Dreaming Of A Right Christmas

Before I disappear for vacation, I just wanted to wish you and yours a heartfelt “Merry CHRISTMAS.”

That’s right, I said CHRISTMAS. Please understand that I am not, repeat NOT, wishing you happiness during any other winter “holidays.”

The past few weeks, I have been bombarded by “happy holidays” greetings from sacrilegious store clerks, marketers and friends. Thankfully, Rush, Sean, Bill, Lou, Ann and Glenn have told us what this greeting REALLY means: “Liberals want to ban ‘Christmas.’”

Time magazine notes that Rush wasn’t the first to battle this heresy. Back in 1969, the wise people at the John Birch Society warned us that “One of the techniques now being applied by the reds…is taking Christ out of Christmas.” And in 1921, that great capitalist Henry Ford warned us about “the whole record of the Jewish opposition to Christmas.”

And this year, the very observant mayor of Arlington, Tennessee noted that President Obama delivered his Afghanistan speech on, of course, December 1. That’s right THAT December 1, the day that everyone knows “A Charlie Brown Christmas” airs, practically the only TV special of the season that mentions Christ’s birth.

“Try to convince me that wasn’t done on purpose,” says the aptly named Russell Wiseman.

Continue reading “Dreaming Of A Right Christmas”

Nobel Prize Winner Speaks Clear, Simple Truth

Sometimes it takes a Nobel Prize winner to say something clear and strong and compelling about our world.

No, not our Nobel Prize winner — Bangladesh’s.

Muhammad Yunus is this week’s person answering 10 questions from Time Magazine readers. He is the genius behind local microloans that help people in Bangladesh start tiny businesses so they can support their families while making the local economy viable.Yunus

He is asked by a Brit, “How would you help the world out of recession?” His answer is the kind of thing that makes you smack your forehead and say, “Yeah, duh.”

The system failed us. There’s no reason why we should resuscitate it. We have to make absolutely sure that we don’t go back to same old normalcy. We should be creating a new normalcy. That opportunity has to be taken.

How simple. How clear. A sharp statement of the obvious — that isn’t obvious to a whole lot of people.

Wall Street speculation, a hands-off government policy that let the speculators gamble with our jobs, our retirement and college funds and our entire economy, and the philosophy that letting those with the most capital acquire more will be good for everybody — these things (and our own individual greed and irresponsibility) got us where we are today. Without enough resources available for cops, schools, libraries, health care, job development, infrastructure. American economic and political policies of the past 50 years have transferred wealth from the poor and the middle class to the already-wealthy. As the speculators, burping after eating their own meals, reached across us to grab even more of our meals off our plates, they knocked over the dinner table and brought down the whole house — although they still walked away with their mouths and their bellies full.

“The system failed us. There’s no reason why we should resuscitate it.”

Pretty simple, pretty clear, pretty obvious.

Is our Nobel Peace Prize winner, and our Democratic Congress, going to make any real change in the system, or just resuscitate what’s failed all but the upper few percent?

— Bruce Benidt
(Photo from Time.com)

Time Magazine on Saving Your Newspaper

If you care about newspapers — and I think a lot of us do — then you might want to pick up this week’s Time magazine.

Here’s how Media Bistro summarizes Time‘s cover story:

Time to Help Save Your Newspapers

The newspaper crisis is no longer just an industry conversation for those of us who work in and follow the media. Time’s new cover story ‘How to Save Your Newspaper’ is penned by former Time managing editor Walter Isaacson, who is arguing for paid-content of an iTunes-like variety — meaning people would pay-per-story.

I don’t think that subscriptions [a la WSJ.com] will solve everything — nor should they be the only way to charge for content. A person who wants one day’s edition of a newspaper or is enticed by a link to an interesting article is rarely going to go through the cost and hassle of signing up for a subscription under today’s clunky payment systems. The key to attracting online revenue, I think, is to come up with an iTunes-easy method of micropayment. We need something like digital coins or an E-ZPass digital wallet — a one-click system with a really simple interface that will permit impulse purchases of a newspaper, magazine, article, blog or video for a penny, nickel, dime or whatever the creator chooses to charge.”

Gosh..where have I heard this modest proposal for micropayments before? Try this blog’s post (1/23/09) from Jon Austin entitled “Fixing the Newspaper Business or ‘Do I Have to Do Everything Around Here?'” (And with all due respect to Isaacson, Austin’s is written better.)

Still, check out Time magazine for more voices on this topic.

The Art of the Movie Quote

What does Time Magazine’s Richard Corliss think of the new Indiana Jones movie? This is a more complicated question than you might think.

If you go to the Time web site, you can read a fairly lengthy review Corliss filed from Cannes, where the movie premiered. While the review is generally positive, it certainly falls short of glowing (a similar, albeit shorter, version appeared in the June 2nd print edition).

Some representative excerpts:

There are scenes in the new movie that seem like stretching exercises at a retirement home; there are garrulous stretches, and even the title seems a few words too long. But once it gets going, “Crystal Skull” delivers smart, robust, familiar entertainment.

Crystal Skull is intended, and works effectively, as instant nostalgia — a class reunion of the old gang who in the ’80s reinvigorated the classic action film with such expertise and brio. So don’t expect the freshness of the what-one-man-can-do plot in Iron Man, or the oneiric visuals of Speed Racer.

In fact, the movie is a little plot-heavy around the middle. It seems more determined to tell a complicated story than to use a story as the excuse for a convulsive, nonstop thrill ride.

We’ll see how David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson cope with middle age in their X Files movie later this summer. They may suffer from the occasional creaking joints of Crystal Skull. (And, truth to tell, there was more applause here at the beginning of the screening than at the end.) But they’d be hard-pressed to inhabit the sleek, satisfying adventure that three septuagenarians and their pals dreamed up here. There’s a moment in the film where Mutt sees Indy negotiate some really cool bit of action, and the kid can’t help mouth a “Wow.” That’s the right response to this inevitable summer blockbuster. Lucas, Spielberg and Ford ain’t the Over the Hill Gang yet.

In other words, a good, but not great movie, one you’ll probably enjoy, particularly if you liked Indiana Jones 1, 2 and 3.

But, if you happen to be flipping through the movie section of your paper, you might just stumble across an ad from Paramount for the movie and read a different opinion from the same Richard Corliss:

A sleek summer blockbuster. A nonstop thrill ride. Wow! The Crystal Skull delivers!

Thirteen words, four sentences, one continuous quote. The only problem is that Mr. Corliss never wrote it, at least nowhere that I can find. Instead, the quote appears to have been pieced together from words chosen from different parts of the review (in particular the words highlighted in red above), stripped of their context (which in some cases is opposite of their use in the ad) and recontextualized.

“Oh, grow up,” I can hear you saying. “Of course those quotes are bullshit. Everyone know it.” Yes, I know it and so I suspect do the studios, the critics and most everyone who reads them. I can’t find any indication, for example, that Richard Corliss is pissed about being misquoted so grotesquely. No thundering from Capitol Hill about an investigation into how studios and critics are conspiring to defraud moviegoers (though maybe when Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter gets done protecting democracy by investigating whether the NFL adequately investigated the New England Patriots’ taping of opposing coaches’ signals, he can spare some time here).

On the other hand, if they don’t work, why do the studios use them even when they have to reach into the dregs of the reviewer ranks for a positive one (“An edge-of-the-seat rollercoaster of thrills and fun!!!” Jon Austin, SRC Movie Reviews)? I’m guessing there’s a belief – and maybe some actual research – that “Amazing!” and “Sensational!!!” are worth real dollars at the box office. And, given that Indy 4 brought in an estimated $311 million worldwide in its first five days, we’re talking real money.

Surely, their impact – to the extent there is any – is particularly weak in the Internet age when anybody can post a review of anything (making you a “content creator” and a “social media” participant in Web 2.0-speak). Even so, this kind of extreme misrepresentation in other contexts would be grounds for lawsuits, regulatory action or even criminal prosecution. An earnings report that falls slightly below expectations is merely the raw material for “BlahCo Results Amazing, CEO Delivers Winner!” The war could be repositioned as “Mission Accomplished!”

Oh, wait a minute…

– Austin

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