Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Twitterization of the News

Over the past three days I've been discussing on my radio show how it is that the entire nation has come to believe, erroneously, that an Arizona legislator has called for and is pushing a law to make church attendance mandatory.  The story went from one politician's tweet to headlines within mainstream media news reports at the speed of light.  Today I wrote a piece for the Radio Television Digital News Association about how this happened, and what it says about how Twitter values have caused mainstream journalists to lose their minds.   You can find that article here.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sylvia Allen and Mandatory Church: Anatomy of a Hatchet Job

The startling allegation exploded into mainstream news headlines. It began with a single tweet.  These days, that is all it takes.

I have to hand it to Arizona State Sen. Steve Farley, Democrat from Tucson.  He did a number on Republican Sylvia Allen.  And he did it with the full and enthusiastic cooperation of the media.  News stories from coast to coast are proclaiming that Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen “wants to make church attendance mandatory.” 

Does she really?  Well, it’s funny you should ask.  Because not one of the reporters who rushed to air or publish this story bothered to do so.  Just for grins, and to be different from the mainstream media, let’s check the facts.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Oh, my God. Is it happening? This was supposed to be fiction!

This novel doesn't have a ripped-from-the-headlines feel.  It's the other way around.  Real events are ripping headlines from the novel.  There were two more this week.

Violent flash mobs hit the streets?  Check.

Jetliners falling out of the sky, under the control of homicidal maniacs?  Check.

Sleeping sickness erupts?  Check.

World goes mad?  Zombie apocalypse to follow?  Stand by.

Coast To Coast AM listeners heard these predictions just last month.  Readers of my novel, A Journal of the Crazy Year, saw them even sooner.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

In Praise of the Humble Zombie

Boy meets girl.  Girl becomes zombie.  Can’t live with her. Can’t shoot her.  Sometimes love is complicated.

Zombies are all the rage right now.  Everyone, it seems, loves a good zombie story.  And how can we not?  Cue Barbara Streisand:  “People. . . .  People who eat people. . . .”

Even my cat Ellis loves zombies.  (I kid you not.  Follow this link for photographic proof).  Really, it’s no surprise.  Cats love a good chase.  Zombie movies have those out the wazoo, along with enough other plot elements to appeal across a wide demographic:  crashing cars, falling planes, burning buildings, guns galore, explosions, action, danger and adventure of all kinds, political intrigue—you name it.  The best ones even have a bit of romance.

And the good news for zombie storytellers is that creating a zombie character does not exactly present the most difficult of writing challenges.  Zombies are not particularly complicated.  Not a lot of deep psychological layers here.  The toughest problem in writing zombie dialogue is figuring out how to spell “Graaaaarrrr!”  Zombie needs are simple.  They’re very direct.  They know what they want, and they go for it.

In fact, zombies tend to be a rather homogeneous bunch.  Most of them have similar back stories.  They wake up dead one day, and realize they’re powerfully hungry.  Only one source of food will do.  They have a hard time putting their needs into words.  But they know what must be done.  They set out to do it.  And there you go.  

Of course, zombie tales can't really happen.  They're just make-believe, and contain no possible connections to real life.  Right?

But what if one did?  In fact, what if it had both feet planted in reality?

Jail for those refusing to attend church?

Does this politician really want to throw people into jail who refuse to attend church?  Democrats and the media say yes.  They're basing that on a single statement that Arizona State Rep. Sylvia Allen made in an appropriations hearing.   Here is the full comment, which as far as I have been able to tell has not been previously uploaded or included in other news stories.  See for yourself to see whether this statement amounts to a declaration that she wants to jail non-church goers, as the media are claiming.

Note:  As of this posting, two days after the event, only one media outlet had asked Allen for her side of the story, and the quote it gave was very brief.  I spoke briefly with one of her staffers Thursday afternoon, but she was out of the office and did not return my call.  She tells her side of the story in detail on her Facebook page, however.   Her full statement is pasted below.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My Journey as an Indie Author: The Story So Far

From TV news director to novelist, blogger and radio host. Two years ago I set out to reinvent myself.  What a trip it's been.

Okay, so I did what they tell you never to do:  I “quit the day job”—which in my case meant leaving a pretty good gig running a TV newsroom—in order to pursue a lifelong dream of writing fiction.  I’m sure that struck some people as being precipitous.  It wasn’t.  I had decided long ago, in consultation with my spouse, that when the time was right, and when we had a sufficient financial cushion in place, I would do this at least for a while.

I might have been tempted to wait and pad the nest egg further if not for a couple of developments that made me suspect the midnight chimes were about to sound.  For one, even though I was feeling fine, I began to have premonitions that my health was about to take a turn for the worse.  (Such feelings have served me well in the past.  I have been blogging about some of those.)  Second, waiting until retirement to do the writing I wanted to do began to seem like an increasingly long shot.  I could not help but notice that too many of my TV news colleagues weren’t making it to the finish line.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Stunning Rush to Judgment—The Aftermath

Now even some liberals are admitting the whole “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative was false.  So what have we learned?

In the immediate aftermath of the Ferguson shooting last summer, three things were abundantly clear.  One, the claim that Michael Brown had his hands up and was trying to surrender when a white police officer shot him had not been proved.  Two, that did not matter to protesters and agitators.  But most disturbingly of all, it didn’t much matter to the mass media, either.

Right after the incident, the Race Industry, which is a subset of the media’s Outrage Industry, went into full production.  Civil rights leaders and professional race agitators like Al Sharpton (the two groups overlap but are not identical) descended on the scene to stoke emotions, and they succeeded spectacularly.  The media were fully complicit in this, a fact that is in no way surprising given the media’s predilection for presenting stories designed to punch emotional buttons for the purpose of driving ratings and clicks.  But even so, the fact that so few so-called “mainstream” news reporters raised a hand and said, “Hey, wait a minute—shouldn’t we get the facts before we all run off half cocked?” was disappointing.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Announcing Bashful Bloviator Magazine

Starting immediately, listeners to The Forrest Carr Show on Tucson’s PowerTalk 1210 will be able to see much of the source material for what we discuss on the program in one easy location.  The stories will be available daily via Bashful Bloviator Magazine.  Here’s the link.

If you’re not the kind of person who can memorize a string of characters that long (what, really?), you can find the magazine in three other ways.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Springtime in Arizona

There’s one thing I really love about springtime in The Grand Canyon State.  Hang on, it’ll come to me in a minute.

Ah, the sights and sounds of springtime in Arizona.  The wind roaring through the treetops, rattling the screens, and making the eves pop and groan.  The clanging of tortured wind chimes twisting in their death throws.   The startling thuds of hapless birds slamming against the walls and windows.   Indoors, a staccato, liquid, guttural sound denotes the arrival of another hacked-up kitty furball on the nice comforter in the guest bedroom, deposited there by a joyous feline who is alive with hyperkinetic activity due to the change of seasons.   Later, she and her brother will energetically climb our fake ficus, testing to see whether it's any more stable than it was the last time, after which they’ll take turns clawing at the window screens.  It’s not a problem; that’s what security deposits are for.  Life is good.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Waisted Daze and Waisted Knights

Who would have guessed some would find this movie offensive and even dangerous.  But they did.  Here’s why, and where we’re going with all this.

In my capacity as a local radio bloviator and as an experienced journalist I pride myself in my ability to spot and dissect media trends.  But I’m just going to say it:  If you had asked me to review a list of motion pictures slated for release in 2015 and pick the ones most likely to offend, the word “Cinderella” would not have crossed my lips.

For missing this one, I offer no excuses.  I beat my gums all the time on the radio about the social media’s flaming Outrage Industry, onto which the mainstream media regularly and cheerfully poor gasoline.  They do so in the sure and certain hope that news consumers, like lab rats pressing a food pellet lever in response to a blinking light, will click on these stories or watch them, thereby doing their part to pad the bonuses of media executives.  And they do, with predictable and profitable regularity. 

Even so, I completely overestimated the current threshold for apoplectic outrage.   In my defense, I’ll only say that who would have thought that a traditional, 400-year old fairy tale, writ large in a big-budget, family-oriented movie, produced by the most wildly successful family entertainment business ever, and garnished with a happy ending, would have offered anything to offend?

But it did. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

George Orwell Lacked Imagination

Smile and wave.  You're probably on camera.  Now, behave.

I was looking for a photo to share for Throwback Thursday when I came across this one—a shot of me sitting in a major market TV newsroom in 1988.  I won’t embarrass the station by saying in this post which newsroom it was (although I am posting it in the station’s forum on Facebook—so they’ll know.)  But it reminds me of how different things were back then.

You absolutely cannot tell the changes by way of the picture.  What do you see?  A confident, relatively young man smiling at the camera.  Yep, that’s me.  I had just turned 30.  I never thought of myself in those days as being attractive, but I’d give my chances for eternal bliss—and yours too—to look like that again.  In the wider version from which this was cropped, you can see that I’m surrounded by a couple of coworkers, and they were quite busy.  I was, too, until just seconds before the photo was taken, and then I got busy again, right away.  In that regard, TV newsrooms haven’t changed much.   There’s always too much work for too few people, and with today’s ever-shrinking news budgets that is even more true now than it was then.  (Note to “real world” employers:  this is why former TV news staffers tend to make excellent workers.  They’re used to busting their butts to meet tight deadlines and deal with shifting challenges that can, and do, change by the minute.  Silly them, they think this level of productivity is entirely normal for the American workplace).

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Texas Guns To Vote on People Control

In this alternate plane of reality, life unfolds a bit differently.

AUSTIN, Texas (Gloomberg News) – The Texas secretary of state certified on Monday that people control advocates have turned in enough valid signatures to force a statewide vote on a proposed law that would place severe new restrictions on people ownership.   Initiative organizers embraced the development as a bold step toward improving people safety for guns in the state.   But people rights activists vowed a tough battle.

The measure would enact strong new rules governing what kinds of guns can own a person.   Among them:  any gun with a prior history of people violence would have its people ownership rights revoked indefinitely.  Guns would be forbidden from owning people who have known safety or stability problems.   And every owner would have to register its person with the state.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Space Age Revisited

Before we had Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, we had William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, and Jimmy Doohan—fictional heroes, and real ones.  Of the six names I just mentioned, two are left.

Each of these folks were, and are, personal heroes of mine.  The reasons for that differ, of course.  The latter group inspired people of my generation to want to take that bold leap to the stars.  The former actually did it—or at least took firm steps in that direction.

The passing of Leonard Nimoy, a man who meant the world to me although we never met, reminds me of a sad truth about getting old.  The process of aging and worrying about getting sick and dying doesn’t suck half so much as watching everyone you’ve always known do it.  In fact, one way to measure the aging process is to count how many people and things you’ve spent most of your life loving or enjoying that are now gone.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Don Williams, a Random Choice, and Me

On my PowerTalk 1210 AM radio show, I talk a lot about strange coincidences, and I write about them from time to time on my blog.  I don't claim the following counts as one of those, but it is interesting.

A couple of weeks ago, for no particular reason whatsoever, I chose a few Don Williams songs as the out-of-break musical intros for my show.  Our producer, Mark Ulm, asked me if I were doing that in honor of Don's upcoming appearance in Tucson.  I wasn't.  In fact, the last I had really paid any attention to what Don Williams was up to, he had announced his retirement, and that had happened nearly ten years ago.  I played the eight songs but otherwise put it out of my mind.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Journalism's New Age of Shoddy

Close your eyes.  Imagine a world where, every single day,  you hear rumors, but there's absolutely no place to turn where you can find out with certainty whether they might be true.

Now open your eyes.  I won't go so far as to say you've found it.  Yet.  But that imaginary world won't look much different from this one.  We're almost there.

Even though I am not, at the moment, sitting in a news director's chair, every now and then I get invited to say something to journalists about the profession.  In this article written for the Radio Television Digital News Association, I discuss how the New Media are causing Old Media practitioners to lose their ethics, and their minds.

Continue reading on RTNDA website >>

©2015 by Forrest Carr.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sex Box: Bold, Innovative TV for Our Times

I don’t always post my radio rants.  But this one was more fun than the law allows (and I mean that literally, given that it was broadcast on an FCC-regulated facility and involves activities you can’t fully describe in such a setting).  My goal here was to make our board op and producer, Mark Ulm, blow coffee out his nose.  I pretty much succeeded.  In fact, I think I may have messed him up for life.  And best of all, everything I said is true.  A rough transcript is below; audio from the live broadcast is at the bottom of the page.

As a science fiction author, one of the things I’m called upon to do is to look into the future and try to figure out where current trends in modern society are taking us.  It’s an old science fiction tradition.  My personal idol Robert Heinlein was a genius at it.  In particular he did a really good job of figuring out where mass media was going. 

I’ve got to say, I did not see this one coming.  Never, in my wildest imagination, at any point in my life would I ever, ever, EVER have come up with the kind of scenario that will hit America’s cable TV networks soon.

Real soon.  Last week, in fact.