31 August 2006

Hiroshima, Mon Amour

The always-wonderful Today in Literature has an interesting entry today on the monumental article "Hiroshima" published on this date, in its entirety, by The New Yorker magazine in 1946.

Long a fan of the period between the wars (roughly 1918-1946), and a great fan of fellow journalists, I had heard about John Hersey's legendary article for years. I did not actually find and read it until just this year -- when I borrowed the Complete New Yorker that I bought Matt for his birthday.

I think what makes it work so well is the slow, determined pace that Hersey uses to introduce the story, the survivors he interviewed, the sights and sounds he experienced. It is certainly not for the faint of heart; but it is dramatic and compelling in its "You are there" story-telling quality.

If you are any kind of fan of excellent writing then this article is a must read. I could not find the complete text online, but the article is available in book form here.

30 August 2006

Is the Illness Worse than the Couric?

You've probably heard the uproar over a re-touched photograph of Katie Couric that appeared in the CBS in-house magazine Watch!.

The story was broken via blogger
TVNewser. (I have posted the before and after photographs. )

CBS officials have dismissed it as an overzealous employee acting without permission or consent of management.

Okay, firstly, I don't care one way or another about Ms. Couric. Network news and its denizens long ago sold out and lost all credibility with me.
Secondly, I don't particularly care about in-house publications or any pretensions they have of journalistic ethics or ability.

All that said, I don't know what annoys me more about this entire affair: that a network built on ethics in journalism would stoop to something so obvious and unethical, or that someone thought that Ms. Couric looked FAT.

I mean, come on: The woman is 49-years-old -- not 17. She is hardly what anyone would call fat, and I am amazed anyone would think that
she needed to have some pounds removed.

Add to that the unethical doctoring of a photograph and you have a snapshot of what has gone terribly, horribly wrong with ethics in journalism specifically, and ethics in this country, generally.

27 August 2006

Radio: Behind the Mike

I assure you, JAC is not turning into another one of those vintage-radio blogs.


However, in scanning the wonderful internet archive, of which I wrote earlier, I found something really keen: It is a great industrial film from 1938 about how radio shows are put together.

"Back of the Mike" shows how the actors read their dialogue, how the sound effects are created (this is especially interesting), how the music cues are added, and other elements -- all live as you hear it.

There are many commercial movies of the time that give a hint of how all this was done --
"The Big Broadcast of 1937" (1936), "Genius at Work" (1946), etc.; but this short film focuses exclusively on the creation of a radio show, with no other plot to get in the way.

You will find this film
here. You can choose to watch it via streaming video, or download different size files.

24 August 2006

And Now There are Eight

It's official: The International Astronomical Union (IAU) approved a new definition of a "planet" -- and Pluto does not make the cut. Read the rather surprising news here.

I think I am happy with the new definition -- nothing against Pluto. The IAU has created a new category that will include Pluto: dwarf planets. I don't know.

21 August 2006

Why Is "Studio 60" Doomed?

I can answer that question with three simple words: horny teenage boys, and the fact this fantastic new drama from NBC has nothing that would appeal to them -- television's target demographic.

We were able to watch the pilot episode of this NBC series last night because the network has some kind of exclusive offer for Netflix subscribers: rent a DVD with the first episodes of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" and "Kidnapped" as well as previews for two other new shows.

"Studio 60" is clever, well-written, incisively observed and character-driven. In short, a diamond in the coal bin of network television that stands no chance of finding an audience.

Here is a list of its faults: Subtle acting, believable characters, and a plot unlike anything else on television. What was NBC thinking? How is this ever going to succeed?

Then, there is the expert writing of Aaron Sorkin ("West Wing"). Every word uttered is totally believable. My favorite line is spoken by the new entertainment president watching news reports of a big fiasco that just occurred at her network. When the reporters keep comparing the event to the movie "Network," she says: "
They've heard of Paddy Chayefsky. That's a step in the right direction."

(This ranks right up there with my favorite line from another doomed television show "All is Forgiven" spoken by a writer who just heard someone quote a famous writer:
"You quoted Tennessee Williams. That means you read!")

If you care about changing the sorry state that is network television today, then you need to rent "Studio 60" from Netflix, or watch it on NBC on 18 September when it premieres. Get it quickly, as quality programming like this will not be around long!

16 August 2006

By Any Other Name

Very interesting article from the New York Times about the new definition of a "planet."

If this is adopted next week by the general assembly of the International Astronomical Union we will have 12 planets instead of the usual 9. How weird is this? Now we will have Ceres592 between Mars and Jupiter, Charon and UB313 outside of the orbit of Pluto.

I dunno. I guess I am more of a purist. To me, a planet should be more than just round and orbiting something.

14 August 2006

Vintage Radio Sources

Mass Bradley asked "Could you publish a list of your fave OTR sites?"

Thank you for asking, Bradley. There are three sites of particular note for listening to and acquiring new episodes of vintage radio and comedy shows.

One of the oldest is When Radio Was -- a daily offering of shows that air on some radio stations across the country. The radio station I worked for in the late 1980s was one of the first to carry this then-new show. I would listen on radio every night. Then our local station stopped carrying it, and the show moved to the internet. You can also purchase episodes from this company.

The newest site (for me) is OTR Fan -- an internet site that, every day, offers new episodes for download, free. I like this site so much I even donated money to it!

Lastly is this wonderful internet archive that relies on people uploading radio programs to it. They are free to download or listen to online.

12 August 2006

Things Radio Taught Me

I love vintage radio and comedy. I listen to shows every day on my ipod or via the internet.

The other day I was trying to figure out just how long I have been interested in vintage radio, and came up with this: about 34 years.

It all started when I was a teen, probably about freshman or sophomore year in high school. Why did I get started? Have no idea. I do know the first show I heard on radio was "The CBS Radio Mystery Theater" hosted by E.G. Marshall. (I got a chance to interview Mr. Marshall and told him about those happy times.)

Imagine my surprise years later when I found out there had been comedies and dramas on radio for about 50 years before "CBS Radio Mystery Theater." I said "What? You mean there were other radio shows?" Ah, for those innocent days.

Anyway, I was also recently thinking about the things I learned about the world listening to those great vintage shows. Here is a list, in no particular order:

1: Times were simpler then. Much.

2: The word "menu" was pronounced differently. I pronounce it "MEN-you"; most people in the 1930s and 1940s (on radio) pronounced it "MAIN-you."

3: Nearly everyone who wrote for radio did not know the proper use of "imply" and "infer" often having characters say "Are you inferring that I did such and such?"

4: Even the most complex mystery can be solved in 30 minutes -- with time to spare for two commercials.

5: The writing in radio is hundreds of times better than the best television writing today.

6: Three women actors have been unjustly forgotten: Marion Jordan ("Fibber McGee and Molly," pictured), Gracie Allen ("Burns and Allen") and Mary Livingston ("The Jack Benny Show.")

7: Add Bea Benaderet to the above list, and make that four.

8: America was one big country during the war, not the splintered fragments it has since become.

9: Women were not considered very bright in the 1920s and 1930s. They somehow got smarter during the war, though. Hmmm....

10: Theater of the mind (which is how radio is often described) is way better than CGI.

Theater of the mind can be really believable. ("War of the Worlds.")

12: Black characters could be played by white actors and no one could tell the difference ("Amos and Andy," and "Beulah").

13: Racism was prevalent in the early years of radio, too.

14: It is said that you could walk down a residential street when "Amos and Andy" was being broadcast and hear an entire episode from all the radios in all the houses tuned to the same station.

The funniest things that happened on radio were unscripted. (Most shows were aired live.)

16: Gale Gordon was in, like, a million radio shows. (Co-starring with Lucille Ball on radio in "My Favorite Husband"; later to co-star with Ball on television in "The Lucy Show.")

17: Hollywood was the place to be in the 1930s.

18: Writing can be good even without the use of obscenities.

19: For some reason, radio actors were not allowed to say the word "lousy." They would say, "That was lou-, uh, bad."

20: According to some science fiction stories, we would be living on the moon in 1964.

21: According to one science fiction story, the world would blow up in 1979. Whew!

07 August 2006

Hollywood Deadies

I assure you, JAC is not turning into another one of those Hollywood blogs.


However, thinking about all those cute dead actors made me think of this
neato website that has everything you want to know about dead Hollywood actors (and a few other people, too).

That, in turn, made me remember this wonderful book Matt gave me a few years ago. Want to know where a famous celeb is buried? It's probably here.

Of course, for the really morbid, turn to "Hollywood Babylon"; or, fitting that there is a sequel, "Hollywood Babylon II".

Then, if you are really gruesome, you could turn to "Death Scenes". (This last one is not for the faint of heart. It has many graphic, often sad, crime scene photographs.)

04 August 2006

Hollywood Hotties

You know, writing about the great Jack Carson yesterday made me start to think about the several actors that really caught my attention when I was a fledgling. I came up with four men who attracted me in several ways -- if you know what I mean -- over the years, and who continue to be something other than average.

The actors are Jack Carson, Ralph Meeker, Wayne Morris and the always dishy Guy Madison (pictured in order, right).

I started thinking: Do I still like them because they were actually talented (which they all were, in one way or another) or because I was somehow attracted to them in those formative years before I really understood what it meant when one man was attracted to another?

Jack Carson was good in everything he did -- notably "Mildred Pierce" (1945) which proved he was an actor with range and talent.

Ralph Meeker has a lot more going for him than a great ass -- truly. Just watch a few minutes of "Kiss Me Deadly" (1955) and you'll know what I mean.

Wayne Morris was good in the early years of his career (the 1930s) especially "Kid Galahad" (1937).

Then there is Guy Madison. Sigh. Guy Madison: dead ten years and still as hot as the day he first appeared in front of the camera ("Since You Went Away," 1944). No one could ever mistake him for a man with talent -- at least, not acting talent. But put him in a pair of Navy pants, and -- wowwee!

So, I guess I answered my question.

03 August 2006

Just Jack

Isn't Jack Carson just wonderful? I have loved his acting since I was a little kid (drawn, I suppose, to his classy style and roguish good looks). It is a pity he is not more widely known and appreciated.

He finally has a fan site devoted just to him. You will find it here.