Mellencamp’s Thumbs Permanently Up

Since Roger Ebert has been sick, his “Ebert & Roeper” place has been filled in with a mix of real critics and celebrities for the past several months. On Sunday I watched John Mellencamp, once known as “John Cougar,” fill in. Mellencamp isn’t a bad choice as far as celebrities go, because he did once make and star in a film that was well received by the critics. Nonetheless, his turn as a critic was both difficult to watch and inspiring. It was inspiring in that he went to these movies the way most of us do. We’re not experts in the craft and generally aren’t difficult to please. But it was difficult because you soon figured out that he must not have a lot to do if he’s going to recommend we waste two hours of our lives on every movie ever made.

My favorite was when the two were critiquing “Vacancy.” Roeper thought it bad. Mellencamp gave it a thumbs up, offering praise that’s sure to make it to the movie’s ads. The makers of the films Mellencamp reviewed should use the following quotes from his TV appearance.

Vacancy
“I thought that it was, uh, not as bad as you think it is!” raves John Mellencamp, “Ebert & Roeper.”

Lonely Hearts
“I didn’t have any trouble following timelines!” proclaims John Mellencamp, “Ebert & Roeper.”

In the Land of Women
“I think it’s something to be learned by the story!” shouts John Mellencamp, “Ebert & Roeper.”

Fracture
“I thought that kid was handsome, though didn’t you? I mean he was a handsome guy. There’s got to be merit to that!” exults John Mellencamp, “Ebert & Roeper.”

Dutcher’s Exodus

Richard Dutcher, who made the films God’s Army, Brigham City and States of Grace, is no longer active in the LDS church. I have thoughts about it, but I think enough has been said here that I don’t feel obliged to weigh in on it just yet. I will say I understand the boat metaphor.

In the mid 1980s Dutcher was a clerk at a 7-11 Brant, Byron and I used to frequent on late-night “Big Gulp” runs. He was nice. He was quiet. We knew about his acting aspirations. I’ve enjoyed all his films.

About “Why?”

One of the fears I have, even as I demand answers, is that my quest for understanding begets more of the same. Schoolyard killers in the past have spawned discussions of bullying and the like, yet I haven’t seen much to answer why one kid out of a million who get bullied decide to kill innocents.

An answer as good as any I’ve seen comes from Time Magazine’s David Von Drehle in his piece “It’s All About Him.”

“I’ve lost interest in the cracks, chips, holes and broken places in the lives of men like Cho Seung-Hui, the mass murderer of Virginia Tech. The pain, grievances and self-pity of mass killers are only symptoms of the real explanation. Those who do these things share one common trait. They are raging narcissists. . . .

A generation ago, the social critic Christopher Lasch diagnosed narcissism as the signal disorder of contemporary American culture. The cult of celebrity, the marketing of instant gratification, skepticism toward moral codes and the politics of victimhood were signs of a society regressing toward the infant stage.”

Let’s be honest, even this blog is an exercise in narcissism to some degree. I’d say many politicians are narcissists. Anyone who writes an autobiography should be suspect. But I’ve always known about my self-absorption. I suspect we all have it to some degree and that we keep it in check. As a little kid I always knew there were other people in the swimming pool with me. The day I stopped peeing in the pool was when I realized those other people mattered.

In my life I have had a few moments of feeling disconnected, most notably with fellow members of the LDS church. Even as I served an 18-month mission, deep in the throes of seeking more to join us, I sometimes felt disconnected with the larger Mormon culture. I still do. Yet it has never occurred to me to punish those who seem to feel fine in it. I’ve always assumed it is more about me, both the good and bad parts of me, then it is about them.

Someone with unchecked narcissistic traits just wouldn’t go there. If I’m a true narcissist, I blame people I reject for my disconnection.

I don’t understand it, and that’s probably a good thing.

Air It

On this blog I overlook a lot of the obvious issues, or if I deal with them I head for the sidebars. Nothing about Imus, though there were a couple of columns written I thought were good. On Anna Nicole I dealt with Billo and Prinz.

On Virginia Tech I stray from the main issue, but choose to address something that has caught a lot of attention the last few days. I think NBC did the right thing airing the video from the killer.

My opinion can be discounted right away, because I’m a member of the media. Our ability to function as normal people is hampered, somewhat, by the commitments we’ve made by getting into this line of work. We journalists operate on a default setting that has us publishing what we have if it adds value to the overall story. We do restrain ourselves, I would say we do it a lot. When someone says something that could get them in Imus-like trouble, we do consider carefully the ramifications and the value to the story. In our newsroom one of our reporters did hear “an official” say something that would very much of caused an uproar in our community had it been published as it was said. The reporter, however, considered the context surrounding the comment and recognized that it was not as bad as it would have looked in print. The other issue was it added little to the conversation taking place in the story.

I can’t speak for NBC and the deliberative processes the company undertook before deciding to air the VT killer’s video. Sure there are dollars and cents issues at stake. And parents, families and friends of the deceased have every right to be hurt that the video played. What I do know is had I been responsible for making the decision of whether to run the footage or not, I would have gathered up a room full of people to talk about it. We’d hash it out and come to an understanding, if not an agreement. After all that deliberation I’m pretty sure I would have made pretty much the same decison NBC’s news folks did. I might not have rushed quite so quickly to air it, but I don’t think I would have delayed it much.

As a parent and as a citizen of the world, if someone’s sick out there I want to know everything about him/her that would help me decide whether I needed to get help. As a father of three children, if there’s someone who could threaten to end my kids’ lives, or if heaven forbid one of my kids should end up anything like the VT killer, I’d want something that would help me recognize it before it came to what it did on Monday.

I want to know. As a news consumer and again as a citizen, I want to know. I want to learn something from the information. That alone should be reason enough to air it.

I Have No Red Sox

Earlier the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez owned the Red Sox, allowing one hit in a complete game. Suck on it Red Sox! You’re dead to me anyway.

Why, you ask?

J.D. Drew.

After playing at 75 percent for his major league career, he ditched the Dodgers after giving all indications he had no intention of opting out of his contract. So then he decides on the Red Sox.

I used to be a big fan of the Sox and this will certainly just be a pause. But I wish for Drew what I sometimes wish for A-Rod. No, actually it’s worse. With A-Rod I’m fine if he does well, I just don’t want whatever team he plays for win. With Drew, I want both him and the team to suck.

It didn’t help when in the eighth inning tonight Drew got the one hit off Hernandez and the fans cheered. By the eighth inning of a no-hitter real baseball fans are rooting for it finish out no matter who’s pitching. But ever since the Sox finally won a series their fans must think they’re above baseball fan protocol.

Bottom line: Until Drew leaves Boston, the Red Sox are about as attractive as an appearance on Imus.

Zsa Zsa Lives

Zsa Zsa Gabor’s husband is suing Bill O’Reilly for calling Mr. Gabor, er, “Prince” Frederic von Anhalt, a “fraud” for claiming to have had a 10-year affair with Anna Nicole Smith and possibly being the father of her baby daughter.

From CNN:

“Look, this guy’s a fraud,” O’Reilly said, according to a transcript of the show posted on the network’s Web site. “We know he’s a fraud. But let’s — what I want to talk about is — he’s done. His credibility is — is finished.”

O’Reilly says the guy is “done?” Who was Frederic other than Gabor’s husband anyway?

His credibility is finished? Listen, O’Reilly, just because you may not have slept with Anna Nicole Smith doesn’t mean the “prince” didn’t. I’m thinking it probably wasn’t a difficult thing to do. It can’t be any tougher than marrying a Gabor sister.

Since the show aired, von Anhalt said people give him dirty looks when he goes to the grocery store.

“They say, ‘Look, here comes the fraud,”‘ he said. “I get lots of e-mails from people bad-mouthing me. It’s very embarrassing.”

What self-respecting prince and Gabor spouse does his own grocery shopping? I saw Zsa Zsa in an the Atlanta airport 25 years ago and had a hard time believing she had to walk the ramps like us commoners. I can’t imagine her squeezing melons in the produce aisle. Slapping a cop? Sure. Comparing prices on Hamburger Helper? No way.

I believe the “Here comes the fraud” part. O’Reilly is that powerful. After an hour of watching Billo I’m ready to label someone a “secular progressive” for ordering French fries.

How did so many skeptics find the prince’s e-mail address?

And finally, Zsa Zsa is still alive? I was always partial to Eva, who lives in Hooterville.