Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Cultural Observations

Civility Wars
Let's start with Robert DeNiro's "F--- Trump" expostulation at the Tony Awards.  It was bleeped on live US TV by the six-second buffer manager, but it got out elsewhere and went viral on the Internet.  So, mission accomplished?  I would say not.  He was heavily criticized, even by those who agreed with the sentiment, and it provided an excuse for Drumpfites to gleefully equate the bad behavior of their political opponents with their hero's misbehavior.

I don't care so much about that; we are not required to be respectful to the Orange Dingleberry Who Happens to be Head of State and Chief Executive, (may he eat something foul and sicken beyond recovery), but I do question the efficacy of the comment, which I would add was unscripted and completely out of context.  The sentence is in the imperative form, telling us to do something which I have absolutely no desire to do.  I don't really care about his love life, with Melania, Stormy, or whoever; in fact, it's pretty grotesque even to think of it.

Instead I would have preferred "Depose Trump!"  meaning both to remove him from office and also suggestion to subject him to making a deposition, a formal testimony under oath, which would be a good means to putting him permanently on defensive, if not on the way out (see Clinton, Bill, and Lewinsky, Monica).

Next, the Incident at Red Hen, the restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, when the owner turned away "Trump's Mouthpiece" (as she was called, quite accurately) Sarah Huckabee Sanders, not allowing her party to dine there.  Again, I have no quarrel with the underlying sentiment, and I would assert both that she has the right to deny service based on her political opinion and that Sanders, in a public venue, is fair game for members of the public to rebuke or otherwise take her to task.  In Sanders' defense, I will say that her job is a thankless one and an easy target for attack:  press secretaries for all Presidents have to prevaricate, obfuscate, and even lie on occasion at their boss' direction, though Sanders is worse than most in both frequency and manner of the false and fallacious.

I would say, though, that the owner's action is probably a net bad-for-business choice (maybe she accepts that gladly), and that there was a better way to handle it. It was discreetly handled by both parties, so the ruckus was all later. I say, do your job, allow her to be served, but then put her in the arena and let the public have at her.  Something like what the cast members of "Hamilton" chose to do when they saw Mike Pence in the audience.

Then we come to TV comic/political commentator Samantha Bee, who called Ivanka Trump a "feckless c--t".  Everyone focused on the pejorative reference to the female sexual member of the  "female member of the Administration", as Sanders later described her.  Very little attention was paid to the real point, the "feckless" aspect--and again, I do not want to go there literally, to imagine what is involved with that organ's being truly feckless, but I suspect the word choice had something to do with a similar-sounding adjective suggesting a lack of sexual activity.  Anyway, the point was supposed to be that Ivanka should be using her presumed influence with her classic clueless old fart father, to get him to stop being such a (euphemism alert!) deadhead about the DACA Dreamers, for whom she is believed to be sympathetic.

Bee's comment was wrong on several levels: 1) the presumed influence part--Donald is notoriously hard to persuade about anything, and his view of his daughter is that she is a shiny object which reflects well upon him, nothing more; 2) Ivanka's sympathies clearly take second place to her main objective, which is to exploit her privileged position to make lots of money for the family; and 3) the word choice, as I suggested above, was totally a distraction.  For which Bee apologized.

Should Bee have been fired?  That's an economic decision made by the TV network, for their good or ill.  I know that the career of Kathy Griffin was totally disrupted when she made a joke in bad taste about Drumpf being beheaded (though she is on the rebound).  I will say that George Carlin's "seven words you cannot say on television" are being violated, as Bee did, with great frequency these days;.

 I will not judge the balance of increased freedom vs. decreased civility tested in these cases.  I will say that things are heating up and emotions are high, what with an impending Congressional midterm election that is looking very close (both House and Senate),  with the proposals to remove the protection for pre-existing conditions from the ACA healthcare plans, and with the frenzy about the separation of children from their undocumented parents.  This latter is just another example of the intentional cruelty with which this administration governs, only this time it was exceptionally badly calculated in a political sense.

Real Quick Reviews

The Death of Stalin - some will like it, some won't. I thought it was great political satire, with good casting, and close enough to the truth.

Black Panther -  Like last year's "Wonder Woman", a successful move to establish that everyone deserves an escapist superhero that resembles and represents.  The cultural complexity of Wauconda (I prefer the Illinois town spelling) was the product of a lot of careful thought.

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury has died, so there is no longer any effective control over the content (which seemed to be distorted, focusing on the Orwellian, instead of the anti-intellectualism at the story's center).  Latest generation's likely response:  Yawn--what are books, anyway?

Ocean's 8 -  I give the writers some credit for the effort to revive the tired scenario (complex revenge heist), which is at least an entertaining one.  It looks to have been a lot of fun for all the various famed damsels, which was probably the main point.  I would also credit casting for the discovery of "Awkwafina", who I think could be a rising star for Generation Z.

Trailer for "A Star Is Born" - we're talking about Lady Gaga as a movie star.  I'm buying it; hopefully the movie itself will be more than a third round of retread.

Music:  Is the Resistance translating into our culture yet? I have no doubt about where most of the musicians' heads are at, but will they dare to come out and say it?  I'm looking to the Boss (Springsteen) to be the ringleader (springboard?) of a resistance movement in music, but not this year.

March for our Lives:  Remember this?  It was about children pleading for a change in the system which has incubated and facilitated school shootings.  I say nobody gets to bleat about the separation of the children from their parents unless they are also on board with some "common-sense gun reforms".

Obit Dept (way overdue)

Rusty Staub Mar. 29 -- a fine American (he was American, not Canadian, right?  sometimes the borders get obscured--see Joni Mitchell, Samantha Bee....) and a fine baseball person.  An especially good pinch-hitter (look it up if you need to know). I hear the restaurant was good, too

Efrain Rios Montt, Guatemalan strongman Apr. 1.  RIP--as in, rip his corpse out of the grave and leave him for the vultures to eat.  He ordered the annihilation of thousands of his countrymen, focusing on Native American peasants. Evil that should be remembered.

Roger Bannister Mar. 3 - remember the concept of the amateur athlete?  Bannister, the first to break the four-minute barrier for a mile run (unaided), was a medical student.   There's been about a 7% improvement in the time for the distance since 1954, though the race isn't run much these days (the Olympic distance of 1500 meters predominates, but the IAAF still keeps track of the record for this one non-metric distance--the 100-yard dash, not so much).

Stephen Hawking, Mar. 14 (age 76)--How did he live so long with ALS?  He must have been a genius.  Thank you for your insights, sir, and may we be worthy of them someday.

Cynthia Heimel - Feb. 25 -- She was one of my heroes, back when she was teaching me more about how women view sex than I was getting elsewhere (late '70's?)  I read her columns in the Village Voice, and I hungrily digested her humorous "Sex Tips for Girls".  My one gripe was that I didn't care for her taste in men (sensitive cowboy types, as opposed to smartass overeducated ones), but that was clearly none of my business.

Tom Wolfe, Philip Roth (May 14 and 22) - These two leading American writers will now be linked through the proximity of their deaths.  They were similar in one sense, being prolific, highly-observant writers who peaked during a very interesting period in this country, the late 20th century.  Wolfe was quite a sight to see around town in NYC, unmistakable for his Richie Rich clothing.  His writing was highly colorful, both nonfiction (one of the "New Journalists") and fiction.  I was partial to "The Right Stuff" (about the early US astronauts) and "Bonfire of the Vanities" (social commentary in novel form about white privilege--must've been somewhat autobiographical, no?)   As for Roth, he was perhaps too prolific--I got tired of multiple novels on the same subjects.  My favorite Roth piece was a withering satire play about Nixon and his cronies, "Our Gang"--generally forgotten today, though it might be instructive for understanding the Drumpfenreich White House.

Charles Krauthammer June 21 - His ugly puss haunts me; I saw more of it than I would have liked to have done.  I would describe him as a latter-day William Buckley, someone who insisted on his view of conservative purity, but did so with dignity.  For that, and for some late evidence that he repudiated Drumpfism as not consistent with his brand of conservatism, I will (mostly) respect his passing.

Walter A. Bahr June 18 - star, and last survinving member, of US soccer team that achieved a huge upset, of England in the 1950 World Cup, 1-0.  Aged 91.  Again, amateur athletes achieving greatness.

Wayne Huizenga Mar. 22 - (Modern capitalist - owner of Waste Management, Blockbuster Video, Florida sports teams)  I will say that WM still leads its field, unrivaled.  The other enterprises haven't held up so well.

World Cup and Politics
I close with some comment about a news story you may have missed.  The World Cup of soccer is truly culture, global culture, but, like the Olympics, has more than a little nationalism involved.  In one of the first round matches, Switzerland defeated Serbia, 2-1.  The two goal scorers for Switzerland's team, which is amazingly diverse in its team members' origins (somehow all Swiss--reminds me of when that landlocked country won the top prize in sailing, the America's Cup), were both Albanians by birth, of Kosovar ethnic origin.  You will recall that much of the latter portion of the Yugoslavian wars of the 1990's (after the Bosnia war got settled) had to do with the independence of Kosovo from Serbia.

Anyway, these two Kosovar/Albanian/Swiss players made a signal with their hands after scoring their goals which was seen as being a reference to the double-eagle on the Kosovo flag.  The Serbians in attendance took exception to this form of celebration--I don't know about the Serbian players.  There is a specific rule in the FIFA handbook stating that the penalty for provocative behavior is a two-game suspension.  If that is applied to these two, it will be a likely deathblow to Switzerland's team, who have some legitimate hopes after a surprise draw against Brazil in their first game (along with defeating Serbia).  The pivotal aspect of interest  was that the players' symbolism didn't relate to something Swiss, like what--chocolate?  but to their own transnational background; it was indeed a form of taunting the Serbs, but does it deserve the Swiss getting a TKO (boxing term: technical knockout)?

Stay tuned to see how this delicate soccer diplomatic rhubarb gets settled.   I will include an update for my preview of the knockout rounds of the Cup, later this week.

1 comment:

Chin Shih Tang said...

I saw some unnamed Democratic type saying there would be an attempt to "depose Pelosi". Although the alliteration of that phrase is more attractive than my "depose Drumpf!", mine is the better usage. In every way. Especailly for a Democrat?

"Cvility Wars" headlines are blossoming all over the English-speaking world. I apologize for the use of the obvious (though it was also oblivious). I don't claim to be first because I haven't checked.