27 December 2009

Hey networks doing remakes of classic TV shows, I have an awesome idea. It's called "reruns".

The New York Times just published this new article by its TV writer Bill Carter, "Why Studios Keep Cranking Out TV Remakes, Despite the Flops". It provides a context in the major US broadcast networks remaking classic TV series. In fall 2010, three remakes of old TV shows will premiere in primetime: Charlie's Angels (ABC), Hawaii Five-O (CBS), and (NBC). Interestingly, the original versions of all these shows were on the same networks: Charlie's AngelsThe Rockford Files ran from 1976-1981, Hawaii Five-O from 1968-1980, and The Rockford Files 1974-1980.

This season, the CW network has two remakes of 1990s teen dramas Beverly Hills, 90210 (the remake is simply 90210) and Melrose Place. In this case, the original versions of these shows were on Fox; the CW was established in 2006 after the UPN and WB networks (both of which were established in the mid-1990s) merged. Beverly Hills, 90210 ran on Fox from 1990-2000, and Melrose Place ran on the same network from 1992-1999. Regarding the CW's remakes, Carter writes: "No one would claim either approaches the success of their predecessors, or even passable hit status."

In his article, Carter explains that many remakes of classic shows have flopped recently.
- The Fugitive (ABC, 1963-1967; remade for CBS, 2000). Compared with the now-successful, still-running CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the remake of The Fugitive had a lot of buzz right before it premiered. It was canceled after one season.
- The Bionic Woman (ABC, 1976-1977, moved to NBC, 1977-1978; remade for NBC as Bionic Woman, 2007). Like The Fugitive, the Bionic Woman remake attracted a lot of pre-premiere attention. But the show lasted only 9 episodes.
- Dragnet (radio, 1949-1957; NBC, 1951-1959; remade for ABC, 1967-1970; remade for syndication as The New Dragnet, 1989-1991; remade for ABC as L.A. Dragnet, 2003). A rather interesting production history exists behind the franchise: Both the '50s and '60s versions had Jack Webb cast as main character Joe Friday and had "the same ominous theme music and intro about names being changed to protect the innocent". Dick Wolf, creator of the long-running Law & Order drama franchise, created L.A. Dragnet. Although it cast Ed O'Neill (who played Al Bundy in Married...With Children) and Eva Longoria (who was on the cast of The Young and the Restless), Wolf's L.A. Dragnet flopped after a few episodes.
- Knight Rider (NBC, 1982-1986; remade for NBC, 2008). NBC premiered a TV movie of Knight Rider in February 2008 shortly after the writers' strike ended. The remade TV series followed the next fall, but that flopped too.

Carter writes also:

It is easy to understand why. “It’s a good idea to try,” said Warren Littlefield, who was the top programmer at NBC and is now an independent producer. “Movies have proved you can do well with a presold concept.”

That is another way of saying it is only natural to turn to familiar titles because they attract attention. The question is whether the series that result will attract viewers.

The track record does more than suggest not: it screams not. In the history of network television, no remake of a previous hit series has ever become a hit itself on network television.

Regarding the relative lack of success of TV remakes:

Mr. Littlefield said that the woeful track record of previous remakes should not discourage network programmers from continuing to buy projects based on old hits. “But there has to be a series there,” he said. “It can’t be like a movie. You can’t trick them.”

Mr. Littlefield suggested a formula that could work: “At the risk of being oversimplistic: it also has to be good.”

OK, if "familiar titles" get more buzz than actual viewership, how about this: Instead of wasting money on remaking a show that has an already-established fanbase, why not instead devote part of primetime to rerunning TV classics that have been hits and have worked well with audiences? That way the networks will be giving more choice to viewers: a "then and now" type of lineup that'll get a wider age range of viewers tuning in.

26 December 2009

Religion's biggest blunders of the year

Yesterday was Christmas Day, a day celebrated by Christians as the birth of Jesus Christ.

I respect their right to celebrate that. If you were wondering if I'm religious in any way, well I've been godless my entire life. Except for weddings or maybe some classical music concerts, I've never gone to church and have much much less, in fact never, attended formal religious services ever in my life. Despite what others may say, I'm proud not to rely on a supernatural power out there for happiness.

That being said, I'd like to celebrate such a profoundly religious holiday my own way: by exposing the biggest religious blunders of the year. I'm not just targeting Christianity; instead to show how dumb and irrational religion can be, I'll include any ideology that includes belief in a supernatural higher power(s).

Gwen Tompkins, "Arrest For Wearing Pants Galvanizes Women in Sudan". Morning Edition (National Public Radio): October 13, 2009. Sudanese woman Lubna Ahmed Hussein was charged for wearing "clothing causing harassment to public sentiment"...for wearing pants! Seriously, Islamic law does prohibit women from wearing pants, even in an era where pants are acceptable business wear for women in the American workplace.

Jonathan Turley, "Four Irish Bishops Resign in Wake of Abuse Report". December 26, 2009. Ireland's Catholic Church has had a big public relations snafu this year over its failure to report priests who abused children. It was so bad that two bishops resigned from the Church on...Christmas Eve! Way to please God!

Jonathan Turley, "Blasphemy Blog: Egyptian Court Upholds Four-Year Sentence of Blogger for Criticizing Islam". December 24, 2009. Yet another wacky story of Islamic law - known in Arabic as sharia - not giving a flying bug about something called basic human dignity. If I were writing this from Egypt (or just about any country in the Arab World) I'd get thrown in the slammer the next hour.

Jonathan Turley, "American Taliban: Family Group Calls for Laws to be Strenghtened That Criminalize Sex Outside of Marriage". December 12, 2009. Turley used "Taliban" in his headline for a reason: This kind of BS law, proposed by the Minnesota Family Council, translates to sharia! (Ironically, American conservatives claim that Muslims want to bring sharia to the US, but the same conservatives cheer on the Christians who want to pass laws like this that violate human rights.) Turley wrote an editorial in 2004 tackling this issue too and pointing out why such a law theoretically would violate the Constitution; it upholds a religious ideal! Specifically, the commandment "Thou shalt not commit adultery". Some may argue that it's not really religious to prosecute adultery, given that a victim does exist in the spouse whose partner cheated.

I take doubt in that argument though. Is it really practical to prosecute all those "man cheated on wife" cases? Given that's such a common activity among humans, it'd jam an already bulky caseload on judges throughout America. Furthermore, prison overcrowding would be worsened, especially in California.

Then comes those who are pushing public schools to teach abstinence education, promoting the idea that waiting until marriage to have sex is the healthiest choice in life. Even though the US government has spent billions in that kind of program, studies have shown that such education is very futile. In another expression, codifying abstinence in this sense would really make things worse. From 1920-1933, the 18th Amendment of the US Constitution put Prohibition in effect. This banned consumption and sale of all alcoholic beverages. Sadly though, it didn't put America back on a moral track as the Prohibition proponents hoped. Instead, organized crime went on the rise, as gangs found that they could make big profits off of the "prohibited liquid". A Cato Institute study from 1991, "Alcohol Prohibition Was a Failure" finds:

Not only did the number of serious crimes increase, but crime became organized. Criminal groups organize around the steady source of income provided by laws against victimless crimes such as consuming alcohol or drugs, gambling, and prostitution. In the process of providing goods and services, those criminal organizations resort to real crimes in defense of sales territories, brand names, and labor contracts. That is true of extensive crime syndicates (the Mafia) as well as street gangs, a criminal element that first surfaced during Prohibition.

So if premarital sex were banned, teens whose hormones were raging would just go underground to evade the law, like prostitutes often do. The Minnesota Family Council's proposed law just makes the sin look all the more satisfying.

PZ Myers, "Shame on Italy". Pharyngula (Scienceblogs.com): December 25, 2009. "The Italian National Research Council is sponsoring the publication of a creationist book, titled Evolutionism: The Decline of an Hypothesis." Yep, the government is seriously helping write a book that promotes pseudoscience. I ain't surprised given that Italy's a heavily Catholic country. It's bad enough that creationists have hijacked the American public schools; we don't need other countries sinking to our level.

Jonathan Turley, "Blasphemy (American Style): Obama Administration Supports Resolution on Limiting Free Speech to Bar Criticism of Religion". October 6, 2009. Yep, the Free World is passive about restricting the right to criticize religion.

PZ Myers, "Ireland has a blasphemy law". July 13, 2009. Ireland passed a law saying that anyone caught offending a significant number of religious people will be fined 25,000 Euros, which translates to approximately 36,000 US dollars. Oxford University professor Richard Dawkins considered this law to be medieval. I agree with Myers and Dawkins; isn't Ireland much better than those silly Islamic nations that whiplash people for speaking out against Islam?

PZ Myers, "What did she expect? That Jesus would stop by and give her a turnip?". December 5, 2009. "Poor, uneducated, obese, and religious". December 9, 2009. Both cases involve people who relied on faith, not medicine, to recover from illness. Sadly, epic fail.

PZ Myers, "The pope is an evil quack". March 18, 2009. Why? Because he lied to Africans about condoms and HIV! Way to express human dignity the Catholic way.

So what happened in my month sans any blogging?

- Finals. Out of my 5 classes of fall semester, 4 of the classes' grades were released. Those were all A's. Still pending is my calculus grade.
- On the Saturday before Christmas, I got my wisdom teeth removed and was nearly malnourished the next few days.
- Now that finals are out of the way and I get to fool around and do nothing really until January 26 (when spring semester begins) I've started cleaning out my DVR, which has shrunken from nearly 95 shows around finals time (Dec. 11-14) to just 65 today.
- Hopefully I can find old high school friends when they've still got winter break.
- On Christmas Day, I took a hike with family in Hellyer Park.

25 November 2009

The PTC flip-flop on Adam Lambert

In December 2005, Parents Television Council "Culture Watch" columnist Christopher Gildemeister responded to an allegation of homophobia by Simon Dumenco in Dumenco's Advertising Age magazine column:
Mr. Dumenco flatly states, without corroborating evidence, that the PTC is "very very afraid of gay TV characters." This is a lie. The PTC is not homophobic. It simply opposes sexual references or innuendo (of any variety, hetero, homo or other) aired where children might be exposed to them.
Flash forward 4 years minus one month, and this year's American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert (who's also openly gay) performs his single "For Your Entertainment" with many sexually-charged elements (such as S&M and simulation of oral sex and Lambert kissing his male keyboard player). It happens toward the very end of ABC's live broadcast of the 2009 American Music Awards, which ran from 8-11PM Eastern and Pacific time. Lambert's performance reportedly aired at 11PM, or 10PM Central/Mountain. Federal law prohibits broadcast of indecency between 6AM-10PM local time. (The oral sex mock was edited out of the West Coast broadcast.) Then PTC raises a stink over Lambert's performance! From its press release:
While the costumes and profanity throughout the broadcast were enough to alarm any reasonable parent, the final performance by Adam Lambert of “American Idol” fame included everything from S&M bondage with the singer leading leather-clad male performers around on leashes to another dancer simulating oral sex on Lambert. The show aired live at 8 pm ET/7 pm CT and was given a TV-14 L rating. The oral sex scene was edited out of the West Coast broadcast.

“American teenagers – and especially teenaged girls – are literally under siege by the entertainment media. It is outrageous that children today cannot watch a televised awards program for an industry that is built squarely on their backs. Teens comprise a huge portion of music sales, yet this is how they are treated? It is beyond contemptible,” said PTC President Tim Winter.

“Last night’s ‘American Music Awards’ broadcast was nothing short of tasteless and vulgar. Adam Lambert, the second-place finisher in last season’s ‘American Idol’ competition, chose to treat American families to simulated oral sex and other demeaning behavior. ABC and Dick Clark Productions had every reason to know what to expect, as Lambert himself proclaimed that his performance would be ‘very sexy’ and would include leather and chains. But the producers and the network chose to bury their heads in the sand.
So apparently S&M and oral sex, with a homosexual twist, was enough to make Lambert's performance stand out, way out, way way way out, from mentioning, let's say:
- Janet Jackson's opening act, where she reportedly grabbed a male dancer's crotch;
- Lady Gaga smashing whiskey bottles, and her dancers having costumes that look revealing (that was during her performance of her new single "Bad Romance"; I saw part of it on Sunday night while breaking from studying for Monday's calculus test);
- Eminem boasting about an extensive criminal record of his stage alter ego "Slim Shady" before performing "Crack a Bottle" and his verse from Drake's "Forever";
- and Carrie Underwood's suggestive outfit and choreography.

Lambert's performance seemed strongly sleazy enough to be the centerpoint of PTC's campaign. On it's "Take Action" page that provides outraged viewers/members to write letters of complaint to ABC, sponsors, or the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the title states: " American Music Awards Assaults Viewers with Simulated Sex Acts, S&M Themes, and Non-Stop Expletives", but the page doesn't even mention the examples I posted here. In her column (to be published on Friday's print edition), New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley also pointed out Jackson, Gaga, and Eminem as other examples of supposedly indecent performers at the AMA this year.

Taking a look at the facts and what PTC wants viewers to complain about, it seems that PTC is defeating itself in the process. Its automated, pre-written "Letter to ABC and Dick Clark Productions" template opens:
Dear Sir or Madam:

For years, the American Music Awards was a wholesome alternative to other trashy awards shows that used cheap gimmicks and sleazy, tabloid-baiting stunts to build a following. The AMAs were different, focusing instead on talent and love of music, so, like many Americans, I felt comfortable watching with my family. No longer. Last night ABC and Dick Clark Productions forever tarnished their hard-earned brands and violated the established trust of millions of parents by allowing S&M and bondage themes and explicit simulated oral sex to be broadcast into our homes, through our publicly-owned broadcast airwaves.
This opening passage seems to contrast the American Music Awards with other shows like the MTV Video Music Awards (and we all know the moral rivalry between PTC and MTV). The Video Music Awards has had its controversial moments like Madonna and Britney Spears kissing and this year, when Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift's acceptance speech. However, the PTC mentioned in its press release that the awards show was rated "TV-14-L", which in TV Parental Guidelines official lingo means "contains some material that many parents would find unsuitable for children under 14 years of age" because of "strong coarse language". Given the rating, which as procedural ABC shows at the beginning of the program and after every commercial break, why would it be so surprising that the American Music Awards was so un-friendly to a general family audience? Oh, if you want an awards show that focuses on "talent and love of music", try the Grammy Awards, which will be shown on CBS next February.

Although Lambert performed just a few minutes before or just at the start of the 10PM hour in the Central Time Zone, PTC felt it wasn't good enough, so it allows just the Central Time Zone residents to file complaints with the FCC.

And now for today's latest developments.

Yesterday, ABC cancelled Lambert's scheduled performance for today's Good Morning America.
"Given his controversial live performance on the AMAs, we were concerned about airing a similar concert so early in the morning," an ABC News rep said.
However, CBS intervened and invited Lambert to perform on its morning program The Early Show instead. CBS apparently feared more retaliation from PTC or other moral guardian orgs, so the network decided to blur images of Lambert's kiss and sex simulation. "The Adam Lambert image is a subject of great current controversy, has not been nearly as widely disseminated and, for all we know, may still lead to legal consequences," reported the Los Angeles Times quoting a CBS representative.

In response to ABC's disinvitation, PTC's Dan Isett stated:
"I do think it’s a little bit unfortunate... The idea that he should be scrubbed from TV completely is not where we’re going. It may be a bit of an overreaction on ABC’s part."

And Isett insists his organisation was simply upset because the powers that be didn't censor Lambert's AMAs live performance, which was heavily edited when it aired three hours later on America's west coast.

What a surprise. I thought that PTC was going to share ABC's concern that Lambert would've repeated his sleazy choreography on Good Morning America and call on ABC also to ax Lambert's performance. It seems that PTC indirectly intimidated ABC into doing so though.

This controversy brings up a whole bunch of double standards. The one homosexually suggestive performance that began very late in the evening generated the most controversy out of all the performances from earlier in the evening that had elements some would find sexually offensive. If PTC is going to highlight Lambert's performance constantly in its campaign for tougher sanctions against broadcast indecency, it's certainly got a weak one. If the FCC finds that the indecent elements of the performance were broadcast after 10PM Central Time, then the PTC will suffer some public relations struggles.

In his Early Show interview, Lambert claims to be a victim of a double standard against gay males. This is his side of the story.

I suppose I can understand why (parents are) upset. And, honestly, it didn't cross my mind, children. It was almost 11:00. It was a nighttime show. I was there in the audience full of mostly adults. Sometimes, I forget, 'Oh, there's a camera on.' I come from the theater. And I'm programmed to kind of look at who's in the live audience, and that's kind of where I come from. So, I was looking out in the crowd and saw some of my favorite pop stars and thought, 'I want to let loose.' And it just kind of got the best of me. And I had a great time. Unfortunately, there were people upset, but I think there are also people who really enjoyed it. So, like 'Idol,' I guess I have a tendency to divide people -- apples and oranges -- you either like it or you don't.
He also stated that it's ultimately the parent's responsibility to monitor children's TV viewing:

He also said he's "not a babysitter, I'm a performer" when asked if he wanted to apologize to parents of any kids who might have been watching. "I think it's up to the parents to discern what their child's watching on television," Lambert said at one point. Later he observed, "I think it's up to a parent to watch the television. It was almost 11:00 at night. If they're concerned with certain material maybe Tivo it and preview it before your small child is watching it."
Right. And the show was rated "TV-14", for crying out loud! When will the PTC members ever realize that TV is not a baby-sitter?

And finally, for some humor, get your dirty mind on and ponder PTC president Tim Winter's statement "It is outrageous that children today cannot watch a televised awards program for an industry that is built squarely on their backs." Hmm, given the PTC's obsession with pointing out all the graphic sex acts on TV that'll turn your sons into pimps or serial rapists or your daughters into sluts or welfare queens, why not find the underlying message in Winter's statement? Maybe he's trying to get attention with a dirty metaphor referring to anal sex or rape while at the same time opposing references to these in entertainment?

This year's American Music Awards was the most-watched since 2002, second most-watched program of the week among adults 18-49, and ninth most-watched out of the top 25 programs watched by viewers of all ages.

21 November 2009

Interesting NY Times articles

Entertainment: "An Unsteady Future for Broadcast" by Tim Arango and Bill Carter. Analyses the downfall in NBC's ratings and contrasts them with the rising ratings and profit for cable channels like ESPN, TNT, and USA.

Business: "Best Soup Ever? Suits Over Ads Demand Proof" by Stephanie Clifford. Goes over disputes between rival companies that have led to false-advertising lawsuits. Among the cases: DirecTV vs. Charter Communications, Verizon vs. AT&T, UPS vs. FedEx.

Health: "Medical Marijuana: No Longer Just for Adults" by Katherine Ellison. The ganja shall treat the hyperactive child.

17 November 2009

College gets busier, life gets harder...

My DVR is getting overcrowded like California prisons as I'm focusing so much more on work.

Class overviews:

Calculus III (MATH 32) - currently learning double integrals, test Monday on multivariable differentiation and integration.

Chemical Calculations and Concepts (CHEM 10) - learning gas laws. My teacher has this great online program (Online Web Learning, or OWL for short) that lets me self-learn from home in addition to the lecture. For my class, which is a remedial one I'll take before taking General Chem next semester, I take both activity and lecture sections. The lecture professor is a pretty humble person who just, well, either teaches from powerpoints or gives tests. She's very straightforward and helpful. On the other hand, right after my lecture sections I have my activity session where the teacher demonstrates problems on the board (in contrast, in lecture the professor just teaches us what the concepts are) and has question-and-answer sessions. Activity professor has a much louder and energetic personality than my lecture professor. He's a former Army captain who tells a lot of funny stories and jokes in between problems. But yes, he also gives us homework for each unit.

Introduction to Engineering (ENGR 10) - scrambling to get robot project done by next Tuesday for the test run. It's fun and overwhelming at the same time. Teams in my lab class were given kits to assemble a robot that would simulate a search-and-rescue operation, with beacons acting as a human and a hazard. It moves based on a programme written in C language. We've had all month to do it, and given that we meet 3 hours one session every week it ain't easy. Although we've built it we've suffered technical difficulties all along.

Meanwhile, the lectures are given in an auditorium. We've learned everything from wind turbines to circuits to Excel to C programming to solar cells to CAD. And right now to wrap up the course we're learning about ethics.

MUSE Class: Secrets of Success (PSYCH 96NQ) - a small, 15-person seminar that discusses the ideas of success that Stephen R. Covey put forward in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It's creatively structured, with many teacher/student interactions and flexible assigning and grading. I met some great people in this class!

Yoga: This is my last class every Monday, and although it's supposed to go from 3:30-5:20, my instructor always ends 30 mins. early. Great way to relax after a long day. Instructor is a Santa Claus-faced hippie who's had a lot of experience with yoga. In my first class he narrated about discovering yoga in the 1960s while growing up in San Francisco and how he got busted in the Grand Canyon back in 1968 for smoking pot. He also published a short yoga instructional book that we use in class!

On Sunday night, I signed up for the classes I'll take next semester:
- General Chemistry (CHEM 1A)
- Programming Concepts and Methodology (CMPE 30) (CMPE is short for Computer Engineering, my major)
- Discrete Mathematics (MATH 42)
- English Composition 2 (ENGL 1B) (Because I took AP English Literature in high school, I can skip English 1A in college)

At first I didn't really think I'd enjoy it too much at SJSU given that San Jose has been my hometown since 1998, and I wanted to go to a UC (I applied to Davis, Irvine, and San Diego, but because I slacked off too much during high school I got rejected). However, SJSU has been good to me despite all the hardships. It has a diverse student body; I see all types of people round here. Compare that with a UC, which I hear is dominated by nerdy Asians. I see people dressed in all sorts of styles. People from all over the world and of all ethnicities come here. When I walk down campus I can hear people conversing in Chinese, Hindi or any language of India, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, Korean, French, German, whatever!

The downsides, however, is that the campus is pretty small and gets a bit boring after a while, but at least i can navigate it. Its football team has been near-winless this season, so I've spent my weekends watching other schools (like USC, Michigan, Cal) instead. Haha, way to lack school spirit. But today the men's basketball team won its home opener. And our soccer teams have high standings in the Western Athletic Conference.

Kudos to the FCC for ruling "Saving Private Ryan" not indecent

On Veteran's Day 2004, several ABC affiliates in the US pre-empted the network's national showing of the 1998 Oscar-winning film Saving Private Ryan because of its numerous use of profanity (such as the F-word) and graphic violence...all intended to depict the realities of World War II. Nine months earlier, Justin Timberlake exposed one of Janet Jackson's breasts at the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show. For that incident, the broadcasting network CBS was fined $550,000 in September 2004. (This fine is currently under legal review in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals following an order by the US Supreme Court)

Right now I'm watching the Frontline documentary "Obama's War". It was shown on Oct. 13, 2009, on primetime on PBS. In my area, KQED at 8PM. I don't know whichever parental guidelines rating (like TV-PG, etc.) that it got since it wasn't shown on screen, but there was a viewer discretion screen that said "tonight's program contains graphic imagery". The clips of military members engaged in war in Afghanistan left the F-words uncensored. In an era where groups like the Parents Television Council have intimidated networks into censorship, I applaud PBS for choosing to leave the profanity to show the realities of the environment where the men and women fighting for our freedom inhabit every day while we enjoy our luxurious lives in the free world. It's as verbally rough as it's geographically, since in the middle east days can get even hotter than in Las Vegas.

I googled to see if anyone's reacted to this also. Read Daniel Hennis's comment on this article:

I was watching PBS last night, the program about the current situation with Afghanistan and Pakistan. I was greatly disturbed that the f-word was left in, clear as a bell, THREE times in less than thirty seconds. I reported it to the FCC (because I doubt PBS's elitist leftist program managers would care to do anything about it otherwise). Normally, I allow my children to watch SOME of PBS's programming, but it's falling on my popularity list. I can tolerate some of the socialist indoctrination, but I will not tolerate profanity of that magnitude.

Daniel Hennis, Kuna, ID
Well Daniel, your complaint will be likely flushed down the john...the FCC will most likely not fine PBS as it did to ABC back in 2004 for Saving Private Ryan.

Two other comments on this article accused the title of having a bias against Obama. Other comments praised the documentary for being better than most mainstream reporting.

10 November 2009

PTC responds to last night's Gossip Girl

Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council, responded to last night's controversial episode of The CW's Gossip Girl:

LOS ANGELES (November 10, 2009) – The Parents Television Council® issued a statement in reaction to the teen-targeted “Gossip Girl” episode that aired on Nov. 9. The CW Network’s own promotions indicated that major characters would be featured in a sexual threesome. “Gossip Girl” airs at 9 pm ET/PT and 8 pm CT/MT.

“Though there was no explicit sex scene on last night’s episode, the CW Network’s behavior was grossly irresponsible by adding a story line where a sexual threesome was to be celebrated as some sort of ‘rite of passage’ for teenagers. The network inserted this story line into a program that they themselves deem to be appropriate for 14-year-old children based on its content rating,” said PTC President Tim Winter.

“CW has stated that last night’s episode is not the end of the story, teasing next week’s ‘Gossip Girl’ episode as continuing the ‘threesome’ storyline. And the network’s claim that it isn’t trying to reach impressionable teenagers falls flat given that their own press release from September 2009 touts the fact that ‘Gossip Girl’ won in the ratings among women ages 12-34, and that when ‘Gossip Girl’ is paired with ‘One Tree Hill,’ these shows during the 8-10 pm block have finished first with females 12-34 and female teens.

“Advertisements for ‘Gossip Girl’ have heavily featured themes and wording that only move minors to view the program, such as ‘Every Parent’s Nightmare.’ Such marketing tactics clearly appeal to teens, not adult women. Also, ‘Gossip Girl’ creator Josh Schwartz has boasted, ‘I can honestly say that I don’t check the ratings after the show airs,’ because he knows that a vast majority of his viewers – tech-savvy teens – are watching the program online.

“Advertisers and CW affiliates still need to be on guard. CW affiliates have told the PTC that the network did not afford them an opportunity to pre-screen the program. We urge each affiliate to evaluate the content within the scope of their broadcast license that was loaned to them in return for serving the public interest.”

I searched on Google and cannot find any other source than this press release that quotes Schwartz as saying that he does not look up his show's ratings. And apparently, the PTC thinks that 14-year-olds are still not mature enough to hear about threesomes on TV. Winter also misrepresented the plot of this episode: The characters are in college (which he does not acknowledge at all in this release nor on the earlier one demanding that CW stations pre-empt last night's ep), so that supposed "rite of passage" might not technically take place (at least in the fictional world of Gossip Girl) during the characters' teenage years.

But as far as 14-year-olds and such edgy shows as Gossip Girl indicate, it just shows another one of PTC's silly strawman arguments that kids still need their innocence until they get out of high school...perhaps the reason why they recommend that children under 18 not be allowed to watch it at all? (Most episodes have been rated TV-14, which means basically my previous statement only replace 18 with 14, and a few I believe were rated TV-PG-DLS or whatever if the content was light. TV-PG is for parental guidance suggested.)

As I noted earlier, Time magazine television critic James Poniewoznik has a rebuttal to PTC's archaic ideology that is so much more compassionate and rhetorically respectful than the PTC's political agenda-driven language. This is from his blog where he responded to PTC criticizing the TV-14 rating of AMC's Mad Men as too light:
Now, the thing is, I actually think the PTC has several points. Yeah, I probably would not screen the show for an average 14-year-old...But would I show Mad Men to a mature 14-year-old? One who was, say, already reading the kind of adult literary fiction that Mad Men mirrors? Yes.
And as I said earlier:
In America, there are teenagers whose parents want to keep pure and innocent until age 18, I won't deny that. Just as there are Gossip Girl type teens who are well-cultured and know the dangers of the world around them and whose parents are willing to discuss the birds n' the bees. This criticism isn't surprising given that PTC feels that there have been cases in broadcast TV also where TV-14 has been too weak.

09 November 2009

College so far

It's been a while since I've blogged about anything lately, so I should write about school so far.
- SJSU's football team sucks...so far recently lost 62-7 to Nevada and currently winless in WAC division. Only win was against Cal Poly in September. That's why I watch ABC college football coverage, usually USC, UCLA, Cal, Michigan, or whoever's game is being shown.
- However, according to the student newspaper The Spartan Daily, both men's and women's soccer teams have winning seasons.
- Currently building a robot for engineering class. The robot is programmed to simulate a search-and-rescue mission.
- Hardest classes=Engineering and calculus, chemistry and psychology in between, yoga easiest.
- In winter session I'm thinking about taking General Psychology to fulfill the Human Behaviour category of the General Education requirements.
- After consulting with the Computer Engineering major adviser tomorrow, I'll know what I'll take next semester. Right now I'm definitely aiming to take in the spring: CHEM 1A, ENGL 1B, CMPE 30, and MATH 42.
- Finals are nearly in a month. Gotta get my study on!
- Campus: Met some really cool people, overall a diverse student body.
- Joined the Democratic Caucus organization and will volunteer at setting up tomorrow's Health Care Forum. Tuesday, 5PM-6PM, Pacifica Room. Be there!
- I also got a job through that organization and will consult Career Centre to find others.
- Once I raise enough money for pledge fees I might join Alpha Phi Omega.

Parents Television Council's mission to block tonight's Gossip Girl sort of worked

According to this Twitter post by Ego Salon & Studio in Chattanooga, TN, the local CW affiliate there pre-empted tonight's controversial episode of Gossip Girl. The episode, titled "They Shoot Humphreys, Don't They?" and rated TV-14-LS, reportedly will contain a scene of a threesome between three of the college-aged characters. The show premiered in September 2007, and during its first two seasons focused on the lives of upper-class New York City prep school students. This season the students have begun their college lives in the Ivy League and other big-name universities like New York University.

Well I'm not sure what to say about The CW Chattanooga bowing down to the PTC. And apparently the CW was NOT joking about the "3some" that it printed in the promotional posters for tonight's episode. Twitter was EXPLODING around 9:50PM Eastern Time (the show currently airs Mondays at 9PM Eastern/Pacific, 8PM Central/Mountain, opposite CBS's nearly-as-risque sitcom Two and a Half Men and Fox's crime drama Lie to Me). They varied from: "disappointment", "not the 3some that I saw coming", "why can't I stop laughing", "SO WEIRD!", "hot", "don't do it", "didn't see that coming", "The CW is risque", "got me steamy", "WTF", "NOFAIR!", "not as cool as I hoped", "WHAT IS GOING ON?", "EPIC", "my dream 3some", and "whole lotta yuck". In real standard English, viewers were disappointed, shocked, amazed, and disgusted all at once. One Tweeter I noticed remarked: "I could've sworn it was Jenny havin the 3some". Well that's a lie. As far as I know Jenny Humphrey (younger sister of Dan Humphrey in the TV show) is still in high school as of this season, and if CW really had Jenny on, the network would've straight-up pre-empted this episode nationwide.

Still, the best words of wisdom came from the Ego Salon & Studio: "If you don't want your child watch[ing] a 3some episode turn it. But don't sensor (sic) it." I agree. Why is PTC singling out Gossip Girl when tonight's Two and a Half Men episode has a plot CENTERED around the two main characters in bed with a woman? Doesn't PTC think that sort of plot is much MORE harmful to teenagers than a mere scene of three-way sex within a more general and tasteful plot?

Gossip Girl has now made its mark as having one of TV's most controversial moments. Back in 1971, CBS's sitcom All in the Family made headlines for including the sound of a toilet flushing. (That episode was "Success Story", from its first season). Despite that, All in the Family went one to become America's favorite show during much of the early- and mid-70s. In 1991, L.A. Law (at the time a 10PM Thursday legal drama on NBC) broadcast the first-ever lesbian kiss on primetime TV (that episode apparently aired 20 days before I was born!) (Wikipedia expands on this.) And later we've had NYPD Blue (ABC cop drama, another 10PM show) showing male and female buttocks, but in 2008 the FCC managed to fine ABC over a 2003 episode of Blue ("Nude Awakening") that depicted a woman character's buttocks for a few seconds. The indecent moment on TV that most likely explains why you can't ever heard words like "f--k" and "s--t" on broadcast networks or you need to shell out a bunch of money to watch Entourage on HBO is the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show, broadcast on CBS in 2004. Performer Justin Timberlake ripped off part of co-performer Janet Jackson's costume, exposing her breast (covered by a nipple shield) for just over half a second. Nonetheless, the PTC raised hell over that, and by September the FCC fined CBS nearly half a million dollars. A federal appeals court overturned the fine, but the US Supreme Court ordered the appeals court to reconsider. There's always been something on TV for the nation to raise a fuss over. From hearing a toilet flush on a sitcom in the early 70s to women kissing each other in the 90s and then the numerous sex scenes mirroring people's daily lives to the accidental exposure of undesirable body parts . And now a show aimed towards teens and young adults daring to show three-way sex. Tomorrow, we'll see what the reaction of the PTC and the future cultural impact.

16 September 2009

14 raucous protestors arrested at UC Regents meeting

Previously, I blogged about the heckling incidents of the year: at Congress members' town halls, the confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor, and the MTV Video Music Awards. Today, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that University of California police arrested 14 protesters - students, alumni, faculty, and staff of the UC - for disrupting a regents meeting. The protesters' grievances were over the ongoing budget crisis.

13 September 2009

2009: Year of the heckler?

Tonight is the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. The most talked-about moment of the awards show was when rapper Kanye West interrupted country-pop singer Taylor Swift's acceptance speech for her video "You Belong With Me".

Kanye West has had a reputation for angry outbursts before at MTV award shows, notably in last year's European Music Awards and in the 2004 American Music Awards and 2006 MTV EMA's too. Blogger Pete Cashmore at Mashable asks whether this was probably a staged stunt, as happened three months earlier at the MTV Movie Awards when Sacha Baron Cohen "mooned" Eminem in the stands. Well since Taylor Swift and her mother were clearly upset by this mess, and West was evicted from the show, and Beyonce (won Best Video for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" even offered Swift another chance to speak, I hope it was staged, or else I will hate Kanye West even more than when he did the terrible auto-tuned album 808s & Heartbreak. Even other VMA nominees and winners have spoken out against West. Finally, he did the mandatory thing: apologize.

From all this, and maybe some raunchy Russell Brand jokes I missed because I don't have cable but heard about the Kanye incident from my friends, I wonder if the Parents Television Council is gonna raise a fuss over the awards, as they did last year.

This all reminds me of past incidents this summer where there were openly disruptive hecklers.

For example, as various members of Congress held town hall meetings to address President Barack Obama's proposed health care reform, conservatives have disrupted the speaking Congress members loudly and raucously because they feel that the reform is "socialism" and an oppressive "government takeover of health care". Here are some NBC Nightly News reports about that nonsense:

In August, the Senate held confirmation hearings for then-Judge Sonia Sotomayor. An abortion protestor hollered while Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) interviewed Sotomayor. Others followed. Of course, once again by conservatives concerned over the apparent liberalism of Sotomayor. But she was confirmed anyway.

And most recently before the Video Music Awards, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled, "You lie!" at President Obama when he accurately stated that health care reform will not serve illegal immigrants.

11 September 2009

College so far

I started college on August 25 and am loving it! With the flexible schedule, variety of class environments, and longer breaks between classes, it's so much freer than high school now. San Jose State has a very diverse student body. Apparently, some "quizzes" are given online rather than in class, and tests are the only exams taken in class. It seems that classes are just for the lectures, putting the burden on the student to come to class and work to succeed. I'm looking forward to learning much more in class and going to more events in the future!

25 August 2009

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) has died

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, a liberal Democrat who championed universal health care among other causes, has died from brain cancer at the age of 77. He had been in the senate since 1962.

This summer is gonna be best remembered by a bad economy and deaths of notable people. On August 11, Edward's older sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics, also died.

18 August 2009

James Poniewozik and reruns pwned PTC? (updated)

This just came up on my RSS reader where I keep track of the Parents Television Council on Google News. It's a blog entry by Time magazine critic James Poniewoznik, who penned a lengthy profile of the PTC for the magazine in 2005. Poniewoznik responds to the PTC's criticism of AMC's new drama Mad Men, a show about a New York City advertising agency in the 1960s. Apparently that's part of PTC's series "So You Think You Can Rate a TV Show?", in which its entertainment analysts challenge the networks' usage of the TV Parental Guidelines. (Have you seen how the networks, except CBS, repeatedly flash those ratings at the beginning of each show and after each commercial break? Notice how Viacom-owned networks like Comedy Central and MTV have 'em uber big at the beginning? And that Fox actually plasters an XXL sized ratings box during "Viewer Discretion Advised" cards? Creepy.)

OK, enough with the off-topic ramble, but I wonder how Mr. Poniewoznik got the PTC's review when it's not even listed anywhere? Google "mad men" within the parentstv.org website (as of right now there's only one irrelevant result. PTC complains that the episode of Mad Men, which was rated TV-14-LS (unsuitable for children under 14 because of language and sexual content) contained such content more suitable for a TV-MA (17 and older only) rating than TV-14.

Here's what PTC allegedly has to say:

AMC gave the show a TV-14 (L, S) rating, which means that the company thinks that the episode was appropriate for 14-year-old children. The basic cable episode contained a shot of a character's hand going down into the underwear of another character for sexual stimulation, a half-naked woman whose hands covered her breasts just before insinuating that she had sex with another character, and a graphic scene with a prostitute that repeats several times, “I'm gonna cut your dick off and boil it in hog fat.”

And here's Poniewoznik's rebuttal:

Now, the thing is, I actually think the PTC has several points. Yeah, I probably would not screen the show for an average 14-year-old. I can do without the inconsistent ratings systems too, and would like to see a la carte cable choices, because I think consumer choice is a good thing, especially as it applies to cable near-monopolies.

But would I show Mad Men to a mature 14-year-old? One who was, say, already reading the kind of adult literary fiction that Mad Men mirrors? Yes. And other than that, what 14-year-old is actually interested in watching moody period pieces about the social mores of affluent suburbs in the 1960s? For whom is this actually a serious concern? Let me clue you in: if your 14-year-old is surfing cable alone, trying to find something dirty to watch, he wants to see Skinemax or something, not Bert Cooper talking about the nuances of Japanese tentacle-erotica art.

Apparently PTC put out a "trial balloon" to get attention or something. I don't know, but I'll post up the PTC's primary link if they ever put one out. But according to the TV Parental Guidelines, TV-14 doesn't directly mean "appropriate for all children over 14". Technically, it means:

This program contains some material that many parents would find unsuitable for children under 14 years of age. Parents are strongly urged to exercise greater care in monitoring this program and are cautioned against letting children under the age of 14 watch unattended. This program may contain one or more of the following: intensely suggestive dialogue (D), strong coarse language (L), intense sexual situations (S), or intense violence (V).

If you've been believing PTC's constant mis-representation of the TV-14 rating, then you're wrong.

And another thing: regarding PTC's constant barrage of indecency complaints to the FCC.

If you go up to PTC's website, you'll find their current pet causes: Cable choice! Yes, because Comedy Central's Roast of Joan Rivers was oh so vulgar and tasteless despite airing only (and to the steel-skulled members of the PTC, I'll repeat only) after 10PM (well 9PM in non-Eastern/pacific time zones and even earlier by satellite, but that's why there's a V-Chip) and with a TV-MA rating (again must I emphasise that parents with children under 17 should use the V-Chip to block TV-MA shows in most cases). And then, Southern fast-food chain Hardee's has a new, tasteless, and stupid TV commercial for its "biscuit hole" product. (I live in California, where there's Carl's Jr instead of Hardee's, so I don't see the ad on my local stations.) And of course as I blogged earlier, this year's MTV Movie and [Michael Jackson-smearing] BET Awards.

Pardon me for "scooping" the "enemy" if you're a TV fan, y'know, of such shows like CSI for which PTC takes a solid disdain.

Over the past two days, shows that PTC has filed complaints against have rerun over the air during the "no-indecency" period of 6am-10pm. The first was the Family Guy episode "Family Gay", which PTC strongly condemned and filed complaints over the supposedly excessive, flamboyant (no homophobia intended) sexual content when it originally aired in March. Fox re-ran the episode last night at 9:30PM Eastern/Pacific times (8:30PM in other time zones, and if I were a PTC representative I'd use a "scare bold" as PTC sometimes uses). And guess what? PTC, with all its might urging its members and the general public to complain about the episode, said nothing at all the second time around. Hmm. Do they just not care for reruns, did they give Fox leeway for scheduling it at 9:30PM instead of the usual 9PM, or are they for any other reason oblivious? (On Sunday night, Fox showed a three-episode rerun block of Family Guy, starting at 8:30PM.)

Second, there's the episode of That '70s Show that PTC fussed about back in March 2004, "Happy Jack". The episode was named after a song by British rock band The Who from their 1971 album Who's Next and was about character Eric being caught masturbating. So it's not a surprise for PTC to be so outraged, given the topic AND the fact that it aired just a month and a half after the Super Bowl halftime show incident. Well, it aired locally on TV station KICU today at 4PM, and throughout the nation at various times that might have been before or after 10PM for all I know, through stations that syndicate That '70s Show. I DVR'ed that episode today because I wanted to start watching that show regularly; I've seen only bits and pieces of it through channel-surfing. Apparently the PTC doesn't care if this episode has been rerun many many many times after March 2004 including a few times on Fox as filler primetime programming maybe.

UPDATE (8/19): Alison J. Waldman of TV Week published a brief item on PTC's Mad Men criticism today. But still no sign of the review on PTC's own website.

UPDATE #2 (8/19): I watched the "Happy Jack" episode today. It was pretty funny, and did have some pretty risque dialogue, but it used a whole bunch of euphemistic terms rather than explicit references to masturbation. Heck, it didn't even drop the word itself! But still, this episode was fresh meat for the PTC, yet the FCC has yet to put down a decision into it, nearly 65 months after it originally aired (March 24, 2004). That's longer than the time it took for the FCC to judge the infamous buttocks scene episode of NYPD Blue indecent (59 months; aired February 25, 2003; decided January 25, 2008). Perez Hilton also posted a blog about PTC's criticism of Mad Men.

UPDATE #3 (8/20): FINALLY! PTC posts this episode as "Worst Cable Content of the Week" despite admitting it's a "fine show..for adults" (italics theirs). They deny any homophobia (as Hilton and a few other bloggers somewhere allege), but still can't construct a good response to Poniewoznik's rebuttal:

Some of the same bloggers were quick to point out that teenagers likely aren’t flocking to a moody show about middle-class ennui and the shifting social mores of the turbulent ‘60s -- after all, they say, if teens want to see something inappropriate, there is no dearth of drunken strippers on VH1 or sexually active teenagers on MTV. But such criticism is ill-considered. Those bloggers know that Mad Men is a thoughtful, introspective drama because they’ve already watched it. A parent who has never tuned into the show, and has only heard the buzz and critical praise, might allow their teenager to watch an episode based on the TV-14 rating, only to be blindsided by the sexually explicit content.
The author missed Poniewoznik's point on different maturity levels of certain teenagers. In America, there are teenagers whose parents want to keep pure and innocent until age 18, I won't deny that. Just as there are Gossip Girl type teens who are well-cultured and know the dangers of the world around them and whose parents are willing to discuss the birds n' the bees. This criticism isn't surprising given that PTC feels that there have been cases in broadcast TV also where TV-14 has been too weak.

The deaths just keep on coming this summer...

It all started with the passings of pop culture icons David Carradine, Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, and Michael Jackson this June. And over the past week, we've seen the passings of three more icons: former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung (today, aged 85), conservative columnist and Valerie Plame leaker Robert Novak, and rock musician and electric guitar pioneer Les Paul (August 13, 94).

Speaking of Kim, when I was researching about Kim, I came upon this 1998 CNN article covering his presidential inauguration. That article reported that among his dignitaries were Jackson and former Philippines president Corazon Aquino, both of whom died this summer.

17 August 2009

Vacation in Canada

From Monday, Aug. 10 to yesterday I was on a bus tour in Western Canada - Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, and the areas in between. Specifically, between those major cities, I visited Glacier National Park, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, the Last Spike historical landmark in central British Columbia province, a ginseng tea showroom, a farm, and a bunch of other small towns and places. For me, the best part of the vacation was visiting the Glacier NP, since it was a break from the extremely hot weather down here in San Jose.

In the later half of my week in Canada, I took a BC Ferry from Vancouver, BC to Victoria. The ferry included a parking garage and other amenities like a gift shop. Judging by the ferry route and the fact that I could pick up some radio stations from Northwestern Washington State, I thought I could brag, in the words of Sarah Palin, that I could see the U.S. from the boat! Well, I don't really think so, because on my way back to Vancouver I saw an island with a Canadian flag.

It turns out there's a lot of Asians in Canada. My family stayed in the Four Points by Sheraton hotel in Richmond, just east of the Vancouver International Airport, and there were many plazas of Chinese-owned businesses and even a Chinese shopping mall. Even in the smaller towns (like Banff) there were Chinese restaurants.

Well, it's the last week of summer before I start college. Gotta make the best of it.

03 August 2009

Movie review: "Notorious" (2009)

On Sunday night, I watched a Netflix-rented DVD of the 2009 film Notorious, which was originally released to theaters on Jan. 16 this year and on DVD on April 21. This is a biopic of the life of rapper The Notorious B.I.G. (born Christopher George Latore Wallace), who was murdered in March 1997 at the age of 24. To this day, his murder is still unsolved. The movie focuses mostly on Biggie's music career; the first quarter of the film centers on his childhood and high school years.

Of course, because we all know that The Notorious B.I.G. is no longer with us, the movie opens with the "ending"...with a scene where B.I.G. exits a Los Angeles party that fateful late night of March 8, 1997. Shortly after midnight, he is shot dead. Then the movie flashes back to Biggie's childhood. This effect is similar to the episode structure of the CBS/CTV police drama Flashpoint.

Biggie's son, Christopher Jordan (CJ) Wallace, plays a young Christopher Wallace before he was B.I.G. Even as a student at a Catholic middle school, the young Chris knew about the hip-hop sound. He and a friend are rapping to Kurtis Blow's "The Breaks" at the schoolyard. At home, young Chris's mother Voletta Wallace (played by Angela Lansbury) introduces Chris to his father, George Latore, who had been absent from Chris's life since Chris was a toddler. Voletta and George get into an argument while Chris is upstairs in his bedroom. George storms out of the Wallaces' apartment. Volette tells Chris that his father will never come back again.

As Chris enters high school (according to Wikipedia, after graduating from middle school he attended a magnet school), he gets involved in the 1980s crack epidemic. Rapper Jamal "Gravy" Woolard plays a maturing Chris. In one scene, the high school-age Chris hides a plate of crack cocaine under his bed as he hears his mother coming. Because of the drugs and the street life in general, Chris loses his "good boy" status, as he exhibits during an algebra class one day as he insults his teacher during class. The teacher evicts Chris from the classroom, so Chris goes out to the city to socialize with his fellow gangsters the rest of the day. Chris comes home with a "corny" (in his opinion) country music record for his mother in the hopes of making her happy, but an angry Voletta raises up a letter from Chris's school stating that Chris missed 20 days in one month. Chris argues that he'd been attending school for three consecutive weeks. Then, Voletta angrily asks why she came all the way to the U.S. from Jamaica, only to have raised a bad son. Next, she alleges that Chris hid mashed potatoes under his bed, but Chris admitted that he'd been involved in the local drug trade. Chris's mother throws him out of home.

With all the freedom a bad boy could ask for, Chris gets deeper in the street culture of Brooklyn. He is shown winning a freestyle rap battle, with his playful rhymes, stable flow, and craftful grasp of language evoking cheers from the crowd. But being involved in the less desirable side of life makes him face the music. At home, Voletta is looking over paperwork when she gets a "collect call" from her son out of the county jail. Voletta sternly tells her son to take responsibility for himself. While incarcerated, Chris thinks over all the bad things he's encountered in life and converts them into poetry. He jots down rhymes and ideas in a composition book.

After getting out of jail, Voletta hugs Chris for a warm welcome home, and Chris meets his baby daughter, T'yanna (Taylor Dior), who was born by his girlfriend Jan (Julia Pace Mitchell). To support his new daughter, Chris finds a way to make a living: rapping. With friends Damion "D-Roc" Butler (Dennis White) and Jason "Lil' Cease" Lloyd (Marc John Jeffries), Chris records a demo tape, "Microphone Murderer". Chris then meets producer Sean "Puffy" Combs (Derek Luke) from Uptown Records. Combs seems hostile to Chris's lifestyle: Combs would sign Chris only if Chris gave up drug dealing. Chris disobeys; he and D-Roc go out to the street again. Chris sells a man crack vials that he hid in his mouth; however, an unmarked police vehicle blasts its sirens and takes the duo by surprise. The plainclothes police officers chase Chris and D-Roc down the street and into an alley and take them into custody. Chris tries to discard his illegal gun, but the police find it anyway. Because he wants and believes that Chris can succeed as a rapper, D-Roc takes the blame for the gun and crack. D-Roc knows well that Chris could be locked up for nearly a decade for this.

More disadvantages come for Chris's life: Uptown lays off Combs, and Chris's mother has breast cancer. Chris suffers from depression until Combs establishes his own label Bad Boy Records. Chris begins performing as "The Notorious B.I.G.". He makes his debut at the 1992 Howard University Homecoming concert. The crowd appreciates his song "Party and Bullshit", but for some reason a fight breaks out on stage. Luckily, Biggie's rhymes save the crowd from erupting into a riot. He then begins recording his debut album Ready to Die, to be released in 1994. Combs and other producers criticize him for being "too street" and assert that the record will tank if the mainstream can't handle it. This leads to Biggie recording "Juicy", which samples old-school R&B single "Juicy Fruit" by Mtume. While recording Ready to Die, Biggie meets Kimberly Jones, the rapper known as Lil' Kim and played here by former 3LW singer Naturi Naughton. He ends up having a relationship with Kim but dislikes her style of rapping. Tensions between the two rappers lead to Biggie assaulting Kim in studio.

Ready to Die becomes a bestselling album, and the movie shifts into a slideshow of various images of Biggie's success. In August 1994, Biggie marries singer Faith Evans while ignoring Jan and T'yanna in the process. Tensions arise when Jan calls Faith, who confronts Biggie in a hotel. Another woman was in the room, and the two women get in a catfight. Faith and Biggie reconcile despite the incident.

It's 1995, the year after Ready to Die was released. The tides turn against Biggie's favor, as the East Coast/West Coast rap rivalry has begun. Initially, Biggie befriended West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur (Anthony Mackie). However, Tupac gets shot in a recording studio and blames Biggie and crew. At the Source Awards ceremony that year, Suge (pronounced "shoog") Knight, CEO of Tupac's label Death Row Records, makes a speech dising Bad Boy Records. This sentiment has spread nationwide; the movie cuts from the regular plot to showcase various news reports and "citizen on the street" interviews where average hip-hop fans takes sides and obscenely defame the East or West coasts. Back in the regular plot, Biggie takes the stage one time with the audience booing him, and some people get into fights in the stands. However, they cheer his new track, "Who Shot Ya?" (released on Biggie's 1999 posthumous Born Again and 2006 remaster of Ready to Die). Tupac responds harshly to that track with his own "Hit 'Em Up" (a B-side to the "How Do U Want It" single; the track was released to Pac's posthumous Greatest Hits CD). Then the media gets involved with this mess with a smear of its own. A friend of Big's shows Biggie a magazine cover with Tupac and Faith Evans together. In yet another allegation of infidelty (this time on Faith's part), Biggie confronts Faith, only to realize it was indeed the magazine's fault. Tupac is shot dead in Las Vegas on September 13, 1996. Biggie and his mother talk about it. To deal with his ongoing woman issues, Biggie and Faith visit Jan and T'yanna; during the visit, Biggie teaches T'yanna to be strong and never let a man call her a bitch.

Despite his mother's warning, Biggie goes to Los Angeles to promote his latest effort, Life After Death. After the promo party, Biggie and crew ride to the hotel. At a stoplight, Biggie's life ends when a gang member from a neighboring Chevy Impala shoots Biggie four times. The crowd of fans who came to greet Biggie scatter around the sidewalks like crazy. Biggie's crew rushes him to the hospital, but it's too late. Biggie's funeral is held, and during the funeral procession, fans mourn and celebrate his music. Life After Death was released on March 22, 1997, two weeks after Biggie's death.

Despite a budget only half of that of the Eminem biopic 8 Mile (Notorious ~ $20 million; 8 Mile ~ $41 million), Notorious still effectively narrates the short yet powerful life of The Notorious B.I.G. from childhood to rap star to death. Jamal Woodward applies his background as a mixtape rapper to portray one of the most talented MC's to have graced the music industry. The film also depicts the street culture articulately and realistically, especially in one instance where Biggie's friends encourage him to be beyond the "mixtape rapper" and the NYPD's unmarked patrol vehicle that caught Biggie and D-Roc in the act. For anyone who's dissatisified over the East Coast/West Coast beef, the film puts it out for what it really was: nothing but a media-hyped smear campaign, not really a measure of MC talent.

In this era where hip-hop has shifted from the streets to the dance floors and nightclubs, when "crunk"/"snap music" nonsense like "Crank That (Soulja Boy)" and "Stanky Legg" dominate the airwaves, cable music video networks, and YouTube, is it any wonder why this film made a mere $36 million in the U.S. beyond its January not summer release? And there were critics who derided this film as "Biggie's Wikipedia page reformatted for the big screen" and "half pop fable, half naturalistic docudrama". Overall, critical views were mixed.

Director: George Tillman, Jr.
Writers: Reggie Rock Bythewood, Cheo Hodari Coker
Rated: R (profanity, sexual dialogue, nudity, drugs)
Run time: 2 hours, 2 mins. (theater version); 2 hours, 8 mins (director's cut, which I watched)

27 July 2009

The Henry Louis Gates situation worsens, and was Michael Jackson truly murdered?

The New York Times just published a story today revealing the 911 call from the woman who called the cops on Professor Henry Louis Gates, who was arrested and shortly released. That incident sparked controversy because of alleged racial profiling and the fact that Gates was merely trying to enter his own home. Worse, this article reveals the truth: The woman who called the police did NOT specify that Gates or his friend was black. I was just watching a report on this on ABC's World News and heard the actual tapes. This is an outrageous disregard for the truth and decency and yet another example of police power abuse.

Also, when I was looking up the ABC News website for the Gates story I discovered THIS prominently displayed: "Report: Jackson's Personal Doc Gave Deadly Shot". 'Nuff said. Whatever happens, justice shall be served.

24 July 2009

Obama's press conference: The orchestra-pit theory in action

Consider Roger Ailes's famous question: "If you have two guys on a stage and one guy says, 'I have a solution to the Middle East problem,' and the other guy falls in the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news?"

Now, the news media has demonstrated this clearly by emphasizing the very last question from Wednesday's televised primetime news conference, when reporter Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times asked the President about the Cambridge police wrongly arresting Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates. Obama suggested the police "acted stupidly". That was just one question in a news conference where most of the 10 questions were about health care reform. Guess what really made headlines? Watch the videos below and see for yourself.

NBC's Today, July 23

Compare this to how much time was spent to cover the health care aspects:

On the satirical Daily Show, Jon Stewart hosts a properly proportional segment:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
White House M.D.
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day

13 July 2009

Sotomayor confirmation hearings began today

So far today the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor have been just the Senate Judiciary Committee members' commentary and Sotomayor's speech. Her speech was so deep, articulate, and moving, with her narrative of how her Puerto Rican immigrant mother worked hard with her and her brother despite their low income. As for the senators, Republicans pressed Sotomayor with the usual "activist judge"/alleged racism, while Democrats had all sorts of hopeful and praising things to say. Heck, even South Carolina Republican Lindsay Graham decided to be nice for once.

There were also some celebrity guest appearances at today's session. When the newly elected Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) - yes, the former Saturday Night Live/Air America Radio star Al Franken, in case you've been living in a cave all year - began his remarks, Norma McCorvey (the Jane Roe of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case) hollered along with another protestor. Then, when another Democrat, Dianne Feinstein of my home state California, began speaking, another protestor yelled: "Her record--What about the unborn. Abortion is murder! Stop the genocide of unborn Latinos!" Then, SJC chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) actually had to remind the audience to remain silent for the rest of the session. I actually saw the Feinstein incident live on PBS (locally on the digital KQED World channel). Because I always wake up late during the summer, I missed most of the earlier senators remarks. The hearings started at 10AM Eastern, which is 7AM in the Pacific Time Zone. Unfortunately, 10AM is my average wake-up time when there's nothing to do during the day. I think I need to move to the East Coast if I want to keep my sleep schedule and political informacy.

But later during the afternoon on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer (KQED broadcasts it live from Washington, that's why it's on at 3PM PT), I got to hear a condensed version of the session, but not Franken. You can watch Franken getting interrupted on the Washington Post website.

Tomorrow, I'll wake up early to watch Round 2 of the hearings.

08 July 2009

These folks make the Parents Television Council look like Greek scholars

I've blogged about the Parents Television Council before. That organization has a reputation for its tough moral stance on TV and for "FCC complaint fraud", that is, recruiting "meat puppet" applicants to file multiple complaints about a certain indecent TV show. Targets have included the predictable usual suspects, exposed private parts (NYPD Blue in 2003, Super Bowl XXXVIII Halftime Show in 2004, and Survivor: Gabon in 2008 - I'm not kidding, click the link and you know what's happening) and obscene words (Billboard Music Awards in 2002 and 2003, NYPD Blue and Golden Globe Awards in 2003, Live 8 in 2005, a lot more examples - darn it TV is PROFANE!)

And? PTC has been known for raising a ruckus about otherwise harmless instances on TV, such as recent Family Guy and Two and a Half Men episodes.

But? On Broadcasting & Cable I just came upon THIS rather giggly story:

According to reports, the Little People of America has filed an official complaint with the FCC over the use of the term "midget" on TV.

"[P]eople with dwarfism find the word "midget" highly offensive," the group said last April when it complained about the use of the term on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice.

An FCC spokesperson was not available for comment at press time, but to regulate the term's use on broadcast TV, the commission would likely have to classify it as indecent or hate speech, over which it has regulatory.

So this organization, now the powerful, million-member, complaint-stuffing PTC, had to raise a "sensitivity" ruckus? When was the last time PTC went up in arms about "political" rather than "moral" or "language" correctness? I know that FCC targets words like the one that begins with F and rhymes with a bird species and another that begins with S and contains the sound of "it", but I've never heard of FCC targeting ethnic/racial/etc. slurs like "midget" or the one that begins with N and rhymes with a character from Winnie the Pooh.

If PTC has never brought up things like this, they're the scholars of the new millennium.