Archive for the ‘Reality TV’ Category

On TV, No Bull

As Brian notes (“New Beginnings”), this blog has recently awoken after a prolonged slumber (two words: bio statistics; if you understand that stuff you can also use the words together, and good for you). You may wonder who Brian is. We wrote about him every now and again. Now he’s here to get things going again. On with the show.

While the blog lay dusty in a desk drawer, an episode of the celebrity chef program No Reservations re-energized debate about the city’s Wire-imposed rep.

In a whirlwind tour of the American Rust Belt, featured in an episode aired in late July, Anthony Bourdain touches down in West Baltimore for lake trout at The Roost, “football sized” crab cake at Moe’s and gossip with Felicia “Snoop” Pearson. Now a megarich globe-trotting chef-cum-memoirist-cum-reality star, he confides to Pearson that while living in Baltimore in the 80s, he drove to New York to score dope, not being savvy enough to find heroin here in the city where grandmas shoot up. On the show, Bourdain strolls with Pearson down a street lined with burned out rowhouses and abandoned couches. It could be The Wire‘s Hampsterdam but that’s besides the point: it could be almost any block in East or West or South Baltimore. (more…)


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The Baltimore Brew blog reports that the Baltimore Sun is now webcasting its daily 3pm front page meetings.

The idea is to open the door to reader participation so we can weigh in on the news of the day.

But apparently, the window into news-making is often ignored by people who maybe have stuff to do at 3 in the afternoon. Washington’s Spokesman-Review tried it recently and got little reader interest. According to the Brew,

“We never had any significant viewership at all,” [editor Gary] Graham said, in a phone interview. “Maybe five or six people on any given day.”

The experiment added a lot of extra time to meetings, which is not good news in a deadline-sensitive media environment. Also, reporters cursed less.

This news reminded me of a brief foray into reality TV that the now-defunct lifestyle magazine Budget Living tried in, what was it, 2003?

We had camera crews following us around all day while we–get this–sat and typed emails in our shoebox-sized offices near Grand Central Station. My desk was jammed into a hallway, half inside a computer closet next to the giant color printer, a prime spot to get woozy on ink fumes. A staff meeting usually held in late afternoon, when all the editors (ahem) had straggled into work, was moved up to noon. Someone brought a case of red wine and giant goblets. Usually the booze started flowing after 6, so the morning intoxication made the meeting less than productive. Lots of cursing issued forth, with nonsensical editorial planning underlined by large gesturing with goblets.  It seemed perfect for Bravo’s next reality TV endeavor, but no one bought the pilot, so our predictably chaotic office-life was famous only in our heads.

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Finance Frenzy, Unpacked

Jonathan Jarvis's economic breakdown

Jonathan Jarvis's economic breakdown

A year and a half ago, as I drove from New York City to Baltimore with a dog and many boxes, I listened to Cassidy bragging, I got m’ drink and my 2 step, I’m home, I’m home, get the patron, tell ’em that it’s on.

In retrospect, in 2007, the whole country was swaggering, drink in hand. The stock market was swelling to new heights every day. Credit cards were wielded with inpunity–heck, you could always get another and move your debt around.

You could, everyone did it, even banks–until they couldn’t. What happened? What’s up with credit freezes, currency devaluing, the domino of bankruptcies and rumored bankruptcies of GM, Iceland, and Circuit City? Near and dear to idealist urbanite hearts, the City Paper reports that The Patterson Park Community Development Corporation -which bought up blocks of rowhouses, redeveloped homes and spent millions to improve parks and city dwellers’ quality of life–is now broke, thanks largely to another bank gone belly-up.

We know it’s bad, but what, why and how?

Here are the best three explanations I’ve found:

WHAT: FRONTLINE’s special, Inside the Meltdown, “gives a plain-English primer of Wall Street’s meltdown” (Boston Globe). Yes, and the program is riveting, like a car crash narrated by CNBC. It’s about 60 minutes–you can watch online.

WHY: The BBC radio documentary “Rating the Credit Rating Agencies” shows how this sort of organization gave investors full confidence to march on–“to the precipice.” Credit rating agencies like Moody’s had incentives to rate investments highly, like giving a bundle of debt that included sub prime mortgages a triple-A rating. They were pressured to incur more business from investors touting stacks of debt, and they got a cut of the deal–tens of thousands of dollars for each rating, work done in a few hours over a pepperoni pizza. One source concludes, “It was a house of cards.” The podcast is 22 minutes–download before it goes off line at the end of the week.

HOW: The Crisis of Credit Visualized –an animated explanation by California media artist Jonathan Jarvis–takes a couple minutes to get good, but stick with it (the whole thing is 11 minutes). You’ll get the how when Jarvis’s cartoon bankers begin slicing up stacks of mortage debt with swords so the sub-prime mortages–aka toxic assets–are hidden. Later, bad mortages explode into forclosure like bombs around dazed bankers. It also explains collatoralized debt obligations (CDO), credit default swaps, overleveraged banks and how these practices have nearly imploded Wall Street.

As long as we’re all going down with the ship, we should see the iceberg that pierced our vessel. No? You’re getting the patron and turning on Cassidy. Well, ok.

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Seizing Emotional Control

The latest oddball freebie in our office lunch room (lately: oily rice, meatballs, Atkins fliers) is a four-volume video seminar on Self-Discipline and Emotional Control: How to Stay Calm and Productive Under Pressure. While I am tempted to watch given this warning (“NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH! Tom Miller uses colorful language and irreverant examples”) I have to wonder, if someone is having trouble exerting emotional control, are they going to hunker down to watch 286 minutes of video? And more importantly, is there anyone else (besides me, loyal to vintage Pretty in Pink) still watching VHS?

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We think this is a (brilliant) April Fool’s Joke, from ThinkGeek.com: “When we were visiting Tokyo recently and saw lines of Japanese schoolgirls waiting to play an amazing new game for the Wii called Super Pii Pii Brothers we were only a little surprised…

Product Features:

  • Video Game for Nintendo Wii Provides a Virtual Peeing Experience
  • Amazing Realistic Pee Fluid Dynamics
  • Imported from Japan
  • Comes with game disc and Wiimote belt harness
  • Includes cross regional boot disc to allow play on US Wii consoles
  • Minimal Japanese text makes game easy to understand if you can’t read Japanese
  • Over 100 different peeing environments with multiple toilet and urinal styles
  • Up to two players can compete with dueling pee streams

Can someone turn this into reality?

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Quarterlife Crisis

quarterlife CrisisMy quarterlife crisis? I can’t stop watching this show. Quarterlife is from Marshall Herskovitz, the one-man show who brought our sorry middle school selves the likes of Rayanne, Jared Catalano, and Angela Chase from My So-Called Life. 1/4 Life: Part reality tv, part Facebook, part deja-vu… All online for prime time-wasting, thanks to streaming ad-free media.

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I missed the Project Runway finale, but at least I caught this SNL sendup of it, from the New York Observer site where my friend Jason is blogging about the jaw-dropper of a political scandal brewing up in New York. I think he should ignore the media blitz and get on with taking back New York from Republicans who want to build more prisons upstate.

Anyway, back to Project Runway.

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