Saturday, June 30, 2007

scandal accessibility

Yesterday Slate posted an article by Us Weekly editor Janice Min about her decision to not run any Paris Hilton coverage this week. The interesting insight in this article, however, has little to do with Paris and a lot to do with the lack of outrage and impeachment hearings over the various Bush administration scandals. I wish I could remember the source - I think it was NPR - but I heard recently that Americans in a recent survey did not support Bush impeachment, but did wish they could magically wake up in January 2009. There is a sense that Americans are weary of these stories, and unlike the Monica scandal, the misdeeds of the Bush oval office involves avoiding oversight, bureaucratic bylaws, and the constitution. Missing emails are not quite as fascinating or accessible as a semen-stained gap dress, and so they don't get as much attention. It's always more difficult to comprehend things that don't appear in our own daily existence, but perhaps in the end those crimes are more damaging.

** added later: related video on youtube of a frustrated MSNBC newscaster about to loose it on the air, being goaded by her colleagues. She agrees with me and others that the Paris Hilton story shouldn't lead.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Desert Island Discs - Ohio

My dad challenged his readers to join him in a series of “desert island” reviews – the most essential, can’t-live-without-‘em, albums in your collection. This is a personal list, not a best-of list. If I’m stuck on this island with other people who I would share music with, I might change my answers a bit. So, I don’t know how many of these posts I’ll do, but I’ll start today.

Over the Rhine has been my favorite band since I was about 18. I’ve seen then live probably 6 or 7 times. All their music has gotten so much play in my life the last 6 years that I really couldn’t live without at least one. But which to choose? Good Dog Bad Dog was my very first OTR album, and has a special place in my heart, but I decided instead to go with Ohio. Ohio has some of the delicate, intimate style of GDBD, but also has a few full-band rockers in there too. And, bonus, it’s a double album; I get two for the price of one (of course, we’re not limited to a top 5 or whatever here, but still). Anyway, what’s so great about Ohio?

I remember waiting anxiously for my pre-ordered copy of this cd to arrive in the mail. When it finally came I was immediately in love – every song was stunning in its own way. It covers a range of content – from love songs (Lifelong Fling) to political statements (Remind Us) to songs that defy categorization (most of the rest of them). I have always loved Karin and Linford’s lyrics, and their music for that matter. And this album really showcases everything that I love about them.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards calls up Ann Coulter

In a nice bit of television today Elizabeth Edwards called in to hardball to politely ask Ann Coulter to stop making personal attacks against candidates. It reminded me of John Stewart's Crossfire appearance where he too asked that commentators raise the level of political dialogue.

Now, I'm not sure if these requests really do anything to improve the level of political discussion or not, but it definitely draws attention to the theatrical quality of some of this political entertainment (in case there is anyone left who doesn't think Ann Coulter is theatrical, I suppose). Perhaps pointing out how unproductive personal attacks are is fruitful in itself. If nothing else, it helps politicians separate themselves from entertainers by emphasizing their own seriousness.

Barack Obama is still my candidate, but I'm growing more and more fond of Ms Edwards.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

boring speeches

This slate article discusses the overuse of cliche and meaningless language in political speech. A sample:
The truth, of course, is that political campaigns get interesting only when the candidates stop speaking in ringing generalities and infuriating phrases, which doesn't mean that they therefore become successful or even good for the country. Sen. John McCain's 2000 campaign appealed precisely because he eschewed pre-prepared gobbledygook—though that wasn't enough even to win the Republican nomination.
While I am quick to point out the art of political speech, I think the writer has a point here. Indeed, my memorable introduction to the difference between the art of rhetoric and the art of poetry came when I attempted to analyze a political speech for the beauty of the language. While some speeches certainly have a beauty of rhythm and image, the training I had from English Department New Critics (the irony of calling this method new criticism is that to me it is the oldest) did not suffice. While truly great political speeches create new paradigms, inspire, and persuade, the vast majority, perhaps, aim simply to not alienate anyone. Especially in a media environment that searches for a good clip, repeating phrases that are generally agreeable seem to be in a candidates interest.

Is this sad or just the way of things? Is there a way to train the public to wade through the tired cliches and discover policy differences? Can politicians find a way to grab attention without ruining their ethos?

Monday, June 11, 2007

God of Hope for Captives

I’m working on a Revise and Resubmit on a paper about Martin Luther King, Jr. this week. And as part of my research for this revision I’ve done a lot of reading about African-American Christianity. My reading in Black Theology and history has left me stunned that African-Americans adopted Christianity at all. After all, their only contact with Christianity was that it was being fed to them by their oppressors – often as a strategy for creating a moral obligation of slaves to masters and thereby ensure better work. In spite of this clearly oppressive spin on the gospel of freedom, though, illiterate slaves were able to learn and understand the story of the Exodus and of the God who sets captives free and looks after the oppressed. And in spite of their oppression they held on to a radical hope found in the Gospel story. And while the social, individual, and economic problems that resulted from decades of slavery continue to create injustices in our society, that hope remains alive.

Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. explains the importance of rehearsing these stories toward hope and political activism: “Put simply, liturgies always entail an ethics: they presuppose a certain way of being in the world and seek to impart that to participants and their activity… Liturgies and other rituals – just as explicit forms of racial activism – articulated early conceptions of the moral community among northern blacks as well as southern” (Exodus! P 31).

I wonder if those of us who have more social power can also see these stories – and the enactment of them in liturgy – as an impetus for action and activism. How can the Biblical God of freedom speak into our time and bring about hope for justice, just as the same God did to American slaves?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

real wicked stepmother gets 44 months

In Kansas the stepmother who fed her own children while starving her husband's daughters is sentenced to only 44 months in prison.

Somehow this story seems less... cool when it's real. But I sure do hope those daughters get some kind of outrageous comeuppance. Not neccessarily marrying a prince, since, um, we don't live in a monarchy. What's some kind of modern feminist equivalent? Elected Governor?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

google street stalker?

The new google street view feature has sparked some concern about privacy. I’m still thinking it through. On the one hand, it’s really cool to take a virtual walk around the neighborhood in some cool cities. On the other hand, I think a little bit of suspicion about the availability of this kind of technology is appropriate. After all, I am often reminded of the book 1984 lately and in that book the government has tvs in every home that are also cameras, so they can tell if you’re doing your required exercise and if you’re thinking and writing the right things. I mean, this is a long way from that, but the technology now exists to make it happen. And I have to say, it makes me a little bit nervous.

The biggest irony of this whole thing, however, is that the woman who raised this question managed to get her photo and the cat that google captured in a much clearer image in the New York Times. Of course, her point is not that photos of her cat are available on the internet (heaven knows enough people post pictures of their cats on the internet). Her point is that that kind of detail might lead into realms we don’t really want. Is this the fun part of people watching or the creepy part?

All I know is that I have had plenty of moments in my life when I lose my balance in an ungraceful way or need to take care of a wedgie when I look around and say "oh, good, I don't think anyone saw that." Ubiquitous cameras might make this moment a little bit more paranoid.