Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mister November?

It's tough to be a sports fan. Especially if you're sleep-dependant and you're trying to watch games and show up for work on time.
My standard answer for almost every question I am asked is either "television" or "money." Sometimes it's both. OK, most times it's both. But the point is that television and money dictate policy for just about everything, and sports is not only the exception but the rule.
It's playoff time, and the games have odd start times. Times like 7:57, 8:19 and 4:19 are common. One might wonder why, unless they know the secret "television" answer. The games have those unusual start times because TV ratings are counted in quarter-hour increments. When games start at those times, viewers are counted for the quarter hour before and after the actual time, so TV gets credit for a half-hour, even if the game is delayed by rain, earthquake, fire or flood. Advertising rates are dictated by ratings, and television is beholden to advertising to the point that they will inconvenience viewers so that they can make their ad revenue.
It isn't important to television that baseball fans are used to games starting at 7:05 EDT. What is important to television is that games occupy the precious prime time viewing area - from 8:00 to 11:00pm - when advertising is at a premium.
Not only that, but commercial breaks for network playoff games are at least a minute longer than those in the regular season, so when you multiply that by the 18 to 25 commercial breaks (for innings and pitching changes) games typically run about a half hour longer than they normally do. When the games start at 8:19, that keeps those of us on the east coast up until around midnight waiting for the outcome. If you're wondering if TV cares about that, the answer is no.
They also don't care about our plans for attending games, evidenced by the confusing start times for games. I have tickets for Saturday's potential game 6 between the Phillies and Giants. As of today, the start time is listed as either 4:57 or 8:19. Why? It depends on the outcome of the Yankees/Rangers series. If the Yankees win on Friday and live to fight another day, the Phils will be given the 4:57 start time, leaving the prime time start for the sacred Yankees. We are forced to wait until the outcome of that series before we can make plans for Saturday, because television is in charge of baseball, instead of the other way around.
I think it's about time for baseball and sports in general to tell television that if they want to show the games (and they do) then they will do so when baseball dictates it. That will put an end to the 5 or 6 day waiting periods between series so that television can get their weekend games. As it is, the World Series could potentially last until November 6, when game 7 would be played.
So much for Mister October.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Don't vote for a jackass

In a follow-up to yesterday's essay about the problems with finding quality entertainment, I present one about the problems of finding quality representation - or at least the problem with finding quality people for whom to vote. To wit:

WILMINGTON, Del. – Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell of Delaware on Tuesday questioned whether the Constitution calls for a separation of church and state, appearing to disagree or not know that the First Amendment bars the government from establishing religion.

The exchange came in a debate before an audience of legal scholars and law students at Widener University Law School, as O'Donnell criticized Democratic nominee Chris Coons' position that teaching creationism in public school would violate the First Amendment by promoting religious doctrine. Coons said private and parochial schools are free to teach creationism but that "religious doctrine doesn't belong in our public schools."

"Local schools do not have the right to teach what they feel?" O'Donnell said. "Talk about imposing your beliefs on the local schools." When O'Donnell cited "indispensable principles" of the Founding Fathers in her criticism of an overreaching federal government, Coons interrupted her to say, "One of those indispensable principles is the separation of church and state."

It isn't a shock to find that O'Donnell doesn't know the Constitution that Delaware voters would elect her to represent. What is a shock is that she is so vehemently supportive of her screwball viewpoint.
"Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" O'Donnell asked, a statement that drew laughter from the audience. When Coons returned to the topic a few minutes later, he said her comment "reveals her fundamental misunderstanding of what our Constitution is."

"The First Amendment establishes the separation, the fact that the federal government shall not establish religion," Coons said.

"The First Amendment does?" O'Donnell interrupted. "You're telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?"

When Coons summarized the amendment as saying government shall make no law establishing religion, O'Donnell interrupted again: "That's in the First Amendment?"

OK then. I would compare this election to the way people like Snooki and other so-called celebrities whose 15 minutes of fame is accompanied by some embarrassing moment that makes me wonder why they were ever in the public eye to begin with. There is a certain amount of what one calls "paying your dues" that people like O'Donnell and others do not have any acquaintance with, hence their problems when it comes to dealing with minor issues like determining what the first amendment of the Constitution says or whether or not they can behave themselves in public.

And who is Christine O'Donnell, you ask (you did, right?)

O'Donnell first became involved in politics in 1991 when she worked the polls for the College Republicans. She was a youth leader for the Bush-Quayle campaign and attended the 1992 Republican National Convention. The following year she worked for three months in Washington D.C for the anti-pornography organization, Enough is Enough. She then spent two years working in the communications office of the Republican National Committee in Washington D.C. Disappointed that the Republican Party had shifted its emphasis away from pro-life issues after the 1994 election, she quit the RNC and went to work for one year as a spokesperson for Concerned Women for America, a conservative Christian group that seeks to bring biblical principles into public policy and lobbies against abortion and against sex education in public schools.

That's a lot like being on "The Biggest Loser" or "American Idol." Oh - and she majored in theater at Fairleigh Dickinson University, but did not earn a degree, qualifying her for politics in America, I'd guess. The disputes over her alleged education are too exhaustive to pursue here. Suffice it to say, she's a fraud.

"You actually audibly heard the crowd gasp," Widener University political scientist Wesley Leckrone said after the debate, adding that it raised questions about O'Donnell's grasp of the Constitution.

Why did the crowd gasp? Because they couldn't believe that someone running for public office would put up a stink about government supporting a religious belief. That's why the catch-phrase "get government off our backs" is all these people have going for them. They repeat it like a rallying cry, and the masses of asses grasp onto it like grim death, and will vote for these people in spite of their ignorance of actual ... facts.
The thing that scares me about people like O'Donnell and her tea party bretheren is that a lot of people will think that she represents them, and that she is "just like you" and will bring government back to the people.
Let's just hope that it isn't more than 50-percent of the voters.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Don't be a jackass.

It isn't always easy to find quality entertainment. If you want to see "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Dexter," or "Weeds" you have to pay for a premium cable channel in addition to what you already pay for cable television.
If you want to listen to the radio without the interruption of commercials you have to pay for satellite radio, a prospect that fills me with dread.
In order to find music that isn't mainstream or built for the masses, you have to seek it out like primitive man searching for food. It's an arduous task.
Those things can be mentally exhausting, and for most people they don't want to bother, which is probably why trash entertainment is so popular. Just lie back and let it consume you.
It is likewise difficult to find a good film, especially if you do not live in a large metropolitan area where such so-called "art house" theaters exist that show films that are indeed called films and not movies. You also have to have access to either a newspaper or some such reference material to fill you in on films that meet your high standards.
If you are so inclined, and a fan of The Beatles or just a fan of a good film, find "Nowhere Boy" and run to see it before it disappears into the darkness of Netflix or one of those backroom rental places.
I suppose I don't fully understand the politics of filmmaking and distribution, or else I would know why a well-made, well-acted movie about a cultural icon would see limited release. In our large metropolitan area it is playing in exactly three theaters, while "Jackass 3" is playing in several more. I suppose that's because people enjoy seeing portable toilets launched into the air more than they enjoy sitting quietly and watching a film about music and world history being made.
It's the same reason you have to pay ten bucks a month to see "Dexter" while "Dancing With the Stars" is on network TV twice a week for four hours. We (as a society, not the real we) like to have our entertainment in large, easy to digest doses launched at us like a portable toilet. Why think when you can just react?
Such is life.