Thursday, December 13, 2012

Metropolis, Eight Other Posters Sell for $1.2 million.

* Well-known movie poster collector Ralph DeLuca has won the vaunted three-sheet to "Metropolis" - and eight other rare items - including posters to the "Invisible Man" and "King Kong" - for a record-breaking $1.2 million - in a bankruptcy trustee sale held in Los Angeles today.

* Although the nine items were bundled in a lot - with a minimum $700,000 bid put up in advance by DeLuca - the additional $500,000 he paid for the collection, which had been "cherry-picked" by the bankruptcy trustee as being "subjectively "the most desirable" - gives, in my view - the Madison, New Jersey collector the crown as the #1 movie poster collector in the world.

* Although interviews are being conducted as we speak between Deluca and news organizations including Reuters and The Hollywood Reporter - a delighted DeLuca told me that he outbid Heritage Auctions in Dallas - and two or three other bidders for the collection.

* "I've been saying for years that I'm the #1 poster buyer in America and I proved it," he said. "When it comes down to putting cash on the table - I'm the #1 buyer. I believe in this stuff. I'm into investments - and I believe posters are a hedge against inflation."

* When asked to comment on the approximate value of "Metropolis" - independently of the other items he won, DeLuca said, "Honestly, in my opinion, the (monetary) equivalent to "Metropolis" in the art world - is $100 to $150 million. I believe it's a minimum seven-figure poster - because even if someone had $5 million to spend right now - he or she would NOT be able to find another "Metropolis" available for sale."

* The auction was was part of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy settlement involving collector Ken Schacter of Valencia, California - whereby it was agreed by U.S. authorities that significant handling costs, commission fees and labor/time - could be avoided by bypassing conventional consignors and auction houses - by selling the prize items in Schacter's collection - via a direct sale to the public.

* "This was a great victory," said DeLuca. "It's been something I've been thinking about for months and months. I thought the poster was lost and was going to be given to Heritage (Auctions) to sell (in Dallas). But the bankruptcy trustee came back to me - and I responded by offering a 100% cash offer to start the bidding, while others would not put up more than 25 percent of the collection's estimated value."

* Meawhile, the fate of the remainder of the "known items" in Ken Schacter's prized collection isn't yet known. Schacter may keep the rest of his collection if it is judged that today's sale resolves all legal fees, as well as real and punitive damages accrued thus far. If not, the remainder of his collection could also be sold - with less fanfare and by more conventional means, e.g., via an auction house.

* The U.S. Bankruptcy Court's actions - which took place throughout 2012 in Los Angeles - were the result of collector's Ken Schacter decision to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy - to avoid re-paying a loan - said to be in the neighborhood of $500,000 and $600,000 - owed to Los Angeles investor Robert Mannheim.

* After "Metropolis" surfaced "for sale" for $850,000 on a movie sales website based in North Carolina (Movie Poster Exchange, owned by collector-investor-entrepreneurs Sean Linkenback and Peter Contarino) - Mr. Mannheim, reading forum postings on the Internet and news stories published in The Hollywood Reporter, The London Guardian and other news organizations in early 2012 - had the proof he needed - which he'd long suspected - that Mr. Schacter had been illegally shielding and selling valuable assets to avoid re-paying his loan - to the detriment of himself, to the memory of his late wife's estate and to his surviving daughter. This transformed the Chapter 11 proceeding (asset restructuring) to a Chapter 7 proceeding (asset liquidation).

* Ironically, Mr. Schacter was an early "business partner" of Movie Poster Exchange before the enterprise debuted this year - amid great publicity over the availability of Schacter's "Metropolis" poster for $850,000 - which had been acquired by Schacter in 2005 for the then astronomical sum of $690,000.

* After weeks of public silence from Movie Poster Exchange about the sudden disappearance of "Metropolis" from its website - co-owner Sean Linkenback - on May 4, 2012 - publicly detailed how Schacter's "Metropolis" came to him: "Ken (Schacter) later approached us about featuring the Metropolis poster on our website during our launch, and (co-owner) Peter (Contarino) was actually opposed to this, feeling correctly that we have built a sound business model and a fantastic site that will be able to stand on its own. But the price was reasonable based on its prior sale and it did allow us to take advantage of some publicity opportunities we may not have had otherwise, so Peter relented and we did spotlight the poster."

* In the end, a relieved DeLuca told me. "I'm absolutely thrilled with what happened. This was the highlight of my collecting year and I eagerly await for a phone call for the next batch of posters someone wants to sell."

* Ralph DeLuca's poster website is at

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

WARNING: Are you still yapping or texting from your cell phone?

** (Note:  This blog entry was first posted on August 23, 2009, and is being re-posted as a public service.)  WARNING – THE ABOVE CARTOON IS DARKLY FUNNY -- (Portland, Oregon-based cartoonist Shannon Wheeler is a fabulous talent who inspires humor and thought-provoking topics for discussion) – BUT THE IMAGES BELOW are screen shots take from a SERIOUS and GRAPHIC public service film from the United Kingdom - whose makers have authorized me to upload to my own You Tube Channel - and post a story about it on this blog.

** On July 1, 2008, California's ban against using cell phones while driving went into effect.

** While the law created a greater awareness about the dangers of using cell phones while driving – the sad truth is it will probably take more accidents – and more tickets – to get more people in line.  (Full disclosure: I haven't invested in hands-free technology, but I don't use my phone while driving.)

** Try this: The next time you're at a red light, count the number of cars going by with drivers using cell phones in broad daylight. I've done this several times and admittedly, it's not scientific, but about 3 cars for every 10 – contain drivers yapping away on their phones. (I've even seen drivers dropping/tilting their heads a little bit to avoid getting caught.)

** Between 2008 and 2010, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) issued more than 120,000 tickets against lawbreakers throughout the state. And when you include tickets issued by city and county police officers, that number balloons to about 250,000 citations. The average fine is about $120, depending upon where you live.

** And most of those tickets were for yapping. It's harder to catch people texting in their cars – which many believe is a greater scourge. Texting while driving is equivalent to an idiot using his thumbs to write a message – while at the wheel of a 2,000-pound killer clocked at 50-miles per hour.

** According to a release issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation, several deadly accidents involving texting behind the wheel have raised the possibility of even tougher laws and penalties. In 2008, a commuter train in Los Angeles -- whose driver was texting on a cell phone -- led to accident that killed 25 people and injured 135 others.

** "In another incident, a Florida truck driver admitted to texting moments before a collision with a school bus that killed a student," the release noted. And last month, "a 17-year-old high school student from Peoria, Illinois was killed when she drove off the road while texting with friends."

** And this is just the tip of the iceberg. It's hard to tell which accidents are caused by cell phone use and which aren't – because drivers who survive them won't admit using their phones – and it's hard to prove in the aftermath of cleaning wreckage from a crash.

** In the United Kingdom, a graphic public service film depicting the ravages of using cell phones in cars has spread virally on the Internet. The four-minute sequence involves British actors and creative talent – and is part of a larger 30-minute drama produced and directed by Peter Watkins-Hughes -- an award winning, former BBC TV producer with 15 years experience in documentary, animation, comedy and drama -- with credits in every genre from melodramas to gardening shows.

** Moreover, Mr. Watkins-Hughes is also a lecturer for the Documentary Film and Television department at the Newport School of Art, Media and Design in Wales. He enlisted his own students to work on the film, which was made for - and with - the Gwent Police Department, located about 150 miles west of London. Mr. Watkins-Hughes says the longer-version of this film will be shown at schools this year, to be incorporated within what's called the Personal and Social Education (PSE) curriculum. And he's now in talks with the BBC to have the film, presently entitled "COW" – to be broadcast later this year throughout the U.K.

** WARNING – the graphic, four-minute video clip below is professionally staged -- but appears very realistic and does a fine job hammering its message home. In my view, every parent should see it.  It should be imported and licensed from Mr. Watkins-Hughes for broadcast throughout the United States. His contact information is available by clicking here.

** The clip above is part of a longer drama called "COW." According to its representatives, the film's synopsis is as follows: "It's all about Cassie Cowan, a nice girl from a Gwent valley's family who kills four people on the road because she used her mobile and lost her concentration for a few seconds. Gwent police is proud to have helped Brynmawr filmmaker Peter Watkins-Hughes in the production, which stars local drama students Jenny Davies as Cassie, and Amy Ingram and Laura Quantick as her friends, Emm and Jules." More credit information is available at the bottom of this post below.

** Many years ago I remember getting ticketed for not wearing a seat belt. At the time, the motor cop was almost embarrassed to hit me with a ticket for something other than a gross moving violation. Those days are gone. Today the state's seat belt law is vigorously enforced – and police officers no longer apologize. The combination of seat belts and air bags have dramatically lowered fatalities. You don't even have to look it up. Traffic accidents are still abundant, but lives are being saved. Most "higher-thinking primates" feel buckling up is an automatic reflex. So why then, are people still using their cell phones while driving?

** According to Governing Magazine, what's more astonishing is "while 29 states have passed some kind of limit on cell-phone use...none has gone so far as to enact a total ban on drivers’ phone conversations." This means millions of people are still yapping and texting away, in spite of, the Los Angeles Times reports, a "growing body of studies which show that texting, conversing on hand-held phones or even chatting hands-free...makes us dangerous drivers, as likely to get into an accident as if we were legally drunk."

** The news isn't all bleak. According to Steven Bloch of the Automobile Club of Southern California, cell phone use in cars is down about 60 percent since the law went into effect. But not in New York. "In New York State, where a 'hands-free cell phones law' took effect in 2001, almost no effect of the law was found a year later," said Bloch.

** What's being done?  Beyond the video above that should be licensed and imported for schools in the United States – there's the ALERT Drivers Act – which punishes states without laws against texting -- by cutting off millions of federal dollars for transportation. And U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has also taken a strong strand investigating texting and other driving distractions.

** Mr. Bloch of the Automobile Club reports that since the cell phone ban in California, the citations issued by the CHP alone – represents about 6 percent of all moving violation citations. "Hand-held cell phone use appears to have crept up slowly over the months, but contrary to a general perception of much higher usage, it's still far lower than it was before the law took effect..."

** Well OK, then.  But I still see a lot of people using their cell phones, inviting an accident to happen. Obviously if you catch someone doing this, get as far away from them as possible.

** Or honk like hell.

** UPDATE: After posting this video at You Tube -- click here, the bandwidth on my news site exploded. Thousands of viewers seeking the full context of the video's creation -- came over here, blowing past the standard settings on my photo-hosting account, temporarily knocking down many images. This problem has now been permanently resolved.

** I wish to make clear that I was NOT the first person to post this video.
The major difference is that my version is "authorized" by its makers to be posted on my own You Tube channel and is the ONLY one that provides news and other information about how the film came to be. Many production artists and creative talents in the U.K. who deserve due credit for its creation, have rightly expressed irritation about "losing control" of their film to the Internet. I wish to correct some of that now.

** This 30-minute drama is available in additional snippets which have been largely ignored -- (compared to the video of the crash itself)-- but can be seen by visiting the work posted by film editor Richard Jon Micklewright, who worked on this production with producer-director Peter Watkins-Hughes -- and goes by the handle, "richardjonm" at You Tube. I encourage you to visit his video channel, where you will find the crash video clip, production credits and his contact information. (Parenthetically, it also also features my own verbatim introductory words and phrasing with my permission, presented in my standard news summary format).

** You will also find a series of "tasters" (which are equivalent to the word "teasers" in the United States) -- from the drama that surrounds the four-minute crash video clip. My only role was to frame the video's titanic importance for the very news column you're reading -- in order to point out the woeful lack of comprehensive bans against the use of cell phones in cars in many states here in the U.S. My intent is to call attention to a problem that, when corrected, will serve the greater good.

(Original material © 2009-2012 by David Kusumoto Communications.)

Friday, September 23, 2011

One Year Later - The Book Version of San Diego's Viral Hit Is Still a NY Times Bestseller.

** UPDATE, September 23, 2011 -- The book above has been #1 for eleven of the last 72 weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers List. The book finally dropped out of the top 25 on September 18, 2011. The CBS Television series, "$#*! My Dad Says," which debuted in September 2010 to mostly poor reviews, was cancelled in May 2011.   

** On May 4, 2010, "Sh** My Dad Says," the "R-rated" social media phenomenon that began in August 2009 on Twitter – attracting millions of followers as it moved to Facebook and to other social media platforms around the world – entered the rarefied air of the printed page.  

** It Books, an imprint of Harper-Collins, released a 176-page hardcover version of "S*** My Dad Says" – filled with hilarious and sometimes poignant stories - supplemented by only a few of the more than 100 profane, ribald and politically incorrect quips posted on Twitter and uttered by Samuel "Sam" Halpern, the 74-year-old father of Justin Halpern of San Diego.

** The book does NOT replicate nor re-hash what's available online. It is a stand-alone product, a memoir of sorts, filled with short chapters - whereby son Justin provides the "back story" about his relationship with his father. The publisher's marketing notes describe the book as an "all-American tale that unfolds on the Little League field, in Denny's, during excruciating family road trips, and - most frequently - in the Halperns' kitchen over bowls of Grape-Nuts."  

** While some of the quips seen on Twitter do re-appear, the book is filled with fresh material. It is an equally hilarious but more fully formed (and surprisingly touching) collection of stories that paint an almost loving picture of what it was like for Justin to grow up in the shadow of his brainy and brutally blunt father.

** Justin's story has been told numerous times – and is available at so many other online venues – (the best, in my view, was published last year in the Los Angeles Times) – that I'm not going to get into an in-depth recap of how he got here today. In short, after being dumped by his girlfriend in Los Angeles, Justin Halpern, now 29, founder of the humor website, "Holy Taco" – and a senior writer for – moved back with his parents in San Diego.

** On August 4, 2009, he began posting a string of outrageous quips spun by his father – some dating back to Justin's own childhood – to a Twitter account, which in turn spread virally, capturing the attention of celebrities, literary agents and entertainment producers.

** Justin's father Sam, who's described as being "like Socrates, but angrier, and with worse hair" – is a retired scientist from the University of California, San Diego. He's not only corrosively blunt – but he's also, according to the Los Angeles Times, reported to be extremely protective of his privacy, refusing all requests for interviews. Whatever else we might want to know about this secretive but sometimes hilariously crude man - can only come through his adoring son - who describes his dad as "awesome."

 ** "My dad went to medical school," Justin Halpern told the Times in February. He lectured at Harvard. He's [expletive deleted] way smarter than I could ever hope to be."

** Sample quips from Justin's dad:  

"Look at that dog's rear. You can tell by the dilation of his a** that he's going to take a s*** soon. See. There it goes."  

"Oh please, you practically invented lazy. People should have to call you and ask for the rights to lazy before they use it."  

"You ranked the 25 Christmas presents you want, in order of how much you want them? Are you insane? I said tell me what you want for Christmas. I didn't ask you to make a f***** college football poll." 

"I'm sitting in one of those TGI Friday's places, and everyone looks like they want to shove a shotgun in their mouth."  

"Your brother brought his baby over this morning. He told me it could stand. It couldn't stand for sh**. Just sat there. Big let down."  

"Why am I going to pay $200 (for a plane ticket) so a six-year-old can see a wedding? You think that's a moment he cares about? Two years ago he was still sh****** his pants."  

"The worst thing you can be is a liar. . . . Okay, fine, yes, the worst thing you can be is a Nazi, but then number two is liar. Nazi one, liar two."  

"My flight lands at 9:30 on Sunday...You want to watch what? What the f*** is Mad Men? Well I'm (going to be) a mad man if you don't pick me the hell up."

** The thing most surprising to me as a reader are passages in the book that illustrate the humanity of Justin's Dad. There are numerous "father-to-son" conversations whereby Justin's Dad, almost surreptitiously, dispenses advice based on his own experiences with the business of living and being a parent.

** For example, when Justin forgets to meet his Dad to help tend the garden - and decides instead to have a fun time with pals in Mexico - Dad is at first enraged, screaming that he almost called the cops. Then he calms down, motions Justin over, and in a rare display of open affection, grabs and bear-hugs his son and says, "You dumb s***. I can't wait until you have a kid of your own and you have to worry about what happens to him. You never stop worrying about your children. It sucks. You watch what you (get into), because this is your life, this bulls*** right here."  

** More quips from Justin's dad:  

(While watching "Schindler's List"): "What do you want? You want me to pass you some candy? They're throwing people in the f****** gas chamber, and you want a Skittles?"  

"How the f*** should I know if the food's gone bad? Eat it. You get sick, it wasn't good. You people, you think I got microscopic f****** eyes."  

"You're being f****** dramatic. You own a TV and an air mattress. That's not exactly what I'd call "a lot to lose."

"I wanted to see Detroit win. I've been there. It looks like God took a s*** on a parking lot. They deserve some good news."

"Remember how you used to make fun of me for being bald?...No, I'm not gonna make a joke. I'll let your mirror do that."  

"Give your mother the front seat...I don't give a s*** if she said you could have it, that's what she's supposed to do, and you're supposed to say, 'No, I insist.' You think I'm gonna drive around with my wife in the backseat and a nine-year-old in the front? You're a crazy son-of-a-b****."

** In my view, the greatest of ironies – one that has been missed by many observers amid the fun and frivolity about a cantankerously funny old man – is this: It's not about how popular Samuel Halpern has become – it's about how we accept and laugh more readily – at off-color remarks coming from a senior citizen.  

** My theory is because we enter and exit this world in diapers - we're reflexively more tolerant of people who are very young or very old - than we are of people who are "in the middle." We know this to be true because if Sam Halpern was a 30-year old man, he wouldn't be as funny. It's not just his words that make us howl – it's the fact that they're coming from a 74-year old man – to whom we've given more latitude to say or do whatever he wants. We give him a pass, a badge of wisdom for seeing it all. Conversely, for a toddler, we impart an aura of innocence and cuteness onto a being who's seen very little. In sum, we tend to let the very young and the very old - get away with things - that we'd never allow from others.

** More pearls of "wisdom" from Justin's dad:  

"I don't give a s*** how it happened, the window is broken... Wait, why is there syrup everywhere? Okay, you know what? Now I give a s*** how it happened. Let's hear it."  

"So he called you a homo. Big deal. There's nothing wrong with being a homosexual. No, I'm not saying you're a homosexual. J*s*s Chr*st, now I'm starting to see why this kid was giving you s***."

"Why the f*** would I want to live to 100? I'm 73 and sh**'s starting to get boring. By the way, there's no money left when I go, just fyi."  

"You need to flush the toilet more than once...No, YOU, YOU specifically need to. You know what, use a different toilet. This is my toilet."  

"Sometimes life leaves a hundred-dollar bill on your dresser, and you don't realize until later that it's because it f***** you."  

"Can we talk later? The news is on... Well, if you have tuberculosis it's not gonna get any worse in the next 30 minutes, J*s*s."  

"A parent's only as good as their dumbest kid. If one of them wins a Nobel Prize but the other gets robbed by a hooker, you've failed."

** Why are we more forgiving of senior citizens delivering off-color remarks? In fact, there are educated answers that go beyond our own sense of intuition.

** Dr. Michael Mantell, a clinical psychologist, author, television correspondent and columnist for San Diego Magazine - and a former chief psychologist for Children's Hospital and Health Center of San Diego and the San Diego Police Department - believes this phenomenon is partially rooted in "a fundamental respect for elders that many still have in society."  

** "Those who don't have it," Dr. Mantell says, "are not tolerant of seniors, and are likely not tolerant of people who are younger as well. We tend to equate seniors with our grandparents. And again, for those (of us) who have positive, living relationships - our sense of respect for them continues."

** Even more gems from Justin's dad:  

(On finishing last in the 50-yard dash): "It kinda looked like you were being attacked by a bunch of bees or something. Then when I saw the fat kid with the watch who was timing you start laughing... Well, I'll just say it's never a good sign when a fat kid laughs at you."  

"You're like a tornado of bulls*** right now. We'll talk again after your bulls*** dies out over someone else's house."  

"I need to change clothes? Wow. That's big talk coming from someone who looks like they robbed a Mervyn's."  

"If mom calls, tell her I'm sh*****g. Son, marriage is about not having to lie about taking a s***."  

"Happy birthday, I didn't get you a present...Oh, mom got you one? Well, that's from me then too, unless it's sh***y."  

"Mom is smarter than you...No? Well, ask yourself this; has mom ever unknowingly had toilet paper hanging out of her a**?...Mom 1. You 0."  

"No. Tell 'em we're not doing Christmas dinner at a casino. Don't be an a** about it, but tell them why it's a f****** stupid idea."

** Meanwhile, as you read these words, the latest chapter in the saga of "S___ My Dad Says" has come to an end. Justin Halpern, who co-wrote and co-produced the television sit-com version of his Twitter feed (with William Shatner playing Justin's Dad) - was cancelled last month by CBS.  The show just wasn't any good.
** Situation comedies featuring curmudgeonly parents have been a television staple for decades. It was too much to ask the television series to defy the stark reality - that there was only so much "funny" - that could be squeezed out of this formula - and more specifically - from Justin's dad.

** So how much longer will the "Sh** My Dad Says" phenomenon last? With the death of the television show, I can't help thinking this is just a passing fad, a bright star that will quickly fade.

** So I'll stop thinking about it for now. We already know few things last forever. We don't know whether Sam Halpern is a passing fad or a potential institutional fixture on the landscape of American humor. So let's just sit back and enjoy the moment, and see how long we can continue to be lifted by our own gales of laughter.  

Original Material © 2010-2012 by David Kusumoto Communications.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Men vs. Women -- and Their Material Things


** Bringing back an "oldie" – just because it was a hit before. (The real reason is it will give me more time to outline and finish my next news post.) Until then...

** I don't usually comment on the quality of television commercials, but ten months have gone by and I'm still laughing. The Heineken spot below is fantastic, because it illustrates in a dynamic and humorous way -- the different values men and women place on material things. The commercial is entirely in Dutch (except for the end logo) and has aired unaltered on American television -- and is often seen on ESPN and during sporting events.

** Since its original debut in late 2008, its viral version on You Tube has been viewed nearly 3 million times. It has spawned two "sequels" by Heineken itself -- as well as a number of "knock-offs."

** A simple English translation of what the woman in the black dress says to her girlfriends touring her new home is: "Now this is the living room....and over here is the bedroom....(pause)...with...."

And everyone starts screaming.

** Does it make people buy more beer? I can't say because I'm biased. I've been in love with the Heineken brand since our first visit to Amsterdam many years ago. But in my view, this is already one of the funniest beer commercials of all time. (To be fair, if this commercial was "flipped," it could show men's unending fascination with gadgets and power tools.)

(Original material © 2009-2012 by David Kusumoto Communications.)

Friday, April 8, 2011

** BREAKING / EXCLUSIVE - Pat Brown Promoted to Chief Weather Anchor at KGTV 10 (ABC - San Diego).

** "How's It Going to End?" has learned that nearly 18 months after her return to San Diego television news - Pat Brown has been promoted to chief weather anchor at KGTV Channel 10 (ABC) in San Diego. Although terms were not disclosed, she has signed a multi-year contract and will assume her new post on Monday, April 25, 2011.

** "I'm just jazzed to be back on the air on a regular basis on one of the top stations in San Diego," she said. "There's no place else I'd rather be."

** According to Jay Maloney, multi-platform marketing director for KGTV, Ms. Brown will return to a weekday schedule, delivering weather reports Monday through Friday during Channel 10's 5 p.m., 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. news broadcasts. She replaces Byron Miranda, who had been the station's chief weather anchor since May 28, 2009.

** Jeff Block, KGTV vice president and general manager, expressed enthusiasm about Ms. Brown's promotion.

** "We are excited to have one of the most trusted forecasters joining San Diego’s most experienced news team," said Block. "Pat Brown knows and loves San Diego. She understands what it takes to accurately forecast our weather. San Diego trusts Pat Brown to forecast the weather, but she’s also a great person with incredible warmth and personality."

** The pioneering host of the "P.M. Magazine" show on KFMB (CBS) Channel 8 during the 1980s – Ms. Brown, (like KGTV 10's Hal Clement, who also worked at KFMB) - has been a near continuous presence on the landscape of San Diego television. A former state pageant queen from Sheperdstown, West Virginia – Ms. Brown effortlessly re-invented herself into a news reporter and TV personality – before settling into her present incarnation as a weather anchor armed with a consistently sunny disposition.

** In an ironic twist, the man Ms. Brown replaces – Byron Miranda - will leave KGTV Channel 10 San Diego to join KNBC 4 in Los Angeles. According to a press release issued by Vickie Burns, vice president of news and content for NBC - Mr. Miranda will join KNBC on May 2, 2011, helming that station's weekend weather segments at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. - as well as providing "fill-in" work during the weekdays as necessary.

** The changes come nearly two years (late June 2009) after a controversial decision by NBC brass to replace Pat Brown at KNSD (NBC San Diego, formerly NBC 7/39) - with Fritz Coleman, a meteorologist delivering news about San Diego's weather - from a network studio based in Los Angeles (KNBC Channel 4). The decision was controversial not only because it angered Ms. Brown's fan base, but more significantly, it marked the first time in San Diego television news history that the region's weather forecasts were broadcast to local viewers via satellite from Los Angeles. As one journalist noted to me back in 2009, it was a phenomenon that would never occur between NBC network-owned stations in Philadelphia and New York - two cities comparable in distance from each other as San Diego is to Los Angeles – with distinct cultural and demographic differences that can't be dismissed.

** While it's not yet formally known if Mr. Miranda will now go head-to-head during weekends at KNBC 4 Los Angeles against KGTV 10 in San Diego - it's still widely expected that he'll be delivering San Diego's weather on KNSD NBC San Diego - via satellite from KNBC's studios in Los Angeles (Burbank).

** Mr. Miranda has logged many stops in his career, working at stations in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as appearing on CNN and CNN International. Industry sources requesting anonymity pointedly noted that Mr. Miranda's exit comes just before the two-year anniversary of his contract with KGTV Channel 10 - consistent with a long-term desire to return to Los Angeles - even if it means, as it does here, reappearing in a limited role on KNBC Channel 4 - as a stepping stone to "bigger things," i.e., a larger career in news and/or in entertainment - in the nation's second largest media market.

** With the impending departure of Oprah Winfrey's talk show as a lead-in for San Diego CBS affiliate KFMB Channel 8's 5 p.m. news broadcast - the race to be #1 at 5 p.m. appears to be wide open in 2011-2012. Industry observers and advertisers are eager to see whether KFMB - minus Oprah's lead-in audience - will be able to hang onto its ratings lead during the 5 p.m. news hour.

** Meanwhile, KGTV Channel 10 News Director Joel Davis said Pat Brown's return to the station's weekday broadcasts on April 25 will be seamless.

** "Pat Brown fits right in with Kim (Kimberly Hunt), Steve (Atkinson), Hal (Clement) and the entire 10News team," he said. "Anyone who lives here knows it’s not always 70 degrees and sunny. You want someone who's been here and has the experience to understand San Diego's weather. And that’s Pat Brown."

** Ms. Brown, who has been doing fill-in work for KGTV (ABC) Channel 10 since November 2009, said she is overjoyed to return to a weekday schedule.

** "I'm never planning to leave San Diego and this is a wonderful opportunity for me to do what I love to do," she said. "I want to continue to re-connect with the fans and viewers who have followed me through the years. I've missed them and I hope they've missed me."

** This column's last story about Pat Brown - posted on November 4, 2009 - appears below.

(Original material © 2011 by David Kusumoto Communications.)

* * * * *

** BREAKING / EXCLUSIVE – Pat Brown Returns to San Diego Television News.

** "How's It Going to End?" has learned that four months after leaving KNSD (NBC) Channel 7/39 – long-time San Diego news and weather anchor Pat Brown – has a new weekend gig.

** She will join ABC-affiliate KGTV Channel 10 as a weather anchor beginning this Sunday, November 8, 2009, at 6pm and at 11pm. She will work Saturdays and Sundays through the end of January, 2010.

** Pat Brown declined to comment about her status other than to say she is "happy" to be returning to San Diego television.

** However, Joel Davis, news director for KGTV Channel 10 – confirmed that Ms. Brown will fill in for weathercaster Kerstin Lindquist, who is on maternity leave.

** “We’re thrilled that since KNSD (NBC Channel 7/39) has farmed out their weather duties to Los Angeles, that we have the opportunity to bring someone of Pat’s stature and popularity to the 10 News weather team," Davis said. "It reinforces our commitment to bring San Diegans important local weather information – with the best weathercasters and the most advanced technology.”

** This development means Pat Brown will have worked at all three major network affiliates – KFMB CBS Channel 8, KNSD NBC 7/39 and KGTV ABC Channel 10 – since the late 1980s. Sources say she'll spend her weekdays continuing to serve the community as a tour guide for DayTrippers, a San Diego-based travel firm.

** My original story, posted on July 27, 2009, appears below.

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MONDAY, JULY 27, 2009
One Month Later -- What does Pat Brown's departure mean for local TV news?

** On Friday, June 26, 2009, Pat Brown gave her last weather report on NBC-owned KNSD 39 (Cable Channel 7) in San Diego.

** The pioneering host of the groundbreaking "P.M. Magazine" show on KFMB Channel 8 during the 1980s – Ms. Brown had a near continuous presence on the San Diego television news landscape. The former state pageant queen from Sheperdstown, West Virginia (1977), moved west – and effortlessly re-invented herself into a beauty-with-brains TV personality and news reporter – before settling into her last incarnation as a weather anchor armed with an effervescently sunny on-air disposition. In an industry never known for stability, Ms. Brown's admirers knew her to be just that – a consistently productive and positive force for San Diego television programming – and for the community she continues to serve.

** The following Monday, Ms. Brown was replaced by Fritz Coleman, a nearly 30-year veteran of the TV wars from KNBC Channel 4 in Los Angeles, one of NBC's flagship-owned stations (alongside WNBC in New York).

** But that wasn't the headline to some of us. The headline was that the award-winning Mr. Coleman, by all accounts a "nice guy" with broad appeal – is now broadcasting his San Diego weather reports from Los Angeles – on a custom-built set back at KNBC.

** Though such "arrangements" aren't new – the move was the first of its kind involving a network-owned news station in San Diego. It illustrates the dire economic health of local television news – with KNSD NBC 39 (in my view) – probably faring the worst, budget wise, among its competitors. Station managers everywhere have been slashing budgets – first dumping behind-the-scenes staff and "superfluous programming" – while saving their biggest (and most visible) cuts for last.

** Pat Brown's departure wasn't your garden variety "revolving door" personnel change. It was emblematic of something worse that has cast a chill in the rooms and halls of KNSD NBC 39 – and beyond. Wishful-thinking station heads might be blocking out the precedent – and scoffing at satirically minded suggestions that any station that "jobs out" any portion of its local identity to a distant area code – is setting itself up to be wiped out entirely - by a thousand paper cuts afflicted over the next several years. Some TV insiders are quietly saying that "it could've been worse." Well, that's true. Maybe they should be thankful. They believe the tempest surrounding Ms. Brown's departure will "blow over." And likely it will. Fritz Coleman has already won over some skeptics – and I give credit to news director Greg Dawson for trying to manage the ill-smelling winds of anger still blowing after this change.

** But the bigger picture that's unique to KNSD NBC Channel 39 – has less to do with Pat Brown and more to do with the station itself being owned by NBC. Ms. Brown's departure raised eyebrows, for sure. But what was more ideologically significant to journalists – was that her departure and subsequent replacement by talent based in Los Angeles - was the first blatant evidence of what's been going on for a long time at network-owned stations in markets smaller than San Diego, e.g., the creeping decentralization of news and weather information – led by network executives who work in distant offices. Thus we have a classic instance whereby it's not always good to be OWNED by a network – and why it's sometimes better to be a network affiliate operating with greater independence.

** Since about 2002, TV news stations have been trending toward hiring more versatile reporters and anchors. These so-called "video-journalists" carry their own cameras and edit their own news segments – and sometimes get the privilege to present them live on the anchor desks where their higher-paid colleagues sit. Everyone knows that every "hybrid journalist" invited to the anchor desk to present his or her story – is being "screen tested." Such "hybrids" save big-time dollars for station managers – and equally significant, they can serve as "leverage" when the contracts of highly paid news anchors come up for renewal.

** On the surface, it appears to some that Pat Brown's "Achilles heel" was not being "versatile" enough. If so, you can count on other anchors at NBC 7/39 to be reviewed similarly for "fitness and compatibility" with the network's finance department. Hence the oft-heard advice during the last few years remains sound, e.g., "if you're still in TV news – the faster you can jump on the "hybrid train" the better – thus avoiding obsolescence and/or getting dragged or tossed behind.

** Local news anchors draw salaries that are double, triple or even higher than those working behind the scenes. An anchor's "work" is to bring in ratings. So what's that got to do with Pat Brown? Nothing unless you think she was a drag on ratings. I personally don't. It was all about saving money – but in a way more pernicious because the station is owned by a network - that decreed that news about the weather – does NOT require a local person to deliver it, hence can be pared less painfully than other departments.

** Everyone working in television news sees the handwriting on the wall. But in the past, even when times were good - that handwriting was mostly about being dumped in a budget cut and being replaced by someone cheaper, usually someone younger from a smaller market.

** But at a network-OWNED station – you have the additional fear of watching departments consolidated or phased out in stages, replaced by talent or crews located hundreds of miles away at other stations bigger than your own. It's analogous to newspapers shedding staff while publishing articles by news syndicates or wire services that are written in other states.

** What's unfortunate is despite the acknowledged downturn in local TV news nationwide - (because web-based news keeps siphoning viewers away) – the band-aid patches applied by network-owned-and-operated "suits" can't stop the bleeding. And watering down a station's local news product – under the aegis of saving money during a recession – also risks washing away the higher purpose of targeting audiences and advertisers in a region that will drift further away from KNSD NBC Channel 39 – and toward competing stations that remain committed to San Diego.

** It bears repeating that San Diego is the ninth largest city in the U.S. Yet corporate America and NBC keeps treating San Diego as if it's geographically, demographically and politically identical to Los Angeles. I sense that Mr. Dawson knows this to be true, even if he can't say it. Corporate America has always acted as if San Diego is a suburb of Los Angeles – and even believe its WEATHER is the same – despite San Diego's location on a harbor and Los Angeles's location on a smoggy basin.

** NOTE: Philadelphia is about the same distance to New York (and yet so different in character) - as San Diego is to Los Angeles. But NBC knows that replacing Philly-based weather anchors at WCAU NBC Channel 10 - with their counterparts at WNBC 4 in New York - would be greeted with outrage. Yet network executives continue to have a "blind spot" about San Diego - seeing it as being the same as L.A. - despite the polarizing political and cultural differences that are obvious to viewers in both cities.

** Pat Brown will re-invent herself like she always has – and will turn up soon because of her strong ties to the community. But in my view, intra-state or interstate consolidations – involving network-owned news stations like KNSD Channel 39 in San Diego – are incompatible with efforts to maintain revenues from local advertisers. Magnify that when you consider NBC's prime-time lineup is weak on every evening except Thursday – and that its sports product is limited to golf, NFL Sunday Night Football and the Olympics.

** The final irony amid all these words is this. A visit to KNSD NBC 7/39's website on Monday, July 27, 2009 at 9:45 p.m. Pacific Time – yielded the following banner slogan:

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(Original material © 2009-2012 by David Kusumoto Communications.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Why will "Ayn Rand and the World She Made" never go out of print?

 ** UPDATED DECEMBER 15, 2010 - (Originally posted on November 29, 2009). Editor's note: The controversial best-selling biography, ""Ayn Rand and the World She Made is now out in paperback.

** On October, 27, 2009, publisher Nan A. Talese (an imprint of Random House) released Anne C. Heller's new book, "Ayn Rand and the World She Made" – about the life of Russian-American author Ayn Rand (1905-1982) – whose 1957 classic, "Atlas Shrugged" – seems eerily clairvoyant today.

** "Atlas Shrugged" is a doomsday novel of heroes, villains, love triangles and politics – set against a backdrop of an American economy in collapse, e.g., gifted innovators disappear, industries merge and close, millions of people are thrown out of work – while the federal government tries to help by subsidizing, bailing out and taking over whole industries – issuing "greater good" directives which pushes the United States closer to socialism.

** Sound familiar?

** So who was Ayn Rand and why is she still relevant today?

** You don't have to be an Ayn Rand follower to get into Anne C. Heller's spectacular new book. You can even be a "cafeteria-fan" like I am - picking and choosing parts of her ideas that are compatible with your own – while still getting tremendous enjoyment reading about what made Rand a larger-than-life figure in American philosophy and literature.

** In my view, what's most impressive – and what makes "Ayn Rand and the World She Made" feel like a book that will never go out of print – is author Heller's even-handed (and easy-to-read) summaries of Rand's complex ideologies about American individualism, capitalism and democracy, along with synopses of ALL of Rand's books and lectures – explained in ways that are sometimes more lucid than Rand's original works, making them more accessible to mainstream readers.

** Don't believe what others say. While it's obvious the author is NOT a Ayn Rand disciple - (which she tells readers up-front) – it's ALSO clear that she is NOT a comprehensive hater of Ayn Rand. Anne C. Heller's book reads like a journalistic strike down the middle of the plate, with no political agendas or axes to grind.

** Ayn Rand's published works are brilliantly controversial – but to many readers, they're also riddled with mind-numbingly dense passages that require a level of concentration so intense – that you feel like your head might explode. Heller tackles this problem by simplifying what's impenetrable – while opening a window onto what Rand was like - as a flesh-and-blood person. The author's work has a story-telling momentum that's unusual compared to other biographies – in that her obligatory chapters about Rand's childhood – aren't those that you'll want to "skip over."

** With the help of researchers digging through archives in Russia and throughout the United States, Anne C. Heller brings Ayn Rand's childhood and adult years excitingly to life – making more clear to mainstream readers why Rand's experiences were critically important to understanding how her ideas against socialism and collectivism were formed – and how she refined them over time. The author further illustrates how Rand integrated these ideas into all of her novels, particularly "The Fountainhead" (1943) and "Atlas Shrugged" (1957) – and how she subsequently became world famous – while carrying a torch of stubborn dismissiveness toward her detractors, all the way to her death in 1982.

** "Ayn Rand and the World She Made" reads more credibly than all previous treatments of Rand's life to date – because author Heller approaches Rand as a critical admirer – and not as a blind-faith fan. Her ability to make Rand's ideas come alive demonstrates her admiration and respect of Rand's intellect. This "closed the sale" for me as a reader – and wipes out criticisms written by some of Rand's followers - who are obsessively parsing every word in Heller's book. Even Cliffs Notes versions of "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead" are somewhat tainted by being written by authors possessing an over-eager zealotry of her ideas. Not once did I feel Heller was presenting Rand - as being anything more than a tremendously intelligent, charismatic and charming figure - who could also be frighteningly eccentric, petty and cruel.

** Most reviews have been favorable. But while reading a few negative reviews, I detected an undercurrent of resistance to Ms. Heller's work from people, 1) who believe themselves to be more intellectually gifted than Heller to discuss Rand's life and work (hence are perhaps too biased), 2) who are horrified that lurid and less-than-flattering material about Rand's life is included (despite being too compelling to be ignored), 3) who are upset that they weren't contacted for inclusion – or if they were included – that their testimonies weren't published in full, 4) who take issue with the lack of cooperation from the Ayn Rand Institute and Leonard Peikoff, Rand's "intellectual heir," or 5) who hate Rand so much that they feel any book about her should be treated with contempt.

** In my view, these complaints are a by-product of Rand's fans or haters who are dissatisfied with the content and approach of Heller's book. Had the author included comprehensive interviews from peripheral supporters and detractors – "Ayn Rand and the World She Made" would have exceeded the page counts of "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead" combined. (Yet Heller's book is exhaustively researched, with 151-pages of notes and an index.) The author's positive summations of Rand's complex ideas – mixed with true tales which reflect poorly on her behavior and treatment of others – proves that Heller is neither a Rand follower nor a detractor. This obviously irks rabid fans and haters of Ayn Rand alike.

** The most important figures in Rand's inner circle are included in this book, e.g., those closest to Rand from the late 1930s to the late 1960s, arguably the most critical period of Ayn Rand's adult life. Hence as a reader, it's mildly bizarre to see people dismissing this book because it includes "ex-Rand-followers-who-left-the-fold," which infers their testimony carries no weight today. Nearly ALL the individuals interviewed by Heller – still express joy and sadness – while acknowledging their time with Ms. Rand was the most vigorously enriching and rewarding of their lives.

** Ayn Rand's key journal entries and letters have already been published worldwide and reside in several locations outside of the Ayn Rand Institute. Hence I don't believe there's much left waiting to be discovered that will be earth-shattering. Ms. Heller's success is consolidating Rand's ideas into a marvelously coherent single volume - and finding new, previously untapped sources to construct a more fully formed picture of Rand - that goes beyond what we already know.

** Leonard Peikoff's testimony from the Ayn Rand Institute, while useful had he agreed to cooperate - would have added little that's new – because he himself has already published numerous analyses about Rand's work. Peikoff's contributions to Rand's legacy HAVE been noted by Heller. But in fairness, Peikoff's testimony would have been only relevant, in my view, to those mainstream readers who would've wanted him to ADD to what Ms. Heller has already satisfactorily provided - about Ayn Rand's final months AFTER she stopped making public appearances - before eventually succumbing to cancer.

** In sum, this book is NOT aimed at Ayn Rand intellectuals, and this is NOT a criticism. (Though I believe they will still enjoy reading every page.) "Ayn Rand and the World She Made" feels aimed at mainstream readers seeking an unbiased, all-in-one-reference of Rand's ideas. I do NOT know Anne C. Heller personally, but I believe she has painted a superb image on an enormous canvas – of a controversial genius of titanic and electrifying importance – that will still feel relevant many years from now. If you doubt this, then why are people still talking about Ayn Rand today – nearly 30 years after her death – and more than 50 years after "Atlas Shrugged?"

(Original material © 2009-2012 by David Kusumoto Communications.)