Friday, September 24, 2010

America is like that guy in the movie, “Memento.”

Remember that movie from about 10 years ago? It was about a guy (played by Guy Pearce**) who had lost his ability to remember anything past about the last ten minutes. Short-term memory was all he had. Somewhere along the line, he realized he had this problem, so he came up with a solution. He wrote notes to himself on his body so that the next time he blacked out, he would know what was going on. Look up this link in IMDB if you want to know more about it.

America is like that guy. We have lost the ability to remember anything past the last news cycle, it seems. We certainly don’t remember anything, past the obvious, from the 90’s. Clinton got a blowjob. That’s pretty much what is left in our collective memories from that era. We, and that includes the national media, apparently do not remember that Newt Gingrich was a disgraced politician who was forced out of his job as Speaker of the House of Representatives. We don’t remember that he essentially shut down the government in a fit of pique that most people attribute to the fact he was mad at President Clinton for making him ride in the back of Air Force One and not up front with the President. We apparently don’t remember how badly that went over with the American people at the time.

America apparently doesn’t remember the 80’s. Ronald Reagan is apparently a god now. But many people in his own party disliked him. His approach to economics was called “supply side economics” and was also referred to as “trickle down.” That theory went something like, if you hand rich people everything they want, then good things will eventually trickle down to all the rest of us. That’s how the theory went, anyway. We, and that includes the national media, apparently don’t remember that the national debt under Reagan ballooned to the largest in American history. George H.W. Bush, during a debate with Reagan (people apparently don’t remember that they were running against each other at one time) called Reagan’s approach “voodoo economics.” Many Republicans at the time did not believe that this was a viable approach.

We certainly didn’t remember the Vietnam War and the rest of the 60’s, except for all those dirty fu*king hippies. That’s the only thing that remains in our collective memories. We certainly love our wars, even when the parallels to our very recent past should have been so obvious as to reach out through the pages of time and smack any self-aware person in the face. But, no. We want to fight wars. We want to subdue entire populations who we were supposed to actually be helping out. We didn’t remember that fighting a guerilla war where the enemy can just melt away and blend in to the local population really doesn’t work. Our military people start being suspicious of every single person that isn’t one of them. We forgot how we slinked away in defeat in Vietnam.

We certainly don’t remember the bad parts of the 40’s and WWII. Oh, we remember the good parts well enough. We remember that was “The Good War.” We certainly remember Adolf Hitler. We remember the name of Neville Chamberlain, although we don’t seem to remember much else about him. We remember V-E Day and V-J Day. We remember we were the good guys and went in and saved the world from Evil. But we don’t remember that the United States interred thousands of American citizens in armed camps surrounded by barbed wire fences just because they happened to look like the enemy. We don’t remember the hatred and suspicion of anyone who didn’t “look American.” We don’t remember that burning books is something that societies built on fear and anger do, that societies built on free speech, open communication and trust don’t.

The early 20th Century, also known as The Gilded Age, is much to far in the past to be part of our collective memory. We don’t remember what the very rich will do with all the accumulated wealth and power of a country and how the workers in this unfettered free economy were treated something akin to cockroaches. Workers were killed in mines and factories on a daily basis. Salaries were barely above a subsistence level. Workers borrowed money from “the company store” so much that they ended up owing the company more money than they were likely to get paid and therefore were, in essence, indebted to the company for the rest of their lives.

Human psychology is a very mysterious thing. As thinking beings, you might think that we would use all the information at our disposal to come up with logical solutions to our problems. Yet, we seem to be driven solely by self-interest and tribalism. Another movie analogy comes to mind. Our society seems to have devolved into the groups of apes during the opening sequence of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” We cower in the dark, afraid of all the scary, unseen things outside our little cave. We scream and make threatening noises at each other from opposite sides of the watering hole. And if you remember how that particular act of the film ended, it didn’t take much of an external push for one group to start clonking the other group on the head with clubs.

Selective memory is such a wonderful tool. It can be used to justify just about any position a person might want to take, because they refuse to acknowledge anything that might suggest that they are wrong.

Perhaps we should start writing ourselves notes on our bodies so that we actually remember what actually happened.

**Corrected, many thanks to Athenawise. I should be ashamed. I call myself a movie buff and get the actor wrong, even after I looked it up in IMDB. Shame on me. I blame the sinus medicine....

Sunday, September 19, 2010

There’s nothing like hyping a totally imaginary threat to get people worked up right before an election.

This approach has been the staple of the Republican Party for quite a while now. But it seems to me that, for such an approach to really work well, your “threat” that you are pumping, the one that only Republicans can save the country from, should at least have a hint of plausibility to it. Otherwise, it would seem that people would either ignore you or laugh at you.

This one from Newt Gingrich (from Washington Monthly) really takes the cake, it is so jaw droppingly stupid.

[P]erhaps the former House Speaker's loudest applause [at the Values Voter Summit] came when he weighed in on the controversial Islamic center and Mosque proposed to be built near Ground Zero, declaring, "We as Americans don't have to tolerate people who are supportive of violence against us, building something at the site of the violence."

"This is not about religious liberty, if they want to build that mosque in the South Bronx, frankly they need the jobs," he continued. "But I am totally opposed to any effort to impose Sharia on the United States, and we should have a federal law that says under no circumstance, in any jurisdiction in the United States, will Sharia be used in any court to apply to any judgment made about American law."



I won’t even go into the extreme effort being made by the wingnuts of this country to equate Islam with the crazy people who carried out the attacks on the World Trade Centers. That’s ridiculous. I could just as easily equate Christianity with Timothy McVie’s attack on the government building in Oklahoma City. Same thing, right?

But that’s not the point here. Gingrich, after setting up the table with a totally false equivalency, then makes an even more ridiculous jump to building a “mosque” (which it isn’t) to trying to impose Sharia Law on the United States. This is such a threat, in Gingrich’s mind, that he thinks we should have a federal law to prevent such an imposition of law based in religion.

My first response was, what the hell is he talking about? Is this a threat? Is anyone saying this at all? But then, don’t all our laws already have something like that as their basis? We have the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federal Code of Regulations, we have more laws than we can shake a stick at. They are all written down and cannot be just brushed aside, no matter what anyone would like to try to replace them with. They must be amended, each in their own particular way. Does Newt actually believe that some federal judge or something is, all of a sudden, going to just make a ruling and impose a system of law based on the Islamic religion on the United States? Does he really think it is that easy? He must, because he apparently thinks we need a new federal law to make sure that doesn’t happen.

I can’t believe this person was actually the Speaker of the House. Either he has absolutely no idea how the federal government actually works (which, I suppose, may be possible) or else he has decided that he is going to cynically try to hype up a non-existent threat to try to get the right wing base voters so scared of Muslims they are almost ready to crap in their pants. I just find this so pathetic and immoral. Gingrich knows that this isn't even a remote possibility, and yet, there he is, in the national press, saying this kind of disgusting crap.

Why is this man still considered a credible politician? A national press with any sort of self-respect would have called bullshit on this guy long ago. Yet, he continues to show up on television and hold press conferences where his insane ramblings are duly copied down by a willing press.

But I think the thing I am most disappointed in is that many of the people in this country actually believe this disgusting crap. A very large percentage of this country are perfectly willing to let themselves get manipulated and stampeded by very cynical and crass politicians. This country has willingly given up our ability to work in the realm of facts and logic. The United States is becoming the ultimate Skinner Box. Push a button, watch the freakout.

(Sorry for the light posting of late. I have been on a couple of business trips, back to back, and it took me some time to get prepared for them. I'll try to do better in the future.)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I am pretty much to the point.....

I think that we should just go ahead and give these stupid, hateful assholes the keys to the government and get it over with. Then, one of two things would happen. The first would be that the rest of the country would realize how crazy these hateful assholes really are and the adults would grab the reins of power back and never again let any of them anywhere a job of power, not even dogcatcher.

The other possibility would be that the United States of America would turn into a third world theocratic police state (with a huge military and nuclear weapons) where only white, rich people matter. Yeah, that isn't a very nice future, but crap, that's where a lot of the country wants us to go, so let's just get it over with. Then the rest of the world can ignore us or maybe even invade us when we start indiscriminately dropping bombs on countries we don't like. Mexicans would quite coming here looking for work, because there wouldn't be any. Our entire media would resemble Fox News and the rest of television would be "reality" shows where white assholes try to stab other white assholes in the back while trying to win lots of money by showing anyone watching what assholes they really are. Maybe the rest of us would then really pick up and move to Canada, Australia, Ireland or whatever country would put up with someone who hails from a country run by rich, white assholes with nuclear bombs.

I think we should elect Newt Gingrich president and get it all over with. He would probably have a job for Sarah Palin, maybe Minister of Propaganda. Everyone that hasn't left the country or is in jail or camps could have all sorts of fun tweeting each other about how patriotic they all are.

Bitter? Cynical? Me? Pffftt....

Monday, September 06, 2010

Todd Schorr, surrealist and observer of pop culture.






I saw an exhibit of Mr. Schorr's paintings in San Jose, California in 2009. It was pretty trippy, indeed. Being a film buff, and a 1950's bad sci-fi film buff at that, I found that some of his works just rang a bell with me. I love the one based around King Kong. You can see, if you look, Magilla Gorilla, the big metal Kong robot from that Japanese Toho release, "King Kong Escapes", and the artist himself as a little boy in front of a black and white television screen, watching King Kong. Click on the photos and get a larger version, and then go look at the detailed images in each of these paintings. There is a lot of stuff there. Even better, go visit his home page here.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Unorganized, completely random non-political thoughts on a dreary, overcast Sunday morning.

- I think that all the television networks should just go ahead and get where they obviously want to go, which is to take over the lower third of the television screen and broadcast commercials 100% of the time, even while the main programming is ongoing. They are almost there anyway. They might as well go ahead and go that last mile right now and get it over with. Hey, they could even run commercials DURING commercials! Just think of the additional revenue!

- Why does the Sci-Fi Channel (excuse me, SyFy) show professional wrestling? Does anyone actually watch those Ghost Hunter shows where all I can see happening on the previews is a bunch of people filmed with night vision equipment whispering to each other and yelling “What was that?!?” Why does the Arts and Entertainment Channel show absolutely nothing related to the arts, or even entertainment? Why doesn’t the History Channel show any history? Why is there a goddam reality show on every single specialty channel on television?

- Airlines are now charging 40 bucks if you would like “UP TO six more inches of legroom”, a chance to get in line early and if you want to pay more money to earn more frequent flyer miles so you can subject yourself to more of the same torture you are currently going through sometime in the near future.

- My computer keeps asking me if I want to download a new version of this or that, such as iTunes or my e-mail, without telling me what the new version is going to do for me or any existing problems that I might currently have that this new software will fix. Why would I want to install something that I don’t even know what it does for me and the current version works fine? Is our society now so spring loaded to accept anything new related to electronics or software that we don’t even ask WHY first?

- Do the voice actors and actresses that do English dubbing of Japanese anime feel stupid or foolish when they are making those really stupid, squeaky voices? The overbearing, highly authoritative and/or menacing voices sound pretty silly, too.

- Speaking of feeling silly, did Jimmy Johnson of NFL and NASCAR fame feel ridiculous when he was filming those commercials for Extendz, those “penis-enhancing” pills with that young, really nice looking female “reporter?” Because if I were to try something like that, I believe I would have died of embarrassment right there, on the spot.

- Except for people who own stock in the huge corporations that own movie studios, why does anyone care how much money a movie earned on any given weekend? Is this any indication, at all, about how good a movie this might be? Whatever happened to critical reviews as an indicator of the worth of any particular film. Money? That’s all it’s about, even for the audiences? “Ooohh! Iron Man 2 earned eighty trillion dollars this week! I have to go see that one!”

- Players fighting during a baseball game garners the participants a fine and a suspension. Players fighting during a hockey game earns them five minutes in the “penalty box.” Football players will do almost anything rather than admit they are hurt. They will continue to play through all sorts of pain and blood. Soccer players (the OTHER football players) will scream, collapse on the field (sorry, pitch) and writhe around for minutes, sometimes requiring people to come out and carry them off with a stretcher, all because they got bumped or clipped by a player on the opposing team. Universities pay millions of dollars for coaches’ salaries and for upgrades to stadiums, which mostly include luxury boxes for those wealthy corporate interests. Those same universities get millions of dollars from television contracts, wealthy donors and requiring “donations” for those sports minded individuals who would like season tickets. Yet, the players get absolutely nothing other than a chance at a mostly free education. Cities, communities and states build huge, lavish sports arenas and stadiums with all or mostly all public funds, all to benefit obscenely rich team owners. I have no real observation here, other than to say, not only are Americans way too into sporting events, we aren’t even consistent. But then, we apparently don’t care. Go team! Rah!

- eBay really sucks. I refuse to use Paypal, but they now require it. Why? Because they can make more money, as they just happen to own Paypal. What a surprise. Is there anything in this country anymore that isn’t driven by the desire to extort the maximum amount of money from the general public as humanly possible?

- And finally, a bit about the Hardy Boys. You know, those brilliant kids who solved every sort of mystery that came their way and apparently stayed in high school for about 45 years? Those books were one thing that really got me through childhood and also taught me that reading was enjoyable. I know that the target audience of those books were, shall we say, less than critical. But really... Frank and Joe were not all that brilliant. They were extremely lucky. “Clues”, as they called them, just fell into their laps. They happened to be walking along and hear a conversation that just happened to relate to the case their famous dad was working on. They just happened to find a notebook with everything that the criminal they were chasing had every written down or thought of. Everything that happened to them was related. And their parents! What terrible parents! Sure, let them go out at all hours of the night and end up getting tied up or shot at by desperate criminals. Sure, go explore some abandoned mines in the hope you might find some gold that has been missing for 40 years. Just be careful, don’t get caught in any mine collapses and be sure to be home for dinner. Sheesh.