MEGYN KELLY SHOW

Brenda Starr has returned. She’s covering the big issues of the day.

One issue is demystifying self-proclaimed truths repeated by people who are mentally ill. In Megyn’s recent interview of Alex Jones, he claimed that the Sandy Hook shooting was perpetrated in conspiratorial fashion in part, by the parents of the victims.

A program with such headlines and ramifications would be definitive, if the sources were identified and verified, like once-upon-a-time happened in the newspaper world. It was Ronald Reagan who advanced the standard: Verify and trust. Americans have to learn whether Brenda Starr ignores all that and goes for the exclusive.

For himself, Alex Jones said he “looked at all the angles of Newtown.” What was the view from one hundred eighty-three degrees? Jones also asserts, “Thirty years ago they began creating animal-human hybrids.” Do you think it’s true? I’ve heard countless women describe Don Trump as a Neanderthal.

Perhaps Alex Jones cannot help himself. He is photographed wearing a tin-foil hat. He looks sad, a pouty face like a kid at a birthday party who didn’t get a piece of the cake. I notice, though, in another photograph while he’s talking, he looks like he has eaten the whole damn cake.

Reactions of the Sandy Hook parents are predictable and justified. If Jones gets to spit out his conspiracy theories and Brenda Starr only argues with him, the parents have a mighty point. If Jones is one of 300 such people spewing these theories, is Jones the most representative spokesman? Why? Ask him to distinguish facts which make his presentation better. Ask about his experience and depth of knowledge. Ask, ask, ask. Most of those people do not have the background to answer. What they know are the cliches and catch phrases known by their audience and followers.

Brenda Starr is correct about one thing: The more that is known about these people – how they collect their facts, conceive their opinions, rely on biases and prejudices, believe intuitions, chose the correct or inflammatory word, and depend upon instinct – the better for the American people. The American people should judge the TV program based upon reason, logic and common sense, as well as common decency.

And Brenda Starr, herself, should strive for a newsworthy program, not one that is entertaining: A “riveting exchange,” she is quoted.

KNOCK DOWN DRAG OUT

Tonight, the TV show The Good Fight airs. The description of tonight’s program reads, Lawyers Maia Ricdell and Diane Lockhart join one of Chicago’s preeminent law firms after a financial scam destroys Maia’s reputation.

Only on Wall Street, in California, in Hollywood and on TV can anyone be promoted after the reputation is blown to smithereens. If an attorney’s reputation is destroyed by fraud or scandalous acts, they become private investigators or security people, unless they’re hired by Don Trump.

As the program airs look for gut-wrenching moments when the producers try to concoct Catch Me If You Can moments, plus Maia attempts to regain reputation by giving lollipops to babies or by helping previously scammed old ladies, cross the street.

DOWNTON FORELORN

For three seasons I’ve enjoyed Downton Abbey. Characters have ebbed and flowed, matured and changed. Characters had resilience. But I didn’t watch the series when it was broadcast last winter. I DVRed it to watch it all at once. I began peeking earlier this month. It was disappointing, and it was difficult to watch (3 1/2 programs).

The immediate problem were character, development during and after an incident and consistency with that prior character. I’ve watched these persons for three seasons, and bought those DVD discs. In the development of any character are experiences which guide (control) and influence future actions. That can be anticipated, unless actions are out of character. Now those characters are using training wheels.

The audience never saw the after-marriage story of Lady Mary and Matthew, complete devotion and final love. They saw mostly, the social and business transactions surrounding that marriage. Mary had told Matthew she is neither powder-puff nor pure, unlike his previous flu-ridden finance. The audience should expect experiences in Seasons 1-3 to make Mary tougher and mature.

But Lady Mary mourning for six months, reclusive and shunning people. Lady Mary loved Matthew, but she has suffered loss before: The cousin on the Titanic, the Turkish gentleman, and the newspaper publisher. Remember also, Matthew was almost lost in the war, to wounds and to another woman.  Loss or near loss are not new to Mary.

Rape of Anna: That is an attack on the institution of Downton Abbey. No other person better than Anna should appreciate that. The Bates experience with its connivings and near execution of Bates has taught her the power and influence of that institution. Mrs. Hughes as head housekeeper should know that, and not follow the spontaneous reaction of a woman so traumatized. This was a very poor story point to raise this issue.

Tom and and Lady Grantham’s maid. We have learned that Tom has a good, progressive business mind. He can change things in this area of England. In Season Three he purports to love his daughter, but in Season Four? He seems to toss it away for quick convenience, sullying his own name and marring the memory of his wife. It is hard to believe.

Lady Edith: She has had no character development. She is the same pathetic Edith. Hanging out with the card-shark newspaper man who will become a German citizen so he can divorce and marry Edith, she is the most consistent character in the series, but she is not worth watching.

So Downton Abbey,  I can no longer watch further episodes. I’ll let the people drift inexpertly toward another war with Germany without me.

TELEVISION

I watch it, but the commercials are stupid, lame, offensive or not applicable – thus irrelevant, boring and odd. Imagine the condition of bad bowels made into a viewable commercial. Buy this product for the remainder of your life (it never cures), or until your body tires of it, or a side effect kicks in – toes fall off. Think about bowel ads with Warren Buffett’s Gecko commercials. An alimentary canal seems the perfect place for a Gecko.

Watching sporting events is now driven by commercials. Don’t play any game too fast because too much commercial time is wasted. Fit in that 15 second spot for a car part while the team lines up and signals are called. A flash trademark covers the screen and fades just as the ball is snapped. Viewers get the play, penalty but never the replay. The broadcasters flounder, flubbing names and plays, losing the ball and wondering about the next ad – beer, insurance or tires while also wondering which sideline-babe-announcer should get equal air time. I rarely watch and never a full game because commercials interrupt the game and the pace of play. It is no longer football, basketball or base ball. Waits for commercials must be very frustrating for the paid audience, persons in attendance at the event. 

More ridiculous are American viewers who pay to get sports packages on cable. Getting that service does not let anyone avoid watching every commercial from here to eternity. So rooted are commercials in the American mind, that the following anecdote is instructive: In the late Sixties a wife soon to become a widow was at her husband’s death bed. She also learned why the romance was gone from the marriage. She leaned in, touched his cheek, pressed his hand and kissed him saying, “I love you.” His response: “You have bad breath.” Now you know why hippies hit that decade. Ronald Reagan described hippies best: “Dress like Tarzan, have long hair like Jane and smell like Cheetah.”

Americans are stuck with commercials dictating program-TV. It was once that commercial time was limited, I believe six minutes per hour. But today commercial breaks last three or four minutes. I know this because I DRV all commercial TV shows to watch without commercials. There’s three minutes at the end; there’s possibly four minutes at minute 44 of each hour, to gear up for the big finale. The commercial break at the beginning of the show can be 2 minutes, but the next near minute 18 is 3 minutes.

I suppose commercials have some instructional value. Somebody else living here decided time to buy salted sunflower seeds. There are no commercials showing how to consume and enjoy sunflower seeds – it’s better just to put a little salt on the tongue. Sunflower seeds are still the pain in the neck they always were, spitting out husks and seeds and getting debris between my teeth. 

So I don’t watch TV shows when broadcast. Too many commercials advertising sleeping potions and pills: Get hooked on our drugs and pay a fortune. It’s American life – the American way.

BAD TV: Lord of the Flies

I got to the end of Lord of the Flies by William Golding and found the whole problem with the book in a few lines:

“We saw your smoke. And you don’t know how many of you there are?”

“No sir.”

“‘I should have thought,’” said the officer as he visualized the search before him, “I should have thought that a pack of British boys – you’re all British, aren’t you – would have been able to put up a better show than that…”

In the last analysis it is not the fault of Britain or the British boys on the island. It is the fault of William Golding who did not write a novel, but structured this book to support this phony conclusion, a condemnation of Britain or of something equally nonsensical.

Lord of the Flies is not a novel. It is a fable advanced as reflecting reality which is only possible on paper. How does a novel differ? There is setting, characters and what happens (story). There is an element of time – something happens before something else, and the reader understands that or the reader appreciates some order of events.

Lord of the Flies differs. The setting is a tropical island, I assume in the Pacific. The identified characters are primarily older boys, biguns Golding calls them. What happens on the island without adult input or supervision is questionable, inconsistent and in the end unreal. Time, the relations of events to one another, is scattered to the winds – the only means the reader can tell that something happens later than an earlier event is become it comes later in the text. It should be noted some events can be read before others, and it makes no difference to the reader’s comprehension or understanding.

The book begins with Ralph and Piggy, pampered fat boy with asthma, arriving on the island. They wonder how many boys survived the plane crash into the sea. As the reader learns at the end, no boy on the island has ever counted. Thinking back to my childhood, counting would be the first thing boys would do to know whether everyone survived each day. But Golding neglects this boyish whim; he wants no count. Indeed, he calls the young boys, littlums, and bigger boys, biguns. As events happen littlums and biguns are here and there when Golding needs them in increasing or decreasing numbers.

The island is explored, and the kids seem to know where they are going when they walk around, but no one knows how large the island is: Two miles, four miles, six miles long. The island is large enough to have remote areas and to support feral pigs which have not devastated all the plants. But it can only be inferred that it is small – there is one pit with a fire to cook hunted pigs [dead pigs are difficult for boys to move a great distance], and a signal fire. When Ralph is running for his life at the end, he thinks and acts like there is no place to hide (although the pigs hide pretty well) so the island is small. However, another boy Jack, breaks away from Ralph and Piggy and takes his “tribe” to another settlement on the island, so the island is larger. At best there are mixed signals about the size of the island.

Fat boy, Piggy, is on many pages but remains a mystery. Golding reports he has “brains,” but there’s little indication of them. It is suggested he is a bigun who likes to hang around with the littums, but I’m not sure how long that lasted. Piggy is fat because he is an orphan raised by Auntie who allows him to eat “sweets” and bon-bons all day from her candy shop. He also has asthma which limits his activities. Piggy remains fat throughout the pages, I suppose. His behavior doesn’t change. He is obstinate and obnoxious especially when his glasses are used to start fires [magnifying sun to get leaves and wood to burn].

It remains a question, how long are the kids on the island. Long enough to know hunting pig is real work; building huts is real work; maintaining a signal fire which always peters out [and Piggy’s glasses must be used again] is real work. Hair grows long; clothes are ripped, frayed and disintegrate. Golding doesn’t tell the reader how long, but it seems four months, perhaps six. Why is this important? Piggy. I was a fat kid once, and despite eating everything in sight at a one-week summer camp, I lost five pounds. Piggy is away from the candy shop for a time, and he’s eating fruit and occasionally pig but nothing else. [British kids are on an island and no one thinks to drop a line into the water to catch fish.] I figure after four months Piggy would lose 40 pounds, if he needed to lose that many. For a kid – lose weight, become more active, have more energy, perhaps the asthma symptoms are alleviated or eliminated – there is character development: “No one will call me Piggy, any more!” HOWEVER, William Golding has no sense of time or setting. Piggy is a person who is static, worthless, nonsensical and someone to kill, which Golding does.

Who is important in the book and disposed? Jack, the hunter, who invents the competing “tribe,” and who raises fears about the island “beast.” Somehow, Jack got most of the biguns and littums, how many no one knows (10, 12, 50) to join him. Activities Jack organizes include putting on paint (symbolizing primitive man) and dancing around a fire (when available), a primitive man activity. But how did Jack get the others to join him? Still no one knows; there is no reasonable or plausible explanation. What we know is the littums were worthless when work was necessary; they want to play, interacting with one another in that arena of a fantasy/reality world. Will they put on face paint and dance if there’s no Halloween candy? Will they abandon huts built in one place to go to another? None of this reality is spelled out in an organized, regular and straightforward manner. It seems Jack’s activities are planned but involve work, not play. A reader can infer elements of fear and terror are part of Jack’s tribe: Simon, Jack’s fellow hunter is killed, Jack raids Ralph and Piggy’s encampment, Jack organizes his encampment so it is defensible and Piggy is killed. There is no reason to stay with Jack’s tribe.

There is no part of Lord of the Flies which represents reality. There are holes, lacunae; there is no character development; after Jack breaks away and lives in his own camp newly invented biguns (Roger, Robert and Maurice) show up. The tale is myth and fantasy. What does it have to tell us about human beings? There are better novels, studies and histories to read to learn about the stuff which William Golding conjectures.

There is a curious feature about the book. The characters are set and remain the same throughout; the setting is the same although undefined; the activities don’t differ greatly from one another; one activity does not progress easily from one chapter to the next. The dialogue is very mediocre and somewhat repetitive. Early in the book I had the sensation that each chapter was a episode of a TV show: Arrival on the island. Getting organized. Signal fire. Hunting – hut building. Looking for the beast. Successful pig kill. Painting bodies, dancing, tribalism. So episodic are the chapters that they suggest the reality TV shows today, whether set on a tropical island or in a house. What William Golding has written is a TV show for a season.

There are novels which are episodic and can be told in a series of episodes. Lord of the Flies is not one of them. In those books an episode is presented, and a second episode set out, adding to, developing and telling of the characters, although the time and the setting may be static. When I read that the biguns were searching for the beast, I thought, they have no memory, no experience and no knowledge of where they came from[British society] and what they learned there. They and the story are contrived. None of those kids has ever heard of a snipe hunt. Lord, this is a bad TV show.

Another static fixation at the beginning is the conch. Piggy and Ralph find a conch shell which Ralph learns to blow and make sounds. Island Rule One: When the conch sounds there will be an assembly; the person holding the conch has the floor. Golding sets this rule into cement for the remainder of the text, but in reality any group, even biguns and littums will change or modify the rule. The rule in cement is a reason why Jack splits, forming his “tribe.” The group psychology of that is not part of the text. Golding is interested in making an unsupported fantasy point. He does not want to represent reality. He is remarkably unsightful about the politics and the psychology of anyone or any group on the island, an extraordinary coincidence considering that the whole mess is coming from his mind. This is a bad TV show.

There is one setting, transplanted to the island, that might support Golding’s story: A private British Boarding School. I sense a lot can be written about those schools and those places, the horrors that are perpetrated and the demented boys they matriculate. They are not best represented by “Good-bye Mr. Chips.” Possibly, Golding wrote but didn’t want to identify the school. He thought, I’ll drop the kids on a tropical island. They won’t know why they are there, just use the word “evacuate,” like World War II. There will be no adult supervision; the kids can go hog wild. Using those bases the book is incomplete and imperfect. It is bad TV.

I suspect the boys are not British, despite Golding’s nationality and identification at the end. Nowhere among the thousands of words is “queue” mentioned. The world knows (especially in the 1950s) that queue and queuing were part of the genetic makeup of every person living on those islands. This omission gives the book no anchor, leaving the words adrift seeking the safety of land. Golding maybe writing about Latin American boys, or Chinese or Russian but certainly not British. He is not writing about Americans who are trained to numbers: 68. Look at the counting-box, 36. That’s a long wait, but the solution is obvious. As the clerk finishes one customer, he looks ahead and asks, Who’s next? Someone points to the counting-box, and everyone waiting learns the clerk can read and count: “37, 38, 39…61.” Suddenly life becomes more sensible and manageable.

There should be more sense and order in Lord of the Flies. 

GOT THROUGH EPISODE 16, ONLY

I’ve never seen 24, the TV program. I like Kiefer Sutherland and especially his dad, Donald Sutherland. Last week I saw the first season of 24, four DVDs which I got at the library. There may be a fifth DVD, but I won’t watch Number 5. I won’t watch any more of the series.

FIRST SEASON: Black Senator running for President, is in California on primary day. (California is not his home state, but I’m not sure.) INTELLIGENCE comes in: Senator will be assassinated perhaps by people within the Intelligence Agency. Kiefer and his working group is assigned to investigate the assassination and to prevent it. At home is a wife with whom he has resumed life together after a separation, and a teenage daughter whom they learn has just off during the early morning hours on a school day.

In the sixteen episodes I viewed there is no backstory about reasons for the marital separation, the separation or reason to recouple. The wife is presented as uptight, tightly woven, right and righteous. 

Work crisis, home crisis. Wife waits at home until daughter shows up. Kiefer (Jack Bauer) learns from his supervisor that the Agency may kill the Senator: Find the traitor, find the assassin. Everyone who learns or knows of the assassination plan dies except Kiefer (good shot with acceptable high fighting skills) and most of Kiefer’s intelligence team.

While investigating, Kiefer spends a lot of time out of the office, while the team slaves away on computers and fields phone calls.

The Senator and his life are also part of the action. Senator’s son, who once killed someone by tossing him off a building, got a reprieve. That death was called an accident but the truth is emerging. Senator also learns there’s a heightened threat on his life. He refuses to change his schedule one bit, not one whit or an iota. The Senator is a sitting duck for anyone who wants to kill him.

The Senator seems powerfully naive and ignorant for someone running for president, but the American public has been this before. It will take a while before they vote for it again.

Back to the review. The Senator’s political story is predictable, shallow, preposterous and falls to the grade of a soap opera. Ditto the problems of the Senator’s family. The worse role (not the actor’s fault) is that of the Senator’s son, the sneaking murderer. He’s 20 years old, I suppose, but acts 14. He and his father (Senator) have never talked But have a heart to heart where they exchange cliches and thereafter feel better. But Senator doesn’t want son to leave. Son asks why. Senator: “Security” (not “Assassination. We have the faces. They will shoot me and members of the family today.”) Son leaves, sneaking out for a covert meeting with a tongue-happy political advisor.

I realized after 12 hours of episodes, that I didn’t care if the Senator was elected, or if the Son survived, or if the family ever escaped from Peyton Place.

It turned out Kiefer’s daughter [Elisha Cutbert] is being kidnapped; she thinks she’s going to a party. It’s a date gone wrong, a date every girl out to see and brace herself against. It’s the strongest part of the 12 hours. If there are bad dates in the teenage world for a girl, these early episodes show them well. Daughter’s dating-girlfriend gets hit by a car and is murdered later in the hospital. No one every mentions this murder although it is a salient plot and story point. 

Coincidence: Daughter is held by the very people who want to kill the Senator. They will use the daughter and the wife, joining daughter after a few episodes, to coerce Kiefer into position that he will be suspected of assassinating the Senator. Kiefer avoids that evil trap and investigates, using clandestine contacts within his intelligence group to learn where wife and daughter are being held: It’s a type of Charles Manson compound-ranch, 15-20 guys with big guns and with access to bigger guns.

TIME TO UNRAVEL SOME OF THIS BUILD-UP:

Problem 1:  When Kiefer calls in Rescue Mission from the Agency, assigned to take out the compound are three helicopters of early Vietnam days but gaily painted. Five guys get off one Chopper, 15 guys total against an equal number more heavily armed bad guys with evil faces. I hate seeing those guys on the street. This is a Let’s-Send-A-Rescue-Mission-To-Get-Hostages-From-The-American-Embassy-In-Tehran-A-La-Jimmy-Carter. For the TV show it worked.

Problem 2: Daughter wears red top while being chased by bad guys with bigs guns through the property. No one says, “Shoot at anything that’s red. Ask questions later.” Only after the helicopter ride to safety at Headquarters, does Kiefer give her a brown jacket to conceal her whereabouts.

Problem 3: Daughter has had date-from-hell, but she remains thick. (IQ 30 required for this part). One of the kidnappers wants out and helps daughter and wife. He escapes with them. Daughter has taken a shine to him. Daughter decides, I can protect him in the rough and tumble world, where I can’t protect myself. No one straightens her out. Also daughter is upset with mother/wife when she learns mother/wife is pregnant. She says something like, “You didn’t tell me you were getting pregnant!” [I’m sure all parents sit their existing kid down and say…]

Problem 4: Perception, Genetics, a family? When characters are usual height, it is all right to have kids be usual height, a little shorter or a little taller. Senator (Dennis Heysbert) is a big guy, tall and looks capable to taking out the left side of the University of Alabama offensive line. Wife is usual height. Son should not be five-six. — Kiefer is usual height; wife is lanky at (five-nine)? Daughter is no petite and appears (five-two)?

Problem 5: I’ve not learned anything from my experience, especially the recent on-goings five hours ago when people were trying to kill me. Kiefer’s wife is being debriefed by female agent who slept with Kiefer during the marital separation. Wife suspects and learns of this agent’s intimacy. She gets up and will no longer participate. Every chance it comes up, Kiefer and wife utter the hopes, aspirations and conclusions that “we have to look ahead,” “don’t get bogged down about our past failings; “feelings must be afresh from hereon.” Hence, despite that on-going, annoying clatter, wife suddenly becomes irrationally enraged at someone who’s trying to investigate and protect her. It makes no sense from the wife’s perspective. I no longer cared whether she lives or was captured and taken off forever.

If it isn’t apparent, I saw no growth or little reaction to circumstances and experience by the characters. And I haven’t mentioned the bad guys. They aren’t interesting either. Most have thin or no lips, narrow eyes, tight skin with close-cropped hair and are obviously going to get a bullet diet.

There are too many good movies to see; there is also good TV to see. But it is not 24.

TELL THE TRUTH OR BE LAZY

Today’s news: Matt Lauer says media is lazy about Ann Curry firing. 

Unwittingly, Matt Lauer has identified and responded to his own complaint, The Media is lazy. Duh! The Media has been lazy for a long time, and Matt is at the head of the pack. He’s so slow he fails to realize the truth is the only way to clear up his “troubles” (psychological, popularity, professional).”

Journalism once had standards. They’ve been lowered over the decades. It once was if a journalist didn’t acquit herself to the standards, she’d be gone. Today it is easy to observe the standards are not there. Few journalists are quick and intelligent. It is easy to tell they were once “C” students in high school, always talking in class, running around collecting gossip, and vying for the inside secrets which they never got but they passed off any gossip as gospel.

Enter Ann Curry. She was presentable and competent when doing serious news, go out, interview people, tell what happened in sixty seconds, smile. She could also read the news. Smile. But give Ann Curry the freedom of an interview show, and her attitude changed. Her voice changed. She believed he had to be empathetic and sympathetic with everyone, except those she despised.  She would fawn over guests and their problems – get the story from the patient because doctors don’t know crap and can’t explain it. And there were ridiculous episodes:

“Your goldfish went for a swim in the New York City sewer system?”

“Yes.”

“Did you ever get them back?”

“No.”

“You must have felt horrible.”

On the Today Show Ann Curry became an entertainer suited for a sit-com waiting for the laugh-track to kick in or for violins to fill the moment.

To be fair Diane Sawyer had the same temperament and style, pleading personality, looking with doggy eyes wanting a treat, please give an answer dripping with emotion so we can cry together. But Diane had an advantage. She never cried. She had experience, being in broadcast TV. She met Richard Nixon once when he was president and never kicked him around.

So Matt Lauer was unable to fess up and say this is why Ann was canned. He’s lazy.