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February 19, 2009 - February 12, 2009

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


No Position on the Writers' Strike


THE THING PROBLEM. Peculiarly, the Carson Daly show Last Call has become a flashpoint for the issues surrounding the strike by the Writers' Guild of America:

Carson Daly may not have won over any friends at the Writers Guild of America, but he no doubt just got a bit tighter with his buddies at NBC.

Five weeks into the writers' strike, the Last Call host returned to the airwaves Monday night sans the cue card-worthy quips of his staff's union scribes, becoming the first late-night emcee to cross the picket line.

Daly taped the show last week—and was excoriated by the guild, especially for trying to solicit material via phone and email. But until the episode aired Monday, the 34-year-old had remained largely mum about his motivation.

"If I had not been back on the air tonight, 75 members of my loyal staff and crew were going to get laid off," he said at the show's open, adding that NBC execs told him, "You either come back, or they're laid off.

"I said, 'Let's turn the lights on, I'm gonna come back.' It's that simple."

Daly had no reason to doubt that NBC would make good on its cleaning-house threat, as the network effectively laid off the nonguild staffs of its other two late-night talk shows, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

The news article can't seem to decide if Daly is a villainous scab, a network toady, or a victim of circumstance, although their preference seems to be the middle choice.

I tend to think the right answer is "None of the above." He's a guy trying to make the right decision without a big safety net. Leno, Letterman, and to a lesser extent, Conan O'Brien are able to have their cake and eat it too. That's one of the prime perks of being fabulously rich. You can sympathize with the writers who are endangering everyone's livelihood, but you can also pull out your personal checkbook and protect the staffers whose mortgages are being thrown under the bus by the current labor action. Carson Daly isn't rich enough to pay his way out of a very real dilemma. He has my sympathy for being in that fix and still deciding to make a decision.

I also sympathize with the writers. They've been treated like dirt throughout the whole history of Hollywood, despite the obvious fact that there would be no movies or TV shows without them. The same fact holds true in the world of print publishing, which is even more outrageous, because books, magazines, and newspapers can't pretend that their product is as much a function of directors, actors, set designers, cameramen, lighting technicians, and special effects wizards as it is of writers. Yet even in publishing, writers always get the short end of the stick, routinely stuck with take-it-or-leave-it contracts that give them no rights about when they'll be paid, who does the accounting, and whether or not they'll even be consulted by the writer wannabes who control marketing budgets, sales strategies, and publicity campaigns. When it comes to the abuse of talent, no category of artist has been more systematically used, defrauded, and, yes, raped to a fare-thee-well than writers.

On the other hand. (There's almost always another hand.) I have to admit that the idea of being a member of a writers' union seems directly at odds with the whole idea of being a writer. Writing is mostly a solitary, cerebral, and intensely private and personal calling, not at all like being a welder on an assembly line. Writing isn't a job. It's the thing writers can't not do. Which tends to reduce the amount of economic clout most of us have in the marketplace. The prospect of writers picketing, writers beating up scabs, writers forming the usual unruly mob scene favored by unions the world over just seems a hopeless oxymoron. And if there's anyone who can be expected to lose sleep over the unintended peripheral victims of a strike -- the non-celebrity staffers who hustle cameras for Steven Spielberg and book guests for Jay Leno -- it's probably the writer who has spent his life getting inside the heads of the real people who carry the thankless daily burden of being responsible without being dramatically overpaid for it. Writers are nature's bleeding hearts. It's unsettling when they deal out pain without seeming to feel it themselves.

That's why Instapunk can't manage to concoct a position on the writers' strike. There's a bit too much fantastical Atlas Shrugged atmosphere about the basic premise. It makes me think of Aristophanes's absurdist parable Lysistrata. It makes me imagine an economic ultimatum-cum-riot by Picasso, Matisse, and the rest of the Paris local of the Federated Union of Cubists/Moderns of Europe (FUC/ME). A great basis for a satirical book or movie, perhaps, but essentially ludicrous in the real world.

Don't misread me, though. I wholeheartedly believe writers should share in the profits of the high-tech media bonanza. And I love the idea of all the showbiz loudmouths rendered suddenly mute by the removal of the puppeteer's hand from their backs.

Is that solidarity? Maybe semi-solidarity with a side order of self-conscious irony.





The 'Bright Eyes' Syndrome

Andrew Sullivan

BOREDOM2. Weird postulates have been creeping into the body politic of late. Notably, atheists have somehow outflanked theists to assume the default position that belief in God is somehow so absurd that it can be ridiculed as an automatic sign of imbecility. Similarly, the MSM worship of gay popinjays has invested these exceptions to both Christian morality and Darwinian evolution with an automatic authority that defies reason as well as good taste. I promise to address the atheist fraud later on. Today, I'll content myself with a repudiation of the gay supremacy meme.

Sorry fellas, but there really is something wrong with gay men. I call it the Bright Eyes Syndrome. They've made their lives about one thing, overwhelmingly one thing. It's made them into hysterical personalities. For a long time they were in the closet, concealing the 'one thing' from intimates, families, and professional associates. In other words, they were in the business of lying on a systematic basis about the 'one thing' that was most crucial to their sense of personal identity. This is a distorting phenomenon. Worse, it never worked. Heterosexual men tend to know that homosexual men are homosexual. If they pretended they didn't, they were being kind and they were feeding a dangerous notion that made homosexual men feel superior. "They don't know this primal thing about me. I must be infinitely smarter and more perceptive than they are."

Then they came out of the closet. Which made them feel special -- and in the current media climate -- somehow chosen as a super-sensitive blend of what is best in both the male and female sexes, meaning they were free to be detached and rational when it suited them and irrationally emotional when it suited them, with the result that their every whim was automatically better than the best their male and female competitors could muster. Combined with the built-in hysteria of their monomaniacally sex-obsessed natures, this kind of attention made them into self-worshipping monsters.

Here's Andrew Sullivan's blog.  He may once have been an intelligent cultural and political critic. Now he's simply a prancing joke. He has verbal skills. He has keen powers of observation. He is knowledgeable about current events. But the world that passes under his purview is nothing but a prop for his bright-eyed peacock strut.

Proof? Look at the picture. He really doesn't know that he's an average looking, middle-aged bald guy wth the kind of mincing step that tells 98 percent of men that his fondest pursuit is taking it up the ass from another guy. And that all his writing and commentary are nothing but a part of his unappetizing mating dance.

Bright eyes. Dulled mind. Anxious ass. The kind of farce Oscar Wilde would have dealt with mercilessly if he were still alive to see all the pathetic mimics of his charm and intellect.

I'm pretty much sick of intellectual queers. Or queer intellectuals. Decide for yourselves which is the more politically incorrect insult. You'll find me here. As always.




Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Uniforms

Guess who.

PSAYINGS.5S.9-12. So the official college football season has come to a close, and the various polls have picked their top ten teams. There's no point in rehashing the analysis of the conventional football wisdom about how the bowl games will go. Is there anything worth saying? Yes. Readers of InstaPunk will know that we care about little things as well as big things, details as well as life-and-death issues. That's why this is the the only blog we know of that took a position on the disastrous trend in baseball toward slouchy pants with no visible socks. It's not a fashion boo-boo; it's a crime against the national pastime and all it stands for. The truth is, sports uniforms are important. They speak volumes about the values of the teams and institutions they represent. It's even possible that if one picked the best uniforms in a sport, it would be tantamount to picking the best representatives of the sport itself.

That's an experiment we're willing to try. What are the ten best uniforms in college football? And what do those uniforms say? Obviously, any such list will have its detractors, but controversy is the most fun people can have in the blogosphere with their pajamas on. Don't hesitate to snipe and carp and fulminate about Instapunk's list of the Top Ten. The pettier your reasoning, the better.

10 Rutgers

Did we forget to mention we're biased? Well, we are. But we're still right. Rutgers would be higher on the list if they hadn't given in to the current fad of having too many uniforms. If we weren't biased, we'd have dropped them out of the Top Ten for the ultimate no-no of showing up for a game in all black uniforms. But they got shellacked in that game and probably won't wear that particular sartorial atrocity again. The home uniform they wore against Navy was one of the smartest we've seen: scarlet jersey, white pants, black stockings, and the iconically simple scarlet "R" helmet. Perfection.




9 Alabama

Nothing on those Crimson Tide helmets but a number. Simple, understated classic.



8 Ohio State


They'd be higher on the list if it weren't for those damned buckeye leaves they put on their helmets.


Damned buckeye leaves

Otherwise, the uniforms are sensational, both home and away. Scarlet and gray are the colors every school would choose if they were starting all over from scratch. Ohio State grabbed them way back at the beginning. And they haven't changed much over the years, except for putting names on the backs of their jerseys.



7 USC

We're not that biased. Yeah, we've never liked USC and their 'el supremo' mentality. On the other hand, they're in the Pac 10, where most schools seem to think it's best to have a different uniform for every single game (Google 'worst uniforms' and the University of Oregon will leap to the fore, with umpty-thousand combinations of weird get-ups.) But USC doesn't play that game. They stick with their admittedly striking color combination year after year after year. That's worthy of respect. And admit it: their uniforms are handsome.



6 Kentucky

This is a nomination from the distaff side. Ordinarily, we don't like the monochrome jersey-pants combination and usually regard it as a disqualifier. But Kentucky gets the nod because their blue is such a, well, beautiful blue. It is. And the uniforms aren't all junked up with busy helmet graphics, excessive stripes, or fancy fonts for their numbers. And it really is a smashing blue.



5 Navy

It's almost impossible to improve on Navy's navy-blue and gold ultra-simplicity. Almost.



4 Michigan

Ah, those helmets. The graphic nod to the leather helmet construction of the old days. No 'M' for Michigan. The cub scout colors (What are you going to do if scarlet and gray are already taken?) Sorry, George. Michigan wins this time because there aren't any little wolverine prints on the helmets of Woody's infamous "It" team. And no stripes, no frills. Another superb classic.



3 Harvard

These are essentially the same uniforms they were 30 or 40 years ago. Oddly enough, that's not even the rule in the Ivy League. Penn seems to change uniform designs every year, and recently Princeton has apparently been trying to jettison orange for a more (politically correct?) reddish color, not to mention their imitation Michigan helmet graphics. Harvard and Yale have stood shoulder to shoulder in reactionary solidarity, however, in all but one respect. Harvard sneaks into the top three because its uniforms exemplify the ultimate team statement -- no names on the jerseys, only numbers. Every player is simply one of the Crimson. Kind of surprising when you remember it's Harvard we're talking about here.



2 Notre Dame

All things considered, perfect. No helmet insignia, no stripes, no names on the jerseys, yet instantly recognizable and timelessly smart. Why are they Number Two rather than Number One? Because they care enough about uniforms to wear green instead of blue on occasion. Sounds like a scintilla of vanity to us. Which you can't say about Number One.



1 Penn State

The ultimate. One color: blue. No stripes on jersey or pants, no helmet insignia, no names on jerseys, and adamant refusal to mar the purity of white pants. It's so close to completely generic that the only difference between the Nittany Lions and an unbranded supermarket football team is their coach, their history, and their performance on the field. They don't need to dress up like lions because they play like lions. It just doesn't get any better than this.



Now you know what our criteria are. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity. Feel free to disagree, but marshall your arguments carefully. Football isn't a dress-up game. It's a team sport in which duds shouldn't obscure character.

And before you ask, the pro nominations are easy: the Bears, the Browns, and the Steelers. Everybody else is a popinjay except the Raiders, whose uniforms are even uglier than they are simple. If you want to fight about it, we're always here.




Monday, December 03, 2007


Comfortably Dumb


NEWS ADVICE. We're sympathetic to Fox News. CBS, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, CNN and PBS are all staffed by snobs who learned their bias at the Harvard Crimson and Yale Daily News before getting their masters degrees at the Columbia School of Yellow Journalism. And for most of us, it's flat-out impossible to watch NBC's Today Show, ABC's Today Show, CBS's Today Show, CNBC's Crazy Quasi-Capitalist Today Show, or even MSNBC's Conservative-Turned-Media-Whore Morning Joe Today Show.

We've been patient. We've learned to put up with Steve Doucy, the self-styled Oscar Wilde of Kansas (although we always thought that honor belonged to Oscar Wilde). We've tolerated Brian Kilmeade, who's every bit as stupid, uneducated, and unlikable as he pretends to be. We've waited for Gretchen What's-her-Name to provide solid evidence that she graduated from Stanford as her bio claims. We've been forgiving of Alyson Camerota's penchant for rewriting teleprompter copy on the fly to be about her rather than the faceless millions. We've overlooked Greg Kelly's serial-killer-type personality profile (obsessing about Star Wars action figures and transformers YES, talking to women without being dumb-clumsy insulting NO) , Dr. Manny's unctuous infatuation with his own Reader's Digest-quality health tips, Kelly Wright's determined effort to live down to every stereotype about the saccharine dullness of born-again Oral Roberts graduates, and the ballooning midlife insanity of Wellesleyite Page Hopkins, who would like somebody to notice and perhaps have sex with her. After all, if Hillary can be President, Page can get laid. Right?

Hell, we've even learned to laugh at the constant misspellings in the ticker and the factual errors repeated segment after segment by the self-satisfied co-hosts. It's all early morning stuff, right?

Mostly it's better than Matt Lauer. And the other MSM terminators of the morning beat. But there is a line. Which was breached this morning.

CALLING ROGER AILES. Your Fox & Friends crew this morning told us about the Stacey Peterson case (6 times), the bride and groom who danced funky (4 times), the Washington Redskins tribute to Sean Taylor (3 times), the Puerto Rican beauty queen who may or may not have faked her hives (3 times), the high school students who wouldn't shower after gym class because they were afraid of camera phones (2 or 3 times), and your ticker ran off a lot of minutiae about Sean Taylor and Karl Rove's comical letter to Obama. BUT....

In the whole hour-and-a-half I watched while I was drinking coffee and trying to avoid ESPN because of the awful Eagles game yesterday, there was absolutely no mention of the biggest story of the day and perhaps the month: The electoral defeat of Hugo Chavez's bid to transform Venezuela's democracy into a dictatorship. He lost. And he conceded. That was HUGE NEWS, available as early as midnight last night.

F&F didn't mention Chavez. At all.

Fox News was a good idea. So was the Thunderbird.


Thunderbird 1955

But a good idea can be turned into a suicide pill (I note in passing that I at least can no longer find the Fox News bio page at all. Still, I'm resisting the urge to post a Henry Ford II bio with Freudian interpretations of the failed Edsel and its styling theme.). Here's the sad nadir of the Thunderbird.


Thunderbird 1980

Is that what you have in mind? Evolutionary change unto death?


Kilmeade, Doucy, And Camerota doing the news.

Count us out. As smart as Ailes is, he has to know that even conservatives can bail out to the Internet.





Thursday, November 29, 2007


CNN's Little Shop of Fakers

CNN "just didn't know" plants could be dangerous.

THE LEGACY OF ED. We refuse to get as outraged about this as some conservative commentators are. It's overwhelmingly funny that CNN's YouTube questioners at the Republican debate are being exposed one by one as activists in various Democrat campaigns or staffers for Democratic officeholders. It's even funnier that bloggers were able to discover these plants (five, six, and counting...) so quickly, sometimes just by looking at the YouTube home pages of the questioners. Even the Bias Kings at MSNBC are laughing:

Like Rudy and Romney going after each other over immigration last night at the GOP debate, MSNBC was taking some jabs at rival CNN this morning on the issue of the gay questioner who turned out to be a member of Hillary Clinton's campaign.

"Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough scoffed at the notion that no one at CNN was aware of retired Brigadier General Keith Kerr's involvement with the Clinton campaign.

Personally, though, we do believe Anderson Cooper was unaware. There are times when that earnest young man really seems to believe he's an old-school TV journalist.


He seemed genuinely abashed. Just our opinion.

Well, now he gets to prove it. He obviously has some pruning probing and repotting reporting to to do. We're waiting anxiously for him to show the world why he really is the next incarnation of Edward R. Murrow.

We'd hold our breath while we wait, but that might be overdoing it. Who'd want to pass up all the pure and lovely oxygen being exhaled by all those CNN house plants?




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