Thursday, March 24, 2005

Teri, Meet Elian

CNN ran a story yesterday about the similarities between the Terri Schiavo and Elian Gonzales cases. I should've sued them for unauthorized reading of my mind. Heck, I might even get the president to kick it up to federal court for me.

Just when I thought the Michael Jackson case was the Ringling Bros. of media circii (and the reason why it doesn't appear in my 10pm newscast as long as I can help it, God save me) along comes this unqualified sob-and-shout fest that does everything to stroke conservative power trips and darn little to respect individual rights. Teri Schiavo has become the new Elian Gonzales -- an innocent pawn being pulled between two very loud, very powerful, very annoying forces like those old tug-of-war games between me and my aunt's dog. At least Elian knew somebody loved him. With Terri, I'm not so sure where the love is.

The histrionics in the Schiavo case are off the charts. People have gotten arrested outside the hospice for trying to deliver water to her. It reminds me of a similar case I saw on TV back in Missouri in the 1980's, where a group protesting outside a hospital threatened to force-feed a right-to-die patient. With what? Twinkies?

Only in America can you get a lawsuit kicked out of three courts and still stay in the game. Granted, Terri's parents got help from President Bush and Congress when they crashed a bill over the weekend to let the folks move into the federal system. As The Daily Show acutely observed, the Prez acted faster to aid Schiavo's folks than the Southeast Asia tsunami victims. Morality talks, bullshit floats.

The polls on this aren't even close. More than two-thirds of Americans think Congress meddled in a private matter. But polls, schmolls. This is all about sucking up to right-wingers, who you would think don't need any futher sacrifices at the altar. Some Republican lawmakers like Christopher Shays can see the legislative logic doesn't square with conservative principles of limited government intervention. If only these people had spoken up before the House passed an awful TV indecency bill that threatens to criminalize a news live shot gone bad.

Doctors claim Terri has been misdiagnosed, that she really isn't in a persistant vegetative state. Watching that video of her that's gotten more play than Michael Jackson and his umbrella-handler walking into court, it's almost like she's shaking her head in disbelief wondering why nobody can figure out what's wrong with her.

Ultimately, sadly, Terri Schiavo will die, just like the collective dignity of those people who should know better. And if anything, this whole ugly experience will have people running to their lawyers to ask for living wills before they find themselves incoherent, clinging to life and slapped back and forth as a political ping-pong ball. As for me, I have yet to draw up the paperwork, but I'm putting my parents on notice right now if I get caught in the Twilight Zone between life and death: no drips, no tubes, no lawsuits, no Twinkies.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Go Save Yourself

The Terri Schiavo case has one major lesson: Get yourself a living will -- especially if you have a spouse and kids. I don't have one. I don't have a regular one. Do some deduction and you'll figure out why.

I only hope that half the energy spent agonizing and praying for Terri Schiavo goes into getting some more living wills drafted. Maybe her fate is sealed, but the rest of us still have a chance.

Here's some advice on living wills from a Tucson attorney. I'm not a lawyer, and I don't play one on TV, so you'll need to consult somebody where you live for definitive advice.

Reel To Reel:

How It Rates: **1/2
Starring: Voices Of Ewan McGregor, Robin Williams, Halle Berry, Mel Brooks
Rated: PG
Red Flags: Comic Book Violence, Some Bathroom Humor

Preconceived Notions: Some generous star power for an animated flick.
The Bottom Line: It runs, but it's no well-oiled machine.

Comparing Robots, a product of Fox Animation Studios, with anything from Pixar is like comparing a Lincoln Towncar to a Rolls Royce. Both will get you there, but only one has the real style. Yes, Robots is entertaining. It's truly funny at times. It has a message for kids about following your dreams. But it lacks a level for adults which Pixar or even DreamWorks Animation weaved into films like The Incredibles or Shrek.

Enough comparing though. On its own merits, Robots is great for the kids, filling the screen with dozens of cute machines reminiscent of 40's and 50's wind-up toys and some inventive chase sequences. One scene involving countless dominoes will leave your mouth hanging open. But the movie as a whole suffers from sudden bursts of acceleration, with action inserted to hide a fragmented plot. It's as if somebody keeps winding it up and letting it run down.

In a world populated by cute machines, a young robot named Rodney Copperbottom (McGregor) hopes to become the next great inventor. He's just pieced together a worker-bee like home appliance which can help you with just about anything, provided you don't scare him. Rodney sets out for the big city in search of his idol Bigweld (voice of Mel Brooks), the robot world's version of Ron Popeil. But Bigweld's company has been taken over by Ratchet (voice of Greg Kinnear), and his evil mother. Ratchet's new Microsoftian corporate vision is upgrades, not spare parts. Under his plan, countless robots are headed for the scrap heap.

Not if Rodney can help it. He teams up with a motley crew of spare-part misfits including the manic Fender (Williams) and Cappy (Berry), one of Ratchet's corporate minions -- and a robot that will led to nerd arguments about whether Halle Berry or her on-screen persona has the sexier body. Together they head off to find Bigweld and get him back in command.

Williams' performance is by far the most enjoyable of the film (when has Williams not been enjoyable, except in maybe Death To Smoochy?). It throws in sly references to Britney Spears, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, The Wizard Of Oz and even Kukla, Fran and Ollie. But everything else is knock-around action, like watching a pinball machine from under the glass. The film tries to freshen a plot we've seen countless times before -- the boy who saves the world -- but it's still there. "You can shine no matter what you're made of," Bigweld says to the world. True, but you're still going to need some polish now and then.

Thursday, March 10, 2005


Dan Rather didn't go out with a bang or even a whimper. He went out just the way he should have, with class, grace, and words of thanks, much to the chagrin to right-wingers who still want him crucified and bleeding on national television. At the end, CBS News staffers surrounded the anchor desk, cheering him for a job well done -- a moment interrupted and soiled by a Wal-Mart commercial. That annoyance spoke just as much about CBS and its news philosophy as anything in the newscast itself. You would think the brass at Black Rock could dispense with the whoring of its newscast for this one night only and let Dan have a more dignified exit.

So Dan's off the desk, but not off the beat. He'll still report for 60 Minutes Wednesday, more than we can say for Uncle Walter, who nearly vaporized after leaving the Evening News. And now, here comes Walter, sticking the knife in Rather's back and twisting it, saying Bob Schieffer should have been the one to replace him. It's a shame. I expected better from an elder statesman of broadcast journalism.

I guess it's for the best. The epitath of the almighty network news achor has been written many times over, and with friends like these, who'd want the job? Dan's only sin -- as far as I'm concerned -- in the whole Memogate mess is that he tried to do too much and not enough. Too much anchoring. Not enough reporting. Too much trust. Not enough double-checking. Too much face time. Not enough grunt work.

A reporter who once worked at my station refused to voice a story we had gotten from a feed service because he hadn't reported it and had no way to verify the facts. He put his job on the line. What if Dan Rather said to Mary Mapes (producer of the Memogate story), "I'm not doing this. This is too sketchy. These documents haven't been verified." Dan would still be in that anchor chair tomorrow. He had the clout. He should've used it and refused to be somebody's mouthpiece on a story this explosive.

Call it... courage.

Sunday, March 6, 2005

the photo diaries: Huzzah!

On the last weekend of February, I checked out the Arizona Renaissance Fair. Below are some sights...

Arizona? No, not now, not here. On a clear day, you can see the past...

Lunch is nearly ready!

Old World meets New Media. These guys were taping something for cable. What, I'm not exactly sure.

Mother Goose has quite a profile. Not bad for a honkey.

Greyhounds were treated like royalty in Renaissance time. Sure as heck beats the track.

The King, The Queen, His Court and Her Wonderbra (Tis Good To Be The King!)

Aye! When I'm finished with this wretched lot, ye won't be able to tell a knight from a day!

Hit a man when he's down? Sure!

Living to fight another day.

Reel To Reel:
Be Cool

How It Rates: **
Starring: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Cedric The Entertainer
Rated: PG-13
Red Flags: Violence, Language

Preconceived Notions: Another Elmore Leonard novel makes it to the projector -- and a sequel at that.
The Bottom Line: Be Cool? Be real.

Be Cool takes Chili Palmer (Travolta), the loan shark from Get Shorty who goes Hollywood, and turns him from movie-maker to record-maker. But with a film that should be a hit, it plays like a scratchy LP with dead spaces between tracks. Sure, there's bursts of electricity, hooks and choruses you can groove to but yet so much filler. You wish you could just download the good parts from iTunes.

The film opens with Chili's friend Tommy getting clipped by a Russian hoodlum with a toupee that could have come from Empire Carpet. Chili, conicidentally, wants out of the movie business, and lucky for him, Tommy tipped him off to a promising act before he bought the bullet. That leads him to Linda Moon (Christina Milian), a girl with an American Idol voice. One problem: she's under contract with sleazy manager Raji (Vince Vaughn), a white guy who thinks he's black. The Rock plays Raji's bodyguard, a would-be actor who can pass for black... and gay.

Chili starts making moves to get this girl to stardom, hooking up with Tommy's record company now run by his widow (Uma Thurman) while trying to dodge everybody who wants a piece of him, including the Russkies and a rap producer calling in a loan with his homies.

Elmore Leonard wrote Be Cool as a novel, but he didn't write the screenplay -- or direct it. It's a shame. Whereas Leonard writes crime novels that just happen to be funny, here's a crime comedy that happens to be overworked, as if the characters are trying with all their might to play things up for laughs. And how many times can I see John Travolta sitting in a chair with a cigarette and talk his way out of something? Wiseguy that he is, Chili seems a little too cool and one-dimentional.

Be Cool runs like a parody of an Elmore Leonard novel, a la Big Trouble. But the latter film was actually funny. This one is actually, well, not.

Putting More "New" Into "News"

Peggy Noonan has some advice on how to turn CBS News around. It makes sense, especially her commandment to stop chasing the New York Times. (As if Jayson Blair isn't reason enough.) One reason some stories don't make it into KOLD News 13 is they've been in the paper. Break the news, make the news.

Thursday, March 3, 2005

MoveOn... To The Left

Rolling Stone features an excellent piece on and why it's having trouble turning red states blue.

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

UK To BBC: There's More To TV Than Ratings

The government-controlled British Broadcasting Corporation is being told to raise its standards and quit copying popular shows on rival networks or risk losing public funding. Imagine somebody saying that to the big four networks, especially Fox. Kinda makes you glad we had a revolution. On the other hand, do we really need another edition/knockoff of The Bachlor(ette)?

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

FCC: Federal Critics' Corner

Jeff Jarvis' BuzzMachine has an excellent analysis of the FCC ruling that found Saving Private Ryan is not obscene. On the face of it, it sounds like the FCC made the right call. But when you dig deeper, as Jarvis did, you find the FCC is talking out of both sides of its mouth, and worse, seems to be acting like the national art critic.

Oscar Night Observations

My viewing of this year's movie bash was limited because I had to work -- but I offer a few snapshot thoughts:

Everybody Wins. I didn't have an argument with any of the winners this year -- although I still think it's a travesty that Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow didn't get a mention in the visual effects or art direction categories. Jamie Foxx was simply unforgettable in Ray, and Million Dollar Baby is simply a wonderful film, despite what you may hear from the right wing.

Rock Meets Scissors. People are complaining about Chris Rock's performance sucking. This is network TV. This is the Oscars. You were rooting for a verbal wardrobe malfunction? Besides, "Sit your asses down?" And memo to Sean Penn: take a friggin' joke, please. Sit your ass down.

Williams Meets Scissors. ABC's squashing of a Robin Williams parody song is simply uncomprehendable. Anybody with half a brain could see he was clearly making jokes. But remember, we're living in the age of the outraged letter-writing machines. And with half-million dollar fines on the horizon, who can really blame a network suit?

Shake It Up. Producer Gil Cates took a gamble and actually had some trophies passed out in the audience, or with the nominees already on stage to speed things up. Nice touch.

Best Acceptance Speech. Jamie Foxx's remarks were honest and genuinely emotional. And Morgan Freeman's were refreshingly short.

Red State Blues. Early ratings crunches show the Oscarcast did better in big cities than rural markets. That's not really anything new or surprising, but just you wait to see various fringes twist this into more evidence of a nation divided.