I Have a Gub

Look, if you’re going to send out a video with the whole world as your audience, take a moment to check the spelling on your titles.

Taliban release Bowe Bergdahl

This was the message on the video released by the Taliban showing the turnover of American POW Bowe Bergdahl.

Don’t (Don’) take this the wrong way; I don’t find anything funny about all this — but as someone in the business of doing communication for a large organization, I find their lack of attention to detail as abhorrent as everything else about these animals. I wish the video had ended with us dropping a bomb on them.

Maybe they did it on purpose just to mock our language…

On a lighter note, it reminded me of this scene from Woody Allen’s Take the Money and Run, where they can’t understand his bank robbery note.

Fright Fest

If you are a fan of Night of the Living Dead, you must see Birth of the Living Dead, a documentary about the making of the iconic horror film and its influence on popular culture.

George Romero’s stories about the ragtag cast and crew, a motley assemblage of friends and business associates, are priceless. It was everyone’s first movie — and as if by magic, they created something completely different. The film also puts Night in the context of its time; they may not have set out to make an allegory for the turbulent late-sixties, but that’s what they ended up with.

One of the interesting things I learned was that Night was originally released in theaters as a matinée feature aimed at kids; it was typical in those days for theaters to run low-budget sci-fi and horror stuff on weekend and holiday afternoons.

Harmless fun — but Night of the Living Dead was like no horror movie ever made.

I vividly remember seeing it at one of those afternoon shows. As my mother dropped us off in front of the movie house in Mineola, a pimply faced teenager with thick glasses accosted us. “I hope you brought a spoon! This movie’s so scary it’ll make you swallow your tongue!”

I was really little, like 7 or 8 years old, along for a fun day out with my older sister and cousins. Swallow my tongue? Bring a spoon? Now I was beginning to worry.

Well, it turns out that spoonboy was correct.

The film was so intensely disturbing and terrifying that several times during the movie we ran from the theater screaming and cowered in the lobby. It was just too much.

Film critic Roger Ebert happened to attend one of these matinée screenings, in a crowd full of children, and wrote this:

The kids in the audience were stunned. There was almost complete silence. The movie had stopped being delightfully scary about halfway through, and had become unexpectedly terrifying. There was a little girl across the aisle from me, maybe nine years old, who was sitting very still in her seat and crying.

A good time was had by all!

Bad News Bear

I’ve only seen a bear in the wild once. It dashed across the road and dove into the woods right in front of me on Starr Road in the hills outside of Ravena. At first it looked like a dog, but it was dark and husky and had a distinctive loping gait that caused me to eloquently remark, “Holy sh*t! That was a fu*king bear!”

Glad I didn’t run it over!

The bear escaped his close call with my car, and I sincerely hope he went on to live a long and peaceful life in the woods — unlike the rogue bear that wandered into Albany this week, sparking the sort of media circus you see in towns with too many reporters and not enough stories to cover.

Things did not end well for the bear, which is regrettable, but not unexpected.

DEC’s bear timeline is a sad read and makes it clear that the bear was headed for trouble from the start. Could anything have been done differently? Maybe not — except for the DEC officers who tried to put down the bear might have been better shots. The injured bear got far up a tree, and like a small, sad King Kong he held on for as long as he could.

Things like this probably can’t be avoided, but look: if you live on the fringes of the wild, don’t freak out if you see a bear. Yes, if it’s causing trouble, that’s different — but just be patient and it will move along, hopefully back to the woods and not to the city. That’s no place for a bear.

Two stray observations:

  1. Yes, black bears can climb trees, so do not climb a tree to get away from one.
  2. Even good writers need editors. For example, an editor could have prevented the phrase “ursine interloper” from appearing in a local newspaper story about the bear. Sheesh…

Hockey Puck

When I was a kid, I somehow ended up rooting for the Philadelphia Flyers. This was the height of the Broad Street Bullies era, the heady days between 1973 and 1976 when the team made it to the Stanley Cup finals three times and won twice.

I was such a big fan that I once staked out the Island Inn in Westbury to wait for the team as they departed for a game against the Islanders. In the lobby I got autographs from Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent and The Hammer Dave Schultz, whose number I wore on the back of my Flyers jersey.

Over the years I lost interest in hockey, but now the game seems interesting to me again. A big part of it is TV; brilliant widescreen HD has made hockey a spectacle to watch at home, compared to the awful wide angles and invisible puck that used to dominate hockey coverage.

Watching the Rangers and Canadiens the other night reminded me of this wonderful short film based on made Roch Carrier’s iconic story The Hockey Sweater. If you have ten minutes, it’s really worth the time; it’s a story of boyhood, but also a thinly veiled commentary on the tension between Quebec and English Canada.

The Sweater by Sheldon Cohen, National Film Board of Canada

Eye in the Sky

There are security cameras everywhere these days. That may not seem like a big deal today, but wait a few years. Even if you are a fine citizen with nothing to hide, I guarantee that cameras will eventually feel intrusive as marketers add them to the tools they use to target your behavior.

I know that sounds slightly crazy, but mark my words: it’s coming.

Despite these reservations about constant surveillance, I can get behind Albany’s plan to use red light cameras.

green streetI drive a stretch of Green Street in Albany every day, and I slow down and look both ways at every single corner. Why? Because people have so little regard for stop signs and red lights. On that .45 miles of road, I’ve seen more people barreling through intersections in the past six months than in my entire life of driving combined.

What is it that makes people think that the rules do not apply to them?

In my neighborhood I drive ten miles per hour below the speed limit because I know there are kids around. I stop at stop signs in the middle of the night when there isn’t another moving vehicle within a quarter-mile. I scrupulously keep it between the lines, even when driving through parking lots.

If you’re going to drive, you’ve entered into a social contract with the rest of us on the road — and those who think the rules don’t apply to them make the road unsafe for everyone.

Down By the Water

You should know by now that screwing up Mother’s Day is bad news.

I’m happy to report that this year’s celebration went off without a hitch. The agenda included brunch at Max London’s in Saratoga, a leisurely trip to the Spa City Farmers’ Market and a stroll in the Saratoga Spa State Park.

We walked along the trail where many of the mineral springs are located and, naturally, brought a cup along so to take of the fabled curative waters.

How was it? My impression of the magical mineral elixir was about the same as when I first tasted it decades ago: “Blech!”

Imagine drinking water that tastes like it comes from a rusty pipe and that will give you some idea of the flavor.

Nonetheless, I insisted on trying each one, as if we’d eventually stumble on one that tastes like an enchanted cross between a fizzy mountain stream and unicorn nectar.

My son had more sense and did not partake. But he was curious, the conversation going something like this:

“How is that one?”

“Not as bad as the last one. But bad. It smells like sulphur, which makes it interesting. Are you sure you don’t want some?”

“Yes.”

One spring, according to a nearby sign, was known for helping digestive ailments and for its laxative effect. That’s not exactly what I’m interested in when out walking around in a park.

We went away with the memory , but I swear I could still taste the water in my mouth hours later, perhaps because of all the minerals I’d ingested. And without going into detail,the next morning there was a definite laxative effect.

Warming Up

It was great to see Neko Case at The Egg Wednesday night.

I bought the tickets in January, so the waiting seemed interminable, but the payoff was a tremendous show. Our seats were great, too: second row center. It’s nice to be up close, not just because it makes for a more intimate experience, but it’s cool to see what the musicians are doing — and you can their tattoos.

On Neko case’s arms is tattooed the phrase, Scorned for Timber, Beloved of the Sky. Turns out it’s the name of a painting she loves. Thanks again, Google.

I credit Neko Case with teaching me to be respectful of warmup acts.

In 2003 I went to see Wilco in Montreal. As we waited for the band to come on we, stood around in the back of the theatre drinking beer and talking loudly (how typically American), paying no attention to the opening band.

In short order a woman marched forward to admonish us for our boorish behavior. She did so in a very politely Canadian way, saying something like, “Excuse me, but you’re making it very difficult for us to enjoy the show with the noise you’re making.” That always makes it worse, when people scold you politely.

And who was this singer she felt so strongly about? Neko Case. It was several years later that I discovered how much I loved her music — and I still kick myself for completely missing her show.

So now I arrive on time — and in this case enjoyed a set by The Dodos, a San Francisco band that I’m glad I didn’t miss.

Madness

God, I’m so sick of it: this obsessive dissection of every TV show is really getting on my nerves.

For example, the morning after every episode of Mad Men the web is littered with stories about the show — and I don’t mean by stupid little blogs like this one, but major publications.

What ever happened to the time when you would just watch the show. Now we need endless analysis the next day, not just reviews, but extreme navel gazing about every single detail and what it all means, often with a grade or rating. Then there will be hundreds and hundreds of comments from fans taking it even further — many of them complaining that (insert show name here) now sucks, especially compared to the first two seasons.

Hey, internet: shut up, shut up, shut up.

Having said that, I think that Don hanging up poor dead Lane Pryce’s NY Mets pennant may be a good sign. After all, it’s 1969, the year the Mets won the World Series, so surely this symbolizes that something unlikely will happen — perhaps that Don, the guy everybody has dismissed, will rise up and win in the end. Or that he will die.

Star Trail

I read over the weekend that Chris Jansing has been named NBC’s White House correspondent. That’s a pretty big deal — and I’d say that it’s easily the most significant thing achieved by anybody who ever worked in Albany TV news.

If you’ve been around for a while you may remember watching Chris on WNYT – if that’s the case, I certainly don’t have to remind you that in those days she went by Chris Kapostasy. There wasn’t a time when my father-in-law didn’t see her on TV and say in his thickly accented English, “Her name means cabbage in Hungarian. Chris Cabbage!”

Chris was the anchor during WNYT’s rise to the top, and during those golden years in the mid to late 1990s I was responsible for the station’s marketing. We had it all going on, and looking back I realize how fortunate I was to be part of that winning team.

People have a hard time believing me when I tell them I wrote and produced thousands of TV spots, but it’s true. Many were forgettable, but this one always felt special to me.

This was in 1996 when the Olympic Torch Relay passed through the area.

We started in Palatine Bridge, me and photographer Tom Wall, leapfrogging ahead of the torch for the whole day as it wound its way to Albany. The money shot was Chris with the torch and Tom nailed it.

I’d say it was one of the best days at work I ever had — and it produced the single most memorable image from my 25 years in TV, Chris running with the torch, waving to the crowd, clearly on her way somewhere.