The Enemy Of My Enemy…Still Makes Me Feel Slimy

Lena Dunham.

On the one hand, she writes indulgent, entitle twaddle like Girls.  Including lines like:

… and the other thing about me is I give zero f***s about anything, yet I have a strong opinion about everything, even topics I’m not informed on.”

Which is simultaneously risibly vacuous and as perfect a sample of Urban Liberal Privilege as you can find.   (The phrase “Zero F****s Given” is a primary indicator of a deeply vapid person).

On the other?  She throws Paul Krugman under the bus.

Talk about a fight where there is no winner, except all the rest of us.

 

Diary Of A Burst Of Stifling Entitlement

A candid history of the soon-to-be-late HBO series “Girls”, starring, well, everyone involved in the show.

I’ve seen a grand total of five minutes of “Girls” – don’t ask – and won’t pretend to care for it any more than creator/star Lena Dunham or executive prod Judd Apatow will claim I’m supposed to.

But written in between the lines of the article is the extent to which Urban Liberal Privilege greases the skids of Hollywood.

Richie Guns The Motor And Fonzie Takes Flight

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Lately, I’ve been watching the reboot of “Hawaii 5-0” on Netflix.  Started out as a typical cop show with the usual shoot-outs and chase scenes, but the real value of the show was the scenery.  No, not island volcanoes and surfboards; every dialogue scene featured the main characters standing on the beach talking in the foreground while bikini-clad hotties paraded behind them.  After a while, it became amusing – apparently the beaches in Hawaii have nothing but hotties.  Where are the pasty beach whales from Minnesota, desperate to get their 5-day tan before the vacation ends?

 Now that I’m into Season 3, the scenery has changed.  Lots of flying over rain forests and aerial views of high-rise hotels, nowhere near as much background beach action.  And the storyline has changed, too, not as many chase-them-until-you-shoot-them action scenes, more trouble-with-her-boyfriend and who-will-get-custody drama.  I started out watching Starsky and Hutch but now I’m watching General Hospital.

 I suspect it’s a deliberate shift away from Guy Show over to Chick Flick.  They’ve ruined it.  I’m done watching before they go full Law and Order, preaching the blessings of gun control, the evil of Christianity and the absolute necessity of whatever ‘right’ is the fad today.

Joe Doakes

I suspect a writers room full of people who want to write Something Meaningful.  With predictable results.

The Wise Celebrity

Cary Grant – one of classic Hollywood’s greatest actors, and a lifelong Republican – on expressing his political opinion:

“I’m opposed to actors taking sides in public and spouting spontaneously about love, religion or politics. We aren’t experts on these subjects. Personally, I’m a mass of inconsistencies when it comes to politics. My opinions are constantly changing. That’s why I don’t ever take a public stand on issues.”

Smart guy.

The Good Hollywood Liberal

In the wake of the left’s disgraceful self-clowning at the Golden Glob Awards, the right’s perception of the Hollywood Liberal may be at Peak Meme.  And for good reason.

But Christian Toto, writing in the National Review about filmmaker Peter Berg (no relation) cautions on the danger of painting with too broad a brush about “Hollywood Liberals”.

The lesson?  We need a brush exactly broad enough.

Bringing A Nail Clipper To A Gunfight

Hollywood is threatening a strike until Donald Trump retires…

…well, OK.  Not “Hollywood”.  Just some actors.

Brad Pitt, Amy Adams, Dakota Fanning and Ralph Fiennes are among the A-listers…

…who are not mentioned anywhere in the piece about the supposed strike:

Rosie O’Donnell, Debra Messing, Ed Asner and Michael Shannon are among the dozens of artists, entertainers, and activists who have attached their names to an effort calling for a month-long protest to stop President-elect Donald Trump.

Those are the four they led with?

Rosie O’Donnell, whose picture s in the DSM-V under “delusional?”

Debra Messing, who turned all that “Will and Grace” star power into one entire season of The Starter Wife on the USA Network before it got tanked?

Is Ed Asner really still alive?

And…Michael who?  Wasn’t he “Lord of the Dance” 20 years ago or something?

Gotta Move Fast

My piece earlier this noon hour, about the complete collapse of Jessica Chastain’s anti-2nd-Amendment melodrama Miss Sloane, reminds me of a problem that’s emerged this past year.

Sloane was the second movie in the past 12 months involving an issue in which I’m fairly intimately involved, and that I’ve actually wanted to go to a theater to see (the other  was the hilariously-mistitled Truth, which passed unlamented by anyone but the left’s movie critics in the winter of 2015), albeit only at a second-run theater like the Riverview; I’m not gonna give Hollywood the satisfaction of paying full price to watch its propaganda.

Either, it seems, did anyone else.  Both movies disappeared from box offices faster than the Vikings left the playoff race.

The “problem”?  They leave the theaters before I can get around to going to review them.

It’s a smile problem, in the great scheme of things, but still.

“We, The Undersigned…

…group of actors – people who earn an intermittent living acting like people we’re not, who almost universally live in a place and culture, Hollywood, that has no bearing on the objective reality most Americans live in – who are mostly famous for playing roles in a series about a fictional, utopian, creepily big-brotherish universal government, playing to a fan base that has treated us and the franchise (of, let me repeat, fiction) in which we acted like a pseudo-religion, which has continued to keep many of us paid via two generations of fan fairs and other residuals, ask  you, the people of the real world, to take our political advice seriously“.

I guess there’s a reason I’m not in PR for the Screen Actors Guild.

Open Letter To Every Single Movie Ticket Website

To: the owners of every single movie ticket website
From: Mitchell Berg, cranky consumer
Re: Huh?

All,

I went out on your website – which one doesn’t matter, because you’re all pretty much the same – last night to try to buy a ticket to “Sully”.

Ticket prices are insane – I get that.

But below the ticket price, you added a two dollar “convenience fee”.

For two dollars, I’ll stand in the line for 40 seconds. I shut off the browser and went to the Riverview Theater to see “Blazing Saddles”.

But I had a brilliant idea. Stop charging the “convenience fee” to buy the ticket. But start selling concessions online, have them ready at a “will call” window for concessions when I get there, and I will pay the two dollars not to stand in line for my damn popcorn..

See to this.

That is all.

On My Wish List

Springsteen’s autobiography is due in stores shortly.

And at least one reviewer raves.

I do love this particular pull-quote:

“One of the points I’m making in the book is that, whoever you’ve been and wherever you’ve been, it never leaves you,” he said, expanding upon this thought with the most Springsteen-esque metaphor possible: “I always picture it as a car. All your selves are in it. And a new self can get in, but the old selves can’t ever get out. The important thing is, who’s got their hands on the wheel at any given moment?”

In Born to Run, the Bruce in the driver’s seat is often the kid or the conflicted young man who cowered or sulked in the presence of his father, Doug. The Springsteen catalogue abounds with songs about difficult father-son relationships, such as the recriminatory “Adam Raised a Cain,” the rueful “My Father’s House,” and the valedictory leaving-home ballad “Independence Day” (“The darkness of this house has got the best of us”), the last of which Springsteen introduced to the Gothenburg crowd as a song about “two people that love each other but struggle to understand one another.”

Book going on sale soon ?   I’ll be there on time, and I’ll pay the cost.

For the book, I mean.

(Not a Bruce fan?  Get your own blog).

Breaking The Silence

Sometimes, you hold a secret that’s so inflammatory, so divisive, so certain to lead to sturm und drang, that you just hang onto it.  You keep it bottled up inside, and let it fester, for months, years, even decades.

Sometimes you take those secrets to the grave.

But sometimes – rarely, but it blessedly happens – something allows you to break the silence, and let the secret out, and let the truth be known.

This is one of those times.

Madeline LeBeau

The last surviving credited cast member from the movie “Casablanca”, French actress Madeline LeBeau, has died.  She was 92.

LeBeau, in a still from a scene cut from “Casablanca”

The cause was complications from a broken thigh bone, her stepson, documentary filmmaker and mountaineer Carlo Alberto Pinelli, told the Hollywood Reporter.

Ms. LeBeau (sometimes credited as Lebeau) was the last surviving credited cast member of “Casablanca” (1942), which the American Film Institute lists as the second greatest movie of all time. “Citizen Kane” is No. 1, according to the film preservation group.

She played Rick Blaine’s (Humphrey Bogart) jilted girlfriend in the early part of the movie…:

I have no idea where the subtitles come from. Bizarre.

…and then reappeared during the famous “La Marseillaise” scene:

(Along with her husband at the time, Emil the Croupier, who hands Major Renault his winnings at the end of the clip).

In The Closet

While Hollywood (a wholly owned subsidary of the American Left) toes the left’s designated political line, they get almost…conservative, sometimes, when the proverbial chips are down:

On some issues, Hollywood can be downright right-wing. From the value of guns in The Walking Dead to the honor of police in countless dramas to the importance of family in most sitcoms, there is a lot more conservatism, broadly understood, on TV than conservatives or liberals ever notice.

And so it is with abortion. With the exception of Maude (an awful left-wing 1970s TV show)  and some “edgy” HBO series, there have been no major sitcoms in which a character has had an abortion.

I’d add Neve Campbell’s “Julia Salinger” from Party of Five which, it’s alarming to note, was 22 years ago.

Why? Well, one reason is abortions aren’t funny. There’s no reason to write a storyline in which a character gets pregnant only to decide later not have a baby. That’s not a punch line, it’s a tragedy. Even the very liberal Mindy Kaling, star and producer of The Mindy Project, says the show won’t touch the issue of abortion — and Kaling plays a gynecologist.

And so while politics is downstream of culture, at least some part of the culture business finds it in its interest to remember that most people are, broadly, conservative.

Fear The Walking Dead: Exit 288

SCENE: The prairie.  It’s the dead of winter.  The sky sweeps above in 180 degrees of piercing blue, studded with a few isolated scudding clouds, pale with the reflections of frozen ice crystals in the air, as the very humidity itself is frozen.  The wind is light – 10 mph – as it sweeps across the plains.   As far as the eye can see, there is snow.  

A squad car rolls up a four lane freeway.  Behind the wheel, Officer Tom CHRISTIANSON, a Barnes County sheriff’s deputy, sails briskly up the road, his whoopie lights turned off.  CHRISTIANSON, a trim, purposeful man in his late thirties, looks tired, even a little haggard, but his eyes are focused and fierce.    The camera briefly focuses on a green freeway sign:  “Fargo 72; Valley City 12”.  And then another:  “Exit 288 – No Services”.

CHRISTIANSON slows and pulls up behind a Ford F150 Club Cab, which is idling on the shoulder of the eastbound lane just east of the exit  He climbs out of his squad car, dons his stetson, and walks up to the pickup, his breath steaming in the bitter cold as it blows away.  

Jake and Donna STADEL, a thirty-something couple, are standing by the tailgate.  Jake is carrying a hunting rifle; Donna, a long-barreled hunting shotgun.   CHRISTIANSON shakes Jake and then Donna’s hands.  

CHRISTIANSON:  Jake.  Donna.

J STADEL:   Deputy.

D STADEL:   Tom.

J STADEL:   So is it true what they’ve been saying?

CHRISTIANSON:  (Shakes head in a way that says “just a little numb from fatigue and confusion”).  No idea.  Last thing anyone knows is that all the TV and cable networks went off the air.

J STADEL:   Did you see that one live newscast where they…

D STADEL:  …overran the news crew live on the air, on camera…

J STADEL:  In the middle of that riot?

(All three go silent, shaking their heads, wincing in horror at the horrid memory).

CHRISTIANSON:   Yep.  I did.

J STADEL:   So they’re saying they (thumb points over shoulder, off-camera to the right) are pretty much everywhere these days?

CHRISTIANSON:   The whole east coast.  All of California.  The whole deep south.  Even the desert southwest.  The last ham-radio transmissions say they’re pretty much the only thing left walking in those parts of the country.   There’s a few survivors, I suppose, but they’re few and far between.

J STADEL:  Jeez.

D STADEL:  God.

CHRISTIANSON:  Yep.

J STADEL:  So we’re…

CHRISTIANSON:  Us and South Dakota, northern Minnesota, Montana, the U.P,. Alaska, Manitoba and Saskatchewan and parts of Alberta, Russia, Finland…

(All three shake their heads as the thought trails off).

CHRISTIANSON:  Well, thanks for calling this in.  Let’s get to it.

(Camera pulls back and pans right, and we see a large herd of zombies trailing off to the east, perhaps two hundred of them – all of them frozen stiff; a few jerk fitfully about and hack and gack feebly; most are utterly frozen.  The three grab machetes and axes, and walk toward group and start hacking).

CHRISTIANSON:  You still doing poker on Friday, Jake?  (Grunts has he hacks off a frozen head)

J STADEL:  Oh, ya.  You betcha. Won’t be there until after Shania’s basketball game.  (Plunges knife into zombie skull)

CHRISTIANSON:  How’s the team doing this year?

D STADEL:  She’s finally getting enough playing time.  Now we just gotta get her chemistry grade up…  (Smashes a head with an axe)

CHRISTIANSON:  I had to take away Ashley’s X-box…

(Fade to black over mundane small talk as the three matter-of-factly go about lopping off frozen zombies).  

(And SCENE)

The Stench Of Death

You walked in off of First Avenue in Jamestown, the sky still dark at 5AM, turned your key and tugged on an aluminum door frame that fit a little tight in its jamb, and stepped into a building that dated back to before 1900; on the main floor was White Drug – the first Whites in what is still today a major regional chain.

You walked up eighteen stone stairs to a small landing, turned left, and walked up six more, to a terrazzo-floored hallway.  To your left was an insurance office, dark and quiet  As you turned right, to your right was a law office of some kind.  But you walked straight ahead, toward the rear of the building.

On the right, after the men’s room, was a soundproof aluminum door that led into a room not much bigger than a walk-in closet.  We’ll come back to that.

Next to it?  Through a couple of large glass windows, a room, jammed with antique electrical and electronic equipment; closest to the window, a large, battleship-gray control console, looking a little like the front of a 1940 Buick; a control panel built literally before World War II, all Bakelite knobs and control keys, a couple of exquisitely-balanced VU meters bouncing their stately way back and forth – very unlike the meters that accompanied the age of cheap stereo gear, all herky-jerky and frenetic.  The meters seemed, themselves, to the throwbacks to a slower, more deliberate time.

To the right of the chair were two ancient turntables; to the left, a couple of bins of records.  Behind it?  Stacks of transmitter controls and reel-to-reel and cassette tape decks, and a couple of  “plectrons” – basically 1960’s versions of what we’d call “pagers” in the 1980’s, before even the pager became passe; about the size of a late ’90’s IBM PC, they carried fire calls, for the city and rural fire departments.  Each of the town’s volunteer firemen had one at home; the radio stations had ’em too.

Behind the stacks of gear?  Stacks of albums.  Thousands of them, tucked into wall shelves; stuff that’d be treasures today, sought after by rock and roll vinyl collectors (first-edition Beatles and Stones albums from the sixties), or retro collectors (obscure albums by Dean Martin, Perry Como, and even Lorne Greene); genres that haven’t shared shelf space in decades; modern jazz, forties pop, even copies of Devo and Ramones albums that snuck in there some how.  There was no rhyme or reason.  It was a huge jumble.

A door at the back led into the “closet” a few paragraphs back – the “newsroom”.  A single steel desk and a couple of file cabinets and, to your left, chattering away 24/7, an AP teletype, sitting in a closet, churning through boxes of yellow-y fanfold paper a week; an endless rotation of international headlines, national news, North Dakota and Tri-State news, National and North Dakota/Tri-state scores, and of course weather.  Forecasts updated hourly; extended forecasts and 24-hour temperature summaries; occasionally when things were slow, “lites” – funny stories – and, once a day around midnights, “pronouncers”, lists of phonetic pronunciations of names in the news (which were pretty vital, in 1980, as American newsmen learned how to convey news about Sadegh Ghotzbzadeh to the public).

Going to work on a Saturday morning at 5AM, the first job was to turn on the power to the transmitter and its remote controls; the transmitter was a mile and a half away, next to where the James River passed under I94, by the road to the State Hospital.  You turned on the big box full of vaccuum tubes – the station was years away from going solid-state – and watched the needles climb into their nominal operating range, noting the readings on the transmitter log.

Then, you went into the newsroom, and gathered up the 100 feet of fanfold copy that had streamed out overnight.  You rolled it up, hauled it through the studio, and into a room on the other side, with a table that seated eight people, and a small remote control board with a “1931” date stamp on the back, all brownish-red burled metal and impeccably-balanced bakelite knobs, nursed along year to year by a patient engineering staff and a famously penurious boss.   Although you didn’t know what “talk radio” was yet, and neither did anyone else, it was where the station’s owner and the news director hosted a one-hour daily talk show, five days a week, with guests from around town.

You sat down at the table, and started ripping and sorting the wire copy.  National news, regional, local, sports and weather – you’d wind up reading a little of each several times over the next ten hours.  With a little practice, you could flense 100 feet of wire copy down into neat stacks in a half hour, stack them into newscasts – you’d have full-hour news, weather and sportscasts at 6AM, 7AM and noon – buy a coke from the vending machine next to the boss’ office (across and down the hall), and wait for 5:50AM.

Then, it was time to flip the “Plates” control to “on”; this sent power to the transmitter’s final output stage.  It was accompanied by a buzzing, and smell of ozone, as vacuum tubes engaged and power and signal started moving through the wires.  You took readings voltage and wattage readings from the output stage and antenna, wrote them on the transmitter log, “signed on” the station with your signature on the log…

…and pulled out tape the tape cartridge that would accompany your signon.

The clock ticked to straight-up 5:55AM.  You flipped the key on the main board mike to “on”, and read – or, after a few Saturdays, recited – the sign-on script that had ushered the station on the air seven days a week since 1949.

At this time, radio station KEYJ in Jamestown, North Dakota, begins the broadcast day.  KEYJ operates at a frequency of fourteen-hundred kilocycles at one thousand watts daytime and 250 watts at night, by authority of the Federal Communications Commission, and is owned and operated by KEYJ Incorporated of Jamestown, North Dakota.

We invite you to stay tuned to KEYJ for the latest in news, weather, sports, and information.  Good morning!

You then punched the “start” button to your tape cartridge machine – a “Cart”, which looked and functioned just like an eight-track tape – which launched the National Anthem.  At the end of which, you read the day’s forecast and long-range forecast, which took you to the 6AM newscast from Associated Press Radio.

And your day began.

That was how I spent my Saturday mornings in high school – at a little 1000 watt AM radio station; on the air from 5:55AM to 3PM; hours of news and info at 7, 8 and noon; “Trading Post” (a half-hour swap and shop show) at 10, and usually a taped Class B high school game of some sort or another after 1PM.

KEYJ launched a lot of careers; many of the biggest names in North Dakota radio started at KEYJ.  Not just North Dakota, either – Terry Ingstad, known to a couple generations of LA listeners as “Shadoe Stevens”, started there in the sixties; his youngest brother, Dick, a year a head of me in high school and a good friend, showed me the ropes when the boss and longtime owner, Bob Richardson, finally hired me in August of ’79.

KEYJ was sold to a group of slickee boys who tried to run it like a major-market station – including firing all the locals, including me, and changing the call letters to the charmless “KQDJ” – and failed in about a year.  More management teams came and went; the station changed hands many times, became a satellite oldies station, moved out of the old office above White Drug to a soulless little shack on the south hill, and finally became an “ESPN Sports” affiliate – like many small stations today, it has no local staff; it’s basically a computer in a closet, like Hillary’s email server, pumping digitally-sequence product and commercials to the transmitter (which is still in the same place, at least).

Like so much of the radio industry, it’s dead to me today.

Claudia Lamb writes about the implosion at once-great KGO in San Francisco – once the WCCO of the West Coast.   It illustrates a lot of what has ailed, and ultimately destroyed, most of the radio industry in the past 20 years, taking it from a thriving industry to a drain-circling corpse (outside of certain niche markets, like Spanish, Sports and conservative talk).

Worth a read.

Great Expectations

First, let me establish a couple things.

I’ve never really been into comic books. It just wasn’t really a thing when I was a kid.   I won’t say “you stopped reading comic books when you were 12” where I came from.  But I guess I did.

And while I am a pretty “live and let live” kind of guy, who is perfectly fine letting people have their own foibles and peccadilloes, I’ve always found over-the-top comic book fans inscrutable. That’s a polite way to put it; I’m tempted to mock intolerant people who get into holy wars about the DC and Marvel “universes”.

Comedy? Or documentary? You be the judge.

Like Star Trek fans writing each other out of their wills for preferring “Next Generation” over the Gene Roddenberry original, or Star Wars fans literally – I’m not making this up – screaming in anger over George Lucas’ re-editing of the Cantina scene in Srar Wars.  I’ve always found the obsessions of fanboys worth a chuckle: “Comic Store Guy” may be the only character on The Simpsons that really sticks with me;  he’s so brilliantly dead on, I can practically smell the waves of postadolescent funk rolling off of him. There just isn’t much in comic book “culture” that’s ever interested me.  (Except, of course, for The Flaming Carrot, which was a glorious spoof of comic book “culture”, and Queen and Country, which was just cool. Shut up).

And adaptations of comic books? X-Men? Captain America? Iron Man? Avengers? I’ve never watched any of them. I really just don’t care.

This ain’t hell. But it’s close.

So I’m probably as surprised as you are that I ever tuned in AMCs “The Walking Dead”. Moreso, in fact; I’ve always hated the horror genre, zombie movies in particular.

But I binge watched the first four seasons on Netflix; for seasons five and six, the weekly installments are just about the only thing I ever watch on my actual TV anymore.  It’s generally more or less capably written, frequently well acted, and by hook or crook generally winds up being a fairly addictive watch, even for this famously nonaddictive viewer.

“Hey – didn’t you play an almost identical part in Jericho?

But the most interesting thing about The Walking Dead is it’s timing. Think about previous shows that won the title of “number one show on television”; they cover a wide stretch of the media waterfront, obviously, but most of them have something to do with the mood of the nation at the time.

And for the last six years, the most popular show on American television is about a small group of misbegotten friends and neighbors surviving a civilization-ending catastrophe.  In the age of Obama, the number one show through most of the administration has been about complete, absolute, existential collapse.

And so I watch.

A cliffhanger out of a mole hill: if you have been near a browser or television for the past few weeks, don’t kid yourself; you’ve heard people talking about TWD’s season six finale, last Sunday night.

There has been much Sturm und Drang about the episode;  superfans, especially the ones who go back to the comic book, have referred to it as a “jumping the shark” moment.

Of course, they tend to be the same people who get disappointed by episodes where there is more story and less chopping off zombie heads, so I take that with a grain – no, a block –  of salt.

So I won’t go that far. Fact is, I expected a lot from last Sunday’s season finale – and year in, year out, the show has delivered.

But I have a couple of big beefs with the story, anyway.

“Negan”. The comic version. Not that it makes much difference at this point.

The first is with the idea of the Omniscient Villain.  To fully explain this, I have to throw out a bunch of spoilers – so I won’t.

But the worst, dumbest, most insulting overstretch of the imagination and over suspension of disbelief?

One of my favorite characters is Abraham – a grizzled veteran of combat, not just against zombies but against actual armed, trained humans.

Patton’s armored column drives toward the Elbe River. No, just kidding. It’s the group, debouching from their chosen combat vehicle.

The season finale asked us to accept the notion that a supposedly seasoned veteran of actual armed combat, would accept the idea that, although the party is at war with a large, powerful, human enemy (not to mention a countryside awash in zombies), he would allow Rick to load the entire group, including the sick pregnant girl, into a Winnebago – a flimsy, unreliable, unarmored, heavily-glassed-in vehicle that is the absolute worst combat vehicle ever designed – and blunder around the post-apocalyptic countryside, like they’re Chevy Chase on the way to Wallyworld, with no scouts, no reconnaissance, no mutually supporting teams, no overwatch?

Tactically speaking, this might have been a better formation than they tried in the Season 6 finale. Even with red coats and pipes and drums.

Not only did I not buy it, I groaned  out loud.  These idiots survived the apocalypse for two years?

This is what happens when comic book writers take over.

Note to producer Scott Gimpl, if you happen to be reading this: it was a terrible ending to a good season. Don’t do it again.

#OscarSoProportional

For roughly the everyeth year in my life in a row, I skipped the Oscars last night.  But I did catch a little bit of Chris Rock’s opening monologue.  And he had a couple good ones:

  • For most of Oscar history, black people had much bigger things to worry about than Oscars.
  • “Jada Pinkett-Smith boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. Neither of us were invited!”

But Alan West notes another inconvenient truth; while this year was a slow one for black nominees, African Americans over the past 20 years have actually won “Actor/Actress” and “Supporting Actor/Actress” statues exactly in proportion to their share of the population:

The problem isn’t that black people are underrepresented at the Oscars.  The problem is that the narrative needed a chanting point for February.