Friday, January 22, 2010

In Search of...reluctant leadership

This past week we celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. TV stations ran old footage of a man who spoke fervently and who made the ultimate sacrifice for his convictions. We acknowledge that he paved the way for civil rights legislation, for greater tolerance, and for the election of our current president. But we look at him as the exception. And we scoff at the use of words as instruments of change for the complex times in which we live now.

I give this a lot of thought because I am a writer and words are the tools of my trade. But I also give leadership a lot of thought because the absence of that genuine quality in our society is truly overwhelming. And I am not the only one it is overwhelming to.

In Bon Jovi's recent single, "We Weren't Born to Follow," he calls us to action in the title alone. And I agree with my fine looking rock star friend that "when life is a bitter pill to swallow, you gotta hold on to what you believe." I believe that leadership comes in many styles and that we all possess some ability to call our own leadership skills forth.

I call myself a reluctant leader because I would rather be sitting at home out of the way of conflict or controversy. But I look at the world around me and I know that I have a responsibility to make something better. And so I feel compelled to leave my comfort zone and speak up. And show up.

And so I'd like to ask you, dear blog readers, what is it that matters to you? Is it education, women's issues, health care, and end to war? What is it that would get you off your couch and to a phone, or an email, or an event, or a campaign, or to a soup kitchen, or a mentoring program? What would it take to get us to leave the world of "reality" television for the world of reality itself?

For those of you who think someone else will do it, look around. There is no one else. It's you and me. And before I start singing a folk song instead of Bon Jovi, let me just say that the world needs your leadership, reluctant or otherwise. So pick something near and dear to your heart and do one thing. One thing. It will make all the difference in the world.

Thanks for stopping by, and please tell your friends.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

In Search of...the battle of the TV personalities

In what should come as no big surprise, late night TV is once again in vitriolic upheaval. I say "once again" because we do this every so many years. There was Joan Rivers, Arsenio Hall, and all sorts of late night craziness in the nineties, where celebrities who were booked on one show would not get booked on the others. Often comedians who began their careers as unknowns together, like Jay Leno and David Letterman, have had rifts that leave them uncommunicative to this day.

While I normally tout the position of "can't we all just get along," I am loathe to do it where Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien are concerned, mostly because this might have been the stupidest move I can remember a network ever making, and that has little to do with either of them.

I think when NBC ousted Jay because they wanted to appeal to a younger demographic, there was so much ageism backlash that they had to do something not to have serious egg on their face. And in as much as they wanted a younger audience, they got one. So congratulations NBC. You got the young people. You just lost the rest of us. I stopped even checking out who the guests are on The Tonight Show and just tune in to Dave from start to finish. And it turns out I'm not the only one because Dave's viewers exceed Conan's by around two million a night. Even Nightline surpasses Conan in viewership, and that's a news show!

The unjust part to me is that everyone has blamed Jay Leno, when in fact this wasn't his brilliant idea in the first place. Local news affiliates have been screaming because they've lost viewers since Jay began his prime time stint. And let me just say this about that...

Everyone I know has their favorite local news network and full possession of the remote control. Maybe those local networks should look at making their broadcasts appealing enough so that Americans will expound the energy it takes to...wait for it...push a button and switch channels. I do it. You can too.

So back to the latest in the late night feuds. The rumor is that they want to move Jay back to his old time slot for a half hour and then put Conan on, by which time no one will be left awake to watch Jimmy Fallon. This seems like a great way to get Conan to jump ship voluntarily, and the rumor as of this morning is that he might go to Fox. I think that would be just great because I don't like Fox and I don't like Conan, so it should be a good fit. He can hang out with Sarah Palin who just inked her deal with Fox.

I imagine that Dave is not too happy about this prospect since his new loyal viewers like yours truly will undoubtedly go back to flipping back and forth, depending on the guests.

Truthfully, I feel for all of them because it must be tough to eke out a multimillion dollar living. And that, my friends is the perfect segue to the next television hullabaloo - American Idol and Simon Cowell's departure.

First we lost Paula...who was evidently clean and sober enough to know she should be getting more money. I say, "Good for her." Then it was all about who would replace her. Now I love Ellen, but aren't there tons of has been pop stars whose careers could have been happily rejuvenated like Paula's was? I think that would've been a much wiser course of action. Unfortunately I'm not on Fox's speed dial.

I think it's time for American Idol to go out with a bang. We already have our Kelly Clarkson, our Carrie Underwood, and our Adam Lambert. I'm happy with that. Simon should just do his X Factor show, make Fox gazillions more dollars and open the floodgates for our own Susan Boyle...who I feel compelled to mention at every possible opportunity.

And while we're discussing Simon, how is it that one man can hold a talent show's destiny in his hands when he's not the one up there singing? I think there are the obvious answers - honesty and straightforwardness is refreshing, he's usually right, and his persona is larger than life. I think there's another element though, and it's something not everyone will agree with - I think Simon is likeable. That's right, I said it. I think that discerning talent and star quality is Simon's job. And though I'm basing this on nothing but a gut instinct, I think that off-camera he is probably a nice guy.

Now I hate to pick on poor millionaire Conan O'Brien again, but that's what's lacking for me with Conan. I'm not so certain he's nice. Again, just a feeling. Speaking of's time to go watch the new season of American Idol...then Jay Leno...then I'll strain to pick up my remote and switch to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I don't actually watch local news if I can help it.

Thanks for stopping by, and please tell your friends.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

In Search of...some guilty pleasures

It's been frigid in most of the country, and so I have had little desire and reason to go outside. Actually, I have little desire to go outside even when it's not this cold, but that's another story.

Though I've been working at home, I've also been wanting some distractions - something to give me a warm, fuzzy, comforting feeling, but that didn't involve ingesting large quantities of macaroni and cheese to do it. So I started thinking about guilty pleasures, those things we secretly like but rarely tell anyone about because it might be just plain embarrassing.

Since blogging frequently feels like I'm just putting things out there in the ether, I am about to divulge what tickles me when no one is around.

Barry Manilow. Now before you start rolling your eyes, I have a theory - everyone is a Barry Manilow fan. Seriously. I know you're out there. If we all weren't, he wouldn't still have a career.

80's movies. My list for this is pretty extensive, but these are my favorites: Dirty Dancing, Moonstruck, When Harry Met Sally, Breakfast Club, About Last Night, Satisfaction, Mystic Pizza, and Next of Kin. Feel free to add your own, but these are my tops.

Keeping on the 80's theme, I'd like to give an honorable mention to shoulder pads and big hair. I'm not talking about the huge linebacker shoulder pads, just the understated ones that make your waste look thinner. And as far as hair, I can't wait for big hair to come back and here's why. All this stick-straight, flat ironed, no-layer crap of the past fifteen years looks awful and is impossible to achieve with any sort of regularity on someone like me who has a thick, curly head of hair. It's ridiculous. Bring back the height, the layers, the curls, and the hairspray! (Notice I didn't give homage to the ghastly make up application of that era.)

The song. Come on, you know which ones I'm talking about - "You Light Up My Life," "Feelings," "Muskrat Love" - whatever it is for you. Personally, I'll go with a rousing chorus of "I Think I Love You," "You Take My Breath Away," and "I Will Survive." And if you can name the artists who did these without looking them up, there could be a prize as kitschy as a Rubik's cube or mood ring coming your way.

Among my many other guilty pleasures are 70's and 80's TV shows, which, thanks to Netflix, have been keeping me entertained quite a bit recently. Oh yes, Starsky & Hutch, Family, Maude, One Day at a Time - they all bring me back to something familiar and comforting - a time before the bubble of my childhood memories was popped by tell-all memoirs and revealing interviews, before life got the better of fantasy.

Oh yeah, and I also like anything with Joe Penny. I have subjected myself to episodes of Jake and the Fatman just to revel in what real men looked like before they started waxing. (Am I the only one who thinks Orlando Bloom looks like a girl? Just wondering.)

So there they are, just some of my guilty pleasures. And I haven't gained one pound while writing this blog.

Thanks for stopping by, and please tell your friends.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

In Search of...something engaging to watch on TV

Maybe January makes me restless. The Christmas lights are down, the cheerfulness is gone, and all that's left is the bleak coldness of another winter to be survived. So I'm looking for something to watch on TV, something to make me feel excited, or hopeful, or interested, or anything really that would adequately distract me from this winter weather.

Oh yes, American Idol is about to begin what this blogger will bet is its last season. So if I'm so inclined, I'll be able to watch hour upon hour of staged humiliation known as the open auditions pretty soon. Last year I actually did that, and all I said to everyone was, "I like the guy with the dyed black hair." Yeah, it didn't take a rocket scientist to pick Adam Lambert out of the crowd. And even though it has been less than a year since Kris Allen was crowned the American Idol, I would bet that if you walked down the street and randomly asked people who Kris Allen is, they couldn't tell you. So for my purposes, and because I was totally partial from the beginning, Adam Lambert is my American Idol.

But enough about Idol for now. There will undoubtedly be plenty of time for blogging about that when it's in full swing. My current favorite shows are The Good Wife and Men of a Certain Age - the only really new and refreshing program on television. Leave it to Ray Romano to do two great shows that somehow capture a kernel of reality that all other shows are void of.

A side note on the Brothers & Sisters cancer storyline - I want to smack someone in the head for that. First of all, must every show on TV have some main character with cancer? And if you're going to drag me through a tearful series of episodes with boxes of Kleenex by my side, can you do something other than wrap it up by flashing forward, saying everything's all better, and making like we're done with it now and forevermore?

I'm anxiously awaiting the return of Southland at its new home on TNT. As for what else I can watch, all I can say is thank God for Netflix.

Thanks for stopping by, and let me know if you've found any new shows to watch.

Monday, January 4, 2010

In Search of...a good morning, America

So George Stephanopoulos is now the official co-anchor of Good Morning America, and that is making me do my happy dance.

For those of you who haven't been reading my blog since its inception last March, well first of all - go back and read it - and second of all, you might be surprised to find out that Mr. Stephanopoulos was the impetus for it. Actually my book about trying to meet him was the impetus. No wait, trying to get my book about trying to meet George Stephanopoulos published was the impetus for it. Yeah, that's it.

Anyway, here I am, seldom blogging about George Stephanopoulos anymore and celebrating the 10th year since I began writing the memoir bearing his name, which is a little odd considering it's about my life.

In the ten years since I began writing In Search of George Stephanopoulos, George has gotten married (serious bummer for me), had two kids, been the Chief Washington Correspondent for ABC News and is now the co-anchor of Good Morning America. I on the other hand have had a #1 song on the radio, found out I'm diabetic, and started a blog. Somehow I think he's fared a little bit better than I have. But no worries. This is a new year and somehow I'm wildly optimistic about things. (This may be fleeting, so savor it while it lasts, folks.)

George actually started his stint on GMA before the holidays, but today was the official first day and as such ABC felt compelled to compile a montage that would endear him to those who didn't already know who he was. He was met with the usual co-host ribbing, and I for one was glad to know that he was intimate with the Hannah Montana repertoire since my song was Emily Osment's first hit, "I Don't Think About It." For a brief moment I pictured him walking around his house singing my song with his kids - and my brain nearly exploded.

If there's one thing my fellow left-handed intellectual suffers from on screen the same way I suffer from it off screen, it's the seeming inability to lighten up. In his defense I'd like to say that anyone who spends any amount of time looking at what's going on in the world is lucky they don't need medication, let alone the ability to lighten up. So I say, "Stay true to who you are, George. It hasn't hurt you so far." Besides, the rest of America could use a dose of sobriety when it comes to the challenges facing us.

As for my memoir, I'm hoping that George's expanded audience will expand my chances of getting published. Otherwise there's always Kinko's and selling it out of my trunk. (I kid...kind of.) Either way, 2010 is a new year filled with the promise of new adventures and old dreams coming to fruition.

I'm thrilled for George Stephanopoulos, I think he will do an awesome job, I wish him well, and here's hoping I'm sitting on Good Morning America one day soon being interviewed by him about my new book - In Search of George Stephanopoulos.

Thanks for stopping by, and please tell your friends.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

In Search of...what I know for sure

It's a new year - 2010, and I find myself starting off by wondering what exactly it is I'm certain of. A lot of what I believed up until now has been sorely tested these past few years, and so I'm taking stock instead of wasting my time on resolutions to diet and exercise that I will most definitely blow by the end of week one.

Thanks to Oprah most of us have adopted the phrases "what I know for sure" and "aha moment" as a normal part of our lexicon, which I think is a good thing. So I'm just gonna think out loud here and see if what I throw out resonates with anyone -

I know for sure that love is the answer, regardless of the question.

I know for sure that actions speak way louder than words - which is why I'm finding the Obama administration particularly heartbreaking.

I know for sure that we either have excuses or results. The two do not co-exist.

I know for sure that purple looks good on everyone and therefore should be worn as often as possible.

I know for sure that only God's love is unconditional.

I know for sure that there is global warming.

I know for sure that eating processed carbs will make me fat.

I know for sure that doing nothing is also doing something.

I know for sure that pretty much everything in the movie The Godfather was right - you don't take sides against the family, the first one to approach you with an offer is the traitor, and you don't talk business at the dinner table...unless it's in a restaurant and you're about to shoot the guy. Right there - words to live by.

I know for sure that friends make life enjoyable.

I know for sure that Al Gore won the 2000 election.

I know for sure that life is a gift for which we are accountable.

I know for sure that the first movie is always better than the sequel.

I know for sure that I'm not going to get any taller or younger, but everything else is pretty much up for grabs.

I know for sure that nothing turns out like you plan, life can exceed your expectations, and people will inevitably surprise you both in good and bad ways.

I know for sure that broccoli is good for me, but homemade cookies taste and smell way better.

I know for sure that Aaron Sorkin's writing, Barbra Streisand's singing, and Jon Stewart's humor rock my world and make life bearable and happier.

I know for sure that no one is a better actress than Meryl Streep. No one.

I know for sure that it's hard to go against popular opinion - no matter how stupid it is.

I know for sure that this blog post must come to an end now, and so it is.

Thanks for stopping by, and please tell your friends.