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Archive for September, 2010

Today Show

I have been watching the “Today” show for a good thirty years.  I’ve been through dozens of co-hosts and countless funky weathermen.  Unfortunately, in the last few years I’ve watched “Today” morph from a true news show to a morning version of “Entertainment Tonight.”  And I’m tired of it.  So, Matt and Meredith and Al, if you are listening, I need to tell you that I’m gone.

The tipping point came yesterday morning.  Waiting for my coffee to brew, buttering my toast, I switched on the TV to Channel Four and heard that familiar opening theme.  You know the one I’m talking about, the one that starts with the three heavy notes.  I can’t convey that sound in writing, but if you take a second you’ll hear it.  Then, after this dramatic intro, you hear the somber voice of Matt Lauer.

“Soaker,” he announces.

Huh?   Did he say “soaker?”    What the frig does “soaker”  mean?

I glance at the television and see a quick shot of a street and it looks like it is raining.  I am puzzled.

He then gives us the next one word verbal “headline,” which I will get to in a minute.

After this titillating intro, Matt proceeds to give us a little more information on that FIRST story on this NATIONAL television broadcast that is being watched my MILLIONS of Americans.  I have to assume it’s something significant.  I am on the edge of my seat.

He proceeds to tell us that it is raining pretty hard in Florida.  Yep, that’s it.  The first story of the day is that it is raining heavily somewhere in the state of Florida.  People are getting – you guessed it – soaked.  What the heck?  Is that it?  Are you kidding me?

Matt and Meredith

Then, for a live, action-filled report on this breaking story, the camera cuts to some dweeb who is standing in the middle of this “soaker” wearing the obligatory heavy rain gear.  His hood is over his head but, honestly, I don’t see any rain falling on him.   Now, mind you, he is not talking about a hurricane.  No one has mentioned the word “tropical storm.”   Heck, he hasn’t even used the word “tropical depression.”   No, it was just a lot of rain.  It was a “soaker.”

They cut to a street where you can see some water backing up.  I also see cars flying back and forth, zipping right through the puddles.   Meanwhile, this brave reporter, who wants us to think he is risking his life for us, is using the obligatory buzzwords to keep our attention.  “I will add, Matt, that there have been no DEATHS or no SERIOUS INJURIES due to this STORM. “

This was the first story of the day.  This was the hard news that the producers of “Today” thought I just had to know.   Then there was the second most important story of the day.

It seems that there was some beauty contest in Australia or New Zealand or one of those semi-English speaking countries.  After hours of inane interviews and silly talent displays, the field was pared down to two young girls.  The emcee, a woman, took out the card with the winner’s name on it and, in true Ryan Seacrest form, milked the announcement for several minutes.  The tension was palpable.  Finally, she declares the winner and the place goes nuts.  The new Miss Marsupial is screaming her lungs out, jumping all over the place.  The runner-up gives her the obligatory hug while no doubt cursing her under her breath.

But, wait a minute!   The emcee is yelling something over the din.  She is screaming “I made a mistake, I made a mistake!”   Well, it seems that she screwed it up and named the wrong person.  So, she had to suck it up, stop the premature celebration and announce, practically in tears, that the original winner was really the runner up.

A funny story, if you ask me.  Maybe a little sad as well.

But my point is was this really the SECOND MOST IMPORTANT

Anne and Al

NATIONAL story of the day?  I mean, c’mon folks, do I really need to know about this screw up?  Didn’t anything happen somewhere in the rest of the entire world that qualified as real news?   We’re in a war for God’s sakes, didn’t we win some skirmish somewhere or capture some terrorist?   Didn’t some city or state pass some controversial new law?   Believe me, Matt, I can take the hard news if you got it.

But the more I think about it, maybe the “Today” show and other “news” shows are just giving the public want they want.  Maybe most folks don’t want to hear about some boring debate in the U.S. Congress, even if it is about a bill that would reduce carbon emissions and possibly stave off the DESTRUCTION OF OUR PLANET.  Maybe people just don’t want to be too serious and they’re just looking for fluff.  In some ways I guess can’t blame them.  But, for me, I must say adios Matt.

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World Contraception Day

World Contraception Day

Did you know that today has been declared “World Contraception Day?”

I frankly do not know who declared it as such but I don’t care.  It’s a great opportunity to think and opine a little about the important of contraception and how it affects the basic human rights of women all over the world.

It is no secret that contraception is an important tool in helping women make one of the most important decisions of her life – whether or not to bear children.  Now I know there are a bunch of men out there who think bearing a child is no big deal, that it is just a “natural” thing for a woman to want to do.  Well, guys, it really is not that simple.

The fact is that almost 215 million women in this world do not have access to modern birth control.  Obviously, most of them are in the underdeveloped nations of the world.  So, in these often male-dominated societies, where having more children is a sign of the man’s “masculinity”, women are practically being forced to bear more children.  That, of course, then perpetuates the cycle of poverty that has been going on for generations. And it’s not just individual males who are perpetuating this situation.  For example, courts in Chile, Ecuador, and Peru have all recently restricted or banned emergency contraception based on the ridiculous claim that it is the same as performing an abortion.  In places like the Philippines, public clinics and hospitals have been prohibited for years from distributing any kind of contraception.

Emergency Conraception

Emergency Conraception

Here in the United States, while contraception is more readily available than in underdeveloped countries, there are still battles that are being fought on a daily basis.  One of the more aggressive groups trying to make access to contraception easier is the Center for Reproductive Rights.  For example, just last year they won a ruling in federal court which compelled the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to revisit the restrictions it put on the availability of emergency contraception, otherwise known as the morning after pill.  Unfortunately, despite the presence of a pro-choice administration, they still have to press the FDA to comply with the judge’s order.  In addition, the Center is working on the world wide problem.  For example, they recently asked the Human Rights Council on Human Rights to focus on the high rates of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections among low-income women.  They are also working with their local partners in Slovakia to examine how government subsidies can expand access to contraception to low-income Slovak women.

Center for Reproductive Rights and Abortion

Center for Reproductive Rights and Abortion

Kudos to the Center for Reproductive Rights!

Then, of course, in this country there are the persistent legislative efforts to allow healthcare professionals to refuse to provide emergency contraception to women if they personally object to the product.   Don’t even get me started on that one…

And while all this is going on, the anti-abortion movement sits back and refusesd to support providing better access to birth control.  To me, this is the height of hypocrisy.  Here they have the chance to prevent millions of abortions which I thought was their goal.  But, no, they’ve got their head in the sand and refuse to support the only real proven way to prevent abortions.  Indeed, I really believe that they would just rather stand outside of the clinics and scream at women as they enter abortion clinics.  The irony is that they may be yelling at a woman who is going in to get Norplant inserted or to start a new regimen of birth control pills….

And while I’m at it – where the heck is that male birth control pill?

Abortion

Abortion

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For the last few days, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do, if anything, about the responses to my last blog.  I’ve been accused of being a snob, a twit, a spoiled brat and, worst of all, a racist.  My stomach started churning the moment the comments started flying in.

My first thought was to ignore all of it, to just let things go.  That would be easy.  After all, none of you really know me, you don’t’ know where I live, there’s no way you can really “hurt” me except with your words.  But that’s not me.  Indeed, if you take a moment to read all of my other posts you’ll get a better sense of who I am.  You’ll also get a sense that I’m new to this and that I recently started dabbling in Dave Barry-like satire.

As you know, when you try to be funny you can come perilously close to being insulting.  It’s a delicate balancing act.  Of course, Don Rickles made a living out of insulting people to their face.  Others who think they are being funny have not been as successful.

The first thing I want to say is that this incident never happened.  When I started writing this piece I was trying to make a point about an incident from my past.  It was two years ago when I was standing outside a Toys R Us just before Christmas, waiting with hundreds of others for the doors to open so we could all dash down the same aisle to grab that new, you-just-have-to-buy-this-for-your-kid, action figure.  It was pouring rain, freezing rain at that.  We were getting absolutely drenched, including a whole bunch of infants.  I looked at my watch and it was 8:55.  When I looked on the other side of the locked doors, I saw three Toys R Us employees sitting in chairs, yucking it up, sipping their lattes.

I was by myself, so I didn’t give a crap about waiting another 5 minutes.  But I kept listening to these poor kids who were getting totally soaked and I wanted to burst.  No, I wanted to take out a brick and throw it through the glass doors to give the crowd refuge.  Anyway, the point I was trying to make was that, in a situation like that, what is the harm in letting the folks in just a few minutes earlier?  I just wonder if we are losing our humanity at times.

Come to think of it now, I don’t’ know why I just didn’t write about the actual incident.

As for my “racist” remarks, this will probably not assuage you but I was thinking about an episode of “The Simpsons.”  As you know, that show is replete with jokes about all cultural stereotypes and one of the main characters is a man from India who runs the local mini-mart.  In true “Simpsons” style, the jokes are always flying, as they are for the Ted Kennedy-Irish-type Mayor.

Anyway, apologies if it came out the wrong way.  I’m not a racist.  Indeed, I am the only white person who is a member of our local school’s Black Student Achievement Council.   And I never really said those words to any real person.  It was an attempt at satire that obviously touched a nerve.

Hope we can move on from here!

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