Monthly Archives: September 2010

Time to take a stand, people. Say NO to the nutjobs and loons.

Something extremely weird has happened and I thought I’d share.

The other night on the weekly BBC television review I do on the radio, one of the topics we covered was the emergence of a new conservative TV channel in the States called The Right Network. Don’t worry, you’re unlikely to catch it. I believe it’s only available if you pay extra and specifically ask for it, or download it to a Nokia phone. So right now it’s not a serious contender. But that may change.

The Right Network was co-founded and co-funded by Frasier‘s Kelsey Grammer, and features such potentially ratings-topping shows as Politics and Poker, where people sit around and talk politics…while playing poker, and Late Night with the Obamas, in which a CGI cartoon figure of Barack Obama lies in bed and watches CGI talk show hosts make jokes about him. Plus, there are reality shows about Tea Party candidates, and stand-up comedians making jokes about Demon-crats.

So you get the idea – all right wing politics all the time, produced by people who doubtless think that the conservative cause – bigger profits at the expense of the little guy; tax breaks for millionaires; expanded military; corporations getting a carte blanche to game the system however they want – is somewhat under-represented by the almost entirely biased Fox News and Rupert Murdoch in his various media outings, and needs explaining to those of us dim enough not to understand why Right is right and the rest of us are wrong.

Well, I happened to say this as part of my TV review, and thought it was entirely justified in the context of the show. But no. Apparently, my words unleashed the hounds of hell, who are now trying hard to use my fairly innocent comments as leverage to prove that the BBC has a left-wing bias and is scheming to undermine the conservative cause. One blog even claimed I’d been “spitting venom like this for ten years” or somesuch nonsense, implying that I had an agenda, and in discussing The Right Network had naturally used my platform on the BBC to spread the word about how great the Left is.

Which, of course, is nonsense. Utter barmy nonsense.

For a start, I can’t remember when I have ever spat venom on the BBC. Or anywhere else for the matter. I’m known for being an absolute darling, as a matter of fact. On the show, especially, everything’s kept extremely jolly and civil. It’s a half hour of laughs about U.S. television. There’s definitely no agenda, much as some angry conspiracy theorists might like to dig for one.

Second of all, I genuinely don’t have any political axe to grind in my slot. If someone set up The Left Network, a cable channel featuring dopey shows lambasting conservatives, I’d cover that too. I’d be a fool not to. Wherever the fun is – that’s where I am.

And lastly, I honestly don’t remember – and trust me, my memory extends back years – the last time the host and I discussed politics in relation to TV at all. I mean, at all. It just never comes up. We’re too busy yakking about Oprah and Beverly Hills 90210, or my latest fad diet. (Next week: the Master Cleanse again, by the way, so stay tuned). If anything, we go out of our way to avoid politics, same way we avoid sport. It’s simply not our thing. Just this once it came up. I bet it doesn’t arise again for another five years.

Above all, to accuse a guy who’s offering a critique of a blatantly, and by its very nature, right-leaning network of being a Commie, or of spitting venom and having a left-wing agenda simply because he doesn’t happen to think much of the content of that network is inane. Inane, backward, and ridiculous.

I’ve noticed that the right-wing in America has adopted this tactic too, incidentally, so I assume British conservatives are just trying it out for size.

They make a wild statement. A wildly false – crazily so – statement about someone, such as “He’s been spitting hate and venom for ten years”, something like that, knowing there’s no truth to it at all, then sit back and leave that person to justify himself, or waste time defending a position that, ten minutes ago, before they raised doubt, didn’t exist in the first place. And hey, it’s been successful. (Look, I’m doing it now!) The Democrats have spent the bulk of their first two years in office putting out fires started by Opposition arsonists who spread fear, irrational and baseless rumors, and a raft of lies about Obama in the hope of destabilizing his power to govern and discrediting him and his administration. They could have helped run the country and make things better, but they chose to skip that and make a nuisance of themselves instead.

However, I believe that, in the internet age, this policy of lying for effect will ultimately catch up with all the candidates who see it as a shortcut to winning over a gullible electorate. It already is in some cases. When you have uber-Republican Karl Rove going on Fox News and pulling apart the standing of a fellow Republican, as happened yesterday after Tea Party neo-loon Christine O’Donnell became the GOP’s nominee for the Senate come November, you know the system is teetering on the edge and could collapse at any moment. People are tired of fighting. Tired of untruths. Tired of the crazies getting air-time. And downright annoyed that the media affords them even a grain of credibility by discussing their nonsense views.

So just this once I’m standing up for myself and calling these rabble-rousing nutjobs out for what they are. But I also challenge them to listen for the next ten years (assuming they’ve heard a single broadcast in the past, which I doubt) and see how many times politics comes up in any shade or hue on my slot. Trust me, they’ll be waiting a long, long time.

TV Swami, he say NO to the nutjobs and loons.



Filed under Television commentary

Life cycles. Ride ’em or crash ’em into a wall – it’s always up to you.

What is the length of your cycle? Ever given it a thought?

You realize that life goes in clearly-marked natural cycles, right? Recurring patterns of learning that come around time and time again over a number of years, repeatedly bringing the same issues back into focus until we resolve them. Once we have (but especially if we haven’t) a new cycle revs up and we begin the process all over again, this time with a new round of lessons. It’s all very organic and natural, and clever in the way only a universe or divine intelligence of some kind can be.

Apparently, life cycles last either seven years, ten years, or twelve. Mine’s twelve.

It doesn’t take long to figure out what yours is. Simply look back at all the major turning points in your life – when tragedies happened, or big-time mistakes, or catastrophes, or major moves of location – and try working out if there’s a common time-span between each cluster of them. Once you have that, you’re suddenly equipped with a broad and highly useful perspective on the rhythms and flows of your world, enabling you to remain grounded and philosophical during the highs, and less stressed or traumatized by the lows. In other words, whatever happens, good or bad, you treat it simply as another step in your cycle, and therefore temporary, and keep on barreling through. Remember, change is the only constant.

I had a friend in college called Barney. Brilliant kid. A musician and composer. Killed himself at age 21. Wasn’t able to see his way to the end of a very dark tunnel, I guess, and quit. If only I could have told him that he was just at the end of one of these damned cycles and a new, brighter period of learning was right around the corner. But I didn’t get to him in time.

In the approach to the end of a cycle, things tend to fall apart in one or more areas of your life. It can get horribly hairy for a while. And sometimes this seems to happen with almost no input from you. You were doing fine, happy as a lamb, then the floor you’d been standing on simply crumbles beneath your feet. The trick is to accept it as pragmatically as possible, and not freak out at the changes going on around you. Which I know is easier said than done, but it’s not a personal thing. The universe isn’t out to get you. Your life is not in ruins, despite appearances. It’s just a cycle. You’re winding down, that’s all. The last phase is on the way out, a new one’s not far away. You will rise again.

It’s at the end of a cycle, for instance, that divorces happen, or deaths decimate a family, or kids leave home and go to college, or we get fired from our jobs, or are simply imbued with a profound urge one day to move on and try something new. Or several of these things all mixed together. One example: in 1996-1997, I lost my job, my money, my home, my relationship, and my family in the space of six months. That was one traumatic bloody end of cycle, I can tell you. In hindsight, I’m surprised I didn’t do a Barney, I was so depressed. Soon afterwards, though, everything changed for the better. I upped sticks and moved to the States and, revitalized, began my American broadcasting cycle.

The end of a cycle isn’t instant; it sort of dribbles into your consciousness over quite a while, even a couple of years, as a blurry accumulation of events slowly build one upon the other. But once it happens there’s no going back. Grab your things, it’s time to reboot. From here, starting a little shakily at first, life gains pace, opportunities come and expand, you find yourself more settled, and it may continue that way for several years, until eventually at some unspecified point you reach a peak, usually mid-cycle. Then, before you know it, just as you’re enjoying what you have and things seem to be going swimmingly, uh-oh, there’s a glitch, and they begin to wind down once more, ready to fall apart, same as last time. It’s just like the seasons or the waxing and waning of the moon.

Endings bring misery and self-analysis. You can’t move on to the next thing without asking yourself some important questions. “What lesson was that cycle trying to teach me? Where did I screw up? What do I need to correct? And what do I take away from this last cycle that I won’t repeat in the new one?”

It’s similar to a video game. Solve the puzzle, overcome obstacles, learn the lesson at one level, and you move up to the next. Fail to learn, and you go around again. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s entirely your choice.

So why am I mentioning this?

Because I’m going through this now. I’m slowly coming to the end of the American broadcasting cycle I mentioned earlier. It’s been winding down for about three years, but the cycle itself has lasted twelve. I started contributing to Marketplace, the national business show on public radio in the States, in 1998. Twelve years before that, my career in radio began in London, after I left my desk job to go freelance. Always twelve years, see?

Joining Marketplace provided me with some astonishing opportunities. It led me to becoming a travel reporter. That in turn led to me writing travel books. Because of the travel books I was given my own TV show, which took me to, and over, the peak of the cycle. Then everything kinda dipped. In 2006, I returned to doing commentaries for Marketplace. But that was a big mistake. After the amazing expansiveness of producing TV, I found the idea of putting together four-minute pieces for the radio a little restricting. Like giving up driving a locomotive and going back to playing with toy trains. There were times when the boredom was excruciating, and it began to show in my work. I lost my edge, my mojo, my oomph.

For several months I was worried. Nobody, but nobody, likes to feel their oomph slipping away. Now I realize, it’s just another twelve-year cycle bidding adieu. I’m transitioning out of broadcasting, out of a situation where I sit around talking about what other people are doing, and into a new phase where I actually do stuff myself. That’s a big change.

I have a lot more to say about working at Marketplace, which I’ll post after I finally leave. It has been such a wonderful place to be, rubbing shoulders with so many bright, intelligent people. Even so, you gotta know when to leave the stage, and it’s with enormous relief that I’m going to be doing just that. A brand new cycle of activity began some time ago, and I can see it involves switching tack entirely, being a little entrepreneurial and more adventurous, and plotting a course unlike anything I’ve done before. I completed my first-ever serious book recently, about health and healing; I have a novel coming out in November which is really innovative and fun, and I’m midway through shooting a documentary. It all adds up to “beyond exciting.”

Over the years, so many fans have written to me saying how much they loved my Marketplace pieces and the pleasure they got from them. That was thrilling. I even enjoyed hearing from people who hated them and wrote stinky emails to say so. They, more than anyone, taught me the big lessons and helped me write better stuff. In the end, though, it was all good, and I leave it behind me with a tinge of sadness, of course, but also appreciation and a sense of real gratification. Trust me, I sucked that marrow dry, kids, and I’m poised and ready for a new marrow. (You understand, when I say marrow, I mean challenge, right?)

TV Swami, he become Radio Swami this week, and have interesting things to say about public radio.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cash Peters, radio, television, Television commentary