Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ Category

Newt “Hollywood” Gingrich

January 26, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m not a trained historian, at least in the sense of one current presidential candidate. I do not hold a PhD or even a Masters in the subject. But I do consider myself something of an amateur historian and do possess some historical training and experience, as a former schoolteacher and museum employee. I read quite a bit on a number of historical topics. One particular interest of mine is the Cold War era. I particularly enjoy viewing this through the contemporary media and pop culture of the period.

In the 1980s there were a number of films that considered the after-effects or on-set of a nuclear exchange between the superpowers. Some were primarily focused on the aftermath: Threads and The Day After are two infamous films that look at the toll on society and individuals that would ensue after such an exchange. These films also looked at the conditions that might lead to such an exchange. They tended to have a largely anti-nuclear, left-leaning message.

One film focused more on the lead-up and did so in a fascinating way. The 1984 Canadian produced Countdown to Looking Glass, which originally aired on HBO on October 14th of that year, considers the scenario of an economic collapse leading to Soviet puppet states springing up in the Middle East, particularly Oman. The U.S. sends troops to Saudi Arabia and Oman responds with a blockcade in the Strait of Hormuz. Soviets deploy submarines in the region as shots are exchanged on a variety of fronts. Things come to a head when the Omanis and the US exchange fire, resulting in the loss of an Omani gunboat. A Soviet sub is tracked under the Nimitz, and eventually nukes are exchanged. We’re left with the President and his closest advisors boarding the Looking Glass, an airborne command center and the very real possibility of an all-out strategic nuclear exchange.

What makes the film so compelling is that the events are portrayed through a mock newscast. The producers purposely added dramatic scenes and used compressed time (i.e. several days of events presented over the 1 hour 26 minutes of the film), but the newscast aspect lends a great deal of authenticity and really captures the paranoia and anxiety of the era. They also used real pundits and politicians, such as Eric Sevareid and Senator Eugene McCarthy. It does a fairly good job of staying somewhat neutral while still capturing the immensity of the potential situation.

Also appearing in the film is a young, telegenic Congressman from the state of Georgia. At the time he was a right-wing back-bench bomb thrower who was quickly making a name for himself. A committed Cold Warrior, he makes numerous references to past history and hails Winston Churchill.

You might know him. It’s former Speaker and current GOP Presidential candidate Newton Leroy Gingrich.

It’s been a while since I viewed the film, but I believe Newt appears twice from what I remember He appears at around 6:20 in this clip from the first third:

And at about 6:42 in this clip from the last third:

Newt isn’t exactly a Hollywood star like, say, former Senator Fred Thompson. But he has appeared in a variety of films, mostly documentaries. But in 1995 he did have a cameo appearance in an episode of Murphy Brown. Check out the former Speaker’s full Hollywood credits here.

As an aside, I strongly suggest you check out Countdown to Looking Glass. It may not have the power it once did, but it still pulls up a whole lot of emotions.


Chuckles with Arlen

December 28, 2011 Leave a comment

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, if you didn’t get enough (albeit unintentional) laughs during his five terms in the Senate, the only man in D.C. funny enough to deliver his verdict in an impeachment trial citing an obscure precept of Scottish law, Mr. Snarlin’ Arlen Specter!

For what it is, it’s not a bad set. I’ve heard most of the jokes in other forms, though, so I’m thinking that he found them in the pocket of that jacket that looks like he bought at the estate sale of some former Catskills comedian (ha-cha-cha!) Be forewarned: the Senator works a little “blue” (an old school comedy term for “dirty”)

Hopefully, in 2015, he’ll be able to join by then Former Senator Al Franken on a nationwide Former Senators of Comedy tour!

(H/T Political Wire)

A Cautionary Tale for Satirists

December 1, 2009 Leave a comment

Readers know that I am a big fan of satirical animated sitcoms. I shun use of the word cartoon because that implies that all animation is meant for children to laugh at simply at its face value. Many of the sitcoms I enjoy (South Park, The Simpsons, Family Guy, King of the Hill) score their jokes off irony, word play and twisted parody, I don’t advise that children be allowed to watch them at all. The Simpsons is one possible exception, but I was the sort of child who began catching the satirical overtones around age 9–not all kids are there at that age.

That’s why I found this news item most alarming. From the AP:

hree boys have been arrested for investigation of bullying red-haired students after a Facebook message promoted “Kick a Ginger Day” at a Southern California school.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said Monday that two 12-year-olds were arrested for suspicion of misdemeanor battery, and a 13-year-old was booked for misdemeanor cyberbullying. They were released to their parents.

For the uninitated, the word “ginger” was popularized as a description for light-skinned, freckled red-headed kids by the South Park episode “”. In the episode Cartman delivers a very nasty presentation about the children during show and tell. To get back at him, his ostensible friends turn him into a ginger using hair dye and make-up. However, Cartman ends up leading a Ginger supremacist group that ultimately kidnap his friends. They reveal their charade to him, and he suddenly begins preaching racial tolerance. The episode stabs right at the heart of the stupidity of racism in all forms, be it by a majority or by a minority group that co-opts it to fight past discrimination.

Read more…

Cosmopolitan: A Journal of Opinion (and steamy sex)

November 20, 2009 Leave a comment

From Live Pulse, we discover that Cosmopolitan (yes, that magazine that strikes fear in the heart of men whenever it is encountered at the local beauty shop and that nauseates some stores so that they have to put shields in front of the cover in the checkout line) has weighed in on the Stupak amendment:

If you’re pro-choice, you may not be aware that an amendment to the health-care reform bill that passed in the House earlier this month threatens women’s rights. Called the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, it bans abortion coverage for millions of women who will purchase health insurance in the new health exchange. This ban will also extend to women who opt to be covered under the “public option” form of health insurance that the bill will create.

Certainly Cosmopolitan is entitled to its opinion, despite the fact that their magazine is little concerned with the issues of the day. But did it ever occur to the high minds at Cosmo that perhaps its the very desensitization to the primary role of conception in sexual intercourse (23 Ways to Drive Your Man Mad!) that our modern society perpetuates is perhaps the sole reason that abortion is still debated in our civic discourse?

Wonders never cease.

Cause I’m free as a bird now

January 29, 2009 Leave a comment

RIP Billy Powell. From The RTD:

Billy Powell, longtime keyboardist for the southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, died this morning at his northeast Florida home. He was 56.



The Jacksonville-based band was formed in 1966 by a group of high school students — famously, it took its name from a P.E. teacher they disliked, Leonard Skinner. Powell joined the group around 1972, the year before they released their first album, “Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd.”

The band was decimated on Oct. 20, 1977, when their chartered plane crashed in a swamp near McComb, Miss.

Six people were killed — lead singer Ronnie Van Zant; guitarist Steve Gaines; and his sister, vocalist Cassie Gaines; as well as an assistant road manager, the pilot and co-pilot.

Powell was one of the survivors.