In the midst of our busy social life (note: sarcasm), Mrs. Poolman and I recently watched two decent movies at home. A bit of a surprise in both cases was that they were both shot in my hometown of Pittsburgh.
“Reacher,” starring Tom Cruise, was much better than I expected it to be. The biggest surprise was that Cruise absolutely nailed the character of Jack Reacher. This was a surprise, because he doesn’t come anywhere close to fitting the physical description of Jack Reacher in the series of novels by Lee Child. In the books, Reacher is 6’4”, and we all know Tom C is about a foot shorter.
Reacher is a former Army CID officer who turned his back on conventional society when he left the Army. He drifts around the country without a home or job, but always seems to find himself in some situation that needs fixing. Reacher is extremely smart, tough and resourceful. He is very cool, in the same way that Mark Harmon plays a cool Jethro Gibbs in NCIS.
In the movie, based on the Child novel, “One Shot,” Reacher arrives in Pittsburgh to help solve the mystery surrounding a former Army sniper who shot and killed several people, apparently without rhyme or reason. Of course it turns out there was a rhyme and reason; otherwise there wouldn’t be a story.
In any case, this isn’t a flick you are going to see around Academy Awards time, but for a Saturday night rental with a bowl of popcorn, this one was pretty good.
A real surprise was “Abduction” with Taylor Lautner (Twilight series) and Lily Collins (The Blind Side.) We picked it up on Netflix last night. The main character, Nathan, discovers his childhood picture on a missing children Web site. So, of course, he and his cute neighbor, Karen (Lily Collins,) pursue it. Rather than turning into a maudlin Lifetime-network chick-flick, which we expected, a hit team shows up at his house, and the chase is on. “Hey Mrs. Poolman, look at what just happened here!”
The plot and overall story is pretty good, but it misses on some of the small points. The acting is nothing to rave about (I understand Taylor was runner-up for a worst-actor award for this movie. I’m not surprised.) , despite a decent supporting cast including Maria Bello, Jason Issac (the evil British colonel in The Patriot), Signorney Weaver and Michael Nyqvist (the Swedish version of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy.) We were just amazed that after swimming across a river and sleeping in the woods overnight, Taylor and Lily looked like they just walked out of make-up. But if you overlook some of the little things, you’ll find that “Abduction” is a pretty entertaining movie.
I ran across this poster, and it reminded me of one more reason, #87, why I’m glad I’m a guy.
If you are a girl, you probably know what I’m talking about. If you are a guy, I strongly suspect you have never even been close to one. I guess they started with Tupperware back in the 50s or 60s, but it seems in recent years they have multiplied. Here is the way it works.
1.) Woman takes on a job selling a product with other women as the target customer group.
2.) Saleswoman approaches friend or co-worker and asks if she would hostess a “party” and invite some of HER friends. The purpose of the party is to provide Saleswoman with a captive audience to hock her wares. Not really wanting to produce a party, but not wanting to disappoint a friend, the Hostess agrees.
3.) Hostess then spends some of her “social capital” inviting her friends to a “party” at her house. Hostess typically provides drinks and snacks, or more.
4.) The friends/guests frequently accept, even though they have no desire to attend the pseudo-party, because they, in turn, don’t want to their friend/hostess to look bad. The implied understanding is that the Guests have a social obligation to purchase something from the Saleswoman.
Mrs. Poolman attended one such “party” last week. In this case, the product was handbags. Mrs. P came away $55 poorer, but with a handbag, to be delivered at some future date. I don’t know whether she needed the handbag or not. That wasn’t the point. She bought the bag because she attended the party, and she only attended the party, because she didn’t want to disappoint her friend, Carla. Carla wasn’t the hostess. The party was being hosted by her daughter’s partner’s mother and sisters on behalf of some cousin. Do you see how the web grows?
One of our friends here in the neighborhood, Louanne, was a real sucker for any “Saleswoman” who called on her. For a while there, it seemed like Louanne was calling every couple of weeks or so to invite Mrs. P to a party where she could/should/would buy lingerie, perfume, jewelry or candles. (The thought of giving up a Saturday afternoon during football season to go listen to someone try to sell me scented candles would drive me to socially unacceptable behavior.) At least one party she hosted was for a line of “marital aids” which was interesting. I would have gone to that one myself, but no guys were invited. Louanne finally shut down her run of parties after the other women in the neighborhood politely told her that were considering not answering the phone when her number showed up on caller ID.
Maybe I’m being too harsh. Perhaps I should call up my friend Matt the Welder and ask him to come over to learn more about scented candles. “Oh, and be sure to bring your checkbook.” I think I seen an intervention in my future.
By now everyone in the world has heard about the colossal screw up last week when KTVU-TV fell victim to a prank and announced fake, racist names of the crew of that crashed Asiana airliner.
While most people are chuckling and asking “How could that happen?” the men and women who run local TV newsrooms should be shaking in their boots. If they have any self-awareness at all, they should be dropping to their knees and praying “Thank God, they didn’t call my station.”
I spent more than 26 years in the local TV news business most of them as a news director, running local news departments. I have been out of the business for more than ten years, but I stay in touch. Many of the problems I saw when I was there remain today, and have gotten worse.
This may not be exactly what happened, but it is a very plausible scenario. A call or email comes into the newsroom. Some junior staffer, probably fresh out of college takes the call and gets excited and yells “We have the names of the pilots!”
Someone only slightly more experienced responds, “Oh my God, we have to get this on the air, NOW!”
Already someone else has called the promotion department to tell them to start working on a promo hyping the “exclusive breaking news.”
The chyron operator (the person who types the letters that you see on the screen) transcribes what is given to him.
Meanwhile, not until the anchor reads the names on the air does anyone actually look at the names and say them out loud.
Supposedly in the KTVU case, someone at the station called the NTSB where an intern confirmed the names. How this happened, I cannot explain.
So why does something like this slip through?
1. Too many stations overemphasize flash and speed over substance and accuracy. How many times have you seen or heard “breaking news,” or “this just in,” or even better “live, late breaking.” On the other hand, how many times have you seen a station brag, “We got it right!” Getting it right may be an assumption, but when it isn’t emphasized, it falls by the wayside. It may only be a dumpster fire, but if it’s live and breaking news, we’ll be all over it.
2. The economics of the TV business are such that there just aren’t as many experienced people left in many newsrooms to actually provide a system of checks to catch mistakes before they air. This was a noon newscast in a major market. You would think there would be some senior people around to call the shots at that time of day. However, when you get to a smaller market, especially on weekends or in the early morning, it is just a handful of inexperienced people processing a high volume of news content. The same young producer or reporter who gathers in the information also writes it and approves it for air. There is no one to give it a second look, or if there is, they are frequently as green as the first person.
3. TV newsrooms are not staffed by rocket scientists. This is a dirty little secret that no one wants to talk about. This is not a blanket indictment of everyone who works in TV news, nor am I saying that TV news people are all morons. For the most part, they all have college degrees, so at least in theory they are literate. And clearly, there are some very sharp people working out there. However, on the average over the past two decades or so, the TV news business has not attracted the cream of the intellectual crop.
It starts in college. If he or she is being honest, a broadcast journalism professor will admit (as many have to me) that the students he/she is teaching are not the best and the brightest. The students who were at the top of their admission class are majoring in subjects that will produce a more lucrative career, like pre-med, pre-law, finance, engineering, and so on. When compared to majors like engineering, chemistry or even nursing, broadcast journalism is a fairly easy major. It is often a second choice or back-up plan for students who couldn’t hack it in the more demanding majors. (In full disclosure, about a hundred years ago, I was one of those students.) Further, it is not at uncommon for the top graduates in a broadcast journalism program to take a look at the starting salaries in the TV business and say, “Screw this. I’ll go to law school or get an MBA.”
4. It’s very sad that a large number of those students/graduates aren’t really interested in journalism or news in general. They want to be on TV. They might be just as happy, or perhaps more so, being a “spokes-model” or a contestant on “Big Brother,” as covering the city council in small-town USA. For most new, young TV reporters, the job of collecting and presenting news is just a means to an end — a way to get on TV. If the stars align in their favor, maybe they get a shot at their true dream, to get off the street, away from the day-to-day drudgery of actually covering news, and become an anchor. As a result, there is very little emphasis what traditionalists might consider real journalism. “How does my writing look?” is replaced by “How does my hair look?”
5. Back to college for a moment, although the salaries aren’t a lot different, there is a contrast between the broadcast journalism students and their academic cousins across the quad in the print journalism department. It tends to attract a different type of student. In print journalism, it doesn’t really matter what you look or sound like. The most fame you will achieve early in your career is a byline and maybe a thumbnail photo. Strangers won’t come up to you in the grocery store and ask you why you changed your hair style. While still in school, you are actually expected to be able to write something longer and with more depth than a tweet.
I wish I had a good conclusion for this post, but I don’t. I continue to watch local TV news here. Mostly I just want to know if it’s safe to go to bed and what the weather will be in the morning. I really don’t care about the “live, late breaking” dumpster fire.
I’m totally time-warped this week. The internal clock was thrown off Monday night, when Mrs. Poolman and I spent the night at our church as “hosts” to a couple of homeless families. This is a regular ministry of our parish, and Mrs. P and I usually volunteer to handle the overnight shift. Not a big deal, but it certainly throws the internal clock off.
Yesterday was the 4th of July, and now I’m back at work for a single day, which feels like a Monday, except it’s actually a Friday. Huh?
Mrs. P and I hosted a holiday pool and barbecue party yesterday. We had several more people than we anticipated, and four more dogs. Individually, the dogs were not a problem. But when you add four new dogs to our pack of two, the result is a lot doggies running around.
Water and beer on the Fourth of July. A bit of a cliche?
Even the dogs got into the action. This was this particular lab’s first time swimming.
I grilled burgers and brats; Son-in-Law provided spare ribs and another friend cooked up some wings. Everyone else brought some side dish or another. It must have been a good party. We started at 2 pm and had to chase people out at 10:30 pm. It was a work-night after all.
We had a weird experience last week. Mrs. Poolman and I were over at Poolboy’s condo for dinner when Mrs. P’s cell phone rang. It was one of our friends asking if I were OK. There was a rumor sweeping the hospital where they work that “The Poolman” had died suddenly that afternoon. I pinched myself and then asked Poolboy a question to make sure I was still really there. (Remember “The Sixth Sense” with Bruce Willis.) Once I confirmed I really was alive and breathing, I started wondering which of the other “The Poolman”s in town had deceased. The next morning I discovered it was the many I jokingly referred to as “my evil twin.”
We were never very close, but we had a long, and incredibly coincidental relationship.
We first encountered each other in 1984. I was a TV news director in Nashville. I read in one of the trade journals that another “The Poolman” had recently been promoted to news director at a station in Kansas City. I wrote him a letter (This was before e-mail, twitter, Facebook, etc.) to congratulate him.
“I hope you do well, so anyone who confuses us will also think well of me.”
Several months later, we met in person at an ABC affiliate news director’s meeting. A couple of years after that, again at a news directors’ meeting, we met on a sidewalk in Salt Lake City. Our conversation turned to family history and, to both of our surprises, we discovered we grew up with a few blocks of each other in the Pittsburgh suburb of Mt. Lebanon. He was about six years older than I, so we weren’t there at the same time. By the time, my family moved back about the time I was starting high school, he was already off at college.
We ran into each other from time to time in the world of television news. In 1992, I moved to the CBS station in Savannah. In 1995, I returned from lunch one day to find people in the newsroom acting strange towards me. I pulled someone over and asked them what was going on.
“Well, Poolman, your secret is out. We all know you are moving across town to the competition.”
“They announced it to the staff this morning. The Poolman is the new news director at the NBC station.”
I knew immediately what was going on. So for the next five years My Evil Twin and I competed directly with each other as rival news directors with the same name at TV stations in the same town.
We both left our respective stations around the same time in the early 2000s, and both stayed in Savannah. My Evil Twin, aka “the other Poolman” ended up with two tours of duty at the third station in town. So we continued to run into each other until he got out of the business entirely a couple of years ago.
His death leaves just three “The Poolman”s left in Savannah. So to quote Mark Twain, “Reports of my death are grossly exaggerated.” — hopefully, for some time to come.