Tag Archives: television

A Mother’s Thanks for Mr. Olbermann & His Thurber Readings

While alot of the lame-stream media put off even acknowledging OWS and still are practically ignoring or distorting the Occupy movements one of the journalist who isn’t is Keith Olbermann.I wanted to take a moment and share another part of this good man who has touched my family greatly.

It should to be said…There have only been a handful of men that I have greatly admired and respected in my life…My Father being always #1. He’s been gone over 28 years now but I still kind of talk to him and quite often can hear his voice in my head.(Not to be confused with those who hear bad voices in their head that tell them to run for President.)

It’s not that I’m a hard-to-please-male-bashing-woman….LOL, I love men…(though I did date a girl in college for awhile. I’m remembering that she was an extremely hot brunette …and being the open-minded free-thinker my father raised me to be…well, let’s just say it was an interesting summer.) Whoa, cool flash back moments…where was I ??

Oh, yeah…men I admire….Tim Russert was my man of choice for explaining to my common sense mind what the whacked-out power-hungry people were doing….Always understood him….Always trusted him….If memory serves me, (and I am finding that the older one gets the more one looks back) it is because of the wonderful Mr. Russert, that I first became aware of Mr. Keith Olbermann…

Mr. Olbermann with his handsome face, strong jaw, warm smile…Oh what the hell, you’ve heard all that fan BS before…probably tired of it or find it disingenuous…let’s just say that it was his gorgeous hypnotic eyes that caught my attention at first and I was hooked. Not in a scary show up at your door naked way…( damn, sorry….more flash backs…) but in a true sense of belief and respect that he was what he presented himself to be and than some.

Being a single mom, I have always tried to put good male role models in front of my sons. What they listen to and watch is just as important to me. I am very proud of both of them with the progress they are making to find themselves and the paths that they are meant to be on.. Every now and than I get a glimpse into their ways of thinking that tells me that I might just be doing a good job as a mom… which brings me to the reason behind this long winded compliment to Mr. Olbermann.

From the first time he explained why he wanted to read Thurber to us…

“My father was in the hospital and every night when I visited him, I read aloud to him. James Thurber. And one night he said, ‘You really should do that on your show,’ and I said, ‘Dad, it’s a television newscast. I’d love to, but how could it possibly fit?’ And he said, ‘How often have I ever suggested anything for your shows?’ And I remembered that he never had. But I also reminded him that there were things like copyrights and bills, to which he said, ‘Try it. You never know.’ ~ Keith Olbermann

And from the posting of his Thurber readings on online to be enjoyed more than once…Mr. Olbermann captured my 15 year old son’s heart and imagination.How many kids out there sit down practically every evening and watch the news with a parent ? My youngest was a bit of a shy reserved kid. I had received several notes from school that he was too quiet and perhaps needed testing to “see” what his problem was. I held tight to my father’s teachings that we all find our voice in due time.Watching CountDown  together was a wonderful way for him to share with me what he was thinking. As time went on he did this more and more.

One night my son came into my room and asked if he could read something to me. I thought maybe it was a school paper or maybe something he had found on the net…

He sat down and started to open a small book…I asked him what it was…He showed me the cover “Rex Stout’s Black Orchids” A Nero Wolf classic…than I asked him why he wanted to read it to me…he smiled saying that he liked the idea of us having something special to share…that he liked watching Mr. Olbermann read Thurber and he liked the way I smiled watching Thurber being read….

My son and I, both loved mysteries…until just a couple years ago I use to read out loud to him two times a week ..now according to him, it was his turn….I secretly wished I could of video tape him doing this as I was so totally amazed by someone who up to this point had been shy and reserved in his manner and speech.

He worked so hard at not letting the old English of Stout’s style throw him…animating his words with occasional hand gestures to fit the prose….looking up from time to time to make sure he still had my attention. (Which he totally did ) His voice cracking now and then in that adolescent it’s-getting-deeper-but-not-yet way …

Bless the wonderful late actor, Maury Chaykin…we had watched the DVDs of the Nero Wolf series and here my son was, normally very soft spoken, boldly speaking Wolf’s words with such a passion…. gulping hard when he took a drink of water…but keeping a tone of excitement in his voice for over an hour …teasing me with the last few pages…asking me who I thought did it….chuckling at me when I gave my answer…not giving me even the slightest hint until the final paragraphs when the murderer was revealed.

He had to have already read this once before… maybe even practiced reading it out loud because he delivery towards the end was so melodramatic and thought out. I was in such wonder and awe of him….

He is starting that time of his life that will be full of chaos and confusion. As much as I want to wrap my arms around him and protect him from everything… I know he has to make his own choices….learn from his own missteps. He loves his games, books and friends…leaving less time for me, which I sadly understand…but as he kissed me good-night that evening…he smiled and asked if we could make time next week for him to read me another…I could feel the tears swelling up in my eyes as I looked up at my handsome young son and told him yes…

I wanted to make note of this because I’ve read online some who criticize Mr. Olbermann for taking the time to still share Thurber with us when he can and because I wanted to remind people that our children don’t just learn from us…. they also learn from all the things and people we put in their world…

I am grateful that Mr. Olbermann was and continues to be a positive influence on both my sons especially after his Special Comment this last August. My oldest has become a part of community groups trying to help efforts to change this broke system of ours as well as getting out the messages of such great causes like NAFC…National Association of Free Clinics-  http://www.freeclinics.us

My youngest spent his summer volunteering so he could, in his words “step up” and be part rather than sit silently on the sidelines. He still does read out loud to me though I have to wait awhile sometimes for him to “fit” me in… He brought home his first report card from high school this month…all A’s & one B+…from a kid who barely opened his mouth and had been struggling to keep a C average…

Do I believe that a television journalist helped my son find a better way to enjoy his path in life ??

I truly do and what’s more if you asked my son he would agree as well.

“The Wonder of Wire-Coat Hangers and a Political Education”

It is so amazing to me now, how much of what we learn is not in a classroom. I know that there has been a hundred years of studies on how environment, culture, race, religion, sexual orientation and quite possibly whether you got to play with a yo-yo or not have an impact on how and why you end up thinking the way you do…on the equally mundane as well as important amounts of the matter and anti-matter that consumes us.

We seem to get selectively assigned early in life. We either rebel against it, expand on it or heck, just find a different path entirely. This for all intent and purpose works for almost every level of existence however for this sharing I would like to dwell momentarily on a few things that fell into place for my brain to work as it does.

I was not a student of journalism. I tried once but was asked to drop the class as my professor told me that a true journalist could say in two sentences what it took me three pages to explain. The following semester, I wanted to try again. I even wrote him  (in my opinion) a wonderful essay…five pages long …telling him what a great teacher he was, how I would work very hard to learn, what virtues and insights that I possessed to add to group discussions and projects, and asking him if I could once again take his class. Two days later the reply in the mail…one page with letterhead, signature and the simple message “NO”.

I was not a student of politics…though I think I was fortunate to have a parent who taught us by his actions as well as his words when I was growing up. He encouraged us to do volunteer work in school and around the community. I went to rallies, even attended a few “sit-ins” but did I really research any of my young votes??…No! I was a democrat from day one and voted that way. I cared deeply about my little piece of the world and the people in it but somehow missed out on the “big picture”…

I didn’t think of myself as student…and yet I did learn….

My Father was quite possibly the most fascinating man I will ever meet. A child of the depression who got most of his formal education in the Army where he rose to the rank of Drill Sergeant during the Korean War, a position that added a deep sadness to him that he would not share with us for many years.

He liked things to have order but more importantly he liked us to understand why he wanted things the way he did and from the second I learned what language was…his major house rules were embedded in my mind:

#”Be respectful of your elders”…they have lived longer and deserved it (until proven otherwise) was always added because Dad firmly believed that age had little to do with stupidity.

#”Don’t lie, cheat or steal”…these all kind of fell into that “be honest” category and breaking any of them usually brought forth the harshest of punishments.

#”No one is always right and no one is always wrong”… My mother disliked this one as she never wanted to have to explain and preferred falling back on that “I’m your mother and I say so” line.

#”Arguing with words…good. Arguing with fists…bad!” I was pretty sure this rule was directed at all the young men that lived in our house though I learned the hard way not to come between two sisters in a heated discussion about almost anything.

# “Have Faith…in yourself and in whatever you chose to believe in.” This one was the hardest to not only understand but to achieve. It was his strongest rule and yet it was the one least discussed.

My father was raised  by a fire & brimstone…bible-thumping…church three days a week…”if you don’t do as I say you’ll burn in hell” woman with a husband (my beloved grandfather) who sat quietly in a corner chair smiling and nodding on occasion, did not tell his children who or what to believe in. Dad had some sort of deal with our mother, who until we reached the age of 13 took us to church every Sunday and made sure we attended a bible study group once a week.

I watched as those ahead of me chose to keep going or stop. We had so many different people as a part of our family. I think my father worked to make sure that we were exposed to as much diversity as he could find for us. We were encouraged to respect our friends through understanding by attending their churches and learning other religions.

When my 1st Sunday came, I decided to spend the day with Dad. No one seemed surprised, as I had come to be known as his shadow. After breakfast…. the flying around of schedules…. who’s going with who…what cars are in use…when will everyone be back…the house settled into an eerie quiet.

I could hear the TV from the kitchen and found my father sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee in his hand and the Sunday paper in a sort of neat pile at his feet. Across the room was our modest size one television set. (Yes, Virginia, there was a time when families only owned one TV) It was a black and white one as the colored sets were still a bit out of my dad’s budget though we did have this really weird screen cover that if you put it on upside down it made everything on the bottom of the picture blue and some of the people’s faces green. (Sorry, strange flashback)

The TV sat against the back wall of our living room, where surrounding it on the wall and even up onto some of the ceiling was the most elaborate honey comb of no less than 25 wire-coat hangers. They were all stretched out and connected, either by twisted ends or some sort of thin metal-like stuff  my mother used for hanging pictures. Most were those brown metallic colored ones a few those dipped in white paint ones against my mother’s “spring peach” painted walls

I remember watching Dad, as he would occasionally attach new ones to the maze. I remember the day my older brother fell off the chair he was standing on as Dad instructed him how to tack the one he was holding to the ceiling during a football game. I remember my mother’s anger as the wired monstrosity grew up and around her thoughtfully designed modern living room set.

Now I know that some of you are scratching your heads and thinking…What the hell do wire-coat hangers and an old black & white TV have to do with a political education?? Trust me…I will get there. For those of you, who understand the reasons behind the wire-coat hangers…I thank-you because  I worry that my grey hair is sometimes interfering with my grey matter.

In an ancient time of no cable and the city I grew up in, Chicago, living up to it’s nickname the “Windy City”, our antenna never seemed to be able to stay up on our roof. Hence the wire-coat hangers! Starting with a large set of rabbit ears ( please, any children present, just ask someone old) sitting on top of the TV, the coat hangers were attached to the tips and fanned out in all directions to be able to pick up more stations and get a better picture.

No wire adjustments needed that Sunday so long ago as I watched the screen…a very smart looking man with thick glasses was questioning a very smart but different looking lady. I started to ask my father who they were but his finger went to his lips letting me know to be quiet at the same time pointing to the screen. Another house rule…

#”Learn to listen.”

Her name I found was Golda Meir. The man’s name was Lawrence Spivak and the program was “Meet the Press”. It wasn’t like the evening news. It had people asking questions and people giving answers that to a young mind held a wonderment of clarity.

Even though I got wrapped up in being a teenager and becoming a young adult…no matter where I was…if only for that brief 30  minute window…I watched. Learning more as I went along. Mr. Spivak was known for his tough questioning. When asked about them he said “Since I wasn’t beholden to anyone, I just felt that the question had to asked. It just had to be fair and informative and accurate.”

Bill Monroe took me through my first voting years…and I will admit now and deny it later that it was Garrick Utley’s cool sounding name and dimples that held my glancing interest while I tried to be a single working mom in the late 80’s. This was also during a “maybe someone else can explain to me” period when Lesley Stahl could pull my attention to “Face the Nation” now and then.

Politics was getting increasing more complicated and everyone seemed to start having hidden agendas. I could watch one show and get an answer to something…switch to another show…same question totally different answer. I was starting to think that maybe I was just too dumb to understand the mess.

Than December 1991…turned on Meet the Press and a smiling man with the kindest eyes I had ever seen was on…My concern that Mr. Utley and his dimples had been replaced faded very quickly and right from the start…Mr. Tim Russert had my heart and my mind.

For the next 16 years he helped me to understand what the hell was going on. He did it in ways that left you wanting more not feeling stupid. His political coverage of elections and debates were matched by none.

I stayed up all night in 2000 and got to witness first hand what was marked as one of the 100 greatest moments in TV history. “Florida, Florida,Florida” on his white board with that grin on his face.

But it wasn’t just the way he did his job…it was the way he made me feel a part of his job and his life. He shared so many glimpses of his family, his humor,his love of sports. As a life-long fan of the Bears..I still couldn’t help but smile when he would cheer for his Buffalo Bills.

A father’s lessons and wire-coat hangers gave me “Meet the Press”…Years of insightful moderators gave me my education but I will always believe that it was Mr. Russert would made me feel like a participant and not a spectator in our nation’s politics.His passing left an un-fillable hole in my heart.

Today, I still see too many people with agendas and preaching to me instead of informing me. There is hope though a few new voices being heard and a few more seasoned ones getting the recognition they deserve. I have watched the start of a new horizon at Current TV, that I know will help us get our voices heard, bring more truth to the forefront and perhaps even re-educate those whose brains have been turned to mud by the extreme right media.

The era of wire-coat hangers is over but the purpose behind them…to find and hold a better picture of the world will hopefully never end.