We’ve all seen the movie “Marathon Man” when Dustin Hoffman’s character is repeatedly asked, “Is it safe?”. Lawrence Olivier not getting an answer then sadistically digs into Hoffman’s teeth as a form of torture.
Today, professionals working in the journalism and broadcasting fields have to ask themselves, “is it safe?”, before venturing into dangerous areas of the world where hate, revenge and conflict rule the day. The job has always had its inherent dangers with the threat of prison sentences, injury, assassination and outright murder before every interview or timely picture.
The brutal murders of media professionals James Foley and Steven Sotloff in the last few weeks by ISIS, a terrorist organization without any morals or a modicum of decency, has answered that question for many in the profession.
The ISIS cowards have gone as low as to behead British hostage David Haines, an aid worker trying to help others in a war-torn part of the world. British Prime Minister David Cameron called it an “Act of pure evil.” I have other words but I won’t use them in this article.
Journalists and broadcasters write history’s rough draft for authors to analyze and research later. I love history and I don’t like people who try to suppress the information writers might use later. People who harass, kill, maim or intimidate journalists, videographers, photographers or broadcasters contribute to man’s inhumanity towards man in perpetuity.
There’s a difference between media professionals being captured and killed purposely for an organization’s propaganda purposes as opposed to a journalist being killed in the line of getting the story. One is an accepted risk while the other is just pure calculated murder for propaganda reasons and to show the world how brutal one can be. In reality terrorists are just plain old cowards who would rather make the world a darker place rather than an enlightened one. What courage does it take to kill someone kneeling with their hands tied behind their back?
I’ll answer that, none whatsoever, not an ounce. The person kneeling before the terrorist has the courage.
Have you ever watched a film or tape from the prohibition era, of war atrocities, or someone fighting racial inequality? If you have, you must realize someone had to be in harm’s way to capture that moment in time so a student or government representative could learn from it. Someone has to be on the other side of the lens to get it to the audience watching and reading safely in their homes.
The danger that media professionals have had to endure has been around a long time. If there’s a story, a person has been there to tell it. That’s why we have history.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is a website that exists to monitor media professionals and how many have given their lives so we can understand what is happening throughout the world.
More people should read this website and find out about the latest information.
These courageous journalists and broadcasters have understood one truth, If evil, death, intimidation and fear hide behind a curtain, then nothing will change. Their words and pictures shine a light on these issues and force the world to wake up. Their lives will not go unnoticed.
Classifying people into generations and marking them with cultural characteristics is an entertaining exercise for sociologists and academics. However, putting a particular generation into a certain box is only informative when analyzing the different world events that influenced the collective personality characteristics of people growing up in that era. The classification of generations begs the question: Is one generation better than another? Did one generation endure hardships? Did another have it easier? It’s an intellectual exercise that can generate a discussion. Since Tom Brokaw’s book, “The Greatest Generation” was published, most of the reading public have stated that people who grew up to fight WWII and endure the Great Depression were part of the “Greatest Generation.” Is there such a title-“The Greatest Generation”–One group of people who have shone brighter than any other in history.
I prefer to think that each generation has had their own challenges and issues with their own solutions. Can you say that one generation is better than another because they helped achieve a WWII victory while another fought in Vietnam and landed on the moon? Another way to view the issue is: without one generation developing a particular technology the other wouldn’t have been able to achieve their significant achievements.
Scholars possess different views pertaining to the yearly division between generations, usually a few years separate one list from the other. Here is a list generations with significant (but not all) events occurring during their formative years compared across generations.
Alternate Listing for Generational Names from the Population Reference Bureau
1983-2001 – New Boomers
1965-1982 – Generation X
1946-1964 – Baby Boomers
1929-1945 – Lucky Few
1909-1928 – Good Warriors
1890-1908 – Hard Timers
1871-1889 – New Worlders
The above alternate generations list takes note of two generations that are usually overlooked, the Hard Timers and the New Worlders. These are the generations that ushered in the industrial revolution, built railroads and began to introduce people to technology that would save their lives such as electricity and the light bulb.
If you look at history’s 20th Century Timeline, there are many events that could be listed that have influenced generations. These are some of the ones I think are significant. I welcome any other events that you think I have missed or could be included.
I’ve decided to turn the tables on comedians who make jokes and one liners at the expense of Vice Presidents. Vice Presidents have a difficult job trying to make their days seem important while waiting for the chance to be at the top of the pyramid. On the surface, this list making exercise may seem easy but hold your punch lines. The selections have to be entertaining since VPs also provide entertainment to the public and the comedy circle. More than that, they have to appear as though they can take on the responsibilities of President if called upon to do so.
Here are my selections:
1. Will Farrell-If he can’t be serious, he does a good job looking serious when he needs to be. He can say stuff like, “I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.” Besides, the government needs more Cow Bell. If you can be an Anchorman, you can be a Vice President.
2. Lewis Black-He can point out all of exasperation, frustrations and irritations associated with the government and the tax code. He would be our voice for reason. One of his best lines, “What does the word “meteorologist” mean in English? It means “liar.”
3. Chris Rock-He would keep it real and bring as much pain as possible to the government to force them to get things done. Some of his best one liners, “I live in a neighborhood so bad that you can get shot while getting shot.” Or “We were so poor when we went to bed my daddy unplugged the clocks.”
4. Louis C.K.-Louis would be perfect for saying that outrageous statement that would take the heat off the President when he needed it. One of his best one-liners, “The meal is not over when I’m full, the meal is over when I hate myself.”
5. Ron White-All together now, “You can’t fix stupid.” I can see Ron White sitting behind the President during the State of the Union message. I wouldn’t be able to listen to a word the President would say. I would be looking at Ron White to see if he’d snuck in a bottle of Scotch. One of his best lines, “If life has given you lemons, then make lemonade and then try to find someone whose life has given them Vodka, and then have a party.”
6. Ellen DeGeneres-If she can handle hosting an awards show just after 9/11, she can handle being Vice President. One of her best lines, “I’m a Godmother. That’s a great thing to be, a Godmother. She calls me God for short, that’s cute, I taught her that.”
7. Steve Martin-You get double for your money with this one. He is a fantastic banjo player who just produced an excellent CD with Edie Brickell, titled “Love Has Come For You”. He is a terrific comedian and actor. If all of that doesn’t work, he could always bring out the old reliable “arrow through the head” routine. One of his many one liners, “Boy, those French, they have a different word for everything!”
8. Jim Breuer-He is an on-the-edge-of-your-seat story-teller. If you don’t believe me, search out his Pizza Man Story. He is also another Saturday Night Live alumnus and a Jersey guy, which score points on my rating scale.
That’s my list. You put these together with the other list (Eight People Who Should Have Been President) and you got something that could work for America. Some people say this is an exercise in futility. I prefer to look at these lists as what should have been and what might be. We can only hope. Frankly, I’m tired of amateur comedians taking up room in the executive offices, I want professionals in there.
If you have a suggestion, feel free to add your selection to the list.
One of Twain’s best lines states this, ““Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” When a President recognizes a problem before he begins, then he has solved half the problem before stepping one foot on the oval office carpet. He also said if you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything. Honesty and sincerity with intelligence spiced with a sense of humor–imagine the possibilities. Mark Twain would have been a great president because he would have given entertaining press conferences. He also would have taken the job seriously enough but also laughed at the absurdity of it all.
Benjamin Franklin was an outstanding writer, diplomat and forward thinker. He said, “The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” Based on the written material concerning Franklin’s work and exploits in Britain and France during America’s struggle for independence, he would have been effective dealing with world leaders.
The wife of John Adams was extremely intelligent and more politically savvy than her husband. In another time and another age, she would have had a chance to show the world what she could achieve. As it was, her advice to her husband during private conversations likely kept him from alienating even more people. She said once, “I’ve always felt that a person’s intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting points of view he can entertain simultaneously on the same topic.” I think she was on to something there that applies toward today’s political environment.
She would have intimidated all of the world leaders. She would have known exactly what to say and to whom at the right moment. She would have been perfect.
6. Walt Disney
He knew how to run a business and build a world—Disney World. Where did Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev want to go when visiting Los Angeles in 1959? Disneyland. He wasn’t able to go due to security concerns which upset him greatly. As president he could have used the trip to Disneyland or Disney World as his trump card. I can hear it now, “Agree to this or no trip to the magic kingdom.”
From the moment you become aware of yourself as a human being, the truth begins to modify your behavior. What is the truth?
Control, or lack thereof. We realize at an early age during adolescent cognitive development that, although you may have control over when you close your eyes, your parents dictate when you crawl into bed.
As a person matures into an adult, they begin to understand that many people control their lives. Some of these are high school attendance times, sports practice times, who is first string and who isn’t, college fraternities, corporate hiring and maybe even when to retire. You can also choose to not follow the accepted rules or laws but these mavericks tend to be either shunned or made an example by being ostracized or incarcerated. Control means power and power is control. Some people get it through wealth and others get it by office or status. Some use one to get the other. When someone on the news programs mentions that an official or citizen speaks “Truth to Power.” What it really means is “Truth to a greater truth.” Certain Truths are flexible while everyone recognizes Power when it comes for payment.”
So, who has control and why? The Government and Religion. Those are two monoliths of control that many people do not try to fight against. If you do challenge them, you may win but the consequences and price may be enough to second guess your decision. The following is a study comparing these two bastions of control.
Many theories exist as to why people formed religious beliefs. A widely held concept states that religion helped people cope with fear and gave them a sense of control over their haphazard environment. When people began to realize that their lives were finite and that their sense of the earthly world would end, the practice of religion began to take shape and help people cope with what comes after. The daily tribal existence and group living depended on team work so that food and could be gathered, shelters built, and society fluent so that the clan or community could continue to thrive.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs begins with the Psychological, food, sleep, and health at the bottom. It then poses that safety is the next need, getting shelter away from the dangers of nature. The next couple of needs play into both government and religion but especially the spiritual side. The psychological need for belonging to a group and receiving love and affection is purely emotional and can be strong. The other important need but toward the point of the pyramid is self-esteem and esteem from others. The need for respect, value and approval from others plays into controlling people within the community. The last need at the point is self-actualization or achieving your maximum potential. Keeping these pyramid of needs in mind, a set of belief systems along with a priest, priestess, appointed or elected head of the belief system goes a long way toward controlling and keeping order.
With sets of rules to govern behavior, fertility and other aspects of tribal and community life, the control and power was firmly in place and remains to this day. As religion grew and power was taken by force or given by acceptance, religions came to understand that to deal with the other power base, government, other power tools had to be used, money and politics. So the merger and blurring of the religious and government lines is understandable. Many leaders have seen the corruption of both and have tried to separate them by trying to keep religion on one side of the community aisle and government systems on the other.
One observation about religion. For something that seems so personal, there are many who need to practice their belief system among large groups of like-minded people.
Government systems formed to provide services that the individual could not provide. They have been responsible for building roads, providing health care, providing security, developing educational institutions and funding science and medical advances.
There is a huge trade-off for these services. The power of the government to tax the citizens. In addition to that power, they also have the authority to punish individuals, corporations and other entities who don’t pay taxes. Governments inflict several forms of control over lives. For example, the permission to drive based on taxes, registration, license, and tolls. One truth also applies to governments, they almost always get larger and more bureaucratic as they develop. With more government comes more laws-federal, state and local. With more laws at each level, the public has less freedoms and less control.
What is the answer? Well, anarchy isn’t the solution. Restraint with laws and regulations while re-assessing government’s role in taxing and ruling over every aspect of our lives can be the way forward. It’s good to have some rules to govern and believe in but not at the expense of freedom and lack of control. A government’s job is to provide national security and provide essential services. It should not control every part of our lives. Think about that every time you drive on a toll road or cross a bridge with a toll.
In recognition of the inauguration this week, I have listed what I consider the best presidential portrayals on film and the small screen. My criteria are simple. Did the actor capture the spirit of the President’s personality? And, was I able to watch the presentation without being aware that someone was trying too hard to play that particular president? Most of the performances on this list present a narrow window in a President’s life. The more difficult portrayals involve playing the person over a lifetime. A good example of this is Paul Giamatti’s portrayal of John Adams and Barry Bostwick’s performance in the George Washington miniseries. Below is the actor followed by the President portrayed and then the film or television title.
I was skeptical before making time to see this show that the actor could pull it off. I was wrong. Kenneth Branagh captured the force of Roosevelt’s personality and his physical and emotional fight with the crippling polio disease. He also does a great job of relating to the people who have the same disease while rehabilitating at Warm Springs. His supporting cast is terrific and he shows us why Roosevelt related to so many people.
Enough has been written about Lewis’ choice concerning how Lincoln sounds when he speaks compared to other portrayals. If you watch Henry Fonda’s “Young Mr. Lincoln”, the voice pitch comes close to what Lewis used in Lincoln. What cannot be disputed is that he does capture Lincoln’s modest confidence and his sharp political mind.
3. Paul Giamatti-John Adams-Johns Adams
Paul Giamatti captures Adams from all directions. He is spot on in his portrayal in many aspects. His love for his wife Abigail, his mercurial temper, his difficult personality, his love for his family, his ego, and most of all, his sense of duty, fairness, and love for his country. Giamatti’s choices show the president from all sides while weaving his multi-layered personality into the presentation of Adams. He also plays him as he ages from a young man to his death which is difficult to accomplish.
Langella’s acting puts a human face on Richard Nixon in this Ron Howard directed film. He sparred with David Frost through a majority of the movie and showed Nixon’s toughness, intellect, political savvy and his personality weaknesses. This performance is remarkable because it keeps the audience interested despite knowing the outcome. It explains history without getting into the minute details so the audience’s eyes don’t glaze over like sitting in 9th grade history class memorizing dates.
5. Jeff Daniels-George Washington-The Crossing
Jeff Daniels does a terrific job showing people what it must have been like serving under George Washington. Daniels gives us a performance that shows Washington cool under fire, a master at finding quality people to serve under him and how to manage them, and how to get soldiers to fight for him in the most extreme circumstances. Daniels as Washington shows the General as calm leader looking to find answers instead of assessing blame.
My favorite scene in this movie is when Adams is supposedly sleeping during a congressional session. Then the speaker asks him to comment on the previous discussion. Adams speaks up immediately repeating the last exchange and giving his own caustic opinion about the matter and the current session itself. Hopkins is a master at losing himself in roles and this is one. His other Presidential portrayal of Richard Nixon is good as well but this one is fascinating especially with the final summation in court at the end.
Randy Quaid shows Lyndon Johnson with his loud voice, over-the–top personality and his energy to accomplish his own goals and fix what needs to be fixed. This is another performance that shows the actor aging through several years from a young man to his days in congress. Quaid gives an outstanding performance showing how Johnson dealt with people and how Johnson used his force of personality to get his legislation passed when he was a leader in congress.
8. Henry Fonda-Abraham Lincoln-Young Mr. Lincoln
This movie was released in 1939 and it shows a young Henry Fonda at his best. Fonda gives us the Lincoln personality in the salad days of his lawyer career. He takes on a case early in the movie that everyone believes is a lost cause. Throughout the movie, Fonda shows the audience the Lincoln wit and his art for storytelling. He shows us why Lincoln became President while using his political savvy and intelligence. Fonda’s acting also shows us an underlying sadness to his personality and an innate understanding he might be destined for great things.
Those are my favorites. Do you agree? Leave a comment?
More great characterizations:
David Morse-George Washington-John Adams; Edward Herrmann-Franklin Delano Roosevelt-Eleanor and Franklin; Barry Bostwick-George Washington- George Washington (The Mini-Series); Bill Murray-Franklin Delano Roosevelt-Hyde Park on the Hudson; Gary Sinise-Harry S. Truman-Truman; James Whitmore-Harry S. Truman-Give ‘Em Hell Harry; Raymond Massey-Abraham Lincoln-Abe Lincoln in Illinois; Brian Keith-Teddy Roosevelt-The Wind and the Lion