Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Go Oprah!

The government's woeful response to Hurricane Katrina has most of the country outraged. It only gets worse with every new story coming out about how trucks carrying supplies were turned away in the first few days after the storm hit, or how it took days for the National Guard to arrive in town to help the overmatched local police. And then there is the just-discovered FEMA memo that shows Mike Brown asked to send 1,000 emergency workers to the region -- 5 HOURS after Katrina hit. The memo also indicated little urgency was being felt on the governmental side.

And then there are the numerous reports of private citizens and companies who were trying to bring supplies in to the region, only to be turned back! My goodness .. but, the good news is Canada's offer to help has finally been accepted -- a full week after our northern neighbors first offered. I wonder how many meetings it took before someone in DC said, "Well, you know, it is the worst natural disaster in our history. Maybe we should accept Canada's help." Unbelievable.

Jay Leno's writing staff couldn't make this stuff up. If this wasn't such a tragedy, it would be laughable how incompetent the agency is appearing. Thankfully, some people do know how to respond to a crisis like this .. who know how to get help -- and get it fast -- to those who need it.

Thank God for Oprah Winfrey!

Her recent shows from the Gulf Coast have been so powerful in their depiction of the sheer devastation down there .. I don't know how anyone can watch it without being moved. Her group of all-star reporters (Julia, Travolta, Rock, Lisa Marie, McConaughey) have really brought the personal stories home. Her regular correspondents (Her Friend Gayle, Nate, Dr. Oz) have also been great.

Where Oprah's show has separated itself from the work done by the networks and cable channels is by showing us the real images of New Orleans -- the dead bodies on the street, lying there like trash. These are our fellow Americans, and they died on the street! The images are graphic, often unwatchable. But we need to see them. We all need to see them, to really understand what happened down there. I applaud her for doing it.

I also give her props for showing the plight of the animals down there. I'll come right out and say it; I'm a dog person. My two dogs, Bernice & Serena, are my kids (check out the photos - bernice is the little one w/the red harness). It took days before the major networks even mentioned the fact that thousands of pets were fighting for their lives. It was as if they felt they were being disrespectful to the human suffering by mentioning the animals' situation. I frankly don't understand that. All those pets belonged to families. I think Campbell Brown on Weekend Today was the first to really discuss how thousands of pets were lost in the Gulf Coast area.

But Oprah's a dog person, as her fans know. So she made sure to turn the spotlight on the four-legged victims of this disaster, using personal stories to drive the point home. Like the guy who didn't want to evacuate without his 14-year old dog .. a dog he's had since he was 10 years old. The authorities wouldn't budge, but thankfully Nate took the dog in and later reunited the two. That poor guy was refusing to evacuate .. refusing to put his own life before his faithful companion. How could anyone who saw that story not see that these loyal animals deserve help, too?

Besides that, Oprah also showed the frustration, the outrage so many of us feel over the response to Katrina.

I've never been her biggest fan; in fact, up until very recently, I would refuse to sit down with my wife and watch Oprah because, like many men, I suspect, I thought she was a man-hating, manipulative, insanely self-absorbed talk show host. But then, something happened. I actually watched one of her shows, the gifts one. And I noticed that she wasn't just giving out extravagant gifts to rich Chicago housewives. She filled the audience with teachers .. people whose lives could really be enriched by the huge windfall. And that's when I became a believer.

So you stay on the Gulf Coast as long as you have to, Oprah. Make a difference. You already have.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

So Long, Little Buddy

Saw the news today that Bob Denver, best known as the title character in "Gilligan's Island," had died. I'm not someone who gets that emotional when a popular figure passes on; My wife and mother-in-law, for example, have sometimes bawled over the death of a celebrity (my wife still gets choked up whenever an old Three's Company rerun pops up - she was a HUGE John Ritter fan). But that's not me.
Usually I think, 'what a shame' .. he/she was great in (fill in the blank) movie/tv show. But I rarely feel as if I've lost someone close to me. Why should I? I didn't know them personally.

With Bob Denver, it was different. He was the star of my favorite sitcom ever. I remember being 6 years old, watching reruns of 'Gilligan' back in Miami (during the days of 4 channels) after school. And watching them -- again and again and again. I bet I've seen every episode of that series a couple dozen times each over the years. And that's why the show is a perfect sitcom. Because people like me, who weren't even born when the show was first on, call it their favorite sitcom. And you can watch it over and over again.

The radioactive vegetables episode? Sure, I know what happens, but I still watch it every time my channel-surfing brings me to TBS. Why? Because watching Gilligan lift those phony props thanks to the radioactive-boosted spinach IS FUNNY! That's just me; I find silly 60's sitcom humor entertaining .. and nobody best exemplified this type of comedy than Bob Denver.

Although he was around 30 years old when the show started, Denver still played the role like a teenager, and I liked that. I identified with him because he was the kid who felt the grownups didn't take him seriously. Of course, he did wreck about 56 chances for them to get off the island .. but that's not the point. I could identify with him. I liked all the other castaways, for various reasons (Mary Ann guys. It's all about Mary Ann) ..but I could identify with Gilligan. Sure he pissed off the Skipper alot .. but without him .. the girls wouldn't have been able to make coconut cream pies. You don't think all those coconuts just fell off the tree, do you?

Here's how much I loved that silly show. When I was in college, I walked into a Gap store and bought .. a Gilligan hat. No kidding. As soon as I saw it .. that's what I called it and bought it on the spot .. purely for the fact that it was a chance to sport the same hat Gilligan did. Now if only they would have had the red rugby shirt.

My wife met Bob Denver during a promotional interview a few years ago .. on a boat! I've had the pleasure of meeting several celebrities .. but that was one celeb sighting I wished I could have made. Because to this day, a big smile comes across my face whenever I watch an old Gilligan's episode.

So here's to you, Bob Denver. You made a lot of kids, in age and in attitude, happy. And this 34-year-old kid wants to say thanks.

Rest in Peace, Little Buddy


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Katrina


This Blog was started as a way for me to discuss my favorite (and least favorite) aspects of Movies, TV, Music & Comic Books. By the pathetic number of posts I've made since I started this little project (two?! Are you kidding me?) its obvious I haven't taken it that seriously or not set aside enough time. But the events of the past few days in the Gulf Coast lit a fire, so to speak, and I feel compelled to share my thoughts on the devastation down there.

I work in TV news, so a good part of my job is watching all the tape coming in and seeing what the other networks are doing. And words simply don't do the situation justice.

Shock, depression, disgust, heartbreak, frustration -- and anger. Mind-bending, fist-pounding, shout-at-the-top-of-your-lungs anger.

Anger at the delay in responding to help the people of New Orleans, Gulfport & Biloxi, Miss. Their governments, on a local, state and national level, have let them down. Many feel, and rightfully so, like they've been abandoned.

I don't know, maybe the Louisiana Governor's office was too busy congratulating themselves for dodging another Hurricane bullet on Monday to listen to what New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin was saying -- that even though Katrina did not deliver the direct hit experts had predicted, the damage was still extensive.

WHY WASN'T THE NATIONAL GUARD SENT IN IMMEDIATELY? I'm from Miami; after Andrew hit the area in 1992 .. looting never became a widespread problem because the Guard was mobilized immediately .. for that exact reason.

In the months and years to come, as the aftermath of this storm is debated and discussed, one of the decisions I'm sure will be dissected over and over, is the one made on Monday to ingore the looting and focus on rescuing people. Admirable in intent, disastrous in result.

Not that there is a guidebook for this sort of tragedy .. but if there was one, you can bet one of the main rules would be to always, ALWAYS, maintain order. Without it, you have no chance to maintain any semblance of a civilized society. And New Orleans officials tossed out the opportunity to maintain order without a second thought. Now, order has slipped out of their grasp and chaos has taken over.

Some people will say, like the President, that the lawlessness must be dealt with. The looters should be dealt with harshly and ruthlessly. Initially, I was one of those. The scenes of people looting stores and stealing anything they could angered me. Then I paused for a moment and put myself in their shoes.

If I was trapped inside my own city, seeing no signs of help coming our way, what would I do? How far would I go to help my friends and family? As far as I had to, I realized. I know if that was me, I'd be carrying all the water and food I could carry out of whatever store I found.

That said, those people stealing laptops and TVs are annoying me .. more for the fact that they are wasting precious looting time grabbing items they have absolutely no use for. What are you going to do, pull a Macgyver and jerry-rig a power source for the laptop with Duracell batteries?

I heard something tonight on Nightly News that I never thought I would hear in connection with the United States. A reporter was discussing the deteriorating situation when he mentioned helicopters were having trouble making food drops in the area.

FOOD DROPS! In the land of plenty .. of super-sized fries, double-whoppers, sugar-laden cereals, $4.99 all-you-can-eat buffets and half-chicken platters with four sides of your choosing .. we are having trouble making food drops.

For Goodness sake, this is America, not Ethiopa. What I was watching and hearing was something I thought I would only ever experience in a report on the NBC Nightly or CNN at about 45 minutes past the hour. But it was happening here in one of the most unique cities in the U.S. A city that has seen its identity, its past, its civility and hope -- and perhaps its future -- washed away.

Four days into this disaster .. those poor people feel like they have been tossed aside and forgotten. Who can blame them? Where is the help? Where is the help?