29.7.04

At least someone is trying to do something

Bill Cosby's creating quite the furor these days. In several speeches he's taken the black community to task for the lack of ambition and education and behavior of the younger generation: Bill Cosby Was (Mostly) Right ("Over the years, comedic icon Bill Cosby has taken on some humorous characters —Fat Albert and Dr. Cliff Huxtable come to mind—and shaped American culture for the better. But in his latest role, Cosby the prophet is excoriating young black culture, urging African Americans to take responsibility for their lives and to stop blaming the "white man."").

While some in the community are blasting him for his comments, others are defending him for speaking out: "There are problems that handicap poor minority children that we must keep fighting, but the most important now may well be "attitude." So I come back to Bill Cosby. I believe that his call to action came out of a deep heartfelt despair about what he sees happening to inner city youngsters. He has tried so hard himself to fight their problems with too little evidence of success. Getting angry at him won't solve their problems. I wish I knew what would help. But I do know that refusing to look realistically at the situation and not requiring students to earn their diplomas will not help." (Getting angry at Bill Cosby won't solve the problems).

Usually I think that entertainers should do just that - entertain - and not use their celebrity to express political or social views (anyone remember Meryl Streep and the alar fiasco?) But in this case, I'm 100% behind Mr. Cosby. Even if Boondocks isn't.

28.7.04

Something to think about

Bloggers Anonymous. One of Terry Teachout's correspondents writes about the lack of connection we can sometimes feel in this Internet age. This correspondent says (in part):
Technology is an absolute good, you say. Maybe. It seems an irreversible good, meaning that if you aren't on the internet, then the community changes without you. I'm without cell-phone or notebook or palm, but the people around me are less open to chatting with strangers because they have them, so I may as well get them….
I've been pondering this for a few years now. As we push students to do more and more work on laptops (lessening the contact they have with teachers in favor of typing into a small screen), insist that multi-tasking is a good thing, make ourselves available all the time via cell phones and e-mail, aren't we losing something? The ability to communicate one-on-one, the ability to shut off and not be reachable by everyone all the time... all facets of life that are no longer acceptable. And then there's the problem of simply accepting that this is the way it is, without questioning the lasting value or effects. It's a struggle for me to balance all this... a struggle I'm not sure I'm winning.

27.7.04

Notable Quotes

This seems a propos, given the current cultural wars and the DNC in Boston:
"Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one's first feeling, "Thank God, even they aren't quite so bad as that," or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second, then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything -- God and our friends and ourselves included -- as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred."
From Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.

He's got my vote!

ESPN.com: Page 2 - John Kerry: "7. When you get into office, would you consider passing an executive order that would prevent Pedro from signing with the Yankees?

I'd consider an executive order that abolishes the Yankees. We'll have to set up some very strict regulations with respect to Yankee behavior. I think the Red Sox may take care of it. I think there may be an A-Rod backlash this year. I think there may be a reverse curse here." (link via Annika's Journal and The American Mind)

21.7.04

Can I say this here?

Are We Censoring Hollywood? responds to yet another celebrity being fired for speaking his or her mind. In this instance, it's Linda Ronstadt, booed and fired for promoting Fahrenheit 9/11 during a performance.

What the article gets right is that this is not censorship. It's the market not buying the product:
First, only the government can "censor". All other aspects of speaking your mind are simply put...at the will of the people.

Certainly Linda Ronstadt has the right to praise Michael Moore, invite people to see his movie and otherwise support his views. But, with that right comes the responsibility to accept the freedom of speech and the will of her audience.

Her audience paid to be entertained, not to attend a political rally. They, too, have the right of free speech - including the right to disagree and boo her when she crossed the line from entertainment to politics. The hotel who was paying her also has the right to fire her. She was hired by the Aladdin to entertain. Once she crossed the line from entertainment to politics, she subjected herself to being fired.


A colleague of mine is insensed at the caving in of ClearChannel over the Howard Stern problem. He feels that CC is giving in to FCC censorship (the FCC being a GOP lapdog) and that there's a simple solution to the whole thing. If you don't like Howard Stern's act, don't listen. While I agree with that, I also think that ClearChannel has the right to say, "we don't support this type of broadcast, so we're not going to air it." In this case, he's right simply because The Howard Stern Show has been doing the same (now boring) thing for years. Yanking it now is yielding to political pressure.

In the case of Ms. Ronstadt, or Whoopie, Madonna and other "censored" artists, their employers didn't pay for what they got nor did the audience have the opportunity to turn off. Both sides need to take responsibility, blame and credit, for their actions.

19.7.04

A perfect moment

Over the weekend, I went to see Before Sunset. This is the sequel to Before Sunrise, and unlike most sequels it really works. 

It got me thinking about the nature of love. Can one meet someone and know - absolutely know - that this is "the one" that completes you? What happens if you don't follow through on that? Is it possible that there are either second chances or second possibilities? I'd like to think so. 

What made the two films work for me was that it was love, not lust, that was being portrayed. Sex was almost incidental; the attraction of two people for each other, the meeting of minds and ideas and values... how rare that is in the media today. How much more exciting and erotic to imagine what happens, rather than having that graphically spelled out by the writer/director/actors. 

One of my favorite love scenes is in Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. Lord Peter and Harriet go punting on the Isis and pull off onto a bank for a rest. Peter falls asleep and Harriet sits there, entranced by the whorls of his ear. That's it. The ear. You can feel her mind working and her heart being filled with her feelings for this man. 

That's what you get from these two films. Go see them.

Evolution of the language

I'd been calling Farenheit 9-11 "historical fiction" but I rather like "flockumentaries". This, of course, leads to the natural follow-up: what do you call books like Ann Coulter's Treason or Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars who Lie Them? "Flocktion"?

OpinionJournal - Taste: "The documentary form is serving a political purpose at the moment. (You might even say that a point of view is driving it.) And why not? The form, at least as it is practiced here, is perfect for the task. It favors emotion over logic, helped along by shrewd editing, manipulative music, clever graphics and gonzo stunts. For their creators, such documentaries allow for 'reporting' without the messy business of fact-checking or the checks and balances of beat journalism. For the audience, they serve as, well, echo chambers.

Of course, the documentary form doesn't always function this way. At its best--e.g., Frederick Wiseman's films on high schools and hospitals, the weird constellations of 'Crumb' and 'Capturing the Friedmans,' the Vietnam-centered 'Hearts and Minds'--it is propelled by a sense of discovery. Neither filmmaker nor viewer knows what he is getting into until he really starts busying himself with it.

Movies like 'Outfoxed,' 'Control Room' and 'Fahrenheit 911' work differently. They begin by knowing their thesis--and their audience--and operate backward. In the process, artists keen to point up the propagandistic efforts of others show themselves all too willing to take part in such efforts themselves.

Yet to call these films propaganda is also to misunderstand them. They don't seek to convince the unconvinced or herd the untamed. They aim directly at the sheep. Little wonder that the main means of distributing 'Outfoxed' is through house parties organized by MoveOn.org, the group whose Bush-bashing is at least as bald-faced as anything on Fox. Call them flockumentaries, movies people attend en masse, to nestle together in easy confirmation of their most cherished beliefs--to learn, really, what they already know."

16.7.04

Notable Quotes

Mightily Oats: "It's not as simple as that. It's not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of grey."
Granny Weatherwax: "Nope."
Mightily Oats: "Pardon?"
Granny Weatherwax: "There's no greys, only white that's got grubby."

Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum

14.7.04

A good idea but for the wrong reasons

Unbrand America

I was taught that the more a company had to advertise, the less reliable the product. My parents also instilled in me a dislike for wearing "named" clothes. Today, of course, both ideas are heretical.

Reading Brave New World, set in a year determined not by the birth of a religious figure but by the birth of Henry Ford, takes corporatism to the ultimate degree. I'm not one of those fanatics that thinks that the creeping corporate presence is a bad thing globally; I am one of those that bewails the loss of country culture.

What do I mean by that? I'm not (for example) anti-Starbucks. But I am anti three Starbucks within five blocks of work. I am anti Starbucks in Paris. I'd prefer to get my coffee or latte or whatever at a local place, soaking in local culture with my foam and biscotti. I try to shop at independent bookstores. And I think it's a shame that the EU has done away with the franc, the punt, the mark, the lira, etc.

Why I Hate Personal Weblogs

Why I Hate Personal Weblogs: "Chapter 2 - Why do they do it?
There are, I'm sure, as many reasons to keep weblogs as there are weblogs authors, however, some common threads surely exist between them. What could motivate someone to keep a public journal of their innermost thoughts? What possible reasons would someone have? Are some legitimately insightful or original, of course! Are most? No, probably not. So why? Well, I think most can be classified into one (or many) of several basic categories."


This is something with which I've been wrestling, ever since I decided to create a blog. What sort of blog should it be? While I disagree with some of the tone of this essay, the list of types of bloggers resonated:

  • The Reverse Voyeur
  • The Exhibitionist
  • The Self-Important Moron
  • The Obsessive-Delusional Ranter
  • The Town Crier
  • The Tragically Geek
  • The Ego Stroker
  • The Crossover Poster
  • The Aspiring Writer
  • The Pedant (a subclassification of Self Important Moron)

I'll leave it up to any readers to decide which type of blogger I am.

For what it's worth, my goal is to get used to blogging so that I can start one for my school library. Beyond that, it's a way to share thoughts and comments and nonsense with friends. Those that know me know I run a clipping service (both e- and print). Perhaps this can take the place of some of those mailings.

13.7.04

How can you choose?

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Cinderella named 'top fairytale'

Now, really. A "top fairytale"? Sadly, the entire list isn't revealed, nor are the voting criteria. In my storytelling class, we've read many different fairytales/folktales. Different versions, different countries, picture books, novelizations, updates, fractured renderings -- and I'll bet that my students couldn't tell you which their favorite was.

Then there's the Disney factor. How many people voted based on their memory of what Disney put on the screen, rather than having read one?

Finally, and this is a pedantic quibble, the article refers to the Perrault version of Cinderella as the one most known. I'd argue that the Brothers Grimm version is equally well known.

Ouch!

ArtsJournal: About Last Night: "Once I left Smalltown for the big city, I started to make friends whose interests resembled mine more closely, and in time learned to suppress the self-consciousness of my childhood. Yet it can still be inflamed by a certain kind of kidding, some of which has lately been occasioned by the blogosphere-wide spread of the Teachout Cultural Concurrence Index. You'd be surprised -- or not -- by how many bloggers have posted comments about the TCCI that basically boil down to 'Dude, this thing's soooo highbrow!' Such talk rarely fails to trigger the same squirmy sensation I experience whenever a well-meaning stranger asks what I'm reading. Even now, there's a part of me that wishes I knew all about baseball instead of ballet."


I can identify with this. When I was younger, my friends found it odd that my favorite activity was reading their books, and that I had little tolerance (or ability) for playing Barbie. As I've aged, my "oddity" has become more ingrained (although I prefer to think of it less as oddness and more as semi-endearing eccentricity). Quite probably those around me aren't so tolerant.

Is this TMI? Well, probably. But this blog is a work-in-progress and the "tone" hasn't quite been set.

For the record, my TCCI score is 83%. Not that it means anything.

12.7.04

Starting Out

Here goes...

I've been uninspired to actually work, so I decided to start a blog. For one thing, my friends won't have their mailboxes clogged. For another, it's a good time waster.

Daily posts aren't promised but check back regularly. You never know!