Little House On the Prairie Versus Contemporary Society

So there it is. Another Sunday waving goodbye. I’ve come to enjoy this ritual of ending the day w/ an episode or 2 of Little House On the Prairie. Purchased the entire Season 1, as I’ve never seen it. What comes to mind most often while watching it, along with hundreds of other thoughts, is just how much society, hence collective consciousness, has changed over the last 40 years.

The show depicts sincere straight forward simple stories about living and being alive. No irony satire sarcasm or cynicism, all so rampant in today’s model of entertainment — i.e. no fear of being judged or criticized for being real or kind or honest or good — the fundamental thoughts and feelings beneath aforementioned irony cynicism satire and sarcasm, fear. Instead the benefits of virtues are emphasized; ideas long lost at some point along the way in modern times such as kindness, hard work, honesty, fidelity, connection w/ the divine, family values and the like are not only explored but downright encouraged. Straight faced, without a nod or a wink or a tongue in cheek. One couldn’t find anything even remotely similar to it today.

Of course Little House portrayed life in the 19th century, understood, when life was simpler and civilization had not yet reached a state of excess — thus greed and self-centered pleasure-experience seeking had not yet boroughed it’s way into mass consciousness as a main priority. Those things would come later, when surviving became all but guaranteed — this is after all the natural flow of the evolution of all sentient being civilizations. And yet lest we forget, Little House aired during the 1970s, long after the industrial revolution, when survival was indeed by all accounts all but guaranteed. Yet it somehow managed to still find an audience that could not only relate to it, but sincerely welcome it.

The question begged now is what changed in the last 40 years?
No blood gore violence crime murder CSI vampires zombies gratuitous sex adultery lying and deceit taken for granted billionaire playboys shallow busty airheads like Snooki or KK, no drug kingpins villains disguised as heroes vulgarity or nudity. Just simple stories extolling the virtues of being a good person and doing your best for yourself, your family and your neighbor. As far away from what passes for entertainment in today’s world as can be imagined. One would be hard pressed to believe that anything remotely similar could find an audience in modern times.

But why? Again…what has changed? What went missing? Or what got added in consciousness to create such a stark drastic change in such a short period of time?

It’s worth pondering…

– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone

Buying Selling and Trading Your Digital Media

A few years back I posted an article here suggesting that the television industry needed to institute a radical change in programming and release full seasons of shows all at once instead of sticking to the old model of one episode per week and that they could even charge a premium for it because consumers were changing how they wanted to view TV. Less than six months later the advent of “binge watching” and studios releasing full seasons all at once began when Netflix released an entire new season of Arrested Development. Soon after came House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and once Amazon jumped on board the rest as they say is history.

Well here’s another one for you and I’m going to give it to you free of charge. At some point in the near future we will all hear about an exciting new company — whose title will invariably be one word and be a pun or spin off of another more common word — that gives consumers an opportunity to buy and/or sell to each other their pre-owned digital media such as movies, ebooks, albums, TV episodes or whole seasons.

At one point or another we’ve all sprung for a movie we really wanted to see on Amazon, went ahead and bought it because it wasn’t yet available to rent — and now it sits in our “Video Library” — digitally speaking — even though we may never feel a desire to ever watch that film again. The same is fast becoming true with TV episodes. As more and more of us travel more or ditch cable completely, we still want to keep up with our favorite shows; so we end up “purchasing” different episodes, usually at about $1.99 per OR $39.99 per season.

But let’s say we’ve already binge watched seasons 1 through 4 of Walking Dead a few times and we’re over it. As of now all those episodes just sit in our possession forever. Stored on Amazon’s servers and held in our name — what they call our “Video Library”. After a while we may want to sell all those episodes to someone else, say at half the price we paid, and buy season 1 of True Detective. Again we won’t buy True Detective new, nor will we even rent it via On Demand — we may no longer subscribe to cable. Instead we will have the opportunity to purchase or better put “repurchase” it from someone else who already bought it a year or two earlier.

The biggest challenge to this business — and it’s guaranteed that this WILL BE an exciting new business everyone will be raving about at some point in the next 6 to 12 months — is making the calls to set up all the partnerships that would be needed to make it work. For one thing deals will have to be made with all the distributors, the Amazons and HBOGOs and ShowTimes and the like. Best solution would be to offer them a simple transaction fee for every time they change the name of one of the titles they have in their library from say Mr. John Smith to Mrs. Annabella Washington. The digital media will never move. It will still stay in the same place on their servers. The only thing that will change will be the owners name. Think of it like a virtual eBay for virtual media (since the media is no longer in physical form). No shipping required.

Deals will also have to be struck with all the content providers and the licensing agencies, the people who originally created and licensed the product who usually receive a fee every time that particular title, whether it be an ebook or a movie or an or a TV episode, is purchased; whether it’s a television studio or a production company or a record company etc etc. Yes it will be a challenge. But it’s no more challenging than what YouTube or Sootify or Pandora have had to do. It’s just going to take time, a good law firm, a little effort, a smattering of charm and a gift for gab. In a few months time all of these deals can easily be put into place and the business can be up and running on a simple web and mobile platform for consumers to start using.

Will it happen? Yes, without a doubt. Within a year this is a no brainer for an acquisition or take over by one of the larger media companies. The question is WHO is going to do it? It could be you. Like I said, this is a freebie. Take it. I’ve already got too much in the pipeline. But regardless of who creates it, I personally cannot wait to use this service. I own way too many episodes of The Good Wife and would gladly trade them all in for half of what I paid for them.

The advent of a consumer market for used digital media is right around the corner. The demand is already there. We just need someone to build it.

– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone 6

Aaron Sorkin Hits Another Grandslam with New Newsroom

HBO’s original series NEWSROOM is far and away the most intelligent program on television. Anywhere. Perhaps of all time. Several thoughts come to mind.

Number one: Granted, this used to be a rather easy thing to say of course — if one ever had the opportunity (rare) to encounter an intelligent program on TV in days past, because TV used to be infamous for its sole role as the premier purveyor of the worst the world had to dump on itself. But all that changed over the last ten years exactly as I predicted when explaining one of the primary Signatures of the Age of Personal Expression (which we are at least waist deep in by now, at least), i.e. “We are about to enter a new golden age of American television, a renaissance of great television the likes of which we have never experienced before, where it may as a medium even surpass film, most likely never literature or journalism one would assume, in it’s brilliance to captivate engage move inspire educate and entertain.” “The Great American Television Renaissance” is what the Signature is still referred to as when we work on the project. And we, like anyone else paying attention as of late, are in awe of it.

Not only have B and occasional A list Hollywood celebs hopped on the TV train, but more importantly (much more importantly) so have big name Hollywood film writers and directors. Though we haven’t peaked quite yet in the Personal Expression Age itself, in terms of what it has the potential to do — what it has the directive and mandate and obligation to do — this particular Signature, of TV, is flying high; it’s hit it’s zenith. Television today is as good as any other form of entertainment in the world today. If you know where to look that is.

A second thought: think about what you just said old boy…. NEWSROOM IS good…but the MOST intelligent program on television?!? The Transcendence Diaries by their very nature are prone to hyperbolic claims and exclamations. No one would read them if they weren’t. So is this nothing but a quick fix, a one off jolt of hyperbolic frenzy instigated by the emotions this particular show so elegantly elicits in all of its viewers, one that you may regret come morning once you come down off this high and have the opportunity to think more clearly about the substance of such a statement?

Surely there are other shows on American television that are good. Great even. But we aren’t talking about good or great TV. We are talking about intelligent. In the not too distant past one could point to Sunday Morning News shows as being intelligent television; but besides the aging yet ever youthful McLaughlin Group and GPS with Fareed Zakaria, our beloved once reliable traditional staples known as Sunday morning news shows as a whole have gone the way of all TV news (and the general direction of the American political system, just as an aside, albeit a heartbreaking one) — hype pomp shock schlock rumors gossip gotchas and gimmes, with very little in the way of trustworthy news reporting, let alone anything remotely resembling intelligence.

One could of course fall back on any number of the programming still being aired by the PBS network regularly, and to be fair as a whole PBS still stands tallest when it comes to “most intelligent television programming” overall. They hit it out of the park with their rabbit out of the hat resuscitation of Masterpiece Theatre by way of Downton Abbey — not only reviving a long thought barely breathing franchise, but were so successful in it that they’ve now managed to spin it off into three separate programs: the classic Masterpiece, then Masterpiece Mystery and now their latest Masterpiece Contemporary — all pretty decent programming IF that’s your thing. Not bad for a long running show that no one even knew still existed ten years ago.

And PBS still delivers the most reliable respectful trustworthy intelligent and hype-free nightly news show on TV. They don’t pander nor patronize their projected audience. They aren’t too busy trying to “make news” to report on actual real news events transpiring in today’s world. Something the other four networks seem to have completely forgotten how to do. In fact let’s face it: the other four networks, ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX, have been so busy chasing the slutty foul smelling tail of cable news — quite possibly the most wretched invention of the latter half of the 20th century, right up there with the atomic bomb, Al Qaeda and The Kardashians — that it fully appears that network news divisions have even forgotten that THAT’S precisely what they were supposed to be doing, reporting the news, not trying to make it on their own, nor make it up as they go along.

Honorable Mention goes to The Charlie Rose Show — for if it weren’t for NEWSROOM, then surely Most Intelligent Show on Television would still be all his, as it has been for a decade at least. The Charlie Rose Show is still the one safe harbor any educated person of intellect can pull into for an hour and not only not be insulted but be seriously and sincerely intrigued and stimulated intellectually. Charlie Rose too is a PBS property.

So yes PBS certainly deserves First Place for Most Intelligent Television Network. But this isn’t about networks. It’s about single programs. And as anyone alive or awake in the last three years has noticed, nothing comes even close to the jaw dropping death defying dialog audiences are afforded each week when NEWSROOM airs on HBO. The scripts, or as he likes to call them the Teleplays, are penned by the inimitable Aaron Sorkin, (A Few Good Men, The Social Network). For many many years Sorkin has been infamous for many things: a hard leaning liberal who throws too much of his own personal politics into his art, a maddening person to work with, a drug fiend, an obsessive compulsive who admittedly showers five to six times a day, but more than anything else, a brilliant writer.

And indeed IF his style is something you enjoy or can bare then there isn’t much in this world that feels better than bathing in a sea of his words and sentences. Rapid fire dialogues between intensely interesting characters about actual matters of substance. Rare stuff indeed for television. And yet he pulls it off. One might tag that last line with “only on HBO…” And that may have been true at one point. Game of Thrones, Veep, Silicon Valley, True Detective… All HBO commodities. (Lest we forget they’re also responsible for bringing us the truly wretched GIRLS, nuff said…) But plenty of other brilliant shows now float about on other equally noteworthy and deserving networks such as AMC. So that mantle holds more than just one trophy with more than just one network name on it. And I predict that it is only going to continue to get more and more crowded up there as more creatives and audiences alike begin to discover the merits and potential of television as the new and exciting medium it has become.

In the meantime we still have — unfortunately — at least four more mind tingling, heart stopping episodes of NEWSROOM to view this season. Come Emmy time — if one subscribes to the idea of picking “favorites” or “number ones” (which I personally don’t, as everyone knows — (I believe there is and can be no such thing) then no one in that room will deserve that statue more than Aaron Sorkin for what he manages to do with NEWSROOM. That mind of his is a rare breed and a national treasure. For all the attention our society focuses on soulless technology and empty celebrity, it is people like Aaron Sorkin who illuminate just how powerful the simple written word can be still. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of watching NEWSROOM, I envy you. Do so as soon as possible.

Honorable Mentions need to be handed out to Real Time with Bill Maher, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and occasionally The Good Wife. (Though their story is another one entirely — one we simply don’t have the time nor desire to get into at this moment, though not one not worth telling, for it is consistently a better than most television show with occasionally brilliant writing and a stellar often times all-star cast. But it far too often succumbs to the limitations of network TV. Again, another post we’ll address that subject).

– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone 8s Custom

New Cosmos Big On Visuals But Something Missing


We’re three episodes into the global premier of the eagerly anticipated remake of Carl Sagan’s scientific documentary masterpiece, Cosmos. Word of it spread quickly through the various worlds of the literati and public alike. Over thirty years have passed. So…. Not only have scientific discoveries evolved, almost exponentially, leaving much new to cover, but so too has the technology used to create such a bold broad and far reaching work.

To aficionados and purists of course the original was perfect, without flaw and incapable of inspiring nothing but praise; certainly no complaints. But still… Curiosity is easily drummed up when contemplating a project of this size, with the big budget FOX would surely allot to it, not to mention having animation funny man Seth McFarland on board (?!?!) and the new narrator and guide for this remake would be celebrity physicist Neil degrass Tyson.

Being only three episodes in one could easily forgive the slightly humdrum pace at which the show is traveling thus far. Perhaps they’re saving the good stuff for later? Breaking out the big guns once the series catches on with a few more million viewers? But it’s not just the slow pace at which the show’s storyline is moving. With a seemingly infinite treasure trove of cash at their disposal the producers of the series have certainly spared no expense on breathtaking visuals and computer generated graphics and animation; but that seems to be, so far at least, the best aspect of the show.

Where Sagan’s Cosmos seemed primitive and quaint in the visual effects department at times — downright cheesy even, especially now, every episode left the viewer feeling inspired enthralled and captivated. More than anything though one walked away feeling educated, over-educated usually — with a ton of new knowledge to digest. So much so that it is common to find that anyone who has seen Cosmos has seen it numerous times. Usually more times than they can count. That was half the fun of the show. Trying to keep up with Sagan’s brain and his insatiable appetite to soak in every fact and ounce of important science data that had ever been discovered or postulated in the history of humanity. His enthusiasm for science and learning inspired us all to feel that same thirst. This is one of the many reasons why the man –a scientist mind you — became such a celebrity in his time, and a legend today.

The new Cosmos is not only slow but it also seems geared towards a less intelligent and curious audience. The science behind the science, the details, the math and equations, even the practical applications for said discoveries are all but gone in this new version. The script wiped clean of anything remotely mentally challenging or even intriguing. It’s as if the purpose is more to wow the audience into believing that science is “cool” without explaining any of the actual science itself. Names are dropped here and there, completely out of order and context — which is maddening for those who are familiar with the timeline of science’s greatest discoveries, and probably frustratingly confusing for those who don’t, but the exuberant raw passion and admiration Sagan seemed to have for these masters of human potential seems lost on Tyson. As if it’s all old hat to him.

There’s nothing particularly offensive or annoying about Tyson, but there’s also nothing particularly appealing either. Whereas Sagan could coax a drunken sailor to get excited about some of the most complicated scientific theories and equations ever invented with nothing but the sparkle in his eye and his soothing voice at once sonorous and excited, Tyson seems relatively tame if not downright bored half the time talking about the same matters. As if he’s either been there done that too many times already or he simply just isn’t as interested in the subject matter as Sagan was when discussing the same things.

So far the viewer finishes each episode feeling not much more than “meh… It was okay…”, but certainly not enraptured or on fire or ready to pop another one in immediately afterwards. The original Cosmos to many is a downright spiritual experience. No matter how times they watch it. Something very special and magical was created there that stands all by itself and alone in the annals of filmmaking. A concise but hefty 13 volume collection of boundless knowledge expressed and presented with excitement and reverence. The new Cosmos so far at least is an adequate passers by explanation of only the very basic ideas science has offered us through the years. Lukewarm tea without much flavor, sweetener or spice.

Whether this was done on purpose or not is more of an industry question. Perhaps the producers and the network felt that for audiences used to The Simpsons and American Idol, this was the best way to serve it. Almost hypnotically slow and filled with animation. We really don’t know. Choosing Seth McFarland — God love him for the hysterics of Ted — as an executive producer may have also played a role in why the show seems relatively bland to connoisseurs of the original series.
The man is after all a jokes writer, not a scientist nor even a science documentary producer.

Another factor that one finds a bit disturbing is the none too subtle atheistic view the show so far seemingly means to promote. It was no secret that Sagan was an agnostic at best. He stated as much quite early towards the end of the original series, though delicately respectfully. In this new age when certain cretinous minds are hellbent on forcing everyone to unnecessarily but unequivocally choose between believing in a God or not, the new Cosmos seems to be upping the ante on trying to prove that science displaces God somehow, when in reality we may just be discovering the intricacies of how the Divine Force has things worked out and coming up with our own names for these very natural systems in His/Her/It’s master plan. Either way, it’s an entirely unnecessary point to be making regardless; the exploration of spiritual, cosmological and theological ideas doesn’t really belong in a show extolling the virtues of scientific achievement. The sharpest minds understand that science and religion are not in competition with one another any more. Together though they are in fact creating some marvelous discoveries. And one day I believe will make THE most marvelous one of them all. In time.

Don’t get me wrong regarding the new Cosmos though. This show is still better than most anything else on TV but for PBS or HBO. It just isn’t the original. Nor an adequate update to it. I’ll still look forward to each new episode for the next few weeks at least. You can’t really get a subject matter closer to my heart than what this one explores. And who knows, it may just be gearing up and get really good once it gets going. I hope so. We need more television like this in America right now.

One very positive aspect of the show, (McFarland be damned for he’s one of the worst offenders in this arena), is that it isn’t filled with rampant gratuitous sex, violence and vulgarity like nearly everything else on modern American television. One cannot get through a half hour of TV during prime time today without more fucks cocks cunts balls bloody corpses axes through the head and naked bimbos riding alleged tough guys than one would normally encounter in an entire lifetime just ten years ago. Our grandparents — thank God they’re dead– wouldn’t recognize this nasty wicked and violent world we live in today. Why on earth today’s writers and producers think that adding the word fuck cock or dick to every sentence somehow makes a show funnier is beyond me. Frankly I believe the opposite is true. The shock and offensiveness of this new trend takes away from the viewers ability to be amused. This is one thing at least viewers of the new Cosmos don’t have to worry about. At least not yet anyway.

Television an Impetus and Sign of the Decay of Society’s Morals & Values

Prologue: The start of the new year marks the beginning of year three of my exploration of American television. As many long time readers have noted lately, The Transcendence Diaries never talked about television in all the years it’s been running. Thousands of pages and a full decade into this experiment, not one television show was ever mentioned until recently. That’s because for the longest time I didn’t subscribe to nor watch television. I spent most of my life that way. As a child we were completely cut off from that aspect of popular culture simply because our parents didn’t allow us to watch TV. They deemed it mentally and emotionally harmful. We of course being children disagreed with them vehemently. We just wanted to belong.

As I transitioned to adulthood I watched the occasional TV show when visiting friends houses, but in the music business, you really never have the kind of lifestyle where you can afford the time it takes to watch TV. You’re always traveling, and on those rare occasions when you’re not on the road, you live more of a vampire existence — out all night and asleep most of the day, one that does not lend itself to keeping up with the latest hit TV show. Besides all that, truth be told, I always found television to be the last thing in the world that interested me. I was a snob, I humbly admit it, and found television of almost any kind to be predictable, inane, boring and pedestrian. To be brutally honest, I found it insulting that people took the time or money to create such putrid dreck and expected other people to consume it. So no, TV was just not my thing.

Movies on the other hand were. An avid film buff, I gained access to movies through a seriously expensive Netflix and Amazon.com habit. Eventually two things transpired though that led to this more recent foray into the sodden world of American television, and since I’ve received more than a fair share of communications from readers about this strange twist lately, I thought I’d take a moment to address the reasons for this switch so people don’t think I’ve lost my edge or gone off the deep end.

Number one, it is possible — if one is determined and persistent enough in the pursuit — to watch literally every good to great film ever released in a variety of different languages; it just takes time and discipline. You reach a point where there is simply nothing left to buy or rent that you haven’t already seen a few times. I reached that point several years ago. Not only had I purchased all the great films worth owning — both fictional movies and documentaries, concerts and bios, old and new, color and black and white — in order to build a most enviable library to share with my children as they grow if I should be so lucky as to have some one day, but I discovered that eventually you can also reach a point where every film you ever clicked to place in your Netflix queue has been shipped to you and returned already. Granted we are speaking strictly of only movies that interested “me”. I am sure there are plenty of horror movies, vampire thrillers, zombie apocalypse tales and buddy-cop flicks that never made their way into my viewing room and hopefully never will.

Number two, as many know, I began working on a rather large project to write a non-fiction sociology book entitled We Are the Revolution — Life in the Personal Expression Age a few years back and felt that I needed to explore TV to it’s fullest in order to fairly and fully explore this new age we’ve found ourselves in. After all, one of the Signatures of the age that I predicted was on its way was “The Great American Television Renaissance”. I foresaw that with the Indie Revolution and technology boom colliding and working together, American television was about to begin a new golden age where it would become so good that it would be nearly indistinguishable from Hollywood movies, even good ones. I was right. To a degree at least. Mainstream media is now calling it “the new or third golden age of TV”… something to that effect.

More importantly I have been able to witness it firsthand, taking notes and cataloguing it along the way. At first I tried to accomplish this feat by simply renting DVDs of all the television shows that I thought were important through Netflix. True story. I must have watched hundreds of hours of television that way. Eventually I caved in and realized that if I was really going to take the leap and explore this aspect of our society completely that I would need to subscribe to TV full on, as in get cable. And so I did. We’ve now got the full gamut. All 1000 channels or more. It’s entirely overwhelming. And yet frustratingly underwhelming as well. All depending on the filter you have on when watching.

I must say that it hasn’t been easy. Television is both a gift and a curse, wicked and wonderful all at the same time. On the one hand I heartily appreciate the comfort and companionship it provides to those who aren’t as fortunate as some of us are financially or socially or even in regards to having good health. Many a good person falls asleep every night with the TV on for no other reason than they are ill and bed-ridden or simply lonely. I get that. I respect it. I also understand that in a country as large as the United States is, television has a tremendous bonding capacity. It makes it possible for just about anyone, no matter how isolated or remote they may live from a metropolitan area to feel connected with and stay in touch with the rest of the country; with the rest of the world really. This is an important contribution to be sure. Though one might add that the internet can now just as readily fulfill that purpose, and do so without an endless stream of advertisements or that most unfortunate circumstance where one is trapped in front of the box filled with hundreds of channels and still find absolutely nothing to watch that interests them.

(I myself have a tough time with advertisements on television and so I almost exclusively only watch shows that have been DVR’d. I don’t think this project would have been possible had the DVR not yet been invented.) Because my venturing into the world of television was not for entertainment but for research I never found myself in the aforementioned predicament of “not being able to find anything to watch”. I’ve felt it countless times of course, but every time I find myself thinking that, I remind myself that this is research after all. If it’s occasionally enjoyable, all the better. But if it’s not, so what: the important thing is to soak it all in and to learn. So that’s what I’ve been doing.

I started this exploration approximately two years ago. So no, I do not remember the shows Desperate Housewives or Friends or 24, nor am I am able to recall the early formative years of American Idol that everyone refers to so lovingly. These were all before my time. But I have been able to catch up on certain things deemed important enough through Netflix such as Lost for instance. And as I’ve already mentioned in prior posts I enjoyed that show in particular immensely. Now I find myself in a rather strange place. Half in, half out. Television as it turns out can be extremely addictive. One can find oneself watching when one doesn’t even necessarily want to. It is easy to become quasi-addicted to TV. To keeping up with things. To having that extra energy in the room. It’s an illusion of course. Those people are real, but they aren’t there in the room with you. They aren’t even doing what they’re doing live, there in the moment, as you’re watching. They only pretend they are. And we in turn pretend along with them. It’s a drug like any other that as a society en masse we’ve allowed ourselves to become slowly but entirely addicted to and dependent on.

I would be lying if I claimed that I haven’t enjoyed this part of the book writing process. Because I have. Almost too much I believe. Much of it has been very enjoyable. On the other hand much of it has been thoroughly dreadful and painful, as many would guess. Most television, as I remembered from the few times I attempted to watch it in the past, is indeed inane, pedestrian, boring, predictable and insulting to anyone with half a brain. Though on occasion you can find some things that transcend the format and are just flat out better than good. Downton Abbey comes to mind; as do many shows that PBS tends to air. So too does Homeland. Though the latter’s third season suffered so badly from poor writing that it became unbearable to get through for me personally. And that, in a nutshell, is the problem with television. Unlike good film, where they limit the length of the work to the exact time needed to tell the story and no more or less, television works in the exact opposite way: the story is dictated by how long the series stays on the air — as in how many dollars can they squeeze out of it as a commodity. This invariably always suffers the quality of the work itself. After a season or two, when the story is long overdue for a proper ending, the writers are still desperately trying to suck more blood out of the lifeless carcass that’s still left behind. The audience hangs on because they’ve become accustomed to it, fond of it, seduced by the original thrill once had but long forgotten, much like other drugs, and slowly — like a marriage gone sour — both writer and audience writhe in agony as each new season drags on until eventually both show and audience whither away and shrivel up and die.

tv-money

Think Pretty Little Liars. Those supposed high school girls are old enough to be grandmothers at this point and no one in their right mind gives two shits who “A” is anymore. The same can be said for Revolution — they’re going to drag that poor wretched beast out so long that most viewers will be dead by the time the producers of the show suck all the cash out of it that they can and end the story; which is too bad, because that show had at one point at least a degree of merit and potential. But again, money is taking precedence over quality still in this medium, so the storyline just drags on indefinitely rather than ending when it naturally should. The same goes for the aforementioned Homeland starting with season 3. It’s alarming, and I’d say disturbing even, to ponder that the creators and writers of this show are contemplating bringing “Brody” back from the dead in season 4. And yet everyone knows that’s precisely what they intend to do. It’s a truly shameless craft, to work for American television. All because of this wretched time-dictate phenomenon.

Of course, there is an easy fix. Just as filmmakers do, the creators and writers of TV could, if they really wanted to go the way of art rather than commerce, just change the storyline as often as needed — adding and/or deleting characters as needed — and frame the whole television show around a good story, RATHER than around how much time they need to fill up with a full season, and then another, and then another, and another, etc. In other words, once the story has run its course, they could END it, regardless of how many more episodes they have left. They could always keep the same cast of characters but just create a different story for them to be involved in. This would make television much more intelligent and much less inane and insulting.

Now that I’ve made mention of this fix, we can only hope that it turns into the new trend at some point in the near future. That’s how it usually works. I’ll mention it here; a few weeks to months later we see it transpire. [Remember, it was less than a year ago that I suggested creators and networks shoot and air whole seasons of shows at once so audiences could watch them all in one or two sittings IF they so choose to. See the post entitled Observations Re Modern Television – Fixes (1) from March 13, 2013. Within a few months, Netflix did just that with Arrested Development and then House of Cards and “binge watching” became the new buzz word of the season. So before we go writing in that yours truly is pipe-dreaming, let’s give this new idea some time, eh? I bet it’s only a matter of time now that it’s been mentioned here.

[This brings up an interesting side-thought — a truly fascinating paradigm that’s a bit off-topic but one that I’d say is very intriguing, if not way more intriguing than what this post was originally about. Check it. What exactly happened there? In the above scenario? I suggested something new, never been done before; and a few months later we see it transpire. Deductively, from what I can tell after thinking about this strange phenomenon for decades now, we’ve got three or four primary choices from which to conclude. #1, I created the idea and someone read about it, liked the idea and put it into action. i.e. I was the inventor of said event. #2, I predicted the advent of the idea before it transpired. i.e. I am psychic, or more accurately put, am more tuned into my “Intuitive Mode of Consciousness” than the average person. (more on that later). #3, I am simply highly tuned in to the subject and/or the culture it exists in and could feel or induce the coming of said event through either logical induction or intuition or a combination of both. This falls into the “hundredth monkey” paradigm to a certain degree. A little something I call “If you’re thinking it, so too are a thousand other people”. i.e. knowing a subject very well and all of the data associated with a subject allows us to be able to accurately predict coming events and trends more readily than the average person simply because we are so tuned into that particular data collection. We aren’t necessarily “predicting” something psychicly (though this could just be semantics) as much as being able to induce coming trends…. #4, none of the above. It was pure coincidence. #5, a combination of all of the above.

Without making too much of this post about this phenomenon — I believe it deserves one for sure — what I personally believe is that each time this phenomenon occurs, one has to analyze the events surrounding it in order to be able to ascertain which one of the five conclusions above were at play. There’s not just ONE singular reason for this seemingly miraculous turn of events. #1, Are television executives frantically scouring the Transcendence Diaries to look for ideas from yours truly and as soon as I suggested they air full seasons of shows so viewers could watch them all at once, they decided to do just that because I have just that much influence? I doubt it. In fact I doubt that they or anyone else except for loyal readers for that matter even knew I had suggested this new format for airing television shows. So no, I don’t believe I invented the idea and someone stole it.

#2, While it is true that for the last twenty or so years those closest to me have noticed an uncanny ability to be able to see things that are going to happen in the future — so much so that friends and family call me to ask “Hey, what are you seeing happen if I should do this_____?” — 99% of the time I am NOT in control of this ability. I “feel” and “see” the visions of said coming events randomly. Or I might just be writing or thinking about a subject or person and make note of something that IS going to happen or SHOULD happen, and then it does. This is certainly not psychicism in the classic scientific sense. Because I can’t turn it on or off at will. It’s completely random. Most of the time, when I do try to do it deliberately I do so with devastatingly erroneous results. So I tend to dismiss the “psychic” conclusion.

To me the most logical conclusion is #3. When we tap into a subject deeply and study it, all the data in and around it, we are more capable of being able to induce various different events that may potentially transpire in what we label “the future” in this particular field — simply because we are so tuned into this topic of study, or field of thought. It’s really just a matter of inductive reasoning. And feel. And intuition. The hundredth monkey effect at play. Chances are there were probably a thousand other people around the same time thinking and proposing the same thing. Why? Because it was the next logical step or transition in the field of television broadcasting. I just happened to make note of it before it happened because I was so deeply entrenched in studying it.

To be clear, I do not believe that this negates the potential for “psychic” or telekinetic abilities in others, nor even in myself. I’m only speaking about this one particular event, and a few others like it. I believe that the more we study and dig into something, the more “tuned into it” we become, i.e. the more tapped in our Intuitive Mode of Consciousness gets into this subject and the easier it is for us to access it with our regular day to day consciousness. *[The idea of the Intuitive Mode of Consciousness, at least the label itself as I am using it here, comes from the work of Harry Palmer and his work in the Avatar materials.]  This to me does not preclude our ability to be psychic or telekinetic. Some people are highly gifted in this capacity. But there is I believe a more logical conclusion to this phenomenon and a lot of it has to do with how much we know about a subject. The more we learn about a subject, the more we soak into it, the easier it becomes to see what’s coming next.

We can become quite good at this ability by simply knowing this fact. If we want to know what happens next, simply study the subject at hand as much as possible. A combination of logic and intuition will increase our ability to see what happens next immensely. There is more to this, a lot more. This is definitely a subject we should explore more in future posts.]

The full exploration and conclusions of our little experiment in the world of television are in the book mentioned above. That wasn’t the original intent of this post. I apologize. I got carried away. Evidently even I am not immune to getting sucked into the crazy seductive world of television. So be it. It’s a good point made though.

Last week I decided to tune into a fairly new show called The Following to see what all the fuss was about. One of the aspects of the Signature of “The Great American Television Renaissance” is that better than good film actors, writers and producers would eventually succumb to working for television — unlike even five to ten years ago where television was considered the land where talentless hacks go to die. But this trend was easy to see coming due to a variety of factors. The full reasons and ramifications are discussed in the book. It’s easy work, TV, compared to movie making. Nearly a nine to five job if you force their hand. And one that you can do from the comfort of your own hometown so you can stay close to family — without the itinerate traveling and being on location as is often required when making a movie. And if they only made the money being offered tantalizing enough, so the theory went, they could easily start seducing B movie stars into doing it first, and eventually A-listers would soon follow. We’ve seen this start to play out over the last few years. I first intuitively perceived this coming trend, began taking notes on it and named it in 2005. It took a while to transpire. But in full swing now.

The ubiquitous Kevin Bacon, who’s been in literally every movie that’s ever come out of Hollywood since the early nineteen-eighties eventually succumbed in The Following. So I decided to check it out, see what the big pull was. FOX is known for pulling many a rabbit out of its hat. Most extremely lame, deformed, mutated beyond recognition. Some nearly decent, edible, if rabbit’s your thing. And a select few occasionally quite tasty.

Uh… Okay… Wow… Not sure WHAT kind of response the creators of this show were looking for, but that about sums it up. If there ever was just one, The Following could potentially hold the honor of being the perfect illustration of just how numb depraved and insane modern American society has become through the years. It’s plot and storyline are completely over the top, repetitive, irrelevant and unbelievable of course; that was expected; but gratuitous violence and gore and shock scenes abound, a technique usually reserved for cheap Hollywood D grade horror movies. It’s a twisted little world that’s created in this shock and schlock fest, filled with blood, gore, stabbing scenes, dismembered body parts… all the while the characters act as if it’s just another day in paradise. There are absolutely no redeeming qualities to this show except perhaps as a study of how depraved a society can become: on the one hand the society publicly questions why mass murders and killing sprees transpire on a regular basis in real life and on the other hand it simultaneously creates these kinds of television shows as entertainment. What the society claims to dread, resist and fear the most, it simultaneously gorges on as entertainment. It’s a fascinating dichotomy. But also a bit sickening and frightening.

For the last ten to fifteen years American television broadcasters have been in a competition with one another to see who can create and air the most shocking, taboo and controversial material and get away with it. It wasn’t always this way. A thorough study of the history of American television since the 1950s will reveal that there has always been a healthy competition between networks. Which is a good thing for everyone to be sure. But somewhere down the road an invisible line was crossed. In the 1970s there began a now-seemingly tame competition between the big three American television networks fighting for the top spot in shocking the American public with controversial subjects that were considered too taboo for such a public medium like television. Single motherhood, divorce, black and Hispanic comedies, racism and racial slurs, mixed marriages, all were on the table to be offered up for free to see just how much reality the viewing public was willing to digest.

For the most part the intentions seemed noble. Television producers were trying to push the envelope of how much reality could be accepted in society’s entertainment. All they were attempting to do was replicate current events on TV — to more honestly mirror real life in order to more honestly explore it. Before that era, American television was pure fantasy. A utopian dream of what life “could be like if everything were perfect”. To many, this may have been a pleasurable panacea in the moment, but it also served as a constant reminder of just how imperfect our real lives were. In the nineteen-seventies all that changed. Throughout the next twenty years, television continued to push these boundaries, attempting to reveal more and more reality on TV. Many credit the popular comedy Will and Grace with helping to make being “gay” more acceptable in real life society. It would be more difficult to thoroughly “hate” gay people if you were tuning in to laugh at and with a gay person once a week. Perhaps they weren’t as scary as people made them out to be. Or so the argument goes. For all intents and purposes it seemed to work.

Needless to say the advent of what we call cable television — or anything other than the Big Four networks, CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX — was and still is the main impetus for the ongoing trend towards a new style of television: starting with real life, then leaving it behind and stretching it out beyond peoples’ wildest fantasies. The show that comes to mind more than any other is The Sopranos, though which show started it all is not the point here. Let TV executives and savants argue that one out. But HBO’s The Sopranos took violence and vulgarity on television to a whole new level never seen before. Sex too. Pretty soon people were tuning in to watch the show not because it was “good” but more to see just “how far out” the writers would go in their quest to push past society’s boundaries of acceptability. By the time the show had reached it’s final season, tens of other shows started cropping up on HBO and other networks to compete with it in this category of pure shock value. Drug addicted doctors, mobsters, serial killers, murdering vampires and zombies, weed selling single moms, meth peddling dads just trying to earn a living to support their family, pregnant teens, womanizing drunkards… this is what the new American television protagonist started looking like.

And thus began the new phase of American television: not to mirror real life, but to stretch it beyond recognition as fantasy.

In my quest to fully absorb and explore modern American television, I succumbed to just about every show that any half-assed idiot raised enough money to get on the air just to be able to get the whole picture. I attempted to watch the show Girls once two years back, and found myself so disgusted and disturbed by the thought that this could potentially represent what modern American girls in their early twenties are like that I actually found myself crying. Just sitting there on the couch tearing up and sobbing. It’s one thing to push the envelope. It’s another thing to indoctrinate young people into believing that drug and booze binging, casual sex, loose or no morals, and trailer-park vulgarity were all perfectly acceptable as long as you could afford the latest fashion trends and you got on TV. Which is exactly what this and countless other shows seemed to be doing. My reaction was beyond shock. It was downright disgust and then sadness.

The word “fuck” — not only as an expletive but also as a verb, as in “to copulate or to have sex” — is used so regularly and casually by characters (who we are supposed to identify with in some way) that an outsider would justifiably assume that that’s how regular everyday people in our society speak. “Oh first you fuck me and then you go and fuck her Tony?!?!” As if that’s how the average American female speaks on a regular basis, which for the most part, thank God, they don’t. We don’t. When’s the last time you heard someone use the word “fuck” when speaking about making love or having sex in real life? Certainly more common now than ever before; but certainly not something that has been considered the norm in our day to day lives.

There was a time, in the not too distant past, when that kind of language would be found utterly shocking in the real world except perhaps for the most lowly types of individuals. And to be sure that still applies to most of us. But for how long? Television has always served as both a reflection of our reality and an influencer and harbinger of it, of things to come. “Fuck” has always been a fun word to use on occasion. A colorful way to decorate an otherwise lackluster sentence or sentiment. But we’ve always known — we’re even taught this in writing courses at university — that it’s the easy way out, a device of the amateur.breaking enough, the characters not badass or tough enough. Now it’s every other word, de rigeur for every character on TV. No longer shocking, but boring and predictable. Have a seat and try to watch a whole episode of Veep or House of Lies. You’ll hear more “fucks” in 30 minutes than you’d hear in a year of Tourette’s Syndrome Anonymous meetings.

But all the while, people are watching… How much are they being influenced? That’s the question that arises again and again.

But it doesn’t stop there. The word “fuck” is the least of our problems at this point. Sex blood guts gore vulgarity abortion adultery murder stabbings gunshots to the heads eye-gouging rape the mafia and criminals as heroes… you name it and you can find it on a television near you. A friend on Facebook once commented a year or so back, “I don’t mind being forced to watch Girls if it makes my wife happy for an hour. But I refuse to stare at Lena Dunham’s fat naked ass while she’s being banged from behind for ten minutes.” And that pretty much sums it up. Who in their not-right mind decided it was a good idea to start showing doggy-style sex on TV? And worse, who in their right mind watches it or enjoys watching it? But let’s not blame it on poor Lena Dunham. Innovative she’s not. She’s just a child of the generation that came before. I can distinctly remember being equally horrified when binge-studying the just as vile Sex and the City I had to sit through a ten minute conversation where all four actresses pretended that talking about “anal sex and giving blowjobs” over lunch was the normal conversation of choice for middle class Manhattan females. When we all know it’s NOT. But again, the show’s creators are just trying to bang extra dollars out of the piggy banks of hapless American consumers through shocking them. What is it about being shocked that makes American consumers feel special? That’s another valid question.

What many don’t seem to understand is that a good story doesn’t need to be shocking, nor controversial. Nor does shock or controversy equal a good story. What’s to explain the popularity of and adulation around Downton Abbey over the last three years? But this point seems lost on most television executives.

In a few decades we have created a world where absolutely nothing is off limits or taboo for television. The Real Housewives, Honey Boo Boo or any other number of shows proves this. Rape murder animal cruelty take your pick. Sure the clean-cut, smiling faces will be on the TV first thing in the morning on their best behavior, dyed-white teeth sparkling into the camera, acting as if everything is just fine and dandy in Pleasantville. But tune into the same channel 12 hours later and you can gleefully watch a man poke a woman’s eyes out while she screams bloody murder or a group of young teens having a threesome. And if you want to they’ll even look directly into the camera and talk to you while doing it, which is the current “cool technique” of today’s television factory.

If we are to believe that television is the least bit reflective of real life, some of the most cherished and sought after ideals of our society have been slowly shoved under the bed over time and replaced with a new kind of identity. Nobility, once highly sought after and admired, is now clouded by darker themes such as vengeance ruthlessness power for power’s sake and greed. “The end never justify the means” is an archaic novelty, cute and nostalgic, reserved for coffee mugs and keychains; now replaced by older more primitive notions such as “do whatever it takes to succeed” or “only the strong survive”. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to ascertain precisely what nobility or respectability mean in today’s “modern” times as represented by television. Our hard fought evolution to a more graceful and elegant, kinder and gentler people appears to be eroding if we are to believe that our favorite television shows reflect who we are as a society.

To say we’ve lost touch with our core values would be understating the obvious. Fundamental deception and blatant manipulation is an accepted norm. So too are hidden agendas. So too has rampant vacuous sexuality, gratuitous violence and gore, using sex as a tool or a weapon either to garner attention (in the absence of something valuable) or to bribe manipulate or blackmail. Our very basic nobility has been eviscerated; in its place has arisen new ideals: ambition fame attention power greed winning. Remember the Charlie Sheen fiasco? Talk about an ironic dichotomy. Thousands of hapless masses cheering on a jacked up drug addict and womanizer as he incoherently rambles on and on about “winning” some irrelevant battle he’s having with his “greedy Jew bosses at the network” over how much money he makes for a TV show that no one actually watched anymore. What exactly is “winning” now in American society? How can we even organize the data to craft a definition given the blatant contradictions between what we see pretended as winning versus what we know it really to be, at least in a traditional sense? If one were young enough to NOT remember the traditional definitions of concepts such as winning, nobility, respectability, decency, it would be easy to see how they could be completely confused as to what these ideals really mean if all they see representing them are people like The Kardashians, Paris Hiton, Kanye West, Miley Cirus or Ray Donovan. I don’t envy the younger generation coming of age in today’s world.

On the one hand we have shows like 60 Minutes and Frontline or even Anderson Cooper revealing the latest scandals and corruptions of the day by the lowliest criminals in society who then get in trouble for their actions, and an hour later we have shows like Scandal, The Good Wives, and Ray Donovan glorifying these same types of individuals and their corruptions as if it’s an honorable thing to be a part of. That’s one confusing bag of mixed messages. The fear is that we are on the brink of becoming immune to what we euphemistically label “white collar crime”: lying, cheating, embezzlement, blackmail, bribery, grand larceny…  and a political system that is run and controlled by these very things. We deceptively refer to it as “lobbying” or “political campaign financing”. Since we are old enough to speak we are taught that our elected officials make laws based on trading votes for favors and vice versa, again cleverly disguised by the moniker “pork barrel spending” so no one really understands what’s being discussed. We see it parodied or theatrically played out on television in shows like Veep or House of Cards or House of Lies. And we don’t even blink at the thought that this may in fact be our reality.

Nope. In fact we choose instead to allow others among us to use these shameful weaknesses in our character as entertainment, akin to allowing someone to murder your family right before your eyes and then broadcast it as a reality TV show. (We can be sure that’s not too far away at this point. I’d say give it a year…) Unfortunately we see far too similar events as those in fictional TV dramas play out in real life on CNN and CSPAN on a near daily basis, which only further blurs the line between what is real and what is creative writing. So it could all be satire, or dramatization, or not. At this point we don’t know. Turning our considerable problems with our government in what is known as the greatest democratic republic on earth into entertainment not only minimizes the importance of the real problems that we face as a society, but it satirizes us, as a people, and our very core values, as we ignore the problems and continue to pretend that everything is fine; the irony of it screams in our faces “DO SOMETHING YOU IDIOTS” while we sit back and binge-watch it play out right before our eyes pretending it means nothing, that in the end it’s only a story…

Last night while taking notes for this post, the thought occurred to me that it’s time to not only stop with this experiment of exploring American television but that I should even go one step further and unsubscribe from all television in both our homes and start a movement to encourage others to do the same thing, just get rid of all TV completely except as a vehicle to watch movies on. Precisely because I wholeheartedly believe in the main message of this post, television IS in my opinion a major reason for the decay of the moral fabric of our society and the only way it’ll ever stop is if people en masse start boycotting it to send a message to executives and broadcasters.

The next two thoughts that occurred to me were this: one, there are certain aspects of television that I really get a lot out of. News and especially financial news networks, CNBC, CSPAN, PBS and certain guilty pleasures on the so-called premium channels. Two, there’s no way that anyone will be able to talk even a small minority of Americans into doing away with their TV, so it’s an effort that would prove fruitless; not worth the time or energy I would expend. I’d basically being chasing rainbows. No one’s going to do it.

This morning upon awakening, I was surfing Facebook over my first macchiato and lo and behold what do I see? A post by a colleague in the music business who lives in Utah — she works in radio promotion — saying that she just got rid of their whole house’s cable subscription entirely because she “doesn’t approve of the content of TV today, it’s too vulgar and violent, and she doesn’t want her or her spouse or her children digesting that kind of garbage on a regular basis.” I must admit I was quite surprised. Talk about synchronicity or being psychic or tapping into intuition… I hadn’t even posted this yet. So it wasn’t about me. More a sign that I was onto something. She’s onto something. Perhaps I’m not the only person thinking about doing this. Not just doing it ourselves for the betterment of our mental and emotional health, but taking it on as a cause. After all, this may have been a random coincidence, but I just bet that if we two are thinking about it, so are plenty of others.

Sure enough, our good friend Zeke Zaskin — yes the audio engineer who’s mixed and mastered the last nine Transcendence albums, said that they just did the SAME thing in their home, for the same reasons, and that there’s a simple solution to being able to access only the content that one desires and still not have to subscribe to cable: He states the solution is getting a digital antenna, a Roku box and the PlayOn app. In fact he even posted a link that explains how to do it. You can get rid of cable completely AND still access the big four networks and any other networks you want to IF you want to. Here’s the link: http://removeandreplace.com/…/cancel-your-cable-and…/

So it turns out it IS possible to get rid of cable completely and still have access to only the shows and networks that we desire. This would afford us all a good opportunity to be able to send a message to the television networks and the executives that control them. One giant boycott is all we’d need by even a small minority would gather a lot of attention. I for one am ready to do something.

 

New Girl is Getting Old


Cult hit Fox TV show NEW GIRL used to be a blast. It’s first season especially. Wild carefree random unexpected quirkiness with that who cares attitude that only Generation Y can provide. Zoe was cute in a sort of dorky kindergarten teacher sort of way. And her three man crew made great sidemen each offering their own special bran of funny. Especially whacky Schmidt. You looked forward to it all week. You even watched the reruns when a new one wasn’t playing for some reason. You missed it over the summer.
 
 Them came season 2. Not as funny. But still funny. Good to see the old gang back together for sure. And fun to virtually play along with their crazy antics as they tried almost nill to get their lives straightened out. More than anything though we began to care. The shows creators had accomplished the undeniably difficult holy grail of TV — they developed characters over a relatively short period of time that we could not only laugh at but relate to and care about. Were Jess and nick really going to eventually hook up? Was Schmidt really going to be dumped permanently by Cece for that nice bumbling indian fellow without a name? Would Winston ever get a life or at least get laid again?
 
 Season 2’s cliffhanger finale was just okay. Some ball had been dropped a few weeks or months prior. Except for a badger scene that stole an episode for a few minutes it just started to lose its engage appeal.
 
 But still… We’d surely tune in to see if they could bring back the magic for season 3. Well one thin they did bring back was Coach, a character played by Damon Wayans who was fresh off the foolishly just cancelled because it was one of the funniest shows on TV show HAPPY ENDINGS. Unfortunately not only doesn’t Coach add anything to this cast he also takes away even more time from the rest of the cast that the audience has already a vested interest in. Besides that nothing much else came in the delivery of season 3. More hapless accidents and slapstick, more freshmanic humor only the cast and crew could like and more trying to capitalize on the Jess is really cool because we’re deliberately trying to make her clumsy and freakishly naive and nerdy.
 
 Unfortunately none of it’s working. Half way into the season and even the most ardent fans (moi por example) have yet to remember even one memorable scene let alone a whole show worth bothering to ruminate on or watch again. No laugh out louds. And no caring what happens. Sure it’s great to see the old gang together. But more than anything the feeling at this point is more about watching the clock to see how much longer we must endure this contrived inanity before THE MINDY PROJECT comes on.
 
 That’s surely not what NEW GIRL staff and crew want as their epitaph on their headstone, “Moderately amusing show at times that aired before Mindy Project”. But it looks like that’s precisely what’s in store for the show because 1, the best thing that could happen to it (if it doesn’t replace it’s writing staff ASAP) is it dies i.e. gets cancelled after this season in order to preserve at least a little bit of its once in spades “cherish quality” and street credibility, and 2 it’s looking more and more like an easily replaceable bookend for The Mindy Project and not much more than that.
 
 New blood in the writers room THATS what NEW GIRL needs. Before she starts looking like an old lady way before her prime.
 
 
 – Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on a custom iPhone8S

Exploring Psychism, Honoring Our Intuition and a Glimpse into the Coming Global Revolution

PSYCHISM: a doctrine that there is a fluid universally diffused and equally animating all living beings

This is just more a check in or a follow up more than anything. At least it started out as that. As usual we’ve gone in a hundred different directions by the time it’s finished. But I only know this because I am in the future. I’ve read this already. Hang on tight and enjoy. This week TIME Magazine published an article entitled “Prison Breakout: Netflix keeps remaking TV with its best show yet” wherein the primary message is that Netflix is transforming the way American television is watched by releasing full seasons of series all in one go as opposed to one episode at a time on a week to week to basis as is customary. A brilliant idea. Where have we heard that before?!?! Hhhhmmm…

On Monday March 18th of this year, I published a blog entry here in the Transcendence Diaries entitled “Observations On Modern Television — Fixes” (click here to read) where I suggested that “if contemporary TV networks want to stay current and competitive, they need to start releasing whole seasons of TV series all in one shot so people could watch them at their leisure and NOT have to wait week to week to watch them. THIS is the future. Who will jump on it first?” This was five months before the TIME Magazine article touting Netflix’s new show “Orange is the New Black” and three months before Netflix was the first network in history to ever do it when they released both “House of Cards” and “Arrested Development” in the same manner. Kudos to moi!

Now before a slew of “don’t let your head get TOO big Mr. Ambassador” comments pour in, let me state for the record that I am NOT claiming that Netflix got the idea from ME. Obviously they didn’t. Or did they??? Hhhhmmm… Okay so probs not. In order to pull off such a fete, Netflix would have had to have started filming House of Cards and Arrested Development months before that particular Transcendence Diaries entry was posted. Besides all the horn tooting and “who got the idea first” banter, I believe there are actually several other lessons to be gleaned from this event that are far more elucidating.

First and foremost, I wrote that particular entry from a place of DESIRE, not fortune telling — suggesting this change to modern television programming because that’s what I WANTED, as a viewer. I felt, as I stated in the original article, that for those of us who are super busy, too busy for TV (who isn’t?), it was ridiculous to assume that we have the time to pay attention to when some TV show is going to air, what day of the week or what time it’s on, and then the commercials, etc etc forget about it. I mean, who has the time?

Even in the DVR age — I must admit that without the DVR I would not be even talking about this subject, for I would not be aware of anything on TV; as in the past, my entire life up until a year and half ago, I never watched TV — no TIME or desire to. Then I predicted that there would be a “new American Television Renaissance” and thus went to explore TV to see if I was even close to being right; I was. The DVR had a big impact on my ability to do that research. It does make it possible for us to manage TV more effectively. BUT there are still HUGE problems for a certain demographic, the group of us who just do NOT want to (nor feel that we should have to) sit around waiting week to week to see which one of the Stark family dies next on Game of Thrones. For us, now, in this age of instant gratification, traditional TV programming has become as insulting to our intelligence and way of life as waiting for access to the internet on a dial up connection. Just not worth it.

So what are some of those lessons Well number one, when I got the idea, It felt like a ridiculous thing to suggest. I KNEW that when I was writing it. At least I thought I did. Turns out that I was just feeling something that was already happening. But none of us had the benefit of being able to know that except the few perhaps at Netflix who were in on the discussion that led to this programming change. “Who the hell is going to take this seriously?” I thought. Readers are just going to think “Oh there goes Ed Hale and his crazy imaginings about a perfect utopian world where whole seasons of TV are available all at the same time right for the taking just because we would love for it to be that way… Crazy guy.” But lo and behold, I wasn’t so far off. Netflix has grabbed that gauntlet and charged ahead, surely leading other networks to now reconsider their own programming. Lesson: Just because something seems far fetched or outlandish does not mean that it’s not a potential reality. Honoring our intuition is one of the most important lessons we can learn in any lifetime…. the sooner the better.

And hear me now, believe me in six months: This is only the beginning. The big cable networks like HBO and Showtime are not far behind. Those Emmy nods that Netflix just grabbed for Arrested Development and House of Cards go far. They speak volumes, because regardless of current allocation of advertising dollars, Emmys win numbers. And numbers buy advertisers. (In another post I will outline how advertising is being very quickly transformed, how the old models are dying and the newer models are way off the mark still.)

The other lesson that I cannot help but feel — it actually feels like a semi-panic like pain in my chest — is that next time I have an idea about something, anything, I need to run with it. For whatever reason, out of all the strengths and challenges that each of us come loaded with as individuals when we are born, (or develop over years in a lifetime…), being able to see what’s coming next happens to be a skill I excel at. It’s not even a skill. It just IS. I do it. It’s not from thought. It’s just a knowing. Of course the problem with being able to know ahead of time what’s going to happen next is that it HASN’T HAPPENED YET. So it feels totally crazy when you write it or say it out loud to anyone. So we feel a bit intimidated to go forward with taking any action in that direction. But I’m beginning to learn that we shouldn’t.

Let me give you an example. I’ll tell you right here right now that EMAIL IS DEAD. It’s a ridiculously tired old boring and laborious task that offers zero pay off for the most part, number one, and furthermore there are much more effective and efficient methods for communicating in THIS age than email now. This isn’t the 1990s. Email is a thing of the past. Most of the people I know get so frustrated by my refusal to use email. And when I announce this little prediction of mine they tell me that I’m crazy. But I don’t let it bother me. Hell, we thought i was crazy when I said that we should be allowed to watch whole seasons of our favorite TV shows all in one day in the first week. But that’s the new trend now. Before that, everyone was threatening to lock me up because I was saying that we were about to see a bunch of people’s revolutions take place all over the world and see entire governments fall. Old news now.

And that’s the thing. BEFORE they happen, things that ARE going to happen DO seem ludicrous. Until they happen that is. So there’s something in there about the importance of honoring our vision, or our intuition. Truth be told I’ve always been really good at this. So for me this might be easier said than done compared to someone who thinks this sounds like a risky idea. Most people are much more measured and calculated. They observe and sort data and wait for the signs… My gut tells me that another important lesson out of this is this: if WE are desiring something, thinking about it, wanting it, hoping it happens one day, there’s a good chance that a few other people (at the least) are too. And THAT is how we can trust that the ideas that we have are viable or worthy or have potential to take off or at least transpire.

I’m not saying we should start believing we can call where the Dow Jones is going to be on Monday; but you get the idea. Being able to see into the future and predict what’s going to happen next seems to be a skill made up of several different sub-skills: an innate vibrational or energetic feel based ability to see/feel/know what’s going to happen next (call it “psychic” if you must” but I believe that diminishes the ability and undermines how common it is in most of us), plus a keen sense of detailed observation AND an ability to rationally sort observed data, leading to an increased ability to see where that data will land next when uprooted — ALL data and matter is constantly being uprooted in a chaotic universe whether we see it or not. In addition one also need recognize that the direction things are heading is in large part up to US. You + me = us. So if YOU are feeling it, wanting it, scared of it, hoping for it, so too are others; that also gives us a good idea of where things are heading. Most people don’t get this. They think that they’re just “them” and that “the world happens”. They don’t realize that THEY are part of that world and in return are part of what is making things happen. That’s YOU baby. YOU’RE doing that. So too am I. And THEM. But don’t cut yourself short.

More than anything perhaps that’s the key: remembering to honor our role in it all. Remembering that it is WE who call the shots. Sure there are the bigwigs at the top of the foodchain who seem to control everything. But only because we LET them. The whole idea of “bigwigs at the top controlling everything” is our creation; it’s the setup that we’ve all agreed as a collective to structure our lives around. The primary controlling mechanism for societies in general in the moment. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We just choose it to be that way. For now.

Want another prediction? This is about to change. In a big way. The top down control structure that has governed human societies for millennia is a thing of the past. It’s already starting to fall away, but we are only seeing the beginning of it now. In one fell swoop that system is going to appear to come crashing down — but it will actually happen in incremental events, starting slowly and then spreading rapidly across the globe. One country at a time. Millions will die for this cause. It will happen in our lifetimes (for those of us who are younger than 80 probably). It will be the most brutal series of world events we’ve ever recorded in human history, more so than either world war, because this time rather than country against country fighting for survival and dominance, it will be people against authority structures that will be fighting. Military and police will find themselves not just killing innocent civilians in other countries as in times past; they’ll be doing it in their OWN countries….

And in those moments, depending on each individual wearing a uniform that day, that hour, THAT is what will determine which people will win the fastest in each region of the globe. In the United States we will have it the worst, more than any other country. Because we have the most solidified system of accepted deception and corruption in government anywhere on earth at the moment, with the strongest and wickedest top down leaders in place. Ours won’t be an easy battle. And frankly I cannot even see how we here in the States are going to win, at least not initially, not in this moment. Remember Chechnya? Or the Native Americans who lived here first? Life isn’t fair. It isn’t just. It isn’t honest. History is a collection of lies created by the strongest, toughest, most arrogant and greedy and the most sociopathic or lacking in human empathy.

That’s enough about that topic for now. There are other places where I am writing about this in much more detail. But suffice it to say that there are plenty of people who will read this and think it sounds preposterous. They’d be willing to bet money that “it’ll never happen in our lifetimes”. All that means is that they didn’t do very well on the reading comprehension portion of the SAT. With them, it is important that we do three things: one, respect. They’ve a right to their opinion just as much as anyone else. Two, listen. There’s a good chance we could learn something, regardless of how much we may disagree with them. And three, don’t let their disbelief affect our beliefs even a little bit. Remember, that’s one of the biggest lessons here: it’s easy not to believe in things BEFORE they happen, even if we KNOW they’re going to happen. I’m not talking “faith”. I’m talking about experience. If you’ve lived a life where 9 times out of 10 you just always seem to know what’s going to happen next, it’s probably a good idea not to let anyone talk you out of believing in that ability. Regardless of how outlandish it may seem.

Late Night TV

Timestamp 3:50 am PST. Still disturbed. Woke up from an hour of sleep and have laid here for a little under an hour. As I do every night, just after puttinf the Princess and every one else to bed and then writing for a few hours I flipped on the television to lull me sleep last night. Over the last few months it has become increasingly difficult for me to enjoy this once pleasurable routine. Primarily because I cannot find anything even remotely enjoyable to watch. But it’s not just that. It’s far worse. To be more nacchrate I cannot find anything with which Ito lull myself to sleep because I cannot find anything that is not either morally offensive or intellectually offensive or both usually. Besides the occasional documentary on astronomy or physics. Problem being that there is only so much astronomy or physics you can learn and relearn in a lifetime and I have surely passed that threshold eons ago forgive the pun.

History, which has always been a favorite subject, is now out, as most history as it is presented in the united states has been reduced to bad hollywood b movies, thoroughly covered in the same blood hyperbole and violence that destroyed filmmaking decades ago. What they call the history Channel here is more akin to a reality television network featuring an endless series of programs dedicated to covering everything from toothless pawnshop owners haggling over the price of Elvis memorabilia to Amish mafia wannabes or the hillbilly housewives of garbage disposal truck drivers. In other words everything but what any same or rational person would call history.

Unfortunately the same applies to the hundreds of movies offered up to those p us with such pitiless first world problems such as these. Movies today no matter hoany you have a choice of almost nearly always offend in one or more ways or another. True we do get a choice between zombies or vampires, or between apparitions that haunt the homes of the wicked or mad serial killers that stalk stupid campers, or between lustful twenty somethings obsessed with casual meaningless sex or wanton middle aged sex obsessed suburbanites who find adultery as normal as taking out the trash. I may be the last man standing open mouthed and dumbstruck asking where the hell our morals and values as a society have disappeared to, but I don’t mind and I don’t feel alone in it.

Yes I attempted to watch HBOs latest attempt to out shock and awe the next guy, a wretched 27 minutes called GIRLS, but no I do not believe that every female between the ages of 18 and 28 thinks and talks about nothing else but sex and routinely heads into the ladies room to pleasure herself whenever she gets a whim. Nor do I believe they are as soulless ignorant and vacuous as the show portends. This is just one out of the many so called premium channel or cable series that depicts a country full of shallow minds and dead and hardened hearts who can no longer be entertained by anything that doesn’t shock them out of an amoral stupor or early onset dementia.

Comedy
irony has been taken to an extreme in the society to the pint where it no longer is funny as much as it protects
What are we protecting ourselves from

C-Span use to be a reliable standby. But unfortunately both our political system in america and the world of book publishing have also sailed over that invisible line in the distant horizon that appeared to be the end of the earth if it were indeed flat. Our political system being high jacked by pirates traitors and thieves has turned into on the surface at least a circus; filled with clowns and jugglers, grotesque human oddities and disfigured

What is presented to the catatonic and unflinching masses as political news is more soap opera than reports on the progress of civil service in action. The players nitpick and argue over irrelevant non-issues and battle each other viciously with ad nominee attacks over substandard

Showing no sense of decorum or decency and no respect for truth, nor for themselves the people they are supposed serve or the country they are supposed to represent. Of course I may be only person on earth who’s noticed like the proverbial madman who lives in the forest completely disconnected from the reality of modern times but i’m not sure I’d like to be labeled sane In a society such as the one we’ve now become.

– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone

The Moment Fishy Became a Writer…

Heard a more than decent song this evening during the ending credits roll of an old TV show I am currently having a mild obsession with, a little something called The Riches starring Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard. Yes you read that right. Turns out the pair teamed for a one hour drama for the FX network back in ’06 to ’08. Though it only ran 10 episodes per season and only lasted for a season and a half. Seek it out if you’re a fan of either actor. They’re both better great at what they do in it. Minnie really shines. That’s a different story though.

The song started off with the lyrics “the fox… the fox…” I liked it immediately. Wanted to know who sang it. Sitting right there while the credits rolled, I picked up my phone (at this point it doesn’t even matter what phone we use. They all do the same thing give or take…) and Googled “Who sings the song with lyrics the fox … The Riches…” Within less than a minute I discovered the song was by the band Nada Surf, one of the few acts on planet earth I’ve never explored, let alone purchased an album by. With this new found information I then headed to YouTube and ran a search for the song. At least five uploads were available, whether I wanted to hear the original or the band performing it live in concert, there it was. I selected the one that seemed to appear the “most legit” and clicked play, placed my phone in my shirt pocket and went about my business of locking up the house for the evening — all the while this fresh new great song accompanying my every move, the music emanating clearly and cleanly from somewhere within the confines of my clothing. Like a walking jukebox.

When it was over, I hit play again to grab another listen. I also added it to my Favorites Playlist, which not only acts as my own personal music collection now, say goodbye to needing iTunes, but also alerts roughly fifteen-thousand of my closest friends on Facebook and Twitter about the song’s awesomeness and a link where it can easily be found. For free. And again it hit me. Walking around the house to turn off all the lights, the music still blaring out of my pocket, I casually asked my beautiful wife, “Babe we just heard that song on a TV show and had no idea who it was. How long did it take me to find that out?”

“A minute… Less than a minute” she replied as she let Alistair out for the night.

“Exactly. And how long did it take me to find it so we could listen to it?”

“Another minute….”

“And how much did it cost us?”

“Zero,” said she, letting said dog back in the house.

“Yep. The business has changed, changed forever. For better or worse the glory days as we used to know them are truly over for us in this business.”

“You keep saying that honey. What are you going to do about it?”

“Less than five minutes after hearing a song we like on TV and we’re listening to it. And we’re not paying a dime for it. I know I keep saying it lately. I just can’t fully believe it…”

“Maybe you don’t want to believe it…”

“Maybe… I hadn’t thought about it like that… But if 2012 was about anything, it was all about my denial of how quickly the music business has changed… and how nearly every single one of our income streams has dried up in the last few years. I mean, we worked harder in the last two years at making it than I ever have in my entire life…”
She smiled at me and patted my chest, implying I just might be overstating things a bit.

“Okay perhaps I’m exaggerating… the truth is I’ve been working like this non-stop for the last twenty years is more like it… But we REALLY kicked into high gear this year, and we achieved incredible things! Bigger and better and faster and more than at any other time in my career. And yeah we made great money from it… But it’s not enough. And no wonder. Look how different things are. It’s one thing reading about these changes in Billboard every week. It’s another thing to actually see myself doing it… participating in the exact activities that are tearing apart the whole freaking system.”

“Well it’s become real to you now. You’ve switched roles with the audience and now you are seeing things how they see things.”

“Exactly. And it freaking SUCKS. I don’t want to be doing this. Listen to this!” I exclaimed pointing to the music playing in my pocket. This is insane. These guys aren’t going to to get a fucking dime from my standing here listening to their music. And that sucks for them. And their label. And the producer if he’s getting points on the record. It’s all so wrong…”

“Well you could always stop doing it. But you won’t. No one will. Like you said, the business has changed… So have you as a music fan, just like everybody else. You want it now and if you don’t have to pay for it you won’t argue with anyone about it.”

“Yes. Exactly. That’s the thing. See? I don’t MIND paying for music. God knows. How many songs or albums do I buy each month?”

“More than you should. More than we can afford. Especially if you’re only going to listen to the song a few times and never listen to it again. Which is what you usually do when you find a song you like. You’ll probably never go seek out this song again to listen to it now that you’ve heard it a few times. That’s why people don’t want to buy music anymore. It’s not rocket science.”

“That IS the flipping point, isn’t it? The only difference between now and before is that unless a person wanted to sit around and make mix tapes or burn CDs from their friends, which was a royal pain in the ass, people were forced into buying music if we liked it. Now we don’t have to. And that’s that.”

“Honey I’m tired…”

“I know. Me too. What I’m trying to say is that this my love is why I need to start writing,” I said, giving her a hug before she went upstairs to prepare for bed. “More than ever before I now understand that it’s time for me to seriously become that rockstar turned writer we keep talking about.”

“You already seriously are that rockstar turned writer we keep talking about Baby Joon,” she said, her eyes drooping but still looking into mine. “You just need to finish one of the ten thousand books you have started. No amount of writing in the world, no matter how good it is, is going to help us if you never release any of it.”

“I know honey. I get it. I more than get it. It just keeps hitting me in different ways all of a sudden. I mean here again tonight it just really hit me. I need to shift gears fast and start actively focusing on the writing. Like a job.”

“No different than you already do babe. You already ARE a writer. You write more than most writers. AND you can still do your music. But what I don’t like is we keep talking about it and not doing anything about it. I think you’re afraid that it’s going to affect your music career. But I don’t think it will. If anything it will help….”

“Yeah I get that too actually…. you know what it is babe? I always saw me becoming “the writer” later… Like after the rockstar thing was over… you know, when I was older and married and had kids and all that. more like a retirement thing…”

“Honey you are older. I hate to tell you. And you’re already a writer… What are you waiting for?”

“Nothing I guess. I already told you my plan. The first book, When I Was Twenty-One will be completed and released by the end of January. For sure. And while we continue to work on the We Are the Revolution book, I can easily get the Casanova Diaries finished. That one’s already done. I just need to edit it. It’ll be easy. I can do this honey.”

“I have no doubt you can do it. I just want to see you START. And I’m not talking about making your little notes all over scraps of paper that just pile up all over the house… You have to approach it like any other job. The same way you approach your music when you want to get a new album recorded. You’ve got to actually sit and work at it till you finish. And you can still make time for your music. What do you do all day anyway?”

“Write or work on music….” I smiled. “I know, I know. I know what to do. You want to know what my biggest fear is?… Okay, two biggest fears actually…”

“One, what if I am not meant to stop music right now? What if now is not that time?”

“We aren’t talking about you quitting music honey. We’re talking about you working on only one book at a time instead of twenty and releasing them. And continuing to work at your regular job too. Just stop working on so many things at once and focus on one book and get it out.”

“And what if people don’t buy it? I mean what if people don’t buy me as a writer? What if I’m fooling myself?”

“Well you’re never going to know until you try honey. Talking to me about it isn’t going to get you there…”

“I know. It’s the new year. Plan B is working incredibly so far. You know I haven’t missed one day of studying Farsi in three weeks? You hear how good I’m getting?”

“Honey! I was going to tell you that when I came in this morning. I was laughing so hard! You have to be careful with some of the words you are learning. Some of them aren’t polite if you mispronounce them. This morning you were saying a bad word instead of “bowl” but I didn’t want to interrupt you…”

“No. Babe don’t do that! If you hear me pronouncing a word wrong, tell me. You know how hard it is to try to learn this freaking language? There’s no english alphabet. I have to stare at the pictures of objects and just keep hitting repeat over and over trying to learn and memorize it like that because I can’t read the freaking letters… It’s like music.”

“Well you’re good at it. You’re great at it. You’re doing it honey. I am really impressed.”

“I am getting good huh?”

“Yes my love. I’m proud of you. You have no idea how much it warms my heart seeing you practice so hard everyday…. Thank you honey.”

“No thank you for being so patient. I told you I would learn your native language. It just took me a lot longer than I thought. But it’s working out now with my new plan. I’m actually doing it.”

“So now just apply your plan B to your writing. Schedule a time of day you’re going to do it and do it. You’re good at that.”

“I think I’m actually horrible at it.”

“Not really. Not compared to everyone else. When you set your mind to something you go after it more than anyone I’ve ever seen. You know this. We’ve talked about it. You’re going to be teaching me Farsi soon! You just need to approach completing the books the same way you’re doing with learning Farsi or your music…”

“I know. I will. I am. I don’t have a choice at this point. I know it. I have to…”

“Honey I’m going to go upstairs now. Can you make sure all the doors are locked? I’ll see you upstairs.”

“Okay. Yeah….”

For the next hour it’s all I thought about. While getting ready for bed. I made over $9,000 from my music in the first quarter of this year. Just from radio airplay. It was a good year. But it cost three times that to get a song high enough in the charts to where you’re making that kind of money. That’s the catch 22 of the whole damn thing. This is nothing compared to five years ago. Because sales are now almost entirely out of the picture.

But the thing I keep thinking about is all these new indie bands that come out every month. They get a hit song in a movie or a TV show and then Bam! THEY do get sales. So sales haven’t dried up completely. Not for everyone. Frankly I think the conversation should be more about what leads to sales than how they’ve dried up. Because they’ve clearly not dried up for everyone. And sure I may not be buying as much music as I used to, but I’m still buying a ton of it. And so are others obviously. That’s really the key to it… How to stay in that top bracket of the rare few who actually still sell a ton of songs or albums… Second quarter pay outs are going to come any week. And they should be even bigger than first quarter. Thank God. But it’s the sales we are after. How to compel people to not just want to go on YouTube or Pandora and listen for free or play the songs on the radio…

Don’t get me wrong. There is NOTHING like having a hit song on the radio or in Billboard. But there is a very broadly drawn and large line in the sand between those who actually sell music and those who don’t. And that’s where we are waning now that the industry has changed. And I refuse to believe that it’s because we aren’t good enough. I went down the path a hundred times over the last twenty years. Until I finally realized through just sheer quantity and quality of fan feedback that it’s bullshit. It’s an excuse we tell ourselves because we don’t know what the hell we’re doing wrong. So we start questioning the merit of what we do, regardless of how much we like it or think it’s great.

Frankly I think the missing piece, the thing we’re doing wrong, is not touring regularly. Not that any of the Top 40 artists tour very often. Most of them are singles oriented. They DON’T tour. They do these big shows here and there. Morning TV, late night, festivals. We’re getting close to being able to do that now. But we’re not there yet. We need one more big hit. The other thing is that we’re a band. We’re not a Top 40 artist. And bands notoriously tour their asses off. So that’s something else to think about. What’s the resistance? Okay well we know what the resistance is… We don’t have enough money to tour or better put we don’t make enough money from touring to support a real tour. At least not yet.

But what if while I’m taking the time to finish writing one of these books in order to get more money coming in, we continue to work on the album, promoting and marketing, and if there’s a God in heaven or a sliver of luck anywhere near me with this, something will pop that will lead us into an opportunity to tour as we used to. It only takes one. We already know that from past experience, time and time again. What I’m hearing is that I’m just being impatient. Spoiled by how things used to be. The new album has only been out for less two months. There’s plenty of time for it to continue to rise in the charts AND for a song or two or three to get picked up for something that can lead to enough money to support a tour. And demand one. That’s the other thing. The demand… It ain’t easy. There’s no way around that. But it’s fun. Hell, I don’t even believe it’s fun any more. It’s more scary than fun. But it’s my life. That, really, in the end, is what it’s all about.

Okay, so that’s what we’re going to do. Here it is 2:44 am and I’m writing in the Diaries. So maybe that’s something that needs to change. The Diaries are free. Like the music now is. (insert loud laugh here!) We need to turn our attention and the writing towards other things that are NOT free. Other vehicles. We’ll see. This isn’t going to work. There’s no way I’m going to be able to maintain the Diaries AND make music full time AND finish a few books. It’s impossible. Unless I start writing super short blog posts. Which actually might not be such a bad idea. And with that, let us end. Tomorrow we apply Plan B to the writing too. We will add it to the schedule. And we’ll play it by ear with what happens to the Diaries… Until then.

America’s Telling Untold History


A slow starter, Oliver Stone’s 12 part Showtime series entitled The Untold History of The United States should nonetheless be mandatory viewing for all American citizens young and old, especially those who enthusiastically wave patriotic flags right or left, or speak of American exceptionalsim.

When cast under a bright truthful light, the only thing exceptional about the last sixty years of America’s history is its brazen imperialistic tendencies and broad sweeping deceptions in order to support dictatorships around the globe for its own heartless self interests.

By series installment 5, Stone and crew are waist deep in uncovering and revealing one of the cruelest ruthless and deceptive empires the world has ever known. For history buffs there may not be truckloads of unknown facts to be found, but compiled into one tightly knit narrative, the series does what it ostensibly sets out to do succinctly and more than adequately. It reveals a nation sheepled with citizens so blind to the true intentions and evil machinations of it’s own government that their very history can indeed be said to be untold — no matter how much media access and “news” they’re surrounded and suffocated by.

Anyone with an ounce of nationalistic pride or love of country will find themselves feeling shocked and embittered, especially considering that the series, being limited by time constraints, only touches the surface of some of the most egregious crimes of the 20th century perpetrated by the world’s alleged “global leader of freedom and democracy.” The looming question boiling through every hot-blooded American who dares to watch the entire 12 part series is surely to be “what now can be done to save our once great democratic republic?” and further “how can we ever make amends to the rest of the world for the atrocities committed in our names and right under our noses over the last sixty years?”

 

The Untold History of America :: a review

Current Screening: The Untold History of the United States

I eagerly watched the first 3 parts of Oliver Stone’s much anticipated new documentary film that were available so far on Showtime last night, expecting some real eye opening moments. As much as I love and admire Ollie, I must confess there wasn’t one untold fact to be had in all three hours. I waited and waited for even one tidbit of “untold” fact or detail — even something I already knew would have been welcomed. But no such luck. Pretty straight forward & by the book U.S. revisionist history. Common knowledge stuff. Especially in comparison to what’s commonly already known in the activist community, i.e. Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History…”, et al.

There were grand omissions throughout, such as Roosevelt’s foreknowledge of Japan’s plans to bomb Pearl Harbor well before it transpired; as if Stone wanted his opening gambit to appear soft and innocuous so as not to frighten away the majority of viewers. One might give him the benefit of doubt and assume his treating the nation’s dubious history with kid gloves was a calculated effort to lure more viewers in at the start and hope he will be more even handed and honest in later installments.

In case anyone feels compelled to excuse this fact by asserting that “no one could possibly cover all of American history in a mere ten hours”, let us remember that was never the stated intention of this piece; it calls itself “the UNtold history of the United States.” Stone and company spend so much time expounding upon commonly known history that they don’t leave room for any “untold history.” The last thing America needs is yet another book or documentary recounting the same old tired stories that are already solidly founded in the public domain of America’s psyche. [see the 30 hour Lawrence Olivier narrated World War II documentary for example].

Secondly, though It portends by its title to be a general history of America, he opens this “American history” in the mid-1930s, a perplexing choice, omitting hundreds of years of the country’s most interesting untold stories. That would make sense if the book/film were titled …: 1935 to 2012. But it’s not.

Perhaps most disappointing is the fact that Stone, being an ex-military man himself, focuses 95% of his take on history to covering stories of war and conquest. Contextually, knowing Stone’s background, this makes perfect sense. But again it’s misleading considering the broad scope of the work’s title.

I think the best thing that can be said about it thus far is that at the very least it serves as a pleasant introduction to U.S. military history 1101 covering the years 1935 to present day for the layman. But if one doesn’t venture past this work and leaves their learning here, they would be left with mere semi-factual scraps compared to the most important elements of America’s untold history.

Like the Beatle’s Yellow Submarine film and album, if you could call it that, this is one of those examples of something that held great promise because of the artist and the subject matter (and no small amount of hype by the studio, production company and distribution company), but ended up being far less than expected. One can hope though that the appearance of such a work and the ensuing interest in it by the public at large might inspire others to attempt a similar project who would desire to be more thorough and revealing in the quest to serve the title of the piece more accurately and legitimately. In time I’m sure it will happen. In the meantime this film isn’t “bad”; it’s a nice start for those who want to gain a modest understanding and foundational knowledge of what’s already being taught in America’s high school classrooms.

Recommended companion resources: A People’s History of the United States, None Dare Call It Genocide, They Dare To Speak Out — for starters at the least.

Dumbing Down Through Polarization

This evening CNN, in a wanton attempt to feel a part of the Personal Expression Age’s current social media craze, was posting madly on it’s Facebook Page during the 2012 Presidential Debate. One such post — besides the most inane of them all, “Who do you think won tonight’s debate?” as if it were a local rugby match — read, “What struck you the most about tonight’s debate? Explain in the comments below and tune in now for CNN’s post-debate show featuring Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper and John King. We will use some of your responses during our broadcast.”

The problem of course is that this evening’s post-debate coverage didn’t just include the aforementioned Wolf, Anderson and King. As is customary in today’s cable news as soap opera styled journalism, they had a full figured round table stuffed to the brim with former White House staffers, campaign consultants, Press Secretaries and speech writers. Each and every one either leaning hard left or right, and not a one able to see past the nose on their face, let alone the source of the dollars in their bank accounts. Whether it’s Ari Fliescher (Republican), David Gergen (Republican), Alex Castellano (Reublican), or a Paul Begala (Democrat), their stated job is to commentate on what the average American just witnessed not two minutes prior. As if the viewers themselves are somehow unable to make up their own minds on what they just watched. This wouldn’t be so bad if the commentating was being conducted by objective journalists whose duties were limited to deconstruction and reduction to make subtle points more palatable and accessible.

But that’s not how it works anymore. Even CNN, at one time a rather tame and objective third party cable news network, has given in to the trend of featuring an equal number of cheer leaders of one or the other political parties in American politics….

“What strikes many of us the most about tonight’s debate is the after-debate coverage on CNN (and other networks) that features and in fact is dominated by paid political consultants of either the Democratic or Republican party; these people offer nothing objective, newsworthy or interesting to the conversation. Instead they step up to the mic to repeat the same rhetoric they are paid to say and find a way to spin every answer into an advertisement for their candidate and the political party they represent. It’s just not journalism. I believe that a lot of people would sincerely appreciate if you stopped this trend and went back to solid objective journalism.”

 

The Last Leader Standing, or Those Who Dare Speak Out

Monday’s Piers Morgan interview with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offered plenty of thrills, chills and excitement for American viewers of all ages, especially the uneducated and paranoid among them, which includes most of America when it comes to the country of ancient Persian, modern day Iran. For those in the know — Morgan clearly not in that circle (though one doesn’t doubt his sincerity) — there were few surprises. Though CNN tried to promote the interview as “a world exclusive”, the truth is that this is the eighth such annual interview we’ve seen with this Iranian president on CNN, at the least, and considering that he also gave one to Charlie Rose the day before made Morgan’s boyish excitement all the more sophomoric. Every year Ahmadinejad attends the same United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York and every year he endures an endless series of torturous interviews with attention hungry journalists desperate to create any kind of controversy while he is here. And endure he does, with compassion, respect and tolerance. Considering how his country is being treated by the United States and Israel currently it is surprising he comes here at all; the fact that he grants so many interviews with usually ignorant journalists is generous and admirable.
As exciting as the opportunity may have been for Piers (and we don’t want to take that away from the man — let us remember his humble beginnings as a judge on America’s Got Talent just a few short years ago, or even worse his editorial position at a Murdoch owned British tabloid. Edward R. Murrow he is not), I had a similar encounter with President Ahmadinejad in 2008; at the same event, a UN General Assembly meeting, where a small group of us, leaders of the peace activist community gathered at an undisclosed location in Manhattan to discuss and strategize peaceful relations between our respective countries. I’ve also visited his country a few times and met with many of his fellow co-leaders and his predecessor, former President Khatami. One thing that can be said about Ahmadinejad is that he is trustworthy and consistent. Unlike what we are accustomed to in the United States with our own presidents and political leaders, where every other word out of their mouth either contradicts something they said the day before or the cold hard facts in front of us all (making the phrase “fact checker” a necessary household word in this year’s presidential election), the Iranian president has been saying the same things year after year since the moment he took office nearly eight years ago.
Over the last 48 hours I have received numerous text messages and emails from folks asking for my opinion about the Ahmadinejad interviews, most from compassionate people whose main concern has been about what I thought about one of the only voices of leadership in the world today willing to stand up to the frighteningly powerful nation of the United States of America; by far the most murderous and barbarous countries militarily since the end of the World War II era. Though as the years have passed and Ahmadinejad nears the end of his presidency, one notices the man has tired slightly, and yet he also possesses a healthy wisdom and maturity is now gracing his ideas and demeanor as with most two term presidents. He also still exudes strength and courage when discussing the overt double standards that seem only to apply to the State of Israel and the United States government.

At one point he asked Morgan: “In order to avenge the blood of three thousand people, a million people shouldn’t give their lives, should they? The behavior of the United States in our region encourages extremism. Perhaps because they don’t know the people. So they do need to reform their behavior. There was no need for five or six thousand young American men to lose their lives in these wars your country started in our region of the world.” You could hear a pin drop as Morgan attempted to regain his composure after internally recognizing that he agreed with the Iranian President.

As we continue to engage in this dialogue through the coming months about Israel’s defiantly heartfelt plans to attack the people of Iran, about who the terrorists really are, and about the blatant imperialists that the United States government has become over the last sixty years, let us always remember one thing: those of us in the peace and human rights activist community, those of us who dare to speak out against the atrocious acts of violence and bullying that we see our government participate in on a daily basis year after year, must never forget that one of the most important aspects of our country that separates if from the country of Iran is that WE have the freedom to be able to publicly voice our observations and our objections to what we see as blatant international human rights violations all over the globe; whether it be by our governing leaders here at home, or those in Israel or Iran. We are blessed for these freedoms.
This is one of the many things that makes our country “great”. Does it make it “exceptional” as some right-wing conservative citizens among us are apt to contend? Certainly not. There are plenty of other countries all over the civilized world who now have democracies in place whose people enjoy the same freedoms that we do. And perhaps that’s one of the major problems that has led to the United States being in the unfortunate position it is in now. In debt to the tune of more than sixteen trillion dollars — that’s debt, meaning no savings, no money in the bank and a negative balance. [That alone spells impending doom, gloom and disaster for any country, just as it would any corporation or any person; and it would for the U.S. too, would it not be for the fact that the U.S. also happens to possess the largest military arsenal on earth. That is the only reason why the United States is still standing and not in total ruin like Greece or Spain. But again, not many will ever dare to speak out about this fact either.]
A severely unpopular reputation in the Middle East — to the point where Americans are now used to seeing riots in the streets of numerous countries all over the globe burning American flags and protesting her imperialistic and domineering ways on the news every day. Worse yet, even in more secular and Western countries all around the world one hears harsh criticism of the United States foreign policy from young and old alike. Go to just about any civilized country on earth and speak with an average educated citizen and you will soon learn that the only people who believe America exceptional or special in a good way are Americans themselves at this point. It is certainly not the standard view of the United States held by people from other countries.
Of course, again, most leaders and people in positions of power will never dare to speak out regarding their true feelings about the United States government. And for good reason. They would either be quickly assassinated in an overnight raid and coup d’etat by our CIA, as has happened repeatedly to so many countries’ leaders over the last sixty years, or they would soon find brutal economic sanctions levied against their country and it’s people by the U.S. led United Nations Security Council, which, like the IMF, the World Health Organization and the World Bank, is nothing but another thinly disguised strong arm of American brute force in the world. So they stay quiet, speaking only the truth in private circles. I have been among these leaders in these private circles and heard for myself how the leaders of most of the world’s countries feel about U.S. foreign policy. It isn’t with admiration that they speak, but rather with disgust, indignation, dismay and disrespect. The reasons for this are obvious and would be redundant here in the Transcendence Diaries after so many years of writing about this subject.
When on the rare occasion an uneducated and brainwashed American reads thoughts such as these, their first response is always to indignantly shout something to the effect of “Well it’s this very country and it’s military might that gives you the freedom to say the things that you’re now saying mother fucker!” And that is why one might propose that this could be the very crux of the problem America is in now. The citizens of the United States have become so accustomed to freedom of speech and religion and the press accompanying brutal bullying and hostile take overs of smaller countries all over the world under the guise of “freedom and democracy” that they have become confused as to what “democracy” really means. They’ve been told that America is exceptional because it is a democracy where everybody is free to do whatever they want, while at the same time watching this same country brutally invade other countries and murder millions of people whenever it sees fit and at the drop of a hat.They have confused freedom and democracy with military might, brute force and imperialism.
Not being educated enough to know the history and current foreign policy of other Western democracies around the world, they are unaware that the United States is one of the only countries left on planet earth still playing dictator and supreme leader as if it were the early 20th century. They don’t realize that France, Germany, Japan, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom (the list is endless) stopped these games decades ago. The people of these countries enjoy the same freedoms that the people of the United States do, enjoy the same economic opportunities, enjoy the same free enterprise system, the same protection from invasion by outside forces. The only difference is that these other countries do not have military troops stationed in over 150 military bases in countries all over the world ready to strike whenever they so desire. These countries do not threaten to invade or take over smaller countries if they don’t cooperate with them. These countries do not threaten military action or economic sanctions against or to forcefully remove the elected leaders of other countries if they do not play ball with them or do as they are told.
And this is one of the greatest misgivings about the good ole USA. Sounds like a great idea. Dresses up real nice. Reads well on paper. But don’t confuse it for a real democracy or a card carrying member of the civilized world or even the United Nations. U.S. president George W. Bush reminded us of this when in 2003 he announced to the world “We don’t need the permission of the United Nations or anyone else for that matter if we want to invade Iraq or any other country.” (In fact, we do. But Bush was declaring that we were now going to start playing by different rules.) The United States government, for all intents and purposes, is every bit a global terrorist organization, and a bullying and globally domineering imperialist dictatorship, the likes of which the world has not seen since Nazi Germany over seventy years ago. It is the only country on earth who has ever decimated entire cities with a nuclear weapon. Twice. Something that is made all the more ironic in light of it’s current demands on the country of Iran to not be allowed to have a nuclear energy program for fear that “they might develop nuclear weapons and use them.” Told you it was ironic.
For this reason and so many others that will be made more clear in this article, it is one of the reasons that, despite the fact that Iran has plenty of problems of its own in regards to human rights violations, their president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is such a strangely admirable figure on the world stage today. He is one of the only world leaders who continuously shows strength and courage and a committment to truth when confronting the double standards and single minded hypocrsy that is the United States of America and the Zionist leaders who control what is currently called the State of Israel. On September 24th, 2012 two more American journalists were afforded the opportunity to interview Ahmadinejad. Charlie Rose and Norah O’Donnell.
O’Donnell was abominable in her lack of respect and journalistic objectivity. It was clear she was nervous and excited about the meeting and knew nothing about Iran. Sixteen different experts from the United States over the years who have visited the country to investigate their nuclear facilities have stated repeatedly that Iran is “not in the process of trying to develop nuclear weapons”, and yet the first question Ms. O’Donnell posed to President Ahmadinejad was “Are you building a nuclear weapon?” Clearly she hasn’t been doing her homework. Or worse, as many fear in the international peace community, the propoganda machine of Israel is so powerful that it is clouding the glaring facts being repeated over and over again by the experts and inspectors responsible for alerting the world to just what exactly is happening in Iran. A country with a seven-thousand year history, Iran hasn’t invaded another country in centuries. And like most civilized countries around the world these days, they also don’t spend any time or energy bothering to threaten other countries.
[A note: Ahmadinejad has repeatedly explained that his controversial comments regarding “blowing Israel off the map” were mistranslated and that what he really meant and means to say is that their country’s wish is to “blow the Zionist regime and occupying forces of Palestine off the map.” There is a difference, though slight one could admit, but a difference nonetheless. Their wish is not to attack Israel. Their wish is to stop the State of Israel from continuing to attack, kill and violate the human rights of the Palestinian people. Visit the country of Iran once and this will become very obvious.]
Unbeknownst to Nora O’Donnell, and definitely to Piers Morgan — who responded to this bit of new information with childlike belly laughs akin to as if he had just discovered a bowl full of fresh baked cookies, the country of Iran has the highest population of happy settled and content Jewish people living in it than any other country in the Middle East except for Israel. These people are Iranian, and they are Jews, free to practice Judaism as they have for thousands of years ever since Persia’s King Cyrus the Great freed them from Babylonian captivity as the Jewish bible tells. Iranians can’t be anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish. They’ve got more synagogues than anywhere else on earth except for Israel and the United States. It’s not Jewish people that they are opposed to. It’s the Zionist movement that installed a country of people from all over the world on top of another country of people already living there, the Palestinians. As Ahmadinejad asked Piers Morgan, “Forget the scientific veracity of the so called holocaust for a moment and answer me this: what did the Palestinian people do to deserve to be displaced from their homes and country? What did they have to do with World War II and this holocaust?”Morgan of course was speechless, and then finally he agreed with the Iranian president. It doesn’t necessarily make any sense, this plight of the Palestinian people considering they had nothing to do with World War II.
The brave president asks an important question. And of course the only answer that speaks a word of truth to this questions is “nothing”. The only thing the Palestinians did was “nothing” and that is what cost them their homeland, their safety and security and their country. Not having enough money for weapons to defend themselves from a strong military and imperialist take over, they could afford to do nothing at all when invaded by the newly formed State of Israel. And they’ve been living with the consequences of doing nothing ever since. Hundreds of them die every year at the hands of the occupying forces of Israel and the world doesn’t say a thing. None dare do. Jewish settlements are built on the little land the Palestinian people have left, much like the reservations of Native American people, while bulldozers knock down the homes of these Palestinian people, and the United States says and does nothing. In fact it rewards Israel with billions of dollars in free loans every year. Israel threatens to bomb Iran everyday in the news and even threatens the various leaders of the United States to also bomb Iran, and no one says anything.
This is what occupied the mind of the Iranian president as he spoke at this year’s United Nations General Assembly meeting, as it does every year. And regardless of how much applause and acclaim he receives from the rest of the world in attendance at these meetings for speaking out against these cold hard facts, the American media continues to try to brand him an evil dictator or a cruel and malevolent terrorist. Now in regards to Ahmadinejad being a dictator, that would be a hard idea to prove. As president, he has very little power in the country of Iran or around the world. The Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khameni, actually has most of the power in that country. And yes, living conditions are harsh in Iran for those who want to speak out against injustice. The citizens of Iran do not enjoy the same economic, academic or social freedoms that those of us who live in more democratic societies do. That’s for sure. An entire family can be arrested and kidnapped, taken from their home, and tortured and murdered in the dead of night just for speaking up against the laws or leaders of their country. This is a sad fact of life in this theocratic state.
But it is no reason to allow Israel or the United States to continuously bombard them with threats of military action or bombs. If this were the case, we would have to be willing to allow these same actions to be taken against many other countries all over the world. Iran pales in comparison to some of the more brutal dictatorships in other parts of the world. The only reason it is in the news all the time in the United States mainstream media is because Israel just happens to have the largest and wealthiest political lobby in the U.S. (Look it up). Larger than Big Oil. Larger than farming, or electricity or the automobile industry or even Big Pharma. Larger than anything else on earth. In a way, a very real way, the Israeli Political Action Committee, or lobby, has more control over Washington D.C. than any other single interest our president and congress persons are faced with dealing with. Just ask one of them. They’ll tell you.
But that’s not supposedly how the world works now. After the signing of the Geneva Convention and Warsaw Pact and all the peace treaties the countries of the world have signed since the great World Wars, we are supposed to follow certain laws that protect all countries from attack by foreign nations. The problem is that the United States is the one country that seems immune to these agreements and treaties, having bombed or invaded over four countries just in the last ten years alone. And Ahmadinejad, politely and respectfully, continues to ask why this double standard is allowed to exist in the world. This is what makes him such an admirable figure, though a shadowy one and despite his propensity for defending egregious human rights violations in the country he is the president of. [Though one can easily see this as being a careful political ploy on his part, no different than how America’s political leaders must take part in such folly; only for Ahmadinejad, it is his very life that he is protecting, not just his political career. So one must allow him some slack. His every word and move is being watched and listened to by his bosses, and he knows it.] Though he doesn’t represent a country that is necessarily even close to a model democracy, he at least is one of the only leaders left standing on the world stage still holding out from dropping to his knees and sucking the great and greedy corporate cock of the United States. For this he is a sort of broken hero. Risking his life when coming to the United States on both counts, both from his enemies here and in Israel, and those in his own country who are much more conservative and less forgiving of American greed and imperialism.
Independent and proud, Iran just wants to be left alone, without fear of invasion or military strikes. This is a sentiment that is widely held by every Iranian citizen as well. Whether they live in Iran, or here in the United States — and over three million live here. They admire the democracy that the citizens of the United States enjoy. And the freedoms. And one day they hope to be able to form their own form of democracy, but ask any of them on the street where they live and they will gladly tell you that they want to accomplish this feat on their own, in their own time, without the help or intervention of anyone else, especially not the United States.
Regarding their nuclear program, they’ve already announced to the world more times than can be counted that they aren’t in the business of building bombs and have allowed countless inspectors into their nuclear facilities who have all corroborated this fact. In fact, every year Iran allows IAEA inspectors into its nuclear program facilities. Israel has never allowed any inspectors into their nuclear facilities in forty five years. Israel also has an estimated two-hundred and fifty nuclear warheads. Though that number is questionable because Israel will not publicly answer the question as to how many it has. Iran answers the question repeatedly: we have none. We don’t plan on having any. Israel admits it has thousands but refuses to say how many. Iran has signed numerous weapons treaties promising it will never build a nuclear bomb or use one against another country. Israel refuses to sign even one weapons treaty. Israel is responsible for the death of hundreds of Palestinians each year, and threatens Iran with military strikes everyday in front of the whole world. Iran threatens no one and has more Jewish people happily and safely living in its country than any other country in the Middle East except for Israel. And yet the world is supposed to believe that Iran poses the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East. It is an equation that just does not proof out.A physicist would be puzzled by this, if not downright amused.
And yet what country is on the tip of the tongues of every wagging dog of a journalist desperate for controversy and attention in the United States’ mainstream media? Iran. They threaten no one, ask to be left alone and live in peace, endure brutal economic sanctions that have crippled their economy and proudly march on attempting to live their lives in abhorrently barbaric conditions due to these unfair and unwanted sanctions rather than cater to the whims of the dictatorial U.S. government as most countries do, and they are consistently attacked in the mainstream American media as being terrorists. When all along in front of all the world the United States military invades and bombs other countries around the Middle East to their hearts’ content, killing hundreds of thousands in the process. Now with remote controlled drone planes. Talk about cowardice. One can find it odd to hear jingoistic American “exceptionalists” label suicide bombers, who give up their very life to defend their country, “cowards” in light of the fact that American soldiers are now bombing whole villages half way around the world with remote control little airplanes from the comfort of underground bunkers in their own backyard. But such is life in the defenseless great hypocrisy that is America in modern times.
Very few in the United States dare to speak out against these brutal intimidation tactics and double standards. The great Howard Zinn did. Mohammed Ali did. Noam Chomsky does. Dr. Cornel West does. Amy Goodman does. Ward Churchill does. Either out of ignorance or fear, most — even scholars and academics — do not. It is Rome, Alexander the Not So Great era Greece and Napoleon Bonaparte era France in modern times. The only difference is that we live here. Now. And through our silence we are complicit in the atrocities that the American government carries out on a daily basis. Not only against Iran, but Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and countless other countries that came before this recent modern era. Grenada, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Mexico, Colombia, Bolivia and Guatemala are also standing in line for apologies and reparations from the devastating effects of American intervention.
It is not that life is perfect in Iran. It’s not. It is not that they have developed an admirable democracy that leads by example for all the world to follow. They haven’t. It is not that their people are free to speak act work or worship as they please. They are not. But that is their problem. Not anyone else’s. And that’s only IF they consider these things problems. (they do) But that’s their call. No one eles’s. Their president does not back down from coming to the United States. And to it’s credit, the United States does not deny him the privilege of coming here. He speaks his truth. Our government leaders speak theirs. If only the leaders of the United States could speak a bit of the truth; could even agree to speak truthfully about each other, or about their own fellow citizens or opponents in political election races. But they cannot. So it is hard to believe what they say about the leaders of other countries. Especially in light of their shadowy history when it comes to dealing with other countries in general. Especially when it comes to a country, Iran, where it is currently occupying BOTH of the countries on either side of it and building pipelines of oil through them and having to go AROUND Iran to do so — as Iran will not let the United States enter its country and build oil pipelines through it. Any coincidence there? Surely not. ;->
At the very least President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had the courage this year, as he has every year since becoming president of the great cultural epicenter that Iran has been for almost seven-thousand years, to enter the United States and speak up to the hypocritical and dictatorial powers that have taken over the American government. He asked some intensely important questions in front of tens of millions of American people on this trip. How we answer these questions, if we even bother to think about or answer these questions, will speak more about our own strength and courage than nearly anything else we will face this coming year.
Will America be swayed by the wide-eyed insanity of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he attempts to march the U.S. and the rest of the world off to a third World War? Or will we maintain our sanity and our sovereignty and finally cut the leash off this mad dog and let him roam free to do what he and his war mongering cohorts please? Let us hope for the latter. Or even better, let us hope his own people will get to him first and either talk some sense into him or impeach him. For their sake, for the people of Iran’s sake, and for the sake of all humankind. Enough is enough. And we’ve certainly heard enough war mongering to last the lifetime of our species. It is time for peace. For all of us. Not just a privileged few, but for all of humanity.

 

The Renaissance of American Television


Tonight aired a special 2 hour season finale of the new hit television series TOUCH starring Kiefer Sutherland. What makes TOUCH special is not just that it hosts smart intelligent writing, or that it’s focus is on helping people to make the world a better place — definite rarities in the history of American television (there’s a reason why they called it “the boob tube” in days gone by), but more importantly TOUCH is special because it’s one of many recently new shows on American television that all share those same qualities. There aren’t many of them. At least not yet. In fact only a handful. One handful. Most TV today is still just as shallow stupid predictable mean spirited and intelligence-insulting as it’s always been, catering to the lowest common denominator of our great society.
But things have been changing lately. For a few years. Some might say it started with the premier of CALIFORNICATION on Showtime, where among other things one can listen to some of the best writing on the small OR big screen in recent memory. Take away it’s pandering gratuitous over the top sexual content, and the blatant lack of spirit or spirituality in the show, as if there’s truly nothing deeper than skin, nor farther than the eye can see, and CALIFORNICATION is downright brilliant at times. Never mind that the show has now been on way too long and both the writers and the actors have become way too comfortable and proud of themselves. For a while CALIFORNICATION heralded a new age where American television was not just for the suburban 9 to 5 set.

REALTIME WITH BILL MAHER, along with THE COLBERT REPORT, JON STEWART, DEMOCRACY NOW and even shows like HOMELAND and BOARDWALK EMPIRE on HBO, or DOWNTON ABBEY on PBS have shown real promise that sometimes TV CAN be better than good. And in fact it’s getting better and better. Some might call it a modern renaissance. One long hoped for. More than one arts and entertainment section has recognized that some of this generation’s greatest actors have made the leap to the small screen, and not only not doused their career with gasoline and flame, but have actually produced remarkably rewarding results for themselves and their careers, as well as for an ever growing viewing audience that for a while judged television as the nursing home for washed up actors, actresses and writers. Or at best, a truck stop in between work on the big screen.
But not anymore. Television today is beginning to offer more and more high quality art and entertainment, getting better and better with each passing season. Coincidentally it is simultaneously also becoming increasingly worse. Other aspects of it at least. There are after all over 500 channels on some cable packages. So for every TOUCH there’s five to ten new JERSEY SHOREs or REAL HOUSEWIVES. Perhaps it’s no coincidence but rather a simple result of Newtonian physics playing out, through the expression of human consciousness — the underlying mechanism of television content after all. As some on earth evolve, creating more substantive intelligent content that cares and isn’t afraid to show it, others are allowing their more base desires to flow, creating increasingly more vulgar and shallow content. A yin and yang thing. Just like life itself. Where for every action there is an opposite reaction.
Either way, for those of us who shunned American television for the better part of our lives for just this reason, we can continue to do so for the rest of our lives if we so choose. But we can no longer lay claim to being the cool kids on the block for “not watching TV because it sucks and isn’t good for the health of our mind heart or spirit.” There’s actually some damn fine creative TV being made right now in our here-now history. A renaissance? Well, maybe not let’s go that far. At least not yet. But it does make one curious as to just how far this evolution is going to run and how good American television is going to get in the process. TOUCH is just one example of how evolved humankind — at least from what we can observe in the Western world — is becoming. Recognizing this, being a part of it, can only be described as being good for the heart and spirit. And like it or not, those who still refuse to partake on the simple grounds that regardless of how good it gets they are still just too good for it just might be missing out on something not only very good, but good for them as well.

Mike Wallace You Will Be Remembered and Revered For Many Years to Come

It’s household news by now in the United States at least that 60 Minutes News Anchorman Mike Wallace passed away this past weekend. He hosted the show for more than 40 years and before that he was a host, announcer, journalist and even an actor since the mid-1950s. I personally have such a strong sense of Mike Wallace within me that it almost feels as though he is family, having grown up my entire life watching him every Sunday evening on television talk the tough talk and ask the tough questions that no one else dared to ask but we all dreamed we would if we were ever in such a position ourselves. Much like Peter Jennings before him, who lived just a few blocks away from us here in Manhattan and whose children went to school with a few of my close friends, Mike Wallace’s passing marks another milestone in what appears symbolically like the death of real journalism. The kind Edward R. Murrow and even the less serious minded but equally sincere Jack Parr and Dick Cavett used to also represent to the world.

It is after all a new Age in Communications. Shock and Awe are the tools of today’s journalistic trade, not honest journalism of value and integrity. There are reasons for this. Primarily the fact that due to technological advances, and the advent of the Personal Expression Age in general, we now face such an overwhelming abundance of information outlets and vehicles so numerous that the goal has switched from “quality and substance in news reporting” to “gaining the public’s attention through any and all means necessary”. This is more than unfortunate for us all. It is hard to discern what real news is anymore. But that’s for another story later on down the road. For today, let us just remember that men like Mike Wallace and his colleagues at 60 Minutes did exist, and still do today. We will always remember their many great contributions to our lives through both information and entertainment.