Saturday, October 31, 2015
In the beginning of this conflict called a presidential election, I wrote an article titled “The Fabulous Four”. In it, I identified four GOP candidate whom I thought would be there at the end when the smoke cleared. The four individuals were Trump, Kasich, Jeb, and Rubio. I didn’t mention Ted Cruz, who’s had a good week and a rising profile. I published my article on August 13, 2015 so my guesswork two months later can be described as “not bad for an amateur.” Or maybe I should say “not bad for an amateur among amateurs” because the MSM is not doing any better with their constant touting of the flavor du jour and going with whatever sells the most advertising.
The MSM coverage, with rare exception, has been tragically awful. Tragically awful personalities who have mucked things up include the three hopeless mice (#CNBC ‘s Carl Quintanilla, Becky QuicK, and John Harwood) who demeaned the entire democratic process by bringing it down to the level of an 8th grade food fight. Having liberal Democrats ask some questions is okay but this most recent anti-GOP debauchery was pathetic. The MSM conservative establishment has done only a little better with their one-size-fits-all mentality, their oversimplification of complex issues, their hypocritical swipes at a vague abstraction knowns as “The Establishment.”
You could at least say that Rush Limbaugh is one of the pioneers of that type of “journalism,” and his brand of satire has twisted things to the degree that used to be funny. However, funny man Rush sometimes seems so over even when he has occasional flashes of original insight. He repeats himself endlessly, poor man. Of course, the favored technique of the all of these pamphleteers has been to use the bludgeon, to repeat slogans ad infinitum, and to use the label to sell “My Pillow (Hannity)”, to promote a Gold Bug mentality (Levine) and I forget what Rush Limbaugh is selling.
These men are not the worst of the once authentic conservatives who are now marketing a brand, complete with copyright and patents protected. God forbid should you realize that a president must government everyone, and not be like President Obama who thinks his presidency only extends to a narrow but expanding slice of left-wing America hating progressives. The worse of this ilk are the copycats who get their marching orders from on high, with nary an original thought: Anne Coulter (once an ardent admirer of Chris Christie who now is on Trump’s short list for press secretary) and Laura Ingraham, whose sole aim in life is to break out of radio and land a coveted spot on Bret Baier’s Special Report TV where they often have real journalists on the panel—including real liberal and moderate journalists.
But I digress. Another way of looking at my political prognostication is three out of four ain’t bad, but that description is perhaps to give myself too much credit. I suppose accuracy depends on whether we’re talking about winning the GOP primary or whether we’re talking about who is doing well as of today. Shit happens. My man Jeb Bush is not doing so well. Trump is marching in place but still high in the rankings. Rubio has surged primarily owing to his youthful exuberance, his intense preparation, and his adept speaking style. While Kasich has plummeted.
How would I revise my Fab Four today? I think Ted Cruz, and this is difficult for me to acknowledge, must replace Kasich among the Fab Four (I know—very opposite, no compassionate conservativism, kind of a shame). I’d keep Rubio. Trump is still there but no longer as mesmerizing as he once was.
You’ll hate me for this but consider that I’m Sicilian (American first) and genetically loyal to my gang even when we’re shot full of holes. Consider also that I’m not looking for personality or charm or stage presence – I still think colorless, plain vanilla Bush knows most about American governance and would have the least flawed learning curve. That’s what worries me about all the rest. New presidents always blunder so I want the guy who will blunder the least—which to me means more lives saved, more people presented with more opportunities. I think both Rubio and Bush have reasonable, realistic, immigration plans that are far superior to the hyper-inflated claims Mr. Trump is making. It’s the knowledge and competence factor that impresses me, not the flash, not the bombast, not the celebrity.
There is only one danger to nominating Jeb Bush and it is that he has the most enemies of all the candidates. He has so many enemies that it baffles me that anyone should call him the “establishment” guy. The media, whether conservative or liberal-left, never misses a chance to attack him. The Tea Party attacks him at every turn. Click-bait talk radio conservatives slash at him every chance they get. All of this combines to make a Jeb Bush nomination a steep hill to climb, in spite of the fact he has the best chance of all of defeating Hillary Clinton.
People who think a Ted Cruz or a Donald Trump can defeat a woman as studied and familiar with the working of the Washington political machine are delusional. I’ll tell you why in the next chapter.
A plane crash in the central Sinai region of Egypt this morning claimed the lives of more than 200 passengers. Most of the passengers were Russian, coming from the Sinai seaside resort of Sharm Al-Sheikh, one of the most popular tourist destinations for Russians. An estimated 3 million Russians vacation at the seaside resort each year.
Early reports are not always reliable but suggest that the aircraft did not explode in the air but lost power and went nose down after failing to make an emergency landing at Al-Arish Airport. The airline is operated by Kogalymavia, aka Metrojet, which specializes in transporting vacationers to tourist destinations.
Things to Know:
- The Plane was 23 minutes into the air when it lost contact with air traffic control
- 224 were aboard, 7 of them crew members.
- Early official statements suggest that technical problems brought down the plane rather than terrorism.
- A Russian state-owned TV station reported that the pilot reported technical problems and requested landing at another airport before it went down.
Thursday, October 29, 2015
I just binge-watched about twelve chapters of a Showtime serial called “The Affair.” You might think I’d have an opinion of it but I don’t. The only thing I’m sure of is which characters I like best. Or like at all.
Of the chief characters, I most like Helen, Cole, and Whitney. At least Helen and Cole are the “good,” even if they are tarnished. Whitney? She’s a teenager run amok, in part derailed by the divorce of her parents, the other part being the expected traumas of adolescence.
So who’s who and what’s the game? Helen and Noah Sollaway always take the kids and themselves to spend the summers on Montauk with Helen’s wealthy parents. It’s an idyllic somewhat boring existence. Noah Solloway takes a walk along the beach path one day and meets “younger woman” Allison outside her own cottage. They have a little flirtation at first, which sends Noah over the moon, and soon they’re wrapped up into a full-blown affair with lots of stand-up and lay-down screwing, subterfuge, spousal and family issues, and intense yearnings.
The people who created “The Affair” must be praised for disobeying the first commandment of Hollywood filmmaking: the leading characters must be appealing. That is, they must be appealing, even if they are flawed. I wonder though, if the writers who created the characters of Noah Solloway and Alison Baily intended them to be weighted toward the disagreeable rather than mostly appealing. Or perhaps, as happens so many times, it was a case of the inmates overrunning the asylum.
The show’s creator provides some perspective, and some additional information about the show, in a conversation she had with TV Guide.
When I first met Alison, I liked her, not only because she was the woman who saved the Solloway’s kid from choking to death, but simply because she was likable. When I first met Noah, my instinct was to withhold emotional attachment until he showed more of the qualities one appreciates in a leading man. Instead, the handsome gent with the deep manly voice showed a great deal of self- absorption, and the type of self- indulgence that would have allowed him to leave Helen, his wife of many years and their four children.
My third strike against the Noah Solloway character is that he’s a writer, struggling along with his first book, then his second, with all the self-doubt and anxiety that could really produce. On top of that, he’s competing with his father-in-law, an egomaniacal man with an established literary reputation. Very often when TV or film writers want to make a sympathetic character, they make him or her into this struggling writer meme because…oh, yes… we’re all sacrificing ourselves (not to mention our families) for Art with a capital “A.” That’s all bullshit, of course; the truth is far more gritty and unappealing and so many writers have shitty personalities, outsized egos when compared to the true greats, and worse, they excuse bad behavior because it is expected of them as eccentric, romantic, literary heros. Noah Solloway is a guy who can’t say no to himself though he easily and always says no to his wife and four children.
This is not to hand you a lecture on the virtues of “family values.” It just is what it is. That’s what happens in “The Affair.” For her part, Allison sullies herself in this association where she is expected at all turns to accept whatever second-tier emotional crumbs are left to her. That’s because she is guilt-ridden, having suffered through the death of her young child, sending her marriage to Cole spiraling downward. The script leaves no secret that Alison is a masochist – she even cuts herself on the upper thigh so that she can feel the pain of loss again and again. If you don’t believe that, consider the suicide scene where she tries to walk out into the ocean to drown.
“The Affair” puts the audience in a moral space, of course, and even seems persuasive of the view that affairs are a good thing. It’s possible they may be a good thing in some twisted sense but they hurt people. The Noah Solloway character, intelligent, bright, handsome, and driven, is for me very hard to like.
Yet, I have wallowed in the sexy misery of twelve episodes, and now that I’m caught up, will find it easier to follow until it either ends or gets entirely boring (It does have boring segments where you can turn back to Twitter or other social media while watching it without missing much).
I’ve made some criticisms, and I don’t think they’re particularly harsh. I hope they’re not harsh because the actors are not to be faulted for the script and the story line. I would say that it is because of the talent of the actors that made me catch the unlikable imperfect shading with which the characters are imbued. If that’s a convoluted sentence or way of putting it, let me say it this way: the acting in the series has been consistently above par.
Which brings me to the right-on acting of the snotty teen girl, Noah and Helen’s snarky and malevolent seventeen year old daughter Whitney, who gets knocked up by one of Alison’s brothers-in-law. But that will wait for another time.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
I recapped the latest episode of “The Good Wife” for TV Eskimo (tveskimo.com), a web site that keeps up with a variety of television episodes. You can look at it here – it’s short.
Too often I’m mired in politics, so I thought some TV talk would get my mind out of that gutter. Have I mixed metaphors there? “Mired?” Stuck in mud. “Gutter?” That can mean a lot of things (including those attractive pits where my ball tends to go in the bowling alley).
I was an early fan of “The Good Wife” and watched it for a couple of seasons fairly often. Then I stopped watching it regularly and began watching it only occasionally when I thought it wondered off the intensity it began with. I’m sure it’s very hard to keep up the intensity after seven seasons so I’m not complaining – just that I have certain expectations. But someone among the writers for the show this seasons must have decided “let’s get back to serious business” even though “serious business” must be dumbed down a bit to retain part of the audience. But I think most every episode, even the worst of them, has been far above the heads of an audience which might watch….say…. “Jackass?”
Every series episode will have one or more legal issues to provide food for thought as well as comic entertainment. The entertainment/comedy portion of this ep was about a segment of the attorney population called “bar attorneys.” It was funny – the lawyers bartered over clients by the pound (yes, body weight). The deeply philosophical and intensely legal segment had to do with doctor assisted suicide. Not fun, but interesting arguments presented from both sides.
So I’m back to watching it. The acting is always good. The writers are always too clever by half. And hell! What else is happening on a Sunday night in Peoria? (I’m not really in Peoria, I’m in my own private Idaho) My other great TV (and real life) passion is boxing. If some enterprising entrepreneur would put boxing on Sunday nights – I would have a real dilemma.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Get ready for another attempt at historical revision of an event that no longer lives in memory. The Robert Redford movie about Dan Rather’s firing from CBS has landed with a dull thud. Or perhaps, the movie “Truth” will have some appeal for idealistic twenty-somethings who were ten years old at the time of the ‘key event’ of the movie.
Here’s the short of it: That icon of television journalism, Dan Rather, lost his job when he and his producer, Mary Mapes, decided to go ahead with the broadcast of some phony documents presented to them by an rabid anti-Bush politician. The forged documents quoted unidentified and still mysterious sources who maintained that George W. Bush got into the Texas Air National Guard with the help of this shady politician. (At least President Bush was in something military –unlike current GOP fictional hero Donald Trump who bought four deferments) The fictional sources mentioned, according to today’s Wall Street Journal, consisted of a mysterious ‘Lucy Ramirez’ (because there are thousands in the phone book) and a ‘dark-skinned stranger.’
The anti-Bush slimed documents were immediately recognized as forgeries, and CBS had no choice but to fire Dan Rather.
That was the reality but now Mary Mapes, Dan Rather, Robert Redford, and Cate Blanchett are together in this “Truth” Truther, hoping to make some money out of the public amnesia which is evident even in the current 2016 presidential race. American brains are so scrambled (I am an American) that it is now possible to revise, compile, and be believed by 50 percent of the population in a fictional account about what happened last week. What chance does truth have today regarding some event that happened in 2004?
Robert Redford will no doubt portray a heroic Dan Rather. Kate Blanchett will play a heroic Mary Mapes. There is a good chance that fifty percent of the population may accept this as historical truth. But there is an even better chance that the movie will bomb (reviews are already unfavorable) because it casts journalism into the phantasmagorical light of it is own solipsism.
There are still good reporters out there, but everyone recognizes they are drowned out by anti-historical clickbait ninnies. The latter are the rule; the former the exception. I will even acknowledge that the anti-Bush super-liberal Dan Rather did some good honest reporting during his long career. But the conspiracy to take down a president with forged documents was not a high moment in journalism. Just as this anti-Republican liberal-left screed advertising itself as a film is not a high moment in film.
My guess is that "Truth" will sink to depths even lower than those attained by our Massive Ordnance Penetrator bombs. CBS even refuses to take film advertising for “Truth” and what better recommendation for a film is that?
Monday, October 5, 2015
I was watching the first episode of Homeland – Season 5 – and you probably know by now that the story line was virtually ripped from the headlines. You’ll remember a while back (seems so long ago) that Angela Merkel and her government were incensed that we (The U.S. being “we”) were spying on them. Somehow the surveillance got identified and, of course, this led to an entirely embarrassing situation that occupied the media for weeks. Casablanca. I’m shocked, shocked Rick! There’s gambling going on here.
There were some TV commentators who took issue with the mention of the German surveillance, “hactivists”, and of “Anonymous” as if it were somehow cheating, somehow not as good as if you made stuff up out of whole cloth. Other commentators were okay about the idea, having opinions lukewarm or tepid, and then there is a third category of commentator who comprised of people like me who are good and fed up with stuff that pretends we are in a different world than the one we’re actually living in. Things are tough all over, the planet is a lot smaller, we see and experience all of it, or at least more than ever before. On the extreme end of the escapist crowd are the people who absolutely insist that their creative inputs must have no connection to the awful, awful things that occur every day. Things like the refugee problem, also given billing in Ep 1 of Season 5 “Homeland.”
As you know, Carrie had quit the CIA and is working at the “Foundation,” a supposedly humanitarian aid organization which, in contrast to hardcore CIA types, espouses liberal anti-U.S. sentiment akin to what we are now experiencing from Doctors Without Borders. The great thing about “Homeland” is that all sides are presented, and no sides are pretty in the way some people insist creative work absolutely, positively and without a doubt MUST be.
Let’s face it – most television drama is decidedly liberal and aimed at a sort of flavor-of-the-week cause like gay rights, women’s rights, rights of the mentally ill, LGBT rights, abortion rights, persecution of minorities (no matter that minorities here do the least amount of suffering of any social group in the universe), and so on ad-infinitum. The only rights that are rarely upheld or promoted in liberal TV dramas are Second Amendment rights. The people who create this vast onslaught of liberal dreck are elite Democratic Socialists who feel they are enlightening us – peons, troglodytes, subhumans, and others liberals look down upon as vermin.
“Homeland” is successful because it’s the real shit. We don’t live in a black and white world. There are not only two sides to every issue on “Homeland,” there are maybe 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 sides. Most of us have empathy for human suffering but beating our breasts and cueing our outrage to show others how deeply we feel the suffering of others doesn’t do a damn thing to alleviate suffering and in many cases makes things worse. It should be especially obvious in the current political environment that weakness, abdication of power, making nice with our enemies has created a vacuum that others have filled. (Iran Nuclear Nightmare, ISIS, Putin, Kadyrov (spelling? The Chechnyan Warlord, I mean) – those are the result of our nation’s current weakness. The mercenary liberal cant has given us a failed economy, a failed foreign policy, and it has created the most massive refugee problem seen since WWII.
“Homeland” is great in depicting real events. They should rip everything out of the foreign policy headlines. That still leaves the great task of creating realistic dialogue, acting, and cinematography and putting it all together in a coherent and intelligent fashion. That’s what Homeland does, and if you think it’s easy. . . I have to say one thing about that Claire Danes’ “Carrie” character. She is one messed up chick with her husky voice, her perpetual panic and revulsion, her clanging emotions, her chameleon face. Other characters, too, seem to have hard studied the meanings of ambivalence and ambiguity. How can you not love her, them, it?
TV writers should add to our understanding of the world, and not condescend to us or try to re-engineer our DNA to make everyone and everything fit into infatuated liberal notions of how the world should be. I’d much rather be engaged in what it is instead of what it’s not.