Excellent, Dude

Figure Skating - Winter Olympics Day 2

How do you achieve excellence?  There are certain markers like this week’s Olympics and the Oscars two weeks from now.  Within them are societal and cultural markers like medals, trophies, fame and money.  But without any one of these, does it mean that you are not excellent at the things you do?  Hmm, perhaps we should consult our trusty dictionary.


The quality of being outstanding or extremely good;
an outstanding feature or quality.

Notice that nowhere in this definition does it state THE best.  This is because the dictionary knows better than we that no one and nothing in the world can be judged THE best due to the fact that THE best changes on any given day.  The most you can hope for is excellence.  And that comes with its own set of rewards.

... or maybe you do think you are the best.

… or maybe you do think you are the best.

You can beat yourself up, tell yourself you have to get better and concoct an intricate system of deprivations for yourself when you don’t reach your perception of excellence.  I used to do this with my writing and it seemed to help for a while in allowing me to achieve more.  But it also took a heavy psychological toll that at some point began to cost me my excellence.  Kicking and screaming I backed off and realized – after any number of years of psychotherapy and crippling exhaustion from whipping myself into submission – that I had to accept I was no longer doing my best, or more importantly at my best, when using this particular strategy.  So after much practice at actually getting myself to believe that a new way was possible I got myself back on the excellent track by simply working hard and – odd concept though it may seem –once again ENJOYING the work at hand that I have chosen.

Marriage seems to me another sort of cultural benchmark these days –- one of love — especially for gays and lesbians.  Yet for some of us it can also be seen as more of a necessary legal arrangement rather than an arrangement to aspire to in the sweepstakes of the heart.  In either case, the institution itself has little to do with the excellence of a relationship and more to do with mainstreaming yourself into the world so as to be treated like everyone else who wants to publicly declare and legalize their love relationship. But what if you don’t want to be like everyone else?  What if you do not want to conform?  Does that mean you are any less excellent at love, or even relationships?  All societal markers to the contrary, the answer is: certainly not. (Note:  I confess to having spent more than my fair share of time battling this one and have decided that love is always excellent, no matter how simple or complicated we make it).

The bottom line is — you don’t have to be part of a race you don’t want to win.  Does that make you any less excellent in your chosen category of endeavor?  Certainly not, again.  There are lots of people who choose not to compete in many areas of life and are not interested in competition in general.  Some of this thinking harkens back to the old Eastern spiritual philosophy to not shine the light on yourself but on others.  But this does not mean these people are any less excellent at what they do.   It only means that you simply may not know about them because they are not in the commercial or competitive rings.

You go and get your award, Malibu!

You go and get your award, Malibu!

The broader question – and perhaps the only one to ask is:  how much do you want to push yourself to achieve personal excellence?  Do you aspire to be extremely good at what you do? (e.g. do you have to be THE best snowboarder in the world?) Or Is simply doing your thing your most excellent way to live and what excelling means to you?  Or – and here’s a thought – can’t you be and do both????

Watching the winning trifecta of young male U.S.  Olympic slope style skiers pose in what will surely become their iconic silvery polar jackets from Nike (Note: Printed on the jacket’s inside linings are the words: This is your moment) – their gold, silver and bronze medals around their necks fresh from the winners podium – one couldn’t help but smile.  C’mon, these guys are DUDES– it’s all good rad crispy that they won.  But what made it better was that if you met them on the street and knew nothing of their backgrounds you’d be hard pressed to know that they were anything but happy-go-lucky bros who were only special because of how good a mood they seemed to be in in contrast to everyone else.  Oh, with the exception of silver medalist Gus Kenworthy – a lifelong dog lover who made it his mission in Sochi to save a wandering brood of pups he saw on the street and either take them home to the US or find them proper homes in Russia.  In either case, that makes him exceptionally exceptional and his deeds outside of the Olympics the most, MOST excellent.

Stand-ins for One Direction?

Stand-ins for One Direction?

What I’ve also observed this Olympics is how excellently talented people act when they don’t “win.”  In particular, I was impressed with 19-year-old ice skater Jason Brown (our main image for today), who ultimately came in ninth place in his event but gave interviews with the excitement of someone who came in first.  This was in sharp contrast to many other wonderful athletes who to varying degrees felt shamefully disappointed that they didn’t medal or did not win the gold.  Of course, this was not entirely their fault.  I watched in a sort of strange angry horror at how two time gold medal Olympian snowboarder Shaun White, who finished fourth this year in his event, was branded in the media as the big “loser” all week and cross-examined about how disappointed he must be to be deemed only the fourth best in the world in his sport on that given day.

Maybe it was the hair?

Maybe it was the hair?

For years people in Hollywood have joked that it’s an honor just to be nominated for an Academy Award with the unsaid truism being you’re ultimately a loser if you don’t win.  What this is saying more than anything else is that it doesn’t count at all unless you win.  Wait, so then… being an Oscar nominee means you’re…a loser?  That’s what one actor I once worked with told me it felt like after losing in the big category.  This person recounted leaving the whole thing totally depressed as someone who had disappointed everyone.  In fact, to this day that actor looks back at the experience with extreme sadness.  This would seem either hard to imagine or simply neurotic behavior to me if it weren’t for the fact that more than one Oscar loser I have met over the years has told me exactly the same thing.  That’s how far this way of thinking has all gotten.

Of course, any kind of ongoing excellence comes with some sacrifice.  But that should not be in how you’re looked at or categorized by others (or even yourself) –and more in accepting the idea that you can’t be excellent at everything in every moment.  No one can do it all and be everywhere at once so no one – not even you (or me) can excel at everything IN the world.

Uh... ya think?

Uh… ya think?

For all the hours you spend practicing your snowboarding there will simply be less hours you can devote to  –  dating?  making love?  movies?  visiting museums?  watching TV?  family time?  friends?  writing?  Something has to give.  Oh, you can try to incorporate some of those into your routines and multi-task. (Note:  Just the images this brings to mind makes it all worth trying). But multi-tasking takes away from the singular focus you need to excel, at least that’s what the research says.  You see where I’m going here.  You have to make some choices and narrow it down.  You can’t do it all even if you decide to think you can.

A lot of writers face this problem when they structure a script and try to tell the story of every character.  Here too you must make choices.  This is especially challenging for my neophyte writing students who, in their enthusiasm, won’t sell any of their people short.  I see this as generosity, admire the kindness of their intentions and hate to be the Scrooge McDuck who has to tell them that part of being excellent at their craft means making the hard decisions and sometimes being the “bad guy.”  That guy (or gal) who sacrifices something – or someone –  for the greater good of what they are all doing.

Oh you mean I can't have this many characters?

Oh you mean I can’t have this many characters?

Perhaps a nicer way to put this is – compromise.  Not comprising your values but modifying rigid ways of thinking.  Rigidity should not be confused with discipline, which is always necessary to be excellent.  Rigidity is about not listening, about a harshness of spirit with yourself and what you are trying to achieve that does not allow you to see the forest from the trees.  If you are going to be your best – i.e. some version of excellent – the first step is to admit you do not know it all and to learn from the best.  You can be stubborn here– making the choices you see fit and sticking to your guns when you feel deep down in your core of cores you are correct.  But you also cannot set yourself up as a deity that is all knowing and needs to be worshipped (Note: even if the rest of the world is treating you that way) and be your most excellent self.

What is fascinating about Hillary Clinton, among so many things, is not only her overwhelming work ethic – some her a workaholic – but the fact that she always seems willing to compromise (or even accept defeat),  listen, sit back, be a team player, and then regroup.  This just might win her the U.S. presidency.  A person who lost the election of her life then joins the man who beat her up on the political battlefield and helps him have a better presidency by traveling the world as his Secretary of State? Whatever bitterness there might have been did not last and by most accounts Mrs. Clinton and Pres. Obama became quite friendly, if not friends and treasured professional colleagues.  Imagine if she had just thought she knew better, licked her wounds and went away, dragging her faux fur behind her?   Who knows where either one of them would be?  But this is a pattern of excellent behavior on her part that has allowed her to go from being a potential First Lady in the nineties who once snapped I’m not some Tammy Wynette, standing by my man baking cookies, to being a successful First Lady who nevertheless failed miserably at her task of passing health care in the 90s…. and then still go on to be someone branded as sad and foolish for staying with a husband who kind of had sex with a 22 year old intern in his Oval Office, and then still on to being an inexperienced U.S. senator who eventually became a top colleague who won the respect of senators on both ends of the aisle for her intellect and effectiveness… only to emerge again as a leading yet failed presidential candidate who then became U.S. secretary of state and worldwide opinion maker, and now seems likely, at 66 years old, to run again for the White House and thus make history by becoming the first female president of the United States.

Did ya get all that?

Did ya get all that?

Yes, Hillary Clinton is connected, political and extremely intelligent – but there are a lot of political, connected and extremely intelligent people in the world.  She is excellent because she listens, learns, practices, fails, starts over, makes mistakes, practices some more, withstands the missteps, makes more mistakes and then gets up and does it all over again.  She also tries new things and isn’t intimated by new opportunities.  Well, maybe she is intimidated– probably she is in her private moments – but who among us isn’t?  And how many of us go ahead and continue on to do the hard or even hardest thing anyway?

Don’t mistake this for a Hillary Clinton puff paragraph (or two or three).  In truth, it was the famous playwright Samuel Beckett who once wrote “Try again.  Fail Again.  Fail Better.”  This was in an obscure series of short novels published in his later years under the umbrella title Westward Ho and the words were written in an entirely different, much more obtuse context.

Still, it is the nature of writing that sometimes a mere tossed off phrase that you meant one way becomes a mantra in another.  Or in this case, a recipe for success for everyone from a Silicon Valley billionaire to a graduate school student to a middle-aged blogger like myself.  That doesn’t make Beckett a failure any more than winning the Pulitzer Prize makes him a success.  What was most excellent about him, and so many others, was the combination of both his talent AND his work and the dedication and determination he brought to both.

Decades ago I worked on the crew of Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, the sequel to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  Truth be told, it wasn’t a great movie nor was it one of my penultimate professional experiences over the years. I remember thinking at the time that these movies were so dumb that I could not believe they got made at all AND earned boat loads of money, nor that I was being so well paid to do a job on something so insignificant.  Yet here I am, 30 years later, voluntarily using the phrase most excellent – a phrase that was first brought into the international lexicon by the writers of those films – to make an intellectual, or at least common sense point about excellence.

Go figure, dude.

Comic Con

Screen shot 2014-02-09 at 11.39.38 AM

I have a confession to make.  I’ve always hated comic books.  Actually, that’s not true.  What I really never liked were superhero comic books.  I do love a good Peanuts or Archie.  To all the young people I know and have taught:  Please don’t hate me for telling the truth.

This would put me at a horrible disadvantage if the sole way I still supported myself these days was as a screenwriter.  As I tried to explain to a student recently, at one time the majority of projects in the biz that people really wanted to work on ranked this way:

  1. Movie dramas with characters
  2. Subtle and broad movie comedies.
  3. Television
  4. Geek-related ventures on either of the above that involved explosions, computers, cartoon people or anything from Marvel, DC or that ilk.

If you were in the last group you had peers and an audience but not much street cred (Note:  Walt Disney accepted, though somehow it was he rather than any of his employees that got credit for anything Disneyesque.  Plus, he never did superheroes.  He was the superhero).

What do you mean.. was?

What do you mean.. was?

Well, what a difference a handful of decades make.  Comics have taken over the industry – if not the world – and not the kind you see at the Laugh Factory or on a cheap cable special.   Which seems sort of apt since more and more we’re living a comic book existence.  This is apparent every time you turn on your television or surf the web and see the surgically altered faces on almost all of your favorite actors.

Though here in Los Angeles it’s obvious every time you step into a store that isn’t located in a shopping mall in Sunland.

This is not meant to be a putdown of comics or superheroes or even cartoons but merely an observation of where we are.  This week it was announced that the Emmy award-winning Mad Men writing team of Andre and Maria Jacquemetton would next be tackling the DC Comic book series DMZ for the Syfy Channel.

Dynamic Duo (far right)

Dynamic Duo (far right)

It doesn’t get more prestigious for most writers than Mad Men, though it is certainly more financially lucrative to be on any number of television series and movies.  So it certainly says something about us and them that after all of the choices open to this dynamic duo after six years of riding the MM crest that they have decided to devote themselves to a pulp tale centered on a young man in the near future, Matty Roth, who lives in the demilitarized zone of Manhattan after a second American Civil War.  He might not dress like a superhero but certainly, in post apocalyptic red and blue state America, he will at some point have to emerge as one.

If you think I am pushing the metaphor or overreacting in even the slightest we can look at all of this another way.  Here are the top 10 grossing movies worldwide in 2013:

  1. Iron Man: 3
  2. Despicable Me 2
  3. Frozen
  4. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  5. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  6. Fast & Furious 6
  7. Monsters University
  8. Gravity
  9. Man of Steel
  10. Thor: The Dark World

If we were to look at this list for the U.S. and Canada only the rankings might shift around one or two places but the films themselves would remain exactly the same.  Oh wait, there would be one change – Oz the Great and Powerful would replace Thor, which would drop down two notches to #12. Do you see where I’m going now?

What are you trying to say Chairy??

What are you trying to say Chairy??

Okay, fine, I’ll be a little bit more blunt.

Anyone arguing that Fast and Furious, Hunger Games and even Gravity aren’t super hero movies in a cartoon world, well…uh….I suggest you watch some footage of Russia’s President Putin at this week’s Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Sochi and tell me whether you believe the flesh and blood star of a current worldwide spectacle isn’t simply our 2014 version of The Terminator.

No, I’m not going to say I told you so.  But like Matty Roth in post apocalyptic Manhattan, we’d all better get on board with this kind of thinking in order to survive the inevitable global warming-over meltdown of everything we’ve ever known.  To this end, I propose some new lenses and labels for how we look at and categorize all current and future newsmakers in the world and the events that surround them.  (Note:  This will also save a lot of creative time if any of the above rights are purchased or even thought of as the subject of a new Hollywood movie).

The Incredible Sinking Man


In a live, near two-hour television press conference, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) announced that he fired some of his top staff people for causing the largest four-day traffic jam in the history of the world.  This was due to their choice several months ago to close down multiple lanes in Fort Lee, New Jersey leading into the George Washington Bridge (Note: the world’s busiest bridge) behind his back.  However, now the governor’s former people are seeking plea deals through high-priced lawyers while he and his present people are countering this disloyalty by calling them idiots and releasing accounts of their misdeeds as 16 year old high school students.  All of this while Gov. Christie, previously the most popularly touted choice among Republicans to run for president in 2016, couldn’t even get Texas Gov. Rick (“oops”) Perry to pose for a photo op with him on a recent trip to the Longhorn state.  How much lower will he go?  If anyone thinks they can predict, well, I have a bridge I can sell you…..

Puff The Magic Drag, Man


When I was 20 years old I was too afraid of getting less than an A minus in college in any one subject.  So I can’t imagine how I’d be if I had the adulation of half of the young people my age around the world, were loathed by the other half and possessed $130 million to both play with and use to ease the pain.  I do know that I would be thrilled that I could make my living as a singer – a talent that not all the marijuana in the world could convince me to believe I had.  Still, you can’t smoke up foot long doobies on a private plane with your soul-patched father or allow friends to egg the mansion next door to your mansion without getting some sort of….blow back (Note:  See what I did there?).

Dude, Where’s Our Woodstock?

A future action comedy about a group of baby boomers who hold the twenty-something owners of a string of pot dispensaries hostage because they are sick of all the legalized marijuana/nee commercial appropriation of their drug of choice for the masses.  Soundtrack by: Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The New Riders of the Purple Sage and anyone who’s left alive from the original Grateful Dead.

Captain Douchebag

It's all going according to plan....

It’s all going according to plan….

There is no other name for Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly.  Yes, he’s a foot taller than me, has a million times more money and certainly can sue – but I don’t care.  This moment of writing it publicly just made it all worth it.  You can’t have the child of a man who died during 9-11 on your TV show, yell and berate him for his anti-war views and top it all off by saying “your Dad would be ashamed of you if he were alive” and then get off without periodic bitch slapping for the rest of your national (or unnatural?)  lifetime.  At least not by me.  I’m nothing if not Captain IDontForgetAnAHole.

Queen of the Hills

hilary v rand 3

Hillary Clinton’s moniker might have to one day be retitled The Bionic President because we all know that in order to have survived this long she must have some special sort of armor that the rest of us mere humans were born without.   We also know the latter title will probably be the one to last because eventually Mrs. Clinton pretty much gets everything she sets her mind to.  Unless she’s simply content with where she is now – writing the best tweets and texts the world has ever known.  I know the latter would be my choice.  But then again, I’m not that kind of queen.

The Salacious Sex Six

Woody Allen & Mia Farrow & Dylan Farrow & Moses Farrow & Ronan Farrow & Soon-Yi Previn.  It’s horrible.  All of it.  From every side.  Which means that someone will make it into a film at some point.  Or a web series.  Or a comic something or other in the second new millennium.  What is Alan Alda’s line about funny in WA’s Crimes and Misdemeanors  — Comedy is tragedy plus time?  This is why everything in this paragraph will eventually be deemed offensive, inoffensive, moot or in need of a rewrite.  Which one is it now?  That’s not for me, or you, to decide.

The Inhuman Thing

The new name for Oscar if movies keep going down the too narrowing road they are now on.

The Straight Arrow

Will it be a strike?

Will it be a strike?

What everyone fears will be Jimmy Fallon’s upcoming super hero tag once he starts steering the ship of The Tonight Show in the next few weeks.  Though perhaps he will surprise us all and be The Not So Straight Arrow.  No, we don’t mean it THAT way.  Although in a comic book world, unlike television, anything is possible.

The Fifth Ring



This will be Hollywood’s take on the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.  It all started when that snowflake stayed intact and didn’t light up as the fifth ring. Question:  Doesn’t Putin know that there is ALWAYS a gay on the light board???  #Homohubris.

Some of you might not agree with our take on the inevitable comic book/cartoon world of the movies and in life. This is your prerogative.  So for all of you doubters I have just one last thing to say:  The #1 film this weekend – by a lot – with an estimated $69.1 million at the box-office in just three days – is:


Your future has arrived.  And it is our present.  Though not necessarily the one we all asked for.  Or,  is it?

The Pedestal

“It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail,” Gore Vidal once famously said. A brilliant novelist, playwright, essayist, screenwriter, chronicler of history and curmudgeonly bon vivant, the 86-year old Vidal died this past week.  Yet his words rang as fresh and as true and, perhaps, as prescient as ever.

Watching any number of Olympic athletes under 30, and even 20, succeed to seemingly inhuman golden heights while others became runner up winners (silver and bronze) by not rising as high but still way above the rest of us, one couldn’t help but consider the weight and currency of one of our most renowned contemporary wordsmith’s most famous words and wonder – why do they feel so timelessly true about American culture in particular?

After an Olympic week of victorious thrills and agonizing defeats covered almost as grotesquely as the moment-by-moment commentary in “The Hunger Games” (but in our case it comes up to 8 hours after you learn the results of the actual races), I can come to no other conclusion than our American culture, or as it is referred to in electoral politics “American exceptionalism,” is in serious need of an attitude adjustment.  And I don’t say this lightly since the amount of attitude I have in need of adjustment can often cover the needs of an entire Olympic team from at least one small sovereign state.

The Patriotic Chair

Still, that doesn’t let the rest of you Americans, or the coverage of those who live here, off the hook or off the train of nastiness, pettiness, bitterness or envy.  What else can one think after watching 27 year old Michael Phelps being counted out as something akin to lazy and over the hill by much of the American zeitgeist after placing fourth in his first race in London and coming up one spot short of a medal?

The LA Times, among so may others, gleefully jumped on the bandwagon, immediately trumpeting in one headline story that “Without burning desire, Michael Phelps flames out.” Writer Bill Plaschke somehow managed an Olympic worthy feat of leaping into Phelps’ most inner psychological state only to further go on to describe the swimming phenom and his presence as “the weary flotsam of a shrugging hero.”  He also spent some time observing/predicting an over-the-hill guy who seems “less interested and confused with every lap.”

Certainly, we still live in a free enough country where Bill and his ilk are entitled to print their opinions as the pseudo facts they are, but if one is setting oneself up as a mind reader and predictor of the near future one also needs to deal with some pesky, soon-to-be facts.  Michael Phelps went on to win six more Olympic medals (four of them gold) and the most of any other US athlete in London in the next 7 days.  He would also go on to shatter several more World records and generally outswim teammate Ryan Lochte – the man the Times had dubbed the new golden boy in that same article.   Clearly, this didn’t seem to be an example of an athlete whose Olympic torch was “snuffed” rather than “passed,” as Plaschke wrote about Phelps.  But when we so enthusiastically move to bask in the glory of someone else’s failures  – especially failure of those whose success we find impossible to equal, or even more jealously, to fathom – that is what happens.


I think you know where you can kiss it.

It’s a shame that we live at a time where we demand extreme immediate reactions to everything as if the full story has already been written before the final verdict (or in this case, swim) is in – and that, for the most part, the members of the media happily follow.  Though at one point it was the job of The Fourth Estate to attempt an unbiased version of current events – news, sports and entertainment – that is no longer the case.  The task is now to feast on the failure – moral, literal or otherwise – of others and the strategy is spin and prognostication instead of facts and informed analysis.  While the media bears some responsibility for following along for money, ratings and perceived relevancy (HBO’s new great show “The Newsroom” asks the question ‘what would happen if reporters chose to go against the popular grain?’), one has to question who else comprises the world we all live in.  Looking in the mirror that would be the reflection you see.  Meaning — they are spurred on by us – their audience.  We are the public that demands a certain kind of flesh-eating dramatization of the weak – especially after they’ve fallen from any sort of height.  One could argue that if we didn’t buy it en masse then perhaps the Fourth Estate wouldn’t serve it up to us so bloodily and consistently.

hours to build up, and one second to take down.

Which brings us to 16-year-old Gabby Douglas, the young American who just won two gold medals in London for best all around female gymnast and as a member of the best team of female gymnasts (while also becoming the first African American female in history to do so).  You would think there isn’t much you can say to bring down a teenager who personified grace under pressure (what were you doing at 16 years of age?), leaving home in Virginia Beach at 14 to move to an Iowa town where she was the only dark-skinned woman to train and study (and where, due to economic conditions, her visits with her Mom were limited to Skype).  But we, the quick-to-judge public, found a way.  Numerous comments and commentators in this country seemed particularly perturbed by Douglas – but not because of her athletic performance.  In many strokes of a pen that would certainly cause suffragette Susan B. Anthony to spin in her grave – Gabby Douglas was raked over the coals for no less than her – hair?

Yes – you heard it right – HER. HAIR.  Well, as they say – Whatever works.

Here’s a lovely example of one of our fellow Olympic watchers (from the Daily Beast):

“I love how she’s doing her thing and winning,’’ says 22-year-old Latisha Jenkins of Detroit to The Daily Beast. “But I just hate the way her hair looks with all those pins and gel. I wish someone could have helped her make it look better since she’s being seen all over the world. She representing for black women everywhere.’

Want more?

“It’s taboo culturally to be seen in public with a kinky hairline and your ponytail is straight,” celeb hairstylist Larry Simms, who styles Mary J. Blige and Gabrielle Union, told the Daily Beast. “The textures don’t match her own hair and the added-on hair and that’s a problem. I think black girls in particular view her as a representation of themselves for the world to see. She just needs some Smooth and Shine gel and she’d be OK.’’


Let’s recap — this 16-year-old from Virginia Beach is now the first African-American woman, as well as the first person of color, to win gold in the gymnastics individual all-around competition. She is also the first US gymnast in history to win both individual and team gold at the same Olympics.  But keeping human interest going is a tricky thing – especially when we’ve heard countless Olympic stories of sacrifice, real-life tales of rising from working class roots to the heights of fame and riches, and morality lessons of young people achieving what seems inhumanly possible.  However, tapping into the not too often enough mined sensibilities of Black woman and their hair – especially the hair of a Black woman who is newly famous – then wow, we’ve really got something. (And we haven’t even gotten into the idea of 13 and 14 year old female athlete’s de rigueur requirement to wear numerous shades of eye shadow to enhance some idea of camera-ready beauty).

Of course, the media and we in the public could be more responsible.  But this would also require some cooperation from the corporate powers-that-be to take a bit of the lead and not throw up roadblocks in reflecting some of society’s other wants and needs.

That doesn’t appear likely.  In fact, NBC has taken its boom in record ratings from London to interpret that its coverage is both wonderful and cutting edge and what it defines as a “new kind of American viewing.”  The network prefers this analysis rather than the truth – that NBC is just the only game in town that any sort of Olympics fan is able to watch.  The network’s hubris is like running unopposed in a presidential election, winning in a landslide and basking in the glow of being the popular favorite.  Funny – as a college political science major in 1970s America I was taught to easily recognize this kind of behavior in the victories of totalitarian elections in the third world and other types of countries.  Like when people like Saddam Hussein or Ahmadinejad run ostensibly unopposed.

Must have been the dismount.

Of course – you don’t need to take my heavy-handed words for NBC’s sense of self.  Here’s the take of NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus about the network’s ratings:

“I think what we’ve proven is that the American viewing public likes the way we tell the story and wants to gather in front of the television with their friends and family — even if they have the ability to watch it live either on television or digitally,” Lazarus said. “I inherently trust that decision is the right one and that people want to see these events.”

Lazarus does acknowledge complaints about the brand of this year’s Olympic coverage and NBC’s decision to run most of its key moments 8 hours after the results are widely known.   He heard the public complaints.  But much like presidential candidates who refuse to release a record of their taxes – he claims the rights of the public “to know” are really just limiting, and the federal decision once upon a time that the public really does own the airwaves and that NBC is just renting them, is a limited way to look at things.  Because, he reasons, in the end, one’s business model trumps everything.

“As programmers, we are charged to manage the business,” Lazarus reminds. “And this is a business,” he said. “It’s not everyone’s inalienable right to get whatever they want. We are charged with making smart decisions for our company, for our shareholders and to present the product the way we believe is best.”

With this logic of  “we will do what we want because we want to” – without any sense of what is fair, balanced or perhaps morally right for the people we serve – we reinforce a Culture of Id.  Not only in our decisions but also in saying what comes to our mind in a knee jerk fashion without much thought.  In other words, giving in to our lowest instincts of envy, greed and jealousy.  It might be human nature to be prideful – or strive to be the Olympic ratings/moneymaking best.  But to do so to the detriment of others – or worse when taking down people whose desires or successes or wants annoy or threaten you or your bottom line – is that really just another human story?

Well, it is what Vidal so wisely put to words and reasoned that we indeed are so many decades ago.  And judging from the last 10 days, it doesn’t seem like we’re going to change anytime soon.  Unless enough of us are willing to form our own elite team of change whose hope it is to rewrite the words of one of our masters.