21 July 2007

How High's The Water, Mama?

21 Kupris - 86 p.s.U.

"Sitting in an English garden, waiting for the sun/If the sun don't come you get a tan from standing in the English rain..."
~ John Lennon, 1967

20 July 2007

The TSOG Mouthpiece

29 Tir - Year 1386

This is probably going to be a missive from the "Old News Dept.", but I watched the Robert Greenwald docu on Fox News, called Outfoxed, a couple of weeks ago. I had been meaning to since I heard it was released - but finally added it to the Amazon rental list.

"Outfoxed" chronicles the rise of right-wing mogul Rupert Murdoch and the network he founded to act as a counterpart to his other media ventures. His TV venture started out fairly innocuously--but suddenly ol' Rupert decided that he wasn't seeing quite enough Ronnie Ray-gun on the tube in the late 80s and started directing the programmers to cut over to speeches and appearances, sometimes in the middle of another broadcast.

This continued through the 90s - with Bill Clinton becoming the main target of Murdoch news' jibes and gentrified rancor, while pushing a conservative bias. The network came into it's own with two events, however--the hiring of Roger Ailes in the late 90s and the "election" of George W. Bush in 2000. Ailes, with his connections to Ronnie and his helping to get Rush Limbaugh's radio show started, ramped up the conservative bias and Fox News officially launched in 1996. When the TSOG installed itself in Washington D.C. in early 2001, Fox News almost immediately took a hushed, reverential tone toward Bush and his cronies. "Strong" right-wing types like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity were drafted in to act as bobble-head admirers of the TSOG and act belligerent toward those who weren't as accepting of the new regime.

Fox's tactics are shown as different segments in the docu, such as the fear-mongering pieces shown in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. I almost thought they were going to end one of their reports with "Stay inside!...and whatever you do...don't breathe!!" The smear campaigns seem pretty amusing as well--the diatribes about Richard Clarke after he announced that the administration had "failed the American people" with faulty intelligence about the W.T.C. bombings. Clarke is shown as merely "trying to sell his book" by Fox. The montage of clips denouncing 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry as a 'flip-flopper', while carefully edited, do show the automaton nature of the on-air 'personalities', though we really only get a glimpse of the puppet-masters.

The best moment (it seems to me, anyway), which epitomizes what Fox is really all about--comes from O'Reilly's show. A showdown of sorts between the "journalist" O'Reilly and Jeremy Glick, who's father had died during the September 11th atrocities. Glick had signed an anti-war petition and so was repeatedly invited onto O'Reilly's programme. Glick was smarter than O'Reilly in this instance..indeed, he seems smarter overall--though that doesn't necessarily seem like a mean feat to me. He calmly absorbs Bill's frantic attempts to goad him into a shouting match and gets his point across. At the end, O'Reilly orders Glick's mic to be cut--he's fuming becuase he (B.O.R.) doesn't know how to respond to someone not playing his mammalian-territorial game (which reaches a nadir by O'Reilly asking Glick "what would your mother say to this?" and then bringing up Glick's late father). You can watch the exchange here. The clip speaks for itself. Glick also states in "Outfoxed" that after their on-air debate, he was practically ordered to leave the building as O'Reilly "didn't want to break any laws", implying that he was going to physically assault Glick. Nice guy, eh?

Fox also plays the "happy days are here again" game with it's 'financial advice' shows - always showing the American economy (under the TSOG) as strong and on the upswing and if you believe that, well, I've got some stocks to sell you--they're legit, no really... and, of course, who could forget the Fox "news-babes"--those ever-chirpy, short-skirted mannequins happy to cheerlead their colleagues and keep the conservative libido stoked.

There do seem to be a couple of mis-steps with "Outfoxed", though. The title graphics have an almost low-budget appearance, which doesn't help the look of the film. I suppose maybe it was to underscore the typical over-crowded look of Fox's presentation, but as I say, it makes the film appear a bit cheap. The use of the coda of Layla by Derek & The Dominoes for the ending of the film seems a bit too clever for it's own good--and after you've seen Goodfellas, you never quite hear that part of that song the same way ever again. Every time I hear it - I see Frankie Carbone in the meat truck, frozen into a contorted Italian-American icicle..and Frenchy tumbling through the trash in the back of the garbage truck..but I digress...

The point of "Outfoxed" rings out loud and clear--media moguls with an ideology ("idiotology") to push and controlling large segments of the media doesn't seem to be a good thing for the rest of us, especially when they own news outlets, which one would think would be objective as possible. Not that Fox "is" a news network in any form - if you go by Claude Shannon's information theory, which states that the more unpredictability in a message, the more information is contained in the message. You know what messages the Fox News crowd are going to relay before it even leaves their mouths, so very little information is conveyed. The main problem I see, seems to be that the film mainly "preaches to the choir" and I think it's main audience is the usual round-up of die-hard lefties and Clinton-era liberals--plus a few anarcho-libertarians and cyber-freeks. The very scary thing seems to be those who like Fox News, know they're being propagandized to and watch it anyway, as it reinforces their ideological echo-chamber--I think George Orwell would recognise something in that scenario. I don't think "Outfoxed" will convert any Fox News zombies anytime soon, though I want to be optimistic about this film un-freezing a few minds that have had the Frankie Carbone treatment.

I haven't been subjected to Fox for a few years now--though I imagine they're still up to their old tricks. I just read today that O'Reilly recently promised to expose a "right-wing" hate-monger and who does he expose? That sad, senile "Christian" uber-bigot, Fred Phelps, who runs a hateful cult of X-tian nut-jobs in Kansas. I guess Phelps was chastising B.O.R. too, presumably for not (openly) advocating the killing of gays and the eating of Jewish and African-American children. Way to go, Bill, you sure scooped that one--though I'd hazard a guess that Phelps would be a bit beyond 'right-wing'. Just a hunch. Luckily, Fox News never really took off in the UK--it's probably available if you've got the Sky package of 400 channels--but I can't think of anyone I've met who bothers watching it. I suppose that "most watched news network" boast doesn't extend to England. In any case, it seems better to get your news from a few different sources--and keep your reality-tunnel as wide as possible. As Robert Anton Wilson used to say, "Certainty belongs to the person with one set of encyclopedias". If you're only watching Fox News, you don't even have one set.

09 July 2007

They Don't Even Mention Kenneth Grahame!

23 Tammuz - Year 5767

EMI have announced the release of a 40th anniversary of Pink Floyd's debut, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. Considered (by me, among others) to be the epitome of British psychedelia, I suppose I'll let it slide that this is yet another re-issue of this album, which follows the 1987 and 1994 re-releases.

Much like Capitol's various re-issue campaigns for The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds (I think there's been about four different ones now - the latest is the green "fuzzy"-cased edition with the DVD, which was released last year), EMI know that Floyd die-hards will shell out more cash for every newly re-vamped "Piper" they wheel into the shops and internet sites.

This one seems O.K., with three discs in total - two are the stereo mix and the fabled (long-deleted) original mono mix. The third disc collects the '67 singles, with B-sides (though if you bought the Shine On boxed set - you've already got those with the "Early Singles" digipak), plus an out-take of Interstellar Overdrive (only released on a French EP previously) and a stereo mix of single Apples And Oranges. The cover art will resemble a "cloth-bound book" - which seems fine, as long as they don't get rid of the iconic cover art, by photographer Vic Singh (the back cover was designed by late Floyd guitarist and singer, Syd Barrett). It's out in North America on 28th August and Europe on 3rd September--which does make it appear to be even more of a cash cow--choosing to flog it to the lucrative American market first to please the accountants.

I dunno - I kinda hoped they'd have put maybe a bit more effort into it. How about a live show from that era - with the nascent Floyd in full freak-out flight? Surely there's a half-way decent tape from one of their UFO Club sets--though having said that, the couple of '67 boots I own have pretty dire sound quality. I suppose there weren't any studio out-takes besides the "Interstellar Overdrive", otherwise those may have been included on Disc 3. Maybe even an interview or two from the early part of that year, as Syd had started to tire of the pop-star life and began his famed "acid burnout" by the end of 1967. Ah well, it's still a re-mastered "Piper" after all.

Will I buy it? More than likely. I already own the Japanese mini-LP edition of "Piper" and before that I bought the 1994 re-issue (though sometimes I wish I had kept it for the Storm Thorgerson-designed booklet alone). I sold off my jewel-case Floyd when I replaced most of them with mini-LPs. Yeah, EMI will be hoovering up my cash once again--but I can't resist...the album to me is a gem and still one of my favourite records. After this, though, no more! 'Till the next tarted-up re-release, that is...