A great deal of what we read and what we see in the movies and on TV is written and produced in New York City or Los Angeles. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NEWSWEEK, TIME, U.S. News & World Report, and the major TV networks and book publishers have their headquarters in NYC, for example. Most of the "political wisdom" comes from NYC or from Washington, DC, with the constant press machines of the White House and the Congress - and The Washington Post and the Washington Times, for instance. Most of TV and movie fare comes from writers and producers in Hollywood. So, much of your news and entertainment - and a large part of your view of the World - is fed to you with certain biases and a good bit of condescending arrogance.
In short, one might conclude that all knowledge, wisdom, and wit are confined to those who inhabit New York City, Washington, DC, or Hollywood.
As I creep up on my 7th decade of life experience - which was gained in many cities in the U.S. and in about 30 foreign countries, I decided to put down some ongoing thoughts in a series I call "The View From the Outback." That experience has included the U.S. Marines, law school, the ATF, the CIA, Fortune 500 executive, writer, public speaker, educator, editor, and publisher - for openers. For over 20 years, I have written for various magazines, and I have been dabbling as a guest editorial writer and have had an enormous number of letters published in major national publications. The Outback is the rural area in Northeast Texas where I have lived for the past 10 years. Each Monday I will attempt to post a new set of musings from the Outback.
What with all the problems Ford has had with its Firestone tires, especially the Wilderness brand, and especially with the Ford Explorer, perhaps they might consider a new ad slogan:
"Explore the off-road and the wilderness - whether you want to or not."
Carnivore - Can't Digest All It Can Eat
The furor over Carnivore seems to me to be blown way out of proportion. All of the Internet "freedom-to-do-whatever-the hell-we-want" groups are up in arms that "everyone's" e-mail will be read. I tapped a lot of phones and bugged a lot of buildings overseas on behalf of my government. One thing you learn is that you rapidly compile more information than you can ever listen to or process. Have you ever charged off to a seminar with your handy tape recorder, only to return home and realize that it will take you five hours to transcribe what you recorded? Multiply that 100,000,000 times, if you believe the alarmists.
The FBI simply does not have enough employees in the entire bureau to read "everyone's" mail - even on one major ISP. In addition, each use requires a court order, just like a wiretap. Have you ever had your phone tapped? Of course not. It takes all the man and woman power an agency can muster just to keep up with the wire taps and Internet-interceptions of a few major criminals, a handful of terrorists, and the most potentially destructive hackers.
So, don't flatter yourself that your e-mail will be read by the FBI, unless you are hacking the Pentagon, or part of a terrorist cell, or a major drug player - or you put the word Bomb in the Subject line of an e-mail.
Movie and TV Stars Exposed
Movie and TV stars get unholy amounts of money for their work. We are led to believe that they are such a rare breed of gifted and talented people that they deserve the adulation and riches they receive. Well, maybe a half-dozen are worth at least 1/10 of the money they get per picture or TV show. Many just play themselves, in role after role. But a sobering reality is upon us - reality TV. It was Shakespeare who said, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." People plucked from the street are cast away on an island. Already two of those banished from "Survivor" have become media stars, complete with offers of work in TV and the movies.
Colleen Haskell from "Survivor" is an adorable, feisty, and articulate young lady. You will be seeing much more of her. Gervase Peterson, the black basketball coach is already getting offers. So the bubble is beginning to burst. The coddled prima donnas of Hollywood better hope that TV abandons the reality shows. Otherwise, some who have been living off their press clippings and media machines, will find themselves in the audience - watching the losers from "Survivor" or "Survivor II" on the screen.
Gen. Powell for Secretary of State?
Political pundits are a strange breed. They feed off one another like kids copying a book report. Most are saying with certainty that Colin Powell will be, or should be, the secretary of state in a Bush administration. Excuse me. The armed forces are hurting, notwithstanding the administration's and the Pentagon's protestations to the contrary. Enlistments are off, spare parts are hard to come by, morale is low, pay is substandard, thousands are on food stamps, and so on. Who better to lead the military back to greatness than Gen. Colin Powell – as secretary of defense?
(This is an excerpt from my Letter-to-the-Editor, The Dallas Morning News, August 13, 2000.)
Air-Heads on Late Night Shows
The late-night talk shows have always relied on celebrities for their bread and butter. But, some of the best guests have been just plain Joes and Janes. My friend Ray Johnson, who spent much of his life in Folsom prison, was one of the best repeat guests Johnny Carson ever had. (Ray and I worked together on security projects for 7-Eleven.) A 72-year-old lifeguard from New York was a terrific guest on a recent Letterman show. Once, when he was disgusted with a succession of air-head movie stars who barely knew the name of their last movie, David Letterman made an on-air plea. It was something like, "If you know anybody who can come on here and tell an interesting story, please tell them to get in touch with me." So, if you have led an interesting life and can tell a good story, contact David or Jay. You might get your 15-minutes of fame. Well, would you believe 4 1/2 minutes?
The EgyptAir Flight 990 Crash
The voice recorder for EgyptAir has been recovered. The captain leaves the cockpit, apparently for a bathroom break. When he returns, the engines are throttled back and the plane is in a rapid descent. He demands, "What's happening? What's happening?" To which the co-pilot replies, "I rely on God." The captain demands, "What is this? Did you shut the engines?" Apparently the co-pilot's only response is "I rely on God."
A spokesman for EgyptAir said that, "The evidence overwhelmingly contradicts an intent to destroy the aircraft." Cultural and religious differences aside, and arguments about the nuances of what was said aside. What if you were the captain and you came back into the cockpit to find the autopilot disengaged, the engines throttled back to "cutoff," and the plane in a dive? The only response you get to your questions is "I rely on God." No "Houston we have a problem" or the like. And then you crash. EgyptAir wants to focus the investigation on the design of the Boeing 767 elevator control! Say what? This seems to me about like investigating a Japanese Kamikaze suicide bomber attack by questioning the design of the Japanese Zero.
Maybe the owners of EgyptAir saw the failure of the elevator jackscrew in the Alaska Airlines crash and got some inspiration. Better for people to sue Boeing than EgyptAir, they reasoned. Just a thought.Late-Night TV Political Comedy
Polls indicate that one out of three people get much of their information about politics from the comedians on late-night TV. This fact alone is disturbing. Taken as a whole, the crude, unkind, and mean-spirited remarks that have often passed for jokes in the last few campaigns are way out of line with normal decency. There were thousands of jokes about Bob Dole's age when he ran for President. The implication being that he was a doddering old fool who could not function as President. Have you seen Bob Dole on TV lately? Four years later "and a lot older," he still sounds clear-headed and vigorous.
Now come the jokes about Dick Cheney probably having a heart attack during the campaign. He has survived being Secretary of Defense and president of Halliburton (a really big company) without having a heart attack. The heart issue has been openly and fairly discussed by the candidate and his doctors on numerous TV shows and in the print media. Isn't this kind of sick humor beyond the bounds of decency? And how can it contribute to helping the morons who get their political information from comedians cast a more informed vote? Maybe the good news is that those who get their political information from late-night comedians don't actually vote. We can only hope.
And why in God's name would David Letterman, who had bypass surgery, make jokes about Dick Cheney having a heart attack? Heart attacks are not funny! Neither is bypass surgery. There are about 600,000 people a year who have bypass surgery, and I doubt that any of them find it funny. By the way, folks here in the Outback are tired of hearing David talk about his operation. Join the not-very-exclusive bypass club, David, then sit down and shut up! Mr. Letterman should seek some professional counseling to get over his obsession with his own operation - and his propensity to think it is funny to talk about the operation and about Dick Cheney having a heart attack.
I am afraid there is little hope for Jay Leno. He has become so consistently mean that nothing seems to be out of bounds for him. Apparently people like it when he makes fun of people's looks or their infirmities. His relentless attacks on the appearance of Linda Tripp and Paula Jones, are just two examples that comes to mind. And now the Cheney heart-attack "jokes?".
There seem to be no limits on the filth and character slander that Dennis Miller can engage in on HBO and get a laugh. In 50 years we have run the spectrum from Bob Hope's light-hearted thrusts at the high and mighty to Dennis Miller's raunchy talk and character assassinations. An interesting commentary on where we have progressed as a people.
Finally, someone pushed the envelope too far for even the most cynical and perverse viewers. The "Sniper Wanted" overlay during a news spoof of Gov. George Bush on an episode of "The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn," (CBS) was the last straw. Some of the young writers and producers (and many on the Internet) have no clue what the First Amendment is all about. They are products of a permissive society which has no work ethic and has not demanded personal responsibility. They think there is no limit to what is owed to them by society or what they can say or do. But that is a subject that deserves more comment in a later installment.
Davy Crockett and A Foreigner's View of America
Recently, I was chatting with a friend in Australia on my ham radio. I told him that the nearby town of Honey Grove, Texas, had been named by Davy Crockett on his way to the Alamo, after he had spent a night camped in a grove of honey-laden trees. I went on to explain DC's roots in Tennessee, and how his dreams of going into the real-estate business in Texas had been cut short by his death in the fighting at the Alamo.
My Australian friend said that he did not realize that Davy Crockett was a real person, that he had only seen him on the TV show and assumed he was fictional. We continued to talk about the kinds of American shows he had seen. "It's sad," I said, "how our movies and TV portray this country. We are usually shown as either rich and beautiful or homicidal maniacs." My friend said I had hit it right on the head. Then, I told him my Italian Vacation story.
When we lived in Europe, we vacationed once in Rimini on the Adriatic coast of Italy. While I was making a left turn one day, my Rambler was struck squarely in the side, doing considerable damage. (Yes, a Rambler, which I bought at the PX in Frankfurt from a guy sitting at a card table with a loose-leaf full of car photos.) A bilingual man told me that the Italian driver said it was my fault, even though he was traveling at about three times the speed limit. "His car is too long," the other driver said. This gives you an idea of the split-second timing it takes to drive in Italy. But, I digress.
As we sat there stunned, and the locals rushed to pick the glass from the torso of my young son, the 16-year-old daughter of the owner of the hotel where we were staying drove up on her bicycle. She surveyed the damage. And based on her knowledge of America from the movies and TV, she said, "Oh, well. I suppose you will just buy a new one." You bet, darlin'. We shipped it to the states, had it repaired, and sent it to Laos, where we lived for two years during the Vietnam War. I finally sold the Rambler in Laos. The next day, I saw it parked in front of one of the notorious massage parlors in Vientianne (aka brothel). Lot of memories with that Rambler.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Richard C. Rhodes
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