In 2008, CNN and Fox News were boasting about their Super Turbo Election News-tainment Electronic Doodads that could do all this amazing analytical stuff, their sets looking like the bridge of the Enterprise in Star Trek VIII. But on Super Tuesday, neither of them could tell you whether Clinton or Obama won the night. With all that information potential, they just flat out punted on the question everyone wanted to know. Too many close races, too many different rules for how delegates were won - it was just too confusing. No one could tell you.
But Chuck Todd on MSNBC added some figures on a Telestrator and estimated that Clinton would have about a two delegate advantage on the night. His estimate proved to be very close to correct. He was the only one who could make an actual call, mostly because he intimately understood the esoteric process of how primary delegates were won. He became the new star of Cable News, just because he happened to know what the fuck he was talking about.
For me, it started at the World West Theater at Kamms Corners on the West Side of Cleveland.
Cleveland is and was a divided city. Chief among the many ways to slice and dice the city is culturally. The Art Gallery, the museums, the performance venue for the Orchestra, all the principal cultural institutions - and these institutions are far more majestic than most non-Clevelanders would imagine - are on the East Side. I lived on the West Side, a predominately middle- and working-class area.
The cultural division included movie theaters. You could see foreign and non-mainstream movies at several places on the East Side - the Cedar-Lee, the New Mayfield, Case-Western, Shaker Square. If you wanted to see Kurasawa or Bergmann or Fellini, or non-Rocky Horror cult movies like The King of Hearts, you pretty much had to shlep to the East Side. There was only one place on the West Side you could see a movie like this, and that was the World West. It was a few blocks from my house.
Through this whole scandal about phone and internet data accumulation, my kneejerk instinct that it shouldn't happen has been countered with a general not giving a shit. I wasn't sure why I felt that way, whether it was a feeling that it wouldn't affect me or general cynicism about the futility of fighting City Hall.
David Simon's blogpost on this issue
The explosion in Boston reminded me of a brilliant Peter Cook joke from "Beyond the Fringe." This sketch was written in the early '60s, when the threat of nuclear war seemed constant and real. He played a civil defense authority giving the British public advice on how to avoid a nuclear attack.
"...We shall receive four minutes warning of any impending nuclear attack. Some people would say, 'Oh, my goodness me, four minutes, that's not a very long time.' Well, I should remind those doubters that some people in this great country of ours can run a mile in four minutes!"
The necessary name to know to appreciate the genius of this joke is Roger Bannister, the British runner who was the first athlete to run the mile in under four minutes in a sanctioned track meet. The four-minute mile was a long anticipated barrier to be broken in athletics, and when Bannister finally broke it, he became an international celebrity and the Pride of Great Britain. He still is to this day.
The juxtaposition of this tremendous accomplishment in the history of sports, rendered utterly futile against the potential devastation of a nuclear explosion creates a dark, dark absurdity that makes this joke the masterpiece that it is.
Inspired by this terrific diary on the importance of Arts Education in our schools, I was reminded of a particularly wonderful moment from my high school years that I've had rolling in my head for a long, long time.
It seems no matter how old you are, things were always better in The Old Days. Everyone seems to always exist in some sad post-peak denouement of better times when life was fuller, more profound, and people were smarter, sweeter and never had to sue anybody. Our folks grew up in a time that was worse than their parents, and so on and so on, until our only conclusion is that the really best time to be alive must have been the Dark Ages.
So without judgement of the times that have come since or went before, my story is about an experience I had when I was a high school student in the Cleveland City School District in the late '70s.
I'm watching the Ohio State football game on the Big Ten cable network right now. I've seen about 7 Obama ads and no Romney ads.
How does Romney miss this opportunity?? The Big Ten covers Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and Pennsylvania - all swing states.
Romney and Rove raise jillions of dollars and have no ground game, their entire campaign is TV advertising, and they miss the one cable station that covers 5 swing states in one fell swoop (Yes, I realize they've written off MI and PA, which doesn't redound to their credit either). Is this the worst presidential campaign in history?
The story of the gymnastics tournament is Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas' heroics notwithstanding.
Aly was not on the radar coming into these games. It was all Jordyn Wieber, and maybe Gabby a distant second. Aly was considered a solid gymnast, but not a significant factor. The drama surrounding Wieber being crowded out of the All-Around was probably misplaced. Aly belonged there, and Wieber didn't. Wieber was in only one individual event final and flamed out. Aly was in two and got a gold and a bronze.
The possible lesson from this is that your solid gymnastics performer may be your go-to for the Olympics. The great challenge of the Olympics is how to handle the nerves. Every Olympic gymnastics meet features a broad array of broken performances in routines that had been performed hundreds of times by these athletes without problem. You need to find the rock that can deliver when it counts. The great Russian team had no rock, they had a number of mercurial athletes who could perform brilliantly on occasion, but no one who was consistently solid.
This is all fine in hindsight, however. The Americans had reason to believe that Jordyn Wieber was that rock, and the Russians may have had reason to believe in their various rocks. You never know until that Olympics spotlights starts shining and everyone who has ignored gymnastics the previous three years and fifty weeks (like me) suddenly pays attention.
Sometimes the game finds you. It found Aly Raisman this last ten days, and she performed like an Olympian.
I'm pretty sure most of the people who hate NBC's coverage of the Olympics are only watching the prime time broadcast. This is unfortunate, because the prime time broadcast is what NBC does the worst of all for the Olympics.
NBC is broadcasting the Olympics on eight different channels. By the end of the 16 days of the Olympics, they will have broadcast 1,000 hours of coverage on television and more than 3,500 hours live online. There is literally nothing in the Olympics you can't watch if you are determined to do so.
Clearly not everyone can take two weeks off of work to watch the Olympics. (Yeah, I have. I know. Don't start with me.) But you cannot fairly complain about NBC not covering the events you want to see. It's all there somewhere, and they do a pretty sterling job of it.
But for some reason, NBC has concluded that all we want to see in prime time is swimming, diving, gymnastics, track and field and Misty May and Kerri Walsh. To NBC, those are the "marquee events." They must have some test marketing to back this up, but to me it's a terribly narrow view of the rich diversity of sports that comprise the Olympics.
And if you don't like that and you can only watch the Olympics after work and before bed, you're out of luck because they do not broadcast any part of the Olympics on the other channels in the prime time hours because they do not want the NBC evening ratings cannibalized during those hours.
What's being broadcast outside of prime time is as good as sports programming gets. They broadcast every mile of the cycling road races, and if you're into cycling, it was thrilling. The cross-country equestrian today displayed everything beautiful about that event. Team sports, which are generally a couple hours of broadcasting and would represent a prohibitively huge chunk of an evening broadcast, are presented in their entirety in the way we are accustomed to watching team sports.
The Olympics are being presented brilliantly on NBC. Just not between 7 and 11 p.m. EST.
How do you get to compete in six Olympics?
Well, the most likely way is to compete in an event that isn't as unforgiving to the ravages of age, like shooting or equestrian...
Jordan Jovtchev - 39 year old Bulgarian, the President of their Olympic federation, gray-flecked hair, looking much like an executive with an IT firm. In the first day of the men's gymnastics competition, he turned in a brilliant rotation on high rings that qualified him for the individual finals at that apparatus.
Humans can't do that.
I LOVE THE OLYMPICS!!!!!!!!
London has an absolutely impossible act to follow. The Opening Ceremonies in 2008 was possibly - beware, a grand statement is approaching - the single greatest public spectacle of any kind of all time (if you think I'm hyping, name one better).
So apparently they are going in the opposite direction. In a stadium half the size of any Olympic Stadium I've ever seen, they seem to be going for Village Green. The children's choirs are beautiful. How wonderful that Ireland has so thoroughly adopted a song whose lyrics were written by a British lawyer.
For forty years, ever since I was old enough to know what the Olympics was, I have been mesmerized and obsessed by it. For the sports lover in me, it's a quadrennial (or biannual, depending on your love for the Winter Games) sports orgy (or even a literal orgy, if you're lucky enough to have digs in the Olympic Village). For the American in me, it's another chance to cheer on the competitors representing your country with pride. For the idealist in me, it's another attempt to experience the Olympic ideal of coming together in a spirit of peace and good faith, which somehow manages to emerge no matter how some may desecrate it.
I'm not an idiot, okay? I know the Olympics has been marred with scuzziness and tragedy. After all, the first Summer Olympics I watched was Munich in 1972. I know how the Olympics have been manipulated, dishonored and cheapened over the decades.
So why bother?
I wrote the following letter and sent it to all of the Limbaugh sponsors I could find. It attempts to appeal to the sponsors' business sense, not to their moral or political sense. If you can make a business case to pull their advertising from Limbaugh, you may make much more progress than any outrage could possibly make.
Dear Sir or Madam,
This is not a protest letter. This is a letter to inform you that the number of listeners that the representatives of The Rush Limbaugh Show have suggested your advertising will reach may be vastly overstated.
I do not pretend to be unbiased on this issue. I’m not an admirer of Mr. Limbaugh. But rather than appeal to you on a moral or political level on this issue, I have chosen merely to state facts about the immense exaggeration of Mr. Limbaugh’s listenership and let your business decision fall where it may.