Sunday, September 30, 2007

Foreground & Background

Foreground & Background

Everyone—left, right, and center—are once again fixating on the Clintons. I can’t say I blame them entirely since Hillary blitz-krieged the Sunday morning shows last week and Billy did a lap dance or two today with George Stephanopoulos and Tim Russert. From last Sunday to this Sunday, it’s been a mainstream media, Clinton bookend bonanza. Extra, extra: Will Barack slam Hillary? Will Hillary slam Barack? Can Johnny be as tough as his wife on Hill? Will GQ remain emasculated or grow a pair to run that piece on Billary? NO WAY!: Rudy “call me” Giuliani will predicate his campaign on the ASSumption that he can beat Hillary? Wow, there’s a shocker.

Even in today’s New York Times, both Frank Rich, whose columns I savor, and mean girl Maureen Dowd, whose columns, as of late, tend to make me and several people I know sick, focus on none other than Hillary. It’s not that I mind the criticisms of the Clintons, or of Hillary, in particular. Quite frankly, many of them are fair and accurate—and not in a Fox fiction sort of way. It just amazes me how much the Clinton narrative, to borrow the rhetoric of Frank Rich, dominates the mainstream media foreground and all other narratives are assigned to the background, or better yet, to the media hinterland. Even Ahmadinejad’s crazy cameo—and even crazier claim of no gays in Iran—at Columbia had a short shelf life in the big, mainstream media scheme of things.

Meanwhile, in the media background more of our soldiers continue to die in Iraq and it seems that NO ONE—Democrat or Republican—has a lucid plan to get us the f**k out. Who knows what the deal is with the possibility of going to war with Iran? There continues to be “no-shows” of Republican candidates at minority-sponsored debates, although this IS the party of the BIG TENT—only if you’re white. Children in need might NOT get appropriate insurance because George W. Bush says that there’s a better way; remember: he’s the dude that insisted there WERE weapons of mass destruction. And who the heck knows what Condi’s up to; maybe she’s having more surgery finally to close that gap between her front teeth.

The bigger gap that concerns me is the enormous difference between the media foreground and background, between the OJ resurgence and the Iraq insurgence, between what’s over-emphasized and what barely registers as a blip, between the over-saturation of fake news and the drowning of real news…that should be “fit” to print.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Different World

Over the past few days, the news has been saturated with what has been taking place in Jena, LA. Umm, finally? I first read about the story in early July, and there have been kids sitting in jail since December 2006. People seem to be catching on, which is nice for the Jena 6. I guess.

But now we have the "I'm not racist, but..." crowd coming out of the wood work. I am of the opinion that, as a country, we need to discuss racism to ever have the hope of overcoming it, but I am already so exhausted by the ignorance and insensitivy currently on display just about, oh, I'd say... everywhere?

Adrianne Curry, whose claim to fame is winning America's Next Top Model, Season 1 and marrying one of the Brady Bunch brothers, Christopher Knight, recently composed a moving Myspace blog, calling for the boycott of BET and Black History Month. Her reasoning? Black history is American history! All Americans have suffered! What about the Native Americans? Where's their month?! (It's November, for those who were wondering.) And she's not racist, because she once dated a black man in high school. Slavery and segregation are over! She just wants us to all stop looking to the past and move forward. Unite as one. Etc.

It would be one thing if it were just some ex-reality star on their internet soapbox. But a lot of people in this country really feel that way. These attitudes are emerging from every crevice of our society in the current time of renewed racial tension. Moving forward with blinders on to the very OBVIOUS way the past is shaping the present is what has gotten us into this mess in the first place. If racism was not running rampant in places like Jena, LA, the nooses never would have been hung, the white students never would have received such minimal punishment for the clearly hateful act, there never would have been a series of violent confrontations that culminated in that particular beating of the white student and the black students would have never ever ever ever ever been so let down by the justice system that is supposed to protect them. But, c'mon everyone, let's just plow forward blindly. We'll just ignore the evidence that minorities, even after all the progress we've supposedly made in race relations, still need safeguards in place to make sure they receive the most basic equal treatment. We're all Americans, one and all! Hooray!

Oh, ignorance. What a happy home you've made here.

Sunday, September 16, 2007



As I told the master of wit in the blogoshpere, the ever-sharp Jollyroger, George W. Bush decisively wins at playing “NOT IT!” this week. I was just waiting for W. to stick his forefinger on his nose and do a dance. But George wasn’t the only contestant on NOT IT! There were several, and considering that some of these folks are heavy-weights in American culture—poor Britney was just a tad heavier than anorexia America wanted, George DID, in fact, legitimately dominate at “NOT IT!” The least said about the 2000 election the better.

We all know that T.A.N.G (that’s Texas Air National Guard) George has a string of victories at NOT IT! Let's not forget that George got jiggy with NOT IT! in the ‘60s to dodge Vietnam. So avoiding responsibility comes natural to him. But I certainly didn’t expect George to announce NOT IT! on Thursday night when he basically declared that his replacement will have to deal with HIS mess in Iraq. Stunning, I know. But yet again, his biggest accomplice, the mainstream media, also reigned victorious at NOT IT! for NOT emphasizing this simple, obvious fact. They've sought solace in the latest O.J. episode.

We should’ve known that NOT IT! would be the latest 15 minute, American fad, for last Sunday Britney Scissorhands won at NOT IT! in her alleged comeback performance. This zeitgeist fever oozed into Monday and Tuesday when General Petraeus basically said NOT IT! to Senator John Warner—a Republican, no doubt—to Warner’s question about whether or not the General’s plans in Iraq would make America safer. Petraeus’s reply: “Sir, I don’t know actually!” Bingo: NOT IT!

However, the players to watch at NOT IT!, as Paul Krugman brilliantly pointed out in his Friday column, “A Surge, and Then A Stab,” are Bush’s business associates, namely his oil friends who seem to know that the surge is NOT working, that the Iraq war will NOT yield success, that things will NOT get better, and that the NOT IT! foreign policy of the Bush administration has NOT been good, to say the least.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Different World

My institution of higher learning made headlines in Boston recently, as 21 bathrooms on campus were changed to gender neutral facilities. My college is not the first to do so, but has jumped on the band wagon relatively early (a few dozen institutions in the country currently have similar restrooms), responding to the petitioning of transgendered students who felt uncomfortable having to identify with a specific gender whenever they needed to make use of a bathroom. From academic buildings to dormitories, the school has made it a priority to accommodate everyone.

The decision has come under fire, especially from the (albeit, few) conservative voices at the school and surrounding community. Critics have deemed it a pointless action on the part of the school, accusing the transgendered community of causing a fuss just for the sake of complaining. They're just bathrooms, after all. By the time you're in college, you should know what gender you are. It's a matter of anatomy, not psychology, they say.

Well, I say that's bullshit. Being born into a body and gender that is not compatible with your mindset, your feelings, your personality must be a trying ordeal in itself. America and the rest of the world is so rigid in their socialization of gender roles and norms - to exist outside that box cannot be a comfortable place, especially when it comes to making a very private choice about your gender in such a public way. If we can make these, as the critics call them, pointless changes that do not negatively effect any individual while making SUCH a difference in the lives of those who will benefit from them, why not? Why aren't other places scrambling to follow suit? Why is the world still a place where oppression and insensitivity is the accepted norm? I'm not trying to get all koombyah on this blog or anything, but really - it's not hurting you, conservative America! Gay marriage doesn't hurt you, either. If you don't like it or agree with it and it has no consequence in your life, why can't you just stay out of it? Use your damn gender specific bathrooms and shut up already.

I applaud my college, and all the other places in this country that are finally realizing the need for change. It's about damn time.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Femme Fatale: Call it a Day Already, Would You?

Since earlier this week, the reality that is the screwed-up media circus of Britney Spears' life kicked into full gear, analyzing her VMA debacle on MTV (did she even try at all?) and all the moments pre- and post VMAs.

Some of the headlines:
Britney Spears's Comeback a Bust at VMAs
Timbaland Says Britney Spears Dissed Him And Justin Timberlake; Tells Her To Apologize
Theories Abound About Britney's VMA Flop
A Drunk and Fat Britney at the VMA's
Britney was bad, yes. But 'fat'?

I am with Chris Crocker's YouTube tirade "LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE", but not for Crocker's reasons. (If Crocker wants to cry for the problems of a divorced mother of two, I'll email him and we can chat.)

To the American entertainment press and all other media outlet covering her: Enough is enough! This talentless hack has taken up too much of the public's time and it is reaching embarrassing proportions.

This week should have been devoted perhaps to quiet reflection on a whole host of issues: devastating natural occurrences (earthquakes, hurricanes), the continuing war in Iraq and other places in the world that do not get covered, the US mortgage market, and ummmm, oh yeah, perhaps the whole Bin Laden video thing and remembering those that sacrificed their lives on 9/11.

Did Britney get used on Sunday night by Viacom and MTV purely for ratings and money? You bet!

But, as Britney told all of her family and her former manager, she is an adult and can make her own decisions. And just like you can walk away from the local drunk who always makes an ass out of him or herself, we can and should walk away if they do not want our help/advice. we do not need to watch and get caught up in the drama of it; we can choose to move on to more productive issues. Like an addict, Britney needs to WANT to help herself out of this debacle called her life.

And like the addict relative that has overstayed his/her welcome or puked one too many times all over your bathroom, the train wreck that is Britney Spears has outlasted its welcome in the US media and Sunday night marked it. The media needs to take a hint and back away like they have done with the other train wrecks named Hilton and Lohan and show some tough love. We do not need younger generations of people thinking that this is an appropriate way to get attention.

Move on people, nothing new to see here...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

And the Winner Is...

And the Winner Is…

As America eagerly awaits Britney Scissorhands’ opening act on the Video Music Awards tonight, as much of America longs to see who’s wearing what on the red carpet, as those of us striving to be 1% more conscious marvel at how George W. Bush will sparknote the General David Petraeus report, Osama Bin Laden clearly wins best performance in a video this year. How timely a release, right before the VMA’s themselves—is MTV losing its touch?; right before the 9/11 anniversary; right before the latest chapter of the neocon’s long day’s journey into Iraq.

Long ago Marshal McLuhan said it best: The Medium is the Massage. Fictions become facts, facts become doublespoke and ignored, and what matters most is perception management—the new “opium of the masses.” Our media continues to let the spin rip with more than two “turn tables and a microphone,” to tiptoe around surge supporters, and to indulge in the American Dream of everything is a-O.K.—don’t worry, be happy ☺. Just ask Britney or Osama for goodness sake—simply get extensions or die your beard to get your groove back.

And that’s exactly what we will witness in politics this week, as Frank Rich noted in yet another brilliant column today, “As the Iraqis Stand Down, We’ll Stand Up.” According to Rich, brace yourself for the 2002 play-book, the build-up-to-the-war plan, when you hear the words: “Anbar,” “bottom up,” “decrease in violence,” and “success.” Lo and behold, Senator John McCain stuck to the script in his interview with George Stephanopoulos this morning on This Week. Now I think McCain's performance in “Bomb, bomb Iran” should get an honorable mention.

But fear not, folks: I STILL WANT my MTV! And so should you.

Friday, September 07, 2007

A Different World: Damn you, Apple!

After the announcement that Apple would be lowering the price of the heavily desired iPhone by $200 two months after its original release for $599, many consumers were not happy. They took their complaints to the head honcho of the company, Steve Jobs. And he did what any other billionaire CEO who manufactures telephones with an audacious $600 price tag that people are willing to stand in line for days on end to obtain -- he gave them back their money.

Wait, what?

Is this not America? Are we not stupid enough to covet a material object to such an idiotic degree that we will sleep on dirty sidewalks only to then shell out 600 goddamn dollars for a cell phone? Will we not brawl shamelessly in Toys-R-Us each holiday season for Furbies and Tickle-Me-Elmo's for children who will not even appreciate them for more than a week? Do we not complain incessantly about the price of gas but continue to purchase Range Rovers and Hummers and Escalades and adorn them with stupid shiny hubcaps that spin, even when the tires have stopped turning?

These are the things that matter to us, and though some may think it's shameful, it's the USA, damnit. And if you were stupid (or is it American?) enough to give Steve Jobs and Apple $600 of your hard earned money for a cell phone, that is the bed you have made for yourself. I would have told you to make yourself comfortable in it. But alas, I guess Steve Jobs knows a little more about business than I do.

I feel that it can be only in America that it is possible to be so misguided, entitled, and impulsive yet still reap the rewards of the prudent. And by "the prudent," I mean the people who will now probably buy the iPhone at it's new price tag of $399.

Wait, what?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

"View" Askew

In the past, I have always admired and appreciated the quirkiness that is Whoopi Goldberg. She was "hanging" with the all-male Comic Relief and was just as funny as they were; she proved she could tackle drama as well in The Color Purple (she won a Golden Globe for the performance); she has never bowed to conventions for African-American nor women - she defies the trends with her ever-present dreadlocks and designer-free clothes; she also has freely admitted her dyslexia and former drugs habit, without all the "oh poor me" attention getting of the Lohans, Spears, and Hiltons.

Because of this, I was glad that Whoopi was joining The View after the debacle that is known as Rosie O'Donnell left. Even though I haven't watched the show since its first year, I thought I may Tivo an episode to see how good ol' Whoopi, who is a strong female role model, was doing.

OMG! She didn't even make it out of the gate when she imploded on camera giving her opinion about the Micheal Vick case.

What is this crap that Vick's action are justified because "This is part of his cultural upbringing"?!?!?!? Hey, Whoopi... I love your work, you have been a great role model on so many levels, but holy shit! Are you even listening to yourself?!?! Isn't you defense of Vick the same damn defense that the Southerners used when they were justifying the slavery of African-Americans? Isn't that the same defense the ancestors of those pre-Civil War Southerners used when the government said that the South needed to desegregate?

For you to say that people can use their past and culture to excuse their actions would give anyone the reason to get away with horrendous atrocities. Possible scenario: "Hey, I am like sorry Your Honor, I didn't mean to beat my kid until he was in a coma. My dad beat me all the time growing up. It is part of my culture. I thought it was OK because my dad never got punished for it." Woman, PLEASE! Wake up and smell the 21st century!

Whoopi - would you have said this if Vick was a white Southerner? That is the $64,000 question here. Don Imus rightfully got raked across the coals for his "nappy-headed hos" remarked aimed at the predominately African-American Rutgers women's basketball team. Can you even see how you are helping to perpetuate the negative stereotype of African-American males?

Do the "View"ers a favor - be your brilliant, funny self. We like when you push the envelope. However, by pushing, I mean pushing people to see past their fears, comfort zone, etc., not back into the 1800's. Daytime television does NOT need another Rosie O'Donnell. Be yourself.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Back to School Shock


We’ve all been traumatized in one way or another by the back to school season—or more appropriately, the back to school shock. For us educators and our students, the unstructured days of summer are gone for two semesters or approximately 180 days. Now it’s up early, out the door only to multi-task our way through today’s episode of “beat the clock.”

But we are not the only ones experiencing shock. George W. Bush has also shown some quasi back-to-school trauma. Because as all of his fellow cheerleaders continue to jump off his Titantic better known as Iraq, George continues to steer his ship down the abyss of no return.
Stunned by the fact that they don’t sell Sparknotes for his…ah…David Petraeus’s anticipated report on Iraq due to Congress by September 15th, George still believes that photo-ops, empty words, and recycled spin can save him from his pending failing grades. Sorry—but dispatching Scary Mary Matalin to Meet the Press on Sunday to begin spinning his failures doesn’t help. Poor Mary—she does fit the bill for the dreaded “helicopter” Mom, hovering over her pathetic child, making any failure of his seem not that bad.

But the sad fact of the matter is that George never prepared for his Iraq project; “project-based” assignments are all the rage in public education nowadays. He never did study enough; he and his tutor—Mr. Cheney—never did make the right preparations before, during, and after their invasion; and instead of just ponying-up to the fact that he was in desperate need of remedial help in the Geopolitics of the Middle East, arrogant George simply took the attitude that many apathetic students take when they “imagine” they have finished their work. Like the student who says, "at least it's over," George simply said: "mission accomplished. "