Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing

It was interesting seeing “The Hunger Games, Catching Fire” movie in close proximity to the second part of The Hobbit trilogy “Desolation of Smaug”.  Both big movies forged on a large, epic scale, one imbued with emotion and feeling and 1 largely devoid of both.  Director Peter Jackson has accomplished something not uncommon in modern film he has sacrificed one of the most beloved books in the world in a funeral pyre of bombastic special effects.  He has sucked all the heart and soul out of The Hobbit and left us with a noisy, gasbag of a movie, and a long one at that!
Jackson has given us, in a mind numbing 5 hours of screen time, virtually no character development, none of the dwarf back-story that is such a part of Tolkien’s great book.  Yes the effects are “state of the art” and the action is exciting but ultimately you end up not really caring very much.  In his determination to turn The Hobbit into the grand film spectacle of The Lord of the Rings Jackson has oddly stripped away all the charm and heart that has made the book so beloved.

While The Hunger Games does not have the literary pedigree of The Hobbit the film has something even more wonderful; Jennifer Lawrence.  Lawrence’s performance is one for the ages; her laser beam focus on heroine Katniss Everdeen and her complex moral dilemmas never ever falter.  She brings a gravitas to Katniss that imbues the relatively hackneyed political story with a tremendous cinematic and moral weight.  Katniss is one of the first non-ironic heroic characters I have seen in film in a while and it was very refreshing.  The filmmakers’ of the 2 Hunger Games movies made sure that the action and special effects in the film supported the story.  Sadly the great director Peter Jackson made sure that The Hobbit, a far more original and beloved tale was completely lost in a flood of special effects and action.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I am mad as hell and I can't take it anymore!

We have surveyed the stifling effects of crony capitalism on these pages many times.  Once you see it, you see it everywhere as you observe the immense flow of money that allows about 1% to 2% of our citizen’s to essentially control our government thru the union of big business and big government.  This is done thru corporate lobbying and funding of political campaigns but I often forget a very important part of what is a deadly and unholy trinity; the media. 

The media is a profound beneficiary of all this money in that they receive millions of political advertising dollars.  Thus the media becomes part of this massive machine that obfuscates our very real issues with biased reporting, both left and right.  This reporting is designed to enflame feelings about one side or the other but not deliver any meaningful dialogue of change.  The reporting is shallow and obviously biased; CNN highlights the evil and obstructionist Republican Party while FOX News hammers the incompetence of the Obama administration.  The reporting is not designed to uncover any truths or help in seeking any solutions but keep our current 2 party system firmly in place and keep the all important money flowing.

Our current 2 party system with its allegiance to its corporate sponsors and their money and supported by a fraudulent media is killing our country.  In the twilight of the Bush presidency the anger was in the liberal community, now as we enter the death gasps of the Obama years all the anger is in the right wing (and liberals have completely forgotten how much they hated George W.).  But this anger yields nothing, as our country simple careens from one corrupt and debased party and candidate to another and nothing changes.  It leaves a country where the vast majority of its citizens remain completely unrepresented by anyone in Washington. 

Those (perhaps) well meaning folks who have their anger stoked by the likes of Rachel Maddow, Rush Limbaugh, Steven Colbert, Bill O’Reilly and many others truly become a “sound and fury signifying nothing.”   The blind anger stoked by the media keeps folks focused and “bought in” to the current system thru a not so subtle system of blame.  These folks don’t see the complete dishonesty and corruption that exists on all sides and that their anger should be directed at everyone in power and then it should foster looking for solutions completely outside our current system.  Being pissed off becomes a suckers game and the powers that be laugh all the way to the bank in their limousines.       

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Twerp Twerks

WOW, I am so glad with Miley Cyrus is breaking out of the limiting (yet highly profitable) confines of her “good girl” Disney image to fully express herself as a woman; anal sex and drugs be dammed this poor girl needed to blossom .   Of course she does not owe her pubescent female fans anything; after all she only became a multi-millionaire playing the role of Hannah Montana.  Now she will (along with her idiot family) make millions more playing the slutty, drug amped vamp.  There is no artistic expression at work here; it is the blatant commercial manipulation of an idiot media and her even dumber fans.   

Moron father Billy Ray mewed on Twitter about “thanking God” the night of the VMA’s before revealing his admiration for her “courage in breaking out of the Disney star role.”  Well I am not sure if it’s courage or (more likely) an alcohol and drug fueled recklessness but at least the talent-challenged little twerp will keep the family coffers ringing, hey Hannah Montana fans, fuck you, take some Molly on me (after all Molly and Weed, Miley informs us, are only “happy drugs – social drugs”)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

I’m Going to Heaven Paying my Taxes!

You know those stupid little placards that show up all the time on Facebook?  Where some dimwit posts up some aphorism they feel is profound.  They typically have some questionable quote and a picture.  One recently came to my attention attributed to President Jimmy Carter, I am sure you have seen it:

If you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor, then STOP saying that you want a country based on Christian Values, Because you don’t….!!

This quote was not said by Jimmy Carter but apparently by American actor and comedian John Fugelsang and it brings up the interesting issue of taxation and morality.   Does Mr. Fugelsang really think my countries value system depending on my paying taxes so the government can redistribute my tax dollars to the poor?  Is government (any government) the only organization capable of helping the poor?  Might the poor be much better off if I paid less in taxes and gave the extra to local charities or to my church?  Are there not ample reasons to question the efficiency and effectiveness of American aid to the poor?

The “morality” of paying taxes (if there is any) is simple, the taxpayer follows the law and the Government has the burden to take as little as it needs and spend it prudently.   Of course the government has a role in aiding the poor as they are best suited to a broad based effort to alleviate poverty but my personal morality is not dependent on those efforts.  While I might like a government that reflects my values it is unlikely to happen, consequently my values are in my care, and it is the values of the citizens that determine the values of the county.

Having been a CPA for many years I am constantly shocked at doing tax returns for wealthy individuals who give virtually nothing to charity.   Conversely I see returns for folks of modest means that give substantial amounts to charity.  I would offer up to Mr. Fugelsang that this is where the nation’s adherence to Christian Values lives NOT in its proclivity to pay taxes and to have its wealth redistributed to government approved “charities.”    

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Living in the Black and White world

Our nation has been embroiled in an insipid “conversation” on race in America for several months now.  It started with the tragic killing of Travon Martin by George Zimmerman.  Liberal “news” organizations like CNN and MSNBC declared this a “race” case within hours of the shooting even though there was not a single scintilla of evidence (ever) that race had played any role in the event itself.  The “news” media repeatedly made an issue of Florida’s “stand your ground laws,” and continually evoked “racial profiling” while in the courtroom the “stand your ground” was irrelevant and even the prosecution never once brought up race as a motivating factor.  In short, the innocent verdict could not have surprised anyone with even the most cursitory reading of the case.  Yet CNN and MSNBC ran hours of biased, irrelevant and pernicious coverage of the case and insisted that American needed to have a “conversation” on race.

On the very real issue of race in America you tend to get a fairly one sided view from both the left and the right.  I think the folks from my liberal leaning generation still like to see themselves on the front lines of a battle that is largely past.  The kind of systemic racism that was fought in the 1950’s and 1960’s by the civil rights movement is principally over.  When a discussion of “race” in America centers around one of the most powerful women in the world being denied the opportunity to look at a $39K handbag (?!?) in a store then I think we are in a very different place then we were in 1964 (especially when the store was not even in America!).  The right, as I have discussed before, sees us (ludicrously) in some weird “post-racial” world.    Yet we have a powerful liberal and a civil rights establishment with a strong and simple agenda that gets them in a spotlight that they are loath to relinquish.

But since they are in the spotlight what should they be saying?  Many thousands of hours were spent on George Zimmerman, does the rate of murder among the African-American community rate the same amount of “conversation?”  Does there not need to be a “conversation” among the civil rights leadership about pervasive rap music that routinely glorifies brutal violence and misogyny?  Almost 70% of black children are born to single mothers, does the prevalence of broken and single family homes and absence fathers in the African American community deserve “conversation?”

What is “moral leadership” anyway, isn’t it saying the hard things, the things no one wants to hear, after all it is easy to blame everything on some outside force like the government and a lot harder (for all of us) to look inward.  In 1961 Martin Luther King said in a sermon:  "Do you know that Negroes are 10 percent of the population of St. Louis and are responsible for 58% of its crimes? We've got to face that. And we've got to do something about our moral standards," Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told a congregation in 1961. "We know that there are many things wrong in the white world, but there are many things wrong in the black world, too. We can't keep on blaming the white man. There are things we must do for ourselves."  Four years later Daniel Patrick Moynihan published his prescient and groundbreaking Department of Labor report; “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.”  Moynihan’s report sparked a resounding cry of outrage that echoed throughout Washington and the civil rights movement in reaction to the warning that the “ghetto” family was in disarray.  The fact that the above quote from Dr. King and Mr. Moynihan’s 1965 report seems so relevant today is tragic.  It means that decades of well meaning government programs have simply not moved the ball forward in the way they should have.

Are there race issues on America?  Absolutely, for one thing American public education needs to be strengthened for all people; a strong public education is literally the backbone of our democracy.  But the fact is that a lot of what ails the African American community cannot be solved by Government fiat no matter how hard one might wish it to be.  As Dr. King implied back in 1961 we need a parallel track of civic action by all Americans for all Americans as well as private soul-searching within the black community. 


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

As Bo Diddley said, “You Can’t Judge a Book…....”

Why not try actually reading the new Rolling Stone cover story on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev instead of just looking at the cover (YES I know initially that is all Rolling Stone released).  The article is another excellent example of Rolling Stone journalism and anyone interested in the perplexing case will fine if quite interesting. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Preserving National Treasures

Recently I have seen a few what we will call “aging artists and performers”, i.e. folks I have been listening to for over 40 years, but the most moving was Mavis Staples this past Thursday in North Truro at the Payomet Arts Center with the Rick Holmstrom Band.   Ms. Staples had just the day before turned 73 years old.  She has had her current band, the great Rick Holmstrom band and her backup singers for over 5 years and there is a very warm family feel within the group and they watch over Mavis with great love and care.  Mavis is currently having some knee problems that made her a bit unsteady on her feet.  Mr. Holmstrom is closest to Mavis on stage and helped her several times to sit on the stool that was onstage, on one memorable moment kept playing his guitar while steadying her with his arm.
For some reason these days I often think of the passing of B.B. King.  I feel very strongly that with his passing an entire swath of American music and experience will go with him, the very same thing is true of Ms. Staples.   Folks like Mavis and B.B. represent a deep and direct connection with the African American culture that fostered so much of the music we love.  Folks like Ms. Staples embody a vast treasure trove of American music and experience that cannot be duplicated.  There are lots of talented young people who will and do carry on the traditions of blues, gospel and soul music, but it cannot be the same.  When we lose folks such as Mavis Staples or B.B. King (you can fill in other names as well) a direct bond is broken with the past that cannot be undone.

This all struck me the other night as I watched Mavis’s band watch over her so lovingly and I thought these folks are doing us a great service.  They are the caretakers of one of our National Treasures, Mavis Staples and they are doing such a wonderful job.