popular thinking

hopelessly devoted to deconstructing popular culture and conventional wisdom, one blog at a time

Election prediction!

I just had to add my two cents to BuzzMachine, where Jeff Jarvis is soliciting predictions for Nov. 2.

This is what I wrote:

Post-NFL, pre-election prediction: Since the Washington Redskins lost to Green Bay following a late penalty flag, that would seem to point to a last-minute Kerry squeaker.
Popular vote: 50% Kerry, 48% Bush, 1% Nader, 1% Badnarik.
Electoral College: Kerry 298, Bush 240. If Colorado's Amendment 36 passes, make that Kerry 294, Bush 244.
Big turnout tips scales to Kerry. Kerry also gets help from Yucca Mountain angst in Nevada, Colorado's senate race and Ohio unions.
Bush wins Florida, thanks Jeb again.
Kerry has big early lead causing networks to call it before midnight, but overnight and days following make the outcome less certain in several states, with potential Bush lawsuits challenging Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ohio. Kerry may counter by challenging Florida.

Less realistic prediction? Colorado voters approve Amendment 36, and Nader gets 10% of that state's popular vote, earning him an Electoral College vote and possibly preventing either Kerry or Bush from outright victory.

I am rooting for an Amendment 36 win in Colorado, because that would force the nation to confront Electoral College reform -- something the Republicans and Democrats are unwilling to do because the system protects them against third parties and an actual variety of voices and choices.

Woe is CBS News, again

Let me get this straight. 60 Minutes was witness to Ashlee Simpson's lip-sync disaster on SNL, and CBS had nothing to say about it until a week later? Egads.

Publishing prez transcripts

That's a good idea. Dan Froomkin of washingtonpost.com wonders the same thing after reading USA Today's pithy interviews with Bush and Kerry mere days before the election.

As Froomkin writes: "Once and for all, people, can we all agree to Web-publish full transcripts of presidential (and presidential-candidate) interviews? Is there any good reason a news organization could possibly have to keep these transcripts secret?"

Read the touchy-feely chats: The Bush-USAT "interview" aboard Air Force One. And Kerry's USAT chat.

Fear factors into O'Reilly settlement

Bill O'Reilly of Fox News settled his sexual harassment lawsuit yesterday. Will he be forgiven by the public, like fellow conservative talker Rush Limbaugh was? Methinks probably.

Blame the media for missing weapons?

Wonder how the Bush White House feels about embeds now that the old TV news footage shows that U.S. soldiers found the Iraqi weapons before they lost them. Proof positive of one thing: Journalists win by paying attention to their own archives.

New England's front pages, the morning after

Check out the newspapers here.

Meet your World Series champs! Posted by Hello

Red Sox Nation in "Shock and Awe"

The man who coined the phrase -- "Curse of the Bambino" -- forced to write his own phrase's obituary.

The Globe's Bob Ryan.
The Globe's Jackie MacMullen.
"The possible dream."
Lowe's road to glory
Victory transforms a region's identity
For multitudes, years of torment end in bliss
For Epstein, actions speak just as loud as words

And from the Boston Herald...
Euphoria for Red Sox Nation!
Red Sox 86 the curse!
You better believe it
The Herald's Gerry Callahan.
The Herald's Howard Bryant.
The Herald's Michael Gee.
The Herald's Steve Buckley.

Peter Gammons of ESPN and formerly the Globe.
ESPN's Jayson Stark reflects on the postseason run for the ages.
ESPN.com's The Sports Guy before Game 4. And revisiting him after.

Sports Illustrated's online Game 4 analysis.

World Series Champion Boston Red Sox!

Hope, faith and love...all are rewarded!

Are the Red Sox for real?

Can this really be happening? Yes. But why, oh why, does everyone insist on saying that this may have been Pedro Martinez's last start for the team? That is the conventional wisdom. And yet, the conventional wisdom also said that the Red Sox could never win another World Series...so if they seal the deal and reverse the curse, all bets on breaking up the team are off. You'd have to believe that the team and its potential free agents would be more willing to negotiate in the wake of all that New England goodwill.

Of course, first the Red Sox need to seal the deal. Keep the faith.

Note this, though. Before Game 7 against the Yankees, the team watched the movie, Miracle, about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, which shocked the "Evil Empire" Soviets. That also was a semi-final. The gold-medal matchup against Finland lacked that drama, but everyone seemed to be OK with that.

Yes, she sang (for reals), but that doesn't excuse this outfit or this "dance" Posted by Hello

Live or lip-sync? Radio Music Awards

Methinks the Ashlee Simpson flub was actually a ratings stunt by NBC, as conspiracy theorists note that 1) no one previously planned to watch tonight's Radio Music Awards, 2) NBC kept promoting Ashlee's performance, and 3) NBC also promoted Ashlee's "tell-all" Tuesday on the Today show. Hmmmm...

The live or lip-sync report from the show:
Destiny's Child? Most likely lip-sync. (ironic lyric: "Make me lose my breath")
Train? Live
Chingy? Live
Gretchen Wilson with Big & Rich? Live
Ashlee Simpson? Live
Elton John? Live
Alanis Morissette? Live
Tim McGraw? Live

Other musings: Fun to hear my buddy SuperSnake as one of the DJs representing; not-so fun to hear him represent a station he voice tracks for in the Bay Area instead of his home station, KZZP-FM 104.7 Phoenix. Also an interesting PR move to have Paris Hilton hanging with her "n-word" friend, Chingy. What was with the squiggly lines dancing across the screen during presenter chats? And why did VH1's The Surreal Life cast get a majority of the audience reaction shots?

Ken Auletta on media woes

Interviewed in advance of his Oct. 26 speech to an international PR conference in NYC, he says:

"The problem in journalism is the barrel that holds the apples. That barrel contains incentives for people to do bad journalism. I don't mean cheating and lying. I mean shortcuts that take you away from the truth or from in-depth reporting. I'm not saying the barrel is rotten. I'm saying it's rotting. Business pressures journalism to get better ratings, better circulation. Those business pressures compel journalists to go for the sensational, the conflict stories, the kind of stories that might command readers' or viewers' or listeners' attention. These stories are the most exciting, not [necessarily] the most important, things that happened yesterday. You get wall-to-wall Michael Jackson or Scott Peterson coverage, or the latest murder sensation scandal stories."

Ashlee caught live, on tape

Watch the clip here.

Saturday Night Lip-Sync

Oh my! You already knew SNL was no longer funny, but tonight's show was so sad that it even made Ashlee Simpson look like Milli Vanilli. Where is MTV to save poor Ashlee? Her mic sounded funny during her first song, Pieces of Me, as if there were a backing track. We found out why during the second song, which was...Pieces of Me. The track began with vocals and music, although Ashlee wasn't singing. Pause. Track began again. Ashlee's lips still not moving. Ashlee bounded offstage, while the band strummed on. At show's end, Ashlee's excuse: "I'm so sorry. The band played the wrong song." Yes, that must've been it. The band thought a live national TV audience wanted an encore. Too funny. No wonder Britney retired.

Tribute counterpoint

While true creativity often goes unheralded or underappreciated (see Ray Charles), popular culture can go overboard the other way, too -- hype and hyperbole for those who do not deserve it or who have yet to earn it. For the prosecution: Britney Spears, who has written a letter to her fans to say another temporary goodbye. As Britney is an apparent Bush supporter, it's odd she didn't use the phrase "it's hard work" in describing her trials and tribulations as a child star.

Genius: A night for Ray Charles?

That Ray Charles fella sure was a great musician. But this TV special on CBS sure smells and sounds more like a night for Jamie Foxx and the producers of the biopic, Ray (sorry, but they don't deserve the links). It's hosted by Foxx, airs a week before the movie opens, features film clips of Foxx as Ray -- as opposed to, oh, clips of the real Ray Charles -- and has an appearance by the musician's "biggest" fan, Tom Cruise. No, wait. Cruise is there because he starred with Foxx in this summer's Collateral. Funny thing about tributes. They never seem to acknowledge creative artists properly while they're alive, then try to make up for it by making money off of their legacies.

Media turns on Jon Stewart

I've been away from blogging for a few days -- take one road trip, add interviews and save all remaining time to concentrate on watching my beloved Boston Red Sox -- but have noted with interest the media's take on Jon Stewart's "Crossfire" appearance last Friday. Initial stories played up the on-air "debate." Follow-ups from the TV critics played up either the blog commentaries or pointed out that Stewart might actually have a valid point. Funny, it took a fake news guy to tell the real news people about the failings of another supposedly real news program. For now, it has derailed the usual media cycle, which upon anointing Stewart as the IT guy, then goes about bringing him back down. As they did with Howard Dean, Paris Hilton and everyone else who captures the public's attention. Pump them up, then blow them up. That's the media way.

Watch the "Crossfire" footage here.

Are bloggers 21st century muckrackers?

What do you think about bloggers as new-wave investigative journalists, to be applauded by some and appalled by others? Discuss and holler back!

Not all Sinclairs are named Upton

As a McCarthy not related to the late Commie-fighting Joe, I understand that surnames often extend beyond relations and can be linked to non-relatives who nevertheless besmirch my family's name. I wish for the day when I never have to see another politician utter the word "McCarthyism" or see that ism trumpted in a headline ever again. What would Upton Sinclair make of the Sinclair Broadcast Group?

Sinclair Broadcast Group caused a stir these past two weeks by announcing it would force all 62 of its TV stations to air an anti-Kerry film in primetime, then firing its Washington bureau chief for daring to speak ill about the decision, and finally retreating to a "neutral" position by airing an hourlong special instead about that film and other election-related propaganda.

My beef with this all along has been Sinclair's decision to give away free airtime. If the boss wants his stations to air something, so be it. Then again, even that might go against the company's "ethics" policy, which talks about avoiding conflicts of interest. Oh well. Upton, I feel your pain.

1. They signed Curt Schilling! Posted by Hello

Seeing is believing! Posted by Hello

Red Sox Nation: Believe it!!

This. Is. The. Year. (Maybe)

This is the greatest sports comeback ever -- definitely!

Martha Stewart needs money?

Why would anyone send money to Martha Stewart in prison? Apparently, not the same people who wonder how the rich get richer. I can understand sending letters. But if you want to help inmates you don't already know who truly need the help, try a prisoner pen pal service. A few options: WriteAPrisoner.com, PrisonPenPals.com, or Inmate.com.

Team America: World Police! Posted by Hello

Mock the vote: Team America

Just a hunch here, but methinks Team America: World Police will reach more potential nonvoters and undecideds than either Fahrenheit 9/11 or Stolen Honor. The guys from South Park managed to make one funny marionette movie. In interviews promoting the movie, the guys have said that uninformed people shouldn't vote. But the movie's climactic speech/theory on life may make some viewers look at the election differently. Or perhaps they'll just look at marionettes differently. I'm still trying to figure out how the MPAA could have given the film a preliminary NC-17 rating if the male marionettes are not, shall we say, anatomically correct?

Bush reporters get F on Q & A

Using the revolutionary process known as cut-and-paste, I bring you this posting from Romenesko's letters forum...

From BOB LAURENCE, TV critic, San Diego Union-Tribune: Here's a revolutionary idea for investigating that thingamajig under Bush's jacket: just ask him! Did it occur to anybody on the campaign plane, when he went back to chat with the press, to just ask him about it? Did anybody ask him a substantive question of any kind in that little impromptu session? What are those people doing, anyway?

Job opening at Fox News

Nothing in this posting for a new associate producer about whether candidates must be willing to engage in phone sex or refrain from lawsuits.

Shock and awful

As if you couldn't have guessed, it turns out the same brainiacs at Military Intelligence responsible for abuse at Abu Ghraib's prison in Iraq also had shown the troops how to abuse prisoners in Afghanistan in 2002. Will this news break through all of the election hubbub?

Our nonalcoholic president

The local TV "newscasts" were in a tizzy earlier this week, not just for the presidential debate in Tempe, but also for any related gossip surrounding Bush and Kerry. They delighted Tuesday night in reporting live from Phoenix restaurant Dick's Hideaway, where the McCains took the Bushes for dinner. What did Bush eat? Enchiladas. What did he drink? Nonalcoholic beer. Same beverage the president ordered the last time he ate out in public in Phoenix. From my experience, the main demographic for "nonalcoholic" beer is alcoholics. What gives, Mr. President? Don't you like iced tea? Water? Soda pop? Bush made such a big deal about the fact that he gave up drinking alcohol, but clearly, he still wants to drink. I know that feeling all too well.

What happened to the "no spin zone," O'Reilly? Posted by Hello

I cannot even begin to explain this lawsuit and countersuit, so instead, just read the documents courtesy of The Smoking Gun.

Debates over, now what?

From many predictions, one. As stated previously here, it's all about the Electoral College and getting out the vote in enough states to win your candidate 270 votes in the EC. Looks as though Bush will try to get his majority by calling Kerry a liberal who "can run but cannot hide" (didn't he say that to Osama bin Laden?) while Kerry will try to earn his votes with the old Statue of Liberty Play: give him the poor, the women, the minorities and the huddled masses.

As for the final debate, it sounded to me like a replay of the second presidential debate, especially with Bush and Kerry echoing their pre-recorded messages from last week.

Full disclosure: With the debate happening in my neighborhood, I went down to ASU with a friend with the intention of watching from the Kerry camp (more for the Foo Fighters than for Kerry) but we were flummoxed by poor views and poorer organizational skills by whomever coordinated that viewing party. And, since we also wanted to watch the Red Sox-Yankees game, we tried to find a place on campus where we could watch both, while still getting some flavor from the live outdoor telecasts of MSNBC and CNN. Seemed to be easier for students to ask questions of Anderson Cooper than of Chris Matthews (who do we blame/credit for that?), but my friend was less interested in getting on the telly than was I, so alas, alack, you could only see us briefly in crowd shots. If you cared about that sort of thing. Always interesting to see what people will do (from silly signs to crazier costumes) to get the attention of the TV cameras, and how people will shout just about anything to get on camera.

For my part, my motto of the night managed to mesh Bush with Red Sox Nation (yes, strange bedfellows) following game two's loss (watched the game first, then the debate on replay). My motto, which almost made it on-air as part of my Red Sox Fans for Truth Campaign -- it's not a 527 but a 6-4-3 group -- is this: "Winning the war on the Evil Empire will not be easy. We need to be strong, we need to be resolute. It's hard work defeating the Yankees. But we cannot send mixed messages to our pitchers or our hitters. Did I mention we need to be strong and resolute. Stay the course, Red Sox Nation."

Why is Michael Jackson surprised by Eminem?

That might be your first thought upon hearing that Michael Jackson is mad at Eminem for making fun of him in the latest video by the artist formally known as Marshall Mathers. Out of all of the jokes over two decades, Jackson takes a stand now? Against Eminem? Upon further reflection, however, my curiosity is aimed at BET, not merely for banning the video, but more precisely for this statement by BET Chairman and Founder Bob Johnson: "BET pulled the video because we feel it is inappropriate to use our network to air a video disparaging Michael's character, or that of any other celebrity." (italics added for ironic effect, since, well, hasn't just about every previous Eminem video disparaged other celebrities?)

Stand-up comics face sour reality of NBC

The latest twist in the sordid saga surrounding Last Comic Standing 3 has NBC announcing the winner online, despite first canceling the season finale of the stand-up comedy contest and later deciding to tape a finale and relegate it to its contractually-obligated partner at Comedy Central for "rebroadcasting" purposes this coming weekend. Waiting for the punchline. Still waiting.

It's the Electoral College, stupid!

The media is focusing on a Colorado ballot initiative, and for good reason -- Amendment 36 would begin putting a stake in the heart of the antiquated Electoral College, which overturned the popular vote in 2000 and hampers every minor-party presidential campaign. This is about much more than whether it helps Bush or Kerry in Colorado. This is about allowing supporters of other candidates, from Ralph Nader and H. Ross Perot to anyone else, to have a say in the outcome without being told their votes are wasted. Nader might not have been able to earn any Electoral College votes in 2000, but his support would not have cost Gore the election. Yet Perot's 19 percent of the vote certainly would have cast doubt upon Clinton's victory in 1992. Certainly something worth pondering, although I haven't seen that pondered anywhere yet.

Related sites:
Text of Amendment 36
Center for Education in Law and Democracy
Denver Post, Sept. 26
Rocky Mountain News, Sept. 22

Mythbusting newspaper circulation

All is not well in newspaperland, and the bad news is not just being delivered by the Internet. The gummint, as they say back in Idaho, is launching one of them thar "fact-finding investigations" into how the big newspaper chains tally up their daily circulation figures. It's no secret that newspapers use all sorts of shady tactics to inflate their subscription rolls. A prime example: The "free" newspapers you find at your hotel door whether you want to read them or not. Yes, I'm talking about you, USA Today.

Married by America, indecent?

You don't say? While President Bush pre-emptively attacks evildoers, the FCC still needs about a year to figure out that FOX should be fined more than a million dollars for foisting Married By America on an unsuspecting public.

Campaigns "swing" for their "bases"

All of the TV pundits today were rallying behind the new groupthink: That President Bush is focused on "getting out his base" while Sen. Kerry is "reaching out to swing voters." Nice in theory. But like everything else about this campaign, the truth is slightly different. You don't need to be named Gallup to know that our nation is becoming almost as deeply divided as it was in 1860, although the battle lines are being drawn not geographically on slavery, but culturally and economically. I believe the great yet-to-be-heard majority is unhappy with the Bush administration but not yet sold on John Kerry. Just ask my grandmother. She is a retiree who has seen her southwest Pennsylvania town decline over the past 20 years, as jobs and money continue to flee for metaphorically greener pastures. She says she doesn't like where the country is headed, but she also doesn't like Kerry. So who will win her vote? Many of her neighbors in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia could be classified as blue-collar conservatives, people who used to be loyal Democrats but now are up for grabs. This is why Bush's new campaign tactic is to label Kerry as a liberal, while Kerry wants to avoid labeling. I grew up in a Connecticut suburb where it was perfectly fine to be known as a liberal Republican. Those days are disappearing.

Debate preview: Ban hypnotic-robotics

As the two major presidential contenders prepare for their final debate, not far from my neighborhood, my only hope is a simple one -- I want Bush and Kerry to show their human sides and toss that hypnotic robotic "stay on message" routine once and for all.

Media on the ball for a change

Good to see the biggest newspapers and TV networks have started to pay attention, giving coverage both to the mystery -- Is Bush Wired? -- and to the sham of Sinclair Broadcast Group's decision to air an anti-Kerry film under the guise of "news" on its 62 network affiliates. Now if the media could just pay attention to all of the other outrageous things happening during this campaign, perhaps we'd be better off.

You can call Michael Moore a self-indulgent blowhard or a liberal propaganda machine. Go on. Call him that. But to say, as ASU pollster Bruce Merrill did in Sunday's Arizona Republic, that Fahrenheit 9/11 wasn't popular or that it'll have little impact on the campaign -- well, that is absurd. His quote: "There are so few people that see it, and most of them that do are Democrats, that it couldn't possibly influence the outcome of the election." Needless to say, Merrill was not the ASU representative to win today's Nobel Prize for economics. That was Edward Prescott. Prescott could figure out that any movie that earns $119 million at the box office 1) has an impact on popular thinking (warning: self-promotion reference!) and 2) means more than a few people saw the film, which also has sold millions of DVD/VHS copies in its first week of release.

Martha Stewart reports to prison

Really? I hadn't heard anything about that. It'd sure be nice if all this media attention prompted someone, anyone, to take a serious look at our nation's prison system and/or sentencing laws. Oh well. Read and gag at Martha's open letter to her fans.

Every candidate counts

All the focus remains on Ralph Nader and whether he'll tip the election toward Bush. The New York Sun suggests Libertarian Michael Badnarik might "spoil" the election. You're looking the wrong way. Every additional candidate tips the scales away from all of the others.

Just look at Flordia, circa 2000. The official multi-counted vote totals from 2000 reveal this to be true.

Bush defeated Gore by 537 votes in Florida. Forget about Nader -- compare that to how many Floridians in 2000 voted for...

Pat Buchanan -- 17,484
Libertarian Harry Browne -- 16,415
Natural Law Party, John Hagelin -- 2,281
Workers World Party, Monica Moorehead -- 1,804
Howard Phillips of varied Constitutional-related parties -- 1,371
Socialist David McReynolds -- 622
Socialist Worker Campaign, James Harris -- 562

You can spin this at least two ways. You could argue that each candidate brings new voters to an election who otherwise would not have participated. Or, as the major parties will tell you, each new candidate "spoils" the election by "wasting" your vote. Tell them you have a right to vote for whomever you want to be president, even if I disagree with your selection. Just remember to vote. A protest vote is much more effective if you actually cast it rather than sitting out Election Day.

When producers aren't producing

If you watch the opening credits to many movies and TV shows, you may have noticed that the number of producer/executive producer/co-executive producer credits have been steadily climbing. I began to wonder what it takes to get your name on the program. Thankfully, the Producers Guild of America decided Wednesday to crack down on this producer-creep.

Online Journalism Award noms

The nominations for the 2004 Online Journalism Awards are in, and Popular Thinking is too late for this party. Wait 'til next year! But it did lead me to some new sites worth linking, including this extensive blog by Jay Rosen, PressThink. Check it out if you're serious about the future of blogging and its relationship to the mainstream media.

Sirius vs. XM: Next gen's VHS vs. Beta?

Upon initial reflection, the real debate is not whether people will decide to stick with commercial radio or switch to satellite radio, but to which satellite radio service listeners might switch? After all, you don't suppose many people will buy both Sirius and XM, do you? Is there room for both to survive the radio (r)evolution? Let me know what you think.

What will morning radio sound like in 2006?

Forget about late-night TV in 2009 for a few years. Howard Stern, whose syndicated morning radio show ranks tops in most of its markets nationwide, will leave commercial radio for the FCC-free world of Sirius satellite radio. He made the announcement on-air Wednesday. The New York Times deconstructs the decision today, focusing more on how Stern might transform satellite radio and its sales and less on how Stern's departure might transform commercial morning radio come 2006. It's certainly a more lively topic for debate at the watercooler, lunch table and barstools than who might replace Conan in 2009. Just saying.

Bold election prediction

An absurd presidential campaign deserves an even more absurd ending, don't you think? Consider this scenario: Kerry defeats Bush handily in the popular vote -- victory margin in the millions (plural) -- but Bush finds a way to squirrel away another electoral vote victory. Keep an eye on my blog's new graphic link to electoral-vote.com if you think it's a crazy prediction. Or consider it another, more rational way...by taking a page from 2000. If all of Nader's 2000 voters switched to Gore, except for oh, 537 or so Floridians, Bush still would have won despite an even bigger loss in the popular vote. So it is possible to have Kerry win 51% vs. Bush's 48% of the popular vote (figure Nader at 1%) and still lose the Electoral College to Bush. Just throwing it out there so you're not completely shocked next month.

Is Bush wired?

Interesting new blog, Is Bush Wired?, explores whether the president uses an IFB earpiece -- much like all TV anchors and reporters -- to receive speaking instructions. I find it interesting not only for its implications on what the president says when he says "I mean what I say" but also for its implications on the media and whether they're comfortable becoming the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.

The media: lazy, biased, or both?

The answer, of course, is both. Let's review some recent examples wherein...

-- FOX News posted an online column that used fake quotes by John Kerry proclaiming himself a victorious "metrosexual" who gives great manicures following his first debate with the president.

-- FOX News also posted a story about a fake group, Communists For Kerry.

-- CBS News broadcast a story using fake documents about the president's service, or lack thereof, in the Alabama National Guard during Vietnam.

What do these stories all have in common? Reporters wanted these stories to be true (bias) and didn't investigate the facts (lazy) before putting these stories out into the mix for all to see and share. It's not so much about liberal vs. conservative bias as much as it is about getting the story right vs. getting the story first. My first city editor used to say, thankfully with tongue in cheek, "Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story!" His joke hit home because it pointed out, even then, that the media usually misplaces its priorities. I've seen even less trivial examples in which local newspapers and TV outlets allow themselves to be duped because they were unwilling to investigate the basic facts, allowing the scammer to pass his/her story off as true without questioning it. Sometimes another factor comes into play here: Reporters push stories forward due to time restraints when their editors vouch for them in the morning/afternoon story meetings, especially when the reporters have no substitute story to fill the newshole. They feel like they have to produce, so they take shortcuts. Tis sad but true, not just in media circles but also in other career fields, too.

Newspapers failing the arts and culture worlds

Tell me something I didn't already know. Still, the report released over the weekend by Columbia University gets to the heart of a great dilemma. Readers love arts and entertainment coverage. But newspapers aren't providing the resources or newshole for true A&E coverage, filling the space with gossip, wire stories and fluffy fluff fluff.

Fake news making news

Mockery makers are starting to get a little too much face time in the mainstream TV and print media. The New York Times devoted much ink to the fake-news racket in its Sunday Style section. Not that I'm complaining, even though I am complaining: You do your job (or not); let us do ours (and mock your mediocrity).

Supreme Court: Back to School, Seniors!

The U.S. Supreme Court is back in session today for the 2004-2005 regular season. Here is the schedule. All home games. One home page.

A lot can happen in five years

Since show biz is dog-eat-dog, as it were, five years = 35 show biz years. So everyone is jumping the gun looking ahead to 2009, including NBC. My former colleague Bill Keveney throws some analysis on the late-night TV landscape in USA Today today. But think about this...five years ago, Jimmy Kimmel was merely a wisecracking sidekick on Ben Stein's game show who was trying to launch The Man Show...Jon Stewart debuted as new host of The Daily Show, hoping to last as long as Craig Kilborn in that role...no one knew Colin Farrell...and Charlie Kaufman was anxiously awaiting public reaction to his first screenplay, Being John Malkovich. Like I said, a lot can happen in five years of show biz. So if you're wondering who should get Conan's time slot in 2009, or who Conan will be competing with then, keep on wondering.

A steroid-free record? Hooray for Ichiro!

So Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners finished the regular season with 262 hits, breaking the 84-year-old record held by George Sisler. And so far, no allegations of steroids. Hmmmm... You'd think that would make this even bigger news, since every other major sports story of the past year or two seemingly has included rumors and allegations of cheating. Let's hope Ichiro doesn't get lost in that moronic morass.

Marketing movie magic: Open Wide!

If you weren't living in a mediaproof cave this past week, you knew to expect that the critically-panned animated film, Shark Tale, (so not worth a link) would still reel in blockbuster box office -- an estimated $49.1 million in revenues this weekend -- illustrating, yet again, the power of marketing. For a closer look at the craziness of contemporary cinema, read Janet Maslin's take on a new book, Open Wide. Or better yet, read the book itself.

Saturday Night Live: 29 going on what?

As NBC's late-night wonder blundered into its 30th season, Saturday Night Live's season premiere tonight reminded me of my life as a 29-year-old: desperately lacking starpower, celebrity cameos by James Gandolfini and Alec Baldwin, outdated premises, skits without punchlines, and a "newscast" that makes you realize why the Daily Show has won two straight Emmys, and complete adoration of Maya Rudolph. Just kidding. My year wasn't quite that bad. But SNL's year is shaping up to be a woozy doozy. Yikes!

C'mon and hug an orgy-loving justice! Just for the sake of argument, of course. Posted by Hello

Scalia on sex

Isn't it always the publicly ultraconservative people who turn out to privately be the most sexually liberal partners? That does seem to be the rule. Does it apply to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia? That is the question to ponder this weekend after Scalia's speech earlier in the week to Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Harvard's official news organ (ahem) and the Boston Globe didn't mention anything sexual about Scalia's remarks.

But the Harvard Crimson reported the soon to be infamous remark in its Wednesday edition, which soon made the rounds via the Associated Press and Internet. What Scalia said, according to Wednesday's paper: "I even take the position that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged. But it is blindingly clear that judges have no greater capacity than the rest of us to decide what is moral."

Curiously, and most likely because the initial quote was sweeping the nation, the Crimson corrected itself in today's paper thusly:
The Sept. 29 news story "Scalia Describes 'Dangerous' Trend" misquoted Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as saying that "I even take the position that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged." In fact, Scalia said, "I even accept for the sake of argument that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged."

I didn't know we were arguing about it. What you do in your bedroom is your own business, Justice Scalia.

Wonder what the Globe editors had to say about missing that quote...

Debate one recap: Down with spin

As the late Ronald Reagan said famously, "There you go again." Only the "you" in this case is the second-person plural of the TV media. In the wake of the first face-off between Bush and Kerry, the networks let the spinners spin. Why? What's the point? What do we learn from them? Absolutely nothing. These people are paid political operatives and campaign staffers. What are they going to say? My guy lost! My guy was off his A game! That's not what they're paid to do. So instead, we just hear the spinners say exactly what their bosses said, or exactly what their bosses should have said. As for having media pundits weigh in, that's almost as bad, but it feeds the media's desire to have someone "win" a debate or assess whether expectations were met or exceeded. And that is odd, considering it is the media that creates those expectations. Especially when before the debate, pundits say Kerry is a master debater, then afterward express surprise at how well Kerry debated. Ay, carumba!

At least one person on MSNBC (my top preference for campaign watching) acknowledged that print media have to rely on style over substance for tonight's analysis because of deadlines. And since Kerry clearly won on style points (kudos to his makeup person for eliminating his bizzarely bronze George Hamilton look from yesterday) over the slouchy, stumbling Bush -- substance points will be handed out later, people -- the pundits on FOX News were forced to concede a bit, although it was curious to hear them cover for the president by saying all of the things they wished Bush would have said.

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