Fine viewing

So the 20 CBS-owned affiliates that carried the infamous Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction were just fined $27,500 each by the Federal Communications Commission, for a total of $550,000, the maximum penalty for indecency. Jackson’s breast, you might recall, was briefly exposed during the halftime of the Superbowl. This marked the largest fine ever against a television broadcaster. Local affiliate KHSL was not fined, even though it did air the offensive sight. I can’t remember if it was the left or right breast, but I wonder whether, if both had been exposed, the fine would have been doubled to $1.1 million. And what kind of fine would Jackson’s butt have cost CBS? Here’s what Colin Powell’s son Michael, the commission chairman said: “As countless families gathered around the television to watch one of our nation’s most celebrated events, they were rudely greeted with a halftime show stunt more fitting of a burlesque show.” Now, I’ve got to wonder if Michael Powell has ever seen the show Third Watch. I watched for the first time a few weeks ago, and it was unbelievably violent. The show consisted of about 48-minutes’ worth of shooting, stabbing, pooling blood and really bad acting. I was stunned. Then the other night I’m flipping through the channels when UPN 22’s Smack Down wrestling program crashes into my living room, and suddenly there are two busty young women in short plaid skirts and plunging white blouses hopping around the ring tag-teaming two older, frizzy-haired women. It was nothing short of soft-core porn. What a wasteland. How can Powell possibly justify fining CBS over Jackson’s Superbowl slip?

As I write this I look forward to tomorrow night’s (Sept. 29) debate between George Bush and John Kerry. I understand there are a number of ground rules to control the content and action, but anything can happen on live TV. Ask Janet Jackson. As I understand it, Bush will have the Dallas Cheerleaders in his corner offering emotional support, and his lovely wife Laura will be there for intellectual support, whispering from off stage the correct pronunciation of the names of foreign leaders and their countries whenever her husband gets confused. And for his part Kerry will don his old Swift Boat commander uniform, tight as it may be. Should be a good debate. By the way, The Lone Star Iconoclast, the newspaper in Bush’s adopted hometown of Crawford, Texas, this week endorsed Kerry. The paper knocked Bush for how he’s handled the war and turned a budget surplus into a record deficit. “The publishers of the Iconoclast endorsed Bush four years ago, based on the things he promised, not on this smoke-screen agenda,” the paper’s editorial said. Bush reportedly gets the weekly paper, but W. Leon Smith, the publisher and editor, said he didn’t know if the president reads it.

Congratulations to all the Best of Chico winners—remember the readers do the picking; the editors just facilitate the process. One interesting development: We had a winner for best bartender, Mike Stearns, but none of us here knew where the guy tends bar. (We’re not what you’d call social butterflies.) So we called the number on a ballot filled out by someone who’d named him. That person’s mother answered the phone and was a bit surprised that her daughter would have filled out a Best-of ballot, much less voted for best bartender. Her daughter, she said, is only 7 years old. We were a bit suspicious about the legitimacy of a number of the ballots—a big number, in fact—because we came across a lot of ballot-stuffing evidence. We are not saying Stearns stuffed the box; he had nothing to do with it. But there is a local business we suspect that used its customer database to forge ballots. Shame on you, though we realize you were only trying to keep up with your competition, which was also trying to stuff the ballot box.

This paper is full of references to the late Danny West. I promised some folks at this paper I would not mention him here, as that would prove redundant. Besides, I really didn’t know him very well. In fact, I’m not sure he ever really knew my name. I was one of what I suspect were a whole bunch of guys that Danny referred to as “Hey brotha!” That was OK by me. And this week, driving to work Tuesday morning, I noticed someone had chalked Danny’s name in big cursive letters on the side of the Zucchini & Vine COBA wall.