Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Gay Marriage

It's rare that you'll hear me recommend something a politician has said, but if you get into an argument about today's gay marriage decision by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, have your opponent read the recent op-ed by Alan Simpson, former Republican Senator from Wyoming.

He preaches tolerance, and quotes Dick Cheney -- whose daughter is a lesbian -- who said during the 2000 Presidential campaign, "The fact of the matter is we live in a free society, and freedom means freedom for everybody.... And I think that means that people should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into. It's really no one else's business in terms of trying to regulate or prohibit behavior in that regard."

To date, no one has been able to give me a rational, logical answer to my question about the gay marriage issue: What's the downside? If two guys or two women get married in Massachusetts, what does that have to do with anyone anywhere else? Truth is, your life would be no more affected by that than by a man and a woman marrying each other (unless you knew them personally, of course).

I heard one opponent of gay marriage say today that it would "destabilize" the institution of marriage. I have no idea what that means. Would straight couples no longer marry? Would currently married couples be forced to become single again? The argument makes no sense.

Another claim is that "this sort of thing is what's going to eventually destroy America." Wrong. Two lesbians getting legal protection for their loving relationship isn't going to destroy anything. The two things that most endanger America from within are hatred and intolerance.

The basis of the opposition to gay marriage seems entirely religious: "It's immoral!" Fortunately, in America, our laws are not based on a narrow reliance on biblical morality. If we did, a lot of people would be locked up for eating a ham sandwich and working on Sundays (or Saturdays). If you want a country based on one group's strict interpretation of religious law, you may want to revive The Taliban. Personally, I prefer The Constitution as the rule of law.

Which brings me to the large number of requests I've received for the Dear Dr. Laura letter that I read on my radio show today. It's been going around the net for several years, and I have no idea who wrote the original, but it's good to bring out again on occasions like this.

The letter was even paraphrased and adapted by Aaron Sorkin in a "West Wing" script for the second episode of the second season ("The Midterms"), which aired on October 18, 2000.

In the scene, a group of radio talk show hosts are visiting the White House. President Bartlet enters the room and they all stand, except one woman, Dr. Jenna Jacobs (obviously modeled on Dr. Laura Schlessinger). The President then lays into her over her claim that The Bible, in Leviticus 17:22, says homosexuality is an abomination:

President Bartlet: "I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I had you here. I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be? While thinking about that, can I ask another? My chief of staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or is it okay to call the police? Here's one that's really important because we've got a lot of sports fans in this town. Touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side-by-side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you? Oh, one last thing. While you may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the Ignorant Tight-Ass Club, in this building, when the President stands, nobody sits."

Everyone remains silent as he stares her down until she finally stands up, defeated.

Monday, November 17, 2003

The Governor and The Lottery

Twenty years ago, no one would have believed we'd someday say the words "the inauguration of Governor Schwarzenegger." In fact, at the time, no one would have believed Arnold could even pronounce the word "inauguration." But it happened today.

Seeing it was especially odd because, yesterday, I watched the new "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" DVD. It's not as good as "T2," which was so stunning because of the visual effects, but in the new sequel they kept the linear story intact, and didn't skimp on the explosions and devastation and stunts. In other words, if you bought and liked the original concept, you won't be disappointed with the latest installment.

The best part comes on the commentary track of the DVD, which features Arnold, the director, and his co-stars. In one scene, Kristianna Loken, as the new high-tech Terminatrix, is pulled over by a cop for speeding through a red light at an intersection. As the cop approaches, the Terminatrix notices a Victoria's Secret billboard featuring a busty model. To distract the cop, she inflates her robot breasts a couple of cup sizes.

On the commentary track, Governor Schwarzenegger says (and I quote verbatim so you can imagine this in your personal Arnold imitation), "This scene with the enlargement of the breasts was fantastic. In the audience, I saw women sitting there, telling each other, 'Now that's a great idea, I've got to check out where you get that done.' So you can deflate and inflate your breasts on command. It's a whole new concept. Because there's some guys that like little breasts and there's some guys who like big breasts. Wouldn't it be nice if you could play both sides, sometimes even simultaneously?"

Congratulations, California, that's your Governor talking! I'm not sure what kind of woman Arnold imagines would both inflate and deflate simultaneously -- maybe some sort of lopsided woman from the future -- but, as with all things Arnold, it would be fantastic, no matter what.

It's nice to know the Governor is a dreamer.

At the other end of the country, the state of Massachusetts has denied one man his dream of winning the lottery. Okay, he's a man with a dream and a very large bank account.

The odds of winning the Massachusetts lottery are 1 in 14 million. You could cut the odds down to 1 in 2 if you bought tickets covering half of the possible numeric combinations. That would mean a $7,000,000 outlay for a potential $39,000,000 payoff, or what gamblers call a big overlay. When one man tried to do it, the st the state told him he couldn't. The lottery director said, "The lottery exists for all its players. One player seeking to potentially buy a jackpot goes against the spirit of our mission."

Mission? What, are you going to the moon? Curing cancer? Teaching Jessica Simpson algebra?

C'mon, you're running a legalized state-controlled gambling operation. If the guy's got the money, sell him the tickets. Then take your cut -- the tax revenue -- and move on. You're not affecting the chances of anyone else winning (they still have a 1 in 14 million shot for every dollar they spend), and you're pumping up the jackpot at the same time. Worst case scenario is that some trailer park couple who stupidly invested their meager life savings in lottery tickets would have to split the pot with the high roller.

What I always find ironic about the lottery is that some people -- and I admit to being one -- won't play it until the jackpot gets huge. In fact, I'd never play any game with odds that bad, so don't look for me in line waiting for my Quick Picks. But if the prize is $300 million, and you're going to buy a bunch of tickets for everyone in the office, sure, get $5 worth for me.

Why don't we do it when the jackpot is only $10 million? Wouldn't that be enough, even after taxes, to keep us going for awhile? Wouldn't one million? Ah, but then the overlay isn't big enough, making a bad bet even worse.

Which is why I don't plop down $7,000,000 to buy up the other half of the possible combinations. That, and the fact that I'm about $6,999,500 shy right now. How much you got on you?

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Steven Bochco

Today on my show, television producer/writer Steven Bochco talked about some of the classic shows he's created, including "NYPD Blue," "Hill Street Blues," and "LA Law." He also reminisced about working on "Columbo," working with John Ritter on "Hooperman," and showing Dennis Franz' nude butt on TV -- and discusses his first novel, "Death By Hollywood."

Listen.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

John Lodge of The Moody Blues

John Lodge, who has been the bass player and one of the creative forces behind The Moody Blues for over three decades, was back on my show today to talk about their Christmas CD, "December," the cover art of their classic albums, how digital technology has revolutionized the way they make music, and why flutist Ray Thomas is no longer touring with them.

Listen.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Average Joe, Average Jane

My wife had a great point last night about "Average Joe," the new reality show on NBC.

The concept of "Joe" is that a great-looking woman is wooed by sixteen average-looking guys, at least half of whom are shlubs, nerds, or both (not that there's anything wrong with that -- most of us would easily qualify). The twist is that the woman, a former KC Chiefs cheerleader, didn't know these were the kind of guys she'd be forced to choose from. When the producers asked her what five qualities she was looking for in a potential mate, she listed "looks" at number five. The first two were "good personality" and "sense of humor."

This is known universally to males of the species as "a lie."

My wife's point was that you could not do "Average Joe" in reverse. You couldn't make it a hot-looking GQ-type guy thrown in with sixteen not-cheerleader-attractive but still very normal women. There would be such an uproar from the women of this country -- about how the ladies on "Average Jane" were made the target of beauty bias, for instance -- that the networks would bow to the pressure groups and never put it on the air.

A listener named Vivian expanded on this point today on my radio show. Look at other primetime shows, she said, to see this double standard in action. On "King of Queens," Kevin James is an overweight delivery man for a UPS-like company. His wife is played by the extremely attractive Leah Remini. In real life, would a guy like that get a woman like that? Sure, Kevin James can get her, because he's a rich and famous TV star. But your average truck driver? Doubtful. Same thing with "According To Jim," where Jim Belushi's wife is played by the lovely Courtney Thorne-Smith.

Now, name for me one show where an overweight, plain woman is married to Studly Studright. There aren't any. Can you even name one successful show where the lead character is an overweight female? The last one was probably Roseanne, who cast her show perfectly, with John Goodman as her husband. As the Conners, they looked a lot more like real American couples than any other sitcom duo I can remember.

This is not to say there's anything at all wrong with average-looking women. Why, if it weren't for them, we average-looking guys would never get any female attention! But it is more proof that "reality TV" rarely reflects actual reality.

The irony is that we -- real, average Americans -- turn these shows into hits by watching.