Happy birthday, Star Trek

Thursday was the 45th anniversary of the first airing of Star Trek on NBC.

Are you or have you ever been a Trekkie?  Have you gotten a life, and if so, do you still like Star Trek? What is it about this series that we still talk about it 45 years later?

Which series is your favorite?  Can we agree that the original series with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, et al. was by far the best?

45 Years Ago Today: Star Trek Debuted on NBC | Strange Herring.

American Idol finale

I have been sparing you this year my interest in American Idol, the popular talent show that causes the American public to exercise aesthetic judgments.  But now we are at the finale.  The last two standing are Scotty McCreary and Laure Alaina, 17 and 16 years old respectively.  They are both country singers, interestingly enough, and refreshingly free of attitude and vulgarity.   This season is being hailed as one of the best ever in terms of talent.  Simon Cowell is not on anymore, so the criticisms have been kinder and gentler, to put it mildly.  The replacements for Cowell and Paula Abdul, Steve Tyler and Jennifer Lopez, have been surprisingly likable.  They compete tonight, with the winner being announced on Wednesday.

I think some of you must follow the show, despite the snide remarks I have endured in previous years (“Dr. Veith!  You are the highbrow culture critic!  How can you watch this dreck?”), so I address only you fellow-travelers:  What do you think of the show this season?  What were the highlights?  Has justice been done?  Who deserves to win?

How Democrats and Republicans amuse themselves

A study of political affiliation and use of media has found that, contrary to  popular assumption, Republicans are more active online than Democrats.   Republicans are also more likely to watch “The Office,” like sports, and watch the History Channel.   Democrats prefer newspapers, “Ugly Betty,” Comedy Central, and basketball.  At least in the Midwest, the focus of the study, though some of the results are thought to be transferable more broadly.  Here are more details from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which takes a Wisconsin-centric view of the data:

Democrats and Republicans not only vote differently and see the world differently, but they get their information and entertainment from very different places.

A new study on media consumption in the Midwest illustrates how this works in individual media markets like Milwaukee.

Heavy radio and Internet users here tend to skew Republican, while big television and newspaper users skew Democratic.

Viewers of Fox News, the Golf Channel, the History Channel, the Speed Channel, ESPN and Country Music Television lean Republican.

Viewers of MSNBC, CNN, Comedy Central, Lifetime and Bravo lean Democratic.

“We know Wisconsin is polarized politically. We’re also polarized in how we pay attention to media,” says UW-Madison political scientist Ken Goldstein, who did the report for a research group he launched last year, the Midwest Foundation for Media Research.

Milwaukee is a microcosm in many ways of national patterns in partisan media consumption. . . .

“Sports channels skew Republican, which is a (more) male audience, and women’s channels skew Democratic,” says National Media’s Will Feltus, who was part of the Bush campaign’s media team in 2004.

Primetime network shows follow partisan patterns as well; nationally, “Survivor” and the “The Office” skew Republican; “60 Minutes” and “Ugly Betty” skew Democratic. . . .

The heaviest newspaper readers score the highest for political engagement and skew somewhat Democratic in their politics. Big TV watchers are even more Democratic but less engaged. Heavy Internet users tend to skew Republican, not Democratic as is often assumed. And radio users skew Republican, reflecting in part the role of conservative talk radio. . . .

Golf and car racing have a more Republican following; basketball and hockey have a more Democratic following. The Brewers don’t skew in either direction. The Packers skew a little bit Republican (as do sports fans overall, which is consistent with the fact that men are more likely than women to be both sports fans and to be Republicans).

In a separate analysis Feltus did last year on “The Politics of Sports Fans,” he wrote that sports fans nationally tend to report higher than average rates of voting.  That’s especially true of golf, college sports and big league baseball fans. (They tend to be older and have higher income and education levels, which correspond to higher voter turnout).

Fans of pro wrestling and monster trucks, however, reported much lower than average voting rates.

via How Democrats and Republicans use the media (very differently) – JSOnline.

How do you account for these differences?

Fox News drops Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck and his controversial pronouncements and conspiracy theories remain popular, but Fox News is cancelling his show.

Glenn Beck and Fox News Channel formally agreed to end Beck’s daily program Wednesday, bringing a marriage beset by outside pressures and internal tensions to an end after just 27 months.

Fox News Channel said it was dropping Glenn Beck’s afternoon talk show, which has sunk in the ratings and suffered financially due to an advertiser boycott. The conservative host and the news channel started by a conservative billionaire, Rupert Murdoch, as an avowed counterweight to the liberal news media agreed that they could not agree to continue. Beck will “transition” off Fox sometime this year, Fox and Beck’s production company, Mercury Radio Arts, said jointly.

Beck’s sometimes outrageous pronouncements — he infamously said that President Obama has “a deep-seated hatred for white people” — were good for drawing attention and viewers, but they made him radioactive among sponsors. They also put him out of step with Fox News’ overall ethic, which is heavy on pugnacious conservative commentary but eschews the sort of apocalyptic rhetoric Beck favors.

Beck’s program has remained a solid draw for Fox despite a gradual slide in the ratings from its mid-2009 peak. Airing at 5 p.m., a period when fewer people are watching TV than during evening prime-time hours, “Glenn Beck” still draws more than 2 million viewers, making it one of the top attractions on a cable news channel. Beck’s ratings sometimes approached those of Fox’s “O’Reilly Factor,” consistently the most popular program on cable news.

But Beck’s broadsides alienated a number of organizations that fought back by pressuring his advertisers and embarrassing his bosses. Color of Change, a group that advocates on behalf of African Americans, started an advertiser boycott in July 2009; its efforts were abetted by Media Matters for America, a liberal watchdog organization that made Fox News in general, and Beck in particular, its raison d’etre.

Jewish groups also were angered by Beck’s habit of denouncing his political opponents by comparing them to Nazis. Their anger was further stoked by Beck’s three-part series on liberal billionaire philanthropist George Soros, whom Beck described as a Nazi collaborator during Soros’s boyhood in occupied Hungary.

After a coalition of Jewish rabbis called on Murdoch to sanction Beck in a full-page ad in the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal in January, Beck further inflamed his Jewish critics by comparing Reform rabbis to “radicalized Islam” on his syndicated radio program a month later.

The outrage got to Murdoch and Fox News Chief Executive Roger Ailes, said Simon Greer, who heads the Jewish Funds for Justice, which organized the Wall Street Journal ad.

“I think Fox News and its leadership value their relationships with the American Jewish community, and Glenn Beck has consistently insulted and disrespected Jews to such an extent that it was bad for Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes’ worldview,” Greer said in an interview.

Leading conservatives have taken issue with Beck lately, too. Pat Buchanan and neoconservative columnist William Kristol, among others, criticized Beck’s comments about the Middle East after Beck asserted that the uprisings were part of an alliance between American liberals and Muslims seeking to create a caliphate that would spread radical Islamic ideology across the region.

“When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society,” Kristol wrote in the Murdoch-owned Weekly Standard in February. “He’s marginalizing himself.”

via Glenn Beck to end daily TV program on Fox News Channel – The Washington Post.

So is that responsible journalism on the part of Fox News or a craven capitulation to ideological pressure?  So is Fox not all that conservative after all, or is Beck no true conservative?

American Idol this time around

Yes, I’m following American Idol again, despite the way some of you have been giving me a hard time about this particular guilty pleasure.  Last night the 13 finalists were selected.  I would just like to note that I picked every one of the male performers and voted for four of them.  The one female contestant that I was pulling for, Naima Adedapo from Milwaukee, did not get enough votes from the public, but the judges put her back in as a “wild card.”  My favorite and the one I’m predicting to win is Jacob Lusk.  As Steven Tyler said, we need his kind of singing again, a strong, jazzy, standards-kind-of-voice.  Naima is much the same way.   These are adult voices.  It’s time adults made music for adults, as opposed to kids making music for kids, or kids making music for adults.

A feature of “Hollywood Week” was a plump baby-faced 15 year old with an angelic voice getting thrown out of a group by, in effect, some mean cool kids.  The mean ones were all voted off, except for country-singer-with-a-deep-voice Scotty, who tearfully repented.

Also, I will say that the new judging team of Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and veteran Randy Jackson has, to my surprise, done a good job.  I had assumed the dark lord Simon Cowell would be missed, but the more positive panel has worked well.

This new crop of finalists is very strong, surely one of the best.

With twist, `American Idol’ down to 13 contestants.

So if any of the rest of you are following the show, I would welcome your assessments and your predictions.  (If you aren’t and if your comment would just be something on the order of “why would anyone watch this show?” you can keep that to yourself.)

Humans tie with computer in Jeopardy

The computer could not defeat humanity in Jeopardy, at least in the first round.  They tied.  The showdown between “Watson,” a specially-programmed computer from IBM, and Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter will continue on Tuesday and Wednesday.  The show is syndicated and is usually on at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Man matches machine in Jeopardy! showdown • The Register.

So even if Watson wins, will that mean that computers have a greater mental capacity than human beings?  I would say not at all.  The human mind is infinitely more than logic and information retrieval.  Calculation like that takes up only a miniscule part of our consciousness.  There are also feeling and perception and memory and fantasy and moral reactions and personality and will.

HT:  Webmonk


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