Archive | Media RSS for this section

• Captain Jack-In-The-Box

pers_jack1Since my youth I’ve been a science fiction fan. Good sci-fi, that is.

Like things written by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur Clarke and others of that immortal ilk. Or, the current version of “Battlestar Galactica.”

I especially like the low-tech BBC series “Torchwood” and “Doctor Who,” which exhibit a childlike version of the genre while dealing with all sorts of grownup moral, ethical and scientific topics, both allegorical and metaphorical. But I doubt I’ll ever watch either one the same way again.

That’s because John Barrowman, who stars on “Torchwood” as Captain Jack Harkness and has a recurring role as the same character on “Dr. Who,” thought it was a fine thing to do to expose his genitals on a live Radio 1 show in the UK that also was video streamed over the Internet. The incident aired Sunday night.

It happened when show host Nick Grimshaw said to Barrowman, “You’re famous, we’re told, for getting your willy out in interviews. Is this going to happen today? Should Annie (Mac, the show’s co-host) be careful?”

Barrowman then asked if the webcam was on, and when told that it was broadcasting live video, said, “All right, I’ll get it out for you then. No problem.”

According to the BBC, the show’s producer moved to obscure the webcam, but listeners and viewers heard Mac screaming “Oh, my God!” as Barrowman and Grimshaw laughed.

Barrowman then was heard to say, “I didn’t take the whole thing out, but I got my fruit and nuts out.”

Ewwwww!

Barrowman, in the grand tradition of English stiff-upper lipism, later said, “I apologize for any offense I have caused. I was joining in the lighthearted and fun banter of the show and went too far. I was wrong to do this, and it will never happen again.”

Unfortunately, every time Captain Jack pops up appears on screen from now on, the incident will replay to the delight of many voyeurs disgust of many viewers.

• More 2-faced heads

erasing42

Another collection, created with the help of my friends, of unintentionally double-meaning or just plain “Huh?” headlines:

• Pickup crashes on I-95 with boy seated in bed
(Baltimore Sun

• John McCain, senility America’s loss of the Pacific
(Pravda)

• There’s no easy answer for chronic interstitial cystitis
(Manchester, NH, Union Leader)

• Recreation injuries: 213,000 treated in ER
(United Press International)

• Baby-faced chief executives save face better for companies
(Indo-Asian News Service)

• Girl, 10, improves after fatal crash
(Chicago Tribune)

• Irradiated meet in markets soon
(Hilo Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

• Staples to attach Dutch business
(BBC)

• Leading scorpion on first Beijing tour
(Xinhua News Service)

• From JFK to eye in the sky

limo_1

On a fall afternoon 45 years ago today I was the assistant sports editor — a lofty title for the No. 2 man in a two-man department — of a smalltown Pennsylvania newspaper. I’d been in the business barely a year and the biggest story I’d helped cover was the upset of a local high school football team in a game against its arch-rival.

The editor and the sports editor both were out of town at a meeting, so I was sort of the “senior” editor on duty in the tiny newsroom.

Suddenly, the alarm bell on the Associated Press newswire machine began clanging. In normal times, a series of rings from one to three indicated the importance of the news bulletin that was about to be transmitted. But this day it was different. The bell started its staccato sound and didn’t stop for perhaps 30 seconds, an eternity when no one knew what was going on.

It was, we quickly learned, the bulletin:

PRESIDENT SHOT

No more details, just that chilling and virtually impossible to absorb message. As the moments slipped by, the condition of John F. Kennedy and some details of the motorcade he’d been riding in through downtown Dallas dribbled in.

For some reason, the few people in the newsroom began looking at me. It dawned on me they were waiting for me to make some sort of leadership move. I think it was a matter that these were smalltown people, most of whom had never been outside the county they were born in. I was from New York State, so they always attached some sort of cosmopolitan magic to that fact even though I was a wet-behind-the-ears writer in his first real journalism job.

Fortunately, the magnitude of the situation quickly dawned on me. We had been about to begin printing that day’s edition, just after lunchtime at the afternoon-cycle newspaper. For the first and only time in my 40+ years in the business, I rushed to the pressroom and yelled “Stop the presses!” Just like in the movies, but this was real life. Too real.

Those few people in authority who were on the premises — the production boss, the delivery manager and me — created a new and arbitrary deadline, hoping we would get the definitive word on the President’s condition before we absolutely had to go to press.

It never came, so I wrote the most important headline of my life with what little we knew:

KENNEDY SHOT IN CAR IN DALLAS

That was then. This is now. In today’s world, and after many more assassinations of important leaders and heads of state, video and still photos are continually being shot of every moment of their lives. No one wants to be part of the news agency that misses THE event, and our all-pervasive technology reduces that possibility to almost nil.

Unfortunately, much of that technology also is used to snoop and pry, to harass and annoy, people of both high and low birth and rich and poor lifestyle. Used by the papparazzi and Homeland Security, angry neighbors and military planners alike.

It is, therefore, an irony in one comment that JFK made during his brief time on the national scene:

“I am sorry to say that there is too much point to the wisecrack that life is extinct on other planets because their scientists were more advanced than ours.”

• The worth of a turkey

Which of these is the real turkey?

This question occurred to me as I was watching the BBC News on cable. I like the channel because the British Broadcasting Co. is head-and-shoulders above U.S. commercial and “public” television (motto: “Keeping the B.S. in PBS”) in providing a broad look at the news of the world and putting it in some kind of perspective with deep reporting and insightful analysis. Most of the time.

On this particular evening, the newscaster — a Brit based in Washington, D.C. — couldn’t restrain himself when it came to making fun of a seasonal American custom: the annual presidential pardon for a turkey just before Thanksgiving.

This year the freed bird will range down to Florida to, I am not making this up, serve as grand marshal for a Thanksgiving parade at DisneyWorld in Orlando, just as one did last year.

The newscaster got his jollies at this event. I agree it’s a particularly stupid thing, and I have no idea how it came about — unless it had something to do with the poultry industry public relations gimmick to show the sitting President has a sense of humor.

But that doesn’t give a foreign guest to our shores license to poke fun at our gallant leader and our favorite holiday bird. England has some pretty odd customs, too, and most of them involve a certain Queen Elizabeth II. She doesn’t even serve as much purpose as a tasty turkey and costs a lot more per pound, even in pounds.

The turkey breast I bought for Thanksgiving this year cost $2.97 a pound. The queen, even after you take away all her freebie perks like rent and staff and travel and clothes and all sorts of other goodies, is conservatively worth $3.2 million a pound. I’d like to see her acting as grand marshal in a DisneyWorld parade!

• Two-faced headlines

erasing4A periodic report on unintentional double-meaning or just plain
“Huh?” headlines:

• Highway chief resigns after death in tunnel
(New York Times)

• FDA eyes better regulation of body parts industry
(Associated Press)

• Pickup crashes on I-95 with boy seated in bed
(Baltimore Sun

• John McCain, senility America’s loss of the Pacific
(Pravda)

• There’s no easy answer for chronic interstitial cystitis
(Manchester, NH, Union Leader)

• Recreation injuries: 213,000 treated in ER
(United Press International)

• Baby-faced chief executives save face better for companies
(Indo-Asian News Service)

• Girl, 10, improves after fatal crash
(Chicago Tribune)

• Irradiated meet in markets soon
(Hilo Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

• Staples to attach Dutch business
(BBC)

• Leading scorpion on first Beijing tour
(Xinhua News Service)

And, a quartet of headlines from Australian publications:

• Eye drops off shelf

• Enraged cow injures farmer with axe

• Miners refuse to work after death

• Cold wave linked to temperatures

• User-generated crap

scribeSo there I was, reading the major local daily newspaper when I noticed a line under a particularly fluffy story and poor quality photo: “Story provided to the XXXXXXX.”

“Story provided” is, heaven help us, news-speak for a particularly insidious development in the shaky world of newspapering. That is, cutting staff to save money, then replacing the stories they used to write with self-promoting free material sent in by local organizations or individuals.

I remember when that idea was floated a decade ago when I still was a newspaper editor. Virtually everyone in the room except the business-side non-journalist who supported it held our noses and promised never to let such a thing happen. We wanted to stick to quality, professional journalism as a way of serving the community and maintaining a solid business model.

So much for that promise. Let’s be honest about it. The true definition of “user-generated” is “quality-deprived.”

By the way, if you want to catch up on the manic things that have been going on in the journalism world (unfortunately, they’re predominantly negative), you can visit a Topix.com section I edit on a regular basis. Just go here.

• It’s our National Anthem, you dirtbags

UPDATE NOTE: Since this commentary was posted, the video in question has been removed from YouTube.

It’s bad enough that unimaginative advertising agencies keep dredging up dead celebrities and old pop songs to help peddle their clients’ goods. But when “The Star-Spangled Banner” becomes the theme music to sell us an overhyped soft drink, that’s going too far. Really, it is.

If by some magic, or lack of paying your cable bill, you haven’t seen this abomination, here it is. (Note: I don’t have any trouble with the Jimi Hendrix version of the song; it’s the whole idea that appalls me.)