Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Where's your global warming now?

Sorry it’s been so long since the last update, but the combination of an extremely hazy weekend, work, Notre Dame being terrible at basketball (again) and attempting to do a few things related to school work made me be a terrible person. Plus, I started writing up a “And this is what I’ve been doing in Washington! Yay!” post, and it got really boring, really quickly.

Let’s honor Stephen Colbert, who’s consistently entertaining at a level higher than The Daily Show at this point[i], and put a few things “On Notice”.

Alex/Colie: I said when this season of the Real World started that as long as they didn’t focus on Alex and Colie, it would have a chance. Well, after the initial barrage, they survived with some rather entertaining episodes – I’m still a little miffed Brooke hasn’t gotten her outdoors life comeuppance, but I’m sure it’s coming – and despite the fact Denver hates all of them, the show was doing well.

Last episode took a dip towards Alex/Colie-ness, and while I’ll allow the occasional trip into Danny/Melinda land, if there’s an extended stay, I’ll just tune in for Corbin, “Richtering” and Maui Fever at 10:30 and bypass the Mile High City.

(My favorite part about Colie crying to Alex? His reaction that basically consisted of “Well, you just had one guy quit his job to be with you and your quasi-boyfriend from school is coming into town Friday, yet you’re angry with me for being with random attractive blonde girl?” and her literally not having a single thing to say to that. Real World, you always bring me such joy.)

Dave Littlefield (Pittsburgh Pirates GM for those of you lucky enough not to be a fan): This is more of a preemptive “On Notice” for DL, because he’s actually done a decent job this offseason. Sure, he didn’t improve on the middle infield situation of Jack Wilson and Jose Castillo, both of whom sucked for the majority of last season, but he brought in Adam LaRoche and didn’t break the bank on a crappy free agent (I’m cool with the low-priced Armas and Kolb signings). Still, when you get to the point The Onion knows that you suck at your job, it’s worth being put on notice. Observe:

PITTSBURGH—While watching the noon edition of SportsCenter in his pajamas Tuesday, an alarmed Pirates GM Doug Littlefield suddenly realized that spring training was just one week away and he had yet to make a single offseason transaction. "Shit shit shit—what do we need? Hitters? Pitchers? Pitchers. Can never have enough pitching. Who's a pitcher? Let's see, Randy Johnson, Roy Oswalt, Tom Glavine—wait, wasn't there some Japanese guy now who's good?" Littlefield reportedly said as he went to go put on pants, started running the shower, and picked up the phone to call his assistant. "Who's still available… A… A… Armas. Tony Armas Jr. Wait, is he already on the Pirates? No, that's Shawn Chacon. Good, that's one. Think, think: Who else is there in baseball?" Littlefield spent the next hour trying to figure out where the Pirates normally hold spring training before making the last-minute decision to send half the team to Arizona and the other half to Florida.

That could appear in Wednesday’s Post Gazette and I wouldn’t be even slightly surprised by it.

(Also, pitchers and catchers report on Thursday. I’m so excited, and don’t look now, but the Pirates’ line-up almost looks like what a real baseball team’s should look like. Throw in four young pitchers that should be getting better, and you never know[ii].)

College Democrats: This story is a couple of weeks old, but getting rid of the Super Bowl Champions Who Shall Not Be Named Part Two heebie-jeebies took a lot out of me. As part of our shiny, fun Washington, DC Program, we have public policy visits every week. We saw a Supreme Court hearting, there was some speech by the Secretary of the Army nobody went to, we’re seeing a play tomorrow night and so on and so forth. Well, in order to see the two-party system at its worst, we went to both the Democratic and Republican National Committees.

When we went to the DNC, it was the same weekend as the huge winter meeting, in which all of the presidential candidates got to speak and start rallying support for their bids[iii]. Thursday, when we went into the DNC building to check stuff out, there were all sorts of College Democrats from across the nation milling about. They were all really friendly, if a bit shut-in looking, as we waited to get registered. As we waited, Howard Dean actually popped in for a quick speech, which was really cool, as he made up some fake statistic about voting three times, but it was fun to see him speak.

Thursday was also lobbying day for the CD’s on Capitol Hill, so two upper-ranking members stood on a table and decided to give some advice. This actually rather interested me, as I’d never been to a Congressman’s or Senator’s office to argue an issue before, and I figured these bastions of liberal democracy would reveal to me some legislating secrets I could use when trying to pass the “Everyone Who Didn’t Vote For Cal Ripken, Jr., For The Hall of Fame Loses Their Ballot” bill.

Sadly, that was the opposite of the case. The tips started off as the simple facts of being gracious and nice – perhaps everyone else in the room was a shut-in? – and not saying things like “I don’t support your run for the president”. Just the most base. idiotic, stupid stuff that didn’t need to be said, and especially didn’t need to be screamed from the top of a table.

But thankfully, there was more. Our intrepid guides into the bowels of law-making then rambled off a bunch of statistics and decreed all the lobbyists should use these statistics and stick to the “talking points” – somebody’s been paying close attention to this administration – not bothering to indulge the staff members you’re talking to with information about yourself, such as your major, where you go to school or silly things like personal information.

That may or may not be the worst idea I’ve ever heard, as odds are the Legislative Assistant in charge of educational policy already knows all your random stats, and the only way to possibly build a bridge to support your case is to be personable, polite and create a human element in the equation. I only say this from my twenty-plus years of being rather skilled at schmoozing and BSing, but hey, what do I know?

Sadly, I didn’t jump up onto my own table and tell the College Democrats – who at this point, had made us all extremely excited for the visit to the RNC the following week – that their lobbying would have little to no effect on the various voters, considering no Republican could hope to gain their vote, because they were CD’s, and because no Democrat would really have to worry about losing their vote, because again, they were CD’s. Ah, the joys of being stuck at one end of a polarized, two-party system when the middle contains so much more power.

Oscar Films: This “On Notice” isn’t to the films themselves, which so far have been great this year, but mainly to the fact the last three we’ve seen have all been a mix of “morbidly depressing” and “potentially suicide-causing”. The Last King of Scotland will win Forest Whitaker Best Actor, and I can say that without any sort of hesitation or worry about seeing the other films, but despite you know any film that features a dictator in Africa is not going to end well (even Lion King had the rough middle), the last twenty minutes are cringe-inducing.

Dear Oscar,

Stop making me want to kill myself.



But apparently Volver is not nearly as depressing and Blood Diamond has a good ending, and since I already know Cate Blanchett dying is sort of the point of Babel, I don’t have to worry about that weighing on my heart. I’m still planning on doing the AMC Monster Movie Marathon next Saturday, which will be the ultimate test of my cinematic fortitude. Looking back on the last few flicks I’ve seen, I view The Departed as some sort of happy, frothy, giggle-inducing film, and that’s probably the wrong perspective to have[iv].

Lost: I’m not going to make many cracks on Lost – it’s not really worth my time, at this point, with such superior television on but two hours earlier – I wanted to point out to the countless watchers of The Plotline That Doesn’t End that ratings went down again, even after you tried running away from Criminal Minds and Idol. Granted, as a guy who doesn’t get to include anything sniffing those kinds of ratings as his favorite shows on television (Office, HIMYM, VM, FNL), I don’t judge too heavily on such a screwed up system as the Neilsen numbers, but I just wanted that to be out there.

Old Media: I think my new favorite thing in life is listening to curmudgeony members of any sort of “old” media industries – such as television or newspaper – talk about the effects of Tivo, bloggers and the online world on their previously protected little domains in society. Last night at a panel in the National Press Club on PBS’ new series of documentaries on the struggles between the press and the Bush administration, there was this old producer from Al-Jazeera who had previous experience with network news that was just so blatantly out-of-touch with everything.

He questioned whether or not internet advertising would work, or if people would just zap by them, which I thought was a rather ridiculous point to bring up. Can’t people just zap right by commercials, either via Tivo, leaving the room, turning the channel or just zoning out, or flip past ads in papers or magazines without paying attention to him? Thankfully, there were some rational minds of the board, including the vice president of content from Yahoo!, a television and media analyst from Merrill Lynch and the executive editor of the Washington Post to point out that internet advertising is considerably more efficient than any other form, as you can actually register how many clicks you get from certain ads, and perhaps more importantly, who actually buys things after clicking on them.

This came after the story from a coworker who worked at an ad agency this summer and a few things I’ve read where television companies are trying to put the onus on advertisers to make commercials “good enough” that people won’t DVR right through them. I wonder if these people have ever used a Tivo, because outside of something really cool blowing up or an extended scene of beautiful women, people don’t just stop fast-forwarding. It’s incredibly difficult to catch someone’s eyes when the frames are moving at a dozen times their normal pace.

Sometimes, I think I won’t be able to make it in this industry, but then I realize just how reality-starved some of those in top positions are, and I just have to smile to myself.

CW/Fox: Because I still can’t get their damned media players to work, meaning I’ve missed an episode of both 24 and Veronica Mars this season. I’m not pleased about this, but then they go and make even worse decisions.

FOX, for canceling The OC just after it started gathering some of that old buzz in a blackhole of a timeslot, and for the fact I’m still angry they mishandled Arrested for three consecutive seasons. The CW is more blatantly responsible for screwing things up, as they’re going to replace Veronica for eight weeks with the freaking Pussycat Dolls reality show. I’ll let Melanie McFarland of the Seattle Post Intelligencer describe the logic used here:

Mere minutes after telling us that, CW entertainment president Dawn Ostroff told critics that "Veronica Mars" is getting its best numbers ever in the post-"Gilmore Girls" slot on Tuesday nights, something we already knew. Then came the news that the eight episode midseason reality series "Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll" would premiere Tuesday, March 6, at 9 p.m.

Whoa, wait a minute.

That means the strongest, smartest young female character on television is going on hiatus, only to be temporarily replaced by a series promoting a manufactured (and kinda five minutes ago) girl group. Not just that, one that had 8-year-olds across the land singing wonderfully empowering lyrics such as, "Don't cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?" on the playgound.

Lil' Kim is one of the judges.

Ain't that a b.

We can't wait to see what The CW's target demographic (18-to-34 year olds) does with that one -- especially once we remember how much people loved watching Faye Dunaway slum it in "The Starlet" on The WB; or UPN's "The Road to Stardom with Missy Elliott"; or UPN's "R U The Girl with T-Boz and Chilli."

If you just said to yourself, "Wait a minute ... I don't recall ever seeing those on the air!" -- that would be my point.

I’m this close to taking my initials away. This freaking close.

NFL: Just incase you thought I was the only one souring on the NFL after the last couple seasons of sustained mediocrity, Page 2 makes a series of great points about the direction the league is going. The numbers are all fantastic now, and there isn’t a sport really ready to overtake it with the NBA still not mainstream and baseball floundering under Selig, but the new administration in the league office need to just carefully watch their steps over the next few years.

[i] Thursday night’s episode might have included one of his best lines ever, where after some random author tried to claim Barack Obama wasn’t black because of where his parents came from, Colbert suggested he temporarily become Jesse Jackson’s slave to regain his street cred. To her credit, the look of horror on her face was covered up by a thin hew of disbelief rather quickly, but try to find that online if you get a chance. Priceless.

[ii] Of course I know: the Pirates end up sucking. This is how the world works. I’m not angry about it, I just accept it. Viva la Buccos.

[iii] I actually got to see Obama, Edwards and Hillary all speak for work, which is a longer story for another time, but long story short: Obama’s a freaking rockstar, man. I also think that when he really gets going in his speech, he starts to sound like The Rock, but nobody’s ever going to believe me once I start bring that point up, so I need to find some YouTube proof.

[iv] I‘m pretty sure The Departed comes out on DVD today, so if you haven’t seen it, please make that a priority. Thank ya muchly.

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