Tuesday, August 30, 2005

DH in LAT

The Los Angeles Times briefly profiled my semi-hilarious entertainment news parody site Dateline Hollywood on Sunday.
Of course, I'm not sure if there's anyone reading this who doesn't know me and thus, wouldn't have read this. But in case not, here's the link. It's not personally what I would have picked as our best examples, but it's a pretty fair picture of the
site. My only complaint might be that I'm not actually "merry." But I guess "sour" doesn't read as well in this kind of article.

http://www.latimes.com/technology/la-ca-webwatch28aug28,1,5494800.story

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Sign it's time for Pat Robertson to shut up

As Brendan, Bryan and I wrote in "All the President's Spin," it's rare that the professional media points out dishonesty from political figures. On the rare occassions it does happen, it is usually done by partisan media or outlets prestigious enough to critize those in power without losing access.
Neither of those categories apply to the Studio Briefing on IMDB, which is about as light and non-controversial coverage of the entertainment industry you can find.
That's how you know Pat Robertson is in trouble. Even Studio Briefing pointed out today (7th item) that he lied when claiming his comments endorsing the assassination of Hugo Chavez were "misinterpreted." Check out Studio Briefing's mini-article on Robertson's lie:

Televangelist Pat Robertson on Wednesday charged that the media had "misinterpreted" his televised remarks about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Appearing on his 700 Club show, which airs on Disney's ABC Family channel, Robertson denied that he had called for Chavez's assassination. "I said our special forces could take him out," Robertson said. "'Take him out' could be a number of things including kidnapping. There are a number of ways of taking out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted." However, a transcript of Robertson's earlier remarks indicates that he had used no such language. "If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war," he had declared. On his Fox News television show Wednesday, anchor Brit Hume took rival news channel CNN to task for prominently featuring Robertson's remarks, insisting that Robertson's influence had dwindled and that "he may have no clout with the Bush administration." However, at least one blog listed 10 live guest appearances by Robertson on Fox News programs during the past 10 months, a figure that was also mentioned by MSNBC personality Keith Olbermann Wednesday night when he featured Hume as his daily "worst person in the world."


I think it's a safe rule that when the hard hitting journalists on IMDB.com are pointing out that you're lying, it's time to change topics.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

CNN reminds us of a little lie Bush told

None of us (including me, probably) give credit to the media when it does a good job. So let me give huge kudos to CNN for its most recent edition of "CNN Presents."

Titled "Dead Wrong: Inside an Intelligence Meltdown," the report spells out in pretty amazing detail for an hour long program how and, as best we can tell, why we got the intelligence about WMD in Iraq so tremendously wrong. Much of the information has been previously reported. Indeed, much of it is in the book I co-wrote last year, All the President's Spin.

However it's rare to see a major media organization take the time pull all the facts together and present what amounts to a pretty damning indictment of the government. And while CNN didn't take any cheap shots at the Bush administration, it also brought up questions about the responsibility of Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rice, et al for the ways they either incomptentently or dishonestly presented the intelligence they were given (in many cases that intelligence was wrong, but the bigger problems seems to be that the administration ignored the intelligence about WMD not existing that turned out to be right.)

Even though I knew much of this stuff from writing the book, it reminded me how TV journalism can be more powerful than any other medium since it can pull together so much information so compactly and tell a story so engagingly.

I had forgotten just how awful the intelligence failure was and how deeply, to my core, enraged I am at President Bush and his top aides for misleading this country into war. That's ignoring whether invading Iraq has ultimately turned out to be good or bad and what's the best way to resolve the problems there going forward. The fact is that through some combination of incompetence and dishonesty, Bush and his team dishonestly used intelligence to mislead the country into war. Even if the war turned out great, that's an unforgivable sin in a democracy, where we depend on our government to tell us the truth and give us an honest argument for a major decision like going to war. The fact that Bush is still in office, nobody involved in the WMD debacle has been held accountable, and Tenet and others got a medal of freedom makes me want to puke. Even "good guy" Colin Powell disgusts me. I don't care how bad he feels about his ultimately embarassing presentation to the Security Council. A real man apologizes to the country for his mistake and helps us figure out how and why it happened. But like everyone else in the Bush administration, Colin Powell doesn't seem to know what the words "responsibility" and "maturity" mean.

So anyway enough ranting. Kudos to CNN. I only wish they and other media outlets had the resources and motivation to do something like... ohhhh, maybe 2 or 3 years ago?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

A sunny spot on TV

Looking for a great comedy on TV that isn't so old it's running in syndication at 7 and 11:30?

It seems like the only prospect these days is "Arrested Development." But FX (of all places) has a candidate in "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." I watched the first three episodes in a preview DVD and laughed my ass off. Picture "Seinfeld" but with narcissistic late 20-somethings who own a bar and you've got the extremely low concept.

"Philadelphia" is hilarious because it's "edgy," but not for the sake of being edgy. It uses topics like abortion, racism, and underage drinking as excuses for its characters to get into really funny situations, not for the sake of proving how far it's willing to push the boundaries.

The upcoming episodes is the funniest one on the disc. The bar starts letting teenagers drink and the characters get drawn into the teenage social drama (dating, parties, breakups, etc.) in a fantastic way. I laughed my ass off like I haven't at a TV show in a long time. I highly highly recommend checking it out. Thursday at 10:30 on FX and then, since it's cable, it repeats a bunch of times throughout the week.

Monday, August 15, 2005

My girlfriend's blog is now a small penis support group

I'm absolutely fascinated by the comments on a blog post Alicia put up a few weeks ago.

The post was about how much scholarly analysis and media energy seems to go into informing men what the average penis size is so that guys who are afraid they might be small can feel better that maybe they're not. Alicia then makes the insightful point (which those of us who live with her found out long ago is a pet crusade) that it might be nice if men got the same media messages about the size of their genitals that women got about their bodies. I.E. tons of tips on how to get a bigger dick and actors on TV and magazine photo shoots with unnaturally, unhealthily large cocks.

I assumed the comments would primarily be bitter guys arguing that being overweight isn't the same as having a small dick since you can exercise your way out of it, etc. (which is sort of true, but the fact is that most women are never going to look like Kate Hudson no matter how much they work out). And there are a few posts about that.

But most of the comments are now a discussion between guys with small dicks about how hard life is. How girls don't like them, they have to use toys to satisfy a woman, guys with 8" cocks have a better sex life, etc. My favorite comment has to be this: "If a girl will marry you and you small penis than unless she’s ugly or desperate I would say it doesn’t matter to anyone but feminazis upset that about being fat"

Apparently, Alicia's post is coming up in Google searches for "small penis" and there is a community of men out there desperate to discuss this issue. And lucky for Alicia, a few of them have picked her blog. Really fascinating study in group dynamics and/or the need of men with small penises for a community of understanding. I guess it's hard to start that support group in your local church basement...

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

What's next? Microserfs 2?

Signs that we have hit dot-com boom number 2:

-Variety, for the first time in several years, lets its tech reporter (yours truly) write a full page article in the newly revived cyberbiz section. What's it about? How the big media companies (News. Corp, NBC Universal, Viacom, etc.) are all excited about the Internet again and starting digital media divisions for the second time. Most of them started one in the late '90s and shut it down in 2001 after losing hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. (article here. you'll need to watch an ad or have a subscription to read it)

For the past few years Variety has minimized its tech coverage after the company lost its shirt on a very ill timed dot-com spinoff called eV that launched in late 2000. But we've slowly been building backup and now we have our (probably semi-regular) cyber section back.

-Wired Magazine lets co-founder Kevin Kelly write a 5,000 (or so) word opus on how the Internet is changing EVERYTHING. Here's a representative quote: "There is only one time in the history of each planet when its inhabitants first wire up its innumerable parts to make one large Machine. later that Machine may run faster, but there is only one time when it is born. You and I are alive at this moment. We should marvel, but people alive at such times usually don't." It goes on from there, calling current tech developments a "discontinuity," an "axial phase," and "the largest, most complex, and most surpriving event on the planet."

We haven't seen pompous grandiose techno-chest thumping like this in the pages of Wired since the mid-90s (or so I have heard; I didn't actually read Wired in high school). Of course, the dot-com bust seemed to have tampered the excitement of Kelly and his fellow tech-worshippers. But now he can interpret that event as merely a hiccup in what's basically (dare I say it) a Marxist view of history with technology replacing politics. I mean seriously, read this last sentence sweeping away the dot-com bust and try not to laugh: "After the hysteria has died down, after the milliosn of dollars have been gained and lost, after the strands of mind, once achingly isolated, have started to come together - the only thing we can say is: Our Machine is born. It's on."

The Wired article is part of a section timed to the 10th anniversary of the IPO of Netscape (kicking off the first dot-com boom). Which is incredibly instructive, despite Kelly's quasi-religious pretensions. It's all about money, baby. The reason Wired is willing to print the tech equivalent of a Bapist preacher's sermon is people are willing to believe in the dot-com world now that they're making money again. The Internet undoubtedly has and continues to change affluent socities in profound ways (note to Kelly: the "world" encompasses billions of people who can't afford broadband Internet and don't have a MySpace profile). But people only get beyond financial concerns when they're making money.

That's why sometimes it's refreshing to write for Variety. There's plenty to criticize in our work, but at least we're much more upfront about how the tides of the business world largely drive our coverage.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Now that's comedy

Read today's New York Times profile of my friend Andy Kindler, with whom I co-created a pilot for AMC a few months ago. Andy is truly truly truly one of the funniest and smartest people I've ever known, not to mention exceptionally nice and not nearly as cranky in person as he makes himself out to be on stage.

As much as 1000 words can capture him, this article does a pretty damned good job. Hopefully everyone will notice it and realize this guy should be a star.

Here's a great Andy line from his "State of the Industry" address in Montreal this year (highlights here):
"What's wrong with [Comedy Central show] Mind of Mencia is that they picked the least funny body part of Carlos Mencia."