17 Mar 2013

CPAC and SXSW: an American Stew

It was spring break all over America. It was SXSW in Austin. It was CPAC time in Washington, D.C.

While I was listening in Austin to Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, CPAC attendees were complaining about life as beleaguered white people. Oh the prejudice they most overcome, and they will one day.

The cultures of SXSW and CPAC are so radically different that it’s a stretch to remember they are taking place in the same country or even on the same planet.

10 Mar 2013

Politics, Coonskin Caps, and the Stories That We Are

How was it that as a boy of four or five I came to wear a Davy Crockett coonskin cap or a Wyatt Earp outfit complete with a red and gold vest, striped pants and boots? I suppose it was at least precociously post-modern of me to be carrying a candy-filled plastic walking stick instead of a gun.

One answer, of course, is 1950s television. Another is the profound importance of our cultural narratives to the way we think and act, to the personae we take on, to the choices we make.

03 Mar 2013

Voting Rights, Democracy, and the “Dignity of Man”

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on a challenge to the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The conservative justices lobbed hostile and for the most part uninformed questions at defenders of the historic legislation. It’s obvious that those judges couldn’t give a fig about the dignity of man or the destiny of democracy.

17 Feb 2013

Life Is a Carnival

“Life is a carnival,” sang The Band, and I imagine the passengers stranded in the Gulf of Mexico aboard the cruise ship Splendor wished it weren’t so true. Or maybe truer. They couldn’t, despite the promise of the song, walk on water. Still, they were lucky. The meteor hit Siberia and not the Splendor, after all.

This was the week that Marco Rubio America added a water-bottle prop to the GOP’s Dickensian message to America: “Stay thirsty, my friends.” It was the week another GOPer, Ted “Carnival” Cruz of Texas channeled Joseph McCarthy in his innuendo-laden attacks on poor old Chuck Hagel.

10 Feb 2013

Houses of Cards

House of Cards, the Netflix original series, just might be the best of a genre that ought to be called the “political sleezie.” Wildly entertaining, it stars Kevin Spacey as Congressman Frank Underwood and Robin Wright as his wife Claire. Majority Whip Underwood is so underhanded it makes you feel

03 Feb 2013

Revisionairies and Tooth Fairies

{!hitembed ID=”hitembed_1″ width=”350″ height=”200″ align=”right” !} PBS last week aired “The Revisionaries,” a remarkable documentary about the hard-right, creationist Christian takeover of the Texas state school board and its impact on the nation’s school textbooks. Texas’ student population is so large that publishers often push the state’s choices on the

20 Jan 2013

Us Versus the Volcano

I wish we could require all Americans – at least all decision-makers – to read Joseph Stiglitz’s new essay in the New York Times. Inequality is strangling us economically, politically, socially, he writes.

13 Jan 2013

The Perils of Media Parallax

It is by now a commonplace to note that the world as presented to us by various media is not the world of flesh, blood, earth, fire, water and air. Media reality is altered, making the use of the term “media parallax” fitting as it comes from the Greek parallaxis, meaning “alteration.”

The parallax effect can be used to get a more accurate picture of reality. Look at an object with one eye closed. Then look again with the other eye closed. Neither mono-view gives an accurate representation. Humans have two eyes and use parallax for greater depth perception and a more accurate view of the world.

06 Jan 2013

On the Dangers of Hollow Ways

It’s a new year, bless us, a time to think about doing things differently. Resolutions and all that.

I was thinking about this when I came across a reference by writer Jim Harrison to Britain’s “hollow ways.” Many hollow ways are old Roman cart paths that are deeply eroded. Some are 20 feet deep and full of impenetrable thickets and brambles. That seems like a pretty good metaphor for old ways of thinking and doing.

23 Dec 2012

Ho Ho Ho

I’ve been listening to a radio station that’s playing a good number of the pop and rock versions of Christmas carols, the kind that were all the rage on the AM dial in late ‘50s and early ‘60s. There is something innocent about these Cold War-era songs. Bing Crosby’s hit, “Do You Hear What I Hear,” was written in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis. At Christmas, we could carol a crisis away.

Of course, when not listening to these songs recently I’m covered in contemporary tales of armed schoolhouses and political cliffs of different kinds.