Dump Tara Lipinski PLEASE

It’s been a while since I’ve made an entry … I’m sure this won’t be seen by anyone at this point, but it’s gotta be said!  It’s ice skating season, and we’ve been watching events on TV whenever we can.  The current announcing team is Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir, and usually Terry Gannon.  Johnny Weir is generally quite professional and intelligent, and he has a great sense of humor – we love Johnny Weir (and he’s been great on the Cooking Channel, too!).  Terry Gannon bumbles along in not too annoying a fashion … where did he come from, anyway?

Then there’s Lipinski.  The only garbage that comes out of her mouth is either so painfully obvious or so painfully presumptuous that every word is like fingernails on a chalk board.  The words are bad enough, but they’d be bearable if her giggling, snotty, oh so smug and condescending tone was wiped right out of her mouth.  (I can only hope that Lipinski has a publicist that is scanning for any mention of her name – please, please, please!)

By the way, I don’t remember the name of the young lady who was the third announcer (don’t know where Terry Gannon was) for the European Championships that were broadcasted last weekend, but she was absolutely wonderful.  She was informative, professional, and her tone and demeanor were spot on.  Her every word made Lipinski look even worse than she manages on her own.  Please, Miss I-Can’t-Remember-Your-Name, please don’t allow yourself to be infected by Lipinski!!!!!

We are totally waiting for the broadcasting community and technology to implement the ability to mute the announcer soundtrack and allow the rest of the sounds associated with sports broadcasts to be heard.  Most announcers (ice skating, gymnastics, golf, football, baseball, etc., etc., etc., etc.) are so profoundly irritating that I believe there would be a cry of joy and relief, even if the new technology costs the consumer a few extra dollars.  Come on, Apple, we know you can do it!

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“You Can’t Fix Stupid”

That’s a quote from Ron White, one of my favorite comics.  It is also a profound truth.  All around me, every day, on a near constant basis, I see people staunchly clinging to, defending, and enthusiastically proliferating their stupidity.  I’m not talking about people who have a recognized mental issue, and I’m not talking about education, or even intelligence.  I’m talking about the average idiot who would be genuinely shocked at the concept of “it” happening to them.

In the midst of this pervasive reality, I am more and more often hearing things along these lines:  1) “You have to protect people from their stupidity” and 2) “It’s the government’s job to protect people from their stupidity.”  My immediate visceral reaction is NO!!!  (By the way, stupidity includes any criminal activity, any slovenly and negligent job performance, any choice to ignore prudence and/or safety, any self damaging activity, etc., etc.)

First, it’s an impossible goal – it doesn’t matter how many rules, requirements, etc. are created – people will continue to actively pursue stupidity – every day we see more and more examples all around us of people making the most asinine choices and committing the most harmful acts.  Second, the general effects of the universe slamming someone for doing something stupid are an important part of personal development – an important part that is steadfastly avoided by most people and our society in general, of course.

Here’s what the government should be doing – don’t protect people from their own stupidity, but do protect people from everyone else’s stupidity.  To that end, stop rewarding bad behavior, stop cushioning people from justified effects, and enforce the rules that protect people from others.  For example, if someone wants to damage themselves with whatever substances in their own homes, let them do that and let them deal with the consequences, BUT restrict them if they do those things outside of their own homes, restrict them if they impose those activities on children or any adult not making that choice, restrict them if they attempt to drive or do any work or anything else that has the slightest effect on another person while experiencing the effects of those activities, restrict them if they steal or in any way harm any other person either deliberately or through reasonably avoidable neglect.  Notice I said restrict – that means keep them in a little room with a bed, a chair, a TV, and a bathroom, and feed them something nutritious – people that won’t stop harmfully affecting others should be kept away from others.

Here’s the problem … most of the people who would be needed to maintain that structure are stupid, which is why none of our structures work well for long, if at all.  Plus, if someone does something stupid thereby causing themselves harm or even just discomfort, all someone has to say is “oh, that poor person” and, literally no matter what the situation, masses of people will automatically jump in with something like “that person shouldn’t have to deal with that, let’s make it all better!” and “make someone else pay for that!”  Well, I could go on and on, but this piece is getting too long … more on this another time!

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Nick Faldo Should Be Slapped 2

Since when is it considered in any way appropriate to laugh at someone experiencing and dealing with their difficulties?  Tiger Woods is having a difficult round, and, because I didn’t hit the mute button quickly enough, I had to endure Nick Faldo giggling at Tiger’s experience, and making asinine, inappropriate, distasteful comments, and he successfully lassoed his fellow idiot announcers (my theory is that they have so few brains and such low self esteem, that they’ll follow a stupid example and bully like that) into the same shameful behavior.  The oddest thing to me is that supposedly golf has an image based in dignity and an elevated sense of appropriate  conduct.  Nick Faldo seems to be basing his game on the free ride that comes from the unfortunate reality that nobody challenges such idiotic behavior because they won’t allow themselves to believe that it is so poor to begin with … after all, Nick Faldo represents golf, right?  What a ghastly thought.  And I’m watching and hearing the seemingly never ending examples of derision and idiocy pouring out of the brainless Nick Faldo and his sidekicks.  Disgusting.  Mr. Woods, all I can say is, I’m sorry you have the unfortunate luck to be associated with, and in a way represented by, such poor commentators of your sport, and I wish you good luck in your future tournaments.

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Nick Faldo Should Be Slapped

We just saw the announcement that Dustin Johnson is taking a voluntary leave from golf to deal with issues in his life.  Nick Faldo’s comment referenced that Dustin had gone off the straight and narrow – oh, but Nick wished him well.  What kind of insulting, high-handed, intrusive, inappropriate, obnoxious, it’s none of your business comment was that?  Faldo loves to make predictive, inappropriate, thinly veiled comments.  I am an aficionado of golf, and have many friends who also follow golf, some of whom are very closely associated with well recognized golf legends – none of us think Nick Faldo’s editorializing commentaries have any value whatsoever.  The vast majority of sports commentators and announcers are completely unable to say much of any worth, but golf announcers are among the very worst, and Nick Faldo leads the pack.

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The Normal Heart

I am right this second watching this amazing movie on HBO.  The script, the direction, the acting, all of it needs to be recognized.  Mark Ruffalo and Matt Bomer must receive awards … they must.  It isn’t just the story, and the fact that it is powerful, so so powerful, so true and necessary, so essential – that is an obvious fact.  I could never say anything powerful enough in recognition of what this story was about.

Instead, my focus is on the amazing piece created by artists who, as evidenced by this piece, lead in their arena, and on all of the elements that made this piece absolutely wonderful.  Just having subject matter of such importance, on so many levels that its significance cannot be quantified, does not ensure that a piece will be successful, or even mediocre.  This is one of the best written, best directed, best edited pieces I have ever seen.  I can’t begin to do justice to the acting – it was like being in the same room with essence, with love, with intimacy, with illness, with suffering, with two people showing what it is to be in love.  I always liked all of the actors who were involved – I had no idea they all were able to do the indescribable work they did for this piece.  If Matt Bomer and Mark Ruffalo don’t receive awards, that would say very bad things about the people responsible for deciding who receives awards.  They deserve every note of acclaim available.

HBO, all who were involved … thank you.

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Filed under Medicine, Movies, Society, The Bardic Tradition in America, TV

America’s Best Cook

I just yesterday discovered this new Food Channel show.  Right this second I am watching the season finale, and today they played the whole season before broadcasting the finale, so I got to see all of the season.  I have to say that I totally love this show!  It’s wonderfully creative, paced beautifully, and has the best people involved.  Of course, Ted Allen is the best food competition host of all, and he is fantastic in this show.  The mentors are fabulous, and the judges are amazing.  The whole structure of the competition is effective, entertaining, and interesting, and I am enormously impressed with what the program is accomplishing.

The only problem I had was with a couple of interactions from a couple of the pros.  First, Anne Burrell was a judge, and she was about 75% okay, but if she doesn’t stop sounding so carpy, snotty, and insulting when critiquing the participants, I may need to say something more descriptive.  All of the other judges managed to say direct, specific, and clear critiques without sounding snotty.  The other comment I have is toward Alex Guarnaschelli – she was a brilliant mentor, except for the prep for the next-to-last dish competition, when she got demanding and almost heartless sounding – I don’t think she meant it, but I hope so much that she doesn’t do that again – after a while you don’t care if they mean it, they should know better.

Basically, this show is absolutely wonderful.  It’s right up there with Chopped and Iron Chef, head and shoulders above most of what else is being produced in the food competition programming arena.  I am thrilled – this program is fabulous both in absolute terms, and in comparison to many food competition programs we’ve chosen not to endure, and I have to admit I’ve been getting pretty cynical on the network’s ability to create a new show of this quality.  This program is enormously satisfying on so many levels.  By the way, it was great to see Cat Cora involved with a program again, especially one as satisfying as this one is!

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White House Down – the movie

Have you seen it?  I think it has a lot to offer, and it appears many people are in agreement with that sentiment.  I want to point out one particular moment in this film that is profound, amazing, powerful, and so understated and quick that it could be very easily overlooked.  At one point, the President is being instructed by the bad guy to do something that will allow him to launch an outrageous amount of nuclear missiles on other countries.  To motivate the President, the bad guy is holding a gun to the head of a young girl, which is heinous enough on its own, but is even more so because the young girl is the daughter of the man who has thus far kept the President alive throughout this horrifying crisis.  Of course the girl is crying, terrified out of her wits, but we know she has already proven that she has character and determination to spare.  The bad guy has also proven that he will do what he says he’ll do.  What does the President do?  He looks at her and says that if he did what the bad guy wanted him to do, millions of people would die, not saying out loud but making it clear that he cannot do this thing – and he asks her if she understands.  And she says yes, she does understand.

Now, of course, a split second later action erupts, distracting everyone on the screen and in the audience, and proceeding through some fairly imaginative plot twists to an eminently satisfactory conclusion.

But in that one moment – that short, powerful moment – a man and a young girl were both ready to do the right thing, in the face of overwhelming terror and horror.  So much to appreciate.  So much to consider.

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Dredd 2012

First off, yes I loved Stallone’s Judge Dredd – I think it is a fantastic movie for a bunch of wonderful reasons, and I watch it every chance I get – maybe I’ll post something on it some time.  Second, for ENTIRELY different reasons I loved the movie Dredd that came out in 2012.  I confess I didn’t see it until tonight in a cable broadcast, but I am delighted that I did watch it, so much so that I added a posting category called Visual Art.  Of course, it was just a matter of time until I did that, and actually that category should have been there since the beginning.

Okay, back to Dredd – this movie was an amazing presentation of complementary and contrasting visual, social, moviemaking, and other overt and subtle artistic elements.  For example, the characters are as stark as they could possibly be – they are almost like charcoal drawings – beautiful, rich, and detailed, but absolutely specific – very black-and-white, but not one-dimensional.  In other words, the writing, directing, and of course the acting, were enormously effective in creating these characters.  The nature of the characters is a powerful contrast to the amazing visual character of the film, which is so beautifully created that you could just watch the movie, exploring every varying, beautiful, harsh, gritty, artistic, and super-effected visual detail to the exclusion of all else.  Um, that would be the result of amazing set design, art direction, cinematography, and visual effects.

There is absolutely nothing “frue-frue” (LOL, okay, that didn’t write too well, and I desperately hope I haven’t unintentionally written something filthy in another language, but this is a term my family and I use for frivolous, fluffy, flakey, full of frippery, etc., and maybe now you do, too!) about this movie.  Now, the storyline and movement in this movie are entirely violent and jarring, and if that was all this film had to offer, I would have been sadly disappointed.  Having said that, the violence is actually a beautiful contrast, complement, and essential building block for the very clean, simple, direct storyline and vividly specific characters.  It both contrasts with and is integral to the amazing visual impact and efficacy of this movie.

I will say that it is likely that most people would not see in this movie the things I saw, that is if they opted to watch it in the first place.  Unfortunately, I’ve found that many people are unwilling to even consider watching some movies, or viewing some art, or pondering some concepts – often in a purely dismissive way.  A number of years ago, I worked for a company that purchased and hung a large number of abstract pieces of art, and oh, my goodness, you should have heard the endless grumbling from the employees about how awful it was just because it was abstract art, period.  I’m not saying that it was the best art I’d ever seen, or that even the best art will or even should elicit positive responses from all, but there is a big difference between not having a preference for something and dismissing it out of hand from blind prejudice or complacent ignorance.  I admit there are numerous movies that I internally classify as “really well made movies that I won’t watch again” – but I do not dismiss them out of hand.  There are also many, many other movies that I describe as “this element was not done well, but that element was really great – I love it” – they are the special ones, the gems.  I love finding the gems, and I hope you do, too!

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Filed under Looking at Visual Art, Movies, The Bardic Tradition in America

The Purge (the Movie)

I finally saw this fairly intriguing movie – if you’re not prepared to think, don’t watch it (unless you’re one of the masses that just enjoys ugliness and violence for its own sake, in which case this movie is about you personally, so you should be tickled pink to watch and figure out which ugly, violent character you are – and that includes all of the politicians who are offscreen in the movie and in our society, whose ugliness and violence is actually the “star” of the show in both realms [oops, was that a cynicism spike, aka reality awareness?]).  Yeah, that about covers it.


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Ocean’s 11/12/13

Have most of you seen these movies?  They are populated by an amazing ensemble cast, and they are funny, detailed, subtle, intricate, and wonderfully well written and acted.  I’d seen the first (Ocean’s 11), which was very good, and the third (Ocean’s 13), which was fantastic, but until this morning, oddly enough, I hadn’t seen Ocean’s 12.  To be honest, I was tentative about seeing it.  The consensus, as much as I’d heard of it, was that it wasn’t as good as the others.  Some reviewer or whoever suggested that it was because of the presence of Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta Jones as integral parts of the plot.  I had seen an interview with George Clooney, and he said he loved the movie and I think he said it was his favorite of the three – his comments intrigued me, as I believe he is very good at his business.

Turns out Mr. Clooney was right.  It’s a great movie.  I tried to figure out where the weakness was that kept it from being as well received as the other two movies, and I think I have.  It’s not the women – they are brilliant.  It’s not any of the cast or the writing – the movie is as filled with gems as the others, maybe even more so (in the way that many “second of three” movies are – they answer a lot of questions, and ask a lot of questions, pulling together the trilogy, and setting up for a truly satisfying third movie).  The only weakness in Ocean’s 12 is that they just slightly overplayed the “everything’s going down the toilet and we’re not going to make it” part.  They just take it a little too long.  All the elemental parts are fantastic, it’s just that the pacing of that specific attribute is a hair dragged out.  In these movies, you do need the “all hope is lost” part, but then hints of “wait a minute, did you see that” need to come in at exactly the right time.  Ocean’s 13 is a beautiful example of that.

Having said all that, many other movies are wonderfully successful at “truly all hope is lost, and we’re all going to die” including making it feel like there’s absolutely no good end in sight – sometimes with a rescue at the end (like Argo or Paycheck), and sometimes not (like Wolf Creek).  The reason you can’t take it to that extreme level with movies like Ocean’s 12 is that fundamentally this movie is witty and entertaining – it is not meant to be gritty, heart-rending, and emotionally exhausting.  Don’t get me wrong – Ocean’s 12 was not in any way that extreme, but one of the Ocean’s movies’ best elements is that the stories are subtle and well told – therefore the slightly out of balance pacing was just obvious enough to keep people from thoroughly enjoying the movie.

This phenomenon is interesting to me, because it does show that underneath the totally self-absorbed, unthinking, happily accepted mediocrity that is rampant in our society, the actual capabilities of thought and awareness still exist and influence people, albeit only on a subconscious level (i.e. resulting in comments like “I don’t like it because” and then they go on to say something totally idiotic and unrelated to anything even remotely close to reality).  The thing I can’t figure out is if that means there’s hope the majority of people will again start thinking because the capability still exists, or if it means we’re sliding down toward the bottom of the sink and getting ready to circle the drain because most people are staunchly determined to avoid thinking under any circumstances even though (and maybe because?) they still can.


Filed under Movies, Society, The Bardic Tradition in America