Saturday, July 18, 2009

That's the way it is.

"Look at those pictures, wow!"
- Walter Cronkite on the Apollo 11 moon landing.
NEW YORK – Walter Cronkite, the premier TV anchorman of the networks' golden age who reported a tumultuous time with reassuring authority and came to be called "the most trusted man in America," died Friday. He was 92. Cronkite's longtime chief of staff, Marlene Adler, said Cronkite died at 7:42 p.m. at his Manhattan home surrounded by family. She said the cause of death was cerebral vascular disease. Cronkite was the face of the "CBS Evening News" from 1962 to 1981, when stories ranged from the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to racial and anti-war riots, Watergate and the Iranian hostage crisis.
Every year, somebody publishes a list of overpaid personalities. Most of them are in television and more than a few read the news for a living. People who read weather forecasts and host popular television shows are on the list too. Ryan Seacrest makes $36 million a year for saying "Welcome to American Idol." That's disconcerting. For 36 million, your job should be something that almost nobody else could do. Almost everybody else could do his job.
People called Cronkite "the most trusted man in America," which is odd because almost all of us had never met him, so one wonders where the trust came from. Maybe somebody has a story about asking Cronkite to house-sit while they were on vacation, and when they came back, all their silverware was gone. We'll never hear it. I suppose the trust comes from a day when television news was a big deal. His voice and persona were key. Now, the news is pretty much a shill for the network programming and a big promotional loss leader. Tonight's guest on Letterman is part of the news.
What they do mostly is tell us what happened. They read us stuff that has already happened. Maybe they write their own copy, maybe they don't. Most of them aren't allowed to editorialize. If they do, they're called out and given time off for expressing an opinion.
Cronkite's era was during the space program and the unrest in the country over civil rights. There was no Internet. People got their news from TV or the newspapers. Television news was the Internet in Cronkite's time. The immediacy of television was a wonderment for people like me who are 51 now and children of the space program. "Live pictures from the moon." Wow.
I guess we'll never go back to those times when TV news was our prime source of information and the people who read it to us were journalists. Now, they're judged on some Q score or how they look while they're talking. They make millions for some reason, even though their job isn't nearly as important to America as it used to be.
Cronkite was the broadcaster to whom the title "anchorman" was first applied, and he came so identified in that role that eventually his own name became the term for the job in other languages. (Swedish anchors are known as Kronkiters; In Holland, they are Cronkiters.)
"He was a great broadcaster and a gentleman whose experience, honesty, professionalism and style defined the role of anchor and commentator," CBS Corp. chief executive Leslie Moonves said in a statement.
CBS has scheduled a prime-time special, "That's the Way it Was: Remembering Walter Cronkite," for 7 p.m. Sunday.
There isn't a space program to romanticize or a war that has only TV as its outlet. People like Walter Cronkite are historical figures because they aren't necessary anymore, like straight razors or turntables.
We lost him on Friday, but we lost his kind a long time ago.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Tiger Schmiger.

Golf is one of those things. Sometimes, it's a little too sophisticated for its own good. The tournament the men are playing this week used to be called The British Open. Now, it's called The Open, as though that makes it sound sophisticated. Players gripe about clicking cameras (why a digital camera has to 'click' is beyond me) and spectators making noise. The men's game is only a little more haughty than the women's game. They make more money and - well - they're men, so it stands to reason that they'd have tighter sphincters than the girls.
Today at The Open, Tiger Woods missed the cut. That means that his score after two rounds wasn't low enough to allow him to play on Saturday. MC they call it. When athletes in other sports miss the playoffs, they book rounds of golf for their off-time. What do golfers do? Book a batting cage? For Tiger, I'm assuming he goes home and pouts. He seems like the type. The type who just can't believe he lost, and he'll kick himself for a couple of weeks until he gets another chance to show the world how good he is.
He's a bit of a brat, I think. I respect his ability, but I don't like him that much. When he doesn't play well he flips clubs, pouts and complains about camera noise and spectators. Otherwise, he's a happy guy, because he's better than them. I think we all know people like that. The guy who is so good at something that he breezes through it nonchalantly, but when he struggles we all know about it because he starts griping and throwing stuff.
The bigger issue is what TV is going to do this weekend. They probably booked ads based on the fact that their meal ticket (spelled T-i-g-e-r) would be competing for the title. Now that he's on a British Air flight back to Florida, the TV ratings aren't looking very good. I can't imagine millions of viewers tuning in to see Ross Fisher and Steve Marino. Tom Watson is still playing, but you are well outside the 18 to 39 demographic if you remember anything about Tom Watson, or that it used to be called The British Open. That's death for television. We're too old for them to care about or pander to. The gang at ABC Sports is staining their pants over it. Suddenly, viewers will discover that the outside world is looking pretty good out their window.
Who knows, they might even be out playing golf.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Croc toast.

On Saturday I said that "I don't get flip-flops." That sentiment goes for Crocs as well. Generally, I don't know why anyone would want to wear a shoe with no back, held to your foot by only a thin strap.
I never figured out the Crocs either. A hunk of rubber that you have to shuffle your feet to keep them attached. They were popular. Were. I think their popularity had something to do with nurses wearing them in hospitals. How that translated to people wearing them in public is beyond me. Now finally, it appears that the company is struggling.
Last year the company lost $185.1 million, slashed roughly 2,000 jobs and scrambled to find money to pay down millions in debt. Now it's stuck with a surplus of shoes, and its auditors have wondered if it can stay afloat. It has until the end of September to pay off its debt.
"The company's toast," said Damon Vickers, who manages an investment fund at Nine Points Capital Partners in Seattle. "They're zombie-ish. They're dead and they don't know it."
They're blaming their collapse on the economy. That's what fringe companies do when things go bad. They blame the weather, gas prices, inflation or some other outside force. Anything but consumer intelligence, which I think is the case here. Sheep consumers latched onto a strange fashion statement, completely disregarding the tidal wave of hype that washed over them. Once they came to their senses (i.e. the shoes wore out) they realized how silly they had behaved.
Goodbye Crocs. You're going the way of the Nehru jacket, the Leisure Suit and Capri pants as things people will look at and say, "We wore that?"

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The American Justice system.

MAYS LANDING, N.J. - A New Jersey man has pleaded guilty to stealing 91 lobster tails from an Atlantic City casino's kitchen by cramming them into his jacket and backpack. He's been sentenced to four years in prison.
Anthony Jones took the frozen lobsters from Bally's Atlantic City in February and tried to sneak them out in his jacket and backpack. A security guard monitoring a surveillance camera noticed his clothes were unusually bulky, and stopped him.
He pleaded guilty to burglary on Friday in a deal with prosecutors, who dropped additional charges.
PHILADELPHIA, PA. — A juror in the corruption trial of former state Sen. Vincent Fumo says she is baffled by the 55-month sentence handed down this week.Counselor Myrna DeVoren of Haverford is among those who convicted the Philadelphia Democrat of all 137 counts. The jury believes he defrauded the state senate and two nonprofits of millions.
DeVoren says she is "surprised and baffled" by the sentence, which amounts to 12 days per felony. Federal prosecutors say they may appeal. U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter sharply cut Fumo's sentence from the 15 years they sought and the 20-plus years recommended in a probation report. Buckwalter says he gave Fumo credit for his extraordinary public service.
Extraordinary public service? You mean the part where he stole and profited from being in office? That public service.
So, let that be a lesson to you. If you're going to steal lobster tails, you're better off stealing money from non-profits.
Four years in prison for lobster. 55 months for 37 felonies as a State Senator.
Talk amonst yourselves.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Beer for dinner.

I arrived home tonight to this little view. Two menus from Mi Famila Pizzeria on the stairway to my condo. Presumably, one for me (on the left) and one for my neighbor. Four steps from the bottom. C'mon, dude - show some initiative. At least the Chinese places have the gumption to walk up the stairs and hang the menu on my doorknob. Interestingly, the menu proclaims WE DELIVER. One assumes, from the way they deliver menus, that they take the food to a point about a quarter mile from your house and make you carry it the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, tonight is the Home Run Derby. The Home Run Derby falls under the category of "Junk Sports." Summer fluff made-for-TV events with guys competing for the title of "Best Batting Practice Hitter." I can't get worked up over it. Are they home runs if there isn't a game and you don't run the bases? It's like T-ball for grown-ups. And I really can't handle listening to Chris Berman scream for 3 hours. Or 5 minutes. Watch it and let me know how it comes out.
While wandering around the Saucon Valley course on Sunday, a couple of women behind me were having a conversation about what one of them was calling a lany-ard. She repeated it at least three times, so I know she thought they were called lany-ards. In those situations, it takes all of my willpower not to turn around and say "Lan-yard" and I didn't, which is a feather in my cap.
It's another feather that I'm not running around correcting people for saying Holiday when they're talking about Roy Halliday, the Toronto Blue Jays' pitcher currently on the trading block and the subject of talk among Phillies fans who have convinced themselves that the Phils are going after him in a trade. Hal-i-day. Repeat. Christmas is a holiday.
If I were running the team (and don't they wish I were) I'd call the Blue Jays and fax them a minor league roster and say, "Pick three." Prospects are just that - prospects. For every Cole Hamels there are a hundred Pat Combs', Ken Dowell's, Gavin Floyd's and a host of others who the team thought were future Hall of Famers who probably wound up selling cars with Jack Taschner. Trade a prospect. You'll make more. There is only one Roy Halliday.
I enjoyed that World Series run and the parade. I also enjoyed sex. 'd like to do them both again.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Back to the real world.

Today at Saucon Valley was picture perfect. Warm air, a nice breeze and the golf course. I set out mid-morning to do what my friends refer to as "stalking the golfer chick" and arrived in plenty of time for her 11:50am tee time. After yesterday's disastrous 8-over par round, today was merely a formality. She started the day at 6-over, 8 shots off the lead. It would take some sort of miracle for her to have a chance to win. As it was, she shot 2-under to finish in a tie for sixth, which was nice considering how bad Saturday was.
For my trouble, I received a pat on the back from her mom and a "you're a true fan" comment as I stood at the first fairway waiting for her opening tee shot. I said, "If I'm going to be here when she's 2-under, I have to be here when she's 6-over." True.
She played much better today, for what it was worth. The nice part of it was that the gallery following her was much smaller than the contingent when she played with Lorena Ochoa on Thursday and Friday. As for me, I left when her round was over. There wasn't anyone on the leaderboard I was particularly interested in, plus the 18th green isn't exactly the best vantage point for a final hole. The grandstands were packed, and there isn't much room in standing room. Third round leader Christie Kerr fell off the pace, and Eun-Hee Ji won by a stoke on a birdie putt on the 18th hole. She seems like a nice kid.
As for the tournament, it was great. A real first-class event. I'm always amazed when I wander around the course and think about the infrastructure and preparation involved in staging one of these things. At least 8 holes had constructed grandstands, every hole had a set of volunteers lining the tee, fairway and green. Every player had a set of people with them - a standard bearer, scorekeeper, caddies and a couple of other people whose purpose I didn't know. Each hole had a rules official. There were TV stands, the Metlife blimp, a ton of concession stands and about a thousand portable toilets. The one drawback: There was no place to wash your hands. They had that alcohol goop, but that just gums up my fingers after a while.
Best surprise: A nice food stand run by Mr. Bill's Poultry in Allentown. They had awesome chicken sausages with feta cheese, spinach and spices. If you're in the Allentown Farmer's Market, stop by and take some home.
So, the week of paradise is lost and it's back to work tomorrow. Now comes the summer and 4 Dave Matthews Band shows, the first one in two weeks.