Friday, January 25, 2013

Class Notes week of 1/21

Nothing like a Presidential Inaguration to stir up controversies both valid and imagined.  From President Obama taking oath on Dr. King's bible to Slick Willy's wandering eye to Beyonce's lip-sync-gate, there was much to digest and take note of this week while preparing for the onslaught of Super Bowl coverage which will feature the Harbaugh family, Ray Lewis and Colin Kaepernick. We also bid adieu to Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State as she catches her breath before her run in 2016.  Here's what I took particular note of this week:

POLITICS:  While many were excited to comment on inauguration events and were swept up by the exuberance of Joe Biden, the stylish grace of Michelle Obama, and the youthful innocence of the Obama girls snapping phone flicks,  the governmental machine still raged on.  If there is one lesson I hope people learn from President Obama's first term it is that it takes more than one political outlier who is able to galvanize the nation to redirect the political machine.  While an estimated 1 million people gathered in DC for the inauguration ceremonies, Virginia lawmakers were busy trying to put in place policy intended to have a Republican president taking oath in 2016.  The GOP in VA proposed a bill to redistribute electoral college votes so that the impact of urban areas densely populated by people of color would have less impact than would more rural areas.  This smacks of the same type of race-tinged voter manipulation that lead the PA House Majority Leader, Mark Turzai to utter this memorable line in June.

"Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done,”
If this goes through in Virginia, what would stop GOP officials in Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Indiana, and Illinois from trying to do the same.  If voter district gerrymandering could work in swing states, surely GOP honks would have no problem trying to redistrict states like California and New York.  Now that we have put our inaugural ball gowns and tuxes away it is time to make sure that we're paying attention.  Those who turned out for inauguration better be voters in the mid-term elections.  It is clear what the GOP plan is, and if people want to see the President move forward with his agenda in these next four years, then allowing a GOP-dominated House won't work.  Unfortunately Nate Silver is already forecasting that I shouldn't get my hopes up for a 17-seat swing in 2014 that would return the Dems to a majority.

SPORTS:  It's going to be an eerie feeling in Los Angeles come mid-April when the playoffs start and the Staples Center will have already packed up the hardwood floor that the Lakers play on.  As we hit the midpoint of the season, it looks like we are going to see the Clippers, aka the Staples Center stepchildren, make the playoffs while the main Staples Center tenant will be drowning their sorrows at an Hermosa Beach watering hole.  Not since the '75-'76 season have we seen the Clippers in the money round without the Lakers.  This will be a first in my lifetime, and it will be interesting to see how LA responds.  Will Jack, Denzel, and Cube support the Clippers?  Will the tall apartment building across from Staples unveil a Clippers mural?  All food for thought, but the real nitty gritty is what are the Lakers going to do to turn it around.  What will be the move that rights the ship?  The only marketable pieces on the team are Kobe and Dwight.  Pau Gasol's market value has been destroyed by Coach D'Antoni, and discussing trading Kobe is ludicrous (contract is a monster, 30M @ 35?).  Lakers fans will talk all playoffs about the 16 Championship banners that currently hang in Staples, and I'm glad they have that to hold onto.  Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchack have some work to do here and it might take a while to get it right.
ENTERTAINMENT:  When will the folks on Deception realize that if Meagan Good is to be believed as a cop, then she can't look like she just walked off the set of a photo shoot.   The writers have also failed to give her any real depth as a character so we're left with a main character who provides eye candy while we become more interested in the characters of Victor Garber and Tate Donovan.   Damn shame because the concept is one that should have rendered NBC a hit show.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Class Notes week 1/14

What a week for explosive drama.  If you're a sportswriter or talk-show host, you got to be lazy this week in preparation as Manti Te'o and Lance Armstrong provided more than enough material to fill a column or a show.  The Golden Globes happened last weekend and saw Tina Fey and Amy Poehler take hosting a step forward.  Salute Don Cheadle for winning the Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series Award for his work on one of my favorite shows, House of Lies.  Here are the rest of my class notes for the week:

POLITICS:  We're still talking gun control, and that's a good thing.  I like how President Obama symbolically used children and the letters they wrote to him after the Newtown, CT tragedy to remind his fellow politicians that controlling assault weapons and their ammo is not simply about politics, but about people.  No family should have to live with the knowledge that their child might have been spared being riddled with bullets from a 100-round drum magazine if only the shooter had been background checked.  I'm also still waiting to hear a plausible argument for why you would ever need that kind of ammo in the first place unless you intend to maim big groups of people.  I applaud the President in that among his 23 executive orders, there were provisions included for mental health professionals to cooperate in the background screening process and there were also provisions for assault weapons recovered at crime scenes to be traced so we can begin to deal with the sources of these weapons.

SPORTS:  So Lance Armstrong decides to come clean about his use of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) ideally so he can save the Livestrong organization that he built.  Instead of facing a sportswriter like Bryant Gumbel, Andrea Kremer, or Jason Whitlock, people who would really press him on why he perpetrated a lie for almost 15 years, he chose Oprah Winfrey.  This selection was a copout because while Oprah is a good interviewer, investigative journalism is not what she does, nor does she ever really dig in on someone she is interviewing to make them feel uncomfortable.  I did not watch the interview and I won't because the questions I would have for Lance aren't going to be answered.  Oprah didn't push him about why he intimidated and discredited teammates who came out against him. Nor did she press him on why he chose now to come clean.  I wanted to believe the Lance Armstrong narrative, and did for many years, but as teammates started to chip away at the legend one by one, common sense took over.  It is a complicated story in that his tainted athletic accomplishments gave him the platform to do so much good in the area of cancer research funding.  However, I believe he still would've had success as a cancer advocate without the seven PED-tainted Tour deFrance wins, and the story would've been real.  Beating brain and testicular cancer to come back and race in a 2,000+ mi competition would've worked as a hero story especially given that he was already a world champion.  Now, he'll have to cough up millions, and the Livestrong brand will forever be tarnished.

ENTERTAINMENT:  Lots of my favorite shows came back this week.  Makes it harder to maintain my writing discipline, but I'll make it.  My current Top 5:

1.  Suits
2.  House of Lies
3.  Californication
4.  Last Resort (can't believe it's already cancelled.  Andre Braugher is the man)
5.  Scandal (I can see that this show is gonna jump the shark for me very quickly)

TEAM CARROLL:  Lil Man took another step towards becoming the next Bruce Lee as he earned his 2nd degree yellow belt this past weekend.  It is truly amazing to watch the kid who bounces all over the house like a bouncy ball focus in when it's time to perform his skills.  

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Class Notes week 1/7

One of my goals for 2013 is to make use of my blog space more often as a place to slow down and reflect.  Between my family and my professional projects, there often is little time for anything else, but it's imperative to get off the carousel at regular intervals to catch my breath and then keep going.  Last year I managed to get at least one blog in every month.  This year I'm going for one post a week, which I'm going to call my Class Notes, a quick spin through the things that resonate in my world: Domestic Politics, Sports, and Entertainment.  I'll also throw in a note about my family as they are the center of my universe.  So without further introduction, here they go...

POLITICS:  Newton, CT. Aurora, CO (again). Taft, CA.  The shootings continue and guns are still finding the wrong hands.  We have to be more serious about gun control.  I'm not saying ban gun ownership, but I also don't think folk need to be rolling around like Antonio Banderas in DesperadoEven more important is the screening of those who seek to purchase guns and ammo.  If I have to go through every background screen known to man to work with kids, then so should those who seek to own instruments capable of snuffing out human life.  That's an argument that should resonate with even the most staunch gun advocate.

SPORTS:  The Baseball Writers of America (BWA) decided to take the easy way out and not elect anyone to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  Instead of voting in a crop of athletes both suspected and acknowledged as performance-enhancing drug (PED) users, the writers chose to uphold some kind of faux-purity standard.  Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa all got less than forty percent of the vote despite being transcendent figures throughout their careers who made baseball relevant again after the 1994-95 strike season.  Equally egregious in my eyes is the denial of players like Don Mattingly, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy who were never associated with PEDs yet, they don't appear to be HOFers in a numbers sense when compared with the likes of Bonds, McGwire, Canseco and others.  This stinks even more of a planned boycott when you consider that sure HOFers like Randy Johnson, Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz, players who were never associated with PEDs, will be eligible for induction in the next two years.  The moral high ground that the BWA tries to claim is laughable and contributes to why Baseball has long been surpassed by Football as America's favorite sport.

ENTERTAINMENT:  If you can write a movie that is approximately twenty minutes too long so that the script can showcase the entire range of the lead character's abilities, then you have a chance at being nominated for an Oscar.  Zero Dark Thirty put me to sleep as did the The Hurt Locker and the drama about a bomb disposal team won six golden statues.  I'm rooting for Silver Linings Playbook this awards season since its centered in my hometown, the Iladelph and stars a hometown dude in Bradley Cooper.  The movie had an indie feel to it, but didn't feature the drawn-out screenplay of many Oscar-nominated films. 

TEAM CARROLL:  The Mrs. first episode as a BONES writer airs on Monday, Jan 14, so we'll all be taking phone pics when her name flashes on the screen.  It has been announced that BONES will be back for a 10th season, so it looks like I'll be a trophy husband for another year.