What’s this I hear about Last in Space?


I was trying to read the lineup of shows on TV from the menu of our cable service without my glasses.  I felt like I was taking one of those vision tests.  I proudly boasted that I could read a blurry row near the bottom of the chart and when called upon to do so, mumbled out random letters and numbers with the word possibly thrown in only to have the doctor request that I try to read again but this time three rows up.

As I squinted at the TV program menu, I thought the networks and stations had just gone live with their new lineup of shows, some that sounded intriguing.  I don’t watch much TV generally, but these new shows had me dreaming of early retirement:

Crimea Minds

This must be a Russian version of CSI.

Family Fraud

They are all unrelated, as it turns out.

The Big Bong

With the legalization of marijuana, this new series comes as no surprise.


I guess Moonshiners has run its course.


This sarcastic comedy is about a group of hateful friends.

Monsters in my Barn

Garage Squid

This might be a spinoff of Monsters in my Barn or one of those shows like Gator Boys.

New Grill

I toggled down quickly as I figured this was an addictive infomercial about a revolutionary grill.

American Mustard

America can do mustard too just as good as the French.

Imperial Lockers

I thought this might be something like an SNL spoof on Impractical Jokers but then again it could be about what the rich and famous store in lockers in train stations throughout Europe.

Morning Joke

I imagine this one to be morning political comedy, not unlike Morning Joe.

Miami, Nice!

…until it gets too hot.

The Last Squid

Based on The Twilight Zone pilot, “Where is Everybody?”

Last In Space

Trump might do better to start a space race, rather than a nuclear arms race.


Make sure the kids are in bed as this steamy series is sure to carry an MA rating.

Anderson Copper 300

If I had to guess, I would say this is a 5-hour infomercial for a new compression product.

Chicago Tire

This reality shoe about a tire shop in the windy city is sure to be a big hit.

Last Squid Standing

If I had to hazard a guess, I would go with a deep sea, outwit, outlast, survival show with host Squidward from SpongeBob SquarePants.

Little Horse on the Prairie

A homesteader with a pony tries to live the American dream but finds life on the range depressingly difficult.

As Roseanne Roseannadanna might have said, “What’s this I hear about Deep Fried Monsters? Oh, Deep Fried Masters? Nevermind.”

Song Not Car Star in VW Ad

Volkswagen has a new ad out, you know the one with the dude who makes a good drumstick toss and catch air drumming to an old Rush tune in his new black VW Passat? Well, once again, the song is the star, not the dude, and not the car.  This time, the song is Fly By Night, a slightly undervalued song from the album by the same name.  Rush released Fly By Night in 1975 and it helped launch their career that is still going strong today.  Have you heard their latest album Clockwork Angels?  You should, because it is good, it really is and might be as good as their classic album 2112 and that’s saying a lot.  Why these guys are not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is beyond me.

I said Volkswagen has an ad out and once again the song is the star.  Do you remember the other song that stared several years back?  You should if you don’t.  Pink Moon by Nick Drake.  The title track from his third album released in 1973, Pink Moon is dark and pensive as are the rest of the bleak but gorgeous songs on the LP.  It would be his last recording before he died of an overdose.  If you don’t know his music, check him out.  You’ll be glad you did.

NBC London Olympics Coverage

I’m not one of those NBC haters.  I think they’ve done a decent job with the coverage actually.  I do have some complaints, however and wish to air them so to speak.  But first, let’s talk about the good.  I love the different specialty channels – the soccer channel and basketball channel are two that I’m aware of and there may be more.  Flipping around on the cable box, you can find most any event – horse dancing, boxing, ping pong, cliff diving, croquet and the like.  The only thing I don’t like about the channels is that I’m never sure if the coverage is live or recorded.  The channels sometimes air encore presentations.  The mix of live and taped makes the games seem a little stale and disconnected.

I generally like the reporting.  Bob Costas is still the best anchor around.  Ryan Seacrest has been pretty good.  The commentators have done a nice job overall.  They seem to know the events well.  Analyst Cythina Potter is the best of the best.  She breaks down those complex dives like no one else in the business.  She isn’t a “homer” and gives fair critiques to all the divers.  Tim Daggert has been a little less neutral, but his commentary has been informative and on the “balance” fair.

As a Genesis and Peter Gabriel fan, I enjoyed the reference to Gabriel in the bike race.  One commentator said that Gabriel had a recording studio at the base of Box Hill, and said to the other that he might be too young to know who Gabriel is.  The younger commentator laughed and said I wonder if he also has a studio on Solsbury Hill, a reference to an old Gabriel favorite recorded post Genesis.  I don’t think the older guy got it.

I really don’t like those sideline reports.  So far, Andrea Kramer has done most of them. Her typical question has been:  How does it feel? For once I wish an athlete would respond with Like a Rolling Stone and sing the entire Bob Dylan classic.  Last night, while interviewing Allison Schmidt after her gold medal swim, Kramer got the last word with an insult of sorts, America is “happy you got cut from your soccer team”.  Schmidt just smiled, but she must have been secretly annoyed.

And why doesn’t NBC interview athletes from other countries? Most of the athletes speak English. It is a mistake to assume that the American audience only wants to hear from American athletes.

Just a couple of other random notes.  That horse jumping event is like a cross between rodeo, a best in class dog show and miniature golf.

During the gymnastics competition, there’s too much going on.  Athletes are flying around and you can hear gypsy music playing as the women compete on the balance beam.  And have you heard that bleeping noise that is standard when someone curses?  I keep hearing that as the gymnasts perform; it’s as if their mental curses are being censored.

Fat Free Disney

I’m not a big fan of the Disney Empire.  And it is an empire, spreading the worst that America has to offer around the globe.  Cultural Imperialism.  Many tourists come to America or Paris for that matter,  just to visit Disneyland and Disney World.  Sad, but true, especially for families with whiny kids.   Disney is a place where all dreams come true and where American history and fairy tales are sanitized and whitewashed like Tom Sawyer’s picket fence.  Every thing has a happy ending at Disney and that extends to the health and nutrition of children.  And while I am not a Disney fanatic, I do applaud its new pledge to ban junk food ads at its parks and on its many TV networks by 2015.

I know it is blasphemous in America to criticize the Walt Disney Corporation, and it is a corporation, not a person please remember, but I worry about its influence on how children think and on the buying habits of families.  The Disney motto seems to be to “capture their hearts and minds from the cradle to the grave”.  One critical work on Disney which is essential reading is called – The Mouse That Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence by Henry Giroux.  It lays out the case for why you too should be concerned about Disney’s ever growing influence on popular culture and your life.

You may ask why the bitterness ribbie?  Did your parents not take you to Disney World?  And the answer is, no they didn’t. And I wanted to go more than anything, but we ended up at Six (the frick) Flags over Texas every year, which actually wasn’t so bad…but it’s not that.  In truth, I wasn’t a huge Disney fan even as a child, though I did love Winnie the Pooh, who was not originally a Disney character, but the bear and his friends were apparently bought out and are now Disney attractions.   But this is all beside the point.

What is the point you ask?  Here’s the point, while I applaud Disney for its commitment to helping fight childhood obesity which it may have had a hand in creating, the proposed junk food ad ban won’t go into effect until 2015.  Kids can fatten up pretty quickly in 3 years.   But the real problem is not even that.  The real problem are the Disney characters themselves.  Have you seen Mickey’s belly – he’s chubby from all that “gee wiz” cheese.  And the portly Pooh bear with his diet of pure honey must be diabetic by now.  Goofy is just goofy, not portly, but certainly not in good shape.  And I don’t know what the depressed Eeyore eats, but I assure you it’s not just whole grains.  He could use some fitness training and a nutritionist as could all the Disney characters.  Hey Disney, look in the mirror!

The British Invasion Makes a Comeback

I love the Brits, let me just say that up front, so don’t take what I’m about to write as a knock on our allies from across the pond, but I believe the British Empire is alive and well in the US of A. Yes, the U.S. suffers from colonial oppression, only Americans can’t see it, or maybe we can and are in a state of denial. We are an independent British colony. What’s the proof you ask?

Exhibit A:  Harry Potter.  JK Rowling has succeeded in creating a generation of literate Americans, who might otherwise have fallen prey to the video game industry.  Hogwarts is a household name.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some American kids aspire to go there believing it to be a real place.  Nor would I be surprised to learn that Brown University students believe Emma Watson is actually Hermione Granger.  Harry Potter has penetrated American culture so deeply that JK Rowling has replaced Dr. Seuss as the go to bedtime story author.

Exhibit B: Americans seem more interested in the agenda of the Royals than the agenda of the U.S. Congress.  I have to admit the debt ceiling debate is not very entertaining; important of course, but wholly unappealing.

Exhibit C:  Many have been tuning into British owned Fox to watch Major League Baseball, America’s favorite pastime, and the All-Star Game. And speaking of Fox, let’s not forget Rupert Murdoch who has had a profound impact on the U.S. news media, and not for the good unless you happen to be a Republican Tea Partying Fox “news” fan with a taste for the tabloids and scandals. He even has control over one of America’s once most respected rags, the Wall Street Journal.

Exhibit D:  And speaking of Murdoch and Fox, how about all the British network stars who are uncovering American talent left and right as if European explorers. Simon Cowell is like a modern day Francis Drake “discovering” American vocal talent and making a fortune for the producers of American Idol, Fox and himself which he has parlayed into his own show featuring more American talent on the X-Factor. ABC is even in on the act with two Brits, Piers Morgan and Sharon Osborne, judging America’s talent on America’s Got Talent.  And Piers Morgan somehow managed to land Larry King’s job on CNN.  John Oliver, another Brit, has made a big comedic splash on The Daily Show with John Stewart.

Exhibit E:  The Brits have also discovered America’s “best” amateur culinary talents with the invasion of the mighty Scottish explorer Sir Gordon Ramsey, and his popular shows, Master Chef, Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares. Thanks to Gordon, America will no longer be known as the land of hotdogs, hamburgers and pizza.

Exhibit F: And the Brits have brought dance to the American public too. So You Think You Can Dance America? The answer is yes and I had no idea. Had it not been for Nigel Lythgoe and company, Americans may never have known that it’s own people danced.  If fact, if memory serves, dancing is illegal in Paris, Texas.

Exhibit G: And of course where would America be without the medical mystery solving House doctor posing as an American. I knew his accent sounded suspicious! And one mustn’t forget the crazed bug eating adventurist Bear Grylls who shows the world and America on Man vs. Wild how to survive alligator infested swamps, the South Dakota Badlands and the deep woods of Maine with nothing more than a sharp knife and a flint.

The British Empire is making a comeback here in the US of A.  And Europeans complain about American cultural imperialism.

Ted Koppel Not A Fan of Soical Media

I used to watch Ted Koppel on Nightline.  I liked his cool seriousness.  He rarely cracked a smile as I recall.  I particularly liked when he dropped a few advanced SAT words – George Will and William F. Buckley, Jr. also enjoyed flaunting their vocabularies, delighting in the fact that large numbers of the listening public had no idea what the words meant.  Sometimes I thought it would be a hoot for the shows they appeared on to subtitle them when they spoke giving the simplified version of their messages.  You know, Analysis for Dummies.

Howard Kurtz of CNN’s Reliable Source interviewed Koppel last week. For a man in his 80’s he looked good – relaxed and in good spirits.  He did say something that perplexed me though, and I didn’t expect it.  He basically spoke out against social media, saying it essentially trivializes the news and diverts our attention away from substantive discussion.  He did acknowledge the impact of Twitter on the recent revolutions in Egypt and elsewhere, but he tried to make the point that our collective attention spans moves on to the next 140 character post which might be some shallow personal update about what we are doing right now.

I think Koppel misunderstands social media.  He made it sound as if he himself had never used the tools. If he had, he would know that there is plenty of substantive discussion going on all over social media.  Facebook, Twitter, blogs are a new form of democracy where people are engaging the issues of the day in real time.  Practically gone are the days when folks would read a newspaper and mail in a letter to the editor.  Now, post a comment and await moderation.

I’d like to see Koppel use Twitter.  If I were a kid, I’d follow Koppel’s posts just to study for the SAT or ACT.  Ted, you sound like you miss the excitement of the news cycle and traveling from place to place reporting on events of the day.  Traveling may be too much of a grind, so why not start a blog, have some fun with Twitter – engage us with 140 character bits of old school insight.

Olbermann and MSNBC Part Ways

I can’t believe Keith Olbermann and MSNBC have chosen to part ways.  I would think MSNBC needs Keith, more than Keith needs MSNBC.  One could argue, as many have, that MSNBC owes its popularity, its growth, its ratings and its latest talent – here I’m thinking Lawrence O’Donnell, and Rachel Maddow – to Keith.  Exactly why they parted ways is unknown at this time, but I’m sure will come out in the days to come.  One could speculate it had to do with new ownership, or perhaps the recent “scandal” over Olbermann’s contributions to several Democratic candidates in apparent violation of company policy.  For this, he was suspended for a brief period of time.  Then there was the tweak of the show after Jon Stewart’s rebuke regarding the war between Fox and MSNBC that he suggested fuels unhealthy discourse that exacerbates the American divide.  For Keith’s part, he made some programming changes, for example featuring the Worlds Worst Person segment with a “not really” disclaimer.  I actually liked the original segment as it produced a nice counterpoint to rants from the right.  Then, after the Arizona Massacre, the calls for civility seem to have changed the tone of news and opinion shows, though maybe in the slightest, but noticeable of ways, and maybe, though I don’t have proof, has given network executives the need to control the content of programming.  If this is the case with Countdown, I can understand why Keith might have decided it was time to retire the show.  Perhaps it had run its course.

But I will say this emphatically:  I will miss the show.  I loved it.  I watched it every night.  It helped me make sense of what was happening on Capital Hill.  The show was well-written and polished, always fresh, topical and entertaining.  Keith’s intelligence, and wit, always shone through. There was never a dull moment on the show.  Keith’s guests were the people we wanted to hear from and he interviewed them expertly and with respect making even the average person who may never have been on television before feel comfortable.   It takes talent to pull that off.  And he is as versatile as they come.  He could do stand-up comedy.  As a former ESPN employee, he could call and commentate on any sports game.  I consider him a first rate journalist and newsman.  And I also consider him to be a first rate person who cares deeply for the human race.  This is evident in the way he reported on the issues of the day from health care reform to gun control with a focus on the middle class, the poor and downtrodden.  His financial support for free health care clinics shows that he uses his celebrity status for the good of humankind.

I’m sure he will turn up soon on another network, maybe Comedy Central, HBO or basic cable.  Maybe he could team up with Conan O’Brien.  He could do most anything – write a book, anchor the 2012 Olympics, do stand-up comedy, create a new show, or teach.  Imagine taking a media studies class with Professor Keith Olbermann?  He could write for the Nation.  I’m sure Chris Hayes would welcome his talents.  Or he could run for public office.  And why not?  I think he’d win.  We need another progressive voice in Congress.  Wait, how about the Presidency in 2012, or maybe 2016?  Just a thought!

Queen Guinevere Pitches the Palm Pre


My cell phone carrier Sprint offers the Palm Pre as its top smart phone.  I’m thinking to upgrade to it from my quirky Samsung Instinct. However, the Palm Pre commercials have given me pause.

Palm_PreHave you seen them? They began airing during the summer Olympics. Palm’s ad agency apparently raised Queen Guinevere from the dead to pitch the Palm Pre. In these 15-30 second spots, the Queen speaks in hypnotic tones, announcing that “my phone can read my mind…at first it kind of freaked me out”. She then touches the screen, presumably to activate the mind reading app. OhhK……In another spot, the good Queen proclaims that she is having “one of those days when everything just seems to work…bing, bing, bing, like you’re not even trying…just going with the flow.” She moves a couple of apps on the screen to get to what looks like a map, but it’s not clear what the app is – GPS maybe, maybe not. I’ll just call it the go with the flow app. Another is the running late app: “if you are running late, you should really let them know” then she touches the screen and says, “oh wait, you just did”. This is the calendar late notification app. I guess this is a useful app, but why not just call and say you’re running late. The Palm Pre is a phone afterall.

From what I can gather, the Palm Pre has a mind reading app, a go with the flow app and an I’m late app. Apparently it has a handful of other ones too, no doubt just as useful.

Queen Quinevere has not yet convinced me to upgrade. I’m waiting for the instant lottery win app, the go to work for me app, and the time travel app. Until then, I’ll stick with my quirky, but trusty Samsung Instinct.

GM CEO Ed Whitacre’s Tall Claim

Take a look at this recent GM commercial where new CEO Ed Whitacre introduces himself and the 60 day money back guarantee on all GM cars.  He says “before I started this job, I admit I had some doubts, probably a lot like you but I like what I found”  He goes on to say, “I know that if you get into one of our cars you’re going to like what you see…car for car, compared to the competition, we win”.  That is a tall claim by the 6’4″ Texan.

Consumer Reports recently completed a car for car comparison and could only recommend the $28,000 Chevy Malibu, the $38,000 Buick Lucerne, and the $48,000 Cadillac DTS, none of which earned best in class designation.

Speaking of the Chevy Malibu, you can buy a ’09 which gets 33 MPG HWY starting at $21,000 or the $25,000 hybrid version which gets 34 MPG HWY.  4 grand more  for 1 extra MPG. What a great deal!

Mr. Whitacre likes what he found, but I wonder if he has driven any of the cars.  At 6’4″ could he even get into the new Chevy Spark, Chevy Sparkwhich will be available in the U.S. in 2011?  By the way, Consumer Reports labels the Spark a standout in its new car preview section.  That said, if he could get into the Spark, Whitacre might find that his head hits the roof and his knees touch the steering wheel.  I think a little spark would go off in his brain and he’d say, “dang, this ain’t no Cadillac.”  I hear he’s a Cadillac man.  Good thang!