Thursday, September 01, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Ambassadors of Basketball

On Thursday, the Georgetown University men’s basketball team, which is currently on a good will tour in China, forgot about the good will part and engaged in a bench-clearing brawl with the Bayi Rockets.

What I find interesting about the brawl is the way in which the Chinese players stand at the bench before a slight melee occurs and then run, almost in formation, to attack Georgetown. While I am not the blog's resident conspiracy theorist, the high level of coordination to fight and not restrain seems unfortunate to say the least.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Head Slowly Exploding

So, I caught up in a research project. I have a Friday deadline.

While writing the last section of a research paper, I found myself in need of a little more research on religious exemptions concerning same-sex marriages. After feeling my mind slowly go numb from reading article after article, I found the following sentence and decided it is too good not to share:

"The New Jersey Supreme Court's decision in Lewis v. Harris is likely the most significant gay rights case since Goodridge, largely because it was decided by the supreme court of a major state."
After reading this, of course, I thought to myself: who the hell thinks New Jersey is a major state?

If your interested, the article in question is from: 30 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol'y 939. I'm too tired for a full citation. Fail me.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Trial By Media is a Bad Idea; or, a Rant

I didn't even follow the Casey Anthony murder trial because first of all wall to wall media coverage of a murder trial is stupid and base, and second of all I wouldnt have had time even had I wanted to.

That said, I am pretty sickened by the outcry against the jury's verdict today. The internet is blowing up with commenters outraged by the idea that the prosecution had to meet the burden of proof in this case, since everybody "knows" she did it.

Fuck CNN. Fuck our corporate media. Sometimes, sometimes I think Hugo Chavez has it right. Not often. But sometimes. Because Whatever sells, whatever makes money is what we get when we have a for profit media. Sell wars, sell Tiller the Baby Killer, sell guilty verdicts, sell Viagra, it's all the same to these fucking people.

Maybe I am a coward for writing this here instead of on my facebook page. God knows I havent seen a single one of my facebook friends come out and say, hey, they have to prove guilt, they have to remove doubt, and it doesnt matter what CNN anchors or Fox anchors or Dick Vitale or YOU, O Crusading American public, think about the case. So shut the fuck up. The right to a defense and the burden of proof being on the prosecution is not an inconvenience.

Anyway. Fuck it. Some things you just cant change. Most things in fact.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Hamburger Method:

A delicious way to learn the five-paragraph essay.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day Musical Tribute

I love the Cat, man. This song is "Father and Son." It's one of my favorite tracks from Tea for the Tillerman, easily one of my top ten albums of all time.

This particular version is from the DVD "Yusef's Cafe."

I struggled with my decision to post this song as a Father's Day tribute. It's so sad. I mean, the father and son obviously have some communication issues and don't understand one another. But at the same time, it's happy. The son has decided that it's time for him to go out on his own, to explore the world and find himself. While we may not look forward to our children leaving home, I'm sure we will celebrate--with mixed emotions, of course--the day our sons and daughters set out to find their own way of being in the world. Isn't this what we, as parents, are preparing them to do?

Friday, June 17, 2011

For Solon

I heard that you watched The Big Lebowski for the first time last night. Better late than never, I suppose.

You need to show this clip to your students. The Dude knows how to debate: "Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

For Oxymoron: Share the Love.

Thinking of you. Of Me. Chive On.

Album Cover of the Week: Garth Brooks's No Fences

Oxymoron's recent comment reminded me of two things. One, the barbed wire fence post dovetailed (in ways not originally anticipated by the author) with solon's recent thoroughgoing treatments of privacy issues. And two, it has been more than two weeks since my last "album cover of the week." And so therefore this seems fitting:

I was always sort of "meh," when it came to Garth Brooks musically, with some songs being ones I really dug, but most being ones, again, to which I responded with a general "meh." Still, this album title, and the cover with all its invocation of the innocent, well-minded cowboy whose freedom must be preserved, oozes sociopolitical context, and therefore deserves to be taken seriously.

On the level of music? Well, I never much took Brooks seriously as a "Cowboy." I liked the class warfare implications of "Friends in Low Places" very much, however.

But you know what? I LOVE. I mean LOVE his epic song, "Two Piña Coladas," to the point that I elevate it into the top 50 stratosphere of pop song Utopia in my admittedly addled brain. But I mean really, check these shenanigans out:

Garth Brooks - Two piña coladas by taduckly_

The Rhetoric and Symbolism of the Barbed Wire Fence

A few days ago I encountered a quotation in some research that I am currently doing, and it has stuck with me to the extent that I feel compelled to share it with the vaunted Rhetoricians on this blog. Quoth Sara L. Spurgeon:

The barbed wire fence is a potent and deeply paradoxical symbol in the American West. On one hand, it is the triumphant emblem of Anglo-America's conquest of the land once referred to as the Great American Desert, of the sheer force of human will necessary to empty it of those animals like the buffalo that do not serve Anglo America's needs and to fill it instead with cattle--nature tamed and controlled by the sharp-edged product of Eastern facroties. It is also, for many Westerners, the sign of some final closure, usually expressed nostalgically as the loss of the wandering horseman's right to travel freely and without restriction across the landscape. That wandering horseman, the lone cowboy with his bedroll and his rifle, is the most commonly recognized modern American expression of the sacred hunter, the lone male in the wilderness, here digging the postholes that mark his own demise and performing the final fencing-in of th natural world.

Heh. Fascinating. I wonder if John McCain was struggling to make sense of this kind of mythopoesis, when he exorted the federal government to Build the Dang Fence.

Predicting 2012

After watching one debate, and really, if Reagan's 11th Commandment declares, "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican," it seems clear that the Republican ticket in 2012 will be:

Romney for President, Bachman for VP.

If the field stays the same, the only alterations I would suggest is Romney President and Marco Rubio for VP or, the long-shot ticket, Bachman for President and Rubio for VP.

Just in Case You Missed It:

Here is a review of the Republican Debate by New York Magazine (if you couldn't guess that the only thing mentioned was nothing other than repeal everything Obama). Some excerpts:

Most Meaningless Self-Descriptor: Tim Pawlenty saying, "I'm a husband .... I'm the father of two beautiful daughters, I'm a neighbor." Oh, so people live near you.

Time It Took for Someone to Claim That Obama Doesn't Believe in American Exceptionalism: Thirteen minutes (Romney)

Most Unsurprising Bombshell: Michele Bachmann announcing during a presidential debate that she’s running for president.

Meekest Moment: Tim Pawlenty barely defending his own assertion, made on Fox News Sunday yesterday, that President Obama's health-care reform is basically "ObamneyCare."

Time Until Tim Pawlenty Said “Meat-packing Town”: 31 minutes.

Statement Made Oddly Risky Because of the Influence of the Tea-Party Movement: “Federal government should be doing food safety.” —Herman Cain

"Oh Snap" Moment: Michele Bachmann reading a quote from then-senator Barack Obama on how raising the debt ceiling was a "failure of leadership."

Boldest Plan for Afghanistan: Mitt Romney saying that he wants a plan to safely hand Afghanistan over to the "Taliban military," as a military man in the audience visibly flinches.

Biggest Pander (tie): Mitt Romney announcing that the hometown favorite Boston Bruins were up 4-0 in the Stanley Cup finals; Pawlenty saying that what he learned tonight was that the Boston Bruins have “more heart” than the Vancouver Canucks.

Biggest Contradiction: Michele Bachmann saying she supports a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage while also claiming she wouldn't interfere with state law. What about the states with laws allowing gay marriage?

I would also take a moment to read the live-blog write up at Democracy in America, which was much more entertaining the debate itself.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Where Aren't We Live Blogging the Republican Debate?

Seriously. I could, one, give better answers than the Republicans and, two, think it sucks that the Bruins are up 4 - 0 on the Canucks.

The Death of the Author

In the postmodern sense, not literally. More like Barthes and Foucault than Theo Van Gogh or even Hemingway.

A prominent female blogger in Syria goes missing:

Abdallah's cousin wrote on the blog that Amina was taken Monday by three men in their 20s "assumed to be members of one of the security services or the Baath Party militia."

"One of the men then put his hand over Amina's mouth and they hustled her into a red Dacia Logan with a window sticker of Basel Assad," Rania Ismail wrote.

Abdallah describes her blog as "An out Syrian lesbian's thoughts on life, the universe and so on..." -- this, in a country where homosexuality is not just taboo, but illegal.

But, maybe not after all. The first apology and the second apology:
I never expected this level of attention. While the narrative voıce may have been fictional, the facts on thıs blog are true and not mısleading as to the situation on the ground. I do not believe that I have harmed anyone -- I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about.

I only hope that people pay as much attention to the people of the Middle East and their struggles in thıs year of revolutions. The events there are beıng shaped by the people living them on a daily basis. I have only tried to illuminate them for a western audience.

This experience has sadly only confirmed my feelings regarding the often superficial coverage of the Middle East and the pervasiveness of new forms of liberal Orientalism.

However, I have been deeply touched by the reactions of readers.
If there were ever a time for lit crit, now would be that time over the issues of sexuality, gender, voice, identity, and appropriation.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Update on Greg Fultz, or, the First Amendment v. Privacy Rights

I just wanted to update my previous post.

According to ABC News, the billboard in questions can be found at the main thoroughfare in Alamogordo, N.M (according to the 2000 census, Alamogordo has a population of 35,582).

Fultz admits that he does not know whether or not Nani Lawrence, his ex-girlfriend, had an abortion or a miscarriage but he knows that when the six-month relationship ended, the baby was lost, or as he says, “there was a pregnancy, then there wasn’t.” He claims that the intention of the billboard concerns the public presentation of a pro-life message rather than an attempt to defame or harass his ex-girlfriend. According to ABC News, he states that the billboard is a general pro-life message that is inspired by events in his life. Describing the political nature of the message in question, he states:
"“It’s my belief that fathers should have a say regarding pregnancy....Women have all the power when it comes to pregnancy. The men get no say when a woman wants to go and have an abortion without the say of the father.”
Time reports that when Greg Fultz purchased the billboard, he paid $1300 for the space. He paid for the billboard through his own money and from donations from private individuals. No other organizations helped fund the project.

Originally, the billboard possessed two endorsements. N.A.N.I., the National Association of Needed Information, endorsed the billboard. Of course, N.A.N.I. is a not so clever and way too cute acronym for his ex-girlfriend, Nani Lawrence. Additionally, the Right to Life New Mexico endorsed the billboard. Both endorsements have been removed. Fultz removed N.A.N.I. as the name of the organization interfered with the message. The RLNM removed their endorsement when the organization learned that it was unsure whether or not Lawrence had an abortion or miscarriage.

In response to the Billboard, Nani Lawrence sued Fultz. As ABC News reports, Lawrence brought suit against Fultz for "a petition for domestic violence and charges of harassment and invasion of privacy." Lawrence's lawyer, Ellen Jessen, states that, "I think Fultz's right to free speech ends where Nani Lawrence's right to privacy begins. ... We have to balance one's right to free speech against one's right to free speech."

According to a court order, Fultz has until June 16th to remove the ad or he faces jail time for the billboard.

Fultz plans on fighting the order based on his First Amendment rights under the Supreme Court's decision in Snyder v. Phelps, which protects repugnant and offensive speech, even if it causes emotional distress, over the right of privacy, e.g. a funeral service.

After thinking about this, what do I think?

First, under Synder v. Phelps, the tort case should not stand as political speech should trump the emotional injury.

Second, I have a hard time accepting the line that the privacy rights of Lawrence trump the speech rights of Fultz. The real controversy is not the difference between freedom of speech and privacy (freedom from speech) but in form. The speech in question is quite sophomoric but, nonetheless, quite important political speech. If this message were in an autobiography, a movie, or a Facebook status update, then there would be no problem with Fultz's message. Fultz could walk door to door to tell his story to all 36,000 people in Alamogordo and this would be protected speech. However, since it occurred on a billboard or a non-traditional form of personal and political advertisement for this issue then someone finds it offensive.

Third, the type of speech in question, that "abortion is murder" is typical political speech, especially in relation to pro-life protests. I would say that this is quintessential political speech as the people who employ it desire a change in the law. While I know that Harrogate disagrees with this type of discourse, it is a rhetorically valid definitional argument for certain audiences. The strength of the argument rests on upon the emotional aspects of the message, i.e. the anger within the claim abortion is murder. And, under Cohen v. California, the emotional aspects of the message can be as important as the message itself. To punish this type of speech is to punish the content and form of the message and the government should not be able to punish either.

Further, though the claim is quite reductive and rests an appeal to pity, i.e. the manipulation of the emotional aspect of the message, I do not see how it would be slander unless she had a miscarriage. The standards for slander for a private citizen are much lower than a public citizen and since acted recklessly, i.e. not knowing the facts of the case before publishing them on a billboard, it seems like a defamation case against Fultz would be easy.

However, knowing this, if she mad a miscarriage she would not be arguing a right to privacy. Why argue the harder case when you can argue the easy, winning case? You don't.

Fourth, in this case, the right to privacy seems to mean that Lawrence ought to be free from hearing or seeing a message and that Fultz ought not to speak out on certain messages. I find that in the first instance, Lawrence has no case. While the second instance is quite complex, I am not sure if she has a case based on notions of privacy.

Privacy, in this case, seems to rest on an understanding that medical decisions, especially abortion, occur only between a woman and her doctor. While abortion rests on the woman's decision but that decision does not occur within a social vacuum. By arguing privacy, it seems that Lawrence is trying to frame the controversy that Fultz is trying to take away her rights. However, Fultz's argument criticizes Lawrence's decision and a person is not free from criticism over this type of decision.

Though this is just conjecture, it seems that Lawrence chose to discuss the issue with Fultz. What Lawrence and her lawyer ask is that Fultz remain silent on this issue in public, which means that Fultz must separate this relationship and an aspect of this relationship from the rest of his life and beliefs. Her privacy includes his life and this would be true for any partner that she had.

The irony is that, if Lawrence forces Fultz to take down the sign, Lawrence takes ownership of Fultz and requires Fultz to be silent and autobiographical aspects of his life. I think that this means no one personally wins.

Fifth, as to whether or not he is harassing her, the billboard should not be considered harassment. Maybe he is doing something else though I am not sure. But the speech in question does not constitute harassment.

Should Fultz have been more judicious about what he disclosed about his personal relationships? Absolutely. But it is best that the First Amendment does not require a level of judiciousness as not much, if anything, would be said.

Unfortunately for Nani Lawrence, Fultz seems like a very terrible, vindictive person. I hope that as people hear about this controversy, he never finds a date again. Since he places politics over personal relationships, he doesn't seem to deserve another date. But maybe he will find a nice pro-life woman and settle down and start a nice pro-life family. I really don't care.

Yet, I find his speech and actions constitutional.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

An Important Annoucement

When an RTS blog post goes up, it's kind of a big deal. Because yeah. We're that sexy.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

For Harrogate

I hear he's feeling lonely....

I do not know what this means....

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

First Amendment Versus Privacy Rights

I am still unsure where I stand in relation to this case. Here goes:

Thirty-Five year-old Greg Fultz, with the help of pro-life activists, paid for a billboard to lash out against an ex-girlfriend. According to Yahoo News:

The sign on Alamogordo's main thoroughfare shows 35-year-old Greg Fultz holding the outline of an infant. The text reads, "This Would Have Been A Picture Of My 2-Month Old Baby If The Mother Had Decided To Not KILL Our Child!"
Fultz argues that, under the Supreme Court's recent Westboro Baptist Church decision, that even though this may be offensive it is protected political speech. I do not think that I, or anyone else, can deny him this claim as this is certainly political speech in relation to the abortion war. There are other rights involved but, nonetheless, this is important political speech.

It seems that Fultz argues that his ex-girlfriend did not discuss whether or not she would get an abortion. This factual claim is in dispute as his ex-girlfriend, who is not named in the article, her lawyer, and her friends claim that she had a miscarriage. This raises a few additional issues:

What happened: Did they discuss this? Did she obtain an abortion without his consent? Is the spousal notification relevant in a legal or moral sense?

What, if any, are the parental rights of the father? When do they begin? Would they even apply in this case?

Since we do not know the name of the ex-girlfriend, we can assume she is a private citizen rather than a public figure, meaning that she may not be open for public criticism in the same way a celebrity or government official would be. The woman's lawyer argues that this is not a public concern but a private decision. This seems to be one of the ironies of the abortion debate as it is of great public concern that we only discuss in the abstract.

Incidentally, typing "ex-girlfriend" bothers me since we only know her in relation to him, which makes it seem like he has ownership over her. I know that she wants to respect her privacy, hence the anonymity, but typing "ex" bothers me. Is the public/private distinction the most important distinction? Or does the nature of the public, political speech trump this distinction?

If this case solely involves privacy, what is the nature of that privacy and what are the limits to that privacy? To what degree should a medical decision remain private between a doctor and a patient? What happens when a medical decision involves a third or fourth person? (I do not know the law on this but I would be very interested in researching this). Does the medical decision trump other rights, including the parental rights and/or free speech rights of the father? It seems under Roe and Casey that the decision would remain the woman's however this does not concern criticism of the decision.

Is one of the most important aspect of this case involve whether or not the woman in question suffered emotional distress or damage to her reputation? In light of the Westboro decision, political speech, no matter how repugnant, that causes emotional damages is not enough to suppress the speech.

If emotional distress does not matter, does this case concern the damage to her reputation?How does the woman in question show that her reputation was "damaged" (necessary for libel and defamation)? If the story is factually incorrect (libel per se) than she may have a case (and, again, the facts are in dispute.) But, since truth is a defense in libel cases, would she have a case if the speech in question is true? And, remember, the facts are contested. Of course, for political speech, the true or falsity of the claim has no bearing on whether or not the utterance would be protected under the first amendment. However, for defamation cases, the true and the intent of the speaker (the reckless disregard of the truth by the potential defamer) may matter

This seems more like libel per quod (which depends on the context and interpretation of the listener) since you would need to know the identities of the person in the picture and his ex-girlfriend for their to be damage to the woman's reputation. For example, if a former employee wrongly claims to your employer that they saw you drinking in a bar this may be libel if the person knows that former employer and your employer knows that you were court-ordered to stay sober (see more here). In terms of the abortion debate and the medical community, there may be no legal requirement that you cannot say anything though there may be moral or social requirements. Further, I think we need to know more about the woman, her work, and how this damages her. This is necessary for to help prove the contextual aspects of this and not in order to set up more hurdles for a woman to jump through before she could prove her case.

And I am not ruling out that this billboard may have damaged her reputation. But it is unlike other types of public claims. What would matter is the relevant state law on disclosure torts though I am not sure what would be comparable in this case e.g. claiming that a person is an embezzler, which would matter in relation to the context of employment? Claiming that someone is gay? That a person has an STD? Cancer? And yet, in some of these examples, a warranted or unwarranted revelation that another person has cancer is not the same as the facts in this case because this case necessarily involves more than one person.

Or is this more like the standards of freedom of speech or of the press in relation to posting on Facebook or Twitter? Or writing an autobiography where you can reveal some personal information about others? Or writing a movie?

Of course, if the woman in question claims that this is about privacy but not defamation then the facts may be what Fultz claims. Further, even if it is privacy, the woman's privacy still involves Fultz's life. There is no way to neatly demarcate his life out of her privacy. It doesn't seem right to say that if the woman claims privacy he can no longer discuss his own life.

Finally, this seems to be oddly reminiscent of "survivor stories." I do not think the analogy is exact (so please, I am not making a moral equivalent so you do not need to have comments with the words "culturally hegemonic," "patriarchy" or anything else along those lines, thanks in advance). Each "story" seems to be a method of empowerment that potentially damages the reputation of another. Both types of stories ought to be protected speech. But types of stories may rely factual situations can be murky, highly controversial, and potentially damage the reputation of an other. Both types of speech go beyond the normal methods of speaking to raise the issue.

After walking through this, I think that the factual questions need to be resolved before approaching the normative issues on whether or not this is constitutional or good speech. I would add that I do not think it is prudent or productive speech though.

An Ode to Oxymoron

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday musical Tribute: "Hay Fever" by the Kinks

I still like this song but nowhere near as much as I loved it when I was a small child. There are better songs on Misfits but maybe none that are quite so much fun from the perspective of a child that likes to boogie and giggle at the same time. And these lines here are pretty damn good:

I can't stay cool 'cos I'm starting to sneeze
I can't make love when I can't hardly breathe
We start to dance and my nose starts to bleed
There must be a cure for this hay fever
Is there a pill or a powder I can take
I must get a cure, for my romance is at stake

"Rapture Schadenfreude Turning Sinister"? Socially Healthy Joviality? Both?

Oxy's billboard image made me think about this recent post by conservative blogger Ed Morrisey of "Hot Air."

Morrisey follows a report by Tiffany Stanley, a reporter for The New Republic, which charged her with following the reactions of the Camping crowd after the Rapture deadline had come and gone.

Snippet from Stanley:

Yes, there was a certain humor to this. But the more I looked into the story, the more it began to turn my stomach to think of spending my Saturday evening in someone’s living room, waiting for that gotcha moment when they realized it was all a lie—leaving me to file a story the next day, poking fun at their gullibility. I decided I couldn’t do it.

Yet the media coverage has continued, and now to me, the schadenfreude has turned sinister. Based on the high traffic the articles are garnering, it would seem as if many of us are intrigued voyeurs, gleeful in knowing the exact day when these people will experience their life’s greatest disappointment. We feel superior, knowing that even though they told us we were heading for death and destruction, now, they get theirs.

Snippet from Morrisey's response:

Well, that’s not totally unjustified. Camping first predicted that Christ would return in 1994 — in fact, he published a book predicting it, although the title 1994? included a very convenient question mark. People who follow doomsday demagogues even after a spectacular failure put themselves in position for some ridicule, not to mention the false prophet himself.

Still, these are real people, and their individual stories are troubling. One mother with three children stopped working and saving for their college tuition, and her apathy about their future has become all too apparent to her kids. Another young couple with one baby and another on the way have spent all of their money in anticipation that they won’t take it with them. For most married couples, pregnancy is a time of hope and optimism, but not for this couple. And there are hundreds or thousands of people just like them who will face very difficult times indeed for having believed in a charlatan.

Both Stanley's and Morrisey's prose are worth reading in full, though I flatter myself that these snippets are well-chosen. Readers might also get a kick out of the comments section.

Hmmmmm. Is it true? Does the post-Rapture rhetoric, such as that in the billboard Oxymoron has shown us, reflect something mean-spirited our mendacious about the secular crowd? Or are there other things at work here?

Um, yeah...

It must be difficult for Camping to address his congregation today. Well, what's left of his congregation. As Harrogate says, heh.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Road-Themed Songs Deserve to Be Taken Seriously

Here is Springsteen's celebrated Dublin performance of "Further on up the Road." It's a beautiful thing. I listen to it as much as possible.

Album Cover of the Week: Misfits, by The Kinks

For some time, now, I have been paying homage to album covers on my Facebook page but the level of engagement possible on a social networking site is so much more limited than it is on a vaunted blog such as The Rhetorical Situation. So this is the first of what will be weekly installments of Harrogate's Album Cover of the Week.®

Most if not all of these album covers are going to be gleaned from those which in my estimation contain great music--this one certainly fits that bill. But sometimes the cover art of an album which one detests muscially, may still merit attention. I encourage other contributors and commenters to get in on the discussion not only of the album covers that I place here in these installments, but also of those which you would like to share, or talk about.

So here is one of my very favorite album covers ever, from the Kinks Misfits (1978):

Misfits as a Rock 'N' Roll Album really is a wonderful piece of musical art that one can listen to endlessly and never feel cheated. Here is the song list, a few of which I will probably post through the week:

1. "Misfits" – 4:42
2. "Hay Fever" – 3:33
3. "Black Messiah" – 4:08
4. "A Rock & Roll Fantasy" – 4:58
5. "In a Foreign Land" – 3:02
6. "Permanent Waves" – 3:48
7. "Live Life" – 4:47
8. "Out of the Wardrobe" – 3:37
9. "Trust Your Heart" (Dave Davies) – 4:11
10. "Get Up" – 3:22

So, what do you think of the cover? I have always been able to look at it for long periods of time and keep noticing different things about it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Morning Response to Last Monday Morning's Video Response

Oxymoron posted a wonderful video a week ago today, and I want to honor that here. It is also making me think about how many great songs there are out there with the governing metaphor of a Road. Here is one that I like a lot:

Oh. And BTW. The album is Youthanasia, the cover art for which ye see above. Dovetailing with my previous post, I just think this is some seriously fabulous cover art!

Question of the Day: Are Album Covers Dead?

As many of ye know from The Facebook®, Supadiscomama recently got me a turntable and I have been having a lot of fun with it, rediscovering some music that I haven't listened to in over a decade (by the way, I also hooked up my Tape Deck and have simultaneously begun a cassette-gathering endeavor, but that is a different story....). One thing I have noticed while going through all this vinyl is the vividity of the album cover art. The covers are just so very much bigger than what any of us are used to looking at any more. You take a record like Hendrix's Axis Bold as Love, and look at the 12 X 12 version and it really does seem to lay the CD cover in the shade.

As once again testified by my The Facebook® page, I have long been a huge fan of Album Cover Art anyway, and I have always said one of the reasons that I didn't want to give up on CD's and go totally digital (one of the many, many, many, many reasons), was that I would miss the physical object that also includes the Cover Art. Think about the cover to Nirvana's Nevermind. I mean, good God. That's a work of art right there. But what if the art form really did diminish to an irrevocable point wih the emergence of the CD, and the newest Digital formats are simply the final blow?

Now, I guess I don't have that sensitive of an ear, but in the end I have decided that I cannot REALLY tell that much of a difference between the sound put out by Vinyl and that by a CD or even in the digital format--not enough to justify some of the absolute scorn I see being heaped upon CDs on audio forums. But the album cover art is another issue.

So with all these ruminations out of the way, here is my Question of the Day: What do you guys think of this quote, which I have posted from an audio forum I have been reading around in lately?

LP covers were great. The art aspect of covers was really lost with CDs, which have less than 20% of the space of LPs to work with. The art and originality of the covers was often as important as the music, sometimes more so. Even covers that were "just" photographs, needed great photographs when they were blown up to 12" by 12" size. I have a Best of Mississippi John Hurt gatefold album that has two great photographs inside of Hurt smiling while playing, and gives you a wonderful perspective of his wizened, Buddha-like face and the sheer likability of the man. Something that cannot be achieved with the postage stamp sized photos in CD booklets. Not just sound quality has diminished with CDs, but the whole magic aura surrounding albums from the 60's and 70's. This was a time when music was more than just music, but entered and influenced your life. Album covers were a big part of this. Would the Beatles, and others, have had as big an impact on the world if their music had first been released on CDs rather than LPs (how many would spend time examining the Sgt. Pepper cover if its size was 5" by 5"—get out the magnifying glass)?

Monday, May 09, 2011

Monday Morning Video Response

I wonder if Jackson Browne ever looks back and sees that his journey was not as arbitrary and without purpose as he indicates below.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

Some Thoughts on The Social Network, and a Question of the Day

Not too long ago, we watched The Social Network for the first time, and I was very impressed with it.

My interest in the movie going into it was twofold: on a personal level, as an enthusiastic facebook user who nevertheless maintains heavy skepticism about the ultimate healthiness of social networking; and also on a professional level, as a writing teacher who more and more has been bringing issues surrounding digital culture into the classroom. I had my rhet/comp classes this semester read Time Magazine's writeup of Mark Zuckerberg, and in the process of breaking down the article my interest in how facebook came to be was much heightened.

One interesting thing about the movie, on a rhetorical level, is the irony of the title. Very little time is devoted to facebook, facebook use, or the exploding phenomenon of social networking. The "social network" of the movie, rather, explores the (pretty ruthless) tendrils emanating from Zuckerberg and his activities, both on the Harvard campus and then later, by virtue of Napster co-found Sean Parker, Zuckerberg's "arrival" in silicon valley.

As many have noticed, the Zuckerberg charcter that this movie gives us comes across as quite socially incompetent--if not actually sociopathic. That is, Zuckerberg is represented in the movie as someone who is a genius but who seems to lack the capacity to even imagine the impact of his actions on others, let alone truly care about others. Jesse Eisenberg's portrayal of Zuckeberg in this regard was quite good, as were most all of the supporting cast--especially Justin Timberlake's portrayal of Parker, which I believe deserved every bit of hype it got--really, his performance may have even been underrated.

However. For me, the movie's overt representation of Zuckerberg as a quasi-sociopath raises, I think, very serious questions about the ethics of making movies about public figures in their own time. The Time Magazine writeup pretty much demolished a key premise of the film: more specifically, that Zuckerberg's rise was triggered by having lost, and wanting to impress, a girl that, for all the millions he made, he could never get back (this motif was rendered even more heavy-handed by the fact that the movie explains Sean Parker's Napster achievment on the same terms. Parker has gone on record saying that the movie's portryal of him is almost wholly fictitious). But in truth, as Time's writers made clear, Zuckerberg already had the girl when he started Facebook, and he is still with her today. Further, the magazine writeup went out of its way to demonstrate that Zuckerberg is actually quite socially adept--unless he feels like someone is wasting his time, at which point he tunes them out.

Time's worries about Zuckerberg were mostly aimed at his cavalier posture towards Privacy and Privacy Rights. But that's perhaps another topic, for another post.

What I am interested in asking here is this: How serious of an ethics problem is it, when a movie projects a highly stylized, and for that matter very unflattering, interpretation onto a person--public figure or not--in their own lifetime? The last line of the movie features one of the legal team saying to Zuckerberg, before walking out the door: "You're not an asshole, Mark. You're just trying so hard to be."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Enter the Miscarriage Police

The triumphant return of the famous Assy McGee Award®. The Award possibilities these days are endless. But wow. You really cannot, cannot, cannot make this stuff up. In addition to the usual attempt to overthrow Roe v Wade:

Franklin wants to create a Uterus Police to investigate miscarriages, and requires that any time a miscarriage occurs, whether in a hospital or without medical assistance, it must be reported and a fetal death certificate issued. If the cause of death is unknown, it must be investigated. If the woman can't tell how it happened, than those Uterus Police can ask family members and friends how it happened. Hospitals are required to keep records of anyone who has a spontaneous abortion and report it.

This country is losing its fucking mind. The fact that someone, even one person can attain political power with such an agenda, suggests that the nation in which that it a possibility might well be a hellhole. Combine that with the fact that there is nothing extreme about Rep. Bobby Franklin in the context of the party to which he belongs. Combine that with the fact that there is only the barest legitimate opposition to this bad craziness in the US political system, and you've pretty much got a good probability that this country is a hellhole.

Scott Walker and Women

Here's an interesting writeup on Scott Walker's "crusade" against women's rights.

Before linking to Mother Jones, Charles Johnson pithily notes:
Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker is not only trying to destroy public employees’ unions. For years, he’s also been working hard to force women back into the Dark Ages


Wisconsin: Not a Last Gasp, but a Homage

Why has the situation in Madison, Wisconsin, emerged as such a galvanizing issue for liberals nationwide? While the specific dispute over the collective bargaining rights of workers would seem to be enough, I have a feeling that there is something deeper to this that has, hitherto, gone mostly unexplored--namely, the presense of a widespread sense that what we are witnessing is a last gasp, of sorts, for liberalism in the United States.

On a policy level, it is hard to imagine the dispute in Madison ending in any way other than with a victory for Governor Walker. All they have to do is wait for the protests to quiet down, the media cameras to roam elsewhere, and the Democratic legislators to return. And I think that at bottom, the protestors and those of us who sympathize with them, know this. But still there is something to the fact that they are playing out the string. That is the nature of a last gasp. That is, on all except a few red meat social issues like abortion and gay rights, I believe that we are in the early stages of a broadcloth surrender of American liberalism as we know it.

Even in the paralytic days of 2002, as the US solidified sweeping tax cuts, passed the Patriot Act, and careened into initiating a second war, liberals did not show signs of entirely giving up. But now we look at the political landscape in its totality, the cost of the last eleven years, and all we see is wreckage. Consider:
  • The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continue unabated. Where are the protests? Where is the opposition? (It is fashionable now to speak of "war fatigue," and that economic concerns have emerged as primary. Perhaps there is something to this; although it's too bad that the deaths and the billions spent are not thereby rendered any less real.) I think that the anti-war protestors saw there was absolutely no way to stop US military adventurism, and so gave up. Look for very little hue and cry when the next one starts.
  • Debate over government's role in the economy has been overtaken by quibbles over how much spending to cut, and where to cut it. The possibility of making meaningful changes to our tax code has been eviscerated and liberals know it.
  • Relatedly, liberals have surrendered the idea that corporate power could be checked by governmental regulations.
  • Um, it goes without saying that liberals have surrendered on health care as well.

Never in my lifetime have I seen such lethargy, such absence of liberal narrative or vision as we have known it in this country. Workers rights, poverty, education, the environment--all have been rendered less than afterthoughts in our national conversation. The words "Liberal," "Progressive," &c. will not go away however--they are simply shifting to mean different things, different priorities. Perhaps it will mean things like battling the repeal of child labor laws and opposing conscription.

In context, those will certainly be worthy battles, and they may even be winnable.

I think that, knowing something like this in their gut, liberals turn their eyes to Wisconsin and feel something stir. Maybe it is less a last gasp than a homage.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Happy Musical Tribute.


 Like Harrogate, it has been a long time since I blogged here.  Typically I blog at Pieces of M, as my blogging has been focused on my job search, my work and teaching, and my mothering.  However, the things going on in the U.S. are really pissing me off.  Sure I get that the U.S. is in serious debt.  I get that.  I also get that the budget needs to be cut, or my great-great-grandchildren will also be in debt. That said, I don't think the way to go about it is by cutting programs that benefit/provide services for individuals without insurance or who can't afford insurance.  I mean seriously, cutting Planned Parenthood and PBS?  Reproductive rights and the arts?  Seriously Republicans?  Could you be a little creative at least?  Like, I don't know, taking a pay cut or increasing taxes on individuals who make over $200,000 a year? 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

After a Long Hiatus

Harrogate Returns.