Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A couple of things...you can't imagine my delight that Zippy the Pinhead was in Western Massachusetts!

You never know just when a reference to Western Massachusetts is going to pop up in the national press.

Mike Bissonnette, the mayor of Chicopee, was a little surprised, but delighted, to see Al’s Diner, a Chicopee landmark, as the setting for the June 15th “Zippy the Pinhead” comic strip.

Started as an underground comic book over 30 years ago, Bill Griffith’s mentally challenged creation goes through life as a sort of idiot savant. Griffith uses his character to make pithy observations on life and politics.

I’ve been a Griffith fan for years, myself.

In the strip Zippy is sitting at Al’s Diner and says, “Al, is Chicopee real or is it a state of mind? Because if it’s real I may have to re-order all my priorities.”

Bissonnette loved the strip and fired off an e-mail to Griffith about it. Griffith wrote back, “Zippy gets around. He’s been to Al’s Diner in a few strips over the past eight of so years. People keep sending me new fotos [sic] of the venerable joint, so I feel compelled on occasion to revisit. I drove into Chicopee a few months ago on a drive to Vermont ands thus the reality of the town was planted in my pinhead. I can’t tell you how connections get made when I’m writing a Zippy strip – it just happens and I watch and obey.”

If you’re intrigued, log onto www.zippythepinhead.com.

And more reaction from my review of "The Ghosts of Abu Graib."

I received another letter about my review of “The Ghosts of Abu Graib” this week. Here it is:

“Kudos to the Pat Henry letter about ‘The Ghosts of Abu Graib.’ I also credit ‘The Reminder’ for having the courage to publish it. Mr. Henry stated what I have felt for the past year about the Reminder Editorial Page – most of the time it drags this once fine newspaper down to the ‘Valley Advocate’ level.

“What is the ‘Valley Advocate’ level? Just look at the businesses that advertise in this newspaper and you will get the gist. View the advertisers in ‘The Reminder’ and you will see quality people and businesses.

“In my view, a reader can get the pulse of a newspaper by reading the editorial section. I strongly feel ‘The Reminder’s’ editorials since Mr. Dobbs came on board has cheapened this newspaper.

“Respectfully, Bob Maccarini, East Longmeadow”

Let me explain something: it takes no great courage on my part to print letters that criticize an opinion I’ve expressed. One of the purposes of any community newspaper is to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas. I believe in this responsibility and I try to print as many letters as possible regardless if they are critical or not.

I do disagree that under my management the editorial content of our four community weekly newspapers has been “cheapened.” I have a file full of letters of thanks from individuals and organizations who believe the stories presented here and the advocacy our staff has provided has helped the communities we serve.

If anything, we are not always able to fulfill every request for coverage or sponsorship of an event due to the limits of our resources.

Disagreeing on politics is part of the American way and it’s reflected in these newspapers.

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Don McLean during 1982 interview at Riverside Park, West Springfield,MA photo by G. Michael Dobbs

Don McLean came to Springfield recently to play with the Springfield Symphony in a pops concert. I was given a pair of comp tickets since my paper had ran an advance piece on the show that included an interview with McLean.

I didn’t conduct the interview as I had interviewed him many years ago and found it to be such an unsatisfying experience that I swore off listening to his music for many years.

I had been a huge fan of his and when “American Pie” was released I thought in my dopey junior year of high school kind of way that he was speaking to me . I loved his stuff.

I saw him perform at Springfield College in the 1970s at a concert marred by some heckling. He was good, though.

I had an idea in 1982 to start up an alternative weekly newspaper for Springfield and decided to do up a dummy issue. When I heard Mclean was going to be performing at Riverside Amusement Park (now Six Flags New England) I thought an interview would make a good story to add to the prototype issue.

I made the arrangements and was joined by several other writers at the park. We all watched him perform and then approached him for the interview time.

He said he and his band wanted to ride some rides before they had to do the next show and so we all waited 45 minutes.

When he returned, he ignored us and started jamming with his group. Finally I walked up to the stage and told him that if he didn’t want to talk with us then he should have the decency to tell us so we could go home.

He stopped playing to say that he really didn’t like to do interviews, but he knew he had to do them. He then spoke with us.

The alternative newspaper went nowhere. The story and photo were never published until now.

Eventually I started listening to his music again, breaking one of my cardinal rules about pop culture: I loathe supporting jerks.

How was his recent show? Well, he has maintained much of his outstanding vocal quality and actually spoke to the audience a little with some humor and charm. The hall was almost sold out and there were a lot of hard-core fans there. Overall, it was a treat.

But I didn’t stand in line to buy a book or CD.

So from 1982…

Singer-composer Don McLean was riding high in 1971 when his monster hit "American Pie" was released. Although McLean has said he could have had a very profitable career if he played the recording industry's game, he chose to do it his way. Even though he released five albums since "American Pie," he has not appeared in the musical forefront until last year with his remake of Roy Orbison's "Crying."

Now, McLean 's career appears to be gaining momentum with his new album, "Believer." We caught up with McLean at a recent appearance in Massachusetts.

How does it feel to be in the spotlight again?

"'Well, I supposed I never worried about it, you! know. I figured it would happen eventually. I have a lot of faith in myself where that's concerned.

To be here a while and to be gone a while; I kind of like that actually. I don't think I'd like to be in the middle of everything all the time. I'm happy I've got the chance to sing for a lot of people now. If it changes back to the way it was, that's okay, too.

"I've made some wonderful world tours; been all around the world many times and have made a large following in a lot of countries in those years.

“Now, my country is coming around to my music."

Have you learned to cope with the popularity of “American Pie?” Have you had audiences unwilling to give other songs a chance?

"No. Did you see the show today? Certainly they liked a lot of the material today, and a lot of the people there weren’t fans, but were just people here at the park. So, I feel that's a pretty good acid test.

"I'm used to playing for the public, and there's lots of songs I've written they think highly of, such as 'Vincent' and 'And I Love You So.' So, when I start singing them, I think a lot of people don't realize l’m responsible for them. They just know ‘American Pie' and now 'Crying.' That's the purpose of a concert anyway to get more specific about your music."

Why haven’t you had a hit record since “Vincent?”

"There are several factors involved when you have a record company promoting you, determined to break you, so to say, break your career – make it happen. There's a lot of artists in the past 10 years, I think, who can say this. They were on big record labels in the early '70s, and now are gone. They're still out there. I was lucky I had record companies still interested in me after all these years.

"I wasn't on that many labels. I was on United Artists for six years, and I made six albums for them. Then, I was on Arista for one album, and that was supposed to be a three-album deal, but Clive [Davis, president of Arista] didn't like the work I did in Nashville [on the 'Chained Lightening' album] so I decided to look elsewhere and that took a year and a half. There had been a real change in the taste of the record people, and singer-songwriters were a thing of the past.

Do you think your career would have been much different if you had been given more help from your record companies?

"I think, probably, if the record companies had worked with me during those years, that all the things that are happening now would have happened then because people have known me for many years. It's that if you can't get those people who bank
you to work with you, then you're out in the cold until you break in again, and that’s what I did.

"I felt inside that this was the right time for me, and for a song like 'Crying' because it shows people what I can do musically from a whole other perspective."

You once termed disco as “musical masturbation.” What trends do you see in music now and what do you think of them?

“Well, they're still masturbating. It's just that they've found different ways of doing it, I guess.

"I don't hear much in the way of freshness out there. A lot of people imitating Bob Dylan, that's what I hear everywhere."

"I never asked their [the music industry's] permission. I just sort of did it [his career]. I don't give a damn if I fight with a record company or if they get behind me. if have to wait five years to do what I have to do, I will. It doesn't matter to me because I have a lot of faith in my abiities to communicate with music."

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Why do the corporate types who run so much of the nation's media want to eat their young?

I had the pleasure of covering the "Talkers Magazine New Media Seminar" in New York recently, the annual two-day event in which talk show producers, hosts and syndicators meet to discuss the industry.

"Talkers Magazine," by the way, is published right here in Springfield and is considered the Bible of that industry.

Being a former radio guy, I find this event very interesting. It's fascinating to see the parallels between what is happening in radio and what is happening in newspapers.

There are several points common to both mediums. One is that corporate owners have gutted the resources many stations need to produce the programming people want to hear.

The other is that what draws people to radio is good local programming.

There's a nice contradiction.

"Talkers Magazine" publisher Michael Harrison shared his formula for survival: investing in local talent and solid programming.

His remarks were well received. Clearly, the folks at the conference understood what he was saying.

Sadly, the same advice should be given to newspapers.

According to a report in this month's New England Press Association newsletter, paid circulation for daily newspapers have dropped. Could it be that newspapers execs, in an effort to bring the bottom line up to the demands of their corporate masters, have cut away at the very things that have attracted readers?

I would love to hear the reasons behind weakening the very elements that attract consumers in the first place to a product. I think we have developed a short-term mentality in business that reassures people that looking beyond the next quarter isn't necessary.

A recent story in "Mother Jones" magazine argued that rates of profits for newspapers were higher than many other industries. Reports of the demise of daily newspapers may have been slightly exaggerated. I'm not sure to what end as all of these doom and gloom stories may have persuaded some advertisers to take their business elsewhere.

In response to the "crisis," many newspapers have placed their hopes on creating products that are not traditional daily print products. There's some wisdom there. It's good to seek out ancillary markets that bolster your core mission.

But is the core mission of daily newspapers still producing a daily news product? For some publications, I would argue, it isn't. The mission has shifted.

Too many media entities have placed a whole lot of eggs into the Internet basket. That's fine, but there are still issues to web sites about attracting enough eyeballs to justify advertising rates and attracting new readers along with established consumers.

A newspaper web site should give readers something different that adds to the print product. The issue, there, is making an investment that might take years to recover, as the Internet is still a medium in its infancy.

What does this issue mean to consumers? To maintain the republic, people need information about the town and state in which they live, much less the nation. It's difficult for people to know what's going on if the amount of local news in newspapers, and on radio and television has been cut in effort to grow some fat cat's paycheck. Manipulation of the masses is a lot easier if people don't have the information they need to make decisions.

What can people do? Write the publishers and station managers about dissatisfaction with their local news vehicle. Too many wire reports? Too many weather forecasts? Too many Paris Hilton stories? Not enough real news?

Consumers need to be vocal about their news. Granted there are local publishers (well, at least one) who doesn't accept criticism very well and will belittle readers who express a negative opinion. Don't let that bother you.

Support the publications and stations that have made a commitment to local news. Let us know (yes, I think we've made a commitment to local news) what you like and what you don't like. And please patronize advertisers who finance local news vehicles.

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

I've read the script and it's very funny. I can't wait to see the final production. People here are viewing this effort as another way to put our city on the national stage. The fact that people and organizations have made donations of time, equipment, talent and money to make it happen points to how serious the production is taken.

Seen above (first photo) Marty and Max Langford are actors along with Scott Kittredge (in a Homer mask) for a gag that will be quite funny, but I can't reveal here. (Second photo) Kittredge goes over a scene with actor Matty Blake.

Langford produced and wrote the great indie science fiction thriller "Magdalena's Brain," and Kittredge has been making short films that have played in festivals around the country.

SPRINGFIELD – Local filmmakers volunteering their time and talents started
production last week on the city’s video entry into a national contest that
could bring the premiere of “The Simpsons” movie to the City of Homes.

Or is that the “City of Homers?”

Springfield, the oldest city with that name in the country, is one of 14
communities competing for the honor of being designated as “the” Springfield
and the home of the cartoon family. Other Springfields include those in
Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, New Jersey, Florida, Michigan,
Kentucky, Nebraska, Colorado, Louisiana and Vermont.

The communities must show their “Simpsons spirit.”

Participating communities must postmark their three to five minute
entry, which must contain key props sent by 20th Century-Fox studios, by
June 23. The studio will then post the videos on the “USA Today” web site
and the nation will get to choose the winner.

Because the competition brings national attention, local organizers were
taking the production very seriously. Details about the script and the
nature of the video weren’t released, although at a press conference
conducted last Tuesday, political consultant Tony Cignoli revealed that
Senator Edward Kennedy had agreed to take part in the video.

Kennedy shot his sequence in Washington, D.C. on June 8, but what he
said or did wasn’t revealed.

There has been an effort from groups in other Springfields to try to
learn about competing approaches to the video assignment through news

Cignoli said he views the production process in the same way he thinks
of a political campaign.

“We need a national vote,” he said.

At the Tuesday press event, the video’s executive producer, David
Horgan, a local filmmaker best known or his recent feature “Cathedral
Pines,” said city officials have been contacted by the “London Times,” the
BBC and Israeli radio about the contest.

“This video is going to be seen by the world,” Horgan added.

Horgan announced that Ed Brown of New York Sound and Motion would be
providing editing services. Brown’s Springfield-based company includes ESPN,
CNN and A&E among its clients.

The video began shooting at the Veritech studios in East Longmeadow on
Thursday afternoon. Production continued this past weekend with scenes
staged in Agawam on Friday and Saturday and WWLP in Chicopee as well as a
climatic scene shot in downtown Springfield on Sunday. Additional scenes
were also shot on the Veritech sound stage.

Marty Langford, the primary author of the script and one of the video’s
directors, explained that in order to meet the deadline the production teams
would begin editing the footage before the last scene is shot.

The local filmmakers who are also donating their services include Scott
Kittredge, Warren Amerman, Karl Kopopka and Joel Katon. Amerman, Katon,
Kittredge, Horgan and Rob Daviau also made contributions to Langford’s

Langford confirmed that everyone is a volunteer on the production.

Over the course of the week the name “Homer” appeared in lights on the
top of Monarch Place.

“We are excited about the buzz that his campaign has generated for our
Springfield. Ours is the first Springfield established in the Untied States
of America. Springfield, Massachusetts has been the home of many other
firsts - from the first American automobile (The Duryea); the nation’s first
armory (George Washington’s) to the Indian Motorcycle and the first frozen
foods (Birdseye). We wanted to help our hometown to come in first again in
this nation-wide competition,” Monarch Place owner, Paul C. Picknelly, said.

On the Veritech set on June 14 at 4 p.m., Kittredge was the director of
the day and was wrestling with donut placement – not just any donut, but a
strawberry frosted donut with sprinkles. Key Simpson’s icons, such as Home’s
signature snack, must be worked into the video. One member of the production
had to visit several donut shops in order to find a sufficient supply.

Luckily, Kittredge said they have enough pastries so there are spare or
“stunt donuts.”

The actor on set was Matt Blake, a stand-up comedian who has been in
national commercials and is the host of “Sidelines” a web-based sports show
on www.nbcsports.com. Kittredge conferred with Blake on how to enter the
scene and how to play it. Blake used his skill as a stand-up comedian to
bring bits of business to the scene and later Langford said Blake was

It takes several takes before Kittredge okayed the scene and then the
production crew continued on until 7 p.m. with some outdoors footage.

The next day Kopopka is the director of a sequence in which Langford and
Kittredge are pressed into duties as actors along with Langford’s son Max.
Shot behind the Veritech building, passing motorists may have been confused
by the sight of a man struggling with a Homer Simpson mask.

At the Tuesday press conference, Brown said the finished video would
show viewers the state of the film and video industry in the area.

“You don’t have to go to New York City for a commercial,” Brown said.

Horgan said the video is a “way to speak about Springfield as a place on
the rise.”
© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Monday, June 18, 2007

Hey, here's a little vintage Fleischer to liven up your day.

Just a Gigolo
Here are some DVD reviews. "Black Snake Moan" is truly a victim of inept marketing. Some of my co-workers saw the DVD on my desk and assumed it wa some sort of porn! Luckily I made sure they understood it wasn't or I would have been outof a job.

The Lost Tomb of Jesus

Yes, this highly publicized documentary, that was originally broadcasted, during Easter season is now on DVD in a 105-minute cut.

I didn't make a point of watching the Discovery Channel broadcast largely because of what I thought was a tasteless ploy to belittle the meaning of Easter by implying the resurrection of Christ was myth rather than reality.

The publicity did little to help this thoughtful and fairly balanced film. The premise is that in one family tomb discovered in Jerusalem in 1980 there were ossuaries (bone boxes) for a family whose members included Jesus son of Joseph, Maria (Mary), Mariamene (Mary Magdalene), Joseph, Matthew and Judah, son of Jesus. Could these be the resting places for Jesus and his mother? Why is Mary Magdalene there? Were they indeed married?

At first glance this film fits within the veritable cottage industry concerning questioning the life of Jesus thanks to "The Da Vinci Code." It is not sensationalistic in its approach. There are no conspiracies instead there is an interpretation of a group of artifacts.

A very interesting film, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" should stir up conversation among those people interested in revisionist history.

For more information, log onto www.jesusfamilytomb.com

Reno 911: The Complete Fourth Season Uncensored!

Oh those wacky fake Reno, Nevada, deputy sheriffs! After four seasons this largely improvised comedy still walks on the edge. A parody of "Cops," a camera crew follows the exploits of a group of Reno police as they blunder through what they think as crime fighting.

There are some great shows in this collection such as the one in which a Hooters-style restaurant decides to sponsor the Sheriff's Department and make everyone wear pink hot pants. Another favorite episode guest starred Paul Reubens as a citizen patrol member who out-smarts the Reno deputies.

Extras include profiles on each officer that were assembled for this collection.

For more information, log onto www.paramount.com/


Black Snake Moan

Halle Berry received an Oscar for her sexually charged performance in "Monster's Ball," but I doubt Christina Ricci will even get a nomination for her role in "Black Snake Moan."

Why? Both films were art house movies that deal with redemption and forgiveness. Both films have scenes in which the lead actress is nude. Both films have an "artiness" about them: the black of white photography of "Monster's Ball" and the fable-like quality of the "Black Snake Moan" script.

"Monster's Ball" was a minor hit and got Ms. Berry an Oscar. "Black Snake Moan" was hustled quickly in and out of theaters and will not be the subject of an Oscar campaign.

I blame it on the chains. For some reason, Paramount decided that emphasizing the chain that Samuel L. Jackson's character Lazarus uses to confine Rae (Ricci). The result was an advertising campaign built around images that made the film look some sort of soft-core porn.

While not completely successful, the film is a very interesting look at three broken people. Lazarus is trying to deal with his wife leaving him for his brother. Rae and Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) are a young couple trying to support each other. Ronnie suffers from anxiety attacks while Rae was sexually abused as a child and is wildly promiscuous.

The three characters collide when Ronnie leaves for a hitch in the Army. Rae gets high, is raped, beaten and abandoned. She is found by Lazarus who attempts to change her. Because she wanders while hallucinating, Lazarus chains her to his radiator.

But the film is about more than just that scandalous image.

Director and writer Craig Brewer had a hit with "Hustle and Flow," and while I can not thoroughly recommend this film it can be a hard film to watch at time as it swiches gears from realism to fable it does provide a very interesting two hours.

And by the way, I liked it far more than "Monster's Ball."

For more information, log onto www.paramount.com/homeentertainment.

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Monday, June 11, 2007

Response to DVD review...I'm sure Marky Mark would agree with this reader.

Here's a letter I received this week from Pat Henry in East Longmeadow about the review I wrote of "The Ghosts of Abu Graib":

"The Reminder described this documentary as 'chilling' and 'disturbing.' It then gratuitously offered the observation that 'most people watching this film [would] question the basic foundations of the conflict itself.' I don' t know how the reviewer could make any connection between a POW camp incident and a UN-sanctioned military action. In English class we call this a non sequitur.

"What I found more chilling and disturbing than forcing captives to wear women's underpants over their heads or be threatened by leashed police dogs, was seeing men being drilled in the knee or the head by an electric drill, having an eye gouged out, having a throat slit on TV with a long knife, men forced to watch their daughters raped in front of them, and burned U.S. soldiers hanging from a bridge. That's what the enemy is doing, and televising, and bragging about every day, while we hash over granting Geneva Convention rights to them. Please give us a break and send reviews like this to the Valley Advocate where they belong."

The reason I thought this film was "chilling" was that I was raised believing we are the good guys. Our military personnel, though, are not perfect and in the heat and chaos of war some have indeed committed terrible acts of violence.

Because of my up bringing I saw these incidents as tragic reminders of the costs of war the destruction of morals and ethics, the erosion of standards. I saw these as I'm sure many Americans did as isolated and not institutionalized incidents.

That's why Abu Graib stood out as such a black spot on our military. We are supposed to be the liberators in Iraq. We operate on a higher moral plane than the terrorists who have committed atrocities. And yet people in command positions made decisions to take a much lower road for the first time in modern U.S. history.

We diminished ourselves by taking actions we had never taken before. Doesn't that mean anything?

Abu Graib was a prison operation, not a POW camp. We were detaining massive groups of people in the hopes of capturing terrorists, but innocent people were hurt. How did that help our cause?

The photos from the Abu Graib inflamed the Middle East even more, hurting our war effort even more.

That's why it was chilling and tragic to me at least.

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

I spent this weekend in NYC attending Talkers Magazine New Media Seminar, a great industry gathering of talk radio producers, hosts and syndicators. I've been to my share of media conferences, but none have been as good as this one in presenting information that is fluff-free.

There were a lot of name hosts there, including Ed Schultz (first photo), the number one progressive host in America. Michael Harrison (last photo) is a seasoned radio vet and the publisher of Talkers.

Oh yes, Stephanie Miller one of the best radio hosts on the planet and someone with looks built for television, was there as well. Miler's show is very fast-moving and funny.

Talkers is considerd the Bible of the industry is produced right here in Springfield, MA.

Everytime I attend one of these conferences I get itchy to get back into radio. I know the chance of that happening is slim to none, but the five years I was on the air doing talk were a pleasure.

Oddest moment: being in the john and hearing G. Gordon Liddy in there as well. I never thought I would share an intimate moment with a convicted Watergate felon. Liddy actually seems to have a sense of humor and perspective about things and didn't seem to be as much as an ideologue as some of the other hosts.

Fanboy moment: Trying to speak with Stephanie Miller at the cocktail party. I walked away as I just didn't want to come across as a geek stalker just to to compliment her.

Moment of realization: that Sean Hannity probably actually believes his conservative line of crap.

NEW YORK CITY – With the growing popularity of satellite and Internet radio, questions about the survival of traditional radio swirled around the tenth annual New Media Seminar this past weekend.

And Michael Harrison, the publisher of Talkers Magazine, the Springfield, Mass.-based Bible of the radio talk show industry, had the answer: invest in programming and talent.

AM and FM radio must “have the best programming anywhere,” Harrison told the hundreds of people who gathered for the two-day event.

“We have to invest a lot of money in products – the opposite of what they’re doing now,” he said.

Harrison said that new technology is “a force of nature that can’t be stopped.”

Walter Sabo, an industry consultant, said that dominance for a medium is based on its stars and that good locally produced radio shows can save AM and FM radio.

Sabo noted, though, that radio must be part of new communications technologies such as cell phones, which could and should have a radio receiver. He also said stand-alone radios need to be over-hauled.

“When was the last time you saw a cool design for a radio?” he asked the audience. He then added that most radios today look like they were made in Russia in 1965.

Erica Farber, the publisher of “Radio and Records,” said that 95 percent of listeners are consumers of traditional radio, but without access to cell phone customers radio could become an “antiquated device.”

The seminar attracted hundreds of talk show hosts, programming executives, station owners and others. The future of the medium wasn’t the only topic presented at the conference, which also tackled freedom of speech issues post Don Imus and the growth of progressive or liberal radio.

Ed Schultz, whose nationally syndicated show is heard locally on WHMP AM, said that he and his wife attended the New Media Seminar four years ago and were laughed at with their vision of a liberal radio program in a medium
dominated by conservatives.

Four years later, Schultz is top-rated in many markets and his show is making money. He said other liberal hosts have to “knock down the stereotypes.”

Schultz said he talks about sports and fishing as well as politics on his show and the mix has worked for him.

“You’ve got to make it interesting. You’ve got to live your life on the air,” he said.

A panel of program directors was divided if they would have fired Imus, who made a racial remark on his show. Some, like Program Director Jack Swanson of KGO in San Francisco, said he would have fired Imus and then resigned himself, as he obviously hadn’t done his job correctly.

Others said Imus should have immediately been suspended.

David Bernstein, the new vice president of programming for Air America, said that Imus, a broadcaster with a lengthy track record of making outrageous statements, was “following orders” and doing what his employer expected.

Freedom of speech issues were also addressed by hosts Alan Colmes and Jim Bohannon who spoke prior to the presentation of the annual Freedom of Speech Award, which was given this year to conservative talk host Michael
Savage. Bohannon told the audience there are many “lines” today in radio that a host could cross accidentally – racial, sexual, and scatological, among others – and these lines move all the time.

“Broadcasters tap dance in a minefield,” Bohannon said.

Colmes quoted Sinclair Lewis, the first American author to win a Nobel Prize for literature, in his comments: “I love America, but I don’t like it.”

Colmes said that while he might despise what Savage says, he wouldn’t want to live in a country where Savage can’t speak out. If that was the case, Colmes said he knows he would be next.

Harrison then explained that Savage was receiving the award this year because as a conservative he has broke way from the conservative host pack by criticizing President George Bush. He also emphasized that he doesn’t like what Savage says on his show, but that “if we don’t understand the First Amendment, we don’t understand America.”

“Without it, there’s no America. If you want to defend America, defend Freedom of Speech,” Harrison added.

© 2007 Gordon Michael Dobbs.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Eddie Murphy's new comedy, a great television show and a disturbing documentary are in this week's DVD column.


All great comedians have developed personas or styles of comedies. Charlie Chaplin had his tramp character. The Marx Brothers were anarchists. Jim Carrey is a maniac. And Eddie Murphy is now the guy who specializes in multiple roles accomplished by his considerable acting ability and tons of make-up by the great Rick Baker.

There's not much new ground here in "Norbit," though. Murphy has portrayed multiple characters before. He has played in fat suits before. He has been a female character before. He has also been the lead character in an unlikely romance.

So what is new with "Norbit" is the over-the-top villain in Rasputia, the bigger-than-life woman who attaches herself to meek and sweet Norbit early on in life. Rasputia is right up there with Cruella de Vil as a movie bad girl. The problem is she's plenty hateful, but not too funny.

In fact, this film made me laugh just three times. I have to admit, though, I was fascinated by the illusion of Murphy playing multiple roles and the DVD's extras explaining that process were very interesting.

All in all, this is a sub-par comedy.

For more information, log onto www.paramount.com/


Mission: Impossible Season Two

Time to climb into the time machine and go back to 1967 when my brother and I would end our weekends by staying up late hey, we were farm boys and it was a school night to watch "Mission: Impossible."

With intricate plots, a cool dispassionate style and the second coolest theme song on television "Peter Gunn" remains the best "Mission: Impossible" had it all.

The trouble is whether or not it still does.

Paramount has released the second season of the show, the first year with Peter Graves portraying the leader of the team that undertook a weekly covert assignment. What made the show different from other spy movies or shows is that it was a procedural drama. Every week we saw the challenge and the formation of a plan.

Of course there were some twists along the way, but this had a far more realistic feel than the James Bond films.

So do these shows hold up after 40 years? I'm happy to say, "Yes!" What I like about them is their central concept of tripping up a bad guy in such a way that their hand is never seen. Oh yes, I still have a crush on Barbara Bain. Sigh.

I much prefer these original shows to the recent Tom Cruise sort of re-makes.

For more information, log onto www.paramount.com/


The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib

I bet you forgot about this footnote in the history of the Iraqi War, but you shouldn't and this chilling film underscores why.

This film is about how the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison came about and the impact the revelations made on the war effort. It questions how our troops are deployed and the effectiveness of torture in gathering intelligence.

Most importantly, it looks into how a group of Army Reservists could fall into the mindset of not questioning the very behaviors they had been taught to avoid by living under the rules of the Geneva Convention.

Extensive interviews with the soldiers involved in the torture and Iraqis unjustly imprisoned at Abu Ghraib and later released are matched with still and video images of the torture incidents.

This is strong stuff. I can't help but think that most people watching this film wouldn't question the basic foundations of the conflict itself.

For more information, log onto http://www.hbo.com


© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Monday, June 04, 2007

So can my friends and relatives who support this administration possibly comment on the following debacle? For the life of me I can't understand why there are still people who think that Bush and Company are right when so much of what they do is desperately wrong.

So did you hear about the American taxpayer-funded Arabic language television station that is supposed to win over the hearts and minds in the Middle East, but has been actually presenting pro-terrorist and anti-Semitic messages because the Americans who run it can't speak Arabic?

ABC News has the story on its web site here dated May 22

It seems the Bush Administration has allocated $63 million a year to the station but doesn't have a clue what it's broadcasting.

Amazing, isn't it?

How would you use $63 million a year? More cops on the street? More recovery efforts for New Orleans? More teachers?

And what about the border patrol guard on the Canadian border who apparently ignored the message he was to detain and isolate that idiot attorney running around the world with damn near incurable tuberculosis?

Which one of them has the least regard for public safety?

Do you wonder why we are so paranoid about the Mexican border, but the Canadian border gets scant attention from a homeland security status? Maybe it will now.


I hope someone is going to do a sociological study of the baseball cap soon as I find it amusing that on one end we have guys who carefully preserve the metallic stickers on the bills of the hat, while on the other we have kids spending $40 or more getting a hat that is pre-worn.

Can you imagine the sweatshop in China where they make perfect hats in one section of the factory and then another unit takes a sander to them? What the heck do you think those workers think of us?

For that matter I wonder what these folk think as they make all of the "decorative" stuff one finds in dollar stores or the Christmas Tree Shop? What are they thinking as they're spray painting garden gnomes?


You know I've been wondering if people who watch local television news really want to be scared all the time? Everything on their tease commercials is somehow a threat or an answer to a threat.

Life is scary enough just with day-to-day stuff. Do we really need more fright?

Conventional wisdom is that sex sells, but if you're afraid of FCC fines, then I suppose the next best thing is a little homegrown terror.

In the spirit of cooperating with my electronic colleagues, allow me to make some suggestions when a slow news day threatens:

"Is your dog thirsty? We'll tell you how a filled water bowl can make a difference."

"Experts say pasting a $20 bill on your forehead and walking through an urban center at 2 a.m. is asking for trouble. We'll tell you how to avoid that danger."

"Looking both ways before crossing a street saved this local boy's life. Find out how turning your head and looking could save your life, too."

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

More from eBay!

I couldn't resist this item: a British publication aimed at boys ("Boy's Cinemas" gives it away) that presents novelizations of action pictures.

This one features my favorite cowboy star Tom Tyler, the B-western star who had one of the most interesting careers in movies.

What is so amazing is that a western such as "Riding Through" is no great shakes and yet it's treated here as a major production worthly of some uncredited writer adapting the script into a novella.

The story is illustrated with stills from the film and I was interested to see that apparently this picture – independently made – was distributed by the British arm of Universal in the United Kingdom.

The weekly publication had several other novelizations as well as movie news.

My friend Richard Gordon, the last of a generation of indpendent filmmakers, told me he and his late brother Alex (also a notable indie producer) read "Boy's Cinema" regularly. And look what happened to them!

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Hey, I want these two fonts based on the title cards of Fleischer cartoons! I know I'm not an graphic artist, but I still want them.

I want to use these on stationary, etc. They are beautiful.

Fleischer fonts