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

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sputnik's 50th Anniversary: Sad That We Have Not Gone Further in Space

Sputnik celebrates its 50th anniversary on October 4 - the first artificial satellite to circle the planet. It was soon followed by Sputnik 2 (dogs in space, 1958), first human in space (Yuri Gagarin, 1961), Telstar (first telecom satellite, 1962), and then we walked on the Moon (Armstrong and Aldrin, 1969).

Notice that I didn't say Soviet or US above, because it doesn't really matter. Humans in space is what counts. But everyone of course knows that Sputnik - Russian for "fellow traveler" - set off the space race which we in the US eventually "won" in 1969. Prior to then, Telstar was our only first accomplishment.

And what did that victory get us? A space shuttle, with brave astronauts, some of whom lost their lives. But no one has gotten too far beyond this planet. We've sent robots to Mars, and that's exciting, but robots neither laugh nor cry - they're not human.

And so, as the 50th anniversary of Sputnik approaches, I can only hope that we start doing a little better. Civilization is filled with examples of major inventions that stayed dormant for centuries - even millennia. The Chinese invention of the printing press in 700 or 800 AD, and its failure to be used for a mass print and popular culture, is one of the most vivid examples. (I wrote about this way back in 1977, in my essay, "Toy, Mirror, and Art: The Metamorphosis of Technological Culture" - it was reprinted in my 1995 Learning Cyberspace - and I'll try to post the essay here in the next few weeks.)

Let's not wait 700 more years to really get out into space. The Universe awaits us...

See also Realspace: The Fate of Physical Presence in the Digital Age, On and Off Planet

20-minute podcast: Celebrating Sputnik

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Brotherhood's Back! Sneak Preview

BrotherhoodBrotherhood returns for its second season on Showtime Sunday night - right after Dexter. From Miami to Providence - a great sweep of the eastern seaboard, and a great sweep for Showtime.

I've seen an advance copy of the first four episodes. No spoilers below, except for what you have to know already: Brotherhood could never let Michael Caffee die.

So Michael's back. But he's not 100%, and the shake-up that his brain received makes for an important element in this year's story. Jason Isaacs gives a great performance - just as he did last year - of a slightly muted Michael. (Isaacs plays Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies, in case he looks familiar. Talk about an actor with range.)

Jason Clarke gives a fine performance as brother Tommy Kaffee, too. Brotherhood has good echoes of The Sopranos. But the great strength of the series for me has always been the Providence politics. It's not only Rich Man/Poor Man, brother who made good and brother who didn't. It's a show about getting things done - the hard mobster way as does Michael, and the hard political way, as does Tommy. The first ends in blood more than the second, but otherwise they're no less painful, no less easy as paths to success.

The women are also strong and appealing on Brotherhood. Tommy's wife Eileen played by Annabeth Gish is complex, intense, and, whatever her flaws, you'd want her brown eyes on your side. (Her relationship with Tommy is especially difficult now, because of what she told him at the wedding last year). Fionnula Flanagan as mother Rose Kaffee is a classic (if she looks familiar, you saw her in Desmond's UK flashback on Lost). Michael's girlfriend Kath (played by Tina Benko) has a much larger role, and that's welcome. And The West Wing's Janel Moloney is now on the show, as - well, I promised only one spoiler, above.

But I can say that I think the show is more thoughtful, even deeper than it was last year. Ethan Embry's giving a sterling performance as officer Giggs, and the complexity of his personal and professional life could support a series in itself. Brian F. O’Byrne joins Brotherhood as Caffee cousin Colin - from the other side of the Atlantic - and this adds an additional dimension to the family.

Brotherhood's on its way to making memorable television - among the best of the decade.

See also Episode 10: Finale

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

Mad Men 10: Life, Death, and Politics

Well, the next Mad Men was well worth waiting two weeks for - Episode 10 was the most powerful story so far, and had a superb piece on Eisenhower and Nixon.

I'll get right to it. Roger has a heart attack after going for a second round in the office with one of a pair of twins being hired for an ad campaign. Don's on hand, with the other twin - not doing anything, because Don wants to get back to Betty and his family, who are in a beach house for the Labor Day Weekend with Betty's father and new girlfriend and the kids (or maybe Don's not interested in the twin because Don's thinking about Rachel). But Don gets Roger to the hospital. The heart attack is serious, and Don is all shook up.

This sets the stage for three of the most important developments in Mad Men thus far:

1. Don comes face to face with his own mortality. We, the viewers, already know this. Every time we hear someone cough in this literally smoking world, we think lung cancer. The other health hazard of smoking is of course heart attack. Given the number of cigarettes that are smoked on the show, we could expect at least half of the characters to be struck by a smoke-induced illness. Has Don made the connection between Roger's heart attack and his smoking? Maybe not quite yet, but he's close.

2. Don calls Betty from the hospital, and their distance has never been more painfully apparent. Don maybe wants to talk, at least a little, about his feelings and proximity to mortality. Betty wants to talk about how much her father's girlfriend irritates her. The most helpful thing she can say to Don is make sure you don't forget to eat.

3. Don goes to Rachel's apartment. They not only sleep together, but it is more clear than ever that the two are soul mates. His relationship with Midge is spent already, and as for Betty...

So Don is now in some pretty new, risky personal territory. Rachel might yet say no to their relationship, but that certainly won't come from Don.

And the politics: It was great to see Eisenhower on the screen again, with that famous answer he gave about what Richard Nixon accomplished as Ike's Vice President. Give me a week, and maybe I can think of something, Ike replies...

Superb show ... even though it had one little anachronism, as always. Comes from Joan, who says, "I'm so over you...." In 1960, on the East Coast? I'm so not believing that....

But I don't really mind... You know, it dawns on me that most of the anachronisms are coming from Joan (she earlier said "the medium is the message"...) Maybe she's a time traveler...

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 7: Revenge of the Mollusk ... Mad Men 8: Weed, Twist, Hobo, Excellent ... Mad Men 9: Betty Grace Kelly ... Mad Men 11: Heat! ... Mad Men 12: Admirable Don ... Mad Men 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes

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

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

Friday, September 28, 2007

1:30pm Lecture by me today at Fordham Univ: The Media Misreporting of Ron Paul

I'll be delivering my special lecture this afternoon - 1:30-2:20pm - to my "Intro to Communication and Media Studies" class at Fordham University on "The Media Misreporting of Ron Paul"....

I'll be discussing Hannity and Colmes' denigration of Ron Paul's first place finish in their own poll after the last Republican Presidential debate on Fox, ABC's indication of a lone Ron Paul supporter before the Iowa straw poll when his supporters say there were numerous, ABC Radio Mark Levin's call to his listeners to harass Ron Paul headquarters, ABC's cropping Dennis Kucinich out of a photo of the Democratic candidates (Ron Paul is not the only victim of mass media malfeasance in reporting the Presidential campaign), and much more.

My blog post about this upcoming lecture two months ago received 1290 Diggs, 190 comments, and was on the Digg front page for days.

YouTube video will follow next week.

Ron Paul at PBS Debate: Against Federal Death Penalty

I was delighted to hear Ron Paul say at the Republican Presidential debate on PBS that he is opposed to the Federal death penalty. He indicated that this was one of the few positions he changed his views about over the years - at one time, he supported the Federal death penalty - and his reason was that DNA evidence has shown too many innocent people found guilty.

My position, all of my life, has been against death penalties on all levels. Even before DNA evidence, it seemed to me that juries are fallible, they are capable of error, and putting a person to death on the basis of a wrong jury decision was one of the very worst things a civilized society could ever do. Life in prison without parole was a strong enough punishment, and one which allowed reversal in the event that new evidence came to light or old evidence proved faulty.

As on so many other issues, Ron Paul's libertarian distrust of government, and his sheer logic, have led him to an enlightened, humanitarian position. My only disagreement with Ron Paul on this issue is that I would like to see capital punishment outlawed on a state level, too. (I wonder if he would support an amendment to the Constitution that outlawed the death penalty.)

Meanwhile, it's also worth noting about this PBS Republican debate that Giuliani, McCain, Romney, and Fred Thompson didn't bother to show. Apparently Tavis Smiley's African-American moderation of the debate was not to their GOP liking.

No real matter. Nothing any of the four might have had to say would have stacked up to what Ron Paul said tonight.

Dexter's Back! A Preview...

DexterDexter returns to Showtime for a second season this Sunday. I just saw the first four episodes, and I gotta say ... Dexter is considerably better than it was last year, which is saying a lot, because Dexter was easily the best show on television in its first season.

But this year has even more brilliant plotting, and the kind of unexpected twists you find only in a fine movie. Twists that are jolting and satisfying, make great sense in retrospect, and (of course) move Dexter one step forward to a better life, success, or safety, on the one hand, and one step back - being discovered - on the other hand.

I will reveal just one spoiler, which serves as the writhing backdrop of the first four episodes, and I'd bet of the entire second season. The burial ground of Dexter's victims, the place he has dumped their body parts in bags out in the sea, is discovered....

Other than that, I can tell you Sgt. Doakes (Erik King), Debra (Jennifer Carpenter), Rita (Julie Benz), Angel (David Zayas), Maria (Lauren Vélez), and Vincent Masuka (C. S. Lee) are sharp and more vivid than ever. Plus, Keith Carradine's in as a master Federal agent investigating the bodies that turn up in the bay, and dark-haired beauty Jaime Murray plays Lila who ... well, let's just say, she understands Dexter better than does Rita (not too difficult) and may understand him better than anyone.

Michael C. Hall is deft, just the thing as Dexter, as he was last year. His voice-over narration is sardonic and just the thing, as it was last year. The new season starts this Sunday.

But, if you'd like to see the complete first episode now, just click here for the VIP webite - and your password is Killer Shows.

I'll be seeing the first four episodes of Brotherhood tomorrow, which will debut its second season right after Dexter on Sunday.

But on just the irresistible strength of Dexter, I'd say Showtime can now lay claim to being the undisputed best network on television.

5-minute podcast of this review

See also my reviews of other Season Two episodes ... 5. Dexter Meets Heroes and 6. Dexter and De-Lila-h7. Best Line About Dexter - from Lila and 8. How Will Dexter Get Out Of This? and 10. Dex, Doakes, Harry and Deb's Belief Saves Dex and Season 2 Finale: All's ... Well

And see also my review of Dexter, Season One: First Place to Dexter

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dems Debate in Dartmouth: Gravel Proud to Stick Credit Card Cos, Kucinich Lower Voting Age to 16, Edwards Shines

You gotta love Mike Gravel. Asked by Tim Russert how he could run for President and be trusted with the nation's fiscal responsibility, when he ran up a big unpaid debt, Gravel proudly shot back - hey, look who got stuck with that debt, I stuck the credit card companies with a $90,000 debt, and they deserved it!

Second best point from an underdog - or maybe it was the best - came from Kucinich, who said he not only favored lowered the drinking age to 18, but the voting age to 16. I seriously support such a lowering of the voting age - I've been saying for years that it should be lowered to 14 - an age at which, according cognitive psychologist Jean Piaget, people have completely adult reasoning processes, and have had them for at least two years.

Among the top tier Democrats, I thought John Edwards did splendidly tonight. He comes across as the most human - the least political - and made some points against Hillary and Obama on stopping the business as usual in Washington. I especially liked Edwards' solution to the social security crisis: rather than raising the cap (it's currently $97,000+), create a window, in which income earners won't pay social security tax above the current cap, until they reach a much higher level of income.(I actually most favor Ron Paul's solution of letting people below a certain age opt of social security - but Edwards' is at least an innovative solution, which doesn't punish people in the upper middle class).

Hillary was good tonight, Barack was not. He was often indistinguishable from Hillary, and he lacked Edwards' passion. Edwards could be set to become the main Democratic alternative to Hillary Clinton.

Coming to Bill O'Reilly's Defense about Restaurant Comment: Ridiculous not Capital Media Offense

I think Bill O'Reilly's comments about eating in a Harlem restaurant - "There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.'" - are regrettable and tasteless, but not a capital media offense.

Unlike Imus' remarks, which were directed at college students and were personally insulting to them, O'Reilly's remarks are at worst general, racist banter. They bespeak an antiquated, general bigotry - which many white people in my father's generation suffered from, which presumably far fewer do now, and which O'Reilly claims he was actually critiquing in his comments. Whatever his intentions, his remarks were inappropriate (if only because they could easily be taken out of context), but so general as to be laughable rather than really damaging to anyone.

Of far more concern are O'Reilly's statements and attitudes about many other things - including his ridiculing remarks about Andrew Meyer's taserng in Florida last week, in which O'Reilly said Meyer was hamming it up for the cameras when he was screaming in pain.

To use a metaphor from The Factor: O'Reilly's comments about the patrons of the restaurant would be The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day, not the lead Talking Point memo, or even close to it, which is the way some in the media are playing it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Californication Continues: 7

CalifornicationI guess no one - not even Hank Moody - can have sex every minute of the day, or during most of every episode, and so last night's episode of Californication - #7 - was pretty quiet in comparison to other episodes.

Indeed, Weeds, on Showtime just prior to Californication, had a far hotter, funnier scene with Andy at a porno shoot.

As I mentioned in my review last week, the supporting team of Charlie and his two women - secretary and wife - seem to be getting more sex time than Hank. The three actually tried a menage-a-trois last night, with unsurprisingly unexceptional results. Marci (the wife) did remark that Dani (the secretary) had a "great ass," and there's no denying that.

Meanwhile, Hank and Karen do seem to be drawing a little closer, sexually and romantically - meaning, Karen is not resisting Hank quite as much as she was at the beginning of the season - and it will be interesting to see where this goes.

Here's my lame prediction: the two will sleep together at the end of this season, and ... Hank will realize that he really wants to be with the redhead, Meredith...

Not a spoiler, just a prediction, chances are I'm wrong ... but we'll see...

See reviews of other Californication episodes: Californication Going On Mondays ... 2 ... 3 ... 4 ... 5 ... 6 ... 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

Weeds 3 Ep 7: Conrad Rules!

WeedsI've been missing Conrad (well played by Romany Malco) on Weeds this season. He's had almost no role, but ...

Last night, he reveals that he - not the Mexicans - was the one who shot Marvin in the ass, as a way of fomenting a war between the Mexican dealers and U-Turn, which Conrad thought would help Nancy and him get out under from under U-Turn's thumb - which is just what it accomplished.

Conrad is clearly the smartest guy (including women) on the show. He's a Luther Burbank genius when it comes to growing weed. And he's a master at strategic planning.

All that remains now is for Conrad and Nancy to finally get together. But it hasn't happened yet, and Nancy, to celebrate her freedom, goes for a little afternoon delight with Sullivan (Matthew Modine), who has been hitting on her, grabbing her ass, as well as hitting on Celia...

Meanwhile, Weeds is starting to give Californication and Tell Me You Love Me a run for their money in the full-frontal nudity department - male and female. Weeds had both last night, with Uncle Andy on hand at a porno shoot.

Next week ... looks as if Peter, or at least his corpse, is back...

Reviews of other Season 3 episodes ... 1 ... 2 ... 3: Appealing, Important Questions ... 4-5. Prius and Gluteus ... 6. Ray of Hope ... 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

Heroes is Back

Well, I enjoyed the first Season Two episode of Heroes on NBC tonight - but I was so taken by the next show, Journeyman, that I had to write a review of that first.

What the two series have in common is time travel, and there was a good segment of that in Hiro's story on Heroes tonight. He's back in 16th-century Japan, where he meets his hero, Takezo Kensei, played by Alias' Sark aka David Anders. The flavor reminded me of the campy classic Trancers - which is high praise in my book.

Claire and Mr. Bennet also have some good scenes. That whole thread is understandably a little subtler than last year. Parkman's an NYPD detective - just got his gold badge - taking care of Molly, and that was good to see, too.

New business is introduced with two heroes in the Dominican Republic. Twins Maya (Dania Ramirez) and Alejandro Herrera (Shalim Ortiz) have deadly powers - at least, Maya does, she used them to kill her captors, but it's a good bet her brother has those powers, or something like them, too.

And speaking of deadly powers, some number of the heroes are falling prey to a mysterious plague, which Suresh is seeking the cure for. Possibly Peter is suffering from it - he's indeed alive, as we see at the end of the episode, and which was revealed in umpteen spoilers last June.

So the stage is pretty well set. I wish NBC had sprung for a two-hour premier...

3 minute podcast of this review

Review of Season 3, Episodes 1 and 2: Time Travel, Paradox, and Heroes

Review of other Season 2 Heroes: Episode 2 ... 3
... 4 ... 7 ... 9. How Immutable Are Fate and Isaac's Paintings? ... 10. Penultimate for the Fall ... 11. My Predictions Last Week Were Right!

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

Monday, September 24, 2007

Quantum Leaps into Journeyman on NBC!

I love time travel - hey, I've written one novel, The Plot to Save Socrates, which is completely time travel, and another, Borrowed Tides, in which time travel plays a role, and I've written half a dozen time travel stories, some of which have been nominated for awards, one of which was made into an award-nominated radio play and a low-budget movie* ... so, you can see how much I love the genre.

Among my favorite episodes of Star Trek are "The City on the Edge of Forever" (Star Trek: The Original Series) and "Yesterday's Enterprise" (Star Trek: The Next Generation). 12 Monkeys is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I really liked Deja Vu, too. And if we're talking classic science fiction, well, Isaac Asimov's The End of Eternity is one of my all-time favorite novels, and Robert Heinlein's Door into Summer is right up there, too...

So, how does Journeyman stack up?

Well, it's off to a pretty good start.

Dan Vasser gets yanked around in time. Kevin McKidd plays the role well, and does have a timeless quality - likely because he was so memorable as Rome's Vorenus on HBO.

The getting yanked around gives Journeyman a Quantum Leapish flavor - and Quantum Leap was a pretty good series - but I have a feeling Journeyman will be better. Quantum Leap was mostly the story of the leaps, and only rarely (and powerfully) told the story of the leaper, Sam Beckett. But Journeyman, at least in the first episode, was if anything a little more focused on Vasser's story - more focused on that than the situation in the past he had to resolve (sent to do that by whomever or whatever, we do not quite know, as yet).

Since Dan Vasser's story looks pretty interesting, keeping that on the center stage of Journeyman looks to be a good move. The woman he was going to marry was killed on a plane crash. Moon Bloodgood as Livia Beale looks almost as scintillating as she did in ABC's shortlived Daybreak, and that's good, too. Turns out she was not killed, but is also part of this time-yanking business - I realized that a minute or so before it was revealed - and that's the kind of set-up I like to see in a time-travel story. Dan was already being touched by time travel 10 years before our story began tonight.

Meanwhile, Dan married Katie, who ten years ago was involved with Jack Vasser, Dan's brother. This also creates the makings of a nice hornet's nest of tension.

I also liked the way Journeyman handles gadgets. It looks like Dan has an iPhone in the present - he turns it sideways to see a video - and when he takes it or whatever cell phone it was to the past, the screen suddenly tells us no network. Hey, you don't have to travel to the past to get that message, but it was a nice touch.

I have high hopes for this series, and I'm looking forward to next week. I think Journeyman has the potential to be one of the best time-travel series ever on television...

*That would be "The Chronology Protection Case", the trailer for which you can see right here ...

and here's a free podcast of the complete radio play...

See also my reviews of Kevin McKidd as Vorenus in HBO's Rome

and my reviews of other Journeyman episodes ... 2 ... 3 ... 4 ... 5 ... 6 ...7 ... 8 ... 9. Dan Unravels His Present ... 10. Jack's In! ... 11. Livia's Beau//Save the Newspaper, Save the World ... 12. The Perfect Time Travel Story ... Lucky 13

8-minute podcast analysis of Journeyman

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, September 23, 2007

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia: Three Principles

Every once in a while I agree with just the way an event is unfolding.

About Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia University:

1. As a professor who could invite Ahmadinejad to any one of a number of classes at Fordham University, I would not. Although I think it is indeed very valuable to confront world leaders with delusions head-on, and allow students to do the same, I think this value would be offset by the propaganda advantage Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would derive from addressing any class or gathering in America. Such an address and the response it drew could easily be edited to make the Iranian President look good to his supporters back home and around the world.

2. Nonetheless, I think other professors and universities are entitled to reach their own different decisions on this difficult issue. Therefore, I support Columbia University's right to invite Ahmadinejad. Part of the zest and real freedom of American life is that individual professors and universities can make their own decisions in such matters. We would be living in a much poorer place, intellectually, if all classrooms and universities were the same.

3. But I also support the right of Columbia University students, alumni, and indeed any and all Americans to protest Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia. This is all part of that same democratic process of a free, open society - and it distinguishes us from the type of closed society Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sits at the top of in Iran.

Small Fireworks after my General Petraeus remarks on KNX 1070 Radio this Morning

I enjoy hearing from people who disagree with my blog posts, podcasts, radio and TV appearances. I've always agreed with Socrates that dialog is the best path to knowledge.

Here's an example of a little exchange that occurred this morning, shortly after my weekly radio interview by Bob Brill on KNX 1070 all-news radio, in which I was talking about the MoveOn.org - General Petraeus "Betray Us" controversy.

My position: Most people - just about everyone, I'd say - can understand the difference between a General giving advice to Congress, supporting a President in his harmful foreign policy, that betrays the best interests of our country. This is what the MoveOn.org ad was clearly saying. Not that the General was betraying us on the battlefield, or by working with the enemy - a clearly absurd point to make, and which no one, even the war's most bitter opponents, has ever suggested.

But the Republicans are clearly trying to pretend that the literal traitor point is what the MoveOn.org ad in the New York Times was saying.

Here is the e-mail I received, followed by my reply. (Out of courtesy to the writer of the e-mail, I'm not printing his name - even though as a recipient of an unsolicited e-mail, I'm under no legal or ethical obligation to not publish the name of the writer.)

I heard your comments this AM on the radio concerning the Moveon.org ad in the NY Times. I was stunned by your take on it, but I suppose I shouldn’t be. You were simply reflecting your liberal bias and confirmed exactly what most know about academics in the liberal arts. Your views are so tainted by your liberal leanings, it’s impossible for you to present an evenhanded report on anything.

I guess I live in an ivory tower (slightly to the right of yours,) as I have not heard one utterance which described the ad the way you did. Perhaps in the liberal bastions of Manhattan, that nexus of all learning and civilization, one could believe in one’s heart that the average American took the ad to mean something entirely different than the words as written, but my guess is that if you spent a bit of time out in good old “flyover” country you would find that most Americans knew exactly what the folks at Moveon.org meant. They were simply calling the general a traitor. The doublespeak you used to dance around the meaning was certainly the stuff of legend and on that I must commend.

It’s almost as classic as “we support the troops but don’t support the war” and the like.

Is the job of a journalist to report the facts without bias or comment or is it to advance a personal agenda? The answer you give to that question, the answer you give when you look yourself in the eye brushing your teeth in the morning, will tell us where you stand.

And my reply ...
You're the one who should have trouble looking at yourself in the mirror: you're obviously intelligent, and therefore must know that there's a big difference between saying someone's advice or assessment betrays the best interests of this country (which is what the MoveOn ad is saying about the General), and saying someone is betraying us on the battlefield or in dealings with foreign powers (which is what the Republicans are claiming).

But I'd guess you're probably very familiar with what the Republicans are up to - you write as if you're on their payroll. Are you? Did you actually hear me on the radio, or are you responding to a mass e-mail that some Republican factotum sent out to you?

As for me, I have no agenda, other than what I've been doing in my 30 years of publishing books and articles, and teaching about the media: which is, provide independent scholarly assessments. (And, by the way, I was interviewed as a commentator and a scholar - not a journalist. In other words, I was interviewed by KNX because they were interested in my opinions and assessments.)

If you'd like to learn more about my opinions, I hope you keep listening to KNX - I'm on every Sunday morning at 7:20am. You might also enjoy my book, The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of the Information Revolution - where you'll see that I criticize Democrats as well as Republicans when they're dishonest with the American people, or pursuing an unconstitutional and therefore illegal war.

All best wishes,

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ten Reasons Why I'm Looking Forward to the Return of Heroes on Monday

Counting up from 10 to 1 ...

10. I have no knowledge or evidence of this, but I have a feeling we're going to see some cross-pollination between Heroes and other TV series this year, and I always love that in a show. (There was some speculation/suggestion of this between Heroes and Lost last year - I'm thinking about something much more explicit.

9. I like the comic-book overlay. It's fun to see the comic-book narrative get its day in the TV sun.

8. I find the proliferation of heroes and powers refreshing - who says a television series has to continue to deal with the set of characters and powers it first came in with? Life evolves, so should a television series.

7. I like shows that surprise everyone with their initial success. Great things often come from them.

6. I like the blend of art and science in the series. Most narratives either rely on art or science - on the allure of images or the power of statistics and scientific research. Heroes does both, and very effectively.

5. I'm an unabashed New York City chauvinist, and enjoying seeing the city through Hiro's enthuasiasm.

4. I like Ali Larter.

3. Mr. Bennet (well played by Jack Coleman) is a really complex, compelling character. The only thing predictable about him is his love for Claire, and that has led him to switch allegiances, and do some pretty bad things. This kind of intensity and motivation in a character is rare for TV.

2. I like TV shows in which a major, important character can be killed off unexpectedly. Not that I like seeing good characters die, but an unexpected death can really keep you on the edge of your seat. Only one TV series that I can think of put its major characters in such continuing jeopardy - V, the series (not the mini-series). But Heroes does it much better. The heroes are in continuing jeopardy.

1. I love time travel stories - in novels, movies, and television - especially those that take the paradoxes of time travel seriously, as Heroes and Hiro certainly do. Heroes has the potential be among the best time-travel narratives ever told.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Rating the News Networks in their Election Campaign Coverage

With the Fall at our doorstep, and the lecture I'm giving to my class at Fordham University about the media mistreatment of Ron Paul just a week away, I thought I'd share with you a little list I put together, which ranks the five major TV news networks on their coverage of Ron Paul as well as other presidential candidates these past six months.

Since I'm not omniscient, I may have missed some network errors and abuses. All corrections and additions are welcome in the comment section.

1. CNN: in first place. They've done nothing wrong that I know of, and get kudos for the YouTube CNN debate a few months ago, in which questions came from people who submitted videos to YouTube, rather than so-called experts in the media. CNN decided which questions to air, but this is still a real breakthrough in the democratization of media.

2. MSNBC has in general done a fine job in its reporting of Ron Paul and the other campaigns. MSNBC commentators Tucker Carlson and Pat Buchanan have been public and explicit in their support of Ron Paul. But MSNBC got off to a bit off a rough start. Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews, discussing the candidates' positions on the war after the debate of May 4, neglected to mention that Ron Paul has been systematically against the war. They both improved their reporting considerably, shortly thereafter.

3. CBS has done nothing wrong in its coverage of the current campaigns, either, as far as I know. But I put CBS in third place because of its continuing graceless treatment of Dan Rather, who was forced out of CBS after courageously reporting about George Bush's military past, in the election of 2004.

4. Now we take a sharp turn downward with Fox News. Hannity and Colmes denigrated Ron Paul's first place finish in the Fox phone-in poll conducted after the last Republican Presidential debate on Fox - the two claimed that Ron Paul's supporters were multiple-dialing. Not only was there no evidence for this, it turns out a second call from the same phone resulted in a text reply that the vote wouldn't count. O'Reilly, to his credit, did have Ron Paul on his show. But to O'Reilly's discredit, he barely gave Ron Paul a chance to get a word in edgewise.

5. ABC is in the cellar. Worse than Fox, ABC failed to mention on at least one occasion that Ron Paul came in first in its post-debate poll. It removed comments from Ron Paul supporters on its online board, and then proceeded to shut it down. ABC also showed a lone Ron Paul supporter before the Iowa caucus, in contrast to big crowds for Romney, when in fact Ron Paul had big crowds of supporters, too. Then there was Mark Levin, in ABC's radio line-up, who called upon his listeners to call up Ron Paul headquarters with advice that Ron Paul couldn't win. And, just for good measure, ABC spread some its abuse around, and cropped Dennis Kucinich out of a photo Democratic contenders.

The good news for Fox and ABC is that the election campaigns are continuing, and they can change their ways. Actually, Fox has been worse than ABC in the past month, and that may be a sign that ABC is finally seeing the error of its ways.

I'd like to see all five major news networks report the election campaigns truthfully. The American people require no less.

I'll continue to keep you posted.

Obama Girl Applauded In My Class At Fordham This Afternoon

I just got back from my Intro to Communication and Media Studies class at Fordham University, where I had the pleasure of Obama Girl Amber Lee Ettinger and Obama Girl producer Ben Relles as my special guests.

They were wonderful. I have a feeling the 50 minutes they spent with my class will be one of the high points in their higher education.

Ben Relles had visited a class of mine at Fordham once before - my graduate-level "Propaganda and Persuasion" class this summer. I also interviewed him for an episode of my Light On Light Through podcast. So I knew him to be a very thoughtful, literate producer, with a keen understanding of the political and social impact, as well as the aesthetics, of the videos he has produced.

I was delighted to find that Amber Lee also has an astute awareness of the impact of her videos, and her role in them. She fielded tough questions from my large (120 students) undergraduate class. Q: How did she feel about her parents seeing her in these videos? A: She's happy, because her parents are proud of her (good answer!). Q: Does she really support Barack Obama for President? A: She hasn't completely made up her mind - she's an actress. Q: How does she feel about the reaction of Obama's campaign and family to her videos? A: The videos are comedy, satire, and she hopes people will take them that way. (Ben Relles said much the same.) Etc.

It's rare in higher or any kind of education to have the real thing before your class - in contrast to an observer talking about it.

I'm really grateful that Amber Lee and Ben were able to come by.

They are both part of the ignition of a true revolution in media and politics, in which YouTube, blogs, and podcasts, made by people not necessarily already established, are reaching millions of people. This is a profound shift away from the mass-media dominated field which still reigns today - though in an increasingly diminished role.

I'll be teaching a new graduate course at Fordham this Spring - "Politics and the New Media" - so look for a lot more from me about this, especially the continuing impact of Ben Relles and Amber Lee Ettinger and BarelyPolitical.com, in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

In the meantime, the picture above is of Amber Lee and me taken in my office right before my class. And my podcast interview with Ben Relles follows.

Former Homicide Detective Rod Wheeler on Hannity & Colmes Tonight: "Anyone Listening to John Kerry Should be Tasered"

"Anyone listening to John Kerry should be tasered" - that "joke" from a former homicide detective, one Rod Wheeler, who Fox News chose to have as a guest on Hannity and Colmes tonight.

Wheeler said a lot more - that Andrew Meyer clearly deserved to be tasered, that he was clearly threatening the police who were escorting him away from the microphone - even though the videos of the event clearly show otherwise.

But Wheeler is entitled to his erroneous opinion of what happened.

He's of course also entitled to his misguided sense of humor. I guess we should at least be happy that someone with his values is a former rather than a current homicide detective.

But where was Sean Hannity's outrage or even disagreement with his guest for taking such a tasteless shot at John Kerry's supporters, at a time in which tasering and politics and freedom of speech have become sadly intertwined?

Now, more than ever, we need candidates like Ron Paul who respect both the First Amendment and the necessary limits of police authority.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mad Men -What?!! - Rerun without Warning Tonight!

Well, Mad Men's Episode 9 was on last week - at the end of which, we saw coming attractions for Episode 10. For which there has been a sneak preview online at AMC's web site all week...

So ... what is Episode 5 doing on AMC right now, in the 10PM Thursday spot which was the premier spot for Mad Men?

Beats me ...

I do see that Episode 10 is scheduled for next week (September 27) ...

But why didn't AMC mumble something such as "Two weeks from now ..." after last week's episode?

Strange, strange...

O'Reilly Sinks to New Low: His Site is Giving Away "Please Don't Taze Me, Bro" Bumper Stickers

There seems to be one aspect of the tasering of Andrew Meyer at the University of Florida, after he was pulled away by police in the middle of asking a series of questions of John Kerry, that most people at least acknowledge if they do not strongly agree with: Meyer should not have been tasered.

There is much disagreement about whether Meyer was deprived of his First Amendment rights (I think he obviously was), but few disagree over the inappropriateness of the tasering.

Not Bill O'Reilly. Apparently the tasering of a person already down on the floor and totally under police control is of so little import to him, and indeed such an occasion for humor, that he is allowing 'Please Don't Taze Me, Bro' bumper stickers to be given away on his site, with every purchase of a pen, books, or whatever else some lucky fan may decide to acquire.

You can hear Andrew Meyer saying "Don't taze me, bro" to the police, several times - right before they tasered him.

This plea not to be hurt is a source of amusement to O'Reilly?

Something he thinks worthy to lubricate sales of his promo items on his web site?

If ever there was an example of the disregard someone has for the First Amendment, not to mention an indifference to human suffering, O'Reilly has just demonstrated it.

Welcome Back Keith Olbermann

I'm just watching Keith Olbermann, back on MSNBC's Countdown, after several days of being down and out with appendicitis ... and I gotta say how good it is to see him back on his show.

I by no means agree with all of Keith's positions and remarks. I especially took issue with his caustic attack on 24 last year, and I think his attacks on Bill O'Reilly sometimes are over the top. (But see my next blog post about O'Reilly's site giving away "Please Don't Taze Me, Bro" bumper stickers - a new low, even for O'Reilly.)

But whatever Keith's flaws, he provides a unique and much-needed commentary. Not only because it generally comes from the left (which I don't always agree with, either), but because it is sharp, outrageous, colorful, funny.

Alison Stewart does a good job as Keith's regular substitute, but you can see Keith's special contribution right there. Alison's content is the same as Keith's, her delivery is fine, but I laugh, gasp, or get angry a small fraction of the time I do when watching Keith Olbermann.

Welcome back, Keith, and keep up the good, infuriating work.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Good for Dan Rather: CBS Deserves To Be Sued

A brief note of support:

Dan Rather is 100% justified in filing a 70 million-dollar lawsuit against CBS. Instead of standing by its reporter, after its own two-member panel could not say for sure that the report Rather went on the air with was false, CBS hung Rather out to dry, and in so doing damaged both his reputation and his potential for future employment.

CBS damaged its own reputation and its legacy even more.

CBS just celebrated its 80th anniversary the other day. William Paley must be turning over in his grave about CBS did to Dan Rather. His law suit is a small way of rectifyng that.

Bill O'Reilly about Andrew Meyer: "I Was Tasered, and It's Not that Bad"

Did you see Bill O'Reilly's take last night on the tasering of University of Florida student Andrew Meyer?

O'Reilly revealed that he, too, had been tasered once, and it didn't really hurt that much. Meyer was therefore hamming it up, according to O'Reilly.

Well, one thing O'Reilly's revelation can teach us about tasering: it obviously doesn't knock much sense into your head about the First Amendment, and what it means for freedom of speech in this country.

The First Amendment certainly does not say or mean that it's ok to interfere with speech, and taser a speaker, as long as the pain is not that bad. No pain is acceptable if meted out by the government or its agents. No interference with free speech by the government or its agents is acceptable. Period.

Now the University of Florida police might not have been the Secret Service or the FBI. But they were still acting as agents of the government - that is how any police force, however local, derives its powers. The 14th Amendment says states cannot withhold rights of citizens guaranteed under the Constitution. That's pretty clear.

So O'Reilly, as he so often does, missed the forest the trees. He missed the most important factor in the tasering of Andrew Meyer - the blatant violation of his First Amendment rights - because O'Reilly was more interested in making his personal experience with the taser the focus of his story.

Whatever someone's political position, he or she should be outraged about what happened to Andrew Meyer in Florida. It's a shame O'Reilly wasn't.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

YouTube As A Check on Police Brutality

How many of you have seen the tasering of University of Florida student Andrew Meyer? He was tasered by police after he was pulled away from the microphone by the same police, in the middle of asking John Kerry a series of questions about why he did not contest the election results of 2004.

If you haven’t seen the video of the incident, you can see it here -

Now, I’ve actually wondered about the same thing myself - about why Kerry didn’t contest the counts in Ohio, and several other states. Given the closeness of the election, and the stakes involved with a war going on, John Kerry should have erred on the side of leaving no stone unturned or possibility at large that either deliberate or accidental miscounting cost him the election.

But that’s not the point of this post - which is, bravo to YouTube for making videos of police brutality, such as occurred with Andrew Meyer in Florida, more accessible than ever to the general public.

Video allowed the public to see the Rodney King beating - nothing the police said in its aftermath could contradict what the public was able to see with its own eyes. YouTube has taken this once step further - allowing us to see such videos without having to wait for television to show them to us. The iPhone is helping as well, by allowing people to see such videos when they are away from their desktops and laptops. All of this is by no means stopping police from trampling on First Amendment rights - but it is making it harder than ever for them to get away with it.

On the one side, we have retrograde forces like the commissioners of the FCC, and incompetent out-of-control police, who each in their ways threaten our freedom. On the other hand, we have miracles of technology, which speed us news of the FCC's misdoings, which provide immediate, irrefutable images of policy brutality and misconduct.

Perhaps for the first time in American history, these technologies have made freedom-loving people more equal to the task of combating these totalitarian thugs. At very least, they can't pretend it never happened...


Weeds 3 Ep 6: Ray of Hope

WeedsWell, there were actually two rays of hope for Nancy and her family on Weeds, Episode 6, on Showtime tonight:

One was Mary Kate Olsen, who's come on the show to play Silas's girlfriend. Of course, in classic Weeds cracked fashion, she's a fundamentalist. But her saving grace is she likes weed (natural - from God), has no problem with boners (at least, not Silas's - God's will), and is all for as much fun as they can have short of giving Silas her virginity. Definitely a nice ray of hope.

The other ray was a great, classic Weeds unexpected twist at the end: U-Turn is dead! Killed by Marvin - no dope at all, as we already knew - when U-Turn's blood pressure acts up after a steep climb, and Nancy goes off for help. Page Kennedy gave a fine performance on Weeds, and I'll miss his character and style.

But now Nancy is free - unless Marvin turns out to be a worse task master. Always possible, and it will fun to see how Fatso-Fasano, a fine comedic actor, plays Marvin in his evolving role.

But I'm guessing he and Nancy will get along pretty well, meaning Nancy will once more be close to the top, with Conrad and Heylia supplying the product-

Until something goes unexpectedly wrong - and I'm still thinking that Peter will show up, which would be unexpected right and wrong for Nancy...

Reviews of other Season 3 episodes ... 1 ... 2 ... 3: Appealing, Important Questions ... 4-5. Prius and Gluteus ... 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

Monday, September 17, 2007

Californication Continues: 6

CalifornicationHey, a pretty satisfying episode (#6) of Californication on Showtime tonight. Maybe Hank finally got to be with Karen again...

He definitely gave her a deep, satisfying kiss. And then ... he wound up in the pool, and woke up the next morning in bed, being kissed by Karen-

But, Hank was only dreaming that Karen was kissing him. It was actually Mia who was kissing Hank awake in the morning. He pushes her off, and she cheerfully tells him she was only kissing him, not blowing-

But the real question is: what happened between Karen and Hank between Hank in the pool and Hank waking up in bed the next morning (dreaming of Karen when Mia was kissing him), and how much of it does he remember?

Karen certainly looked, at breakfast, as if something significant happened between them the night before. She's close to glowing. Possibly it was more emotional than physical, but she looked to me as if she was happy about something physical (but what do I know)...

Hank, for his part, probably doesn't remember, but he's hard to read, and in the coming attractions he does say something to Karen about following through this (next) time...

Tantalizingly ambiguous - though I'm thinking, as I said, that they did indeed have a great, drunk night together.

Meanwhile, speaking of next week, it looks as if Charlie and wife Marcy (Pamela Aldon, Lucky Louie's Kim, funny and attractive) are heading for a threesome with his spankable secretary Dani (Rachel Miner). Should be good - Dani and Marcy will be a good couple. (Marcy doesn't particularly like being Charlie's submissive slave, but Dani is a different matter.)

One of the best things about Californication is the supporting characters and situations are as hilarious and enjoyable as the primary people - which adds up to a consistently delightful half hour.

See reviews of other Californication episodes: Californication Going On Mondays ... 2 ... 3 ... 4 ... 5 ... 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

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Emmys Marred by Fox's Heavy-Handed Censorship

Sadly, the most striking thing about the Emmys on Fox tonight was the three times they cut off a speaker, and went to a lame shot of a glittering black ball on the ceiling.

The first time, presenter Ray Romano was saying something about Frasier- cut to the glittering ball.

The second time, Katherine Heigl had just won the Emmy for best supporting actress for Grey's Anatomy. "Shit...," she started to say from her seat in audience- cut to the glittering ball.

These two instances were annoying. What, are we the American people all children, that we cannot hear such language? Is there a scintilla of evidence that children are in fact harmed by hearing such words?

But the third cut was far worse. Sally Field, on stage to accept her Emmy Award for best actress for a drama - Brothers and Sisters - was talking about the pain of war, and dared to say that, "if mothers ruled the world, maybe there would be no more godda-"

Cut to the glittering ball. We're not allowed to hear the phrase "goddamned war," even though war is just that.

David Chase, up on stage at the end of the Emmys for The Sopranos' much justified win as best dramatic series, mused ... "and, hell, let's face it, if the world and this nation were run by gangsters, maybe- maybe it is...."

My wife immediately observed - Chase must have heard what they did to Sally Field.

The Federal Communications Commission, under whose unconstitutional rule the networks are afraid to treat Americans like adults, are certainly political gangsters. Someday, I hope soon, an enlightened President and Congress will banish the FCC into the has-been of history, the bygone affront to democracy, it deserves to be. Ron Paul would certainly do that, and I'd hope John Edwards, Barack Obama, or one of the other good Democrats.

In the meantime, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences should think about moving the Emmys telecast to cable.


Emmy Analects and Predictions

Just bopping in here with a few observations and predictions about tonight's Prime Time Emmy Awards ...

The very first Emmy, given back in 1949, was given to a ventriloquist - there has to be some significance in that.

Al Gore's up for an award for his Current TV cable and internet venture. Would be great if he announced he was running for President, but I predict he won't (make the announcement tonight, that is).

The Sopranos
is deservedly nominated in a huge number of categories. The only real question, then, is in which category or categories it will lose. I'm predicting Michael Imperioli will not win Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for playing Christopher Moltisanti (though he did a superb job). The winner will be: Masi Oka for playing Hiro Nakamura on Heroes!

Ugly Betty
will win for Best Comedy Series, but Mary-Louise Parker will win for playing Nancy Botwin on Weeds.

And last prediction for this morning: look for Colbert to win Outstanding Music, Variety, or Comedy series...

See you later tonight ...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Joan Baez Sings "With God On Our Side" in 1966: Suggested Campaign Song for 2007-8

Joan Baez's 1966 performance of Bob Dylan's "With God On Our Side"...

I don't know how you can not be moved to tears by this song and Baez's performance. She has the voice of angel. And Dylan's words are the most powerful refutation of war as a moral instrument ever written.

Dylan first performed the song at Town Hall in New York City, April 12, 1963. Joan Baez took him by the hand and out on the stage of the Newport Folk Festival for an extraordinary performance of the song on July 25, 1963. You can see a clip from it in Martin Scorsese's 2005 No Direction Home bio-documentary of Dylan.

Here in 2007, the hope expressed at the end of the song that, "If God is on our side, He'll stop the next war," remains unfulfilled.

Ron Paul, the only one of the Republicans, and Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and to a degree any of the other Democrats, could make that happen if elected President. They could stop this unconstitutional war, started in lies.

Ron Paul could use this song as a campaign song. So could Dennis Kucinich. I hope one of them does.

The lyrics are here.

See also Joan Baez Sings Dylan, Lennon, Earle, and Speaks Obama at New York Town Hall Concert

Friday, September 14, 2007

Mad Men 9: Betty Grace Kelly

A superb Don and Betty Mad Men last night - one of the best of the series - with an important story that not only taught us more about their relationship but also showed us things about each, individually, that we didn't quite know before.

The catalyst is Don being offered a job by a McCann-Erickson exec, Jim Hobart. Don's tempted by access to a world bigger and more exciting than what he can get at Sterling Cooper. But Hobart, seeking any additional leverage he can get, offers Betty an assignment as a model.

Betty (January Jones) does look like Grace Kelly, and was a model before she married Don, so Hobart's offer certainly makes sense on the face of it. But, clearly, Hobart is hoping that Betty's good fortune at McCann-Erickson will be the icing on the cake for Don.

It proves to be just the opposite. Don, more complex, as always, that anyone around him realizes, abruptly ends the McCann courtship when Hobart sends him the first photos of Betty. She looks radiant. So why does this lead Don to say no to McCann?

Two possible reasons. One, maybe Don doesn't want Betty to have a career. He knows that if he doesn't go with McCann, Betty's modeling there will disappear, and that's exactly what happens. Two, maybe Don doesn't like being manipulated by Hobart in this way. I'm leaning towards Two, but reason One could have contributed, too...

Meanwhile ... we learn that Betty really loves getting back to modeling, and doing more than being a housewife. However happy she tells Don she is at the end, we now know, for sure, that she has a drive that goes beyond taking care of the kids and cooking great meals for Don.

And back at the office, a good Nixon-Kennedy discussion, Peggy's gaining a little weight ... which leads to another high round of male chauvinism from Harry-Asimov (Rich Sommer) and the guys, some delightfully rendered advice from Joan, and ... well, my wife has been saying almost since day one that Peggy got pregnant on that first night with Pete...

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 7: Revenge of the Mollusk ... Mad Men 8: Weed, Twist, Hobo, Excellent ... Mad men 10: Life, Death, and Politics ... Mad Men 11: Heat! ... Mad Men 12: Admirable Don ... Mad Men 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes

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

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

Thursday, September 13, 2007

John Edwards Responds to Bush Address via Commercial

Good for John Edwards for buying air-time on MSNBC tonight to respond to President Bush's address to the nation about Iraq.

The formal Democratic response came from Jack Reed, and it was fine.

But why shouldn't John Edwards - or any of the other candidates - avail themselves of the opportunity to address the nation by buying air-time? What is the difference between buying air-time to specifically respond to the President, and buying air-time for any other political commercial? There is none, other than the response to President is far more important.

And John Edwards is, strategically, ideally situated to give this response. Unlike Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who in the end voted to continue funding the war a few months ago, Edwards was out of office and did not. (Obama, not in office when the initial, unconstitutional war powers were given to Bush by Congress, is at least untainted by that. Of the candidates then in office, only Kucinich of the Democrats and Ron Paul of the Republicans understood the Constitution well enough to vote against those initial war-enabling powers.) True, it was no doubt easier for Edwards being out of office a few months ago to oppose the continued funding of the war then, but it was nonetheless courageous, given that he was already running for President.

The difference between commercials and news coverage has never been that great, given "infomercials" on the one hand and politically biased reporting of organizations like Fox News, on the other. From the point of view of American viewers, what matters is what candidates and Presidents say, not who pays for it.

John Edwards was therefore courageous tonight not only in responding to the President, but in utilizing the medium of the commercial to do it.


Vanessa Hudgens Owes No Apologies

I was happy to see in the Reuters article published today that I'm not the only media observer who thinks that Vanessa Hudgens owes no one any apology for the nude photographs of her that came light last Wednesday. "We as a society are finally growing up and it's a healthy thing," I'm correctly quoted as saying. Then, "I predict in the next few years, the FCC will be put in its proper place and nudity will be the norm".

Robert Thompson, Professor of Media and Popular Culture at Syracuse University who is quoted in the media even more frequently than I am, put it this way: "While filling in a survey, people will always check off with one hand that there's too much sex and violence in the media, while using the other hand to search for that kind of material."

I don't know if everyone would check off that box - certainly I would not - but Thompson's completely right about the hypocrisy.

It's too bad if anyone is embarrassed by the human body. That's life. That's who and what we are. Don't look at it if it makes you uncomfortable. If you're a parent and you don't want your kids looking at it, don't call the FCC or lash out at the television station or actress or actor - exercise a little parental control.

Interview with Obama Girl Producer Ben Relles

It's Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish New Year, 5768 - and, in addition to wishing everyone a Happy New Year, with lots of honey, how's this for a segue -

Another video response to "Crush On Obama Girl" - Rosh Hashanah Girl - went up on YouTube two weeks ago. It's good, and funny, and already has more than 200,000 views...

Which goes to show how thoroughly Ben Relles' BarelyPolitical.com videos have already permeated our culture.

So, what better time to post the podcast interview I conducted with Ben Relles last week! We discuss how Ben and the team came up with the idea for Obama Girl ... how Amber Lee Ettinger came to be Obama Girl ... the role of songwriter singer Leah Kauffman ... Barack Obama and his family and campaign's reactions to the Obama Girl videos, and Ben's response to these reactions ... plus, placement of BarelyPolitical.com in the history and future of political satirical television and video...

You can listen to this on my Light On Light Through podcast page, or just click on the player below...

interview with Ben Relles

Ben RellesAmber Lee EttingerLeah Kauffman

see also The Barely Political Revolution ...