TV Goes Downhill


Picture taken at Georgia Aquarium, pictured is...
Picture taken at Georgia Aquarium, pictured is one of the two resident male whale sharks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

TV Goes Downhill

The lowest common denominator. That apparently is the demographic television programming is looking for if these reinventions are to make any sense. Of course, maybe doing real programming is hard. After all, how much brains does it take to do “Shark Week?”

I have some old VHS tapes with programming from the Discovery Channel and the History Channel, powerful learned television shows with meaning. Now, my college students complain about the low quality of the programming and how little science or history is being covered.

Is there a business ethics issue here? Well, there is something wrong about advertising yourself as dealing with serious scientific, cultural or historical matters, and then producing junk designed for the inquisitive mind of, “Well, nobody.” Inquisitive minds aren’t wanted there.

And there is the lost opportunity of appealing to what is best in humanity, thrown away endlessly seeking higher ratings or a younger demographic. Whether that is a business ethics problem depends on your interpretation.

I don’t watch those programs anymore. I don’t think anybody should.

James Pilant

TV’s 10 most bizarre reinventions – Salon.com

http://www.salon.com/2013/10/25/tvs_10_most_bizarre_reinventions/

All across the dial, cable networks have shed their identities in order to become things far stranger — and, often, a bit less highbrow — than they’d been initially. The network formerly known as History Channel (now it’s just History) has defined the academic subject as including ancient aliens and truckers; TV Land’s reruns have gone from old-school classics to stuff from 10 years ago; just about every fine-arts channel broadcasts reality TV now.

It makes sense — in a crowded market, no one’s going to subsidize a network that does something unpopular. All these networks once did slightly different things, but now many have shifted toward the same model: broadcasting unscripted shows depicting a particular corner of the American experience (trucking, pawnbroking, being a pampered wife of one variety or another). Still, there’s something a bit wistful about imagining each of these cable networks’ original iterations frozen in amber — rather than a dial full of similar-looking broadcasts, we could have a gleefully out-of-step Bravo and A&E doing British costume drama, and medical oddities all over TLC. Oh well–there’s always reading!

via TV’s 10 most bizarre reinventions – Salon.com.

From around the web.

From the web site, Blogs, Discover Magazine.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/science-sushi/2013/08/05/shark-week-jumps-the-shark-an-open-letter-to-discovery-communications/

While there may be a debate about what “sightings” may be, there is one thing that scientists are sure of: Megalodon is extinct.

Part of me is furious with you, Discovery, for doing this. But mostly, I’m just deeply saddened. It’s inexplicably depressing that you’ve gone from “the world’s #1 nonfiction media company” to peddling lies and faking stories for ratings. You’ve compromised your integrity so completely with this special, and that breaks my heart. I loved you, Discovery, ever since I was a child. I grew up watching you. It was partly because of you that I became transfixed by the natural world and pursued a career in science. I once dreamed of having my own Discovery Channel special, following in the footsteps of people like Jeff Corwin. Not anymore. This is inexcusable. You have an obligation to your viewers to hold to your non-fiction claims. You used to expose the beautiful, magical, wonderful sides of the world around us. Now, you just make shit up for profit. It’s depressing. It’s disgusting. It’s wrong.

I won’t be watching the rest of Shark Week. I simply can’t.

From the web site, From New York to San Francisco.

http://gcaggiano.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/history-channels-chasing-tail-are-you-kidding-me/

I’m not even going to bother sliding into my regular shtick about how far the network has fallen, or how I would take the 24/7 Hitler and Nazi Germany program broadcasting of the 90′s any day over this garbage, because it is a fruitless effort. Apparently, I am in the minority when it comes to opinion on programming. I guess I should feel silly for wanting the History Channel to stop putting on shows where toothless red-necks blast alligator brains out with shotguns and then jump up and down in their little boats hootin’ n’ hollerin’ with unintelligible grunts like they just won the lottery. I am amazed, after seeing shows like that, at how surprised people from the Deep South are when they are looked at as being backwards hicks. Do not blame northern ignorance, my friends, blame the media and popular culture that has turned your society into a hole of filth and slime. At least Chasing Tail is going to do something to repair the damage done: it will show that northerners can be hicks too!

I do not know what is even left anymore. H2 used to always be the safe haven when the History Channel started going to hell, but even that is being corrupted with asinine, pseudo-historical shows like America Unearthed, where the host, Scott Wolter, can make an entire episode centered around a microscopic carving on a rock and lead the viewer on a baseless quest around the country to misrepresent far-reaching theories as fact, and then find absolutely no concrete evidence to back anything up. This show, in format and principle, is identical to Ancient Aliens. The latter attempts to say that everything the ancients built on earth was really built by aliens, while the former attempts to say that everything ancient Americans built on this continent was really built by foreigners. Is there a difference? I acknowledge that the history books are wrong and there is more than meets the eye, but without actual evidence, the shows are absolutely useless. Maybe if I carved a cross onto the tree in my backyard I could get the crew to come down to try to prove that the Knights Templar hid the Holy Grail in Hazlet, New Jersey. Maybe if I find a really big squirrel climbing that same tree I can get Monsterquest to come out of retirement and have a double whammy!

 

What I Am Watching Tonight–Documentary on the Battle of the Bulge


 

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Battle Of The Bulge | Generals At War | Battlefield Documentary – YouTube

A good documentary, not great, but good.

I have always found the Battle of the Bulge one of the more interesting of the battles fought in the 20th century. An overconfident American army attacked and driven back in disorder, then rallies and drives the Germans back to their start lines in about thirty days. The Germans expend their last reserves  of men, tanks and supplies all in a doomed effort to reach Antwerp and split the English and American armies in two.

I didn’t really find out anything new. There was a demonstration of the shaped charge effect (bazookas and other hollow charged weapons) that was good. I thought the demonstration of the effect of the proximity fuse far less convincing. A casual watcher would not have realized what a dramatic change this made in warfare.

The documentary was too kind to General Montgomery. Now, you could argue that the film said very little about him. That’s my problem. Montgomery’s conduct after the battle in which he explained how he saved the American army should make him a target of ridicule, and I didn’t see that and wanted to.

James Pilant

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What I Am Watching Tonight–Documentary on the Battle of the Bulge


 

Our fighting men in Afghanistan still need books today – please contribute.

Battle Of The Bulge | Generals At War | Battlefield Documentary – YouTube

A good documentary, not great, but good.

I have always found the Battle of the Bulge one of the more interesting of the battles fought in the 20th century. An overconfident American army attacked and driven back in disorder, then rallies and drives the Germans back to their start lines in about thirty days. The Germans expend their last reserves  of men, tanks and supplies all in a doomed effort to reach Antwerp and split the English and American armies in two.

I didn’t really find out anything new. There was a demonstration of the shaped charge effect (bazookas and other hollow charged weapons) that was good. I thought the demonstration of the effect of the proximity fuse far less convincing. A casual watcher would not have realized what a dramatic change this made in warfare.

The documentary was too kind to General Montgomery. Now, you could argue that the film said very little about him. That’s my problem. Montgomery’s conduct after the battle in which he explained how he saved the American army should make him a target of ridicule, and I didn’t see that and wanted to.

James Pilant

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Abraham Lincoln’s Legal Ethics


Abraham Lincoln’s Legal Ethics

Lincoln accepted fees that he regarded as fair, sometimes even refusing to accept fees. He was certainly not a “job creator,” not rich, by the standards of the time, and his wife tended to spend money freely. Certainly with a growing family and some political ambitions, he could have used more money but he was unwilling to treat his clients in what he regarded as an unfair manner whatever the professional customs of the time dictated. When confronted by an ethical dilemma, he went his own way. He did not appear to be concerned with the question, “What does everybody else do?”

James Pilant

Abraham Lincoln’s Legal Ethics

“CATCH ‘EM AND CHEAT ‘EM.”

The lawyers on the circuit traveled by Lincoln got together one night and tried him on the charge of accepting fees which tended to lower the established rates. It was the understood rule that a lawyer should accept all the client could be induced to pay. The tribunal was known as “The Ogmathorial Court.”

Ward Lamon, his law partner at the time, tells about it:

“Lincoln was found guilty and fined for his awful crime against the pockets of his brethren of the bar. The fine he paid with great good humor, and then kept the crowd of lawyers in uproarious laughter until after midnight.

“He persisted in his revolt, however, declaring that with his consent his firm should never during its life, or after its dissolution, deserve the reputation enjoyed by those shining lights of the profession, ‘Catch ’em and Cheat ’em.'”

And another story –

CREDITOR PAID DEBTORS DEBT.

A certain rich man in Springfield, Illinois, sued a poor attorney for $2.50, and Lincoln was asked to prosecute the case. Lincoln urged the creditor to let the matter drop, adding, “You can make nothing out of him, and it will cost you a good deal more than the debt to bring suit.” The creditor was still determined to have his way, and threatened to seek some other attorney. Lincoln then said, “Well, if you are determined that suit should be brought, I will bring it; but my charge will be $10.”

The money was paid him, and peremptory orders were given that the suit be brought that day. After the client’s departure Lincoln went out of the office, returning in about an hour with an amused look on his face.

Asked what pleased him, he replied, “I brought suit against ——, and then hunted him up, told him what I had done, handed him half of the $10, and we went over to the squire’s office. He confessed judgment and paid the bill.”

Lincoln added that he didn’t see any other way to make things satisfactory for his client as well as the other.

And another –

NEVER SUED A CLIENT.

If a client did not pay, Lincoln did not believe in suing for the fee. When a fee was paid him his custom was to divide the money into two equal parts, put one part into his pocket, and the other into an envelope labeled “Herndon’s share.”

And still one more –

“RATHER STARVE THAN SWINDLE.”

Ward Lamon, once Lincoln’s law partner, relates a story which places Lincoln’s high sense of honor in a prominent light. In a certain case, Lincoln and Lamon being retained by a gentleman named Scott, Lamon put the fee at $250, and Scott agreed to pay it. Says Lamon:

“Scott expected a contest, but, to his surprise, the case was tried inside of twenty minutes; our success was complete. Scott was satisfied, and cheerfully paid over the money to me inside the bar, Lincoln looking on. Scott then went out, and Lincoln asked, ‘What did you charge that man?’

“I told him $250. Said he: ‘Lamon, that is all wrong. The service was not worth that sum. Give him back at least half of it.’

“I protested that the fee was fixed in advance; that Scott was perfectly satisfied, and had so expressed himself. ‘That may be,’ retorted Lincoln, with a look of distress and of undisguised displeasure, ‘but I am not satisfied. This is positively wrong. Go, call him back and return half the money at least, or I will not receive one cent of it for my share.’

“I did go, and Scott was astonished when I handed back half the fee.

“This conversation had attracted the attention of the lawyers and the court. Judge David Davis, then on our circuit bench (afterwards Associate Justice on the United States Supreme bench), called Lincoln to him. The Judge never could whisper, but in this instance he probably did his best. At all events, in attempting to whisper to Lincoln he trumpeted his rebuke in about these words, and in rasping tones that could be heard all over the court-room: ‘Lincoln, I have been watching you and Lamon. You are impoverishing this bar by your picayune charges of fees, and the lawyers have reason to complain of you. You are now almost as poor as Lazarus, and if you don’t make people pay you more for your services you will die as poor as Job’s turkey!’

“Judge O. L. Davis, the leading lawyer in that part of the State, promptly applauded this malediction from the bench; but Lincoln was immovable.

“‘That money,’ said he, ‘comes out of the pocket of a poor, demented girl, and I would rather starve than swindle her in this manner.'”

From – LINCOLN’S YARNS AND STORIES

A Complete Collection of the Funny and Witty Anecdotes that made Abraham Lincoln Famous as America’s Greatest Story Teller With Introduction and Anecdotes

By Alexander K. McClure

(This material is in the public domain.)

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Abraham Lincoln and the Bottom 47%


Abraham Lincoln and the bottom 47%

Abraham Lincoln and the Bottom 47%

Recently, a presidential candidate referred to bottom 47% of the American population as self identified victims. Abraham Lincoln had a different view of the poor. He had a deep concern for the less fortunate in society as is illustrated by this story (below). Would we lived in such times that this kind of judgment (and the kind of man who would make it) were honored and esteemed. Instead we are told to worship and respect the “job creators,” the PR name for what are often little more than predators.

James Pilant

 

“AND YOU DON’T WEAR HOOPSKIRTS.”

 

An Ohio Senator had an appointment with President Lincoln at six o’clock, and as he entered the vestibule of the White House his attention was attracted toward a poorly clad young woman, who was violently sobbing. He asked her the cause of her distress. She said she had been ordered away by the servants, after vainly waiting many hours to see the President about her only brother, who had been condemned to death. Her story was this:

 She and her brother were foreigners, and orphans. They had been in this country several years. Her brother enlisted in the army, but, through bad influences, was induced to desert. He was captured, tried and sentenced to be shot—the old story.

 The poor girl had obtained the signatures of some persons who had formerly known him, to a petition for a pardon, and alone had come to Washington to lay the case before the President. Thronged as the waiting-rooms always were, she had passed the long hours of two days trying in vain to get an audience, and had at length been ordered away.

 The gentleman’s feelings were touched. He said to her that he had come to see the President, but did not know as he should succeed. He told her, however, to follow him upstairs, and he would see what could be done for her.

 Just before reaching the door, Mr. Lincoln came out, and, meeting his friend, said good-humoredly, “Are you not ahead of time?” The gentleman showed him his watch, with the hand upon the hour of six.

 “Well,” returned Mr. Lincoln, “I have been so busy to-day that I have not had time to get a lunch. Go in and sit down; I will be back directly.”

 The gentleman made the young woman accompany him into the office, and when they were seated, said to her: “Now, my good girl, I want you to muster all the courage you have in the world. When the President comes back, he will sit down in that armchair. I shall get up to speak to him, and as I do so you must force yourself between us, and insist upon his examination of your papers, telling him it is a case of life and death, and admits of no delay.” These instructions were carried out to the letter. Mr. Lincoln was at first somewhat surprised at the apparent forwardness of the young woman, but observing her distressed appearance, he ceased conversation with his friend, and commenced an examination of the document she had placed in his hands.

 Glancing from it to the face of the petitioner, whose tears had broken forth afresh, he studied its expression for a moment, and then his eye fell upon her scanty but neat dress. Instantly his face lighted up.

 “My poor girl,” said he, “you have come here with no Governor, or Senator, or member of Congress to plead your cause. You seem honest and truthful; and you don’t wear hoopskirts—and I will be whipped but I will pardon your brother.” And he did.

From – LINCOLN’S YARNS AND STORIES

A Complete Collection of the Funny and Witty Anecdotes that made Abraham Lincoln Famous as America’s Greatest Story Teller With Introduction and Anecdotes

By Alexander K. McClure

(This material is in the public domain.)

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Abraham Lincoln’s Business Ethics


Abraham Lincoln’s business ethics

Abraham Lincoln’s Business Ethics

Abraham Lincoln on being presented with a moral conundrum chose to “bend” the rules. Generally speaking, it is wrong to break the rules but it is also wrong to unquestionably obey them under all circumstances. Lincoln knew when to bend the rules. 

James Pilant

HE “SKEWED” THE LINE.

When a surveyor, Mr. Lincoln first platted the town of Petersburg, Ill. Some twenty or thirty years afterward the property-owners along one of the outlying streets had trouble in fixing their boundaries. They consulted the official plat and got no relief. A committee was sent to Springfield to consult the distinguished surveyor, but he failed to recall anything that would give them aid, and could only refer them to the record. The dispute therefore went into the courts. While the trial was pending, an old Irishman named McGuire, who had worked for some farmer during the summer, returned to town for the winter. The case being mentioned in his presence, he promptly said: “I can tell you all about it. I helped carry the chain when Abe Lincoln laid out this town. Over there where they are quarreling about the lines, when he was locating the street, he straightened up from his instrument and said: ‘If I run that street right through, it will cut three or four feet off the end of ——’s house. It’s all he’s got in the world and he never could get another. I reckon it won’t hurt anything out here if I skew the line a little and miss him.”‘

The line was “skewed,” and hence the trouble, and more testimony furnished as to Lincoln’s abounding kindness of heart, that would not willingly harm any human being.

From – LINCOLN’S YARNS AND STORIES

A Complete Collection of the Funny and Witty Anecdotes that made Abraham Lincoln Famous as America’s Greatest Story Teller With Introduction and Anecdotes

By Alexander K. McClure

(This material is in the public domain.)

 

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What I am watching tonight: Wings of the Luftwaffe – Me-321 – Gigant (6 of 14) – YouTube


Mussolini (left) and Hitler sent their armies ...

Mussolini (left) and Hitler sent their armies to North Africa and into Egypt against the British (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The Second World War has fascinated me since I was a teenager. I was born only eleven years after the end of that war and my early television watching contained a great deal of what were for many, the still burning issues of the war.

James Pilant

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Listen to the “Morality” of Laissez-faire.


The English government during the Irish Famine of 1845 – 1852 adhered strictly to a doctrine of Laissez-faire. I want you to listen to the cold blooded ramblings of a government in thrall to a cruel, vicious and irrational policy concept. This is where economic philosophy confronted tragedy and compounded it.

Watch the clip and see if you can avoid recoiling in horror at the voices of the decision makers mindlessly repeating the necessity of letting the market have its way.

James Pilant

Laissez-faire

When Ireland Starved Episode 3 Managing The Famine (Part 1 of 3) – YouTube

When Ireland Starved Episode 3 Managing The Famine (Part 1 of 3) – YouTube

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Acting in China Offers Political Insights


English: Margaret Thatcher, former UK PM. Fran...

Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes I find writing so striking and delightful that I want to share it with you.

This is from Salon’s web site and is written by Melissa Rayworth. She wants to convey the political insights she gained while acting in China.

Please, please go to the link at the bottom of the page and read the whole thing.

Sometimes, here in the U.S. we get that the impression that the Chinese want or are becoming like us. I don’t think so. Read and see what you think.

James Pilant

Playing Margaret Thatcher in China – The Iron Lady –  from Salon.com

Finally, they began to realize I wasn’t bluffing. Furious, the director summoned an assistant, who appeared with a bulging black leather case. Unzipping it, he pulled out thick wads of Chinese currency and counted out the cash. With my pay sitting in my backpack under those same ill-fitting shoes I wore tumbling down the steps at the Great Hall, I played my last scene as Margaret Thatcher.

Between takes, no one spoke. I’d proven them right about me – and about her. I had forced their director to negotiate with me, just like the Iron Lady had forced Deng. Face had been lost. My hope that playing this role might humanize Thatcher for Chinese audiences had failed. I had fallen down those steps for nothing.

Playing Margaret Thatcher in China – The Iron Lady – Salon.com

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PBS is a Worthy Investment


paula kerger

Image by kthread via Flickr

Paula Kerger, PBS Chief, Calls For Views To Oppose Mitt Romney’s Stance Towards TV Funding

PBS chief Paula Kerger said Wednesday that she recognizes the United States has to make tough budget decisions but defended PBS as an effective public-private partnership.

Paula Kerger, PBS Chief, Calls For Views To Oppose Mitt Romney’s Stance Towards TV Funding

Watching regular television is a depressing experience. A constant barrage of ads designed to magnify every insecurity to sell products. I tend to believe modern television viewing exacerbates psychological problems.

But we in the United States have an alternative. We can watch public broadcasting. We can be enlightened. Our children can watch television without a constant barrage of sugar cereal ads and pleas to buy the latest toys.

I use some of their shows like Frontline for my classes. They deal with subjects with a great deal of documentary skill. I enjoy the History Channel and the like but sometimes their work is more a hash of history cliches than well assembled stories.

Some of the best viewing experiences of my life have been PBS programs. That’s where I learned about Kurosawa and Goddard. I absorbed a lot of history and learned to think outside the intellectual limits of rural Oklahoma.

There are those that believe that the free market produces the best possible outcome. They haven’t watched “Two and a Half Men,” a weekly half hour about a libertine whose impulses are out of control, a neurotic brother with a son so dumb, you wish the father has satisfied his fatherly urges by getting a pet. The show features discussion of unusual sex acts, fart jokes and a parade of easy women. Thus, the free market in action; a show aimed at a horny 14 year old.

Once this is published, someone is going to write me about the poor souls who do not watch public television and argue that they shouldn’t bear a burden of taxation for what interests me.

Yes, let’s excuse people from paying property taxes for schools because they don’t have any children. or pay for roads, police, firemen, soldiers they don’t use unless there’s war, etc.

Having a country in which there is a certain degree of belief in scientific beliefs, some investigative reporting and knowledge of common cultural and historical heritage is also a worthy goal.

That there are many people who have a philosophy of “if I can’t figure out how much money it’s worth, it’s a pointless activity,” is a sign of a declining civilization gradually descending into a third world status of ignorance.

While there is art, culture and literature, there is still some hope that the experiences of Americans will be respected, the we might be able to live lives of significance, and there might be a common cultural heritage of something more than fart jokes and quotations of corporate quarterly profits.

James Pilant

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