Monday, June 28, 2010

General Malaise

The smoking gun document leaked out, and its words were damning for the words' originator.

The President of the United States, no less, was being called out by a powerful general for having a different sort of wartime strategy than the general would prefer. If the president's path was taken, the words said, then the ramifications could be dire.

The president, after huddling with his Defense Secretary and the Joint Chiefs, rendered a decision: the general would have to be replaced. Because no one calls out the Commander in Chief on military matters, especially during wartime.

And that's how it came to be that Harry S. Truman fired General Douglas MacArthur.

If you had Stanley McChrystal's name on the brain, you're forgiven. But it's another example of the adage: if you stick around long enough, you're liable to see history repeat itself.

The Korean War was the conflict in 1951, when much-decorated General MacArthur, commander of the forces defending South Korea, became mystified by President Truman's "limited war" strategy.

MacArthur wrote a letter critical of Truman, and it fell into the hands of U.S. Rep. Joseph William Martin, Jr. (R-Massachusetts). Rep. Martin read it on the floor of Congress, along with providing copies for the press.

The letter ended, "It seems strangely difficult for some to realize that here in Asia is where the Communist conspirators have elected to make their play for global conquest, and that we have joined the issue thus raised on the battlefield; that here we fight Europe’s war with arms while the diplomats there still fight it with words; that if we lose the war to communism in Asia the fall of Europe is inevitable, win it and Europe most probably would avoid war and yet preserve freedom. As you pointed out, we must win. There is no substitute for victory."

It was obvious that the "some" in that first sentence refers to Truman, as does "you" in the second-to-last sentence.

The letter of April 1951 wasn't the first time MacArthur had been critical of Truman.


President Truman and General MacArthur, in happier times


On August 26, 1950, Gen. MacArthur was addressing the 51st National Encampment of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. In condemning President Truman's policy toward the island of Formosa, MacArthur said: "Nothing could be more fallacious than the threadbare argument by those who advocate appeasement and defeatism in the Pacific that if we defend Formosa we alienate continental Asia."

The relationship between Truman and MacArthur began to be strained from that point on, though the two worked together without much incident.

Then came the April 1951 letter, and Truman had had enough.

The decision to fire MacArthur was portrayed as being pretty much unanimous among the President and his close military advisers, along with the Joint Chiefs. While it was agreed that MacArthur hadn't been guilty of out-and-out insubordination, he had come perilously close and that was enough to render his leadership counter to the greater good.

General McChrystal's brain fart, in the form of his profile in Rolling Stone Magazine, made it impossible for President Barack Obama to keep McChrystal in command of the forces in Afghanistan.

The President had no choice but to fire McChrystal.

If an "old soldier" like the esteemed General Douglas MacArthur can be fired for publicly challenging his president's---and thus the country's---war strategy, then who can't be?

It took almost 60 years this time, but these things have a way of cycling back, sooner or later.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday's Favs

(Note: every Friday I'll post a favorite rant from the archives)

from November 30, 2009


Oprah's Long Goodbye

For someone who professes to hate goodbyes, Oprah Winfrey sure is hosting quite a long one.

Oprah's TV show will vanish sometime in 2011, she says. I only wish we had this kind of warning BEFORE she arrived on the scene.

Oh, stop frowning and looking at me sideways. Oprah's OK. She annoys me a little bit but she's probably done more good than bad for folks in this cartoon of a country that we inhabit. I'm sure she's a very nice woman, truth be told.

Time for a quick check of the iconic TV people over the years.

Johnny Carson: none of us did what Johnny told us to do, because that wasn't his gig. He didn't pontificate, he entertained. He mugged. He could crack us up with an arched eyebrow and a crooked mouth. But Carson was a ghost outside of his TV show. He was almost Howard Hughes-like in guarding his privacy. He championed no causes, endorsed no products, imparted no life lessons. No way of knowing if he was a Republican, a Democrat, or a Marxist. Johnny was just there to make us laugh every night at 11:30. That was it.

David Letterman: Letterman is perhaps the closest thing to Carson as there ever was, or ever will be: private, close to the vest, apolitical. No endorsements, no causes, either. Just glad to be a sounding board and a straight man to whoever happens to be sitting to his right every night.

Walter Cronkite, Ted Koppel, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and the rest: Men we would trust with our liquor cabinet while on vacation. Personalities ranging from uncle-like (Cronkite) to wooden (Jennings) but in all instances, guys that were OK in our book---as long as they stuck to reading the news and giving us election results. Outside of that it could get clunky and awkward---and did on occasion.

Jay Leno: More of a person than Letterman and Carson. Jay let us know that he's into cars, for one. He put on some free shows for the unemployed in Michigan, as a way to show support for the car industry. Even appeared in a movie, although in the worst way. Funny in a Bob Hope kind of way; you wonder if he'd be a cut up sans cue cards and pre-written material.

Oprah---she's one of those who ascended to the one-word name, like Madonna or Johnny or Magic---changed the way TV personalities interacted with their public; I must grant her that. She doesn't have fans, she has cultists. Oprah won't just have someone on to promote a book---she'll practically insist that her viewers read it. Like, right now. Immediately.

And she did all this without the benefit of prime time or late night. She's one of the few TV personalities who carved out her niche while the sun was still out---soap opera stars notwithstanding.

But I still don't like that she feels compelled to put herself on the cover of every issue of a magazine that bears her name.



Oprah helped to build a school in Africa for girls, though that wasn't without some controversy, when it came to how those students were being treated by the faculty when no one was looking. But at least she didn't take her sweet time responding to the reports of maltreatment.

Oprah's OK. I'm a little put off by the way her fans follow her like wide-eyed puppy dogs but if that's the worst thing, then maybe it's not so bad after all.

And, she's giving them plenty of time to say goodbye to her TV show.

Or is it vice-versa?

Reminds me of the last line of pitcher Jim Bouton's famous tell-all book about baseball, "Ball Four."

"You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball," Bouton wrote, "and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time."

You see, Oprah Winfrey had her faithful in the palms of her hands for over two decades, but maybe it was the other way around all the time.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Good Dish, Bad Breath

Break out the Certs, the Tic-Tacs, the gum. Have a jigger of Scope on hand. You might not want a toothbrush---you might want a Brillo pad.

It's not going to be pretty, and you won't make any friends who may wander within 10 feet of you, but if you like onions and tomatoes, then you'll love tomatoes and onions.

There are so many culinary gems that I didn't know I was missing out on until I met and married my Italian and Polish wife.

One of them is in season right now, and will continue to be, all summer.

It's the aforementioned tomatoes and onions.

It's so simple, so as plain as the nose on your face, yet it somehow eluded me all those years, until I hitched myself to Mrs. Eno in 1992.

I like tomatoes. I adore onions. Yet I never thought to combine them so brazenly, so harshly.

Sharon, my lovely wife, gets to slicing onions in those half moon shapes, chops up some tomatoes, then washes her hands, because the rest of the prep is done with hands only.

You dump the onions and tomatoes into a bowl. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Then start adding olive oil, about one teaspoon at a time.

With your hands, get in there and start squishing.

You heard me. Squish and squeeze and mix and tumble---all with your hands. Add more olive oil if things aren't slimey enough in the bowl. Add more salt and pepper, if you so desire.

Keep squishing and squeezing until you have something the consistency of coarse salsa.

Then chill for about an hour.

You won't win any popularity contests because of your rancid breath, but your taste buds will think you're the cat's meow.

So simple, as I said, but oh, is it good!



The key is to use very ripe tomatoes that are in season. Not those orangey things some restaurants pass off as tomatoes in winter time. The riper the tomato, the juicier it is, which is paramount here, because the tomato juices mixed with the olive oil provides the perfect dressing.

It's a great complement to any summer meal, but especially works with burgers, hot dogs, or even grilled chicken.

The longer the concoction stays in the bowl, chilling, the better it tastes. The next day is even better.

Tomatoes and onions. That's what we call it.

Because that's what it is.

That, and delicious.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday's Favs

(Note: every Friday I'll post a favorite rant from the archives)

from March 27, 2009


Mail Nursing



The Post Office is about to go out of business.

Well, not exactly, but they're hurtin', for certain.

The postmaster general says the mail folks are hemorrhaging money, and layoffs are in the offing. Unless, get this, we can go down to five days delivery per week.

Now, the punch line. There's actual debate going on as to what day gets lopped off the schedule.

Altogether now: SATURDAY...DUH!!!

I wouldn't miss mail on Saturdays, not one iota. To be truthful, if it wasn't for the fact that as a freelancer I depend on the mail to deliver my checks, I wouldn't miss the mail at all. Not much good has been coming from the letter carrier these days.

But to even vascillate over which day to NOT deliver mail? That seems kinda kooky, to me.

Why on Earth would you consider any day OTHER than Saturday?

You mean you'd actually consider a day during the work/business week? Now that's just plain nuts.

Checks, as I mentioned, come in the mail, for those of us not adorned with direct deposit and who aren't working in offices where the boss hands you your check in person. You take away mail on a business day, then that's a twenty-percent cut in my chances to get said check and get it into the bank.

Most banks are only open half-days on Saturday, if at all. Which means they're closed by 1 p.m., typically. Which is before a lot of folks get their mail anyway.

No weekend mail at all? Fine and dandy.

Why is this not a no-brainer?

It makes me crazy when the powers that be start creating dilemmas and scratching their heads when it's so not necessary. With all the truly difficult decisions to be made out there, you'd think it would be welcome when one comes down the pike that requires the same thought process as tying your shoes.

Now, it may be that Saturday is, indeed, chosen as the day when you won't be getting your mail any longer. And that'll be fine, but the fact that it was even an issue is unsettling to me.

What's even nuttier is that I haven't read or heard any reasons why any day other than Saturday would be designated as a "no mail" day, should delivery be reduced to five days per week.

Now, if a postal rate hike would keep delivery to six days a week, even though I personally wouldn't miss Saturday mail, then that's OK by me. I don't really wring my hands over whether a normal item costs 42 cents or 43 cents or 44 cents to mail.

Ah, but here's the rub, and here's why the postal system is failing financially.

People don't mail things anymore. They really don't. I'm talking people, not businesses.

What is there to mail anymore?

Letter writing has been dead for decades. I used to be pen pals with my grandmother, and that was great fun, but that was when Jimmy Carter was president.

It's all about the Internet anymore. It's how we pay bills, grab coupons, and otherwise correspond. A book of stamps will last our family an entire year, for as often as we use them. And we're not an anomaly in that regard.

The seniors still paste stamps on their bills, God bless them. But they're, pardon the morbid pun, a dying breed.

So a rate hike isn't the answer, anymore. It used to be. But what good does it do to increase prices on something people don't use very much anymore?

Answer: it doesn't.

So the mail people are squirming. Unless we will consent to have one day's worth of mail be excised.

And that day would be Saturday, correct?

RIGHT?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Just Betty

Betty White's been around show business so long it's tempting to ask her if she was an understudy at Ford's Theater the night Abe Lincoln got shot.

Or if she ever shared a stage with Sarah Bernhardt.

White is 88 but if you're only as old as you feel or behave, then she's not old enough to remember the Reagan Administration.

Betty White is refreshing. She uses her real name, for one---and for someone of her generation, that's an anomaly. She really is plain old Betty White. Not Ruth Dingelbratter or Helen McDuffie.

Betty Marion White.

She was born on January 17, 1922 in Oak Park, Illinois---probably when there were no Oak trees and there wasn't a park built yet.

Her family was among the many who headed West in the hopes of something better, during the Great Depression. The Whites ended up in Los Angeles, and Betty graduated from Beverly Hills High School---in 1939.

The woman was a high school senior during just the second of FDR's four terms.

I wonder when the dimples set in.



Betty White, 88 years young


White is working on, by my count, her fifth screen career, big and small.

The first was in the 1950s, when she starred in "Life with Elizabeth" from 1952-55--- a sitcom that she also co-produced. Forget Lucille Ball---Betty White was the true pioneer when it came to being a woman who had control both in front of and behind the camera.

White won her first Emmy Award for "Life with Elizabeth."

Betty's second career occurred in the 1960s, when she was a regular on the old "Password" game shows hosted by her eventual husband, Allen Ludden.

The third came as incomparable Sue Ann Nivens, the "Happy Homemaker," on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" in the 1970s---quite possibly both the creepiest yet most enthralling female character in TV history.

Legend has it that in a production meeting, Moore suggested that the Sue Ann Nivens character be played by "Someone who can play sickeningly sweet. Like Betty White."

The show's producers did one better, and got White herself.

Career number four occurred in the 1990s, when White teamed with Rue McClanahan (who we just lost), Bea Arthur and Estelle Getty on "The Golden Girls." Only White remains with us today.

Betty White's fifth career is happening right now, all around us.

It's Betty's world and we're all just living in it.

There was the marvelous turn as Gammy in 2009's "The Proposal," followed by very public and very feisty support of co-star Sandy Bullock in the wake of the ghastly behavior of Bullock's hubby Jesse James.

She's appeared in commercials and recently hosted "Saturday Night Live."

Now she's set to wow us in TV Land's new original series, "Hot in Cleveland," which debuts this Wednesday night at 10:00 p.m.

White joins the highly underrated Wendie Malick, still cute-as-a-button Valerie Bertinelli, and equally underrated Jane Leeves in the new series.

TV Land's promos have just about featured White, relegating her young whippersnapper co-stars to background players.

And why not?

Betty White is enjoying a career rebirth like none I've ever seen of an actor in their late-80s.

I think it's because White is America's grandmother. All of us can pretty much relate someone in our family to some portion of a character that Betty White has played lo these past 60 years or so.

And don't forget the humanistic Betty White who, as herself, did all those commercials and PSAs for animals' rights and dog food and meds.

In between all the aforementioned highlights have been countless guest shots on various TV shows and cameos in movies and other game show appearances.

Ludden, her third husband, died from stomach cancer in June, 1981 and White has remained single ever since. She has no children of her own, though she inherited four from Ludden's previous marriage.

If you go to Betty's IMDb page and scroll down to her Filmography, it reads like an encyclopedia of television history. It's all there---sitcoms and game shows; talk shows and dramas; comedies and variety shows.

Betty White is 88 years old and her career is taking off---again. She's the American Airlines of show business.

One of my all-time favorite lines in television occurred on the final episode of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

Murray the writer is lamenting the staff being canned by WJM-TV's new owners.

"Being fired," Murray sighs, "is like being violated."

To which sex-starved Sue Ann Nivens says brightly, "Leave it to Murray to look on the bright side!"

I'll be watching TV Land Wednesday night at 10:00. Can't wait to see what Betty Marion White has cooked up this time.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday's Favs

(Note: every Friday I'll post a favorite rant from the archives)

from March 24, 2010


No Escaping It; Harry Turns 136


Could Harry Houdini have possibly died on any other day of the year than Halloween?

I always found delicious---or maybe it's salacious---irony in the fact that the famed magician and escape artist took his last breath on Halloween. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I was certain that it was, somehow, appropriate.

Today I'm not here to talk about Houdini's death, per se---he died in Detroit after some slugs to the gut in his dressing room in Montreal a week prior---but about his birth.

Harry Houdini, you see, was born on this day, in 1874.

He was born in Hungary, as Ehrich Weiss, to Jewish parents. Yet for whatever reason, Houdini would in his adult life, after stardom, claim to have been born on April 6 in Appleton, Wisconsin. Go figure.

Houdini, still using the Weiss name, gravitated toward carnivals and freak shows as a young man, even appearing as a "Wild Man" at a circus. Then he learned card tricks and became known as the "king of cards."

Growing tired of the card tricks, Houdini/Weiss looked for something else far more challenging and rich to add to his repertoire. Escape tricks filled that bill.

In 1893, while performing with his brother Dash as "The Houdini Brothers", Harry met fellow performer Wilhelmina Beatrice (Bess) Rahner, whom he married. Bess replaced Dash in the act, which became known as "The Houdinis." For the rest of Houdini's performing career, Bess would work as his stage assistant.

Houdini was no longer the "king of cards"; using his escape shtick, the new nickname was the "handcuff king."



There really wasn't anything Houdini wouldn't try to escape from: cuffs, shackles, chains, straitjackets, you name it. When even that grew stale for him, Houdini added "death defying" to his billing. Water-filled containers were a popular prop for him. The idea that audiences might actually see Houdini perish before their very eyes proved to be an oddly appealing attraction.

Still not satisfied, Houdini kept adding on to his act.

Being "buried alive" was among his most famous addenda.

The end came in 1926 when a McGill University student deciding to help Houdini perform, without warning slugged Houdini several times in his dressing room in Montreal, causing trauma to the magician's abdomen.

Houdini arrived by train in Detroit on October 24, 1926 with a 104-degree fever. Yet he performed anyway. Not long after, he landed in Grace Hospital. On Halloween afternoon, Houdini died in room 401 from peritonitis from a ruptured appendix.

Contrary to popular belief---we use that term a lot when it comes to celebrity deaths, don't we?---the blows to the stomach didn't cause his appendicitis; he was suffering from it for a few days prior to the mishap. And, his appendix might have burst anyway, though the trauma inflicted certainly didn't help.

In once describing his career, Houdini sounded unimpressed with himself.

"My professional life has been a constant record of disillusion, and many things that seem wonderful to most men are the every-day commonplaces of my business."

Happy 136th, Harry! Your spirit is floating around here somewhere, no doubt.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ray of Hope

Rachael Ray has no children, but she seems to care about them more than some who do.

Ray, the sometimes ubiquitous TV host/TV cook/author/Dunkin' Donuts pitch girl, is putting some heat in other people's kitchens---specifically those in our schools.

Ray is joining a bi-partisan legislative effort in Washington to help move along the "Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act of 2010."

Among other things, the proposed $8 billion bill would improve access and funding to school meal programs, improve access to out-of-school meal programs, help schools and child care improve the quality of meals and encourage public and private partnerships to improve child nutrition and wellness.

Ray spoke at a press conference in Washington Thursday.

"A healthy relationship with food has changed the quality of my life in every way imaginable," Ray said.

She then drew a parallel between eating healthy and a child's future.

"I really think that teaching a child good nutrition and the basics of cooking gives them the skills they need for self-esteem and security for the rest of their lives," she said.

The legislation is in response to the challenge that President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama laid out in their "Let's Move" initiative to support efforts to improve school wellness and support public and private partnerships to improve child nutrition.

Ray is child-less, but that was a personal choice based on her belief that, frankly, her schedule and lifestyle wouldn't be conducive to good parenting.

Pity more so-called "parents" didn't take that tack before bringing little people into the world.



Rachael Ray


Ray says that at a time when there seems to be so much bad and sad news all the time, it's heartening to see a bi-partisan effort to ensure that not only do kids eat healthy, but that they eat, period.

"Close your eyes and imagine being a child and literally going hungry," she said as she stressed that eating healthy can be inexpensive as well.

Her voice echoed that of legislators.

Rep. George Miller (D-California) said at a media briefing Thursday that in 2008 more than 16 million children lived in homes without access to enough nutritious foods.

"America's children should not have to go hungry and they should have access to healthy foods year round, even when school children are on summer break," said Miller.

Ray added, "Just being able to eat a good, nutritious meal really improves the quality of your life, as well as the longevity of it."

Ray can be a polarizing entity because of her sometimes over-exposure on television and elsewhere. Other TV cooks/chefs like world traveler Anthony Bourdain have been less-than-enthralled with Ray and her cuisine.

But I've never heard Bourdain impart this message.

"Every child in this country is born with a light shining inside them," Ray said, "and it's our duty to keep that light shining bright."

Monday, June 7, 2010

Helen Wheels

Helen Thomas has been covering the White House for half a century. Hers was a respected career filled with stature and high on esteem.

In a few gruesome seconds, she just about undid all of it.

Thomas, 89, has retired. Effective immediately. It's what happens when you're unmasked.

It's like one of those scenes from "Mission: Impossible"---the ones where an undercover dude from IMF dramatically rips a prosthetic mask from his face, revealing that he isn't a 66-year-old banker, after all---but rather a 37-year-old secret agent.

Thomas, the reporter from Hearst Corporation who began covering the White House when John F. Kennedy had just moved in, took off her mask in a video unearthed on YouTube late last week.

She, essentially, called for all the Jews to leave Palestine and return to Germany, Poland, and the United States.

"Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," she said to RabbiLive.com.

Unmasked.

Lanny Davis, who served as special counsel to President Bill Clinton, called for her firing, saying, "Helen Thomas, who I used to consider a close friend and who I used to respect, has showed herself to be an anti-Semitic bigot. This is not about her disagreement about her criticisms of Israel. She has a right to criticize Israel and that is not the same as being an anti-Semite."

Now, it's not as bad for Thomas to hold these views as the men she's covered over the years, but for someone who's sat up front in the White House press room for decades and whose charge it is to provide fair reporting and journalistic professionalism, this kind of stuff can't go unchecked.

Here's more Lanny Davis (and I agree with him): "If she had asked all blacks to go back to Africa, what would the White House Correspondents Association position be as to whether she deserved White House press room credentials---much less a privileged honorary seat?"

Hard to make the distinction between the two examples---one real, one hypothetical---isn't it? Maybe damn near impossible.

Thomas issued the old "close the barn doors after the horses are out" apology, but she should have saved her breath. There was no making this better.



Thomas and President Clinton

Thomas is a Detroit girl---sort of.

She was born in Kentucky, but grew up in Motown, graduating from Wayne State University way back in 1942. She's been covering politics in Washington for about 60 years, eventually getting the White House beat in 1960.

But now she's unmasked.

Now she shows us for who she really was/is, and it's not becoming.

It's ironic that Thomas's controversy should have exploded the same week as the 42nd anniversary of Bobby Kennedy's assassination.

For it was RFK's sympathy to Israel's situation which led to his murder at the hands of Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan, who stalked Kennedy for weeks before killing him.

"RFK must die" was written over and over in Sirhan's handwriting, discovered in a hotel room after the killing.

"Kennedy, you son of a bitch!" Sirhan yelled just before pulling the trigger on his gun.

Seems as though Helen Thomas and Sirhan Sirhan sort of share the same views.

Only, where Sirhan fired his gun at Kennedy, Thomas turned her gun on herself.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday's Favs

(Note: every Friday I'll post a favorite rant from the archives)

from March 10, 2010


Now THAT'S a Toughie


Chuck Norris is 70 and he can still kick your ass.

The tough guys in Hollywood stay that way till the day they die.

Bob Mitchum was still petrifying and intimidating, engulfing every camera shot well past the age of 70. I wouldn't have trusted Dick Widmark, no matter how old he was. Clint Eastwood need only take a step toward you, and I guarantee you'll shake in your loafers. And Clint will be 80 in a couple of months.

Some of them didn't get to live very long. Bruce Lee comes to mind.

But the ones who hold AARP cards in one hand while they throttle you with the other are as much a part of Tinseltown as hot dogs are a part of baseball.

Norris has been kicking, punching, flipping, and pancaking bad guys on screen for about 40 years now. He's also been a TV and movie producer, and even a writer---penning some episodes of "Walker, Texas Ranger."




What Chuck Norris hasn't been, is an actor.

Norris doesn't act, he reacts. It doesn't matter that the next line of dialogue he delivers with any emotion or pathos will be his first. That's not his role. He's there to scowl, sneer, and open up a can of whoop ass.

And he's made a hell of a living doing it.

Norris can't act, but most of the great actors can't fight their way out of a wet paper bag, so there you go.

He's 70 today, Chuck Norris is, and I bet one day he's going to dare God to remove him from this Earth. And His Greatness---and I mean God, not Norris---might just be too intimidated to do it.

Norris might live to be a modern day Methuselah because everyone is too scared to have him upstairs or downstairs in the after life.

Norris could probably cause Satan to back down, and get him to turn the heat down too, while he was at it.

Don't believe me? Here's Chuck himself, quoted from his IMDb page: "There are a dozen death spots, another dozen paralyzing death spots, and many, many disabling spots on the body. We human beings are quite fragile, you know."

He knows this from experience, by the way.

Norris doesn't reserve his ass kicking to the screen, either. He's vigorously campaigned for Republicans throughout the years.

"I haven't always been warmly welcomed for holding my conservative positions in Hollywood," he once said. "Then again, I've never been very good at being politically correct either, on or off screen. So why start now?"

YOU tell him otherwise.

Happy Birthday, Chuck!

Please don't hurt me.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Gorey Ending

Hold on to your handbags, ladies---Al Gore is available.

High school sweethearts Al and Tipper Gore are calling it quits, it appears---just a couple weeks past their 40th wedding anniversary.

Al is 62, and so will Tipper be this August. I guess they're ready to get back into the dating scene.

The separation---no divorce plans as of yet---was announced the other day via a simple, forthright, drama-free statement that indicated no infidelity; it was simply a matter of growing apart.

Those with knowledge of the Gores say that no extra-marital affair was involved here. Just two people who have fallen out of love; at least, the kind of love that causes married folks to live together.

Forty years married. That's nothing to sneeze at.


Al Gore lays the famous smooch on his wife Tipper at the 2000 Democratic National Convention


Al Gore, ever since running for president in 2000, has put himself more squarely in the limelight. He's also produced some documentaries and is a pretty busy public speaker.

So it's understandable, I suppose, that maybe Tipper tired of the pace and was perhaps ready to slow it down, while her husband has begun to enjoy an almost second career as a media and celebrity hag.

Who knows?

This isn't quite Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward parting ways in their heyday, but as far as political couples go, the Gores seemed destined to be an eternal pairing.

If Democrat James Carville and staunch Republican Mary Matalin can stay together, then why not the Gores?

I'm sure the stories will start to materialize within months or weeks. Some of them might even have a droplet of truth in them.

Tipper Gore has confessed to having had bouts of depression after son Al Gore III was hit by a car as a young child. Whether those demons returned and led to this separation, only the Gores know.

The separation was announced via e-mail. What times we live in.

"I fell in love with my wife the day I laid eyes on her at my senior prom," Al Gore said several years ago.

Not all fairy tales have happy endings. Apparently.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Live, from Atlanta....It's CNN!

From the inception of television news in the late-1940s, the rockets of information being sent out were blasted from either New York or Washington. Those were the headquarters.

It was like that for over 30 years, until Ted Turner got his mitts on things.

Turner, sports owner and cable mogul, cooked up the idea for a news "super station" that would house itself not in NY or DC, but in---gulp---Atlanta!

From Atlanta a signal would be beamed that could be grabbed, via satellite, and delivered into living rooms, huts and castles across the world.

Turner called it the Cable News Network. Made sense.

CNN, as it came to be known, turns 30 years old today.

Barely five years after its birth, CNN began calling itself "The World's Most Important Network," usually via the rich baritone voice of actor James Earl Jones during station IDs.

I worked in television production at the time, and I remember one of my colleagues sniffing, "More like 'World's Most Conceited Network'!"

That may be so, but there's no questioning CNN's role in reinventing TV news.

From the moment it was founded, CNN gave viewers 24/7 access to the news of the day---both around the nation and around the world. That had never been attempted before.

This was long before the Internet pervaded our lives, so CNN had a virtual monopoly on TV news, because of its all-day, everyday format.



Ted Turner, launching CNN on June 1, 1980


Sure, stories were repeated back then. Also, the network would buy pre-packaged stories from independent journalists. Filling a 24-hour programming schedule wasn't easy. You ever hear of the term "slow news day"?

That was a CNN programmer's nightmare, because a slow news day really WAS a slow...news...DAY. All day.

CNN still commands a big audience, though the TV viewer pie has been sliced razor thin over the years. Its website, CNN.com, is easy to type and just a few keystrokes away.

And, I'm not ashamed to admit, CNN.com is a site of choice when I try to decide what to write about on this little blog.

CNN was less than a year old when it had its first big, breaking story: the shooting of former Beatles star John Lennon on December 8, 1980.

A little over three months later, CNN was among the first to report the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan.

Turner, never known to be a hands-off kind of guy (he once tried to manage his Atlanta Braves but was halted after one game), wisely stayed out of the way, for the most part, while CNN learned to crawl then walk.

CNN is 30. The way we get our news has never been the same since the network's birth.

So how will the network continue to evolve?

Stay tuned.