the circular runner

Posts Tagged ‘politics’

trying to make sense of violence–a couple more things about the Batman shooting…

In criticism, life, observations, Uncategorized on July 25, 2012 at 6:11 am

I almost let it go.  And I will since this blog doesn’t really tend to take up politics.  But I’m going to be impolitic and say (maybe criticize) how people are reacting to the shootings last week in Colorado.  It’s not surprising that cable news is going nuts with the story, asking people who once knew the killer if they suspected that he would one day open fire on a room full of innocent people.  You know that the news producers want to find that neighbor or classmate who will say, “why yes, actually, I did suspect something,” which we all know is a pile of dung.  There are many reclusive odd-bods in the world who might be anti-social but are not sociopaths.

There’s also the Right, which wants to go off about Hollywood violence while the Left makes its half-ass effete comments about the need for stronger gun regulations.

You all know this.

But if you go to the post before this one and you look at the first comment, you’ll see a rather novel take on this tragedy.  A man named Sam Harrington, a first-time commenter which I am thankful for, left a very thoughtful analysis of what he sees as the reason for the tragedy.  For Mr. Harrington, the answer is economic.  I’ll let you make what you will of this theory, but for now, I’ll summarize, running the risk of oversimplifying.  Put simply, Mr. Harrington takes a page from, of all places, the Dark Knight Rises.  In that movie, the villain, Bane, is a class warrior, literally, and he calls for the people of Gotham to rise up against the well-off and the comfortable.  Mr. Harrington believes, it seems, that this is the same kind of thought process that ran through James Holmes’ mind last week. I’m sure Mr. Harrington was not arguing a defense for Mr. Holmes, but he was making the case that people in need can only take so much before they start the revolution.

In general, I might agree with Mr. Harrington.  There probably will have to be a reckoning of some sort, sooner than later.  Things are tough for so many and then there are the bubble people who are oblivious to the pain.  Living in San Francisco, there are a lot of bubble-types living all around me.  BUT, the ironic thing about Mr. Harrington’s comments, and to a certain extent, all the cable newscasters trying to form their own theories and to the political types on both sides of the divide, is that they are blind to the fact that there isn’t a reason why this happened.  Cruelty is not a science; its fruits are not always easily explained.

And this is where I become impolitic because I don’t think it’s my place to stifle a commenter like Mr. Harrington, nor do I want to make light of theory, punching holes in it. And yet I want to.  I could point out that there were probably a lot of other 99% types in that theater. I could make the case that his argument excuses something horrible by trying to explain it. I feel the self-righteous grad student coming out. I want to tell Mr. Harrington and the newscasters, and the gun people on the Left and the violence people on the Right that they should all just shut the hell up and grieve.

But I’m going to stop myself.  Theories, even overly simple ones, come out of grief, I think, by which I mean, they come out of a need to understand when a movie director and score and a screenwriter can’t suddenly break in with a flashback that puts everything in context. There is no context here. There is only a sad man who took out his sadness on 59 people last week for no one reason, or scarier yet, for no reason we would ever be able to understand.  There is only a void left by this kind of act, and no amount of words or theories can fill it.

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I’m American: Loving & Hating Downton Abby…

In life, media, politics, Uncategorized on March 2, 2012 at 6:55 am

I’m late to the party, which is not unusual for me. As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, I’m a Libra, which means I have to feel like I have come to my own decisions about popular things.  I’m actually the type of person that will judge a show or book or what have you, by association.  If everyone loves something, I am suspicious.  I’m not a hipster–let’s not go there.  It’s not that I care if something is popular.  It’s that I like to think I’ve come to something through my own tastes and not by popular pressure.  Can you say, dumb?

A couple days ago, I had a day to hang out my wife, which is nice and all too unusual.  We decided to stay in and watch Netflix, and Downton Abbey presented itself as a good choice of something to do.  We ended up watching the first season that day–7 glorious hours of glorious British people–well, not so glorious, actually.  I have a natural aversion to this kind of show.  The show itself, the writing and the acting are great, but watching the class stuff drives me to distraction.  Might the butler be fired for having once been an actor?  Can a lawyer eat and talk to his family member if that family member inherited a huge home?  Should a spoiled daughter let herself love a lawyer who works and actually knows what a weekend is?  These are the questions that must be answered over seven hours of well written TV.

At one level, I want to say, “cool.” I want to think that drama, like most things, is relative to the person who is experiencing it.  So, if the biggest problem one has to face is whether or not to marry for love or for convenience, well I guess that’s drama.  I also guess that for the people who lived in that period, the idea of class movement was as strange as electricity was.  That’s what I find most problematic abut the show.  I don’t subscribe to the conservative position that America is class-less and that everyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps.  That’s a little naive.  But on the other hand, I grew up poor and went to Harvard on a scholarship.  My wife’s family is certainly more affluent than mine, but they accepted me not because of my family’s pedigree but because of who I am.  Class in society is real, and maybe the idea that all people have a shot to better themselves is a myth.  But to say that is not to dismiss the power of the myth.  Stories matter.  And when I watch Downton Abbey, or hell, if I travel in Europe, which I did last year, I prefer to accept this American myth, and to work to help others put the truth to it.

This leads me to Girl Walk All Day, a multi-part music video with music from Girl Talk, the DJ.  It’s not that this video gets at class, but I think it gets at something that is really American, or at least, really New York.  Watch this thing and you see a few things right off: New Yorkers are not bothered by crazy people dancing around them–just another freak in the City.  ALSO, New Yorkers are just one big hodge podge.  We are not perfect here.  And there is certainly a lot of racism and classicism to be had here, but Girl Walk All Day coud not have happened in any other country.  It’s messy and its huge and it’s US.

Here’s the link

 

Girl Walk All Day

why do i keep forgetting how much TV in the morning sucks…

In humor, life, media, observations, politics, writing on January 31, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Most days I don’t think about it. I go about my business blissfully unaware, and that must be why I always forget how dumb I think cable news is. My wife is a baker and on Mondays and Tuesdays she gets up extra early to go in and help her mentor who teaches a class downtown. I love that she’s so devoted to her craft and to Chef Betsy, who is this feisty and amazing artist/artisan. Because it is so early and because public transport kind of sucks at that time of day, I get up and drive my wife. If I plan things well, then I pack my stuff up and after dropping her, I go to a Starbucks where I do my writing business as I struggle through a crap-fest espresso.  By the way, I recently noticed a disturbing sign hidden in a corner of the store that says something about something called Acrylamide and cancer and the coffee they are serving me, which is disturbing, but I’ll get to that on a future post (if I survive).

This morning, I did not play my cards right. My teaching work is kicking up a notch now that holidays are done, and I’m editing down a short movie, which is also disturbing, but not in the cancer-disturbing way, which I will also discuss on a future post. So this morning, I come home, exhausted. My head feels heavier and bigger than it already is (I have a giant head) and I can’t really focus. I sit in front of the TV and think to myself that it would be nice to catch up on some news. What’s going on in the world? I ask myself. Like so many of us, I live in a bubble of my own making, insulated and out of touch.  Sad sad sad, right?

I turn on the TV, which is set to Comedy Central from the night before because when push comes to shove, The Daily Show is probably better than most TV news when it comes to telling you about the world. I know this at night, but after a night of insufficient sleep, I forget. Of course, Comedy Central at 6 am is not about smart TV; it’s about selling stuff. This morning’s infomercial was called “Raising Your Brazilian Butt” What? Really? What does that mean? Do we all have Brazilian butts even if we are not Brazilian? And even if I can accept that? How does one lift a butt?

I did not stick it out to find out. When I changed the channel,  a woman was speaking into the camera, which occasionally cut to a couple before-and-after pictures of this her butt in a bikini. Hey, I will say this much for the ad: there was a difference. Butts can be lifted, I guess. Whether or not this woman had a Brazilian butt, however, is still a question in my mind.

I turned to MSNBC because I used to watch some of their afternoon shows before I became saturated with the liberal equivalent of Fox, which isn’t an equivalent at all.

Like Jon Stewart says, Liberals, join me at Camera 2: we are not good at one-sided arguments. We just come off as lame and reactionary. For all our attempts, it’s obvious we aren’t that confident in our positions–and rightfully so. We are Liberals. And Liberalism is all about flexibility and change, which means you can’t go around yelling how correct you are. My Conservative Brethren, you are good at hunkering down and not moving easily. That’s also good. That’s who you are. Let’s all keep our roles in check, shall we?

Anyway, the show on MSNBC was all about Florida, at least it was when the channel wasn’t playing commercials.  (The were none about butts, but many were about toilet paper, which is related.) Also related to butts was the the show I tuned in to, which is called The Morning Rundown and which is crap. Does irony live? Well it does on MSNBC because after watching that thing for ten minutes, I was feeling rundown. I know that’s an easy one, but really, the only name that would be better would be the Morning Beatdown, because the word, “beat” has so many connotations that fit the occasion: as in, I was beaten down by the faux-earnestness of the show. 2. I felt that most of things said were a form of mental masturbation. 3. I was so bored, I was starting to think about actually masturbating.

I know, TMI. I’ll stop there.

Chuck Todd, the host, of MSNBC used to be the numbers-guy, the go-to guy for number-crunching analysis. I never really got the feeling that he was a numbers guy for real, though. It always felt like I was watching a weather man throwing out facts that no one aside from an expert would really be able to process. An expert would also know why Mr. Todd wasn’t saying anything worth saying, but I am no expert. I just sense his lack of expertise.

Now, Mr. Todd has his own show, which also feels like I’m watching a weatherman except now the weatherman is front and center.  There are some biases at play for me, I’ll admit. Watching Mr. Todd try to fill an hour with his pretense at seriousness is not easy, but there’s also the fact that my wife has filled me with distrust for goatees.  I have a beard and goatee, and usually,  I like goatees. But there is something about Mr. Todd’s facial hair that makes me see my wife’s point. I won’t say what my wife says about goatees, but her descriptions of them has a sexual component and not in a good way, and I have already gone down that path once on this post, so I will stop.

CNN was no better. Andrea Mitchell, who I grew up watching on the news, has her own show. I will admit that I have a little crush on Ms. Mitchell. What can I say? She’s smart and I like her voice. She’s a lot better than Mr. Todd, but CNN has more commercials, I think. And though I can buy Ms. Mitchell’s non-goateed earnestness, the show is all talking heads spouting their talking points. There is no journalism. No attempts at giving viewers facts and letting us figure things out. There are Democratic strategists and Republican strategists and former strategists and all they can do is say what’s expected: Romney is the odds-on favorite. Obama is raising a lot of money. Super-PACs are bad. They are good. Blah blah blah.

andrea, oh andrea, please stop the lamers from speaking...

If you’re wondering if I turned to FOX, I didn’t. I know I should be fair. But if you watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report enough, you get a feeling that Fox and Friends is offensive–less so for its political approach, which is what it is, but for the silliness that ensues when the hosts speak. Chuck Todd is also silly, but his political positions are less clearly stated and I’m trying to root for his facial hair. The FOX team has no facial hair and a lot of unserious conservative guests, so  I just can’t go there.

I know I shouldn’t get mad about cable news. I’m like Charlie Brown hoping and hoping that cable news will not take away the football at the last moment. But like Charlie, I’m a Libra (yes the Peanuts have signs), which means I’m ever the optimist. I eventually turned off the TV, had some breakfast, and trimmed by beard and gave thanks for it and for the day ahead.

A Little Bit of Reality TV in Real Life…

In life, observations, teaching & education, Uncategorized on December 2, 2011 at 12:02 am

hey, mom, let's be a family here...

Today, I got a heaping tablespoon of bureaucracy–enough of a taste that for a moment, I wondered if those Libertarian-types had a point about doing away with government controlling things like education. I’m happy to say that I bounced back quickly. Bureaucracy is bad, but come on, Libertarianism? That’s some crazy sh$t.

Still, there are other crazy things in the world, and today I experienced a new one: it’s called a SARB hearing. SARB stands for Student Attendance Review Board. The basic gist is this: a lawyer from the DA’s office, a counselor from the Board of ED, a social worker and some invited guest from a non-profit (that’s me in this case) come together before a student with ridiculously poor attendance and his/her parents. After the well-meaning SARB-ers ask the kid a lot of really dumb yes-no questions, as in, “you want to be good, right?” or “you don’t want to keep being bad, right?” these same adults then present the kid with an option: either you comply with the contract we put before you OR you will go Truancy Court where your parents–usually poor, almost always non-English speaking–will pay fines and be shamed by a judge–never poor and always able to speak English.

Now, a few things become clear when you go to one of these things: 1. whoever came up with the SARB was pretty old and really lame. It’s like some kind of puritan ritual in which church elders try to shame the flock into holy-goodness. And 2., that crap didn’t work back in the day, and from what I can tell, it didn’t work today. I can tell you without a doubt that it didn’t work with Elsworth Wong (that’s not his name, but his real first name was equally old-fashioned in its attempt at WASP-iness). Elsworth is a thirteen year old kid who has already pulled a knife on his step-dad and stolen his mother’s car, but wise elders that we are, we, SARB-ers ignore him and instead focus on the parents, who are divorced and from what I could tell, hated each other with a passion you usually only see acted out on Reality TV. (I can’t understand Cantonese, but I’m willing to bet from the look on the poor translator’s face that some pretty foul language was getting tossed around.)

What surprised me most–yes, even more than how violent Cantonese can sound–is that the head of our little committee got all Dr. Phil on us and started lecturing the parents about the need to pull together, that they had to do it for the child. Worse still, all the while, he keeps addressing these parents as “mom” and “dad.” As in, “mom, come on, let’s be a family here,” or “dad, I know it’s hard to control a teenager with a knife, but I really think you’re up for the challenge.”

I told a friend about this after I got out, and she said it might not be a bad idea that the panel went off on the parents. I’m still not sold, but even you agree with my friend, I hope you can see that the members of today’s SARB, though well-meaning, were completely off when dealing with poor Elsworth. At the end of the proces, after “mom” went off on Dr. Phil in a mixture of English and Cantonese expletives, after the DA told the dad that he needed to get in the game–he didn’t understand the idiom–and after the lame questions were exhausted, when the head SARB-dude writes up the contract that he has the family sign, he leaves out any mention of academic support. It was ridiculous.

Earlier in the hearing, while the parents were yelling and the DA was berating the dad and the head SARB-erista was feeling people’s pain, I asked Elsworth what it was that kept him from school and without a beat, he said, “I feel like I’m behind and I feel stupid.” Now, I know that this poor kid probably is kind of messed up and I imagine that much of the problem stems from his parents. I also admit that academics is not the only thing to talk about in this case because it’s not like good grades are going to heal him. I get that.  But considering that SARB is part of the Board of ED–as in Education–you’d think that at least part of the contract where school officials promise they will support the student–at least in THAT part, some small mention about academic support would be made. But no. Nothing of the kind. What was required? Counseling for the parents, counseling for Elsworth, drug-counseling for Elsworth (seems he once tried pot) and some other kind of check-in with a school counselor for yet a third- kind of counseling. All good things, sure. But Jesus, the kid said he was ashamed about his grades and all the Board of ED dude says is yeah, tutoring, that’s a good idea.

FUCKED! Need I say more? Cause that’s Elsworth’s academic future. And meanwhile, the SARB-ers will go on requiring stuff and feeling pain and pointing fingers. Libertarians of America, I hate you, but if you do manage to win big next year, I may be able to recommend one tiny arm of government to get rid of.

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EXCLUSIVE: Jess Cagle on the Launch of ‘The EW Interview’

In media, observations on September 23, 2011 at 10:28 pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXCLUSIVE: Jess Cagle on the Launch of ‘The EW Interview’.

 

Pretty good interview, though the reporter looks a little pasty and a little hungry–as in Jon Stewart’s brains would be great with some fava beans and chianti.

The Daily Show Sends Up CNN/Tea Party Freak Show – FishbowlLA

In media, observations, politics, Uncategorized on September 14, 2011 at 2:08 pm

The Daily Show Sends Up CNN/Tea Party Freak Show – FishbowlLA.

You think the political process can’t get any stranger, and then…

Colbert’s Super PAC Provokes Laughter and Fear (via The Blanchard Report)

In Uncategorized on July 2, 2011 at 12:35 pm

This is very funny, but I’m concerned that this could also be repeated by someone who isn’t trying to make fun of a laughable system.

Colbert's Super PAC Provokes Laughter and Fear WASHINGTON–This morning, the Federal Election Commission agreed to allow Stephen Colbert to form Stephen Colbert's Super PAC, also granting Viacom, Comedy Central's parent company, with a media exemption, thus giving the media giant the right to anonymously contribute to Colbert's super PAC. "I am here … Read More

via The Blanchard Report

I Love Jon Stewart–and yet…

In media, observations on October 30, 2010 at 12:46 am

The March to Be Polite...and Impotent

Now that Rubicon is over, I can pretty much go for days and not watch TV. I just don’t care that much about any of the shows. That said, I have to admit that every night at 11, I am tempted to turn the beast on and watch the first half of The Daily Show. I don’t do it to get my news, but I enjoy Mr. Stewart‘s take on politicians, his intelligent use of video archives, and his willingness to call things stupid as he sees fit.

This last week, he’s been filming from DC in preparation for the Rally to Restore Sanity. Well, not to be mean, but DC has not been kind to the show. In fact, every night has gone one step closer to restoring my need to avoid TV altogether. For obvious reasons, Mr. Stewart has been pushing sanity. As an example of the kind of sanity he is trying to restore, the show selected a handful of people to bring to DC. There’s a conservative, a few liberals, a pizza guy who might be libertarian, and a Muslim man. The punchline behind the segment is that these are normal people who may not agree on everything, but who are perfectly able to have civil conversations nonetheless.

These segments are truly sane, but they are also inane. These sane people aren’t really shown saying anything apart from platitudes. They have this kind of “agree to disagree” mentality, which is fine, and may be sane, but doesn’t get at anything. Or to put it another way, without seeming to realize it, Stewart’s example of sanity seems to be nothing more than polite party conversation. No one’s trying to offend anyone else, but no one is trying to get anything done, either. Unlike our politicians, these pilgrims can afford to sit around and be polite.

I’m not saying the march is a bad idea. It is probably a good thing to have a place where people can come together and not say awful things about people on the other side of the political spectrum, but sanity should not just mean civility; it should also mean discourse, conversation, debate. I know Stewart is a comedian and so he is supposed to make us laugh, but he is trying to do something more with this rally. Even if he argues that he’s only a funny guy, there is something deeper going on. The problem is that from what I’ve seen this week, the event later today might fail in two major ways. It may be sane, but it will be too boring to be funny and too polite to be restorative.

Stanley Fish…what are you teaching?

In observations, Uncategorized, writers & books on May 29, 2010 at 3:25 pm

I usually like Stanley Fish, but in a recent blog about a Arizona Law 2281 (not the one you’ve heard of, but another crazy one this time dealing with education) I am not sure I see his point.  He seems to be arguing that education should not be political.  In school, I used to try to avoid classes that always pushed the connection between education and oppression.  It kind of makes for a neurotic experience if everything you learn becomes sucked up into a conspiracy sponsored by some majority (whatever that means).  That said, to educate is, hopefully, to make people think critically about whatever the subject is.  If those thinking skills get turned toward politics, then so be it.  To put it simply, if education is not always political, then at least it seems to always potentially be so.

Anyway, check out the Fish article.  Link supplied below by d_Taoist…

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/17/arizona-the-gift-that-keeps-on-giving/

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