Anything from current events, campaign finance reform, sports (especially baseball), corporate/political/legal ethics, pop culture, confessions of a recovering comic book addict, and probably some overly indulgent discourses about my 3-year old daughter. E-Mail: sardonicviews -at-
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Friday, January 09, 2004

But Will It Actually Be Funny?

I've been meaning to write about this article for a couple days. It's about Lizz Winstead (the co-creator of Comedy Central's The Daily Show) and her new work with Central Air, "the soon-to-debut left-wing talk-radio network for which she's directing the entertainment programming." This isn't a real fisking of the article. There is just some stuff that caught my attention, that I wanted to look at.

"Clinton's blowjob was the worst thing to happen to political comedy ever," Ms. Winstead said emphatically. "Because it just became a blowjob joke. It didn't become satire; it wasn't about his policies. There was a lot to mock the right about that the left didn't get the opportunity to do." After that, she said, humor across the political spectrum degenerated.

So, the argument is that the chance to mock the right was lost by the left because the right and the broad middle weren't listening because they just wanted to make bj jokes regarding Clinton? Or is it the left got caught up in the bj jokes too? Who knows? Besides the "What the hell happened between Gingrich and Livingston" sketch on Saturday Night Live was one of my favorites.

Newt Gingrich: You know, I've been wondering that for two months. You know what the pisser is? Clinton has sex with that girl..

Bob Livingston: Right.

Newt Gingrich: Then he tries to get his friends to cover it up.

Bob Livingston: Sure.

Newt Gingrich: We have a dress.. with his semen on it!

Bob Livingston: Right. Right.

Newt Gingrich: He lies about it, under oath!

Bob Livingston: Uh-huh..

Newt Gingrich: Then we prosecute him, and he's still in the White House and we lose our jobs!

Bob Livingston: [ taking all that in and weighing it through his mind ] What the hell happened?

Probably my favorite sketch from that cast.

Enter Central Air, scheduled to hit the airwaves as early as March. Its masterminds say it will be tailored to appeal to people with politics who crave Rush Limbaugh-style bite. Less earnest than National Public Radio and not as strident or suffused with the victim-oppressor paradigm as Pacifica, they say, it will bring a populist, late-night-television sensibility to radio.

Excuse me? "People with politics who crave Rush Limbaugh-style bite."? I thought that was what had moved on to post defending Bill Clinton from blowjob jokes?

A host has not yet been chosen for the all-important morning slot, from 6 to 9 a.m., Eastern Standard Time. Central Air is in talks with Al Franken, whom they are hoping will take the mike from noon to 3 p.m. -- meaning he'll go head-to-head with Rush Limbaugh. After that comes a show hosted by A. Whitney Brown, who collaborated with Ms. Winstead on The Daily Show in the mid-90's. Talks are also going on with Janeane Garofalo for a late-night show. Martin Kaplan, an academic and former screenwriter and Mondale speechwriter, will discuss the media from 7 to 8 p.m.

Every host will have a partner, Ms. Winstead said: "No monologues. We feel people should be kept in check all the time." They haven't locked in any co-hosts yet, but "if this plays out the way we think, there will be a woman on every show" as one of the hosts, Ms. Winstead said. "That's important."

I like A. Whitney Brown.

The Daily Show looms large over the enterprise. Jon Stewart is a success because, Mr. Walsh said, "he does both sides of the fence. His whole point is making fun of stupidity." While Ms. Winstead said they'd like to share the Daily Show audience, she hopes they will weigh in more forcefully on issues than Mr. Stewart does. "The Daily Show is a specific genre: comedy wall-to-wall," she said. Central Air will be a news network, with satire interspersed throughout its coverage. "We're taking a stand and having an opinion," Ms. Winstead said. "I don't think I feel comfortable sucking up to Henry Kissinger or promoting his book" -- a dig at Mr. Stewart. "Someone else on the network may," she added.

Wide open to challenging the other side, huh? Not that she had much problem showing up on a recent episode of the dreary and not very funny Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, to help raise her appearance quotient.

Asking Ms. Winstead about her political views elicits somewhat predictable lefty boilerplate. She is vehemently opposed to President Bush, tax cuts for the rich, school vouchers and the war in Iraq, not to mention Wal-Mart, "the No. 1 destroyer of American main streets."

Yet she is more often than not riotously funny on specifics. The New York Times, she said, acts "like a celebrity who gets pregnant -- expounding on things everyone already knows as if they were the first to discover them." On Madeleine Albright: "What's up with that brooch? Can't she tone it down? Is she getting Dish TV on that? It's out of control."

The sad thing about the boilerplate stuff -- she defines it all in terms of what she is against, not what she is for or supports. She is just opposed to things, not for tspecifics for the specifices. Um, I assume she had funnier lines than that, or they were better when delivered rather than written.

It all depends on whether Ms. Winstead's dream audience -- semi-well-informed liberal populists with a sense of humor -- tunes in. "They do want to be strident and appeal to the angry left, because that's how you build a legitimate base and build out. That's how conservative talk radio started," said Brian Lehrer, host of a weekday morning call-in show on WNYC. Mr. Lehrer said he wasn't concerned about losing listeners to Central Air. Still, he said, "they shouldn't sound like NPR if they know what's good for them. NPR is about context and depth and nuance and things like that. They want their network to be like liberal Rush Limbaugh."

Sounds like they want to follow Howard Dean's game plan to win the Democrats nomination for President.

Yet here's one reason why that might be difficult. Consider this statement of Mr. [Mark] Walsh's: "The Republicans see everything as binary, black or white," he said. "We think the world is a little more analog: There's some gray in between the binary stances." His statement -- reductive at best and arguably false -- might just also explain why conservative radio tends to draw more listeners than liberal radio. After all, militant open-mindedness doesn't exactly have the same pull as a visceral argument.

Democrats, Mr. Walsh acknowledged, are "reasonably criticized" for striking an "eat your vegetables" tone. "We definitely can find ourselves sinking into a lecturing, hectoring mode." He said that "plays into the hands" of Republicans. Central Air will "nuggetize" news and opinions into entertaining programming, he said. "The way that if you have a dog, you crush up the vitamin pill into the dog food."

Mark Walsh is the chief executive officer of Progress Media, which he co-founded and is the parent company of Central Air.

I have found it to be a source of amusement to see that those to the left constantly accusing those to the right of seeing things in only absolutes. In black and whites. Not being realistic, for accepting that things are grey. Sounds like the very thing the right used to complain about the left back in the 60's and 70's -- whether it was in foreign or domestic policy. Who would have thought that the left would come closer to arguing for a return of realpolitik -- Kissinger would be proud.

To Ms. Winstead, Dennis Miller stopped being funny when he became conservative. "I would definitely say the right is not in any way funnier than the left because the right, especially now, is spending way too much time deteriorating the civil liberties of human beings and inserting God into all walks of our lives -- so that if liberals don't seem funny, maybe they're too busy being pissed off," she said.

Yes, yes. Bush-Ashcroft are putting god everywhere and creating a prison state. That's original. I remember with fondness the halcyon days of freedom from Clinton-Reno.

Now, I don't know if Winstead actually said, or the author concluded, that Miller is now a "conservative" (I'm assuming she did or at least strongly implied so). He's not on the left, but as he said in his Q&A with Time, that he could hardly be considered a conservative.

Your politics have drifted right in recent years. How come?

I'm left on a lot of things. If two gay guys want to get married, I could care less. If a nut case from overseas wants to blow up their wedding, that's when I'm right. (Sept. 11) was a big thing for me. I was saying to liberal America, "Well, what are you offering?" And they said, "Well, we're not going to protect you, and we want some more money." That didn't interest me.

Should we be worried that the country seems increasingly polarized politically?
I'm not worried. Most Americans will let liberals and conservatives play their games because most Americans don't pay attention. They're out there earning a living, trying to bounce their kids on their laps and watch Trista and Ryan's wedding.

What were your parents' politics? I didn't know my Dad?—he moved out early. And my mom's politics were kind of hardscrabble. She didn't think about Democrats or Republicans. She thought about who made sense. I've been both in my life. Somebody can say they don't understand why somebody drifts. But I've always found people who drift interesting, 'cause it shows me the game's not stagnant in their own head. They're thinking.

There's a little bit of that black and white viewpoint from Winstead -- I thought things were a little greyer. If you don't agree with the left on everything, you are out the door and all the way to the far right.

As for Miller not being funny to her now. Bull. She just doesn't like what he's saying now. The fact that she can't admit that, is more a reflection on her. Miller was never that far on the left in the first place.

I will agree with Winstead as far as the right being no funnier than the left, but then I don't think that political views improve or harm humor. Winstead or the author throughout the piece seem to use Democrat, liberal or left interchangeably. I find that annoying since there are major differences in these words. Michael Totten has an excellent piece on this.

A Tax For All

Peter Bagge has a new cartoon looking at the need for every additional tax and their rationalizations. I'm guessing he wasn't a big fan of the latte tax proposal in Seattle.

The Handyman's Best Friend Gets A Festival

Well, now I know what the family will be doing to celebrate Angie's 2nd birthday in June

Lorain County's [Ohio] fastest growing community is planning what could be the first ever - anywhere - duct tape festival. The Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival is to take place Father's Day weekend - June 19-20.
The three-day festival will feature a parade with floats made of duct tape-sculpted animals and, with a nod to Avon's heritage, tape-made renditions of historic buildings and even the city seal. The festival will include duct tape fashions and even the crowning of the Duct Tape Dad of the Year. Traditional fair staples - food booths, rides and a car show - will be included.

The city is already getting ready. Next month, Todd Scott, Canadian biologist turned duct tape sculptor, will show Avon students how to work with the medium.

Avon, Ohio is home to Henkel Consumer Adhesives, a part of the German conglomerate, Henkel KGaA. Here you can find their corporate song and video. Henkel's adhesive division also makes the popular "Duck" brand of tape.

Here is the US site for Henkel (along with news that it will be acquiring Dial Corporation and the Consumer Adhesives division. No official press release on the festival.

I've heard of worse.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

You Are All Stupid

I've seen reference to an incredibly stupid op-ed piece in a number of blogs, but I saw it first in Tim Blair's. A Neil Starkman writes in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about the popularity of George Bush, and concludes it is because people are stupid.

It's the "Stupid factor," the S factor: Some people -- sometimes through no fault of their own -- are just not very bright.

It's not merely that some people are insufficiently intelligent to grasp the nuances of foreign policy, of constitutional law, of macroeconomics or of the variegated interplay of humans and the environment. These aren't the people I'm referring to. The people I'm referring to cannot understand the phenomenon of cause and effect. They're perplexed by issues comprising more than two sides. They don't have the wherewithal to expand the sources of their information. And above all -- far above all -- they don't think.

You know these people; they're all around you (they're not you, else you would not be reading this article this far). They're the ones who keep the puerile shows on TV, who appear as regular recipients of the Darwin Awards, who raise our insurance rates by doing dumb things, who generally make life much more miserable for all of us than it ought to be. Sad to say, they comprise a substantial minority -- perhaps even a majority -- of the populace.

Now, I can't disagree that the number of stupid people in the US and the world is significant (just watch any of the "dating" shows on cable to see mouth-breathing examples). Having said that, the idea that the majority of the country supports Bush because he has the stupid people conned is a joke.

What he is saying is: "I'm smart and I know that Bush is bad and doing great harm to the nation and world. Yet he remains popular with the people. Conclusion, the people are dumb for not understanding what I understand."

Not that this sort of questioning of the intelligence of the masses is something limited to the left (as I've been noticing a some blogs intimate). This is more a reflection of the frustration by the side out of power with the popularity of the POTUS who isn't their guy.

I don't remember many on the right, when Clinton was President, acting like the masses were all that bright. Anyone remember Bob Dole's "Where's the outrage" speech near the end of the 1996 Presidential campaign?

Partisan stupidity on either side annoys me.

Zipping Up the Charts

Listing of all time stupid controls and oversight for a planning commission (via Scott Burgess).

A Buddhist has been told that he needs planning permission before he can meditate in woodland he owns.

Edward James, 51, from Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, bought the half-acre wood overlooking the Crouch estuary near Hockley so that he and a few friends could sit cross-legged and meditate among the trees for about half an hour at a time. However, an objection was lodged with the council.

The Essex Wildlife Trust objected because it feared trees were being damaged, including the removal of "old and long-established ivy".
"I was told I would need planning permission because it was a change of use from woodland to meditational woodland. I had to fill in the same forms that you would need to build a skyscraper."

His application for a change of use will be considered by Rochford district council planning committee tonight. Council officers have recommended that it be approved.

"Our only conditions are that no more than one vehicle be allowed in between sunset and sunrise and that there be a limit on the number of people who use the site so that residents will not be disturbed," a spokesman said.

Mr James said that, apart from the district council, Essex county council, English Nature and the Essex Wildlife Trust all had to be consulted over his application.

All this so a guy and some of his friends can stand or sit in silence in 1/2 of an acre of woods that the he owns.

I don't know which is more disturbing that there is a difference in classification between "woodland" and "meditational woodland"; or that it is actually being enforced.

If It Wasn't for Bad Luck...

Can you imagine the stress if you lost the winning ticket to $162 million?

[Elecia] Battle, 40, of Cleveland, filed a police report Friday saying she lost the winning Mega Millions lottery ticket in last Tuesday's drawing worth $162 million.

Battle told police the date and time she purchased the ticket at the Quick Shop Food Mart on Monticello Boulevard. Ohio lottery officials confirmed the winning ticket was sold on that date and at about that time. That information has not been publicized, the report said.

But without the ticket, no matter what kind of circumstantial proof she could offer. She's got nothing.

I know I'd be drinking early and heavy at that point.

Good Coffee

From the press release to the feel good news story about your health. Drinking plenty of coffee each day, in the long term, significantly reduces the chance for type 2 diabetes in adults. This according to a press release from the Harvard School of Public Health. Of course for newspapers, these press releases make it real easy to be converted to a news story. The amusing thing is to compare the article to the press release to see how close they were to completely cutting and pasting the puppy.

Still any excuse for me to rationalize my coffee consumption can't be dismissed completely.

The Tugger

Tug McGraw passed away yesterday. Those older than me, may remember him from his days with the New York Mets. Those younger may think of him as Tim McGraw's dad, and that Bud Light commercial they did. Me, I can only see him in a powder blue road Phillies uniform from 1980. Coming in from the bullpen, or leaving the mound after shutting down a rally. Banging his glove off his thigh and talking to somebody.


Monday, January 05, 2004

Shocking Nobody

Imagine that, delays in hearing cases in the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court results in increased costs. Funny that having to hold the delinquents in the detention center for longer periods while waiting to hear the case is more expensive than quickly adjudicating the matter.

The article points out that the Juvi Court, that has been extremely poor in its performance for years, actually has made great strides in recent years. I know during my law school years that the court was continually being ridiculed and subject to periodic exposes of how badly it was operating. The court has only recently taken steps to overhaul its archaic computer and data entry systems. It is still way behind in technology and staffing compared to the Cuyahoga County Courts.

Continuances, though, are usually at the request of the prosecuting and defense attorneys. Some are quoted as complaining about the delays and applauding the findings. I suspect they won't be so happy if the court actually follows through on reducing continuances.

UPDATE: Mommies At Law has a good post with more information on the matter

Glad He Admitted It, Now Go Away

Well, it's true. Pete Rose finally admitted that he bet on baseball and the team he was managing (but never against them). All is revealed in his new, and second, autobiography that comes out tomorrow. Of course this "shocking" revelation was expected weeks ago.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Rose can and should go into the Hall of Fame. His gambling on baseball (that is known) is limited to his time as manager of the Reds. He is a HOFer as a player. He cannot and should not, however, be allowed back into baseball. He broke the most important rule. He put the integrity of every game he was involved in into question. That is an unforgivable sin, worthy of the lifetime ban without any chance to come back. It doesn't even matter to me that Rose isn't seeming terribly sincere in his admission and apologies (this is not surprising).

The problem is Rose himself. He doesn't want just the HOF. He wants it all. He wants back into baseball. He thinks a team (I guess the Reds) would hire/trust him to a coaching/managerial job. He will not settle for just getting into the HOF. If they let him in there, he will still campaign, cajole, carp, and complain that he is being treated unfairly and deserves to have his ban lifted.

So, until Rose is willing to compromise on his status, he has to stay out of baseball and the HOF.

Time Crunch and Excuses

Okay, so posting didn't return for a while. My time on the computer lately has been limited. The kid has started waking up about an hour earlier, giving me only 1-1 1/2 hours on the computer in the morning. By the time I finish looking at other blogs and looking at newspapers, I barely have any time to post. What posting I have done, has been for Pitt Sports Blather. Any evening computer time, lately has been used for non-blog writing.

It's annoying to me, because I've got a couple windows open on my browser for the last couple days that I want to use for a post, but haven't had the time to compose and grab some other links (if I would copy them into notepad, I'd probably just forget about it completely).

I guess to some extent I'm in a bit of a blog funk, at least as it relates to non-sports items. Just have to work through it -- assuming the snow squalls don't knock out the power.


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