Sunday, September 23, 2007

You Need to Watch These Guys

I'm talking about Charlie Rose and Bill Moyers, both of PBS.

If you read the first entry in this blog, you'll suspicion that I have a think for journalists. You'd be right, but not just any journalists.

Charlie Rose

I started watching Charlie Rose a few years ago -- wait I can pin-point it. Whenever Jimmy Kimmel's show started on ABC -- that's when I started watching Charlie Rose, which is on at midnight and at noon, on my local PBS station.

Just in the last week, Charlie Rose's show had: 1) one hour with Alan Greenspan, talking about his new book; 2) one hour with Sean Penn talking about his new movie, Into the Wild; 3) an hour's discussion of heart disease with national experts, talking about the latest research and developments in treatments... Charlie Rose is as close as one gets, I think, to a Renaissance man on television.

I've seen discussions with modern artists, architects, photographers, actors and stage and film directors, scientists of every ilk, other journalists, writers -- both popular and literary, politicians, and numerous discussions of the Iraq war by everyone from journalists on the ground to retired generals to James Baker.

If you watch Charlie Rose regularly, you will become better informed about everything. If you care about being better informed, you should watch this show. It is that simple.

And, if you care about Mr. Rose's political leanings -- I can't say that I'm sure of them, which is another thing I like about him. He has also interviewed George Bush, insightfully but respectfully. When he asks his guests about the war, I feel as though, like me, he just would like someone to honestly say what the situation is and what is the best course from here. And, he actually has guests who will say that there is no "best course" -- only less bad courses of action.

Bill Moyers Journal

I have a much clearer sense of Bill Moyers's political leanings -- which are decidedly to the left. On the other hand, he's a man of some religious conviction, and often has guests talking about religion and philosophy.

He also had 2 guests recently, from opposite sides of the political spectrum, talking about why President Bush should be impeached, for his multiple violations of the Constitution.

I first became aware of Bill Moyers over 20 years ago, when he did a series of interviews with Joseph Campbell. Those interviews are fascinating and illuminate comparative religious study, for anyone who is interested in that sort of thing -- which I am.

Bill Moyers and Charlie Rose won't make you smarter, but they may make you feel that they are helping to stem the process of getting dumber. I get caught up in the daily grind of my job and am aware that the sound-bite driven news I hear on the radio or see at 11pm isn't giving me anything close to the whole story about anything. When I read, I read for pleasure and relaxation -- it is one of few vices in which I indulge anymore.

Mr. Moyers and Mr. Rose are well-read and well-informed and are men of unquenchable curiosity. We are fortunate that they share the fruits of their curiosity with us.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Book Review: Spinning Dixie by Eric Dezenhall

This is another book that I received for free from the author's publicist. After a slow beginning, I really got into this cross between a "coming-of-age" novel and a not-so-mysterious mystery.

Dezenhall is at his best in the flashbacks -- I would even use the adjectives lyrical and evocative. He captures the angst of the main character's young adulthood perfectly.

Rattle & Snap

I would have encouraged the author/editor/publisher to call this novel "Rattle & Snap", the name of the Southern plantation at which much of the key action takes place. Also the name of a card game, I just think Rattle & Snap is more evocative and intriguing a title.

Also, this is a book about a young man and his coming of age, as well as that same man's middle-aged reflections on the young man he once was, and how the totality of his experiences brought him to the place in which he finds himself.

Colorful Characters

Because his parents are killed when he is little, Jonah Eastman is raised by his grandparents. His grandfather is a gangster -- New Jersey's Bugsy Siegel. Jonah's grandmother is a former showgirl. The grandfather's employees are an interesting, Sopranos-esque background for some of the story.

The adolescent Jonah's first love is a modern Southern belle, Claudine, who lives at Rattle & Snap. They "meet cute" as they used to say in the movie biz.

Bottom Line

I think Dezenhall shines brightest when writing dialog.

Read this book for its evocation of different people and places than most of us ever encounter, but who are nonetheless believable, for the most part. There is definite charm here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

American Journalism at its Finest

Recently, I watched the movie, "Good Night, and Good Luck" on DVD. It was as good as I had hoped, and as I had heard from both friends and critics.

Edward R. Murrow and Fred Friendly were journalists that cared about the truth, and about conveying that truth to America's citizens. How trite that sounds today in a world with George W. Bush, Enron, and partisan media. They were journalists who believed in checking their sources, getting the story right, and not being intimidated by political bullies and fear mongers like McCarthy.

The contributions of George Clooney and Grant Heslov as the screenwriters, and Clooney as the director cannot be minimized. This movie moves right along and keeps the viewer involved, even though this is essentially a movie of talking heads, in a cinematic environment dominated by kids' animation, teen horror flicks and blockbusters like "The DaVinci Code".

Then and Now

Last night, I saw "Free Speech: Ben Bradley and Jim Lehrer" on PBS. If you get a chance, and you're interested in a conversation between two greats of contemporary American journalism, check it out. I'm sure it will run a lot on your local PBS station in the next week or two.

Ben Bradley was the editor-in-chief at The Washington Post in the Watergate era; he was Woodward & Bernstein's boss. He's now 84, and seems to still have most of his marbles.

The comment he made that had the most impact on me, and is the reason I've linked these two thoughts, is his dismay at the fact that we [the American public] take lying for granted now. The President lies, heads of corporations lie, etc. Lying is now expected, de rigueur. When he was a young journalist, and even as recently as 20 years ago, this was not the case.

I know that I have come to expect the easy lie from just about anywhere. And, I am surprised when I hear what I believe to be the truth. I think this is a sad thing, and ironic in this day when the religious right wing are trying to take over most facets of society. Jesus didn't say it was okay to lie, did he?

For myself, in my little job which requires a fairly high degree of confidentiality, as well as vigilance to maintain fairness, I try not to lie, ever. Depending on the circumstance, I will either appropriately withhold confidential information, or I will tell the truth as gently as possible.

Not infrequently, people don't want to hear the truth. But I have found an uncomfortable truth to be far more impowering to the individual than an easy lie.