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Archives for Media Criticism

Will He Ever Just Beat It?

Jul
8
2009

Is it over? Can I come out now? I mean, I poked my head up last week at this time and was incredulous to the fact that it was still going on. Meanwhile, friends and family have been haranguing me as to whether I was going to address the issue.

I dodged the bullet last week, but it seems that this has still not been laid to rest.

So to speak.

It’s the elephant in the living room of every human being trying to maintain a sane point of view about the society in which we live. There is just no way to get around the subject of Michael Jackson’s death.

I was honestly going to leave this issue to his fans. To me he was an annoying media nuisance, but to each his own. I figured a week of sappy montages and exaggerations about Jackson’s importance to the music world, an afternoon funeral that would afford me the peace and quiet of having Dirtman finally turning off CNN for awhile, and we can move on in the news cycle. I could keep my opinion to myself for that long.

Then suddenly we were into week two and I realized it took less time to allegorically create the world than it did to literally bury Michael Jackson.

And, while I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, I’m giving myself a little leeway in that area because I figure there’s been so much of the opposite bombarding us, I doubt it will matter much.

I will, though, give Jackson credit for his accomplishments. He wrote a few good songs and recorded a bunch of songs that sounded very much like those few songs (Variations On the Theme of Billie Jean, if you will). He co-wrote another song that he had the good sense to have really good singers perform; singers who could make Row, Row, Row Your Boat sound like Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

He was smart enough to have had the right people advising him to fill his act with enough pyrotechnics, lights, backup dancers and music to complete the illusion that he was the one with all the talent. He was a good performer, a fair dancer and he could moonwalk.

So there you go. That wasn’t so bad.

Okay. No. I can’t let it go. For God’s sake, will you look at what we’re holding up as a hero these days: A narcissistic media whore* who spent his millions on things like giant paintings of himself as some sort of savior figure and on replacing his face with that of a 1960s department store mannequin. (I’ll leave others to speculate about what else his millions bought.)

I know there is no such thing as a perfect hero anymore. The media won’t allow that. But I would think we would at least require of those we choose to honor some progression toward integrity rather than deterioration into insanity – one might add, a chosen deterioration into insanity.

This seems to be the particular argument in favor of cutting such a self-absorbed nutcase some slack: he had a rough childhood that made him feel ugly and insecure.

Sorry, Buddy. You want to see a rough childhood? Try the childhoods of some of the children of the Holocaust on for size. The significant difference here is that by some quirk of fate, these poor souls had to overcome their resultant fears and insecurities without the benefit of millions of dollars and constant ego-stroking. In any case, I know of few people who have had a truly happy childhood because we were all raised by flawed human beings who were also raised by flawed human beings who were raised by …well, you get the picture.

Humanitarian? Hmmm. Mother Teresa was a humanitarian; Michael Jackson arranged for tax deductions. He put in less time as a humanitarian than a lot of people in my own community and I doubt MSNBC is going to cover their funerals.

The true irony in all this – the ultimate punchline – is that, in the end, the city of Los Angeles is asking for donations to defray the cost of hosting the overblown spectacle that was supposed to be a memorial service, Jackson money being tied up in paying off all his debt.

Don’t you just hate it when the taxpayer is asked to foot the bill for these people who buy houses bigger than they can afford?

*Yes, I said “media whore.” If you don’t want to call attention to yourself, you don’t put on bright lipstick, you don’t walk around with a surgical mask on your face and you don’t dangle your kid off a balcony.

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 6:51 PM | Permalink

Speed Reading

Jul
1
2009

Are you reading this? Good for you! It’s a dying art – or so it seems.

It is with a certain amount of sadness that I’ve watched the demise of long-standing newspapers of record this past spring. One of the papers for which I wrote printed its last issue two months ago. Another scaled its size and staff down considerably.

I can’t complain because I contributed to their economic troubles. Subscriptions were one of the first luxuries to go, since there are adequate online sources for news, most of them provided, in streamlined version, by the very paper that used to be delivered to the large puddle in my front driveway.

Naturally, the economy has been a big contributor to this phenomenon, but technology has also had an effect.

Frankly, though, USA Today and its fast-food approach to the news began the slippery slope to the small-bite approach to news writing so suitable for the internet.

Up until recently, the general public’s inability to focus on any prose longer than a few sentences or to do anything but skim a lengthy article was just a passing observation. As a collector of old books, I’ve noticed how larger print and thicker paper make some current hard cover novels appear more substantial than they actually are.

If A Tale of Two Cities was printed by today’s bestseller publishers, you’d need a wagon to tote it onto the subway. Not to worry – the only people still reading the Dickens classic are college lit students for whom nice, cheap paperback versions are available, if not those lovely yellow and black Cliffs Notes for those who like the idea of classic literature, but not the actual body of writing.

This disdain for more than a cursory reading became an urgent issue recently when I wrote about a governmental budgetary observation on my obscure little domestic blog.

Let me point out that visitors to my blog consist of my family and friends who have dropped by randomly and liked my point of view. Most random visitors are bored to tears by my fascination with cooking, knitting, birds and, of course, dogs. Every now and then, though, I deign to express an opinion.

In this case, it wasn’t even an opinion; it was more of an observation of the long-standing budgetary practice of “using up” (i.e., wasting) money at the end of a fiscal period. Within the scope of the entire budget the amount is usually chicken feed. But in most cases this “chicken feed” would support an entire family or two for a year – and that was the point of my post.

To illustrate this I had taken a picture of a group of government employees who were doing (or not doing, actually) what these particular governmental workers are anecdotally known for doing (or not doing) all over the country. But the reason they were doing (or not doing) this was because of this wonky budgetary system.

I’m not trying to be cryptic. I just don’t want to again go through what posting that picture and writing that post put us through that week. Within a day of that post going up, I had a local representative of that state agency on my doorstep; a gentleman who, I might add, had not read my blog.

I explained my position and he seemed satisfied with that, but apparently the news spread like wildfire throughout the agency. Pretty soon I was getting anonymous comments on my blog from local employees accusing me of the very opposite of what my post was stating.

When I’d redirect them to read the actual post, they’d back down grudgingly as if to say, “No one told me I’d have to actually read anything…” (Except for one hanger-on responding to the pictures who refused to do any reading and, as it turned out, was totally unrelated to any of the parties mentioned in the post; a person who, judging by his/her comments, probably has a close personal relationship with Mr. Daniels.)

I relate this only to illustrate that even 500 words was too much conscious reading for most of the visitors to my blog that day – most of whom had a stake in what I wrote.

My husband did not want me to bring up this incident again now that my blog’s back to normal. I assured him that he didn’t have to worry: there are no pictures here and my Spot-On columns range around 700 to 750 words. I’m guessing most readers gave up at the mention of A Tale of Two Cities.

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 6:50 PM | Permalink

Texting For Dollars

Jun
17
2009

Who am I to criticize someone who has won $50,000?

That’s what I keep telling myself about 15-year-old Kate Moore winning the LG U.S. National Texting Championship.

I mean, really. What has anyone around here won lately?

Actually, my first thought was, “They compete over that?” followed by “Why do we insist on turning everything into a competition?”

The answer is, of course, money. The $50,000 given to Kate as a cash prize is small potatoes in terms of the amount of advertising generated and viewed on MTV, where competitors had to watch shows and text back broadcasted messages. Apparently the competition had the added bonus of keeping kids glued to the television even more than usual; at least we can hope more than usual.

And I can’t get the creepy image of millions of hypnotized teenagers staring at a television screen, mechanically echoing back messages to some Big Brother who is counting how many responded, what they responded to and what got the most response.

Let’s take the $50,000 out of the equation, though, since only one kid out of millions of teenagers won what was, by contrast to the bucks generated, a piddly amount. Maybe we should be just a little bit concerned about the . . . uh . . . skills . . . required to be a winner in this particular competition, which amounts to pushing buttons.

Leave out the winnings and what we are left with is a teenager who texts an average of 400 to 470 messages a day and admits to having had her cell phone taken away from her in class. I’ll admit that happened once in the Heirs’ high school career; the cell phone went from the teacher to my possession and wasn’t returned to the offending Heir until the end of the school year. We never again had a problem with Heirs focusing on their cell phones instead of the instructor.

Kate also insists, in response to the obviously softly lobbed reporters’ questions, that she maintains her grades and social life and that her favorite use for texting is “studying for exams.” Yeah. And my son and his girlfriend go for long nature walks to observe the bird life.

And, of course, “maintenance” and mastery are two very different things, rather like the difference between achieving the Virginia Standard of Learning and actual proficiency in the subject matter are two very different things.

I know I sound curmudgeonly, particularly in view of my own ineptitude with texting. My sons won’t text to me anymore because it takes me too long to answer and, up until recently, my messages were ambiguous because I didn’t know how to add punctuation. For instance, when answering a text that an Heir won’t be coming home because he’s going to watch a movie at the house of a particularly unsavory character, there is a big difference between “Don’t come home” and “Don’t. Come home.”

With the help of my sister-in-law I managed to send Heir 2 a particularly effusive text right after his principal declared him “graduated.” A few seconds later I got back a text from him stating, “U found out how to add an exclamation mark, huh? You only needed one. UR not 13 yrs old.”

But even Heir 2 admits he’s not half as fast as most of the people he knows and even they average only 30 to 40 texts per day – that’s only about 10 percent of Kate Moore’s average, so you really have to wonder exactly when she finds time to look up, let alone maintain her grades and social life.

The thing that made me shudder, though, was this direct quote from Kate herself: “Let your kid text during dinner! Let your kid text during school! It pays off. Your kid could win money and publicity and a phone.”

I just can’t help but wonder what would happen if Kate put all that texting energy into paying attention in school and maybe doing something other than watching MTV. She won $50,000 by sending over 400 texts a day. A full academic college scholarship is worth upwards of about $200,000.

You do the math – your phone has a calculator, doesn’t it?

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 6:38 PM | Permalink

Expert Witless

Apr
22
2009

My name is Jeanne Jackson and I’m an expert.
An expert at what?
I don’t know yet. Give me a few months.
Okay, so maybe it takes a little longer to become an expert at something. But apparently it doesn’t take as long as it used to.
I suppose I should explain what I always thought constituted an “expert.” From Merriam Webster: “one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject.”
In other words, not only does an expert know about the subject, he has also put that knowledge to practical application enough times to know what works and what doesn’t – hence, “mastery.” Boiled down to a simple formula, an expert is made by combining knowledge and experience.
So I honestly thought it was a joke when I found a program that teaches how to become an expert. Because apparently you don’t achieve expertise, you promote yourself to it. I especially like the line: “Would it help your business if you were thought of as an expert?” (emphasis mine).
Well, yeah, I guess I could talk people into doing just about any stupid thing. But are people really that gullible? I have one word for you: infomercials.
In my never-ending quest for stable employment I once applied for an editorial job for two women who had what looked to be a consulting firm that offered seminars. Part of the process was to submit an edited chapter of a book they had self-published and required seminar participants to purchase.
The firm acted as consultants to corporations who wanted to reconcile its older workers with its younger workers – a legitimate need, I was sure, though it struck me as a rather narrow parameter on which to base an entire consulting firm. But, I guessed, if these women had seen a corporate trend of generational conflict interfering with corporate production, who was I to argue?
Upon further investigation on my part, it turned out both women were in their 20s and had less than five years’ experience working in the corporate world. Their self-published book turned out to be a combination of self-help psychobabble and thinly-veiled whining about how older managers in corporations they had worked for hadn’t given them the respect they felt their brand new college degrees deserved.
One need only do the math to realize they’d not been in the corporate world long enough to see this as a trend nor to know whether or not their “methods” were successful. They had not been in the corporate world long enough to scuff their sensible black pumps.
Still, they were booking seminars all over the country. I can only assume that corporate personnel departments (or “human resource” departments) employ youngsters just like them, overseen by long-standing department heads who really like to knock off early.
I thought of this while watching Hardball with Chris Matthews and there on the screen appeared a young man who looked as though, lacking his own, he had borrowed his Dad’s nice blue suit, tie and white shirt. He was offering his political analysis of some congressional topic or other. The young man was Washington Post staff writer Perry Bacon.
From what I can tell, Bacon is a good, competent reporter. But, with all due respect, since he graduated from Yale in 2002 (remember when graduating from Yale used to mean something?), as a reporter for Times magazine and in his current job as Post staffer, he has experienced only two presidential campaigns and, up until Jan. 20, only one administration. And here he was being touted as an expert political analyst alongside Newsweek senior correspondent and Washington Bureau Chief Howard Fineman and his 30-plus years of experience.
Aside from his background, Bacon just doesn’t have the same expertise to re-spin information I already know into terms that sound like I’m hearing something new, which is the whole point of being a pundit. Otherwise, it’s like I’m hearing my son read me the newspaper.
I’ve been knitting for about 35 years. I can make a sweater (eventually) from a pattern; can even come up with hats, scarves, gloves, mittens, dishcloths, blankets and even socks without a pattern. I am a competent knitter; but I’m not an expert.
Imagine my surprise when reading in the introduction of a slick, modern knitting book, the author admitting she could not put a sweater together. Huh? A knitting book costing over $25 written by a knitter who couldn’t manifest a sweater?
I imagine I’m just angry I didn’t write a similar book 25 years ago.
Twenty-five years ago, experts were vastly harder to come by.

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 1:40 PM | Permalink

You’ve Got Mail

Apr
8
2009

Here’s another tidbit to make your head explode: voice mail is on the way out.
I know. It was such a terrific idea and so handy! Voice mail made it possible to totally avoid speaking on the phone directly for months and forced long-winded acquaintances to pare their diatribes down to the brief moments between beeps.
Personally, I’m not too upset about the demise of voice mail. I find my IQ tanks by 30 points when I have to deliver a voice mail message. My kids say I always sound like Eleanor Roosevelt on a high dose of valium.
All of that is going by the wayside now because the people who never had to deal with those antiquated businesses called “answering services” have deemed voice mail as too time consuming.
You know, there’s the exhausting task of punching in numbers and then having to punch in four more numbers for a passcode; then you have to listen to someone go on and on when all you really want is their number, which then you have to write down – all ten numerals; but, then again, maybe you do need to know the correct spelling of their name after all, so now you have to go through the trouble to rewind and listen again. . . and after all is said and done you’ve been forced to focus an entire minute and a half to one person.
If we’re honest, though, we’ll admit that it’s not a matter of “time.” If it were that, Ebay and YouTube websites would receive no hits during business hours and there would be virtually no forwarded e-mail jokes. We’ve evidently got plenty of time.
Let’s face it – the problem with voice mail is it’s time spent on someone we may or may not care about and it’s a real inconvenience to spend that entire minute and a half finding out which it is. After all, we need all those minute-and-a-halves gathered together to have the time to keep moronic shows like Celebrity Rehab on the air.
So, no, it’s not a matter of time – it’s a matter of patience. There is no longer tolerance of anything as boring as listening to the human sounds of stuttering and stammering for a minute and a half. That’s what people do; because most of us don’t prepare an oratory for the benefit of leaving a message that will hold you captivated for the 45 seconds needed to impart why our existence is not a waste of your time. Sorry.
A year ago, they were still running those Visa commercials that made you feel guilty for having the nerve to hold up the check out line in the store while you spent 30 seconds paying cash instead of zipping through with your maxed-out Visa card. Gee, you don’t see that commercial anymore. . .
So instead of voice mail, e-mail and texting are considered more efficient forms of communication. The fact that neither form requires proper grammar or sentence structure is purely coincidental.
Okay, this is starting to sound like one of those rants that the Gen-X, Y and Zers absolutely hate. I envision my sons 10 years from now sitting at a coffee shop, sighing in exasperation because they texted, “RU still alive?” to my honkin’ big Jitterbug cell phone and 20 seconds have passed without a response because I have to use both my arthritic hands to text back.
My problem with texting is that I always spell things out so it’s not very time efficient and I don’t do it enough to commit all the abbreviations to memory. Receiving a text is like trying to decipher those vanity license plates that mean something only to the owner of the car: BRX 7th 4mt nln ;[{]. All I wanted to know is if he’s coming home for dinner.
Somehow I suspect the demise of voicemail won’t extend to the service industry, where you can spend an entire afternoon following a computer voice’s missive to press telephone buttons in a vain search for an option that pertains to your specific problem. I have a feeling that particular institution is here to stay.
If that thought really ticks you off, press 9 now. If you wish to talk to a customer service representative, please hold the line and you will be disconnected promptly as we don’t have time to deal with cranky curmudgeons like you.
Have a nice day.

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 10:16 AM | Permalink

Serenity Now!

Apr
1
2009

Comedian Robert Klein once pointed out that astronaut Neil Armstrong had to be the classiest guy in the world because he could have made a boat load of money if, when taking that first step on the moon, he shouted, “Coca Cola!”
We’ve come a long way in those 40 years. For one thing, NASA is no longer under an assassinated president’s directive to achieve a major accomplishment by the end of the decade. Most of the time we can’t remember if we’ve got people up in the space shuttle or not and the only time we think of satellites circling the earth is when the TV signal goes out during bad weather.
Since that first moonwalk, the space program has been a tough sell, even more so in this economy when people are more concerned about putting food on the table than a person into space.
So you can’t blame NASA for trying to draw people into the process and get them excited again about the space program by opening to public suggestion the naming of a module of the space station.
The decision ended up being more controversial than planned when Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central’s Colbert Report urged his fans to write in his name, an appeal that resulted in his name being the clear winner, topping the second place NASA option of “Serenity.”
At first I’ll admit I was rather glib about the prospect. Why not? What a perfect statement of what our society is all about: promotion and self-aggrandizing celebrity. Obviously this is what Colbert is satirizing with his campaign, so why not? If he can get them to take it that far, it says more about our society than it does about the space program.
And it has a certain ring to it when said with the names of the other modules of the space station: Unity, Harmony, Colbert. Yeah. It blends.
It’s hard, though, to take such a jaded view when it comes to something that may outlive generations.
Let’s face it, the broader scope of the space program is one we or several generations after us will never see. Certainly we’re learning things from the space station that are relevant to the present – they’re not up there doing crossword puzzles after all. But ultimately it’s all about stepping off this tiny island planet that, in cosmic terms, is only here for a flicker of a moment; Colbert’s celebrity status – even less.
Here in the U.S. we’ve kept the space program pristine from commercialism. We didn’t cave when Russia celebrated the demise of communism by selling seats for a space flight to the highest bidder (Why would you trust a country that at one time couldn’t afford to bring home someone they flung up there to orbit Earth until someone had the cash to bring him back down?). So far, no one has sold advertising space on the outside of the shuttle and we’ve yet to hear Houston report, “We have successful liftoff from the Taco Bell Launch Pad.”
Honestly, I like Colbert and I enjoy his show. So I’m hoping the satire won’t go much further. I hoping that someone I admire for his layered delivery that is both heavy-handed and delicate all at one time, is also cognizant of the fact that the International Space Station is not a frat house.
NASA, meanwhile, seems to be in a sort of waiting mode and won’t divulge the new space node’s name until next week, saying “we’re working with some folks.” I’m sure they’re thinking the Colbert name could be great public relations for a program that the public perceives as a financial black hole. They must realize that the program just doesn’t have the same idealistic aura about it for people in their 20s and 30s as it does for the generations that grew up watching every single launch on a television wheeled into their classroom.
What I really hope is that NASA is stalling an announcement so Colbert can make his point. Or perhaps Colbert can deliver a “thanks, but no thanks” speech, having proven how crass we’ve become as a society because we even considered naming part of the space station after a TV celebrity.
In fact, I’m sure that Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), who offered up the opinion that NASA should follow through since Colbert “won fair and square,” merely thought the question was just a joke. I will give him the benefit of the doubt.
I am sure it will be Serenity in the end.
I have to believe the grownups are still in charge.

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 8:51 AM | Permalink

Pardon Your French

Mar
4
2009

When reading about 15-year-old McKay Hatch and his success in establishing a “no cussing” week in Los Angeles, we all probably reacted the same way: Good luck with that.
Hatch began by establish a No Cussing Club at his school, then went big time as the media picked up on his story – and his plight. Doctors who have advised addicts to give up their crutch didn’t receive as many death threats as Hatch’s family when the boy suggested everyone try to give up their cussing habit.
While it’s refreshing that someone his age recognizes this area of civil decline – and you’ve got to give the kid credit for bucking a peer system that was raised on the constant censorship beeps of Comedy Central – most people in LA will probably go about their business much like they do every other week.
Before we leave our young Quixote to his linguistic windmills, though, his tenacity deserves at least a moment of our attention and consideration of the issue of cussing.
We’re not talking censorship here. That’s a whole other thing, dealing with artistic expression (or lack thereof) and freedom of speech. By all means, Catcher in the Rye belongs in the high school library. And a censored Goodfellas would lose its edge, if not credibility. Censorship leads to asinine situations like banning James Joyce from teenagers’ reading lists, but allowing graphic descriptions of genitalia on South Park so long as they don’t use the four-letter word for it.
What you read or watch are personal or parental choices that no one has the right to take away.
The issue is really the use of certain words in normal discourse and their impact on those within earshot. Anyone who has experienced emotional abuse can tell you of the pain that words can inflict – even words that would not be considered profanity. But there is no denying that what we say matters, whether you mean them to or not.
“They’re just sounds,” one of my sons used as an argument back when he was stretching his lexical legs. “Just words that for some reason we deem wrong.”
“Just sounds?” I asked. “Try uttering something that sounds like the ‘n’-word and see if everyone agrees with you.”
Words you hear or read have histories behind them and evoke emotion just as strong as any of the other senses. A picture of Adolf Hitler is not just a photo of a man with a funny mustache; the smell of gas is not just another fragrance wafting in the air; and referring to a woman as a “bitch” carries a negative image – unless she’s vying for Best in Show at Westminster.
I am by no means a prude. Like everyone, I went through the teenage profanity testing period; but I never quite got the hang of it on a regular basis. When I cussed, people laughed – at me (except my mother; but that’s a different story). In the back of my mind were all the words that more concisely conveyed what I was feeling. So I never got the cathartic release from cussing that veteran ranters describe.
I suppose I’m not sophisticated enough to be able to accept cussing as normal discourse though, frankly, very rarely is it used matter-of-factly. When I hear profanity I get an adrenaline rush akin to hearing my child ambiguously cry out – I’m ready to move into action, anticipating the worse.
We have a sort of stand-off in this house about cussing. I don’t at all; my sons limit their trash talk to their peers; and Dirtman – well, Dirtman is a special case. To his credit, he has never cussed at people – only things and situations. But, still, after all these years together, listening to one of his tirades is like being poked continually by a pointy object.
Mostly, though, the arrogance of cussing annoys me; that anyone thinks what they have to say is so important, so right, or so imperative as to command everyone’s attention with inflammatory words.
This is why I guess the internet community expressed the most outrage at Hatch’s crusade. Something about the anonymity of posting on the web turns everyone into a bombastic authority on everything.
And, while I can’t help but be moved by the 15-year-old, I’m fully aware that some reality show or movie producer will in the future offer him a truckload of money to publicly turn his anti-cussing crusade into a joke.
That, McKay, will be the true test of your integrity.

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 10:18 AM | Permalink

Enabling Multiple Mommy

Feb
4
2009

Just when I think we can’t get any stupider as a culture, along comes a story that has me embarrassed to be human.

A woman in California recently gave birth to octuplets, conceived through in vitro fertilization. Nadya Suleman, already a single mom of six – also conceived in vitro – lives with her parents in a home they bought for her; they moved in when they were forced to declare bankruptcy.

Suleman graduated with a degree in child and adolescent development and was, at the time of her most recent fertilization, working on her master’s degree in counseling. She is as educated a woman as our universities can produce. But for all appearances, Nadya Suleman seems to have no income and has described herself as a “professional student.”

If the details of this story are sketchy, it’s because both Suleman and Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center (where the babies were born) have clammed up – the hospital for obvious reasons of patient privacy and Suleman has already announced she is looking to “sell” her story.

Friends say Nadya has no more motive for her constant pregnancies than her love for children. Yet her newborns are not yet a week old and she has already retained a publicist. Oh, and she wants help in establishing herself as a TV psychologist.

The doctor who performed the the most procedure implanting Suleman with eight embryos is understandably lying low (there is a rumor that she may have had the procedure done outside the U.S.) as some experts are charging malpractice. While Suleman was advised to terminate all but a few of the implants, she instead decided to allow all eight come to term.

Certainly Suleman wouldn’t be the first woman on the planet that enjoys pregnancy and motherhood because of the attention it gleans and she certainly follows the current cultural trend that makes it okay to have children for selfish reasons. There is no denying that probably the most ethical thing to have done way back at, say, the third or fourth kid, was for some sane adult to suggest this budding therapist get some therapy for herself and to – oh, I don’t know – get a job to support herself and her older children. Her own mother uses words like “obsession” and “not normal” and, it seems, at some point consulted a psychologist about her daughter.

It may surprise you to know that I don’t blame Suleman. Part of me has to admire someone who thought of a way to fame and fortune by simply having functioning reproductive organs. She is also a product of our societal penchant for the extreme. It’s a preference that feeds the obsessive ego and explains why there are shows like Bridezillas on television.

But Suleman is also successful in attaining her goals because of publicist Joann Killeen salivating in the wings, waiting to exploit her mania serving a public that will capitulate by buying her books and watching her on television. It is arrogance to deliberately give birth to children and then hold them as hostages to feed your ego. Our part, as her willing audience, lies in not feeding that obsession by turning her into a freak for public viewing and rewarding her arrogance with our attention.

Even as I write this I know she will succeed. Book deals, TV shows and business proposals were in the works before the octuplets were a week old. Oprah Winfrey and Diane Sawyer have expressed an interest in her story.

That obsession on our part is <? isn’t?> the only issue here. Because no one wants a world where we can tell a woman she can’t have babies or that she must abort a healthy fetus. And that is the way it should be. Nadya is a sad side effect of such freedoms.

And it’s turning out that the freebies lavished on other multiple births are not as forthcoming as Suleman expected. While one company offered diapers and wipes, the gift was only enough to last about a week. So Killeen has already begun professionally re-spinning her client’s persona. “Right now her top priority is to be the best mom she can be to all her children,” she reported in the face of Suleman’s announcement last week – when she was barely out of labor – that her story was for sale for $2 million.

I guess this way, Suleman can support her family and get the attention she craves. It’s a win-win situation for everyone except 14 children in Whittier, Ca. We can only hope part of that $2 million-plus will be spent to hire a couple of sane nannies — and a little therapy for Mommy.

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 9:58 AM | Permalink

Define “Ethical”

Jan
28
2009

It’s that time of year again. You know – that special Sunday when you get all your snacks together and get all comfortable in front of the television so you can not watch the annual banned PETA ad.
You are probably familiar with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). That’s the organization that uses back door tactics to push its radical agenda that includes the banning of pet ownership; the group who sees a puppy snoozing comfortably on your bed and thinks the “ethical” thing to do would be to kill him rather than have him “exploited” so cruelly.
Every year the organization initiates this farce wherein it submits a deliberately provocative advertisement to be run during the Super Bowl and, when it is rejected, announces its outrage to the media who just love any story with the word “BANNED” in it. Good little puppets that they are, the media runs with it, usually ending with the fact that the BANNED AD can be viewed on PETA’s website.
You’re supposed to be shocked. So shocked that you go out of your way to visit their website and view their propaganda and creative statistics with all the attention you may not have given it had it run when they supposedly wanted it to run.
You can’t buy that kind of advertising. And, since 30 seconds of Super Bowl ad time is running at around $3 million, PETA is certainly getting their money’s worth.
While ads in the past have featured graphic depictions of animal slaughter, more recently PETA has been leaning toward soft porn (primarily naked women) to encourage Americans to turn to vegetarianism – because they are not quite as concerned with exploiting humans as they are, about animals.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against vegetarians. I’ve got a sufficient arsenal of vegetarian recipes that if someone of that persuasion comes to dinner, they won’t leave hungry. But I have this sneaking suspicion that vegetarians don’t love food like a food lover loves food – otherwise they would have to acknowledge their diet, in terms of enjoyment – Just. Doesn’t . Cut. It.
Well, that’s neither here nor there. Like it or not, PETA has used far-fetched statistics and sometimes post hoc fallacies to connect meat eating or milk drinking with some wacky consequences like child abuse, autism, gender change and cancer.
I suppose the most ironic of their ads connects the consumption of meat with impotency, ignoring 400,000 years of population growth and evolutionary development. No point in letting solid facts get in the way of a really explosive ad campaign.
I’m sure no intelligent adult is fooled by PETA’s manipulation of the media. But what about those who are defenseless in the face of mindless propaganda; those who are unable to think for themselves or are not smart enough to research phony statistics for themselves?
No, I’m not talking about children. I’m talking about Hollywood actors. There they are, poor things, looking all serious and clever about their dietary choice, some of them flinging off their clothes, claiming vegetarianism, not genetics and luck, landed them where they are today. They’re too smug and stupid na├»ve to realize the noble organization for which they are speaking also would like to take their pink designer-dyed Chihuahua-poo that goes so well with their pink Prada bag and kill it in the back of a van – for its own good, you understand.
By way of disclaimer, Dirtman and I breed Australian Shepherds – purebred dog breeding being yet another of PETA’s targets. And I will admit that not all breeders follow the code of ethics put forth by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and I grant that the AKC could be more diligent in backing up that code.
Every organization has its radical fringe. PETA is nothing but radical fringe. Even the lackadaisical AKC takes action when undeniable infractions take place on the part of its members
For PETA, though, the ends always justify the means, even if that means defending the criminal actions of one of their “activists,” whether it’s impounding dogs who are not strays or obtaining dogs under false pretenses and euthanizing them immediately. PETA has a 90 percent kill rate, in spite of their status in Virginia as a “pet releasing” agency. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), when in problem areas, considers anything over 25 percent as too high.
So you’ve got to wonder: Perhaps PETA misunderstands the meaning of the word “ethical.”

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 1:45 PM | Permalink

Inauguration Day Zen

Jan
21
2009

The Presidential Inauguration has dominated the living room television around here for over a week now. Dirtman has been firmly ensconced in front of MSNBC, taking breaks to – for some reason – check the internet.

Before dawn the morning of the inauguration, he was riveted in front of the television where a split screen showed the rear end of an idling car and the curb of an empty street while a commentator chattered on and on about an itinerary that wouldn’t begin for another few hours.

I would have complained that, Historic Event or not, the bills still have to be paid; but any future client of ours seems to be focused on the ceremony also. The only ones making money this week are area hotels and restaurants . . . and Oprah Winfrey, who has moved her show to the nation’s capital for a few days. Because, you know, there isn’t enough chaos going on in Washington, D.C., this week.

I am pleased with the outcome of the election. And I do recognize the significance of this country having elected President Obama. I am happy for him, happy for his family and happy for our country. He seems to be a man of intelligence and integrity. President Obama delivered an articulate inaugural speech that, while in content matched just about every inaugural speech I’ve heard, promises to provide a momentous boost to the nation merely because he was the one who delivered it.

That being said, I have laundry to do.

I’ll join the maniacal celebration when just a fraction of all the speculation and promise comes to fruition. But my enthusiasm at this moment falls short of canonization, unlike the bulk of the media covering the ceremonies. I thought MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann was going to pass out from gushing adoration – using, of course, only the most pompous and pretentious words in the dictionary.

I told Dirtman I’d sit and watch the ceremonies with him if he could make Olbermann shut up. So we watched the balance of the Inauguration on C-SPAN, blessedly devoid of pundit commentary.

I can’t help but be amused by all the anti-establishment celebrities at Sunday’s concert being forced into sedate clothing and language. I mean, did I really see Jack Black and Kal Penn (as in the stoner movie Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle) “orating” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial? What, were Cheech and Chong busy?

I did finally figure out why Dirtman was checking the internet so religiously. His second favorite website – next to DCRTV – is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather website. Apparently he could not access the “weather warnings” page for Washington, D.C. He was sure this was a conspiracy.

“A Bush conspiracy or an Obama conspiracy?” I asked.

“Not sure yet,” he answered, staring intently at the screen.

“Or maybe it’s neither,” I suggested. “Maybe NOAA has been planning an Inauguration Day coup d’ etat all this time.”

“That is just ridiculous,” he scoffed.

The Inaugural festivities have affected even our placid existence all the way over here in the Shenandoah Valley – full hour form the Washington suburbs and that’s if you drive fast. Hotels here are booked solid. This weekend out-of-state cars wandered haplessly over country roads, observing our “rusticity” and “provinciality”, taking outdated directions from their GPS units and winding up on dead end roads.

Technology was the first thing to suffer from the invasion; even the “emergency temporary” cell phone towers haven’t helped the overload. I consider myself lucky if I can check my e-mail once a day. Maybe Dirtman is right. It is a conspiracy – to prevent me from helping that poor man from Nigeria that keeps contacting me.

To further Dirtman’s conviction, HBO bought the exclusive rights to Sunday’s Lincoln Memorial concert. This meant only people with cable, a satellite dish or the internet could view the concert. So, basically, the only people in the valley who couldn’t access the concert were Dirtman’s parents.

I reminded him that I don’t see his parents getting too upset about missing will i. am or Bono – nor was I particularly anxious to have to explain those two names to them.

And to top it all off, the area experienced the first snow fall of the winter just in time for the ceremony.

None of this, of course, affected the pomp and pageantry that went on long into the night.

As for me: Before inauguration – do laundry, shovel snow; after inauguration – do laundry, shovel snow.

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 2:25 PM | Permalink

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