My Miami Herald colleague Barry Jackson has a column in Friday's paper about the gleeful and highly laudable vindictiveness of WAXY radio owner Joel Feinberg toward the Miami Dolphins. Feinberg's station (SportsTalk 790, as it brands itself) lost Dolphin broadcast rights to WAM this season -- just in time to miss the team's heroic self-immolation, an 0-3 start that has effectively ended its chances at the playoffs a full four months before they start. Feinberg has been harassing WQAM with needling phone calls and emails, cackling about what a crummy team the station is stuck with, and he's going to keep it up. ''They haven't won a [expletive] game, and I'm taking satisfaction they're getting what's coming to them,'' Feinberg told Jackson. "It's karma. How can you ask for $4.5 million for your rights when you don't perform continually year after year? I'm [expletive] happy as a pig in [expletive] right now.''
Barry seems faintly dismayed by the WAXY owner's behavior -- "shocking," he calls it -- but I'm with Feinberg. I've been delighting in the Dolphins' bad karma ever since they traded Guy Benjamin back in 1979 and installed the incompetent David Woodley as quarterback. They'd never win another Super Bowl, I said back at the time, and they never have. Now I'm wondering if they'll ever win another game. Hey, pass me some of those voodoo needles, Sid.
Boob tube (noun, informal): 1. Television. From the notion that television programming is foolish, induces foolishness, or is watched by foolish people. See new CBS drama Moonlight. 2. Television. From the National Geographic Channel documentary The Secret History of the Bra. Don't make us spell it out.
A traumatic experience at a drive-in movie around the age of 16 left me convinced that bras are cryptic, sinister and even potentially lethal objects. But after watching The Secret History of the Bra, I realize I didn't even know the half of it...Read the rest of the review of The Secret History of the Bra and Moonlight.
When I hear people say that what this country needs is a national conversation on race, I shudder. Don't they listen to the one we have? Every attempt to discuss the subject ends in race-baiting and cheap shots.
The latest example is the controversy brewing the past week over remarks made by Bill O'Reilly last week on his radio show. Chatting about race relations with Juan Williams, a black (and yes, his race is significant; we'll get to that in a minute) NPR correspondent who is also a regular contributer to Fox News, O'Reilly decried the image of black America presented in hip-hop videos. He mentioned attending an Anita Baker and looking around at the audience to see that "the blacks were well dressed...This is what America doesn't know. They think the culture is dominated by Twista, Ludacris and Snoop Dogg."
O'Reilly also mentioned having lunch with Al Sharpton at Sylvia's, the well-known Harlem soul-food restaurant. "There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming "M-f-er, I want some more ice tea.' It was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there ordering and having fun and there wasn't any craziness at all." To me, it sounds like O'Reilly is making a legitimate point that I've also heard from activists like Sharpton and Jesse Jackson: that hip-hop music is creating a distorted and damaging image of black America, that it presents the seamy gangsta-rap life as the norm, when the reality is much different. That's especially so when you listen to the whole segment or read a partial transcript that include O'Reilly's broader remarks, including an acknowledgment of white racism: "I don't think there's a black American who hasn't had a personal insult that they've had to deal with because of the color of their skin."
Still, the nuances may strike some people differently; other ears may hear O'Reilly's statements as patronizing. But were they really "racially charged," as the left-wing media monitor Media Matters claims? Or "insane," as the Village Voice wrote? Or a shining example of "Bill O'Reilly in all his racist glory?" as the lefty blog Daily Kos decreed?
The cheapest shot of all comes from CNN's Rick Sanchez, who -- referring to a movie about white sexual fantasies about blacks -- told the Washington Post that O'Reilly was using "the Mandingo argument...that there's a big, bad African American out there that we all need protection from." That's a startlingly dumb summation of O'Reilly's argument, but what Sanchez really ought to be ashamed of is the way he allowed a guest on his show to engage in a driveby sliming of the NPR correspondent Juan Williams. (I told you we'd get back to him.)
Williams, a former Washington Post columnist, is author of Eyes on The Prize, a best-selling history of the civil rights movement that he adapted into a documentary that won an Emmy and was nominated for an Oscar. Stanford history professor Clay Carson, the editor of Martin Luther King Jr.'s papers, called it "the principal film account of the most important American social justice movement of the 20th century." Yet Sanchez stood by without comment or protest Wednesday night when one of his guests called Williams "the eternal happy Negro" whose role on O'Reilly's show was "to congratulate him on his racism."
Way to elevate the conversation, Rick. I guess this means it's okay for Lou Dobbs, next time you're debating immigration, to call you a wetback.
Kid Nation -- or, as it's known in the CBS catacombs, Child Abuse For Fun And Profit -- took a tumble in the ratings Wednesday night, losing about 20 percent of an audience that wasn't very big to begin with. The show's second episode had just 7.6 million viewers, down from 9.38 million from last week's debut. And CBS executives with a memory for ratings -- that is, all of them -- will not fail to note that the nuclear-apocalypse drama Jericho, pulled in 11.7 million viewers in the same timeslot a year ago. It's not like there's a lot of water-cooler buzzer about which kid won a gold star Wednesday that's going to bring a tidal wave of new viewers. I'd say this time next week CBS will be contemplating whether it wants Beverly Hillbillies or Green Acres reruns in Kid Nation's timeslot.
UPDATE: I've heard of spin doctoring, but this is simply amazing, or maybe pathetic. I just got a press release from CBS bragging that Wednesday's Kid Nation was the second most watched show of the night among children aged 2 to 11. By next week, CBS will be boasting it was first among parakeets and second among household pets overall.
It didn't take me long after I started working for newspapers to realize that the greatest single threat to the First Amendment is journalists. It's amazing to me that the profession has managed to survive the unthinking idiots who practice it. In the latest and most egregious example, a bunch of the same people who've helped run newspapers into the ground -- editors who led papers like the Philadelphia Inquirer over a cliff or helped the New York Times to run purely fictional stories -- are now calling for government subsidies to journalism. They want their incompetence to be rewarded with a prime spot at the government teat, removing even the slightest incentive to deliver news that is useful or interesting to readers and viewers or to adapt to changing technologies.
If the mainstream media -- as they're contemptuously dismissed by both the right and the left these days -- face a crisis of credibility now, just wait until they've become a subsidized house pet of Washington, preening and stretching and purring rather than reporting. Instead of embedded reporters whose lives depend on the soldiers they cover, we'll have entire embedded newspapers and TV networks whose livelihoods depend on the governing class they cover. You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to guess how that will turn out.
Luddite alert: Genetic engineering is further along than you think. In the latest development, ABC has managed to successfully insert a Y chromosome into its comic soap Desperate Housewives. The patient not only survived but is thriving under a new name, Big Shots, and begins receiving visitors tonight. Read the full review of Big Shots.
Prepare yourself for a deja view experience: Between remakes and spin-offs and shameless imitations, all of Wednesday's fall television debuts will give you an eerie sense that you've seen them before. That's not necessarily bad -- NBC's sinister new version of Bionic Woman, with robot chicks running amok instead of playing Goody Two-Chips, is superior to the cheesy 1970s version in every way. But it's not necessarily good, either -- fans of Grey's Anatomy femme fatale Addison Montgomery may find her a little dull now that she doesn't have a husband or boyfriend or intern to cheat on or with in ABC's spin-off Private Practice. Read the rest of the review of Private Practice, Bionic Woman, Life and Dirty Sexy Money.