Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Just calm the f%^& down!

Wow, I just ran across this new article about sexting and I was surprised to see that the great sexting debate might not be some fleeting, momentary, absurd moral panic. It appears to be an absurd moral panic that has some staying power.

Apparently some polling data is showing that a larger number of older teens (16, 17) are doing sexting than their worried parents might have thought.

Now it remains to be seen if more anti-sexting laws will be pushed once again.

But where is the great surprise in all this? And quite frankly, I scratch my head over the sort of outrage and paranoia this is inspiring. I mean, let's see now...teenagers, kids going through puberty, are going to start experimenting with sex and exploring their sexuality. Who da thunk it? You know what? If you got anywhere close to a passing grade in high school biology class, you would think this sort of behavior was perfectly normal and expected.

Or perhaps the the kids of the folks in those morality groups like the Family Research Council or the Culture and Media Institute or the Parents Television Council might not be doing anything like this. You know, those people who have their kids sign the virginity contracts (and whose kids are having sex and getting pregnant at the exact same rate as all other teenagers who don't sign the contract and don't go to alcohol-free dances where you're supposed to stand at least a foot away from your partner and leave room for Jesus).

But, then again, who ever got pregnant from a "sext" message? Or caught a social disease from one? There are quite a number of other statistics on the sexual behavior of "these kids today," and they are also more likely to be engaging in safe sex activities than ever before. If a teenager is going to be having sex today, it is more likely that they will be using condoms than ever before. And, again, if sexual experimentation merely involves the cell phone, you don't even need to be worried about a leaky condom or a missed birth control pill.
So, with all the risky ways teenagers can explore their sexuality, texting might actually be the safest and best alternative.

And, of course, if today's parents, those creaky old squares, are giving too much static, junior can always remind them that grandma dropped acid and had sex with three guys at Woodstock.

I'm in complete agreement...

This is a really cool piece about the former Mrs. Marilyn Manson discussing the art form of burlesque dancing.

And I think she's quite right about the U.S. being somehow more Puritanical now then it was 70 years ago. But, then again, today we have certain groups who think TV shows like Lost and Heroes and Fringe are obscene.

And I completely support burlesque dancing in all its forms!!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

*%#^ 'em if they can't take a joke!

How can we tell when the world's going to hell in a hand basket? Maybe it's when political correctness gets spread all over the globe.

Check out this hilarious piece about the Labatt's Blue ad in Canada. The advertisement urges its audience to leave some beer for Santa this Christmas instead of milk and cookies. Naturally, some busy-bodies are upset over it. Even though the ad is really for Labatt's alcohol free beer. Alcohol free?? What a wimp out.

Although the best part is that Mothers Against Drunk Drivers is one of the groups not too worked up exactly because the libation is without alcohol and they don't feel like this is endorsing drunk driving.

But remember what was behind Grandma getting run over by a reindeer!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The last days of the FCC...I hope!

Check out this piece on Yahoo News I was recently interviewed for here.

Of all the possibilities posed by converging media, especially the movement of so much broadcast material to the cable and the Internet, what especially excites me is the coming obsolescence of the Federal Communications Commission.

Since the FCC has no regulatory power over the Internet or cable, a very-near future (the nearer the better!) of online entertainment should be completely free and unfettered, completely independent of the meddling of a bunch of ill-read, double-digit IQ Church Ladies like the members of the Culture and Media Institute, the Parents Television Council, the Family Research Council, and the rest of their moralistic ilk. These are the folks who usually like to start their letter writing campaign to the FCC every time they hear the words "hell" or "damn" on TV, then turn around and claim to represent the values and sensibilities of the "average American." I don't think so!

But this sort of puritanical control over expression in the broadcast media will see its days numbered in the world of digital convergence and the move of ever more entertainment content to the Internet. And it's about time the FCC and its unconstitutional assaults on free speech was put out of commission for good.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Predicting the future on Culture Wars

We hosted our last program for 2009 on yesterday's Culture Wars, but we most definitely will be back in January.

The episode is now available for downloading at

We attempted to do a little prognostication for the near future as the end of the year is almost here. One of our guests was award-winning science fiction writer Cherie Priest, author of the new alternate-history novel Boneshaker. So check out what someone who looks ahead to the future for a living had to say. It's a great interview and her book is a great read.

Other prognostications come from Alan Miller, CEO of Universal Health Services and the author of Health Care Reform that Makes Sense, commenting on health care legislation and predicting what Congress will do next.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

All the mixed feelings over V

Hmm…I just finished watching the last episode of V that ABC will air until March, 2010, and although I liked it, I’m still wrestling with too many mixed feelings about it. This is a show I want to love so much because it’s a remake of one of my absolute favorite miniseries and series from my childhood. I really, REALLY want to love this show, although I find myself only liking it. So what is V doing wrong and what is it doing right…?

Tonight’s episode had some nice touches, some good plot twists, some original concepts not in the old miniseries. The psychedelic “bliss” scene was intriguing. I want to know more about just what that whole thing was. We also got to see more of the Fifth Column. The Fifth Column resistance network within the Visitor ranks was also a part of the original V story. The Visitor attempt at slipping some sort of a drug into humans around the world via the flu vaccine was a really great touch of paranoia. I liked that a lot, especially during all the lingering controversy about whether or not the swine flu vaccines are safe. Reporter Chad’s brain ailment was also a great plot twist. Do the Visitors want to operate on him to do something to his brain and keep him permanently under control? Chad might be an ambitious opportunist, but there are hints that he might not be as much of a complete, easily-controllable sellout as his counterpart Christine Walsh was in the old V. Chad, the aliens might reason, could still be too much of a wild card to trust completely. The glimpse of an enormous fleet of Visitor mother ships coming to back up the first wave of invaders looked nicely ominous in the final shot of the episode. And, of course, taking a lead from the original, we find out that there could soon be an alien/human hybrid baby on the way.

But, unfortunately, I still have lingering problems about the new V, a sense that too many great opportunities for drama, social commentary, suspense, and just top-notch science fiction are being missed.

I think the main problem this show has is that it does not have a grand enough, epic enough feel. This show is about all of life on Earth suddenly getting changed overnight. In UFO lore, historians of the UFO phenomenon always talk about an old Brookings Institution belief-system-study where a group of experts from various fields – business, political science, theology – were asked to contemplate what would happen to life on Earth if we had undeniable, incontrovertible proof that there was intelligent life somewhere else in the universe. The result, the experts all concluded, was that major – if not chaotic and dangerous – upheavals in thinking and beliefs would sweep the world. That idea is what V should be about!! I want to see more of the world in this new V and I want to see how day-to-day attitudes and ways of living have been thrown into turmoil by the presence of the Visitors.

What frustrates me is that the producers of the show promised ideas like that when they teased bits and pieces of the show months ago. Now they don’t seem to be following through. When I saw clips of the first episode, with Erica and Father Jack talking about the Visitors manipulating Earth people’s devotion and beliefs, I thought this new V could quite possibly turn out to be something far superior to the old one. While the old V had a larger-scale, more epic feel with a big cast of characters, it tied itself too much to its Nazi allegory. The original V was stuck in the past. This new one has the ability to examine the world today, to look at our own post-9/11 world where everything was suddenly turned upside down, all the old rules re-written within a span of a few hours. The irritating thing is that I think that the show’s production team is smart enough to do this, especially producer Scott Peters, whose 4400 series on USA dealt with exactly those issues.

In science fiction and fantasy literature, authors often talk about complex “world building,” about creating very fully-realized, detailed alien worlds with intricate histories, customs, life forms, governmental systems, rules, etc. V needs to do some complex world re-building. When I’m going to sit down to see more of this show in the spring, I want to see more of Father Jack’s parishioners and what the Visitors in their lives are doing to their faith. I want to see more of Father Jack’s own conflict of faith for that matter. When he was introduced, he had a crisis of faith, but all of that seems to have been forgotten. Furthermore, what did the arrival of the aliens do to other religions? How are fundamentalist religious movements reacting to the Visitors? What did the alien arrival do to the war in Iraq? To Afghanistan? What does the Taliban think of the Visitors? What does the Christian right think of the Visitors? Maybe Chad should be prodded by an influx of e-mails from his fans to ask the Visitors what God – if any – they believe in. Remember how big a part of the plot religious faith was in the film Contact? Or how about politics? What’s going on in Washington while the Visitors are insinuating themselves into every corner of civilization? The first episode hinted that the aliens might have been here for decades and might have taken over and manipulated governments. I hope we see a little more about that.

So far, unfortunately, all we’ve gotten was a small-scale potboiler with only three characters dominating most of the stories. We see Erica and Father Jack worrying a lot and talking about ways to find out what the Visitors are up to. We also see some of Ryan, the Fifth Columnist, also worrying a lot and trying to figure out a way to fight back. Aside from those three characters taking up most of the screen time, now and then Chad shows up for a few minutes, elated over his sudden rise to journalistic stardom. The only character who seems to represent the rest of the world, the people dealing with the sudden, incomprehensible upheaval in their lives, is Erica’s son, Tyler. I also find Tyler to be the most annoying of the lot. He is one of those characters groomed to be some sort of a teen idol, little more than a stereotypical, ego-centric brat who sits around sulking because Mom is working too much and “she just like doesn’t get me, man.” In this episode, sure enough, we saw him sitting in counseling and moaning about how his mother just does not understand and she’s never there for him. His turmoil over the changing world has, so far, gone no further than trying to deal with his crush on the blonde alien babe, Lisa, and how to keep it all a secret from Erica.

V should be a lot more than these small-scale character intrigues. It has the potential to be a truly great science fiction epic if it would only set its sights a little higher and endeavor to something bigger than a tired, oft-seen family melodrama.

Now as I’ve read on some science fiction web pages, ABC apparently has ordered a shakeup in V. We only have four episodes so far because filming was shut down and some of the production team fired. The rumors are that the network had big problems with the way the first four episodes turned out. Well, I have problems with the way these episodes turned out too. And, unfortunately, the ratings of the show fell quite sharply from week to week. So I hope we really do get to see more V in the spring, and to see more ambitious, epic-scale, intelligent, world-building science fiction.

Cowardly ABC and lying PTC

ABC television needs to be sent a different set of protest letters for their cowardly cancellation of Adam Lambert’s performance on Good Morning America. This time, the letters should be sent by a true cross section of America, people who, once in a while, actually take ideas like free speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of choice seriously.

ABC, you see, was sent some 1,500 letters by members of the Parents Television Council following Lambert’s homoerotic performance on the American Music Awards. By ABC’s own admission, that was something they considered a small number of complaints. Nevertheless, they suddenly got paranoid over a fringe group of censorious thugs like the PTC and suddenly cancelled Lambert’s scheduled appearance on GMA. What gives? Over a small number of protests??

The PTC’s own reaction to this, however, has been a display of their usual duplicity. According to this article, Dan Isett, the Director of Public Policy for the PTC, suddenly backpedaled from the group’s usual policy of advocating ever-more draconian and bizarre efforts at censoring broadcasting (the PTC are the yahoos who believe that shows like Ugly Betty and Lost and Law and Order are obscene and the government is justified in keeping them off TV). According to Isett, “the idea that he (Lambert) should be scrubbed from TV completely is not where we’re going.”

Yeah, right! The PTC are not in favor of censoring anyone…Sure, Danny, anyone with half a brain, or any passing familiarity with your scummy organization will even believe that for a second.

Blatant lies in the face of criticism and challenge are the PTC’s stock in trade. If one spends even a few moments looking over the PTC web page, they will be quickly overwhelmed by quote after quote, one article and essay after another, giving clear instruction and policy positions on how the group will fight to REMOVE various TV programs from the air because they deem such programming “obscene,” “filthy,” “sleazy,” “vulgar,” or “offensive.” They threaten to pressure advertisers to withhold support from TV shows until they are cancelled, yet a lying douche bag like Isett has the gall and the decency to say that censorship is “not where we’re going.”

But telling lies, even in the glaring media spotlight, has been a PTC specialty since its inception. The group’s founder, Brent Bozell, has threatened to publicly label advertisers as being complicit in murder for putting their commercials on professional wrestling programs that were proven to have contributed to children killing other children. NOT ONE SINGLE instance of a child killing another child has ever been proven to have been influenced by wrestling.

Bozell has also been less than perfectly honest about the political orientation of his group. The son of a former Joseph McCarthy speech writer, Bozell has repeatedly tried to claim – with the perfectly straight face of a sociopath – that the PTC is a nonpartisan organization and that he himself is not even a Republican. Yet on his bio on the PTC web page, he proudly claims to have been Pat Buchanan’s National Finance Chairman in 1992 and a one time president of the National Conservative Action Committee, which “helped elect dozens of conservative candidates over the past 10 years.” This is all on his web page! Check it out!!

As former pro wrestler Mick Foley writes so eloquently about Bozell in “Foley is Good: And the Real World is Faker than Professional Wrestling,” the PTC founder is “a charismatically challenged, lying sack of shit.”

But he’s not the only one of his kind at the PTC. The organization seems to draw pathological liars to its membership ranks like some kind of a magnet. The head of the New Jersey chapter of the group, one Crystal Madison, most often will say that she opposes censorship, but has told TV Newsday magazine that she is a PTC member to fight for a future where shows like Dexter and Family Guy will be “eradicated.” I don’t know, eradication kind of sounds like censorship to me. But those people who listen to my Culture Wars radio show will also know that Madison has been giving instructions to her supporters on how to pressure my college’s donors until the radio show of yours truly is removed from the air. Confronted about this, just like Isett, she backpedaled and claimed that financial pressure was not really an attempt at removing my show from the air. Yeah, Crystal, sure, we believe that!

Nevertheless, ABC television has chosen to cave in to the bully tactics of a group of transparent liars who represent values light years removed from the sentiments of mainstream America.

The PTC's endless whining... now aimed at ABC TV for not censoring Adam Lambert's homoerotic performance adequately enough on Monday night's American Music Awards.

The Parents Television Council's bitching session is in its full glory on their web page. As usual, though, organization head cheese, Tim Winter, is long on colorful words and short on any actual substantive arguments as to why anyone seeing Lambert's performance might be harmed and why television should be censored and fined by the FCC.

Oh, wait a minute, I guess Winters' previous article about what research proves and does not prove about media effects (just scroll down on the PTC web page and you can find their "study" of violence toward women in the media) is supposed to answer any lingering doubts about effects. It's an interesting article, although one that might make anyone who passed a basic statistics class in high school howl with laughter. The article, explaining that correlations in statistical research amount to a causal effect, is sort of like someone publicly arguing that one can, in fact, travel faster than the speed of light.

I've come to believe that the average PTC "concerned activist" member might have a broad masochistic streak. These people somehow get off on completely humiliating themselves in public by saying and writing some of the most embarrassing foolishness one can possibly think of.

So, since these folks seem to enjoy abuse and like complaining, I still encourage people to complain to them. Various e-mail addresses may be found on their web page - and those of their adjunct organizations like the Culture and Media Institute or the Media Research Council. But here they are for your use and enjoyment:

A rocky "Road" to Christian audiences?

There is a fascinating article in the current issue of Entertainment Weekly magazine about the marketing of the apocalyptic film, The Road, to Christian audiences.

Since the film is dealing with end of the world issues the readers of Revelations often contemplate, the makers of the film are attempting to lure in the Christian faithful. It makes enough sense, right? But what is interesting to me is the article's quite true statement that The Road's marketing to conservative Christians might be "counter intuitive." The Road, you see, is rated R.

What this has made me wonder about is the general state of faith-based entertainment. There is huge money to be from fundamentalist Christian entertainment these days, although the nature of this entertainment has often left me scratching my head. I have seen a number of films made for the Christian audience and I've read a few faith-based books as well. The most notable for me was Left Behind (only seen the film and haven't read the book) and The Shack. Both of these stories, as well as a few others of their kind struck me as a bit...well, sorry to say, lame.

OK, maybe Left Behind was a little better than the rest. At least there was some violence and killing there. I always enjoy violence and killing. If there would have been a little sex, it would have been even better. The flick, after all, was about the impure and the sinners "left behind" at the Rapture. So wouldn't these sinner commit, you know...sins? Maybe say a few curse words? Have a little sex before marriage?

Which again brings me to contemplate the state of "Christian" entertainment.

And let me pause here for a second and explain the quotes around Christian. "Christian" these days seems to exclusively refer to fundamentalist, ultra-right-wing conservative Christians. These are the ha-ha-you're-going-to-hell-and-we're-not (to steal a phrase from Stephen King's Under the Dome) evangelical Christians. "Christian," it seems, no longer refers to Catholics or Methodists or Episcopalians. Only to the folks who think Harry Potter is teaching witchcraft and devil worship, the folks who want to ban Halloween, who think the Catholic church is a cult and the Pope is the Antichrist, who believe that dinosaurs never existed but God, the great cosmic prankster, just littered the planet with big bones to mess with people and test their faith.

But what I wonder about is why can't there be any "adult" Christian entertainment? Religion, at its most effective moments, helps people cope with the worst the world can sometimes throw at them. Sure, organized religion can often offer circular, contradictory, or just plain illogical and impenetrable answers to the big questions of human existence. I think the best summary of what the Bible is all about came in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film End of Days. The Bible's message, according to End of Days: "Shit happens." Read the Bible closely and you'll realize that that really is what the good book boils down to.

But why can't "Christian" entertainment deal with issues like this? Why can't "Christian" fiction contemplate the rougher, the harder, the more difficult, ugly, unjust, and cruel aspects of existence, even if the only answers it might come up with is "shit happens"?

If one were to make a truly faithful film adaptation of the Bible, after all, it would probably be X rated. I would really love to see those scenes of Lot's daughters seducing him after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

But in the meantime, "Christian" entertainment remains little more than simplistic, shallow, singing-birds-in-a-flowery-meadow type of pabulum. And if this is the sort of things "Christian" audiences want, it sounds like they will be sorely disappointed by The Road.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hitler is sending Seth MacFarlane hate mail again

Well, there's something new and interesting to see again on the web page of the Parents Television Council.

And I really do enjoy visiting their web page a lot and I get excited every time they post something new there. I guess I enjoy their postings the same way most fans enjoyed watching The Jerry Springer Show. The PTC can make you feel good about yourself even on a bad day. They can make you glad that your mother and father weren't brother and sister and that you weren't born with an IQ lower than your belt size. That you're not slow-witted enough to be eligible to join the PTC.

The same goes for the pages of such PTC adjunct organizations as the Media Research Council and the Culture and Media Institute. I highly urge all to check them out and leave them some feedback.

But this time the PTC is calling for Microsoft to boycott all of TV writer/producer Seth MacFarlane's shows. According to PTC grass roots activist Gavin McKiernan, who certainly seems to have all the IQ qualifications to be a member of the PTC, all the MacFarlane cartoons like Family Guy and American Dad are guilty of purveying all the worst sort of civilization destroying content one can see in the media today. Why Seth MacFarlane shows, McKiernan whines, have jokes about feminine hygiene!!!! The horror!!

But it's unfortunate that McKiernan's harangues are sort of flabby and half-hearted this time. He doesn't even try to justify his censorhip-through-economic-thuggery with any sort of an effects argument. Seems he hasn't looked at the PTC's effects "research" lately (even those studies they post that proves the exact opposite of what the group is trying to argue)

However, I suppose MacFarlane's real sins are the way he spoke about the PTC, rather than the sophomoric, school yard "feminine hygiene" jokes on his cartoons. In MacFarlane's interview to The Advocate magazine, he said about being crticized by the PTC: "Oh, yeah. That's like getting hate mail from Hitler. They're literally terrible human beings. I've read their newsletter, I've visited their website, and they're just rotten to the core. For an organization that prides itself on Christian values—I mean, I'm an atheist, so what do I know?—they spend their entire day hating people. They can all suck my dick as far as I'm concerned."

Three cheers for Seth MacFarlane!

Don't let the door hit you on the way out!

Well, it looks like something positive can be said for a bad economy after all. According to this article, the bad financial times drove one of those busy body do-gooder pro-censorship family groups out of business.


The National Institute on Family and the Media has closed up shop because of the bad economy. Of course I'm completely enjoying this because this is a group that's even more ignorant of basic social science research than the Parents Television Council and more insane than the Family Research Council (they, the supporters of Carrie Prejean and all things wholesome, homophobic, and holy until, at least, their wholesome media darlings start masturbating on sex videos).


These folks have been almost exclusively obsessed with video games and, as the article discusses, at one point seriously argued that the video game industry tries to persuade America's children to become cannibals.

To the concerned parents and activists of the National Institute on Family and the Media: Good riddance! We won't miss you!

Or wait a minute, maybe we will. People this nuts are just too entertaining.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Whoa!! The world is still here...

Well, after a short hiatus for a trip to the National Communication Association conference, I am stunned to realize that I get a chance to sit here and add to this blog. The world did not end exactly a week ago with the CW Network's broadcast of Gossip Girl. The Parents Television Council's fears and panic were in vain. I'm stunned.

Of course, on their web page they warn that they will keep an eye on the unfolding threesome storyline. I'm certain that the CW is very nervous.

I do still encourage folks to check out the PTC's page and decide for themselves just how much of a self-parody this group is. Then if you don't think their analyses of the evil threats TV poses are funny enough - including group head-honcho Tim Winter's assault on science, logic, rational thinking, and sanity in his essay about the "link" between teen depression and Internet use - check out the parody of PTC outrage in the new edition of Entertainment Weekly magazine.

Maybe the PTC will now look for new targets to pressure and harass. They might try and threaten the donors of colleges again.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Watch TV for a good cause!

Monday 9/8 c is the time to get in front of the TV and watch the CW network…if only for a good cause!

Tonight is the airing of the Gossip Girl episode that will supposedly depict a threesome among college age characters. THE DOWNFALL OF HUMANITY IS AT HAND!

Or so the Parents Television Council will have us believe. This, by the way, is the organization that identifies shows like “Lost,” “Heroes,” “Fringe,” “Law & Order,” and “Ugly Betty” as “indecent,” “pornographic,” and “obscene.”

A mainstream group of parents they are…SURE!

Of you don't believe this nonsense, watch the Gossip Girl and support free speech!

Or better yet, go to their web page here and talk back yourself. Send them messages and tell them what you think of the PTC.

Friday, November 6, 2009

PTC loons urging censorship...again

As we discussed on the last episode of Culture Wars, available for podcast download here, the regressive nutcases of the Parents Television Council are gearing up for yet another fun activity: "let's try and censor television again." They, most likely, couldn't find any small colleges to threaten with pressure tactics and letter writing campaigns to force donors to withhold money. Those good folks of the PTC tend to do that when college radio stations air opinions the organization disagrees with.

This time the target is the CW network's Gossip Girl TV show because America's impressionable young children are in dire peril yet again. The group is trying to pressure CW affiliates to pre-empt the show, scheduled to air on November 9. America's children need to be protected at all costs, they scream their shrill paranoia on their web page (and the web pages of other fringe extremist anti-media organizations).

The scientifically-illiterate buffoonery of this group has been discussed on this blog a number of times before. For example, the fact that they are incapable of understanding or explaining why a content analytical study does not prove a causal chain and neither does a statistical correlation. Or the fact that they post links to studies on their web page that prove the exact opposite of what the PTC is trying to argue.

These people are not just incompetent clowns but, unfortunately, a collection of bullies and thugs, a gang of home invaders that tries and muscle its way into your living room and control what you watch, what you listen to, how you raise your children, and manage your family. But if these people like to push broadcasters around and lobby the FCC to trample on the First Amendment, it's about time for level-headed, clear-thinking Americans to push back a little and let them know how they feel. The PTC can be contacted through their web page and on those of their various "grass roots" members and supporters. I would urge those who support the freedom of speech and free expression to do so.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Conning the con men on the next Culture Wars

Anyone who ever received those Nigerian bank account scam e-mails needs to tune in to a hillarious episode of Culture Wars on November 5!

Our guest will be author Diana Grove, talking about her new book, Dot Conned.

Not only did she expose the online scammers and swindlers in her book, but turned the tables on some of these Internet scumbags. So make some time for the next Culture Wars and enjoy listening to some sweet revenge.

And don't forget to let us know what you think of this or any other shows by e-mailing us at

V in the age of conspiracy.

Since talk of alien visitations and abductions has given Culture Wars its most downloaded show ever and one of my all time favorite TV events were the pair 1980s V minseries (V and V: The Final Battle), I have to voice my qualified approval and enjoyment of the new V series on ABC.

Although the pilot episode was too brief - with only a one-hour episode - and might have been better served by a two-hour special, this new incarnation of the alien invasion story had some nice ideas floating around.

The most interesting aspect of this new series appears to be the way it seems to embrace some of the more outlandish conspiracy theories of the past two decades and, at the same time, dramatize them with effective, straight-faced seriousness. But good science fiction is always a product of its times and a barometer of the zeitgeist. The old V was a rumination on totalitarian regimes like communism and fascism (it was quite heavy-handed in its reminders of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust). A number of critics have commented on the new V and terrorism, but what this new incarnation of the old show seems to really be about is conspiracy-minded thinking. Fear of conspiracies is a sign of the times today.

Here, the aliens do not really arrive for the first time when their giant UFOs appear over all the major cities of the Earth but, we are told, they had been here for years, maybe even decades. The have taken over positions of power and manipulated world events to bring about crises, wars, economic instability, and general chaos, fear and mayhem.

No doubt the show is a big hit among conspiracy theorist circles. It reminds me the most of the conspiracy theories expounded in the books of British author David Icke. Since the 1990s, Icke has written a series of books proclaiming that all of the world's leaders are reptilian aliens in disguise, manipulating world events to make everyone's life harder. (Why don't conspirators every conspire to make things easier?)

The uncanny closeness to Icke's disguised reptilian conspiracy theories is what makes me just slightly leery of this new stab at V. Many of Icke's biggest fans have also jumped on the US-govt-was-behind-9/11 conspiracy theories as well. Having a major network TV show confirm the delusions of crackpots like Icke and the 9/11 "truth" movement is just a bit unnerving.

But I can't wait until next week's episode!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

All things Vampire!!

Only two days before Halloween, you can't miss the October 29th episode of WSPC Culture Wars.

Our special guest will be Leslie Klinger, the author of The New Annotated Dracula, discussing all things vampire.

Listen live or download the podcast and hear us talk about the undead, from the blood-thirsty and vicious to sexy and sensitive.

And let us know which one is your favorite by e-mailing us at

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Legalize Steroids!

Aside from our discussion of exorcisms on this week's Culture Wars, we talked about Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's comments about steroids in professional sports. This has been getting only a few lines of news copy here and there, and one of them can be read right here.

Predictably, one can read some "outraged" responses to Cuban's comments on most web sports sites. Cuban's just trying to be outrageous and controversial, most of these complaints charge.

Actually, Cuban's being way too low key and conservative in his comments. What he should be saying is that steroids should never have been made illegal in the first place!

The criminalization of steroid use will, hopefully, one day be right up there in the anals of American legal history as one of the all time stupidest laws ever, EVER passed. Right up there with the prohibition of alcohol. It belongs in those humor books listing stupid, archaic laws on the books, all the ill-conceived nonsense like the counties that make walking your aligator on a leash in public illegal. Like the FCC given the power to fine broadcasters for too much sex and violence.

In his comments, Cuban explains that limited, doctor-supervised steroid use should be tolerated as long as it can be proven that there will be no negative side effects...

Come on, Mark, you can be more daring than that! Where is the trademark Cuban bravado and willingness to court controversy?

Doctor-supervised steroid use, of course, is already legal. But what I want to pick some bones with is the statement about allowing steroid use as long as it can be proven that no negative side effects will result. The fact of the matter is that there is HARDLY ANY valid, scientific evidence that steroid use is life-threatening in any way. And I'm talking about scientifically conducted research at a university, research which is then peer-revieved and published in a scientific journal. Scientific evidence that steroids are a threat, something that will hasten your trip to the grave?? DOES NOT EXIST.

What does exist is a whole lot of locker room mythology and stories about the friend of a buddy who heard that his girlfriend's brother got some pills from a training partner that did this and that.

As far as what scant little scientific research exists, there is some evidence loss is some steroids users. Or acne! Or the tenderness in the nipple areas. Some elevated cholesterol levels or some raised blood pressure levels. Hardly the scourge of modern America.

Binging on too much chocolate can also cause acne in some. Too much bacon and greasy meat can also raise cholesterol levels. Too much salt might take up your blood pressure too! Reading anything ever published by L. Brent Bozell can take up the blood pressure of anyone with an IQ higher than the average belt size.

Stronger and clearer data about the side effects of steroids exists when it comes to female steroid use. Women who use too much steroids, like professional female bodybuilders, have shown signs of secondary male characteristics developing. Things like the deepening of the voice or the growth of excess body hair or the coarsening of the skin. But is any of this life threatening?? No! And if female athletes choose to tolerate these effects on their bodies - if they choose to defy a social construct of acceptable appearance and standards of attractiveness - is it really the role of the government to come in and start punishing them? No!!!

The history of steroids and the law is yet another infuriating case of a moral panic running amok. It's a history that goes back to the 1980s and early 90s when the brain cancer and death of football player Lyle Alzado made headlines. Before his death, an emaciated Alzado, a toothpick-thin version of his old self, declared that he believed that his long years of steroid use gave him brain cancer. This captured a lot of media attention. What did not was the fact that Alzado's own oncologists - that's cancer specialist - did not believe that there was any evidence of a link between Alzado's juicing and his cancer. But a sticky little detail like science didn't get in the way of a moral panic sweeping America and over-eager crusaders and politicians passing laws, as usual.

I would have loved hearing Cuban make a few statements like these. But he felt a little too timid that day, unfortunately.

Oh well...gotta hit the gym and pump some iron. But I really wish I could legally do something about this plateau I hit with my bench presses!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

...and speak of the Devil

This Thursday, the WSPC Culture Wars show will air one of its two great pre-Halloween programs.

Be sure and tune in - or download the podcast if you miss it - as Ernabel Demillo and I discuss real life exorcisms and the Catholic Church's views on demonic posession and the very manifastations of the Prince of Darkness himself with Saint Peter's College's Father Mark DeStephano.

And learn about the College's connection to some key players in the infamous exorcism case that inspired the William Peter Blatty book and the William Friedkin-directed movie!

The Devil made them do it!!

Here's an interesting piece from Newsweek to counter a really annoying and absurd sudden crop of sanctimonious "analysis" of the recent Heene family baloon-boy saga. "Who is to blame for this nit-wit, Richard Heene's ill-conceived hoax to get himself of TV?" some ask. Why the media and reality TV, of course, comes the response from some.

Give me a *%#&ing break!!!

Reality TV is to blame for a moronic stunt like this? As the Kate Dailey piece explains quite well, this is entirely the fault of one greedy, stupid, glory-seeking attention whore. And people like this have been around for centuries. When it wasn't reality TV, then the unscrupulous, the lazy, the morally-bankrupt could find plenty of other ways to scam and con their way into riches, into fame, into attention.

Arguments like the ones blaming reality television - and the wealth, fame, and adulation of some reality TV stars - for this idiotic stunt is like saying that a rash of college cheating and unscrupulous academic behavior should be blamed on valedictorians, on the kids on the dean's list and the honor roll. Why if we didn't lavish so much praise and attention on a select few, then everyone else wouldn't be pressured into cheating in a misguided need to get good grades.

Blaming the media for all of society's ills and a select few people's criminal, unethical, or just plain stupid behavior has turned into modern society's version of "the devil made me do it."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Weirdness in Australia

You can now download the October 15 episode of Culture Wars! As always, go to and click on any of the episodes you like.

On yesterday's segment, however, we did talk about the swine flu, hoaxes by people who did not win the lottery, Rush Limbaugh and the NFL, as well as a bizarre story out of Australia.

You can check out a story about it here as well.

Australia is considering a suggested TV ban for children under 2 years old. Now the wackiest part of this is that such a drastic recommendation is made because research on how television might effect toddlers has found nothing! Yup, some studies have been done about whether or not those baby videos, things like the Baby Einstein DVDs, might actually turn babies into...Einsteins. No effect or impact on the children could be found whatsoever. Nothing good, nothing bad...nothing at all. One could just as well show political debates, car racing, or hard-core, triple X-rated pornography to a toddler and absolutely no impact would be made on that kid.

Nevertheless, some brain trust down under has now decided that babies need to be barred from the TV set.

Hmm...because no effects were found. Kind of leaves me scratching my head.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"New New Media" on Culture Wars

One of the best past guests on Culture Wars returns for the October 10 episode!

Check out Fordham professor Paul Levinson as he talks about twittering, blogging, and the reasons to love all the new new media when he discusses his latest book...New New Media.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Action Heroes and Super Heroes!!

All readers can check out the Sunday, October 4, episode of the syndicated PBS talk show, Asian America, where my Culture Wars cohost, Ernabel Demillo, will interview me and author Jeff Yang.

The program airs from 7:30 to 8:00 pm on Channel 25, in the New York tri state area. Or the entire episode can be seen after the 4th by visiting the show's web page.

Tune in and watch us discuss super heroes, action films, and what super power we would love to have!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

More Culture Wars on podcast!

The October 1st episode of Culture Wars is now available on podcast here!

Check out a fascinating - and somewhat disturbing - discussion of some Journal of American Medical Association statistics on med student misbehavior on social networking!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

UFO abduction expert David M. Jacobs on WSPC Culture Wars!

You definitely want to check out the podcast of the latest episode of Culture Wars right here.

Ernabel Demillo and I had an excellent discussion with Temple University Professor, Dr. David M. Jacobs, one of the most prominent experts on the UFO abduction phenomenon and a historian of the UFO controversy.

Check out this new book!

I just needed to put in a quick plug for a new book by one of the best guests we had appearing on Culture Wars this year.

Karen Sternheimer, USC sociologist and debunker of the media-made-kids-killers/drug-addicts/sex-maniacs nonsense has just come out with her new book, Connecting Social Problems and Popular Culture: Why Media is Not the Answer. Check it out and just calm down, let junior play with video games, listen to that rap song, and just get over your media paranoia!!

Paranoia can ruin your health!!!

And listen to all the Culture Wars podcasts right here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Culture Wars 9/17/09

An all new Culture Wars radio show is less than 24 hours away!

Listen live from 12:05 to 12:45 Eastern time as Ernabel Demillo and I give our take on some of the most colorful headlines and look at the lives of journalists covering some of the most dangerous hotspots in the world.

What makes someone cover a war? The action? The excitement? The money? The journalistic ideals? Join us as we talk to guest Todd Baer and find out.

Listen live at

And listen to our past podcasts at

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

OK, enough is enough!

Well, I, for one, am getting a little tired of the ongoing saga of all the outrage over Rep Joe Wilson’s “You lie” outburst last week. As you can read in the story here, Wilson has just been officially rebuked by the House of Representatives for his breach of decorum and, mainly, for his refusal to apologize on the House floor.

This whole circus, in the meantime, is inspiring a lot of sanctimonious ruminations about the state of American culture and just how much of a “coarsening” of the culture is going on. Others still – Democratic others, to be sure – are shaking their dismayed heads over the Wilson outburst being just another example of how ugly and dangerous the debate over health care is turning into. This is just one more example, they say, after the nasty and loud “town hall” screaming matches going on all across the country about health care.

It’s about time – especially for the Congressional Democrats – to get over it and put a cork in all the righteous outrage over a coarse culture and the disappearing decorum.

Was Wilson out of line yelling at the president the way he did? Yes.

Should he have apologized to Obama? Sure.

Which he did and now it’s time to move on. Congress has much more important things it should be troubling itself with than the lack of decorum. As I recall, by the way, it wasn’t entirely civil and proper to start booing George W. Bush during a State of the Union address either. And other than decorum, I think a major problem this country could possibly be facing is that enormous deficit our grandkids will be paying off. That’s something to get worked up and worried about, not Wilson’s refusal to apologize yet again.

And let’s also stop romanticizing a past of perfect civility and good manners in American politics. Because it never existed!! If this was the early nineteenth century, the president just might have challenged Wilson to a duel over the public insult.

As for the anger over health care, the loud town hall debates, and the insults hurled at Obama from the right-wing…Sure, many of the charges and name calling are ridiculous and out of line. But, then again, such constitutional provisions as the right to free speech, assembly, and the right to petition the government give everyone the right to vent their anger at lawmakers. In a lot of places in the world, people would be arrested and killed if they insinuated half the things the conservative right has yelled at Obama.

And, then again, perhaps concern, fear, and anger might even be warranted with the sort of debt this country is sinking into and an administration whose health care plans have, for far too long, remained vague about how to pay for an overhaul of the system and still maintain quality health care.

For those looking for the root causes of all the anger and rancorous debate, perhaps it’s the fact that the president had one too many comic books written about him and YouTube videos made where he is portrayed as a superhero, a savior, and a messiah, and too many fluff pieces written about his wife's sleeveless dresses. Perhaps this seemingly endless public honeymoon is to blame for his vague healthcare promises and seemingly flip declarations that he was certain that the healthcare overhaul would all be done by this fall, no problems, no concerns, no disagreements, no debate. The president’s time to be a celebrity is over and it’s time to be a leader in a democracy that allows for such sticky and uncomfortable rights as debate, criticism, and the public airing of anger and mistrust of the government.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Culture Wars Podcasts!

The premiere episode of the new season of Culture Wars is now available on podcast. To download a free episode, just go to and point and click.

In today's episode, hear me an Ernabel Demillo recap a wild media summer, from Michael Jackson to Ted Kennedy...and the more harebrained 9/11 conspiracy theories!

If you have I-pod, subscribe to the show for free!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Culture Wars are back ON!

On Thursday, September 12, at 12:05 pm, a whole new season of "Culture Wars," with yours truly and Ernabel Demillo will be back on WSPC!

Tune in and catch all the action at

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sly, say it ain't so!!!

OK, despite everything on my plate today, I just need to comment on a sketchy movie rumor right now. I must do this as a film fan, action movie buff, author, and Rambo fanatic. Some of the rumors circulating on the Internet - including a sketchy and confusing voicemail to by Sly Stallone himself - the plot of the next Rambo film sounds like it might take a bizarre detour fiction!

And hey, don't get me wrong, I love science fiction and I love Rambo!

You can check it out at but I think having Rambo hunting a genetically-engineered beast in the frozen northern wilderness has got to be one of the most insane ideas I've heard in a long time.

For the sake of referencing topical political issues, let me make this comparison: it's almost as insane as fearing political indoctrination during Barack Obama's speech to kids about staying in school!

The No-P.R. Zone...I like it!!

Although I generally don't care enough about reality show "stars" to comment about them, I just found this morning's interview Jon Gosselin gave on Good Morning America somehow so...refreshing and satisfying. You can also read about it here.

In a world where just about anyone who ever finds himself in front of a camera somehow seems to sound like they've already been coached by armies of P.R. people, Gosselin just said it like it was. This otherwise annoying, irritating, and utterly uninteresting human being spoke of his even more irritating shrew of a wife, Kate, their breakup, and explained how much he "despised" her. YES!!!!! My man! I mean, aren't you just tired of hearing so many public people who go through conflicts and messy breakups - people you know just detest each other - and they usually wind up talking in a sort of plastic P.R.-speak like "I still care and respect her," "it just didn't work out," "we're the best of friends" and so on and so on? Care and respect...yeah, right!

I can't believe that I'm writing this in a public forum, but Jon Gosselin on Good Morning America was the most interesting thing I heard all day long so far. And the day's more than half over!

Monday, September 7, 2009

You're fat, ugly, and stupid!

Now that a new school year is starting, one is bound to run across a lot of articles like this. You can find them online or, I bet, a lot of the various women’s and mom’s magazines will run them. It’s all about building self esteem in children. And it’s all a great, big, fly-drawing, steaming pile of bovine manure!

If I hear yet another person whining about developing children’s adequate level of self esteem, I’m going to punch them in the face hard enough to cause serious permanent damage…the kind that will give them a low self esteem, develop body image disorders, and leave them spending thousands of their hard-earned dollars in therapists’ offices trying to get in touch with their inner child and learning to love themselves.

As a person who primarily earns his living teaching in college, the self esteem movement has just about driven me to the end of my rope. This is a movement that has been turning people who have started grade school roughly in the 90s and afterward into sniveling, whining, near-psychopathically self-centered douche bags.

Is low self esteem really the biggest problem America’s children are contending with? Looking at some research comparing U.S. kids to those in the rest of the world, I think not. Guess what, folks: American kids have the highest levels of self esteem in the world. But not only do we seem to think we’re God’s gift to everything, but usually people who are the least competent, the most inept, also have the highest levels of self esteem.

And yes, incompetence and ineptitude are really important concepts. Sometimes people need to be told that they SUCK! But in the world of the self esteem movement, we have seen an educational system that tries to create a good self image among children by telling them that they are always perfect, they are flawless, they are the greatest in the world no matter what they do, and that no one has a right to ever criticize them or correct them…EVER!

This is an outrage and something that this culture will be paying a higher and higher price for with every passing year. You see, all the people who are incapable of finding China on a map, who don’t know who the U.S. fought in World War 2 (by the latest estimate, that’s about 40 some percent of the American population), who can’t name the first President of the United States, who don’t know who the governor of their own state is, who have no idea who the Vice President is, are people who all have a very high self esteem, who are in touch with their feelings, and who have learned to feel good about themselves and know that they’re special and unique little gifts to humanity from God, and they all have very unique and very important other abilities.

But that's what THEY want you to think!

This article about the Michael Jackson death hoax hoax is just priceless. Apparently someone started the online rumor about Jackson faking his death as an "experiment" to see how fast rumors and conspiracy theories have spread on the Internet. And, indeed, they spread very fast because there is still a whole crop of Michael Jackson conspiracy theory web pages up and active. As conspiracy theorists usually do, they point out all the "obvious" mistakes and inconsistencies in the "official version" of the story.

So now that the death hoax conspiracy has been outed as joke, I wonder how quickly the true believers will claim that the real conspiracy is the claim that that conspiracy is not real?

Confused yet?

Well, keep surfing the web this week because as we're heading toward Friday, the 11th, all the "9/11 was an inside job" nutbars will be busier than ever, so confusing conspiracy theories and conspiratorial fantasies will be busier than ever.

And tune in to "Culture Wars" on the 10th to hear me and Ernabel Demillo put in our two cents' worth!!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Well, it's about time!

The Michael Jackson death-hoax conspiracy theories are starting to spread on the Internet. At last!! Check out the story here.

Actually, I'm kind of surprised that it took so long for this conspiracy theory to get going. I do have something of a fascination for this since my book on the cultural history on conspiracy theories and conspiracy theory films should be available from McFarland publishing by next year. So now I'm looking forward to reading more of how this particular theory will grow and play out in cyberspace. Will it have the sort longevity as the Elvis is alive or the government-was-behind-the-9/11-attacks conspiracy theories?

Although my favorite cyberspace conspiracy theory is still the one being spread by a small handful of Apocalyptic religious nuts. These are the folks who believe that the third Antichrist is none other than...Arnold Schwarzenegger!! Just google that one and check it out.

As someone who was called the "Antichrist" on the Culture Wars radio show (Returning on September 10, only on WSPC radio), I am kind of partial to all the Antichrist conspiracy theories.

Billy Ray is Da Man!!!

This article about Billy Ray Cyrus is a couple of days old only because I just ran across it by accident. I haven't made it a point in a while to keep up on all of Billy Ray's comings and goings. But I do love this article about him coming to his daughter's defense after she was criticized for dancing too close to a pole at the Teen Choice Awards. Apparently in the demented, perverse minds of all the country's concerned "family advocates" and media critics, the pole suggested strip clubs or some such nonsense.

Papa Cyrus, of course, disagreed and defended Miley in an Entertainment Tonight interview. Nice going!!
But now I wonder if he's still on the advisory board of a bunch of censorious, reactionary morons like the Parents Television Council, the kinds of people who would notice things like this in the first place and get outraged over the sleazy degradation of America's wholesome childhood and traditional family values.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Oh, mother! Blood!!

This is a quick link to more fascinating studies confirming the genetic roots of evil, violent, and antisocial behavior: Psychos, it seems, are born.

Nowhere does it mention media use, video games, and horror movies. There are some cool supplemental articles too.

The big monkey movie.

Out of a good summer, the only thing to suffer on this end has been the upkeep of this blog. A million apologies!!!

Although some of my travels – which I’m kind of using as a feeble excuse for not always managing the blog the way I should have – did give me some interesting things to ponder…and to remain amazed by how right I am about my ideas about media and audience interaction.

For example, I was so glad to have wonderful bonding experiences with my 4.5 year old nephew…over films like Peter Jackson’s King Kong. As a matter of fact, watching that film over and over again with him (at his request: “I love this movie, Uncle Barna, I want to watch it every day!) created the best sort of relationship that can exist between uncle and nephew: a favorite uncle can always be counted on to show you fun films your parents would never let you watch.

But my nephew’s ongoing requests to see the film – with its many frightening and violent scenes – whereas he avoids other entertainment that upsets him, demonstrated how active even a small kid can be in controlling what he knows he is capable of handling and censoring his own viewing choice when material becomes too intense to handle.

In the words of the genius George Carlin: “If you want to help children, leave them the fuck alone!” They’re not made of glass and they don’t need to be locked away in a cabinet to be kept safe.

Monday, June 15, 2009

An interesting summer read?

Here's an interesting-looking book I just ran across on I'm considering putting on my summer reading list. It might just be a good beach read...hopefully. It's called "Censorship: The Threat to Silence Talk Radio."

According to its description, the book is a criticism of the Fairness Doctrine which, in my opinion, should never be reinstated. Its effect will certainly NOT be more ideas and points of view in broadcasting but less. This is a historical fact. During the years the Fairness Doctrine was in effect, there was a lot less politically oriented, opinion-oriented broadcasting than there is today. If broadcasters had to balance every single point of view with a counter argument, they just played it safe and easy and tried to avoid as much controversial talk as possible.

Today, of course, most of the folks afraid of the Fairness Doctrine are the conservative radio talk show hosts and their fans. Programs by Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or other conservative pundits would not exist under the Fairness Doctrine.

Now the book Censorship appears to be a strictly conservative-point-of-view critique of the Fairness Doctrine. Hannity even writes an introduction to the book. To be fair, though, the back of the book jacket even carries an endorsing blurb by arch-liberal Alan Colms.

While I am opposed to the Fairness Doctrine on principle, I am only a little bit skeptical about the commitment to free speech of what has recently emerged as the "conservative base" of the Republican party. These, by the way are the Moral Majority types, the ultra-right-wing fundamentalists who also rail against the "smut," "indecency," and "filth" of so much of TV broadcasting and shock jocks on other radio programs. You know, the Parents Television Council types. So I'm curious if this conservative defense of freedom in broadcasting is honest, or if it's merely a few disingenuous ultraconservatives talking the talk to save right wing radio while they would back the censorship of anything else they deem "offensive."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

God Bless the USA!

Well here are just a few more reasons why I definitely don't want to move to either China or any country run by a fundamentalist Islamic theocracy. These two stories about web surfing in the not so free world just sealed the deal. Check them out here and here.

Aside from being identified by Reporters Without Borders as the country that exerts the most censorious control over the Internet in Asia, China is also deeply concerned about the moral rot Internet pornography may bring about in young and impressionable minds. Therefore, they want to censor the Internet even further. All computers sold in China, apparently, must be fitted by porn-blocking software. As an educator of college students who understands the importance that rest, relaxation, and entertainment to overstressed and overworked students, this sort of censorship just appalls me! It APPALLS me!!!

The second piece about the new Microsoft search engine, Bing, seems to hint that some software developers might have been Boy Scouts in a previous life. They plan ahead. Apparently versions of their software marketed in Islamic countries already have blocking functions built in, not allowing access to pornographic videos.

While this is an entirely easy shot to take, I will definitely take it...because it's just so much fun and so satisfying: The censorship of so-called "smut" and "indecency" usually goes hand in hand with general censorship, intolerance of dissent, and totalitarianism. Those are words - meaning "totalitarianism," "dissent," and "intolerance," - such American guardians of morality like the Traditional Values Coalition, the Family Research Council, and (my all-time favorites) the Parents Television Council should look up in a dictionary.

And I think I will now check out some of the search functions on Bing...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Outrage in North Korea

In light of today's developments in the case of journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, imprisoned by North Korea's psychopathic regime, I would very strongly encourage the support of an organization we spoke to earlier this spring on the WSPC Culture Wars radio show. Reporters Without Borders documents the repression of free speech and journalists around the world and helps fight for the release of incarcerated reporters everywhere. Check out their web page, sign their petitions, and give them what support you can.

You can listen to our interview at or by subscribing to the show for free on I-tunes.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Let James Speak!

Well, graduation season is upon us (or for some of us, like yours truly, it has already passed...St. Peter's College, where I teach, had its graduation ceremonies on May 17).

But I was just amused to see what a class of true Einsteins UCLA is unleashing on the world in its graduation class of 2009.

According to this story, a large number of UCLA students were outraged that the actor James Franco (Spider-Man, Pineapple Express) was going to give a speech at their commencement ceremony. Franco had received his UCLA BA degree last year (he had first enrolled in the university in 1996). But a lot of UCLA students, it seems, are not happy with this. They feel that he "hasn't had time to accomplish anything with his degree" since his graduation.

This is the reason for rejecting Franco? Are you out of your fracking minds?

There were probably a lot of really outstanding keg parties and a great deal of excellent dope smoked by the UCLA student body over the last four years.

How about letting him speak because he is a person who obviously does not need a college degree to make a living these days but still valued education enough to get that degree? Maybe he would have said something like he completed his degree and now wanted to let other students appreciate the value of knowledge for its own sake and beyond the dollar value of a salary.

Franco, apparently, said that he backed out of giving the speech because of work conflicts. It's a reasonable way to safe face.

But at least he's probably happy that with a degree from UCLA, he just might look forward to a promising career in the entertainment industry.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Way too cool!!

I needed to post this link to and their clip of a promotional trailer to a new ABC series as a way of letting some friends tell me "see, we told you so."

Yes, after a lot of complaining about the fact that most everything coming out of Hollywood these days is nothing but another "reboot," "remake," "prequel," "reimagining," or "sequel," I find a new reboot series coming to ABC that I'm actually excited about. Hey, what can I say, we all have a few weak spots for classics we just want to go on and on.

For me, after Rocky and Rambo sequels, it's the 80s science fiction TV series V. If you check out the original two miniseries from 1983 and 1984 on DVD (the DVD of the first miniseries has an excellent commentary track by writer/director Kenneth Johnson), you'll see why. It's surprising how well the originals still stand up and what a great combination they are of action, mystery, and commentary of human nature, freedom, and totalitarianism.

And no, this series is no relation to the heavy-handed, preachy film V for Vendetta.

The great thing from the trailer for the new iteration on V is that it looks like it will be another interesting mix of ideas and SF.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Culture Wars Podcast Update

Here's an offer you can't refuse! One more update to the Culture Wars podcasts until September.

Because of some unfortunate technical problems, our interview with Dr. Barbara Oakley about her book on sociopathic behavior, "Evil Genes," has not been previously posted. But the episode is up now and it sounds great. Check it out at either or subscribe to the Culture Wars podcast on I-tunes.

Friday, May 1, 2009

More Culture Wars Podcasts Available Now!!

On April 30, Ernabel Demillo and I hosted the last Culture Wars episode of this "season." It's now available for downloading at or through a free subscription at I-Tunes. So be sure and catch this because new episodes will be returning only in September.

But our last spring episode had a great interview with presidential historian Nick Ragone discussing Barack Obama's first 100 days in office. I'd highly recommend you take a look at the link on the right to Nick's excellent blog, too!

Plus, we gave our spin to some of the top headlining news stories, controversies and even conspiracy theories. Check out our take on the swine flu - including Joe Biden's travel advisory - blogging by parents, the FCC ruling on curses in broadcasting, and the biggest question of the day: has Tupac Shakur really faked his death??

But in the meantime, do keep checking in on this blog throughout the summer and get a good fix of Culture Wars: the Blog Version!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine Flu Casualty (sort of): Free Speech

Well, there seems to be a casualty of the swine flu today...attention to the Supreme Court's outrageous ruling that the FCC will be allowed to fine broadcasters for airing any "fleeting expletives." These are single-word curses like "fuck" and "shit" - or perhaps references that should be thrown around a lot in any documentary about the kinds of people (Parents Television Council) who are celebrating this ruling: "assholes." But while the news headlines have been dominated by the "all swine flu all the time headlines" (and yeah, not an unimportant story), the Supreme Court allowing the FCC to trample all over the First Amendment has fallen off the media's radar today.

For some excellent thoughts on this, do check on the right of this blog for Paul Levinson's piece too. As he argues - and has been arguing for years - it's outrageous how the words as clear as "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech" can be allowed to be flouted by an irrelevant and reactionary bureaucracy like the FCC.

And Dr. Levinson is absolutely right in the argument that conservative justices are ignoring their own beliefs that a judge should not legislate from the bench. This is an exact point I have believed in for a very long time, every time I heard the conservative far right wing moralists supporting censorious legislation. What the hell happened to the party of "small government" and Ronald Reagan's goal to "get government off your back?" What happened to the American people knowing how to live their lives and raise their families better than Washington bureaucrats and censorious, puritanical, whacko special interests?

Perhaps this might be one of the reasons so many are deserting that party for a real limited-government-alternative like the Libertarian Party.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Reporters Without Borders on WSPC Culture Wars

Today Ernabel Demillo and I hosted an important episode of Culture Wars, talking to Lucie Morillon from the Reporters Without Borders organization. They document and try to make public all the attacks on journalists and free speech around the world.

The episode is already up on podcast, so do check it out and download it either from I-Tunes or go to

This organization fights for people who get themselves into trouble around the world for doing real reporting. There are journalists out there who cover things more important than gossip and celebrities and fashion, and often they are silenced and punished for it. Reporters Without Borders tries fight for their lives, their safety, and to make their work public.

Right now American reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee are imprisoned in North Korea and Roxana Saberri is jailed in Iran.

Listen to the show and check out the work Reporters Without Borders is doing to further free speech and free press around the world

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Most requested Culture Wars episode on podcast!

WSPC Culture Wars' most requested episode for podcasting - with guest Nadia Cornier of the Firebrand Literary Agency - is now available for dowloading on either I-Tunes or by going to If you go to I-Tunes, search for the show by putting "Culture Wars" matched with either Barna Donovan or Ernabel Demillo. You can subscribe to the podcast for free!

Previous Culture Wars episodes aired since January are also available.

And be sure and let us know what you think of the show, what you think the most pressing current events issues are that we should talk about, or give us any kind of feedback at

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jackie Chan a Communist Stooge??

Whoa! Who’d a thunk it? Jackie Chan, the talented and imaginative, but basically harmless clown of martial arts cinema is actually becoming a controversial figure in Chinese politics. Check out this story about a conference on April 18 that’s generating some uproar.

As well as it should! For someone who had reaped the benefits of Hong Kong capitalism and democracy, his comments that Chinese people might not be able to handle freedom is distasteful. Perhaps he’d taken some lessons in political hypocrisy from the Hollywood far left the last time he was on this side of the Pacific…anyone remember Madonna on her Michael Moore kick, chiding Americans for being too materialistic? Sean Penn and Danny Glover palling around with dictator Hugo Chavez?

Now I’m curious as to what else will happen in a reportedly building backlash to his statements. In the meantime, I’m also wondering if he might be due a little bit of the benefit of the doubt, since we can’t be sure of the accuracy of the translation of his words or the context they might have come in. Jackie, after all, had also been very critical of the Chinese government’s crackdown on the pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989. But, then again, as his critics point out, there have been a number of extremely callous statements he had also made about the critics of China’s policies. Of those who protested the 2008 Olympics, he said they were “only” trying to cause trouble to get themselves on TV. To imply that the critics of China’s invasion of and policies in Tibet are somehow akin to crazy reality TV show wannabes acting outrageously to get attention is ridiculous. The fact that an angry crowd turned out to jeer him on a recent trip to Taiwan doesn’t surprise me.

All in all, his critics have called him one of the most visible apologists for the Chinese government’s anti-democratic policies. Perhaps his behavior might be motivated by the fact that his massive personal fortune and business interests are still invested in Hong Kong and mainland China. But, nonetheless, his behavior is disturbing and his critics are more than entitled to their outrage.

Jackie, say it ain’t so!!!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Cool Culture Wars lineup takes shape for 4/16/09

Don't forget to tune in to the April 16th episode of WSPC Culture Wars! Our lineup of guests will include Firebrand Literary Agency founder Nadia Cornier. She will talk with us about kids' publishing and cultural controversies.

After our past episodes discussing those randy, sexting teens, we'll take a look at how the very big business of children's and Young Adult (YA) publishing deals with the tough issues of sex, sexuality, and all things controversial in a world of paranoid adults and extremely worldly kids.

You deffinitely don't want to miss it!!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

New podcasts of Culture Wars shows!

Be sure and check out for more episodes of WSPC Culture Wars, including Paul Levinson's discussion of "sexting," Jennifer B. White talking about the publishing industry, PR, and the beginning writer, and Jeff Yang and Parry Shen talking about Asian American superheroes and comic books.

If you haven't been browsing the links over on the right side of the screen recently, be sure and check out Paul Levinson's blog post about sexting for more really great points about the issue, or click right here.

Friday, April 3, 2009

See, I Told You So!!

Check out this interesting little story about a killer attempting to shift the blame onto media use for his behavior.

Some vicious lunatic slit a man's throat and now he and his lawyers are arguing that it was all because of a pornographic video he was shown by a "third party."

So he shouldn't be punished so severely, right? It wasn't really his fault.

Yeah, right! Sure!!

Just as I argued before that all these ridiculous, idiotic, absolutely unfounded arguments about the effects of media violence and porn are a boon for lawyers trying to keep their scumbag clients from being punished, anti-media-violence and anti-porn do-gooders are the best friends every violent criminal in this world has.

And take note of how this pornographic tape has mysteriously it never existed in the first place.

Here's an invitation to all the "family" advocacy groups, the media watchdogs, our good buddies and pals in organizations like the Parents Television Council: if you really believe that a porn tape made this piece of human garbage kill, please contact me right away. I have this great big stone and concrete and metal thing that spans the river between Manhattan and Brooklyn to sell you. It's mine! I own the deed! Trust me! You believe me, don't you?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Comparing "Sexting" to Child Porn is Ludicrous

Check out this latest article about how a budding new moral panic, the teenage cell phone phenomenon of “sexting” is about to turn into the next salvo on free speech and expression in America.

The ACLU, to its credit, is at least taking on this Pennsylvania county’s paranoid and destructive attempt at prosecuting teenage girls who sent provocative pictures of themselves to their boyfriends over the cell phone. And this prosecution is taking place despite the fact that THE TYPES OF PICTURES SENT BY THE GIRLS ARE NOT CLASSIFIED AS ILLEGAL IN PENNSYLVANIA!!!!!!!! So what the &^$%ing %#&* happened to equal protection under the law?

What happened is the latest case in the ages-old social phenomenon of the moral panic. A moral panic usually ensues when some strange and unusual event, some aberant occurrence is suddenly blown out of proportion (most easily by the mass media) and cast as a pernicious crisis threatening all of society. Sexting is just the latest moral panic, right after the scientifically baseless media violence hysteria, the steroid paranoia, the violent video game hysteria, the Satanic heavy metal hysteria, the comic book moral panic of the 1950s, the Red Scare, and all the way back to the colonial witch trials.

Sexting, as so perfectly argued by Fordham Professor Paul Levinson on today’s Culture Wars radio show, is not child pornography. It is not created under the same circumstances and it is in no way an equivalent of child pornography. Child pornography is the victimization of children, the videotaping or photography of children against their will by a pornographer, for distribution and sale. Sexting is teenagers voluntarily taking pictures of themselves and controlling those pictures by distributing them to friends and boyfriends. It is sexual experimentation and rebellion by kids at an age when every generation of teenagers had been rebellious, when they have experimented with sex and sexuality. Comparing sexting to child pornography is ludicrous.

But sexting is also a wonderful boon to various groups of censorious crackpots and control freaks like the Parents Television Council (check out their web page where they bemoan the creeping immoral menace of sexting) and the rest of their meddling ilk who use this as an opportunity to push for more intrusive laws and regulations that control private behavior. And just be sure and take a look at the part of the Pennsylvania sexting article that describes some of the punishment the authorities want meted out to these girls. A forced “re-education” program? RE-EDUCATION?? The Soviet Union used to have re-education programs in the Siberian gulags!!!

So don’t believe for a microsecond that all the moral watchdogs and media crusader groups are as appalled and saddened and outraged by sexting as they claim. These folks are happy as can be every time they imagine another kid “sexting” a picture of herself. The more kids sexting, the better, they must no doubt be gushing in their most private moments. Every such incident is just more ammunition for these parasites to launch their assaults on free expression and civil liberties.