Friday, August 26, 2016

Looking Back in Anger

Once upon a time, there was a publication called the Weekly World News that occupied a special niche in American journalism.

It was a supermarket tabloid but unique in that tawdry genre. It went places no other publication dared to go.

Where else could you read stories like  "Satan Captured by GIs in Iraq” or "Termites Eat the Eifel Tower," or "Hard Up Sheik Sheds His Wives, 200 Woman Harem to be Sold on eBay." or "Alien Bible Found, They Worship Oprah” or “I Was Bigfoot’s Love Slave.”

Its philosophy was best explained by Sal Ivon, a former managing editor, who said, "If someone calls me up and says their toaster is talking to them, I don't refer them to professional help, I say, 'Put the toaster on the phone'."

Perhaps its most popular feature was a column written by the fictitious Ed Anger,  a perpetually angry conservative (a typical column began "I'm pig-biting mad!"), who railed against illegal immigrants, women and speed limits among many other perceived ills.

Not to mention Democrats, wild animals that somehow need protection even though they have claws, complicated foods, and most television programming.

Anger also hated foreigners, yoga, whales and pineapple on pizza; he liked flogging, electrocutions and beer.

He even authored a book entitled “Let's Pave the Stupid Rainforests & Give School Teachers Stun Guns and Other Ways to Save America.”

Here’s Ed on Obamacare: “Their plan was to bore half the country to death and give the other half heart attacks, so we’d all be dead anyhow and wouldn’t need doctors!”

On China: “if I were President Obama, I’d make the Chinese buy only American  for five years, just to make up for robbing us blind – or we’ll bomb ’em back to the Stone Age where they came from.”

On legalized marijuana: “All my life I heard smoking that stuff made you a shiftless degenerate – and now the government wants to hand it out free to everybody! It won’t really be “free,” of course – you and I are the ones paying for it. We have to work two or three jobs and cough up half our dough, so these lazy dope fiends can have their wild crazy parties and eat corn chips all day in their underpants!”

The Weekly World News disappeared somewhere into cyberspace a few years back and Ed Anger along with it.  But if you noticed a certain similarity between Anger’s vitriol and the rhetoric of this year’s Republican Party, you wouldn’t be wrong.

Could it be that Donald Trump’s politics were shaped by a ghost-written satirical column in a supermarket tabloid?  Or, to borrow from a WWN staple, is Elvis alive and directing his campaign?

We’ll never know. But Trump clearly has a lot of Anger in him.

Here are a few of the candidate’s positions which could be straight out of the pages of Weekly World News:

His political background: “What do I know about it? All I know is what's on the internet." 

The military:  “Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?" –Trump, reportedly asking a foreign policy adviser three times during a meeting why the U.S. couldn’t use its nuclear weapons stockpile, according to MSNBC's Joe Scarborough.

Foreign policy:  “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 (Hillary Clinton) emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press." –Trump, calling on Russian espionage services to intervene in the U.S. election.

Leadership: "I alone can fix it." –Trump in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, July 21, 2016.

Race relations: "I’ve been treated very unfairly by this judge. Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage. I'm building a wall, OK? I'm building a wall." –Trump, accusing U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over the fraud case against Trump University, of being biased against him because of his Mexican heritage, despite the fact that he is a U.S. citizen who was born in Indiana.

"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're sending people that have lots of problems...they're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists."

"Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." 

“I have a great relationship with the blacks.”

“Happy Cinco De Mayo! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!”

Women’s issues: “I think the only card she has is the women's card. She has got nothing else going. Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don't think she would get 5% of the vote. And the beautiful thing is women don't like her, OK?"

"There has to be some form of punishment…you go back to a position like they had where they would perhaps go to illegal places, but we have to ban it." –Trump on women who have abortions.

"Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?" – Trump on primary opponent Carly Fiona.

 "If Hillary Clinton can't satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?"

His constituents: "We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated." –Trump on his performance with voters who helped him win the Nevada Caucus.

"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, okay? It's, like, incredible."

Ed Anger would cheer. He couldn't have said it better himself.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Don't Go There

Summer is winding down but there is still a few weeks left to squeeze in some vacation time.

Europe?  Hawaii?  Legoland? There are lots of choices but, like a friendly old uncle,  I’m here today to put my arm around your shoulder and advise you on a couple of places to avoid:
Pittsburgh.  OK, it wasn’t on your bucket list anyway but I’ve been there dozens of times (I have in-laws nearby) and it is a beautiful and lively city with great food and the best sports fans in the world. Some locals call it the Paris of Appalachia.
So why stay away? Here’s why. Uber customers in Pittsburgh  later this month can begin hopping into vehicles that can drive themselves to their destination.
And hilarity or carnage could ensue. You don’t want to be the victim of either.
Uber has been quietly testing a handful of tech-laden Volvo cars in Pittsburgh which is headquarters for the tech company's autonomous car research facility. Many of its staffers are former robotics experts from nearby Carnegie Mellon University, a self-driving car technology hotbed.
Volvo has so far delivered a "handful of vehicles" to Uber, but expects to have 100 SUVs ready by the end of the year, according to a Bloomberg report. The cars will be staffed with safety drivers, per current transportation laws.
Just so you understand this, you’ll be jumping into a car that will be navigating a city that was laid out for horse carts in a vehicle imagined by an industry that recalled 56 million cars last year.
And, of course, Pittsburgh is dissected by three large rivers:  The Allegheny, the Monongahela which meet up to form the Ohio.
Do robotic cars float?  Stay tuned.
The other destination is North Korea. 
It was probably much farther down your bucket list than Pittsburgh but maybe your inner explorer is urging you onward to more adventuresome locales.
After all, the North Korean national anthem declares, “Let morning shine on the silver and gold of this land/ Three thousand leagues packed with natural wealth.

“My beautiful fatherland/ The glory of a wise people/Brought up in a culture brilliant/With a history five millennia long.”
How bad can it be?
Plenty, as it turns out. We all know Kim Jong Un and his cohorts as iron-fisted rulers of a rogue nation that hates Americans and leads the world in human rights violations.
And if you’re a visitor, utter a bad word about Dear Leader and you could do 50 years at hard labor.
Still want to go?  There’s even more bad news.
It seems that for the fourth year in a row, North Korea’s Air Koryo has claimed the dubious honor of being ranked the worst carrier in the world.
Meaning it may be more dangerous getting there than being there.
Among the gripes: the onboard meal of hamburgers made of a “mystery meat,” safety demonstrations that often were skipped, entertainment that consisted of propaganda films played in a loop and overhead luggage racks with no doors to keep bags from falling down on fliers during turbulence, according to travel writer extraordinaire Hugo Martin.
You’ll also be traveling on aging Russian aircraft.  Think getting a 1973 Plymouth for a rental car.
Chinese authorities just announced they will limit the operations of Air Koryo, after a Beijing-bound flight made an emergency landing last month.
The flight from Pyongyang had to land in the North-eastern Chinese city of Shenyang because of smoke in the cabin. No one was injured in the incident.
China's Civil Aviation Administration announced "relevant measures to limit operations" without giving any details.
As for me, I take these ratings with a grain of salt.
 Malaysia Airlines, struck by two incidents that left all passengers on board dead or missing in 2014, was given five stars out of a possible seven in one recent rating.
Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Not So Golden Moments

I have watched the Olympics since they were broadcast in black and white.

Let me clarify that. 

I have had the TV tuned to the Olympics since they were broadcast in black and white.

Nobody watches the entire menu of Olympic events, not even in 1960 when CBS first offered American viewers 20 hours of highlights from Rome.

It was pre-satellite days so they had to fly the tapes from Rome to New York to put them on the air.  Talk about delay of game. Talk about anti-climactic.

Certainly not now when NBC is bombarding us with 6755 hours of coverage on multiple channels.

Nobody in their right mind would watch the entire thing.  But I almost did.

It seems I was required to have hip surgery recently, an act that required me to rehabilitate at home for what seemed like forever plus.

So what do you do to pass the time?  You read a book.  Or you watch TV.

I watched the political conventions while taking powerful prescription pain medicine which led to numerous surreal experiences, very strange and difficult to understand. I’m sure if I had not been medicated, it would have all made perfect sense.

 I did get my head cleared in time to watch Donald Trump’s acceptance speech.  Then I quickly reached for more pain pills.

Hillary Clinton’s address was about as exciting as a PTA treasurer’s report.  I needed no medicinal help.  I fell asleep after 15 minutes.

So much for the future of our country.

I quickly devoured the books I had set aside and was faced with the vast wasteland that is daytime TV: “Dr. Phil,” Dr. Drew,” “Judge Judy,” “Naked and Afraid,” “My 600-lb Life,” every “Law and Order” ever made and lots of shows about UFOs and Nostradamus, sometimes combined into one blockbuster.

My salvation was the Olympics and because of my circumstances I was ready to embrace every minute.

That didn’t last long. NBC broadcast the opening ceremony on a one-hour delay on the East Coast. The West Coast was delayed by an additional three hours. While the rest of the world was watching, we were waiting.

And while we were waiting, we were subjected to endless commercials, mindless happy talk and constant promotional reminders that we have a really good women’s gymnastics team.

The Brazilians, not surprisingly, put on a heck of an opening show. Then came the parade of athletes, always interesting, but this time so disorganized it looked like commuters being disgorged from a subway station.

If was after 9 p.m. when the parade began. It ran so long I was off to bed before Lichtenstein strolled into the stadium.

But I’m all about second chances so I tuned in again and again.  Again and again I was awash in commercials wrapped around profiles of people and places.

It also seemed that every time I decided to watch, somebody was doing something in a swimming pool. What did they have, about 10,000 events? Or maybe NBC focused on swimming because the U.S. had a superior team. Nothing like a winner to boost ratings.

I also became increasingly irritated by the way NBC bounced around between events that gave little time for the viewer to get interested.

If you’re going to get me hooked on the canoe slalom or taekwondo, I need time to understand what I’m seeing.

Of course, we could have anticipated this.

NBC’s chief marketing officer John Miller explained the network’s approach this way:
“The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans,” he told recently. “More women watch the games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and miniseries wrapped into one.”

That brought this response from Sally Jenkins writing in the Washington Post:

“The Olympics is the most prominent competition in the world and 53 percent of Team USA is female, which means American women likely will bring in more medals than American men. Yet they will be presented in packaging aimed at a Ladies’ Home Journal crowd.”

Maybe that's why we heard commentators like NBC broadcaster Dan Hicks, who after Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu won gold and set a world record in the 400-meter individual medley, immediately started talking about her husband and coach, calling him “the guy responsible.”

Or the Chicago Tribune, which referred to two-time trapshooting medalist Corey Cogdell as “wife of a Bears’ lineman” in a headline, rather than using her name.

We lagged badly in the sexism competition, however. The winner was a German equestrian commentator for ARD TV, Carsten Sostmeier, who opened an interview with rider Julia Krajewski with, “Let's see what the blondie has to say.”

He went on to call her a “scaredy-cat" and said she was so afraid of the course that "there was a brown stripe in her panties."  

Or maybe this is what passes for German humor.

I’m walking unaided now and getting out and about. That means my Olympics viewing will occur in fits and starts.

I’m sure in the future I’ll watch but, baring medical complications, it will be selectively.

If there is a future.

 In 2015 the US nominated Boston for the 2024 Summer Games, until Boston withdrew because of low public support. Germany nominated Hamburg but it pulled out after the local government lost another referendum. Toronto’s mooted bid was scrapped when its economic development committee voted against it.

Right now, the four candidate cities are Rome, Budapest, Los Angeles and Paris. In Hungary, the supreme court has just blocked a proposed referendum. And in Italy, Rome’s new mayor, Virginia Raggi, has repeatedly said she opposes the bid.

It looks like Our Fair City may win by default, maybe permanently. And if it does, I’m betting NBC will still try selling us the journey rather than the results.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1.