250 reviews of time travel TV, movies, books right here

Friday, August 31, 2007

Heads-Up: Hillary's Not On The Side of Video Gamers, or the Constitution

A recent article in U.K's Guardian reminded me of something I already knew, and which has crucial relevance to the current Presidential campaign:

Hillary Clinton is no friend of video gaming. In fact, along with Sens. Joe Lieberman, Tim Johnson and Evan Bayh, she proudly introduced the Family Entertainment Protection Act in November, 2005. As the Wikipedia entry explains, this law if enacted would have exacted "fines of $1000 dollars or 100 hours of community service for a first time offense of selling a 'Mature' or 'Adult-Only' rated video game to a minor, and $5000 or 500 hours for each subsequent offense."

Fortunately, it was not - Hillary, Lieberman, et al's colleagues in Congress had more sense than they - likely aware that similar acts in various states had already been struck down as unconstitutional.

Hillary, unfortunately, comes by her disregard for the First Amendment through her husband. Bill Clinton signed the Communications Decency Act into law in 1996. That affront to the freedom of communication carried as much as $2000 and a two-year-in-prison penalty. Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court struck that one down.

Bill Clinton claimed he figured that act was unconstitutional, too, and the Supreme Court would declare it to be. So ... he signs it into law? How about this, instead: the straightforward Presidential action of not signing it, in the first place?

Bill Clinton and his circumlocutions fortunately can no longer threaten the First Amendment.

But Hillary's now running for President, leading many of the Democratic polls, and unless she explicitly says otherwise, a wise assumption would be that her election as President would bring to our nation steep fines, forced community service, and even jail time for forms of communication clearly protected under the First Amendment.

We all want to protect our children. Trampling on the Constitution is not the way to do it. We can do better than run scared from Jack Thompson, and the flawed studies he cites. (See my "debate" with Thompson on CNBC last year.)

We have candidates who understand this. Republican candidate Ron Paul has the best record of respecting the Constitution. Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich is a close second.

I hope the rest of the candidates will follow their leads, and not Hillary's.

A. E. Housman and a Princess Dying Young: Thoughts About Diana

From Greg Morago's interview with me in yestersday's Hartford Courant ...

... A.E. Housman's poem "To an Athlete Dying Young" couldn't have said it better: Dying in your prime is exceptionally stunning.

"There's something incredibly poignant about someone dying at the top of their game, at the peak of their success, whether it's an athlete or a movie star or a princess," said Paul Levinson, chairman of the department of communications and media studies at Fordham University. "As horrible as it sounds, there's something magical about it."

That magic could have something to do with the fact that a celebrity dying young means an adoring public will never have to see them crippled by time. "You will never see them getting older," Levinson said. "It's a way of keeping them young forever."

And free of scandal in an increasingly complicated world. "Once a person is dead, they're safe. They can't disappoint us by doing anything wrong," Levinson said....

And the key lines from A. E. Houseman ... Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut...

See also Anna Nicole, Phil Ochs, and A. E. Housman

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mad Men 7: Revenge of the Mollusk

Tonight's Mad Men - Episode 7 on AMC - was not only smoky but seething under the surface, and mostly about Don and Roger.

Roger makes a pass at Betty after an unexpected dinner with Don and Betty at their home. (I don't know - is that the right expression? Today we would say, "came on to her".... Anyway, he puts his arms around her.) Everyone's had a lot to drink (always the case, everywhere in Mad Men). Betty demures, Roger goes home but ... Don is not stupid, and realizes something happened, even though Betty pretty much denies it.

This sets the episode for a powerful display of something we haven't quite seen on Mad Men before. Don is jealous - and, moreover, will do something about it.

He gets his revenge over lunch right before the very important visit of the Nixon campaign people. Roger and Don consume plates of oysters - Roger remarks that Don is a "fan of the mollusk" (I am, too - seafood is my favorite food) - they drink a lot (of course), and then prepare to go back upstairs for the meeting.

But Don has bribed the elevator man to say the lift isn't working, causing Don and Roger to hike up 20+ flights of stairs. Don's in a little better shape than Roger, and the huffing and puffing up the stairs results in Roger's losing those mollusks - right in front of Nixon's people.

Roger surely got what he deserved. In addition to hitting on Betty (ok, another more modern term), he needled Don about his pedestrian speech ... But Don is by no means a completely sympathetic character in this, either.

Some good, promising exchanges between Peggy and Pete (especially good performance by Vincent Kartheiser) tonight, too, as Mad Men moves along its roiling, ever more intriguing, path...

20-minute interview with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) at Light On Light Through

nice little clip on Mad Men at the end...

See also reviews of other episodes: Mad Men Debuts on AMC: Cigarettes and Nixon Coming ... Mad Men 2: Smoke and Television ... Mad Men 3: Hot 1960 Kiss ... Mad Men 4 and 5: Double Mad Men ... Mad Men 6: The Medium Is the Message! ... Mad Men 8: Weed, Twist, Hobo ... ... Mad Man 9: Betty Grace Kelly ... Mad men 10: Life, Death, and Politics ... Mad Men 11: Heat! ... Mad Men 12: Admirable Don ... Mad Men 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes

6-minute podcast review of Mad Men

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Voice Messaging Margaritaville

this is a sponsored post

Speech is the most fundamental kind of human communication. There have been many societies in history which were illiterate. None have been speechless.

Children learn how to speak just by living and listening. Babies respond to their mothers' voices. Sounds actually cause our ear drums to vibrate. The process of hearing is very direct, and physical.

And, unlike reading, we can listen to something when we are looking at or doing something else. Hearing is intrinsically highly efficient, and open to multi-tasking.

It is unsurprising, then, that voice marketing - literal, long distance word of mouth - is such an effective marketing tool.

Vontoo voice messaging makes it easy to create, send, and track voice messages to potential customers. Vontoo doesn't require the purchase of software or hardware to use its system - you can use your telephone or computer (VoIP - voice over Internet Protocol - or your voice through an Internet connection) to record and tailor your message. Then you send it, and track it.

An important feature of this marketing system is that it is "permission based" - meaning your customers have to "opt in" to receive your message. This insures that your message will not be intrusive or unwelcome. Your voice marketing will therefore be not only ethical but effective, because you won't be irritating recipients with your message.

Vontoo is a good way of marketing concerts and media events. Circle City Tickets sold a complete block of Jimmy Buffet concert tickets via Vontoo Voice Marketing.

Whether you're in Margaritaville or anywhere, you'll Vontoo use it ... (sorry, couldn't resist...)

Ron Paul Has Company: Now ABC Crops Out Kucinich, Buries Poll

Well, no one can accuse ABC News of being biased in the way it metes out its destructively biased reporting: MediaBloodhound has published a chilling account of what ABC did to Dennis Kucinich in its reporting of the Democratic debate that took place on ABC News' This Week with George Stephanopoulos on August 19 in Iowa.

ABC cropped Kucinich out a photo of the Democratic candidates, and buried its own online poll which had Kucinich leading. Followers of the abusive reporting ABC News has been giving Ron Paul will be all too familiar with these techniques. ABC News is clearly an equal opportunity abuser when it comes to reporting on the Presidential campaign, and doing the job expected and required by the American people.

What do Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul have in common that they should attract such mistreatment? Both are forthright against the war. Kucinich has a good record of respecting the Constitution (though, unlike Ron Paul, Kucinich forgot about the First Amendment and voted for legislation to make flag desecration illegal - Kucinich forgot that the First Amendment is not about protecting communication you like, which needs no protection, but about protecting communication you do not like).

But Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul's greatest mutual sin in ABC's eyes, apparently, is that ABC does not take them seriously as candidates. And this leads ABC - maybe in a desperate, misguided attempt to be relevant - to commit grievous lies of omission in its reporting on these candidates.

What has gone so wrong at ABC? At least four cases of distortive reporting about Ron Paul, and now this about Kucinich? ABC was once, not that long ago, a pretty good news operation. Nightline with Ted Koppel was on the cutting edge.

It's at least partly due, I think, to ABC being pretty much out of it on cable and online news. Whoever is calling these shots at ABC News doesn't understand what it is obvious to CNN, Fox, and MSNBC: there is a whole new world of politics out there.

But, whatever the reason, ABC is forfeiting whatever right it once had to be taken seriously, or even to keep reporting the election. I would call upon the FCC to look into revoking its licenses, but that would be unconstitutional.

So I'll confine myself to expanding the section on media misreporting I'll be teaching at Fordham University starting in September - if ABC keeps this up, I'll have enough material for an entire course - and urge the American people to stop watching this benighted network.


Democracy Direct: At the Village Pourhouse in NYC Last Night with Ron Paul Supporters

I spoke to Ron Paul supporters at the Village Pourhouse in New York City last night. The NYC Ron Paul Meet-Up group had invited me to talk about the mainstream media's misreporting of Ron Paul's burgeoning campaign for the Presidency - to elaborate on what I've been writing about here in this blog and talking about on the radio, and what could be done about it.

I was impressed. It's always good meeting people with whom you have conversed online - in this case, Ryan Cowles and Avery Knapp and Kevin Leslie. But there was something else.

Here was a group of people, assembled in the back room of a noisy bar on a warm summer evening. Men and women, different ages, different accents.

They could have been doing many other things on an August evening - dining, movies, enjoying the city streets, relaxing at home.

But they were brought together by a desire to get this country back on track by electing a candidate with an old-fashioned idea: follow the Constitution of the United States. Don't go to war without a Declaration. Don't muzzle the media in contradiction of the First Amendment. Clear, straightforward points, really, that almost every other politician and public official seem to have forgotten these days. Actually, for decades.

I was impressed. The questions I received were perceptive. I got enthusiastic nods when I mentioned Thomas Jefferson.

There was something in the air, and it was more than the fine spirits wafting in from the other room.

It was a different spirit. Democracy. Yeah, I know that sounds like something from a speech, but it was there. I've seen it a few times in my life, first hand like this. I saw it in Eugene McCarthy challenging Lyndon Johnson to stop the Vietnam War in 1968. I worked in his campaign on the streets of New York. I saw it when I worked for John Lindsay, running for a second term as Mayor in New York, a year later.

It's rare to see democracy so directly. It was there in the Village Pourhouse last night. Not like on the television screen. Right there in the room.

It was good to see again.

Stay tuned.

complete YouTube video of my talk


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Weeds 3 Ep 3: Appealing, Important Questions

Weeds Monday's episode of Weeds on Showtime was very appealing. Indeed, Mary-Louise Parker as Nancy Botwin was never more appealing, and it was not just because of the dance she did on the table for the Mexican drug dealers. Actually, it was because of that dance, and she did look very appealing doing it, but there was something else about the dance...

It typifies everything that Nancy does, to save her family, to survive, in the underlyingly tough world of this comedy series. Selling weed is the flagship of this well, noble, sympathetic effort. Nancy would never have gotten into the business had her husband not died. Nor would she have gone so far with Peter, if not for the need to protect her family, her business, herself.

Which is not to say that she didn't enjoy Peter, maybe even love him, in a way. And she certainly gets a kick of our her business (except when it's almost killing her, which is fairly often). But the prime motive behind this stuff is survival, not pleasure.

And the same applied to the dance on Monday. Nancy wouldn't have done it, couldn't have, if it wasn't in sync with a part of her - if a part of her didn't really cleave to that. But the more important reason that she danced to order was her need to get the brick of heroin, as U-Turn had requested.

In the end, it turned out that Nancy was being gamed - there was no dance that was always required. The drug dealers were taking advantage of her.

And this pertains to the main story of Weeds, too. How much of what Nancy does is really necessary? How much happens because she is being manipulated, gamed? How much because she is a gaming herself?

Amidst the delightful laughs, these questions make Nancy and Weeds not only highly appealing and but even really important.

see also Weeds in Perspective

and reviews of other Season 3 episodes: 1 ... 2 ... 4-5: Prius and Gluteus ... 6. Ray of Hope ... 7. Conrad Rules! ... 12: Nancy and Conrad! ... 13. Shane Pays the Price ... 15. Finale: The Fire and the Clean Slate

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

GPS To The Rescue

I like driving to places and appointments and events and arriving just a minute or two before they begin. I even like going to the Post Office this way - driving right up, parking, and getting in to mail my stuff just before the place closes up for the day, just under the deadline.

This adds a certain zest to the process.

I even like doing this when I'm driving long distance. A few years ago, I had a book signing near Harrisburg, PA. I drove three hours to arrive about three minutes before the event. This was a little close, even for me. I might have arrived sooner - but it was the first time I had driven to that bookstore, and I wasn't 100% sure exactly where it was.

This is why a GPS can be a lifesaver - or, at least, an event or appointment saver. My Prius came with one. I would definitely get one now if I didn't have one - a Garmin, a Magellan, or a TomTom.

TigerGPS.com is a good place to get a GPS online. Hey, even if you don't cut things as close as I do, it's a good thing to have in your car, on your side.

this is a sponsored post

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Calling For Federal Legislation to Protect iPhone Hackers

I posted a note yesterday in Light On Light Through about George Hotz’s unlocking of the iPhone - in his case, to work with his T-Mobile card - and how it relates to the history of intellectual property, so I thought I'd spread a little of the joy around here.

But first: I'm calling for Federal legislation to protect hackers like George Hotz - people who work to free equipment that they legally purchased - from threats of and actual law suits.

Hotz's good work seems to have unlocked all sorts of legal hounds, baying about dire consequences to hackers.

A little spin through history:

Although the Romans understood authorial attribution - plagiarism comes from the Latin for kidnapped - the notion of copyright as a legally enforceable right didn’t really begin until the printing press, and the monarchs who at first controlled their printers. Copyright was literally the right that monarchs dispensed to make copies. It took until 1710 and the Statute of Anne for England to make copyright a creator’s right.

And, of course, the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Invention made both copyright and patent often into corporate things.

Even so, corporations gave and give a huge amount of information away for free - that happens every time you hear a song on the radio.

Now, Apple could try to make its iPhones unhackable. But the idea that people who own a piece of property - such as an iPhone - could be sued for using it in a way sellers did not intend is ... plain and simply immoral and absurd.

George Hotz is technically protected under the current law. But apparently that's not good enough stop attorneys et al from offering grave predictions and perhaps thinly veiled threats - see The Boys From The DMCA Are Coming, for example - so let's push right back, and get our next Congress to pass a law which makes it always legal for people to do whatever they please to anything they legally purchase.

It's not a very radical concept, really.

And years from now, people will look back and wonder at how we ever got to the point where control over what you purchase was ever debatable.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Californication Continues: 3

CalifornicationCalifornication continues ... and continues to be so funny and laughing out-loud sexual that it's hard to write about it without posting an R rating, or whatever they might call it for blogs. No promises - and I think the rating system for movies is inane, anyway.

The main plot line in tonight's Episode 3 on Showtime has Hank running into Meredith (played by Amy Price-Francis - just fine) - the redhead he was rude to in the first episode (she wanted to talk to him about Hell-A Magazine - I actually didn't think he was so rude). He apologizes tonight, they sleep together (of course), and Hank apparently really pretty much likes her - even though "drowning in a sea of pointless pussy" seems to be the theme of this episode, if not the entire series at this point.

All of this was customarily enjoyable and funny.

But the two scenes that really got me laughing tonight, for some reason, were:

1. Mia, the beautiful 16-year old who doesn't look sixteen and punched Hank twice, comes by unannounced, looking for something she can use as an assignment for her creative writing class. Hank says he doesn't have anything. Mia says, come on, you must have "some piece of shit short story" around here somewhere. Words that rang true - something that every writer has a least one or a lot more of ...

2. Even funnier was a scene with Hank's agent Charlie (Evan Handler - good actor, good name - you want that in an agent, or at least an actor who plays an agent). Anyway, Charlie fires his secretary - slightly gothic Dani, nice, and nicely played by Shaun's Rachel Miner - for getting him the wrong kind of soda. It seems she's always making these sorts of mistakes. By way of apology, she sends Charlie an email, with a slide show of her scantly dressed, in black ... to which Charlie masturbates. The pacing, the photos, the expression on Charlie's face, the phone call at the end, were just right. And hilarious. And, of course, he rehires her. (And she advises him to "punish" her if she does anything else wrong, which, of course, she soon does.)

Great writing, with more laughs per minute than anything on television or in the movies.

See reviews of other Californication episodes: Californication Going On Mondays ... 2 ... 4 ... 5 ... 6 ... 7 ... 8 ... 9 ...
10 ... 11: Pivitol Mia ... 12: Californication Comes ... To a Season's End

5 minute podcast review of Californication

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Hillary, Gonzales, The Constitution, and Ron Paul

Here is what Hillary said to Chris Matthews this morning at the LiveStrong Presidential Cancer Forum about the resignation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General. She said she hopes that when the next Attorney General "takes an oath to uphold the constitution, he actually means it, understands it, and will protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." MSNBC has been playing it tonight about every five minutes.

Good advice. And Gonzales manifestly deserved to go.

But where was Hillary Clinton with her good advice when Bill Clinton signed the Communications Decency Act into law in 1996 - which sought to bring the Internet under the same unconstitutional regulation that the FCC metes out to broadcasters every day, in blatant violation of the First Amendment? (Fortunately, the Supreme Court struck this law down.)

And where was Hillary Clinton when she authorized Bush's taking the country to war in Iraq, without the Declaration of War required by our Constitution? And where was she when Bill Clinton did the same against Serbia?

It's all too easy to make support of the Constitution a political sound-bite, a weapon you can use against your adversaries.

What counts are politicians who do more than mouth the right words - we need people who respect the Constitution in their votes and their actions.

Ron Paul is really the only candidate in either party with a record of unambiguous, clear support of the Constitution - voting against illegal wars and attacks on the First Amendment at every opportunity.

The Democrats, including Hillary, have a lot of good they can contribute to the American people. But they need to start walking the walk as well as talking the talk about following the Constitution.


Big Love Season 2 Concludes: Polygamy and Great Performances Affirmed

Big Love concluded its second season on HBO tonight with an affirmation of the Henricksons by Barb. Of course there were other important threads, but the most important was Barb's resolution of her status in the family - to Bill, Nikki, and Marge.

As I noted in reviews of previous episodes, I think Barb has been struggling to find herself and her truest feelings about her polygamous marriage all this year. A large part of this process has been dealing with what the public knows of her family. Season One ended on the humiliating outing of Barb as polygamous by the judges of the state contest for best mother - behind the scenes, but still degrading for Barb.

In the visit to the gambling casino a few weeks ago, Barb looked happy at the end, when Bill announced to his new partners that Barb and Margene were both his wives.

Tonight, it was Barb who did the announcing to the neighbors. This will be a profound change for the Henricksons - they will no longer be denying their lives to at least the people on their block.

Two other great performances tonight were given by Amanda Seyfried as Sarah, who finally gave herself to her boyfriend, and Harry Dean Stanton, who played Roman just right after coming out his drugged days and nights.

I won't tell you the ending, in case you haven't seen it, but suffice to say that Bill will have his hands full, at least business-wise, in Season 3 - but, of course, that's the way it's been from day one in this marvelous, winning series.

See also reviews of other episodes: 2: Oh, Happy Day, and Not ... 3: Sons and Mothers ... 4. Help Me, Rhonda ... 5. The Waitress and More... 6. Just Lust ... 7. Margene's Mama ... 8. Polygamy and Misgivings ... 9. Swing Vote Margene ... 10. Polygamy as the Ultimate Cool/Bad ... 11. Family in Crisis

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Burning Greece and Ancient Alexandria: The Toll

Fires are devastating southern Greece - and at least some are suspected as arson.

This terrible news - all over the Internet and television - came to me just as I writing scenes in my new novel, Unburning Alexandria (sequel to The Plot to Save Socrates).

In life, as in the novel, our collective memory as a civilization is in jeopardy from these flames. In the case of Alexandria, unique copies of numerous texts were consumed in the flames. In an age before the printing press, multiple copies of individual works were often the exception, not the norm. In the case of Aristotle, alone, we know from lists of his works found elsewhere that he authored four times as many treatises as have come down to us. Many of those were no doubt destroyed in the destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria - burned in part at different times by Romans, Christians, and Muslims.

We are in better shape today regarding texts and information in general - whether published on paper or online, they are usually in many more places than can be consumed by a single series of fires, however horrific.

But Greece has many things unique and significant in our history which can fall to the flames now burning. The site of the historic Olympics is now at risk, and there could be much more in a place that is the origin of our democracy, our philosophy, and so much more in our lives and culture.

If any of these fires were deliberately set, the arsonists have committed a crime not only against the families who have lost loved ones, friends, and property, but against human civilization itself.

Dexter Due in September

Blog IconBig Love is ending tonight on HBO (great season!). Mad Men is superb on AMC, as is Californication on Showtime. I'm also enjoying the new season of Weeds over there - but I'm really looking forward to Dexter's return to Showtime in September.

This was the best show on television last Fall, in its first season. Michael C. Hall played the serial killer who clinically preys only on other serial killers, and he played the part to stiletto perfection ... humorously shivering perfection. I've never quite seen anything like this on television (something which I've also been saying about Big Love, Mad Men, Californication, and Weeds - part of the reason I keep saying we're in a new golden age of television).

But a serial killer with a social conscience... who has trouble relating to people - because he is so detached - but is nice to his girlfriend. That's fascinating. And the shows raises the important ethical issue of whether a serial killer of serial killers is ultimately a good or a bad human being....

See you in September with more...

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Hats off to George Hotz!

Because ... locks are not the way of the digital age...

I just saw George Hotz on CNN, and since I can't very well applaud through the screen, I thought I might do it here:

Bravo, George, for unlocking iPhone!

What, exactly, does this mean?

The iPhone from Apple comes "locked" when purchased - meaning, it can only work with an AT&T sim card - you know, the card on which you have phone numbers from the phone you're currently using. The sim is a great enhancement to cell phone service - it means your directory is not hostage to the phone you're currently using.

But what is someone to do who buys an iPhone, but is currently using a phone with a sim from a non-At&T carrier? In George Hotz's case, that carrier was T-Mobile.

Well, the 17-year old took apart his iPhone, and after two months of tinkering and analyzing and soldering, he got his iPhone to work with his T-Mobile sim.

Which is exactly the way it should have been, all along.

Apple and AT&T may not like it, but what George Hotz did is perfectly legal - owners of cell phones have the right to put in whatever sim card they choose. Apple may have locked the iPhone, but George Hotz, having purchased his iPhone, had every right to unlock it, if he could.

I think he's taught Apple and AT&T a very important lesson in the digital age. It doesn't like locks.

See also about iPhones: ... iPhone Arrives - I Predicted It in 1979 and iPhone Boosts Literacy and History Lesson: iPhone Sales Will Exceed Expectations and New York Times' David Pogue Sings "I Want An iPhone" to "My Way" and iPhone: Not Better iPod but New Species Media ... Mouth-Watering iPhone Commercial and the Real World ... Nano-iPhone and the Dymaxion Principle ...

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

my YouTube videos - complete run of my clips from television

the complete, current run of my YouTube video clips ... 51 videos in all ... including 3 of Bill O'Reilly v. me ... Jack Thompson v. me ... Jesse Ventura interviews me ... clips from my appearances on the Discovery Channel (talking about cell phones) and the History Channel (talking about science fiction) ... more ... over 200,000 views as of April 2010 ...

will be automatically updated when new video clips are added...

My Tues Night Manhattan Talk About Ron Paul will be on YouTube

If you're in Manhattan, come on by ... if not, look for the video to be posted in this blog, as soon as it's up on YouTube

complete YouTube video of my talk

Friday, August 24, 2007

Mad Men 6: The Medium is the Message!

Did I hear officer manager Joan Holloway - played delectably by Christina Hendricks - say "the medium is the message" to Peggy in last night's episode of Mad Men?

Yes, I did, and it shows just how razor sharp was the research that went into the making of Mad Men. As I explain in my 1999 Digital McLuhan: A Guide to the Information Millennium, "the medium is the message" is Marshall McLuhan's best-known aphorism or say. (It means, for example, that the act of watching television - instead of reading or talking - is more significant than what we watch on television.) But the phrase didn't become well-known until the advertising world discovered McLuhan in 1964 and his book Understanding Media, in which "the medium is the message" was a chapter title.

So what's it doing in a sexy office manager's vocab in 1960?

Digital McLuhan by Paul LevinsonWell, as I also point out in Digital McLuhan, the phrase was actually first "published" in McLuhan's "Report on Project in Understanding New Media" - a typescript report, in fact, that McLuhan prepared for the National Association of Educational Broadcasters, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare ... on June 30 ... 1960!*

So ... the 1960 scene in Mad Max last night could, technically, have happened.

But would an office manager have heard of the phrase? Not likely ... but by no means impossible. After all, the firm the saucy Joan works for is very high powered, with the Richard Nixon for President team as one of its clients. So, conceivably, Joan could have heard someone from the Department Health, Education, and Welfare talk about the report... (though prefacing the phrase with a "you know what they say..." does seem a little much).

But Joan did look great in her tight red dress, and we learned last night that she's having an affair with boss Roger. (No wonder why she was cool and collected last week when Peggy told her about Don's extra curricula activities...)

Other good stuff last night - some excellent portrayal of the way this advertising world regarded Jews, and more on the almost unbelievable male chauvinism. Peggy comes up with a great description of a basket with tissues with lipstick imprints - a "basket of kisses" - and the ad exec is really impressed. Something like seeing a "dog play the piano," he observes. Did men really have such a low opinion of women back then? Not all men, but certainly some.

Mad Med is now one of the best, hard-hitting, easy-on-the-eyes, humorous, instructive shows on television. A tour-de-force.

*Note added March 22, 2012:  Thanks to Alex Kuskis for letting me know that the phrase appears even earlier, in an article McLuhan published in the National Association of Educational Broadcasters Journal, October, 1958

20-minute podcast interview with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) - in which we talk about "the medium is the message"

See also reviews of other episodes: Mad Men Debuts on AMC: Cigarettes and Nixon Coming ... Mad Men 2: Smoke and Television ... Mad Men 3: Hot 1960 Kiss ... Mad Men 4 and 5: Double Mad Men ... Mad Men 7: Revenge of the Mollusk ... Mad Men 8: Weed, Twist, Hobo ... ... Mad Man 9: Betty Grace Kelly ... Mad men 10: Life, Death, and Politics ... Mad Men 11: Heat! ... Mad Men 12: Admirable Don ... Mad Men 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes

How Thoof.com Got Its Name

Thoof.com is a new online news service, specializing in personalized news. It does this by keeping track of what stories users read and like, and serving them similar stories in subsequent visits. Thoof has badges which can go on the web or blog pages of submitted stories, and display the story's Thoof ranking.

There has been much speculation about how the name "Thoof" originated...

As fate would have it, I was waiting to cross the street at a quiet intersection in Manhattan earlier this evening, and a man standing next to me started telling me this story....

One day, on a crisp autumn morning at an outdoor cafe, the designers of Thoof were discussing what name they should give their new creation. They understood the importance of coming up with a name which was at once memorable, but distinctive, and sounded like nothing else. They tried out all sorts of possibilities, but could not come up with a name they all liked.

As they were preparing to leave, and get on with other business, they were joined by a man, with a strange accent. He looked familiar, yet none of the group could say where they had seen him. He spoke of the new system they were designing, and how important it would become. He explained how crucial the organization and personalization of news was in this new age, in which there was so much news, and so little time to read, see, or hear it. He spoke with an odd, intense conviction, as if he knew this to be true, from the experience of many years.

The designers listened with rapt attention. Finally, however, one of them spoke to the visitor. "You speak wonderfully about our new system. But it lacks a name. Might you-"

But the stranger rose, smiled, and before the question was finished, he had vanished. All that was left of him was a rustle of leaves, and a thoof-

I wanted to learn more. But a honking taxi distracted me for a moment. And when I turned back to the man who had been standing next to me, talking, he was gone too ... with just a thoof.

Podcast with the Entire Sloan Ranger Interview of Paul Levinson About Media Misreporting of Ron Paul

Hey - if you missed this Tuesday's Sloan Ranger show on WGNU Radio - out of St. Louis and live-streaming everywhere - and his interview with me about the media misreporting of Ron Paul, I have it all for you here in this podcast:

Light On Light Through podcast page, with show notes and mp3 player

or just the mp3, that you can listen to right here

The full 20-minute interview, no commercials, in which I discuss four examples of ABC News misreporting and worse. Lloyd Sloan - aka the Sloan Ranger - and a Jeffersonian like me, offers an example of his own, and we also discuss media bias in general, its history and its ubiquity. The discussion inevitably touched on the First Amendment (I admire Ron Paul's rare, unstinting support of it), and I offered my view that the FCC, in daily abrogating this crucial part of our Constitution, is treasonous.

More soon...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Coleridge in the Digital Age: Cell Phone as Porlock

Who's Porlock?

Well, just about every literate person will recognize "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan, A stately pleasure-dome decree..." and most will have heard the story behind it. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was in an opium trance. He started writing that beautiful poem. Fifty-two equally splendid lines came forth- but Coleridge was interrupted by a knock on the door, from a "person on business from Porlock," according to Coleridge's notes...

And by the time he got back to his poem, he had lost it - leaving us just the fragment.

Some cynics claim that Coleridge made up the whole incident to explain his unfinished fragment - that there was no person from Porlock who interrupted him. Others, seeing some high moral ground in the story, accept it, and point to the pitfalls of drugs as its primary lesson.

I don’t know whether the story is true or false. But it has always struck me as having a completely different lesson: the vulnerability of the creative impulse, indeed our thoughts at any time, to interruption from the outside world.

And I’ve long held that this capacity to interrupt - to shatter our inner world when a call comes in at an inopportune time - is the one real drawback of the cellphone. The very power that the cellphone gives to make a call, to express ourselves at the instant we wish, is turned against us when we receive a call we would rather not have - or, even if we receive a call that would otherwise be welcome, at a different time.

Of course, we can turn off our phone - but that incurs social penalties, such as having to explain to callers why our phone was off.

But, optimist that I am, I can see a route to hope: had the iPhone or any cell phones with Internet connections existed back in the late 1790s, the person on business from Porlock might not have needed to pay a call on Coleridge in the first place. He might have received what he needed on the Internet, the access to which is entering a whole new realm of ease via cell phones. And maybe Coleridge, had he been writing "In Xanadu" on his iPhone or Blackberry, might have been able to retrieve more of his memory with the visceral stimulus of the device in hand. And here's the really crucial point- hold it, there’s someone knocking at my door-Cellphone by Paul Levinson


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Talking About Media Misreporting of Ron Paul this Tues Night in Manhattan

Hey - a heads-up for everyone in the New York area, with an interest in the mainstream and Internet media coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, and its current percolating campaigns:

I've been invited to talk to the New York City Ron Paul Meet-Up group at 7:30pm this Tuesday - in particular, about the media's misreporting and in one case outright attack on Ron Paul, and what can be done about it.

I'll be talking at the Village Pourhouse on 11th Street and 3rd Avenue (southwest corner) for 30-45 minutes, followed by 15-30 mins for questions and answers.

The meeting room will be spacious. The general public is welcome. Admission will be free.

I think the media coverage of our election campaigns thus far should be of concern to anyone who values our democracy.

Ron Paul and his supporters, in particular, have received less than truthful treatment from a variety of media. ABC News and its affiliates has had the greatest confluence of misreporting, and I'll be talking in particular about ABC's posting of misleading photos, reporting of Internet poll results which left out Ron Paul's standing, and, in the case of ABC radio talkshow host Mark Levin, about his urging listeners to call Ron Paul headquarters with hostile comments. In short, I'll be discussing the many abuses I've been loudly blogging about here for the past weeks.

Readers of Infinite Regress also know I'd be outraged about such media malfeasance whomever I supported, but I do support Ron Paul for the Republican nomination for President. That's easy for me to do, for two reasons. 1. I think our country's disregard of the Constitution - whether it's trampling on the First Amendment or going to war without the Declaration of War required - has gotten us into enormous difficulties. Ron Paul is the only candidate in either party with a lifelong commitment to supporting the Constitution. 2. My second reason for supporting Ron Paul for the Republican nomination is that the other Republican candidates are simply impossible for me to support - three of them don't believe in evolution, and most support the Bush administration's continuation of the war in Iraq. (In all honesty, the last Republican I voted for in any election was John Lindsay in the 1969 NYC mayoral race. He won, and soon after switched his affiliation to the Democrats.)

But there are Democrats I admire in this Presidential election, too. Indeed, any of them is easily better than any of the Republicans, with the exception of Ron Paul. But the three leading Democratic contenders - Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards (in that order for me) also have qualities that would make me consider their candidacies very seriously (not to mention Al Gore, who at this point is not in the running). And "second-tier" candidates Kucinich and Biden have much to commend them, too.

Accordingly, I'm urging everyone to work for the best candidate receiving the nomination in each party. And in the happy event that this happens, we can then decide in the general election who is better - the Democrat or the Republican - to lead this country.

But, whichever candidate you support, I hope you agree that our democracy is best served by truthful media coverage. How can we make a rational decision when we're fed misleading and false information? When that happens, we are being starved of the basis of our democracy.

It would be good to see you on Tuesday. And I'll be posting a postscript here to my talk later Tuesday night or early Wednesday.

complete YouTube video of my talk

Further details on two of the above points:

ABC's Abuse of American Electorate to Be Included in my Curriculum This Fall

Something New: How About We Look for Best Candidates in =Both= Parties?


When Will iPhone Make Its Debut In a Major Television Series?

Last night's episode of Californication - the new, hilarious Showtime series - had a scene which, for some reason, rang a real bell with me. Hank is writing a blog post for his new gig at Hell-A Magazine in Los Angeles, and his laptop freezes. He throws it on the floor, then goes out to a local Apple store - from which he writes and posts his story.

Now, actually, I was sort of doing the same thing from a local Starbuck's parking lot in the middle of the night a few weeks ago during a power failure - I was able to log on and buy some wi-fi - but the Apple store in Californication got me thinking: when will an iPhone make its first appearance on a television show - in which series?

Well, it won't be Battlestar Galactica, where digital media are banned - lest the humans be further compromised by Cylons - and the phones are attached to walls with wires. It won't be Lost, either, which is not quite yet in the present (though anything is possible after that mind-blowing Season 3 finale in May).

Otherwise ... well, if we're talking about the first appearance of an iPhone, we'd likely do better to look for shows playing in the Fall with new episodes - which would leave out 24 and its January new season debut. (Otherwise, 24 - suggested by Kabren Levinson, no relation, in response to my posing this question over on Pownce, and by Tenacious MC over on my iphonematters blog - would be a great choice.)

Let's also keep this question focused on major, scripted series. Chris Wolf said over my iphonematters blog that an iPhone was spotted on TLC's Big Medicine, but as Aaron H noted, this game is more fun when we stick with fictional characters. Obviously, iPhones have been on a lot on TV news shows already. But we can give Big Medicine a footnote.

OK - so major, scripted series ... certainly any of the Law and Orders, "ripped from the headlines," could sport an iPhone, and probably will, sooner or later. When that happens, I predict it will mostly likely be in the hands, or at least the view, of John Munch (Richard Belzer's digitally savvy character).

But let me offer a flat-out, unfuzzy prediction. I have no inside information, but I predict the first iPhone we'll see will be in .... Heroes ... on NBC ... on a late-November episode.

Heroes Season One DVDWhy? Because Heroes is technologically cool and sharp, with characters moving around a lot in need of constant, explicit, multi-dimensional information (that's why 24 is a good bet, too). I bet there already may be an iPhone scripted for an episode (and, if not, who knows, maybe all of this talk might encourage that).

In any case ... let's check back here in the November, and see if I'm right ...


Further reading ...

Californication Continues

Galactica Dylan (spoilers)

Lost: Season 3 Finale (spoilers)

24: Season 6 Finale (spoilers)

Heroes: Season One Finale (spoilers)

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Weeds 3 Ep 2

WeedsIt may well be that the highpoint of Nancy's career was the brief-lived cartel and great crop she had last year ... before it all fell apart.

Last night's episode - the second of the new season - left no doubt that her current prospects are at least as grim as at the beginning, maybe even worse. Her crop is gone, drowned beyond redemption in her pool, courtesy of Celia. She's no longer in charge of anything, except struggling to pay off U-Turn. Whatever Conrad may feel for her, it's not enough to keep them together - not, of course, romantically, which they never really were, but in business.

I actually think these difficulties for Nancy make Weeds a better show. The humor is irrepressible - just about everything that comes out of Andy, Doug, and Dean is hilarious, not to mention Lupita - and U-Turn and his sidekick Marvin add both humor and realism. (And there's something about Page Kennedy's performance of U-Turn that sometimes reminds me a little of Idris Elba's Stringer Bell from The Wire - which is good).

But I'm missing some of the outright, in-your-face absurdity of the second season, and Nancy's insane marriage to Peter.

Too bad he was killed ... though ... I don't recall seeing him dead, not even shot ... and characters have come back from a lot less than that in television land...

see also Weeds in Perspective

and reviews of other Season 3 episodes: 1 ... 3: Appealing, Important Questions ... 4-5: Prius and Glutius ... 6. Ray of Hope ... 7. Conrad Rules! ... 12: Nancy and Conrad! ... 13. Shane Pays the Price ... 14. Just Nancy Thought Things Couldn't Get Any Worse ... 15. Finale: The Fire and the Clean Slate

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Californication Continues: 2

CalifornicationI gotta say, again, that not only are the women and sex terrific in Showtime's Californication, but the writing is right now flat-out the best on television.

My favorite bit from last night: Hank (David Duchovny) accepts the assignment from the Hell-A blog, starts writing on his computer at home, it freezes or whatever - so he goes out and files his post from an Apple store.

Everything is right and delightful about that: the name of the blog, the computer not working when you need it, and the Apple store to the rescue.

Meanwhile, I think that Hank is a very appealing character. How can you not like a guy who daydreams in his car about making-out with his almost, now estranged, slightly, wife...

And the other characters are good, too. My favorite is the precocious 16-year old Mia - played just right by Madeline Zima. She's the one who punched Hank twice in the face last week before she ... and she's the daughter of the guy who Hank's almost-wife says she is going to marry ...*

*A reader asked in the comments - how could I not mention Paula Marshall on this show? He's right. Paula Marshall was just splendid as the 40-something Sonja, someone Hank's age. I stand corrected.

But you need to see all of this yourself. You'll laugh at least 30 times in the 20-minute show, unless you're unconscious.*

Did I just write "20" minutes? I was laughing so hard, I lost track of time...

See also reviews of other Californication episodes: Californication Going On Mondays ... 3 ... 4 ... 5 ... 6 ... 7 ... 8 ... 9
... 10 ... 11: Pivitol Mia ... 12: Californication Comes ... To a Season's End

5 minute podcast review of Californication

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Endeavor's Safely Home - On a Wing and a Pun

Space Shuttle Endeavor landed safely in Florida an hour ago. "You've given new meaning to higher education," Ground Control told the crew.

It's rare that a pun was so welcome. Barbara Morgan was the first teacher to fly in space since Christa McAuliffe perished with the crew of the Challenger. Usually wounds like this can never be redressed - we can't go back in a time machine and prevent tragedies from occurring.

But, every once in a while, we as a species manage to put in an aftermath which, while never being able to make up for the loss, seems to put us back on track, and rectify the cosmic wrong.

Teachers are special members of our species down here on Earth. It is in their hands, mostly, that the continuation of our culture and civilization is entrusted. When a teacher like Barbara Morgan goes out into space, she is not only continuing but extending the cutting edge of our culture, and providing a lesson not only to her students but the whole world.

The new fleet should be here in a few years. The shuttles still have some missions to go. Let this be the beginning of an end of the age of the shuttle that shines as brightly as this historic mission of the Endeavor.

And, as for rectifying cosmic injustices ... how about Al Gore and his global perspective getting the Democratic nomination for President...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dems Debate in the Iowa Morning

The Democratic Presidential debate in Iowa yesterday morning - on ABC-TV - was a fine, articulate exchange. But it had no real surprises, and certainly no knock-out punches.

I continue to be impressed with Obama's position as an outsider - not going along with conventional Washington wisdom on how to deal with world leaders, and correctly putting out that it was the traditional Congressional way of doing things that got us involved in Iraq in the first place. (And kudos here to Bill Richardson, for pointing out that we should have had a Declaration of War - as required by the Constitution - something which only Ron Paul among the Republicans seems able to point out.)

But Hillary continues to be appealing as well, for different reasons. The more Karl Rove attacks her, the better Hillary looks - and responds. Her point about knowing how to beat the Republicans is very well taken. (Well, Gore beat the Republicans too in 2000 - certainly in the popular vote - but no doubt not by the margins that Bill Clinton achieved in 1996 and 1992. My preferred Democratic ticket for 2008, by the way, would still be Gore and Obama.)

John Edwards continues to say good things. I still don't find him as compelling as Obama or Hillary - but his voice deserves to be heard, and the polls in Iowa show a three-way tie among Obama, Clinton, and Edwards.

The truth is, for my money, any of the Democrats are easily better than any of the Republicans, with the exception of Ron Paul.

Big Love 2 Episode 11: Family in Crisis

With just one more episode of this season's Big Love left on HBO, last night's episode really put the Henrickson family to the test.

Barb's mother and her marriage was the match that lit this crisis. Barb's mother (brilliantly played by Ellen Burstyn - all the acting in this episode was really outstanding) is vehemently against her daughter's polygamy, and has tried to cut her daughter out of her life. Barb can't abide the separation, and goes to see her mother...

What comes out of this visit is a plan for Ben to live with his grandmother (Barb has been less than pleased that Ben is beginning to see the "principle), and this a plan that neither Bill nor Ben are told about. Sarah's having problems with her boyfriend - she doesn't think it's right to sleep with him - and Nikki gives her advice to give her boyfriend enough of a taste to keep him interested. But Sarah - in a sense, like Barb - is uncomfortable with her polygamous family, and what she sees as its mixed moral messages.

Eventually, Barb, Ben, and Sarah end up at Barb's mother's wedding - and they're soon joined by Bill and Margene, and then Nikki and the whole family. There's some good cathartic screaming and yelling. Margene doesn't like being left "like a dog" in the car, Nikki confronts Barb on perhaps leaning to leave the family, Bill mostly stands his ground ... And, in the end, the whole family leaves together, and Barb and her mother even hug.

So the Henricksons have survived the marriage of Barb's mother. The family's fractious as always, but intact. The important message here is that, however complicated things may get with the Henricksons, there is a strong, underlying love that keeps them together.

But next week they'll face a far more dangerous attack than anything Barb's mother can mete out. Bill's acquisition of the gaming company is already a bone of contention in the family ... and Alby's on a brutal warpath.

See also reviews of other episodes: 2: Oh, Happy Day, and Not ... 3: Sons and Mothers ... 4. Help Me, Rhonda ... 5. The Waitress and More... 6. Just Lust ... 7. Margene's Mama ... 8. Polygamy and Misgivings ... 9. Swing Vote Margene ... 10. Polygamy as the Ultimate Cool/Bad ... 12. Polygamy and Great Performances Confirmed

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Neanderthals in Fact and Fiction

Neanderthals have been in the news a lot this year - actually, they're in the news a lot almost every year, as indeed they should. A species of humanity very close to ours, who may be part of us, or may have disappeared from the Earth some 30,000 or so years ago, just as our distinct kind of humanity fully emerged.

The Silk CodeEither way, Neanderthals are fascinating. I couldn't resist writing much of my first novel, The Silk Code, about them. And I have feeling they may well walk among us again in another...

A trailer for The Silk Code follows - actually a slice from my interview on The History Channel's Evolution of Science Fiction - along with two recent articles which give an idea of the current state of our knowledge of them...

Endeavor's Headed Home

Now comes the scary part. The space shuttle Endeavor is headed home.

The voyage home was once the good part. We were accustomed to dangers in the liftoff from Earth, because of what happened to the Challenger. But the fate of Columbia changed that false sense of security, and now we know can happen when the shuttle comes back to Earth.

Lots of unsettling factors in this return voyage. NASA scientists concluded that the deep gouge on the underside of Endeavor should not get in the way of a safe re-entry. Are they right?

Hurricane Dean is about chew up the Gulf, Houston could be hit hard, so NASA's bringing Endeavor home a day early. The home of Earth is by no means safe and sound.

The basic design of the shuttle is so old that, were it a computer or a car, it would likely not be used or driven except at a show or convention. The technology still works, but we've got to take it off the leading edge of our efforts in space.

We'll have new space vehicles soon. Meanwhile, we're trying to eke out what we can with the old shuttles. We're in a race against time as well as for space, as teacher Barbara Morgan and her brave astronaut colleagues make their way back from the International Space Station above, on behalf of the whole human race and our yearnings for worlds beyond this home planet.

They'll be home on Tuesday.

See also Barbara Morgan Resumes Christa McAuliffe's Journey

Paper, Stone, iPhone

People have been complaining about the big stack of paper printouts they have received from AT&T for their iPhone service. Some have been objecting almost as much to the paper delivery as to the bill, saying that if the iPhone were as a true harbinger of the future as its champions (including me) claim, its telephone carrier would have figured out a way to send the bill electronically.

But I doubt that paper’s really the issue. I've never seen anyone object to getting paper cash in hand.

Paper, of course, has long been waived around as an early item to be replaced by the digital revolution. I remember lots of talk and writing back in the 1980s about the "paperless office". It didn't happen.

I’ll let Sierra Waters, heroine of my novel The Plot to Save Socrates, explain why. Here’s what she’s thinking on the very first page of the novel:

The Plot to Save Socrates

...written on the only substance which could survive decades, maybe longer, without batteries, which required only the light of the sun to be read, or the moon on a good night, or a flickering flame when there was no moon. Paper. A marvelous invention. Thin and durable...

And paper also has what I call "reliable locatability" - what’s written on one part of a piece of paper today will be in the same place tomorrow. Interestingly, paper - like parchment, vellum, and papyrus - was initially invented as a means of liberating the written word from its carvings on stone. But in the digital age, one of the main advantages of paper is its durability.

Which is why, much as I dislike bills, I actually prefer getting them on paper. I like having handy copies of how I spend my money.

Meanwhile, if the history of phone and online service is any indication, iPhone AT&T service will sooner or later progress to very low, flat rates for huge amounts of data - which I doubt that anyone will be complaining about, whether on paper or screen.

See also The Secret Riches of the Panda

And, for more on the history and future of paper - The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of the Information Revolution

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Saturday, August 18, 2007

ABC Mark Levin's Campaign of Disinformation Against Ron Paul

The latest in the mainstream media's bizarre and destructive campaign against Ron Paul and his supporters - actually, more ABC's than any other medium - comes from the WABC New York and nationally syndicated ABC radio talk host, Mark Levin.

As you can see on his web page, he's urging his listeners and web-page readers to "Call Ron Paul's office and tell him he can't win."

What kind of ham-handed campaign of disinformation is that?

Levin describes himself as "one of America's preeminent conservative commentators and constitutional lawyers."

I would describe Levin as a Nixonian dirty trickster, in the Donald Segretti and Watergate scandal tradition.

Ron Paul and his supporters should actually wear Levin's sleazy tactics as a badge of honor. They should be proud that someone who lists Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity among his favorite links, and who supports the Bush administration as if it were Abraham Lincoln's, has seen fit to try to undermine Ron Paul's campaign in this underhanded way. It means that Hannity and his ilk see Ron Paul as a threat, which indeed they should.

Ron Paul deeply believes in the First Amendment and freedom of speech, as do I, and therefore I would never call for Levin and his mouth to be taken off the air. Levin is entitled to urge all the despicable things in politics his mind can conjure.

But he can count on me to keep calling him out for what he is - a person, like Nixon's henchmen, with no respect for the democratic process. His continued presence on ABC's airwaves is yet another black mark against that benighted network, and another case study that I and no doubt other professors will be teaching their students about for many years to come.

See also - ABC's Abuse of American Electorate to Be Included in my Curriculum This Fall

and More ABC News Distortion to be Included in My Curriculum

and The Media Disenfranchising of Ron Paul

and Newspaper Coverage of Ron Paul in Iowa: B+

Talking about Ron Paul - podcast and radio

Just a quick note about me talking about the media disenfranchising of Ron Paul:

1. The podcast has been up for almost a week - you can look at the page here (and then play the podcast), or just play the direct MP3 here ... about 15 minutes...

2. And I'll be interviewed on the Sloan Ranger Show by Lloyd Sloan, this Tuesday (Aug 21), 5:35PM - 5:55PM Central time (that's 6:35PM - 6:55PM Eastern time, 3:35PM - 3:55PM Pacific time - and you do the math for the other time zones...) ... You can hear this live on WGNU AM 920 RADIO in St. Louis, or click on the Sloan Ranger Show and get it live streaming anywhere and everywhere... Hi ho Silver!!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Mad Men 4 and 5: Double Mad Men

I didn't have a chance to review Episode 4 last week, and it's just as well, because I thought Episode 5, which I saw last night, was the best episode so far. So I'll give you a double review now - of an excellent episode followed by a real powerhouse.

Two best scenes in Episode 4 were -

Betty is babysitting for neighbor Helen's son Glen, about 12 years old. He walks in on Betty when she's, ah, on the throne, in the bathroom... and he stares.

Like so many other things about Mad Men, the whole scene and Betty's reaction seems so quintessentially 1950s. She reprimands Glen, bur forgives him.
I had the feeling that, if a similar walk-in happened in a TV show situated in 2007, Betty's response would have been subtly but very different. On the one hand, I don't think Betty would've been quite that upset at first - we are a little more relaxed about nudity, men and women sharing dorms, etc. But, on the other hand, Betty might even be more upset, today - she might talk to Don about Glen needing help, because we're obviously much more concerned about sexual harassment, and anything that might lead to it.

So this scene in itself - like the whole series - shows how much things have changed since 1960.

The other really memorable scene in Episode 4 shows just the opposite - how little some things have changed. Don wants to fire Pete, because Pete pitched a slogan to a client without Don's permission - and, what's worse, the client loved it. Roger supports Don, but Mr. Cooper, the big boss, does not - it seems Pete's mother has some very important, blue-blood connections in the city ... Yep, connections, then and now, have always been what it's really most about...

Episode 5 is chock full of good scenes and angles, too. Ken - one of the guys on Don's team - has a story published in Atlantic Monthly. This excites just about everyone's admiration or jealousy. Pete pressures his wife to him get into print - by having her see a publisher who was also the first guy she slept with.

Meanwhile, back at the office, Peggy overhears Don talking to his mistress on the phone...

And Don shows his advertising savvy by coming up with a great title for bank accounts that men keep secret from their wives, and have sent to the office. Not "personal," Don says, "executive" ... (Another classic male chauvinistic touch that you just don't see anymore ... you not only need to keep it secret, you've got to tell yourself it's superior...)

But, unlike the other episodes, this one had a story unfold that kept you riveted to the screen. Don gets a visit from his little brother, Adam - grown up now. The two haven't seen each other in years. Don changed his name and embarked on his new life. His brother wants to reestablish the relationship. That's the last thing Don wants.

Don takes something out of his desk drawer at home, puts it in his briefcase, and goes to see Adam in his hotel room. They talk for a while, then Don reaches into his briefcase and-

I won't give the ending away. I found it satisfying, reassuring, and surprising - at the same time...

Looking forward to the weeks ahead. And there better be a Season 2...

20-minute interview with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) at Light On Light Through

great interview with Peggy (Elisabeth Moss)...

See also reviews of other episodes: Mad Men Debuts on AMC: Cigarettes and Nixon Coming ... Mad Men 2: Smoke and Television ... Mad Men 3: Hot 1960 Kiss ... Mad Men 6: The Medium is the Message! ... Mad Men 7: Revenge of the Mollusk ... Mad Men 8: Weed, Twist, Hobo ... ... Mad Man 9: Betty Grace Kelly ... Mad men 10: Life, Death, and Politics ... Mad Men 11: Heat! ... Mad Men 12: Admirable Don ... Mad Men 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes

6-minute podcast review of Mad Men

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book