Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Fox Is Fiction, Not Fact

Most people aren’t aware that the Fox News studios use no electricity. Fox’s whole operation depends entirely on gaslighting.

The mission of Fox News is to poison the American news media by lying about facts. For example, which political party a politician belongs to isn't a matter of opinion. It's a fact Fox News lies about.
Fox News suddenly identified disgraced Republican Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina as a Democrat on the very day he admitted his philandering.
A coincidence? But Fox News also suddenly changed Congressman Mark Foley's party affiliation from Republican to Democratic the very moment it was inescapably confirmed that Foley was sexually soliciting teenage male congressional pages.
All just “mistakes,” don’t you imagine? But isn’t it funny how every factual “mistake” Fox News makes manages to falsely malign Democrats and/or shield guilty Republicans?

Friday, April 6, 2018

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Power of Mr. Rogers

'Whosoever holds the hammer, if he be worthy...'

I once interviewed children’s television host Fred Rogers about superheroes, an issue that concerned him. He had once taken his TV audience onto the set of The Incredible Hulk to explain that Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno were really two different people, that it’s all just make-believe.
Mr. Rogers said superheroes are natural for children. “The first superheroes, of course, are the parents themselves,” he said. “There is a very natural stage in the development of the human personality in which we believe that we ourselves are omnipotent, and that our parents are omnipotent, and that we’re able to do anything. But we have to help children gently along the way to realize that nobody is omnipotent, and neither are the heroes on television.”
I asked him why he stressed “gently.”
 “Because we have to help children gently along the way to realize that nobody is omnipotent, and neither are the heroes on television,” he said. “Because even though children would love to think that they could take on the world and win, it can also be very frightening to they to think that they are omnipotent — and that what they think will, indeed, happen.
“One of the things that our Hulk program came from was reading about kids who were killing themselves playing superheroes, and also knowing how widespread superhero play is among children. It’s important for adults to know how blurred the lines are between reality and fantasy in young children’s minds.”
I asked why he thought children find superheroes so attractive.
“Children are small. There are all kinds of powerful things in their environment over which they feel they have control. When they get angry, they often project that anger onto people and things around them, expecting them to have the same intensity of feeling. So in order to overcome the fear which results from being little in a big, scary world, children often pretend that they have superhuman powers — powers even greater than the big people and things around them. Seeing superheroes on television and in comic books feeds that ‘personal pretend.’ In the face of very difficult circumstances, everybody wishes once in a while that he or she had superhuman ways of dealing with difficulty.
“As usual, we’re not condemning fantasy. It’s often the basis for resolution and invention. What we’re doing is helping children to understand that human beings can pretend about being super-strong, super-big, super-fast, etc. but that it’s their real selves which do all the important things in the world. It’s essential for their play to be safe so they can grow and develop into what’s really super about each one of them.”
Beyond lifting Thor’s hammer, Fred Rogers also achieved that other ultimate proof of goodness. He’s been attacked by Fox News.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Monster Man on the March

Every morning, more news of the monster man, busy slouching from Pennsylvania Avenue toward Bethlehem, even hiding there right behind the other headlines — about the collapsing American infrastructure, about the Christian-homeschooled hate bomber, about the immigrant children torn from their parents — always grinning his idiot rictus grin.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Mindfulness Market

I admit it.
While standing in the supermarket checkout line the other day, I squandered five bucks on a small PreventionGuide booklet called “The Mindfulness Manual.” It’s full of tiny articles with titles like “Clear Your Mind,” “Boost Your Joy” and “Put Down Your Phone.”
Okay as far as it goes, but mostly the kind of simple-minded stuff you find in the cheaper women’s magazines — a lot of it about as mindful as a casserole recipe. Mallika Chopra wrote the “Find Your Purpose” squib, so I guess she’s gone into her family’s guru business.
The continuing ham-handed corporate attempts to monetize mindfulness interest me, because they show both how powerful the concept is and what a buzzword it’s become.

Friday, March 16, 2018

'Love, Simon,' And Why Not?

Just back from Love, Simon, a gay Little Shop Around the Corner that couldn’t be more Capra.
The film was touching and sweet without being cloying — or such was my opinion, clearly shared with the 30 high school girls in the audience who saw it with me.
The rest of the cinema was full of 80-year-olds watching some stupid caterwauling Jesus movie.
Highlights include Simon’s fantasy of a rainbow disco college and his high school’s dreadful production of Cabaret.  
Nick Robinson, the regular-guy heartthrob who plays Simon so effectively, is straight, but said the movie caused his brother to come out.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Me and My Library

We just put these lighted shelves in last year. They hold 700 volumes, and require a ladder.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Rings a Bell That Tolls for Thee

Art by Tamila Vdovina of the Czech Republic

- Authoritarian submission. Submissive, uncritical attitude toward idealized moral authorities of the in-group.
- Authoritarian aggression. Tendency to be on the lookout for, and to condemn, reject, and punish people who violate conventional values.
- Anti-intraception. Opposition to the subjective, the imaginative, the tender-minded.
- Superstition and stereotypying. The belief in mystical determinants of the individual’s fate; the disposition to think in rigid categories.
- Power and “toughness.” Preoccupation with the dominance-submission, strong-weak, leader-follower dimension, identification with power-figures; overemphasis on the domineering ego; exaggerated assertion of strength and toughness.
- Destructiveness and cynicism. Generalized hostility, vilification of the human.
- Projectivity. The disposition to believe that wild and dangerous things go on in the world; the projection outwards of unconscious emotional impulses.
- Sex. Exaggerated concern with sexual “goings-on.”
So you tell me. Who am I describing? A typical Trump supporter, or a textbook fascist?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

We Shall Never Surrender

Gary Oldman as the World War II prime minister.
Just returned from watching Winston Churchill’s first days as prime minister during Britain’s Darkest Hour. 
Star Gary Oldman and director Joe Wright make Churchill heroic, poignant and likable, building to a conclusion that’s surprisingly democratic and ringingly antifascist. The movie’s about as timid as Big Ben.
“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail,” Churchill told the House of Commons on June 4, 1940, with invasion imminent. “We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Thoughts on a Long Walk

Thoughts on a long walk: It occurs to me that a tree is aware without being conscious. Without thinking, it reaches for the light. Without uncertainty, it’s grounded and solid. As such, it’s a metaphor for mindfulness meditation.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Give Trump a Shave with Occam's Razor

"Occam's razor is a problem-solving principle suggesting that, when presented with competing hypothetical answers to a problem, we should select the one that makes the fewest assumptions."

The Why of War

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Saturday, January 13, 2018

'The Post:' A Once and Future America

Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee and Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham in 'The Post'
To count the number of films that have thrilled me more than The Post, I wouldn’t need more than one hand.
This intimate epic spotlighting the exposure of the Pentagon Papers features Tom Hanks shedding his gentleness to play likeable tough guy Ben Bradlee, editor of the Washington Post. He watches in admiration as publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) transforms herself from an uncertain heiress to a courageous American journalist whose decision to publish helped end the U.S. government’s criminal waste of thousands of lives in the Vietnam War.
The moving drama — witty, urgent, humane — is deftly directed by Steven Spielberg, and who but John Williams could deliver such a suspenseful and heroic score.
The film, which bookends Alan J. Pakula’s 1976 film All the President’s Men quite deliberately, has a strong and well-handled feminist vibe too, as all these all-knowing old white guys try to bully the one tentative woman on whom the fate of the nation now depends.
Bart and I had a frisson when we unexpectedly saw our friend Ben Livingston suddenly appear on screen in a key dramatic scene.
The audience was mostly people of a certain age, probably longing for a time when the American press could save this nation from itself. A time long gone.
But if that isn’t the once and future America up there on screen, it should be.