Sunday, April 24, 2005

Back in the US: Part I

From my writings upon first re-entering the US from Brasil two weeks ago.

Back in the US

So, one of the first things I encounter upon getting back home here in the US is “CNN Morning”, which perhaps would be better named as “Clusterfuck Morning” or “Circle Jerk Morning” or “Oh my God this isn’t even funny any more kill me now…. Morning”. Why this dismay and vitriol on my part? Because I entered the US and in the terminal was subject to some kind of important earth-shaking news about SMUCKER’S and how they had made some new confection or muffin or some shit with CRINKLES around the edges. To be fair, I think the reason they were talking about it is because someone sued Sfucker’s or Sfucker’s sued someone over the recipe or idea or the copyright of peanut butter & jelly or something, but c’mon – does it FUCKING MATTER?

Not that there’s no place for this type of “puff piece” news – not everything needs to be talking about Tom Delay’s being chased down like a wounded wolf by the other bloodthirsty wolves in his pack (PS: I’ve been out of the news loop for a little while, but when Rick “Santorum” Santorum is saying you oughta rethink and/or apologize and/or step down, and the Conservative “News” Network is running it matter-of-factly and not as “Democrats claim that” – well, the pack’s closing in on you, and you’re losing a lot of blood). To be precise: the time for this kind of puff news is when YOU’RE 5 and you’re WATCHING SESAME STREET. Or in the present in some alternate universe when there’s just NOTHING ELSE TO REPORT ON (sort of like the day some years ago when the front page of the Detroit News was something like “Upstart Canton tries to Upstage Plymouth” – about my quasi-hometown Canton, MI which was/is trying to buy culture from the much older Plymouth – i.e. buy off the Plymouth Symphony Orchestra and the Plymouth Players with new facilities in Canton providing they become the CSO and the Canton Players; I think they’re overcompensating for having been the home of the Cow Chip festival some years back, raising the horrifying – to my sister – reality that there was, at a time in living memory, a Queen of the Cow Chip Festival). Some universe where there’s universal world peace, and you’re snowed in by a blizzard in the middle of nowhere.

I just came back from Brasil, which has its share of superficial news, but the time and place for “is the crinkly crust trademarked” is the show with a woman who looks like Joan Rivers only still made of flesh instead of space-age synthetic materials, and her parrot puppet as a sidekick – it’s sort of like Sesame Street meets Oprah meets the Today Show.

Ok, obviously CNN is trying to compete with the Today Show. Then, you know, just don’t call it news, ok? Or “American.” They can keep “Morning.” (“Welcome to the Cable News Network’s American Morning!!!!”)

Walking into one of the airport news kiosks, I was also BARRAGED with Brad Pitt making out with some other mega-star, and bunches of “IT’S TRUE!” headlines. And some stuff about Benicio del Toro’s elevator antics, Morgan Freeman’s taste in Cigars, Britney, Jessica, and Reese’s marriages/babies/whatever (nothing screams “important and pertinent news story” like a cover with 3 bleached blond starlets), and US News & World Report leading with Charles & Camilla. And Time had something on the cover that was “TIME’S 100 MOST” something something. It didn’t say something something, it’s just that whatever there actually was 100 of, the print was too small to see from a ways off. Apparently “100” and “Most” were the, well, most important part of the story. I took pass on finding out what (so hopefully it wasn’t “100 MOST brilliant and important news stories including successful new cures to cancer”).

Now, Brasil has its fair share of star news as well – they are probably more invasive and have at least as much star stuff as anywhere else – but one thing that made sense to me about their kiosks: The ACTUAL news was displayed as or more prominently as the “news”. You could find the Estado de Minas, Estado de São Paulo, Folha de São Paulo and, I don’t know, Hoje em Dia or something in the front, in easy view. Whereas here, I had to cross to behind the check-out counter to see any broadsheets whatsoever. It would be vastly exaggerating to call it the “Actual News Ghetto,” but when has hyperbole ever stopped me – let’s just call it the Actual News Ghetto.

I am very glad to be back where: there’s less smoking, my family is, my girlfriend is, my other friends are (including the soon to be married Mrs. Noroon “Milk” Mollon), my school and office is, my wonderful, much-weaker large-mug coffee is, etc. But the news thing: dude. Seriously. Not cool.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Dirty, Dirty Minds

That's right. All of you who were teens before 1995.

Oh, sure, my generation may watch record porn, but apparently we're in the midst of the lowest abortion, pregancy, and birth rates in decades, and the majority of young teens are still virgins, and the size of this majority has been estimated to have been increasing since 2002. We may watch record amounts of porn, and play insanely-violent videogames, but apparently we're not all that bad, after all.

Not the MOST groundbreaking thing to return to the blog with, but ehh. The J-Family has had a lot of things come up in recent weeks, so blogging has stayed in the backseat it stepped into in Brasil a little bit back.

Incidentally, conservatives have often cried and decried about the declining birthrates, worrying about our cultures literally dieing out (or being outbred by immigrants and hence leading to the decline of our great Western Civilization into chaotic rule by the modern-day Visigoths of Mexico, led perhaps by the stereotypical Mexican housekeeper). Hey, conservatives, question: when IS it appropriate for birth rates to decline? Never? So do we have infinite resources lying around somewhere I haven't heard about, or will God's provenance save us? Or do we just have to wait until the Latinagoths die out first?

Sigh. I would link to stuff about the birthrate claptrap, but I couldn't find anything easily. I know Pat Buchanan spouted some of this stuff years ago. That's all I got right now.

Next time: Brief diary entry from my re-entry into the US.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Low Blow?

Oh, something else occurred to me: has anyone else heard that the Pope is refusing further intensive medical care? That's what it says here, and the linked NYT article says "The pope, who decided not to be readmitted to the hospital, was visited in his apartment at the Vatican..." Now, there could be any number of caveats, mistaken details, or lost nuance here, but didn't the Pope say recently that it is a Catholic's responsibility to all they can to prolong life? Ah, he did, but apparently to "prolong life futilely" is not required. What's interesting is that among the "experts" in this USA Today article, some draw a distinction the other way 'round: the Pope isn't near- or partially-brain dead, so a feeding tube is appropriate; Ms. Schiavo had no higher cognitive functions (this was not among substantial debate among mainstream medical doctors), so prolonging her life was "futile" in the sense that all parts of the brain that were Terri were already dead, and her death was caused by this brain damage suffered as a result of her heart attack. Of course, other ethicists said that there is no reason to let the partially-brain-dead die and that it was unethical for Terri since she could have lived years longer (whereas the Pope, clearly, is near complete bodily shut-down, a different case in this regard). It's an interesting argument. Not one that I want to say much more on right now, though.

Relatedly, Christopher Hitchens, dumbass hack losing-talent-left-and-Right journalist, writing at Slate, has what almost approaches an argument I agree with about the Pope and his, er, unfortunate legacy here, but I warn you: this is not for the weak of heart, or those in grieving for the Pope as it takes him strongly to task. I believe Mr. Hitchens has some correct points, and in this case his usual bilious vitriol seems almost justified in my mind, but many believe it is inappropriate to bring up anything negative about a person nearly or recently deceased. I have some sympathy for this stance, though I feel more that it was the person's responsibility to deal with the negatives in their life, and did they not, in a just evaluation and meditation of their life and legacy, there's not responsibility to whitewash or avoid the bad delicately. But I also don't believe in tormenting those that loved the person, so, like I say, don't read this for some time if you are dearly suffering from the Pope's decline and seemingly imminent death. (What's truly needed in such cases, perhaps, is a Speaker for the Dead, one who tells the truth of a person's life, the whole truth -- what they did, what they failed at, what they attempted, what they accomplished, and who they were in their own eyes -- though this would likely not fly in Vatican City.)

Read also about the porn that is modern news here by movie hipster and J sardonic (tv/movie) culture critic, Lizz Dana Penn Stevens.

Lastly, customarily "news-lite" newspaper USA Today apparently has been giving well-done Iraq coverage (and apparently has a bonzo anonymous source policy, a policy that helps to fight the tendency, in Slate's Jack Shafer's words, " degrade the information content of news stories in which they're quoted. Most anonymice spin and leak selectively for political, personal, or institutional gain, and all the "balancing quotations" from other sources can never erase their taint...")

Ok, ok, now on to ants (albeit the southern cousins of those on the linked webpage). Tchau.

Urge to blog rising.... rising...

Hey all. Quick quick stuff before I go (procrastinate) on identifying ants.

The judiciary, part of one of those pesky "separate-but-equal" branches of government, is increasingly under attack as a whole from politicians. I'm going to go out on a limb and characterize them mainly as conservative politicians, and pundits, in the mold of a horrible new book about how the Supreme Court is ruining the US (link to a great discussion of the book by Slate's Dahlia Lithwick). This new book is, take note, written by a conservative, published by the ultra-conservative publishing house Regnery (who have in the past engaged in some, er, questionable tactics to bolster their "best selling" status, as outlined by well-reasoned-critic of the Right-but-flaming-and-unreasonable-Nader-hater Eric Alterman). A conservative, complaining about the Right-leaning Right-Chief-Justiced Rehnquist Supreme Court. Sigh.

Another good piece on the judiciary's attack (though with, in my opinion, mostly ass-wrong proposals for remedies) is here by Jeffrey Rosen, in the Washington Post. He makes good points about the personal attacks on the Supreme Court (though he eagerly remains "nonpartisan" by talking about attacks on the judiciary's independence by the Right AND Left, while being able to give specific examples ONLY of the Right and Bush Administration's attacks on judish. independence -- hackery, or did I misread it? You tell me!) and suggests the remedy is to go back to the good ol' days of judicial opaqueness -- that is, judges should stop making sweeping decisions, claiming the sole right to interpret the Constitution (a polemical opinion, to be sure), stop writing autobiographies (even after they retire), etc. This is clearly claptrap, because it mistakes the idea that not knowing someone's predispositions, proclivities, politics, etc. means they don't have any: He’s apparently asserting that [one] can’t possibly be biased as long as it’s absolutely unclear [to others] what [one] thinks. (From an earlier J post on media "impartiality".) If we know nothing about judges, if they're absolutely mysterious, does that automatically make them wiser and more impartial? Of COURSE not. (J fave Lithwick takes this argument on here in Slate in an analysis that I mostly, though not quite, completely agree with.) So in the end, Rosen comes out with the pre-post-modernism conservative opinion, that being that there are absolutes or near-absolutes (i.e. judicial objectivity), and analysis under a microscope undermines these absolutes (which to me implies they aren't so absolute, but I think the retort is usually that the analysis wrongly gives the impression that they're not absolute, and just unnecessarily confuse people). Judges in a, I don't know, "Ebony Tower" are no more truly objective arbiters of reality than their counterparts in the Ivory Tower of academia (uncoincidentally, another place under siege by conseratives -- sorry this isn't the best article on it but the only one I can find on short notice -- ok, another "ok" one here. I'll come back to this topic some other time -- working title, "The only kind of relativism Conservatives Like").

So get thinking about this. Do we really want ("some little") Judiciary as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Executive and Legislative Branches?

(The answer is: No.)