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17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:45 pm

Paralympics: Helping NBC Do the Right Thing


The Paralympics ended yesterday and will return in 2012 in London.

International Paralympic Committee chief Philip Craven hailed Beijing 2008 as “the greatest Games ever” during a moving, colourful closing ceremony. . . .Craven paid tribute to “the best ever Paralympic villages, a never-ending and self-generating supply of passion and emotion, superb organisation and wonderful volunteers” in his speech.  He hailed “millions of new Paralympic sports aficionados both here in China and around the world.”

Of course, thanks to NBC, none of those “new aficionados” live in the United States.

I have a suggestion.  Let’s spend the next four years urging NBC to get their act together and broadcast this event live on one of what, by that time will be the 117 channels they own.

Mr. David Zucker
President and Chief Executive Officer
NBC-Universal
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608

Dear Mr. Zucker,

We the undersigned were dismayed to discover that the NBC-Universal family chose not to televise the Paralympics in real time (live and tape-delayed rather than as a special taking place long after the event was over) in the same way that it chose to feature the Olympics.

We write you today, however, not to object to your current actions, but rather to urge you to make a different decision in 2012, when the Paralympics come to London.  he athletes competing in the Paralympics are as extraordinary as any in the world, and deserve our attention and respect.

We also think you would find them to be a tremendous ratings success.  Covering them therefore would be not only the right thing to do, it also would be the best business decision for your company.

We hope you will reconsider your decision and give Paralympics fans in this country the opportunity to support our athletes and share in their achievements.

Sincerely,

If you’re willing to sign such a petition, please add your name and city/state to the coments section below.  And feel free to share it with others.  If we have enough interest, I’ll pass it on to NBC.  I will not share any contact information — only your name and city.

Photo:  Jonas in China via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license

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15 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:45 am

Paralympics: Shame on NBC


You may not know it, but the Paralympics are going on in Beijing right now.  Not that any network is covering it.   That’s a shame, because it looks just amazing.

For more of these photos, go to The Big Picture, The Boston Globe’s fantastic photo blog.  Time has more photos here.

When the regular Olympics were on, NBC had six networks covering them — NBC, MSNBC, USA, CNBC, Univision, and Universal (their HD channel).  For the Paralympics, they couldn’t be bothered to show it on even one.

Do they think the Paralympics are less dramatic?  Do they think that people wouldn’t want to watch these amazing athletes?  I would bet good money that this would draw more than whatever crap USA or Universal is showing every day.

This is just part of what makes NBC so blinkered.  If you watched NBC’s primetime coverage of the “regular” Olympics, you might have thought that there were only four sports:  swimming, gymnastics, track and field and freaking beach volleyball.  The only time other sports got coverage was if the United States won a gold medal.

What is so infuriating about this is that people don’t remember, but gymnastics never was popular until Olga Korbut came along in 1972.  First Korbut and then Nadia Comaneci made gymnastics into the hugely popular Olympic sport it is today.  And they weren’t even Americans, for crying out loud.  That couldn’t happen today.  NBC would never give it a chance.  For all we know, there is another sport that has the potential to break through now the way gymnastics did then.  Perhaps the Paralympics have that potential.  But thanks to the soul-sucking money-grubbing pinheads at NBC, we’ll never know.

Guess what?  The ChiComs are broadcasting them.  According to Time, it’s making a huge difference in China in terms of how people there see the disabled:

The disabled have traditionally been marginalized in China. Ahead of the Olympics, organizers issued an official apology for a manual cautioning volunteers that the disabled can have “unusual personalities” and can be “stubborn and controlling.” Beijing alone is home to nearly 1 million disabled, but they’re a largely invisible part of the population. Those that can work are funneled into the few jobs that are open to the disabled, like paraplegics who can drive three-wheeled motor taxis or those who are sight-impaired and work in massage parlors. The Paralympics offers the hope that watching disabled athletes compete will change old attitudes and improve opportunities for the nation’s 83 million handicapped.

It is possible that the Paralympics will have an impact in China similar to the passage in the United States of the Americans with Disabilities Act, helping to mainstream the disabled into society.  But, as Time notes, that is going to take more than installing a few ramps in Beijing.  But at least the whole country is getting to see these talented athletes in action.

Unlike those of us in the United States.

Shame on NBC.  Shame on them for putting a misguided sense of profits ahead of an incredibly compelling and exciting story.  Shame on them for treating these talented athletes as somehow second class.

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8 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:39 am

Olbermann and Matthews


I like Keith Olbermann.  I watch Countdown whenever I can.  I’m not a fan of Chris Matthews.  I never watch Hardball.

I’m not that upset that they are no longer going to anchor MSNBC’s election coverage.

Why?  Because the reality is (was) that they were’t doing a good job.  They talked over one another, they expressed opinion as fact, and they mocked other analysts and guests.  That works on shows like Hardball and Countdown, but it doesn’t really work when reporting live events.

It is easy to see NBC’s decision as a conspiracy against progressivism.  It also would be a mistake.  Had Olbermann and Matthews excelled at their job — or even if they had done it with more professionalism and objectivity — the regulars at NBC — particularly Brokaw and Williams — never would have agitated for their removal.  And had Brokaw and Williams supported Matthews and Olbermann, MSNBC would have ignored the pressure from the McCain campaign.

Let’s face facts:  Olbermann’s ego got the best of him — he angered too many people too often, and took too much credit for Rachel Maddow’s new show (which starts tonight).  Matthews, was supposed to act as a counterweight to Olbermann, largely devolved into Olbermann’s straight man.

If you have doubts about Olbermann’s inability to speak objectively, go back and watch his most recent interview with Michael Moore, which took place on the Friday that John McCain chose Sarah Palin.  Moore gloated that Hurricane Gustav is going to hit New Orleans in the middle of the Republican National Convention, saying it was “proof there is a God in heaven.” Olbermann never calls him on it.

Finally, let’s stop arguing that just because Fox does it, it’s okay for the left to do it.  To paraphrase my mother, if Bill O’Reilly jumped of the roof of the house, would that mean it’s okay for you to do it?

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4 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:15 pm

Speech Preview: McCain’s NFL Challenge


When Sarah Palin so easily exceeded expectations last night, something like 37 million Americans were watching.  That comes close to the 42 million that Obama got last week, and demonstrates just how much Americans are paying attention to this election.

But it also significantly raises the bar for John McCain.

In the best of circumstances, McCain doesn’t do well with teleprompters — his June “prebuttal” speech was so bad that even Fox News called it a disaster.  In more recent speeches, including the one he gave announcing his pick of Palin, he has worked off  a printed text rather than use a teleprompter.  Given the reports that the teleprompter malfunctioned last night during Palin’s speech, he may be even more disinclined to use one tonight.

That leaves him betwixt and between.  If he works off of a printed text, he has to look down a lot, which won’t come off well.  If he instead uses a teleprompter, he may look as bad as he did last May.  I’m sure that his aides have been working hard to improve his skills, but that doesn’t mean that he will look good, much less appear as charismatic as either Obama or Palin.

The second problem he faces is that tonight is a bit of an anticlimax.  Some of the people who tuned in out of curiosity last night arent’ going to watch his speech tonight.  He will get lower numbers than Palin — the only question is how much lower.

The third problem, and the one most out of his control, is the fact that the Giants and Redskins kick off the NFL season tonight.  The game starts at 7:00 pm EDT and should be over by 10, but what if it runs long?  Will NBC break away, leading to the political version of the Heidi Bowl?  There are some reports that McCain will delay his speech until the game is over.  But the later he goes, the smaller his viewership.  And some may suggest it shows weakness to wait.

Even if the game ends on time, many fans will turn to ESPN or other post-game coverage.  That is particularly true in New York and DC, meaning that McCain’s viewership will be hurt in two of the five largest media markets in the United States.  That means it will be almost impossible for him to match Palin’s numbers.

Add to all of this the reports that McCain is now giving a far longer speech than he originally intended.

What happens if a) McCain does poorly (especially in comparison to Palin and Obama) and b) his “ratings” are lower than Palin’s?  What happens if he goes on too long?

That could do greater damage to his chances than a Palin stumble last night would have.  In fact, it could be a major disaster.

Image via The Orlando Sentinel


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24 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:47 pm

Controlympics: Tape-Delayed Blogging the Closing Ceremonies


Hey boys and girls, it’s time for the Closing Ceremonies!  You know, the ones that actually took place 12 hours ago!  The ones that NBC wouldn’t let you see until now!  And I’m here to give you tape-delayed play by play.

Let me admit up front that this is going to be pretty snarky.  If you’re looking serious analysis, go elsewhere.

Oh goody.  Comrade Joshua (Joshua Cooper-Ramo) is back.  NBC hasn’t even started showing the damn thing and I already want to hurl.  (For those who missed my tape-delayed blogging of the opening ceremonies, Comrade Joshua is a paid shill of the ChiComs er, I mean, a partner in the Beijing office of Kissinger Associates.  Oh wait — there’s no difference between the two, is there?)

Another massive fireworks display.  This one looks less like Triumph of the Will and more like CNN’s coverage of the first night of the Persian Gulf War.  I’m pretty sure that’s not what the ChiComs were going for.

The three stooges were just introduced:  Hu “Is Lying Now” Juntao, Juan Antonio “More of the” Samarach, and Gordon “I Will Have Trouble Getting Tickets to the London Games” Brown.

They’ve got Chinese in ethnic costumes again.  This time, it’s adults.  I wonder if they’re all Han Chinese again?

Something tells me that NBC is milking this for all they’ve got.  I think the first commercial break ran for something like 45 minutes.

Is it my imagination or do the drummers look like Iron Man wearing bike helmets?  Were they afraid they’d get conked by the guys bin the row behind them? Wait, they’re not just bike helmets — they’re bike helmets painted with gold glitter paint!

Molly just said that they guys hovering over the stadium look like they’re playing giant Gouda cheeses.  And why are the women dressed like Aztecs covered with glow brights?

I’m sorry, but that first piece looked like the North Korean version of cell mitosis.  At least the opening ceremonies made sense.  I mean this is so weird that even Comrade Joshua doesn’t have anything clever and butt-kissing to say.

Whoopsie — spoke too soon.  Apparently Comrade Joshua thinks that this is a representation of what Chinese philosophy will have to say in the future.  Uh, okaaay.

Have to say the guys on the giant unicycles are pretty cool.

Okay something looking like a giant white sperm just plunged into the big cell in the middle.  I’m telling you, it’s like a cross between Cirque de Soleil and your 8th grade sex ed class.

Terminator 6:  Arnold battles the cyborg pogo stick clones

I would not want to be the guys hanging off the underside of the gouda cheeses.

Time for another 206 minute commercial break.

Here come the athletes.  I wonder if NBC will show anyone other than the Americans, Europeans, Chinese, and Australians?  Maybe the Jamaicans.

Comrade Joshua is blathering again about harmony.  It’s like the reverse of It’s a Wonderful Life:  every time Comrade Joshua talks about harmony, another human rights activist gets thrown in jail.

Now he’s moanaing about how great the Chinese sports system is.  Now he’s calling the athletes an engineering project.  Nice analogy you twit.

I didn’t know they had found a way to miniaturize Shawn Johnson.

The third biggest star of the Games, behind Michel Phelps and Usain Bolt?  Michael Phelps’s mom.  I liked her new commercial, even though it’s sappy.

Once again, all happy and sappy commercials — until John McCain shows up, sounding like the grumpy uncle who can never enjoy the family picnic.

I wonder if they’re showing all of this on the big screens at the three protest zones. Heh.

Best parts of this are the replays of the best moments of the Games:  4×100 freestyle relay, Phelps’s amazing win in the 100 butterfly, Usain Bolt in the 100.  Still waiting for the Cuban guy kicking the ref in the face and the two little old Chinese women being sentenced to one year each in a reeducation through labor camp for attempting to organize a protest.

You want to know just how tape delayed this is?  Last night, NBC showed the tape delayed results of the men’s marathon.  Tonight, they’re showing that event’s medal ceremony, as it’s part of the closing ceremonies.  That’s not tape delayed, that’s the History Channel.

Sorry, but the kids escorting the athletes are really, really creepy looking.  I think they welded the smiles on their faces.

Comrade Joshua is talking about how all the volunteers spent a year getting ready.  Not to make light of the contributions of the volunteers, but reports of children spending twelve hour days after school each day practicing doesn’t sound to me like volunteerism.  As Zhang Yimou, who directed both the opening and closing ceremonies noted, “uniformity can bring beauty.”  Of course it also brings pain, nervous breakdowns, and a range of other maladies.

Now Joshua is talking about how great everything went.

Here comes Jacques “the slime-sucking, lying dillweed” Rogge.  He thanks the people of China and says these were sixteen days we will cherish forever.  Except the people thrown in jail, of course.

A choir is singing “God Save the Queen.”  In China.  So much for communism.

They’re lowering the Olympic flag, and you can see empty seats in the background.

What’s up with this double-decker bus?  First of all, it’s incredibly ugly.  Second, didn’t they discontinue those?  And the pantomime Londoners are worse than the Chinese.  Oh man, the British presentation is just freaking awful.  I take back everything bad I ever said about the Chinese portion of the ceremonies.

I think Leona Lewis is lip-syncing Enya.   Oh. My. God.  Now she’s lip-syncing Whole Lotta Love.  With a 200-year old Jimmy Page guitar-syncing.

The London section is so freaking bizarre.  What were they thinking?  What is Jimmy Page thinking?  This is worse than a really bad high school production of Hair.  All the athletes are standing around not quite sure how to react.

And now David Beckham?  Did someone slip me a tab of really good acid?  Am I high?  WTF?

Mary Carillo just said, “nice taste of London.”  Really?  Have you ever freaking been to London Mary?  Go back to the Three Gorges Dam and jump off.  Now.  Please.

Okay, there are ten thousand athletes here and they’re using actors to play the athletes leaving.  Maybe they can take Mary Carillo with them.

Comrade Joshua just said all 91,000 spectators were “trained” ahead of time to wave red lanterns.  Apparently the training didn’t work, because most of them are taking pictures instead.

The Chinese are now trying to win back the gold medal for bizarre ceremonies from the British.  Two guys covered head-to-to in white chalk are dancing on top of a giant five story tower.

The flame just went out.  I can’t help thinking of the flame held by the goddess of democracy in Tiananmen Square back in 1989.  Maybe someday a Chinese government will finally recognize which flame was more important.

The five-story tower is now writhing, covered with humans in silver and red jumpsuits.  I know I should be impressed by these feats, but all I can think of are swarming bugs.  Part of the problem is I keep hearing Zhang talking about how much he admires the North Koreans.

Mary Carillo just called it the “holy flame” of the Olympics.  I’m about to start calling her Comrade Mary.

The red strips of cloth on the five-story tower make it look like that scene from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert where Guy Pearce is strapped onto the top of the bus.

Why do all male pop singers in China look like the Back Street Boys channeling Elvis in Memphis circa 1968?

OMG it’s the Chinese version of the video for Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love.  Except the girls are smiling.  And wearing yellow tops and white pants.  And playing an electrified version of a traditional Chinese instrument.  But other than that, it’s almost identical.

I think they’ve cloned Daft Funk.  There are something like 200 guys in track suits, glow-brights, and  motorcycle helmets bouncing up and down like yo-yos.

It’s official: Bollywood music seriously kicks Chinese pop music’s butt.  This song that Wei Wei is singing is just bloody dreadful.

Jackie Chan can’t sing.

Molly just said that the goal of the closing ceremony should not be to make you want to shut off your tee vee.  Can’t say I disagree with her.  Chinese pop music is a crime against humanity.  It’s so bad that they’ve managed to silence Comrade Joshua.  Even he can’t rationalize this away.

They just don’t know how to end this, do they?  Please tell me that the confetti cannons and fireworks are the end.

Now they’re in London, via the BBC.  Has the BBC not gotten around to upgrading to High Definition yet?  And who is this moron interviewing Michael Phelps?  He sounds like the host of Top of the Pops.

It. Is. Over.

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15 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:09 pm

When did NBC. . .


. . .decide that Beach Volleyball should be the fourth most televised sport?  Yech.

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12 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:45 am

What Were You Thinking, Mary Carillo?


So during last night’s NBC Olympics broadcast, correspondent Mary Carillo did one of those annoying features that make the American networks’ quadrennial orgies of of obscure sports so annoying.  This one was about her whirlwind tour of China.

And wouldn’t you know it, two of the things she did during the trip were to visit to the Three Gorges Dam and to ride on the Tibet Railway.

Oh that’s just freaking brilliant NBC:  major human rights violations as tourist hot spots.  Nice going, dimwits.

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8 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:39 pm

Tape-Delayed Blogging the Opening Ceremonies


Three words:  Triumph of the Will.

Yes, it’s pretty cool to watch 2008 drummers beat the drums in, the footsteps come from Tiananmen, the floating rings, and so on.  But tell me how any of this differs from Leni Riefenstahl?

And I don’t know who the commentator is who’s co-hosting this with Bob Costas and Matt Lauer (som guy named Josh?  Anyone know?  I came in at 8:00), but if he says one more thing about how intimidating the Chinese are, I’m gonna hurl.

Oh god, cute children.  I hate mass gatherings of cute children.

And what is up with Bush and Putin yakkin’ it up?  Are they soulmates once again?.

WTF.  The children just handed the ChiCom flag to goosestepping soldiers.  And the NBC commentator started yammering about the state being the guarantor of the children.  Uh, okaaaaay.

The scroll was cool.  So were the giant printing blocks.  The “Confucian scholar” dancers with the brooms on their heads didn’t do anything for me.  And the constant reference to harmony — and Josh talking about how important it is today was so annoying that Matt Lauer did not let it pass unnoticed.

Sorry Joshua, but harmony also means jailing and torturing those who don’t go along.

Did Josh just say that the Great Wall kept out Barbarians?  Sheesh.  Is this guy an NBC employee or a wholly owned subsidiary of China.

They finally identified the lackey:  Joshua Cooper-Ramos.  Dude should move to Beijing.

And the commercials are just awful.

Comrade Joshua again:  “Great individual accomplishments rely much more than on the individual alone.”

Enough.

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