “The Wiggles” … An Aussie quartet of cheesy musicians who sing kids songs about fruit salad. These four 30-40-something single males like kids a lot and I know I am not supposed to, but I find that a little frightening. They hang around with a pirate and a dinosaur (who doesn’t?) and dress in their own solid color, looking a bit like outback Starfleet Academy rejects.

Musically simple and kid friendly, the Wiggles are a sort of preschool Beatles (the nice ones - before they grew their hair long). I suppose that leaves ... in the Rolling Stones (bad boy) role ... the Doodlebops ... who are musically more original and even let their bus driver do the rap parts. I know I am looking at a lifetime of therapy for admitting this, but I can't help nut find DeeDee Doodle a little attractive in a "I wonder what she looks like under the face paint and chalky foam skin?" kind of way.

Then, there's "The Little Einsteins" This Disney channel favorite, features four kids who fly all over in a rocket ship. There are two females and two males (one of whom is black - thus meeting the P.C. requirement - although only the white male gets to drive the rocket).

These four imps set off on fantastic adventures where each episode has a featured classical composer and an artist. What that has to do with Einstein is beyond me. I never heard Einstein's "Quantum Concerto in MC squared minor" for example. I suppose they'll come up with a kid's show about science and call it "Little Mozarts"?

Perhaps even more disturbing to me is the friekish familiarity that the Leo character invokes ... as if he is someone else from another time ... someone I knew and trusted as a youth. Could it be? I'm not sure but ... perhaps if I jumped into my 'way-back' machine, I could go back to the children's TV of my youth and see that Leo is infact, the 3rd millenium incarnation of Sherman!

Another favorite program of my 4-year-old is "Bear in the Big Blue House" ... although you have to get up with the farmers these days for its (6 AM) airing on Playhouse Disney. Bear is a likeable fellow. I am always slightly squirmish when TV teaches pre-schoolers that bears and other ferocious animals are really just big friendly teacher types.

"Bear" did release a very popular and effective home video aid for toilet/potty training ... where the characters all sing that they are "toiletteers"! ... thus eternally confusing our youngsters to the question ... "does a bear shit in the woods?" - Not unless he has a potty out there.

It's amazing how the innocently delivered sub-messages of kids' shows can serve to confuse us well into our school years. I remember when I was in first grade, thinking that ... in terms of chronological history ... the caveman days must have come after colonial times ... because the Flintstones were cavemen, yet they had cars, record players, bowling alleys etc. whilst the colonials wrote with feathers by candlelight.

Another program that baffles me is "Caillou" ... the inquistively whining milquetoast chemotherapy-looking, bald kid, with the wimpy enabler parents. They give this kid a first name (pronounced "Kie-you") that sounds like a cajun word for "let the playground beatings begin" and if that's not enough to ensure misfit status, they give him less hair than Charlie Brown.

Although Americans must take the blame for the origins of the most irritating tv character (no, not Bill O'Reilly) ... I talk of course of Barney ... the mainstays of irritating kids characters comes from England. They of course gave us The Teletubbies, Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank Engine.

However, the Brits also gave us one of the most enduring classics in Winnie the Pooh. Brits were rightfully beside themselves when Disney purchased the rights to Pooh from the family of A.A. Milne.

Though waning in popularity ... "so last year" according to most preschoolers ... "Sponge Bob" continues to irk parents on a daily basis. The so-called multi-level humor - ie, a portion of the humor that will go over the heads of the kids, but can be appreciated by the parents - is in the mold of "Ren & Stimpy" ... but at least "Ren & Stimpy" were targeted to adults first and kids second, unlike our porous, sea-faring, absorbant, bottom-feeding friend.

And inevitably of course, there's "Boo Bah"

Teaching our children, the ins and outs ... of what is essentially a boob box acid trip ... these rotund furry carbon-based globules of existence, streak across the sky, leaving colorful trails and communicating in some sort of squeek language under the guise of children's educational television. Somewhere in the dark recesses of the creator's mind, lies a freudian nightmare laced with laudnum induced apocalyptic visions ... sort of Jim Henson meets Colonel Walter E. Kurtz.

Sesame Street continues on. Though I was just a tad too old to be into the 'Street' when it premiered, it is still recognized as the leader in preschool educational TV. Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood is still being aired though I am pretty sure Fred Rogers has gone to that big cardigan-wearing magic kingdom in the sky, which is a little difficult to explain to a 4-year-old.

By the way, here is a little trivia you can use at your next cocktail soiree ... Fred Rogers was born in Latrobe, PA. ... the same town that gave us Rolling Rock beer ... which is kind of 'sneakers and old sweater' brew ... watered-down and harmless ... but still ... in a weird and twisted kind of way .. it's kind of a strange coincidence ...max respect Mr. R.!

While I doubt Fred actually ever downed a six of 'ponies' ... at least he didn't hail from Intercourse, PA.

But of the children's TV of my (late baby boomer) generation, what's wrong with showing the kids the classics ... the gratuitously violent, non-educational, mind-numbingly simple, child-occupying drivel that I loved so much? I speak of Top Cat, Sylvestor the Cat, Tom & Jerry, Felix the Cat, Josie and the Pussycats (I had an early feline fixation) ... not to mention Bugs Bunny, Road Runner, The Wacky Racers, Prince Planet, Speed Racer, Astroboy, Aquaman et al.

For non-animated classics, we had 'Juvenile Jury' (Insert your own OJ joke here).

There was also Captain Kangaroo, though I personally didn't dig the Captain. As a child of the late 60's I was far more into the groovy "Romper Room" where (belive it or not) an oversized bumble bee (waiting for a break in Mexican TV no doubt) called "Mr. Doobie" ... aided the scary Orwellian hostess (Miss Sally) to look through a glassless mirror to (as she claimed) SEE through the TV and see who was watching her! Oh FREAK me out and instill a lifetime of issues on me why don't ya!

Kids' TV today is too commercial-driven to be creative but the multimedia availability is something I would have loved to have had as a kid. Now as a parent I can only long for the day when my child outgrows this tripe and uses the TV what it's meant for ... the XBox!

Can it be long before Kids 'reality' TV comes along? Rumer has it that PBS is developing a potty training reality show called "Poop Idol".