Posts by Marty Kaplan

Watch Mr. Wizard

What Woodward and Bernstein’s All the President’s Men was to journalism, Don Herbert’s Watch Mr. Wizard was to science. As a kid in Newark, I was one of those 7- to 12-year-olds who tried never to miss my Saturday morning appointment with his NBC show, and it’s a safe bet… More

‘300’ Reasons to Hate America

The Iranian government isn’t happy about the depiction of their ancient Persian ancestors in the blood-drenched American film ‘300.’ Neither is a group of Iranian filmmakers, who have protested to UNESCO. The knock is that the Persian ruler Xerxes is depicted as a decadent, freakish, 8-foot piercing queen, and that… More

Think Pink

It’s not surprising that R.J. Reynolds is introducing “Camel No. 9,” a cigarette aimed at women. After all, Reynolds’ job is getting people to smoke, and based on the statistics — smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, and lung cancer among women (as a New York Times editorial… More

The Elevator Pitch

The elevators in the Beverly Hills building where the Lear Center’s world headquarters is located are fitted with little screens provided by the Captivate Nework, where driblets of news are accompanied by dollops of advertising. “Captivate” is a good word for describing what players in the attention economy, from entertainers… More

Dumbing Down Democracy

A premise behind a lot of what we do at the Lear Center is the idea that a well-educated, well-informed citizenry is good for democracy. This Jeffersonian concept — it used to be called a “liberal” ideal, before partisan warfare made that word a left-right term — is especially relevant… More

Knowing the Difference

Plato took a dim view of artists. They were, he said, illusionists, imitators who fooled people into thinking that what they saw was real. A trompe l’oeil painting of a bunch of grapes could deceive a bird, who would peck at it; even if a person realized that it was… More

Executions As Entertainment

Usage Nazis, en garde! “Hung” is what pictures are, and drapes, and — by his own account — what Howard Stern is not. “Hanged” is what Saddam Hussein will be, says Aref Shahin, chief judge of the Iraqi appeals court, and just in time to be the warm-up act for… More

When Is a Slap-Down a Slam-Dunk?

When it comes from the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. The WSJ’s Hanukah gift to FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein is a bit of a pistol-whipping for their insistence that the proposed AT&T-BellSouth merger doesn’t create a company that extorts protection money from Web sites that want fast… More

Primary Politics as Entertainment Marketing

In Hollywood, it’s called a teaser campaign, and it’s designed to build buzz. Launching a new movie, unless it’s a sequel, is like launching a new brand, and the first step is to make people aware of its existence. In Washington, if you’re running for president, the first step is… More