Apologies to The Doors, but I’ve always loved that line. And now, finally, a time to use it.
I have accepted a new job and, as part of the bargain struck, I must relinquish my regular freelance gigs. So you shall see no more of me around these parts — though I might pop by the comments occasionally. Mr. Adesnik will soldier on without me, so make sure to continue stopping by.
The various permutations of this blog have made it an interesting couple of years. I wish I had some sort of grand thesis about what blogging is or what it means or how it has changed the world (or even just my world) but I don’t know that I do. It has fundamentally changed how I consume the news, that’s for sure: Google Reader has replaced newspapers and cable TV as my aggregation method of choice.
I do wonder what the future holds for blogs and the media in general. Nothing good, I’m sure. Or maybe a bright new future of hyperlocals surrounded by three or four national papers strong enough to charge for content and advertisements. I’m not a fortune teller. What do I know?
I just wanted to give you guys the heads up and say thanks to my dozens of loyal readers (thousands, if we’re being honest; dozens has always struck me as a funnier quantification, though). Hopefully you’ve gotten something out of this little space. I know I have, and I’m sad to give it up. C’est la vie. It’s been fun.
It’s a pretty interesting back and forth. Kevin Carey stops being polite and starts getting real:
The problem is that your distaste for faddism and naiveté can be overwhelming–you see these sins in everyone you happen to disagree with about anything.
For example (there are many), the book concludes: “Reformers imagine that is easy to create a successful school. It is not.” This is complete nonsense. Nobody thinks it’s easy to create a successful school, particularly when at-risk children are involved. I have heard dozens of reformers go on about this subject over the years. They’re obsessed with the difficulty of building good schools, to the point, frankly, of being pretty hard to shut up about it.
Throughout the book, you accuse those you newly disagree with of believing in, variously, silver bullets, magic feathers, panaceas, quick fixes, and miracle cures. Can we please retire the insulting declaration that “there are no silver bullets”? You may have believed in them once, but that doesn’t mean everyone else made the same mistake.
Burn! That is some #realkeeping. To be fair, I believed in them once as well (and still do, to a certain extent — there is certainly a place for standardized testing and teacher accountability in education reform, perhaps even a preeminent one). Anyway, you should check out the whole symposium. It’s interesting.
When did Baltimore turn from a haven for drug dealers into a haven for hipsters on food stamps?
The two friends weren’t tabulating the cash in their wallets but what remained of the monthly allotment on their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program debit cards, the official new term for what are still known colloquially as food stamps.
Magida, a 30-year-old art school graduate, had been installing museum exhibits for a living until the recession caused arts funding — and her usual gigs — to dry up. She applied for food stamps last summer, and since then she’s used her $150 in monthly benefits for things like fresh produce, raw honey and fresh-squeezed juices from markets near her house in the neighborhood of Hampden, and soy meat alternatives and gourmet ice cream from a Whole Foods a few miles away.
Every time I read a story like this I mutter “hipsters!” under my breath and curl my lips into a snarl a la Seinfeld reacting to Newman. Is this really what we want our tax money going to subsidize? Out of work “artists” whose funding dried up when the economy went south? I’m all for unemployment benefits (even if I have eschewed them during my own recent leave of absence from the work force), but there’s a point at which things get ridiculous.
I don’t want to defend lousy schools and bad teachers, and won’t do that. But the idea that even the best teachers and the most brilliantly run schools can educate kids who come from badly broken families and badly screwed up cultures is grossly unfair to teachers and educators.
I can’t disagree too much with that: People from broken homes and homes that don’t value education are likely to not care too much about their schooling, fail tests, not go on to college, etc. Tackling these root causes are incredibly tricky, however, because we’re recalcitrant to even discuss them. It’s unfair to say “certain cultures” don’t value education. Which cultures? Why are you painting with such a broad brush? Why are you tarnishing the hardworking few? Et cetera, ad nauseam.
Still, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for teachers to be able to impart basic literacy and mathematical understanding in their students. It’s unreasonable to think that even the greatest teacher could guide everyone to a 5 on a battery of Advanced Placement tests; it’s not unreasonable to think that every high school could get their students reading at a high school level and able to do basic calculus and geometry. And I don’t think it’s too much to weed out poorly performing teachers or those who are guilty of gross misconduct. There’s a balance to be struck, for sure, but that balance will be harder to achieve as long as unions are going to the mat and dragging out arbitration proceedings for years while students get the shaft.
I’m glad I never wrote anything about how Rielle Hunter was being a stand-up gal by saying nothing during the recent Edwards debacle. Because, hey, look: She’s talking to GQ! And doing a photo shoot for GQ wearing a shirt and no pants! And holding her daughter in the next photo! Very dignified. A summary, from the Reliable Source:
Hunter says she’s still in love with “Johnny” and believes he loves her. That they went to bed together the day they met. That his marriage was “toxic,” that he feared “the wrath of Elizabeth.” That it was Young’s idea for the coverup in which he claimed paternity. That she had no idea how much money — now the subject of a grand jury inquiry — was being funneled to her from top campaign donors.
It really is too bad Edwards didn’t win the Democratic nomination or sucker Obama into giving him the VP slot. This would’ve been fun.
The first episode of HBO’s sequel to Band of Brothers, The Pacific, premiered last night. It was pretty solid, though a little slow in the offing. If it’s half as good as Band of Brothers — a miniseries I find to be the single most moving portrait of troops in combat ever — it’ll be pretty amazing. I am a little worried that unlike its predecessor The Pacific doesn’t start in boot camp and really introduce us to all of the men in the unit. One of the reasons that Band of Brothers was so successful is that we really grew to know and love the guys we were following around, and we grew to know and love them because we saw them come together at basic and then travel across Europe. Joining the Marines as they’re on the seas to Guadalcanal skips some of that. We’ll see if it affects the series.
Back in World War II, we viewed the Japanese as ‘yellow, slant-eyed dogs’ that believed in different gods. They were out to kill us because our way of living was different. We, in turn, wanted to annihilate them because they were different. Does that sound familiar, by any chance, to what’s going on today?”
Hm. Now, I don’t think we can deny that there was a fair amount of “otherizing” of the Japanese during the Second World War. But I also think it’s insane to suggest that America “wanted to annihilate them because they were different.” America wanted to annihilate the Japanese because of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor and imperial aggression in the Pacific that drug us into World War Two. American troops wanted to annihilate the Japanese because of the atrocities they committed during the war — in the very first episode of The Pacific you see a trio of troops who have been mutilated by Japanese soldiers. Somebody made this point earlier in the week, but World War Two was a war in which Americans were allied with the Chinese and the Filipinos and fighting against German and Italian foes — nations that, aside from Great Britain and Ireland, provided the highest levels of immigration to this country in the preceding decades. Is there any real doubt that America wanted to annihilate the Nazis? What was the policy of unconditional surrender in both Europe and Japan if not a wish to annihilate the enemy? It had nothing to do with skin color.
And that’s leaving aside entirely the idea that we want to annihilate Muslims, which is equally insane. American military action in the current conflict has gone out of its way — even so far as putting American troops at risk — to avoid killing innocent Muslims. During his entire post-9/11 presidency George W. Bush went out of his way to say that Muslims in general weren’t the enemy. After 9/11 there were incredibly few hate crimes on Muslims in the United States. To say that the war on terror is a war designed to eliminate Muslims is something you’d expect to hear out of an al Qaeda press shop, not from one of the elder statesmen of American cinema.
Remember all those runaway Toyotas with unstoppable accelerators?
In the 24 cases where driver age was reported or readily inferred, the drivers included those of the ages 60, 61, 63, 66, 68, 71, 72, 72, 77, 79, 83, 85, 89—and I’m leaving out the son whose age wasn’t identified, but whose 94-year-old father died as a passenger.
These “electronic defects” apparently discriminate against the elderly, just as the sudden acceleration of Audis and GM autos did before them.
This reminds me of the South Park episode in which old people cause so many accidents the city tries to take their licenses away only to be invaded Red Dawn-style by the AARP. Fantastic stuff. Long story short: Old people behind the wheel are a menace but they will never admit this. Instead they will blame technology for failing them.
One wonders just how The Paul Greengrass Experience can be improved upon. For the last half-decade — from United 93 through The Bourne Ultimatum/Supremacy– Greengrass has developed a very specific aesthetic: super shaky cam, like Blair Witch on ‘roids. And, to his credit, it occasionally works. The opening sequence of Green Zone, for example, perfectly captures the insanity of shock and awe from the perspective of Iraqis dealing with American ordinance, one would assume: Head-snapping explosions; chaotic action from all corners; no real sense of continuity. Greengrass does a fine job of simulating chaos.
But why stop with rapidly twirling camera perspectives? Why not import The Paul Greengrass Experience 2.0 to theaters across the country? Instead of allowing the screen to simulate a flash-bang grenade, why not toss actual flash-bangs into packed houses? Instead of allowing the camera’s rapid movements to simulate the herky-jerky movements in the moment, why not have someone grab the audience’s heads and literally shake them silly? Motion sickness is all well and good: Why not instill some actual sickness? If Greengrass’s goal is to institute a sense of debilitating uncertainty in the audience why not go all the way with it?
Let’s not get hung up on questions of capability: If we can implement full, Avatar-style 3D, we can certainly implement The Paul Greengrass Experience in its entirety, or at least a close simulacrum of its entirety. Vomiting audience members notwithstanding, something would certainly be gained.
You’ll notice I’ve said nothing about the substance of Green Zone, having instead limited myself to discussing its absurd aesthetics. In part, it’s because the meat of the movie is even more absurd than its terrible aesthetic sense. This picture is, as Kyle Smith has said, little more than a slander upon the United States. Matt Damon plays a soldier who embrace his inner-Jason Bourne and goes rogue, attempting to expose the vicious lies of the Department of Defense and figure out just why he has been told to find nonexistent caches of WMD. The movie — during which my audience cheered an American being gunned down by a member of the Republican Guard and booed when a noble Republican Guard general was killed — is as pure an example of anti-American sentiment as you will find. I was actually a little bit surprised that an American studio paid for this film’s production as opposed to a Iranian one.
I do wonder what audiences will make of the picture when they have a chance to sit down and actually think about it. Will they buy into the absurd notion that American agents simply created WMD intelligence out of thin air — not that the WMD intel was wrong, mind you, but that it was simply fabricated to justify an unjust invasion? Will they sympathize with the Iraqi generals who spent most of their days brutalizing the Iraqi population? Will they be happy cheering for the death of American soldiers at the hand of the Republican Guard?
I’m honestly not sure. We shall see.
So, someone has created a remix of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” video using clips from Battlestar Galactica, the Sci-Fi Channel TV series. It’s here. Give it a view. It’s quite good. But, ultimately, what’s the point?
Leaving aside the questions of copyright and the rest: Seriously…what’s the point? Does this add anything to the culture? I won’t dispute that there’s some technical prowess in creating this mashup. But so what? What does it add to our understanding of the world, or our grasp of the problems that surround us? Anything? Nothing? Is it just “there” for us to have a chuckle with and move on? Is this the future of our entertainment?
And what if someone makes a second-level remix? What if, instead of using BSG clips, someone shoots they and their hipster friends running around Brooklyn or San Fran in an identical manner, then synching those clips they shot with “Sabotage”? Will that make it more original? Give us an even deeper understanding of what it means to be a hipster completely devoid of originality in today’s society? Will that make it more worthwhile?
These are honest questions. I’m honestly trying to understand what creativity is in an era when the creative class feels free to rip off everything that came before it and pass off previous generations’ creativity as their own. If someone can explain it to me, I’d be happy to listen.
A recent post over at the Fan House asked if the Davis Cup — tennis’s annual tournament that stretches on for nine months out of the year and pits teams of players grouped by nations against each other — is in trouble:
The reasons [the top players in the world] gave [for not playing] were injury, poor schedule-fit, fast-approaching old age, a need to focus on individual needs. Here’s the truth:
This was a boycott. The International Tennis Federation, which oversees the Davis Cup, is in a feud with the top players, and it’s not going to end well for the ITF.
The Davis Cup doesn’t fit anymore. The players have a hard enough time balancing the stress on their bodies with the unrelenting modern-day demands of the tour. To add four weeks of Davis Cup on varying surfaces in all parts of the world at the worst possible times throughout the year?
I don’t disagree that some changes need to be made to the Davis Cup — cut down on the number of rounds, perhaps; condense the tournament into a more tightly wrapped season — but it’s a shame that the Davis Cup has fallen in honor so much in recent years. It’s one of the most entertaining events in sport, the only time tennis fans really let loose and turn the sport into a raucous event. The format is its greatest strength: Every match takes place on the home turf of one of the nations involved. The solution the columnist offers — a world cup played at a host country — would eliminate the chief appeal of Davis Cup play. It’d be a shame to see the tournament continue to suffer due to player disinterest, but it’d be an even bigger shame of the International Tennis Federation to do serious damage to the format by styling a future tournament on soccer’s World Cup.
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