About those damned lies…

A brief, intelligent and dead-on essay by Mark Evanier on the lies of the Far Right. This is how it starts:

I used to have a friend who would jokingly quote the maxim, “A lie is as good as the truth if you can get anyone to believe it.” Funny how I keep thinking of that as I read about this whole “Death Panels” nonsense.

End-of-life Counselling is a very good idea, not only for the government but for the person whose life may be ending soon. If someone wants to make the case against things like Living Wills and Advanced Directives, I wish they’d speak up and make it honestly…but I don’t think anyone does.

Uncommon Sense about the Health Care Plan

Mark Evanier, a writer and a gentleman in L.A., has a wonderful blog which he updates a few times every day. And that’s how often I go there, because he is both fun and insightful. Today he blogs about Obama’s health care plan and links to an analysis by L.A. Times writer Michael Hiltzik. I quote Mark’s blog verbatim here because I not only agree with his sentiments — and have experienced my own insurance problems first-hand — but I won’t even try to improve on perfection.

In addition, go to his blog. Have fun. Watch some videos of the amazing George Carl.


Michael Hiltzik discusses efforts to kill the “public option” proposals for health care…and he asks the musical question why some folks are so desperate to protect the mega-profits of the insurance companies. Here’s one paragraph of many worth quoting…

The firms take billions of dollars out of the U.S. healthcare wallet as profits, while imposing enormous administrative costs on doctors, hospitals, employers and patients. They’ve introduced complexity into the system at every level. Your doctor has to fight them to get approval for the treatment he or she thinks is best for you. Your hospital has to fight them for approval for every day you’re laid up. Then they have to fight them to get their bills paid, and you do too.

That has all been my experience, the experience of most friends, and a constant gripe of darn near every doctor I’ve had in the last decade. When someone asks me, “Do you really want the government coming between you and your physician?,” I have to remind them that right now, that’s the position of insurance company employees whose job description is to pounce on every possible loophole to deny coverage and payment.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the mounting public debate about Health Care Reform is going to be about things like that. Looks like it’s going to be about arguing if the bills really contain provisions for killing Grandma when her nitroglycerine tablets get too expensive.


Thanks, Mark.

Newspapers: Learn from Vegas

Here’s a post by L.A. writer Mark Evanier. He talks specifically about what Disney needs to learn from Las Vegas.

Whistle While You Don’t Work

Disney is laying off people left and right at its theme parks. Several Dwarfs have been let go and believe me, they’re not Happy.

I know the economic news is not all bad but the part that is bad is bad enough to drown out the good. Still, I would like to suggest that today’s dire Disney news may not be wholly the fault of the usual villains — the deregulation nuts who let Wall Street go Ponzi. Yeah, they crashed the Dow but one reason Disney revenues are down is because in times like these, people can’t afford to pay Disney prices. Las Vegas is dropping its prices sharply since they figured out how tight recreational moola was becoming. Disneyland is just Vegas with mouse ears and bad food. They need to learn the same thing.

Needless to say, newspapers are laying people off left and right, but they’re not learning the lesson. They’re not doing what needs to be done.

Las Vegas and Disney provide products that people desire. Las Vegas has learned that their product has to be affordable for Las Vegas to be successful. Disney needs to follow suit.

Newspapers need to make their product affordable to both the readers and the advertisers. Even more importantly, they have to offer a product that people want. This means the current print newspaper has to change into something exciting. Vibrant. Colorful. Fresh. Innovative.

As much as I want newspapers to evolve, I’m not so naive as to believe they really can.

I don’t think the bow ties really want to.

Network Memories

Guess what Peter Finch is saying . . .

The ’70s was for me the finest era of movie making. It was as though the half century of films that had come before somehow collectively inspired a generation to work their best at their craft. M*A*S*H, the first two Godfathers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, Star Wars, Jaws and Close Encounters, Taxi Driver, Carrie, All That Jazz — I could go on and on, and you’d recognize every single title.

One of my favorites was 1976’s Network. It had a huge impact at the box office and on the audience. Even today, people still scream, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!”

It wasn’t the catch phrase alone — it was Network‘s sheer power up on the screen. It was satirizing the worst of 1970s television in a way that we laughed at — it was unreal, shows like that could never happen — yet the machinations that went on behind the scenes and in the characters lives were all too real. That’s why “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!” became so popular — it resonated through the American audience because we could all relate.

And all the shows that could never happen . . . have all happened.

Mark Evanier blogs out of Los Angeles, and in a recent post, To the Victors Go the Spoilers, he writes about how he thinks we should see new movies without listening to critics, without spoilers and comments on the Internet: “. . . the relentless promotion of some movies these days has damaged the whole film-watching experience for me.”

I can’t disagree with him, especially when all the funniest parts of a new comedy are given away in the trailer.

He mentions an advance screening of Network which he attended in 1976, and I think this quote from his blog shows just how much power and impact Network had. We need more writers like Paddy Chayefsky, and we need more courageous executives and studios to make movies like this again.

I saw Network at the Writers Guild Theater a good six weeks before it hit regular cinemas. The place was packed and no one knew one thing about it other than it was Paddy Chayefsky taking a shot at television. By the day it opened, half of America was screaming “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore,” having seen it in the promos and clips. It was a lot more effective to not know what was coming. (I was sitting next to Ray Bradbury when I saw it. When the film ended, he looked around the hall and said, “There isn’t a person in this theater who isn’t wishing he’d written that.”)

I haven’t seen Network on cable in years. But it’s available on DVD, and I urge you to run out and get one of the most intelligent and insightful films ever made.

UPDATED: How Washington Really Works

I’m not a politician, so when an essay or a blog like this comes along, my eyes open up a little bit wider, and I can finally see how the games are played deep in the recesses of our Government’s sanctum sanctorum.

Mark Evanier is an incredible writer in Hollywood, and his blog is one I read every day. (He’s also very smart, and a very nice guy: he feeds the possums and the cats who drop by his back door on a regular basis.) Here’s a link to his latest post, about backstage politics in Washington. Because it’s short enough, I’ll also reprint it here, along with some important links he provided:

Years ago, I saw this wonderful interview with Tip O’Neill, who was then the Speaker of the House. The following is a paraphrase from memory.

O’Neill said that in Congress, the job of each party’s leader was to be able to count; that if you were ever surprised by any vote by more than a margin of more than one in the Senate or three in the House, you were utterly incompetent and should resign. And the importance of being able to count was that there are often (quite often) bills that you want to vote against and still see pass or vice-versa…so you have to make sure you don’t accidentally pass or defeat a bill just because you’re voting in opposition to the way you want to see it go.

He told a story about a Congressman from one state. There was a bill pending that would have been very good for this guy’s state and he thought it should pass…but the hardcore part of his base back home was opposed to it. They were a small minority but he couldn’t afford politically to tick them off. So he kept coming to O’Neill and asking, “Have you got the votes, Tip?” Meaning, “Will it be safe for me to vote against it so I can please the nut jobs?” And he was a happy man when O’Neill informed him there were enough votes to pass the bill even without his.

You get the feeling that’s what we just went through with the Stimulus Bill? Arlen Specter made a statement the other day that an unnamed Republican senator who’d voted against it told him how pleased he was that it had passed. This article says a lot of G.O.P. legislators are delighted with portions of the bill they voted against.

Obviously, it’s possible to be happy about one piece and unhappy with the whole. But it’s also possible that the Republicans didn’t dare obstruct this bill and that they were always going to deliver enough moderate votes to pass the thing. You think maybe?

• Posted Saturday, February 14, 2009 at 11:48 AM
Mark’s latest book, on the life and art of comics legend Jack Kirby, is available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

UPDATE: Given what Mark’s blog reveals about how the Republitards are hiding behind numbers — their vote of zero — while secretly happy that their portions of the Stimulus Bill went through, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Drudge slants their headline to do damage to the democrats:

Magazines are Dying, Too?

Mark Evanier, a comedy writer in LA, has a blog which I go to every day. I’ve never met him, but he seems a gentle soul, and extremely smart, and highly knowledgeable in ways I cannot explain. Go to his website and see for yourself.

In a post about MAD Magazine and its near future, Mark references “a general and growing disinterest in this country in the basic concept of buying magazines of any kind.”

Sadly, I believe this to be true; and even more importantly, I believe it to be true about ANY kind of concept of pay-per-hit Internet magazines . . . which includes newspapers.

But Mark’s post is about MAD . . . which of course is much more important than a newspaper.

Seriously: there are a thousand or more newspapers.

Name more than four existing humor magazines.

Seriously, besides MAD, can you name another?

I’m mad about MAD.