CNN, I Can’t Quit You (June 15, 2011)


God help me, but I adore Elliot Spitzer.

When I separated from my husband in April and moved into my own apartment, a serious decrease in income necessitated a downgrade of my cable services. Goodbye HBO, so long Showtime, and even the basic package I agreed to was a step down from the hundreds of HD channels at my disposal in a former life. No worries. I am a busy and resourceful girl and besides, the network TV stations were in the throes of wrapping up their episodic seasons.

Now that it’s June and my serials are on summer break, options for amusing myself while I eat dinner, clean the house and work out my Power Hoop, have become limited. My go-to for years has been CNN when all else fails. However with the gearing up of the 2012 U.S. Presidential election (particularly the GOP primaries), the continued unrest in the Middle East, the trial of Casey Anthony and the antics of Anthony Weiner, my always more than passing interest has taken on a life of its own.

I need help. I can’t enough of Fareed Zakaria. He may be the wisest man in the world and whether it’s his regular program GPS, or one of his illuminating specials, such as “Restoring the American Dream,” I wish I could empty his brain into mine.

The gay community scored a real coup back in May when adorable and charming weekend anchor Don Lemon came out of the closet. I think a number of my single sisters will join me in finding it terribly unfair that the two most gorgeous members of the CNN news team, including the venerable blue-eyed stallion, otherwise known as Anderson Cooper, are out of our reach. What’s left for us? Wolf Blitzer? Bah!

My love for all things CNN does not extend to John King, who for whatever reason never fails to remind of John Tesh (maybe it’s the whole “Blonde Frankenstein” thing – thank you Howard Stern), and is furthermore, a crushing bore. Ditto Soledad O’Brien, who I have noticed has become increasingly marginalized by the network since her April test in the weekly 7PM slot was deemed “unwatchable” by CNN Worldwide president Jim Walton. So why is she still there?

Wolf Blitzer and Jack Cafferty quench my thirst for curmudgeonly old men who have seen it all. Commentators and panelists David Gergen and Jeffrey Toobin never fail to elicit my interest. Ditto Roland Martin, who is always as excitable as he is intelligent.

Sanjay Gupta, you make me want to contract an unusual disease just so you’ll drop into my living room to do a special report.

And I can’t leave out my favorite CNN ladies. Dana Bash, Candy Crowley and Kiran Chetry – I heart you all.

I started and will end with an explanation of my most controversial CNN crush – Elliot Spitzer. When Parker/Spitzer debuted early this year, I didn’t give it a snowball’s chance in hell. Elliot, the former Governor of New York, remains a political punch line in many circles, and Kathleen Spitzer may be a hell of a writer, but she doesn’t give good TV. At all. The partnership had all the chemistry of a flat Diet Coke.

Mercifully, the brass at CNN realized that their true star is Spitzer. I may receive hate mail for saying so, but he fills the void in my heart left by the death of NBC’s Tim Russert. Spitzer will ask the tough questions. He knows he has nothing to lose and seems grateful enough for this career second act to leave it all on the court every evening. He will ask anybody anything and seems immune to squirming. He truly does not give a shit, and I love it! I am surprised the show is still able to book guests. That’s what I call keeping them honest.

Alright enough because clearly I could go on all day. For variety’s sake, I tried to give MSNBC a whirl last night, but the fit just wasn’t there. If watching CNN until my eyes cross is wrong, then I just don’t care to be right.

 

Silver (Crazy Like a) Fox (February 3, 2011)

 

Generally speaking, I have nothing but respect for Anderson Cooper, the superstar journalist and face of CNN’s cable news network (no matter what Wolf Blitzer may think). Despite being sired by the Vanderbilt, money as old as it comes clan, despite being privileged and ruggedly handsome and instead of contenting himself with the easy lifestyle of the East Coast aristocracy, A.C. has made a respectable name in his own right. Whenever you see a snug fitting black t-shirt and effortlessly tousled silver hair, look beyond the telegenic sexiness and you will see an honest, determined professional who is not afraid to get in the trenches.

While those of us couch surfing at home certainly appreciate the in-your-face, up close and personal gritty bent to Cooper’s quest for truth, I am beginning to wonder if the man isn’t a little touched in the head. The thought first occurred to me on Tuesday night, as Eddie and I hid from the blizzard, watching endless coverage of the Midwest winter storm. When CNN wasn’t breathlessly discussing the impact of “Snowmageddon,” the other big story of the evening, and in fact the last week, has been the populist revolt in Egypt.

What began as a mostly civilized, large scale and diverse turnout of Egyptians demanding immediate regime change has quickly devolved into the worst display of lawlessness and street thuggery. Someone (President Hosni Mubarak) seems to have recruited a brutal gang of armed responders in an attempt to crush the democratic protests of fed up citizens. Therefore instead of reasoned intellectual debate, or even impassioned demonstration, we are seeing images of Moltov cocktails, the resulting fires, beaten and harassed civilians splashed across our television screens. Cultural institutions such as the famed Egyptian Museum are suddenly in peril. The panic and pain of Tahrir Square has been frustratingly heartbreaking to observe.

Keeping more than just an eye on the situation throughout most of the week has been our man in the field, Anderson Cooper. Between dialing in to the network with reports throughout the day, appearing on late afternoon segments of “The Situation Room,” and continuing to anchor his own nightly program, “AC 360,” it doesn’t seem like The Silver Fox has had any time for sleep. And you get the feeling that Cooper is not out courting Pulitzers. His dedication is real. But at certain moments, you have to wonder about the man behind the serious gaze. As I said, on Tuesday night, I began to psychoanalyze A.C. a bit as he sort of carelessly informed viewers of his crew’s precarious situation. He chuckled more than once as he warned, “we may have to flee at any moment.”

So of course when I woke up Wednesday morning to the news that Cooper and his colleagues had indeed been mobbed and beaten in Cairo, my first thought was, “Well that was inevitable, wasn’t it?”

I realize that there are more urgent issues to consider coming out of the crisis in Egypt, such as its long-term effects on the stability of the Middle East region, the succession plan (if any) for President Mubarak, and the possible security fallout in Israel. But in times of great danger, it seems natural to wonder about those who go chasing it. Why exactly is Anderson Cooper the first to raise his hand when CNN needs someone to wade into a hurricane, wander into a war zone or pick a fight with powerful corporate and government interests? Fearless love of humanity or death wish – you decide.

What is biographically known about the famously guarded media darling suggests both Mommy and Daddy issues. His father, writer Wyatt Emory Cooper, died in 1978 when Anderson was 11. His mother, famed socialite Gloria Vanderbilt, paraded her son around on The Tonight Show and kept him occupied with high profile modeling gigs for Calvin Klein and Macy’s. So naturally at age 17, Cooper went to southern Africa in a “13-ton British Army truck” where he promptly contracted malaria and ended up in a Kenyan hospital. This appears to be the beginning of a well-worn pattern for A.C.

So I wonder, though I will never have the chance to ask Mr. Cooper, do you run toward tragedy to escape the pain in your own life? If so, I can sort of relate. Growing up in a terribly traumatizing home, I deflected processing my emotions by becoming the busy caretaker of everyone else. It was often a welcome, if damaging, distraction.

Last night’s edition of “AC 360” featured Anderson and his crew broadcasting from a secret, dark and dingy location, sitting on the floor, voices barely above a whisper. I pray for the safety of everyone in Egypt but I admit to a special concern for my favorite journalist. Because I suspect that even with all his fame, money and repute, he may not care much about himself.

Anderson Cooper and His Tight T-Shirt Get to the Gulf! (June 17, 2010)

anderson-cooper-tight-t-shirt-in-nyc

If Obama is still searching for a way to take the national temperature, to figure out “whose ass to kick,” as he famously said last week of his response to the BP oil spill and ensuing environmental crisis, he just needs to follow the biceps. Whenever trouble lurks, wherever humanity has taken a heartbreaking tumble, the “Silver Fox” and his field uniform of form fitting designer jeans and pec-stretched t-shirt will be. Apparently windblown hair and a serious face are the weapons of mass destruction needed to “keep them honest.”

President Obama is not a bad looking guy himself, and we know he keeps in shape – all that “Buff Bam” vacationing in Hawaii coverage. So it’s a wonder that in the midst of the PR mess his administration finds themselves in, accusations of being slow to respond to the Gulf catastrophe, not showing enough empathy and acting as the handmaiden to big business, Obama’s people have never thought to rip a page out of AC’s playbook.

As Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize winning author and presidential historian stated as part of a panel discussion on last Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” “President Reagan knew the value of photos.” She alluded to the idea that if the BP catastrophe had happened on his watch, the Gipper would have made sure he was documented in his work shirt, talking to the Gulf’s “real people” on a daily basis.

But Obama is a curious case. For a man who harnessed the viral powers of the Internet throughout his campaign in ways that other candidates could only envy, a man who seems to understand intuitively that listening to the people who put him office is vital to his success, he has a curiously arrogant and disdainful attitude toward the media. This is not serving him well. Reagan, who I revile personally, was however, inarguably cuddly with the press and the American people. Though his policies may have stuck a knife in the back of our nation’s future, he had this way of making you believe in a kindly, disinterested love of the regular guy.

America needs a little cuddling right about now. Unemployment rates are stuck, with no immediate hope of falling. People are worried and scared. The middle class American dream is in danger of slipping through the fingers of so many, and on top of that, our geographic treasures, such as the Gulf and the beaches of Pensacola are imperiled. Is anything sacred anymore? But instead of connecting with us, President Obama comes off as curiously truculent and annoyed. That may be reflective of the national mood but it is not what we need at this moment in history. Where is that decided, active hope?

I began this post by taking a good natured poke at Anderson Cooper, or “Old Smoldering Blue Eyes (OSBE),” as my good friend Diane calls him. But there is a reason I invoked his studly example. AC gets it. He understands that in the midst of a local or international crisis (Katrina, the Earthquake in Haiti, trouble in the Gulf), America wants to see a virile, somber visage, on the ground talking to people, raising awareness, and providing the televised appearance of making things happen. Sitting in the Oval Office on a Tuesday night asking the nation to pray just doesn’t fill that need. God doesn’t know how to fix this mess either. When did “Yes, We Can” become an inert heavenly plea?

Get thee to an Abercrombie & Fitch, Barack!

Blogus Interruptus (April 16, 2010)

It’s been nearly a full week since I posted anything, and longer than that since I wrote anything substantial (though there might be different opinions about my claims to substance).

I played it on the down low the last couple months, though you folks know I have been job hunting. But I actually started a new position this past Monday, at a pretty timely and important nonprofit. Many more details on this new assignment tomorrow, but the point for now is that adjusting to a new schedule, where I try to collapse full-time work, freelancing, a marriage and household management, has heavily distracted me from the joys of naval contemplation. It’s a matter of relearning how to spin all the plates. I have been out of the rat race for nearly a year and it’s taking a few days to recalibrate.

I haven’t even been following the news much this week, though I did come across three items about my beloved CNN, and it’s major stars, Larry King and Anderson Cooper that I thought I might share:

1. First the silly: Larry King files for divorce #8

2. AC 360 gains live audience in an attempt to boost ratings

3. The not quite open AC also checks in at #2 on Out magazine’s “Power 50” list of the most influential gays and lesbians in America.

I hear that CNN desperately needs some ratings to stop the drubbing it regularly receives from MSNBC and my personal favorite, Fox news. I suppose actually BEING the news is one way to go about it.

CNN Tidbits (January 5, 2010)

CNN logo

Those who know me best are aware that I readily own up to my addictions: one of which is this venerable cable news stalwart. I think my problem dates back to the 2004 Kerry/Bush election, but it took on the hallmarks of a full blown habit early in 2007 with the Democratic primaries. I got WAY into CNN during the 2008 election coverage, and somehow never left after Obama’s victory over McCain.

The anchors and pundits of CNN both fill my heart with joy, and alternately repulse me, like any good family members ought. Weekend staff members Don Lemon and Fredricka Whitfield are young, pretty and nonthreatening, same for Erica Hill, AC360‘s regular guest host. Lou Dobbs, before his recent departure, was the cranky old backward uncle I loved to argue with. Campbell Brown possesses just enough “red” leanings in her to prevent accusations of network liberalism. Then of course you have Wolf, AC, Christiane Amanpour, Sanjay Gupta and Fareed Zakaria – the channel’s All-Stars.

I mention all of this by way of acknowledgement that very few people besides myself may find interest in the latest news of which the channel is an agent, rather than a conduit. Be that as it may:

1. Kathy Griffin banned from CNN after F-bomb drop on New Year’s Eve

http://www.examiner.com/x-22153-Cleveland-Pop-Culture-Examiner~y2010m1d5-Kathy-Griffin-banned-from-CNN-after-Fbomb-drop-on-New-Years-Eve-watch-the-YouTube-video

It is hard to find any synpathy for CNN here. You take a notoriously ribald comedienne, put her in the Big Apple live on New Year’s Eve, and you expect what, her and AC to share recipes with viewers? Of course she said something off color. This is a woman who famously stated, upon winning an Emmy, “I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. Suck it, Jesus, this award is my god now!”

Personally, I enjoyed Griffin and Cooper the last two New Years. If I want boring and predictable, I can always switch over to Seacrest. I hope CNN gets its underwear out of a bunch and rethinks the decision.

2. Lou Dobbs Launches Members-Only Web Site

http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/01/04/lou-dobbs-launches-members-only-web-site/

Why would I pay my hard earned dollars to read shit I didn’t want to hear when it was free? And I hear he may also run for Congress in New Jersey. That lucky Garden State.