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Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Years Eve "News": a black eye on journalism

Host tells THR she will not tone down her language: "If CNN dares to pull me live, I'll be walking right over to 'New Year's Rockin' Eve' to give Dick Clark a lap dance."
Blog editors's note:
I personally wish she had been, as her starting to undress Anderson Cooper and other stunds got in the way of any semblance of "news". Fox News was even worse as the show became about concerts and stupid fans in the audience. What happened to coverage of Times Square and other events being the role of programming and not so called "all news" stations. 

The Role of Community Theater

Anthony Del Valle of the Las Vegas Review Journal has his year end look forward, a wish list of his personal bias for how community theatre should improve in the year ahead. He includes professional musicians working for free, more professional actors and talent contributing their talents for free and forced integration despite the nature of the volunteers or actors who are a part of individual theatre groups. His heart is in the right place, but my life experience tells me that he is just a little off the mark. For his "Hopes high for local theater community in year to come" to to the Review Journal on-line, or click here.

A few thoughts of my own:

Community Theatre is for the community, in fact it is made up of communities who put blood into their theater and its local, very geographically local audiences. They volunteer their time, living at the theatre's while not at their "day job" or raising their kids (more than one family has raised their families as much back stage as at home). It is a cohesive group of people, working on an art for the passion and love of it. 

The companies must select shows that sell tickets and put bodies in the seats. Community actors only pay is the appreciation of the audience. The income from tickets is often the only income other than money donated by the actors themselves or painfully collected by going to local small businesses for each dime.

Theater should be color blind. It should reflect the community, including multiple language or cultural productions when or where they will be attended and appreciated. The shows are also for the actors who make up the company. A proud effort of desegregation and a broadening of subject matter has been done in Las Vegas over the years since I first auditioned for the Little Theater with the pole in the middle of a former convenience store across from what it now Treasure Island. That reflects a shift in our overall world, a broadening of our creative minds, as well as the very role of theater itself in the social fabric of our society.

Community theater actors often work side by side with volunteer carpenters and "techies" building sets, setting lights and even manning the booth for productions.

You cannot judge or measure local community theatre against professional standards, or the standards of theater districts which include Equity, Equity Waiver and paid non-union stages along side volunteer theaters. (Sometimes Community Theater, with a much different mission and role, may surprise you, as the passion of volunteers ignites the flame that is the heart of live theatre.)

Vegas has grown and should support such theaters on a city-wide basis, but the volunteer community theaters are still regional to part of the city or segments of the audience. The cost of gas, driving time from home or wok and shifting neighborhoods have dictated this.

As for "professionals" from "Cirque" or the strip, I welcome their contributions, energy, training and passion to our community theaters, but do not wish more of their volunteer time at the expense of the high school student or retired lawyer or passionate office worker who needs community theatre as a way to add passion, love and creative experience to their lives. This is what community theatre exist for, or at least is close the heart of community theaters everywhere.

Musicians work hard on their craft, as do actors, investing and infusing the same or more than professional stage and film actors. They purchase and maintain expensive instruments, often having to become not just proficient, but excellent, at multiple instruments. 

There has been an erosion on the value of music, in the view and market of the general public, which musicians need to resist or become armatures without the ability, except for the wealthy, to maintain proficiency at their craft and art.  Shows have gone to "click tracks" (recorded and therefore unchanging and fixed music forcing actors to follow the tape Karaoke style instead of collaboratively create a fresh product), computer music, integrated existing music from the producers iPod, or eliminated music all together. Musicians are at war against those who undervalue their talents, as actors have been, only with far more to lose. Ask anyone who lived here when the showrooms and theaters boasted the best musicians in the world, in the orchestra or band, not just the marquee.

What gives me the right to have these views. 

Like Mr De Valle, I did attend UNLV. I came just short of an MA in theatre, a thesis away, when both of my mentors passed away; Maggie's beloved Davey and Professor Ellis Pryce Jones. (My thesis was a project on Rainbow Company, a passion costume designer and proud mentor Ellis held close to his heart...and no one at UNLV would take it on as a thesis to the clock ran out).

I have an MA in Communication and am all but dissertation on a PhD in Education with a theatre focus at Capella University.

But more important, I have a BA in Theatre from the University of Illinois, Chicago, where I worked with an on professional north side Chicago Theatre, as well as in the very exciting Chicago Community Theatre community.

I cut my teeth in Oak Park, Illinois at the Village Players, McDowell Artists and other strong community based theaters, as well as professional.

I have professional and community theater experience, academic training and a passion for all artists, including musicians. I value their time and talents.

I volunteer with local theater projects, offer my talents and coaching through a local park district, all around an active teaching and talent income assembled of part time work to allow for the retention and development of my own craft and skills. My current professional representation is through David Brown at the Remington Agency.

Of course most of you know I have over 24 years of volunteer time for actors who are members of the Screen Actors Guild. I am going into my 17th year at the entirely volunteer job of serving on the National Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild.

I respect Anthony Del Valle's work and contributions to theatre both as a paid reviewer and columnist and as a volunteer and theater scholar. I simply disagree.

Everyone has their opinion.

I would be interested in hearing yours.

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part VI

Happy New Year!

The digital revolution changed the face of America since 9-11, when most Americans turned to NBC, CBS and ABC for coverage of the greatest American tragedy in their lifetime. (I remember saying, in shock, "we're at war.").

Devices have gotten smaller, cleaner, more affordable and many have added clear and clean video to their products. Everything from watches to microwaves, automobiles to water heaters now have computer chips and digital interfaces.

We text more than we call, and e-mail is becoming somethings for old people and sales.

Students cannot imagine a world with dial telephones, changing channels by getting up and clicking your way through them on your TV, 45's, transistor radios and wind up watches (digital displays on phones and even clothing are replacing the traditional wrist watch).

Radio has shifted and lost ground to something introduced only ten years ago, the iPod and with it all mpg3 music, to streaming radio on the Internet or over satellite via Sirius XM, to music feeds to cell phones and now on-demand over home entertainment centers. The decline in news consumers, and in true radio news in the old CBS, ABC or Westinghouse molds, also impacted radio, which has been upstaged by the boom in cable news in covering world events live.

Broadcast television is seeing erosion to their own sister and often owned products on cable or satellite, the Internet, DVDs (which are now disappearing to the net and to some degree Blue Rays). Video on everthing from cell phones to iPads may be accelerating the decline of network TV, with products and ownership by the networks or their parent companies in a hope of finding a new financial model for the future.

While 37% of Americans still do not have computers, only 26% do not have some form of home access to some form of Internet or "smart" technology. Of that 25% about half are by choice, with the remainder either economics or geography being the obstacles.

Businesses, the Screen Actors Guild included, are increasingly pushing untested on-line technologies to replace print, to be progressive, to appeal to a younger market, and  far more important, to save money and pass any cost on to the member, consumer or client.

The bold, new, "paperless" world where everyone needs an Internet Service Provider and home printer.

"Poll numbers below 50%," Chris Matthews on NBC this morning reinforcing the American people that less than 50% is bad. Most presidents sit under that, and Obama's 47% is high.

The doubt is that if Obama can be a Reagan or a Roosevelt and win reelection despite strong opposition and, if you believe 47% is bad, negative poll numbers. Obama walked into a presidency, as the largest recession since the 1930's hit the average American, with Bush already putting in place and starting spending programs that are now attributed to Obama. He succeeded in a watered down but sweeping and needed health care reform, something no one since Johnson has made progress on and no one since Roosevelt has been really successful at. He ended out active involvement in one war and while he escalated the number of troops, has shifted the strategy and is setting an end date for another war. He inherited both wars.

For Obama to have a 47% approval rating, given the billions in equivalent and real PR spent against him, the way is is painted by all media (except maybe MSNBC, which often sees him as too conservative), and claims of representing "real Americans" by the minority Tea Party (estimated at 20% of voters) and minority party (Republican registration is at less than 37% nationally), is a major positive. People still like and trust him, at least those within his own party (progressives may not agree with him but they support him against the alternative).

Half of the new Congress has never served in government before. One "pundit" predicts that they will push their Republican colleagues into unsustainable and in the end unwinnable extremes. Over times, as has been the case every time political newcomers come to Washington, they will put up a show for voters, while playing the game and compromising as legislators.

Hillary Clinton is the most supported politician in America. She has earned the 80% approval ratings by being loyal, taking on the tough job of Secretary or State, sticking to here beliefs, being strong and keeping from being in the center of major political battles that do not involve her job as Secretary of State.  Mitt Romney sits at 63% in the number two position, while Sarah Palin is slipping the higher she tries to place here own profile.

Sunday Morning News and Views, New Years Weekend, part V.

Back to school. Clark County schools, and with them the school speed zones, resume tomorrow. UNLV's new semester starts January 18th and  CSN's new term begins January 24th.

Why didn't I do a list?

Looking back at 2010?

Check the Internet, they are everywhere.

Looking ahead at 2010.


Looking back at the last ten years?

Too depressing.

One recommendation...check out Dave Barry. His annual list is published in today's RJ and available numerous places on-line.

So how about a political list?


What's ahead for the new Congress?

The 112th Congress is set to convene on Wednesday. Fall out from the lame duck session, attempts to undo two years of litigation, including Health Care Reform and financial incentives will dominate the first few weeks, plus a look to see if the Tea Party backed right wing Republicans can work with more moderate Republicans and special interests who invested heavily in the election cycle.

Those who come in with private sector experience and expectations may discover what California's Governator learned early on...government is not business. It cannot turn on a dime, it exist not for profit or balance but for service and the needs of the people, and it does require compromise and essentially multiple committee decisions. No plan or program comes out on the other end of the process as pure, clean or simple as it went in.

Republicans are still lumping the bi-patrician program that came out the other end of the process for health care and calling it "Obamacare" and acting as it if was one bill and not many that are interdependent. They also are solidly blaming Obama for the deficit, one that was built by Republican President George W Bush, including his launch of many programs that Republicans claim and label as being "Obama" in origin.

Republicans also voted to give everyone, including the wealthy a tax cut, eliminating much needed funds that could have been used to meet Republican goals of reducing the deficit. A repeal of health care reform will cost billions, and sink many smaller companies who have already invested in the change and will not make that money back should Republicans undo what they call "Obamacare."

The GOP's top House investigator in the new Congress is putting the White House on notice that he's going to be aggressive in going after what he considers wasteful spending by the Obama administration. California Rep. Darrell Issa (EYE'-suh) is set to lead the House Oversight and Government Reform - and gain the chairman's subpoena power. He suggests that the White House should hire more accountants - not lawyers - to deal with requests for information from the Republican-led House. He tells "Fox News Sunday" that it's "more of an accounting function than a legal function."  He also says the White House should look at wasteful spending - not the GOP - as the enemy.

Meanwhile the new Speaker of the house continues to say the number one priority of the new Congress is to keep Obama from being reelected and for Republicans to take control of the Senate. Some bipartisanship, and a definite picture of who "the enemy is" for the White House and majority party in the Senate.

Will the campaign slogans end or escalate with the new congress? How much nuts and bolt work will get done in the first six months of the new House. Slogans and dirt slung such as "the real world" and "capital hill millionaires" or "Obamacare" are still dominating, when compromise, real study, and hard decisions are what is needed, and quickly.

America cannot afford to wait while Republicans build a case against Obama. We need action, decisions, jobs, and a return of a feeling that we are the Greatest Nation on Earth!

We went from bleeding over 750,000 jobs a month when Obama took over as president to creating more jobs in one year than Bush did in 8. That is a fact Republicans seem to ignore. The world was on the paraprice of a world depression, something Bush acted fast and spent money to avoid, followed by the all ready committed dollars money and additional moves done by Obama to keep the floor from falling out from under us. Was it needed or would Republicans just have let the US be dragged under?

Questions that no one is answering with anything but campaign rhetoric and unsubstantiated claims.

On both sides.

Sunday Morning News and Views, New Years Weekend, Part IV

 2001: Just ten years ago is a century ago by today's standards. The US could do anything. We lead the world in education, disposable income and had "won" the Cold War. George W Bush took office after a Supreme Court Decision. Bush overturned a fellow Republican Governor's veto and signed Yucca Mountain's Nuclear Depository into law.The iPod was introduced. Washington DC intern Chandra Leavy was missing with Americans following the story for over eight months. Then came 9-11.

2011: A new year and new political landscape. The New Congress forms on Wednesday. President Obama returns from his vacation in Hawaii (a president is never not working, but the media and White House are calling it a vacation) on Tuesday. Nevada and many other states inaugurate new governors on Monday (tomorrow). Washington DC, some states and many cities around the country are not waiting for Monday as they swear in their new mayors or city councils today.Some cities start short  heated election cycles, including potentially Las Vegas and of course Chicago.

Journalist are now operating in a climate that rewards opinion, controversy and ratings. This at least contributes to an erosion of  journalism or the perception of what is journalism. CNN's New Year's eve was more about jokes, sexual innuendos and ratings than news. Fox News looked more like FOX Television as concerts, self promotions and glamour replaced any remaining semblance of a news organization as the ball fell at Times Square. During election season FOX took sides and did not even try to be balanced, while CNN tried to get shouting opinions on both sides instead of actual news coverage, and MSNBC continued to the the Anti-FOX. Newspapers that attempt to be balanced and news centered find themselves going out of business, or unable to afford to employ the best reporters and news staff. And the American people reward and seem to thrive on the controversy, opinions and anger generated by the new news media.

As for sports...if you tried to watch the Rose Bowl or other Bowl games and did not have cable or satellite, you were out of luck. Having grown up watching the games on NBC, ABC and CBS, Disney's decision to use them to boost their ESPN brand and put them only on cable strikes me as elitist and in a way very unsettling. Are these games any less a part of the fabric of America. So the next time the networks complain about eroding audience, I may just point out that they are doing the eroding with their own corporate decisions made made without the largest segment of the American audience in mind.

A cloud hangs over our nation. We are living with the reality that the "we're number one" or the perception that we were number one for over 70 years.

50 million are jobless. Trillions were lost in the economic meltdown of the Great Recession. Real income is down. Industrial and union jobs are evaporating. For the first time two generations face the prospect of doing worse than their parents.

Funding for education is on the decline at the same time when education and innovation are the currency of the world.

We have the ability to recover and regain number one, but can we do it? Is the will there? With a polarized congress, increasingly under informed public and the lack of will to spend money, raise taxes and provide incentives, increasingly both American and International business are gambling "no", and investing heavily in the higher potential return in emerging nations and our potential rivals, economically and militarily, in the the century ahead.

On CBS the editor of Rupert "FOX" Murdock's European based "Sky news" believes that the decline of the US is greatly exaggerated. the US remain the world's major military power. Italian Television's International Editor feels that America is the "the country where you can become president before you are 5o", a youthful, young country with unlimited potential. But both admit that the US is not in the best place right now due to the rise of China, growing dissatisfaction with "US" wars, and an almost English split in our legislature, only without the ability to call a new government or shake calcified opinions loose.

But Americans, feeling the worst economic and government crisis since the Great Depression, are not optimistic. With near one in ten

Without American business, the American people and the support of the world behind us..the US may not be able to retain or return to the great innovative nation we have been for 236 years.

Soldiers and police in Mexico are being killed in very real war, the drug war. More than triple the number of Mexicans died in 2010 than US Soldiers who lost their lives world wide over the past 7 years.

A key political party says it is withdrawing from Pakistan's ruling coalition, depriving the pro-U.S. government of a parliamentary majority. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement will join the opposition because of the poor performance of the government. The MQM's decision could result in a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and bring down the government.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard claims to have shot down several Western spy planes, including two in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which is based in the Gulf, says it has no reports of aircraft downed "recently." Iran claims it has "shot down a large number of ... highly advanced spy planes" that violated Iranian airspace.

Israel's prime minister says he's ready to sit down with the Palestinian president for continuous one-on-one talks until they reach a peace deal. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued his statement in an apparent bid to breathe life into stalled Mideast peace making. Talks broke down three months ago. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says Israel must halt all
settlement construction before talks can resume. Netanyahu has refused, but says he is ready to discuss all issues with Abbas. On Sunday, Abbas said he believed a peace deal could be reached
within two months if Israel is serious. In response, Netanyahu said he is ready to sit with Abbas

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part III

It's beginning to look a lot like, really, Christmas!

The commercialization of Christmas has changed America forever,with holiday promotions starting before Halloween, and all shopping and most modern Church celebrations centered on December 25th each year. But that is not the holiday, solemnity or feast day for all Christians. While many Americans are busy sweeping up tinsel, Christmas still hasn't come for Orthodox Christians who celebrate the holiday on January 7th. January 6th is also "three kings day" and other feast celebrations for many other traditional Christians, who still raise the Christmas Tree Christmas Eve and share gifts on January 6th in honor of the baby Jesus.

Pope Benedict says an apparent suicide bombing outside a New Year's Mass in Egypt "offends God and all of humanity." Twenty-one worshippers were killed in the attack and about 100 wounded. The pope offered condolences and expressed his grief for the victims and their families during his traditionalSunday  Angelus prayer. He says the attack was meant to intimidate Christians.

We mind very much if you smoke, and the smoke in Spain is no longer mainly on the plane (in deference to "My Fair Lady"). Smoking in Spain has become more difficult and more expensive. This morning a new law took effect banning smoking in all public spaces, including parks, streets and on public transportation. A 2006 law banned smoking in offices and public buildings. The fines for smoking escalated to the highest level in Europe.

Twenty years ago, drug cartels in Colombia nearly brought the government to its knees with bombings and mass killings of policemen. Colombia still produces most of the world's cocaine but the state is far stronger, and the violence is less extensive. So these days, Colombia's experienced cops, soldiers and prosecutors are providing advice and training to Mexico in its fight against drug cartels. Deaths, corruption and the rise of crime in Mexico, spilling into the US, reached all time high levels in 2010, with no let up in sight for 2011. The "war" on drugs in Mexico is often just that: a war. The number of Mexican police and military killed in the drug war this year exceeded the total American military deaths to date in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Add thousands of civilians, including elected officials and candidates, have been gunned down over the past year. Violence spread to "safe" cities and tourist destinations. There have been victories as top leaders of Cartels have been killed or captures, however like the terrorist groups that plague the US and middle east, new heads grow and the drug, prostitution, gun and human smuggling trades continue to grow.

One hundred years ago on May 30th the First Indy 500 was run. The next day the Titanic was dedicated, IBM was born in he Spring. Ronald Reagan, Jena Harlow, and Luceill Ball were born, as was Roy Rodgers.

The space shuttle program is coming to an end in the new year and the Obama Administration has decided not to fund a new manned rocket program this year. The recession in the US, the advice of scientist who receive far greater data at much lower costs and risk from the robotic exploration of space and flaws reported in planned shuttles and Mars manned mission vehicles led to the painful decision by the administration. What is moving forward  in space exploration: interesting robotic missions, private enterprise and international efforts, some say still too heavily financed by American taxpayers. Despite cutting programs, the bill to shut down programs will be over 200 million over the the next decade. You can't win for trying. And then there is the question of how will be get into space and if needed how can we rescue astronauts stranded in space?

The national Democratic Party chairman says he thinks the chances that President Barack Obama will face a serious primary challenger in 2012 are "virtually nil." Tim Kaine says there's always the possibility that a fringe candidate could try to mount a challenge. But Kaine says Democrats feel very good about Obama's re-election prospects if, as Kaine puts it, the president keeps doing the job that people elected him to do. Kaine says he expects to continue as party chairman for another two-year term. There is a reason for his optimism. Despite attempts by others to paint Obama with a "failure" brush he did sheppard the most active legislative sessions since Johnson and passed more "people" friendly refroms than any president since Roosevelt. Ending the year with a 47% approval level, he is one of only a few presidents to have such high levels of approval after only two years in office.

Republicans say one of the things they'll do with their increased clout in the next Congress is force key administration officials to defend their programs. Republicans will control the House when Congress convenes Wednesday and they'll be stronger in the Senate than they were the past two years. The GOP promises to, among other things, cut spending and roll back President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

The Capitol Building in Washington was evacuated yesterday after a passenger plane lost contact with the control tower. The pilot has accidentally switched to the wrong frequency.

They must have thought they were experiencing Alfred Hitchcock's "the Birds" as Some of the more than 1,000 dead blackbirds fell from the sky over an Arkansas town. The birds will be sent to labs to be examined. Wildlife officials are trying to determine what caused the deaths. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission speculated the birds could have died from stress after being startled by New
Year's revelers or they could have been hit by lightning or high-altitude hail.

Schaeffer said in an email that a report by People Magazine of actress Valerie BertinelliSchaeffer told The Associated Press that the 50-year-old "Hot in Cleveland" star married financial planner Tom Vitale Saturday. The ceremony took place in front of about 100 people at her home. Guests included Bertinelli's ex-husband - rocker Eddie Van Halen
Bertinelli stars in the TV Land sitcom "Hot in Cleveland" and- and their son Wolfgang. Bertinelli and Van Halen split in 2000 and were officially divorced in 2007. She first found fame as star of the 1980s sitcom "One Day at a Time."

The Grinch has expanded, this time stealing Valentines Day. Iran says it's cracking down
on the symbols of Valentine's Day. The annual homage to romance on Feb. 14 has become popular in
recent years in Iran and other places in the Middle East. But Iran's semiofficial ILNA news agency reports Sunday that a state directive now bans any cards, gifts, teddy bears or other tokens of the day - which tradition says is named after an early Christian martyr. The backlash in the Islamic Republic is part of a drive against the spread of Western culture. Other Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia also have sought to stamp out Valentine's Day. But it's celebrated widely in nearby places such as Dubai. While Chinese citizens are allowed Valentines Day, primarily due to the British history of much of the industrialized part of the country, they too have vowed to reduce the influence of Western society in the world, including European and American traditions.


Sunday Morning News and Views, Part II

Wall Street Journal, NPR and the BBC all looked forward at the financial year ahead.

Most agree that American Companies are making large strides in moving into emerging countries and areas and profiting for share holders by investing in the world economy. On the opposite side of that coin, American job growth will be slow and investment in our own nation weak, because the US is not where the profits are. There is a steady stream of investment, particularly with news of the extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy, but the companies invested in are investing outside the US to bring dividends to their shareholders, no in America or Americans.

Foreign investment in the US, however, is increasing, as other nations "buy" control in America, or from the other side, show their belief in our ability to rebound as the great nation we have been in the last (20th) century.

Neither jobs nor property values in the US are expected to improve much over the next year, with a very slow and tenuous recovery over the next five  (optimist) to 25 (pessimist) years. Average wages will go down, as the number of qualified applicants for every jobs climbs. Meanwhile employers will be hiring overseas and may not return unless one American can do the job of ten overseas cost effectively.

The US needs to innovate within the country, and find ways to be competitive. Strengthening education, our infrastructure (which is moving backwards instead of forward), controlling the information age and providing for our own citizens. The other side of the coin is can the US compete and still maintain anywhere near the standards of living Americans expect.

America has lost its world class education system, and had educated the best in the world who for the first time of the information age are returning home to come up with and implement their innovative ideas and products. Without education and the ability to keep it within the US, we will slip, particularly in a world that does not hold or define intellectual property rights the way we do. We are investing in countries that actually steal technology through reverse engineering or using patented information they do not own or have right to to create products, then deny that they owe anyone, saying they "improved" and created "a whole new product". China and India are both major low copyright and patent protection nations.

Europe is seeing greater growth, and despite having to bail out some of the economies of member countries, is recovering from our near depression levels recession at a much more positive rate than the US. Africa is slow, with heavy Chinese investments, due to instability, poverty, and both countries and factions that will not work together. Over this century investors see Africa rising, but not over the next year to five years. Asia is where the positive growth is, even  in some relatively unstable nations.

Sunday Morning News and Views, 2011, part I

My wife and I were watching a movie on Showtime last night, a service we pay for. The movie's actual use of actors ended and made way for music prior to credits, a real creative part of the mood and message of the film. At that time aloud and intrusive promo for a new series and the seasonal premier of another cut over the sound and covered the upper third of the screen. We both felt robbed by the intrusion of the artistic intent of the film for what amounts to intrusive advertising for another Showtime product.

My wife then commented "no wonder society is getting so rude."

Over the past decade we have seen great change in our country and our world. This change includes the "bugs" and silent messages almost constantly on the screen (including the ID for whatever network you are watching). Programs, including "the Simpson's" have made comments on this, in fact protesting it, yet the size of the logos, and the nature of the intrusive images has grown, now with sound effects over the actual sound of the programs and animation or live action to distract you from the program you are trying to watch.

Where once we took our neighbors into account, today you hear, no feel with every bone in your body, the window rattling stereos, often from cars parked and used as giant loud "boom boxes" for groups of kids, teens and young adults simple congregating to talk and "hang."

The guy next door who works nights, trying to sleep, is not even a thought in their minds.

What is happening to our society and our sense of cooperation with each other, as a civil society?

"A flood of biblical proportions" has covered an area larger than France and German combined, according the the BBC news. Northeastern Australia, Queensland, finds much of its area under water, cutting it off from the rest of the country. Airports, a major transportation life line for the sparsely populated are, are under water, as are roads. Half of Queensland, over 700,000 square miles, are effected by the massive flooding, Over 200,000 people have been evacuated in the summer storms (December and January are the middle of summer in the land "down-under."). At least one person is dead, but many others are missing. The 41 year old woman was in her car when it was swept off the road. Another man is missing after going swimming in a flooded area. Rockhampton is isolated. The river is not expected to peak until Wednesday.

California has turned blue, with Republicans losing by double digits despite outspending their Democratic opponents, billions in out of state money and a national Republic tidal wave in this past fall's election. The party has lost ground due to their stands on immigration, on social services and a focus on the wealthy. As the state with the fastest growing Latino population, and one with a strong blue collar history, even conservative pockets like Orange County could not save the state from a shift to the left (in a Republican viewpoint). Another actor may have been the states high profile Republican Governor, and his wealthy selected successor, who lost the election despite spending more than any other candidate in the nation running for office in 2010..

The Governator steps down tonight, to hand the torch tomorrow to former two time governor Jerry Brown. As the BBC frames it "body builder and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger" will step down to write books, teach policy and "retire". He says movie making is less likely, although he admits he has met with James Cameron and that for him acting is like "getting back on a bike" and "back into shape." There may yet be another Terminator movie, an update on his other characters or perhaps a whole new invention of who he is on film. The BBC take is that his time as governor, after unseating one governor because of California's poor financial state, was one or profile for the state and sales, but not success, as California is today far worse off than it was when he took office. The causes of the economic plight were beyond his or any single individuals control, however coming in as a successful businessman and personality, he overestimated his ability to bring about change. The BBC says leaves with very low public support and a poor legacy as governor.

Governors across the country are opting for private funds for Inaugural celebrations. Common Cause warns that donations may lead to the "buying of access" to the chief executive of the state and their political party.

Israel is dealing Th the death of a Palestinian woman from "natural causes" following a large riot and exposure to tear gas "or other substances" used in breaking up the riot. Palestinians are calling for justice, claiming the use of dangerous chemicals and excessive force, while Israeli officials say that the woman had Asma and was not well. Israel has offered a joint investigation, but Palestinian officials have so far not been forthcoming with documents, much less any joint operation.

In Egypt Christians are not turning the other cheek after a terrorist bombing on Saturday of a church and disruptions of mass this morning. Nearly two dozen people were killed and 78 remain hospitalized following the bombing. Attacks against Christians are increasing, even in urban Egypt. The bombing occurred in Alexandria.

Los Angeles has voted to start the 2011 school year in August, three weeks earlier than in the past. The term has been extended to early June. It is being done both to increase education potential and to stretch dollars for the besieged district, the largest in the US.