my schtick on politics and entertainment is up this morning on splice.
i'm serious when i say this: if i were voting my pure self-interest, i'd have to vote for trump. the main stake i, like most americans, have in the presidential contest is that i will have to watch the winner on television, every day, for at least the next four years. i have no idea how donald or hillary's agendas would affect my bottom line or whatever, and actually i don't think hillary has any agenda at all, except 'you won't notice me doing anything.' that's because i don't think she has any beliefs except that she should aggrandize herself. but i sure will have to watch her yapping robotically, and i long ago had way too much of that.
people keep howling that politics has become mere entertainment. no, it has always been entertainment, in large measure. now shit does happen. someone might take you into a disastrous war, for example. but you can't really know that ahead of time unless they're screeching it, which is unlikely.
anyway, i am not down with trump's nationalism, with walls or muslim bans etc. not at all. but again, if i were actually to vote only on my self-interest, it's obviously trump. you too, i'm thinking, probably, though maybe not. it's just that msnbc, cnn, and fox will be 24-hour saharas if she's elected. i'll know what she's going to say about anything at any time before she says it: it will be the safe thing, the polled thing, the empty thing, the consulted thing. it'll be all manipulation all the time, yet it will be unbelievably repetitive, predictable, contentless: just as though she is an idiot.
i'm going to admit to a weakness for the shows of shonda rhimes. i haven't tried gray's anatomy, but i am uptodate more or less with scandal and how to get away with murder. she has a rare gift for keeping you going: it's hard not to head right for the next episode, which makes it a pretty compulsive binge-watch. there's usually a wild twist, reversal, or unbelievably dramatic yet enigmatic event at the end. things happen at a great rate. how to get away, with its flash-forward and catch-up structure, is intricately and beautifully plotted. the genre is 'melodrama,' i would say, and it's rarely been done better.
the superhyperdramatic atmosphere gets a bit incessant, though. scandal had to keep topping itself season after season. after it had recapitulated all the top political scandals of the last forty years, they moved on to the president and supreme court justices murdering one another, vice presidents repeatedly engaged in actual coups, wild affairs among all concerned causing wars in africa, and so on. gonna admit that i hopped off for a bit when the idea was that olivia's dad ran the world from his undisclosed location, while her mom was the world's top terrorist.
plus it suffered from something that might be true in shonda's shows overall; the straight male characters tend to be a bit uninteresting, or are just eye candy or something. but anyway, the flaw at the center of scandal is the character of president fitzgerald grant and the blank actor that plays him. this person (i mean the character) is both weak and actually evil, and worse, he's boring, and yet he's supposed to be driving a great love story with kerry washington. people have to keep saying how special and charismatic he is because it's indetectible in the script, the shots, the performance, the love scenes, etc. on the other hand, the show has finally come unstuck this season as we go straight to impeachment, and i would hope things are moving toward an interesting climax.
her soundtracks invariably lean on '70s soul. there have been worse ideas.
one thing that shonda is doing is giving us main characters that are almost beyond flawed. olivia pope is one thing; at least she spends a lot of time feeling bad for doing things like fixing national elections. annalise keating is something else: a borderline evil or insane person. but utterly fascinating too: maybe about as far in this direction as shonda can push.
i remember realizing something was changing when my daughter jane, then 9 or whatever, liked the highschoolmusical superbitch sharpay (ashley tisdale) rather than the lovely vanessa hudgins. well, sharpay was interesting, vanessa was boring. and above all, sharpay was active and vanessa was passive. girls were looking for powerful women, and that still makes them socially problematic women. well, now jane is 15 and she loves scandal; he favorite character is mellie grant, the sharpay of dc, soon to be the pres in the spin-off or successor show. shonda has made a science of that kind of heroine, and is part of an historical transformation in the role and depiction of women in media. for one thing, i think the audience for dramatic television as a whole skews female. and as a whole, the men are becoming ornamental, the women... interesting.
"I think human consciousness, is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware, nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself, we are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self; an accretion of sensory, experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody is nobody. Maybe the honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction, one last midnight - brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal."--Rust Cohle, True Detective
I have no idea why True Detective didn't take every possible or conceivable award at the Emmys...except that the Emmys are pretty irrelevant to everything. But the persona of Rust Cohle will probably follow Matthew McConaghey to his grace and he'll be fine with that. Not unlike the Duke and the Ringo Kid; Eastwood and Dirty Harry. And, he can have some fun with it as well...possible he's the new Eastwood for our times, burned out on bad X and imitation Don Perrignon, trying to maintain a certain level of gravitas despite knowing it's all a stupid game. Or the post-modern John Wayne, doing the "man's gotta do what a man's gotta do" for the world to wonder at.
So, the guy has some standards. Lots of people in entertainment and sports don't. When A-Rod first was a seeming hero for the 21st Century, i.e., before Texas and the contract, the only ad he got in the Seattle market was a series of spots for Yammi Yougurt, which he jumped at. Sets the bar kind of low for class and establishing a brand. McConaghey has probably done others, but he just made a few for Lincoln SUVs and while I'm not sure they'd sell me a Lincoln if I was thinking about a SUV, I'd definitely pay to have him drive me around and talk about stuff...important stuff, like God and Sin and Beauty and smoked brisket and stuff.
Some of the dialogue in the top one ranks with the best cowboy poets and Shakespeare..."I speak bull...1800 pounds and can do whatever he wants...I can respect that...Take the long way...Thanks."On the other hand, it makes me realize something -- we're in a bold new world here that McLuhan saw coming. Soon, all meaning and art will be in the commercials, and the content will be static and Zipadeedodah. But, not just yet, at all times and in all places...but soon.
it might be partly an enthusiasm born of binge, but i find myself wanting to say that orphan black (bbc america; it came from canada) is about the best television series i have ever seen. it has a great, gritty look and great pace (down to the directing and editing, i suppose). it combines extreme seriousness and dense plotting with completely delightful comical passages, which i would say is a very hard thing to do well. tatiana maslany in the lead role and also as ten-or-so supporting characters (ok, ok, they're clones) is frigging unbelievable. you find yourself not primarily believing that she's playing the roles well, but that it can't possibly be the same actress: fully distinct personalities defined in every way the body moves, every expression. she plays many scenes with herself in multiple roles, and they are completely convincing. perhaps they have indeed cloned tatiana. but the supporting cast - like the dude who plays the waygay foster bro felix - is also outstanding. i'm bereft that i've exhausted existing episodes.
one way they use the clone theme is to explore gender in various ways, perhaps more interestingly than has ever been done on television. all maslany's personae are constructed by contrast with one another, and though they are palpable individuals, they are also flavors of femaleness from soccer mom to transsexual. and it's not only her characters. amazingly, orphan black does all that without didacticism or some painful pc jive.
msnbc's approach this morning: breaking news! day 14! the search for 370 continues...ps after a half hour we'll get to 'russia masses troops on its western border'. they've turned cnn into the southern indian ocean: an infinite expanse of nothingness, with some little bits of debris. it's a devastating indictment of their editorial meetings.
i will be on the al-jazeera english show "the stream" live at 3:30, talking with a cool panel about contemporary anarchism. now, al-jazeera english is not al-jazeera america, nor is the stream on aja the same as the stream on aje. and plus aje is "geo-blocked" in the states. one might be able to access it here, and maybe i'll be able to post a link to the video at some point.
i finally buckled under the boredom and started watching the netflix house of cards. now don't get me wrong - or, what the hell, get me wrong. that said, or left forever unsaid, i think one of the worst developments in the world of film and television is the persona of the virtuoso actor, and i have really more or less hated kevin spacey, philip seymour hoffman, and meryl streep, for example. here is the problem: their super amazing extremely self-conscious virtuosity is incompatible with the fictional contexts into which it is deployed. you go see streep play abraham lincoln or sea biscuit, and what you actually watch is streep-the-great-ack-toor: whoa the accent! the elocution! or whatever. really, people are all like "i'd pay to see daniel day lewis play a household appliance", and i feel that they often have. so, when you go see philip seymour hoffman play a bookcase or whatever it may be, you'll be all: 'i really thought he was actually a bookcase!' what that means is the opposite of what it says: you watched the extreme simulatedness of the extreme simulation and got off on that, not the script, for example. on the other hand, spacey merely irritates me, and i did get irritated with house of cards. i am still trying to figure out the accent - allaeged to be a georgia drawl - which sounds like a mix of cajun and afrikaans. oh hell i got caught up, though, and honestly, robin wright, whom i've been admiring since santa barbara circa 1987, can be on my television any time or all the time.
true i am enjoying johnny weir as a skating commentator, and it's cool that that fabulous of a queen can be on tv all day. however, i have one reservation: he very much preaches the gospel of "if you believe in yourself, you can do anything." honestly i don't know how that idea ever occurred to anyone, much less became a cliche we teach to our children, etc. it attributes actual omnipotence to any given high school schlumph. or it really creates for each of us a special religion of our self. i used to believe in god, or like, trying to do right or whatever, now i believe in myself. hence i can do anything. look, if there is anything i know by foundational, incorrigible, privileged-access introspection it is this: i am an extremely implausible candidate for godhead. if you don't know that about yourself, you are dangerously demented.
this morning johnny was saying that the skater on the ice had told him how much she had learned to believe in herself and that she could do anything. he said that just as she was going into the triple loop or whatever on which she wiped out. dude, whatever! believe insofar as possible all that is and only what is true - or at least try not to say with the utmost simulated commitment anything that you yourself know to be false and insane - and get to work!
but how about this from just now: "i love the beginning of this long program; she's just letting us all know she owns us". or he had a pretty hilarious rap on the limitations on sexual expression in a brother-sister pair, etc. he's very sexy and fun.
the only interesting thing about jay-z and beyonce's performance at the grammys was her butt, which i admit is the very center of american culture.
the state of our union is stupid, vicious, and over.
here's what i propose to do with the common core curriculum: flay it with a razor knife and peel off its skin, dangle it from a noose and dip it in a vat of vinegar, pull it back up and club it like pinata to see what's inside, soak it in kerosene and set it on fire, and, in the process of putting it out, drown it, then insert sticks of dynamite in each of its orifices in a rape-like manner and light the fuses. after that, we will step back and re-assess.
every value that barack obama ever espoused, every ideal, every hunk of sort-of inspiring bullshit that he has muttered in his entire career, is given the lie by the nsa. democracy, freedom, equality, justice, america, etc: in his mouth, they are nothing. he yaps like king, but he is j. edgar hoover.
if you think that the democratic party has any way to reduce inequality, or that it wants to, you have not been watching. who is telling them how to ameliorate poverty? oh, you know, bill and melinda gates. as the cult of bill gates shows, we are a people who believe that wealth is equivalent to goodness, wisdom, and truth, no matter how bad the software sucks. a society like that loves and wants and deserves its extreme inequalities. on whose behalf do obamas or clintons administer the country? goldman-sachs. this technocracy they've created of harvard j.d.'s and wharton mba's is as hierarchical a caste system as could be imagined.
who wrote the common core? the bill and melinda gates foundation. obama wants the richest man in the country running absolutely everything, for he is the very best among us: provable in $$$. that's how we're going to get more equal. perhaps we should ask poor people, like people who actually know something about the situtaiton, how to address inequality. wait. poor people? those ignorant hilarious fools, those rednecks, black folks, and meth addicts? if they were smart, they'd have the cash/credibility. only billionaires and harvard professors know anything about poverty, bro.
i'll prove to you that poor people know nothing about poverty: where are their ted talks? the state of our union is gates.
wow i am in a nasty mood, i guess. i need to find some aspect of the news or our culture that i can affirm.
this duck dynasty thing is ridiculous. neither phil nor anyone else should permit the mind-numbing second golden age of pc to keep them from saying whatever they please. one 'offensive' bit: he compared the anus unfavorably to the vagina as a sex organ. now, that is some funny stuff, and a question that in some form or some occasions is liable to face us all, as it were. indeed, it is a or perhaps the fundamental human dilemma. i wonder how the polling looks on that these days.
but look: you've got these redneck reality shows. i like them too. but the basic premise of course is: look at these crazy hicks! there are wild people like this in our own country! it has, if you'll permit me to say so, a bit of a minstrel-show quality, and condesenscion is one of the elements of the entertainment. so now you are going to penalize the guy for talking like a (highly witty) redneck? you are? you hired him to be precisely this, and now you're suspending him for it? people: i'm trying to figure out whether to think of you as vaginas or as anuses.
i thank whatever gods there may be that i live in a world where we hang people for making the wrong sound. consider these items: fag. nigger. cunt. ok now really look again at the actual things you just experienced: they may seem to be mere squiggles on your screen that couldn't do any harm to anyone, but as the whole world knows, they're actually supernatural weapons that can destroy people at a distance if you say them with the right inflection. indeed, having read them just now, intensified in their awful power by italics, you are already exactly as dead as john fitzgerald kennedy: real dead. (i hope that's not offensive.) or at least i have done you incalculable harm. my bad!
on the other hand, insofar as i wield these words, i am a being of unfathomable power! i can literally assault and profoundly damage the whole world by sitting here typing! that is too much power to entrust to anybody, much less everybody who is not an illiterate mute who is unable to use sign language, etc. and of course, anything that gets alec baldwin's insufferable mug off our televisions, or at least reduces his meaningless ubiquity, is most welcome. i want to emphasize that i'm perfectly sincere about that part.
let's consider together how we can make this a better world for all, and keep more alec baldwins from arising post-execution. if we want to prevent people permanently from saying or writing 'fag', we need to go to the heart of the matter, the real source of the problem: the shapes 'a', 'f' 'g' and the sounds aaaaa, fffff, and guh. if we simply banned their use, no one - not even alec frigging baldwin - could say 'fag' at all! then we'd all be equal.
think of it this way: the word 'fag' is like the evil number 11, which of course we prohibited in the year of the kike because it was being used by the necromancers to control our beloved king's alleged mind. owing to its role in this history, people find the number deeply offensive. now the fact that we couldn't mention the number 11 in the policies that banned the number 11 made it conceptually impossible to ban the number 11. but, in our quest for progress and equality, mere conceptual impossibility should never stop us from doing what is right. we won't make the same mistake again with 'fag', or we wouldn't if it were logically possible not to. as latifah said in a song that, thank god, was banned from the radio, who you callin a bitch?
admittedly, when we announced that the number 11 was banned - or would have announced it if we could have without mentioning it - the mathematicians as well as the necromancers got pissy, if that's something i'm permitted to say. in fact, they purported not to be able quite to grasp what it meant to eliminate the number 11. (i remember the horrifying last words of the monster david hilbert: "right, what's 12-1 then?" we shot him a second too late.). but we pointed out that there were, according to their own account, infinitely many other numbers; they just were not going to run out. likewise, the idea of deleting chunks of english seems to irritate writers and such, as though there weren't plenty of other words. one novelist even wanted an exemption so he could portray everyday nineteenth-century dialogue among evil slaveholders. another 'author'/terrorist/bully wanted to explore the history of homophobia in order to expose its monstrous underpinnings. sorry, that's impossible, or it would be impossible if we could institute the ban without violating it. while we're at it, we'll need to suspend the logical principle of non-contradiction. well, there are a lot of logical principles, though admittedly that's the wrong little jenga piece to remove.
but it's one thing to erase all inscriptions of the word 'nigger' and silence all its utterances, while also of course erasing its inscribers and silencing its utterers. we can do more. we are americans. we dream big. we have at our disposal the most insanely destructive military machine the world has ever known. we can fly to the moon or annihilate the world with the touch of a button. we will bring every bit of our know-how and derangement to the fight to destroy the word 'nigger' itself and all its components. 'nigger' is this generation's moonshot, this generation's hiroshima, a fallujah of our very own. if we do not undertake this, our destiny, historians and white suprematists and hip hop artists, drawn by 'nigger''s dread aura, might always come upon it lying around somewhere, apparently by chance. like a ring of power, such things have a way of not staying lost.
admittedly, the word 'nigger' is a purely abstract object, which is why its evil both permeates the universe down to its itsybitsyest hadron and appears nowhere within it at all. sadly, lobbing it into a volcano has no effect on it whatsoever. to destroy the word 'nigger', we're going to need new interdimensional quantum beam weapons that can be deployed against the abstract realm, which is where our real enemies are concealed, like osama in abottabad. the cowards! maybe we can work out a un inspections regime, just to be sure they're not enriching concepts to weapons grade up there. nothing is off the table. or, indeed, on it.
one thing that's super-wrong: the phrase 'the n-word': it's just a euphemism for the word 'nigger', i tell you! and because the latter word is hedged about with mystical taboos and is so deeply offensive to so many, any expression that refers to that word shares in the intrinsic evil with which it smokes, which rises from it as healing power rises from the relics of the saints. i personally am at least as offended by 'the n-word' as by 'nigger.' really, i propose that they are synonymous (actually they are connected in a meta-referential stack on which preservation of synonymy at the meta-level is built in by stipulation: see below), and hence that if one is offensive, so is the other. if kids down at the high school aren't producing expressions such as 'yo, my n-word, what up?' then i miss my guess. and note that the letter 'n' is itself one sixth of the word 'nigger': that is one fifth too much.
imagine the possible uses of the phrase 'the n-word' in white suprematist discourse or in bullying on facebook! admittedly, calling people a word seems nonsensical. but it's all part of the dehumanization that goes with sounds and shapes of such a nature. when i hear 'the n-word', sometimes the word 'nigger' appears in my mind: i know what it is that they are referring to! that's when i get out the ice pick i keep by me for just such occasions and start stabbing myself in the head, trying to delete that word from my synapses. maybe we should try 'the word that begins with the letter that comes two after 'l''. no wait! that refers to the same word too. in everyday conversation, or when constructing my argument that 'that word' should be strictly prohibited (and i mean precisely what i say, that the phrase 'that word' should be banned, as well as any phrase that can be used to refer to the phrase 'that word,' such as 'the phrase 'that word''; along of course with any expression that refers to 'the phrase 'that word'', such as 'the phrase 'the phrase 'that word'''), i refer to it as 'the fifth word of line 14 on p. 242 of the 1902 harcourt edition of adventures of huckleberry finn', though i also hold that that phrase itself, as well of course as adventures of huckleberry finn, or indeed the 19th century as a whole, should be banned. wait just let me double-check that reference. ack! my eyes! you know what? this ice pick to the head thing is the only road to justice.
now on frege's view, the phrase 'the n-word' refers to the sense of the word 'nigger'. that sense is profoundly offensive or indeed the term itself is defined, for example in the dictionary, as offensive, and hence its sense is offensiveness itself: the very essence of offensiveness, like a precious 'nigger' perfume. hence we need a euphemism to pick out the phrase 'the n-word': possibly the phrase 'the t-phrase'. however, the reference of the phrase 'the t-phrase' is the phrase 'the n-word', which refers to the offensive sense of the word 'nigger'. we're going to need infinitely many layers of euphemisms for euphemisms for euphemisms to insulate ourselves from the Word of Evil itself, and then we are going to have to ban all those layers. eventually, this will entail banning the use of language entirely. so be it. any given word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, book, literary period, conversation, and so on, is likely to offend. it's inappropriate. i often offend even myself with my own internal monologue, as you might imagine.
what's encouraging about this wave of terrorism is the whole slapstick quality, both of the perpetrators and the heroic first responders, the relentless all-too-human flamboyant mediocrity of it all, hedged about by a relentless hyperbolic rhetoric of earnesteness and non sequitur super-americanism. boston strong, son. next time be ready with a better writer for your sticker. that's basic preparedness.
anyway, the tsarnaev brothers, in their carjacked vehicle, improvise in collaboration with the car's owner a plan to bomb times square. later, they're chucking large exploding items of cookware out the window of the car at the cops and sort of getting away. finally, all the police in the world are searching watertown mass, overlooking for many hours the poor little wounded chump shivering in the boat two blocks away as they chase various vehicles hither and thither throughout the metro area. they pull him out of the boat in a fallujah-style fully armoured and mechanized mega-assault, disabling him with robots and percussion devices before unleashing a hail of automatic-weapons fire, somehow leaving him alive. dzokhar tsarnaev, like so many of us, no doubt owes his life to the incompetence of others, whose courage has made them heroes.
meanwhile, the ricin lame-attempt-to-assassinate-everybody case has broken down into an academic super bowl, a world chess championship of sheer white trash douchebaggery, pitting the elvis impersonator against the child molester. first they charged the elvis impersonator, which i could have told them was futile, as he was obviously framed by the envious child molester, who's also a martial arts entrepreneur and politician. the latter gentleman now appears to have absconded (?), which would be outstanding and remarkable. where is h.l. mencken in this golden age?
nashville is roughly my favorite tv show ever (well also i'm into justified right now). one of the many great aspects: the attempt really is to make a television equivalent of a country song, or country music in general. this gives the thing a kind of postmodern hyper-self-awareness even as it also works as a sheer soap. now this may surprise you a bit coming from a philosophy professor, but my own life has been filled with many of these themes, as well as basted in country music. i am a devotee of rural america. one character's brother just did 8 for armed robbery; my bro jim only pulled 5, though. the depiction of addiction and recovery (12-step variety) is the best and most real i've seen on television; it's a constant theme. in many ways, addiction has been the theme of my life: my father's, my brothers', my ex-wife marion's, my own. i sobered up (the first time, which lasted for 13 years) in nashville, as it happens, among many musicians, songwriters, and country stars. the more-or-less main male character deacon is right now on a 'dry-drunk', sell-the-house-and-go-live-in-the-cabin moment after 12 years sober. his real problem: he's spent much of his life helplessly loving a terribly wrong person, who's also 'the queen of country music.' i am going to speculate that such a thing is...possible. the relationships are absurdly rocky: the lies, the betrayals, the crazy fights, the d-i-v-o-r-c-e. um, yeah.
i wonder if all this happened to me because i love tammy wynette. well, no. but it has all made me love tammy wynette even more. everyone thinks that the hayden panetierre character is a 'pre-fab pop princess.' but they depict her as being, sort of secretly, an overwhelming songwriting talent. she bought some land out along the cumberland that used to belong to tammy; that's where she wants to build her house. meanwhile she's dealing - again i would say quite realistically - with her mother's meth addiction. (my ma is a non-addict, though. mama tried.) now, the palatial homes in belle meade, the rival divas, etc: that's a bit more outside my experience, but i dig it anyway. and it's a show where people really care about music and are really good at it: that's what actually matters most to these characters. i remember robert altman's unforgivable nashville: a completely ignorant hatchet job in which country musicians and others in the industry are pictured as talentless hicks, buffoons, and con men. perhaps that was the autobiographical element in altman's film, but it had nothing to do with nashville, which has its problems, but where the real talent and commitment are overwhelming. you might just stroll into a bar and hear someone singing like an angel, perhaps someone like the astounding clare bowen, who plays a nashville type: you know, just down from the hills: even she has no idea that she's a transcendent country singer, which is slowly dawning on the cast and the nation. this nashville is a very loving depiction, even as it also explores in its soapy way many problematic dimensions of the entertainment industry.
so the syrian opposition generates a new leadership. headline here? no women. as your village is shelled and your mom explodes, i'd be appointing a commission on pay equity. as far as i'm concerned, they can sit there and die until they get to 17% lesbians. how many latinos in the leadership of the syrian revolution? surely these people can be made to understand the importance of tokenism to the war effort.
by the way, i would definitely support legislation to remove your children from your custody if you permit them to watch ss. here i make a serious assertion: sesame street is the worst children's show ever, and quite a plausible candidate for the very worst television show of any sort. sesame street completely misconstrues the nature of childhood, not to speak of the nature of television. not every minute has to be another minute of fake play to teach; and we can do more for our kids than try to manufacture them as democrats. childhood is intrinsically, not just instrumentally, valuable, and if the point is that you'll never know how i or the corporation for public broadcasting actually formed your consciousness because you'll be under the delusion that you're having fun and acting autonomously; oh, think again and feel more fully your love of small persons. it's like you're forcing these poor little saps to listen to sting. or it's like the new punch and judy show, brought to you by erich honecker. i'm not sure you really want to entirely break down the distincton between entertainment and manipulation, but at least it doesn't work very well: the thing is as entertaining as a migraine. it's helping you model extreme insincerity, though, which will be extremely important to your children's future success. fortunately the ideas and values and characters are so blank that even though your three-your-old might be chanting along to the numbers again, it's going to be nothing compared to his discovery of something actual, like sponge bob say. really key to parenting: ask yourself, how can i manipulate my children to do and believe and say what someone told me they're supposed to, while all the time cleverly pretending to play with them? this is key to preparing your great love/little sucker for the college admissions process. supposedly sesame street was a substitute for pre-school for ghetto kids, growing up in housing projects built on the same aesthetic model. if you think ghetto kids got anything out of that or that it had a big inner-city audience, you are mistaken. it had a multi-cultural cast but the most painful whitebread aesthetic. its actual function was pre-kaplan sat prep course for suburbanites.
that's a rant, in case you're wondering, ma! meanwhile, where is bashar al-assad with his helicopter gunships when you need him? for episode 18 billion or whatever they're up to this week i want the whole cast down there in his state-of-the-art torture/education facility, forced to count from 11 to 20 and not recycle. the opposition to assad on sesame street will be evanescent. but it will be diverse.
watcha watchin, crispy? well as you might imagine or not, the abc seres nashville. i am a sucker for a soap, and i love nashville the city, where i lived for some years. the city is lovingly portrayed, with such real places as the bluebird cafe and the loveless hotel, where you might have found little crispy playing the open mic or chowing down on the biscuits long about 1991. i had sort of read the ingenue character played by hayden pannetierre as a stand-in for taylor swift, but not really. the plot is essentially itself the subject of many a country song: "catch a falling star." and son, t-bone burnett is the musical supervisor.
the music is interesting. first of all there are versions of every nashville sub-genre: pop country, hotel band, superstar, opry, alt, almost down to the buskers, but it is all originals. these are not exactly parodies, but re-enactments, rather bravura 'i could do a song like that' throwdowns. but i am so far rather disappointed with the songs that are proposed as serious music or great or pure country songs. they just have not particularly moved me, and i'll tell you this: they can do better. there are, quite as depicted in the series, hundreds of amazing songwriters in nashville; they are your server tonight or they are 40-year vets.
just one more element to put me in the tank, the thing features one of those people who grew up in the cast of general hospital: jonathan jackson aka lucky spencer. he plays in a band analogous to, say, jason and nashville scorchers.
11:02 they did get better than tepid, though.
11:00 it could have been michele bachmann, y'all.
10:55 chris christie believes in us.
10:53 it must be 'humbling' experience for mitt to sit there soaking up the praise. 'mitt romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear.' wait, like mitch mcconnell you've got him confused with yourself.
10:51 but i do like christie's hardass here's-the-truth rhetorical stance, or the whole frame in terms of truth. on the deficit, e.g. but he does twist it around to jive too.
10:43 "tonight we're going to choose respect over love." wait. awhen you ut it like that . . .
10:39 my father was born with nothing. but he still kicked your father's ass.
10:35 sometimes it's hard to follow your own intro video. christie is as jersey as springsteen.
10:20 everybody is descended from a coal miner. me it's all newspapermen, the only dirtier profession.
10:18 it will be amazing if she gets through this without telling some canned anecdote about someone she met on the campaign trail.
10:17 well, she could be a lot worse. she is really a pretty weird contrast to him, quite girlish and sincere with a hint of steel. maybe it works in bed though. when she says it's the moms of america that hold us together, she's got a point.
10:08 no political wife fo my money can compare to the magnificent michelle. looking at a line of candy crowley, cokie roberts, and andrea mitchell. rather a formidable crew!
10:08 i agree with haley that america deserves mitt romney.
10:00 soon, soon, mitt romney will be revealed in all his peeply hearsonal doomanity, just like hikki naily.
9:57 artur davis accuses the democrats of partisanship. we need to turn to the republicans to heal our divisions, har har.
9:38 orioles 6, white sox 0.
9:35 wow he completely dicked romney. not a word about romney or ryan in that speech. left it to the last phrase.
9:30 santorum is quite an above-average speaker though; this 'hands that built this country' thing is good, almost jesse jackson-style in its patterns of repetition. the religious thing always lurks behind the rhetoric and the rhythm, and he's definitely connecting, for the first time this convention. he's given so so many speeches in the last year and a half; he's got the beat, baby.
9:27 as soon as the other party gets in power, you go all: "no man is above the law."
9:25 santorum: "half of all americans are receiving some form of government benefits." i have heard this used as an argument on the other side; it's like we've got you over a barrel; look you can't vote against your own interest. of course, we created the structure of interests. but one thing you've got to say; it should constitute an electoral advantage for democrats. and the wider the spread of the programs the greater the advantage. and we do need to ask as we go along: leaving aside the next ten years of program x, is this the way we want to live?
9:20 oh hell santorum's digging up his autobiography again. his grandfather has already died a thousand times.
9:00 but scott walker got a standing o even just announcing wisconsin's delegate count. still he's fundamentally pretty dull.
8:54 speakers may never get much more than a tepid response in the arena; they decided not to go in the direction of something anyone could possibly be enthusiastic about; pure whitebrad hooha. maybe they can pipe in recorded crowd noise from sarah palin rallies.
8:50 mcdonnell of va: "we need a dynamic opportunity society." he is extraordinarily repulsive, a rising star.
8:21 'machines run by taxpayers like us'. and vice versa.
8:18 obamacare makes kelly ayotte cry. she just loves this fucking country so fucking much.
8:15 i'm assuming there are protests. but i have seen no coverage.
8:07 the oak ridge boys!
8:02 cnn's headline leading off the hour: "isaac closes in on the gulf coast. a complication for republicans." wait. what did you say?
7:42 this mia love person - a young black mormon from utah - is very compelling. actually we've had some great black female politicians. shirley chisholm and barbara jordan, e.g. but also some clunkers; i'm not feeling sheila jackson lee or maxine waters, for example. mia's preaching self-reliance right now. and she's an aerobics instructor! her reading of the cliches cobbled together by romney's sub-sub staff is at least passionate. and brief always goes over well.
7:30 'barack obama doesn't understand the american dream.' that reince priebus is a rather unimpressive person in this context.
7:20 as you know, my primary goal in life is not to have my death reported as having been caused by auto-erotic asphyxiation. another great aspiration of mine is to live in such a way that my spouse, if any, is never called upon to 'humanize' me in the media.
6:48 amazing how that isaac kind of spun itself into a perfect galactic hurricane just as it blew ashore. it wound itself up like a top. might be worse than they thought. i mean it it looks like nothing until it spirals into landfall. they're saying the pressure is dropping.
6:10 boehner managed not even to announce paul's total. you know, dissing people tends to irritate them. funny but the outcome of the election could turn on paul's enthusiastic endorsement of gary johnson. if you go to johnson's website, it's more about paul than about himself, which is sort of pitiful. i'm assuming that democratic super-pacs coud fund the libertarian party?
5:54 like, rhode island promoted 'adele's lemonade': it's like, so very american. 'the pheasant hunting capital of the world': south dakota. wait don't they realize that herman cain is the next president of the united states?
5:44 these ron paul people never made any sense in the republican party. they have to see that now.
5:31 the way c-span is doing the score is a bummer. just romney and 'others.' maine got 14 for romney, 10 for paul. minnesota: 33 paul, 6 romney. nevada 17 paul, 5 romney.
5:20 nothing is more quaint than the roll-call vote. i just wish paul had hundreds. it's sinking in now, state by state: shit we're nominating mitt romney! ok florida came in with 3 for paul. hawaii too. iowa!? 22 for paul, 6 for romney?! somebody is pissed. mitch mconnell proudly cast all his seed for 'mitch i mean mitt.' this is about me i mean you.
4:07 you know what's sad? republicans really have trouble rounding up decent entertainment. the, um, oak ridge boys? wait actually that's g.e. smith up on stage with someone now, while matrons do the hustle. it's like the saturday night live band from 1992. could be worse. throwing down some blues.
3:39 back in 2000, the philly inquirer got me to write with a late deadline on at least the first couple of nights of the dem convention. i gave them this, which they did print. (well they held the hole and it was 10:30). but i worked for them less after that. anyway, it shows you some of the ways things have changed since then. it was a simpler, more innocent time, before we realized that man is mortal or that shit goes awry.
3:10 if 'welfare' means 'black,' is it possible to debate welfare policy at all? or are all such programs exempt from examination?
3:07 on the other hand, i'm very not looking forward to ann romney's attempt to 'humanize' mitt romney, to 'give a deeply personal point of view,' etc. it sucks that the cops got the anarchists' pile of rocks.
believe it or not i have had many fond and vicious moments watching political conventions on television. john yang just now trying to make his way through the scrum on the floor to talk to ron paul and getting shoved out of the way on msnbc: classic. the first i remember was dems and yippies in chicago in '68; well, that will never be surpassed. but how about the chaos dems of 1972, or ford v reagan in 1976, or teddy v jimmy 1980. vidal v buckley. there actually have been pretty classic speeches, pat buchanan seting off high explosives, e.g. now in this time of candidates who fail the turing test, such as gore, kerry, or romney, few interesting things can possibly happen speechwise; however, you can always hope for things to go terribly terribly wrong on national television, which also does happen. looking forward to chris christie tonight. the most insufferable moments are the tribute videos: 100% visual, verbal, and musical cliches. god looks down upon convention videos and grows weary, infinitely weary. He of course recreates all that is at every moment, keeping it in existence by sheer force of will, at least until he nods off. at any rate, i will blog bits this evening. i guess the medium would be twitter, but i'm not on twitter.
yipes the olympic closing show. probably a pretty amazing light show live, incredibly static and bloated on television. plus the bellowing, pounding sound seems like it's coming out of a tunnel. pure mud. i won't presume to pronounce on the history of british taste that is on display.
By Crispin Sartwell
In 1980, Ronald Reagan famously asked, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" That question is about the past, but what the American people care about is the future. Thus, as I try to figure out how to cast my vote for president, I ask myself and America an even more profound question: Who would you prefer to watch on television for the next four years?
The candidates remind us that the stakes are high: social justice as against individual liberty; a positive vision of all of us helping each of us as against a release of the entrepreneurial spirit that made this country great; subordination to a gigantic government as against subordination to gigantic corporations. The American dream itself, or at least the precise form of its annihilation, hangs in the balance.
On the other hand, the way the candidates and their parties embody these gigantic and inspiring values in actual policy consists of minor adjustments to the tax code, which they can't actually achieve.
Various policy initiatives of the next president might affect me, of course; the best recent example I can think of is that I can keep my daughter Emma on my health insurance for a couple of more years thanks to Obama's healthcare law. But by far the most concrete effect of the President of the United States on my actual life is that the occupant of that office has unfettered access to my television screen.
Unlike Emma, who lives in Colorado, he'll be right there, in my living room and yours, day after day, week after week, etc. There will be States of the Union, press conferences, emergency addresses to the American people, world travels with the press corps in tow, pseudo-intimate interviews. If I am going to vote my own self-interest, the fundamental issue is entertainment.
And so America has to ask itself: As President of the United States of America, who is going to be funnier? Who more able to touch your heart and bring a tear to your eye? Whose face would you rather look at all day? The stakes are indeed dramatic.
There is no doubt that Obama is at his best an uplifting speaker. Not at his best, he is inanimate, delivering a perfunctory teleprompter rendition of his address on the Gulf oil spill or the Supreme Court decision. And the inspiration has faded with the repetition.
Barack Obama has already been on television all the time for a good five years. Even excellent TV characters run out of momentum around then. An important exception is Carly Benson-Quartermaine-Corinthos-Alcazar-Jacks on General Hospital, who's been chugging along as a classic soap opera super-bitch for the better part of two decades. However, she's been played by at least three different actresses. Obama might want to try that approach.
Likewise, I was hoping for a more riveting, or at least more amusing, Republican candidate. The madcap hijinks of a Michele Bachmann or a Rick Perry - their zany, Lucille-Ball-meets-Zooey-Deschanel personae - would have made every day a joy and a misadventure. Into what hilarious pratfalls they might have pushed this great nation only Jesus knows, though my own view is that without a filibuster-proof Republican majority in the Senate, they wouldn't have taken us much of anywhere.
I just don't think Romney can carry a series or indeed a country for a whole season, much less four or eight. The chances of someone like that launching an unpopular war, building an electrified border fence, or banning abortion - any of which would make for good television - seem slim.
In some respects, Romney certainly has what it takes to succeed on a high-def flatscreen; indeed, he has such facility that he could portray anyone doing anything. He's like a male Meryl Streep, whose performance as Seabiscuit was so convincing that it was never detected. Romney would make a beautiful Seabiscuit. But when he portrays himself, he portrays a very uninteresting creature.
Romney's problem is that the television audience wants to follow a coherent, compelling character through the whole run of the show. I watch television to connect my deep humanity, if any, to the deep humanity of the characters. I come to think of them - Kyra Sedgwick as The Closer, for example, or the members of Big Time Rush - as my closest, indeed as my only, friends. Mitt Romney is a pretty decent actor. But "Mitt Romney" is a painfully dull character. And politics is about character.
And so, because I so cherish this picturesque land of freedom and its rich history of television entertainment, I will be voting for Gary Johnson.
Crispin Sartwell teaches philosophy at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. His most recent book is Political Aesthetics.
aaron sorkin worships everything i find loathsome. the west wing was an insufferable romanticization of political power: not much there but a yearning for the kennedy of myth: same face without the basic purpose: to fuck everything that moves. now he yearns after cronkitism: the time we supposedly had one person to tell us what the truth was, or at least tell us what horseshit we ought to believe. remember when we were so united? well, no, i don't, now that you mention it. but aaron: do remember what it was that united us, even if only in your imagination: subordination to vicious authority and implicit belief in whatever jive was shoved in our direction by a tiny hyper-concentrated national media. remember when americans trusted their institutions? no. but i do remember that those institutions were completely untrustworthy.
what we need is an inverse or obverse sorkin. make a series about an i.f. stone figure, or one based on a heroic yet flawed bradley manning, etc.
i've changed my mind on standardized testing. our children need much much more of it, and none of anything else. what convinced me is that exxon-mobil is spending millions to push it.
from my point of view (which is one i rarely take up), the worst thing about "post-citizens united political ecology" is that it makes bad television. you get the same idiotic hatchet-jobs, the same mindless formulas, a thousand thousand times. thepost-citizensunitedpoliticalecology is just boring.
i sort of can't believe these things have any effect: after all the focus-grouping etc, for one thing, they approach their audience in an extremely insulting manner, as mindless robots who think whatever you want them to think if you just repeat yourself enough. i'm sort of tempted to say that if an ad by karl rove convinces you to believe or do anything, you deserve what happens to you after that. at most it should piss you off and make you think about voting the other way just to irritate the fuckheads who made the ad.
i would have thought that every american, having been barraged continuously by advertising since before they were born, has a nicely basically indifferent approach to advertising in general. i suppose political advertising of this 'we're-all-idiots-together' variety must demonstrably have some effect, magnified when elections are very close, in which moving 3% is decisive. at any rate, we could control this potentially by just being extremely cynical about the whole thing, which is really in some sense the only possible quasi-rational response. if the crap works, like i say, we're getting what we deserve.
either way, political advertising needs to get a lot funner, more entertaining, more creative: stop messing up my tv!
sacha baron cohen rocks. great moments in this particular dimension:
Speaking with E!’s Ryan Seacrest, Baron Cohen said he was wearing John Galliano “but the socks are from K-Mart.”
Baron Cohen, in character [as Adm. General Aladeen, dictator of the Republic of Wadiya] appeared on the “Today” show to threaten “unimaginable consequences” if his tickets weren’t given back.
this gleefully publicized notion that people who watch fox news know less than people held in an isolation chamber is just ridiculous. honestly i don't care what your poll shows. tell you what, tonight watch special report with bret baier and fox report with shepard smith, then tell me they didn't cover the day's news. you'll get more or less the same info as you would on wolf blitzer or abc nightly news, with plenty of overlap with tomorrow's new york times and news hour. there might be a few symptoms of rightwingedness; maybe they'll find a little anti-christmas story from florida or something. but they will cover the news.