Thursday, May 24, 2012

"...Extra! Read All About It!...Or Just Hit Delete....Your Call...."

Here's one of those stories that isn't necessarily what it seems.

The Times-Picayune, which won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina, announced on Thursday a plan to slash its print publication to three days a week—effectively leaving New Orleans without a daily newspaper.  

As part of the move, the New York Times reports that there will be "massive" layoffs at 175-year-old Times-Picayune as the paper focuses its efforts on

The Newhouse family, which owns Advance Publications, the Times-Picayune's parent company, shuttered the Ann Arbor News in similar fashion in 2009. The print rollback will begin later this year, when a "new digitally focused company launches this fall with beefed up online coverage".

NOLA Media Group will significantly increase its online news-gathering efforts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while offering enhanced printed newspapers on a schedule of three days a week. The newspaper will be home-delivered and sold in stores on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays only.

   On Wednesday, according to the website Best of New Orleans, the paper's staffers greeted the impending news with collective shock: Tonight, in private homes, on porches and at least one bar, employees of The Times-Picayune gathered to collectively absorb the shock of a New York Times report that the paper is about to undergo a massive restructuring that will leave New Orleans without a daily published newspaper--just as longtime local publisher Ashton Phelps prepares to leave and be replaced by Ricky Mathews, publisher of the Mobile Press-Register and president of Advance Alabama/Mississippi.  

"I had to find this out by Twitter," one staffer told the site. "Do I go in to the office tomorrow? Do I even have a job to go in to tomorrow? I don't know. No one has called me. No one has said anything."  

According to a Best of New Orleans source, the editorial staff will be cut by at least a third, "top brass will be fired and reporters who remain aboard will take sharp salary cuts and be expected to start blogging through the day."  

Advance also announced Thursday that three other newspapers it owns in Alabama--the Birmingham News, Huntsville Times and Press-Register of Mobile--will move to a three-day-a-week printing schedule, too.  

The Times-Picayune won the 2006 Pultizer Prize for public service reporting for its coverage of Katrina, as staffers rode out the storm in its offices, reporting despite power failures that shut down its printing presses.

This story caught my eye because I "grew up" in N.O., having moved there in my late elementary school years and lived there until married, working and the father of the first of two children.

So, I feel a certain "hometown" attachment to the Crescent City.

(Enough of an attachment, while we're at it, to know that "Crescent City" is, and always has been, a genuine city nickname as opposed to "The Big Easy" which, hand to God, I never heard until the Jeff Bridges / Ellen Barkin movie appeared in 1987, perhaps the first recorded instance of a city acquiring a nickname as the result of some stereotypical scripting being foisted upon the town by a Hollywood screenwriter....tail wagging the dog and all that).

But, I digress.


The demise of the daily published print edition of The Times-Picayune, while a little sad and, to the folks who made their living with it, more than just a little painful doesn't qualify for inclusion as a topic on that most perennial of cultural presentations, "The Blame Game."

Younger, more self absorbed types might offer up a simple "shit happens."

The more mature, more compassionate among us might contribute a "that's the way it goes."

Technically, both points of view are correct.

But both, essentially, miss the point.

Time marches on.

And things change.

And just as it was a little sad and, to the folks who made their living with it, more than just a little painful when the local blacksmith had to shut down to make way for the new local tire dealer, the local eight track tape player factory had to shut down to make way for the new local cassette player factory (and that one continues to play itself out with each new daily updating and/or rebooting), it is a little sad and, to the folks who made their living with it, more than just a little painful that the Times-Picayune has to "stop the presses" to make way for the digital news sources that are available on a laptop, PC and/or smartphone near you.

While it's, at best, a little tasteless and, at worst, blatantly rude to make light of one's loss of livelihood, it is, at the same time, not inappropriate or inaccurate to offer that the end of the Times Picayune is not so much about social and/or economic revolution as it is, simply, about cultural evolution.

Time marches on.

And things change.

And whether it comes to us folded up in a rubber band, tossed on or near the front porch or from a few clicks of a mouse, that shouldn't come as news to anybody.

Monday, May 21, 2012

"...And What About That Whole Three's A Crowd Thing?...Yeah, What About THAT?..."

Got three minutes?

Read this.

And what follows.

Nicely written slant on the whole "dying in three's" thing, a crowd favorite that with the recent passings of Duck Dunn, Donna Summer and, yesterday, Robin Gibb has reared its mythological head once again.

Or would that be for the third time?

Here's the thing about the thing, though.

It's not really about a number.

It's about relativity.

Duck Dunn, Donna Summer and Robin Gibb.

That, for many, as of this moment, makes three.

At this same moment, though, a lot of my friends, collegues and peers are saddened by the news of the passing, today, of Rusty Walker, a much respected, well known (inside the radio industry) broadcast consultant.

Celebrity? Well his passing has already appeared as a headline in several well known radio and/or country music publications and website, so, yeah, celebrity.

Ergo, I think it would not be unreasonable to ask the aforementioned friends, collegues and Rusty's passing actually the fourth of that group, negating the whole dying in 3's thing or is his passing the first passing of the next group of three?

By the way, the whole "3" thing got its "start", according to legend in 1959 with the plane crash deaths of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper.

With assorted re-inforcment through the years including, but not limited to, the 1977 plane crash that killed three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Thank heaven the Osmond Family tour plane never went down or we'd be dealing today with the "dying in 27's" thing.

Due respect, sincere condolences to the respective families on their losses and tongue removed from cheek, here's the other thing about the dying in 3's thing.



It's one of those little impish activities the human brain likes to conjure up for us to amuse itself, enthrall us and amaze and dazzle your friends and family.

But, from an empirically logical point of view, it's very much like this old chestnut.

"you always find what you're looking for in the last place you look....."

Well, hello.

Of course, you do.

Because when you find stop looking for it, so, naturally, it's the...last place you look.

Unless, of course, you're one of those people who looks for things in groups of three.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"...The Family That's Cursed Together......"

Yellow Volkswagens.

Fears of existential ramblings are groundless, by the way, so not to worry.

I'll connect the dots shortly.

(CNN) -- A New York medical examiner will begin an autopsy Thursday on Mary Kennedy, the estranged wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who was found dead at her Westchester County home. She was 52.

Her death is the latest for a family that has seen its share of tragedy.

"We know from a history of this family, it's very hard being a Kennedy, either being a blood Kennedy or being married to one," Laurence Leamer, a Kennedy biographer, said on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront." "The overwhelming celebrity, the attention, the obligations, the expectations that you're supposed to do something with your life. It's very, very hard."

In 1968, Robert F. Kennedy Sr. was assassinated in California while making a run for the White House. His death came more than four years after his brother, President John F. Kennedy, also died at the hands of an assassin.

More than three decades later in 1999, John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and his sister-in-law, Lauren Bessette, died when a plane he was piloting crashed in the waters off Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. David Kennedy died of a drug overdose and Michael Kennedy was killed in a skiing accident.

We'll be right back to "The Kennedy Curse" in a moment.

First, a little personal reflection.

I've always felt an odd kind of kinship with the Kennedy family. I'm not really sure why. My own family is to the Kennedys what the Kardashians are to, say, the Billy Graham family.

In other words, not even close.

Perhaps my connection is generational.

I really don't remember a lot about childhood, but I do vividly remember January 1961, as a boy of nine, being pretty excited by my teacher's carting in of a black and white TV so that the whole class could watch the inauguration of a President of the United States.

Pretty ho-hum by today's kid's criteria, I'm sure, but pretty heady stuff for a nine year old in 1961.

I don't remember a whole lot about junior high school gawkiness, but I vivdly remember coming back from lunch, November 1963, walking back into the sixth grade classroom and hearing, in a far out of the normal routine occurence, the crackle and pop of bad AM radio reception playing out on the school address system, odd and unsettling words sputtering out amidst the crackle and pop, words like "rifle fire" and "motorcade" and "assassination attempt".

I don't remember a whole lot about high school awkwardness, but I vividly remember sitting in my bedroom, June 1968, the sounds of Richard Harris singing "MacArthur Park" from my small turntable in the background (I just happened to be a fan of Richard Harris singing Jimmy Webb songs at the time), reading and re-reading the newspaper headlines that were, as those kind of headlines always were, much bigger and bolder and blacker...headlines like "KENNEDY DEAD".....and "RFK KILLED BY ASSASSIN'S BULLETS".

From there the time line of my life has always seemed to be on a parallel with some eventual, seemingly inevitable, new tragedy attached to the name Kennedy.

Chappaquidick. Drug overdose. Skiing accident.

Plane crash in the waters off Martha's Vineyard.

Today, Bobby's son's estranged wife.

The seeming tradition of tragedy continuing.

Although, a reasonable case could be made that the threads of that fabric are starting to wear a little thin.

It's one thing when the son of an assassinated President and his wife and her sister do a John Denver into the Atlantic Ocean.

It's another when the estranged wife of the son of the assassinated brother of that assassinated President apparently finds the rocky dead end of the treacherous road of substance abuse and addiction.

Which brings us back to "The Kennedy Curse."

For over 70 years, the stuff that media sales department dreams are made of.

(For the untrained, I'm dating the beginning of the "curse" here back to the early 1940's when Joe Kennedy, Jr. was blown up during World War II).

And for, at least, the last fifty years or so, a loss of life in what is oft seen as near Greek tragedy proportions.

The thing is....this once upon a time 1961 nine year old has lived to be sixty and a little bit.

And doesn't see it so much, anymore, as being about a loss of life in what is oft seen as near Greek tragedy proportions.

It's really more about yellow Volkswagens.

You probably haven't given yellow Volkswagens much thought lately.

Unless you own one.

If not, again, you probably haven't given them much thought.

Here's the thing, though.

Chances are that, having read this piece, you're going to see one in the next day or two.

Because, by mentioning them, I have raised your awareness.

Every family has tragedies.

And large families, by nature of their largeness, often have more.

Every family has members who die of gunshots and drug overdoses, who drown, crash in planes and, yes, even ski into trees and break their necks.

Paging Sonny Bono.

And while it is true and fair to say that most of those family members don't have their assorted demises played out on an international stage, they demise just as much, and just as often, regardless.

Somewhere along the timeline, some very savvy media people, probably even unwittingly, drew a line from a fallen war hero to a murdered President to a murdered Senator...and a mystique was born.

A mystique that very quickly morphed, for public consumption, into a curse.

Primarily because mystiques might be sexy, but a good curse will draw a big crowd every time.

And all that's really happened is that, sadly, once again, a member of a family has died in a tragic way.

As will a lot of members of a lot of families today.

Mary Kennedy's death isn't the latest example of the "Kennedy Curse".

We've simply been trained to hear the words "Kennedy death" and, in instant Pavlovian fashion, think "curse".

If it had been Mary Jones who died, you probably wouldn't be aware of it.

And being made aware of it is all it takes to trigger the response.

Remember that as the you listen to the "Kennedy Curse" blather over the next couple of days.

And when you see that yellow Volkswagen drive by.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"..And Wayne Newton Was My Babysitter...But That's Another Story..."

Came across this little chestnut of yesteryear today...

In 1955, 50 years after Vegas was founded on May 15, 1905, LIFE magazine took a rather skeptical look at the boom town and its prospects for growth in a cover story titled “Gambling Town Pushes Its Luck.” The Loomis Dean images in this gallery, meanwhile — many of which were never published in LIFE — provide some wonderful visual reminders of just how raw a place Vegas still was in the mid-Fifties, before the Rat Pack made it their home away from home and decades before the city would begin reinventing itself yet again, with some success, as a “family friendly” mecca.

Long before Celine, decades before Garth, even way back before the Griswolds took the dam tour and asked a lot of dam questions, this was the image

I remember from travels in the old family truckster....and to a kid of seven or eight, this was practically Sodom and Gomorrah.

Apparently, "pushing its luck" paid off fair to middlin for the town where what happens, stays.

Viva Las.....

"...What's Really Real About It Is How Really Unreal It Really Is...."

Fun with numbers, coming up.

But, first...

NEW YORK, NY (May 11, 2012) – Lifetime has picked up “The Houston Family Chronicles” (working title), an all-new docu-series that will follow the lives of the late Whitney Houston’s family, led by Pat Houston, Whitney’s sister-in-law and manager, and including Pat’s daughter Rayah, Whitney’s brother Gary, daughter Bobbi Kristina and mother, Grammy® Award-winning singer Cissy Houston. The announcement was made today by Rob Sharenow, Executive Vice President, Programming, of Lifetime Networks.

Whitney Houston’s sudden passing left behind a major void felt not only by the world, but also by those who loved her most, her beloved family. “The Houston Family Chronicles” follows those closest to the pop music icon as they try to pick up the pieces after her untimely death. Pat Houston, Whitney’s sister-in-law, manager and most trusted confidant, manages the business and estate of the beloved singer and her most prized possession, her daughter Bobbi Kristina. The series will follow Pat and her husband, Gary, Whitney Houston’s brother, as they take on their greatest challenge, supporting and guiding Bobbi Kristina as she faces the world alone, without the one person she relied on the most, her Mother.

A mother to her own teenage daughter, Rayah, Pat understands the difficulty of raising a young woman in a world where social media and peer pressure are the norm. As she tries to guide her own daughter into womanhood, Pat also has the responsibility of raising Bobbi Kristina, who, while trying to move forward with life and make decisions about her future, must also learn to cope with such a devastating loss. With the certainty of a microscopic lens focused on this young woman and her every move, Pat, Gary and their tight-knit group of family and friends are committed to seeing that Bobbi Kristina can grow and experience life unscathed. A true believer in the bond that women share called sisterhood, and a self proclaimed “woman’s woman,” Pat enlists the help of her and Whitney’s inner circle, including Grammy Award winner Dionne Warwick and Gospel legend CeCe Winans, to assist her in such difficult times.

“The tragic loss of Whitney Houston left a void in the hearts of people all over the world, but certainly none more so than her beloved family,” said Sharenow. “In this series, the multi-generations of the Houston family will bravely reveal their lives as they bond together to heal, love, and grow.”

Pat Houston added, “I have been working with Simmons Shelley over the past few years developing a project suitable for myself and our family. The unexpected passing of Whitney certainly affects the direction of the show. However, it is my hope that others will be enlightened as they watch our family heal and move forward.”

Lifetime has ordered ten hour-long episodes of “The Houston Family Chronicles,” which will premiere this year. Jarrett Creative will produce. Julie Insogna-Jarrett, Seth Jarrett, Tracey Baker Simmons, Wanda Shelley and Pat Houston will serve as executive producers with Lifetime’s Rob Sharenow, Gena McCarthy and Noah Pollack.

And now, fun with numbers.

By my count, we are now three reality shows away from there being, or having been, more people in them than watching them.

Can't speak for you, but I think that's pretty damn exciting.

Because I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.

Monday, May 14, 2012

"...This Just In...Authorities Have Identifed That Low, Low Whirring Sound As Henry Luce Spinning In His Grave..."

The cover that launched a thousand lips is to your right.

Mayim Bialik offers a perspective below.

Bialik's presentation is articulate, intelligent and both reasoned and reasonable.

It doesn't have an ice cube's chance of putting out the forest fire ignited by this incident.

And what I think is Bialik's key assertion is dead center.

Time Magazine has done everyone a disservice with their ham handed attempt to wrap an obvious attempt to do nothing more than sell magazines in an easily seen through cloak of social relevance.

Bialik offers that opinion in a gracious and deferential manner.

I'm not inclined to be that gracious.

To put it simply and, admittedly, pun intendedly...

They suck.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"...The Funniest Line I Didn't Write About This... "I've Cooked Turkeys That Didn't Come Out This Golden Brown'..."

It's not every day that a simple social observer, like myself, has the opportunity to bring you breaking news.

First, though, a little of the ol' back story.

A New Jersey woman arrested for allegedly putting her 5-year-old daughter in a tanning booth says it was all a big misunderstanding.

Patricia Krentcil, 44, told NBC's local New York affiliate that she took her daughter with her to a local tanning salon but that the child was not exposed to the booth's synthetic UV rays.

"I tan, she doesn't tan," Krentcil said. "I'm in the booth, she's in the room. That's all there is to it."

Krentcil, of Nutley, N.J., was arrested last week, and charged Tuesday with felony child endangerment. She was released on a $25,000 bond and is due in court Wednesday.

"It's like taking your daughter to go food shopping," Krentcil said. "There's tons of moms that bring their children in."

Police, though, say Krentcil put her daughter in an upright tanning booth.

New Jersey state law prohibits children under the age of 14 from tanning booths. Children between the ages of 14 and 17 must be accompanied by an adult.

Police were alerted by school officials, who say Krentcil's daughter showed up for school with what appeared to be a sunburn, then told classmates she "went tanning with Mommy."

Rich Krentcil, the girl's father, told NBC the teacher misinterpreted his daughter.

"This whole big thing happened, and everyone got involved," he said. "It was 85 degrees outside, she got sunburned. That's it. That's all that happened."

And now, as advertised, the breaking news.

Al Jolson has been discovered, alive and living in New Jersey.

In drag.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"...Aparrently, It's Not Who You Know....Oh....Wait...."

Old saying.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

New saying.

The more things change, the more things change.

Elucidation coming up momentarily.

Make room on the couch for another new talk show host!

E! has announced plans to roll out a weekly gab-fest entitled “Love You, Mean It with Whitney Cummings.”

The comedian’s latest vehicle, on the heels of her tepidly-received NBC sitcom, “Whitney," will be “a weekly medley of witty commentary featuring Whitney’s take on everything from the biggest pop culture and celebrity happenings, to life, relationships, sex, and more," the network says in a statement.

Cummings will host the show with just a "microphone and her laptop," but will also be "joined by celebrity guests and comedian friends.”

"Love You, Mean It with Whitney Cummings" will air Wednesday nights in conjunction with Joel McHale’s “The Soup” later this year, and Cummings will executive produce the project with fellow funny woman Chelsea Handler.

"I'm really excited to be able to say (almost) whatever I'd like on TV again," Cummings said of the announcement. "So thanks, E!" Looking forward to it!"

From all the data available, there are seven people who think that Whitney Cummings is funny.

Her mother, father and the five people that regularly tuned into her failed NBC sitcom.

Old saying.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

New saying.

If at first you don't succeed, not to worry, E! will likely give you your own show no matter how
much talent, or lack there of, you possess.

The more things change...