Archive for March, 2013

Fear of heights

March 27, 2013 2 comments

greatdictatorRemember the classic scene in Charlie Chaplin’s “Great Dictator” when Mussolini pays a visit to Hitler? Both men, seated in barber’s chairs, keep cranking up their chair so as to sit higher. Hitler goes one up and looks down on Mussolini, then it’s the Duce’s turn and he goes up and looks down on the Führer, and then the Führer goes higher and so it goes until they’re almost hitting the ceiling. A similar insidious game is now playing out in television studios as any show worth its star has a high desk with the host sitting behind it on an equally high chair and looking down at the interviewee who sits on a sofa or armchair of regular height. Said interviewee is at an awkward angle, having to look left– risking a neck sprain–and up at the host. Check out comedian Aziz Ansari on Conan O’Brien, looking left and up or Joaquin Phoenix’s unforgettable bearded appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman looking down on him. Watch Jay Leno on his Tonight Show with guest Barack Obama looking at him, yep, left and up. The question is, are set designers responsible for the unfortunate decision or is it the host’s wish to establish dominance on guests from the get-go? Of course, not all television hosts subject their guests to the uncomfortable ordeal. Jon Stewart, Ellen de Generes and a few others are courteous enough to sit across from the people they interview. Read more…


A break from the tumult

What should the new post be about? Chavez? Nah…I don’t know anything about the man or about Venezuela orZed dans train 090912 even about Latin America. To paraphrase famously brainy Dan Quayle—remember him?–I don’t even speak Latin. After two days of enduring the torrents of words and images hurtling through the ether about el comandante, assessments from both grieving followers and ecstatic foes and op-eds from experts and analysts and mixed reactions from world leaders, boredom is setting in and I no longer feel like weighing the “yes, buts” and the “on the other hands.” As in, Chavez was a populist and a socialist but his rogue buddies—Assad of Syria, Ahmadinejad of Iran, the late-and-little-lamented Qaddafi of Libya—spoil the picture. As in, he was brought to power by popular vote, including in the recent elections, but despite enormous oil resources, the economy is not good and his fourteen years at the head of the country include some unsavory violations, great corruption, and unchecked crime. Bottom line, he was no Che Guevara and certainly no Salvador Allende. Also, as a matter of personal taste, I dislike posturing strongmen whose main platform is to thumb their nose at the culture of the great white oppressor. Read more…

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