Sunday, February 27, 2011
That's how long it's been since I was part of Mary Kiern's journalism class at East Jefferson High School in Metairie, Louisiana.
And even after forty three years, I still remember not only her name and what she looked like but, more poignantly, two of her basic teachings.
Good reporting boils down to "who, what, when, where and why"
And less is always more.
I thought of "Proud Mary" today as I read this piece.
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Journalist Kathleen Parker is leaving CNN talk show "Parker Spitzer," and the prime-time program will be revamped with former New York governor Eliot Spitzer remaining, alongside others, CNN said on Friday.
CNN said Parker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist was leaving to focus on her writing. The "Parker Spitzer" talk show debuted in October to disappointing ratings, and critics said the pair lacked chemistry as a duo.
Spitzer has sometimes been appearing solo in recent weeks, chairing a more hard news-oriented show about politics and the upheavals in Arab states.
"We have been pleased with how the 8 p.m. hour has become a centerpiece of substantive, policy-oriented conversation, and we are looking forward to building on that with this new format, " CNN executive vice president Ken Jautz said in a statement.
Jautz said the new program would be called "In the Arena" and it will adopt an ensemble format with several newsmakers, guests and contributors joining Spitzer each night. On a regular basis, Spitzer will co-host the show alongside news anchor E.D. Hill and conservative columnist Will Cain.
Bet the farm had I turned this in, lo those four decades ago, PM would have had me re-read it a couple of times, ponder my work and then do a re-write with her admonitions fresh in front of me.
Who, what, when, where and why.
Less is always more.
Chances are the re-write would have read something like this...
Journalist Kathleen Parker is leaving the CNN talk show "Parker Spritzer" to focus on her writing. She apparently realized that the program is only moderately more entertaining than watching paint dry.
Mrs. Kiern, most likely, would have read the re-write and offered that the last sentence was both the inclusion of a personal opinion and unnecessary as it answered the "why" that had already been addressed in the first sentence.
To wit, she would have red penciled it.
Mary was sharp, though.
She would have red penciled it.
But she would have agreed with me.
Saturday, February 26, 2011
For the obvious reasons.
All this Sheen scuttlebutt, though, has served to remind me of another show biz name.
Writer, producer, actor, humorist and, at this writing, gently nudging the beginning of his 89th year of life.
His list of accomplishments is lengthy and diverse (it's worth taking a few minutes to Google him and take a look), but my guess is that when his time comes to shuffle off the coil, the focus of the obits will be three fold.
1. Multiple Emmy award winning creator, producer and sometime co-star of the seminal sixties sitcom, "The Dick Van Dyke Show".
2. Father of Rob Reiner, the "All In The Family" actor and director of such successful films as "When Harry Met Sally" and "A Few Good Men".
3. Co-star of the "Ocean's _______" movies with George Clooney and Brad Pitt.
That last entry, by the by, will be the contemporary media's (read: young turks)means of providing the information necessary to make bothering to mention the man "relevant" in this culturally nutrition-less Age of Kardashian.
Personally, I think you could go with number one and let it go with that.
The proof, dear Brutus, to be found by clicking over to You Tube, et al and taking a look at an episode or two of the show.
In fact, save yourself some time and just watch the first half of the episode included below. (Part 2 can be found at You Tube)
This is comedy of the first order.
Sharp, witty, relatable and, give or take a little comedic license, totally realistic.
And not a single boob joke, ass joke or smart ass kid to be found.
And it was written,directed and acted by...Carl Reiner.
I read, this morning, in the latest "news" about the ongoing saga of Charlie Sheen and his issues that "Two And A Half Men" is now considered the most popular and successful sit com of all time.
Carl Reiner will, of course, eventually be in the news again when he passes.
Not for years to come, God willing, creek don't rise.
On that day, I can already tell you that I will experience two obvious and distinct emotions.
Appreciation for the gift I received in the form of the genius of Carl Reiner.
Sadness that "Two and Half Men" is now considered the most popular and successful sit com of all time.
Come to think of it, I'm already halfway there.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
That said, I'll lay down a thousand bucks and bet you that Rush, Glenn, Sean and Ice Coulter, along with their cronies and/or followers will be all over Obama for not manning and six gunning up in Khadafi's face the way he did in Mubarek's.
I am not a political scientist.
But even I'm astute enough to know there are good reasons to be very careful about what noses we go tweaking in Libya.
And here's a guy who has articulated it beautifully.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Can't be too thin or too rich.
Jenny Craig would likely argue articulately against the former.
And just about anybody I know personally would dispute the latter.
Present company included.
Here's a thing, though.
I'd offer that while knowledge is, indeed, power, there comes a point.
Put another way...
There is such a thing as knowing too much.
And anybody over the age of, say, thirty knows it.
Especially if that thirty something has kids.
Because its in the eyes of those kids that we see the innocence that can only come from pure joy, pure excitement, pure, as yet untarnished, belief that the rest of life will be as fun and/or cool as those first few years.
Those years of backyard buddies and birthday parties, of wonder and awe, of love given with no strings attached, of affection shared with no agenda other than the desire to share.
Insanity is hereditary.
You get it from your kids.
Admittedly, there are moments in the hectic day to day when that seems to ring a little too true.
That said, it's only fair to say that there's something else we get from the little ones, as well.
The gift of moments of a return to that pure joy and wonder we knew when we were the little ones.
Moments of backyard buddies...and birthday parties.
Moments when we knew just enough.
Happy birthday, ladybug.
Thanks for the gifts.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Some radio producers may have inadvertently stumbled upon the long held secret recipe for Coca-Cola.
Now...find out why hot dogs still come in tens while buns come in eights?...
You'll have my undivided attention.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Obviously, I'm not watching as, just as obviously, I'm writing this piece instead.
First, let me come clean.
I have, through the years, been nominated for, and in some cases been given, a variety of awards.
Various writing awards, various "acknowledgements" and/or "honorable mentions" as a result of producing and hosting a successful radio show in several different parts of the country over a period of years.
At one time, multiple "ADDY" Awards bestowed for achievement in writing and composing commercials and commercial jingles.
And more than a few years ago, I was, in fact, nominated for a Grammy, having co-written a song that appeared on bluegrass artist Claire Lynch's Grammy nominated album "Lamplighter".
When an album is nominated, all the songs are considered part of the whole, ergo the writers of said songs are considered nominees, as well.
I would be lying if I said that I haven't done my share of mentioning/boasting/bragging on my own bad self with regards to the aforementioned recognition.
That said...in my heart of hearts, I am not now, nor have I ever been, much of an award fan.
Possibly because I'm genetically predisposed to be cynical about most things in the first place.
Probably because I long ago formed an opinion about most awards that hasn't changed much since the days my gray turning to white hair was a lush, lovely brown.
They are, for the most part, bullshit.
And the Grammys, increasingly, exemplify the excremental example.
"Artistic achievement" is, has been and will always be, in the best of cases, a purely subjective determination.
And more and more in recent years, the Grammys which still insist on calling themselves "awards for artistic achievement" have ended up being given, with a few, minor, token exceptions to the singers and/or writers who are the hottest of the hot in any given award year.
Put simply...popularity contests.
Sell the most CD's and you're most likely to win a Grammy.
Well, shit...good job selling CD's...I mean, seriously, congrats!
But artistic achievement?
No, not so much, necessarily.
Now you're talking.
George C. Scott infamously refused to acknowledge either the nomination or eventually winning of an Oscar in the 70's for his amazing performance as the title character in the classic film, "Patton".
His logic, while admittedly buzzkilling, was undeniably legitimate.
Saying one actor was better than another was like saying one fruit is better than another.
Apples and oranges.
Grammy is the audio first cousin of Oscar.
And the whole Grammy Awards show, like the CMA Show and the ACM show, et al is really nothing more than a three hour infomercial for the applicable industry and/or group of performers.
Should they go away?
Hell, no. Who can't enjoy an evening complete with Gaga climbing out of a big ass egg?
But, let's get real, gang.
Genuine artistic achievement trumping the top ten selling singers at the Grammys has the same chance of happening as the presidents of the audio/visual and chess clubs being chosen homecoming king and queen.
It's an honor just to be nominated.
But it's also no big deal.
Simply writing/reading them doesn't work.
If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.
You can't "write" silence.
If I were telling the joke, though, the joke would have paid off handsomely.
I'm reminded of that literary limitation as I share the following news item regarding the state that has the single worst eating habits in the United States.
Actually, this isn't news to me.
I've not only heard/read this information in other places at other times, but I lived and worked in Mississippi for a couple of years that, thankfully, seem like a long, long time ago now.
And, being the impish scamp that I am inclined to be from time to time, I actually shared this information with the listeners of the morning radio show I was doing right there in the clogged artery capital of the country.
I suspect the laughs were few.
Laughing at oneself while eating oneself to death tend to be contradictory tendencies.
And while I wasn't averse to lampooning (or harpooning, as the case may be) the hand that was feeding/listening to me, I did show a modicum of discretion.
I never aired the obvious punchline.
Which I am proud to share here, exclusively, for the very first time anywhere with all of you who so graciously allow this blog into your homes, hearts and hard drives.
The setup: "Mississippi leads the nation in adult and child obesity, as well as all of the associated health risks and damages resulting from, literally, eating and drinking themselves to death............"
The punchline: "...experts believe that this phenomenon is a direct result of people realizing that they live in Mississippi.."
Given the aforementioned limitations of writing, as opposed to verbalizing, humor, I realize that the laughter invoked here will have to be assumed.
And that whole business about "if you don't have anything nice to say...?
INSERT SILENCE HERE.
It's hard not to look at Ann Coulter.
Because let's fess up, guys, fifty years from now, she and her grown grand-kids are going to come across a picture of her from the year 2011 and, in poignant Rose DeWitt Bukater style, she's going to rightly opine...
"...wasn't I a dish?..."
Which makes it all the more bittersweet that she's both an icon...
...and a moron.
Iconic in the way she so perfectly symbolizes every quality that causes the word "conservative" to leave a bad taste in the mouth of anyone who doesn't accept Rush Limbaugh as their lord and savior.
Moronic in the way she exhibits those qualities.
On the bright side, I suppose if you have to be subjected to the gale force winds of a world class blowhard, it's, at least, a plus to have a hottie doing the blowing.
Sexual innuendo is, sincerely, unintentional, but, obviously, inevitable.
Here's an update on the latest prevailing winds from way over there on the right.
Lately, as I find myself actually interested in, at least, listening to the opinions and perspectives of the firm of Hannity, Palin, Coulter,O'Reilly, Beck and Associates, I also find it difficult to get past what I've always considered to be a deep crack in the basic foundation of their credibility.
It comes remarkably close to qualifying as "biting the hand that feeds."
Let's talk, for a sec, about the bane of their existence.
Socialism is to the members of the aforementioned righteous right, what global warming is to Al Gore.
That which, if left unchecked, is going to eventually destroy us all.
The difference I can't seem to get past is that no one who is sincerely and legitimately engaged in the quest of ending global warming is, at the same time, exhibiting blatantly anti-green behavior.
On the other hand (most likely, of course, the right hand)...
Here's a fun list I found of what, by any fair, reasonable and..wait for it...centrist definition, could be fair and reasonably classified as "socialist" programs.
The United States Postal Service...delivering mail to every citizen, regardless of race, creed, color and/or political philosophy...
The Federal Communications Commission...regulating potentially harmful radio and TV programming to every citizen, regardless of....
The Federal Aviation Authority...preventing aircraft from crashing in the front yards of every citizen, regardless of...
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration...taking one or more giant leaps for mankind on behalf of every citizen, regardless of...
The Social Security Administration...providing at least the semblance of a sure income to every senior citizen, regardless of...
The Food and Drug Administration...preventing the sale and distribution of substances that could possibly harm or kill every citizen, regardless of....
The list, like the beat, goes on.
And just to bring it all home....
The local community/neighborhood/condo association...preventing the unsightly blight of freshly washed, draped over the balcony sheets and cinder blocked auto chassis from spoiling the sub-divisional ambiance on behalf of every resident, regardless of....
Suddenly, in the background, I'm hearing the soft sounds of a voice I'm thinking is Jack Nicholson speaking the scripted words of Aaron Sorkin.
"...I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then question the manner in which I provide it."
The problem, dear Brutus, with those like Rush and Sean and Ann (oh, my...)isn't that they don't believe passionately in what they believe.
It's that they don't practice what they preach.
And, as a rule I would offer, neither do any of the "every day citizens" who so vehemently, if not vitriolically, stand up for and behind, if slightly to the right, those who preach the preaching.
As for me...when Coulter and company convince me that they don't send or receive mail, watch TV or listen to radio, cheer our space explorers on in their journeys, travel by commercial airliner, personally receive, or know anyone who receives, monthly government checks or ever stop by the local Rite Aid to have a prescription filled on the way home to their exclusive and, undoubtedly, gated community, then I will passionately defend, without equivocation, their right to be heard and, more importantly, taken seriously.
Until then, sit down and shut up, Ann.
You look marvelous, darling.
You sound like an idiot.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
75 years old.
Iconic, impeccable and absolutely no need for an Auto Tune.
Listen and learn, Idol wannabes....
"Egypt, Schmeegypt....the really breaking news is that Scarlett Johansson is NOT dating Sean Penn..."
Meanwhile, I notice yet another "name abreev" has been spawned, as in JLo, Brangelina, et al.
First of all, if I were Scarlett, I would take exception to that moniker on at least two levels.
If you're important enough to be talked about, you're important enough to have your full name used in the talking.
If you insist on abreeving the name, then come up with something that doesn't sound like a facially damaged, rabid St. Bernard in a Stephen King novel.
Come to think of it, I think I've reached a sufficient level of celebrity that I should entertain the idea of being abreeved.
First, and most obvious, suggestion that comes to mind...
Sounds like a James Bond villain.
From Wikipedia....Melisma, in music, is the singing of a single syllable of text while moving between several different notes in succession. Music sung in this style is referred to as melismatic, as opposed to syllabic, where each syllable of text is matched to a single note.
Latest, most newsworthy, case of melisma run amuck....
John Eskow has written a wonderful piece on the subject.
Aspiring wordsmith that I am, I was especially charmed by his "she kidnapped the song and shipped it out to be tortured.."
Three pointer from the floor and nothing but net, there, John.
And now, I have two new, perfectly crafted, words to employ when that often discussed subject once again pops up in conversation with peers, colleagues and friends.
And while polite debate can, obviously, argue the placement of blame for the modern revival of their abuse from Aretha to Ray to Mariah to Whitney and back again, I stand pretty solidly behind my own assertion that the real, however well intended, culprit in the contamination of the warbling water supply was Sam Harris, Star Search, Class of 83.
Whoever and whenever notwithstanding, one thing remains arguably certain.
It pretty much amounts to musical masturbation.
As in, they may be getting off, but we're not.
Mixed company being what it is, though, a more discreet term is indicated.
Turns out there is one.
The back yard of our house adjoined miles and miles of desert mountain terrain complete with sagebrush, cacti and the assorted vertebrates and non that call such landscape home.
One caveat commonly issued by parents as we went about the business of childhood play in the great outdoors had to do with respecting, and keeping clear of, the more potentially dangerous of God's creatures.
One caution, in particular, has stuck with me all these years, if only for its delightful combination of wit and warning.
"Be careful that you don't pick up a snake to kill a stick."
What has happened in Egypt this past week is, by any measure, remarkable.
And there is something in human nature that, undoubtedly, has all of us, regardless of race, creed, color, faith or sitcom preference, cheering for those who have stood up to tyranny and, with sheer force of will, driven the bad guy out of Dodge.
But out with the bad is only the overture, not the big finish.
And what remains to be seen is who and /or what will fill the void that "the people" have created with their courage and determination.
At this writing, that's a military that has exhibited symptoms of being able to walk a thin line between the happy ending and the dark side of the force.
Put simply...the liberty and freedom that Egyptians have demanded and deserve is a fat lady.
And she hasn't come close to singing yet.
Here's hoping that she'll soon be wailing like an over-caffeinated Aretha.
And that the people of Egypt don't find they've picked up a snake to kill a stick.
First, the latest news.
The definition of mixed feelings.
Seeing your mother-in-law drive off a cliff...in your new brand new Lexus.
The definition of optimism.
That Sarah Palin will, in fact, run for president in 2012 and "the American people" will, by voting, in massive numbers, for just about anybody else from the very first primary on, finally get it through her admittedly charmingly coiffed head that she is a featherweight in a business already overloaded with feathers, thereby turning any idea of a future candidacy into...
...an old joke.
Monday, February 7, 2011
It's Monday night.
We've all had our fun, but now it's time to let Christina Aguilera off the hook for bobbling the anthem.
First, fair being fair, you get up in front of ten people, let alone tens of thousands and let those stanzas fly.
Yeah, that's what I thought.
Second, it's time to get serious about retiring this overwrought, overblown obstacle course disguised as patriotism and replace it with a piece that more realistically reflects the dignity, grace and passion that we all feel about our country.
More on that in a minute.
As for Mr Francis Scott Key and his saber saw of a singalong, check out these fun factoids...
Francis Scott Key penned the words as a poem, not a song. Originally entitled "Defence of Fort McHenry," the poem focused on the attack on the base by the British Royal Navy during the War of 1812.
According to the National Park Service, Key, who was a prominent lawyer, attempted to negotiate the release of a friend who was being held by the Brits on a warship. The Brits agreed to release him, but insisted that the men stay on the ship until the battle ended. It was from there that Key witnessed the attack and saw that the American flag was still flying in the morning. The Fort had not surrendered.
Over the years, the lyrics have changed here and there, but remain largely the same. The Library of Congress hosts an original draft of Key's words. But of course, the words are only half the tune. The actual music is an old drinking song called "To Anacreon in Heaven," written by composer John Stafford Smith.
And, an interesting footnote: The Star-Spangled Banner, while an immensely popular patriotic tune for centuries, wasn't always the national anthem. That didn't happen until Herbert Hoover signed an act in 1931.
...and left us with poem sung to the tune of a drinking song designated our national anthem by the president whose main claim to fame is the greatest depression this country has ever experienced.
Talk about your buzzkill in the key of B flat.
Here's a thought.
We lived without the Star Mangled from 1776 all the way to 1931 and chances are pretty good the empire wouldn't come rocking off the foundation if we were to suck it up and admit to ourselves that it was time to put it, and ourselves, out of the misery.
All with a very nice ceremony and a permanent place in the Smithsonian and all that other reverential folderol, of course.
Followed by the ceremony welcoming its replacement.
A song we've all been joyfully singing along with since the second grade and which, to my knowledge, has never been bobbled, boggled, garbled or mangled at any event in which anthemic prologuing might be appropriate.
A song melodically both haunting and stirring, lyrically rich with every iconic image that is grand, gorgeous and majestic about this lovely and amazing country.
This beautiful America.
America, the Beautiful.
Francis Scott Key...meet Ray Charles.
Talk about the soul of America.
Bet even Christina Aguilera wouldn't bobble it.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
And some fun facts to know and tell.
First, a fun fact you very likely already know or have guessed...
In 1919, Curly Lambeau decided to start a football team in the small Wisconsin town of Green Bay. Akron, Canton, Dayton, Hammond and Muncie all had teams, so it wasn't a stretch for Lambeau to start a franchise in his hometown. He just needed some funding to get off the ground.
At the time, Lambeau was earning $250 per month as a shipping clerk at a local meatpacking company. He convinced his employer to put up $500 for jerseys and equipment and also got permission to use the company's athletic field for practice. With all that support from the packing company, it was a natural that the team call itself the Packers.
The affiliation with the Indian Packing Company soon ended and before the team's first official NFL season, the company was absorbed by the Acme Packing Company. For a time, the team wore "Acme Packers" on the jersey. In each official NFL season, the team has been known as the Green Bay Packers. Both companies would soon be out of business, but the name stuck.
Now..here's a fun fact that might surprise you...
Enjoy a good game.
Learn something new every day.
Is this a great country or what?
(SFX) A barely audible, yet obviously distinguishable, squeaking sound.
Michelle opens her eyes and, head still, looks back and forth.
Barack lies quietly, his eyes still closed.
Michelle raises her head slightly and looks around the bedroom.
Do you hear that?
(SFX) The squeak gets slightly louder and is clearly audible now.
Sounds like a squeaking....
Barack, still lying still, eyes closed, breaks into a slight smile.
It's just Sarah.
Barack yawns and turns over.
It'll stop in December 2012.
Go back to sleep.
Michelle rolls her eyes, turns over and puts a pillow over her head.
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Please enjoy the attached video.
And, yes, they look like your grampa, they're built like your grampa and they are as old as (or older than) your grampa.
But, mind your manners, kids....
...cause they can still kick your daddy's ass....
Today, though, I'd like to talk to you about something that deserves our every effort to eradicate.
Old fart fogeyism.
This insidious condition presents itself when something "now" tweaks the sensiblities of someone from "then", accompanied by sounds of "tsk, tsk" usually followed by some sardonic lament about how "it used to be"....
I came across this "headline news" on CNN.com
Almost immediately, my pulse raced, my brow furrowed and I found myself hearing that inevitable "how it used to be" thing clanging in my head like the screech of a Snooki...
Followed by the rhetorical question "how would Walter Cronkite have delivered this dramatic development?"
And don't even get me started on what level of Def Con Brinkley's smirk would have gone to.
Old fart fogeyism.
Join me in putting an end to it once and for all.
After all, it was the great Bob Dylan who said it best...
"...and don't criticize what you can't understand / for the times they are a changin'...:
Then again, Bob Dylan is, like, what, two thousand years old now?
One man was struck in the head and another was hit in the shoulder, said Arlington Fire Department spokesman Pete Arevalo. They were in stable condition Friday afternoon. The other four injuries were considered minor. Initial reports conflicted on the number of injured and the severity of the injuries.
Hmmm....not to cast aspersions on that guy's story, but that "ice falling off the building and hitting me" thing seems oddly familiar.....
I want an official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200 shot range model air rifle!
Jay Leno: "And how 'bout that storm in Chicago? It was so bad at O'Hare Airport, TSA agents were frisking passengers with ice picks."
Conan O'Brien: "In Chicago, mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel has been pitching in, digging cars out of the snow. ... Of course Emanuel didn't help his campaign because he kept telling people, 'Thank God I don't live here.' "
We rest our case.
According to records, the "Sarah Palin" trademark was filed November 5, just days after the 2010 midterm elections.
More interesting timing? Bristol Palin's application was filed September 15, five days before she appeared on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars."
George Foreman Grills, Chia Pets, Head On, Shake Weights...Sarah Palin...Bristol Palin...
Yeah...seems about right.