Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Here's One Guys Whom the Truth Isn't Setting Free

Wikileaks is an organization dedicated to blowing the whistle on veiled corruption in any number of different bodies, be they corporate or government. They do this mainly through whistle-blowers within organizations who send them sensitive documents which they subsequently publish, sometimes directly, and sometimes through an agent like a major news organization such as the New York Times or a foreign publication.

This past year, Wikileaks became a much more common name following the release of many sensitive documents which were released containing sensitive and secret information regarding America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the time, the US government decried the release of the documents, citing national security concerns, however, as our own military leaders have confessed to, there is no evidence to support the idea that the release of the Iraq/Afghanistan war documents endangered or lead to the death of anyone.

With this latest dump, however, things have changed considerably. The reaction the to the last release of documents was a mere slap on the wrist compared to the actions which are now being taken now.

Let's start with the reaction by many of our elected "leaders" and the abhorrent things they've been advocating we do in retaliation for Assange's perceived crimes.

-"I think the man is a high-tech terrorist. He’s done an enormous damage to our country, and I think he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And if that becomes a problem, we need to change the law." -Mitch McConnel

-Dana Perino sugggested that the US go after Assange's and Wikileaks financial assets and "put the squeeze" on him and his organization. Subsequently, we've seen just about every organization he's used to collect funds for himself and Wikileaks abandon him including Visa, Master-card, and Pay-pal among others.

-Sarah Palin called Assange an 'Anti-american operative with blood on his hands, and said that we should pursue him with the same urgency that we do Al Qaeda.

So, we're equating the release of documents which contain embarrassing information which nobody has denied is untrue, but has in fact validated (given Hillary Clinton's recent world-wide apology tour) with terrorism?

The cry we hear most often from the transparency haters is that these leaks are going to compromise our security. This is a claim that i am beginning to grow sick from every time I hear it. I wouldn't have thought it, but apparently we Americans are enormous cowards. Ever since 9/11, that has been the dominant excuse for everything we do, and we have willingly handed over our civil liberties to the powers-that-be in the name of security, forgetting , seemingly, that we live in a nation that previously held as one of our core virtues to be liberty. However, liberty and security are not two features which can readily exist together in harmony. The price for one, is the other. The price for the liberties we possess is the knowledge that we are probably going to be less safe overall because maniacs will most definitely, from time to time, abuse those liberties to take innocent life.

This fact is not a failure on part of liberty, nor a call to restrain them, but merely a natural reaction by authoritarians who feel we ought to likewise be bowing to the hand of power. Sadly, this is the path the United States has allowed itself to tread the past decade since we were attacked. Our fear has become the dominating attribute of our lives and now, it is playing it on the world stage across the shoulders of Julian Assange who is bearing the brunt of where our fear has brought our society.

His actions have struck tremendous fear into the hearts of a few powerful people and shamefully, rather than defending him for being brave and exposing corruption and secrecy in high places (where are you now small government, people!?) many of us sit back with our tail between our legs and acquiesce while nodding our heads stupidly as the Barack Obamas, Hillary Clintons, Sarah Palins, Mitch McConnels, and others call for Assange to be criminally indicted, and in some instances, assassinated, all for releasing papers which the government didn't intend for your or I to see- yours and my government. Is the government accountable to us? Or are we accountable to them?

It speaks volumes that so many outside the United States are so eager to aid us in apprehending Assange. Swedish authorities have been trying for several months to apprehend Assange on suspicion that he may have raped two women. The accusations, conveniently arose around the time of the release of the Iraq/Afghanistan war documents. Sweden claims it merely wants to question Assange concerning the allegations, yet despite offering on numerous occasions to make himself available via Skype or some other service wherein Swedish authorities could question him, they have refused. Today he turned himself into British authorities after they put out a warrant for his arrest, and soon he'll be sent to Sweden. After that, who knows that is going to happen. I fear he's going to be extradited to the US, where we'll do who knows what. Given our history of dealing with enemy combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan and even those we found to be innocent or had little to no evidence with which to convict, I do not have high hopes for Assange should that scenario come to pass.

This is a litmus test for the nation. I do not think it is one we are going to see positive results, and I fear it may be the gateway into an even darker period for the nation than we are currently in.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The World Grows a Little Darker

I just found out today an author and critic of American foreign policy whom I greatly admire, Chalmer's Johnson, passed away last week. There aren't many people out there in the world who I have enough admiration for to call a hero of mine, but Johnson was one of them. This is a terrible shame.

Johnson authored three books which made up the "Blowback" trilogy, which sought to examine the United States continues imperial ambitions even in the wake of the collapse of the former USSR. Chalmer's had fully expected the United States to significantly, if not totally, disarm afterwards, but what he saw the US do instead (look for a replacement threat which it quickly found in Saddam Hussein and now Islamic Terrorism), astonished him and forced him to re-examine his views on the United States position of authority on the world stage. From that sprung Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, The Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic

In summarizing Blowback, Chalmers said:
"In Blowback, I set out to explain why we are hated around the world. The concept "blowback" does not just mean retaliation for things our government has done to and in foreign countries. It refers to retaliation for the numerous illegal operations we have carried out abroad that were kept totally secret from the American public. This means that when the retaliation comes as it did so spectacularly on September 11, 2001 -- the American public is unable to put the events in context. So they tend to support acts intended to lash out against the perpetrators, thereby most commonly preparing the ground for yet another cycle of blowback. In the first book in this trilogy, I tried to provide some of the historical background for understanding the dilemmas we as a nation confront today, although I focused more on Asia -- the area of my academic training -- than on the Middle East."

For anyone who is looking to put the last decade of American foreign policy into perspective, read Noam Chomsky, read Jeremy Scahill, and most definitely read Chalmers Johnson.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Whose Bright Idea Was It?

Why do people insist on putting chunks of fruit in yogurt and smoothies? It confuses my mouth and makes me sick to my stomach. Honestly, if you were drinking a coke and suddenly a piece of something solid slipped down your throat, you'd probably stop drinking it for fear that you just consumed someone's backwash. So, why should drinking a smoothie or eating yogurt be any different?

Yogurt, I know, is kind of solid, and so fruit chunks make a little more sense, but still, you don't really eat yogurt. Do you put yogurt in your mouth and chew it? Of course not, you just put it in and swallow it, which makes it some odd in-between of a food and a beverage. I like to eat strawberries and bananas, but I don't want solid versions of them in my drinks!

I guess I'm trying to say that if you put anything solid in yogurt and smoothies, you suck. Give me some Trix or Danimals any day, and keep the fruit out of my beverages!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Glenn Greenwald Speaks about the Terms 'Civil Liberties' and 'Terrorism' as used in Popular Media in the Age of Obama

Glenn Greenwald on civil liberties and terrorism after Obama from The Badger Herald on Vimeo.

Here's a great video of a lecture given by Glenn Greenwald on civil liberties and terrorism and why these terms are so relevant during the Obama presidency.

He gives a good definition of Civil Liberties and discusses the terminologically vacuous term tossed around so flagrantly: terrorism, and why it really has no meaning. In the process, he talks about America's, and our allies, own acts of terrorism and the double-standard we like to apply to our actions vs. those of "the terrorists."

More importantly, he talks about why limits on executive power are important regardless of who holds office, and the fact that there exists no such thing as a truly magnanimous leader who doesn't require the limitations placed on the executive by the Constitution.

Please, watch it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Don Draper is One Confused SOB

I love Mad Men, and I never realized just how lost Don Draper apparently is.

Olbermann Fails to Disclouse Campaign Contribution to Democratic Candidates

According to a story on Salon.com, Keith Olbermann donated about $2,400 to several Democratic candidates. Olbermann subsequently failed to disclose this fact on-air. The story is based on a story found at Politico.com Read Here

It seems like there are two issues here: one is whether an opinionated host like Olbermann should be allowed by his employer to give to political candidates. And the other is whether, if he does contribute, he should disclose that fact when he interviews said candidates. The first question is debatable; the second seems like an issue of basic ethics.
You, know it really makes it hard to go after Fox for their shenanigans when the other networks and their hosts are continually failing to distinguish themselves from their Fox counter-parts.

UPDATE: Removed video about Olbermann suspending the Worst Person in the World Segment because it looks like because of Olberman''s undisclosed contributions to Democratic candidates, he's being canned by NBC.

I'm really flabbergasted. My comment above concerning the other networks becoming indistinguishable from Fox may have been a bit premature. I don't think we'll ever see Fox letting go one of their own because they contributed to any political campaigns, especially the Republican party.

Salon, it appears, hasn't sourced this update, so maybe it's merely a rumor? I doubt it, and if it's not, all I can say is , "Wow."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Oh, and By the Way...

Yesterday, November 4th, was two years since I had my life saving (and life-altering) double lung transplant. After 21 years with Cystic Fibrosis. When I finally get my mind settled, I'm going to try and write some kind of retrospective/then-and-now kind of thing to detail where I've come. It might surprise a few people.

Red Wave? Blue Thunder? Either Way, Democrats Got Off Easy

Just a quick post. Here's a video from Dylan Ratigan's program featuring Cenk Uygar and Glenn Greenwald, whom I have nothing but admiration for. They're discussing why Tuesday's election turned out the way it did, specifically why the left didn't turn out for him and the Democrats. In short: they didn't deliver on their promises. View it here.

Basically, their point is that Obama built up all that good will back in '08, made his promises for campaign finance reform, regulating the banks, providing health care for all Americans, mainly through the public option (which most Americans favored, myself included), accountability for our actions in the war on terror; as well as getting the hell out of Iraq (can't remember if Afghanistan was promised as well).

Not only has the president not delivered, he has embraced so many of the methods, policies, and attitudes that he rode into the white house on.

I was actually expecting a worse outcome for the Democrats in this election, certainly the media, Fox in particular, made a big stink about the inevitable losses for the Dems. Very little has been accomplished that I'm pleased with since '08, despite this, the election of certain elements on the Right to power are doubly frightening, especially some Tea Party candidates who were elected, like Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio.

This is not to say I think a John Boehner or Michelle Bachman are necessarily better choices. But some of Rand Paul's positions on issues were disturbing. The civil rights act of the 1964 was a mistake because business owners should be allowed to kick patrons out because of their skin color/religion/sexual orientation?

In any case, getting tired, so I need to warp this up. Might have more to say later.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mad Men Season 4 - The Cure for the Common Don Draper

Season 3 of Mad Men left us with a lot of questions. At the end of the season Don was beginning the ugly process of getting divorced from Betty, Sterling Cooper was going to be sold, and so, he, along with Lane, Roger, Pete, and Bert formed a new agency, Sterling Cooper Draper Price (SCDP). The conclusion left things not looking too good for Don, but nonetheless there was room to grow, and so many hopeful possibilities for some welcome change in Don's life. Was the new company going to be successful? Would Don meet someone new (not just sleep with someone, we all know the answer to that)? Would he be confronted by Betty, or someone else, about his true identity?

Initially, as Season 4 began, I wasn't sure what to think of the show. For three seasons, the show had been so consistently strong- it's dialogue so crisp, the storytelling (and stories) captivating, and the character's so nuanced and subtle.

"It feels different around here." -Don's Secretary, Meghan

It probably wasn't until about episode 7, "The Suitcase" where I felt like this season had found its tone, or rather, I had grown comfortable with the new tone. Aside from merely cosmetic differences such as the new office for SCDP complete with more modern furniture and (gasp!) windows with open shades and natural lighting; the way the character's spoke, their body language, and their interactions seemed different. Maybe it was because now Pete was a partner and on equal footing with Don, Roger, and Bert; maybe it was because Don was living alone in the Village, sleeping with prostitutes, and drinking much more heavily (leading to an embarrassingly clumsy pitch to the Life Cereal folks, in which Don, absentmindedly pitches an idea which he had gotten from a hopeful applicant, Danny, whom Don ended up having to hire). Maybe it was Roger's angry, World War II inspired outburst to clients from Honda, and his refusal to peddle their "Jap-crap." In any case, it seemed like the characters, in the almost year since they had last been seen, had changed a bit.
"...but I'm just so damn tired of all of it." - Don, concerning his secret
One thing the season revealed to audiences was just how frail Don really is. In the first season, he very much seemed to be almost superhuman, certainly larger than life- a character who was so comfortable in his skin, doing his job, smoking his cigarettes that you would think he was born just as he was when we were first introduced to him. The seasons up to this point have slowly peeled away the layers of the Don Draper mystery. In season 1, we learned that he was actually a military deserter named Dick Whitman, who had led a rough childhood in Illinois during the depression. Season 2 showed us some of the more immediate aftermath of his decision to adopt the real Don Draper's identity and how that decision led to what is, or was, the most meaningful relationship Don has ever had, in Anna, the wife of the real Don Draper. In Season 3, we didn't see much of post-Korea Don, but were granted a glimpse of his childhood and saw how the lessons he learned from his father led to his ballsy decision to get himself fired in order to be released from his contract so he, with Bert, Roger, and Lane, could start their new agency.

In season 4, we see that Don is very much a man who looks tall, but is, in fact, simply standing on the shoulders of others. Much of his success has been gleaned through the niceties, favors, and mistakes of others.

Early in the season, we see the effect divorce has had upon Don, who lives alone and frequents a particular prostitute who he likes to have slap him while doing it. Don's naughtiness has been well documented over the course of four seasons, so maybe he's trying to atone. We realize, early on that one of the key elements in maintaining the Don Draper mythos is the typical middle-American, nuclear family- a wife, 2 kids and a dog. After he's stripped of that, the rest of the Don Draper facade begins to disintegrate.

In episode 6, "Waldorf Stories," we learn that Don landed his fortuitous position at Sterling Cooper after a fuzzy conversation Don apparently had with a drunken Roger, whom he met while Roger was shopping for a fur coat for Joan, early in their relationship. Don spends most of the episode completely sloshed, going from the CLIOs, where he wins for his (and Peggy's) work on Glo Coat, then to work so he can make a drunken pitch to Life Cereal, and finally to the after party where he's turned down by Faye (who performs consumer research for SCDP), but picks up another girl instead. The scene shows Don laying down with a brunette from the party, but after she gets up, time lapses as the sun rises and a new, blond girl lays down next to him, apparently having spent the entire day after in a fog which he can't even remember.

As we saw, it doesn't take much to throw a wrench into Don's gears. The Don we were presented with this season, is not the Don we saw in the past. In episode 10, he nearly has a panic attack upon spotting what he thinks are two G-men in his apartment building looking for him. He'd recently filed for security clearance with the Defense Department because of SCDP's contract with American Aviation, which they signed in season 2. His secretary fills out the forms and sends them in, not bothering to check with Don, who nearly loses it when he finds out, since the information on the form will not match up with the information given to the DD by the real Don Draper's family. Knowing how Mad Men works, this is one thread which wasn't resolved this season, and so I'm left to wonder how this is going to play out next season, or the sixth, as it most certainly will. I'm not familiar with how the US treats, or treated, military deserters, and identity thieves, so, I really am clueless.
"No matter how powerful we get around here, they can still just draw a cartoon." - Joan
All these elements, taken together, along with Don's mid-season turn-around following the much praised episode, "The Suitcase," left us wondering if this would be the season where Don confronted the pile of shit he had landed himself in all those years earlier. The introduction of Faye into his life was a glimmer of hope for audiences hoping the Don Draper story might move a bit closer to resolution after he confessed to her in episode 10 that he wasn't Don Draper. In contrast to Betty, who abandoned him in light of the revelation about his identity, Faye stands by him, assuring him that everything is going to be alright, but encouraging him to confront the problem, rather than continue to hide behind the character he'd cooked up.

This strength, shown by Faye, however, is unacceptable to Don, who apparently cannot, or refuses, to regard a woman as his equal. Earlier in the season, when we saw the dissatisfaction he had with the woman (read: girl) he was seeing, Bethany Van Nuys, I had hoped that Don wouldn't ruin his blossoming relationship with Faye with his usual Don Draperisms (cheating, lying, disregard for her personhood); and, for the most part, he didn't. The problem, however, is that Faye's strength was too much for Don's weakness- girls. Don doesn't want someone who is strong and independent, he wants a girl who is going to stand with him as a follower, say the things his ego needs to hear, hold him up on a pedestal as a paragon of manhood and masculinity, and purr whenever he looks at her. Faye didn't do those things, at least not naturally.

When Lucky Strike bailed and Don asked her to forego the ethics her job requires by telling him which of her clients was unhappy with their agency, she angrily refused, leaving him in his office to feel stupid. Later, she relents and lands him a (unsuccessful) meeting with Heinz, but only after deciding that her personal relationships are more important, unlike Don whose work takes center stage.

Don doesn't even realize he's losing interest in Faye, all he knows is that his new secretary, Meghan (after Mrs. Blankenship passes away), is looking pretty hot, and is saying all the things that Don wants to hear. In "Chinese Wall" she tells Don, "Let's be clear, I'm not going to run out of here crying tomorrow. I just want you right now"- words Don desperately wants to hear. All he needs is an excuse, and she's given it to him.

All he needs is a single excuse to choose Meghan over Faye. He finds it in the season finale, "Tomorrowland," when he takes Sally, Bobby, and Gene to California with him, bringing Meghan along as the nanny. Despite her claim that she has no experience, he finds that she's great with children, and his kids seem to adore her, whereas Faye was not comfortable with children, which she readily offered in "The Beautiful Girls." This is Don's in; his reason for deciding that Meghan is the right one, not to mention the fact that she's willing to kiss his feet. This leads to the finale's big surprise, where Don impulsively asks Meghan to marry him. Where Faye seemed to be the antithesis of Betty, it's not unreasonable to think that Meghan is very much how Betty was when Don first fell in love with her. Though we can't know for sure, Faye's remark about how Don only likes things in the beginning grants some weight to the notion.
"They're just in between marriages." - Joan

With the news of Don's engagement, Peggy, it seems, has a particularly strong opinion about the matter, though she doesn't really let Don know. Instead, she heads to Joan, whose earlier chastisement in episode 9 ("So all you've done is proved to them I'm a meaningless secretary, and you're a humorless bitch.") suddenly makes sense as she glimpses one possible future where Meghan is rewarded for stroking Don's ego. Joan's cold and distant attitude doesn't seem so bitchy to Peggy upon realizing all her perseverance and hard work may have been a wasted effort given that Meghan may have discovered the fast track to success, which just so happens to be located on Don's dick.

So, what do Matthew Weiner and the writers of Mad Men have in store for next season? I wish I knew. But there are plenty of lingering questions which need answering.

-What about Roger? Since Lucky Strike dropped SCDP his value to the company has certainly decreased. Looking at how he handled things in "Blowing Smoke," he seemed almost like he was contemplating suicide. Given his dissatisfaction at home, his rejection by Joan, and Lucky Strike bailing on him, where does this leave him next season?

-How is Roger going to take the news that Joan kept their baby, but is trying to pass it off as Greg's?

-How is Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price going to stay afloat minus Lucky Strike's business?

-What is it going to take to get Don to face reality? At this point, given his choice to curl back up into his shell, it seems like he will either a) be forced to suffer the full consequences of his dishonesty, or b) something drastic and tragic is going to have to occur that forces him to see what his dishonesty is doing, both to himself, and to those who care about him.

-Is Peggy's reaction to Don's engagement merely out of anger from the diminishing of her success, or is there something more there? Obviously, Peggy has a serious emotional investment in Don. It's not clear at this point whether that investment is romantic, nurturing, or something else. But, given how both Don and Peggy's characters are, in part, inspired by advertising legend Draper Daniels, and his wife/colleague Myra Janco Daniels, it's not unthinkable. However, given the not-so-happy direction the show often takes, it's likewise, not unthinkable the show may end with Don a miserable shell of the man we met in season 1.

-How is Peggy going to adapt and grow next season in light of Meghan's promotion to wifey?

-Is the scene between her and Joan in episode 13 a sign of things to come for the two women, who've always shared an awkward and somewhat hostile non-alliance.

-Is Meghan using Don? Meghan's ability to say just what Don wants to hear doesn't feel entirely sincere. Maybe the writer's are trying too hard to draw her as submissive, maybe the actress playing her isn't convincing enough, or maybe it's intentional and Don is willingly putting on his blinders to her charm and she's just looking to use him as a step-ladder to a better life. If this is the case, what is that realization going to do to Don who seems to be making one last ditch effort to reclaim the life he lost in season 3 by hitching his wagon to Meghan.

-Will Don's brush with the Defense Department come back next season to haunt him, or is that one plot the writers are going to hold off for season 6, which may be the series finale if Matther Weiner sticks by his guns.

All in all, this was a good season. Maybe not the best on it's own, but taken in context with the other seasons, it presents a good step forward in the tale of Don Draper. In the mean time, I'll be looking forward to the DVD release of this season so I can partake of the always amazing commentary tracks by the cast and crew.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Where's the Beef?

Following is a light-hearted editorial I wrote back in the Fall of 2007. A few things have been changed merely to make some of the language less awkward or to improve a couple jokes. There are numerous dated references to commercials and culture in general, however, so bear with it.

It’s a scenario many Americans are all too familiar with, you’ve been there: You’re sitting at home in the evening, having returned from a busy and stressful day at work. You sit down in front of the TV, maybe with your dinner, or possibly after; the button on your pants is undone, or you’re just hanging out, in the buff. You flip through the channels, searching for NBC’s Thursday sitcom lineup, looking forward to laughing off the day’s stress. There’s no better medicine. Everything is going fine, but in the back of your mind is a growing anticipation and fear. You look at the clock on the wall, beads of sweat dotting your brow. It’s already ten minutes into the show. They’re coming…the commercials!

Irish Spring has just released a new body wash and, apparently, according to the commercial, inside the bottle lives a community of little mischievous Irish girls, just waiting to be unleashed on your dirty, sweating carcass. One can only imagine if the inclusion of the tiny women was meant to be sexy, scary, or possibly funny. I, personally, was terrified.

The last thing I want to see when I’m getting soaped up is a miniature person being pooped out of my soap bottle ready to do God-knows-what to my body- clean me, Riverdance me, or maybe she wants to bite my nipples off. Welcome to the world of advertising (cue strobe lights and dancing tomatoes).

The vast majority of commercials really perform no truly necessary task. The general idea we hold concerning advertisements is that they’re meant to inform us about products that we may not know about. But, in truth, nobody actually needs to be told that there exists somewhere out there, in the vast, ever-expanding universe, a chewing-gum called “Trident.” When folks go to the store and they see a package of gum on the shelf, they know that it’s gum and not cyanide or a nuclear warhead. Commercials aren’t necessary to inform people of these things. The point is, more or less, to convince (or brainwash) you into believing you need their product, not just more than their competitor’s, but that you need it to fill a hole that exists in your life. Chew this gum and you’ll be having fun and dancing all night long! Or Use our body spray, and you will literally have women tearing your pants off!

Now, any rational being, who had not yet experienced this phenomenon, might say to themselves, “Oh. Well that’s not so bad,” and sit down expecting to see some scientific data involving charts, graphs, studies, or other information that might provide genuine evidence that Trident is better than Dentyne Ice or Orbit. Instead, what we get is a man in an airport, ripping off his coat and rub-a-dub-dubbing it across his ass while boogying through the metal detector, while strobe lights flash and obnoxious bass thump along with the middle-class white guy having convulsions (which he’d probably call dancing). He shoots a sexy look into the camera, telling the audience that if they chew trident, they too can turn the airport into a dance club. But, a question is left lingering- What the hell does this have to do with chewing gum?

In the vast majority of cases, the strategy to pick up customers is not to inform them. This is done by appealing to the most basic and primal aspects of the human psyche. One example, which in recent years has become increasingly common, is the use of sexual innuendo, or in some cases, just straight sex. I doubt I need to remind anyone of the old Herbal Essences vehicles that ran when the product was first released- the woman in the show moaning and shouting with orgasmic delight. Meanwhile, her husband or lover is in the other room and believes he’s stumbled upon her banging their hunky 29-year-old pool boy. But, alas, she’s merely shampooing her hair which has apparently rendered her husband useless, at least in regards to giving her sexual pleasure. While Herbal Essences has not rendered the husband moot, their company, no doubt get their own sort of pleasure from knowing that such a seed has been planted- Herbal Essences will give you a orgasm.

Now, while no victim of these advantageous and predatory practices would outwardly admit to being fooled into believing such absurdities, the reality remains that though we don’t buy into the immediate silly premise, now, that bottle of Herbal Essences (or whatever product) stands out more than it otherwise would have.

Additionally, there is another trend going about the advertising circuit that, while not new, is rapidly becoming dangerously more prevalent, and surreptitious.- product placement. While earlier it was more about endorsing certain items (i.e. cigarettes), the past couple decades have seen a focus on endorsing specific products (see Reeses Pieces in E.T.) Over the summer was released what is probably the longest and most financially taxing commercial ever in the history of advertisement. The piece was complete with state-of-the-art CG, massive explosions, big name celebrities, and some really kick-ass action. You probably remember it as Michael Bay’s Transformers. Yes, the summer blockbuster was nothing more than a two hour propaganda piece for the GM corporation.

Increasingly, more advertisements are being masked as entertainment. You might ask why this is such a big deal, but I personally am growing tired of being sold something at every turn; and the fact that companies are actively trying to make it more difficult for us to even realize when we’re being sold something, makes it frightening. How far are companies willing to go to advertise their products to us consumers?

Sometimes, they don’t even try to make the commercial memorable in a good way, but just want the spot to be so insanely mind-numbing that you end up hating the commercial with a furious passion- but you still remember the product’s name, and that’s all that really matters, in the end.

But, maybe I’m making a bigger stink about all this than is necessary. All I want is for advertisers to stop telling me about the next piece of crap that is going to “complete me.” I honestly (and desperately) hope some people will wake up to this invasion of our homes, and more importantly, our minds; though, I expect that they may be too busy getting freaky with a bottle of shampoo to notice.

Interestingly, about the time I had written this, AMC’s amazing program Mad Men was running its first season, though I would remain ignorant of it until the following summer. For those unaware (shame on you!) of the show, its about the advertising business on Madison Avenue (hence the title Mad Men) in New York circa the 1960s, and one of its running themes is the battle between the old and the new ways, including advertising which actually used to (partially) tout a product's actual virtues. This idea stands in opposition to the new (at the time) ideas concerning marketing and the notion that products have to resonate with people on an emotional level, hence the advertising we have today which insists on connecting products with positive experiences, regardless of whether the product actually has anything to do with the subject presented in commercials. Just watch the denouement of the first season where Jon Hamm’s character, Don Draper, engages in a nostalgic rant about the Kodak Carousel, a slide projector which was originally going to be called the “wheel.” The superiority of the name Carousel, which invokes memories of ones’ childhood, is immediately apparent to that of the Kodak “Wheel.”

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

MSNBC Dishes Out White House Propaganda

I think it ought to be noted, considering my enormous disapproval of Fox News and their role as propaganda arm for the right. MSNBC is digging out a nice little niche for itself, as well, on the left. Sadly, I do not have video of the MSNBC crew and their "exclusive" White House granted coverage of the withdrawal of the last combat brigade from Iraq, despite them having gone on day in and day out about it.

As journalists, anytime someone offers you an exclusive anything, you ought to be skeptical. Doesn't mean you can't take the offer, but you shouldn't become the cheerleader for whatever tagline it is their promoting.

The truth is that we still have some 50,000 troops in Iraq, many who will be going out on combat missions with Iraqis. So how is this the end of combat operations? I'm confused.

Not really, however. As much as I hate to have to eat crow by saying this, I'm not at all pleased with the direction the Obama presidency has gone. His trumpeting of the "end of combat operations" in Iraq is false. Now this is something he pledged to do, but to say combat for Americans if over there is a lie, and one told, I believe, to try and boost his numbers given how low they are. The attempt does not look like it has worked, however.

Monday, September 13, 2010

More exidence fox lacks Credibility...Nothing new.

Sean Hannity edits, quite clearly, this video to make it sound as if the president is saying something that he is clearly not. This is not new, and I may make this a regular feature of this blog: chronicling the ways our media is taking a collective shit on the nation


The following is a post I wrote for my last blog "The Man Who Laughs" back in January of 2009, immediately in the wake of President Obama's inauguration. It expressed both my hopes and fears for the coming presidency, and, in general, my thoughts on what America is, and would become.

I'll post an update commenting on how my feelings have changed, now, a year and a half after the fact.

High On Hope

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

High on Hope

I'm far from the most patriotic American out there. Though I used to be fiercely patriotic, so much so that I'd often engage in prolonged shouting matches with anyone who questioned the motives of our "leaders," and the purpose of the War on Terror and in Iraq.

It wasn't a slow transition to where I stand now. When I first started college back in January of 06, I was still a proud patriot, willing to defend my country against any detractors. However, upon being faced with America's true history, as opposed to the white-washed, propagandized version served up in elementary and high-schools across the nation, I was forced to change. Note that I didn't choose to change, but was forced to beneath the weight of the evidence that this country was not, in fact, some shining city on a hill.

Keep in mind that I harbor no ill-will towards America, but I merely see it now as it truly is: another imperfect, secular nation, subject to the flaws of it's inhabitants and leaders. During this transition, my allegiance shifted drastically from being towards the symbols of this country such as the flag, our version of freedom and democracy, or "the office of the president," to being merely with the people of the nation and wanting whatever was best for them. Or, in short, I abandoned the American ideology in favor of supporting uncompromising truth, regardless of what side of the political aisle it may lay on, even if it lay on the fringes of political thought.

I do what I do, vote how I vote, and support the ideas I support, because I love the people who inhabit the American land, and not because I love the the land or the nebulous and ever-shifting American Idea. If doing what is right and good means abandoning the flag, then I'm prepared to do so.

Now, with that out of the way...I watched the inauguration of our newest President, Barack Obama, today. I must admit that I felt enormous pride swelling up inside me as he spoke the oath of office. I even got a tad choked up (but hid it as best I could, seeing as I was in public at the time). This doesn't mean racism is dead and defeated in this country, but without a doubt, the election of President Obama is a sign that we are moving in the right direction.

At the same time, I feel elated not just by hope of a future marked by racial equality, but by the hope that the future might be brighter than the past in many more ways. However, going even deeper into my heart, I tell myself not to get excited. Maybe it's just because I'm a pessimist, but then again, maybe my concerns are real.

Before progress can be made, so much must be undone before we even begin to gain any ground. Not only that, but what if President Obama disappoints? Many on the left have already begun scrutinizing and critiquing his decisions. Needless to say, so have those on the right. He says he intends to listen to the people and to run the most transparent and open government in American history. Will he? My hopes are high. But like a drug that lifts you out of a depression, it's not substantive. We need results, and until I see them, I won't be celebrating (at least not too much).

Let's not let this optimism go unfettered, so as not to become complacent stooges and baseless defenders of the office of the president, either Obama or some other future occupant.

In the beginning...

I'm sure I'm not the first person to use that phrase for something like this. No matter. I've made up my mind that I'm not going to use this to try and do anything unique or special. If it turns out that way, superb. If not, oh well.

I'm at a point in life when I fear for my future. I'm not in school this semester, which is probably the greatest upset to my life at the moment. The classroom is truly the one place I feel at home, and relaxed. This past summer has been a monumental disruption to the way my life was, and the way I'd hoped it would be. It began well enough, great, in fact. I had enrolled for several summer courses to speed along my graduation (four years in the making, at a community college). Plus, I'd landed a job, granted, nothing glamorous our especially pride-inducing. For me, however, it meant a lot.

Now, I'm jobless (and, naturally, broke), not in school, and struggling with my health again. The midpoint of summer came with the revelation that i may have entered into chronic rejection. Not a death sentence- yet. I may still, and hopefully do, have several years before it progresses to the point of death. But, it saddens me that I'm now spending my days sitting on my ass, playing World of Warcraft, struggling to do any writing (it's vastly discouraging knowing that were I to do any writing, I'd more than likely not receive any money for it).

I feel useless, and like a great burden to my family, and most of all my girlfriend. She doubts how smart she is (though she's smarter than she thinks), but even if she were right, at least she has the dignity of knowing she is working. I feel as if I'm under constant judgment, maybe it exists online in my mind, but I feel it, nonetheless. I fear that even if I do begin writing and being published, I will still be looked down upon.

I'm tired of my life. I may have only a few years left (I'm nearly two years out from a bi-lateral lung transplant). I'm overly medicated. Aside from the medications I have to take to sustain my immuno-suppression, I'm on a pill for depression, social anxiety, and one to help me sleep (zolpidem); oh! And now also oxycodone for arthritis pain (I can't take ibuprofen or naproxen because of my transplant).

I've created this because of the advice of a friend and former teacher, who suggested I blog so as to provide a reference point for prospective publishers who may want to see an example of my writing.

I hope that this represents a shift in the direction of my life. Even if I don't get published, maybe it will at least be a welcome catharsis.

I intend to use this as a means to present political opinions, maybe news stories that have no other means of being published, book reviews, film reviews, television reviews (of the few TV shows I actually partake of). And anything else I may want to spout off about.