Sunday, October 29, 2006

Are there any other kind?

It's easy to love Google, or as President Bush would call it, The Google.

Recently I responded to something in the office with the question, "Are there any other kind?" Someone said it sounded familiar, so I loaded the phrase into Google and waited for results.

Here are the best ones, creating an instant blog entry in the process:

Evil network executives
Top-secret military plans
Emotionally vulnerable high school girl
Plodding zombies
Liberal Democrats
Crooked lawyer
Psychotic killer
Temporary repairs
Group of wild teens
Bored and rich girl
Corrupt politicians and businessmen
None-too-bright rooster
Somber power officials
Evil pharmaceutical companies
Wicked stepsisters
Expensive riding boots
Self-aggrandizing district attorneys
Liberal media types
Billionaire tycoons
Desperate Ukrainians
Callow young men
Stupid lunch lady
Pro-evolution biologists
Horrid cover bands
A bad Saturday Night Live skit

And the one that hit home...

Anal copy editor

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Through the looking glass

It's October. And you know what that means.

It means the World Series. The start of hockey's regular season and pro basketball's training camps. The changing of the leaves in certain parts of the country. Classic rock radio stations using the word "Rock-tober" whenever possible.

And political ads appearing on television.


Is there anything more misleading on television than a political spot? Well, outside of the Fox News Channel's "fair and balanced" claim?

There is much that is distasteful about the political process in the United States, but television commercials top the list. The political ads seem to ooze out of the ground in the fall. Pictures of opponents are always done in grainy black and white, usually featuring a frown. The shots of the candidates themselves are in color, and they usually feature children -- even if the kids are borrowed from someone else's family.

What's more, the text is always a bit disturbing. Let's say someone has proposed a bill that would increase police funding by 15 percent, not expecting to get that number passed. The office-holder winds up voting for a slightly smaller number, say 10 percent, as part of the negotiation process. Only in the world of television ads would that be an example of the opposing candidate voting to cut police funding.

Then there's the matter of ads sponsored by national political action committees. When my district had a closely contested race two years ago, the out-of-town money came flooding in. You would have thought that Tom DeLay was somehow running in the district, considering how much his name came up in the ads. It looks as if the out-of-towners are responsible for the really nasty ads, although we're merely talking a matter of degree here.

Now, I realize that an incumbant is allowed to take credit for everything that's been done in office while he was there, while the challenger is allowed to attack that same office-holder for everything that didn't happen. I'm not sure how a freshman legislator can be blamed for all of the delays in state governmenet, let alone the lack of action in Congress, but that's the way it sounds. Of course, that same freshman probably didn't lower the tax rate by himself, either.

Here's the problem with all of this: if someone is willing to distort the truth in order to get elected, what will they be like once they get in office?

Makes me want to watch PBS until the first Wednesday after the first Monday.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Top 10 Comments Heard During Buffalo's Snow/Wind/Tree Disaster

1. "Hey, baby, I've got a spare generator at my place."
2. "Tom Reynolds seems really happy to change the subject these days."
3. "Will FEMA reimburse me for the loss of cable?"
4. "My favorite golf course got a lot easier this week."
5. "Well, I'll just have to walk to the bowling alleys tonight."
6. "I know it's tough, but you'll feel a lot better when the Bills stomp on the Lions."
7. "Xerox is closed, Xerox is closed, Xerox is closed ..."
8. "Looks like M&T Bank has a lot more "branch" offices now ... HAR, HAR, HAR!"
9. "Send in the Sabres; they've been cleaning up lately."
10. "Honey, I wouldn't put the wet wash on that line to dry."

Sometimes you have to have a little fun with a bleak situation. A few hundred thousand people went several days without power; as of this writing some still are in the dark. Thousands and thousands of trees were damaged and many have to be destroyed. So I wrote this to cheer myself up. It didn't get much of a reaction; apparently we needed more time to get over this one. The "top 10 signs Danny Almonte was too old for Little League" went over much better. (Some of the highlights -- "Taunted oppponents by telling them there's no Santa Claus," "Watched CNBC instead of Nickelodean at the hotel" and "Drove himself to the game."
By the way, the Xerox line isn't original. It's stolen from Danny Nevereth, a local disk jockey. Speaking of stealing, the cable/FEMA question was a real query on WBEN during the storm.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Stepping out

Remember when television anchors were the paragon of neutrality? When Walter Cronkite was the epitome of fairness and balance? When a viewer couldn't guess the political leanings of the on-air talent?

Think those days are over?

Me too. Which brings the conversation to Keith Olbermann of MSNBC.

Olbermann is busy disproving the theory that there are no second acts in American life. He became known in the sports community as one of the top anchors for ESPN's Sportscenter more than a decade ago. He and Dan Patrick attracted audiences with their intelligence and wit; they reinvented the business, and their influence is still felt on every sportscast in the nation today.

Olbermann, a man of obvious smarts, is someone who -- according to all reports -- does not suffer fools. He left ESPN, burning a few bridges behind him. After some missteps, he finally has found a niche with MSNBC's "Countdown."

Here's where it gets interesting. Olbermann is up against Bill O'Reilly on Fox News. O'Reilly gets ratings, but he certainly has a love/hate relationship with the public. Conservatives love him, liberals hate him. Some claim he has some trouble with the facts, along the lines of Rush Limbaugh. Olbermann has tweaked O'Reilly by mentioning his missteps on "Countdown" frequently.

Lately, though, Olbermann has turned up the venom. He's done some commentaries that put him squarely on the left side of the political spectrum. They are well-written; transcripts are available on the MSNBC Web site. That tilt has driven the guest list to the show decidedly in that direction as well.

If the idea is to get some attention in a cable channel-filled universe, it is working. Is it a good idea? I can't say I'm used to it. It's funny to have a news show -- not a talk/interview problem -- have such a decided slant. But it's certainly interesting counterprogramming.

Kind of makes me curious as to how it's all going to come out.