Tuesday, March 28, 2006

TV Highlights

7:59:24 ABC

Wanna Makeover?

This documentary goes behind the scenes at ABC’s Extreme Makeover series. Included: unsuccessful applicants, certain of their ugliness, and inspired by lemmings, begin their migration to the sea cliffs. 54 minutes, 28 seconds.

8 pm PBS

Séance Your Way to Wealth Financial.

As part of pledge week, PBS welcomes Self-Help guru Serena Gland, who shares the seven secrets of gaining monetarily, through tax-free partnerships with warrior spirits from the Middle Ages. 2 hours, 11 minutes.

8 pm CBS

“I’m Gonna Count to Three: AFI Salutes Hollywood’s Greatest Interrogations”

Hosts: Kate Beckinsale, Ben Affleck, David Arquette. Included: “Answer me or I’ll kill you” and “You have no idea what I’m capable of!” 3 hrs.

8:00:19 NBC

“Proof Through the Night" Miniseries.

Debut: Only the body of a 22-year old woman (recording star Teeza) can stop the National Anthem (David Ogden Stiers) from crashing into a witch’s wardrobe, the American flag and a veterinary van full of expectant bitches, a disaster that will destroy the Eastern Seaboard (James Gandolfini). Based on a true story. Tonight, Part 1. Part 2 immediately follows Part 1. (3 hrs, 2 minutes, 12 seconds)

(Tomorrow night, the network will feature a repeat of Part 1, a recap of Part 2, and a preview of Part 3. )

(On Sunday, a four-hour special is scheduled, beginning with the debut of an all-new Part 3, followed by “Apprentice: Special Edition, The Making of the Marketing Campaign of ‘Gave Proof Through the Night,’-- Oh No you Di’ent!” with Donald Trump, historian Michael Bechloss, and special guests England Dan and John Ford Coley, followed by “Part 4: Uh-Oh.” The finale, Part 5, will air on Wednesday in one month, immediately following the conclusion of the finals in the league playoff championship series, sport to be named later.)

8:17:54 VH1

Yippee!!! Zowie!!! Love the Eighties or Die!!!

Repeat: Unknown reminiscers are forced at gunpoint to identify their favorite Solid Gold Dancers. Special Guests: Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis, Jr. (1998) 109 minutes.

9 pm Bravo

Famous Last Poker

Repeat: “Amber Valletta, Jerry Springer, Anthony Michael Hall, Charlayne Hunter Gault, Trisha Yearwood, Ernie Els, Lisa Stansfield, Aaron Eckhart, Perry Ellis. ”
Poker competition. (2004)
Guests: Amber Valletta, Jerry Springer, Anthony Michael Hall, Charlayne Hunter Gault, Trisha Yearwood, Ernie Els, Lisa Stansfield, Aaron Eckhart, Perry Ellis. 1 hour.

9 pm ABC

Get Lost!

Series debut: One at a time, staff members are fired at a Bennetton. Tonight, Meena tells a customer not to come back until they’ve lost 50 pounds; Sierra refuses to refold go-backs; and Harold comes back from lunch smelling like carp. (42 minutes)

10 pm STARZ

Flight Plan (2005) film.

Jodie Foster, Peter Saarsgaard. A clenched woman and a menacing man of undetermined origin run up and down a massive airplane, after the captain (Sean Bean) and his crew (not really part of the plot) refuse to believe that the woman brought a story line with her on the plane. 5 hours.

10 pm PBS


Former EPA operatives chronicle the Bush administration’s secret five-year program to render sweating penguins.
TV14: graphic language, ova, refrigeration trucks. 1 hour.

10:30 MTV


New: Placenta, winners of last summer’s “MTV’s Why Don’t You Come Down to the House at the Beach and Play Some Music at the Pool Where We’ll Spend the Summer Nearly Naked” contest, get their hair done, buy wardrobe, meet with Clive Davis and create a new fragrance.

3:15 am UPN

Paid Programming

Emergency room nurses (Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, Dodge Intrepid) face a moral dilemma (Danny Aiello) when a favorite patient (XM Satellite Radio) falls in love with an intern (Sears Craftsman Garage Door Opener.) 1 hour, 3 minutes.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

What’s the Opposite of Chocolate?

For a long time, but even more intensely over the last five years, political debate in this country has felt like an endless argument with a two-year-old. “No, my way,” is the constant refrain.

There’s a problem with this, beyond the war in Iraq, beyond the living conditions in the Gulf Coast States, beyond terrorism, beyond the future of our environment, beyond the massive deficits and the disregard for our nations laws and its constitution, or debates about religion, privacy and economic conditions.

The problem is, when you argue with a two-year-old, even when you’re right, you’re still limited to the language of a two-year-old. That means, all debate must be conducted in either/or terms. Which means, we are abandoning our capacity for complexity. That in turn means, we could lose the ability to make good decisions about all the other issues.

This hunger for an “Easy button,” as a current ad campaign says, could cripple us as a society more than we can imagine.

Are you for the troops or against the war? Are you for rich lawyers, or against lawsuits? Are you for free enterprise or against corporations?

The proliferation of these nonsense questions stabs at the heart of our flexibility, intelligence and power.

You might as well ask, “Are you for ordering the chicken, or are you against food?”

In our worthy desire to emulate Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and the gang, and even in our appropriate affection and gratitude for the World War II generation, we’ve forgotten something we need to remember—as time moves forward, we’ll succeed because of the way we grasp complexity, in ways no previous American generations ever did.

Instead, we’re racing in the opposite direction.

"Don't give me all these complicated questions-- should we bomb them, or rescue them? And quick, answer before we lose interest and click over to something else."

For example, so many questions about Iraq alone are unanswerable, by any fair measure. We guess at answers, the way parents often ad lib a response when a child asks, “What’s the opposite of chocolate?”

Here's a sample of those questions: Who’ll run Iraq in five years? Will there be a state religion? Will factions stop trying to kill each other, within Iraq?

Is there a qualitative difference between killing innocents when you’re getting rid of Saddam Hussein, versus killing innocents in a civil war? If a democratic majority rules, will a form of Islam be forced upon the people there? Will people kill each other over that? If the Iraqi people agree on a series of non-violent objectives that hurt America economically or politically, will we allow that?

What about all the other factions in all the other countries, whether Middle Eastern, Asian/Islamic, and the rest of the world community? How much of our policy toward them should revolve around this conflict? How tolerant should we be toward non-democratic, or religiously extreme regimes that help us, but also teach their children that America is the great Satan?

To what extent are Iraq’s affairs our business? When does “advocating democracy” become meddling? Do we plan to run the country for the foreseeable future? Is Iraq the one unique foreign country among the nations of the world, or are there other countries where we propose to apply this doctrine of pre-emptive war? Are there situations not directly involving U.S. interests where we approve of other countries conducting pre-emptive wars, or is that the sole right of the United States? If you’ve decided against the whole operation in Iraq, are there circumstances you’d foresee when you’d want to see the American military involved? Are there values, besides our own survival, that are worth protecting?

What ideas or programs or relationships can help a family become the first generation not to seek revenge on the faction they’ve been feuding with for their entire existence as a family? If a majority freely and openly chooses a tyrant, is that democracy? Will the United States ever regulate, criticize or curtail poor or illegal behavior by U.S. corporations, either toward the Iraqi people or toward our own troops? Is commercial enterprise always positive, no matter what the goals and results are? Is profit necessarily negative, if a company fulfills an important task in a dangerous region?

What should a veteran of this war receive from a grateful nation? What is the family of a casualty entitled to? Where should we draw the line between information that U.S. citizens ought to know about our employee, the government, and information that jeopardizes our position in the middle east? The average American is generous and compassionate. Is there any way to communicate this to people in the Middle East who’ve been getting so much propaganda? Is there a way to communicate more gently, not as weaklings, but as co-existing peoples, or is war the only language we now trust?

I’ve just scratched the surface on one policy area.

We must embrace the idea that we live with complexity. We need to increase our comfort level with it, rather than begging for it to go away. We need to attend to the many-layered questions that help us with our decision making.

I hope, in our dazzling, distracting world, we have the patience to follow this thought process, as a nation. It will take us beyond slogans and sound bites, to the real-world strength of character that separates adults from children.

Besides, many of our modern complexities open breath-taking panoramas of new human experience.

Because, no, there is no opposite of chocolate. On the other hand, there’s overwhelming beauty in the nearly infinite variety of flavors.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Greenspan substantiates Oscar claim

Just weeks after leaving his post as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, economist Alan Greenspan has completed new statistical research in support of a thesis expressed by Oscar-winning musical group Three 6 Mafia.

Greenspan claims, it is, indeed, hard out here for a pimp.

The former Fed chairman’s new treatise, “Net Gain Analysis: A Case Study of Regulation-Free Western Markets, 2003” notes that “…where vendors operate outside the of legal constraints, unstable overhead costs are brought to bear on investors, regardless of the benefits of functioning in a regulation-free environment.”

Greenspan’s wife, NBC’s Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell, has told close friends that, “Alan enjoys the vitality of life on the ground floor. He’s a lot more ‘street’ than you might think—and I don’t just mean ‘Wall.’ Ooh. Snaps over here. Let me jot that one down.”

The Greenspan study, to be published in the September-October 2006 issue of The Journal of Socio-Economics, maintains that “while great attention is paid to the potential unassessed and untaxed income, other concerns for the lawless economy abound.”

In the specific case of pimps, the award-winning economist states, “When we examine third quarter indicators for fiscal year 2003, we see across-the-board growth in expenditures, while revenues remained flat. Items such as security, wardrobe and health care skyrocketed.”

Critics of the study claim Greenspan entirely neglects the economic dynamics for hos, saying that it might be, in fact, just as hard, if not harder for that labor group.

But when a reporter, Newsnow.com’s Diane Basil, confronted Greenspan on that very point, the economics PhD was ready for the criticism, and challenged Basil’s assumption. “Why you wanna be all up in my face like that? Did I say it’s easy for a ho? Did I? Hold on, hold on. Did—I –say—it’s—easy—for—a—ho? I need your eyes, girl. Did I?”

“No. No you didn’t,” Basil replied.

“All right then,” said Mr. Greenspan, reclaiming the “street cred” many felt might have eroded during his long tenure, regulating America’s money supply.

"Well, we've done enough damage here. Let's call it a night."

March 10, 2006: Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton Resigns

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Oscar Telecast: "Egad, Someone's TALKING!!! They Must Be Stopped!!!"

Just a few observations about tonight's Oscar awards:

"Wait...she's got her award, start the music...she's saying something about art, or the process, let's get a nice shot that shows something else, shoot someone's shoes, or let's have that nosebleed shot so the speaker is the size of a pea on the screen. Good. Now show someone bony woman with problem hair... now cut to Spielberg again...good, now music up...oh no, there's someone else talking--he's THANKING people...we said NO THANKING!!! Are the snipers in place? Who are these guys--Best Picture? Nobody cares!!! Play the music!!! I said, pick up that f-ing music and take out the mic. Stupid award winners. They think it's all about them!"

Jon Stewart is very funny. I hope they have him back. I could have used a break or two where he let the joke pass and just did the hosting thing, and there were periods where he felt a little desperate for laughs, but that's quibbling. Overall, he was hilarious, and neatly bridged the gaping generational gaps in the audience. 36 Mafia, the cannibal orchestra, the interpretive dance, Cheney shooting Bjork-- both the prepared material and the ad-libbed material rocked.

George Clooney made a brief but excellent speech about Hollywood being "out of touch." In a world that needs to make progress, the people pushing for it all seem out of touch, I guess. And it must have been spur of the moment, too, because it was in reaction to Stewart's joke with the phrase, "out of touch." Unless he told Clooney when they were in bed.

Is Uma Thurman feeling all right? How about Charlize Theron? I'm just wondering, because Uma, who's one of the most attractive women in Hollywood, looked starved, and fresh from a fist fight in the shower, while Theron, who was again nominated after winning for "Monster" had that look that a cat gets when it has to share territory. Salma Hayek looked terrific. Terence Howard is smooth, and Larry McMurtry, a terrific writer, looked as though someone kidnapped him while he was watching a ball game on t.v. I don't know what writer/producer Diana Ossana is so angry about-- she won the Oscar with McMurtry and looked as though she was just sick and tired of the lot of us. And while did so many of the women look so oily?

I can only imagine that the pressure to look like an air-brushed photograph of a goddess must call for absurd lengths of make up and hair.

The middle of the show was dominated by the technology geniuses behind blockbusters.

Just love the ads for the new Tab, and I hope a few scientists were watching. It takes a different kind of energy to be a woman. The kind of low-calorie energy you get from new Tab. Except that a "calorie" is a unit of energy. Maybe Tab has psychic energy. Or imaginary energy. For God's sake, if I've learned anything from Uma Thurman tonight, it's could we please have women eating food? It's a recurring theme in Hollywood, but let's have more "women's strength" be about women being strong, taking the reins, etc, and less about them being skinny and half-naked? Or else, and I hate to say it, it may be time for skinny half-naked oily men. Just to level the playing field.

And if you really want to shorten the show, cut down the 55 miles of walking that take place every year, especially from backstage to the front. We come back from commercial, Jon Stewart introduces the next presenter, and for some reason, that person has to walk for half an hour before saying anything, instead of setting up closer to the spot during the break.

If that doesn't work, then just eliminate the winners entirely. Seriously. If someone who's been making films for 30 years half a planet away is gonna be required to sum up the moment in 30 seconds in their 2nd or 3rd language, why bring them up at all? Just announce the winner, and have a skinny half-naked oily star accept the award, with a cat-like smirk and move on.

I think Dustin Hoffman's appearance summed it up best. He mentioned being nervous. I think all the recipients were more nervous this year, after the badgering about speech length. He also said that acting was much easier.

Perhaps the key is, film makers, as a group, are the best in the world at creating pre-produced, carefully measured moments. The idea that they should, in a live moment all be concise, gripping speakers, from a script, or ad libbed, on their first try, is a bit unfair. Like assembling the greatest symphony orchestra in the world, and making everybody tap dance.

BTW, for more about the Oscars, click over to Ken Levine's hilarious and insightful account.