Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Paterson's future

The polls say most New Yorkers (myself included) weren't particularly pleased when the president stuck his nose into state politics and urged Gov. Paterson to bow out of his unlikely bid for reelection. That doesn't mean the advice was bad - Paterson has near rock-bottom approval ratings, after all. And he's earned them.

Yes, the accidental governor fell victim to a tanking economy, which led to unpopular decisions and unhappy residents. But he also bungled the U.S. Senate appointment episode. And, although he had little leverage, Paterson didn't emerge unscathed from the state Senate coup debacle and the subsequent paralysis of the Legislature. The words small and weak come to mind.

In other words, Paterson has largely made his own bed when it comes to his political future.

Paterson suggested on "Meet the Press" Sunday that he's not unaware of his standing. But he's not willing to throw in the towel ... yet.

New York Daily News columnist Bill Hammond nicely summarizes Paterson's circumstances here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ring of fire

*I don't know about you, but I get queasy seeing all those TV commercials featuring Linda McMahon, who is running for U.S. senator from Connecticut. McMahon may be intelligent and successful. But she's the matriarch of the sleazy World Entertainment Wrestling empire. That's a disqualifier, as far as I'm concerned.

*Excellent performance by Leon Russell before an appreciative gathering Saturday night in Red Hook to cap off the village's Hardscrabble Day celebration. It was a particular treat for those of us who've seen Russell perform in in the past, but never in such an intimate setting. I'd say there were between 500 and 1,000 folks inside and surrounding a relatively small tent. Someone posted a clip on YouTube.

*Spent Sunday in New York City with family and was reminded of what a special place it is. A walk from Central Park at 68th and Fifth all the way down and across to 14th and Eighth was a treat. Topped off the day with dinner in the Meatpacking District, which has been resurrected with fine restaurants, trendy nightspots and a hip (is that word still in vogue?) hotel.

*Last week I pointed you in the direction of Time magazine's cover story on Glenn Beck. Today I suggest you learn more about this guy in this long profile on salon.com.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday checklist

*Fascinating and frightening cover story about President Obama and the ugliness of America in this week's New York magazine. Read it here.

*Interesting interview of Glenn Beck by Imus the other morning on WABC radio. Beck was funny and self-deprecating, not the dangerous cartoonish figure he portrays on TV.

*The fallacy of baseball's wild card system was in full display last night in the Bronx when the Red Sox essentially threw in the towel midway through their loss to the Yankees, even though they were in striking distance of coming from behind and winning a game which would have put some heat on the first place Bombers. Boston manager Terry Francona cleared his bench like it was a spring training game, rather than attempt to apply pressure on the Yankees' relievers. Unfortunately, the Red Sox know from experience that you can win a World Series as the wild card. So why break your back to make a longshot bid at overtaking the Yankees? Fifty thousand people paid big bucks to watch a big game and instead witnessed a veritable exhibition contest.

*Must-see TV: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage, Bored to Death.

*The Eliot Spitzer resurrection tour continued last night on Real Time with Bill Maher. A pity. Spitzer is a brilliant man with so much to offer. But he'll forever be nothing more than a sideshow in the wake of the scandal that cost him the governership and ended his ambition of being president.

Friday, September 25, 2009

If it's Friday ...

*It wasn't exactly Bearsville, but it wasn't all that far away the other morning while I was driving from Woodstock to Saugerties on Route 212 when a bear cub pranced across the road. The bear emerged from a residential property and headed for another. Hope the owners were prepared for an unwelcome visitor. Point is, you never know when you'll look out your back window at the sound of rattling on your porch and discover a bear. If you don't know what to do, check out this site.

*If you fondly recall the late, lamented American Football League, you have to be watching the series "Full Color Football" on Showtime. Great clips, excellent interviews, plenty of memories. And if you go back as far as I do - like to seeing the New York Titans play before an intimate gathering of fans at the cavernous, ancient Polo Grounds - the series resonates. Next episode airs Wednesday night.

*Leon Russell ... free concert ... 6 p.m. Saturday in Red Hook as part of Hardscrabble Day. I'm just saying.

*Speaking of bears, you might spot a couple on the area'sDevil's Path, the subject of a feature story in today's New York Times.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thursday topics

*There's a line where common sense crosses over into panic. So let's not panic about swine flu. But let's not underestimate its spread and impact either. Wash your hands. Sneeze into your arms. And do get a vaccine when it's available. Also, don't forget, the "regular" flu shot already is being administered.

*Thought I'd fallen into a crime scene when leaving downtown Albany this morning. I later found out that they're filming a Will Ferrell movie, with extras doing the work on car-chase, shoot-em-up sequences.

*Here's a surprise: Would-be terrorists are targeting stadiums, train stations and entertainment complexes - in short, places where large numbers of people convene and the most death and destruction can be caused. Why does this stun some people? What did you expect, a bombing in a cornfield?

*MacKenzie Phillips says she had a sexual relationship with her father. It's a truly terrible story on a number of levels, least of which is that listening to old Mamas and Papas tunes will never be the same. (For the uninformed, the late John "Papa" Phillips was MacKenzie's father.)

*I can't help but notice comments below some stories at www.dailyfreeman.com saying, in effect, "once again the paper made a mistake," or some variation of that claim. Yet the editors aren't getting calls for corrections from official sources or others aboutthose stories. That says two things to me: The stories were in fact correct and the people spouting off about their alleged inaccuracies are full of it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday scorecard

*When Los Angeles-based lawyer Howard K. Stern showed up on talk shows, it was hard not to notice. There was the name, of course, which, minus the middle initial, carried the considerable weight of the more famous radio personality. Then there was Howard K. Stern himself. Let's put it this way: The way he came across on TV, I wouldn't have brought my legal business to him. Nevertheless, I got a kick out of spotting his nameplate on an office down the hall in the same Wilshire Boulevard building where my son works as a writer for the animated sitcom "American Dad". Coincidentally, Stern's name came up again in conversation just the other day. I asked my son where his company, which also produces "Family Guy", had set up shop for its new program, "The Cleveland Show". In Howard K. Stern's old office, he told me. You see, Stern apparently hasn't needed that high-profile office since he got himself in the middle of the Anna Nicole Smith mess. And then there he was again today, the subject of additional charges by Los Angeles prosecutors. Stern, Smith's lawyer-boyfriend, "is billed as an aider and abettor of two doctors charged with prescribing drugs that killed the former Playboy model in 2007," according to The Associated Press. Stern and the physicians have pleaded not guilty. Keep your eyes on the entertainment news shows today. Given the new developments, Howard K. Stern is likely to pop up.

*I'm ordinarily not a fan of rival news organizations sniping at each other in public. But I am pleased that CNN and others have responded strongly to bully Fox News' obnoxious and inaccurate print ad claiming they didn't cover the recent "tea party" protest in Washington. The fact is CNN and the others did cover it. And, as a YouTube video has demonstrated, Fox News not only covered it, it orchestrated it, witness the young associate producer whipping up the crowd. Fox News' slogan has been, "We report, you decide." CNN is now on air with counter-promos saying Fox News "distorts." Good for CNN.

*Congratulations to the Yankees, not just for clinching a playoff berth last night in Anaheim, but for putting it in perspective. The Yankees properly held off a champagne celebration that would have been premature merely for securing the wild card. Once the Yankees officially eliminate Boston and wrap up the division title, then they can party.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


If you haven't seen Paddy Chayefsky's great 1976 film "Network" at all or in a while, give it a look and marvel at what seemed far-fetched at the time and what today appears almost tame.

We're talking about the movie with the landmark fictional character Howard Beale, a TV network anchor who loses his mind and is kept on the air anyway, whipping himself into a frenzy and urging viewers to scream, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

Did anyone say, hello, Glenn Beck?

Here's a man who has risen to a position of national influence on Fox News, after being a nobody at CNN Headline News and toiling in relative obscurity for years on a variety of morning zoo-like radio programs.

I commend your attention to the cover story in Time magazine for far more insight on the man and his game.

To me, Beck has become Rush Limbaugh mixed with Bill O'Reilly on steroids.

Glenn Beck is mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore. ... as long as he's on conservative-leaning Fox News. When he wears out his welcome (or figuratively sets himself on fire, as MSNBC conservative commentator Joe Scarborough predicts), Beck will find another microphone and maybe even a different ideological platform.

If Paddy Chayefsky were still alive, Beck would be a wonderful, over-the-top character who could only exist in his next novel or screenplay.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Obama is everywhere (almost)

If President Obama employed a Rose Garden strategy and restricted his movements to the short walk between the Oval Office and the family living quarters in the White House, he'd be criticized from all sides for being too cloistered - and rightly so.

Instead, Obama is all over the place, and some are getting on him for that.

At this writing, shortly past 12:30 p.m. Monday, he's just departed Hudson Valley Community College in Troy following a speech on education, technology and, yes, health care, among other matters. (Local Congressmen Hinchey and Murphy, as well as Assemblyman Cahill, were in the VIP section.) Now he's off to New York City and his first appearance before the United Nations General Assembly and a late night visit to David Letterman's CBS program.

It's the TV blitz that really has attracted attention, particularly his sweep of all the network Sunday morning political chat fests. All except Fox News, which he conspicuously bypassed.

Who could blame him? Obama already is famously on record as telling an interviewer, "I've got one television station that is entirely devoted to attacking my administration."

But I have a different take.

Sure, Fox News is slanted right to a fault. But it does have a large audience and Obama is the president of the United States. Moreover, he's an extremely articulate and brainy president (unlike his predecessor) who is move than capable of handling a Fox News interview, even if it proves hostile.

It says here, Obama had nothing to lose by going into the lion's den. And he may have even won a few converts in the Fox News audience choir.

Now, in addition to the real and imagined gripes Fox News airs about the president, it can say he wasn't man enough to face its interrogation. (Fox News' Chris Wallace already is calling Obama's people "crybabies.") Obama doesn't need and could have avoided that.

Friday, September 18, 2009


I've "earned" two speeding tickets in my four-plus decades behind the wheel, none in at least 30 years. A.J. Foyt I'm not.

Nevertheless, unless they've been absolutely reckless, I cringe when I see motorists pulled over by one of the three police agencies that regularly and annoyingly write tickets along Route 28 between Kingston and Woodstock.

Yet, the old line "You never can find a cop when you need one," came to mind late yesterday afternoon when I was driving home and was passed on the right by a hot red sports car badly in need of a muffler. A quick glance revealed the driver was texting as he zipped along (and ultimately screeched into the Hess gas station).

It's not an understatement to say I was horrified at the utter disregard for human life (his and others) that this person exhibited.

Think about it: 50 or so miles per hour along a state highway and texting at the same time.

Had I the presence of mind, I would have tried to get the license number, pulled over and called the authorities.

I hope this guy is caught - if he texted while driving once, it's not a stretch to imagine him doing it again - before he kills someone.

Two on 10

Sorry I've lost my home access to WTEN-TV now that Time Warner Cable has yanked the Albany channel from homes without digital boxes. That's because on Monday, News 10 is launching a 4 p.m. program co-anchored by my "Media Project" pals Elisa Streeter and Lydia Kulbida.

Lydia's arrival is sure to shake up the ratings in Albany, particularly in favor of struggling Channel 10. She was No. 1 for years (and annually voted "most popular anchor" in two newspaper polls) until WNYT unceremoniously and shockingly failed to renew her contract earlier this year.

Put Lydia with Elisa, an excellent broadcaster in her own right, provide her with additional on-air opportunities down the road, and Channel 10 is sure to get off the mat.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

On screen and off

*The death of Mary Travers from Peter, Paul and Mary received the proper attention. Less noted (and less known) was Henry Gibson, one of my favorite character actors, who also died this week. Most old timers probably remember him - if they remember him at all - as the "poet" from TV's "Laugh In." I think he really shined in films like "Nashville," "Magnolia," and "Wedding Crashers," among others. Refresh your memory in this obituary from today's Los Angeles Times.

*Speaking of the big screen, it's safe to watch "At the Movies" again. What was TV's best and most influential movie review program when it was started three decades ago by Chicago critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, the program evolved after Siskel's death to, first, "Ebert and (Richard) Roeper," then, after Ebert's illness rendered him speechless, Roeper and a series of rotating guest hosts. Sadly, producers kept the format but threw away the knowledgeable and likable regulars, launching a new version with the undistinguished Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz. Their bad chemistry and bad everything else finally dawned on the aforementioned producers and now, sanity and talent prevail. The new hosts (both former rotating guests when Roeper was in the driver's seat) are A.O. Scott of The New York Times and Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune. These guys have real credentials. I'm happy to say others concur, witness this piece in Entertainment Weekly.

*I figured Jay Leno's new program had to improve after its horrible debut. I was wrong. Night 2 on Tuesday was embarrassing beyond belief, particularly a deadly, inane uncomfortable satellite interview with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The race card

Former President Carter did no favors for President Obama by injecting the spectre of racism in the incumbent's declining poll numbers and resistance to his policies.

Racism in this country? Of course. Racism partly responsible for dislike for Obama and distaste for his policies? Some.

But today's America is filled with angry, scared people who have seen their retirement funds dwindle, their jobs disappear, their cherished institutions crumble and the prospects for their children living more comfortable lives diminish.

Not all of that can be laid at Obama's doorstep, but he is the president and it comes with the job. And it has nothing to do with Obama being a black man (although a case can be made that extremist voices are ginning up their anti-Obama positions with not-so-subtle racial images and words).

It wasn't all that many months ago when Americans were saying they felt good about themselves and the nation for electing a black man. Many are now represented in the president's increased disapproval ratings. His policies, not his color, have for the time being made them jump ship.

And let's not forget, more than 60 million Americans voted for the other guy. They already were disinclined to think favorably of the new president's point of view.

It says here Obama doesn't want his race to be an issue, favorably or negatively. It's a distraction.

America has come a long way on race. It has a long way to go. But to say a white Obama would have an easier time pursuing his agenda is to misunderstand the mood of much of the country.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


All the extremists on the right? Not so.

New York Daily News columnist Bill Hammond makes the point here.


Jay Leno drew a predictably large crowd for his debut show last night. Heavy promoting by NBC and a fortuitously timely guest in Kanye West no doubt lifted his boat.

It won't last. I offered that observation in a prior post.

Meanwhile, after reading a handful of big city reviews this afternoon, I fell upon this one in the Washington Post that best summarizes what we saw.

Say what?

*Saw an elderly tax protester carrying a sign that said, "No to government health care." Medicare, too, big guy?

*Media outlets of all sizes and types aren't able to cover nearly as many events as in the past because money is tight and staff is scarce. Explain that to a guy who wanted to know why the Freeman didn't have a reporter or photographer at Saturday's local tax protest and he wants nothing of it. Media bias, he cries. The managing editor patiently and in detail tries to explain otherwise, citing examples of other stories that have regrettably gone uncovered. (The publisher also writes that the protest wasn't overlooked, given the amount of space the weekend editor devoted to the demonstration in Washington.) Liar, comes the retort. This is where we are in today's world: The extremes on both sides yell loudest, get more attention than they deserve and disproportionately influence public opinion.

*Serena Williams isn't the first tennis player to scream vulgarities at an official. (Remember John McEnroe, whose bad behavior was rewarded by high-profile TV assignments?) Nor will Serena be the last. But she didn't really try to deny saying what we all heard her say, did she?

*Then there's rapper Kanye West, who stole a heartfelt acceptance speech moment from young country singer Taylor Swift on the MTV Music Awards in an unacceptable display of rude behavior that fortunately drew jeers from the audience. Then he goes on Jay Leno's new show and, near tears, apologizes. Pardon me if I'm not moved. After all, West is a repeat offender.

*Speaking of Leno, other than the humor injected by guest Jerry Seinfeld, the now-primetime funnyman stuck with the vanilla, barely-a-chuckle show that amazingly brought him higher late night ratings than David Letterman. If that's for you, enjoy. For me, it's must-not-see-TV.

*Our long, national nightmare is almost over. At least the nightmare of those of us who for decades have been forced to look at the eyesore former Utility Platers building on Washington Avenue in Kingston. The demolition team is at work, already knocking down a less-objectionable former medical building on the corner of Washington and Schwenk Drive. Utility Platers site is next as the way is cleared for a new CVS drugstore. No matter what you think of CVS, there can't be much dispute that it will be a visual improvement.

*I made my first trip to the new Yankee Stadium determined to hate it. Yes, I'm one of those who didn't want to see the old place come down. But, alas, the new stadium is spectacular in nearly every way.