Ah, yes – The News and The Truth, although in the bitter Soviet-era saying; there was no news in one, and no truth in the other. Our own very dear mainstream news establishments have not quite descended to that naked degree of lack of news and truth, but bless their hearts, they are trying, and at the current rate of progress, may achieve the ultimate goal of being a slavish organ of the state sometime around the end of this year, or possibly in time for the next presidential election. That Piers Morgan was bounced from whichever one of the alphabet networks that was misguided enough to assume that just because he had a British accent that he was intelligent and perceptive is cause enough to hope that a sense of reality might be in the cards – but that Great Britain won’t take his supercilious Limey ass back again doesn’t give cause for hope. (Note to the egregious Mr. Morgan – yes, in Texas we like big guns and we cannot lie… and we can even use them, in defense of our home and hearth.)

Now and again there are heartwarming stories of little old ladies who – upon being threatened by some scum-bag low-life attempting forcible entry into their humble abode – have given fair warning, and drilled the miscreant through the front door, dropping him on the doormat, dead as a doornail. This does not excite any more comment among law officials than subdued congratulations for having taken out the trash – unlike England, that blessed green jewel, set in a silver sea, where lately this kind of citizen resistance to criminal depredation draws frowns and prison sentences upon the good citizen. The larcenous scumbags are apparently a protected species, to be coddled and cherished; and anyone objecting forcefully to being depredated upon by them is landed upon with the full force of the law and the shrill disapproval of the intellectual and the ruling classes. Let it be here noted that I am so very glad that three of my four grandparents decamped from the Isle of the Blessed early in the 20th century, and that the Air Force fortuitously deposited me in Texas, which seems at the beginning of the 21st century to be emerging as the last, best hope for a middle class-based, free market economy and constitutional democracy … which is kind of ironic, considering the degree of free-wheeling political corruption in certain Texas counties back in the day. But I digress…

Back to truth and news, then; from a couple of different sources, the appearance of Ms. Valerie Jarrett, the President’s closest and most trusted advisor – his office wife, as it were – on a certain television program oriented towards women, not just urging the audience to sign up for Obama-care, but asking the producers of TV shows to include an Obama-care friendly plot-line … Damn. Well, at least they are being out in the open about it. Time was, when the Hollywood Reds had the decency to be subtle, and not advertise their allegiance to the Party line … although when called upon it, they did kick and scream mightily.

So, here we are – the current administration is nakedly, openly calling upon the purveyors of the entertainment to flack for Obamacare via popular entertainment. It’s anyone’s guess as to how this will work out; everything from a throw-away line of dialog to a whole Very Special Episode dedicated to a government initiative that is shaping up to be an even bigger and more unpopular disaster than Prohibition. Because this is how it is going to work out at my house – given that we’ve bagged cable and now to to Hulu, Amazon Prime and Acorn for our television watching – we’ll immediately drop any consideration of watching any scripted programs that comply with the desires of the current administration in this regard. Last week, it seems that Rachael Ray went all sobby and ostentatiously grateful for Obamacare, which moved me quietly to not only never, ever buy any of her cookbooks, pet food or kitchen implements again, but also to skip any of her recipes available through internet searches. There will be a cost paid, for any highly-visible flacking with regard to Obamacare – a cost which will, I hope, become painful very, very soon.

20. December 2013 · Comments Off on Here We Go Again … · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Fun and Games, Good God, Media Matters Not · Tags: ,

… or, haven’t I been to this rodeo before? Why, yes I have, and not all that long ago, either. First I called to mind was poor artless Paula Deen, celebrity cook-book author, metaphorically burned at stake in the marketplace of public opinion. But the Great Duck Dynasty Imbroglio of 2013 reminds me very much more of the Great Chick-Fil-A Ruckus of 2012, wherein some fairly mild published remarks by the CEO of the company sent the usual right-thinking suspects into a frenzy of shrieking like demented howler monkeys. Boycott, shun, divest and/or fire was the general ukase – for they are hateful hating bigots who shouldn’t be tolerated by truly tolerant people … and then the funniest thing happened. People went out and deliberately bought lunch, dinner and breakfast at their local Chick-fil-A outlet, to the utter chagrin of the usual right-thinking suspects. Chick-Fil-A nationwide had the best darned week they ever had, as far as sales went, and lines of hungry customers stretching for blocks.
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29. November 2012 · Comments Off on Julian Fellowes and Beacon Hill Redux · Categories: Ain't That America?, History, Media Matters Not · Tags: , , , ,

Seriously, I hope they have better luck than the last time American TV producers tried to riff off the success of the original Upstairs, Downstairs; it was called Beacon Hill, as I recall and a routine googlectomy confirms. It started with great fanfare and interest, and promptly fizzled out, probably confirming expectations that American TV just cannot do family saga/period drama in anything other than as a TV miniseries with a limited run. It’s certainly a wise choice to go back to the rip-roaring decades of what Mark Twain called the Gilded Age. Twain did not mean it as a compliment, though ; he meant something vulgarly over-ornamented, cheap pot-metal covered with a microscopic layer of gold. All flash and glitter, trashy glamor to fool the tasteless and/or newly-rich, of which there were a lot in post Civil War America, which was going industrial in a way and in a degree that made the genteel old-money established families, with fortunes based on land, trade, banking and the occasional eccentric invention look on in horror. So, it seems from the story linked above that Mr. Fellows is going to go for the New York Gilded Age elite; the Vanderbilts, the Astors, Carnegie and Morgan and all. Best of luck to him, as there was a lot of drama in them all, over the years. The trouble is, though – it’ll be hard to encompass the American Gilded Age in just one family, or extended family, or even set of rival families – especially if it’s confined to the New York upper crust of the time.

Ultimately, it might prove to be very boring. New York, contra to what the average Brit entertainment mogul might believe is only a very small piece of the United States, and how long the rest of the country might put up with watching the 19th century society glitterati contemplate their own navels is anyone’s guess. Based on Beacon Hill, probably not for long, but it might be amusing to watch for a couple of episodes anyway. But, how is he going do do it?

Darned if I know, but here’s how I’d set it all up, if it were my project. First, I wouldn’t tie the plot and dramatis personae so tightly to the New York setting. Although the place was the focal point for the glamorously wealthy, other places in the United States produced wealth, or had produced it in the relatively recent past, and often viewed New York as a necessary but easily avoided evil. Mining and transport wealth in San Francisco, transport magnates in the mid-west, old-moneyed Southern aristocrats, clawing their way back into the power game, up and coming steel manufacturers in the upper Midwest, Chicago stockyard barons, Texas cattlemen with adventurous old-money and European investors in the wild trans-Mississippi west! That would be a far more interesting mélange than a bunch of mustachioed, upper-crust suits and their corseted ladies, glooming through the overstuffed rooms of a 5th Avenue mansion. And I wouldn’t tie it to a single family …  boring, boring, boring.

So, start with a new-money family, industrial new money in fantastical amounts, made by a man from relatively humble beginnings and not much more than elementary school education, which then would be at least as much as a high school today; someone like Andrew Carnegie, only American born. Add to that, perhaps a rival or sometimes allied family –  even perhaps a single character from an old Southern land-and-cotton-rich aristocratic family smarting from the loss of the Southern Dream. This did happen, historically; Alva Erskine Smith, later Alva Vanderbilt and even later than that, Alva Belmont, was a Southern belle of a formerly well-to-do family, ruined by the War. Of a particularly steely and determined nature, Alva engineered her marriage to a Vanderbilt grandson of the founder of that families’ fortune; a fortune made in steam transport on land and sea, and later the marriage of her daughter to an English duke. Then blend in one of the pre-war industrialist empires –  maybe a stage-coach king, like Ben Holliday, who had the sense and vision to adapt his coach line as a profitable adjunct to the railroad, when completion of the transcontinental rail lines superseded his magnificent horse-drawn coaches.

A character like that would bring in a stiff breeze of old west personalities and frontier adventure. Or perhaps some characters and family based on early industrial innovators like the Colt family, of armament fame. Developer and mass manufacturer of a popular revolver through several iterations, Samuel Colt died in the early years of the Civil War, but left his entire enterprise to the control of his widow, making her one of the richest woman in America. Elizabeth Colt never really seemed to embrace that fabulously competitive social life and conspicuous consumption that typified women like Alva Vanderbilt Belmont and the New York society circle at its most rarified. Although she was a contemporary of it, and knew a great many people such as JP Morgan personally, she seems to have moved serenely in her own circle of good works and art collecting and care of her surviving family, as well as burnishing the memory of her husband. Finally, I’d work in some kind of western connection, if the Ben Holliday-type character didn’t make the cut –  perhaps a wealthy European aristocrat or remittance man, come to make a fortune by investing in the western cattle boom, like Antoine Vallambrosa, the Marquise de Mores, who came to the Badlands of the Dakotas with his glamorous wife, and made a small fortune in ranching and an innovative meat-packing plant. Of course, he had started with a large fortune …

That’s the way I’d start to set it up. It would be much more fun and typical of the time. But who knows if Mr. Fellowes’ version will last longer than Beacon Hill? I’d hope so, as one gets very tired of the everlasting TV triad of modern-day doctors, lawyers and cops.