Posts about Culture

The sun sets on Hollywood

Peter Preston writes in the Observer:

. . . Professor Jeremy Tunstall has just written a successor to his magisterial 1977 study, The Media Are American. It is called The Media Were American.

Tunstall’s thesis is simple, but jolting. Of course America still floods the world with movies, music and TV shows. And, of course, their combined value climbs higher and higher. But if we’re talking something different – market share – then the US is in headlong decline, and has been for nearly 50 years. Discount around 100 annual hours of bigbudget movies and the residue is a pitiful, shrivelled thing.

India, China, Brazil and Japan (to name but four) have media exports of their own that equal or outstrip any imports. China, with 1.3 billion people, relies overwhelmingly on home production in local languages. So, with a bow to Bollywood, does India. Egypt looks after the Middle East.

The bigger Latin American countries make most of their own popular media now – and export lurid soaps to Spanish-speaking channels everywhere, including the US.

So at last we can stop being accused of ruining the world with our tawdry entertainment.

Jackass Number 3

It was bound to happen; I’m just surprised the odds didn’t hit first in one of the many American reality shows or double-dare-you movies. First, the crocodile hunter is hunted. Now a BBC presenter suffers serious brain injuries in the crash of a jet-powered car he was driving for a show.

What a friend we have in…

Jesus has a MySpace account. He lists his hobbies as “beard care, extreme waterskiing” and his favorite film as “The Life of Brian.” Last I looked, poor bloke has zero friends. In fact, He needs to advertise for them. But does He pirate videos?

Pap at a price

I was puzzled, even amazed, and truthfully disappointed when I saw an ad on a page of touting Bill Clinton speaking at something called The Power Within. Is Clinton turning into a motivational speaker? In a manner of speaking, yes. President Bill meets Dr. Phil.

I was even more amazed when I saw the cost and the cast of players at the Power Within site, with all kinds of well-known names ready to stand up on a stage and tell you how to run your lives. A New York event includes Clinton (who can teach you — what? — how to redefine nothing less than the verb ‘to be’?), Michael Eisner (how to piss off an entire industry and lose your job), Mark Burnett (how to make the tackiest entertainment in decades and redefine reality), plus Lance Armstrong (insert your punchlines here), Jonathan Tisch, and Peter Guber. At least Donald Trump tells you how to get rich.

Sorry to be cynical. But I am. I can’t stand this crap. I spent too many years in San Francisco covering the likes of Werner Erhard’s est and the self-centered babble fad of the moment. I wonder whether these guys are doing this for the ego or the money.

Well, pap pays. The New York event at Javits — a damned big hall — costs up to $1,078.33 (don’t forget the .33) for “VIP executive,” down to $644.83 for the merely desperate to have has-beens tell you the secrets to their former success. I have no idea how many will buy tickets, but Trump says his last event at Javits lured 20,000 people. Figure an average $750 per ticket. That’s $15 million. Split — unevenly — among six speakers; it would seem that they’ll each get $1-3 million for a day’s “work.”

Hey, more power to them: Make a buck anyway you can. But make this much from the poor shlubs who are spending this fortune only because they can’t figure out what to do with their lives? The only thing more pathetic is exploiting the same void in people’s lives with the same sort of motivational speakers hauled out during PBS pledge weeks, in Yanni breaks.

I’m a big an of Clinton’s. But can he be this desperate for money and/or attention?

Oh, but he’s hardly alone. The list of people who want to tell you how to live is stunning. It includes:
* Cherie Booth, British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife.
* Gooshy book writer Mitch Albom (no surprise).
* Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benezir Bhutto (surprise).
* Gooshy goosh seller Deepak Chopra (no surprise).
* Singer Naomi Judd.
* Celebrity something-or-other Bianca Jagger.
* Sir Richard Branson (is he not rich enough yet?).
* Les Brown, “one of the nation’s leading authorities in understanding and stimulating human potential” (huh?);
* The Freakonomics boys (big surprise; so much for their hard-edged analyses).
* John Edwards (who speaks on, what, how to lose?).
* Gloria Estefan (no surprise whatsoever, if you’ve ever heard her low-oxygen monologues).
* Tim Sanders, author of “Love is the Killer App” (doesn’t title make you want to puke?).
* John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and He’s from Pluto.
* Suzanne Somers (thinner thighs and fatter souls in 30 days, I suppose).
* Jack Welch (miss that expense account, fella?).
* Irshad Manji (a very disappointing personal surprise).
* Dr. Phil McGraw (of course!).

Mind you, I’m all for people making money speaking. Believe it or not, I very occasionally make a buck (not much more) that way. That’s not my issue. What amazes me is the company they all keep. These leaders of industry, government, entertainment, and publishing selling their — what? spiels? souls? — right next to:
* Rosemary Altea “an internationally renowned spiritual medium” who “gives the world a new ‘soul system’ for understanding our relationships, our successes and failures, and ultimately our most fundamental selves.” She has even been on Oprah (no surprise).
* Crystal Andrus “a leader in the field of self-discovery and personal power.” (Who are the runners-up?)
* Sylvia Browne, “a world-renowned psychic.”
* Debbie Ford, “internationally recognized expert in the field of personal transformation.”
* Carolyn Myss who says she can “see” illnesses in patients’ bodies. Uh-huh.

If these people are internationally recognized, world-renowned leaders, why have I never heard of them? Guess I hang out with the wrong crowd. Thank goodness.

Both sides of the notebook

Toby Young, best known as Graydon Carter’s best-known firee, writes about being interviewed by Lynn Barber for the Observer at the same time that the Observer piece comes out. He says it was an interview from hell, though that seems rather like covering his ass just in case he was slapped around. But he wasn’t.

Collision in aisle 3!

As if people with shopping carts aren’t dangerous enough, now they’ll be watching TVs instead of the road. That’s just another excuse for me to stay away from the supermarket.

Scientology: Bad for business?

Ever since the days of Fatty Arbuckle, Hollywood studios have worried about how the personal affairs of their stars would affect their business. The first impulse was always to cover up. But when you couldn’t do that, you ran away.

The canning of Tom Cruise is unusually and perhaps refreshingly public. Paramount mogul Sumner Redstone told the Journal that he was firing Cruise for acting crazy and stumping for Scientology.

This morning on Howard Stern, Elijah Blue Allman talked about Scientology since his mom, Cher, dated the young Mr. Cruise and since Sonny Bono was also a Scientologist. Allman said it started as an effort to have a Hollywood version of the Masons: a club with a secret handshake. But clearly, it is more than that. I wonder, though, whether stars will start tiptoeing away if the realize that their “religion” could cost them at the box office.

I would like to think that we have reached the end of our cultural rope with stars acting crazy and all their entourages being afraid to tell them they’re nuts. Tom Cruise. Michael Jackson. Mel Gibson. I’d like to think that, but I doubt it.

: LATER: Nikki Finke gets mad a Paramount for urging the dogs on. I disagree. It’s time for Hollywood to start expecting sanity.

: LATER STILL: The HuffingtonPost continues its surprisingly rousing defense of Scientology.

And just what are the scornable consequences that Scientology has fostered?

That car bomb planted by Sunni insurgents in Iraq against innocent Shia?
The Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, the pogroms, the Holocaust?
The atrocities committed against Christians and animists in the Sudan?
The wars between Hindu and Buddhist in Sri Lanka?
The several decades of religious wars in Northern Ireland?
The mutual bloodshed in Lebanon?

Oh, and was it Scientologists who flew planes into the World Trade Center?


Music causes pregnancy, disease, war

Last night on network news and today on the morning shows, I heard the laziest, most misleading and sensationalistic “reporting” about music and sex. You probably heard it, too: Rand study in Pediatrics says that raunchy lyrics lead to sex.

Lock up the kids! Elvis is in the house!

I was wishing for the guys from Freakonomics to take them on and, by golly, they did. Repeat after me: This is about correlation not causality. There is no way to provide that lyrics cause sex.

But these TV reports didn’t even acknowledge that. They didn’t go to anyone who would point that out. No, that would ruin a good tease. And they call this journalism?