Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I'm an old fart now, but back in the day, before marriage and kids, I was known for my rather notorious Halloween costumes... I would go all out, finding professional threatrical makeup and sparing no expense to create characters that were in as poor taste as possible...

One year, I was Elvis. The old, corpulent near-death Elvis... I found an Elvis costume in a store, bought in a size too small on purpose, and wrote "Hunk O' Burnin' Love on the back in glitter...

The year before that, I found professional blackface makeup, put a "Bears" hat on my head, bought a Bear's jersey and became William "The Refrigerator" Perry.

The makeup worked so well, that when I went out to pick up pizza for our party, the guy behind the counter at the pizza place - who was African-American - did not detect my whiteness - until I handed him the money with my yet-to-be made-up fingers...

Alas - even I have a sense of shame... I do have one more even more tasteless costume that I was going to post, but I guess maturity really does kick in at some point... or perhaps it's just paranoia. It was the hit of the party 23 years ago... but 23 years ago, I had a job - and no one had ever heard of political correctness!

Tell you what - if you want to take a peek, drop me an email and I'll consider showing you! Happy Howling!

RIP Estelle Reiner

Estelle Reiner is dead. She was 94. Who don't know who Estelle Reiner is? Yes you do.

Rob Reiner's mom and Carl Reiner's wife gave us one of the best lines in movie history. Mrs. Matthews and I consider "When Harry Met Sally" to be "our movie", and we danced to its theme song, "It Had To Be You" at our wedding. So, thanks Estelle!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Taking One For the Team!

The Redskins will apparently stop at nothing to win at Fed Ex Field... Check out this nugget from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette...

Among Ben Roethlisberger's stated concerns about playing the Washington Redskins is their cheerleaders.

That's what he said, anyway.

"I'm not a big fan of playing there because it is loud, they're really good at home and they try to make their cheerleaders stretch in our tunnel before we come out of the locker room. That's just not good," Roethlisberger said yesterday.

The practice by the Redskins cheerleaders was so legendary around the league that when commissioner Roger Goodell sent out a memo to all teams last year banning the practice some dubbed the "Redskins Rule."

"The couple of preseason games I've played down there, we've seen it," Roethlisberger said.

And it's a distraction?
"It can be, let's be truthful. They've done it before. I've heard a rumor that they're not allowed to do it anymore."

I did not realize this before now, but the Redskins cheerleaders apparently have developed quite the reputation for attracting the guys. Check out what retired Giants Defensive End Michael Strahan wrote in his recent book, "Inside the Helmet":

"The cheerleaders are a huge, huge distraction," he writes. "They aren't there just to distract the fans, they're used as a weapon against us, too. We stare at cheerleaders sometimes. It's against the rules for a cheerleader to date a player, but it happens all the time. I'll tell you the best girls in the league, by far, are not the famous Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders or the famed Raiderettes. It's not even close, folks. The Washington Redskins get the prize in my book. Every single one of those girls is stunning."

I wouldn't be surprised if Redskins owner Dan Snyder is paying for all their boob jobs....

A Cautionary Tale...

I'm breaking my "no more presidential election blogging" rule just long enough to note that John McCain's 11th hour campaign tactic is to point out the dangers of having one party controlling everything. Without any effective "pushback" from an opposition party, some better ideas are inevitably going to end up in the trash can, and a good chunk of the nation will, at least for the next two years, essentially be without a voice in the business of America.

McCain is right.

For evidence of this, let's look at my hometown of Montgomery County, Maryland, where even liberal Republicans have been seemingly forever driven from office. Without any GOP dissent, the County Council has effectively killed a proposal to charge ambulance fees, a move than would have generated 14 million dollars in revenue at a time when the county is facing a 250 million dollar deficit. This is the same county that earlier this year killed a proposal to sell alcohol on Sundays because the evils of selling booze outweighed the potential extra revenue that Sunday sales would bring.

As usual, politics are at play here, and there's no yin to counter the yang. Volunteer firefighters are leading the fight to kill the ambulance fee, because they say they shouldn't be required to charge people for services when they themselves are providing their time for free. That's all well and good, but it doesn't pay the county's bills.

If the ambulance fee is approved, the volunteers are promising to fight back and place the issue on the ballot in 2010. And guess what else will happen in 2010? Every single member of the county council will be up for re-election, and members of the council don't want their names on the same ballot as an unpopular fee that they supported.

With all of our elected officials sleeping in the same political bed, there's no one with the political will to fight the status quo in Montgomery County. And taxpayers are paying the price.

Keep that in mind when the Democrats control the House and the Senate and the White House.

And keep your checkbook handy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Better Off Dead?

Could it be that my best career move at this point would be to develop a major drug dependency and then keel over dead on the toilet? Hmmm....

Elvis Presley, Snoopy creator Charles Shultz and recently deceased actor Heath Ledger headed Forbes' Top-Earning Dead Celebrities for 2007, having netted a combined 105 million dollars, the magazine said Tuesday.

Thirty years after he died aged 42, the King of Rock 'n' Roll last year pulled in 52 million dollars, dwarfing living music stars like Justin Timberlake (44 million) and Madonna (40 million), the magazine said.

Elvis topped the list for a second year running due to the 30th anniversary extravaganza in Graceland -- his home in Memphis, Tennessee -- that in visitors and merchandising generated more income than his 2006 earnings of 49 million dollars.

Shultz, who drew Snoopy and the "Peanuts" gallery of characters into existence, died in 2000 at 77. His heirs last year penned an agreement with Warner Bros. studios moving him up a notch in Forbes' list, with posthumous earnings of 33 million dollars.

The Australian heartthrob Ledger, who died at 28 in January from overmedication, made an estimated 20 million dollars in earnings from his cut in the latest box office smash hit Batman movie "The Dark Knight," in which he played the Joker.

The father of relativity, Albert Einstein, was fourth on the Forbes list. Even though he passed away in 1955, his "Baby Einstein" toy franchise brought in a cool 18 million dollars.

Television producer Aaron Spelling, who died in 2006, followed with 15 million dollars in earnings last year, chiefly from royalties of reruns of his popular shows.

"Dr. Seuss" children book author Theodor Geisel (d. 1991) made 12 million dollars for fifth place, and Beatle John Lennon, shot to death in 1980, dropped from second to sixth place with nine million.

Listed 8, 9 and 10 were Andy Warhol (d. 1987) with eight million dollars; Marilyn Monroe (d. 1962) 6.5 million, and actor Steve McQueen (d. 1980) with six million.

Actor Paul Newman, who died last month at 83 years of age, pulled in five million dollars, tying with the late James Dean (d. 1955), who also earned five million.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm Not Sayin'... I'm Just Sayin'!

The Dow climbed nearly 900 points today - and Disney, one of the 30 Dow Industrials and my former employer, saw its stock climb $2.54 a share! Citadel Broadcasting - my other former employer - finished at 28 cents. Down a penny. On a day when the Dow climbed 900 points. Hmm.

Well, I can say this much... If the February bloodshed that cost me my job was designed to turn the stock around, um..... I'm not sayin... I'm just sayin'!

Another Lost Form Of Communication

One of the frequent threads of this blog has revolved around the dying art of commercial radio. That only makes sense, considering it has been my career for my entire life. However, in recent days, I have been reminded of another dead form of communication. And while radio has at least a statistical chance of resurrection, this form is already pushing daisies.

I'm speaking, of course, of the memorandum. Like radio, the written memo has been been killed off by technology - in this case, the e-mail. I'm not exactly mourning the loss of the memo or the mundane business letter... it's probably not worth mourning over. And just think about how much space has been saved in filing cabinets!

A few days ago, my college choir director sent me a big box of stuff that he had squirrelled away from his years at Syracuse, including many pieces of correspondence documenting the humdrum business of running a college choir. I've been busy adding some of this material to my choir alumni site.

The letters themselves were at once, both unremarkable and fascinating. There was definitely a certain elegance and formality that no longer exists in email. Memos, for example, were typed on dedicated Memo paper...

The paper itself was more formal... heavier and more textured than the common paper we all use in printers today. Some of it was printed with the manufacturer's watermark, with elaborate letterheads on top and bottom. And on this paper, in many cases, was completely mundane information. Can you imagine, in 2008, writing and mailing a formal letter to confirm a date for an appointment?

And with the death of the written letter, there is the corresponding death of the practiced signature, written with panache by a fine ink pen.

One other thing that's not really gone... It lives on in spirit through letters from insurance companies and whatnot - the form letter. However - even most form letters today are done on word processors, leaving out the massive gaps of old typewritten notes:

With email taking over the world, is it any wonder that the U.S. Postal Service is reporting record losses? According to the Washington Post, the USPS is in danger of folding altogether...

Just like the memo.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday Morning Two-fer

It's 6 am... The Missus has been up all night preparing kindergarten lessons, and needs to get on the computer to check her e-mail, so I must make this quick. Therefore, I will!

1. The election has officially reached the "nails on the chalkboard" point for me. I can't hear or see an election ad for either candidate without shuddering. Please let the next 8 days pass quickly! However - I do still enjoy SNL sketches making fun of the candidates - Here's the best one from this weekend:

2. If I'm pissed off that there was no NFL game last night because it took the week off to make way for the World Series, does that mean I'm not a baseball fan? I guess so.

Thank God, then, for "Mad Men"! I watched the season two finale instead of the Phillies/Rays game... It's just too bad we have to wait until next July for season three! Guess it's time to start pining for "LOST" to return!

Happy Monday!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Want Change And Hop-ie? Vote For Opie!

I had promised myself I was done blogging on stuff related to the election... But then, my sister Jill, brought this video to my attention. Almost to a rule, I HATE celebrity political endorsements, because I find that most celebrities are even more ignorant than I am, and that their status doesn't make then at all qualified to endorse anyone. But for the cool factor alone, I have to give a big thumbs up to this one! Enjoy - and then vote for whoever you want!
See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Irony Is A Bitch!

Take it from someone who has been looking for a media job for the past eight months... There are not a lot of jobs out there to be had - at least not fulltime, benefits-paying, secure jobs. So how ironic is it that, even as the number of jobs in the business is shrinking, the availability of media is BOOMING! You can now find news and stocks and sports and weather forecasts anywhere you go... from a screen on your cel phone to a screen in a bathroom stall!

I filled up my gas tank this morning at the Sunoco in Aspen Hill. Back in the day, it used to be a Mobil station, and it was the site of one of the first DC sniper shootings, but I digress... Anyway, during the three minutes that I was filling my tank, I was treated to an ESPN Sports update, a CBS News Entertainment minute, and the latest Accuweather forecast... all completely up to date, and all on the 17-inch flatscreen mounted on top of the gas pump. The reports were interspersed with ads for Sunoco, urging me to stop into the station's convenience mart for a soda, or to get an oil change.

You would think that with this explosion of media everywhere that companies would be clamoring for people to write and edit this content... But alas, rather than investing in deeper content, companies are instead s t r e t c h i n g their content to the point that it is all a mile wide and an inch deep. So the sports report I see this morning at the Sunoco, may be seen later in the toilet at Applebee's.

The phrase for this is "repurposing material." Unfortunately for me, the catchphrase is not "repurposing old news directors"! I may be underemployed, but sometimes I think I'm the lucky one. The four people still working in the news business all seem to have about ten jobs as they try to cover the news.. and the gas station beat!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

... And Joy Behar Is A Know-Nothing Bitch!

In this clip from "The View", co-host Joy Behar calls radio host Rush Limbaugh a terrorist:

Now, before I go any further, I must say that I am not a regular listener of Rush Limbaugh's, although I know plenty about him, having spent 19 years with him hosting the midday show on WMAL. I am not a fan, per se, but I do admire him as one of radio's greatest legends of all time. You can hate the man's politics, you can find him to be obnoxious, or snide, or pompous. But you cannot deny his impact on the talk radio industry. Rush Limbaugh is - in total fact - the most-listened-to man in America.

A couple of things really bother me about this institutional hatred of Rush. First of all, I strongly suspect that most of his critics have never spent more than 5 minutes listening to him on the radio, and therefore, their criticisms of him are simply ill-formed and invalid. People hate his politics, they personalize that hatred, and turn Limbaugh, in their minds, into some sort of Hitleresque monster.

The fact is, Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer - and a brilliant one at that! He knows exactly how to massage his audience to attain maximum results. I'm quite sure that , ideologically, Rush believes what he says, but you must know there are two Rush Limbaughs... The one for public consumption, and the private Rush who spent years crafting the Limbaugh persona. The difference between private Rush and the Great and Powerful Oz is that Rush is way too smart to ever let you see the man behind the curtain! But trust me when I tell you that while Limbaugh's shtick is not an act, it's also true that he ramps it WAY up for his audience.

Limbaugh is unique... and when I say unique, I mean it in the literal sense. There are many pretenders to his throne, but none who can hold a candle to his talent on the air.

The great irony I find in Joy Behar's comments is that she and he are basically doing the exact same job, albeit on opposite ends of the political spectrum. "The View" and Rush Limbaugh have different audiences, but both shows exist for the same reason - to present a point of VIEW that will help listeners/viewers shape their own opinions.

So Joy - aren't you just the pot calling the kettle black, you li'l terrorist?

Your Kids Are Going To Hell.

And it's all your fault! For those of you who thought Halloween is just a harmless opportunity for your children to dress up in costume and go door-to-door for candy once a year, I regret to inform you it is actually an evil Wiccan observance that separates those who celebrate the occasion from their Christian roots, and ultimately condemns them to an afterlife date with the Devil Incarnate. At least, it is according to this article from Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcast Network.

For those of you who are doing Satan's work, and therefore are too busy to read the entire article, here's a pertinent passage:

Christians should be teaching their children (age appropriately) that:

  • there is a spiritual world filled with goodness from God and evil from Satan (Eph. 2:1-10);

  • life with Christ has power over darkness (I John 4:4); and

  • those who celebrate Halloween either are unaware of its roots, or are intentionally promoting a world where evil is lauded and viewed as an ultimate power.

You want to really know what evil is? Evil is all that leftover candy that sits around the house begging to be eaten. THAT's evil.

Have a nice day.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

This One's For You, Dandy!

My sisters and I had a pug as our pet when we were children, and I'm afraid as a healthy 6-year-old American boy, I probably treated him less than kindly... Although I must say, Dandy (short for his official pedigree name, Gentleman Dandelion) was a wonderful companion until he got killed chasing cars. (I never said Dandy was particularly smart.)

My sister, Julie now has a pug, named Moose, so this video is for him, too! Time to go Pug Bowling!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Weekend News And Notes And Odds And Ends

...and knicks and knacks... Mutts and Jeffs... yins and yangs... salts and peppers... tweedledees and tweedledums... you get the idea.

We've been so focused lately on the big picture economic issues, with the Dow falling hundreds of points a day and whatnot. Well, I enjoyed two small picture economic victories over the weekend. We drove out to Frederick to go to Costco, hopeful of finding gas under three bucks a gallon, because Costco is always cheaper than conventional gas, and also because Frederick in general is about as cheap as it gets in Maryland for gasoline . (In addition, I always enjoy going to the Frederick Costco, because I can wave to my grandparents, who are buried at Mt. Olivet cemetary, just across the street!) When we arrived, traffic at Costco was spilling out onto the highway, because gas was going for $2.69 a gallon! How ironic is it that Detroit's Big Three automakers are now struggling to survive because the markets for SUVs and Big Trucks dried up when gas prices started to move towards four bucks a gallon?

Meanwhile, even though my garage shelves were already full of soda because of the great deal I found at Shoppers Food Warehouse ($1.99 a case for Diet Pepsi!), I could not resist going to Safeway on Saturday, where Pepsi 2-liter bottles were going for 59 cents! Do I have a life, or what? (Don't answer that question!)

On Saturday night (actually, on Friday, THEN Saturday night), Brad and I accompanied our friends, the Bernsteins to the Sherwood/Quince Orchard High School football game - a HUGE deal in our community because Sherwood has a long tradition as a Montgomery County football power and because Quince Orchard was ranked as the number one team in the DC area.

It's amazing just how much a sense of community there really IS at local high school football games... The stands were packed with parents, most of whom were wearing Sherwood gear, and many of whom seemed to be "regulars" at the games. My friend, Randy, has been going to Sherwood games for years, even when his kids weren't going to school there - and it's easy to see why. The atmosphere is electric... it's fun to see teenage hormones at play in the stands... and the football is not bad, either! Sherwood took an early two-touchdown lead, and held on with excellent defense to shutdown Q.O., 14 - 6, ending Quince Orchard's 20-game win streak!

Finally, I must mention that while I enjoyed watching the Redskins win a defensive battle over the Browns, for me the real joy of the NFL weekend was watching those no-account Cowboys choke like dogs to the Rams. The mainstream sports media have had a Barack Obama-like fascination with Dallas for years, and it's good to see their expectations fall back to earth. The Cowboys suck, and short of a major turnaround, they'll be watching the Skins in the playoffs instead of playing the Skins in the playoffs!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hey, Women! Can We Practice Some Civility?

Look, folks. I GET that I'm in the minority - especially around these parts - when it comes to admiring Sarah Palin. But I truly do not understand where the hatred and lack of respect towards her is coming from - especially among women.

I was reading a blog today that is managed by a group of women whom I respect and like very much. Here is the headline written about Sarah Palin:

You don't have to like Sarah Palin, and you certainly don't have to vote for her. But isn't it a slap to all women for a woman to call Sarah Palin a BITCH?

This is not an isolated case. Here's another example from one of my friends on Facebook - celebrating the fact that Sarah Palin has been turned into the subject of a porn video.

In all seriousness, is it disrespectful or demeaning to call a woman a bitch or to cast her image in a porn video ONLY if she's an Eastern Liberal elitist with a blueblood educational background? Do the same rules not apply to women who fall outside of that range?

It seems to me this is the equivalent of African-Americans saying it's OK to call each other "niggers", but it's not OK for non-blacks to use the word.

I'm not alone in feeling this way - Even Whoopi Goldberg, who is NO FAN of Sarah Palin, came out on "The View" yesterday and admitted the way other women have been treating Palin is disgraceful.

"Yeah, it’s horrible that she has gotten this much and- gotten this much rage in such a short amount of time. And I guess people don’t remember that when Hillary was running because maybe she ran- she had been out there longer and it was easier to take those same kind of ugly pot shots. You know, there’s something about strong women or women running that brings out the worst in people whether it’s on the Democratic side or the, or the Republican side, the point of the fact is, it’s crappy."

You all want to feel so morally superior in your disrespect, but all you are doing is shooting yourselves in the foot. This is a step backward for women... and not just the ones who know how to field dress a moose.

Life When You Have No Life

Anyone who reads this blog knows that the blogmaster is, to put it whimsically, underemployed... Oh, I do have a few crumbs of work here and there, but as often as not, my days are currently filled with - oh... - not much.

Imagine then, the weekly excitement of Food Section Wednesday - the one day of the week that grocery store fliers arrive in the Washington Post - the day that I get to scan the ads and plan out my shopping excursions for the week!

You see, underemployed people don't do much real shopping - the mall is nothing but a tease when you are watching your pennies. But the grocery store is a whole other deal, because everybody has to eat!

So imagine my joy when I opened the Food section this week and discovered that the Shoppers Food Warehouse in Olney was having a Grand Re-Opening! And to make matters even more exciting, they have cases of Pepsi for 2.99! Do I have some kind of life, or what?!?!?!

So sure enough, I was in the door at Shoppers at around 8:45 this morning for the official grand re-opening, and I immediately noticed there were men in suits crowded around the produce section. I mentioned this to a clerk in the bakery department, and she allowed that the entire company's senior staff was there for the event, including the President of the company!

As I walked through the aisles, I noticed suited managers in almost every aisle, checking to make sure that every can of tomatoes was stacked in razor-sharp lines on the shelves. But mostly, they were standing around doing nothing.

And I thought I didn't have a life!

P.S. When I got home, I noticed they had mis-rung my Pepsi. I got them for $1.99 a case instead! Can life get any better than this?!

More 60's TV Pop Culture!

Well, the economy is too depressing to write about, and the election is, in my opinion, a fait d'accompli. So today, we return to the safe haven of pop culture and the exciting internet release of pictures from the upcoming "Star Trek" movie. For those of you who who are missing the geek gene, JJ Abrams, the creator of "LOST", has created a prequel to classic "Star Trek", with younger actors playing the roles of Kirk, Spock, Bones, et al.

Zachary Quinto is already getting rave reviews for his spot-on homage to Leonard Nimoy in the role of Spock, but it's difficult to separate him from his regular TV role as serial killer Sylar in "Heroes" - especially when you see him in this shot:

It's kinda cool that the producers returned to the "classic" Star Trek look for uniforms - not that they had a whole lot of choice... Here's the crew... You can figure out who plays Chekov, Scotty, Sulu, etc...

And finally, here's a shot of the new bridge of the Enterprise. I don't really get a good sense of what it will look like from this shot, but somehow, I think it'll have a somewhat more advanced look than the plywood sets of the original... Note that they still have the women in mini-skirts, though!

The new film debuts in May of 2009. Live long and prosper!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Neal Hefti Is Dead!

You may not know who Neal Hefti is (or actually, WAS), but you know his work... He's the guy who wrote the TV theme for the 1960's version of "Batman"! Here are some sample lyrics:

Dah Dah Dah Dah Dah Dah Dah Dah
Dah Dah Dah Dah Dah Dah Dah Dah

It doesn't seem like the "brain surgery" of TV themes, but Hefti's son says the "Batman" theme was Neal Hefti's most difficult piece, taking him at least one month to compose the driving bass and explosive trumpet bursts.

"He threw away more music paper on this thing than any other song," Paul Hefti told The Associated Press. "It got down to the blues with a funny guitar hook, the lowest common denominator and a fun groove."

Neal Hefti was born Oct. 29, 1922, in Hastings, Neb., and played trumpet with local bands as a teenager to earn money.

I was 5 years old when "Batman" debuted on TV, and while the grownups around me saw the Adam West portrayal of the Caped Crusader as campy, I took it darn seriously! When Mr. Freeze trapped Batman and Robin in giant snowcones at the end of an episode, I worried and fretted for the Dark Knight. I ALWAYS tuned in the next week at the same bat-time and same bat-channel!

The show just wouldn't have been the same without it's theme, so thanks Neal!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It's Christmas In October For Cowboy-Haters!

Following up on my previous post about the exciting NFL season, I just saw the happy happy news that the Dallas Cowboys have been dealt their fourth or fifth major setback of the week!

Cowboys cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones has been suspended by the NFL for AT LEAST four games, including Dallas' next game against the Redskins, as punishment for getting into a fight with one of his own bodyguards last week.

The Pacman drama adds to what has been a terrible time for the Cowpokes ever since they lost to the Redskins two weeks ago...

  • Starting quarterback Tony Romo is going to miss the next 4 weeks with a broken pinkie.

  • His replacement is former Redskin Brad Johnson. I like Johnson and I always have, ever since he was a Redskin. But Johnson is 40, and he doesn't have much of an arm anymore, which means Dallas' leading crybaby, Terrell Owens, is going to have plenty to whine about!

  • Punter Mat McBriar, perhaps the best punter in football, is out for a couple of months with a broken foot.

  • The Cowboys' other starting corner back, Terrence Newman, is out for another five weeks after surgery for a sports hernia, leaving two rookies to anchor a pass defense that was already shaky to begin with!

After being widely touted as the presumptive Super Bowl favorites, it looks like Dallas could be in danger of missing the playoffs altogether... As a lifelong Redskins fan, it doesn't get any better than that!

Tee Hee Hee!

Election Fatigue

I got up this morning and wrote four paragraphs with my latest take on the upcoming elections... and quickly found that I'm bored with both Obama and McCain... as I imagine much of America is. Short of a major scandal (which America doesn't need), you should know by now who you'll be voting for three weeks from today.

So let's talk about something of much more import to the American people. I am, of course, speaking about football. PRO football in general, and the NFC East to be specific. How much better can it get than this? Just as it seemed like the division was going to be anointed as the greatest ever, three of the four teams lost in week six - and to teams they were heavily favored to beat, to boot! The only team that won in week 6 were the last-place Eagles, which means all four teams are in position to beat the crap out of each other for the rest of the season!

Can life get any better than this? Yes. It's the Ides of October, for chrissakes (well, almost - it's Ides Eve)! God did not intend for football fans to be watching games when it's 85 degrees outside, except in Miami, where God did not intend any teams that wear Aqua and Orange to be taken seriously, anyway.

I prematurely made my first pot of chili of the season last week, and now it's taking up space in my freezer because God also did not intend any self-respecting chili to be consumed in weather like this.

One more football-related note in this rather scatter-brained entry (which is still more interesting by far than any election related blog I might have written)... I am dying to get to the theater to see "The Express", the movie based on Ernie Davis, the first black to win the Heisman Trophy. Davis went to Syracuse, and was set to follow his idol and fellow Orangeman Jim Brown to the Cleveland Browns, but he died of Leukemia before he ever got the chance to go to the NFL.

The film is getting mixed reviews for its accuracy, but it does include several scenes shot on the Syracuse campus that I want to see, including one in front of Hendricks Chapel, where I sang in choir. I'm especially interested to see the depiction of Syracuse's Archbold stadium, which was torn down before my freshman year to make way for the Carrier Dome. You can see the dome behind the chapel in the picture above. In the film, the old stadium has been digitally inserted to replace the Dome, and it'll be interesting to see what that looked like!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Extreme Cynicism: Home Edition

Mrs. Matthews had control of the remote control during dinner last night, and I was therefore forced to watch the modern day version of "Queen For A Day", otherwise known as "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition". There is no show on television that irritates me more, but at the same time allows me to unload my quiver with a full arsenal of snarky arrows!

For those of you who are blissfully ignorant of the way this show operates... Each week, producers pick a worthy family who is a pillar of their community who also happens to live in a hovel that is worthy of condemnation. The family is then whisked off to a week-long vacation (usually at a Disney property, since this is aired on Disney-owned ABC), while a local builder and the family's neighbors build them a new home.

Usually, the winning way to be chosen as the recipient family is to have some bit of tragedy fall upon you. In this case, the Dad of the family had died, leaving behind a house that had apparently crumbled beyond repair, leaving Mom, a 29-year teaching veteran to raise her family alone. Never mind the fact that 2 of her 4 children are already out of the house and off to college... The larger point is that their house is a slum, giving the show's producers an excuse to tear it down and build a shiny new McMansion that is completely out of character with every other home in the neighborhood!

Sometimes, the producers really have to stretch to turn the recipient families into "heroes" or "victims" in order to give them their new homes... There has been one case in which a foster family had a new home built for them because they had taken in five recently-orphaned kids. Well, within a year or so, all five kids were out of the house and suing their foster family for ownership of the house. In another case, a home was built for a father of four whose wife had abandoned the family. Well, yes, technically, Mom HAD left... But she was living down the street with her boyfriend, and she saw her kids all the time - even as the new house was being built! And there are also cases where some of the families were given this enormous gift - and then squandered it. See my previous post on this phenomenon here.

The show's producer's may want you to think the theme of the show is community charity, but in reality, "EM:HE" is an ode to product placement! From the moment the local builders show up with their company's name on their shirts, and local residents march in carrying American flags, Wisconsin state flags and flags bearing the builder's name on them, we discover that this is one big logo-fest... We see carpenters using Craftsman tools (from Sears) and Kenmore appliances (from Sears) being installed in the new kitchen. We see new furniture arriving, with the name of the furniture company plastered on the side of the truck delivering it. One of the show's designers takes a field trip to a Lands End factory (owned by Sears - do you detect a trend?), where he sees pants being manufactured... No matter, Lands End also apparently sells outdoor furniture, thereby allowing the product placement to make a modicum of sense! We also get to see the recipient family on vacation - wearing Disney shirts, of course!

Another major ingredient of any "Extreme Makeover" episode is seeing the designers go way overboard in designing individual rooms. In this episode, a teenage boy reveals he's a fan of computers... So his room is designed with a floor that literally plays pong, and a computer screen that doubles as a 40-inch (at least) plasma screen television... That's one other required rule of "EM:HE" - Every room in the house, by law, MUST have a large screen plasma TV in it - the better to show the "EM:HE" logo on it.

The rooms displayed on the shows are always way cool to look at on television, but I always wonder, especially in the cases of children, what will happen when they outgrow their childhood passions. I remember one 6-year-old kid who liked fishing was given a fishing-themed bedroom, complete with a rowboat bed! Yeah - he'll still think THAT'S cool when he's 14!

Now, I fully realize I'm being a cynic. I'm quite sure the folks at "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" have changed the lives of dozens of families for the better. But the show is such an easy target!

Don't they know that saccarhine causes cancer?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

That's My Boy!

I told you weeks ago about the proud news that our son, Brad, had made the TV team at Sherwood High School for It's Academic! Well, yesterday, we made the drive down to the NBC studios on Nebraska Avenue, NW for the taping of Sherwood's first round match against Mt. Vernon and Eleanor Roosevelt High Schools. And while I won't spoil the fun by telling you the outcome (you will note I also blocked out Sherwood's score), I can tell you that a good time was had by all! Brad cleans up pretty well, doesn't he? Of the nine players in the game, Brad was the only sophomore among five seniors and three juniors!

A special thanks to Randy and Evan Bernstein and to Ryan Solomon for coming down to NBC with us to cheer Brad on! You can see Sherwood's match on WRC, Channel 4, on Saturday, November 15th at 10:30am! Go Brad!

Friday, October 10, 2008

I Heart Betty White, Too!

To paraphrase my friend Jen paraphrasing former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, there is a special place in Hell for women (and men) who don't support Betty White!

It's Getting Crowded On The Beach

Actually, if we have just a couple more days like yesterday's 679-point debacle for the Dow, the beach is going to look like Normandy on D-Day.

I'm still trying to come to grips with the fact that my former industry is crumbling before me, even as I scramble to get back in to it. Stock values in radio companies are dropping faster than the Dow is, but the big difference between radio and most other industries is that there's little reason to think old media like radio and newspapers are going to recover any time soon.

My former employer, Citadel Broadcasting, now has its stock selling at 37 cents a share, and it is set to be de-listed by the New York Stock Exchange any day now. Sirius-XM, which was created in a merger a couple of months back in a bid to keep the satellite radio companies afloat, is now selling at 45 cents a share. And these are just a couple of examples. Both companies are facing enormous debt loads, and it's unclear why investors would take a shot at buying them. It's clear that advertising is going to take a huge hit, and when it does recover, radio and newspaper are not going to get the lion's share of ad money. Sirius, in particular, depends on people buying new cars to survive, and that won't be happening in acceptable numbers anytime soon, either.

I worry about my friends at Citadel, and I fear that another wave of layoffs like the one that cost me my career is now underway. The longtime Program Director at WABC-AM in New York was shown the door yesterday, as was one of the Human Resources people at WMAL/WRQX/WJZW. Those are the only two I know of so far, but I'm sure there are more. I know there is little-to-no fat left to cut, so it's frightening to think of what might happen next. I just hope there's enough money left for everyone to get a decent severance when the ax falls.

Hang in there, friends - and keep your heads down!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Screw Obama/McCain - Let's Talk About Palin!

I skipped last night's debate between Obama and McCain, and opted instead to catch a recap on Nightline, which apparently proved to be a good decision because all the reviews seem to indicate the Presidential candidates were pretty darn boring...

So instead, this morning, I choose to discuss my fascination with Sarah Palin, who is decidedly less boring than the other three candidates! I call your attention to an article by Camille Paglia on Paglia is a self-professed liberal columnist and devoted Barack Obama supporter, who also happens to share my feelings about the Alaska Governor. Paglia shares my view that Palin has been criminally misjudged and that she is, in fact, an "uber" rather than "anti" feminist. Here are a few choice passages for those of you who opt not to read the entire column...

Although nothing will sway my vote for Obama, I continue to enjoy Sarah Palin's performance on the national stage. During her vice-presidential debate last week with Joe Biden (whose conspiratorial smiles with moderator Gwen Ifill were outrageous and condescending toward his opponent), I laughed heartily at Palin's digs and slams and marveled at the way she slowly took over the entire event. I was sorry when it ended! But Biden wasn't -- judging by his Gore-like sighs and his slow sinking like a punctured blimp. Of course Biden won on points, but TV (a visual medium) never cares about that.

The mountain of rubbish poured out about Palin over the past month would rival Everest. What a disgrace for our jabbering army of liberal journalists and commentators, too many of whom behaved like snippy jackasses. The bourgeois conventionalism and rank snobbery of these alleged humanitarians stank up the place. As for Palin's brutally edited interviews with Charlie Gibson and that viper, Katie Couric, don't we all know that the best bits ended up on the cutting-room floor? Something has gone seriously wrong with Democratic ideology, which seems to have become a candied set of holier-than-thou bromides attached like tutti-frutti to a quivering green Jell-O mold of adolescent sentimentality.

One of the most idiotic allegations batting around out there among urban media insiders is that Palin is "dumb." Are they kidding? What level of stupidity is now par for the course in those musty circles? (The value of Ivy League degrees, like sub-prime mortgages, has certainly been plummeting. As a Yale Ph.D., I have a perfect right to my scorn.) People who can't see how smart Palin is are trapped in their own narrow parochialism -- the tedious, hackneyed forms of their upper-middle-class syntax and vocabulary.

Many others listening to Sarah Palin at her debate went into conniptions about what they assailed as her incoherence or incompetence. But I was never in doubt about what she intended at any given moment. On the contrary, I was admiring not only her always shapely and syncopated syllables but the innate structures of her discourse -- which did seem to fly by in fragments at times but are plainly ready to be filled with deeper policy knowledge, as she gains it (hopefully over the next eight years of the Obama presidencies). This is a tremendously talented politician whose moment has not yet come. That she holds views completely opposed to mine is irrelevant.

The hysterical emotionalism and eruptions of amoral malice at the arrival of Sarah Palin exposed the weaknesses and limitations of current feminism. But I am convinced that Palin's bracing mix of male and female voices, as well as her grounding in frontier grit and audacity, will prove to be a galvanizing influence on aspiring Democratic women politicians too, from the municipal level on up. Palin has shown a brand-new way of defining female ambition -- without losing femininity, spontaneity or humor. She's no pre-programmed wonk of the backstage Hillary Clinton school; she's pugnacious and self-created, the product of no educational or political elite -- which is why her outsider style has been so hard for media lemmings to comprehend. And by the way, I think Tina Fey's witty impersonations of Palin have been fabulous. But while Fey has nailed Palin's cadences and charm, she can't capture the energy, which is a force of nature.

I sometimes feel like I'm on a deserted island when it comes to my appreciation of Governor Palin, but then I look at the TV ratings for her debate with Joe Biden - 70 million people, the second largest televised debate of all time - and realize that a lot of you are, if not supportive, at least fascinated by her. And it makes me realize America's closets are jammed pretty tight with people!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Push Is Coming To Shove

The Washington Post is reporting that Montgomery County will ask the teachers union to go back to the bargaining table and negotiate to eliminate pay raises for teachers next year. In fact, the county will likely be looking to eliminate pay raises for all county employees. At the risk of angering my kindergarten-teaching wife, I say it's about time the county stands up to the labor unions in Montgomery!

The county is facing a 250 million dollar shortfall, and that is AFTER a county tax hike that increases homeowners' property tax bills by an average of 13 percent. If we, as the "employers", have to take a hit, then our employees must swallow hard and take a hit as well. As I have written previously, it is simply rediculous for public sector workers to expect eight percent pay raises when the private sector employees whose taxes support those public jobs are going without raises, or in some cases, (such as mine), are losing their own jobs altogether.

The only caveat I would have to cutting teacher pay raises is that if they have to make the sacrifice, then so should all county workers. Forgoing pay raises for the year will, by itself, wipe the county's deficit in half. It sucks, but it simply MUST be done.

Embarrassing Moments In Broadcasting

Anyone who has ever cracked open a microphone can empathize with the Today Show's Matt Lauer:


Monday, October 6, 2008

Donovan McNabb Is A Whiny Crybaby Loser!

For those of you who don't follow football, it would behoove you to know that my beloved Washington Redskins came back from a 14-point deficit to beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 23 - 17 Sunday, giving the Redskins their 4th straight win, and the Eagles their second straight loss. The Redskins, at 4 - 1, are now in excellent position to make a run for the NFC East division title, while the Eagles, with a 2 -3 record, will have to struggle to even stay in the playoff hunt.

You would think these circumstances would generate some humility from Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb... But you'd be wrong. Speaking after the game, McNabb spoke about the Eagles' back-to-back losses to Chicago and Washington:

"I was embarrassed these last two weeks," he said. "I mean [to lose] to two teams we shouldn't have lost to. There is no way that you can look at this game and say that, and not taking anything away from them, but there is no way that this team is better than us."

Um, right.

At the risk of being dragged into some sort of bizarro Rush Limbaugh comparison, I will say this about Donovan McNabb. Any quarterback that can lead his team to four conference championship games and one Super Bowl appearance, as McNabb has, certainly has considerable skills. But none of those accomplishments have prevented Donovan McNabb from being a LOSER.

Donovan, your team is a big disappointment, and all you have accomplished is to give the Redskins fodder to gear themselves up for your next game against them.

Classless hack.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Thank You For Going The Hell Away!

I read with interest this editorial letter from this morning's Washington Post:

Campaigning For a Little Courtesy
Sunday, October 5, 2008; B08

As campaign season rages to a fever pitch, volunteers for Republicans and Democrats scurry from house to house conducting mini-surveys to determine which voters have already made their choices and which remain undecided. For the first time since I was eligible to vote 30 years ago, I decided to join a presidential campaign as a volunteer.

Voters and non-voters alike should know that it is not pleasant to knock on the doors of strangers. I do not like to interrupt tired people at dinnertime or on their precious weekends, but it is the only way I know of to help my country at a time of great adversity. My volunteerism has come as a result of a surprising surge of middle-age patriotism, pure and simple, which requires a great deal of courage and time away from my family.

Which is why I have been appalled at how I have been treated when I knock on doors.

Though I am always apologetic about the disturbance and extremely polite, some people have yelled at me, slammed doors in my face and treated me with unveiled contempt. One woman who looked absolutely terrified when I introduced myself shut her door -- then locked and deadbolted it -- closed her garage doors and raced from window to window to make sure they were secured. At 5-foot-5 and a size 4, standing there holding lists of registered voters, I realize I must look extremely threatening. When I am treated disdainfully, I walk away wondering: Are these people unkind because they have different political views than I do or are they just unkind to begin with?

So I would like to make a plea this election season: Please, when someone knocks at your door to discuss your vote, be courteous.

We are all volunteers, doing what we think is best for our country. You may not wish to divulge your choice -- "refused" is one of the boxes we can check on our forms -- but please let us know this in a polite manner. There is no need to be rude.

The work we do is hard and unpaid. A smile and friendly word from a stranger would be greatly appreciated.

Eleanor Herman Dyment

Ms. Dyment - I have a suggestion. Go away. You may see your volunteer work as patriotic, but I see it as unwelcome and as a monumental pain in the ass.

I'm sure you've heard of the National Do Not Call registry. There are now more than 150 million phone numbers in America on that list - people who don't want to receive intrusive phone calls from marketers. Why would you think they want you knocking on their doors?

In this day and age, I truly believe you will do your candidate more harm than good by going door-to-door to harass people. Your time would be better spent writing a check to the campaign of your choice and encouraging that campaign to develop a direct mail piece.

I know that door-to-door volunteerism has been a crucial part of campaigning. My mother was a GOP activist when I was a kid, and I spent more than a few hours delivering fliers and going door-to-door myself. But we don't live in that world any more. We have 24-hour cable news cycles, and the internet, so there is no shortage of ways for us to hear about candidates. For better or worse, we live in a more suspicious world. I'm not saying we shouldn't be more receptive to opening our doors to strangers, but you are not about to change that social more.

Sorry to pee on your parade, but please don't knock on my door!

John Matthews
Brookeville, MD

God Bless Saturday Night Live!

SNL may have its down years, but somehow, in every election year, it manages to become an essential part of the process... Its sendup of the Vice Presidential debate had me reaching for the Kleenex.

And finally, a special treat for Disney fans like me. And what makes this even better is that Anne Hathaway (Mary Poppins) made her Hollywood debut playing alongside Julie Andrews in "The Princess Diaries".

God Bless SNL!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Catching The Voting Virus...

I stole this puppy from my friends over at Copacabana, even though they are all no doubt mocking and laughing at me for my admiration of Sarah Palin. I wonder who all of these nice young actors want me to vote FOR? Hmmm...

Friday, October 3, 2008

I Heart Sarah Palin

There - I've finally come out of the closet. I love and admire Sarah Palin. She had me at "howdy!"

That is quite an admission to make in my world, which is dominated largely by liberal-leaning, academia-loving, Democratic loyalists - in other words, most of my friends and colleagues are, like myself, members of the mainstream media. My admiration for Sarah Palin was first savagely attacked by one of my closest friends less than 24 hours after she was introduced to the world, and I have kept my affections close to the vest ever since. But now that the Palin/Biden debate is out of the way, I'm coming out to one and all.

My closeted burden has been lifted because the pressure is finally off Palin. Now that the debate is over, she is going to take a backseat to her running mate for the rest of the campaign, and this time next month, Barack Obama will be elected President, as he probably should be.

There is no doubt to anyone with a semi-objective eye watching the debate that Joe Biden clearly won on content. In fact, it may have been the best public speaking I've ever seen Biden do. He was crisp with his comments, and I found him to be warm and engaging.

But I was darn proud of Sarah Palin as well. She could have gone "Admiral Stockdale" right from the start, but she hung in there with Biden for an hour and a half and never conceded her ground. She also wisely ignored Gwen Ifil's questions and Joe Biden's challenges when she didn't know the answers or have a comeback, and I was OK with that. She did what she had to do to not completely embarrass herself, and she did it with class, and humor and warmth.

A lot has been asked of Sarah Palin since she was grabbed from obscurity to become John McCain's running mate just five weeks ago, and she has held up as well as anyone in her situation could possibly be expected to. She was a shiny apple who was asked to be an orange on extremely short notice. Was she properly vetted in advance? No. Did she know everything that a candidate for national office needs to know? No. But when Sarah Palin was asked to help her party and her party's Presidential nominee, she stepped up to the plate. And that counts for a ton in my book, considering the knee-jerk savage criticism she has had to endure and the wilting pressure she has faced. She also, by the way, faced knee-jerk public idolatry that did not serve her well in the end, as supporters envisioned Palin as some sort of fantasy Samantha Stevens who could deliver votes with a twitch of her bespectacled nose.

Palin has been painted as "dumb" and "stupid"... an anti-feminist and a fundamentalist Christian whacko. She is none of those things. What she IS is "you and me." She IS an average person - someone who is an expert within her sphere of influence (i.e., running Alaska), with considerably fewer skills in areas that she has not had to deal with. Could YOU, for example, give an intelligent response on which factions are harboring Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda in Afghanistan or Pakistan? Me neither.

The difference between Sarah Palin and the rest of us is that she was pushed into a national spotlight and asked to pretend to be something she is not... and she had to do it knowing that we knew she was playing a role. Put yourself in Sarah Palin's red high heels for a minute and imagine how well you'd have done answering Katie Couric's questions.

About three weeks ago, actor Matt Damon said Sarah Palin is "like a bad Disney movie." Well, you know what? I love Disney movies (big surprise there)... movies like "The Rookie" and "Miracle" and "Remember The Titans", where teams or individuals in unlikely scenarios face long-odd chances of succeeding, but still, in the end use their guts and determination to win. Well, Sarah Palin is not going to win - this time. The economic crisis has taken too much of a toll on the McCain campaign, and Palin's own inevitable struggles with the media have not helped in that regard.

But there's also a very good chance this Disney film is not over. If we've learned nothing else about Sarah Palin, we have learned that she is a highly skilled politician and a very good, if not great, communicator. Her affair with the camera lens rivals those of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, and we have not seen the end of her. Say what you will about Palin's premature debut on the national stage - she has put her state on the map in ways that no politician has ever done before, and I think she'll definitely end up in Washington as a member of the U.S. Senate if that's what she wants.

That's when the real education of Sarah Palin will begin. And, by golly, those Democrats better gosh darn watch out then!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Oy Vey.

I am embarrassed for my fellow goyim. Check out this e-mail from some bimbo at Dreamworks Studios who wants to know why someone named Rosh Hashanah caused her meeting to be cancelled!

And to think this woman works as a studio founded by guys named Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen! Someone better warn ol' Melissa that Mr. Yom Kippur has similar plans to scuttle another meeting next week!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008