Friday, May 31, 2013

FRIDAY FOLLIES: Bachmann's Adios, Hitler Tea Kettle, Michigan Dreaming, and Scandalous Cheerios

Michele Bachmann to leave Washington to spend more time with her "family".  Prompts the resurrection of FRIDAY FOLLIES.  (What?  Every Friday?  Uh. . .we'll see how it goes.)

So Michele Bachmann is leaving her fancy, paid position as a Representative of Only Certain Teapartiers, One Percenters and Planetary Aliens.  She is not pulling a Palin--quitting--but will not seek re-election in 2014.  This is good news for some, but you will not be astonished to learn that there are still folks--Glenn Beck among them--who are wailing over the treatment of this poor, misunderstood Minnesotan.  If she had been given her due respect, she might well still be in congress years from now, maintaining her impeccable talk-silly, do-nothing record.

But all is not lost.  She will be on the taxpayer dole until January, 2015, which should give her plenty of time to wow us with more of her wacky whoppers.

I have nicely chosen not the worst pic of Michele Bachmann.  The worst of them are somewhere else on this blog.

I guess you've heard that famous designer Michael Graves partnered with famous department store J. C. Penney and came up with the subversive idea to make and sell a tea kettle that looks like famous monster, Adolph Hitler.

No, really.  Hitler.  You don't see it?  Sure you do! Look again.

 I'm not putting up a picture of Hitler, but if you look hard at that black dip on the handle, it'll begin to look like a long black bang swooshed to the side, and if you pretend the black rounded handle is a short, fat mustache, and then consider the spout as a raised arm signifying "Heil!", you will see what the mayor of Culver City, CA saw.  The mayor of Culver City saw Hitler up there on that billboard and he was furious!

The execs at J.C. Penney may or may not have seen it, but they took the billboard down tout suite, and have removed any pictures of the offending tea kettle from their online catalogue--but not before they sold out those teakettles completely.  (No word yet on what Michael Graves thinks about all this but would I LOVE to be a fly on the wall at his studio right about now!  Still--they did sell out.  Completely.)

So it's not just American icon J. C. Penney in hot water these days, now the Heart Healthy cereal, Cheerios, has done it, too.  The parent company, General Mills, actually thought a commercial featuring an adorable girl-child, the product of a clearly identifiable interracial couple, would be okay in the 21st Century.  Ha!  The racist ignorami came out of the woodwork and spewed such crap the comments had to be disabled on YouTube.  It was as if they were just waiting for something like this.  Because, you know. . .

Cheerios cutie

The website Mothering Justice published an online newspaper called The Mackinac Chronicle the other day, and it was shocking.  It showed Michigan politicos in a light I hadn't seen since the days before a bunch of rich con men convinced a bunch of dumb yahoos that the way to be patriots was to usurp the words "Tea Party" and help the rich con men take over the country by obstructing any kind of forward movement, thereby encouraging the entire nation to just give up and become a wholly-owned, for-profit venture. 

 The headline read, "Lawmakers and Business Leaders:  Workers are at the Top of Our Agenda".  Atop the picture of two adorable minority kids the headline read:  "Kid's 'Sick-In' Softens Top Lawmakers Hearts".  The story below the fold promised, "After Visiting Actual School, MI GOP Leaders Reverse Stance on Key Education Issues."

It was as if the long nightmare--the Siege of Michigan--was over and the duly-elected sell-outs had come to their senses and recognized the need to forget about those damned Koch Brothers and actually abide by their job descriptions.

Could it be?????

No, it couldn't.  Alas, it was a hoax.  A newspaper page showing The Way It Should Have Been.  A wake-up call and a damned funny one.  But, as I said. . .Alas.

This next one isn't really funny and maybe shouldn't even be here, but it's disgusting in a weird way, so here it is:  The Chicago Sun-Times has laid off (read "fired") all of their staff photographers.  All of them.  All 28 full- and part-time staff, including at least one Pulitzer Prize-winner.  A big, big city newspaper with no staff photographers has to be a first anywhere in the world, even including those ignominious Third World countries we've pointed our fingers at so often throughout our own glorious past history.

But apparently, here in 21st Century America--a century that will live in infamy--getting rid of talent to satisfy a bottom line preferring to service the no-talent CEOs at the top is becoming the accepted norm:
The move to have reporters shoot video and photos while covering stories is a growing trend among television stations and newspapers, according to California-based media analyst Alan Mutter, who said quality may be sacrificed in the process.
"We'll always have a lot of pictures — there will always be something between the articles — but will we have great photography, the memorable iconic images? Probably less so," Mutter said.
So it's settled.  We've become a nation half full of idiots and instead of fighting them we're looking for new and better ways to pander to them.  Probably in hopes that we'll all become them someday.  All except that noteworthy Koch-addled One Percent.  They'll be in charge.

Hey! Whoa!  Stop that!  Friday Follies is supposed to be FUN! (Enough with the exclamations already. That's my quota for the week, I swear.)

Now for the Moment Sublime:

Pencil drawings by Erica Rose Levine.  Scroll down her Facebook Page for more. (H/T to Jezebel, who wrote about her first.)

And because I haven't done these for a while, here's another Moment Sublime.  The sidewalk art of Michigan's own David Zinn:

 Cartoon of the Week

Mike Lukovich

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Six Things Media Personalities Could and Should Avoid when Covering a Disaster

On Monday, May 20, a devastating monster of a tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma; the second category 5 tornado to hit this little town. (It happened before on May 3, 1999, with 44 deaths.) Reports coming in today, the day after, state it was two miles wide, of colossal, possibly even record-breaking, proportions. Whole neighborhoods have been flattened, and the grim prediction is that the number of dead, at 24 as of this writing, is sure to rise.

Tragically, the 2013 tornado in Moore took out two separate elementary schools while children were attending classes.  They each took direct hits, with numerous injuries and at least nine school deaths reported so far.

Because it's such a huge disaster, some 24 hours afterward, after a full day and night of non-stop coverage, facts and theories are competing for attention with the non-stop emotional wrangling provided by fully grown, professionally trained, gainfully employed anchors and reporters who, in calmer times--we can only hope--really, truly hate that sort of thing.

I've been wandering around the internet today while watching the coverage on TV and I think I can safely say that for that one person out of a hundred who wants to see bloodied heads and terrified kids and TV personalities asking how the victims are feeling, there are 99 of us who don't.

So here is my short list of things those pros might want to avoid when reporting a disaster, if they want to remain professionals and not be seen forevermore as shameless hacks:
  • 1. If it's a hurricane, a blizzard or a tornado, do not allow yourself to be talked into standing out in the wind and rain/snow in order to show your audience that it's incredibly windy and raining/snowing really hard.  Get yourself inside. Plant yourself in front of a window and direct the cameraperson (who doesn't want to be out there any more than you do) to film you as you report on the wind and rain you can both see outside that window.  We will see what you see.  The effect will be the same--big wind, heavy rain/snow--and you'll save your clothing, your hair and your dignity.  (The best part is that it won't be about you trying to challenge the weather when the real story is about the many others who will have lost everything.)
  • 2. You should at all costs avoid the overuse of the following words or phrases--unless the use of them is absolutely essential to the story:  (Hint:  There is almost no case where these words will add anything to your story.)  Death and destruction, horror, terror, disturbing, unspeakable, heartbreaking, heart-wrenching, heartrending, mangled bodies, crushed bodies, body parts, severed limbs, entrails, decapitation, impalement. 
  • 3. After the first two hours or so, it's time to stop describing the scene as "like a battle/war zone".  Ditto, the sound as "like a freight train".  Break out the thesaurus if you must, but really--I beg you to cease and desist. 
  • 4. Do not stand in the same pile of rubble, teddy bear in hand (or Disney Princess bowling ball--my god, CNN!), repeating the same script hour after hour. Use a little imagination.  We're not all just coming to you for the first time; some of us are tuned in impatiently waiting for some real news. 
  • 5. Avoid like the plague interviewing anyone who insists that God has saved them or their loved ones.  We all understand that their gratitude knows no bounds once they find that they/their loved ones are alive, and it does seem miraculous, but please give some consideration to those folks who weren't so lucky.  Logic dictates that if God has the power and the inclination to save one person, he could--but didn't--save another.  If the interviewee doesn't have enough sense to understand how hurtful that can be to a victim's family, you as the professional should.  Don't be a witness to that.
  • 6. And lastly and most importantly, never, never, never bend over and shove a microphone into a small child's face, expecting them to say something meaningful.  You will not only appear insane look stupid, you will have lost all semblance of integrity.  Even if a parent gives permission and is standing right there encouraging that small child, do not do it.  It isn't about you.  It isn't about the parent.  It isn't about the ratings.  As the viewer, it's not about me, either.  It's about the children.  This is their tragedy, not ours.  We can't begin to know how they feel, and it's not our place to expect them to explain.  (Note:  if you find yourself searching for sad signs of a happier, pre-disaster child; a disheveled doll, a mangled pedal car, a broken toy, so you can go all melodramatic on us--stop.  Just stop. Please.)
The victims deserve not to have to be victimized twice, all in the name of filling time while waiting for the rest of the story.  The last thing they need in times like these is to have to wrestle with an over-zealous yahoo with a microphone and a camera.  That's why so many of them ask you to go away.  It's a pity more of them don't.

(Addendum:  I should have known.  Wolf Blitzer topped them all today.  He interviewed a tornado survivor and her son and ended it by asking her if she "thanked the lord" for being here.  She said, "Actually, I'm an atheist."  Priceless!)

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Psychic Got it Wrong. Who Knew?

As if it wasn't enough this week that three young women held captive and terrorized by a madman were found alive after 10 long years, we now learn that in 2004, celebrated psychic Sylvia Browne made an appearance on celebrated sinceremeister Montel Williams' television show and told the mother of one of the captives that her daughter was dead.

None of us can be sure that that pronouncement hastened Louwanna Miller's death a mere two years later, but there is no doubt that the poor woman's last years were marred by a belief that her daughter, her beloved daughter Amanda Berry, had been pronounced dead.

There was no body, no evidence that it was so, but she sought out Sylvia Browne, hoping to come to terms with her daughter's fate, no matter what it was, and when Sylvia said, "She's not alive, honey," all doubt was gone. Her daughter was dead.

Except she wasn't.

Sylvia Browne, a woman who is paid in the six figures to perform her magic, has been wrong before.  It comes with the territory.  Psychics are not God, as Sylvia says.  Mistakes are made.  So sorry.

But oh no you don't.  You don't get off that easy.  If you're going to carry the mantel of a psychic--a person making a grand living off of your claim of a mystical gift of second sight--you cannot be wrong.  Ever.

And yet you, Sylvia Browne, are most often wrong.

If you are Montel Williams, making a grand living off of your claim to be a sincere attendant to the miseries of poor unfortunates, you cannot partner with charlatans.  Ever.

And yet you, Montel Williams, did just that.

Sylvia Browne and Montel Williams

I don't know why Louwanna Miller agreed to go on the Montel Williams show; why she became so convinced that Sylvia Browne had some inside information about her daughter's fate.  I've never had to go through the horror of losing my daughter.  I can't begin to understand the kind of desperation that led Ms. Miller down that path, but even more than that, I can't begin to understand how anybody can make the decision to deliberately feed off of undiluted, agonizing misery in order to make a name or a fortune.

There are no excuses for what Sylvia Browne and Montel Williams have done, not just to Louwanna Miller, but to so many others over the years.  I have no delusions that either of them will suddenly see the light and resort to sackcloth and ashes as penance for their wrongs.  But how to keep people in such pain from being victimized ever again by Sylvia, Montel and their like?

I don't know the answer.  But I do know where not to look for it.