Tag Archives: Glenn Beck

A Mid-Year Celebration!

If nothing else worth celebrating happened today, June 30th would still mark the mid-point of 2011 — reason alone to pop a cork. But there are some very good reasons to mark this day with fanfare and hoopla.

The newlyweds and our comedy guru, Sheldon Patinkin, on June 30, 1990. A picture of perfect harmony in our universe.

The first reason to party today is personal. On June 30th, 1990, I was wise enough to wed the lovely, brilliant and talented Victoria Zielinski. Today is our 21st wedding anniversary. Whatever else I have done in my life to this point, marrying Victoria has been my shining accomplishment. Ultimately, my marriage to Vic will stand as the pinnacle of my achievement.

Now, from the sublime to the ridiculous…

The other reason to celebrate today is something we all can share with equal joy. Tonight, Glenn Beck will make his last appearance on Faux News before going off the air. Beck was banished by progressive activism that pushed more than 400 advertisers to pull their commercials from his show. Of course, Beck will not be going away entirely. He’s setting up his own Internet network so that he can live-stream his ravings for two hours a day starting in September – for just $9.95 a month! (Can you think of a bigger waste of an Alexander Hamilton?)

Today also marks the end of the first year and a half of this blog. And, thanks to all of you, 2011 has been going gangbusters for Paul’s Voyage of Discovery & Etc. Consider that this blog attracted 22,389 total views in 2010 – and the fact that there have been 23,845 views in the first half of 2011 alone. We’ve more than doubled our site visits from 60 daily views in 2010 to 133 per day this year. That says a lot for the growing community of friends and readers,  including 70 stalwart subscribers, that make this blog worth blogging.

So, what are all these readers reading on this blog? Of the 177 posts I’ve put up since I began this personal experiment in new media back on January 1, 2010 – the following are the Top Ten Posts. (You can access the original post by clicking on the title.)

1. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

(Posted 12/15/10.)

Though it’s a relatively recent post, this primer on one of America’s most misunderstood founding documents has gotten just over 6,000 views. Clearly, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Glen Beck were not among those 6,000 readers.

2. Aliens Among Us?

(Posted 1/26/11.)

The most recent post on the all-time Top Ten, this celebration of my favorite geniuses has attracted more than 2,000 views. (Which shows just how strong popular interest in the Bill of Rights is. And that’s somewhat comforting.) Were Abe Lincoln, Mark Twain and John Lennon aliens sent from another world to show humanity the light? Or just really, really, really cool…

3. History & Honeymoon: Part Three

(Posted 7/20/10. #5 post in 2010.)

1,623 viewers have perused my account of battlefield tramping through the Second Day’s fight at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863 and the heroism of Joshua Lawrence and the 20th Maine’s desperate defense of Little Round Top. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of The Civil War (Fort Sumter in 1861), which may be part of why this post has gained in popularity.

4. Baseball Season Opens: Of Mud Hens & More…

(Posted 4/6/10. #4 post in 2010.)

This article was the 4th most viewed post in 2010 – and it still holds that spot today. That’s because Baseball is eternal. (Though some games may seem interminable.)

5. The Practical Theatre Co. Part 1

(#3 post in 2010)

If you don’t know anything about The Practical Theatre Company, here’s a good place to start your education. (Many of you have already lived this history – in which case, you may not learn anything new, but you’ll enjoy the photos.)

6. All About The Rockme Foundation

(#2 post in 2010)

If you don’t know anything about Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation, here’s a good place to start your education. (Many of you have already lived this history – in which case, you may not learn anything new, but you’ll enjoy the photos.) Wait! Did I already say that somewhere?

7. The Saints Come Marching In…

(Posted 2/8/10. #1 post in 2010.)

The second sports post on the Top Ten: an ode to my daddy’s New Orleans Saints and their Cinderella victory in the 2010 Super Bowl.

8. Bazooka Joe, Jay Lynch & Me

(Posted 1/9/10)

One of the first posts on this blog makes its first appearance in the Top Ten. Than can only mean one thing: it’s Jay Lynchmania!

9. “I have not yet begun to fight!”

(Posted 1/20/10. #7 post in 2010.)

This post is one of my personal favorites. Please forward it to all of your local Democratic politicians well in advance of the 2012 elections.

10. Le Salon de Crawford

(Posted 1/26/10. #8 post in 2010.)

Anchoring this list and first in our hearts, the fabulous Crawfords round out our Top Ten. If you haven’t already checked this post out, do it now. You will be introduced to the coolest and most talented family I know. They invented the word “groovy” to describe The Crawfords.

So, there you have it. A snapshot of Paul’s Voyage of Discovery & Etc at mid-year, 2011.

Don't click here. Click on the icon that looks just like this on the right hand column.

Thanks again to all of you for making this so much fun. And thanks for your 751 comments over the past 18 months. This blog is so much better when it’s a two-way street.

And, if you aren’t a subscriber yet – click on the image of the saluting Matey (at right, where it says “Hop Aboard) — and get on the bus. Or the blog. Or both.


Filed under Random Commentary

10 More Rays of Sunlight

With earthquakes, tsunamis and meltdowns in Japan, House Speaker John Boehner and the GOP Teahadists threatening to shut down the government, and fabulous Pia Toscano getting voted off “American Idol” — things can seem pretty bleak. But, as I’ve said before, it’s does no good to retreat into the darkness of despair. We must seek the light. No matter how black the landscape appears at night — there are rays of sunshine rising just below the horizon. Here are 10 rays of light that, for me, provide illumination in the current gloom

1.  Boehner Plummets in the Polls

Speaker John Boehner, meet Speaker Newt Gingrich.

It didn’t take very long for John “Crybaby” Boehner to lose favor with the American people. Blubbering Boehner’s approval rating has fallen 18 points since early January. Weepy John celebrated the New Year with a 35% job approval rating. Three months later, his approval rating is falling like bitter tears – down to 25%. And that’s before he blunders into a government shutdown. Americans actually seem to be paying attention to just how bad a job Boehner is doing of governing. Boehner and Gingrich. Together forever.

2. The NBA Playoffs

The real pro basketball season is about to begin: the NBA playoffs. Let’s face it. The regular season is just an 82-game tournament seeding process. Now things get serious. And this could be one of the best NBA playoffs ever. The first four teams in each conference all have a legitimate shot. (Okay, maybe not Dallas.)

The storylines could hardly be more compelling. Will the aging veteran Boston Celtics reach the finals and deny retiring Lakers’ coach Phil Jackson his fourth and final NBA title three-peat? Will LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and the star-studded Miami Heat deny the Chicago Bulls and MVP candidate Derrick Rose a return to their first NBA Finals since the Michael Jordan era? And you can’t ignore the consistency and professionalism of the San Antonio Spurs or the explosive youth and athleticism of the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder.

3. Survivor: Redemption Island

I am an unabashed Survivor fan – and this season is shaping up to be one of the best. The Redemption Island twist has added a new and intriguing wrinkle to what is already the best television game show ever produced. Bringing back classic villains Russell Hantz and Boston Rob didn’t work out as well as the producers might have hoped – but, then again, did anyone expect to see bad boy Russell reduced to tears?

Boston Rob & "The Former Federal Agent"

Boston Rob seems to be in charge of the game, but if Bible-toting Matt can return from his second stint on Redemption Island, he may yet be a factor. Meanwhile, Phillip the “former federal agent” just might be the craziest character in the game’s history. Will the girls ever turn on Boston Rob? Damn, I love this show.

I’ll go tally the votes. The tribe has spoken.

4. Baseball Season Begins

All I need to say is this: at this moment in the 2011 Major League Baseball season my Cleveland Indians are in first place in the AL Central.

There’s a whiteboard hanging in Indians manager Manny Acta’s office upon which is written, “The road to success is not a freeway. It’s a tollway and it’s always under construction.” The Indians are a work in progress, indeed. They’ve got a young roster and a parsimonious payroll – but they just swept the wealthy superstars of the Boston Red Sox with bunches of home runs and a suicide squeeze bunt. However, even if the Tribe finishes the season with a stunningly unlikely World Series victory, I’ll never refer to The Jake as “Progressive Field”.

5. NU Dance Marathon Sets Fundraising Record

It’s not just that I’m proud of my daughter Emilia and her fellow NU Dance Marathon emcee Jesse Swedlund for keeping more than 900 student dancers moving for thirty straight hours in early March — although their energy, enthusiasm and good humor were prodigious, indeed. But to top off the whole experience, the 2011 Marathon raised over a million dollars for The Children’s Heart Foundation. ($1,019,130 to be exact.) It was inspiring to go back to campus and see so many great young people having so much fun working up a sweat for a worthy cause.

6. Glenn Beck Leaving FOX

What could be better than the news that Glenn Beck’s god-awful show will be off Fox News Channel later this year? It’s like Christmas in April. It’s like an early birthday present. (April 16th, by the way.) Beck’s ratings have sunk 30% from their peak, and an advertiser boycott also took its toll. Crazy Beck was reduced to hawking gold coins and dubious workout products. Of course, FOX softened the blow, saying they’ll still be in business with Beck, starting with some Beckumentaries — but no longer having to endure a daily dose of Beck’s chalkboard ravings is reason enough to smile.

7. Casey on American Idol

I was shocked when Pia Toscano got voted off, but I’m glad that “Idol” judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler had already used their one and only save to keep Casey Abrams on the show. I dig Casey’s style, his voice, and his groovy bass playing. He’s unique. In fact, Casey’s so cool, I’m amazed he’s still in it. It’s gratifying to know there are so many “American Idol” watchers with good taste. (Even if they did make a mistake booting Pia.) But, seriously, Paul McDonald? Really? That dude’s raspy, one-octave voice is wearing as thin as his smile is wide.

8. Michelle Bachmann for President

The fact that Michele Bachmann, the wacky Tea party darling and GOP Congresswoman from Minnesota, is seriously considering running for the Republication Presidential nomination is a gift that will keep on giving. I can’t wait see her on the GOP primary ballot in Iowa. Man, I hope she wins in Iowa. Then, she can ride her crazy train to New Hampshire. With Michelle ranting and raving on the extreme right wing, just imagine how far toward the fringe Newt and Huckabee and the Donald will have to go. And could there be room on the GOP crazy train for both Bachmann and Palin? How about Palin-Bachmann 2012? Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! Could anything that fun actually happen? It would be the death of satire, true. But it would also spell doom for the Republican Party.

9. The Vic & Paul Show Goes to Chicago

After a 22-year absence from the Chicago area stage, my wife Victoria and I will perform “The Vic & Paul Show” at The Prop Theatre from June 9-12. It’s going to be great fun doing comedy in Chicago again – and even more fun to be doing it with the brilliant Steve Rashid at the keyboard. If you don’t have your tickets yet – don’t wait too long. It’s a limited engagement (5 shows) and The Prop’s an intimate space (70 seats). For reservations, go to: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/169351

10. Easter Will Soon Be Here!

For untold centuries, after the darkness and cold of winter, human cultures have celebrated the return of life and light in the spring. That’s why The Easter season is such a profound holiday. It’s a celebration of life’s annual victory over death. Which is why it’s fitting that Christians celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection at this time. This is one of those years when “regular” Easter and Greek Easter are on the same day. Since my wife is Greek Orthodox, we always enjoy a big Greek Easter dinner with our close circle of friends. Legs of lamb on the barbecue grill, dyed red eggs, pastitso and baklava. Oh yeah, some Ouzo, too. I’m in heaven just thinking about it. Opa!


Filed under Random Commentary

A Salute to Walter Cronkite

“And that’s the way it is.”

Those of us who are of a certain age remember the days when there were only three TV networks (and those two weird UHF channels) – and network news was the Big Deal every night. In those years, back when the network evening news was an important daily event, Walter Cronkite was the Big Man Behind the Anchor Desk.

Walter Cronkite, the anchorman of CBS Evening News, was the most trusted man in America. Seriously. He really was. And he deserved our trust. After all, it was Walter Cronkite who went to Vietnam and said, essentially, game over: we’re losing and we should get out. (Can you imagine Wolf Blitzer going out on that limb?)

So, what’s happened to TV news since the days of the legendary Walter Cronkite?

Here’s a musical reflection on the gradual ruin of television news from “The Vic & Paul Show”, written and performed by Paul Barrosse and Victoria Zielinski — with musical director Steve Rashid.

The show was directed by Shelly Goldstein and performed in June 2010 at Push Lounge in Woodland Hills, CA.

This is the final installment of clips from “The Vic & Paul Show” available for free on this blog and on YouTube. The entire show will be available very soon on DVD. If you’re interested in getting a copy of the DVD, let me know by e-mail or via comment to this blog entry.

I’ll send you a copy of the whole show for $5.00 – which should just about cover the cost. (It’s the cheapest, coolest, and funniest Christmas gift ever!) You can send me a check when you get the DVD.

And that’s the way it is…


Filed under Art, History, Music, Politics

Fox News: Beyond Satire & Yet We Laugh

The Top 5 (Most Recent) Reasons that Fox News Has Jumped Way, Way Over the Shark into Uncharted Depths of Wing-Nutty Non-Journalism.

In September of 1977, in the climax of a special three-part episode that opened the 5th season of Happy Days, America’s favorite greasy rock n’ roll rebel, Arthur Fonzarelli, performed a now-infamous feat of derring-do. The Fonz donned swim trunks, water skis (and his leather jacket, of course) and jumped over a shark. For many fans and critics, that highly implausible scenario signaled the beginning of the end of the series. That’s why, since 1985 — the year after Happy Days went off the air — the phrase “jumping the shark” has come to mean the point at which a TV program spins off into absurd plot lines and suffers a mortal, self-inflicted wound to its fundamental integrity, often in quest of a ratings boost.

Whatever you may think about the integrity of Fox News at any point since its launch on October 7, 1996 by Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes (a former media consultant for Presidents Nixon, Reagan and Bush the First) – the period from January 3-11, 2010 may come to be considered the week that Fox News finally jumped the journalistic shark. Always a reliable source for unreliable information with a right wing spin, Fox News has recently leapt beyond conservative bias into the abyss of utter lunacy. Expect bigger ratings to follow.

The 9-day period, from the day Brit Hume completed his conversion from news anchor to televangelist to the day that Fox News announced that Sarah Palin was on their payroll, marks not just a final shattering of Fox’s facade as a real news organization — it may also sound a death knell for political satire. What is left to ridicule, exaggerate, burlesque or parody when your target has jumped the shark and sailed clear through the looking-glass?

Let’s take a look at just how crazy it’s gotten with a roundup of my Top 5 Fox Non-Newspeople.

#1 Britt Hume: Anchor & Televangelist.

Until recently, droopy, sanctimonious Brit Hume was the D.C. managing editor of Fox News and the anchor of Special Report with Brit Hume. Now in semi-retirement, Brit crawls out from under his rock regularly to appear as a guest pundit on the network. In was as a guest on Fox News Sunday that, on January 3, 2010, Hume bade a final farewell to his reputation as an objective newsman by suggesting that Tiger Woods should turn to Jesus Christ in order to find true forgiveness and redemption. Hume went on to say that Buddhism just doesn’t cut it in the redemption department the way Christianity does. But let me allow Brit to speak for himself…

Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer. Whether he can recover as a person I think is a very open question…but the Tiger Woods that emerges once the news value dies out of this scandal — the extent to which he can recover — seems to me to depend on his faith. He’s said to be a Buddhist; I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So my message to Tiger would be, ‘”Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.”

That’s how far Fox News has gone. A former news anchor feels perfectly comfortable as a guest pundit on Fox to dismiss one of the world’s great religions and become cheerleader for another? And given a chance to clarify his anti-Buddhist statements in the wake of the mini-brouhaha that followed, Bishop Hume went on Bill O’Reilly’s show and doubled down on Jesus, with an added touch of faux persecution: “It’s always been a puzzling thing to me. The Bible even speaks of it. You speak the name Jesus Christ — and all hell breaks loose.”

Don’t blame Jesus, Brit. Jesus advised us to “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God’s what is God’s.” He knew when and where to draw the line. Then again, Jesus’ classically liberal point of view never really gets much play on Fox News.

#2 Sarah Palin: Fox’s Newest News Fox.

Fox News has established a tradition of casting hot-looking women as reporters and anchors on their newscasts – even on the local level. Fox News foxes are generally long-legged blondes who dress like they’ve just been to a cocktail party. Now the Fox blondes will have to make room for the Big Brunette. On January 11, 2010, Fox News announced that 2008 GOP Vice Presidential nominee and Alaskan Gubernatorial Quitter, Sarah Palin was joining Fox News as a contributor. Bill O’Reilly, who (allegedly) enjoys chasing gals around the newsroom, hailed the move: “This, of course, is good news for us, as the governor is the most charismatic politician in the country right now, with the possible exception of President Obama…and she’s a legitimate presidential contender in 2012 should she seek the office.”

That Sarah Palin is considered “a legitimate presidential contender” has a lot to do with Fox News pushing that meme. And now, they’re giving her a bully pulpit for self-promotion. And just what is Sarah Palin qualified to comment on? What kind of serious contribution can she make to a news show? In the new book, Game Change, authors John Heilemann and Mark Halperin quote McCain Campaign manager Steve Schmidt on the subject of Palin’s depth: “She knew nothing. She had to be taken through World War I, World War II, the Cold War, and Palin was not aware there was a difference between North and South Korea.” Yikes. And this ignoramus could have been one heart attack away from the Presidency? Surely, Palin will say something stupid enough on Fox News to ruin her chances of ever holding high office again.

But why hold out false hope? Glenn Beck has already proven you can never say something stupid enough on Fox News.

#3 Glenn Beck: Dangerous & Tragic Clown

If Glenn Beck hadn’t been born, then Paddy Chayefsky would have had to create him. After all, the only differences between Glenn Beck and Chayefsky’s fictional anchorman-gone-mad, Howard Beale from the film Network, are that Beale was sincere and paid the price for truth-telling with his life. Beck, on the other hand, in an insincere carnival barker who gets paid millions to tell lies. Both Beale and Beck are, however, emotionally damaged, paranoid nutcases who rant and rage night after night, drawing viewers for many of the same reasons an auto accident does.

Beck’s back-story provides clues to what lies behind his rage and paranoia. I won’t go into his childhood family tragedies (you can link to them here), but Beck is, by his own admission, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. Of course, having been a heavy drinker and pot smoker doesn’t disqualify him from the role of newsman any more than the fact that he’s been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Nor should his fitness as a newsman be questioned because he dropped out of college after taking one theology class, “Early Christology.” It may raise an eyebrow to learn that Beck was raised in the Catholic Church as a kid and became a Mormon as an adult, but that’s between him and his deity. The whole biographical package, however, does raise questions about his stability. And his schtick on camera indicates that either Beck’s a guy who’s truly teetering on the edge of sanity (as his bio suggests) – or he’s a dangerous demagogue who’s actually crazy like a fox.

Once again, we can look to a great movie, this time Elia Kazan’s 1957 film, A Face in the Crowd, written by Budd Schulberg, for another Beck parallel. This classic film noir follows the rise of a hillbilly huckster named Lonesome Rhodes as he works his opportunistic way up from local radio rabble-rouser to a television cult personality with heavy political clout. In fact, Keith Olbermann frequently refers to Beck as Lonesome Rhodes. But I’m not the only one who sees a far more dangerous and instructive parallel to Beck, not in characters from fiction, but in real world history.

Father Charles Edward Coughlin was a Canadian-born Roman Catholic priest who was one of the first political hacks to use radio to browbeat the ill-informed masses.  Back in the 1930’s, Father Coughlin drew up to 40 million listeners for his weekly broadcasts.  Though he was an early supporter of Franklin Roosevelt, Coughlin soon became one of the harshest critics of FDR’s New Deal policies. His message also became increasingly anti-Semitic, and he sought to rationalize some of Hitler and Mussolini’s fascist policies in the run-up to WW2 as antidotes to Communism. In time, with America’s entrance into WW2, Father Coughlin’s extreme views and anti-Semitic paranoia lost favor with the public, and he retired to become pastor of his Catholic parish where, one assumes, he preached the Christian gospel of love, tolerance, and peace. I see in Glenn Beck’s weeping, race-baiting and tea-bagging too much of Father Coughlin’s paranoia and embrace of right wing fascism masquerading as faux populism. Sarah Palin is freaky — but Beck is scary.

And now for the comic relief…

#4 Fox & Friends: TV’s Unintentional Morning Zoo

Bozo’s Circus, which featured Bozo the Clown and his wacky friends for over 40 years, is the only TV show in history that starred more clowns than Fox & Friends. Never, I repeat never, fall asleep with your TV tuned to Fox News or you may wake up first thing in the morning to the inane blathering of that trio of know-nothings, Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson and Brian Kilmeade.

Steve Doocy has also been the network’s weather forecaster. The dude is a TV weatherman. ‘Nuff said. Gretchen Carlson’s background is a little heavier. She worked at CBS News as a news correspondent and co-anchored the CBS Saturday Early Show, covering breaking real news events like the Columbia space shuttle disaster and the 9-11 attacks. And before her television career, she was the first classical violinist to be crowned Miss America, she graduated with honors from Stanford University, and also studied at Oxford University in England. But all of Carlson’s education, training, and experience is wasted in the lowbrow back and forth on Fox & Friends — though her pageant-winning pulchritude is probably more relevant to her position on the show. As for Brian Kilmeade? He’s a former sports reporter — and not a very bright one. I know Keith Olbermann. Keith Olberman is a friend of mine. You, Brian, are no Keith Olbermann.

And speaking of sports – no serious TV news interviewer lobs a softball question quite like Chris Wallace.

#5 Chris Wallace: Softball Pitcher

Chris Wallace’s dad is the legendary 60 Minutes reporter Mike Wallace: the guy who made his bones putting hard questions to the biggest of the big boys. Mike went toe to toe with the Ayatollah Khomeini in a 1979 interview in Tehran during the Hostage Crisis. Yet, in Chris Wallace, the apple has fallen many miles from the tree.

Wimpy Chris Wallace routinely invites GOP flacks like Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Mitch McConnell and others to come on his show and serve up baseless assertions and  dubious facts – without any real challenge from Chris: the guy who’s supposed to ask the tough questions. It’s not like Chris doesn’t know how to ask a tough, insightful question. Heck, the guy worked at ABC News for 15 years as a senior correspondent and as a substitute host for Nightline. Surely Ted Koppel taught him something — even if watching his daddy all those years on 60 Minutes didn’t.

That’s not to say Chris Wallace never asks a tough question. If his guest is a Democrat foolish enough to gamble that a Fox News show might actually be fair and balanced for a moment – then Chris is full of facts, figures, and fighting spirit. Suddenly, the softball pitcher is tossing knuckleballs, wicked curves — and the high hard one, up and inside. Obviously, Roger Ailes is behind the plate, calling the signals. GOP at bat? Softball over the plate. Democrat up to bat? Fastball, high and tight.

This past week, as Fox News finally lost all journalistic credibilty – there was one slight ray of hope. The day before it was announced that Sarah Palin was joining Fox News, Matthew Freud, the son-in-law of News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch and a part-owner of the company, denounced Roger Ailes, telling the New York Times he was “ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes’s horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to”.

It was a moment of institutional sanity drowned out by the mad splash of Fonzie’s water skis flying through the surf and up over that damned shark.


Filed under Politics, Truth