I’m Mad as Hell!
To the editor:
In his article “Spitzer-Take! Governor Vows to Persevere” [March 5], Jason Horowitz writes that the health-care workers’ union 1199 SEIU is currently paying for a television campaign against proposed Medicaid cuts to New York’s state budget, and that Mr. Spitzer may respond with his own TV campaign.
I am not privy to how long 1199 SEIU’s campaign has been in flight, but I have seen two of the union’s spots—both on New York City broadcast channels. As I have written in these pages, not only does 35 percent of New York’s broadcast TV audience come from New Jersey and Connecticut, but because so many New Yorkers have cable—much less the growing numbers with digital cable and satellite—the ratings of the broadcast stations’ local news are so low that they are closer to zero than reaching critical masses of target audiences.
The article reminded me of the late NBC executive Paul Klein, who proffered the Least Objectionable Program theory, in which he had the audacity to state that Nielsen ratings reflected the fact that Americans reliably watched television, not any of its “hits.” After all, shows come and go, but Nielsen ratings say that levels of viewing at any time of day (or day of week, or week of year) have stayed constant for decades.
I once asked Klein why political donors wouldn’t want to encourage their candidates to buy local cable to ensure that their money wasn’t spent outside the boundaries of their campaigns. “Political donors,” he said clairvoyantly, “only care about keeping the rubber-glove concession at Rochester Hospital.” Amen.
N.Y.U. Impervious to Irony
To the editor:
The recent article by David Foxley [“Is Caffeine More Important Than the Environment?”, March 5] amusingly highlighted an apparent paradox: an environmentally conscious coffee-shop owner in the Village opposing a construction project that N.Y.U. describes as part of its “Green Action Plan.”
Unfortunately, there is irony here only if one accepts N.Y.U.’s description of this project as environmentally friendly. The real irony about this situation is that the key component of the so-called Green Action Plan is a proposed 13.4-megawatt power plant (roughly tripled in capacity from N.Y.U.’s current facility) that will spew thousands of pounds of pollutants into a densely populated residential neighborhood, and will destroy a magnificent block of 40-foot trees maintained by the city’s Parks Department. (How green is this?) The irony deepens if you know that N.Y.U. has an alternative site for the plant that wouldn’t entail the destruction of one of the city’s few and precious green spaces—i.e., underneath N.Y.U.’s sterile Gould Plaza, a site where the plant can be built faster, cheaper and with no destruction of trees. But the Gould Plaza site would inconvenience N.Y.U. rather than neighboring non-N.Y.U. residents and businesses (such as Think Coffee).
N.Y.U. does indeed have a Green Action Plan—unfortunately, if the Mercer site is used, the most visible action will turn out to be the destruction of a precious public green space.
The Way of the Future
To the editor:
I sincerely enjoyed Mark Lotto’s George Jetson piece [“I Am George Jetson,” Feb. 26]. It’s refreshing to see such a broad yet poignant critique-of-consumer-culture-cum-apocalyptica. I personally have been fascinated with our culture’s popular evocations of certain doom, all served up against a backdrop of mainstream political and social malaise. We seem to enjoy apocalyptic rumination while simultaneous stewing in our own shit. I especially enjoyed Mr. Lotto’s likening iPods to modern Fabergé Eggs—trinkets that we reward ourselves with while the world crumbles and our expectations of future go unfulfilled. Thank you for the candor and insight.
What? You’ve Never Read Franny and Zooey?
To the editor:
Re “Guilty Pleasures of Literary Greats” [The Observatory, Feb. 19]: J.D. Salinger also allegedly flew across the country and talked his way onto the set of the TV show Dynasty just to meet the actress Catherine Oxenberg. She’d never heard of the old man, was totally creeped out by him, and had security throw him off the set. Can’t blame him, though—Ms. Oxenberg was pretty cute.
Great strip, by the way!