Thursday, November 30, 2006

Past blast

The other night I was channel-surfing when I came upon one of the icons of my youth.

Jack La Lanne.

If you are 50 or over, the name might make you smile. La Lanne was something of a pioneer in the early days of television. In fact, I think he's about the only one from that era left.

He had a syndicated exercise program way back when in the 1950's and 60's. The show was something of a link to the days when sports magazines and comic books would have ads about how to stop bullies from kicking sand in weaklings' faces. I never knew anyone who actually bought that stuff, but somebody must have.

Exercise wasn't exactly popular back then, but La Lanne tried to get his audience in shape. Memory tells me that he often had his dog appear on the show as a guest star. What's more, he'd be happy to sell you some sort of product that would go along with the exercises. The instant breakfast comes to mind, but I'd bet there were others. In that sense too, La Lanne was ahead of his time.

Jack and wife Elaine appear on an infomercial selling their Juicer, which turns all sorts of stuff into a beverage. Jack's hair is, um, surprisingly dark for a man 92, but he still looks like he could kick sand in my face without any fear of a response.

As you might expect, La Lanne's Web site ( is filled with merchandise, including a link to the Juicer. If you are feeling nostaligic, some old shows are available on DVD.

I may have missed "Home Run Derby," but at least I got to see Jack now and then.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Quite a night

A few notes collected while looking back on Election Night and its coverage:

* Miss the political commercials that have disappeared? I didn't think so.

* It was surprising to see Keith Olbermann have a large role on the MSNBC broadcast, considering his strong anti-Bush commentaries in the past couple of months. That said, he seemed professional throughout his portions of the show. And who else would have thrown in a joke about Wisconsin Senator Bob La Follette (served from 1906 to 1925)?

* Speaking of anchors, Wolf Blitzer of CNN was given a large role in the broadcast, and he seemed a little rushed at times.

* It's a little sad to see the major networks give up the franchise, to a certain extent, when it comes to politics. CBS/NBC/ABC were on from 10 to 11 in the East; they may have done more programming at 11:35 that was preempted by local news in my neighborhood. I don't expect all of prime-time to be wiped out by a midterm election any more, but it would have been nice to compare how the various new anchors would do over a long night. Plus, Tim Russert could have used more face time.

* And speaking of giving up the franchise, my ABC affiliate did show election returns starting at 10. It also ran a crawl with the phone numbers so that people could vote for their favorites in "Dancing With the Stars." That's got to mean something, but I'm just not sure what.

* It's become pretty easy to know when to grab the remote control when watching political coverage. When someone pops on who isn't running for anything, it's time to switch stations. They aren't going to say anything but the party line. Come to think of it, most victory/concession speeches aren't too illuminating either, although everyone on TV was falling over Harold Ford's classy exit in Tennessee.

* Late on Election Night, I flipped on CNN Headline News for a moment. Nancy Grace's news judgment hasn't changed. She was talking about the "breaking developments" in a story about a pit-bull attack.

* Sometimes it's fun to watch these elections to see who pops up for interviews; it can be a sign of interest in the next Presidential election. On the Republican side, John McCain obviously qualifies, although to be fair the man is always willing to do an interview. The other GOP candidates were sprinting for cover, I guess.

* Pollster Charlie Cook was on C-SPAN on Wednesday, and he did a fine job of analysis. He said the independents essentially fired as many Republicans as they could, although there was a GOP firewall in place (gerrmandering of districts) to prevent more serious damage.

Then again, how much more damage could there be? Did they lose the town board of Harmony, NY, too?

* My nominee for best line of the night came from a co-worker, who said he watched a little of the Fox News Channel. He said it was like the Yankees' announcers describing Game Seven of the 2004 American League playoffs against the Red Sox.

* The most interesting election note I heard was from a New Yorker who moved to South Carolina. She said she had to vote early because the powers that be down there make it as difficult as possible to vote. There aren't many polling places, for example, and the lines are long. Having just watched part of "Eyes on the Prize" on PBS, it kind of makes you wonder if we're still fighting for universal voting rights in some ways.