Friday, September 29, 2006

The Sh!t L!st: Fox News Chief Roger Ailes

The fallout continues...

ABC News: Fox Chief's Tables Are Turned and Attitude is Different

Fox News Chief Roger Ailes says Bill Clinton's response to Fox anchor Chris Wallace's question about efforts he made to pursue Osama Bin Laden was an "assault on all journalists."

"If you can't sit there and answer a question from a professional, mild-mannered, respectful reporter like Chris Wallace, then the hatred for journalists is showing," Ailes said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday. "All journalists need to raise their eyebrows and say, `hold on a second.'"

If you accept my previous argument that Chris Wallace's behavior was a breach of his supposed journalistic integrity, than this latest development is just downright wretched.

Was Wallace really "professional" in his interview? My argument is: no, he was not professional, he was displaying his bias and being judgmental rather than impartial.

Was Wallace "mild-mannered"? Perhaps, though Clinton referred to Wallace wearing a "smirk" on his face. But I'll generally accept "mild-mannered."

Was Wallace "respectful"? No. By trying to pretend that his biased, partisan line of questioning was in fact professional and impartial, Mr. Wallace in fact deeply insulted president Clinton. Wallace was trying to play Clinton for a fool and Clinton was having none of it. Wallace was not respectful.

Were Bill Clinton's remarks an "assault on all journalists"? No. Clinton said, "I'll answer the question" and did indeed answer the question to the fullest extent Wallace would allow him to do so (and even that Clinton had to fight for). However, Bill Clinton's response could be argued as an assault on biased journalists. Certainly it was an attack on the bias he perceives from the Fox News Channel.

Fox News Chief Roger Ailes is spinning the story in an incredibly aggressive manner. It would be one thing to try to exonerate Chris Wallace and claim that he showed no bias. But it is quite another thing to then spin the outrage in the exact opposite direction--towards Bill Clinton--in order to deflect criticism of his own network. And as if that wasn't going far enough, he even adds a call to arms for all journalists to condemn Bill Clinton.

Journalists, if you want a call to arms to condemn anyone, you know where I think you should look.

Fox News Channel is entertainment and comfort for conservatives in this country. But based on the events of this week, they seem to have no understanding whatsoever of journalistic integrity. The fact that their head man, Chief of the news network, has the gall to spin this event in this manner means that this supposed "news" organization is rotten from the very top of its organizational structure.

Just as the liberal-leaning "Daily Show" makes no pretense whatsoever about being a real news outlet (Jon Stewart himself views with horror the possibility that his show may be the primary news source for college-aged Americans), Fox News Channel seems to be producing its own version of farcical news. They're fully within their rights to do this, but please, Fox News Channel, have the decency to at least drop the facade of journalistic integrity.

ps - this clearly was a rant. But again, please find the flaw in my reasoning before you criticize.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Sh!t L!st: Fox News' Chris Wallace

Fox News' Chris Wallace has officially become the first person to make my Sh!t L!st after his interview with Bill Clinton on Fox News Sunday.

Conservatives stay with me for a moment. I'm not ranting with my head on fire. I'm a reasonable person. I promise a cool-headed, rational argument.

And if you don't know what I'm talking about, watch the interview.

Let's start with the question that sparked the exchange:

WALLACE: When we announced that you were going to be on Fox News Sunday, I got a lot of e-mail from viewers. And I’ve got to say, I was surprised. Most of them wanted me to ask you this question: Why didn’t you do more to put bin Laden and Al Qaida out of business when you were president?

Point number one: Wallace knows this is a biased, loaded question so he couches it by blaming the question on his viewers. It's not Chris Wallace asking the question, it's his viewing public.

Point number two: The question is biased and loaded. Look at the way it's formulated: "Why didn't you do more?" he asks. What's the underlying assumption of a question like that? The underlying assumption must be: "you didn't do enough." This is a simple fact of the English language, not liberal interpretation. And if a question contains its own underlying assumption, then the question itself reflects a judgment by the person asking the question.

If I ask someone, "why do you smell bad?" I am implicitly asserting that the person smells bad. A question can--and often does--reflect the pre-established judgment of the person asking the question.

Point number three: Even if Wallace's viewers were vehemently demanding that he ask that exact question, he still has a professional obligation to do his job to the best of his abilities. Because he claims to be a fair interviewer it is his job to not insert his own (or his viewers') judgments into his interview questions. The fact that his viewers wanted to ask the biased question to Clinton is immaterial (though I'm sure completely true). The problem is that Wallace was willing to ask the biased question and thereby forfeit his claims to impartiality. Should his loyalty be to his viewing public or journalistic integrity?

Point number four: There is an unbiased way to address the issue without asking a question that is burdened by personal judgment. Here goes: "Do you think you did enough?" "Did you make any mistakes?"

Phrased in this manner the interviewee is able to offer an answer rather than fend off a sideways attack. Let's remember that this is an interview. The interviewer ostensibly wants to know the interviewee's opinions and perspective. So ask questions that get at the interviewee's opinions and perspective. "Why didn't you do more?" and my example of "Why do you smell?" are accusations; they foist the interviewer's opinion and perspective upon the interviewee.

And whoever you are, conservative or liberal, give Clinton credit for saying that he did indeed fail in his attempts to deal with Bin Laden and that he regretted failing.

If you can detect a liberal or any other kind of bias in my reasoning in the above four points, please contact me. This is not a rant. I do not hate Chris Wallace simply because he works for Fox News Channel. This is a logically reasoned dissection of one instance of a failure of journalistic integrity.

If my reasoning proves faulty, I will retract my opinion, immediately remove him from the Sh!t L!st, and issue an earnest apology.

And, in the spirit of fairness, if you can offer reasons and proof for why Wallace should be removed from the Sh!t L!st, I will gladly hear them out. Though it's not enough for him to save puppies or something of that ilk. The only way to get off the Sh!t L!st is to make amends for the reasons why you were added to the Sh!t L!st in the first place. In this case Wallace would have to regret his lack of journalistic integrity during that interview.

Finally if you have any liberal-leaning Sh!t L!st candidates, please share. I'm an equal opportunity condemner.

PS - I do get to foist my judgment upon others because I make no claims to journalistic integrity. I only promise rational arguments. If my logic holds up, then so does my criticism. If my logic crumbles, then I haven't got a leg to stand on.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

My First Attempt at Rock Climbing

Bob and Jess organized a rock climbing day yesterday morning at Point Dume in Malibu. There are anchors already set at the top of the climb (and a path so you can walk up there) so they set up a 60ft top rope climb. The person at the bottom holds your weight the entire time as the rope loops up and around the anchor at the top.

I wasn't going to climb but after Kassia did the whole climb (she's the 13-yr-old) I figured I had to give it a try. I'm really really slow, but the scenery is amazing and it does seem pretty dang high when you get near the top:

It definitely helped that I didn't look down while I was up there; it would have freaked me out if I realized how high I was!

It took me forever but I did eventually make it to the top. No one would mistake me for an expert climber. No one would even mistake me for a modest climber. Basically, I suck pretty badly, but it was a fun first climb!

Of course we shot video during the climb:
watch my climb!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Living like a 20-yr-old, Pt 4 - Monday: 9pm-2am

...coming soon

Living like a 20-yr-old, Pt 3 - Sunday: 2pm-3:30am

I did figure out how to at least grab HDV->DV footage... but only by going to my downstairs Win2k machine. Finally, I can get the footage and work with it as DV in my editing rig upstairs. But, of course, there doesn't seem to be any way to get HDV->HDV footage in Win2k. Whatever, I'll deal with that later at this point.

The whole point of buying the camera was to capture everything I could down at the gymnastics park/rings on Sundays at the beach. This summer has been wonderful and the group out at the rings has never been closer. I wanted to preserve this moment in time; the fun and cameraderie we have out there is precious and priceless.

So I got out there as usual around 2pm, had a great time filming, and captured about two hours' worth of great stuff. Meanwhile Val was shooting still photos with my camera to improve her skills and build up a bit of a portfolo.

I passed the camera around as much as I could so that I wouldn't be the only one filming--Eddie climbed up the ring rig and shot from above for about twenty minutes. Chris' 13-yr-old daughter, Kassia, even shot some stuff (including Eddie talking about how the ideal woman would be fifteen years younger than him).

After a half-hearted attempt last Sunday, I reclaimed my giants in the straps, captured on tape. The last time I'd done them was just before my shoulder injury in March of last year. And that was at Niles West. It must've been two years since I'd done giants on the beach.

As has become our custom, once the sun went down we went to dinner at Bucca di Beppo. There were about 15 of us altogether. We had to kill some time at the bar before we could be seated and I managed to capture a stunning, drool-worthy shot of Alicia and Val. I had only packed an outdoor telephoto lens for Val to shoot with that afternoon (70-200mm f/4)--totally the wrong lens for shooting inside a dim bar. Thankfully there was something to prop the camera on because that exposure was 1/5 of a second--impossible to shoot that handheld at 70mm.

Lots of food, lots of drinking, and, oddly, lots of singing Happy Birthday for random people sitting at tables near us. Good time.

Our other custom is to leave dinner and walk the block to the Promenade and start stunting. Benches, railings, doorways, sculptures are all fair game. We ended the night at a bronze dolphin just outside Yankee Doodles. It's got a smooth back and not much of a grip other than on its snout. It took a number of tries but I finally nailed the handstand. I dub myself, "Dolphin Master". Even the crowd at the Yankee Doodle patio were clapping.

The party breaks up and we go our separate ways home. I'm exhausted and ready for a solid night's sleep but I still have to shower and I'm eager to see the footage. I start capturing it to my computer and get sucked into watching it. It's 3am before I pull myself away from it and head upstairs to shower. Damn fool. It's 3:30am before I'm in bed.

Good thing I can sleep in tomorrow, Labor Day, right? Wrong. I gotta help Dawn move at 10am.

Living like a 20-yr-old, Pt 2 - Saturday: 7pm-3:30am

DV and now HDV camcorders plug straight into a computer in order to digitally transfer the footage. In theory. If you're running WindowsXP. But probably not if you've got Service Pack 2 (SP2). Unless you had a fresh install from a disc that included SP2. Assuming you don't have any other hardware that conflicts with the firewire controller card. Or if you have a Mac.

My camera outputs footage in one of three modes:

- DV->DV: DV footage output as standard def DV (like any DV camcorder).

- HDV->DV: HDV 1080i footage downconverted to standard def DV (as if it were shot on a regular DV camcorder).

- HDV->HDV: HDV 1080i footage output as HDV 1080i (if and only if your computer can deal with high def footage).

What I discovered that Saturday was that the latter two of the three possible modes instantly crashed my PC. It would make its "do-dong" sound indicating it's found new hardware but it would play the sound about four times in quick succession. The screen would then go blank and the next moment my PC would be rebooting itself. Wonderful.

Nothing I write here can adequately express my rage. This shit is supposed to work. For all the bagging on Microsoft and my own personal track record with their shoddy products, I still expected this shit to work. It would not. And "not working" is one thing, but crashing my computer makes the thing a spectacular, ridiculous debacle.

Transfering DV footage did work (DV->DV), though perhaps not immediately. And that meant nothing since I'd shot everything (and intended to continue shooting) in HDV 1080i.

Hours later I got it to not crash while attempting the third mode (HDV->HDV), but I couldn't do anything once connected.

Again, nothing can convey my fury at this. And when I say "hours later" I am not exaggerrating. I'm out of my mind with anger and frustration. I cancel plans with my sister because I can't bear to tear myself away from this black hole of misery. I was so excited and eager to get at that footage and I can't even figure out how to plug the camera into the computer without making the damn thing crash!

Around 11pm my neighbor Elizabeth calls me and guess what? She's angry and frustrated too! What a sad pair we are on a Saturday night. Her friends failed to call her and let her know where to meet them so she's all dressed up with nowhere to go. She wanted to grab a drink with me but I explained that I wasn't up for going out anywhere and I wasn't in a very good mood either.

All I could offer was this: "you can come over, I'll make you a drink, and you can watch me my bang my head against my computer." I thought she'd turn down such a crappy offer. Instead there wasn't a millisecond's hesitation in her "okay!"

She did pull me away from the computer and, not too surprisingly, a couple drinks and some good company were a welcome break from hours of seething anger. I plugged the camera into my HDTV (at least that was straightforward!) and we watched the footage--it was every bit as good as I'd hoped and then some; my expectations are rarely exceeded but this Sony HC3 is a miracle of technology!

Then I showed her the camera's infrared mode where it can shoot in total darkness but it makes everything green and a little creepy. Somehow that entertained us for a pretty long time (and please don't think Paris Hilton infrared sex tape thoughts--if I wanted to imply that kind of an evening, I'd have found a more clever and lascivious way to do it).

When she left I returned to fighting with the computer. I finally gave into exhaustion at 3:30am, having still not succeeded in transfering the footage.

Certainly tamer than the previous night, but I really desperately needed sleep. I blame Microsoft for my lost ZZZZs.

Living like a 20-yr-old, Interlude - Saturday afternoon

Driving Ariel home on 3.5 hrs of sleep wasn't actually as bad as it sounds. Coming back home and falling asleep on the living room floor until 2pm was way better than it sounds.

I finally roused myself by remembering that my new HD camcorder had just arrived yesterday and I was all eager to grab some test footage in glorious 1920x1080i HD. And living in Santa Monica, four blocks from the beach means that excellent test material is just a short walk away.

After shooting lots of random scenery, flowers, spider webs, etc I wandered onto Third Street Promenade and walked past a band that featured a lead singer playing the cello with an acoustic guitar accompaniment. I was starving so I kept on going but I really liked what I'd heard them play. It dawned on me as I was gulping down a slice of pizza that I should go back and check them out and see if they'd be cool with me videotaping them.

They were the Ken Oak Band and I bought their very reasonably priced CD on the spot after only hearing one part of the one song when I first walked past them. Ken and Ed were friendly and chill and didn't mind me taping them at all. When they started up again I videoed four songs--all of which were excellent--and were it not for my extreme fatigue, I would have stayed and recorded their entire set.

"Cello rock," as they call their style, is just about perfectly suited to my taste. I love acoustic folk singer/songwriters (e.g. James Taylor) and the cello is possibly the coolest instrument (find Darling Violetta's "Angel" theme song for proof). Ken's voice is a great match for their instrumentation as well. He's an expressive performer and it's really gorgeous to watch him sing and play the cello; the cello itself of course is gorgeous as well.


I couldn't have asked for better material to break in my new camera; spectacular music, great performances, excellent visuals. They were intrigued by the fact that the camera shot HD and I was happy to promise them a copy of the footage on DVD.

I went home all excited to see the footage... and that's where Part 2 picks up.

Living like a 20-yr-old, Pt 1 - Friday: 8pm-6:30am

Only now, Friday, have I recovered enough to write about my long, crazy weekend.

It started with celebrating Ariel's b-day last Friday. She invited a bunch of her friends to dinner who in turn invited other friends to join us and our nine-person dinner quickly became twenty. Of course everyone was late though so four of us were sitting at a table for twenty with the waitress eyeing us with some resentment.

Eventually everyone shows up and the sake bombs start splashing. After eating a ridiculous amount of food and drinking a ridiculous amount of sake and beer we walk over to Gotham Hall. Ariel suggests shots. Someone orders two rounds of tequila per person. A few minutes later someone (must've been Ariel) calls out for chocolate cake shots. Throw in the gin and tonic I'd already ordered and I'm way past my limit.

My new roommate Chris joins us as does a random British girl, Ruth, that Ariel met in the women's bathroom. The group dances until the club closes down around 2am. Half of the group is too drunk to drive home so we all walk back to my apartment. On the way drunk Manny sprints off for his car; he wants to drive home. Jennifer runs after him to wrestle his keys away from him and wins mad bonus points for being responsible and sober.

Ariel passes out on the couch, Jennifer delivers Manny safe and sound, someone decides to throw Goonies into the DVD player. Jeanine and I both have to stop Manny from running out to his car twice. The second time I warn the exuberantly gay Manny that I'm going to reach into his pants pocket and take his keys. Thankfully the keys are extracted without incident. At some point Chris carries Ariel to the bathroom while she weakly claims to "weigh eight million pounds." Manny ends up sick in Chris' bathroom. Eventually everyone's back in the living room, starting to sober up and somehow Manny and Chris get into an argument about, of all things, Ed Norton. Manny's a total drunk dick and pisses off Chris, showing no gratitude for our hospitality or the fact that he just threw up in Chris' bathroom.

Chris restrains himself from pummelling Manny and instead storms out of the house (this is about 4:30am, mind you). I feel bad because it's ultimately my fault for bringing Manny to our place. So I figure it's time to get everyone outta here so things will be peaceful when Chris returns. Manny claims he's sober enough to drive home. At that point I'm torn between not completely believing him and frankly not caring much for his well-being. I let him go. Ariel's still out on the couch and I agree to drive her home the next morning.

Ariel revives a bit after everyone leaves and we start talking. Chris returns and joins us. Ariel, just by being herself (albeit still drunk), calms Chris down without even trying and basically salvages the night; he's able to go to sleep on a good note.

The house is quiet and everyone's asleep at the not-so-reasonable hour of 6:30am. That would be more than enough for any weekend. Unfortunately (and fortunately) that was just the beginning of my four-day Labor Day weekend.