Friday, June 01, 2007
When they was fab
The New York Times panned it.

"Like an over-attended child 'Sergeant Pepper' is spoiled," wrote Richard Goldstein in a June 18, 1967, review (subscription required). "It reeks of horns and harps, harmonica quartets, assorted animal noises and a 41-piece orchestra."

Liking it has been unfashionable. A 2000 poll of 200,000 ever-fickle British record buyers, enthusiasts and journalists picked "Revolver" as the best album of all time; "Sgt. Pepper" was No. 3, behind Radiohead's "The Bends."

But like it or not, rank it behind "Revolver" or "Abbey Road" (or "Blonde on Blonde," or "Exile on Main Street," or "Nevermind"), insist that it's overrated, underwhelming or unrepresentative -- there it is, the Everest of albums: the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," released 40 years ago today, June 1, 1967.

Happy anniversary, "Sergeant." It's certainly a thrill.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Where are the mothers?
So my mother, Rita, was in town visiting last week. Just as she always does, she pummeled me with her usual questions.

"Are you eating enough? You look a little thin."

"Oh, Ma!" I said.

"You look a little tired. Are you getting enough sleep?"

"Oh, Ma!" I said.

"And are you still working so much?"

"Oh, Ma!" I said.

And as always, her reply: "Don't 'Oh, Ma' me! I'm still your mother!"

I have to wonder whether Lindsay Lohan's mother does the same thing. And Paris Hilton's mother. And Britney Spears' mother. Because one of the questions that keeps up coming up -- as "Young Hollywood" melts down so fast, it's as if global warming has taken hold in Hollywood -- is this: WHERE ARE THE MOTHERS?

Let's look at what Lindsay's mother, Dina, recently told Harper's Bazaar magazine when asked if she thought Lindsay was an alcoholic. "Nooo. She is just a 20-year-old who had to reel it in, and she's from an addictive personality genetically. And in that world, they give you things like candy. Hurt your ankle? 'Let's give her something.' " And oh, by the way: This is the same mother who would go out to clubs with her underage daughter.

Huh?

Oh, and how did Paris Hilton's mother react when a judge sentenced her daughter to jail for violating probation after getting nailed for reckless driving while intoxicated? Kathy Hilton blew a gasket in court -- not at her daughter for her unconscionable behavior, but at the judge for daring to do such an awful thing!

Huh?

Kathy Hilton would later issue a statement, doing the one-step, two-step backpedal, that seemed to acknowledge her daughter needed a kick in the rear end. But only after the noise of critics resonated so loudly in her ears she could have used a pair of self-denial earplugs.

Maybe it's just me (actually it's not) but is it really unreasonable to ask whether a child gets his or her moral compass from the parents who raised them? And is it unreasonable to ask whether at a certain point parents who have their heads stuck in the sand become enablers by living in utter denial?

You want to straighten out the wayward children of Young Hollywood? I have just the thing.

Let me introduce them to my mother. Within a week they would all be straightened out, polite, respectful, and on their way to a life of reason, respect and responsibility. Because in the end, mothers who live their lives with eyes wide open will save their children from heading down a dangerous road with their eyes clamped shut.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
All commercials, all the time
Perhaps it's time to go back to the "Kraft Music Hall" or interludes of "We're the men of Texaco, we work from Maine to Mexico."

As the AP reports, networks are doing their utmost to make people pay attention to the commercials. (After all, the point of all those shows on broadcast TV is to supply an audience for advertisers.) We viewers are skipping through the ads on our DVRs, and advertisers aren't happy.

But it makes me wonder -- when did anyone really pay attention to the ads? As viewers, we're a captive audience, but that doesn't mean we're an attentive one. A recent blog entry, noting the decline in broadcast ratings, drew several posts saying that commercials were too loud and too many in number, and it was one reason the posters had stopped watching TV.

A good commercial can be a thing of beauty, but like a No. 1 song, it can grate from overexposure. (Why are Apple's "1984" ad or Lyndon Johnson's "Daisy" ad so well remembered? One reason is because, effectively, they only aired once.) And a bad commercial can alienate consumers forever. (There's at least one product I refuse to purchase because I find the ads so obnoxious.)

I don't have any solutions for networks or advertisers. Networks probably don't want to go back to the 1950s model, in which advertisers had a stake in the show and often put their name in the title. (Kinda the way they buy stadium naming rights nowadays, actually ... and I always wonder if THAT does a company any good.) Advertisers don't want to get lost in the clutter. And we've entered a new era anyway, in which on-demand programming has taken over.

But there is one advertising venue I'd watch: a whole channel of old commercials. Think of it: ads for defunct products! Shills for cigarettes! Shows devoted to commercial directors who now make films, such as Ridley Scott and Michel Gondry!

There would be just one problem: I'd always want to take a bathroom break.
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