Monday, December 17, 2018

Margaret Sullivan on “balanced” news in the Trump era.

Excerpted from a WASHINGTON POST op-ed column:
The news media continues — even now when it should know better — to be addicted to “both sides” journalism. In the name of fairness, objectivity and respect for the office of the presidency, it still seems to take Trump — along with his array of deceptive surrogates — at his word, while knowing full well that his word isn’t good.
When major news organizations publish tweets and news alerts that repeat falsehoods merely because the president uttered them, it’s the same kind of journalistic malpractice as offering a prime interview spot to Kellyanne Conway.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Best Films of 2018: First Draft

This will likely change after seeing more of the end-of-year releases.

In no specific order:
Black kkKlansman
The Little Stranger
First Man
You Were Never Really Here
Black Panther
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Eighth Grade
First Reformed
The Eyes of Orson Welles
Honorable Mention:
A Quiet Place
Suspiria 2018
At Eternity’s Gate
The Favourite

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Frank Rich on 2019 Academy Awards

Excerpt from Frank Rich’s recurring column for NEW YORK magazine:
At some level I must say I just don’t care [who hosts the Academy Awards]. Old media, especially print media, still think the Oscars are a big deal and cover them as if they matter culturally and commercially. But it’s not clear the public cares much anymore. The precipitous decline in Oscar ratings says as much about the decline of Hollywood movies as a centerpiece of American pop culture in the digital age as it does about the tedium generated by the awards show itself.
It certainly doesn’t help the cause that the Academy is about as well run as the Trump White House most Academy members despise. A particularly bizarre move was the attempt — now rescinded — to create a new category for “popular” movies that would have had the effect of segregating a blockbuster like Black Panther from the other contenders at the very time the industry is trying to address its many shortfalls in racial and gender diversity. No wonder it is as hard for the Oscars to recruit a host as it is for Trump to find a chief of staff.
Given that a campaign has been brewing on Twitter for a Muppets-hosted Oscars, I would propose as an alternative Triumph the Insult Dog, whose riotous, Joan Rivers-esque appearance as a commentator on the red carpet at the Tony Awards a decade or so back was as enjoyable an awards-show entertainment as I can recall. Meanwhile, the deposed Kevin Hart might yet be a candidate to succeed John Kelly in the White House. With his history of homophobic tweets, he would fit right in.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


[Originally written last April; posted here in wake of Chief of Staff changes and other catastrophes in Trumpworld.]


Regulations tossed onto the bonfire
Old textbooks shrivel and crumble
Man of God fired by Man of Dry Ice
CEO of USA primal screams on FOX NEWS
Just wait a few moments
For another Oval Office outrage
Not-vetted-enough President
Keeps pushing forward unvetted people
For important public service positions
This is not what we were promised
This is not what we deserve

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Re the undoing of Kevin Hart as Oscars host

It’s a more inclusive, less mocking world than it used to be.  One would have thought Kevin Hart, Disney/ABC and the Academy would have foreseen the potential consequences of old homophobic tweets or gay panic stand-up routines before Hart’s announcement as Academy Awards host was made public.

And it’s back to Square One for an institution and a television network trying to land an all things to most people host, instead of accepting the realities of audience fragmentation and the Academy Awards ceremony in classic form as an institution in irreversible decline.

AMPAS and Disney/ABC now have to endure the inevitable fallout from comfortable-with-prejudice viewers sneering at the “political correctness” of Kevin Hart’s enforced departure.

Final comment via Owen Gleiberman in VARIETY:
The fact of Hart’s tweets, and his defensiveness about them, boils down to this: He’s someone who‘s still essentially on record as thinking of people who identify as LGBTQ as “those people.” And that couldn’t be further from the defiantly inclusive spirit of Hollywood today.


state your case
make your complaint
fill out all the forms
double-check for mistakes
listen to the man say:
sure, I’ll look into it
prepare for no response
get no response
call and e-mail
and listen to the machine say:
please hold (music) please hold
(music) your call is valuable to us
hang up after an hour
days later, call and e-mail some more
get e-mail saying:
we have a backlog of complaints
we’ll get to you shortly
go to the office in-person
hear the administrative assistant say:
he’s in meetings all day
and he’s leaving town tomorrow
give up calling and e-mailing
accept loss
months later, receive text message
it says:
we’ll resolve this through arbitration
the date will be announced soon
thank you for your patience
have a great day!

Via CULTURAL WEEKLY: ALOUD Ad Hoc Committee Update Statement

Disclaimer: I haven't been to literary functions at the Los Angeles Public Library's Downtown location since the Newer Poets readings ceased.  But I've followed the ALOUD purgings (apparently due to wanting allegedly less staid, younger and/or larger-attendance author interview gatherings similar to those sponsored by Skylight Books and Live Talks Los Angeles) with interest and concern over marginalization of a significant segment of the local literature community.

Here's a link to an ALOUD Update statement published today on the CULTURAL WEEKLY site:

A relevant paragraph:
Three people testified before the Library Commission on November 8, but were told the Commission could do nothing about the Foundation’s personnel decisions. At that time, we were informed that the Foundation had hired a PR firm specializing in crisis management. The week before Thanksgiving, we began to see the results of their campaign. The Foundation issued a statement saying that they had asked for and gotten a temporary restraining order against one of the group of people who had been protesting at ALOUD events. The statement claimed Foundation President Ken Brecher had been “attacked” by this protestor; the statement then quoted Board Chair Gwen Miller as saying that we petitioners had also been attacking and intimidating the Foundation by sending emails to members of their board and to their supporters. This attempt to portray the Foundation as the victim and those protesting their decisions as out-of-bounds illustrates the mindset of those in charge.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

ESQUIRE’s Charles P. Pierce on George H.W. Bush

Bush needed to shake up the [1988 presidential] race. To provide it, because the Bush family always hired out the dirty work rather than do it themselves because my dear young man, that simply is not done, Bush turned to a prominent political media guru named Roger Ailes and, between the two of them, they set up the situation in which, on live TV, while [CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather] was pressing Bush on the latter’s involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal, Bush shoved back by citing an episode in which Rather, in a snit because a tennis match had run long, delaying his newscast, had walked off the air. Bush had dope-slapped Dan Rather. The Wimp Factor was dead. 

I recall watching that and thinking how contrived Bush’s anger was, how different it was from the genuine anger that he had flashed at that Boston anchorman eight years earlier. I thought it was cheap theatrics and, in retrospect, it sums up a great deal of George H.W. Bush’s political career—the pragmatic insincerity, the subcontracting of the hatchet job to a hired hand, the willingness to play a role, no matter how clumsily, in order to keep and maintain power. Oh, and as it happens, while he was play-acting the bad-ass, Bush also was lying his hindquarters off about Iran-Contra. He’d been hip-deep in that criminal conspiracy, as we subsequently learned in 1992, when he pardoned anyone who could tie that can to his tail on his way out of Washington. He always was a more interesting man than he always felt that he had to pretend to be.
...he could never muster enough political gumption to overcome his own ambition. And so, to me, that will be history’s verdict on George H.W. Bush—that he, as the late Richard Ben Cramer put it, did What It Takes to be president and never seemed to realize how brutal a price that was.