Bilgewater

May 7, 2014

1.   Colbert

                Johnny Carson, the Babe Ruth of the Talk Show World, would have on guests from a very wide spectrum of interests.    The leading popular writers of his day were regulars on his show, Capote and Irving Stone and James Michener, but it was not just writers.   Carl Sagan, astrophysicist, was welcome any time, and he had on economists, diplomats, psychologists, politicians, ministers, lawyers.  There was the lady from the San Diego zoo who was a regular, and in each field he tried to find someone who was entertaining, lively and watchable, but who was also a legitimate expert in the field.    Beyond that, Carson had on  just almost regular people two or three times a week—a guy who had taught himself to do shadow puppets at a remarkable level, and a guy who would set up 10,000 dominoes and make them all fall down, and an 85-year-old woman who had just gotten her Black Belt in karate, and a 4-year-old kid who was fantastic at dribbling a basketball, and the spelling bee champion, and a school teacher who had gotten her kids to do something kind of amazing.    It is just a guess, but probably 30% of his guests were from the entertainment business, in his best years, and most of those had something to do, a song to sing or a few jokes to tell.    People came on his show to promote their movies, yes, but only the biggest stars were allowed to just come on and BE there, monopolizing the stage with the aura of their eminence.

                I rarely watch a late-night talk show anymore, not that I was ever a devoted follower, but we all used to watch them.  But the shows—and really, I blame Leno for this more than anyone else—have become unwatchable, because fewer and fewer guests have anything to say.  It must be 80% of the guests anymore are from the entertainment world, and even within the entertainment world the selection is limited.   Every night, some starlet is giggling about doing a nude scene.   From outside the entertainment world the guests are quasi-entertainers, the Super Bowl hero or the Olympic athlete or the Presidential candidate.  As their ratings have fallen, the network talk shows have entirely abandoned the concept of having anyone on their show who is deeper than a wash basin.

                And, as Letterman and Leno have focused on interviewing the least interesting people in America, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have gotten impressive ratings and built impressive careers around interviewing the people who used to be on the network talk shows, but no longer are—the writers and economists and inventors and astrophysicists and lawyers and businessmen.   Colbert is moving into Letterman’s chair now, and people are talking a lot about Colbert abandoning his faux Conservative persona to be the man he really is.   Who cares?    The real question is whether he is going to have on people who are interesting, or whether he is going to try, as Leno and Letterman did, to keep the show light by interviewing dimwits.

                When Steve Allen had the Tonight Show, a long, long time ago, the guest list was very heavy and very serious, a smattering of entertainers mixed in with what was basically the Face the Nation/Meet the Press guest list.   Carson (and Jack Paar, before him, but briefly) drew in more entertainers, but that was all to the good because he was opening his show up, expanding the breadth of it.  Carson moved the show from New York to LA, which was a continuation of the trend toward the shows becoming an entertainment industry platform.    I liked Jay Leno’s persona; I liked Leno’s persona more than Carson’s or Letterman’s, more than Jimmy Fallon or Joan Rivers or Arsenio, although less than Jimmy Kimmel.   I liked some of the bits Leno did, the Jaywalking and the Headlines, but he continued to move the show more and more into the rectum of Hollywood, gradually closing it down by excluding everybody except entertainers.

                The problem of the networks, and CNN, is that they have put themselves on the wrong side of the mass market/target audience curve.   Perhaps it is unfair to say that they have put themselves there; perhaps it is simply that that is where they are, and there is nothing they can do about it.   In the 1960s, essentially, all television was targeted at everybody—as all radio had been until the early 1950s.   Since 1975 television has exploded into a plethora of targeted audiences, but the networks cannot quite take that step; they target one audience at 8:00 and another one at 8:30, trying to stitch together a mass market appeal out of the pieces left over.    The intelligence of the audience becomes a targeting razor.  About 30% of people have an IQ of 110 or higher, they figure, so if you appeal to the intelligent viewer, you’re excluding 70% of the market.     If you keep the discussion to the level of the lowest common denominator, then everyone is potentially included.

                Potentially included, but intelligent people are not going to watch mindless blather in a world where there are 200 other media options.   They have, in effect, excluded intelligent people to pursue the lowest common denominator audience; Leno did, Letterman has.    This left Colbert free to target the more intelligent viewers, and he did—and he succeeded.   He succeeded because the world is much smarter than it appears to be when you target the lowest common denominator.  The real question now is, is he going to continue to target the more intelligent viewers, or is he going to be trapped in the network’s futile effort to appeal to everybody?

 

2.  Three D pictures

                I was in elementary school—what we called Grade School—the first time there was a 3-D movie craze.   My first and immediate reaction was, "Oh, I see; this isn’t an actual 3-D image; it is just a 3-D illusion—a very transient and unconvincing one at that."    I remember trying to explain this to my brother, four years older than I was, that this was not really a 3-D image, but merely a bad 3-D illusion.   He didn’t get what I was talking about, and ridiculed the notion of having a photograph that looked different if seen from one side than seen from another, a photograph that you could walk behind and see a different side of.

                The 3-D movie business appears to failing once again, for the third time in my lifetime; fewer movies are being made with this ridiculous 3-D headache-inducing illusion, and I would guess that by 2018 no movies at all will be made with that.    But I continue to be amazed at how many people simply don’t understand that what they claim is "3-D" is not a 3-D picture at all, that if it was an actual 3-D picture it would represent not merely the actor’s face, but also the back of his head, not merely his left profile but also his right.

                At the same time, 3-D printers are beginning to catch hold.   3-D printers, we are told (and I believe it) will revolutionize our lives, because doctors will be able to use 3-D printers to create body parts that will slip seamlessly into our innards, and your auto body shop will be able to take a 3-D image of your dent and in 20 minutes stamp out a part that will slim seamlessly into the crevice so you would never know it was there.   Of course, what will actually be done with 3-D printers will be vastly and completely different than what the experts anticipate will be done with them; the pornographers will soon be creating 3-D pornography and the criminals will very soon invent some way to use 3-D printers to steal your money.

                But I am not surprised by the advent of 3-D printers, because I always understood, conceptually, how this could be done, just as I have always understood, conceptually, how you could create an actual 3-D photograph, rather than a 3-D illusion, although I don’t begin to have the technical skills to make it work.   You could create an actual 3-D photograph by having some sort of solid-state cube, in which the crystals and the projector interacted so that each microcrystal turned a certain color at a certain time.

                I am told that 3-D printers have been around in a cruder form for generations, and I am sure that somebody has a sort-of working prototype of a 3-D camera, but that’s not really the point.   My point is, I predict that this 3-D craze will fail once again, and I predict that 3-D motion pictures will not truly establish themselves until we are talking about actual 3-D pictures, rather than a 3-D illusion.   I hope they’re working on it; I’d sure like to live to see it.

 

3.   How Kansas Became a Conservative State

                In the late 19th century Kansas was the most liberal, most progressive state in the nation, and famous for being so.    In the years leading up the Civil War, the Kansas territory was the battleground on which the future of slavery was fought out.   Basically, the Civil War started in Kansas before it spread to the rest of the nation.   Although my house was not here then, dozens of people were murdered in Civil War-era violence within 500 feet of where I now sit.    Pro-slavery advocates filtered into Kansas before Kansas was a state, pursuing their own interests, and were met by tens of thousands of determined abolitionists, who left their old lives behind to come to Kansas so that Kansas would not become a slave state.

                The political institutions of Kansas were established not only by progressives, but by the most radical people from New England, from Michigan, from Indiana and from Wisconsin, the people who were ready to really lay it on the line for what they believed.   After the war, these people dominated the first generation of Kansas political leaders.   The political issues of the day were reform of the institutions for the insane, women’s rights, clean water laws, labor laws, child welfare systems, alcohol prohibition, and early consumer protections, which meant prohibiting the sales of rotten meat, for example, and licensing of professionals. 

                In all of these areas, Kansas was far ahead of the nation, so much so that people ridiculed us for it.   By the time I became politically aware Kansas had become a conservative state, but the state remained in some way oddly proud of its progressive history.   I never understood this and still don’t, but all the state’s self-promotional machinery would brag about its progressive heritage, even though the state was, by the 1950s, solidly conservative.  How, then, did Kansas flip from being a progressive state to being. ..well, not a progressive state?

                There were four things that happened.   First, there was the Populist Party movement, a left-wing political party which was centered in Kansas and Nebraska.   Kansas voted for the Populist candidate for President in 1892, and elected Populist governors in 1892 and 1896.    We also elected two Populists to the United States Senate, the second of whom (William Harris) lived at the end of his life in the house where I now live, the house we have owned since 1991.

                But the two Populists governors of Kansas, unfortunately, both turned out to be incompetent—not ordinarily incompetent, but rather un-ordinarily incompetent.   They couldn’t get anything done, and they couldn’t get along with people, and they couldn’t manage the affairs of their office.   People turned their back on the Populist Party, because the leaders of the party failed them, and this un-hitched Kansas from the Progressive machinery.

                The second thing was that the national Republican Party lurched to the right.   Those of you who are politically savvy will know this story already, in some cases better than I do, but the Republican party was formed by abolitionists, who were progressives—what we would now call liberals—and who were progressive on all of the issues of the day.   In the 19th century political parties were defined more by regional and personal alliances than by political philosophy, but to the extent that political philosophy was a part of it, the Republican party was the progressive party up through the administration of Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909).    Roosevelt handed the Republican Party baton over to William Howard Taft, but Roosevelt became alarmed and then distressed as Taft led the Republican Party into an alliance with big business.  Roosevelt then founded the Progressive Party (the Bull Moose Party), which drew the progressives out of the Republican Party, leaving it in the hands of the conservatives.  Basically, the parties flipped; the Republicans did an end around and re-defined themselves as the conservative party.

                By this time the radical founders of the state of Kansas were gone, and even the first generation of their children was passing away.   Kansas followed the Republican Party into the conservative camp.

                The third thing that happened was Arthur Capper.   To explain Arthur Capper in the broadest terms, he was a Midwestern, conservative William Randolph Hearst.   Hearst lived from 1863 to 1951; Capper from 1865 to 1951.    Both men made vast fortunes in the newspaper business, and both built huge, ornate houses.

                But you are probably thinking now that Capper was a poor man’s William Randolph Hearst, whereas the truth was more the opposite:  that Hearst was, in fact, a pale and struggling imitation of Arthur Capper.   Although Hearst’ father was wealthy and Capper’s was not, and Hearst was certainly much wealthier than Capper as a young man, Capper was probably wealthier than Hearst by 1920, and was certainly much wealthier than Hearst by the time they both died in 1951.   Both Capper and Hearst tried to enter politics, but whereas Hearst failed in politics, Capper was extremely successful, and was among the most powerful politicians in America for 30 years.  Hearst and Capper both made the cover of Time magazine, but Capper got there years before Hearst did, and was treated much more deferentially.   At the end of the article I’ll return to the Hearst/Capper parallel, and explain why Hearst is famous today, whereas most of you have never heard of Arthur Capper.

The third governor of the state of Kansas, Samuel Crawford, was a Civil War general and a businessman.   Crawford headed the company that founded Florence, Kansas, and named it Florence after his baby daughter.   Arthur Capper grew up near the Crawford family, and married Florence Crawford.    He worked at the local newspaper when he was in high school, learning to be a printer, then moved to Topeka in 1884 to take a job as a reporter for the Topeka Daily Capital.

                In 1893 Capper left the Capital and purchased a small weekly newspaper, called the Topeka Mail.  In 1895 he purchased another, called the Breeze; these he united into the Mail and Breeze, which eventually became Capper’s Mail and Breeze.  He purchased other farm journals as they were going out of business or as their publishers retired or got tired of running them, and consolidated these journals into his own, picking up their subscribers.   Within a few years he owned a string of newspapers and small magazines, most of them (not all of them) directed at farmers.    He owned the Missouri Valley Farmer, which became Capper’s Farmer.  By 1901 the Topeka Capital was failing.   Its owners sought out Capper, who purchased a controlling interest in the Capital, and returned to it as editor and publisher.  He also owned dozens of other newspapers called Kansas Farmer, Ohio Farmer, Michigan Farmer, Pennsylvania Farmer, etc.

                Capper made the Topeka Capital into one of the better small-city newspapers in the nation, which it was for fifty years.   One of Capper’s newspapers, Capper’s Weekly, had a huge Midwestern readership.   At its peak its circulation was around two million.  It was a focused on farm policy and traditional values.

                In 1914 Capper was elected Governor of Kansas, the first Governor of Kansas who was actually born in Kansas (either the state or the territory.)   In 1910 Capper and his wife had built a huge, ornate house in Topeka.   Among other features the house had numerous stained-glass windows depicting life in Kansas.  Like Hearst’ mansion, it was filled with art and artifacts hauled in from economically depressed Europe.   Elected governor in 1914, Capper chose to live in his own house, rather than the official Governor’s Mansion, because his own house was larger, grander, and also closer to the state Capitol building, just a couple of blocks away.  In the middle of his second term as Governor, Capper left the Governor’s office to move into the Senate; I believe he resigned as Governor and his successor appointed him to fill a vacant Senate seat, obviously a pre-arranged deal.   When Capper left for the Senate in 1919 he allowed his successor to live in his house in Topeka, which thus became the unofficial Governor’s Mansion.   He would spend 30 years in the United States Senate, a powerhouse in the Republican Party although the Republican Party was generally out of power most of his career.

                Like politicians of all stripes dating back to Julius Caesar and long before, like Bob Dole and Harry Reid, Capper was able to use his political power to (further) build his wealth, in ways that are difficult to see from the outside and difficult to document.   When the radio industry started Capper was able, surprise surprise, to get a license for a radio station, which became—and was for many years—a large, strong and powerful radio station.   When television came along he was still on the scene, and was able to repeat the trick in television.

Capper was not a reactionary; he was conservative, but not far-right.    His basic political philosophy can be summarized as "whatever is good for the farmers is good for the country."    His most famous legislative initiative in thirty years in the Senate was an ill-conceived, ill-fated effort to amend the constitution to ban miscegenation.   The effort had been driven by several women’s organizations and feminist organizations, including the National Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and the National League of Women Voters.   Capper probably got involved in the effort at the urging of Florence Capper.

                In spite of that unfortunate lapse, Capper, as I was saying, was not a reactionary.   He actively supported many of FDR’s programs throughout the 1930s, particularly such programs as the National Rural Electrification Agency, which brought the blessings of electricity to the nation’s farmers.   After Florence died in 1926, Capper lived mostly in Washington, DC, rarely returning to Kansas except occasionally to campaign.  He retired from politics in 1949, and passed away two years later.

                William Randolph Hearst nearly bankrupted the Hearst corporation with his flamboyant lifestyle, so much so that they were eventually forced to take control of the corporation away from Hearst and put him on a budget, because his spending habits were going to ruin the company.   Capper was more successful in life than Hearst, but Hearst has been more successful in death.  Hearst eventually became more famous than Capper, I would say, for four reasons.   First, Hearst’ colorful lifestyle made for good stories from rival newspapermen, while Capper’s conservative personal life left him with a lower profile.   Second, of course, Orson Wells’ 1941 classic movie, Citizen Kane, created an enduring image of Hearst.   Third, the Hearst "Castle", although it is not really a castle, became a popular tourist attraction, whereas Capper’s mansion—which was never the equal of Hearst’s mansion; Capper could never match Hearst in tasteless flamboyance—Capper’s mansion has been torn down.    (In the 1930s a rival publisher donated to the state of Kansas another house to be used as the Governor’s Mansion.   Capper, living in Washington, moved his radio station into his old house.   It gradually became an overcrowded industrial building, and was eventually destroyed.)   And fourth, as the nation changed from rural to urban, Hearst’ newspaper corporation has thrived, while the old, rural newspaper network established by Capper has struggled along.    Capper’s Weekly survives today in a limited form; it still has a circulation of about 100,000, and the company founded by Capper now owns Grit magazine, which in its day was even larger than Capper’s Weekly.

                I promised you four reasons, as well, why Kansas became a conservative state:  

                1.   The Populist Party failed because of bad leadership,

                2.   Kansas followed the Republican Party as the Republican Party became conservative,

                3.   Arthur Capper dominated both the Kansas Republican Party and the Kansas media for many years, infusing both with his traditional/big business world view, and

                4.  The passage of the 18th and 19th amendments took the steam out of what was left of the Kansas progressive movement. 

                The 18th amendment was Prohibition, passed by congress in 1917 and ratified by a sufficient number of states by 1919.    The 19th amendment was Women’s Suffrage, passed by congress in 1919 and ratified by 1920.  The Prohibition movement was led by the same people who led the abolitionist movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the movement to abolish the death penalty, the movement for better treatment of the insane, and other 19th century progressive movements.  Once these two amendments to the constitution took effect, the progressive movement re-focused and re-started, leaving Kansas in its rear view mirror.

 
 

COMMENTS (33 Comments, most recent shown first)

BillGray
This Carson clip sums it all up:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4Dk9ScGsLY
11:30 AM May 18th
 
PQuinn7047
Bill, great job explaining the late night talk show. I, too, watched from time to time, I just never put it all together the way you did. I agree 100%. You did not mention my favorite for bring on interesting and thinking people: Dick Cavett. During the daytime, Phil Donahue did that well.
7:22 PM May 17th
 
Fireball Wenz
Republicans carried Kansas in every presidential election from 1864 to the present with only a few exceptions: 1892, when it went to Weaver and 1896 when it went to Bryan because of the Free Silver issue; 1912, when Wilson took it due to the Roosevelt/Taft splitting of the traditional GOP vote; 1932 and 1936 and 1964, because everyone voted against the Depression in 1932 and 1936 and against nuclear war and segregation in 1964. Kansas has voted for every Republican who had a prayer of winning with the exception of the two Free Silver campaigns, when debtor farmers wanted inflation. Once Free Silver died as an issue, Kansas returned to the fold. Kansas is Republican because it favored, and favors, neither Rum nor Romanism (that is to say, it is a Northern Protestant state), and its rebelliousness ran its course during the monetary debate.
2:35 PM May 12th
 
belewfripp
Agree 100% on mainstream TV focusing its efforts on the lowest common denominator, and the way in which this alienates more discerning viewers. This isn't just a TV thing, either - I've felt this way about radio/big record companies, much of the movie industry, much of the major brands found in grocery stores, etc.

We live in a consumer culture - the more consumers you have, the better you're doing, period, is the mindset for many a company. While of course getting more buyers for whatever you're selling is good, the reality is that if you want to be a nation/globe-spanning giant, making money hand over fist, it's too expensive to use raw inputs that are of the highest quality, because you have to sell your products to people at a price that enormous quantities of people will be willing to pay, in order to justify the immense costs of production.

If you genuinely, truly only use the best, only recruit the best talent, etc, your good will be too expensive (assuming you would like to make a profit) for many people because you will be spending even more money than you are already, and will have to pass that along to the consumer.

And while it's true that Colbert is not exactly an underground figure, there's a big difference between a major network show and being on Comedy Central.

And of course there is another danger here, which is that human beings are good at adaptation. We form baselines based on our own experience. If the only thing anyone experiences on TV is drivel because that's what's most readily available, then we actively making the viewing public dumber and less capable of appreciating/discerning differences in quality. Part of the reason why Colbert may have to change when he takes over for Letterman is that some nominally-intelligent people have become "used to" the quality standard of mainstream, network television.

Also agree about 3-D. Occasionally they will do something that uses it well, but for the most part it is a fad, and one that will be dying soon, is already dying to a degree. When 3D TV sets came out I laughed. Of course I was a late adapter of HD, too, so maybe I'm just getting old and grumpy. But I don't think so.

If I understand you correctly, what you would call a true 3D movie would be more akin to a holographic projection - something that actually takes up "space". It makes me think of the use of 3D in video games, where it is an actual space that can be rotated, the backs/sides/fronts of things can be seen and viewed. But of course this is still an illusion, since the 3D modeling is taking place in a developer's computer and the feedback to me when I install and play the game is still on a flat computer monitor.

I don't know what you've read as far as science fiction goes, but Catherine Moore wrote an interesting story about a movie producer who finds a way to display movies/plays holographically. It was written in the 1940's or 1950's, can't remember.
4:19 PM May 10th
 
Blueron
hotstatrat-Can't let a "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" sighting go by-can't imagine many people know that show-you are sure right on about the odd rhythm-first time I ran across it I had no idea what I was watching. And then there was "Fernwood Tonight."
8:47 PM May 9th
 
DEK1966
Definitely agree that "Gravity" made the best use of 3-D, by far. Also thought it was fairly well-used in "Prometheus", though I may be one of the few people in America who liked that movie.
3:06 PM May 9th
 
hotstatrat
Blueron: Any body seen "Strangers With Candy"?

Yes, a captivatingly odd show I caught during a couple late nights of channel flipping. It's off rhythm reminded me in that way of "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman".
10:36 PM May 8th
 
Blueron
Any body seen "Strangers With Candy"? Maybe that is the real Colbert.
9:41 PM May 8th
 
OldBackstop
See...Carson was awesome, because he listened, he didn't just wait to talk. He asked intelligent questions based on what the guy just said. Not the next question off a list. Everybody since pretty much is just hovering waiting for an ad lib quip. It's insecurity, because they grew up with "Best of Carson" but didn't watch the actual show, which was not a bunch of interrupting with juvenile quips.

Colbert is the worst at this, but I hope that is this character and not his persona. It clearly IS this character, which is very entertaining. But we will find out if it is NOT Colbert. He clearly comes into every conversation thinking he is the smarter guy and eager to prove it, which will be obnoxious when it isn't a character.
9:17 PM May 8th
 
julesig
The closest thing we have to actual 3-D movies are videogames like Halo and Grand Theft Auto, where you participate in the story line and view the "scene" from any perspective your character chooses to view the world from.
8:35 PM May 8th
 
hotstatrat
I grew tired of Letterman a long time ago - especially when his making fun of George W Bush was extremely drawn out, repetitive, and not even done smartly. And, I think W. was the most damaging president in my lifetime.

Letterman never was a particularly skilled interviewer, I agree he was annoyingly superficial. However, his persona used to be entertaining - not as completely ironic as Colbert, but in a milder way. He always had a sort of put-on Mr. Clean Cut serious game show host thing. His show's bits were often hilarious - and no matter how many top 10s I heard, there was usually a couple of laughs in them. By comparison, Leno at his funniest I would describe as mildly amusing - at least at the times I caught him - and acknowledging humour is subjective.


4:41 PM May 8th
 
Blueron
When Letterman had people like Brother Theodore and Harvey Pekar on it was so he could mock them and use them for the butt of his jokes. Not his greatest moments. The third time or so he was on Pekar called him on it, and made a comment along the lines of "I won't be your monkey boy." Last time he was on the show.
3:43 PM May 8th
 
Blueron
If Carson was Babe Ruth does that make Letterman Ted Williams? For sure Conan is Wally Pip.
3:26 PM May 8th
 
hotstatrat
As a fan of many Ang Lee movies, I was hugely disappointed with his foray into 3-D that was Life of Pi. Except for the jellyfish scene, the 3-D was just a distraction.

James Cameron's Avatar was simply an awful movie to my experiences. I don't think the 3-D helped or hurt it.

Where 3-D was finally put to good use was in Gravity. That space junk shrapnel coming at us was thrilling. The floating tear was very cool. I wasn't distracted by it in the rest of the movie, perhaps, because outer space is so strange, it felt right.

3:02 PM May 8th
 
smbakeresq
"But when did Kansas become hateful, small-minded and bigoted? "

I am not sure this is true. I myself am a Democrat, but what find in general is that conservatives are not those things but their leaders and mouthpieces are. Right now I feel that conservatives will vote Republican regardless of how far right a Republican is because of loyalty;, you can be too liberal to be a Republican but you cant be too conservative. Conversely the Democrats will not vote for someone who is too liberal.

This is of course a generality.

2:23 PM May 8th
 
Arrojo
Interesting article, thank you. But all the states in the midwest near Kansas - Nebraska, the Dakotas, Oklahoma, etc - are conseravative. Bible Belt and farming seem to be two things all these states have in common, which lend themselves to conservatism. Did they all have their Cappers?
12:51 PM May 8th
 
mskarpelos
Did you ever read _What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America_ by Thomas Frank? His take is slightly different although complimentary with yours stressing how social conservationism resonates in Kansas to such an extent that it overcomes a more liberal economic bent.
12:19 PM May 8th
 
bobfiore
At least early in his run, when he was on at 1:30, Letterman used to book genuine weirdos: Harvey Pekar, Brother Theodore, people like that.

It should be noted that the Jaywalking bit was a cold swipe from Howard Stern. He started out asking models and porn stars simple general knowledge questions -- How many states are there, that kind of thing -- which they would be predictably unable to answer. The assumption was that pretty girls were dumb, but at some point he tried it with just regular people off the streets, of all ages and sexes, including college graduates, and found that their answers would be equally idiotic. Once he swiped the bit and put his name on it I don't think Leno had any trouble at all finding stupid answers to simple questions; the hard part is finding people who can answer questions.

I'm actually a bit of a fan of the 3D effect, and never have any trouble with headaches or anything else people complain about, but what I've discovered is that after a while you stop noticing the effect. Perhaps it's the brain filtering it out. The theater owners were fools if they thought that people would pay premium prices for it forever. If the format endures it will be as an extra inducement to see a movie, and not something that justifies a higher ticket price.
10:37 PM May 7th
 
MWeddell
I have no idea what's bugging Rcrout.

Take a deep breath, relax and then smile. Remember to think twice before insulting 2.9 million people without any explanation.
8:33 PM May 7th
 
flyingfish
Johnny Carson was VERY funny....
8:10 PM May 7th
 
ajmilner
As for Colbert losing popularity once he drops the rightwing pundit persona... One of Johnny Carson's caricatures besides Carnac and Art Fern was Floyd Turbo, the inarticulate citizen doing a local TV editorial reply. Johnny did that, went back to his "normal" persona at the desk doing interviews, everybody accepted it. I suspect a "regular" Colbert will draw fans on CBS.
7:18 PM May 7th
 
hankgillette
The original Carson Tonight Show was 1 hour 45 minutes, then 1 1/2 hour. Including people other than entertainers was as much a necessity as a choice, I think.

When Carson negotiated his show down to an hour, the authors pretty much disappeared. Carson was a big astronomy and magic buff, so Sagan and magicians were still on occasionally.
4:53 PM May 7th
 
steve161
I occasionally wondered how many people had to be interviewed for a Jaywalking segment, in order to find the half dozen ignoramuses who made it to the air.

Just as I wondered how many Yankee fans had to be invited to boo an image of Robinson Cano--probably not as many as required to put together a Jaywalking segment.

The difference between Carson and Leno is that the former actually had interests in life beyond doing a stand-up act. I recommend Bill Carter's two books: The Late Shift (about the Carson succession) and The Battle For Late Night (Leno/O'Brien). Both confirm my impression that Leno isn't smart enough to have performed on his own all the machinations involved. Damn good monologist, though.
4:52 PM May 7th
 
llozada
Some people also blame on Leno (whom I like better than Letterman) the disappearance of the stand-up comedian from the late night shows, Carson would famously invite the good ones to the couch.

Rumor has it Leno didn't want anybody funnier than him on the show, which may or may not be true; but the fact remains that stand-ups do not appear on Leno or Letterman and it's a shame, a shame for late night TV because the viewers have followed the comedians to cable TV.
4:13 PM May 7th
 
Steven Goldleaf
But seriously, I think I wrote you a Hey Bill a few years back about the reasons I don't watch certain types of interviews anymore: pols (the whole political spectrum--lying, self-serving, wall-to-wall BS, every one of 'em), athletes (same, but less skillful, clichefest), actors (dumber than a box o' rox, almost without exception)--what you reminded me of was all the regular folks JC would invite on the Tonight Show in the day. Leno dumbed this category down by instituting "Jaywalking," illustrating how colossally uniformed most people are, instead of showing how spectacularly talented some rare people are.
4:06 PM May 7th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Thought this was gonna be about Nate Colbert.
4:01 PM May 7th
 
jimmybart
Bill, I agree with everything you said re: Colbert and his guests, but would just add that another reason for his success has been his inventive humor, the likes of which I haven't seen in late night since Letterman in the 80s. I know Colbert may have to lose his conservative boob persona, but to your point I hope he doesn't lose his comedic edge just to appeal to the masses.
3:59 PM May 7th
 
hankgillette
The story of Prohibition is a complex one. While progressives were one faction that supported it, there were many others various groups that also supported it, making for some very strange bedfellows.

The women’s suffrage groups supported it, at least partially as a quid pro quo. The Ku Klux Klan supported it, because they wanted to keep liquor out of the hands of black people. Nativists supported it, because they didn’t like immigrants and immigrants drank. Big business supported it because they didn’t like their laborers drinking on the job (which was quite common pre-Prohibition). Conservative religious churches supported it because sin. The Coca-Cola Company supported it because well, that one is pretty obvious.

When Herbert Hoover was Secretary of Commerce, he would make a stop on the way home at the Belgian Embassy, so that he could have a legal cocktail.​
3:35 PM May 7th
 
niigii
Hey Bill - "...shallower/deeper than a dishpan" is a classic, even for you. Thanks.

Pursuing improvement of baseball (focused in part on current replay debacle), here is serious input on 3D imaging, as contrasted with 3D Movies. Computer visualization systems exist that enable extremely accurate simulation of super photo-realistic objects, and actions can then be viewed from any angle plus freeze frame, etc. (I was an early Silicon Valley expert deploying systems for Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic and others). Wire frame outlines of actual player skeletons are placed in a library, of course pre-built as in creation of interactive video games. In addition, the 'scene' is pre-built, like a play at Home for example. Just like with PitchTrak, sensors capture action in real time. Once position and motion points are in computer and mapped on players' skeletons, the action can be VISUALIZED AND VIEWED FROM SIX DEGREES. TOP, SIDES, ZOOMED ON. REVERSED. Just move the mouse and look at the screen. In the Replay Travesty, this frees us from the severe limitations of where fixed cameras are in each stadium, distortion from long lens, the shot composition, etc. This invokes your 3D Movies theme: one is not within a 3D scene as you visualize, rather in a hybrid 2D realm. Think '6D' viewing using the method sketched above. Also remember the players' and umps are true 3D objects. The video images being used in Replay are two-dimensional and technically poor compared to computer imaging resolution and capabilities.
12:21 PM May 7th
 
78sman
Bill, thanks for the information on Kansas political history. It really seems, however, that Kansas has shifted much further to the right in the last 10 - 20 years. When Alf Landon ran for President in 1936, he made the statement that he wanted to show that someone could be liberal without being a spendthrift. More recently, Bob Dole was a mainstream conservative in his time, and Nancy Landon Kassenbaum was a moderate conservative, but they are not nearly as conservative as the current group of Kansas politicians. To some degree, this reflects the rightward movement of American politics in the last 40 years, but Kansas seems to have made a bigger shift than most states. I would be curious to hear more of your thoughts on this.
11:49 AM May 7th
 
Rcrout
But when did Kansas become hateful, small-minded and bigoted?
11:38 AM May 7th
 
rickgodby
Thanks for the history lesson on Kansas. I have always wondered how the home of the Populist movement became a conservative stronghold.
10:51 AM May 7th
 
sansho1
My father toured San Simeon recently, and showed me pictures of the amassed European religious art that packs the place. He wondered why Hearst, not a religious man, would have all that stuff. As prosaic and unsatisfying an explanation as it might be, your mention of Capper's art from "economically depressed Europe" probably contains much of the answer -- he got a deal.
10:09 AM May 7th
 
 
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