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Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

late hegemonic fantasy: the pacific

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Just watched the first two episodes of The Pacific on Sky Movies. Stirring and scary yes, but also can’t help but feel that what I’m watching is a some sort of desperate projection of American nostalgic fantasy about the last time that we were outgunned, undermanned, underfed, often injured and generally in dire straits but we won. (It’s no wonder that the Battle of Khe Sahn during the Vietnam War plays a similarly iconic role in the American [filmic] subconscious). The colonel in charge of the unit we’re following even at one point, in the face of throwing what’s barely left of his Marine division against the entire Japanese army, reiterates an order from above: if this goes badly, you’ll retreat to the jungle and fight as guerrillas. To which all involved respond, fuck no, sir. We’re almost guerrillas, we might well have become guerrillas, but we’re never in the end guerrillas. And we watch as the desperate Marines manning the machine guns, constantly low on ammo, mow down hundreds upon hundreds of Japanese infantrymen. (At one point, in an act of medal-winning bravery, someone has to go clear a pile of bodies from the breach in the barbed wire fence in order to create a free-fire zone…) Sometimes, after the battles, the more thoughtful of the Americans go and look at the family pictures that the Japs carry in their bags. Once, one of them even finds a child’s doll in the satchel of the dead. But in another case, when these undermanned Americans send a medic out to help a terminally injured Jap, the latter pulls the pin on a grenade to blow the aiding hands and bodies to pieces. Bastards.

So why is this necessary right now? Well, there’s this sort of thing, which I really recommend you watch, and which I found via Chained to the Cinematheque:

I keep wondering (see below) whether videos like this one, which seem to represent in their depiction of the distractedly distanced killing perpetrated by US troops (which of course continues – or in fact intensifies into the primary US tactic for dealing with international insurgencies) some sort of semi-omnipotent Playstation-style control of the battlefield, actually augur something else, a sort of existential or mass-psychological or even material over-reach. That, if I could guess, is exactly the anxiety that constitutes the political unconscious of the Tom Hanks’s HBO production that I watched tonight. But this may or may not be wishful thinking. Understandable, I suppose, for me to construct fantasies about the failure of national projects that involve severely injuring children in the back of a van that their father’s driven to pick up a dying Reuters employee and deliver him to a hospital and then denying said children proper medical treatment.

Anyway, in case you’re new to the blog, here’s a previous (and more interesting) post on a parallel topic. And actually another one here, originally written for n+1’s website but they couldn’t sort out the coding issues with the embedded videos. I’m actually currently attempting to finish a small bit of fiction on this subject that I’ve been working on forever… We’ll see – maybe the awful video above has given me the spur that I need.

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April 6, 2010 at 12:42 am

Posted in distraction, Television, war

an ma thesis for somebody

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Dammit! Not only am I suffering from the taped-tv contingency-failure issue described in my previous post, but even worse: there are so many ways that I am notified about just about everything that happens in the world, that it is almost impossible to keep myself in the dark about the Yankees score until I have time to watch my recorded telecast.

A few days ago, it was my iGoogle homepage with its NYT feed. This morning, things went to hell even faster. Rolled over to check my iPhone’s inboxes, and there was the NYT alert. I’m not sure it’s even worth trying to do what I am trying to do.

With distance increases also the banalizing reach of the twittering infrosources, systematically worming through the world and its information to turn any remaining shreds of romance to into a mere final score.

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October 12, 2009 at 7:35 am

Posted in sports, Television

Purpose Driven Pander?

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So, Paula Zahn fills in for Aaron Brown tonight on Newsnight, and what does PZ bring us but a full-hour special edition of the show on the Purpose Driven Life. Fantastic. Complete with correspondents reading Bible passages, and 1001 stories of felons-alcoholics-porn freaks whose lives were turned around by the "best selling non-fiction book in American history."

Paula Z. does segments like this, just as she used to lay into war protestors, Michael Moore, etc with a horrible gleam in her eye, sandblasted teeth all a glitter.

Question I have is the same one that I had while watching Bush’s press conference today: pander or true belief, honest effort? Seriously, we need an answer right now. Zahn believes that this is what we need to hear about for an hour or she’s doing the red-state two step? I used to think I knew the answer, but I just can’t be sure now. At the press conference today, things were going well for a bit. Nice poke at him on rendition, and then this one, which was pretty good as well:

Q Paul Wolfowitz, who was the — a chief architect of one of the most unpopular wars in our history —

THE PRESIDENT: (Laughter.) That’s an interesting start. (Laughter.)

Q — is your choice to be the President of the World Bank. What kind of signal does that send to the rest of the world?

And then this, which is mind-bending.

Q Mr. President, you have spoken out about the need for owners,
coaches and players in all sports to stop steroid use. And you’ve also
voiced reservations about government getting too involved in that. And
as you know, Congress is issuing subpoenas to Major League baseball
players during spring training. Do you think that that’s an abuse of
power, or is it appropriate, in your view?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, Congress generally has an independent mind of
its own. I spoke out and was pleased to see that baseball responded,
and they’ve got a testing policy in place for the first time ever — a
firm testing policy in place. And it’s very important that baseball
then follow through and implement the testing and, obviously, deal with
those who get caught cheating in the system.

And the hearings will go forward, I guess. I guess that’s the
current status. But I’m wise enough not to second-guess the intentions
of the United States Congress. I do appreciate the public concern about
the use of steroids in sports, whether it be baseball or anywhere else,
because I understand that when a professional athlete uses steroids, it
sends terrible signals to youngsters. There’s — we’ve had some stories
in my own state, one of the newspapers there pointed out that they
thought there was steroid use in high schools as a result of — in
order to make sure these kids, at least in the kid’s mind, could be a
better athlete. It’s a bad signal. It’s not right. And so I appreciate
the fact that baseball is addressing this, and I appreciate the fact
that the Congress is paying attention to the issue. This first started,
of course, with Senator McCain, who basically said, get your house in
order. And baseball responded, and my hope is the system will work.

Q You have no problem with the subpoenas?


Again, this time for the reporter: Truly think that this is the question to ask, or are you just playing for future access? Seriously – I used to be sure that it was the latter, but I’m less and less sure…

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March 16, 2005 at 11:14 pm

Posted in Television

Thanks Aaron Brown

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Big let down from Aaron Brown tonight on CNN. Thought he was actually going to grow some guts for a minute, but nope – false alarm.

Here’s why I was momentarily hopeful – the teaser at the top of the show.

BROWN: Tonight we look at truths and untruths and exaggeration coming from teachers to kids on the subject of sex.

Kind of sounds like he mightly be slightly critical of the abstinence folks, right?

Look, there are two main problems with abstinence programs.

First of all, while they may or may not reduce teenage sexual encounters, it is fairly clear that these programs definitely do increase the incidence of unplanned pregnancy and STD transmission for those kids who do have sex. This isn’t all that hard to understand, is it? When you incessantly assert that the birth control pill is a losers bet, and that condomns are so ineffective that you might as well forget them, it’s no wonder that when the adolescent red-staters fall from grace, they fall hard.

Secondly, and perhaps just as importantly – isn’t there are serious question about what effect these scare tactics have of the developing sensibility about sex in general, a sensibility that will stay with these kids forever, in one form or another. Might it not be a little hard to get up for good old conjugal variety when all you’ve been told is that sex is extremely dangerous, a health risk not unlike smoking, and not what the cool kids are doing…

Anyway, Brown folded when he got to the segment, and the talking head Ob-Gyn that they pulled out from under a rock somewhere in Texas. We get, instead of reason, lots of stuff like this:

BROWN: You know, part of the — there are so many, I think, as a
parent, complications in all of this. But can I offer a thought here,
which is that no matter what you guys teach or those guys teach, what I
teach and my wife teach to my kids probably more important than any of

Thanks for the PSA, but that’s not really what we’re talking about, is it Aaron?

(By the way, for some fun, search the transcript for Dr. Texas’s (mis)use of the words "accuracy" and "inaccuracy." Somebody’s a little confused… But not too confused to save our kids from themselves…

Here’s the stupid transcript.

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December 3, 2004 at 12:43 am

Posted in Television

Nicely Played

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Chris Matthews kinda made Falwell’s head explode a little bit on his show recently. OK, good. Now just repeat this move eleven thousand times and maybe we’ll make some progress…

From Slate: Cable News Cretinism – Jerry Falwell’s straight story. By Dana Stevens.

Matthews: Did you choose to be heterosexual?

Falwell: I did.

Matthews: You thought about it and that was your choice?

Falwell: Well, put it this way, I was taught as a child that that’s the right way to be.

Matthews: But did you feel an attraction toward women?
Falwell: Oh, of course.

Matthews: But when people are born and they find themselves having an attraction to somebody from the same sex, do you think that’s a choice?

Falwell: I think you can experiment with any perversity and develop an appetite for it, just like you can food. […] I don’t think anybody is born a bank robber […]

Matthews: How old were you when you chose to be heterosexual?
Falwell: Oh, I don’t remember that.

Matthews: Well you must, because you say it’s a big decision.
Falwell: Well, I – I started dating when I was about thirteen.
Matthews: And you had to decide between boys and girls. And you chose girls.

Falwell: Well, I never had to decide, I never thought … (laughter)

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December 2, 2004 at 11:23 pm

Posted in Television

The Cost of Living

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OK – as pop culture goes, it’s a pretty high end addiction. I like to watch Location Location Location on BBC America. Set the DVR to tape it, freak out just a little when it’s a repeat (happens more and more often – though tonight I had a great one from Glasgow to watch…)

Home for Thanksgiving, discovered mom to be a huge fan of the American version of the show, HGTV’s House Hunters.

I’ve seen mom’s show before, and found it just as unbearable watching it with her (while my wife and dad couch snoozed in the other room in from of some sort of Seinfeld retrospective…) as I had in the past.

Of course, it’s in large part my NYC urban snobbery. Can’t bear the friggin McMansions, faceless, hideous. Whereas Location, Location, Location generally features hip apartments (like) and crumbling country houses (like not so much).

But it’s more than that – the gaping difference between the shows is that the British version tells you the prices of the apartments / what the lookers are wanting to spend, whereas the American version leaves out that crucial bit of information. (Often, Househunters even leaves out the city, ahem, sprawling suburban wasteland where we’re looking…)

Since I’m firm in the believe that television always brings us exactly what we want (OK – that "we" is a little bit troublesome, but bear with me), what does it say about the trans-atlantic gap that "we" will tolerate a house-buying show with no prices.

Or is it more awful? The wild disparity between red state and blue state home prices would alternately gross out half the viewership or make the other half keel over in bedazzled laughter… Is that the problem? The Oklahoma housewife seeing the $900,000 1 bedroom in Chelsea and/or the Brooklyn bourgeois bohemian viewing the $75,000 3 bedroom ranch in Missouri?

Something to think about anyway…

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December 2, 2004 at 12:50 am

Posted in Television

“For the Greater Good”

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Anybody else obsessively turning from whatever else you’re doing when the TIAA-CREF commercials come on. “There’s a place for us…” And this scene (in the newest iteration of the ad) of a professor guy in a huge lecture hall, out from behind the podium, hands a-punctuating his eloquent and excellent lecture.
Whoa. Little tears well up in the corners of the eyes every time I see it. Started running it during the Olympics, which was a good idea.
(For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about – maybe every one – TIAA-CREF is the company that handles retirement accounts and the like for universities and other cultural organizations and I guess the medical field as well. They just started a huge ad campaign, featuring images of teachers teaching, nurses nursing, curators curating, etc… )
It’s a facinating ad tactic, playing right in to the academics general sense that 1) he/she is in the biz for reasons way beyond the personal, mercenary and 2) that society never gives us the thanks we deserve.
But the question remains – why in the hell does TIAA-CREF need to advertise so extensively in the first place? Sort of like those defense company ads that run now and again on CNN. I understand there’s bucket of money to be made, but is CNN really the right venue to get this sort of message across?

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September 9, 2004 at 11:31 pm

Posted in Television

CNN: At least Carol Lin’s got her priorities in order

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JASON BELLINI: At street level, Sunday’s protest felt like a parade. Madison Square Garden served as the reviewing stand. Flores-Williams knows getting arrested is a way to get attention.
His protestor manifesto in the latest issue of “High Times” magazine included a section on how to deal with getting arrested. Remain silent is the main advice.
(on camera): In his article for “High Times” magazine, Jason writes that he believes the era of single-issue activism is over, “there are no longer any inner circles,” he writes, “no longer any activist stars.”
(voice-over): What you have is a cacophony of tens of thousands of protestors representing hundreds of different issues all coming together, Flores-Williams hopes, with the collective message — we’re not happy with our government.
The question not answered today — will street theater alone keep anyone interested?
Jason Bellini, CNN, New York.
CAROL LIN: I know it’s democracy, but it’s sometimes hard to take seriously.


JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And last but not least, there you can see Frances, moving on through, heading to the Leeward Islands. Tropical storm watches have been posted now for the northern Leeward Islands. Could potentially have an impact on the United States, maybe by Saturday. So the end of the week. We’re going to be watching Frances very slowly. Right now, category four, with 135 mile an hour winds.
CAROL LIN: Wow. To be taken very seriously. Thanks very much, Jacqui.

Link to the transcript is here.

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August 30, 2004 at 12:19 am

Posted in Television

Six Feet Under

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Just got around to watching this Sunday’s episode of Six Feet Under. It’s not been a good season so far – for a lot of reasons, so many that it’d take too long to get into it right now. But Dale Peck’s done a good job of explaining what’s wrong here – which probably won’t be up for long so hurry up and look at it.
Peck’s right – taking a look at American Beauty – one of the most seriously fucked movies to come out in awhile – is the first thing to do to understand what’s going wrong with SFU now.
But watching Sunday’s episode tonight, there was a glimmer of hope. Quickly extinguished. But for a second, I thought they were going to open up the whole “Nate killed Lisa” line of thought again. All last season, up until the very end, I thought that the show had something totally brilliant up its sleeve. Starting from the first episode, Nate’s “near death” experience, it seemed like they were hinting at the idea that the entire season was some sort of safer, alternate world created on the death bed as an act of contrition or something… That marrying Lisa was a dream-life alternative to his tawdry existence in the sway of Brenda. But a dream-life which quickly took a turn for the sour, the boring. And thus, just as his marriage to Lisa had been dreamed into existence, her death too was Nate’s doing as well…
I was so convinced that this was what was up last season. I was so hoping that they were reopening this line tonight. But not so…
A. Ball, it’s not too late to save your show. To do something honest and a little bit revelatory with it!

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August 19, 2004 at 1:05 am

Posted in Television