Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Reality Bites – the Slow, Painful Decline of Network TV


“A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies.
Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives

And I decline. ..
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.” – R.E.M.

If, perchance, you might be a regular, semi-regular or like much of my wardrobe, slightly-irregular, reader of this online folderol, you may have noticed a chill in the air of late, and a somewhat tense atmosphere. Finally fatigued of the frequent weightiness of recent posts and of the theatrical threats from heavily-armed and permanently peeved pistol-packers, we momentarily flee from the frictions over firearms and instead descend into lowbrow froth, frivolity and superficiality with some lampooning of TV fare.

During its recent Oscar telecast, ABC promoted the upcoming premiere of the new celebrity reality competition program, “Splash.” While it’s unfortunate that neither comely mermaids nor a resurrected John Candy appear to be involved, we will still share this brief description from the network’s website –
Splash marks the first time 10 celebrities will train and compete in regulation platform and springboard diving at dizzying heights in front of a weekly poolside audience.”

Among the list of lesser luminaries regrettably sporting speedos and displaying all that God gave them in 1080p, on your 50 inch 3D LED television, will be zaftig comedian, Louie Anderson, aged basketball legend, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, former Cosby-kid, Keshia Knight Pullman and 7 other unrecognizable names whose categorization as “celebrities” would justify a Sarah Palin categorization as “intellectual.”

The green-lighting of this televised travesty serves as proof positive that, in the year 2013 A.D., humankind has officially exhausted all ideas. However, being an American television network, and therefore fully aware that originality, ideas or intelligence are irrelevant, if not even counterproductive to success, (late night talk show comic setup ahead) the American Broadcasting Network (Howard K. Smith is spinning in his sarcophagus) has a number of other personality-based reality programs waiting in the wings assured that this sad and shameless charade is certain to expire shortly after its second showing.  

But first, speaking of the networks, NBC, once self-proclaimed, peacock proud purveyor of quality programming, has pitifully plummeted into 5th place, recently overtaken by a UHF foreign language station.  After exhaustive attempts at every iteration of simian-centered shows and desperate  to revitalize viewership, executives at famed 30 Rock have newly signed New York City Public Access icons, Robin Byrd and the portly, naked fellow from “Interludes after Midnight.”

Can Robin Byrd save NBC?
And now, we are moderately to embarrassingly proud to present some fake TV for your entertainment pleasure.

Coming this Spring to ABC
He’s out of rehab and in your chest cavity. You'll be in stitches when funny man, Andy Dick performs your triple bypass surgery, on Celebrity Cardiology, hosted by Ryan Seacrest.

When one-time, Saturday Night Live regular and current Tea Party harlequin Victoria Jackson; disgraced former New York Governor and courtesan cash cow Elliot Spitzer, and Food Network host and enhanced interrogation voice-over artist, Guy Fieri strap on their helmets and ease into the firing tube, you’ll be yearning for a mishap as if you were trackside at the Indianapolis 500. Join that trio of infuriating irritants plus 12 more has-beens and never-will-bes on ABC’s Human Cannon Balling with the Stars.

You love Zombies! You love Match Game! Now, all your old dead favorites – Brett Somers, Richard Dawson and Charles Nelson Reilly - are back, on Zombie Match Game 2013!

If we gathered some of the world’s most beloved singing legends – Christina Aguilera, Wayne Newton, Juice Newton, Rick Springfield, the late Dusty Springfield, Jimmy Osmond, Aretha Franklin, Andrea Bocelli and Vicki Carr, and then had boxing icon, George Foreman, punch each one in the throat that could mean only one thing! It’s time for a brand new season of Who Can Sound the Most Like Tom Waits?

Nine armed vests, a trip to Somalia for nine stars from TV’s Saved by the Bell, boy band Menudo, comic Emo Philips and Attorney General Eric Holder, and all but one vest is a dud. Emo’s bombed before but never like this – it’s Celebrity Suicide Bomber.

Two kidnapped men are drugged, and trapped with a dead body in the lair of renowned serial killer Jigsaw. The madman provides them with a set of dangerous and harmful rules and objectives that they must follow for any hope of survival. Sound familiar? Yes, it’s the hit horror movie, Saw, but this time… it’s real!! Celebrity Saw: The Series – Cary Elwes unwittingly recreates his film role, with three-time U.S. National Figure Skating Champion, Johnny Weir along for the bloody, and very bumpy, ride.

Two C-list talents go in, but only one comes out, on Superstar Roman Gladiator! Three superstar pairings battle to a likely demise this week in the arenafirst up it’s that Master of the Malaprop, comic Norm Crosby taking on Latin and Folk Singer/Guitarist Jose Feliciano, followed by somebody from one of those youth oriented WB shows, who knows, they’re interchangeable vs. whoever’s left from Different Strokes, and finally, a nostalgic and heartwarming Happy Days reunion… to the death! It’s an old-fashioned rumble when Anson “Potsie” Williams and Donny "Ralph Malph" Most settle their decade’s long blood-feud in a recreated Arnold’s parking lot.

There’s all this and much, much more -
  •  Mob Wife Swap
  • A creepy movie star and soft shoe man wants to date your teenage daughter in Walken on Sunshine
  • Russian import, Dancing with the Tsars
  • 360 singers of faith, a few dozen belligerent bulls – it’s LDS versus livestock when we parachute the Mormon Tabernacle Choir into Pamplona, Spain in Celebrity Running with the Bulls
  • There’s only need for one and you decide their fate on Michael Cera or Jesse Eisenberg
  •  Michael Fassbender!  Mark Wahlberg ! Cockfighting with the Stars!
  • Armageddon Married in the Morning 
 Now, we leave you with some musical commentary, REM and “It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine.)”

Friday, February 22, 2013

From My Warm, Living Hands - Take My Gun… Please

“As I walk through
This wicked world
Searching for light in the darkness of insanity.
I ask myself
Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?
And each time I feel like this inside,
There's one thing I want to know:
What's so funny about peace love & understanding?
” – Elvis Costello

The overtly exaggerated and over the top rhetoric to immediately follow denotes satire, please keep your 9 millimeters safely holstered at all times.

Who would suspect that the unassuming, and enormously, egotistical practice of blogging could turn out to be a precarious and perilous pursuit? But alas, my prospective compadres, it is. For I’ve learned, of late, that some particular, pistol-packing people abhor me and the terrorism-train that they think I rode in on. Imagine innocent, guileless, loveable and accessible nycityman, simply wishing to pen creative prose articulating progressive polemics, is reviled by a gun powder-stained handful of dentally-challenged, unmatriculated, paragons of prejudice and the positivity of inbreeding - what could their possible provocations be? Rather than enduring the testiness and intemperance of those bearing bullets, Berettas and bayonets it would have been preferable perhaps to have annoyed anthropologists, frustrated florists or incensed incense salesmen, but, as with their odious images of Obama in white face, Obama as witchdoctor and Obama as Adolph, I am but their paper target, pinned to their backyard beech trees, fluttering in the breeze, awaiting the next squeeze of the trigger and the aimless aim of their 19th century, misdirected malice. And feel free to take your figurative best shot for ballots triumph over bullets, pens over swords, and logic, facts and intelligence over the imperceptible penises that lead you, like divining rods, to amass armaments as Hugh Hefner hoards silicone-augmented, Midwestern farmers daughters.

In a previous post, I protested the concept of Gun Appreciation Day held, but a callous month, after the heartbreaking events in Newtown; and the unintentionally implied celebration of that tragedy and the thousands of gun deaths that regularly occur yearly in these United States. Responders, in numbers never before experienced, availed themselves of their 1st Amendment rights to dispatch threatening treatises to this webpage.  By all evidence, they perceive reasonable approaches to limit gun violence, to keep automatic and semi-automatic assault weapons off our streets and out of the hands of mentally unstable residents, as the expiration of the 2nd Amendment and the beginning of the big, bad, black-guy-lead, federal government commencing the confiscation of their cannons; Obama’s private, all-ebony army taking lead, with the New Black Panther Party (both members) and the Muslim Brotherhood providing support.  Suddenly, with these fictional, Fox-falsified hazards hanging over their tin-foiled festooned domes, these lions of liberty (exclusively for Christian, Caucasian Conservatives, of course) are no longer just 7/11 clerks, CPAs or Martinizing dry cleaners;  but brave, bold conquerors combating the Communist Kenyan, and safeguarding the freedoms of  the paltry percentage of the American populace that they deem to tolerate.  

To call these States of ours “United” often seems purely wishful thinking.  We are a nation of deep divides, presently fragmented between citizens who love this land and its inhabitants, who aspire to assure a safe and secure,  harmonious, happy, healthy future; and those minority of Americans who predominantly and primarily worship what they believe to be their God –given and Constitutional right to fire upon their fellow countrymen as often,  as rapidly and as efficiently as daydreamed in their John Wayne, Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood reveries, with weapons and ammunition capacities designed and intended initially for military use. (Note to Tea-publicans, it is not actually factual  that God wrote the Constitution, is an American, or would favor any country or peoples over any other – that wouldn’t be particularly God-like, would it?)

In the case of the current Congress, too many inmates are running the asylum (on Bachmann, on Gohmert, on Cruz, and on Paul) and it seems increasingly unlikely that any significant gun legislation is going to succeed. Additionally, the further that healing-time passes from the horror of Sandy Hook, the less we hear about guns in the news, and the more citizens and legislators turn their attentions elsewhere.  Unfortunately, as has so often been the case, the Obama administration started from a place of weakness, indicating compromise and surrender before negotiations were even initiated. The President would like to reinstate the assault weapons ban (a God Reagan favorite) but doesn’t believe it achievable, and recent reports suggest that limits on rounds and even universal background checks may be on shaky ground - the latter, despite the fact that 92% of Americans favor it.

An alternate to the stagnation and uselessness of our chosen representatives and their financial fealty and loyalty to the deep pockets of corporate America, including those accessories to murder in the gun manufacturing field, is a declaration by the people. If the government refuses to act responsibly, it’s time that we the people, we who constitute this revolutionary government of the people, by the people, for the people, address this vital issue ourselves. The idea is simple and not, in any way, a lessening of the presumed scope and power of the 2nd Amendment but, if fortunate, could remove some of the 200 million guns from the nightstands and the closet shelves of America.  We, who have no desire or need for guns in our lives, just actively attempt to maintain that status, proudly proclaim it, and share the concept as encouragement for others to exist free of firearms as well.

"As a citizen of the United States of America I, _____________ hereby, voluntarily, relinquish my 2nd Amendment rights to keep and bear arms as -
1) Not being a member of a "well-regulated militia" I never actually had the right to begin with  
2) I have no wish to murder innocent, defenseless animals for barbaric "sport" or fun 
3) Statistics show that a gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used against someone in the household than for their self-defense
 4) Being neither paranoid nor delusional, I harbor no fear of the Federal Government's black helicopters coming to get me. When finding disagreement with an office holder I will exercise my right to vote, in conjunction with those rights enumerated in the First Amendment, not the Second."

If so moved, please download and share

No doubt, most will think this pointless, feckless folly and the product of a mind who took one too many trips to Amsterdam. But, the seemingly, easy willingness of too many in this country to accept the occasional Columbine, Sandy Hook or Aurora; to sacrifice the lives of so many, including children, at the altar of the NRA, the gun manufacturers that they are paid to prostitute for, and in the supposed defense of freedoms and liberties that are not endangered is an indescribable obscenity. We are far too great a country and a society to accede to the Road Warrior, dystopian future outlined by those looking to profit from fear.

As Elvis Costello asks, (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Nobody Loves Me But My Mother, And She Could Be Jivin' Too - A Midlife in Cry-sis

A Needless and Melodramatic Tale of Self-Pity, Self-Absorption and Self-Involvement

I am the Very Model of a Modern-Day American

The challenge at hand - to espouse upon the travails, trials and tribulations of middle-age doldrums without weeping, whining and wailing; to do so devoid of dreary dullness, tireless tedium and short a slumbering stay for the reader in the gentle waiting arms of Morpheus, and to avoid the palpable perception of rampant egomania (as cries of “too late” resound throughout the land.)

No Pill’s Gonna’ Cure My Ill
My awareness of a potential midlife malady arose with a confluence of behavioral differences - bouts of lethargy and listlessness, frequent minor illnesses, moments of melancholy, persistent fatigue and sleepiness (even now, the clanging of an alarm prior to 3pm is an enhanced interrogation technique to me) lack of interest, lack of focus… (I’m sorry, what was I saying again?) lack of curiosity in toys and play, excessive shedding, increased number of hairballs and going outside the litter box.

Any comprehensive, or in this case any slapdash, scrutiny of such a subject requires some definition and explanation of the issue at hand, and so we turn to that ultimate source of information, wisdom and Danish pornography; that magical land accessible only through QWERTY; that enchanted kingdom where Palin remains relevant, Gingrich is a great thinker and Bachmann, sane; that mecca where felines reign and share insight in memes, a place where dreams are born and time is never planned. It's not on any chart, you must find it with your heart” – the Never Never Land of the World Wide Web – here, from on-high, online, are some indications of a midlife crisis – play along with nycityman and let’s together discover how we fare.

“If you are going through a midlife crisis, you might experience a wide range of feelings, such as:
Discontent with life and/or the lifestyle that may have provided happiness for many years (yes)
Boredom with things/people that have hitherto held great interest and dominated your life (affirmative)
Feeling adventurous and wanting to do something completely different (si)
Questioning the meaning of life, and the validity of decisions clearly and easily made years before (you betcha’)
Confusion about who you are, or where your life is going. (you can read me like a book)”

While all points appear relevant and extremely accurate, I believe these symptoms have, in reality, initially surfaced somewhere between the successful conclusion of toilet training and the first stirrings of confused “I Dream of Jeannie” lust and ardor. Rather than accompanying the arrival of the AARP, the early bird special and the long-overdue appreciation of the genius of Guy and Ralna, along with the rest of the Lawrence Welk musical menagerie, in actuality, don’t we all experience  downhearted days at various times and in various degrees, through the entirety of our lives? It's an inevitability for a being who can ponder and postulate. And is it not a perusal of possibilities positive when one questions current situations and future prospects – for as the sage, Casey Kasem, so often intoned, “keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”

There'll Be One Child Born in Our World to Carry on, to Carry on
With your indulgence, we momentarily switch to a tone and a subject of some seriousness, and of a more personal nature than is the norm. My family recently suffered a sudden, unexpected and heartbreaking loss of a younger cousin and at an age where she should have had many decades of vibrant, healthy and fulfilled life and love ahead of her.  We’re an Italian clan, strong in number, and at this point most of us have dealt with the passing of a parent, all have experienced the death of uncles, aunts and grandparents, but this was the first loss of our generation and the copious count of cousins assembled took it hard. If our, much-loved and much-missed,  cousin could pass so unexpectedly, so tragically prematurely, leaving so many days left unrealized, are we making the best of those very precious and finite days remaining in our futures?  Is 25 years in a cubicle the fruition of anyone’s potential?

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité
By purposeful design of the workplace compensation and promotion process, we wage daily battle with those above us (natural enemies, like preventative dentistry to Tea Partiers), those below us (overly-ambitious young punks, fresh out of University with their hair and their music and their drugs, gunning for our jobs), our peers (commiserating comrades at after work fraternization tavern outings, cash-coveting competitors within the office environs), and even those yet to be hired (we must stop reproducing at such a rapid rate, there will forever exist but a fixed sum of positions.) The structure of the employment environment is one of intended competition and we are all its futuristic, apocalyptic, nihilistic, Mel Gibson-like Road Warriors (minus the Neo-Nazi, Anti-Semitism, of course.) We resent those who are the purveyors of power, the string manipulators to us marionettes, the supervisors whose command of “jump” will eternally be followed by our query of “how high?”

Whilst scanning Facebook and nodding off in mid-afternoon reverie, we daydream of some romanticized revolution in which authority will be overturned and sovereignty placed in the hands of the noble proletariat as we storm our business place Bastille and liberate our fellow corporate drones and toilers to ascend and occupy our own Versailles, at which time climate change will cease, our nation will revel in a population fully and contentedly employed, and adversaries across the globe will lay down their armaments, join hands and serenade our anxious ears with “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand.”  

No matter how gainful, how rewarding, even how enjoyable a job may be, after a quarter century of traversing the same urban avenues to the same office complex to fulfill the same basic responsibilities, it’s just ordinary, and to be anticipated, that Peggy Lee will caress your cranium and croon that musical question, “is that all there is?” However, we lacking the surname “Romney” need to secure steady engagement. One needs to eat, and live, and love (particularly pricey, depending on the neighborhood) and provide shelter from the storm. One needs to clothe himself in the finest fabrics, the fanciest finery and optimal attire and, without the indisputably indispensable, planned obsolescence that is the Apple product line, lovingly and painstakingly assembled by Job’s army of pre-teen Chinese slave-laborers, we know our lives as Americans would be incomplete and truly unworthy. So work we must, but work while unswervingly striving to strike a reasonable and livable balance between hours spent laboring to enrich others and those more properly devoted to life and time’s true values and joys.

As for nycityman, an occasional tilter at windmills -a sometime unsteadying frame of mind - this very blog and the opportunity it allows for expression and exchange of ideas, is a remarkable remedy to despondency and depression, both genuine and illusory.  And until my true dream, and true happiness, of achieving the position Beneficent President of the United Earth in Charge of all Things and all Decisions Rendered reaches fruition, I remain grateful for all I do have.  

And speaking of things to be grateful for (how's that for a slick, showbiz-y segue) here are two musical legends who's work has brought joy to generations - B.B. King and Peggy Lee.