Rainy Monday

Somewhat behind on stuff – like YC, I’ve been on Facebook too much; but oh well! Scrabulous is fabulous, and Scramble drives me nuts, and I’m into Books’ iRead (at least to look at make lists of books).

Hey, FC – like your pictures of the Murakami exhibit! I must really get back to the Brooklyn Museum and actually check out the exhibit

Saturday: Asian Alumni of the undergrad alma mater – monthly dinner – this time at Utsav in midtown. Great Indian food!

Sunday: Melting Pot, for fondue in Hoboken.

I taped Jesse L. Martin’s last episode on “Law & Order” and watched most of it. Sniff, sniff. The reviews were pretty positive, too (see the TV Guide’s Matt Roush’s thoughts and the one in the Daily News by David Hinckley).

I’m just relieved that the L&O people gave Detective Green an end with dignity. (and, I was reminded of how handsome Jesse L. Martin is – nice camera angles!), not to mention a tip of the hat to the late Jerry Orbach’s Lenny.

I’m not yet sure of what to make of Anthony Anderson‘s new detective character. Personally, when I see him, I still remember his old 1990’s NBC role (the Saturday teen show, “Hang Time” – where he played a – what else? – teenager on the high school basketball team, on a comedy about a high school basketball team; a lesser “Saved by the Bell”). But, I hope L&O will be a consolation to Anderson for FOX’s cancelling his “K-Ville” (a cop show that I never got to watch, but had to applaud for trying to put a spotlight on New Orleans’ post-Katrina era).

This was an interesting read: in last week’s Week in Review, NY Times’ John M. Broder article, on a what-if (would a Pres. Al Gore and a VP Joe Lieberman have overcome their disagreement on how to handle the whole Mid-East issues?), and a look at what is (Gore and Lieberman in reality are very much not in agreement).

And, this week’s Week in Review in the NY Times:

An interesting analysis by Sam Tanenhaus regarding the generation to which McCain belongs – those that grew up between “The Greatest Generation” and the Baby Boomers. Tanenhaus writes:

[McCain] inhabits a more serious historic role, as the latest — and almost certainly the last — hope for Americans born in the 1930s to send one of their own to the White House. The 1900s, the 1910s, the 1920s and the 1940s have all been represented in the White House. But not the 1930s.

It is the missing decade. A demographic blip? Perhaps. But it might also be that Americans born in the 1930s lack the particular qualities we look for in our national leaders.

It is never wise to generalize too broadly about decades. They are, after all, arbitrary time divisions. And yet our national elections have often been generational tests. John F. Kennedy, the first president born in the 20th century, reminded the world in his Inaugural Address that “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans — born in this century.” As opposed, he plainly meant, to Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was born in 1890. [….]

Not that generational memories are always identical. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were born only six weeks apart (in 1946) and came of age in the late 1960s. The upheavals of those years affected them in dissimilar ways, but their passages through a polarized America helped form them as leaders.

Young people born in the 1930s experienced no such tumult. They typically came of age in the 1950s, when consensus reigned, and with it conformism. Young Americans were collectively disengaged from politics and distrustful of ideology. They were the “silent generation,” content to be guided by their elders: Eisenhower, the avuncular white-haired president who had been the hero of World War II, and the Wise Men who formulated the strategies of the cold war.

In this climate the young were more likely to serve than to lead. The Korean War, which raged from 1950 to 1953, claimed nearly as many American casualties as Vietnam, and yet, despite the universal draft, there was scarcely a protest from those waiting to be called.

At home, civil rights was emerging as a great cause, but it did not attract many young activists until the 1960s. Members of the 1950s generation were “other-directed,” in one sociological formulation of the day. Thus the image of the Organization Man outfitted in his “gray flannel suit.”

Caricatures? No doubt. But they were rooted in truth. Consider two politicians born in the 1930s who did mount presidential campaigns, Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Michael Dukakis. Each exhibited traits, or weaknesses, we associate with the 1950s. [….]

What, then, about Mr. McCain? Born in 1936, he seems on the surface a classic 1950s product who followed the course strictly laid down for him by his parents, attending an exclusive boarding school and then the Naval Academy.

And yet Mr. McCain defies the stereotype of the “silent generation,” with his outsize ego and hair-trigger temper, his Senate lone-wolfing, his taunting of influential conservatives, his testy relations with Mr. Bush — on display this week when he denounced the administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

Mr. McCain belongs instead to another 1950s type better known through popular culture than politics, in the personas of Elvis Presley, Marlon Brando and James Dean, more smoldering than silent, carrying on a private war with authority. [….]

The paradox of Mr. McCain is that while he is among the oldest presidential candidates in history he remains in some ways the youthful rebel of the 1950s. The question is whether he has at last found a cause.

Time’s tv critic James Poniewozik on the lack of diversity in America’s tv anchors, which I think is ironic because of the increasing diversity (maybe? anecdotally?) in the on-screen local tv news teams. It’s not for lack of talent that the networks can’t find future anchors! As Poniewozik notes:

P.C. alert! Am I calling on the networks to act in the name of mere cosmetic appearance? Yes! News anchors are–more than any profession outside of car-show modeling–about cosmetic appearance. Yes, they need news chops, but they are hired, foremost, literally to be the face of a news division. Diversity is no more superficial a goal than gravitas, which apparently derives from the Latin for “white dude.”

There are journalistic reasons to make this call too. Race and gender are real campaign issues–and white men have every right to cover them–but the networks have been practically handicapped by their makeup. If they were not largely fronted by white men, they would have been less vulnerable to the uncomfortable images of the media’s boys ganging up on Hillary in the earlier debates or of largely white TV personalities piling on Obama about Jeremiah Wright in the much trashed ABC debate and before. Finally, there are solid business reasons. If TV news has any hope of finding another generation of viewers, hiring staff who reflect younger viewers’ reality is relevant.

Politicians like to say that elections are about the past vs. the future. That’s what this one is looking like, with the white guys of TV sitting opposite a black man or a woman through November and maybe beyond–1960 interrogating 2060. Any chance they could at least meet in 2008?

Anyway, Poniewozik further elaborates on his Time.com blog. His article reminded me of this NY Times’ article by Felicia R. Lee, who wrote on the increasing diversity of the pundits. Lee observes:

Both MSNBC and CNN this election season have given new prominence to a handful of contributing commentators from varied backgrounds and perspectives: blacks, Hispanics and women. Whether such moves signal real progress in diversifying the punditocracy or merely reflect the needs of a particular news cycle is the question, some media experts say. The most prominent positions on television remain overwhelmingly with those who are white and male, and some critics note how striking that non-inclusion can seem during this election year.

“Whatever progress has been made with contributors and commentators as of late, the cable networks have a long way to go before they look like the American people,” said Karl Frisch, the spokesman for Media Matters for America, a liberal television watchdog group. He added that white men were the hosts of all the major Sunday morning talk shows, the major prime-time cable news programs and — except for Katie Couric, a relative newcomer — the network evening news broadcasts.

But incremental gains should not be dismissed even if more change is needed, said Pamela Newkirk, an associate professor of journalism at New York University and author of “Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media” (New York University Press, 2000).

Black commentators under 40 at CNN, like the journalist and radio host Roland S. Martin; Amy Holmes, a conservative strategist and a former senior speechwriter for Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, the former Senate majority leader; and Jamal Simmons, a Democratic strategist, Obama supporter and veteran press spokesman with international experience, have been “breakout stars” this election, Professor Newkirk said.

“They bring such a fresh perspective that we are unaccustomed to hearing in the mainstream media,” she said. “Hopefully, the value of having different perspectives will be appreciated beyond this historic campaign.” [….]

Barbara Ciara, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, said that all the election coverage on television left “a lot to be desired” when it comes to her members. The black pundits often disappear as quickly as they arrive, she said, and too often talk only about race.

A more saladlike pundit mix has been front and center in the last couple of weeks, she said, because of news developments: Mr. Obama’s speech on race, prompted by the controversy over the remarks of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.; and Geraldine Ferraro’s assertion that Mr. Obama’s race was a reason for his political success.

Diversity is not just good journalism but also good business, Ms. Ciara and others said.

“It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to understand that a large number of the audience is black, Hispanic and women,” said Al Primo, a television news executive who invented the “Eyewitness News” format decades ago and helped give many black and Hispanic journalists their first breaks. He added, “If you’re a Hispanic-American or an African-American, you don’t want to get a sense that they don’t understand your perspective.”

I’m just glad that the dialog is on-going; hope for real change – evolution? – springs eternal!


Catching up —

NY Times’ Bob Herbert on the depressing state of education in America. If the kids’ parents don’t take education seriously, I’m not sure how McCain/Obama/Hilary may inspire people to take it seriously.

Slate’s Troy Patterson on such a sad look at CBS News. For a news division that was once venerable, this degradation is just really sad. Can’t you age gracefully, like ABC or NBC?

Literary Brooklyn profiled in the New York Observer

New York Observer has an interview with Prof. Doug Muzzio, longtime NYC political scientist; Muzzio raises interesting questions for the Bloomberg administration – what is a legacy?

A.O. Scott reviews “Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay”; yeah, it’s still a stupid stoner movie, Scott concedes, but he still seems a little moved that there’s a pair of APA’s trying to do a slight shift of status quo, just by starring in a silly movie.

Slate’s Dana Stevens doesn’t seem to be leaning toward similar benefit of a doubt toward the Harold and Kumar sequel, stating:

This may be the worst sin of Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay: It betrays the spirit of the stoner comedy, which has traditionally been subversive—when it wasn’t detailing the love affair between two marginally functional young men and their stash of sweet, sweet herb. […] Toking up is all the better with that one friend who really gets you—and that friendship, in turn, is burnished by the weed-fueled adventures you share. Cho and Penn’s giggly chemistry in the first movie was a celebration of that sacred bond. But not only are Kumar and Harold hardly ever high this time around; they’re scarcely on speaking terms. [….]

Time’s Richard Corliss ties the Harold and Kumar sequel with a smaller film on the issue of Guantanamo, and he strikes a more serious note on the issue of Harold and Kumar’s movie theme… probably more than the stoner dudes probably deserve…

Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick watched and commented on the recent Boston Legal episode where Alan and Denny (Denny Crane!) argue the death penalty case before the US Supreme Court. I watched only the first two minutes, before I had to avert my eyes. Seeing Denny Crane (played by William Shatner) trying to flirt (with the look of his eyes) with Justice Ginsberg (or an actress playing her anyway) before he started to suffer from some flatulence… well, I was kind of sickened by the scene. The pseudo Chief Justice Roberts looked a little too like him. Hmm.

Speaking of Ch. J. Roberts: he was in town, presiding a moot court at Columbia Law. NY Times’ Adam Liptak describes the concept of moot court in entertaining layman’s terms and how this particular competition with Roberts’ involvement went:

[Ch. J. Roberts] talked a bit about the art of appellate argument, of which he is an acknowledged master, and he gave some hints about his judicial philosophy, which he presented as cautious and practical.

Moot court is a funny institution, part debate club and part “American Idol.” Students are assigned a case, often loosely based on a real one, and they pretend to be appellate lawyers, writing briefs and making arguments. The best advocate wins.

This weekend, Alma Mater is observing the 40th Anniversary of the 1968 takeover(s). Articles are all over the place about the past, and how it’s comparable to the present (Alma Mater then and now; 1968 society then, and 2008 society now…) Among other articles or posts, this post on NY Times’ City Room blog has a fascinating look at the 1968 takeover of CU, by a reporter who had been there. Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News had his recollection of his senior year of 1968, and how it’s comparable to Alma Mater’s – umm – current difficulties of expansion.

And, lately, I’ve been into the (Lil) Green Patch Application on Facebook – cute!

“How I Met Your Mother”

So, I’m just giddy – giddy! – from the latest “How I Met Your Mother” episode!

The return of FutureTed’s teenage kids sitting on the couch in the year 2030 and thinking their dad and his friends are lame.

Robin as her “Robin Sparkles” alter ego from her Canadian teenager pop star years (apparently, Canada in the 1990’s was America in the 1980’s… umm, only works on this show, really!).

James Van der Beek (the ex-Dawson of “Dawson’s Creek”) as Robin’s teenage crush from Canada.

Lily reverting to her teenage self when her high school friend Michelle shows up. Her friend Michelle, a psych behavioral (?) Phd. student at Columbia, explains the technical psychological explanation for this reversion (which she admits happens to her when she’s with Lily) (cool! A new friend!).

And, a Barney and Robin development. Ohmigod, they actually went there! Those writers!…

Please, Writers and CBS – please don’t mess this up! CBS – renew this show!

I’m off the soap box now.