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Pop Culture With Paul Farhi: Celebrities and their causes; Tiger talks again and Sonny, Sam and Frank (Herzog) together again

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Paul Farhi
Tuesday, March 23, 2010; 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Paul Farhi talked about topical issues in the pop culture world of TV, radio, movies and trends.<p>Today: There they go again: Celebrities (last week: Sean Penn; this week: Ben Affleck, Mariska Hargitay, Rosario Dawson, etc.) are crawling all over Washington to promote worthy causes. Are we cynical yet? Do celebri-causes make us more compassionate and philanthropic or has it become a faddish, self-canceling ego trip? Plus: Tiger talks. And: Sonny, Sam and Frank (Herzog), together again (but not for long).</p>

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Paul Farhi: Sean Penn and Wyclef Jean have Haiti; and Bono wants to save the entire world. is coming to Cap Hill to be on a panel about global health..." The obvious questions are, "She is?" And: " Why?" Obviously, it's not because Mariska Hargitay is a doctor (or even plays one on TV). I'm sure celebrities are very committed people and I mean to cast no aspersions on their intentions. But I wonder... But nowadays, every celeb or would-be celeb has a cause to push. Kathy Griffin was here last week touting gay marriage. Tomorrow, Rosario Dawson will be here pushing Latino voter registration. I guess you could argue it's a win-win-win sitution--the cause benefits from the celebrity, the celeb benefits from the association with a high-minded cause, and the media wins because it gets to glam it up. There's a whole industry behind this--armies of P.R. people, handlers, managers.On the other hand, I wonder about the effectiveness of all this. We may be rapidly approaching celebri-cause overload. When even the C- and D-listers are in on the act (I recall that Kelsey Grammer's WIFE was here pushing for more money for irritable bowel syndrome research), haven't we hit good-cause fatigue? Isn't this a diminishing return? ons...

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Paul Farhi: I'd love to get your thoughts (if any) on this...And in other news: Tiger Woods talks! Well, not much. He doled out five minutes to the Golf Channel and ESPN as part of his repentence tour. And, predictably, he didn't say much--he's sorry he did what he did, he apologizes to one and all, please applaud for him at the Masters, etc. I sense that this is about it for Tiger. He's done all the talking he's going to do and just wants to play again. Me, I have one piece of advice: KEEP talking and don't stop until people are sick of hearing you apologize. And it would be nice if he meant his apologies, too.And in still other news: Fare thee well, Frank Herzog!http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/22/AR2010032202556.htmlSunday afternoons in the fall haven't been the same since he left...Okay, let's go to the phones...

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Rocci Fisch: Frank Herzog announcing Redskins.

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Re: Frank Herzog: Two things:1) I'm not a Redskins fan but I've been around this area and have heard the Skins' broadcasts for a long time, along with a lot of other team's broadcasts. Frank Herzog was outstanding and kept the broadcasts from turning into a cheerleading session, something that's not true anymore with Larry Michael at the mike. Herzog is sorely missed.2) I don't believe for a minute that Snyder had nothing to do with Herzog's firing. If he wanted to keep Herzog he could have forced the station to keep him or he could have made him a Redskins employee and kept him on the broadcast team.One of many bad decisions by Snyder.

Paul Farhi: I took Frank's answer about Dan Snyder's non-role in his firing at face value (Frank says Snyder had nothing to do with it), but I should have followed up by asking him if Snyder could have restored him to the air once Snyder bought several local radio stations and put the Redskins games on them a few years ago. But I think the answer to that is pretty obvious.

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REDSKINS 2010 & beyond: and long term 3-5 years, to become a playoff contender once again? All the best to you in your future!

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Do celebri-causes make us more compassionate and philanthropic...: It makes sense to me when the celeb has a personal connection. If you lost your mom to breast cancer, or you're trying to get people of your minority group to vote, or something you've cared about all your life I say go for it. But it's odd when celebs appear to be cause shopping. I wonder if Ben Affleck asked his agent, "I need a cause, what's available?"

Paul Farhi: Didn't Affleck already have a cause? I could have sworn he was raising awareness about Darfur, although that issue is most associated with George Clooney. Which brings up a question: Do celebrities have to have their OWN cause? Why can't they throw in with someone who's already got one?

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Celebrity Causes: I do think it is great for celebrities to donate money and support good causes but I also think it is going overboard like you suggested. I am starting to roll my eyes when I read all the reports because it feels fake. If they donated money anonymously I'd find it believable and it would be okay by me if I didn't know Jane Doe celebrity had donated millions to save deaf chimpanzees in Africa.

Paul Farhi: One thing you should know about celebrities: They have a LOT of time on their hands. Unless they're actually shooting a movie or TV show (and even then), there's not much for them to do (except search for the next movie or TV show). So, I guess working for a philanthropic cause is a) a way to fill the time; b) helping someone or something; and c) keeping their names in front of people. Win, win and win.

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Celebrity causes: At least when it comes to testifying on Capitol Hill, there is nothing new here. I remember when I was an intern at a nonprofit in the early '90s, I got to meet Cybill Shepherd when she was testifying in front of some congressional committee about some issue. It was already common then. I think I recall someone explaining to me that the proponents of various causes liked to have a celebrity appear because it was often the only way to attract any media attention to an otherwise low-profile committee hearing on whatever issue. I wouldn't put that in the same category as some of the celeb causes you list, though (Pitt, Jolie, Clooney, Bono, etc.), where their involvement goes well beyond attracting a few cameras to a congressional session or a rally.

Paul Farhi: Of course, that's the third leg of this stool: the media. The media won't cover a boring old hearing the same way it will cover a boring old hearing WITH a celebrity. So, the celebs and the causes are just playing the game by the media's rules. Of course, people like to read/see celebrities doing all kinds of things. So I blame them, too.

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Rockville: Okay. Husband and I finally decided to pay for cable. But which do we choose: Comcast or Verizon? I really and truly hate them both, but which is the lesser of two evils?

Paul Farhi: This has become the Coke vs. Pepsi of this chat. I once again throw this to the masses to answer. Masses? (And please support your answer, in 500 words or less--preferably much less)...

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Celebrity Causes: Oh yeah, I'm definitely waiting for some celebritard to tell me how to live and what's important. Perfect example: the attempt to prevent homes from being built around the Hollywood sign is short by $3 million bucks, according to the Journal. You want to convince me it matters, Mr. Hanks? Kick in 1 percent of your earnings and cover the deal.

Paul Farhi: Yes, it would be good to know how much each celebrity has committed to his/her cause. It's a fair question, and is hardly ever (never?) asked.And for the record: Watch your language!

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Celebrities and causes: Paul: A number of celebrities have done broadcast public service announcements for the CDC's Screen for Life initiative to raise awareness of colorectal cancer. But in all cases, they have done it gratis and because they have some very personal reasons for doing it. It's well known that Katie Couric lost her husband to the disease and she has done PSAs. So have Morgan Freeman (whose longtime agent died of the cancer) Terence Howard (who lost his mother) and Diane Keaton, whose grandmother died of it. The point is, they all told their stories in the PSAs and you understood why they were talking about colorectal cancer. So it was believable and you saw a real, personal connection.

Paul Farhi: Good and fair point. It's NOT all cynical self-promotion. Strange as it may sound, celebrities turn out to be people (as is Soylent Green, I might add). Some (much?) of this is certainly sincere and heartfelt.

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The Airless Cubicle: A cause benefits by the presence of the celebrity to raise awareness and subsequent funding, and the celebrity receives positive publicity. Naturally they should be bound together. Perhaps Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams of the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers could support "Plant Parenthood."

Paul Farhi: Haha! Good 'un, Airless...And there's a serious point behind what you say: There's a certain zero-sum quality to research funding/government involvement. That is, Celebrity A's success at fundraising might crowd out Celebrity B's. I guess it's a competitive world...

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Do celebrities have to have their OWN cause?: Yes, he needed his own cause. How could he possibly compete with Clooney as spokesperson for anything?

Paul Farhi: I vaguely remember Affleck having some kind of cause that he was pushing at the Democratic Convention in 2004. I mean, it was held in Boston, his hometown, and he was there. And he couldn't have just BEEN there without a cause, could he?

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Queen of Fake Causes: Sharon Stone. She even pretended to have breast cancer!

Paul Farhi: Really? Was not aware of that. Well, she IS an actress...I would say that if it made people more aware of breast cancer and more willing to donate money for research, so be it. But, of course, if she was faking it, that would be counter-productive. People would resent her and might not give...

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Affleck: Affleck has always been Congo. He has gone on Oprah, CNN, and written about Congo for Newsweek over the past couple years. I guess his message didn't reach you :)

Paul Farhi: Ah. You're probably right. But why is the Associated Press covering his "new" initiative when it's just the same old initiative?

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So I blame them, too.: Oh, now it's OUR fault. Thanks Paul.

Paul Farhi: fault)...

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cable systems: If you have lived one of the wickedest lives of any human being in history, after you die your punishment is to spend eternity trying to deal with Comcast's customer service department.

Paul Farhi: Been there. And, you know, it wasn't soo awful the last time. They were reasonably helpful and knowledgeable. I'm not saying that's everyone's experience, or even a common outcome. I'm just sayin'...

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irritable bowel syndrome: for my money you can't bring enough attention to this problem and I applaud anyone who wants to get the word out -- stop being so cynical Paul

Paul Farhi: I won't, and have never, disparaged any good cause. But I'll defend cynicism. Yes, it can go too far and make you turn away from what is decent and right, but it also has the benefit of making you ask questions so you can figure out what IS decent and right (you may quote me on this, btw)...

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FIOS: I would literally cut off my right arm to get FiOS back. We moved two years ago, and I have some horrible local company now that delivers me a whopping 30 HD channels, if that. FiOS has every channel you can imagine in HD.

Paul Farhi: You'd LITERALLY do that? If so, I'm assuming that it would be your non-remote control-operating arm. You really need that one...

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Soylent Green: You just brought back some good memories. In my younger days a particular group of friends and I (after many drinks) would yell out "It's made out of people!" and chuckle uncontrollably. It started because someone in the group didn't understand a reference to the movie, so after explaining it to her this just started happening at gatherings. A little strange, but so was the movie.

Paul Farhi: I hope we haven't given away anything to people who haven't seen the movie, but since the movie came out in, oh, 1971 or so, I think they should have gotten around to it by now...

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Health-care Reform: Has there been entirely too much coverage of this issue and does anyone really understand it anyway ?

Paul Farhi: Glad you mentioned that. I've read many, many articles about it and I still couldn't pass a quiz about it. I think it's probably my fault for not retaining the details (of which there are many), but I'd rather blame the media for inflicting all those facts on me.

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Celebrity causes: I'm willing to give most celebrities the benefit of the doubt, especially in the case of gratis PSIs and causes that are not "de jour" events (i.e., Haiti, Chile - everyone knows these folks need help).In the case of testifing on Capitol Hill: Recall during the McCarthy era that many (Bogart and Bacall, for instance) appeared before Congress in support of their colleagues who were being black-listed, etc. Nothing new under the sun.

Paul Farhi: Yes, and I believe the movie studios marshalled many, many stars to stump for war bonds during World War II. Also, the studios sent trainloads of stars to Washington in the 1930s to advocate in behalf of the studios (on an issue that I can't recall). So, nothing new. But it does seem much, much more frequent these days. Hardly a weekday goes by without some celebrity running around town to push some thing...

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Soylent Green is people?: Well, OK. But is it organic?

Paul Farhi: Everyone except Joan Rivers. None of her parts are original.

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Foreign coverage: Is it possible that you could throw in a foreign phrase like "cause celbrite'" now and then to make this chat a bit more cultured ? It would make me feel a little less guilty about chatting here

Paul Farhi: "Cause Celbrite"? Is that French?

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RE: Comcast or Verizon?: As a choiceless Comcast victim, I'd just point out that only Ralph Roberts's idiot son has been able to inspire comcastmustdie.com...so you may as well take a look at Verizon.

Paul Farhi: Brian Roberts, Comcast's CEO, is hardly an idiot. He's taken his dad's little company and made it into one of the largest entertainment-communications conglomerates in the world. That's not nothing....And full disclosure: Comcastmustdie.com was started by a friend of mine after one too many run-ins with Comcast's "customer service" department.

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Celebrity causes: IIRC, profits from Paul Newman's line of food products all went to charity, but I don't recall him talking about it very much. He seemed to do his good work quietly in the background.I admire that approach much more than the current public approach of "Hey, everyone, watch me as I do good around the world" (Angelina, I'm looking at YOU).

Paul Farhi: On the other hand, anyone who bought one of Paul Newman's very good products KNEW it was one of Paul Newman's products because his name and face were/are on the label. Nothing wrong with that, but he was most certainly using his celebrity in the process...

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Blame game: Okay, so it's the celebrities' fault for endorsing causes, the causes' fault for engaging the celebrities, Congress's fault for accepting celebs at hearings, the media's fault for covering it, and our fault for consuming coverage of it. Is there anyone left who ISN'T to blame? Are puppies and rainbows guilty too?

Paul Farhi: Hmmm. Puppies. I wonder if anyone has tried that at a Congressional hearing. You know it would be standing-room only.

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Celebrities: I work in non-profit, and we love 'em. They drive donations, and money is good. In some cases, they influence policy. Well, they open doors, pull media, and get voters to talk to members of Congress and push policy change. The fact is, a lot of us who are NOT celebrities care deeply about the causes we work for. Angelina Jolie (who is the perfect celeb for this -- engaged, experienced, educated, articulate -- can breeze into town for one day and make a bigger splash for the cause than 50 of us anonymous DCers make in a year... and we'd be idiots to turn that down. Because we really do care about the refugees/child brides/etc., and celebrity attention really does advance our goals on several fronts. Honest.

Paul Farhi: Well said! I think that nails the proposition pretty well...And I think you're right about Angelina; people tend to want to dismiss her work in behalf of refugees as grandstanding or career-building. But she does seem committed (been doing it a long time) and does seem to actually care. Good on her!

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Cynicism: If I were a celebrity "cynicism" would be my cause. I would take it and my entourage to Capitol Hill to testify because one can never have enough cynicism up there.

Paul Farhi: Haha! The National Cynicism Foundation (slogan: "Oh, yeah, riiii-iiiight!") would like to sign you up.

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re: She even pretended to have breast cancer! : I just looked it up, she actually pretended to have lymphoma. She announced at a Susan G. Komen breast cancer event that she had been completely cured of lymphoma by cutting coffee out of her diet and holistic healing. The truth came out later that she never had lymphoma. She's nuts, that one.

Paul Farhi: Ah. Thanks for the clarification. We need to keep our bogosity (or is it "bogusity"?) straight.

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Literally: I'm one of the people who goes nuts when people use the phrase "literally" when they mean "figuratively" and yes, I would literally cut off my arm (non-remote, natch) to get FiOS back, it is that good. Okay, an arm is excessive, but definitely a finger.

Paul Farhi: Wow. That's commitment! That's also stupid, but at least you go all out in your idiocy.

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"Celeb" PSA's: Okay, this morning I heard Doris Roberts read some words about supporting YMCA daycare during an unsold spot on Dan Patrick's radio show (don't ask -- I couldn't find my iPhone headphones this morning). Why? Because she played somebody's mother on a sitcom? What makes her message credible? Was she fulfilling a community service requirement?

Paul Farhi: (but maybe long forgotten now) hearing on family farms in the 1980s that featured Sally Field, Sissy Spacek and Jessica Lange? Connection: Sally, Sissy and Jessica had all played the wives of family farmers in the movies. So I guess they knew something about soybean subsidies or something.

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Culture: Were we shooting for "cause celebre", peut-etre?

Paul Farhi: Sure were. I guess it's kind of a good pun for this subject, but to be accurate, a "cause celebre" means an issue arousing controversy or heated public debate, or, alternatively, a celebrated legal case (no, I didn't look it up. Why do you ask?).

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Mariska Hargitay? Feh.: I'd watch her mom reading the phone book, though. Va-Va-Voom!

Paul Farhi: The caller makes a good point. Mariska's mom was 1950s starlet Jayne Mansfield, who was very va-va-voomish, but was basically the Diet Coke to Marilyn Monroe's Coke.

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make this chat a bit more cultured : The chat IS cultured. Pop cultured. But here you go: cause celebre!

Paul Farhi: Thanguvuhmush (as Elvis used to say).

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Ex-Washingtonian: Haven't lived in the D.C. area for a long time. Reading of Frank Herzog's retirement (and references to Sonny and Sam) brought back fond memories. But what ever became of the great Len Hathaway (of Huff 'n' Puff fame)?

Paul Farhi: Have never heard of Len, but I await enlightenment, especially about what "Huff'n Puff" could be (an early porn film?).

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Celebrity causes, cont.: Harking back to last week's chat, I still maintain that the Census Bureau needs to recruit "trusted" celebrities of all demographics to get out the word on filling out and returning the census forms. Gratis, of course.BTW, got out letter telling us the census form was forthcoming in the mail. So relieved!

Paul Farhi: Not a bad idea, frankly. But I suspect the Census is such a dull, plain-vanilla "cause" (and maybe not really a "cause" at all), that no celeb wants to get behind it. But who said it had to be sexy to be worthwhile?

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If Back to the Future were made today: Marty would be going back to 1980. When I was in high school.

Paul Farhi: Don't the characters in "Hot Tub Time Machine" go back to 1986? ...And by the way, "Hot Tub Time Machine" is the best name for a dumb (and possibly funny) movie since "Dude, Where's My Car?" And either one is waaay better than "Snakes on a Plane."

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puppies: "Support this cause, or we'll shoot this dog." Well, that cover worked for the National Lampoon...

Paul Farhi: Nope. The National Lampoon headline was, "Buy this magazine or we'll shoot this dog."

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Newman's Own: It's generally good quality stuff, at a reasonable price...you know, so you aren't paying just for the name and the good works. Much better than asking for star-power-generated donations, especially of other people's tax money.

Paul Farhi: Yes, I like his products, but the price is not entirely reasonable. It tends to be more expensive than the same stuff that MegaMighty SuperFood Conglomerate produces.

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Hey, everyone, watch me as I do good around the world" (Angelina, I'm looking at YOU): Okay, but some issues really do need a person to shout for them out loud. What is Angie supposed to do, come up with a salad dressing with her name on it and say nothing publicly? I actually believe she feels very strongly for the causes she supports. I have no problem with Newman's approach, or with Angie's approach.

Paul Farhi: I'm with you, yes.

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Comcast: Brian may not be an idiot, but since Ralph handed him the keys to the car in the mid-09's, the stock has declined steadily--just like the Dolans and Cablevision--even while competitors' market caps have increased. Just because he's bought other toys doesn't mean he's done a good job running the company. Always check the charts before declaring somebody a business genius just because he belongs to the Lucky Gene Club.

Paul Farhi: That's a fair yardstick, sure. Bigger is not necessarily better in business. And in this case, it may be possible that bigger is worse in terms of customer service. Although I recall that there were many small cable companies that were just as badly run before Comcast, Time Warner and the other big guys started buying everything.

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Comcast and Verizon customer service: The problem is, whether you are accessing customer service on line or in person, the odds are at least even that you will get a dolt or someone knowledgable who really cares. With Verizon DSL, I have had both when I had trouble connecting -- a guy obviously reading from a script and another guy who said, "I know exactly what's wrong. Do I have your permission to fix it remotely?" And he did. Similarly, when I had reception issues on a number of Comcast channels, once dispatched tech fiddled around with the wiring, shrugged and left. The next guy, who I think was Jamaican, exclaimed, "Who wired your house, this is awful" and basically rewired the whole thing and it has worked perfectly since then. There seems to be no middle ground -- it's either Danny Dimbulb or someone with knowledge and a work ethic.

Paul Farhi: I don't know about Verizon, but I do know that Comcast and other cable companies have used contractors for years. And any time you go outside the company, you tend to lose a lot of control (ask the federal government how it feels about Blackwater these days). I think the "outside contractor" issue is still a problem for the likes of Comcast. But some of them are good, too. It's hit or miss, as you suggest.

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Merchandising: The obits for Fess Parker reminded me that every kid in my school (myself included) owned one of those vermin-ridden coonskin hats and suicidally dangerous Davy Crockett cap pistols, courtesy of the Walt Disney Co. I suppose that sort of merchandising wouldn't be allowed nowadays?

Paul Farhi: Ah, yes. Almost forgot ol' Fess. RIP, sir. Never saw a single episode of "Davy Crockett" but I do vaguely recall him in "Daniel Boone." Either way, there's no denying that he (or at least his show) had a big impact on kids in the 1950s.

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Okay, an arm is excessive, but definitely a finger.: Which finger are you talking about? I could easily live without my pinkies, so that wouldn't be much of a sacrifice. Hey, I just got an idea for a reality show.

Paul Farhi: Haha! Reminds me of the old Chris Farley Japanese game-show skit in which Alec Baldwin's character loses and has to slice off his pinkie, Yakuza-style. One of the best SNL skits ever, I think...

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Rocci Fisch: Fess Parker (Davy Crockett) obit.

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I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV: Remember those commercials? Was it for cough syrup? All this talk of celeb causes made me think of that.

Paul Farhi: I can't remember the product, either, but that is one of the most memorable lines ever in a commercial. It's a non-disclaimer disclaimer, a brilliant flimflam. The modern equivalent is the "disclosure" about "erections lasting over four hours..."

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Mariska Hargitay...: ...is an alumna of UCLA, I believe she even earned a Master's degree there. Can you, as a Bruin yourself, check this out? I gather she's quite intelligent and articulate, as well as highly educated.

Paul Farhi: It would not surprise me, as some of America's greatest TV stars are UCLA grads. Such as Heather Locklear and...um...well, Heather Locklear. And, of course, all UCLA alums are "quite intelligent and articulate, as well as highly educated."

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Rocci Fisch: Fess Parker as Daniel Boone

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Census celebrity: The Count from Sesame Street?

Paul Farhi: Awesome! Let's call the Census people and take a meeting.

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Cause Celebre: You wrote: "Sure were. I guess it's kind of a good pun for this subject, but to be accurate, a "cause celebre" means an issue arousing controversy or heated public debate, or, alternatively, a celebrated legal case (no, I didn't look it up. Why do you ask?)." Your colleagues Roxanne Roberts and Amy Argetsinger have coined the term "cause celebrity" for just such an emergency.

Paul Farhi: Very true! And it's STILL a good pun, even though it kinda corrupts the original meaning of the phrase.

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BTW, got out letter telling us the census form was forthcoming in the mail.: I got a letter warning me the form was coming. Then I got the form. Then I got a postcard telling me to fill out the form.

Paul Farhi: I'm guessing here, but I think this means they want you to fill out the form. Btw, you should be getting a letter reminding you to send in your form...

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Hot Tub Time Machine: This movie just sounds so stupid. What do you want to bet in his next movie Cusack stars with a chimp?

Paul Farhi: Gotta tell you--I'm intrigued by the title, the silly premise and by Cusack being in it. It could be godawful, but it's certainly got my attention.

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Paul Farhi: And this just in: Joe Biden actually used the phrase "big F'n ("effin'"?) deal" as Obama introduced him. Stay classy, Joe!http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/video/2010/03/23/VI2010032302068.html

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The unmentioned topic: What, no Tiger questions? Could it be that we've all decided to move on? Or has his latest interview kind of answered (in a non-answering way) all the questions that provoked our ire?

Paul Farhi: I wonder if, like health care, the Tiger story is dying of reader/viewer fatique. Maybe there isn't much more to be said. The release of his texts, or "sexts", by his porn-star girlfriend just recently really didn't make much of a ripple, I thought...

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FiOS: Just bought a house - had a choice between a fireplace, or FiOS. Took FiOS.

Paul Farhi: Interesting choice. FiOS is easier to clean, I guess. On the other hand, FiOS won't keep you very warm in January.

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Brian Roberts: Can we volunteer him for Undercover CEO? I know he just bought NBC and CBS is owned by Viacom, but I would love to watch this guy hook up someone's cable.

Paul Farhi: Spectacular idea! Would love to see him with a headset on in the call center, taking irate customer calls. (Having interviewed Roberts a few times, I actually COULD see him doing this. He probably has...)

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The Count from Sesame Street? : Haha! Isn't the story line always that he's so busy counting things he isn't aware of anything else going on around him?

Paul Farhi: Yes, and isn't that perfect? There's a lot of suspicion and, yes, cynicism surrounding what the Census is doing. Using a character who just wants to count stuff would really put a lot of that to rest.

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It's Alive: There is a strange phenom about your chat in that you always seem to be talking about people who recently died : Soupy Sales, Ed McMahon and on and on. Any reason why this is the case ?

Paul Farhi: Yes. Because they died recently. We're all about a final round of applause for the great, near-great and whatever Soupy Sales was.

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Comcast customer service: Turned out he's a writer moonlighting at this job.

Paul Farhi: Tales of Today's Economy, Part 6,790,342.

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Mariska Hargitay...: What is wrong with everyone? She's beautiful.

Paul Farhi: Oh, yeah. We forgot. Okay, she's beautiful. Better?

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I no longer like the new format: I used to HATE the old format because it would hang forever after displaying the top part of the chat. I couldn't do anything on the page, and I couldn't even leave the window! I would be stuck with the chat displaying on my screen, hoping the boss wasn't about to pop in. Then the new format came along and that all ended and I loved it! But now the new format is doing the same thing. It's so annoying. I'm going to have to stop chatting at work. Even if I'm doing it on my lunch hour I don't want to get stuck with it on my screen.

Paul Farhi: I'm referring your comment to our Customer Service Department. We'll be sending one of our contractors by your office in a few days. Please be at your desk between the hours of 3 a.m. and 9 p.m. Thank you.

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Herzog et al: So what does the glass-enclosed nerve center look like? And are the people who work there naughty or nice?

Paul Farhi: It looks quite a bit like our newsroom, frankly. I mean, it's smaller, but it has desks, computers, wall-mounted TV sets, and a big studio. But then again, so do we.

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What, no Tiger questions? Could it be that we've all decided to move on?: He's been supplanted by Sandra Bullock's husband.

Paul Farhi: But until your comment, no Jesse James questions, either. Perhaps this chat has soured on sordid personal behavior. I sure hope not!

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Comcast vs. Verizon: I would look at the two channel lineups and decide which you like better. I know for sure that the two HD lineups are not the same, but they may carry the same number of channels. As for customer service, I haven't been able to switch to Verizon yet, but I will say this, I have had only one positive experience with a Comcast technician out of four visits. The last one was so horrible it was comical; but when you tell the Comcast people located in random places around the country they are very nice and understanding. The local guys need a lot of help.

Paul Farhi: Not to make excuses for Comcast, but this could be a numbers game. They have lots more customers than FiOS does. Thus, more chances to screw up. But that shouldn't happen, no matter how big or small your company is. As I said, no excuses...

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Re: Cable Choice: Definitely Verizon FiOS. It's far superior to any other cable network and I have used Comcast and Charter in the past. FiOS offers more HD channels and their customer service is excellent as is their technical support.

Paul Farhi: FiOS seems to be winning here...

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Comcast or Verizon?: Verizon if you can get FiIOS. I get more channels cheaper than I could with Comcast.

Paul Farhi: Score another for the old phone company...

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Have you seen trhis TV ad?: Hi Paul. For at least the past two months I have been seeing a commercial on TV (saw it yesterday on CNN) that intrigues me because it has no message, no brand, no call to action. It is simply 30 seconds of beautiful imagery of a forest and clouds and then it ends. For a while I thought it might be promoting the movie "Up in the Air" because the opening shots of that movie are similar, but now that the Oscars are over and it's still running. I'm perplexed. Any ideas?

Paul Farhi: a "zen" thing, I guess.

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Kate Gosselin was horrible on Dancing with the Stars last night: One of the judges said her partner pushed her around like a shopping cart. And she kept reminding people she was a mom with 8 kids. Oh, brother. If I were a mother, she would definitely not be representing my interests.

Paul Farhi: "Pushed her around like a shopping cart"! That's excellent. Almost makes watching "Dancing with the Stars " worthwhile.

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Paul Farhi: --Paul.



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