‘60 Minutes’ supplies the establishment take on the disco craze, 1978
06:27 am


60 Minutes

60 Minutes
There’s a saying in the financial world, or at least there was when people still paid attention to weekly magazines, that once a company or sector makes the cover of Business Week, the time has come to dump the stock. If Business Week knows about it, the insiders’ advantage has dissipated and you have to find another curve to get ahead of. I felt a very similar feeling watching Dan Rather very, very seriously explain to the home viewer what this “disco” thing is all about.

The problem with the 60 Minutes approach is that it’s insufferably top-down—it’s really all about money, a topic that Rather mentions incessantly. We get Billboard‘s take on the matter; we see some complacent executives plot the can’t-miss release of a disco version of “Chattanooga Choo Choo” (really?); we get a very cool and professional outfit recording a different single, Peter Brown’s “Dance With Me”; and so on.

This segment aired on April 23, 1978; keep in mind that just a year or two later, 60 Minutes was the highest-rated TV show in America—that is, the show with the greatest number of viewers, period. And it wasn’t like 60 Minutes had stormed out of nowhere, it was already an institution by that time. Rather does blandly inform the home viewer that “for a disco to be a disco, you need a very heavy bass beat” and that a “hook” is “an easily recognizable theme or musical phrase.” (Apparently nobody told poor Dan that it’s not “Moog” as in “moo” It’s “Moog” as in “vogue.”)

It’s difficult to imagine a halfway serious report on a subculture done this way today. What’s missing from the report is any vitality or verve; any mention of ethnic, racial, or sexual minorities or sex or drugs or class issues. Nobody ever breaks a sweat. You get a little footage from inside Studio 54, which is pretty interesting, and the studio sections aren’t without interest. (There’s no such thing as payola in the disco world, by the way.) The death knell of disco may have sounded towards the end of the segment, when we hear the aforementioned version of “Chattanooga Choo Choo” as the camera pans over a group of haggard swingers gyrating on a dance floor awash in dry ice.

The home viewer will have gleaned that someone made a lot of money, but otherwise won’t have a clue why anyone would ever be drawn to disco music.
Tuxedo Junction, “Chattanooga Choo Choo”:

Peter Brown, “Dance With Me”:

60 Minutes report on disco, April 23, 1978:

via Gothamist

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
How much longer can capitalism last when robots will do all the work?

Last month on 60 Minutes, reporter Steve Kroft filed a fascinating story about how technological advances in automation and robotics have totally revolutionized American business and manufacturing, while we’ve seen the number of decent paying jobs shrink.

After he indicated how information workers like paralegals are about to become as SOL as airport counter personal and travel agents, two of the Kroft’s interviewees, MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, told him we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet:

Andrew McAfee: Our economy is bigger than it was before the start of the Great Recession. Corporate profits are back. Business investment in hardware and software is back higher than it’s ever been. What’s not back is the jobs.

Steve Kroft: And you think technology and increased automation is a factor in that?

Erik Brynjolfsson: Absolutely.

I’ve never really considered 60 Minutes to be much of a cutting edge outlet to “break” stories, instead I feel like once a story has made it to the highest rated American news magazine, that it’s been minted, or confirmed, as a legitimate mainstream thing (or celebrity or whatever). That’s to say that by the time 60 Minutes gets around to reporting on some sort of long-term trend we’re usually already mired DEEP within this event. Sometimes, not just as a nation, but in this case, as with global warming or AIDS, as a planet.

What is so remarkable to ponder—and it’s touched on somewhat in this piece—is how cost-efficient advances in automation will probably have the most negative consequences in countries like China and India, not the first world countries where automated manufacturing plants will probably mostly end up being built. Shipping to the US from China, for instance, adds a not inconsiderable amount of cost to the price of a given commodity. To purchase one of the robots featured in the segment would be cheaper than three years of Chinese labor. There’s cold comfort in that for the “Made in America” crowd, of course, as it’s not like there’s going to be that many more jobs created in America if production is brought back to these shores.

There sure will be a hell of a lot fewer opportunities for employment in the Third World, though, this much seems assured.

It brings up the question of how the wealth of nations will be divvied up when only the holders (hoarders, if you prefer) of capital, employing armies of automatons and few human beings, will hold ALL the cards? Clearly not sustainable and besides that, WHO is going to buy their products anyway when no one will have a job or any money in the first place? In America, and around the world, too, we’re moving away from the notion of “Fordism” at a breakneck pace.

The long-term implications for the longevity of the capitalist system seem dire indeed when viewed through this lens (and let’s not forget, this sort of circling the toilet bowl endgame was predicted by a certain Mr. Karl Marx many, many years ago). The implications of all of this are enormous.

Labor unions will become obsolete in such a scenario, although in a sense, they’ll be replaced by much larger armies of the long-term unemployed!

The flipside of all this is a free-market sort of argument that holds as prices for automated “workers” would come down, there should be a corresponding explosion in small business innovation. Whereas, I do think that is possible with certain cases, how many people do you personally know who would make good entrepreneurs in this bold robotic future?

Unless there’s an Elon Musk born every second, we’re doomed!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
A decade before ‘60 Minutes’, ‘The Mike Wallace Interview’ defined intelligent TV

Mike Wallace Interview
“My role is that of a reporter.” – Mike Wallace on the debut of The Mike Wallace Interview
With the death yesterday of TV journalist Mike Wallace at age 93, we’ve already seen many remembrances of him as the man who—along with producer Don Hewett—created the American institution we know as 60 Minutes in the tumultuous American year of 1968. It’s impossible to short-change Wallace’s 38-year legacy as both gate-keeper of that show and pioneer of the “gotchya question” interview technique that defines much of our current news media landscape.

But it behooves us to also have a good look at the man’s stint as the host of The Mike Wallace Interview, the spartan and penetrating late-night program that broadcast nationally from 1957 through 1960. Wallace was 18 years into a broadcast career (mostly as a radio announcer and game show host) as he launched the show based on Night Beat, a similar and more groovily-named program he’d hosted locally in New York a couple of years earlier. During the show’s tenure, he brought a fascinating array of folks to the American public eye, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Pearl Buck, Eric Fromm, Lily St. Cyr, Aldous Huxley and many others.

Besides its solid bookings and now-surreal-seeming live-ads for its benevolent sponsor Philip Morris, TMWI distinguishes itself with a bare-bones visual setting to focus viewer attention on the substance of the personalities interviewed. Dare I say the only two journalists I can think of who’ve truly adapted the show’s black-background format with similar grace and talent are Charlie Rose and Dangerous Minds’ own Richard Metzger.

Do yourself a favor and check out the digitized collection of interviews from the first two years of the show that Wallace donated to the Ransom Center at the University of Texas. Meanwhile, here’s Wallace throwing down with a 54-year-old Sal Dali on death, religion, politics and the fact that “Dali is contradictory and paradoxical in any sense.”

After the jump: more Wallace vs. Dali…

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
‘60 Minutes’ on Dungeons and Dragons from 1985
01:46 pm


60 Minutes
Dungeons and Dragons

Fascinating almost 30-year old 60 Minutes piece that exemplifies the hysteria around Dungeons and Dragons in the ‘80s. Looking at all this with hindsight it seems obvious that the kids who harmed themselves and others were gonna do that anyway. Near the beginning when Ed Bradley shows all the different newspaper articles about the suicides and the violence, it seems so disingenuous and manufactured, like 60 Minutes needed to build up the credibility of their assertion before proceeding, fanning the flames of the controversy as they did so. Still it’s an interesting time capsule moment from 1985.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Hard Times Generation: Families living in cars

“Guess what? It’s getting worse.”

Last March, 60 Minutes reporter Scott Pelley and his producers shot one of the most moving and compelling—and deeply, deeply sad—stories I have ever seen on television. They took their cameras to central Florida’s Seminole County and looked into the lives of some homeless families with young children, forced by circumstances to live in their cars. For an update of that segment that aired this past Sunday, they returned to see what was happening with these families.

These harrowing 14-minutes should be required viewing for everyone in this entire country. Especially people who watch Fox News and Newt Gingrich (who’d probably tell these kids to take a shower and get a Dickensian-era job).

The emotions that will well up in you as you watch this will be a mixture of deep sorrow and intense anger. Be prepared to be completely and absolutely stunned by what you’re going to see.

As big of a bummer as this story is—and if I haven’t gotten across how sad this is yet: If you’re at work, you are pretty much 100% guaranteed to be sobbing by the end—it’s not a total downer either.

You’ll be very impressed by some of the people you’ll meet in the piece, like Beth Davalos, who runs an organization called Families in Transition that helps Seminole County families in crisis. And strong, brave D’Angelo and Victoria Coates who seem like incredible people, too, and appear on track to have their family in a new home by Christmas.

But the character here who will stay with you long after you watch it, is a frankly astonishing little girl named Arielle Metzger (no relation). In a web segment about how they found the families in the story60 Minutes producer Nicole Young says of her:

“I remember when I was a freshman in high school. I remember how important it was to feel like a girl and thought of as a beautiful, young lady. The fact that I saw this young lady get up every day and fight this fight and try to go to school with a normal face, I felt for her. And I give the girl credit because most adults couldn’t handle that.”

Young Arielle Metzger shows so much grit, poise, self-awareness, and empathy for her fellow man that she reminded me of a pint-sized version of Elizabeth Warren. You’ll watch this kid and you’ll know that she and her younger brother Austin are going to be all right, but she could be a lot better than all right, with just a little help. This kid could be a force for good and change the lives of others. Could be? Will be.

It seems to me that someone out there watching this segment might be in a position to arrange for this extraordinary young person to get a college scholarship. Talk about a gift that would keep giving…

From the transcript:

Pelley: I wonder what education means to you two?

Austin Metzger: It’s everything.

Arielle Metzger: It is everything to us. I plan to be a child defense lawyer. If I focus on my studies, I have that opportunity.

The American dream is durable. And there is something about growing up in a truck that makes you believe in it all the more. As we tagged along with the Metzgers they told us they like the truck better than a motel and they wanted to show us something they’ve been doing in the evenings: they’re acting in a community theater, a free and normal thing.

On stage they had a chance to be somebody else, but what struck us most was that they were just as happy in their roles as the Metzgers.

Arielle Metzger: Before the truck I always saw all these homeless people and I would feel so bad for them. And then as soon as we started living in the truck ourselves I’ve seen even more. And I just feel so bad. And even though I’m homeless myself I wanna do as much as I can to help them get up, back on their feet.


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Swine Flu Fever: Then And Now
08:55 am


60 Minutes
Swine Flu

Before you or a loved one get jabbed, better read this report from The Mail Online which suggests a link between the new swine flu vaccine and the unpleasant-sounding Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS).  According to a warning authored by the Health Protection Agency (HPA)—and withheld from the public until it’s leaking to The Mail—GBS “attacks the lining of the nerves, causing paralysis and inability to breathe, and can be fatal.”  The warning goes on to draw parallels between the current vaccine and the U.S.-issued batch from ‘76 which went on to claim the lives of more people than the flu itself.  As one senior HPA neurologist put it, “?

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment