Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the State of the Union

Read the text of the Figurehead's State of the Union speech here, then click on over here for a play-by-play from author Peter David.

UPDATED - The Super Roundup

The past week saw some big announcements trickle out across the Internet regarding Warner Bros. plans for their '70s/'80s Superman film franchise, in anticipation of Singer's Superman Returns. First was this revelatory interview with Ilya Salkind (producer of the first three films in the Reeve franchise, the DOA Supergirl, and the syndicated Superboy series), wherein he dropped some choice nuggets about WB's plans to release the entire Super-cycle (including 'girl) in a spiffy new box, with all-new special features (the Reeve series had previously been released in '01 with only Richard Donner's original getting anything in the way of bonus features):
Salkind plans to "do commentaries of [Superman] I, II, and III [and] Pierre [Spengler] did his already." In addition, Salkind would like to do a commentary track for "Supergirl", which was released on DVD previously by Anchor Bay Entertainment. "I'm going to do a commentary [on Supergirl] and this time hopefully Helen [Slater] will do it..." Time Warner has acquired all distribution rights to Supergirl from Anchor Bay, according to Salkind, and plans to release that film along with the four Superman movies.
I'm frankly a little skeptical as to how beneficial commentary from Salkind would really be if it's full of typical producer-BS like this bit from the interview regarding why Marlon Brando was (rather awkwardly) dropped from Superman II:
Salkind insists that they never would have cut Brando out of the film had it not made creative sense. Salkind suggested to his father "What if it's the mother [instead]? She talks about love to her son. And it kind of made sense creatively... Jor-El had done his thing if you want."
Sure. Brilliant.

Anyway, the most exciting news to come out of Salkind's interview is that Warners plans to release a "Donner" edit of Superman II, the film from which the director was famously fired and replaced with Richard Lester. Unfortunately, the director is not directly involved with this project, but he has given it his blessing, as evidenced by this interview at IGN:
Donner: They're doing it. I'm not doing it. They're doing it. Michael Thau, who used to be my assistant and is a good little editor - [said that] there were so many requests to Warner Brothers to see my cut that he went to them and they authorized it. He's been working for about four or five months now getting all the negatives and cuts out of England. A lot of it's been destroyed, a lot of it wasn't kept. But everything that he was able to [get], he said it will probably be about 70 percent my footage.

Q: So the rest will be footage Lester shot?

Donner: Yeah. I don't even want to see it until it comes out.

Q: But you do want to see it?

Donner: Oh, s**t yeah! But I don't want to cut it. I mean, I'm too far away from it now.

I think the problem here is that Superman II is so seriously flawed in so many different areas that frankly I don't think even the glow from a shiny new edition, Donner or no, will do much to remove the stink.

But hey, it doesn't end there. Probably the biggest announcement (for me, anyway) was the impending digital debut of Superboy, a TV series that I absolute loved as a kid, and which I'd given up all hope of ever seeing again. It seems that after years and years of complicated legal finagling and wrangling that kept the series off the airwaves for more than a decade (not to mention much clamoring from me over the short life of this blog), things appears to have been ironed out, with the first season due for release within the next year. Here's the full scoop, courtesy of the Superman Homepage:
Superboy broke new ground in syndicated programming. Along with Star Trek: The Next Generation, it was one of the first original programs created for syndication that was a dramatic big budget series, not a talk show or game show. Although Superboy was a Salkind production of a Time Warner property, it was distributed in the United States by Viacom, which merged with Paramount in 1994. It was the first program filmed at the Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida.

Because of the number of different companies involved in Superboy, and due to legal issues between Salkind and Time Warner that took time to settle, the series has never aired beyond its initial syndicated run. Though Time Warner owns all the footage to every other Salkind production of a Superman property exclusively, it shares ownership of the Superboy footage with Viacom/Paramount and Salkind.

"It took seven years to make that deal work between the three," Salkind recounted. "Imagine how difficult that was." According to Salkind, Time Warner now has all of the distribution rights for the show. "They are the #1 anyway [and] have all the rights to distribute" the series.

Of course, the only downside to this is that the first season of the show was actually pretty lousy, with things only getting good once the cast was completely overhauled for its second year, with star John Haymes Newton replaced by Gerard Christopher.

Anyway, I'm sure there'll be more news to tell (and you'd better believe I'll be telling it) as things firm up and we get some official release info from the studio.

EDITED TO ADD: The Digital Bits has posted some further news on Warner Bros.' plans to re-release the Chris Reeve Superman flicks, including news that the set will be a mammoth fourteen discs, as well as a description of one of the long lost scenes we can look forward to finally seeing. You have to scroll down for a bit before you get to the juicy stuff, but here's a highlight:
We were actually shown a clip of the new Donner Cut at the event - the original opening to Superman II, in which Lois Lane notices a picture of Superman in a copy of The Daily Planet... and then she looks at Clark Kent standing nearby... and she begins drawing glasses, a suit and hat on the picture of Superman. She figures it out. Then she tells Clark she knows who she really is... and jumps out Perry White's office window to prove she's right. Clark runs at super-speed downstairs, and blows up at the falling Lois to slow her fall. She lands safely in a fruit stand, by which time Clark has already run back upstairs to preserve his identity. Someone asks him where Lois is, and he replies, "Uh... she just stepped out for a minute."

Recommended Reading

Georgie Anne Geyer, someone I don't always necessarily agree with, makes a lot of sense in this column discussing why Hamas' victory in last week's Palestinean elections came as a surprise to no one except the folks in the White House.

What the Wiki?!

As much as I find Wikipedia.com to be a hugely beneficial resource when scouring the web for information on whatever random thing crosses my mind, I've been wary for a long time of the potential for the site's do-it-yourself model to lead to precisely this kind of abuse:

The staff of U.S. Rep Marty Meehan wiped out references to his broken term-limits pledge as well as information about his huge campaign war chest in an independent biography of the Lowell Democrat on a Web site that bills itself as the "world's largest encyclopedia," The Sun has learned.

The Meehan alterations on Wikipedia.com represent just two of more than 1,000 changes made by congressional staffers at the U.S. House of Representatives in the past six month. Wikipedia is a global reference that relies on its Internet users to add credible information to entries on millions of topics.

For some reason, upon reading the article, my mind immediately flashed to this:

'nuff said.

Oscar Drums

Well, this morning saw the Academy Award nominations released. No great surprises, with Brokeback leading the charge pretty much as everyone expected. It is gratifying to see Munich in there with Best Picture and Best Director nods. Will it win? Doubtful, as momentum, box office, and critical acclaim all seem to be signalling that this is the year for big gay cowboy love. I'm also glad to see Steven Gaghan's script for Syriana get nominated in the Original Screenplay category, as some recent Academy shenanigans had left some doubt as to whether it would make the final list.

After you check out the full list of nominees at the link above, click on over to Newsweek for a fascinating, entertaining roundtable with the five (then-presumptive) nominees for Best Director, talking about everything from politics to the downside of the studio system, with some other stuff thrown in to boot. Here's Steven Spielberg, about as open as he's ever been, discussing the very-obvious political streak running up and down some of this year's best films:

SPIELBERG: I think we all have been given our marching orders ... Maybe I shouldn't get into this. [Pause] I just feel that filmmakers are much more proactive since the second Bush administration. I think that everybody is trying to declare their independence and state their case for the things that we believe in. No one is really representing us, so we're now representing our own feelings, and we're trying to strike back.

So Bush has been good for film?

SPIELBERG: I wouldn't just say Bush. The whole neo-conservative movement.

Very interesting stuff. Here's more from Spielberg in regards to the ever-present Munich controversy:
Did you expect the political reaction to "Munich" to be this heated?

SPIELBERG: I knew we were going to receive a volley from the right. I was surprised that we received a much smaller, but no less painful, volley from the left. It made me feel a little more aware of the dogma, and the Luddite position people take any time the Middle East is up for discussion.

So many fundamentalists in my own community, the Jewish community, have grown very angry at me for allowing the Palestinians simply to have dialogue and for allowing Tony Kushner to be the author of that dialogue. Munich never once attacks Israel, and barely criticizes Israel's policy of counterviolence against violence. It simply asks a plethora of questions. It's the most questioning story I've ever had the honor to tell. For that, we were accused of the sin of moral equivocation. Which, of course, we didn't intend—and we're not guilty of.

Of course it's not all deep thoughts and philosophical discussions. Later in the piece we also get this nugget from the always self-effacing George Clooney (nominated for Good Night, and Good Luck):
So many of your movies this year moved audiences to tears. Do you cry easily in movies?

CLOONEY: I cried at the premiere of Batman and Robin. I cried for a week.
Nice.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Recommended Reading

This New York Times op-ed shoots down with remarkable ease every one of the White House Gang's supposed reasons why the NSA's domestic spying program is both "legal" and "necessary" (to quote the Figurehead himself).

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Krypton Shuffle, Postscript

Regardling last night's Smallville:

Yeah, like I said.

Here's John Schneider on leaving the show.

Recommended Reading

Here's Molly Ivins discussing the propoganda program being conducted by the Junta to dissuade dissent on hot-button issues like domestic spying or US-run torture camps, all at the expense of coming up with meaningful solutions to serious problems. Here's a choice nugget of good ol' fashioned common sense:

What would happen if we had not a political, but a pragmatic debate about all of this: We have made a horrible mess of this entire war on terrorism, now how do we fix it? What do we do? I realize it's a bit simplistic of me after all this time, but I really think one of the best things we could do for ourselves is deal honestly with the facts. Because we have made a mess of this does not mean we are a pitiful, helpless giant -- the United States still has more sheer military power than anyone else on earth. But using it is not necessarily the best way to get the results we want.

Makes sense to me, but apparently it makes more sense for Turd Blossom and his brain trust to tar-and-feather anyone who might peep a disagreement with their master plan (which is that they have no plan...).

MUNICH Blowback

As regular readers know, I was quite thoroughly blown away when I finally got the chance to see Munich about a month ago. I think in many ways director Steven Spielberg was able to produce one of his most perfect cinematic experiences by combining the gravitas of his more serious-minded films with all the cinematic techniques he is renowned for. It's because of this that I've been extremely disappointed by the fact that, for whatever reason, Munich just hasn't caught fire with the public and isn't doing much at all in terms of currying Awards-season favor either.

Much of the fault for this may well lie with Spielberg himself, who, believing no doubt that he was dealing with an intelligent public, eschewed interviews, TV appearances, and the traditional publicity circuit in favor of letting the movie speak for itself. Big mistake, that.

As it turns out, this absolutely disastrous decision effectively allowed those commentators and pundits with an axe to grind to get a toehold and essentially run the table, leaving the filmmakers trying to play catch-up. The next thing you know, in typical groupthink fashion, Spielberg hasn't made a thoughtful reflection on human behavior, but rather a panty-waist liberal screed that says "hey, terrorists ain't so bad."

I find it interesting that of the highbrow "think" flicks released this past year, you'd think it would have been Brokeback Mountain fighting off controversy and diminished returns, and yet here it is galloping its way to all sorts of acclaim, box office, and eventual Oscar gold, while Munich has very much been left in the proverbial dust. I think this gives an idea of how sensitive the territory covered in Munich really is. In fact, I'll go so far as to say it's even more sensitive than the admittedly controversial subject matter of Brokeback Mountain.

Munich raises questions not only about Isreal's policies over the past three decades, but about the United States' policies for the same amount of time, and even our "policies" as human beings when dealing with one another. This is heady stuff, and dare I say, borderline treasonous for those with a vested interest in keeping such a discussion off the table. It's even more unfortunate that, for the most, part they've succeeded until now. I say "until now" because the film's key creatives are finally fighting back. For starters, screenwriter Tony Kushner has an excellent op-ed piece wherein he responds to the criticisms that have been lobbed at the film.
In the film, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is presented not as a matter of religion versus religion, or sanity versus insanity, or good versus evil or civilization versus barbarism or Judeo-Christian culture versus Muslim culture, but rather as a struggle over territory, over geography, over home.

We've followed the lead of many Israeli historians, novelists, filmmakers, poets and politicians who have recognized and described the Israeli-Palestinian struggle this way — as something tragic and human, recognizable. We've incurred the wrath of people who reject, with what sounds like panic, an inescapable fact of human life: People do terrible things in the name of a cause they believe is just, even in the name of a cause that actually is just.
And Spielberg himself has some choice words for what he calls the "extremists" who have been blasting his movie and accusing him of the heinous crime of "moral equivalence":

"These critics are acting as if we were all missing a moral compass. Of course it is a horrible, abominable crime when people are taken hostage and killed like in Munich," he said.

"But it does not excuse the act when you ask what the motives of the perpetrators were and show that they were also individuals with families and a history.... Understanding does not mean forgiving. Understanding does not mean being soft, it is a courageous and strong stance."

Finally, Jim Emerson over at RogerEbert.com responds to a piece by famed attorney Alan Dershowitz, wherein he...well, let's be honest, it's just ranting and raving, but it very much exemplifies the critics to whom Spielberg refers.

I'll say again to anyone reading this: If you haven't seen Munich yet, watch it. Watch it, and then talk about it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Krypton Shuffle

(Off this mortal coil, that is...)

In other WB-related news, the young Superman drama Smallville (which will be one of the shows 'ported over to the new network) reaches its 100th episode milestone this Thursday. While the show has certainly had its ups-and-downs over the past five seasons, with last year as a whole being almost completely unwatchable, it has definitely rebounded creatively this year, with memorable allusions to the classic film series and a nice turn by James Marsters (of Buffy/Angel fame) as Super-villain Brainiac (though he's never named as such). The show will also surely benefit from the anticipation leading up to Superman Returns' impending release this summer.

This Thursday's episode promises to change the Boy of Steel's life forever with the anticipated death of one of the show's key cast members. Who is it? Well, it all comes down to the numbers game. Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack), who recently came into the knowledge of Clark's dual identity, is the safe bet, given that she was created specifically for the show -- but that also makes her the easy bet. Perhaps, too easy. Another option is Lionel Luthor (John Glover), father to Lex and another character created specifically for the show. The problem here is that the promised death needs to be an emotional one for Clark, so that essentially rules out the Luthor paterfamilias.

All this brings us to our final, most likely candidate for the big sleep: Clark's adoptive father Jonathan Kent (played by once and former Good Ol' Boy John Schneider). Although Jonathan is alive in the current comics, his death in the first Reeve film is one of its most emotional moments, and is also part of the the upcoming movie (which the show is trying to dovetail with wherever possible). The final nail in Mr. Kent's coffin comes from Entertainment Weekly's capsure review of the episode, which drops this nugget:
...ending with a poignant reworking of an essential, tragic beat in Clark's boy-to-Man-of-Steel transition. Bring your hankies, fanboys.
Yeah, looks like it's the dirt nap for poor Jonathan.

Bummer.

Mergers A-Go Go

Some news of note crossing the wires, with the announcement that the long simmering Disney-Pixar feud has come to a (somewhat unexpected) end, with the Mouse House buying up the CG-animation studio for a cool $7.4 billion. No telling what this means, though if the history of such mergers is any indication, Pixar's new corporate overlords, mouths watering from their sterling record of success, will probably lurch the Bay Area-studio into such a high level of ramped-up production that it will swiftly and decisively lose whatever "it" there was that made their products so unique and highly-anticipated. But hey, I'm just spitballing here. Regardless, the last independently produced Pixar film, Cars, is due out later this year from, you guessed it, Disney.

In other merger news, two little-viewed networks, CBS-owned UPN and WB-owned...uh...WB, have agreed to combine their programming into one big little-viewed network -- under the rather unfortunate monicker of The CW. Nope, no Country & Western shows to be found here, just plenty of crappy sitcoms, crapppy teenie-bopper dramas, and, oh yeah, wrestling. Not having given UPN much notice since they gave Enterprise the hook last year, this really doesn't affect me, but I'm sure there's someone out there absolutely thrilled that they can turn to the same channel to satisfy both their "women talking about their feelings"-Gilmore Girls needs, and their "men in tights beating up on each other"-WWE Smackdown needs.

When you think about it, isn't that really what capitalism is all about.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

WEST Goes South

Well, it's news that's about as anticlimactic as the currently-running election storyline, but today NBC made official what everyone had pretty much assumed was impending anyway. The one-time award winningest show on television, The West Wing, will come to a close at the end of this, its seventh season.

With the clock winding down and a mere 10 episodes to go, there isn't a whole lot of time left to ensure that the various plot threads left a-dangling are dealt with appropriately, foremost among them the lingering question of who will replace the late John Spencer's Leo McGarry if his death is indeed written into the show (which I'm sure it will be). For the record, my money is still on wayward Winger Rob Lowe's Sam Seaborn making an out-of-left field reapparance. Heck, it's not like he's got anything else going on, what with the (count 'em) two series he's had cancelled since his ill-advised Oval Office exit.

Probably the most disappointing news in all the cancellation ballyhoo is that the return of creator Aaron Sorkin and creative partner Thomas Schlamme, which had been hinted at a few months back, is unfortunately not in the cards. Regardless, here's to a great show that, while it certainly didn't go before it's time, will be missed nonetheless.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Recommended Reading

Molly Ivins says she won't support a Hillary bid for the presidency. To be honest, I gotta agree with her.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

From THE ONION...

I'm not sure this even qualifies as satire...
Bush Urges Senate To Give Alito Fair, Quick, Unanimous Confirmation

WASHINGTON, DC—President Bush urged the Senate Monday to act with speed, evenhandedness, and absolute obedience in confirming Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. "Each of you, as servants of the public trust, must consider this man carefully, review his record, and vote 'yes,'" Bush said. "I ask that you do your duty, and treat this as you would any of my priorities, be they judges, legislation, or wars." Bush's message was not well-received on either side of the aisle, with Democrats accusing him of bullying tactics and Republicans hurt he thought he had to ask.

UPDATED - The Shia Hits the Fan

We've been hearing a lot of noise in the mainstream media lately about Iran's supposed plans to end the world with renewed nuclear activity. Of course, you may remember hearing a lot of the same noise in the run-up to the whole Iraq thing, but I'm sure there's no connection there.

Anyway, I'd be the first to admit that some of the comments made lately by Iranian prez Mahmoud Ahmedinajad -- you know, the usual stuff about wiping Isreal off the map, moving Isreal to Europe, loving the film Munich (okay, I made that last one up) -- straddle the line between indelicate and incredible, but it's not like he's got the corner on verbal stupidity exhibited by commanders-in-chief.

Still, with plenty of sabers being rattled all around, it's nice to get the occasional strong dose of common sense, such as in this piece by Simon Jenkins of the Guardian. In it he essentially makes the point that it'll take more than Bush's blustering and bravado to resolve this impasse.

EDITED TO ADD: Moments after posting, I found this clip from last night's Daily Show tackling this very subject. Recommended, as always.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

"You maniacs...!"

As anyone who reads this thing regularly can surely attest, I'm about as big a DVD booster as it's possible to be. Not only am I a fan of the variety of new releases that have recently become available (like last week's much-awaited -- by me -- release of the Flash TV series), but also the clever ways some of them are packaged, be they the complete Buffy, the Vampire Slayer boxset from Fox or the Cylon-themed packaging for the classic Battlestar Galactica that Universal released a few years back. Still, in all the clever DVD packaging to hit shelves since the format was birthed, I think that this one is surely the most...uh...unique.

Now don't get me wrong, I think I'm an even bigger Planet of the Apes fan than I am of the DVD format itself. But even so, I'm trying to picture the circumstance where I'd want a full-sized bust of Roddy McDowall in full chimpanzee regalia staring back at me from my DVD shelf. I'm also trying to imagine the conversation where I convince my wife this is that last piece of decor our apartment was just crying out for. It would definitely make those bleary-eyed, middle-of-the-night trips to the kitchen for a glass of water a whole lot more interesting, that's for sure.

Still, aesthetic quibbles aside, I have to admit that the contents of this box are a veritable Cornelius-ucopia for the devoted Ape-o-phile (yeah, yeah, like yours truly). Not only does this fourteen disc mega-set include all five films in the classic Apes cyle that ran from 1968 to 1973, the 1998 feature-length doco Behind the Planet of the Apes, all fourteen episodes of 1974's short-lived Apes television series, and Tim Burton's best-forgotten 2001 remake. Nope, there's more.

In particularly exciting news (well, for me, anyway), this set also marks the digital debut of the Return to the Planet of the Apes animated series from 1975. As a point of interest for those who care to chronicle my eventual life story, this forgotten gem is what first introduced me to the whole Apes phenomeon and, in a weird, roundabout way, is what set me off on the road to becoming a filmmaker.

Anyway, look for this monster monkey to hit right around the same time a certain other monster monkey makes his way to store shelves.

Blog Back

Wow, you're gone for a week and wouldn't you know it, all sorts of news breaks out.

While I was away the Samuel Alito confirmation hearings came and went, with nary a patch of resistance in sight. Alito employed the "shields up" mode of question-and-answer that John Roberts used so effectively that it snagged him the big chair on the Supreme Court. Here's Martin Garbus over at The Huffington Post on what Alito's all-over-but-the-counting appointment will mean in the grand scheme of things:

The Supreme Court was supposed to be a check and balance on the Executive. Chief Justice John Roberts's Court will no longer be that. It will give Bush a blank check; not only in foreign matters but in domestic issues as well. 9/11 was a tragic godsend for those who wanted to restructure the government. Often in war times, presidents are given greater powers - and then years later, in peacetime, those powers are diluted. It's a cycle we have repeatedly seen during our history. But, now with a permanent war, the presidency will get a free, unfettered hand from the Court.

The Congress will not be able to stop the President for the Courts will rule they do not have that power. The Courts, in taking away the ability of Congress, takes away power from its 535 elected representatives in the Senate and House. It eviscerates the right and the ability to self govern.

Scary stuff, to be sure.

But that's not all that's happened during the past few days. Former veep Al Gore used the occasion of a speech delivered on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday to come out once more with some excoriating criticisms of the Junta, with special focus on the NSA's secret wiretapping. You can read the full transcript here. Given the sorry state of the Democratic party, with all indications pointing to a Hillary nomination (which, if it turns out to be the case, means the Dems can basically count on not regaining the White House this decade), I'm still putting my money on Gore emerging from out of the wilderness to once again take the nomination. I think he'd have a reasonable shot, too...

Lastly but not leastly, we have Frank Rich discussing the still-unfolding Jack Abramoff scandal, and how it could very turn out to be GW's "Monica-gate."

In other news, Ariel Sharon, while still technically alive, seems to be on his way out.

Oh, and the Hollywood Foreign Press loves them some gay cowboys.

Back later today. Hopefully.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Blog Break

I'm off to Chicago today for about a week, so updates are going to be sparse during that span. Given that, I'm going to go ahead and put on the soup, though if I find time I'll try to drive-by post. If not, I'll look forward to meeting you back here on Monday the 16th.

It's Pat! (Again)

Looks like Pat Robertson is off his meds again:
Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson criticized Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon today, connecting Sharon's stroke to Israeli policies.

Robertson said Sharon divided Israel and ... quote ... "woe unto any Prime Minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU (European Nation), the United Nations, or the United States of America."

The comments came on "The 700 Club," broadcast from Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network in Virginia Beach.
Because, as we all know, 77 year old men who are 5'7" and weigh 300 pounds never have strokes. That is, unless of course they first surrender the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians.

Oh, and as everyone also knows, if Sharon had done as God wanted, God would have kept him alive forever. And he would have never gotten sick. Ever.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Stewart Oscar-bound

I heard this, or rather rumblings of it, a few days ago, but waited for a definitive "yea" or "nay" before I blogged it. Looks like Jon Stewart has found a new frontier to conquer, serving as taskmaster for Hollywood's yearly backslapping festival -- The Academy Awards. While any chance to see Stewart in a setting that doesn't require paying for television is alright by me, I'd be more enthused if it weren't for the way that Oscar tends to spay and neuter even the most unpredictable of hosts (such as Chris Rock's hosting turn last year). Although, with many potentially controversial films (I'm looking at you, Brokeback Mountain) sure to receive nods, this could well be a perfect year for the Daily Show host. Here's hoping it's more memorable than Letterman's gig back in '96.

And speaking of The Daily Show, it returned this week after a too-long holiday layover, and as is apparent from this clip which tackles the domestic spying revelations, it hasn't lost a step.

UPDATED - When Bill Met Dave

It's been several years now since I've watched David Letterman's show with anything resembling regularity. It's just felt for awhile now like Letterman was simply marking time until he could make his exit, rightfully taking his place in the television pantheon alongside luminaries like Johnny Carson and Jack Benny. Although he occasionally gets in a good zinger, his comedy bits of late have been more awkward than funny, and his star interviews are often excercises in strained banter and feigning interest (although, given the option, I prefer that to Jay Leno's nightly suck-up with the latest celeb du jour). All that being said, it's exchanges like this beauty from last night's visit to the Late Show couch by favored "Zaki's Corner" punching bag Bill O'Reilly that make me recall some of the fire that made Letterman such appointment television back in the day (you know, the early '90s...). It's a safe bet that O'Reilly will spin this in his favor on his show, the protestations of the title notwithstanding. I'm just curious how.

EDITED TO ADD: Mark Evanier has some reactions over at his blog to the Letterman/O'Reilly exchange that are pretty (if you'll pardon a turn of phrase) fair and balanced, and I thought they were worth reposting here:
The money quote, which is probably already being repeated all over the 'net, came when Dave said to him, "I have the feeling that 60% of what you say is crap."

Even though I feel that's about the right percentage, I couldn't help feel a twinge of sorry for O'Reilly...though I also think he's smart enough to have known he was going to get clobbered. It's just about impossible to beat a guy like Letterman when he has home court advantage.

The question I wish someone would put to Dave is, "Why do you have someone on your show if you think 60% of what they say is crap? Why give such a person a forum? Just so you can insult him to his face?" It's not like Bill O'Reilly doesn't have a place to express his opinions. I can understand booking such a guest to engage in a real debate but Dave wasn't primed for that. O'Reilly trotted out the story he keeps telling about how a school in Wisconsin wouldn't allow students to sing the real lyrics to "Silent Night" and Dave was unprepared to point out that what occurred there didn't happen the way O'Reilly keeps reporting it.

Given the information in the link that Mark posted, either O'Reilly simply didn't know about it, in which case he should be embarrassed to call himself a journalist, or he did know and chose to ignore it, in which case he should be embarrassed to call himself a journalist.

So which is it, Bill?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Mr. Boy of Main Street

My friend and partner Sean Coyle, founder of the whole "Mr. Boy" magilla, has been bitten by the blog bug bad. If you doubt me, see for yourself as he waxes poetic on everything from his latest sports annoyances to why he won't be caught dead watching any movies about gay cowboys. Check it out and then meet me back here. It's okay. I'll wait.

Bushisms '05

Don't know how this one slipped past me, but last week the Global Language Monitor compiled a list of notable quotables from our favorite beleagured C-in-C. Tops on that list was, predictably, GW's clueless statement of support for since-ousted FEMA head Michael Brown who, as we all know, did a "heck of a job." Other memorable malaprops and misspeaks? Here's the full list:

1. "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." To FEMA director Michael Brown, who resigned 10 days later amid criticism over his handling of the Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. Mobile, Alabama, Sept 2, 2005

2. "See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda." Explaining his Communications strategy. Greece, N.Y., May 24, 2005

3. "I think I may need a bathroom break. Is this possible?" A note to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a U.N. Security Council meeting. September 14, 2005

4. "This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. And having said that, all options are on the table." Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 22, 2005

5. "In terms of timetables, as quickly as possible - whatever that means." On his timeframe for Social Security Legislation. Washington D.C., March 16, 2005

Bonus: "Those who enter the country illegally violate the law." On Illegal Immigrants or Undocumented Workers. Tucson, Ariz., Nov. 28, 2005

Recommended Reading

Tom Engelhardt on how the Bush Cabal, with Cheney and Rumsfeld at the forefront, have conspired since their man took office to bring the office of the president to new heights of imperial power, and how that plot seems to be unraveling in the wake of the recent revelations of the NSA's domestic spying program.

As you push the limits, wherever they may be, to create a situation in which all control rests in your hands, the odds are that you will create an uncontrollable situation as well. From torture to spying, such acts, however contained they may initially appear to be, involve a deep plunge into a dark and perverse pool of human emotions. Torture in particular, but also unlimited forms of surveillance and any other acts which invest individuals secretly with something like the powers of gods, invariably lead to humanity's darkest side. The permission to commit such acts, once released into the world, mutates and spreads like wildfire from top to bottom in any command structure and across all boundaries. You may start out with a relatively small program of secret imprisonment, torture, spying or whatever, meant to achieve limited goals while establishing certain prerogatives of power, but in no case is the situation likely to remain that way for long. This was, perhaps, the true genius of the American system as imagined by its founders -- the understanding that any form of state power left unchecked in the hands of a single person or group of people was likely to degenerate into despotism (or worse), whatever the initial desires of the individuals involved.

Read the rest of this very interesting piece, including some postulations on where the road may lead in 2006, at the link above.