Posts Tagged ‘Vice’

Letter From New York 05 07 2016 Thoughts from yesterday…

May 7, 2016

The town of Fort McMurray, in the heart of Canada’s oil patch, is burning to the ground as I write.  88,000 people are being evacuated.  One who has remained to assist in fueling emergency workers described the city, according to Vice, as a “f**king ghost town.”  Reports are calling the situation barely managed chaos. Convoys are transporting people out of town and 8,000 have been airlifted out.

The Prime Minister of Turkey has resigned after a fight with President Erdogan.  As I understand it, in Turkey it’s the PM who is supposed to have the power while the President does the meeting and the greeting.  Erdogan doesn’t see it that way and has been keeping hold on the reins of power.  This resignation makes it easier for Erdogan to consolidate power.  Turkey is troubled, fighting a Kurdish insurgency, IS, wrestling with refugees and a population that is growing antagonistic to Erdogan.

I still would like to go back to the “Turquoise Coast” of that country, sun dappled and bucolic.

Not bucolic is the state of American politics.  Trump continues to rise and has no opposition on his march to the nomination.  Cruz and Kasich are gone. The Presidents Bush, number 41 and 43, have signaled they will not endorse him. Paul Ryan is “not ready” at this time to endorse Trump.  The Trump campaign approached over a hundred Republican politicos to say something good about Trump.  Only twenty responded; the others were “too busy.”

As I gave my last lecture, the students were commenting on how exhausted they were of the political season and the near certainty that Trump will be the Republican nominee has only heightened their distaste for politics; all suspect an ugly, brutal slugfest between the two candidates, neither of whom they admire, assuming Hillary is nominated, as it looks she will. The aspirational nature of politics has slipped away from us.

And before it is done, something like $4 billion will be spent on this election, twice what was spent in 2012.

President Obama implored reporters to focus on issues and not “the spectacle and circus” that has marked coverage so far of the 2016 Presidential race.  After all, being President of the United States is “not a reality show.”  Amen…

A Fort Valley State University student, in central Georgia, was stabbed to death as he came to aid three women who were being harassed and groped near the school cafeteria.  Rest in peace, Donnell Phelps, all of nineteen.

Two are dead and two are wounded in shootings is suburban Maryland, three at Montgomery Mall, where I have shopped and one at a grocery store nine miles away.  One man is believed responsible.  If it is the man police suspect, he killed his wife last night when she was at school, picking up their children.  He was under court order to stay away from her.

It is a grey afternoon as I write this, in a stretch of chill, grey days and news like the above deepens the pall of the day.

If you are feeling grey because “Downton Abbey” has slipped into the past, its creator, Julian Fellowes, took Trollope’s novel, “Doctor Thorne” and brought it to life.  Amazon has purchased it and will stream it beginning May 20.  Fill a hole in your viewing heart.

In my heart, I want a new iPhone and I am probably going to wait until the fall when Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, tells us that the iPhone 7 will give us features we can’t live without.  What they are, I don’t know.  I am writing this on a train going north and can’t stream on Amtrak’s wifi.

Speaking of Amtrak, I booked a trip from New York to Minneapolis on the train for July 20th to visit my brother and his family.  I am taking a train to DC, the Capital Limited out of there to Chicago and the Empire Builder from Chicago to Minneapolis.  I hope it will be good fun.

Fun seems to be what we need these days.  Our politics are not fun.  The constant barrage of shootings is not fun, not remotely.  The economy, while growing, isn’t growing fast enough which is not fun.

What will be fun is that Lionel and Pierre are going to be at their home across the street from me this weekend and I will get to see them.

Letter From New York 08 14 15 The Way It Was Is The Way It Is…

August 14, 2015

A couple of generations ago, when I was a young man out of Minnesota, freshly burped up on the sunny shores of a foreign country called southern California, I found myself working at KMPC Radio in Los Angeles, then a powerhouse, now long gone, gobbled up by the Disney Empire.

I was Assistant Director of Advertising and Promotions and was well liked by the sales department, having done them a couple of good turns along the way.

One of the sales people, Al Gottfried, invited me out to his house one holiday season. His brother-in-law was a big muckety muck in television movies at the time. Over crudité he and I talked about how he got started in television movies.

He told me that when he was younger and had ideas for television movies, he thought he could go pitch the networks directly. Nope, not the case, he quickly learned. Because he had never done it, he therefore couldn’t do it. It was a Catch-22. He learned his ideas weren’t bad but he just couldn’t get access.

His solution was to marry himself to an established production company for TV movies. Eventually, people got to know him, trust him and he could launch his own company.

A few years later, I was lucky enough to open the West Coast office for A&E and I entered the world of cable, which I had wanted to find my way into for three years. I learned a lot during the six years I ran advertising sales for A&E on the West Coast, followed by a stint with Discovery.

Cable was the new technology. We were gnats to the broadcast networks, annoying but not to be taken seriously, even if their parent companies were big investors in cable networks. No one worried about us.

But it became a world in which creators found new canvases; producers shut out from the broadcast networks found homes in the world of cable. Movie channels like HBO and Showtime had time between movies that needed filling. There was a busy business in programming those empty spaces. Odd programming that would never have had a chance in “television” found homes on cable – and audiences.

An example of this is “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, a delirious hoot of a program that began on a local station in Minneapolis, moved to The Comedy Channel, which morphed into Comedy Central, ending its run on SciFi, now called SyFy.

Branded entertainment is the catchword of the day, when it’s not being called “native advertising.” Cable was doing that in the 1980’s and ‘90’s. Bob Bolte of Clorox’s Media Department had a program running on USA for years that was the harbinger of things to come. A&E was doing “promercials.”

When I said that cable would one day have as much viewing as the broadcast networks, I was laughed out of the room. Then the day happened, sooner than I thought. Cable grew up.

It began to need ratings to feed the financial expectations of their owners. Cable is part of the “television” business now, no longer derogatorily called “cable.”

It has major businesses to protect. Cable needs big hits. No more “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Cable needs hits as much as broadcast networks. And in needing those hits, cable has followed the lead of its broadcast brothers. If you haven’t already done it, you can’t do it. So producers wanting to break into cable now have to partner with established producers until they make their own name. The lively, sometimes crazy kids, who produced for cable in the early days, became grown-ups but there are still wild, crazy kids who want to create content.

They turned to YouTube and Vimeo, Instagram and Vine. Suddenly you had Michelle Phan and PewDiePie, who have millions of viewers and helped spawn MCN’s [Multi Channel Networks]. Digital is the new cable and as companies who owned broadcast networks invested in the upstart cable networks, the established cable networks are investing in the upstart digital companies. A&E has put $250,000,000 into Vice, the upstart digital news service, and is giving them H2 to program.

The way it was is the way it is. We just have different upstarts this go round; as there will be other upstarts in the next go round.