Dennis Miller on The Downslide

Posted in Miscellaneous on March 19th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: I’ve been a huge fan of Dennis Miller for years. I liked him on SNL, loved his Chicago-based talk show way back when, and enjoyed his wisecracking on HBO for nine years. Now he’s on CNBC, has shifted considerably to the right, and the change doesn’t suit him. He’s become mean-spirited and hard-edged, and disappointingly, very unlikeable.

Last night he “interviewed” Eric Alterman, author of What Liberal Media?, and co-author of The Book on Bush. Miller blew the interview so badly that it was literally painful to watch. He treated Alterman rudely, was obviously unprepared in advance, acted like a kid who couldn’t get his own way, and ended the interview abruptly, mocking Alterman by turning to the camera, saying, “OK, you’re great, come back anytime soon.” As one contributor on RateItAll noted, “it was the most embarrassing train wreck I have ever seen.” South Knox Bubba provides a great blow-by-blow description of what went down during the interview. Better still, watch the interview here, and cringe as it progresses.

But the best viewpoint of what happened last night comes from Alterman himself:

    Since my hotel here in Santa Monica does not get CNBC, I remain among the category of the vast majority of my fellow countrymen and women who have never seen the Dennis Miller show. So I don’t know how it looked to its miniscule audience. There is a description here, however.

    Anyway, what was so weird about it was how professional it seemed until I finally sat down with Miller. It was set up long in advance by the book’s publicists. The car came on time. In my dressing room, which was pretty elaborate as such things go, I met with a series of staff members who informed me that Dennis would be wanting to discuss topics such as George Soros and the funding of 527s; whether Bush was exploiting the 9/11 families, and I forget what else, just like a real talk show. Then I go out there and what? I’m talking to a stoned teenager, who can’t be bothered to say more than, “Whoh, man, you are so totally screwed up. Like, you really believe that stuff, dude?” I paraphrase, but really, Dennis did not say much more than that. Everyone on staff was extremely apologetic afterward and the word “unprofessional” was used over and over.

    I try to avoid most of these guys, though I’ve been on O’Reilly, and Scarborough and Michael Medved’s silly radio program a couple of times but never have I encountered a guy who could not be bothered to make his own case on his own show. Really, what can CNBC be thinking with this guy? His ratings are not just in the toilet they have traveled all the way to the septic tank. And as we all know, they need to pay audience members to show up. It has got to cost more than the Phil Donahue show to produce, given the size of the audience and the set and that was yanked even though it was then the highest rated show on MSNBC.

    I used to think I should be given half of Joe Scarborough’s show. His ratings aren’t so hot and we sort of get along and things could only improve. Now, perhaps I should be patient and just wait for Miller to implode a couple of more times and then offer my services to the machers up at NBC News. No need for lengthy negotiations. I’ll take whatever Dennis was getting, plus money for liquor and food for my friends when they do the program.

What’s annoying to me is that for years, I chose Miller as my favorite all-around performer – a great comedian, I loved the non-sequitors and obscure references, and he was an entertainer who gave credit where and when credit was due. He never seemed to take for granted that he was one of the lucky ones who made it in “the biz.” Now he’s kissing Dubya’s Texas behind, giving Bush “a pass” on his show. That’s his right, so to speak. But if he is going to treat the guests on his show who don’t side with him with no dignity or respect, why bother going through the motions? Instead, feature a bevy of right-wing nutbags and turn it into a 21st century version of the Rush Limbaugh show. And his sidekick on the show is a monkey. No, really. A monkey. And people in the audience get paid to be there.

Dennis! Say it ain’t so. Come back, we miss you.

Fundamentalism as an Evolutionary Function

Posted in Miscellaneous on March 19th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: This is straight from Derryl’s site, it is at once frightening and thought-provoking:

    “There has been all sorts of nastiness cropping up lately, reminders that the vestiges of civilization that remain south of the border are slowly being picked away. So it’s nice to come across a well-conceived essay, not only on the dangers of such madness, but one that analyzes its history and looks for some possible solutions.

    Here’s a little piece of “The Fundamentalist Agenda“:

      They identified five characteristics shared by virtually all fundamentalisms. The fundamentalists’ agenda starts with insistence that their rules must be made to apply to all people, and to all areas of life. There can be no separation of church and state, or of public and private areas of life. The rigid rules of God—and they never doubt that they and only they have got these right—must become the law of the land. Pat Robertson, again, has said that just as Supreme Court justices place a hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution, so they should also place a hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible. In Khomeini’s Iran, and in the recent Taliban rule of Afghanistan, we saw how brutal and bloody this looks in real time.

      The second agenda item is really at the top of the list, and it’s vulgarly simple: Men are on top. Men are bigger and stronger, and they rule not only through physical strength but also and more importantly through their influence on the laws and rules of the land. Men set the boundaries. Men define the norms, and men enforce them. They also define women, and they define them through narrowly conceived biological functions. Women are to be supportive wives, mothers, and homemakers.

      A third item follows from the others. (Indeed each part of the fundamentalist agenda is necessarily interlocked, and needs every other part to survive.) Since there is only one right picture of the world, one right set of beliefs, and one right set of roles for men, women, and children, it is imperative that this picture and these rules be communicated precisely to the next generation. Therefore, fundamentalists must control education by controlling textbooks and teaching styles, deciding what may and may not be taught.

      Fourth, fundamentalists spurn the modern, and want to return to a nostalgic vision of a golden age that never really existed. Several of the scholars observed a strong and deep resemblance between fundamentalism and fascism. Both have almost identical agendas. Men are on top, women are subservient, there is one rigid set of rules, with police and military might to enforce them, and education is tightly controlled by the state. One scholar suggested that it’s helpful to understand fundamentalism as religious fascism, and fascism as political fundamentalism. The phrase “overcoming the modern” is a fascist slogan dating back to at least 1941.

      The fifth point is the most abstract, though it’s foundational. Fundamentalists deny history in a radical and idiosyncratic way. Fundamentalists know as well or better than anybody that culture shapes everything it touches: The times we live in color how we think, what we value, and the kind of people we become. Fundamentalists agree on the perverseness of modern American society: the air of permissiveness and narcissism, individual rights unbalanced by responsibilities, sex divorced from commitment, and so on. What they don’t want to see is the way culture colored the era when their scriptures were created.

    Is this overreaching? Are all fundamentalists in some way equivalents to fascists? Maybe so, if one remembers that fascists are control freaks (to put it lightly). Fred Clark at Slacktivist has been talking about evangelicals for some time, making sure that his readers know that there is a difference between the two religious mindsets. And while I mostly agree with him, I can speak with experience about friends who inhabit both worlds, quite happily, who are evangelical in their furvor and desire to spread the Word of God (and indeed, who would normally classify themselves as evangelical), but very fundamental in their belief in that Word as well as in their desire that their society behave as their interpretation of that Word would have it, even at the expense of another person’s freedoms.

    It’s no surprise to think that our fundamentalist nature might reach back to a time that fundies don’t even believe existed. Animals behave the way they do because it is hardwired into their brains, although allowance for learning must be made. Hell, even computer programs can behave in similar fashions. It is a concern, though, that there are powerful groups of people (mostly men, as noted in the article) who wish to run things their way, and no way else, and the article quoted above gives some eloquent arguments about how to fight back.”

How News Travels on the Internet

Posted in Internet on March 18th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: Interesting graphic from Steven Van Dyke.

Challenge of the Week, World Subways

Posted in Friends on March 17th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: Tonya has a new web site, Challenge of the Week: “The purpose of the COTW initiative is to gather together handfuls of people seeking a springboard from which to challenge themselves to make changes – big or small – individual or communal.” It sounds like a good idea, especially if you believe that big changes can only emerge from small beginnings.

:: Cindi posted this cool site which displays the subways systems of the world on the same scale. The images looks like a group of small webs woven by spiders on major hallucinogenic drugs, or a series of strange cracks in glass windows.

Grandpa’s Left Foot

Posted in Family History, My Mother's Stories on March 14th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: My mother contributes another story to my family history project:

    When I was about 8 or 9 years of age, my wonderful father got blood poisoning in his left foot. His foot swelled to a size that resembled a small football. Our dear Dr. Robinson knew our family of 6 children had very limited income. Because of his devotion to his calling to care for and heal the sick, he lovingly came to our home several times that week to check on my father’s condition.

    His instructions to my mother were to bathe my father’s foot in hot water with epsom salt, three to four times daily. My father’s bedtime ritual always included kneeling to say his prayers. My mother had helped him ready for the night, elevating his foot on some pillows. My bedroom, which I shared with my younger sister Carol, was directly opposite that of my parents. While I lay in bed trying to go to sleep (as I had been instructed, “Go to sleep now, you have school in the morning”), I noticed my father get out his bed and kneel to say his prayers.

    I literally jumped from my bed and ran to his side, pleading with him to get back into bed, as God knew he had a sore foot and would not mind if he did not kneel until his foot was better. With much love in his eyes, my dad reached up, and touching my shoulder, invited me to kneel beside him and pray. By this time I was in tears, certain that his foot must be hurting him more than ever. I knelt, and together we prayed and I asked God to make my daddy’s foot better.

    Some sixty plus years later, I still remember vividly that night, and realize how much this influenced the prayer life I have had since my early childhood.

Dr Robinson and me, 1954

My mom’s parents were named Marie-Ange and Jean-Charles Carriere, but everyone called them Mary and Charlie. They were wonderful grandparents. As for Dr Robinson, he was around for a long time. Not only did he deliver my mother, he also delivered me!

Hello Out There, We’re On The Air…

Posted in Miscellaneous on March 13th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: In the 60s and 70s, I lived and died by the Montreal Canadiens. The past 25 years has seen a waning in my interest in hockey, with baseball overtaking it for a number of reasons. Last week, Todd Bertuzzi of the Canucks assaulted Steve Moore in the Canucks/Avalanche game. He’s been suspended, and the Vancouver police are investigating.

The fallout has been predictable and at times, pathetic. Proof that the players are out of touch with their own sport and behaviour comes from listening to Wayne Gretzky, Tie Domi, and others, who call the assault “unfortunate”, and use the crutch of “emotions running high out there” as an excuse for what happened. Had Steve Moore been hit by a car, that would have been an unfortunate incident. What happened on the ice was disgusting, premeditated, unwarranted, stoooopid, and the lowest of the low.

An “unfortuate incident”? Oh, puh-LEASE.
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