Monday, February 23, 2015

We Are Our Own Terrorists

Well, the Oscars are finally over. Neil Patrick Harris was an ok emcee..especially in his underwear. There were no giant surprises....except perhaps for J.K. Simmons winning best supporting actor for WHIPLASH. No more insurance commercials for him! I've seen him in other stuff, and I thought he was seriously wonderful as the father in JUNO. Eddie Redmayne's turn as Stephen Hawking in THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING was a wise choice based on the complexity of the role....deformed does well at the Oscars. Think Daniel Day Lewis in MY LEFT FOOT. And from what everyone around me says, Patricia Arquette's performance in BOYHOOD had this sewn up, deservedly so. 

Most of all, I am just relieved SELMA did not take best picture. The more I listen to the director, Ava DuVernay, talk about her "process," the more I just want to yank that film off the screen. And it is intentionally revisionist. Kinda like Brian Williams but in CinemaScope. Meanwhile, the newly re-jiggered NYT Sunday Mag TALK page ran an interview with her, unbelievably titled, Ava DuVernay Didn’t See the Reaction to ‘Selma’ Coming. Yeah, right. My bogometer went off the scale on that one. Really? Does all of America look that stupid? Well, that's an unfair her, We, the People, did. I still think that was a cryin' shame; the reality was so much better.

In news closer to home, that megalith to consumerism, Mall of America, right here in Minnesota, has been fingered by al Shebaab as a potential terror target. I can't say I'm very surprised about this. We have the largest Somali community in the U.S., and that community is prime recruiting ground for al Shabab, along with al-Qaeda, ISIS, and a variety of other terror organizations. The truly sad part is remembering the suffering these families endured to get here, and then to see their kids being plucked up by the raging crazies is heartbreaking. 

And while Homeland Security tells us al Shabaab is really on a fishing expedition and there is no credible threat to Hugedale, it's still unsettling. It's the mall closest to my house, and everyone I know shops there. It's all over the news. It's everywhere you look. Be very afraid....they are coming to the mall.


Y'know, in Israel, people worry about getting on the bus but they do it anyway. In Afghanistan and Iraq, people worshipping in mosques run the same risk. People working in Parisian offices and Danish bookstores know the risks are real. Still, they all go about their daily lives, doing what needs to be done without some paralyzing fear that something may happen. 

That fear, that paralysis, is the terror in terrorism. And, that terror is the same thing that freezes you in your movie seat when The Blob slithers down the road or The Thing emerges from the ice, or Godzilla comes out of the water. It's the same thing...only when the movie is over you go out, get an ice cream or burger, then laugh about how you were scared. Right now, however, they're trying to scare you so badly you won't go anywhere.

In these here United States, that terror is broadcast through the endless news cycle. We hear the alarmists constantly saying we are under threat, we should clamp down on this, that, or the other thing. We should be afraid. We should fear immigrants and the "other." You never know who is sitting beside you on the bus. Guys like Rudolph Giuliani, once heralded for marshaling through 9/11 tells people to fear President Obama:
I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.          This week at a dinner for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at 21 in New York City
Rudy Giuliani
we don't like to admit he lived 
around the corner on Pine Court.
What exactly is he insinuating with that little sound bite?

Granted, Rudy is yesterday's news and is desperate for attention, but this is asinine. Even the GOP Not-Ready-For Prime-Time-Candidates are distancing themselves from this stupidity. 

Truth is, it doesn't matter. 

The terror cycle is already primed for this level of idiocy. Just wait until there are Democratic candidates and watch the vitriolic bullshit fly. And it will. And it will have no relationship to the truth. And it will go back and forth from both sides. And it will be classic l'shon ha'rah, evil tongue, of the worst order, and instead of educating the electorate to the choices they will face in the voting booth, this will inspire domestic terror. 

How?    People won't vote. 

The new face of domestic terror will be the endless news cycle of politicians saying terrible things about each other. I really believe the desired end result is that so many people become so disgusted with the process that they abrogate their civic duty and stay home. If enough people  stay away from the polling places, the money wins. And if the money wins....kiss your civil rights, your civic rights, and your human rights good-bye.

Think about that for a while. Eventually, it will make sense and you can re-read this blog episode in 18 months and go, "Wow; the old WP really nailed that one."

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Don't watch the news before you go to bed. 
You'll sleep better without visions of hand-grenades dancing in your head. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

When The News Is the News....and then some.

I thought I would write about how the news has become the news even though it's not really the news anymore because most of it is really info-tainment and not news anyway. But then, just when I was trying to compose my thoughts and rein in my vitriol mostly directed at Brian Williams (who I trusted to be square on the tube)... Denmark happened. 

See, here's the thing. I take a dim view of news that is slanted, spun, and otherwise manipulated. The American public is already polarized...and I think the so-called news organs exacerbate that polarization. Whether it's FOX, CNN, NBC, ABC, or CBS...if the readers are just talking heads talking for the sake of ratings, then shut up. If what comes out of your mouth is determined by your advertisers or the narrowness of your audience, stop calling yourself "news" and title your programs in a way consistent with your goal: THE EVENING SPIN. You have a right, possibly even an obligation to your target audience, to give them what they want, but for pity's sake, do not market it as journalism. It is not. 

News is supposed to be reporters reporting facts, not innuendo. They are supposed to bring us an unvarnished story, not adventure tales. The expectation is that we are to deem the information trustworthy and reliable; we're not supposed to be betting on the percentage of truth in a story. 

I will readily admit I was a fan of Brian Williams. He had a gravitas and demeanor that matched what I thought were his journalistic credentials. Although he attended, he did not graduate from college. Still, he had an exceptional career (or so we thought.) He was awarded the Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism (Arizona State University) in 2009, and even Walter himself liked him, and was quoted in ASU's announcement:
I am overjoyed that Brian Williams will accept the 2009 Cronkite Award from ASU. It’s no secret that I am one of his most ardent admirers. A fastidious newsman, Brian brings distinct credit to our profession, adding not only his brilliance but grace and elegance as well. He does me great honor by accepting this award. 
Well, he had ol' Walter fooled.  

Should these guys be held to a higher standard than the rest of us mere mortals? Yes. 

Brian Williams now has the gravitas of a used-car salesmen. He is toast. And yesterday's news. He is gone. 

Whether they have the degree or not, if the talking heads are reporting the news they should be telling the truth. No spin. No embellishment. No tempting teasers. Just do the frickin' news. And speaking of actually doing the news.....

Where has all the journalism gone? Long time passing......
Where has all the real news gone? Long time ago.....

There is an eerie similarity between Denmark and Paris: first there was an attack on journalists, followed by an attack on Jews. Although at this writing it has not been established that the murderer was affiliated with a particular group, it is hard not to view this as a lone-wolf attempt to replicate Paris. The events in Denmark, while smaller in scale, cannot be ignored, waved, or even spun away. 

The Jewish communities of Europe are right to be worried. Just about 80 years ago, Jews...and the rest of the world...were ignoring the warning signs in Germany. No one believed that the little Austrian paperhanger could take over an entire country, much less orchestrate the destruction of a thriving Jewish population. He didn't do it alone. And although every German will tell you how their family tried to help their Jewish neighbors, it's pretty clear no one really did. Kristallnacht, November 9th-10th, 1938, did not just fall out of the night sky. Inside Germany, Jews believed this would all just peter out and disappear. Outside Germany, most of the world didn't recognize this was a real threat to the Jews of Europe. It was. And it was ignored. 

But we survived..and our rallying cry became, "Never Again."

Now is not the time to stick our heads back in the sand. This is the time to recognize that Jewish communities are again in jeopardy. Over half the British Jewish community believes they are in danger. Jews of France, despite what the French president says, believe they are in harm's way. The BDS movement in this country grows increasingly bolder and targets not Israel and her policies, but Jews regardless of their stand on Israel. The United Nations continues to censor Israel for defending itself, but gives a free pass to Hamas who uses UN facilities as rocket launcher sites. But it's not just in Europe or in Israel; it's everywhere. 

The senior son just called. In the course of that conversation, he asked me if I heard what happened in Madison over the weekend. My answer was, "No."

Over the weekend, homes in Madison, Wisconsin, had been vandalized with antisemitic graffiti. 30 homes. Not just one or two....30. That's a big number. The story appeared in the local Madison newspaper and on one of the local stations, but not in the NY Times or the Washington Post or even USA Today. I did not see it on the national news on NBC or CBS. Meanwhile,the Madison police are trying to decide if this was a "prank" or a hate crime. Do they really have to think about this?

To give credit where credit is due, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a story on February 15th about the increase of antisemitism in Wisconsin , but there is no mention of the Madison incident which was first reported the day before. The MJS first story appeared the next day, February 16th: Madison Police Investigate Antisemitism Spree 

While there is little in comparison between shooting up people and spray painting cars and garage doors, do we really have to have side-by-side comparisons of what antisemitism looks like?

Berlin, 1938
Not Paris Not Copenhagen Not Gaza...
Madison, Wisconsin, 2015

More's the pity that television news didn't think it was important enough to cover. It made most of the Israeli papers, but apparently  FUCK JEWS isn't newsworthy enough for coverage in the United States. 

I suppose if you want real news reporting on the telly, PBS is the last hold out. I've said that before and I'm saying it again. The rest of them are pretty much a bunch of hair-dos with empty heads. Yeah, there are some exceptions...and I think you'll find most of them on CBS these days, certainly not NBC or ABC, but that said, it won't be too long before CBS goes the way of info-tainment. The local affiliate, WCCO had a pretty good early morning show up until recently when the happy-talk started creeping in. 

Feh. I liked J. Fred Muggs better.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Day
Not sure you believe what the hair-do said?
Google it. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Grammys, Grumbles, and Moms

I usually don't pay much attention to the Grammy Awards for a bunch of reasons. First, the senior son has not yet been nominated for one. I am certain that when he is nominated, I will be glued to the process. Second, I believe in civility and manners. If someone is giving you an award, you should be charming and nice about it, not entitled and snarky. Third, if the paparazzi of the world are flashing in your direction, dress appropriately. Look nice. You can still be edgy and avant without being a primer for lack-of-common-sense.

Brady Rymer & The Little Band
That Could
This year was a bit different. Cousin Claudia was nominated for a Grammy. When she's not being a fantastic psychotherapist, her alterego is part of Brady Rymer and The Little Band That Could.  This is robust children's music, and the lyrics are seriously good. Their album, Just Say Hi, was nominated and ever since, I've been following Claud's adventures in GrammyLand. Thanks to phone-cams, shooting pictures all over the globe just isn't the challenge it once was. We could watch Claud's progress from preparations through LA to the red carpet and beyond. 

While waiting to progress into the theatre, Claud found herself standing behind Joy Villa, and immediately posted this:

My absolute very first thought was, "Good lord! I hope that woman didn't have chili for dinner!" 

Certainly, this dress would not go unmentioned, and it did not. in fact, there are so many pictures of the front of the dress that it's alarming. Look closely if you dare. 

Now, all things considered, I really don't want to know what color thong she is wearing...even if it is the only thing she is wearing under that...well, I suppose because of its shape, it qualifies as a dress. It's more like an orange snow fence from the beach. Joy Villa is no Cher, and she isn't even Bjork....who wore my all-time favorite red carpet dress ever ~ the swan dress. Yeah, it was kinda ugly, but it was also cute and kicky and avant...and not in poor taste. 

As opposed to Madonna who came in costume, although at first glance, I thought it was a French maid outfit in preparation for 50 Shades of Grey instead of haute couture matador by Givenchy who, up until last night, I thought was a great arbiter of taste. This, however, pales when compared to the I-just-got-outta-the-shower-and-I'm-painfully-late-for-the-red-carpet look sported by Zendaya with her skillfully draped beach towel. What? She couldn't afford snaps? Or maybe a hook-and-eye?

I must be terribly old and a dreadful fogey. I look at these pictures and I want to know what they're selling. I wonder about the kids watching. What do they take away from this view? Do they separate the message from the messenger? Could you ask an 8 or a 10 or a 12 year old girl about what they think when they see women dressed this way...and get a forthright answer? I was the mother of sons; I never gave it much thought, but now I have a granddaughter......

As for the award show, well, it was as tedious as ever. That other paragon of class and elegance, Kanye West, tried to bum-rush poor Beck's Best Album moment. Beck, on the other hand, showed great restraint and manners after the fact by saying only nice things about Kanye while Mr. West continued to say terrible things about Beck. During E's post Grammy show, dear, dear Kanye said:
If they want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us....Flawless Beyoncé video, and Beck needs to respect artistry, and he should have given his award to Beyoncé.

Excuse me? Is he Beyoncé's father? Who died and made him the great arbiter of global music? Oh, wait, I remember. He's the guy married to that great arbiter of chic, Bathrobe Woman. What exactly has this braintrust done to warrant the amount of attention they get? Can someone explain this to me?

I didn't think so.

Oddly enough, there was a moment that stood out for me, yet I cannot find the clip. Someone famous (and I confess I do not recall who it was...someone who was terrified of speaking into the mic) talked about the need to pay artists and to make sure all musicians are being paid fairly for their work. I spent a lot of time searching out that clip and even though it was such an important little speech, I could not find it. As far as I am concerned, this was the most important thing said last night. (If you find it...send it here and I will immediately add the link!)

Paying bands with free booze and microwave pizza does not buy the gas, replace the strings, or even pay the utility bills at home. You wouldn't call a plumber and offer him a cut of what fell out of ...the sky that why you would offer a band a cut of the house without a guaranteed minimum pay? Spotify, iTunes, just can't pay the big names. The little guys need the money even more, and if you want cutting edge, new, exciting music, why won't you pay for it?

The senior son is an artist with a day job. Some day jobs are better than others, and some day jobs understand your cockamamie schedule and deal with it because having a locally known artist on staff is a draw all its own. Symbiotic in a way. Not bad for business. 
Like Home Depot hiring Olympics hopefuls while they're in training and supporting that effort, places that support artists should be praised and patronized. 
The guys who are making a buck off some band's music should be asking themselves what live music is worth to their business? You're not paying musicians a minimum wage. You're not paying their insurance or FICA or taxes or any of that other stuff.  Asking a band to drive 200 miles for $50 a piece is so far from reasonable recompense that it's amazing bands can afford to go on the road at all. They bring people into your about actually paying for the privilege of having real people playing real music?

But back to the Grammy Awards for a moment. No, The Little Band That Could didn't; the winner of Best Children's Album went to I Am Malala, the spoken word recording of Malala Yousafzai's book, which didn't make a lot of sense to me since all the other nominees were music for children and this was not. Still, it was an honor to be nominated and they did get a nominee's medal. And best of all, Claudia got to wear that amazing fishtail dress and walk the red carpet.  And that, folks, is the stuff dreams are made of. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

Walking the red carpet? 
Wear clean underwear. 
These days, someone is bound to notice. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

The GOP Quadrille ~ First Dance

Back in grad school days, there was a class we referred to as Prance’n’Dance.  Now, this might sound trivial but it really wasn’t. Under the watching Mad-Eye Moody-esque stare of Robert Moulton, we learned how to move across a stage in a variety of ways. Not only did we learn classic dance stuff, we learned some pretty useful things….considering our business….like minutes, capers, caprices, and that most beloved of all, the quadrille.

Now, for those of you unschooled in dances of centuries other than the 20th, let me just say the quadrille is as complicated as it sounds. Divided into five (or, if you're Viennese, six parts ,) it is usually performed by four couples in a square formation. And if that information is not exciting was originally a dance for men on horseback. Really. Think Spanish Riding School kinda stallion dancing. Anyway, if you want to see humans doing part of a quadrille, check this scene out for the last version of Pride and Prejudice. This kind of dancing, where one moves around one's partner and perhaps dances with others in the course of the dance, is still pretty sexy and alluring stuff.  Then again, Matthew McFadyen prancing about is pretty sexy stuff all on its own, but I digress. 

What isn't sexy at all is a bunch of middle aged, mostly white guys prancing about trying to convince the American public they are just like all you middle Americans out there. Right now, there are 5...count 'em on yer fingers....5 "serious" candidates leading the pac. Since the Koch brothers instructed Mittens Romney not to run, the front-runners in the field are Jeb "Mr. Dynasty" Bush, Ben "I'm just like y'all out there" Carson, Rand "We Don't Need No Stinkin' Vaccinations" Paul, Mike "Let 'Em Eat Bacon" Huckabee, and last and very possibly least, Scott "My State, My Rules" Walker. How can you not be fired up about such a selection? Really, it's an almost impossible decision to figure out just who you're gonna throw your dollars at! 

The demise of candidate Romney was not, at least as far as I was concerned, unexpected. The Koch boys were not about to lay down money on a candidate who was suddenly yammering on about income inequality. That is not part of their program. The boys need someone they can rely on to espouse ideas consistent with their right wing idiology. And no, that is not spelled wrong. If it's not a word, it should be. 

This week alone, the GOP herd has brought you fine, intelligent utterances that only support the idea that running requires a modicum of brain death in that party. Think I'm kidding? 

From Chris Christie...the same guy that quarantined an Ebola nurse who had no symptoms whatsoever....:
Mary Pat and I have had our children vaccinated and we think that it’s an important part of being sure we protect their health and the public health. I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well, so that’s the balance that the government has to decide.
Not to be outdone, DR. Rand Paul, who must've gotten his MD from a box of Cracker Jacks, went on national broadcast television to say:
I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.
Can this guy provide empirical evidence of any kind that supports that statement? Even the guy who first wrote it up back in England says it's baloney.  

Ben Carson, also a doctor, this one a neurosurgeon, is pro-vaccine...he's CEO of a company working on a vaccine for colon cancer. However, for a man of science, he has some pretty interesting ( in a purely Minnesotan sense of the word) how the world was created in 6 days as well as his views on gay marriage....which should put him in pretty good shape with the Koch boys. After all, he did call Obama care "the worst thing since slavery." 

The Bush heir-apparent, Jeb, did a bang up job in Florida. Remember Terry Schiavo? Said to be the smartest of the Bushes, he doesn't impress me as being all that smart. He's new to this stage, but not to worry. He's a Bush, and they are all cut from the same cloth. Silk, not dungaree, no matter how many stumps W says he's cleared. 

As for Huckabee....he's a non-starter. All he's got is a little name recognition from the last go-round. His position on immigration, however, is just a little bit left of where the Tea Party wants it to be, and that will be the death knell for ol' Mike's latest attempt to take the White House. Of course, he could turn to his gay friends for long as they don't want to get married. 

And the guy sweeping up after the rest of the herd of elephants, is Scott Walker, erstwhile governor of Cheeseheads everywhere and the working person's worst enemy. Under the guise of a pro-business agenda, he is stagnating the state of Wisconsin. Job growth continues to be below the national average, and lobbyists, despite his promises to rein them under control, continue to run roughshod over the state. As a national politician, he's downright dangerous. On ABC last Sunday, when asked about ISIS and the Middle East, Scott Walker announced:
I think anywhere and everywhere, we have to be – go beyond just aggressive air strikes. We have to look at other surgical methods. And ultimately, we have to be prepared to put boots on the ground if that’s what it takes, because I think, you know–.....I think anywhere and everywhere, we have to be – go beyond just aggressive air strikes. We have to look at other surgical methods. And ultimately, we have to be prepared to put boots on the ground if that’s what it takes, because I think, you know–        
                                                                                            [And that, folks, is a quote ]
Right now, all of them are busy doing their best version of the obsequious quadrille for the Koch brothers. These are the guys who have the deepest pockets and the best plans for purchasing an election. A BIG, BIG election. This is where SCOTUS allowing Citizens United to stand undercuts the very fabric of our electoral system. The Kochs make no secret that they believe they are the ones who will anoint the next Republican candidate, and they make no secret of their plans to pour endless amounts of cash into the campaigns. 

What galls me the most about the sale of this election is that any shred of belief that a national election is about the will of We, the People, is gone. This is the fire sale of America. From increased class stratification to segregation in schools based on social caste rather than race, a service class is about to be born. Equal opportunity will be for the haves only. The have-nots will become the new peasant, the new servant class. And the middle class will simply fade away.

IF we allow the Kochs and the Tea Party and other extremists on both sides of the aisle to continue, they will do so. Oligarchs unite! The rest of us be damned....while we are preparing ourselves to live in this new, third world country called America. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
If you don't have a regular will AND a living will, get one. This is about to be important.