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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Palin vs. Family Guy, but the jokes on Sarah

New York Times: Andrea Fay Friedman, who has Down syndrome, was a voice actor in a recent episode of “Family Guy” criticized by Sarah Palin.

"Family Guy" has a way of making it into the headlines. This time an episode involving a student with Down's symdrom who says her mother use to be govenor of Alaska has Sarah Palin railing against her employers sister network, FOX, for allowing the "insult" to air. It turns out, as reported in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, NPR, CBS and Wall Street Journal, that the character was not only sympathetic and intelligent, but actress who voiced it has Down's Syndrome.

Actress With Down's Syndrome Tells Sarah Palin Off


Friedman, who is perhaps best known for roles on "Life Goes On" (as Corky's love interest) and "Saving Grace," has Down's Syndrome herself.

She wrote an Email to the New York Times blasting Palin, saying she thought the episode was funny and "I think the word is sarcasm." Palin said of the episode that it had to be the work of "cruel, cold-hearted people." Daughter Bristol said the writers were "heartless jerks."

Friedman, 39,  went on to say that in her family "We were taught laughing is a good thing. My parents raised me to have a sense of humor and to live a normal life."

The Internet is rife with parts of the letter the Times reportedly chose not to print.

In one section, Friedman reportedly wrote "My mother did not carry me around under her arm like a loaf of French bread the way former Governor Palin carries her son Trig around looking for sympathy and votes."

Ghost Writer could be next year's Oscar contender

Ghost Writer earns Roman Polanski best director at Berlin Film Festival

Roman Polanski Named Best Director at Berlin Film Festival

Roman Polanski, in the news since his arrest in Switzerland last September and currently fighting extradition to the United States, received the Silver Bear for Best Director for the political thriller The Ghost Writer.

In The Ghost Writer, Ewan McGregor has the title role, becoming involved with a former British prime minister (Pierce Brosnan, above, based on Tony Blair), who has more than a few skeletons in his past, and is accused of war crimes for his devoted support of U.S. military policies in Iraq.

Polanski finished The Ghost Writer while under house arrest at his home in Gstaad. The 76-year-old filmmaker, who won a Best Director Oscar in early 2003 for the Holocaust drama The Pianist, fled the US the day before he was going to be sentenced for having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

The Ghost Writer producers Alain Sarde and Robert Benmussa accepted the award for Polanski.

Sarde told the festival audience that the Polish filmmaker wouldn’t have come regardless of his current circumstances “because the last time I traveled to accept an award I landed in jail.” (Polanski was arrested upon arriving in Switzerland to accept a lifetime achievement award from the Zurich Film Festival.)

This is Polanski’s second major Berlin Festival win. In 1966, his psychological drama Cul-de-sac was given the Golden Bear.

Photo: Courtesy of the Berlin Film Festival

Hurt Locker and Up In The Air take WGA Awards

"The Hurt Locker" is almost a shoe in for best picture, given its now clear sweep of top awards from the entertainment guilds and the press.  With producers, directors, editors, writers and critics acclaim, the film which had a hard time finding a distributor and lost money in its initial release in 2008, is bound to be a winner even if it does not place top among the the ten nominated films. Tomorrow (Sunday) night "The Hurt Locker" takes on much the same competition as it will face on the Academy Awards in the US, as BAFTA considers "Hurt Locker," "Avatar," "An Education," "Up in the Air" and "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire." for the British Academy  of Film and Television Arts prestigious awards.

Variety reports that "Hurt Locker" and "Up in the Air" took the Writers Guild Awards this evening. 

The following is their report:

'Air,' 'Locker' top WGA Awards
Scripts nab feature film prizes at guild ceremony


"The Hurt Locker" and "Up in the Air" have won the top feature screenplay awards from the Writers Guild of America.

Mark Boal took the original screenplay trophy for Summit's "Hurt Locker," topping "500 Days of Summer," "Avatar," "The Hangover" and "A Serious Man."

"I'm honored and stunned," Boal told the audience at the Century Plaza in Los Angeles. And he singled out director Kathryn Bigelow for backing "an unpopular story about an unpopuilar war" in his thank-yous.

Boal also thanked the U.S. soldiers in Iraq with whom he was embeddded in 2004 to learn about bomb-defusing squads.

The adapted trophy went to Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner for "Up in the Air" for their adaptation of Walter Kirn's novel. "Up in the Air," rleleased by Paramount, topped "Crazy Heart," "Julie and Julia," "Precious" and "Star Trek."

Turner gave thanks to his fellow members, adding, "We don't write because we want to -- we write because we have to."

Reitman singled out his father Ivan Reitman, a producer on the film, for his encouragement. "He told me, 'You got the goods,' " Reitman added.

Mark Monroe won the documentary award for dolphin slaughter docu "The Cove," which continued its awards season momentum.

ABC's "Modern Family" won the new series award. Nick's "Welcome to the Jungle" took the children's episodic and specials kudo.

The longform original award went to Lifetime's "Georgia O'Keefe and the longform adapted kudo was awarded to HBO's "Taking Chance."

"Saturday Night Live" and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" tied in the comed-variety category.

"Family Guy" showrunner Seth MacFarlane emceed and opened with a parody on "Ya Got Trouble" from "The Music Man," featuring such lines as "without a script, this town would fall off the fucking map."

Digital Discourse, Lost Intercourse

Digital Democracy.

Digital Freedom.

Digital Independance.

All are false statements once you investigate the true nature of how the Internet and digital communication has evolved. While I have a tendency to use American politics, my experiences, the experiences of my students and American media for my sources and examples, the Wall Street Journal took a look at China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Eastern Europe and the developing world for theirs.

"The Digital Dictatorship, the myth of the techno-utopia" looks into why the fashionable belief that the Internet and the free flow of information is the path to freedom and democracy may be wrong. The digital world is not the path to freedom, but to misinformation and oppression.

We are losing out ability for true social intercourse.

Whether it is a country, an ideology, a political group, a non-profit special interest action group, a charity, a hacker or just a good intentioned individuals, the truth is that the internet has become a way to manipulate opinion, spread false "facts" and information, create customized prisms of the works and convince people to adapt and believe those ideals.

The Splinternet, a term to describe how the Internet is used more for the formation of and reinforcement of small networks that tend to believe the same things, than as a broad mass brush to show or portray the truth, allows users to seek out only what they already believe, what they want to hear, what they want to see or what whom they already trust. As a result these "users" become sure that their beliefs and perceptions of the world are the "truth" and that others are "ignorant", "manipulative" or "liars."

And the broader news media is just as at fault, as it picks up these tidbits, and particularly in the new 24 hour news competitive cycle and where information may be slow or non-existent to check 'facts' or update, they run with misinformation until their audiences think it is fact.

The primacy effect of sticking to the first thing you hear or thing you believe then kicks in, no matter how the actual facts are revealed, explained or presented.

So we have Tea Party and Progressives, Muslims and Jews, Protestants and Catholics, theist an atheist,  all feeling that their perception of the world is the dominant one and that they speak for the majority, taking the moral high ground.

In Iran video and photos are sent out on Facebook, YouTube and repeated on CNN, FOX and in the International and American press that later prove forgeries done by one special interests group or the government itself.

The Maine was not blown up by the Spanish in the age of Yellow Journalism, but by a US Sailor smoking a cigar too close to the powder magazine. Vietnam never fired on a US ship in the Gulf of Tonkin. There were no weapon of mass destruction in Iraq, much less plans to use them. All government and special interest driven historic "stories" taken as truth by decision makers and the American people. Today the internet accelerates that process and makes it so any individual can get a false snowball rolling.

At the same time educational systems that promoted liberal arts, an examination of classical literature and art, a need to learn about things not directly related to how you plan on making a living or what will put the next dollar in your pocket, have been fading away as the American people decline in literacy and in interests in or tolerance for those who disagree with them, both their neighbors and in foreign lands or cultures. A focus on math and science will not solve this segmenting and isolating gap.

And there to support separation, isolation, seeking out same-beliefs, seeking out and believing only what you are told is the wonder of wonders, the dynamic duo of the home computer and the smart phone.

From Swift Boats to Death Panels, bootstraps to the middle class, American myths have been propagated despite tangible facts, through like-belief networks over the internet, then repeated in barber shops, local churches and family discussions from coast to coast.

The scary part is that we believe them, when the answer is as simple as researching both sides, listening to the other side, finding common ground and compromising in our increasingly polarized world.

It is not any individuals fault, but it is the reality of our society we need to address.

It is one thing when poor uneducated farmers believe what they are told and shown by their political leaders in some dusty foreign land, quite another in the US when well fed and self proclaimed educated citizens vote for president or any other political office, push citizens initiatives that tie the hands of government to adapt to change, or play into the hands of special interests.

Again, the Wall Street Journal makes its case with international examples. this could be the nature of the publication or to avoid the automatic response I am bound to get when I point out that every single Republican on the floor of the house and senate used the same or close to the exact same words when debating on the Congressional floor, words that came almost word for word from press releases and talking points prepared by insurance industry lobbing firms and "grass roots" web sites they finance. These were taken and repeated as fact by educated women and men, repeated countless times in the news media and on "talk" radio and TV (ratings and therefore entertainment vehicles people take as public service) and have become the mantra of everyday Americans, who believe these "facts" without checking their accuracy or source.

Now add the blurring of fiction with non-fiction, as programs like "24" show events that have not happened and people begin to think these thing happen or could happen every day.

We want stimulus fast. We need information, even if it is rumor, opinion or crafted by advertisers and special interests groups. We crave sound bites, internet feeds by so called "news" services financed by special interests groups and large corporations.

We believe reality TV, get out news from MTV and Comedy Central, think Bill Maher Stephen Colbert or Russ Limbaugh is their own words and beliefs and not written by writers to generate listeners, views and maybe in both cases) laughs. We use insulting comments like "Keith Oberbite" or "Sarah Palin" for those we would rather not listen to (wait a minute, her name is Sarah Palin).

We attack, laugh, and fight rather than have the conversation, discourse, compromise and good will needed to move forward and begin to solve the problems that are facing us, and if we are not careful, may drown out children and grandchildren.

Or do we prefer to be sheep in the next future third world country on earth.

Photos: woman in front of screen where Facebook has been censored in Iran (Wall Street Journal), Russ Limbaugh and Stephen Colbert (both from Wikipedia files).

Is TV making a comeback?

Are we seeing a return to television advertising.

SAGWATCH reports some "good news", that television revenue is returning. What they may not see is the bump that occurs at the start of every ratings period, the Superbowl impact, the Olympic effect and an early start of extensive political base special interests group advertising. A slow return may be possible, but many advertisers either have slashed their marketing budgets or are trying to us new media as a rifle instead of the shotgun that is television advertising.

Alexander Haig

Former Secretary Of State Alexander Haig is dead at the age of 85, from complications of a staff infection.. Alexander Haig, a four-star general who served as a top adviser to three presidents and had presidential ambitions of his own passed away this morning. NPR's Political Junkie Ken Rudkin covers Haig's long and varied career in the military and in politics.  Some of the highlights came as the Chief of Staff who orchestrated President Nixon's resignation, the first secretary of state for Ronald Reagan and Supreme Commander of NATO. Haig was the man who found the law and briefed Vice President Ford on the reality that he could pardon Nixon after Ford became president, removing the last obstacle to the only presidential resignation in US history.

The Washington Post has a complete biography and obituary. NPR features an audio review.