Saturday, December 31, 2005
Sunday, December 25, 2005
RATHER QUOTE OF THE YEAR
He is a national treasure for those of us who treasure unintentional humor.
This year he had this little reported quote. Talking about the hurricane Katrina coverage, he said, “It’s been one of television news’ finest moments.”
Here is a section from the blog http://www.rense.com/general67/emo.htm:
Rather praised the coverage of Hurricane Katrina by the new generation of TV journalists and acknowledged that he would have liked to have reported from the Gulf Coast. "Covering hurricanes is something I know something about," he said.
"It's been one of television news' finest moments," Rather said of the Katrina coverage. He likened it to the coverage of President Kennedy's assassination in 1963.
"They were willing to speak truth to power," Rather said of the coverage.
The entire article is *here*.
I was reminded of that quote this morning when the following article appeared in the Bangkok Post:
Katrina coverage botched from beginning to end
News reporters, especially on TV, kept regurgitating myths and untruths
By ALAN DAWSON
The Hurricane Katrina story is getting one last top-stories-of-2005 run before falling completely and finally off the news pages. But before that, readers and viewers should learn how badly they were manipulated and misled by the media during and immediately after this hurricane.
While Katrina and the storm of anti-media criticism will slowly tip off the awareness horizon, it appears the hurricane caused more damage than first realised _ not to devastated New Orleans, but to the reputation of the media.While the print media _ principally big news agencies, but also the newspapers and magazines they service _ have a lot of misreporting to answer for, the most extensive damage without doubt has been to the broadcast media.CNN, the BBC and Fox News, all popular in Thailand and a major source of video and information for Thai TV newscasts, did not simply misreport the hurricane.
They unabashedly (and unwisely) elevated reporters at the scene into courageous and brilliantly unflawed pundits. Not only did such fearless reporters actually venture out into the hurricane, they were contrasted with the bumbling relief efforts of government, and especially the administration of President George W. Bush.
The New York Times at the time Katrina was front page news hailed CNN's Anderson Cooper as ``an anchor who reports disaster news with a heart on his sleeve''. Strange praise for a reporter pledged to provide facts.
Last week, though, the Times busted many of the Cooper fables, from the chain of botched aid _ it was far more complicated than ``Bush did it'' because of America's three-government federal system _ to the allegedly ``violence-ridden'' Superdome.
And Maj Ed Bush of the Louisiana National Guard, who was there, told the Los Angeles Times in retrospect: ``What I saw in the Superdome was just tremendous amounts of people helping people.'' In other words, no violence at all, in what was certainly a hellhole.
Remember the stacks of corpses at the Superdome, where failed officials didn't take food? There were six deaths, of natural causes, none the result of violence.
Remember all the rapes? Well, who wouldn't? All the major news networks reported multiple and serial rapes. A seven-year-old was gang-raped at the Superdome, and then had her throat slashed. Well, actually, no she wasn't. In fact, not a single rape was reported during the hurricane or in the Superdome or anywhere else storm refugees gathered.
Remember the murders? Reporters reported a lot of murders. But no, there were no actual surge in the murder rate during the storm. The New Orleans murder rate was normal.
Thank goodness panicky Mayor Ray Nagin was wrong in predicting 10,000 deaths. The actual death toll was just over a terrible and gruesome 1,000, and even that is a little inflated since it includes any New Orleans evacuee who suffered a heart attack or stroke in the month following the flood. It includes, as the Associated Press reported, ``13-month-old Destiny McNeese, who rolled onto her stomach and suffocated on an air mattress after her family fled from Kentwood [Louisiana] to Kentucky'' _ on the basis that Destiny might not have died if she were still at home instead of being forced to evacuate from Katrina.
In short, readers and particularly TV viewers were violently jerked around by media reports which some now see as hysterical, ill-considered and in some cases nothing more than rumour-mongering.
Three major newspapers have examined the myths of Katrina on their front pages, but that may be the extent of it. The New Orleans Times-Picayune had a superb piece, shortly after Katrina, exposing the dreadful reporting. Last week, both the Times of New York and of Los Angeles had short, but tough analyses of their colleagues' flawed coverage.
You can read the entire article*here*.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
KING KONG REDUX
Oh yeah, we went to the movies yesterday also. King Kong is back. Every 35 years or so he returns. Look for him again in 2040.
I did some planning for this movie outing. Last time I went to a movie, at the suggestion of my friend Jeffrey Wells at *Hollywood Elsewhere*, it turned out to be an adventure. I had no idea that the Jungle Princess had never been to a movie before. Yeah, that’s right, never in her life. Who woudda thunk it?
So this time I took charge of the planning. So nothing could go wrong, right?
King Kong opened on the 14th here and in much of the rest of Asia. There had been a publicity blitz. Full page ads, billboards, and there was a half hour show, The Making of King Kong that had been on TV more than a dozen times.
The crowds, I reasoned, would be huge. To avoid the crush I scheduled us to go to the early show on Sunday, the 18th. I invited a Chinese-Thai couple from across the street to come along and be our guides. That would avoid the confusion of last time.
Last time it was just I and Dow, The Jungle Princess. Now our immediate family was five; Bir, 15, my stepson; Phai, 12, our niece; and Kin, 8, our daughter. We also brought along a friend of the girls, a 9-year-old Korean girl from up the street. With the guiding couple that made us a party of 8.
I checked to see how many had never been to a movie before. It was only Phai. Can you imagine that? 12 years old and going to her first movie. Well that’s better than Dow who saw her first movie at 37. These poor, deprived people. How can American culture corrupt them if they don’t expose themselves to it?
I hoped we wouldn’t have a problem getting in the theatre with the mob I pictured there.
King Kong was showing on 5 screens in the Cineplex. The theatre we entered seated about 500. Our party nearly doubled the audience in attendance. There couldn’t have been more than twenty, counting us. Good thing I planned ahead.
The movie began.
First the best parts. There were some excellent action scenes. But I have seen similar stuff on the Discovery channel. The look of old New York and the tramp steamer was good. I did like the tramp steamer. The captain of the ship, Thomas Kretschmann, stole every scene he was in.
Then the rest.
There was a strange confrontation near the beginning. Jack Black plays an amoral, sometimes immoral, movie director. He is broker than broke. He is in a meeting with his backers pleading for additional financing for his movie. They have been watching footage Black has shot of jungle and natives, intended to be incorporated in the movie.
One of the backers asks why the film couldn’t be sexier. Why couldn’t there be some exposed breasts on the natives?
Black gives him a severe, moralistic dressing down. This rant was so out of character, so hurtful to what he was striving for, that it jarred me. It bothered me so much that I watched subsequent exchanges between the two, looking for hard feelings being carried forward. There were none. It was if that confrontation never happened.
I’ll come back to that. Meanwhile…
Naomi Watts played the heroine. She was nice, attractive, a decent actress, and totally Hollywood average. She was no better and no worse than 100 others that could have played the role. (Except for her juggling.)
Director Peter Jackson goes out of his way to de-sex her and yet bring more intensity and attraction between her and the ape.
That doesn’t work on two levels.
First he has her dressed in the flimsiest of costumes and then flattens her little mounds of breasts as much as he can. Right. Don’t let any nipple show through. That might cause people to come see your dumb movie. A few million dollars go out the window right there. Fay Wray was a lot sexier.
Here is a flash for Peter Jackson: You are in the business of show.
He must think he is in the business of no-show.
Then I got an insight about that early confrontation I mentioned. That scene was patched in. Someone saw an early cut of this film and made the same criticism I make here. Where’s the sex? So Jackson reassembled his actors and shot that scene to chew out that guy who made the comments. How stupid. How arrogant.
Because it is Jackson who is wrong. He did not understand the material. King Kong is supposed to be a sexy story. Everyone, throughout history knows that. Show me a picture of a great ape and a damsel in which the girl is not displayed in a sexy way.
And then Peter Jackson came along.
Peter Jackson goes for sensitivity and attraction.
Okay, the intensity of the attraction on the part of the girl works for part of the audience. Our two littlest girls and one older girl were in tears. But I don’t think it will work for guys. I’m a sensitive guy. I weep at checker games. But this didn’t move me.
So what was the problem?
Peter Jackson fell for the Hollywood theory: More is better. If one pigeon crap on a hat is funny, then ten pigeon craps on hats will be ten times funnier.
It doesn’t work that way.
In the original King Kong there was a kind of reluctant attraction on the part of the heroine. There was a mixture of abhorrence and fascination and finally sympathy.
This chick, in Peter Jackson’s movie, was going after that hairy ape full bore. She wanted that thing. Only in my dreams do women come at me like that.
So what does the hairy ape do?
He wanted to watch the sunset with her. He indicated how it warmed his heart.
This was a gay King Kong.
This was Queen Kong.
This was not a guy’s movie.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
For the 18 weeks from early May through Labor Day, domestic movie grosses are expected to total $3.6 billion, down 9 percent from summer revenues of $3.96 billion last year, according to box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. Attendance figures are even bleaker. Factoring in higher admission prices, the number of movie tickets sold should come in around 562.5 million, down 12 percent from summer 2004.
You can read the entire article *here*.
Attendance down 12%! This in a boom year for the economy when the GDP is up over 4%!
What is happening?
I am reminded of when I was in the ’64 campaign (yes, 1964 smartass, I didn’t campaign for Lincoln) working with liberal ‘operatives.’ There was a very rich man who was a Republican donor/fundraiser who owned a large company that made pens and razors. The ‘operatives’ were obsessed with ideas to hurt or destroy this man’s business.
This bothered me at the time. I couldn’t get mad enough at him or his products to participate in a boycott. Why did they take it so personally? It seemed over the line.
This is the California political climate that produced ‘Tricky Dick’ Nixon. Or maybe he had a lot to do with creating it. That is more likely.
I am wondering if the politicizing of what seems like the entire Hollywood community has anything to do with the very real, very severe decline in business.
That is a possibility.
It has always struck me as strange, to say the least, that people who are in the entertainment business, people who have strived all their lives to gain approval of their audiences, would say things that are almost sure to offend at least half of that potential audience.
Is what they have to say that important? Does it have any effect on any election? If it does have an effect it is not enough to sway a national election.
I have been a long time fan of Donald Sutherland. It pleased me to see his face on the screen. It usually meant a good performance in a good movie. He recently came out with the usual Hollywood group think, hate Bush statement. (They are like animated zombies.)
It depressed me when he exposed himself as just another air-head. I can never look at him in the same way again. It now saddens me just to see him. I’m not going to pay money at the box office to be depressed.
Maybe the “stars” should reconsider expressing their “thoughts.” Perhaps they should become closet air-heads.
Someone once said: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and leave no doubt.’
Monday, December 12, 2005
T. REX, WHY THE SHORT ARMS?
So then, why the short arms?
I have actually done a little research on this subject. I did much more research than I care to, but much less than I should have.
Scientists seem to be acceptive and dismissive of the short arms. That is they accept that the arms were short and then think no more about it.
Here is a typical comment:
(W)e do not in fact know for sure whether meat-eating dinosaurs such as this were active hunters -- tracking down, attacking, and killing prey -- or scavengers, feeding on the carcasses of other dinosaurs. While its huge jaws and its strong legs would certainly be forceful hunting weapons, Tyrannosaurus rex's arms were too short to reach its mouth, and its hands had only two fingers instead of three, making it unable to grasp. The fossils discovered thus far offer some evidence about whether theropods were hunters or scavengers, but not enough to answer the question.
Proponents of the scavenger theory also note that the T-Rex's scrawny front arms seem inadequate to hold a victim during an attack (Others point out some creatures, like the great white shark, are successful predators even with no arms at all).
First of all, the hunter or scavenger argument is silly. You’ve heard about the 400 pound gorilla? Well this is a 60 ton tyrannosaurus rex. It ate whatever the hell was there to eat.
Note that it was warm-blooded. That means its engine was running all the time. It was not like a snake that could eat once every six months. It had to eat regularly like at least once ever few days. It couldn’t just follow a herd hoping something dropped dead.
But the scientists are wrong to merely accept that the beast had short arms. Those short arms were the result of millions of years of evolution. Those short arms were perfect for that creature. The question is: Why?
Just as the missing water on Mars helps to explain the evolution of the Earth, those short arms will help to explain the life of that dinosaur.
There are three things that, if improved, will result successful evolution. Those are:
Food. (The ability to find it and eat it.)
A scientist friend of mine recalled that some creatures use otherwise useless arms to hold a partner in place during sex. That’s a possibility but, I think not too probable. There is always the argument that, yes, short arms would work, but longer arms would work better. In evolution, that’s a trump card.
The first thing that occurred to me was that longer arms might drag on the ground when it tried to move very fast. But arms are easy to tuck in and something that big couldn’t move that fast anyway. A fall at even moderate speed would probably kill it.
Even being slow it was probably fast enough to keep up with herds of plant eaters. T-rex would have no problem killing a single herbivore. And the arms would hold the animal in place for the killing.
But we come back to the trump card. How do short arms help in a way that longer arms wouldn’t help more?
I think there is only one answer.
Why are snakes so successful with no arms and legs?
Because they can reach the places in which their prey lives and hides.
The major prey of T-rex must have been burrowers. Its short arms didn’t hinder it from going in a ways, under ground, after a meal.
That is probably the answer.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
BEST OF, SEXY WOMEN
Her performances are described as having a genteel eroticism. She had the sexiest voice I have ever heard. One can sense the battling female hormones behind that beautiful, arousing sound.
“Battling” is a carefully chosen word. My only previous wife, also blessed with a sexy voice, also cursed with the battling hormones, was the sexiest woman I had ever been with.
How sexy was she? Despite all the many problems (we were married and divorced three times), I would be with her still if she had chosen. Into my sixties, we still “did it” ten times a week.
That was a sexy woman.
So there’s some advice for you guys out there. You want a quiet, comfortable home life? Don’t go for a sexy woman.
But if you want excitement, that’s the only way to go.
You know the best thing about my ex-wife?
She never bored me.
That brings me to the second part of Best Of, Sexy Women.
She did a PLAYBOY video that is a case study of battling hormones. In 1997, at the age of 50, she lets it all out. I deliberately did not say “hang out,” because nothing is hanging.
That is one of the sexiest videos in my collection (which, needless to say, is extensive). She is battling throughout the filming. Her emotional ups and downs are fascinating to see. That is the price women pay for having those hormones.
She had way more than her share.
She is one of the sexiest women in our era.
In the 60’s, during one of my extended visits to the city, a Standard Oil tanker had sprung a leak. The city was up in arms about the resultant pollution. Standard Oil agreed to clean up the beaches and to pay for the care of rescued birds.
Two months after the beaches were set straight, Standard Oil was still paying for rescued birds. How much? About $100 dollars per bird still being cared for.
Now, I was a flaming liberal at the time and into politics but I could still recognize a rip-off. I asked a series of questions of the right people and Standard Oil was off the hook. The payments stopped the next day.
The care-givers, a group of volunteers, were incensed. I don’t blame them. They had a good thing going.
That experience, among others, has left me skeptical about any environmental movement. Of course some are completely worthwhile. But at the heart of all of them are people making a living off of the movement.
Global warming is no exception.
Almost every newspaper article about global warming will start with the premise that it is an accepted fact. Contrary facts, findings, opinions, or views will all be ignored.
Also ignored is the finding that if untold trillions of dollars were spent in the coming 100 years to combat global warming, the benefit “might” be a single degree centigrade. In other words, we are virtually powerless to control our environment.
Now some research is predicting a coming ice age. You can read about it *here* and *here*.
Forgive me if I don’t panic.
IN A RELATED STORY: According to Khaleej Times Online Teheran has closed down schools and traffic because of severe pollution. Read about it *here*.
That brings back a memory.
I worked near the Kurdish village of Nagadeb (or Nagadeh, I have seen it spelled both ways) in northwest Iran. There were no trees within miles. The only fuel for fires was dried buffalo chips.
This little village was surrounded by hills so it was located in the bottom of a bowl. In the morning every hut had its buffalo chip fire burning. There was seldom a breeze in the morning.
The smoke seemed to rise to maybe 50 feet and then just hang there. Seen from above, the memory of all the smoke has stayed with me. As has the smell.
Monday, December 05, 2005
MY RUDE IN-LAWS
When we got there I discovered the matter wasn’t settled, some of the family was for burying her.
I said, “Wait a minute. We came all this way for a cremation not a burial.”
So they finally decided on the cremation.
Then my mother-in-law said, “I don’t want to be cremated. I’m not dead.”
No matter what we said, she wouldn’t change her mind.
After all the trouble we went through.
Some people are really rude.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
STUPIDITY IS LIKE A DISEASE
This morning I was nibbling on roasted ground nuts (peanuts are called ground nuts here in Thailand) with the TV off. My mind wandered and I came up with subjects for 4 more posts.
This is one of them that I call STUPIDITY IS LIKE A DISEASE.
When you put a dumb guy in charge of a project the chain of problems become endless.
My company chose one of them to head up a billion dollar project.
(Wouldn’t the company lose money by doing that?)
(On the contrary. It was a cost-plus project. The more money this idiot wasted, the more money the company made. On that level, it was a smart choice.)
I knew this guy from previous jobs we had been on together. He had unlimited self assurance but a bumper sticker mentality. The beginning and ending of every discussion was something like, “Our company doesn’t do (such and such),” or, “To achieve (such and such) is our goal.” He discouraged alternate views.
I was very uncomfortable around him. I felt I had to act dumb in order not to offend him.
Then they put him in charge of this huge job. It was one of the largest in the history of the world.
I’m thinking ‘This guy needs help.’ And so he did.
This guy started in construction as a mechanic, repairing machines. He had very little construction experience.
So who does he choose as Assistant Project Manager? Another mechanic.
And for Chief Engineer? He gets a Mechanical Engineer who was also a devotee of bumper sticker thought.
I figured this guy didn’t want anyone around who was smarter than him.
Did that limit the candidates? You betcha.
I’m going to edit myself down to just a couple of interesting happenings.
I was on an isolated job that called for digging short trenches and small holes. We had to dig everything by hand. I asked him for a small Ford-Ferguson piece of equipment that came with blade in front and a little back hoe in the rear.
He chastised me by asking me to remember that, ‘We are a heavy equipment company.”
I still laugh when I think of that.
Another time I was doing a marine job, again isolated from headquarters.
When the floating equipment arrived I discovered there was no means to reach it.
They told me that the motor boat, for that purpose was held back for some repairs.
No bigee. There were local boats for hire all around. I requested permission to rent one.
This led to an extended exchange on the company radio. The transmission was heard in every company site in the country. I was told later that it was very entertaining to all.
The gist was, “What the hell am I supposed to do with that floating equipment when I can’t reach it?”
I was finally granted permission to rent a small boat.
The big shot’s reputation suffered and I became his mortal enemy.
The final example is the all-time best.
He had often told me, when he sent me into harm’s way that, “We don’t send our people into harm’s way.”
He and his entire party were captured be the Viet Cong while visiting one of our quarries.
I am evil.
(If you didn’t like working for him, why didn’t you quit?)
(I did. Twice. The first time I resigned the day my contract was fulfilled. I went back when the company made big concessions. Then I resigned again two weeks after that contract was complete. Then I stayed in country working for design engineers.)
Saturday, December 03, 2005
KUDOS TO THE DEMOCRATS
That would be a precipitate withdrawal of American forces.
How strange that some liberals have espoused that strategy at this time.
To their credit, the majority of the Democrats do not endorse that plan.
Even the “voice of the Democratic Party” which is the New York Times and their followers in the media, has not come out in favor of immediate withdrawal.
They are holding back for good reason. It is not only political suicide; it would start a civil war in Iraq.
On the subject of the “voice of the Democratic Party,” it’s interesting that it was silent on another subject. When President Bush pointed out how many liberals had changed their positions from before the war to now, there was hardly a peep from the “voice.”
In this day of the internet, they know better than to dispute facts that are easily proven, that are there for all to check.
We are in an era of checks and balances in the news media.
How they must hate that.
Friday, December 02, 2005
MARTIAL LAW IN DA NANG
That story about the cobra that I posted a few days ago reminded me of why I hated being in the service
As an enlisted man, if I had laughed at an officer and asked him if he was nuts I could have been court-martialed. That was true no matter how nutty the officer might have been.
I was a total misfit in the service.
Later, in civilian life, I wouldn’t work for a company in which you couldn’t have that kind of exchange. It’s called conversation.
But in the Air Force I was stuck. I went through my 4 years and 10 days resenting many of the officers I came in contact with. They all weren’t p***ks, but those are the ones that stuck in my mind.
Fortunately after tech school, I never met an officer who knew anything about surveying. Thus I was left pretty much alone in my work. I worked for civilians and ran an all civilian crew.
Still there were some awful incidents.
Nowadays you would describe these officers as lacking in “people skills.” But what they lacked was basic manners.
Just one example:
Some of my readers were in Soc Trang while I was there. They will know the Executive Officer at that base. I must say he was probably the worst I had ever met. How bad was he? He was a career Army man and was being retired with the rank of captain. That doesn’t happen too often.
It was my misfortune that the Commanding Officer was away when I got there. This EO did almost everything in his power to block what I was trying to do. What I was trying to do was improve the landing strip so his helicopters would have air support of fighters.
A big boss from my company visited and saw the base had no ice machine. He had one sent down. The EO objected to my taking ice from it (I swear that happened). I had to explain that the ice machine did not belong to him. (I was polite.)
What a strange, tormented man he was.
Then there was my Da Nang experience.
Altogether I spent about a year and a half in Da Nang at various times. In 1969 my company had a small design job there. It required me to visit every two weeks to check on things.
One time I got there in late afternoon and discovered martial law had been declared. There was some fighting in the town.
Some soldiers gave me a ride to a hotel in town. The hotel was open but everything else was closed, including the hotel restaurant.
Darkness came quickly and I started getting hungry. I remembered there was an officer’s mess a couple of blocks away. I had been stuck t the Saigon airport (Tan Son Nhut) and hadn’t eaten in a while.
What to do? Risk my life to get a meal or go hungry? Of course I went for the officer’s mess.
So I took a walk, as casually as I could. (Household hint: Don’t run or sneak around in a “shoot on sight” situation. It might look suspicious.)
There was some shooting to the north but the way I went was empty and silent. I reached the officer’s mess and ducked in the door. That put me in a small entryway with another door beyond that I assumed led to the food.
“Wow, I made it,” I said to the young Naval officer at the desk. “I just wanted to get something to eat.”
“Do you have your card, sir?”
“Your membership card, sir.”
“Oh, I’m not a member. I just got into town today.”
“I’m sorry, sir. This mess is for members only.”
“Okay, I’ll join. Where do I sign up?”
“That office is closed sir. Office hours are from 8 to 5.”
I pulled out my passport. I always carried it on these little trips. “Look, I’m an American. The town is closed. People are shooting outside. There’s nowhere else to eat.”
“I’m sorry sir, but if you’re not a member…”
“Okay, I’ll watch your desk for you while you go in there and get me a sandwich.”
“I’m sorry sir, I can’t leave my post.
On all my succeeding trips to Da Nang I carried a little Army field stove with me and some c-rations. They all fit easily into my suitcase.
(Well boo-hoo. So you missed a meal. Is that what all this was about? The kid was only doing his job. He was obeying his orders.)
Yeah. I know. There are two ways to look at that and it was only a meal. It was a trivial thing. But why has it stuck in my mind? Why am I still pissed off 37 years later?
Maybe it pisses me off that some people in the military cannot adjust to changing situations.
Remember the British column that was wiped out in the beginning of the movie ZULU? I read, more than once, it was because the quartermaster refused to issue ammunition without the proper paperwork while the column was under attack.
I don’t believe that.
Any private in his right mind would have shot him dead and taken the ammo.
But it’s an interesting illustration of obeying orders no matter what the situation.
AFTERTHOUGHT: It occurred to me that these experiences are why I think CATCH 22 is the “Great American Novel.”