Sunday, November 21, 2010

"...Shut Up...I Can't Hear Myself Interrupting You...."

Linguistics is not in my skill set.

I have, though, through the years, apparently acquired a knack for translation.

Stand by for a demonstration.

First, though, here's a clip of an exchange that took place on Hannity's show late last week.

Now, here's a wonderful version of a piece from "South Pacific".

Ann Coulter is, by any reasonable measure, a limelight fixated, one trick pony who continues to defy the odds makers by continuing to hold an audience's attention though her fifteen minutes were up years ago.

That said, Mr. Johnson's style of "debate" only fueled the fire while botching a wonderful opportunity to let Coulter further prove Mark Twain's observation... "better to keep quiet and have people think you stupid, than to talk and confirm it".

Spirited discussion requires both talking and listening.

Mostly listening.

These days, the goal almost always seems to be "oneupmanship".

Even when the most obvious strategy is allowing the opposition to make Mr. Clemens' point.

Political discussion in media is essentially oxymoronic.

What remains is "twin soliloquies".

Oh...and about my acquired gift for translation?

In most cases, when exposed to "discussion" like the one between Coulter and Johnson, here's, in fact, what most people hear:

Blah, blah...yada, yada....blah, blah....blah.

I'm thinking about applying for a gig with Rosetta Stone.

"...There IS a Fifth Dimension...."

Here's a fun game.

Say the first name you think of when I offer this clue.

Insightful, even prescient, political mind.

Who comes to mind first?

Scroll down for my answer.

Rod Serling.

Say what?

Yup. The guy who created "The Twilight Zone" was not only a world class dramatist, he skillfully weaved his way in, out and around a wealth of politically thematic parables in the day.

From the overt brush strokes of "He's Alive" to the more subtle shadings of "The Obsolete Man" and "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street", et al, Mr. Submitted for Your Approval was, often, to politics what Noel Coward was to drawing room farce.

Still dubious?

Watch this clip.

And we'll play another fun game.

Now, replay the clip, only this time, imagine....

The old, white haired, Moses looking dude is Common Sense.

The young traveler is John McCain.

And the articulate, charismatic pleading for access is....wait for it.....

Sarah Palin.


CNN. Fox News. MSNBC, etc, when it comes to political punditry, move over, there's a new old kid in town.

The Twilight Zone.

( those who are offended at the implication that Sarah is Satan, may I simply offer that you're missing the point. Please give your place in the blog read room to another and move along to vote/text and/or tweet DWTS on Bristol's behalf yet another time)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"...A Few Words On Fancy Footwork..."

Book reviews aren't my thing.

The root cause, I imagine, being several elementary and secondary education year's worth of forced labor in the form of book "reports".

At a time in literary history when the only written words my peers and I coveted were the mysterious/misogynistic licensed to kill narratives of Ian Fleming, I really didn't give a shit about reading "Lord Jim", let alone wasting valuable weeknight TV time writing about it.

Add to that my intrinsic disdain for the obviously subjective concept of "review" in the first place (one man's poppycock is another man's Pulitzer,after all) and you needn't worry about finding blog space taken up with my bland efforts to become the cover to cover equivalent of Roger Ebert.

So when I share with you that I have neither the time or inclination to "review" Sarah Palin's newest collection of thoughts and theologies, "America By Heart", you can rest assured there will be no thumbs up or down to be found at the end of this piece.

Meanwhile, though, I would respectfully offer that there is an admittedly thin line between review and reflection.

And I do enjoy an opportunity to tippy toe along thin lines.

To wit, my reflections on the latest gospel according to Sarah:

Her take:
In a chapter on faith and public life, Palin addresses at length John F. Kennedy's noted speech on religion during the 1960 campaign — a speech many saw as crucial to counter sentiment that his faith would hold undue sway over him if he became the nation's first Catholic president.

"I am not the Catholic candidate for president," Kennedy said at the time. "I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic."

Palin writes that when she was growing up, she was taught that JFK's speech reconciled religion and public service without compromising either. But since she's revisited the speech as an adult, she says, she's realized that Kennedy "essentially declared religion to be such a private matter that it was irrelevant to the kind of country we are."

She praises Mitt Romney, a Mormon, for not "doing a JFK" during his campaign for the 2008 GOP nomination. "Where Kennedy seemed to want to run away from religion, Mitt Romney forthrightly embraced it," she writes. She attributes the gulf not just to the difference between the men, but to the distance the country has come since 1960. Now, she says, America is "reawakening to the gift of our religious heritage."

My take:
The conventional wisdom in 1960 was that electing a Roman Catholic to the presidency would result in some kind of puppet government, the strings attached to the guy living at 1600 Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C, the strings being held by the guy living in Vatican City, Rome, Italy. Any full read of the text of Kennedy's speech on the matter clearly spells out, in some passages bluntly, that JFK believed the separation of church and state was, and is, a constitutional dictate and any violation of that should, and would, be considered an impeachable offense. In other words, elect me, you get a president not a pope lackey. The history of the Kennedy presidency bears out that he kept his word. Sarah's use of fifty year old hindsight is not only obviously out of context but an unmistakable example of the remarkable skill, if no others, she possesses: the ability to play to the crowd, in this case, the crowd being the hard core religious right or, as its known affectionately, the Republican base.

Her take:
Palin, whose daughter Bristol is in the thick of a much-scrutinized run on "Dancing with the Stars," takes aim at another competitive reality show, "American Idol." She says the show's "talent-deprived" contestants suffer from "the cult of self-esteem" to the extent that they grew up convinced they could be stars like Michael Jackson.

But Cowell, the acerbic judge who left the show at the end of last season? He is "almost alone in his willingness to tell hard truths," Palin writes.

My take:
Is there any person on the planet wiling to consider a point of view even resembling objective that hasn't been scratching their heads wondering how a contestant who has week after week after week been at the bottom of the judges list but who continues living to dance another day?

And is there any person who, aware of Simon Cowell's "willingness to tell hard truths", doesn't believe that if Simon were a judge on DWTS, Bristol would have left the show weeks ago, if only in humiliation as a result of the hard truths Cowell would be willingly telling about her performances?

Her take:
Palin praises "Juno," the movie where a pregnant teen chooses to carry her baby. "Most Americans, I think, are a lot like Juno," she writes — they may not be actively religious, "but they still want to do the right thing." She also likes "Knocked Up," in which a baby results from a one-night stand, and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."

My take:
Conservative candidate for President of the United States (and let's cut to the chase, okay, she's running and we all know it) deftly sidesteps base line conservative values by momentarily wrapping herself in a loving mommy outfit just long enough to deflect attention from said conservative candidate's daughter who deftly sidestepped base line conservative values by getting knocked up in the year 2008, a year in which birth control is more easily purchased than a fishing license. In one fell swooped paragraph, she mollifies her followers by cloaking conception in courage, while calming the more liberal thinkers who fear she has a puritanical stick where sun shine is lacking. Seriously, is it just me or is this lady the real dancing talent in the family?

Her take:
In fact, she says that if she had to pick a role model between Bristol and Murphy Brown, the 1990s sitcom character who chose single motherhood as a lifestyle, she'd choose Bristol. As for Brown, she laments that former Vice President Dan Quayle's criticism of the character essentially cost him the chance to be president. Quayle, she says, turned out to be right.

My take:
Let's just enjoy the laughter of the Murphy/Bristol comparison and move right along to considering the thought processes of anyone expressing regret that history and the American Presidency never had the chance to benefit from the once in a generation brilliance of J. Danforth Quayle.

I said, at the beginning of this piece, that I wouldn't be reviewing the book.

Turns out I wandered into a book report, though.

So, to honor the teachings of my assorted English teachers/professors through the years, let me wrap it up correctly.

The book is "America By Heart" by Sarah Palin.

If you find it interesting and would like to read more, I recommend another work in the same vein.

"Every Man A King" by Huey P. Long.

Now, there was a dancer.