Friday, May 16, 2008

More Good Folkin' Music

Jealous of the Colbertian Tip of the Hat that M and PW recently earned for introducing Harrogate to Feist, I am compelled to offer a musical libation of my own.

Below is a live clip of John Martyn, a Scottish singer-songwriter from the '70s, singing "May You Never." Many know this song by way of Clapton, who covered it on his Slowhand album. I prefer Martyn's version.

Martyn celebrated some mainstream success early in his career, but his contributions are often overlooked today. I highly recommend his 1973 effort, Solid Air.

On the Smoothness of Feist; or, a Colbertian Tip of the Hat to M and Paperweight

Ah, what can compare with the exchange of music among friends?

Take the people behind the scenes of this award-winning Blog. Long before Contributors were being consulted by Barack Obama (and perhaps even considered!!!)for his Vice-Presidential choice, their accomplishments as listeners of music had ascended to epic proportions.

The great Symbol for which is of course Oxymoron's Listening Room which, while now defunct, will never die in our collective imagination. And one day, we are sure, it will, Phoenix-like, re-emerge in all its glorious physical form.

On a personal level, the enormously-broadening influence Amy Reads and Roof Almighty have wielded on Harrogate's musical tastes have been alluded to before in this space, and are thoroughly documented in the private Discourses which Board Members have shared over the years. And that Supadiscomama's Musical Aesthetics have seeped into and enriched Harrogate's auditory core, should go without saying.

But each and every Contributor to The Rhetorical Situation has grown Harrogate's musical experience in new and exciting ways since he has met them. And recent events suggest this only stands to continue: only this week, megs provided Harrogate with the information he needs to get started on the Hooverphonic front.

But today's Colbertian Tip of the Hat goes to Paperweight and M, who lent him (among other things) Feist CD's last weekend, to which Harrogate has listened almost continually ever since. Verily, the sheer smoothness and joy emanating particularly from the album Reminder almost pisses Harrogate off, when he thinks about how long he went unaware of it.

So in case anyone else isn't in the loop on Feist, here's a nice rendition of "My Moon My Man."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Essentialism 101, Courtesy Jemele Hill: "The birthing process gives any mother the right to overreact, no matter how ridiculous."

So, here's the scene. Monday, one night removed from Mother's Day, Paul Pierce gives the hard foul to save a break-away dunk by Lebron. The two go barreling into the stands. Lebron's Mom isn't happy, she wants her pound of flesh from Pierce.

The Gatorade Kid, Kevin Garnett, tries to calm Ms. James down. He seems to have little success. She is pissed, that was her baby just got roughed up.

LeBron and Pierce emerge from the scrum. LeBron turns to her and says--You Can See His Lips Very Clearly, "Mom, sit your ass down!"

Meanwhile Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Ernie Johnson laugh it up.

You gotta see this, it's not even 1:00 minute long.

But check this shit out. Jemele Hill's article, published yesterday, tears LeBron up for cussing at his Momma.

The titular quote Harrogate provided above is pretty juicy. Here's another:
But even with so much on the line, and his manhood teetering because his mother was rushing to his rescue, LeBron should have maintained his composure.

Harrogate's thoughts? Well, first of all it was a helluva lot more interesting than most of what Harrogate has been watching during these playoffs. But more seriously, what we had here was a classic breach of the Imaginary Line between public and private. Maybe that is how he and his mother talk to one another in private all the time, but when it comes out in this particular Rhetorical Situation, people don't recognize what they are seeing. It is, to say the least, different.

And also, anyone who played sports as a child and even through high school, or even attended games in any capacity, is familiar with the spectacle of the Mother rushing to the defense of her beleaugred son who has just been roughed up. We've all seen it. And for his mother, he's still doing the same thing he has been doing for years and years--engaged in what is, in its essence, a kid's enterprise.

But now he's a man; more, he's a Commodity. Property of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Property of the NBA and of all the shoe and soft drink labels. And so, he has apologized on the Mike and Mike Show.

Rwanda and Why Women Should Rule the World

I promised I'd write about my experience reading Why Women Should Rule the World by Dee Dee Myers, but I never did. This won't be a comprehensive review, but I do want to talk briefly about one of Myers's arguments regarding women and peace processes and its particular relevance given a CNN article about women in Rwanda.

Myers talks about Rwanda and other war-torn countries and women's particular role in the peace process there. Women, she claims, are especially situated politically, given their complete lack of involvement in prior governments and their importance as heads of households (i.e. men maintain the title, but women make the decisions) to bridge factions and bring about true peace. I'm really interested in the idea of the domestic being the site of political development and women's leadership role in that area. CNN's piece about women in Rwanda supports both my hopes and Myers's argument, telling the story of a woman who forgave her husband and children's killer and befriended his wife. (The role of women is not only domestic, though, given Rwanda's cabinet, one-third of which are women, and Parliament, 48% of which are women, the highest rate in the world.)

I find incredible hope in a story like this one and, especially, in the numerous situations that Myers presents that are the same or similar.

In other news, I just started reading Three Cups of Tea. (It's the one by Greg Mortenson, the American man who started 50+ schools in Taliban strongholds and has single-handedly done more to combat terrorism than the entire "coalition" put together by the United States.) Not as well written as another in the same genre, Reading Lolita in Tehran, which I firmly believe every English professor should read every semester. But it tells a really great story. Mortenson was particularly committed to starting schools for girls in towns that had no schools at all. More at eleven.

Same Sex Marriage Ruling in California

The California State Supreme Court released a 4 -3 decision that overturned the state's ban against same-sex marriages. This decision expands the right to marriage for the basis of developing a family. According to The New York Times, the decision states:
"In contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation, and, more generally, that an individual's sexual orientation -- like a person's race or gender -- does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights."
Here is a link to a brief discussion of the reasoning if you desire more information on the case.

There are a few important points to note about this legal challenge in California. First, the state legislature attempted to accomplish same-sex marriages though their authority; however, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed those bills. In this case, "Judicial Activism" did not overturn the will of the people; a governor's veto did.

Second, Governor Arnie stated he would abide by the Court's decision:
I respect the Court’s decision and as Governor, I will uphold its ruling. Also, as I have said in the past, I will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling.
Third, and most important, the success today is by no means guaranteed to stand for very long. Same-sex rights activists will need to be out in full force in California this November since a constitutional initiative will be on the ballot. Voters will support or reject the following ballot: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." This is constitutional, not statutory, meaning if this amendment passes, the California Supreme Court cannot render a decision on it. According to Washington Monthly, the statutory ballot initiative in 2000-- the one the California Supreme Court struck down-- passed with 63% of the vote. Have the attitudes in California changed in the past 8 years?

Fourth, will this alter the presidential election by bringing out more conservatives in California? In 2004, the ruling in the Massachusetts same-sex marriage brought out conservative voters in a lot of states to support amendments that redefine marriage as being for one man, one women. Will this decision start the process over even though the facts of the case are much different?

Ethical Dilemma of the Day

From CNN: Teens are using social networking sites, such as You Tube and Facebook, to announce that they have been sexually assaulted. According the CNN report, the teens reach out through online technology because:
the Web offers what traditional counseling does not. It's a chance to communicate without having to face someone or fear their judgment. Some people are seeking legal advice and medical information, and many younger victims believe they can warn others about their accused attacker.There also are people like XXXXXX, whose case was dropped by the Orange County, Florida, state attorney's office, who feel slighted by the justice system.

This seems like a very good way for young teens to speak through a medium they trust on a subject that is very hard to discuss. It certainly provides more coverage and visibility to the topic and specific incidents. After seeing a broadcast others may speak out against what happened to them.

The downside to this, of course, seems to be that some of those involve may provide too much personal information about themselves or they may skirt the legal system and falsely accuse someone. There are repercussions if the were a false accusation though the public damage to the reputation of the person falsely accused may mean that that person may never clear his/her name. Words and images on the internet never seem to disappear.

The Authenticity Debate: NARAL v. Emily's List

Buried underneath the John Edwards' endorsement of Senator Obama, NARAL endorsed Senator Obama as well, mush to the dismay of many of the group's supporters. The commentators on NARAL's blog rejected and denounced the endorsement. A dozen representatives who endorse Clinton protested the endorsement as being "inappriopriate," "unnecessary," and a "betrayal."

Yet, the worst attack on NARAL's choice is from Emily's List, a pro-choice group that only supports women pro-choice candidates. (Please overlook the multiple forms irony in this.) In response to the NARAL endorsement, Ellen Malcolm, the president of Emily's List, stated:
I think it is tremendously disrespectful to Sen. Clinton - who held up the nomination of a FDA commissioner in order to force approval of Plan B and who spoke so eloquently during the Supreme Court nomination about the importance of protecting Roe vs. Wade - to not give her the courtesy to finish the final three weeks of the primary process. It certainly must be disconcerting for elected leaders who stand up for reproductive rights and expect the choice community will stand with them.

There are a few lessons to take from this. First, the this is another sign that the nomination process is all but a formality.

Second, the complaints against NARAL provide an example of how primaries concern authenticity and not necessarily endgame. Throughout the campaign there has been a repeated attempt to frame Senator as not being pro-choice or not being pro-choice "enough," followed with an argument that only Senator Clinton can speak for women and issues relating to women (read the comment sections from NARAL's blog). Senator Clinton becomes the only "authentic" choice for these issues and anything else will lead to a compromise on the issue as if no other candidate could speak for that audience or protect that interest, breaking the political synecdoche.

Finally, Malcolm's complaint against NARAL is that the timing of the endorsement is disrespectful to choose Senator Obama now and that this choice must be "disconcerting for elected leaders who stand up for reproductive rights." This only perpetuates the problem that only Senator Clinton and female representatives can speak for women or that Obama is not pro-choice enough. Malcolm's comments certainly show disrespect for those who support the cause but don't require the authenticity. As for the timing, if Obama cannot speak for this group then does it matter that this choice occurred now rather than three weeks later? It is not is anything magical will happen that will make Senator Obama more appealing to this group other than the elimination of Clinton from the process.

Further, nothing in the comments by Malcolm explains how the support of Clinton or the timing of the announcement will advance the cause of both Emily's List or NARAL. Shouldn't this be the focus, the issue, and not who works for the issue.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Divergent Premises Prevent Us From Agreeing On the Meaning on the Election

On a personal level, it has been very disheartening for Harrogate, this election season. To have diverged so broadly, and at times so angrily, from people one holds dear is not the end of the world, of course, as nobody wants to dwell in a social echo chamber. But when people on all sides share an awareness of high stakes, the divergences can be particularly painful and wearisome.

Harrogate realizes that his posts hitherto have been much less consistent than others on this Board, and to the Innocent Reader, much more difficult to translate into an actual position. After this hopefully once and for all clarifying post, and any discussion that it may yeild in thread, Harrogate will resume his long break from the anger and sadness that comes with contemplating this debacle.

All along it has felt to Harrogate, as it surely must have to numerous others, like it must feel to watch a sequence of seemingly unrelated events that you know are leading to a fatal automobile accident, but are powerless to alter in any way.

The Democrats stood the ruthlessly best chance of winning this time around by running a "mirror campaign." This would have first meant doing the easy work of showing that Bush is nothing unique, but merely reflective of the GOP write large. Again, very easy to do.

The mirror campaign of course needed to be supplemented by speaking the modest truth that the Democratic candidate offered something better on the economic, social, and foreign fronts. Period. There was no need to shoot for the rhetorical stars, as it were, to be a superstar, to stage faintings, to elicit poetry along the order of "rise, Hillary!" Indeed such flair, being the opposite of mirroring, is counterproductive as it draws attention away from what the GOP will continue to do should it retain power.

So with these premises, Harrogate was disgusted by Hillary and Barack's economic cornering of the Primary from its earliest stages. Two highly gravitational personalities. Very polarizing. Each poised to enter the General encumbered with vast unshakable baggage. But what was more frustrating to Harrogate was the extent to which individuals throughout the country bought into it all.

Early on it was not about endgame. It was about Identity politics plain and simple. Inane questions like what is more prevalent, racism or sexism, became foundational to the Primary. The Clintons, if you take the punditocracy at their word, are responsible for the racism and Islamophobia Barack struggles against. And Barack's supporters, by the same token, appear to have invented sexism and single-handedly caused half of the electorate to remember that they hated Hillary Clinton all along.

How sad it has come to pass. Since it is Obama who gets the nod, we replace the focus on endgame with academic and journalistic pontifications about race and Islamophobia.

Let it be received however it is going to be received. Harrogate has been convinced from the beginning, and is still convinced, that if what the Democrats were really interested in was actually winning the election, they would have nominated a candidate high-profile enough that people would take seriously, but low-profile enough that the mirror effect could have established.

For many, to be sure, "endgame" was never the issue. Many who have submerged themselves whole-hog into this primary apparently do not believe that a GOP win would, after all, be so bad. What apparently was wanted, if you combine both sides of this polarized contingent, was an "historic" race with new faces and (SEEMINGLY) new ideas. Yea, as though either Soaring Rhetoric or Efficient Pragmatism were new to the American enterprise.

Well, what was wanted, was gotten. Now, nobody has any right to complain or act surprised at the vitriol that Obama will face at every turn, from now through November.

In the face of this, if McCain loses it will be a testament to the public's surprising awareness of the sheer horribleness of the National Republican Party. Which Harrogate does not discount. But 'tis a sad depository for our hopes.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fruits from a Brief Tour of NBA Message Boards

God, the NBA Playoffs last a long time.

A couple of days ago Harrogate was watching the opening ceremonies for a game between (he thinks) the Celtics and the Cavaliers. There was much pomp and circumstance, of course, with the Introduction of the Home Team, replete with fireworks and big light shows and splashy music and a Jumbotron festival of highlights.

Walking into the room, noticing all the hoopla, supadiscomama innocently and, when you think about it, quite reasonably, asked if this was the "last game"? As there really wasn't a good response to the question, Harrogate resignedly said something to the effect of "no," and left it at that.

But one thing about these here playoffs, they sure do inspire some vitriol on the ESPN Message Boards. Only a brief visitation of several of the team sites, this time of year, will put in perspective the comparatively tame sniping that has occured across the political blogosphere between Obama and Clinton supporters.

Here, for example is a sampling of some reconfigured team appellatives, as rendered by hostile fans. Some, obviously are more better than others:

Detroit Pistons = Detroit Pissed-Ons

Phoenix Suns = Kleenex Sons (Spurs fans particularly revel in this one, and seem especially happy at being able to use the city as well as the team in their construction)

Boston Celtics = Boston Smelt-Its

Los Angeles Lakers = Los Angeles Fakers (that one's pretty easy, yes?)

Orlando Magic = Orlando Tragic

New Orleans Hornets = [That's Right] New Orleans Whorenets

San Antonio Spurs = San Antonio Sterns (this one's a bit more cerebral, implying NBA Commisioner David Stern's favoritism towards that team)

Utah Jazz = Utah Jizz

But so far, Harrogate has seen no attempt to appropriate Cleveland Cavaliers.

Race and The Campaign

The Washington Post published an article about some of the racial incidents that occurred while supporters campaigned for Senator Obama. Some of the racial incidents against Senator Obama involve regular people; some involve elected officials at the local level. One of the worst is from Tunkhannock Borough Mayor Norm Ball, who explained his support of Hillary Clinton by stating this in a letter to the editor:
"Barack Hussein Obama and all of his talk will do nothing for our country. There is so much that people don't know about his upbringing in the Muslim world. His stepfather was a radical Muslim and the ranting of his minister against the white America, you can't convince me that some of that didn't rub off on him.

"No, I want a president that will salute our flag, and put their hand on the Bible when they take the oath of office."

On one hand this is a depressing article as it represents attitudes circa 1968. On the other hand, it is amazing article to see how the country has progressed to the point where Senator Obama will be the nominee for the Democratic Party.

Monday, May 12, 2008

It's Happening!

Sex and the City: The Movie premiered in London today. How fabulous do these ladies look? I love SJP's hat! And Cynthia Nixon looks hotter and hotter with each appearance!