Friday, December 21, 2012

The Kids are Alright



Here’s my solution to our vexing problem with gun violence.

We have heard the calls from many on the left for an assault weapon ban, or a restriction on the sale of certain types of ammunition.

And on the right, there has been talk of arming teachers and school administrators.  Some have even suggested teaching youth to gang rush armed attackers.

Each side fervently believes in their position.  And each position is entrenched, ossified in some cases, particularly those who feel that teachers, busy with grading exams and quizzes, as well as doing class prep, should find the time to hit the shooting range in order to maintain their rating. 

This is just not the solution.  We can’t rely on the teachers, the principals, the school nurses, even those dastardly lunch ladies, to defend our children.

We can, however, teach individual rights, and self-defense, by arming our children.

The little buggers can do it themselves.  They already program our tablets and phones, and run the damn electrical grid we call our wireless network. 

So what’s a few million more guns in the hands of pint sized pistol packing pre-teens.

Barbies? 

What six year old wouldn’t be happy to carry a fully loaded automatic in her backpack. 

Practice? 

What ten year old wouldn’t trade in his lacrosse stick for a Bushmaster. 

I’m proposing that Apple and Samsung work together with Glock and Smith & Wesson to build a iGlock or a S&WGalaxyS3.  Imagine the potential for such an item.  With tracking capability, students would be able to learn geography, engage in physical education training, and work on that all important hand/eye coordination.

We’ve long ignored the potential for providing weapons training in elementary school.  The time is right, the opportunity is before us, and our children are waiting, clamoring even, to wrap their hands around a shiny new toy. 

Just ask them.  After all, more than a new outfit, nothing says well dressed child better than a holstered pink pistol strapped to jeggings. 

Go, NRA!

Monday, August 27, 2012

100 Things to know.......


.........when heading off to College

1.      Have fun
2.      Use a condom
3.      Make friends
4.      Let roommate issues slide
5.      Dance
6.      Be nice
7.      Try something new each day
8.      Do something out of your comfort zone each week
9.      Be adventurous
10.  Be smart
11.  Be witty
12.  Don’t try and be something you’re not
13.  Work at becoming who you want to be
14.  Listen
15.  Listen a lot
16.  Ask questions
17.  Ask more questions
18.  Ask the same questions of different people, and learn from their answers
19.  Ask different questions of the same people, and learn from those
20.  Work hard
21.  Study hard
22.  Play hard
23.  Go to class
24.  Actively Engage in class and sections where feedback is warranted
25.  Do your own laundry
26.  Wash your clothes at least once a week
27.  That includes your sheets
28.  No, you cannot vacuum your sheets clean
29.  Dry your clothes before putting them away, folded, in a drawer
30.  Eat regularly
31.  Don’t eat too late
32.  Don’t eat truck food after 2am more than once a week
33.  Don’t pull all nighters each week
34.  Figure out which side you want to be on the recreational drug issue
35.  Beware of Canadians
36.  Don’t befriend anyone, male or female, wearing chaps
37.  Learn a new language, or two
38.  Apply your language learning among native speakers of that language
39.  Travel
40.  Learn the bus routes in town
41.  Learn the train routes out of town
42.  See the United States
43.  Find a way to travel the world
44.  Seek secret passageways across campus
45.  Earn money, but don’t fret or consume yourself with this
46.  Figure out how to stay ahead of things
47.  Don’t let race be an issue
48.  Don’t let religion be an issue
49.  Don’t get caught up in issues
50.  Talk to your parents
51.  Stay in touch with your grandparents
52.  Don’t forget things
53.  Do your assignments
54.  Reach out to faculty
55.  Do something for others
56.  Read outside of your required reading
57.  Stay engaged
58.  Make others laugh
59.  Try to make someone else smile
60.  Laugh at yourself
61.  Overcome fears
62.  Place distance between yourself and obstacles
63.  Surprise yourself
64.  Try art
65.  Take in live theater
66.  Enjoy the movies
67.  Have conversations
68.  Create dialogues
69.  Talk to people on the street
70.  Live beyond social media
71.  Document things
72.  Don’t lose your friends
73.  Help others learn what you wish you knew at that age
74.  Share
75.  Live to make these the best four years of your life
76.  Be memorable, for good reasons
77.  Give others reasons for you to be memorable
78.  Don’t forget what you once knew
79.  Don’t forget what you learn
80.  Don’t forget what you want to attain
81.  Find a way to light that spark inside
82.  Keep it lit
83.  Work out
84.  Go sledding on an icy day
85.  Go skinny dipping on a hot day
86.  Eat a new food
87.  Find a new food group, or group of foods, you would not try last week
88.  Act (globally, locally, whatever)
89.  Be satisfied
90.  Learn that it’s OK to bite the hand……
91.  Challenge, but don’t provoke
92.  Dream
93.  Think big
94.  Tilt against windmills every so often
95.  Remember youth has its advantages
96.  Everyone has a reputation, so decide what you want yours to be
97.  Ask
98.  Ask again
99.  Use that damn condom
100.                      Keep ‘em wanting more

Sunday, July 8, 2012

HBO Newsroom deceives, falls short of the mark


The news continues to be a hot topic in the media.   No surprise there, as our major papers, evening newscasts, and social media sites are our primary information highways.

For many years, our news media has also been a popular topic in entertainment media.  There were films, like the Front Page, His Girl Friday, Network and a personal favorite, Broadcast News.  In tv land, there has been The Mary Tyler Moore Show, WKRP in Cincinnati, and Newsradio, among others.

This summer HBO has brought us Newsroom, the latest series from the always earnest and popular writer/producer Aaron Sorkin.  Sorkin’s list of successful scripts and series is impressive.  It’s long, it’s consistent, and it’s across genres.

And that’s what’s so damn upsetting about Newsroom.  This overwrought drama that is supposedly about the presentation and delivery of cable news via the show 'Newsnight' is little more than a hackneyed gabfest featuring lines better delivered by emeritus faculty at second tier journalism schools holding positions far removed from daily news.

The show sure looks like a news program, with sets designed like actual cable newsrooms (at least CNN’s TimeWarner Center in NYC), characters who would fill production roles in actual newsrooms, and actors dressed to look the parts of the managers, anchors, correspondents, and producers and assistants who populate actual newsrooms.

But it’s little more than window dressing.

Working hard to avoid spoiler alerts, it’s impossible to imagine an anchor with managing editor responsibilities have an executive producer hired under him while away on vacation.

It’s hard to imagine the president of the news operation of a major cable company spending the better part of his working day swimming in booze, while pining for a time long gone, the time when reporters had 48 to 72 hours to write their story, while the film travelled overseas to New York to be processed and cut.

It’s beyond belief to find an intern hiding behind her own skirt in one episode, only to speak forcefully against superiors in the next one, while covering up a deep secret that violated a cardinal ethics tenet. 

And sources don’t just pop up with information in real time with little push or effort, and producers, as smart as we can be, don’t put together the pieces of a complicated puzzle in such a way as to advance a story several days ahead of story.  (Just watch the first episode if this requires clarification.  The bullshit factor here was beyond belief, even for entertainment television. )

I could go on.  My friend Dave Marash in CJR wisely noted that news is gathered by reporters and producers and camerapeople out in the field.  http://www.cjr.org/behind_the_news/emmy_award-winning_tv_reporter.php  What Newsnight shows what happens inside the mothership, inside a corporate hq, not out in the field, where video is shot, interviews are conducted, contacts are made, roadblocks are navigated, cameras get broken, emotions strain, and computers fail. 

So we’re getting talking mannequins, garrulous sounds from characters who don’t have the time to debate the great questions they purport to balance against the story they’re working on, simultaneously.

We’re getting office politics, some office sex (not on camera, a surprise for HBO), and plenty of direct language about what their job is supposed to be.  Perhaps that’s why Dan Rather liked the show so much.  http://gawker.com/5920929/dan-rather-reviewed-the-newsroom-for-us-and-liked-it

For those folks interested in our newsgathering capabilities, this show may hold interest.  For Aaron Sorkin fans, this show may be the appropriate follow on to the idealist, and idealized, West Wing.

For those of us who have been there, and ‘there’ can be a great number of places, but for those of us who have been there, Newsroom falls far short of promise, fails the public by deceiving them into believing this is all there is, yet will probably be successful enough to further burnish Sorkin’s image as the chronicler of our major institutions.

Now, will he turn to a hospital drama after Newsroom runs its course?  That would be something.  Has that been done by anyone in the television landscape?    Imagine that, a hospital drama in prime time.  That’s something new and refreshing!



Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Mob Museum

There seems to be an overload of museums. No, we’re not talking the Louvre, or MoMA, or even the family of Smithsonian museums we’ve got going on in our nation’s capital.

But now every city seems to have a tarted up idea parading about as a ‘museum.’

Every once in a while, this idea works. It does in DC with the Spy Museum, a caffeinated look at the role of spies over time, focusing particularly on the Cold War era. And again in DC, it works in the hyper-caffeinated Newseum (that’s for news museum, kids) where there is everything from stock footage and headlines from virtually every news worthy story of the past few generations, up to and including a solemn wall noting the death of reporters working in the field.

Now, in Las Vegas of all places, some enterprising sorts have put together the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement. While this was until recently called just the National Museum of Organized Crime, with Law Enforcement reportedly added following some discussions with a former FBI agent brought in as a consultant, the museum will be known by the name it promotes, the Mob Museum.

And why not. Why not celebrate the role of organized crime in the city considered the home of bandits and swindlers for many years. Why not bring together years of archival photographs, long buried images and long forgotten names, as well as some familiar ones, and wrap them into a very modern and interactive series of spaces. Why not accept artifacts from the family of known and named criminals, and use them for display.

And why not, for character, drop this all in a renovated Federal Building, formerly housing both the Post Office, and the Federal Courthouse, just steps from the old strip, and the current fa├žade that is the Fremont Street Experience.

Well, that is what was done, and it shows. This space and this setting and this museum works. It works because you’re transported, literally, since you have to ascend the top floor of the museum to start the tour, back into an era when gangsters and molls were more obvious than the wannabes who populate our mass media today.

You learn that it wasn’t just Italian Americans from Sicily or Naples, but Jewish Americans from eastern Europe, who together co-opted many corners of domestic society to create their alternative universe. And that universe, the museum aptly notes, did not only take place in Las Vegas, and across Nevada. There was for many years a tranquil idyll in Havana for those who favored illegal forms of recreation. There were many business affairs that ended badly for some of the partners of these bandits. And there was involvement and engagement in virtually every city across the continent.

The museum goes so far as to include a mock up of an electric chair, in which visitors can sit and be photographed, as well as the wall from the Chicago warehouse made famous in the 1929 Valentine’s Day massacre. Along with thousands of photos, some familiar, most, refreshingly, not.

And in recognition of the role of police, investigators, and the courts in all of this, a former courthouse space is now a multimedia room where scenes from trials and depositions are played out, on a number of screens. Other spaces speak of the work done by prosecutors to bring gangsters and other criminals to justice. Take in this room, as it was the venue for the Las Vegas hearings of the Kefauver Committee, the U.S. Senate committee which in the very early ‘50’s looked into the tethers that organized crime had placed in society.

But we don’t go to a Mob Museum in Vegas to celebrate the heat, after all. The bad boys remain the star of this desert attraction, and whether you’re just looking for a place to get some shade, or truly seeking a historically informative experience in an unlikely place, the Mob Museum will certainly provide that opportunity.

And in a city with no formal art museum, a city in which a casino hotel houses what passes for an art museum, including tours for schoolchildren, the Mob Museum is a welcome addition to the chintz and ersatz faux that otherwise defines this hard pressed desert stop.


The Mob Museum can be found online at www.mobmuseum.org. Admission is not cheap. $18 for adults. The hours are very good, opening at 10am, and staying open through 7pm weekdays and 8pm on weekends. For more information, contact them directly:

300 Stewart Avenue,

Las Vegas, Nevada, 89101

702-229-2734

info@themobmuseum.org