The Announcers and Commentators Presenting the Olympics

So far the only truly great bit of presentation I’ve seen has been the interview Al Michaels did with T.J. Oshie after he got the U.S. hockey team through to the win over the Russian hockey team.  Mr. Michaels, please try to continue to produce good work – don’t descend into the pit of senseless mouthing that most of your profession continuously displays – stay your humble, pleasant, effective self.

Please ship Costas home, please!  So far in this Olympics he has been as much of an embarrassment as he was at the last one, and that’s saying a lot!  Lipinski, having you comment on other skaters is like hearing fingernails being scraped on a chalk board – your untutored blatherings are only the tiniest bit more tolerable than Bezic’s self important, presumptuous ramblings.  I never could figure out half of the factual info involved with many of the sports being presented, which would have been interesting information, but have had to endure countless meaningless hours of meandering nonsense.  Oh, and take the microphone away from every single on-site athlete interviewer.  Producers, listen – I can say that categorically every person I know regards the personnel, questions, and attitude as almost uniformly embarrassing, painful, and a disgrace to our nation.  The ones who aren’t embarrassing are usually about as effective as gray cardboard.

Johnny Weir, I really like you, but sometimes I think you’re being affected by Lipinski.  Resist, just ignore her!  I’ve seen you in many different arenas (skating, cooking, commentating, etc.), and you manage to maintain your own great personality without either overpowering or being overpowered by others.  Please continue to develop your own good announcing style.  Please continue to be clear and factual, identify your own opinions, and please do not do as your fellow “professionals” who posture themselves as being mind readers who know with certainty the private thoughts and activities going on in the minds and lives of the athletes.


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Anne Burrell on Worst Cooks in America

Anne Burrell, stop insulting the members of your “Worst Cooks” team.  Bobby Flay has the perfect balance of nice, funny, and honest, and can rib his team and also give constructive comments without sounding like a jerk.  Anne, you continue to sound like a harpy and a jackass by turns – mostly due to your delivery, and sometimes due to your inappropriate choice of comments.  I know plenty of people who would label some of your personal choices to be those of a six year old – and that comment you made wasn’t the only objectionable one on this evening’s program.  Please stop doing this, because I like so much about you, but you’re making that increasingly difficult.  Adding cute or sweet comments doesn’t help, just like adding sugar to try to wipe out mistakenly dumped in salt hasn’t a prayer of working.  By the way, nice touches on the hair-do!  I was glad to see the new season opener of Worst Cooks in America” – I didn’t think any show would brave Olympics-dom with a new episode, let alone a new season, and I really like this show.  Go Team Bobby Flay!


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There’s stupid, and then there’s this …

This is the absolute truth – no embellishment.  Last Friday, January 24, 2014, my friend and I were in her car heading out of the parking structure where we work at 100 Bayview Circle, Newport Beach, CA 92660.  It was about noon-ish, and we were going for lunch.  We’d pulled up to the exit, and my friend swiped her card, and the gate went up.  She began to press the accelerator, and a woman walks out in front of the car literally inches in front of it.  Thankfully my friend was able to stop.  After a moment the woman notices the car, stops in front of it, and grins at us and says “sorry!” – and stays stopped in front of the car.  We didn’t say a word, but had shocked “what the hell?” looks on our faces.  She got annoyed and said “I said I was sorry!” – still standing still right in front of the car.  After a few seconds she slowly walked off.  All I can say is I hope she hasn’t procreated.


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Robert Downey Jr.

Most of you have heard of Robert Downey Jr.  He’s been a presence in American film making for many years.  Unfortunately, for a number of those years all we heard about him in entertainment journalism was about his use of substances and the repercussions of that use.  If current references are correct, that is all behind him, now.  I hope that is so, as I believe substance use is extraordinarily harmful, not only to the user but also to everyone in that person’s life, and he now has a family that I hope is the center of his life.  Another reason I am glad that he has moved beyond that earlier life is that his storytelling and artistic capabilities are beautiful, and I for one enjoy as much of his work as I can.  Actually, even when he was having trouble, his work was wonderful – drama, comedy, large roles and small.  I love the movie “Back to School” and Mr. Downey’s totally delightful contribution.  He was amazing in “Less Than Zero” and “US Marshall” as he kept us guessing and enthralled.  He was brilliant in “The Soloist” and in so many more roles that I can’t reference them all here.  I recently saw “Chaplin” and became an even bigger fan, especially in light of the fact that he was still relatively young and experiencing difficulties in his own life when he brought us that character.  However, the two roles I love best, so far anyway, are Sherlock Holmes and Tony Stark.  Of course, Sherlock Holmes is a much-beloved character, but he brought Mr. Holmes to life in a totally unique way, while preserving the essential tradition of the character.  Another element of that role is that he was able to maintain his own distinctiveness on the screen while at the same time partnering within the fantastic team of Watson and Holmes with the talented Jude Law – the combination was full, rich, and utterly entertaining.

I am even more thrilled with Tony Stark.  I was watching “Iron Man Three” this weekend and absolutely loved it.  The movie was enormously enjoyable, and it was primarily due to Mr. Downey’s amazing artistry.  All of the Tony Stark movies are wonderful to watch, and his portrayal of that character has grown in richness and complexity, even as the character Tony Stark has grown in depth.  Mr. Downey has reached a level of artistry where he can be quick, sharp, full, and rich in his references, displaying the spectrum of emotional content and variation with a deftness that is powerful and rare.  He has become, it appears to me, totally unafraid to present all of this depth without having any undercurrent of ego or acting.  My phrasing is clumsy, I’m afraid, because I don’t mean he has no ego or intent of acting – I believe he has simply reached a level of trusting himself that allows him to “be” in his artistry – in my experience that means he is relaxed and peaceful within himself, and I hope that is so.  Regarding “Iron Man Three” as a movie, well I must admit that the story line is interesting but a bit forced in the telling, although the visual elements are wonderfully eye-popping and totally satisfactory, to me anyway.  However, the characters, script, direction, and sheer genius of the acting are the best parts.  The most amazing thing to me is how Mr. Downey successfully moves quickly and effortlessly between wildly varying emotional states, with the most entertaining, poignant, and transparent verbal and physical sensibility.  He also showcases the other characters and allows them their own impact without apparent concern for his own ego.  I have to admit that the movie-ending comment that the armor was a cocoon is thrilling – the possibility of more Tony Stark is a wonderful prospect.  I am also hoping that Mr. Downey continues his development as an artist, as a person – he is in an amazing place and has many more places to go, many more places to take us.  Most of all, I am very glad for him that he is experiencing this amazing ongoing development – what satisfactions and opportunities that can bring!  I also am glad that people are appreciating his work – a true win-win situation.  One day nobody will even remember that he had a rocky personal path as he was developing the depth of his unique artistry … although it is all one beautiful, complex tapestry, and the picture would not be as rich without all of its parts.  Thank you, Mr. Downey.


Filed under Movies, The Bardic Tradition in America

Medical Tidbits

Here are some goodies they forget to tell you:

If you’re taking an iron supplement, don’t take it when you eat calcium rich foods or at the same time you take calcium supplements, if you do – the calcium blocks the absorption of the iron.

If you’re taking Prilosec or some other similar daily “maintenance-type” antacid (as opposed to the kind you only take when you want to), if you want to stop taking it you must wean yourself off of it slowly over a couple of weeks, or else you’ll have a kind of acid backlash.

If you’re going in for a blood test or some situation where you’ll get an IV, be sure to tell them your veins roll, and put a little urgency into it – that way they’ll actually pay attention when they’re putting the needle in, and you might avoid some very, very, VERY common bad needle technique problems.

If you’re going in for an outpatient procedure that will require an IV, ask ahead of time for a metal needle instead of the plastic ones that are often used now if you don’t know to ask.

If you’re going to have a stomach tube removed, yes they do just yank it out and yes it does hurt.  Please tell the health care person doing the yanking to do it fast – sometimes they don’t seem to know this and they do it slowly – amazing and horrifying, isn’t it?

Every time you get a prescription, 1) check the pills versus what you are supposed to have and there are no mistakes or unauthorized substitutions and do it before you leave the pharmacy, 2) make sure you know exactly what your instructions are from your doctor and be very specific, especially if there are changes involved or things your should or shouldn’t do about foods, times, etc.  ASK UNTIL YOU UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING and don’t be afraid – if you’re not getting the info you need, don’t be shy about it – when an avoidable mistake is made, “we’re so sorry” is too late.

Pay attention and ask every time a healthcare person wants to do something to you.  It’s a documented fact and my experience that the vast majority of the time they go on assumptions and don’t check about your personal situation or history, including info on allergies, drugs you should or should not take in your specific situation, or other specifics about you.  It’s your health and your body, and always your decision.  They even have a concept for it that’s both useful, and yet disturbing that it needs to be there at all – it’s called “patient rights” – bottom line, you are the “owner/operator” and the employer and the decision-maker, and they are the advisors.  Also, I can speak from experience that mistakes are, shall we say, not uncommon – and, again, “we’re so sorry” is too late.

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Thanksgiving Day Parade

A west coast NBC (channel 4 out here) broadcast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has started.  I am mildly interested in what the parade will have, floats, balloons, entertainers, etc.  Of course there is the also the necessary evil of the hosts.  Usually they’re benign annoyances.  I wish they’d keep their comments to descriptions of the activities of the event and actual facts about the event elements – when they’re doing that, they can and sometimes do add value to the broadcast.  Unfortunately, they rarely limit their comments to anything of mild interest, let alone value – they appear to be too busy saying anything at all that sounds cute and exciting.  This morning has been annoyingly in keeping with unfortunate hosting/interviewing history.  Specifically, while the many entertainers and other participants are enjoyable to watch, they are not the universal best in their fields, and this broadcast is far from the best possible in family entertainment, as we were promised by at least one host at the outset of the broadcast.  My problem is that broadcasters, producers, and the hosts are charged with presenting a good product, and claims of best this and best that – blithe superlatives being lavished on the unfortunate ears of viewers – are insults to comparative professionals elsewhere, and vivid displays of profound ignorance of the industry, fan perspective, and good writing phrasing and content.  I wish to admonish NBC to either write better material for their hosts, or, if NBC has no control over their event hosts, implore the hosts to stop saying things that are vivid demonstrations of ignorance at least, and veiled insults at worst.  By the way, kudos to the many entertainers involved with today’s parade – even the performances that are not as successful as others do have heart and offer some enjoyment in the viewing, not to mention the fact that they are all braving the frigid temperatures and wind potential New York is offering this fine Thanksgiving morning.

I suppose most viewers are not going to waste their time being overly concerned with the blatherings of hosts.  On the one hand, good for them – it’s generally not worth the effort to pay any attention to hosts and commentators.  My many associates, friends, and family, are all in agreement that hosts and commentators are generally poor at best, and abominable in the main.  However, I genuinely feel bad for hosts and commentators who have either deluded themselves into believing they are well received by viewers, or who are endeavoring to develop good capabilities but do not apparently have the resources that can help them develop their skills.  Writers, pay attention to what you are writing; hosts, pay attention to the words coming from your mouths; producers, even though much of the American public does not pay that much attention to what’s going on around them, you can be a positive element in the broadcast world by paying attention to the details – maybe you can all offer subtle support for our society by raising the bar factually, intellectually, and with presentation more cognizant of audience potential, AND be entertaining – in other words, do not do just a fluffy, cute job, or even a better job, do a GOOD job.

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The Rich Bardic Tradition

Every once in a while I see a bit of evidence of our society’s limitless appreciation for and love of our storytelling … our bardic tradition.  It’s an organic, almost unconscious process, that results in very vivid and comprehensive incorporation of story elements and characters into our culture, our common references, our every day lives.  The example I saw just a few minutes ago was in a newspaper article that included a reference to the S.S. Minnow, in the journalist’s secure assumption that the vast majority of readers will immediately know what that reference means, and will momentarily flash to the happy feelings associated with the story and characters of “Gilligan’s Island” – a TV program that was originally broadcasted from 1964 to 1967, and has been syndicated from then through now.  Another program and resultant cultural incorporation that is even more spectacularly familiar, and which coincidentally originally appeared at the same time, is of course the quintessentially iconic “Star Trek” – one of my personal favorites.  In fact, recognition and appreciation of the impact of that “story” in our culture is so thorough that the effect in and of itself is an actual icon of its own – that always fascinates me, and may well be grist for a future posting.  Anyway, the point of today’s ruminations is actually the awareness and appreciation of the multitude of less spectacular stories and their elements.  I mean, almost everyone knows “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” and “Batman” and “The Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins” – greatly thanks to the fact that they were movie spectaculars with an prodigious amount of publication, an enormous following, and worldwide success.  However, almost as many people know who Gilligan and the Skipper are, who Ironside is, who the Lone Ranger and Tonto are, what “I Love Lucy” is, what a Red-Ryder BB Gun is and the boy who wanted one so badly, who the Six Million Dollar Man is, who Madam Butterfly is, who MacBeth is, what Hello Kitty is, and Pokemon, Peanuts, Dungeons & Dragons, and World of Warcraft.  I actually saw the earliest Pikachu Pokemon merchandise come in to my local Japanese gift store, before the average American had ever even heard of it – and I watched as the character and story emerged in the dynamic of our story appreciation and our society.

This phenomenon of appreciation for the “story” and the “character” is not limited to conventional entertainment and leisure industries.  Historical figures and situations are also integral in our common appreciation, also through the mechanism of story-telling and our bardic tradition – in other words, none of us were there when Washington crossed the Delaware or when John Wilkes Booth killed Abraham Lincoln, but the stories and characters are as rich to us as those of any fully fictional creation.  In my experience many in our society place only a superficial value on education (i.e. they feel it is only something to be endured as part of seeking a future goal – another possible topic for a future posting), so I am exceptionally appreciative that historical or other educational elements can be captured by the dynamic of appreciation via our bardic tradition.

Here’s a most amazing discovery I made recently – many of our small cultural references and colloquial phrases actually came originally from the King James Bible.  I’ve been reading it, and was fascinated to find that “by the skin of his teeth” and “apple of your eye” and so many more phrases and references appear in that book, which was for so many years and so many families the only book owned and read.  Now there’s a bardic tradition – hundreds of years later we continue to incorporate references in stories that were first printed in the 1600’s in another country – even when we have forgotten how these references first came to our notice.  Of course, again either willingly or by force, more educated folks were exposed to a multitude of other “bardic” references, such as Shakespeare, who is of course actually known as “The Bard” in literary realms.  Then there was a period of more general readership, far before any forays into the movie and other visual and electronic arenas, where the reading public appreciated “Little Women” and “Sherlock Holmes” and written works of amazing authors far and wide.  Now our resources grow ever more limitless, as we capture and bring into our awareness and culture the characters, ideas, and stories available to us from entertainment, visual, and literary artists throughout our society and the world.  So many topics to illuminate and discuss … so many postings to anticipate … America’s rich bardic tradition lives and grows!


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Contrast, Truth, and Beauty

2001 “Save the Last Dance” – a gem of a movie – have you seen it?  The characters are complex, vivid, and display problems and potential that many of us have experienced, either directly or indirectly.  The stories are familiar – race, sex, hopes realized and hopes dashed, the decision either to bow to social inertia and ignorance, or to seek a future possible only through honesty within one’s heart and soul and facing the fear and sadness that can and will touch almost every life at some point.  Throughout the story are presented subplots that illustrate obvious and subtle stories of racial culture and societal beliefs, and the complexity of accepting and fighting the environment surrounding young people trying to make their way to adulthood.  There are fathers both black and white who are fortunate enough to have a second chance to love their children, and some who are not.  There are different mothers, black and white, who work very hard or not at all to raise their children – including one who works too hard without using wisdom, leading to a tragic end.  These quietly presented parental themes urge us to hope for the opportunities for mistakes to sometimes be redeemed, and second chances sought – all with the very real awareness that this is not always so, even with the best of intentions.  There are youths who are willing to be unique within their environment, despite the derision heaped upon them by their associates.  There is a youth who rages and fights to maintain the status quo of ignorance, blaming his personal pain on everyone around him, and denying his feelings of helplessness, ultimately harming himself and others.  There is a young lady who staunchly hides within her own anger and pain, and then, with help from an unexpected source, finds the strength to face her feelings of guilt and sadness – strength that is tested, spikes, and ebbs, and ultimately is rewarded with triumph, most importantly triumph shared.  The help sought and offered is entirely unplanned by both the source and the recipient, but is part of a love story whose very gentleness is a vivid contrast to the environment surrounding it.  The story truthfully presents powerful feelings related to race and parenthood, hope and loss, love and hate, and successfully maintains our awareness of the raw realities without unnecessarily distracting us with over aggrandizement or spectacularization of the sexual and violent physical elements.

There is a related element that I wish I could explore – what do the actors feel about the roles they play and the ideas they are illustrating?  I am especially curious about how the two central black men in the film feel about the “good” and “bad” aspects of the choices and behaviors of the characters they play.  They both give us very powerful, very successful performances.  I wonder how they feel about both the subtlety and the starkness of the ideals and themes they are representing and sharing with us.  I sincerely hope they feel pleased and positive about their accomplishment.

One last thing – the editing in this movie is extraordinary, most especially in the dance sequences.  Every time I watch this movie, I eagerly await the final audition dances, in particular the very last one.  The music and dance throughout the movie is very enjoyable, and my favorite is that amazing last dance.  Kudos to the actors wherever they could make actual dance contributions, and many thanks to all of the amazing expertise provided by the many professionals needed to produce the beauty that is our privilege to experience.


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

AT&T and Time Warner Cable – My Experiences

Over the past few weeks, I have had a great deal of interaction with the personnel of AT&T and TWC.  Their people have all been very courteous and responsive and seem to have the greatest desire to be of service – that part of their training has been really excellent, and I believe they believe they are doing a really good job.  The actual services and information imparted to me, however, have been uniformly and at times profoundly unsatisfactory.  I feel sorry for the people who work for these two companies – they very sincerely tell me the information they have been told to tell me, both regarding their services in general and regarding my particular services – they don’t even know they’ve been lied to themselves and that they are telling me lies.  I have received information that was profoundly incorrect and deceptive, and my proof is not only my direct subsequent experience with my services, but my proof is also in information subsequently told me by different personnel from the same companies, which I contacted using the exact same contact means I have used every time.  My deduction is that the management of both of these firms is either, on some level however high up, actively deciding to lie to the customers, or the management of these companies is entirely incompetent.  Here’s the ultimate insult:  they know that our options for television, internet, and phone services are limited, which substantially means that we have no options at all, and they are relying on that fact to simply not care at all how bad their services are.  They’ll still get their money, which by the way is always inflated by un-pre-disclosed charges – and, again, our options are non-existent.  They’re counting on us not caring about being charged an inflated amount as long as it doesn’t reach a painful point.  It’s the American way … lie, cheat, steal, and then say they’re just following policy … yes they are, indeed.


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Cable TV – Casting By – A Documentary

HBO is broadcasting a great documentary called “Casting By” about the history, development, and wonderful contributions of the field of casting.  The piece is an incredibly interesting description of how movies and TV have been casted since before there were true casting professionals, and how the field had been almost single-handedly created by one Marion Dougherty.  It is interesting to learn about a whole field of creativity that didn’t really even exist until not all that long ago.

Ms. Dougherty was a true artist in that she had inspiration that she harnessed and used to create beauty – without any expectation of the results and overall effect she would ultimately produce.  Her medium was acting talent, her brushes were relationships with directors and producers, her canvas was movies and television, and her audience was … us – and we are very lucky that we have the extraordinary enjoyment of experiencing the bountiful fruits of her creativity.  She was dedicated to her craft, and her efforts fostered and benefited numerous actors and directors, and all of the casting professionals that were inspired to join her in this new art form.  Many of the actors she touched, many with unusual and unexpected stories, went on to become amazing artistic icons, and these powerful artists were beautiful and generous in their expressions of appreciation for everything she did for them.  Hearing about all the actors Ms. Dougherty affected and helped was truly awe inspiring

It was also really interesting to hear about the experience and contributions of other casting professionals, and how the whole field developed.  Many directors and other movie/TV production professionals learned from, listened to, and flourished with the help of casting directors, ultimately and collectively creating amazing movie and TV experiences enjoyed by countless millions.  The producers of this documentary were quietly thorough in their presentation of this element – they included the opinion of one director who staunchly disagreed with the granting of any special note or attention to casting professionals, and his position was included with as much respect as the overwhelmingly positive contributions made by the rest of the participants.  In addition, the shall we say “non-support” of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of the casting field and Marion Dougherty in particular, was also quietly and factually presented, without any spectacularization.  The choice to resist the urge to inflate a negative cast of some kind on an enormously unpopular position must be applauded.

If I had one issue with the documentary (and it is a small point, because I do really like the piece), it is that it was initially characterized as a presentation of casting directors and their contributions, which it did beautifully, but then became in actuality a powerful tribute to Marion Dougherty, which it also did beautifully.  The other casting professionals who participated were presented very nicely, but the subcurrent that the piece was in actuality about Ms. Dougherty diminished somewhat the respect that should have been due the other professionals in a documentary that was actually supposed to be about the casting profession and not a single individual.  Perhaps there should have been two pieces – one about the extraordinarily interesting history, participants, and effects of the field of casting, and then a second piece to present a detailed biography, portfolio, and tribute to the amazing Ms. Marion Dougherty.

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