February 2011


Charlie Sheen is sounding like fellow ranter Moammar Kadafi these days. The Libyan dictator is trying to hold on to power, while Charlie Sheen is trying…to do what, insult everyone around him? He only reluctantly signed a two-year extension to his hit show Two And A Half Men. He seemed to be tired of the show, but he took the record raise for a sitcom and went about his business. Now he is destroying it.

Today, CBS has decided to shut down television’s most popular sitcom Two and a Half Men, for the rest of the season. In his latest radio rant, the star of the show, Charlie Sheen, called producer Chuck Lorre “a turd.” Well, that will do it.

Among other comments, Mr. Sheen apparently said: “I got magic and poetry in my fingertips. … I’m an F-18 bro and I will destroy you in the air.” These are not the comments of a quietly confident man.

According to co-workers on the show, Charlie is very professional on set, leaving his personal life someplace else. His alter-ego on the show, Charlie Harper, is sympathetic when he lives his hedonistic life style openly and honestly, to the chagrin of his bumbling younger brother Alan (Jon Cryer), and gets his comeuppance, sometimes a punch in the nose. The scripts occasionally make reference to literature, among multiple references to farting and masturbation—not exactly poetry, but language smart. It’s a clever, well-scripted show.

The series is getting old. Jake Harper (Angus T. Jones, the “half man”), cute at age 10 when the show started, is now a hulking teen in the series, too old for veiled references to sex and double entendres. His father Alan and uncle Charlie never seem to age; they have the same mid-life crises as at the beginning. Charlie still wears short pants and stylish bowling shirts, a collection worthy of a museum someday. You can purchase replicas of same at Charlie Harper Shirts.com

Men like sex-and-drug engine Charlie Sheen seldom change, grow up. They keep charging full steam ahead until they break down, get old, and shuffle off. Which is sad, in a way. As an actor, Charlie shows an obvious warmth and sympathy toward children. In the show, he sometimes plays Charlie Waffles, who wows the kids and accepts phone numbers from single moms.

Mr. Sheen has acknowledged three daughters and twin sons. Before he shuffles off, the actor might make pit stops for another marriage or two–and more children. Maybe he should start a charitable foundation for his children now…while he is still able.

By Hudson Owen. Portions of this article appeared on the Atlantic Wire, in How to End a Top-Rated TV Sitcom: The Charlie Sheen Interview by John Hudson

Published as a comment in the March 2011 Atlantic Magazine, in response to “Inside the Secret Service” by Marc Ambinder.

Interesting subject, well written.

For a time, I worked at the Battery Maritime Building, on the southern tip of Manhattan. The fourth, and top, floor of this greenish structure had a balcony running the length of the building facing the waterfront, offering an excellent view of Brooklyn Heights and the Statue of Liberty. If you were to jump off the balcony, you would fall directly into the water.

Inside, the office space had windows and a door to the balcony. One day, two young men in suits and long coats approached me and said they were Secret Service. I asked them for IDs, which they respectfully displayed. They said the president was coming and they needed to look around. I showed them the door, and they stepped outside onto the narrow balcony. I showed them the door at the far end of the building.

They were particularly interested in the latter door. A short time later, two NYPD officers entered on the fourth floor, their sniper rifles in cases slung over their shoulders. They set up their post on the short balcony at the end of the BMB facing the heliport one hundred yard, or so, to the east on the waterfront.

Nothing was done to reinforce the windows, as described in the article. Someone had already placed signs on the inside warning us to stay from the windows for the duration of the visit. Police boats secured the harbor.

Soon we could hear the rotors of the two Marine helicopters coming into Manhattan from New Jersey. President Reagan was on one of them. The other was a decoy. The helicopters landed, and a short time later, while I was out on the street during lunch, I saw the motorcade swing up Whitehall Street, the Great Communicator smiling and waving inside the limousine, on his journey uptown..

By Hudson Owen.

Written in response to Edward Glaeser’s essay How Skyscrapers Can Save the City, in the March 2011 Atlantic Magazine, published as a comment.

Edward Glaeser has written a thoughtful essay on the history of the skyscraper and its role as a space saver in the development of cities with growing populations. He clearly explains the cost of building a skyscraper—up to a certain number of floors, and the less expensive floors above. And he properly, I think, criticizes the Landmarks Preservation Commission in New York City, for marking too many buildings, stultifying growth of new structures that might replace older ones.

However, the notion that constructing ever taller buildings can accommodate ever rising populations within city limits won’t work. It won’t work because planning and erecting structures and deciding on zoning regulations that go with them, et al, are exercises in reason; whereas population growth can be highly irrational.

For example, consider Brooklyn, where I have witnessed a dramatic surge in immigrant population since 2006—perhaps as many as 400,000 new human beings, by one NY Times estimate, mostly illegals migrating from south of the border. Frankly, I did not realize that existing housing stock could absorb so many persons. Maybe they are living 10 to a house, I don’t know. The subways are certainly more crowded. The mayor said, “Let them come.” And they came.

Brooklyn has nothing you could call a skyscraper, not compared with the city, nor should it ever build one. So what should the borough do? Well, it should task federal officials to protect our borders, and call out our elected officials for making New York a “sanctuary city,” in violation of federal law.

Limiting population is the only way to save our cities from infinite expansion, either vertically or horizontally. For a decade, the Empire State Building has once again been our iconic structure. Soon it will be challenged by the a-building Freedom Tower downtown, and some new structure recently approved by the City Council for midtown. Too bad.

Mature cities like London (Parliament and Big Ben), Paris (Eiffel Tower), Rome (Coliseum) understand the value of their icons and don’t insult them, at least not to their face, as the author recounts in his description of Paris at its outer boundaries. Jane Jacobs was right—human scale matters. We are not quite ready for the enormous hives as glimpsed in the film “Blade Runner.”

By Hudson Owen.

Flag

Some years ago, within the rein of outgoing Egyptian president, Hossni Mubarak, I saw a photo essay in an American glossy magazine. It featured Egyptian female boxers. They wore colorful boxing silks and standard headgear, and they looked tough and determined in the ring. I thought, Hmmm, so this is going on in the Arab world? You learn something new every day.

I have been following the Egyptian ferment since the weekend, watching several hours of live feed from Cairo on Al Jazeera via the Internet. The seething masses in Liberation Square seemed little more than computer generated images until the camera focused down on a dead protester being carried on a board over the heads of the crowd.

These demonstrations, spreading like wildfire across the Arab from Yemen, on the Gulf of Aden, to Egypt, on the Mediterranean, are unprecedented, on the one hand, and it is the old story of rebellion in the streets. How does it end? All to often, in the new regime that is even more violent and repressive than the ancient regime.

The first question is: When do the demonstrations end and governance begin? When the mob breaks into the offices of power and sees that the president and his old guard are gone? Who takes the lead? Is there voting in the street? Or, in the case of the Iranian revolution, when the charismatic figure, the scowling, sinister-looking Ayatollah Khomeini, returned from years of exile in Paris—thanks to Jimmy Carter—to begin the new regime of repression that troubles the world today?

In the case of Egypt, the repressive force is the ultra-conservative Muslim Brotherhood, which preaches the gospel of Sharia Law for Egypt and the world. On its website, the Muslim Brotherhood, claims that it will respect Eqypt’s international treaties, which must include its treaty with Israel. The Brotherhood says it will not seek a leadership position in the post-Mubarak government. And it states its opposition to al Qaeda.

But, and I say again, but: It has stated it’s opposition to the Jews from its inception in 1928, to the present. The Muslim Brotherhood is the inspiration for Hamas, which was founded as an offshoot of the Brotherhood in 1987, in Gaza, and which has openly demonstrated its brutality by murdering its opponents in the street, chiefly Fatah, which it defeated in a parlimentary election in 2006, and throwing them live from rooftops. Though a social organization as well as a military force, it has shown contempt for the lives and happiness of its people in its struggle with Israel. Today it holds Gaza in its iron grip.

With good reason, the Islamacists see all this turmoil as a further opening for them, even if it is not a revolution by and for them. They know how to seize power by hook or by crook, and hold on to it.

Which do you believe, the ancient call for jihad against the unbeliever, or the new face of calm and reason? How many revolutions that begin with mobs in the street end well? This one is different, you say. Maybe, I mutter. Time will tell.

Female boxing is scheduled to make its Olympic debut in 2012. Will the female boxers of Egypt bravely make their entrance into the international ring, wearing head scarves, perhaps? Or will they be chased back to the cookfires at home under the watchful eyes of their relatives? Will we witness a freer Muslim world in the Middle East? Or a new alliance of nations, including Egypt, Syria, and Iran, ready to sacrifice all else so as to roll the apocalyptic dice in the final battle against Israel?

Or somewhere inbetween?

By Hudson Owen. All Rights Reserved.