The Rhetoric Is Down

Is it me, or do things seem calmer today than they did before the polls closed Tuesday? Sure the sun is shining and it’s unseasonably warm, but my inner peace is deeper. Maybe all that negative campaigning and hard nosed rhetoric took it’s toll on me (and others) outside the electoral process?

Can you listen to all shouting and name calling without getting ticked off? I don’t mean upset at the specific facts being spouted – just being put into a bad mood.

Is negativity catchy?

I noticed the change when I heard Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean speak about conciliation. I heard it when President Bush held a press conference and seemed contrite. Two days ago, they all had fangs!

Someone asked the President:

Thank you, Mr. President. With all due respect, Nancy Pelosi has called you incompetent, a liar, the emperor with no clothes, and as recently as yesterday, dangerous. How will you work with someone who has such little respect for your leadership and who is third in line to the presidency?

THE PRESIDENT: Suzanne, I’ve been around politics a long time; I understand when campaigns end, and I know when governing begins. And I am going to work with people of both parties.

Look, people say unfortunate things at times. But if you hold grudges in this line of work, you’re never going to get anything done. And my intention is to get some things done. And as I said, I’m going to start visiting with her on Friday, with the idea of coming together.

He went on to say, “This isn’t — this isn’t my first rodeo.”

I’m sure it isn’t for him or many professional politicians on both sides of the partisan fence. Unfortunately, for us in Connecticut, bombarded by venom from both sides, it was a very new experience which went from zero to “oh my God” in an instant. We’ve never been close to this level of firepower.

I’m not sure ending the commercials is an instant fix. Are we all better, calmer, less hateful, now that the screaming on TV has stopped and Bob’s commercials are back (Bob – I really missed you)? Or, is there now a lower threshold for us? Will we now be more easily provoked?

Are we destined to live under the political equivalent of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?

March Of The Penguins

Helaine and I have just returned from the movies where we saw March of the Penguins. It is a French documentary on the life cycle of the Emperor Penguin, which lives in and around Antarctica.

To say this movie is beautifully shot is an understatement. Antarctica and penguins are both quite photogenic. But just shooting it had to be unbelievably difficult.

Early on in the movie Morgan Freeman, the narrator, throws out some numbers relating to wind and temperature. The exact figures really don’t matter, because all you’ll say will be, “Oh my God!”

What the penguins have to do to exist is tough enough – but they’ve evolved for this. The crew that shot the film was not.

Much of the wintertime footage was shot in howling winds and blowing snow. As far as I can see, the severity of the weather was actually played down. You could have accentuated the environment’s wrath, but instead, natural sound was kept to a minimum.

Still, the crew had to spend hours at a time in the wide open. Even when they functioned, how did they get the equipment to follow along?

Spending time, watching the habits of Emperor Penguins, is something I had never done before. They are worthy of a movie. There is compassion and fidelity in the world’s harshest place.

The Real Meaning of Internet Access

If you’re clever, you can find nearly anyone on the net. Early on, at least 8-9 years ago, Steffie was writing a school report on penguins. She wanted to know more about the sleeping habits of the Emperor penguin. I was lost.

Back then I probably reached for Yahoo and looked around. There were a few citations, and I found a website that was close, but didn’t really have what she wanted.

Actually, by this time we had gone way beyond what she wanted. I was now doing this research for me.

I wrote to the website’s owner, and he wrote back that night. Yes, he knew about the Emperor penguin – in fact he was considered an expert on the Emperor. And then, he proceeded to explain their sleep patterns (very light sleepers).

It didn’t impress Steffie, but it did me, that he was from a university in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. And he was totally available.

Since then I have found a way to contact the head of programming at NBC, when they were considering a reality show which would have put a ‘contestant’ on the Russian MIR space station – which, I argued, was a death trap. More recently I wrote to a Nobel Prize winner at the University of Texas and got a pretty funny reply.

Until her accelerated departure last week, I had been writing to Shelley Ross, executive producer at Good Morning America – a show I used to do weather fill-in for – and would move heaven and Earth to do weather fill-in for again. I wrote her more than she wrote me… but she did reply, and even told me I was funny.

A few years ago I wrote the late Jack Paar, who had a very interesting website, but he never wrote back. I was always worried he had seen me (our station can be viewed in Greenwich, though residents there tend to believe they’re actually in New York and primarily watch New York City TV), not approved, and decided to snub me. I hope I’m wrong.

Tonight I wrote Shelley Berman.

In the 60’s Shelley Berman was as big as a comedian could be. A 1963 documentary was his undoing. He still plays Vegas, travels around the country, and teaches at USC, but he should have had more for the last 40 years.

He is extremely active on his website, and I assume I’ll get a response… or maybe he’s seen me… or Paar tipped him off before he died. Who can tell?

Meanwhile, it’s just cool to know I have this access.