Friday, February 27, 2009

Is American Idol on the way out?

I have been a viewer of American Idol pretty much all along. My justification is that I need to be aware of the popular shows so that I can be an effective teacher and critic and analyst. I can't watch everything but American Idol is on at a convenient time and my family enjoys it too. I might even argue that it is fairly good wholesome family viewing but then I'd be ignoring the overemphasis on appearances and Ryan's comments about the ladies' legs and Simon and Randy's request to a female singer to "dirty up her image." If it wasn't for that and the emphasis on fame and money as the ultimate goal of any young person I could say that American Idol is good wholesome television viewing.

But it is what is popular on TV. I must check out the ratings for this season compared to other seasons because I have a suspicion that it is on the way out. The whole show seems more disjointed than before. The fourth judge seems to not fit in to the format and Ryan seems very flimsy. The recent efforts at interviewing in the Green Room and Ryan's appearance of "live" television as he refers to it himself is bordering on amateurish. I almost feel while watching that they just don't care any more. Maybe they think they are indispensable and will never be cancelled or maybe they are just bored and want to get away from it, but there is something lacking in this season of American Idol.

Seacrest, telling us to watch the commercials to see a hidden audition in the commercials is pathetic. An American Idol retrospective was rerun to the sound track of Wonderful World. Self congratulation once is bad enough but doing it again to the aesthetic of slow motion is pathetic. I think they probably couldn't find enough highlights from all the seasons to play them at regular speed so playing them in slow motion filled out the duration of the song. Frankly, the best part of the retrospective was the song.

Is American Idol on the way out? One of the most successful shows for a long time in the ratings may be going away. It was not a new idea when Simon "brought" it over to the U.S. Talent shows were the original staple of broadcasting long before Simon was around. They went away and now they're back again, but for how long? The cycle continues.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Education, Health Care and Energy

The consensus seems to be that Bobby Jindal had a tough job to do and he didn't do it too well at all. The audio cutting in and out could not have helped him (unless this happened only in my own home) but the contents of his response to the Obama speech were childish and almost endearing, although the endearing quality got lost when he started talking about the federal government and the old ideologies of the GOP where big government was concerned. He tried to move the anecdotal speech to ideologies and political strong talk but this was lost.

One of the FOX pundits rounded up the opinion of Obama's account of the future for Iraq. This consisted of "winding down Iraq equals winding up Afghanistan." Oh well, one must be aware of all that is being said or not said. Over on MSNBC, Keith Oberman, Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews were all positive and upbeat about the speech. Maddow said that "this is the largest tax cut in history." Maybe one day in the future one of these FOX or MSNBC personalities will do something to surprise us - but not today. Everyone is in line where they are "supposed" to be.

MSNBC pundits referred to the beautiful backdrop to the President's speech. It was o.k. The flag is a beautiful backdrop but does it have to be vertical? What is the benefit of that? I would have chosen a different tie for the President. Stripes don't play very well on TV and therefore Joe's tie was more solid and looked cleaner. Interesting how women's outfits really stand out at these events because of their contrast with the dull colors of all the men's suits. Hillary stood out in color probably a little more than needed. Nancy in green closed out the three in a blue, red and green ensemble. I suppose that's o.k. too.

Interesting how President Obama's height was above the other two while he stood even though they were higher behind him. A nice statement of who's who.

I don't know if I'll listen to Rush tomorrow. I feel that I know what he's going to say. Some snide remarks about Nancy's aggressive applauding and continuous trashing of Joe and of course he will pick and pull at the speech. What is wrong with what President Obama said according to Rush Limbaugh? All you have to do is pick any topic from the speech and Rush will be playing with it tomorrow and pulling his millions of viewers with him.

The President launched right into the economy. No messing around. He did the "rally the troops" cry as one would expect and said that we will emerge stronger than before. He had to do some of this and his critics like Rush will analyze this to suit themselves. Preparing us for working with the banks that are being exposed every day (it seems) for corruption, he said that we cannot govern out of anger. We must cooperate to help people not banks, he said.

The three areas he will not cut back on are energy, health and education. It might be interesting to hear what Rush will say about this point. The President went on at length to explain why these three cannot be cut back. He said that health care reform cannot wait another year. I was expecting a cut away to Hillary at this point but I didn't get it on my station.

He has promised in this speech to close Guantanamo, tax those who earn over 250,000, cut taxes for most of the people earning under 250,000, reform health care and get out of Iraq. He stated that the U.S. does not torture. And he will start on the road to economic recovery by getting loans and credit moving again.

FOX stated that it was a 15 minute speech interrupted 65 times. They really put it in perspective. In that 15 minutes a lot of promises were made. Can they be kept?

"I will not allow terrorists to plot against America," he said. One wonders how is he going to do this but I guess he had to say something like this?

President Obama said that it is a "burden and a privilege to govern in these times." One hopes that the man who has hope can handle the burden and the privilege.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Where is Tommy?

You may have noticed that I try to, at least, post once a week. I've been busy but I will be back very soon.
I have not forgotten you.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Two Irish Movies

One night, two movies, one country, two directors, many actors. One success and one failure. I hate to talk down a movie so I won't.

There is one good thing about Trojan Eddie (1996) which was directed by Gillies MacKinnon. The one good thing about this movie is Richard Harris and in particular, in one scene. I don't know how he ended up in this movie but he did. There is a scene where John Power (Harris) is drunk and loud in a pub. I assume his tirade was intended to show us the stereotypical drunken antics of the "traveller" (his character is a settled member of the traveller community). However, his performance shows us a human being, of whatever denomination, in a drunken rage. As difficult as it is to perform as a convincing drunk, Harris does it beautifully. His strength as a performer is lost on much of the movie as is the performance of Stephen Rea and Brendan Gleeson but this one scene is worth finding to see an actor acting drunk. Billy Roche, wrote the screen-play and he also performed a cameo. Billy wrote Amphibians, a play, in which I performed some years back. Billy is better than this movie. (Perhaps a little more viewing of Mackinnons work will show that he is better than this too.)

On the other hand, it is difficult to find fault with Omagh (2005), a movie about the Omagh bomb in 1998. Perhaps the comparison is unfair for other reasons than they are not in the same league but the direction by Pete Travis is special and personal. Based on a true story probably gives the story strength but the production leaves nothing to be desired. The casting is excellent, lead by Gerard McSorley as the grief-stricken father and surrounded by Michele Forbes, Brenda Fricker in a small role, and many more in a strong cast of actors. The suspense is presented with precise surgical anticipation. From the first "breath" of birds singing to the last text notes at the end of the movie, I was engrossed.

The aesthetic quality of enveloping the story in birdsong at the beginning and the end is poetic and pleasing. One is aware of the "terrible beauty" of the North of Ireland and its troubles back in 1998. The birds sing and the sun rises regardless of what terrible things we humans do. No human-made negativity will stop the sweet, sweet songs of birds as the sun rises and the world awakens.

Two Irish movies in one night. Great talent in both.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Technology and the Classroom

Starting the semester with an introduction to aesthetics is always a joy. I emphasize the beautiful in life. It is a joy to be alive.

On the first day of class I recounted an experience of mine on a flight into San Francisco. The pilot announced, as we landed, that "any flight you walk away from is a good one." From this I added that any day I waken up and am able to get up and go is a good day, a great day.

As I am around academia more I realize that I am not the most technologically challenged individual, as I have previously thought, and also that at times it is an added attribute to be capable of empathizing with some students who are not tech-savvy. One student was happily relieved when I answered her question about the level of tech-savvy needed to participate in my class - zero.

This is not to say that techy is not desirable. It is, but it should not impede the learning process. After all there is a lot of learning to be done without technological assignments and/or use of technology. Technology is ubiquitous and therefore it is something to learn but we should not allow it to be the "only" way to learning in the classroom.

My virtual "friend", Professor David Silver, makes some interesting points in relation to the development of technology in the classroom and beyond. It is obvious that technology must be used in the class he is now teaching, Digital Media Production, but I wonder if the use of technology back in his 1995 class, Material Aspects of American Life, took emphasis away from the class material itself.

Perhaps the presence of technology everywhere is a good enough reason to avoid too much of it in the classroom? Perhaps the students will learn the technology in life outside the classroom or in the techy classes. Maybe some classes can be learning experiences without the necessity for technology?

I do, however, use a projector, lights, DVD player, audio, speakers, etc.