Thursday, May 21, 2015

Letterman ends an era

The lights are out, the desk is clear and the empty chair is facing a partially disassembled New York Skyline.  There are hints of what was scattered everywhere but now they're just broken reflections of a shattered mirror.

At least that's how I picture it.

I don't live anywhere near New York but looking at a live shot of the now defunct marquee of Late Night with David Letterman had more meaning than I thought it would.  It's just a dumb late night variety show right?  There's dozens of them now...

Except that its passing only confirms what we already knew.  Letterman's final sign off signals the end of an era of television that punctuated entertainment with intelligence. 

No, I didn't watch every episode and Letterman's not my hero but watching his show was a kind of rite of passage for me.  Imagine being a 16 year old kid left home alone for a weekend for the first time with complete control of the TV remote and not about to hit the sack after the local news.  It was my choice and my taste for the first time. 

Over the years I watched on and off.  Even if I wasn't a faithful viewer, it was reassuring to know that Dave was there holding up his end of the conversation in an entertainment world populated by mindless sitcoms and reality TV.  There must have been something to it because Dave always seemed to be able to get the Presidents and seldom seen Hollywood hermit types that nobody else could.

Yes, we still have Jimmy Fallon, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel but they're of a different generation.  They all have their moments but those moments only come with the frequency of a sine wave instead of the steady state of Letterman.

Everything changes but the over the top antics and the short attention span theater of current Late Night entertainment is often just pale imitation in comparison.  Now it's about the 30 video clip stuck on YouTube the next day with a nag card at the end saying " Watch (insert show here) on (insert network here) @ 11:30/10:30 Central."

Is it likely that any of them could earn a Peabody Award like Craig Ferguson's 2009 interview with Bishop Desmond Tutu?  Will they be able to console a wounded country like Letterman did a week after 9/11?

It's not likely, there's just no there, there.

Want proof?  Guess who was James Corden's guest tonight during his "Carpool Karaoke." 

Justin Bieber...

A display of a talent pool so shallow a cricket couldn't get wet.  This is the state of late night and if you like it you're welcome to it. 

I prefer to take my attention elsewhere.

Thanks for the memories Dave. 

Our only hope now is Stephen Colbert...

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Pros and Cons of Phoenix... if you believe in stereotypes

I posted the following response to a YouTube video someone had put up about the "Pros and Cons of Phoenix."  I found it somewhat misleading and typical of the stereotypes you hear from people who really haven't spent much time here.  That the video was a glorified PowerPoint presentation with a voiceover didn't add to its credibility.

I'm the last person to defend the place and truth be told if finances allowed I'd rip up stakes in a heartbeat.  This state has been no friend to me but when I hear deliberate misinformation it annoys me to no end.  I've provided the video in question and my response to it.  If you really want to know what it's like to live in Phoenix, read the post that follows it.

My response:

"As someone who's lived in the Phoenix area since I was dragged here as a kid in 1971 I can say with authority that this video is somewhat lacking in content.

Let's start with all those great jobs she was talking about...I suppose if low wage jobs are your thing then jobs around Phoenix would seem plentiful.  I can tell you that for anything above flipping burgers the wages are absolute crap and so are the corporations that came here for just that reason.  Where do you think Michigan got it's ideas for union busting anyway?   

Cost of living may be lower than other places but so are the wages so it's not like everyone here can afford to just jump in the car and head to their luxurious cabin in Pinetop then take a jaunt over to the Canyon for some lunch.   The state's biggest employer is Wal-Mart so that should tell you something.  We used to have big companies here but most of them pulled out or scaled down in the 80's.  This state is only high tech if you think Best Buy is an indicator. 

 The majority of jobs are either retail or healthcare to take care of all those "snow birds."  Those wages are depressed compared to other places as well.  Want to be a teacher?  Try 35K a year to start and maybe you'll get to 45K if you stay for 10 years.   35K a year doesn't buy much of a house when median prices are 250K for anything but a shack in a bad neighborhood that's a bloody 2 hour commute with gas prices anywhere from $2.50 to $5.00 a gallon depending on who farted in Iraq today.  

Let's also not forget about our beloved Sheriff Joe whose corrupt administration has the feds and the ACLU setting up permanent offices just to keep an eye on him.  Socially and politically Arizona is the Mississippi of the Southwest.  We make Texas look progressive by comparison.  Nothing gets done around here unless there's a greased palm and plenty of photo ops for someone's coffee table book.  

But I digress...

The weather is what it is, it's a freaking desert you know.  You completely forgot to mention the monsoons which make it more humid but it does cool us off from July to September.  Late May through mid July are usually the hottest months.  What really irritates me though is that this city including all the other satellite cities that surround it has done absolutely nothing to combat sprawl.  The people with money here are the developers and they'll put up a 15 story office building just for the hell of it.  Then we got all of the refuges from California in the 90's and doubled the population.  

Now we have freeways that look like the 405 6 hours a day and even more competition for the few good paying jobs available. 

Traffic is bloody awful and the combination of Midwest and California drivers makes any trip an adventure.  Either they're going too fast, too slow or both while they babble on endlessly on their cellphones.  Traffic is bad everywhere but it's doubly so here because you never know what to expect depending on what part of the valley you're in.  It can take over an hour to get from Mesa to NW Phoenix on a Saturday evening.  

A trip of less than 50 miles on freeways with a 65MPH speed limit on a weekend day because of the equivalent of an early morning weekday rush hour at 5PM on a Saturday!  Let's not even talk about the elephant in the room.  The fact that 4 million people depend on a water source fought over by 4 states and the western half of the country is in a severe drought!  Are you people freaking nuts?  It's only a matter of time before the chamber of commerce has to admit that there's not enough water to sustain this many people. 

As for the people, yeah Scottsdale and the Biltmore area have their noses in the air like any wealthy zip code but there's far more zip codes that average less than 25K a year in wages meaning there's lots of places you don't walk to dog at night.  Most people are friendly enough on a superficial level but don't expect  much more than that.  People are usually very transient only sticking around a few years before bouncing off to the next new subdivision.  Everyone works very hard to keep up appearances even if they can't afford it.  That's what Phoenix is.  I don't know where this lady was living."