FILM CRITICS, FLOPS, AND FLYPAPER (2011)

A while ago, Garry and I watched what is I am sure among the lowest grossing movies of all time. I don’t say this lightly. In its theatrical run, it grossed exactly (according to both Wikipedia and IMDB) $1100, which even for us is not a giant sum of money. No, there aren’t any zeroes missing. That’s the real number.

This is not the lowest grossing movie ever. In 2013, Storage 24,  the British sci-fi/horror flick grossed just $72 (in the U.S.) after it was released for one day, on one screen. In 2012,  Playback cost $7.5 million to film but only grossed $264 — the lowest-grossing film of that year. Still, the all time loser is definitely 2006’s Zyzzx Road, starring Katherine Heigl which grossed $30. You can look this stuff up. You might be surprised at how many films lose money on initial release, though some make it up later when released to cable and DVD. The bigger the initial budget, the larger the potential for disaster, so despite these horrific numbers, many movies actually lost much more money.

Flypaper only cost $5,000,000 to make, so they only lost $4,998,900. For a Hollywood bomb, that’s small potatoes. The movie was universally panned. It opened in one movie house on two screens, then disappeared until it popped up on cable. Garry didn’t recognize it, so he recorded it on the bedroom DVR. A couple of nights ago, while I was reading in bed (my favorite indulgence), I noticed the bed was shaking. He was laughing. Really laughing. Garry doesn’t normally lay in bed laughing. He told me that he was going to save this one because he thought I’d like it. If Garry thinks its funny, it’s funny. He has a discerning sense of humor.

Flypaper  is a good little comedy. A spoof. A farce. A parody of bank heist movies plus a bit of slapstick, technobabble, and some fine explosions. The dialogue is witty, which is more than I can say for a lot of movies the critics thought were great.

I do not understand critics and often wonder if we saw the same movie they reviewed. Sometimes, I wonder if they actually saw the movie at all or they read someone else’s review and are just repeating what they heard.

Flypaper features Ashley Judd and Patrick Dempsey. It’s directed by Rob Minkoff. The writers were the same guys who created the characters from The Hangover. Rob Minkoff is known for co-directing The Lion King. So they’ve got their bona fides in order.

My first thought, as the credits were rolling, was that it reminded me of the credits for the Pink Panther. And, it turns out, the movie reminded me of the Pink Panther too, minus Inspector Clouseau. Okay, it isn’t Blake Edwards, but it’s the same sort of “What else could go wrong” humor. It’s not a great movie, but it is a good one and fun to watch. Certainly worthy of at least a straight to DVD presentation. I would normally not write about it, but it’s gotten a bum rap: horrible reviews and no support from its studio. Showing it for a week in one theater on two screens, with no advertising or PR is not exactly a grand opening. It deserves better.

The reviews in IMDB and Wikipedia demonstrate whoever wrote them never saw the movie. The descriptions are wildly inaccurate. I guess anonymity is not always bad. I wouldn’t sign my name to that drivel either. Then again, I wouldn’t review a movie I’d never watched, or a book I haven’t read. Call me old-fashioned.

Critics heap praise on movies that are boring or worse. They pan movies that are creative, unique, and interesting. They apparently take special pleasure in negative reviews, the more vicious the better. Meanwhile, they glorify obscure movies in which no one will be interested.

Back in 1999, Garry and I were visiting friends in Michigan. Our group consisted of a lawyer, an engineer, a TV journalist, and a writer. We decided to rent the latest movie on which critics were heaping praise. It was the must-see  movie of the year: American Beauty.

Touted as a masterpiece, there were barely enough adjectives in the English language to say how wonderful it was. It was beloved of critics and grossed more than $350 million, won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (for Spacey), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography.

I couldn’t figure out what the movie was about and I doubt the critics knew, either. It was too “au courant” for anyone to admit they didn’t get it. After the fad ended, the movie disappeared. No one shows it on cable, no one rents it. It’s out of print. It was crap. Like in the story of the Emperor’s new clothing, no one wanted to be the first to point out the king was bare-ass naked.

About half an hour into the movie, our little group looked at each other and conferred. Was anyone enjoying it? No? We popped the movie out of the machine and moved on. Pop corn goes with conversation, too.

American Beauty reminds me of the Woody Allen movie Hollywood Ending. In it, a formerly prestigious director is broke and desperate for a movie project. He gets an offer to direct a big movie in New York. Because the offer comes from his former wife (Téa Leoni) and her current boyfriend (Treat Williams), he is reluctant to take the assignment, even though he needs the money and something to get his career on track. He finally agrees to do it and is immediately struck blind by some kind of psychosomatic ailment probably induced by anxiety. The production hasn’t even started yet, but he decides to fake it.  It costs $60 million and flops. But, there is a “Hollywood ending.” The movie becomes a huge hit in France. He happily proclaims, “Thank God the French exist.” He knows the movie is awful, the worst thing he’s ever done. He had no idea what he was doing, but the French read all kinds of deep meaning into it.

There will always be people to love things that don’t make sense because they figure it must be full of secret meaning. I went to school with these people. Didn’t we all?

Flypaper is funny. We enjoyed it.  We laughed. A comedy should make you laugh. This does. It’s every bank heist movie you’ve seen with Murphy’s Law running amok. Everything that can go wrong does. Parts of the film remind me of Wily Coyote cartoons. You know something’s going to happen, but it doesn’t spoil the joke.The pacing is appropriately frantic. The cast manages to keep straight faces. The dialogue is funny and well-delivered. You have to listen because good lines are easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention.

Our favorite bit of dialogue is between two of the older bank robbers complaining that they miss the good old days when all you needed was a gun and a brown paper bag. This in the midst of what could only be called the most catastrophically unsuccessful bank heist ever attempted.

The ending is predictable … or maybe not. It depends how your mind works. If you bump into it on cable or somewhere, give it a look. It’s pretty good. Really. I’m not kidding. I did watch it, including the credits.

Available from Amazon on DVD, Blu-ray, and download, most people who actually watched it liked it. I’m still trying to figure out why the critics were so negative. The more I write know about movies, the less I understand critics.

IT MUST BE TRUE … I SAW IT ON THE NEWS

INTRODUCTION BY GARRY ARMSTRONG:

I remember discussions about news coverage more than 50 years ago.  My college radio colleagues and I thought the mainstream media outlets were sellouts, ignoring the real stories and covering their collective butts with government propaganda. Some of us vowed to seek employment with the CBC, The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation where we would have a greater chance to tell the truth.

skydivingLuck intervened and I landed a job with ABC Network News as a 20 something. ABC, coincidentally, was revamping its national and international news format. They wanted new blood. We were encouraged to be fresh and innovative. Newbie newsies like me leapfrogged over veterans from the advent of radio and TV news.

The late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were the new “golden era” for broadcast news. We had access to newsmakers in the highest places. We were emboldened to take chances even when threatened by power brokers. I always worked in the moment, never fearing the consequences of political windmills I might tilt.

It was a Camelot period for those of us who sought to report the truth. Then everything began to change.

Fast forward ahead to today and the proliferation of 24 hour cable news and social media. Camelot is dead. News — local and network — is controlled by corporate entertainment divisions.

Newbie newsies today don’t have the support or access I did half a century ago, but they still have a bully pulpit and should use it — if they have the courage and conviction to try to create change.

AND NOW, THE NEWS …

My husband was a news guy for more than 40 years. For 32 of those years, he was a reporter. You could watch him on television pretty much every day.

He covered breaking news. Murder, fires, disasters. Blizzards, hurricanes, politics. Riots. Court cases. Wherever something was happening, there he was. I knew the news from both sides. How it was made, how come some stories got on the air and others did not. What made a story “hot” and why. I have no illusions about the accuracy of media, but I also know how hard reporters work. How little the public appreciates the enormous amount of work that goes into one of those little reports you see every night.

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Reporters don’t usually get to choose what to report. They can enterprise projects. Maybe get to do something they think is worthwhile. A reporter can request to be put on a particular story.

In the end, reporters are employees. They have bosses. They go where they are sent. If they don’t follow orders, they won’t be working long.

Like every other profession. Unless you own the company, you do your job. It’s not like the movies. Once upon a time reporters had more freedom to investigate, but not in recent decades.

Today, news is entertainment. It wasn’t always. Back in “the day,” it was public service. Maybe someday, it will be again. For now, though, the news has to make money. For television station owners, corporate and local owners. Sponsors. Advertisers.

Hopefully this isn’t a surprise to anyone. You all knew this, right?

This is not to say that reporters don’t work their butts off to do the best job they can. Some don’t, but most do. It’s a rough world. Highly competitive, long hours. Much of the time spent racing the clock through rain, wind, sleet, and bad traffic. Seeing the worst stuff imaginable. Murder, mayhem, and human  misery is the bread and butter of news.

Living with a reporter has not made me less skeptical of media than the average citizen. I know how little and how much I can trust what I see and hear. “Incompetent” media is that way because news directors think that’s what you want. If you want it, you will watch it . It will have high ratings which will sell advertising minutes. It’s all about the bottom line. News is a business. Big business. Not a holy cause.

We expect a lot from reporters. We expect them to be better than us. To be fairer. To search for the truth on our behalf. We hold them to a higher standard than we hold ourselves because …

Well, because …

75-Emmy-3Okay, why do we feel that way? We don’t necessary seek the truth. Many of us choose to believe obvious lies and don’t ever check to see if there’s any evidence to support our position.

Reporters are people, some better than others. We are all responsible for seeking truth. If you believe in God, then you believe He gave us free will to figure out stuff. To not believe the snake.

If you don’t believe in God, then you still believe in free will … and that we should not believe the snake oil salesmen.

Nobody could get away with making stuff up, and presenting it as truth (and news) if we were not eager to believe it.

In the end, we will only get accountability and accuracy from media if we demand it.  As long as corporate owners believe their audience wants rumor, innuendo, and outright lies … and will believe anything without corroboration or concern for truth? That’s exactly what they provide.

A SCREWED UP WORLD?

What direction are we going? by Rich Paschall

My closest friend lives in France and is one of the nicest people I know.  He avoids conflicts and always has a sunny disposition.  I could sing his praises all day and yet, he surprised me with a facebook post recently.  It was totally out of character.  He exclaimed, “Fxxxxd up world…”  He said nothing more.  It was the day of the massacre in Paris of 12 at the French satirical publication, Charlie Hebdo.  It sparked a massive manhunt and additional killings in France.

The proliferation of terrorist attacks, the wars and various conflicts around the globe, as well as the accusations against police, make the day’s news disturbing at the very least.  Scandals and corruption stun us.  Political hijinks appall us.  Societal polarization dismay us.  The daily news offers little source of comfort.

Recently I followed back someone on Twitter who followed me.  Her followers in turn followed me.  Unfortunately, this led to a group of thugs and rappers that have absolutely no respect for anything,  In addition, there was a substantial number of young men posting the most lewd and disgusting opinion of women (ok, they did not say women, exactly).  Worse were the women who followed them.  I had a year’s worth of disgust posted to my Twitter feed over a few days.  Yes, I followed back everybody, but then had to unfollow many.

All of the crap in the news and on social media feeds can certainly lead one to a low opinion of humanity.  When you couple that with some of the unsettling news of recent times, you can surely conclude that the world is “going to hell in a hand basket.” as my dear departed mother might have said.  Yet, there is a ray of sunshine in the dark, dank and depressing depth that humanity will sometimes find itself.

Voices are rising up from the streets to shout out a more encouraging word.  It comes from society’s young members.  I have mentioned before the comments of young rapper Prince EA in This World Should End and In Search of Peace on Earth.  Consider this rap:

Rapper An0moly was surprised when some social comments on facebook became his most viewed video, despite the many he has on You Tube.  Now he comments in his street wise style:

Young You Tube blogger Alfie Deyes turned his nearly 5 million subscribers onto this anti-bullying song from another You Tuber:

You Tube and social media sensation Tyler Oakley hoped for the second year in a row to use his birthday to get his subscribers to raise money for The Trevor Project, fighting teen suicide in LGBT youth.  His goal this past year was 150,000 US dollars.  He raised over a half million according to The Trevor Project’s web page.  He is not the only You Tuber to raise money and awareness for social problems.  Many have turned the social media spotlight on causes around the world.

Screenwriter, director Dustin Lance Black teamed up with British Olympic diver, Tom Daley, to raise money.  Half going to Black’s charity, Human Rights Campaign and half to Daley’s charity, The Brain Tumour Charity.  Daley lost his father to a brain tumor before he could see his teenage son carry Great Britain’s hope for a diving medal into the 2012 Olympics.  Black promised his now deceased big brother that he would fight for LGBT equality, and so he has.  The two raised a quarter million dollars with one contributor rewarded with a trip to meet the young men in London:

Fundraising organizations like Omaze and Prizeo have teamed up with young stars to bring awareness to social causes and raise money for charity. A Who’s Who of social media and entertainment stars have joined forces with organizations to better the world.  “The Ian Somerhalder Foundation aims to empower, educate and collaborate with people and projects to positively impact the planet.”  Matt Damon and Ben Affleck put their star power behind Eastern Congo Initiative and Water.org.  Jennifer Lopez gave all contributor of 20 dollars or more a chance at meeting her to benefit American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Club of America, and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.  Of course, the money rolled in.  I could give you many examples of this.

From the streets to the studios, from the stages to sports, from Main Street to Manhattan, young people, You Tube and Social Media stars, rappers and performers of all kinds are rejecting the message of violence and offering up positive responses.  The news will give you plenty of reasons to despair.  Plenty of youth will give you reasons for hope.  They raise money, they preach nonviolence, they hold out for something better.    Sleep better tonight, they hold out light in the darkness.  There’s Hope In Front of Me.

WHY TABLETS CAN’T REPLACE COMPUTERS. WHY THEY SHOULDN’T.

I originally wrote a version of this in November 2012. At that time, agreement among “experts” was nearly universal: tablets would replace desktop and laptop computers. Within a couple of years — in other words, now — everyone would be using a tablet for everything. I disagreed then. I was right. (Don’t you love when that happens?)

Tablet sales have slowed, not because tablets aren’t fun or don’t have a place in our lives, but because everyone has one, or two, or three of them. And because, as it turns out, tablets do what they do, which isn’t everything.

I remember reading all those articles announcing how tablets will replace laptops and desktops. This, based on the surge in tablet sales and the slowing of computer sales. Every time I read one of those articles, I wanted to reach through my monitor, grab the author by the throat and shake him or her.

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I don’t have anything against portable devices. I have quite a few of them, but there are a couple of differences between me and those authors:

1) The reviewers apparently don’t do any work. Not only do they not do any work, they don’t even have hobbies.

2) They think their favorite device is perfect and can do everything.

Have any of the people extolling mini devices as the total computer solution designed a book? Made a movie? Used Photoshop? Converted a document to PDF? Tried playing games on a tablet? It’s nearly impossible. All other issues aside, the screens are too small.

Virtual keyboards are good for virtual fingers …

I just read an article explaining how you can type perfectly fine on the iPad’s virtual keypad. Having tried typing on a variety of tablets, that’s an outright lie. Not true. You can’t type on a virtual keyboard because (trumpets) there are no keys.

You need memory and a hard drive to run applications.

You can’t run photo or video editing software on a tablet. Or a Chromebook. Or a Smartphone. It’s not that it won’t run well. It won’t run at all. It has to be installed. It uses a lot of memory. Without a hard drive, you can’t install it. Even online versions of these applications won’t run on small devices. If you use a real camera — anything more than a basic point and shoot, or a telephone — you can’t even download your photos, much less edit them. If you shoot RAW, you might not be able to load a single photograph on your device.

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You can’t edit a 16 X 20 photograph on a 10 inch tablet. Much less a cell phone.

This is not a matter of opinion. It’s a fact. Can’t do it. Can’t see enough of the pictures to know what you are doing. It does not matter whether we are talking about a Kindle, an android tablet, or an iPad. Operating system is irrelevant. The device is physically too small to do the job. Even if it had a hard drive and enough memory (none of them do), you still couldn’t do it.

Who needs footnotes? Engineering drawings? Spreadsheets? I do, that’s who.

And good luck editing video on a tablet. Let me know how that works for you.

About that thesis: footnotes and bibliographies, and cross references? Explain to your adviser how you can’t include references and attributions because your tablet can’t do it. Surely they will understand. After all, computers are obsolete. And who needs attribution anyhow?

If you’re an architect or engineer? Return to your drawing table and start doing them by hand. I hope you still have those old-fashioned tools and remember how to use them, because you won’t be doing them on your tablet.

Need a spreadsheet? Not going to happen. Even if all you are trying to do is track your own household budget, you can’t do it on your tablet or telephone.

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It’s a big world with room for many operating systems and devices … you don’t need to dump one to have the other.

There’s room in our lives for many different devices. And operating systems.

I prefer stuff that’s dedicated to specific tasks or sets of tasks. I love reading books on my Kindle. I edit on my desktop with the big HD monitor. I use my laptop when I don’t what to be stuck in my office, which these days seem to all the time.

You love your iPad? Enjoy it, but respect its limits — because they’re also its advantages. If you make it big and powerful enough to handle the tasks it currently can’t manage — larger screen, real hard drive, RAM, keyboard — it’s not a fun, portable device any more. If you need that much functionality, you need a laptop or desktop.

You can’t replace everything with one thing. There’s no reason you should.

One size does not fit all.

It’s okay to be different. Whether it’s your political opinion or which computer or device or system you prefer, diversity and differences make our world interesting. Live your life as you prefer. Let others do the same.

HOW TO WRITE VERY POPULAR ARTICLES FOR YOUR BLOG

From WordPress, today’s Daily Prompt:  Hindsight — Now that you’ve got some blogging experience under your belt, re-write your very first post.


Oh come now. Really? I don’t even have my first post. I deleted it years ago. Does WordPress believe all its followers are baby bloggers who have written 10 posts and started blogging the day before yesterday?

Not exactly me. But, in the name of playing into the irrationality of the moment, I’m going to post my most popular ever post. I’ve rewritten it several times. It has gotten more than 11,500 hits in two versions and a couple of thousand more in other rewrites. Most of the views accumulated during the first 24 hours after I published it … more than half during the first hour or two.

Despite it being no great shakes as posts go, it went sort of viral. Go figure, right? This is a perfect example of why it’s so hard to figure out what kind of post is going to “sell.” How much research, writing craft, thought, and soul you can put into it a piece … and no one is interested. Research is irrelevant. What matters is that it catches popular fancy.

The only way you can almost guarantee popularity is to figure out what is the “latest thing” buzzing around the Internet, then write about it. Preferably with pictures. It doesn’t have to be well-written. It doesn’t have to be factual, accurate, fair, or in any way important. It absolutely doesn’t have to be original and will probably sell better if it isn’t.

If that is what you want as a blogger, good luck to you. The Internet welcomes you. Bring on your rumors, gossip, slanderous out-of-context quotes. Be sure to use, as sources, those who don’t know the difference between opinion and fact and don’t care.

Find some salacious photographs. Publish them. Don’t worry about copyright infringement because no one else seems worried about it. I won’t read you, but lots of other people will.

And now…


 THE FBI CAN’T DO A SIMPLE GOOGLE SEARCH? – REDUX, REDUX, REDUX

On Criminal Minds in the première episode for the 2012-2013 season, the “perp” sews a victims mouth shut but in his mouth leaves the message “Gazing through to the other side.” The BAU FBI team cannot find any reference to this quote. So I typed it into Google and hit Enter. Guess what?

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It’s part of a song, the lyrics to which essentially are the plot of the episode in which the first four victims are women, thrown into ditches, with their mouths sewn shut.

If I can find this in one hit on Google, is the FBI less capable than I? Unable to do the most basic Google search? There isn’t anything more basic than typing in what you want to know about then hitting Enter, is there? My granddaughter could do this kind of search before she was in first grade.

If anyone thinks I believe the FBI is actually producing the show, anyone who can chew gum and walk at the same time knows this is a network television show that employs a staff of writers to write scripts supposed to make us believe these are hyper-competent profiler/agents. And they can’t run a Google search any grade school child can run. Wow! Bad writing and plagiarism? What a terrific combination for a show about the FBI!

There could be an innocent explanation, like the real authors of the material were paid, but never credited. I’d like to hear that. It could restore a bit of my rapidly diminishing faith in humankind. Because it couldn’t be plagiarism. CBS wouldn’t allow that, right? Because networks, TV execs, writers, etc. are all so honest such a thing could never happen. And the tooth fairy left you a buck under your pillow.

The song is by a group named Blitzen Trapper, lead singer/lyricist, Eric Earley.

Thank you to Pat at CHRONICLES OF AN ANGLO SWISS for the link to the YouTube video.

The lyrics follow.

“Black River Killer”

It was just a little while past the sunset strip
They found the girl’s body in an open pit
Her mouth was sewn shut, but her eyes were still wide
Gazing through the fog to the other side
They booked me on a whim and threw me deep in jail
With no bail, sitting silent on a rusty pail
Just gazing at the marks on the opposite wall
Remembering the music of my lover’s call

So you make no mistake
I know just what it takes
To pull a man’s soul back from heaven’s gates
I’ve been wandering in the dark about as long as sin
But they say it’s never too late to start again

Oh when, oh when
Will the spirit come a calling for my soul to sin
Oh when, oh when
Will the keys to the kingdom be mine again?

It was dark as the grave, it was just about three
When the warden with his key came to set me free
They gave me five dollars and a secondhand suit
A pistol and a hat and a worn out flute

So I took a bus down to the Rio Grande
And I shot a man down on the edge of town
Then I stole me a horse and I rode it around
Til the sheriff pulled me in and sat me down

He said, you make no mistake
I know just what it takes
To pull a man’s soul back from heaven’s gates
I’ve been wandering in the dark about as long as sin
But they say it’s never too late to start again

Oh when, oh when
Will the spirit come a calling for my soul to sin
Oh when, oh when
Will the keys to the kingdom be mine again?

Well the sheriff let me go with a knife and a song
So I took the first train up to Oregon
And I killed the first man that I came upon
Because the devil works quick, you know it don’t take long

Then I went to the river ford to take a swim
You know that black river water is as black as sin
And I washed myself clean as a newborn babe
And then I picked up a rock for to sharpen my blade

Oh when, oh when
Will the spirit come a calling for my soul to sin
Oh when, oh when
Will the keys to the kingdom be mine again?
Oh when, oh when
Will that black river water wash me clean again
Oh when, oh when
Will the keys to the kingdom be mine again

It took me fewer than 10 seconds to find this. What’s going on guys? Television has become boringly derivative, but this is not merely derivative, it’s theft. I wouldn’t mind hearing from someone about this. I would like to hear an explanation.


NOTES:

1) According to one of the show’s producers, the show is based on the Blitzen Trapper song. The group was compensated for its use. It isn’t plagiarism, merely bad writing.

2) If the writers don’t want us to assume the same rules apply in the TV show as apply in the real world, they should not pretend the show is about FBI agents who are part of the élite unit of an actual law enforcement agency. If you don’t want to play by the rules of the real world, create a fake world where you can have stuff fall up because gravity does not exist. You cannot have it both ways, at least not if you want anyone to believe you.

3) I wrote this post September 2012 as a quick comment on what I thought was poor script writing — and un-credited use of someone else’s material. If you wish to continue arguing anyway, please feel free to argue amongst yourselves. I’d appreciate being left out of it.

4) I’ve written a follow-up post to this about morals and Hollywood. You can find it here, if you’re curious. It’s called “Gazing Through to the Other Side: Hollywood and Moral Character.” It alone has gotten more than 1200 views and it’s a better piece that the original … but that’s just my opinion and as the author, clearly I don’t know anything.

HEROES ON HORSES, MASKED (AND NOT)

I grew up with the Lone Ranger and Tonto racing around my bedroom. Until I got the wallpaper, I was sure he was the Long Ranger … as in “he rode a lot and covered great distances.”

The original Lone Ranger and Tonto — Jay Silverheels and Clayton Moore

Other girls had Disney Princesses, but I had “Hi Yo Silver, the Lone Ranger Rides Again!” Although my walls did not play music, I could hum well enough and I had many a long chat with Lone and Tonto, Silver and Scout as I lay abed in the evening pondering the meaning of life and how I could convince my mother to let me have a horse.

Eventually, as I rounded the corner into adolescence, the Lone Ranger and his trusty Indian Companion (who had led the fight for law and order in the early west) returned to those thrilling days of yesteryear whence they had come. They were replaced by plain, off-white paint. I would have preferred to keep Lone and Tonto, but the paper was old and tattered. It was time for me to move on.

This did not end my allegiance to this great first love of my young life. I don’t know what it is about masked men on horses, but Zorro and Lone made me woozy with unrequited love. As the years rolled on, I became very attached to Tonto — not as Tonto the character, but as Jay Silverheels, the actor– whose career I followed long after the Lone Ranger had ridden into the sunset.

NOTE: Tonto isn’t a Mexican and didn’t speak Spanish. Tonto, according to Native American sources, was a Potawatomi word meaning “wild one.” Although it is also Spanish for “fool”, that was not the intention.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto fought the good fight. They never asked for thanks and would ride away rather than deal with gratitude. They were the best of the good guys. Whenever I’m not sure what choice to make in a morally ambiguous situation, I can always ask myself “What would the Lone Ranger do?” I know the answer could only be right.

THE DAILY PROMPT – MY HERO

SMOKE AND FIRE, SMOKE AND MIRRORS

“A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on.”
Terry Pratchett, The Truth

“When you are rich and powerful, no one will challenge you to your face or give you a chance to explain yourself. All the whispers are behind your back. You are left with no means of clearing your own name. And after a while you realize there is no point in even attempting to do so. No one wants the truth. All anyone wants is the chance to add more fuel to the fires of gossip. The whispers become so loud that sometimes you think you will drown in them.”
Amanda Quick, Ravished

“Don’t forget this, too: Rumors aren’t interested in the unsensational story; rumors don’t care what’s true.”
John Irving, In One Person

“Always remember… Rumors are carried by haters, spread by fools, and accepted by idiots.”
Ziad K. Abdelnour, Economic Warfare: Secrets of Wealth Creation in the Age of Welfare Politics


Among the many inane things we say when we don’t have something witty of our own to offer (hey, don’t knock it … someone else’s bon mot beats out “duh” every time), there are a few genuinely despicable ones.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

It has become everyone’s justification for deciding guilt based on rumor, hearsay, or malice. I’ve heard people say this so many times, in a wide variety of situations, but it always means the same thing.

“I haven’t a shred of evidence, but I’ve heard stuff about you-know-who. He/she/they must be guilty of something, right? Because where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

No one with good intentions would say this. It’s mean-spirited. Small-minded. How can you justify this when you live in a nation supposedly founded on the principle of not convicting anyone without due process? Without a trial? Without evidence?

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Being unpopular — or accused of wrongdoing — is not proof . Neither is attending a different church, or no church. Or dressing funny, having a bad attitude, failing to mow the lawn, keeping to ones self, being anti-social, holding unpopular opinions, or having bad manners. It is legal to be different.

And hey, how about gossip, eh? People say all kinds of shit. It can ruin reputations and careers. Destroy families. All because a guy said something to another guy about someone. Then a couple of other guys in a bar repeated what they thought they’d heard, plus a few embellishments. Their girlfriends passed it to their BFFs who published it on Facebook. Rumor becomes fact because where there’s smoke, there’s gotta be fire. Everyone knows that.

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So now, you’ve got everything you need for a quick conviction without benefit of judge, jury, or trial. The next thing you know, a lynch mob is forming.

If ever you hear yourself saying “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” or words to that effect, stop. Ask yourself what gives you the right to judge. Because you too can be judged and I bet you won’t much like it.

Assuming the pingbacks are working, these days a big assumption, this is part of SWEET LITTLE LIES –

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/sweet-little-lies/

for the Daily Prompt.

GUILTY AS CHARGED

Convicted in the Court of Public Innuendo, comment by Rich Paschall

It doesn’t take much for radio shock jocks and tabloid publications to go on the attack. If the story seems scandalous enough, or perhaps even just a little, the social media junkies have a field day as well. Re-postings of blogs of no particular merit start to appear. Links can be found on Tumblr, facebook, and Twitter as well as a whole host of new sites I have not had time to explore. Graphics show up on people’s news feeds, often with unrelated pictures with words scrawled across them. If the graphic is well made, it seems to add to the believability. The great ancient mythologies were believable to the people of those time periods. We are perhaps just as gullible.

When something of questionable authenticity appears I like to check it out on Snopes.com or other sites dedicated to debunking bad stories. A quick internet search is usually enough to check out the claims people make. Although it is often in vain, I like to add a link to the truth among the comments under some of these spurious stories. Sometimes it has zero effect as people continue commenting on the false posting itself. For some folks, proof is not enough.

There are even more insidious postings and rumor mongering going on in the area of innuendo. You imply bad things about someone and watch the story grow and take on a life of its own. There are enough false President Obama stories floating these past six years. Many imply that he has secret ties to Muslim terrorists or other anti-American groups. The whole “birther” charge regarding Obama’s citizenship keeps going around and that is followed by any number of conspiracy theories. These worthless speculations are damaging to the public welfare, especially when implied issues, although false, are nevertheless believed.

When my mother was no longer able to get out on her own, a friend would drop off multiple supermarket tabloids from time to time so they could see the latest celebrity “news.” Sometimes the talk and the tabloid headlines were so intriguing I would pick up the paper at my mother’s apartment only to find a story of little or no substance. A picture with a clever caption or suggestive headline would seem to point to a vicious scandal, and a league of tabloid grabbers would believe something they did not actually read.

Recently, an old charge of forced sex by comedian Bill Cosby resurfaced. The result has been an internet and social media firestorm. An ill-timed invitation by the Cosby Twitter account to “meme” a picture of Bill, that is to take the picture and add a graphic, ended up producing a whole host of uncomplimentary claims. Those graphics, of course, made the rounds. Cosby’s lawyer responded to all the new charges by saying, “We’ve reached a point of absurdity. The stories are getting more ridiculous.”

The man once known as “America’s Dad” for his portrayal of a wise father on The Cosby Show has now been convicted of a variety of sins by way of inflamed public opinion. It is likely to grow in intensity as long as Cosby remains in the public eye. At a recent appearance on his comedy tour, a Florida radio “shock jock” offered anyone a thousand dollars if they would go to the Cosby performance and call him out on these charges. One patron admitted she went just to see if someone would do it. No one did. A result of all the gossip and innuendo is irreparable damage to the Cosby image and career. Is one of America’s best known comics guilty of the things charged and implied? It is unlikely anyone can prove any of the years old charges, but he has already been convicted in the court of public opinion.

It was claimed that singer Megan Washington often appeared drunk on stage. While she sang well, she appeared to have trouble speaking. Reports of her performances might also include her struggle talking to the audience. Finally she decided to “come clean about it.” The issue was not that she was drunk all the time, it is that she has a speech impediment. She stutters. She explains it in a TED speech, “Why I live in mortal dread of public speaking.” It’s too bad some had already leapt to a different conclusion.

Many celebrities and politicians have been the victims of all sorts of inaccurate accusations. Some accept it and deal effectively with it by ignoring the comment. For others, the storm becomes so great they must respond. We see this in political commercials when attack ads link an opponent unfavorably with others. Here in Illinois the Republican attack ads put the current governor in pictures with the president to imply he believes what the president does. He also mentioned that the governor served in office with former Governor Blagojevich who is now in prison. You can guess the implication.

Of course, I could give many more examples of famous people who had been rumored to have done something bad through implication and innuendo. Many of these claims I could also point out were never verified. Nevertheless, they are out in the public domain and people believe them. Hence the popularity of supermarket tabloids and shows like TMZ. When the story is salacious enough, facts to the contrary don’t seem to matter much.