NFL 2016: Week 14

Raiders-Chiefs Continue reading ‘NFL 2016: Week 14’

The Lens Through Which Americans Should Examine Trump

In this thread, I wrote about the lens or overarching narrative the mainstream media (MSM) should use to cover Trump. In this post, I want to write about the lens through which Americans should examine Trump–or at least examine Trump, from time to time, through this lens.

In the other thread, I responded to an article that attempted to explain why Americans were largely indifferent to Trump’s conflict of interest issues. I added one additional reason–namely, that the MSM really wasn’t employing the angle that Trump may actually be an authoritarian, kleptocrat, and there coverage was driven by assumptions that he would behave largely like a typical president, if not now, eventually. In other words, the press adopted a wait-and-see, let’s-give-him-the-benefit-of-doubt approach. I believe this mutes conflict of interest issues, among others.

I want to start by adding a few more reasons Americans might not be caring about conflict of interest issues or other alarming concerns about Trump. And I’ll start with the “crazy uncle theory.” Continue reading ‘The Lens Through Which Americans Should Examine Trump’

The Lens Through Which the MSM Reports on Trump Needs to Change

Based on MSM coverage, my sense is that they are making several assumptions about Trump: specifically, that Trump basically embraces the rule of law, separation of powers, and the Constitution; values important democratic institutions like the press; and values facts and reason; that he has a genuine desire to do serve the country and govern well, versus use the office primarily for his own personal gain. These assumptions seem to form the lens by which the MSM covers Trump.

But what if these assumptions are inappropriate? What if the assumptions lead to misleading reporting? Continue reading ‘The Lens Through Which the MSM Reports on Trump Needs to Change’

Developing a Journalistic Liberal-Democratic Manifesto for a Post-Truth World

I understand that “post-truth” is Oxford dictionary’s word of the year. Here’s their definition:

‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’

Recently, on the Diane Rehm Show Scottie Nell Hughes, a “journalist” and Trump supporter, went so far as claiming that “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore of facts.” Whether she meant this literally or not, I get the sense that she, and a growing number of individuals, are starting to adopt a very relativistic stance with regard to political discourse. That is, when we talk about problems and political solutions, having some meaningful consensus about key facts and positions that are persuasive versus positions that are baseless, is not really possible–because all positions are primarily subjective and overwhelmed by personal and political bias.

This is a very dangerous idea, although it may not seem that way because the idea is fairly abstract; it’s effects aren’t easily seen, understood, or felt. Indeed, the effects may take a while to affect individuals. Nevertheless, I contend that this is a very dangerous idea. (Do you guys agree with this?) Continue reading ‘Developing a Journalistic Liberal-Democratic Manifesto for a Post-Truth World’

NFL 2016: Week 13

Vikings-Cowboys Continue reading ‘NFL 2016: Week 13’

Pet Peeve Rant: Better Critical Thinking Won’t Solve the Information Glut Problem

NPR did a report on a Stanford study that examined the way students from middle school to college evaluated information presented online, in tweets, comments, or articles. The researchers said the results were grim, even saying that they suggest a “threat to democracy.”

I read a discussion about this article, and unsurprisingly I read critical, somewhat snide, comments about the critical thinking of young people–as if older people don’t have the same problem. The study doesn’t compare the students to older individuals, but my guess is that older, educated individuals wouldn’t fare a lot better.

My irritation stems from a couple of things: Continue reading ‘Pet Peeve Rant: Better Critical Thinking Won’t Solve the Information Glut Problem’

Favorite Band Names of All Time

We’re talking rock, pop, even country and jazz if you want to go there. The band names for jazz groups are pretty lame, although there aren’t many, unless you count something like the Miles Davis Quintet a band name. How about we have a sub-category for best group names for jazz bands. Also, I’d like to hear a list of your favorite group names that follow the format of the leader’s name followed by the name of the band–e.g., Bruce Springstreen and the E Street Band, or Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians.

Here are a few that come to mind: Continue reading ‘Favorite Band Names of All Time’

Hollywood Movies That Are Great Works of Art

I enjoyed the following Fresh Air interview with film director, Francis Ford Coppola. Coppola has just released a book comprised of notes that he took while making The Godfather.

The interview pulled up fond memories of the film, including the opinion that the first two films were great films–specifically, two Hollywood films that could be considered great works of art. This made me wonder what other Hollywood films would qualify. That’s what this thread is about.

But first, what do I mean by “Hollywood movie” and “great work of art.” By “Hollywood movie,” I’m thinking of a movie whose main objective is to entertain a general audience through a strong story and characters. In contrast, an art film is indifferent about entertaining a wide audience, utilizing a conventional narrative or creating likable characters. Technically, a Hollywood movie need not be made in Hollywood or America. For example, by my definition, some of Kurosawa’s films would qualify. Also, some films made in Hollywood would not qualify–e.g,. 2001: a Space Odyssey or Terrence Malick’s films.

Now, by “great work of art,” the first thing that comes to mind is an aesthetic creation where all the parts are not only wonderfully executed individually, but also come together in a highly seamless and skillful way, creating a overpowering aesthetic effect. Such a movie is firing on all cylinders, so to speak, and it is what one thinks of as a masterpiece. This idea of the parts, being excellent by themselves, but also creating a unified whole is something that I distinguishes a great film from a good one, maybe even a very good film.

OK, so what are some of my choices? I mentioned the first two Godfather films. They’re really a good example. The casting/acting, the writing, the cinematography and composition, the music–each of these are wonderful and the way they come together is wonderful as well. Here are some others: Continue reading ‘Hollywood Movies That Are Great Works of Art’

Authoritarianism–A Discussion About the People Who Are Drawn to Strongman Leaders

Authoritarianism is one of the concepts that I think Americanism should understand. There are two different types of authoritarianism, both important to understand in my view. One involves the study of dictators, the way they operate and gain power. The other involves individuals who have a psychological profile that craves social order and physical security. These individuals are drawn to strongman political leaders when they feel threatened physically or socially. Vox’s The Rise of American Authoritarianism discusses the the latter, drawing on research about the phenomenon. I think it’s an important article–to understand Trump’s rise to power and what can be down about this. In this post, I’ll try to discuss key takeaways from the article. Continue reading ‘Authoritarianism–A Discussion About the People Who Are Drawn to Strongman Leaders’

Songs That Epitomize the Worst Music of the 80s

I heard a song on the 80’s radio station that made me think of this topic. I can no longer remember the song now, especially since I don’t think it was really well-known. I’m thinking specifically of two things: 1) songs that are just plain bad; 2) songs that have the sound of that particular decade. Here’s an example: Continue reading ‘Songs That Epitomize the Worst Music of the 80s’

Reid My Mind (Long Edition): MSM Failing Our Democratic Republic

I know some of you may be sick of hearing my write about the President-elect. I don’t blame you, as I’m starting to get worn down and discouraged by this, too. The news about Trump is so outrageous, so surreal–and constant–it’s a mental drain and strain. Still, what’s been happening had dominated my thoughts–and I think it’s really important to at least be fully aware of what’s happening, even if doing so is unpleasant and maybe something you don’t want to believe.

But there’s one thing that has really bothered me, and it’s what’s on my mind today. That something is the way the press has covered Trump so far. To me, in situations like this, the press should serve as a warning system to the body politic, and right now I think the press, as a collective, are failing at this in a big way. Individual reporters and academics are sending signals out to the general public, trying to warn them, but they don’t have a large enough platform, their voices, lonely in the wilderness, never reach most citizens.

Here’s a tweet that made me think of all this: Continue reading ‘Reid My Mind (Long Edition): MSM Failing Our Democratic Republic’

NFL 2016: Week 12

Steelers-Colts Continue reading ‘NFL 2016: Week 12’

Rank the Star Trek Films

First, the corpus.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (1982)
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
Star Trek Generations (1994)
Star Trek: Fist Contact (1996)
Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)
Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
Star Trek (2009)
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
Star Trek Beyond (2016)

What NFL Team Should Try and Get Tony Romo?

That’s the question that seems to be floating around now. I don’t know if the Cowboys will trade him now or after this season. The question is, what team would be a good match. Before I list some teams, here are some of the factors I would consider (besides salary cap): Continue reading ‘What NFL Team Should Try and Get Tony Romo?’

Best (or Favorite) Players for Each Team

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, so I’m getting some of my thoughts out here.  Join in if you have opinions.

Who are the best players from each of the NFL teams?  Who are your favorite?

Continue reading ‘Best (or Favorite) Players for Each Team’

NFL 2016: Week 11

Saints-Panthers Continue reading ‘NFL 2016: Week 11’

The Dangers of Normalizing Trump and Exaggerating His Threat to the Country

I’ve been wrestling with two mental outlooks, on opposite ends of each other. One of them involves behaving as a good citizen of a democratic-republic after an election where the good citizen’s candidate has lost. The good citizen will accept the results, respect the office, and give the newly elected politician a fair chance, hoping that the politician will succeed, primarily because this success should mean the success of the nation.

The other state of mind Continue reading ‘The Dangers of Normalizing Trump and Exaggerating His Threat to the Country’

Poem of the Day

Poem of the Day is something I used to do with the English teachers I’ve shared classrooms with over the years, and there have been many.  It wasn’t a daily thing, but every so often I’d pull an anthology off the shelf and pick something to read aloud, just for my classroom partner, on days when I thought we needed reminding that there were beautiful things in the work we did.  We taught young men and women how to read, write, and think.  But we also taught them — and it’s the reason we chose the subject we chose — that there is beauty in this world.  You’d be surprised (maybe) at how easy it is to forget that when you’re in the middle of doing that job.

Feel free to share your own poems of the day if you wish, but if you don’t, that’s cool.  I’m mostly posting this because I’m tired of seeing that other post at the top of our website every time I load the page.

by Ted Hughes

‘Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote…’
At the top of your voice, where you swayed on the top of a stile,
Your arms raised – somewhat for balance, somewhat
To hold the reins of the straining attention
Of your imagined audience – you declaimed Chaucer
To a field of cows. And the Spring sky had done it
With its flying laundry, and the new emerald
Of the thorns, the hawthorn, the blackthorn,
And one of those bumpers of champagne
You snatched unpredictably from pure spirit.
Your voice went over the fields towards Granchester.
It must have sounded lost. But the cows
Watched, then approached: they appreciated Chaucer.
You went on and on. Here were reasons
To recite Chaucer. Then came the Wyf of Bath,
Your favourite character in all literature.
You were rapt. And the cows were enthralled.
They shoved and jostled shoulders, making a ring,
To gaze into your face, with occasional snorts
Of exclamation, renewed their astounded attention,
Ears angling to catch every inflection,
Keeping their awed six feet of reverence
Away from you. You just could not believe it.
And you could not stop. What would happen
If you were to stop? Would they attack you,
Scared by the shock of silence, or wanting more –?
So you had to go on. You went on –
And twenty cows stayed with you hypnotized.
How did you stop? I can’t remember
You stopping. I imagine they reeled away –
Rolling eyes, as if driven from their fodder.
I imagine I shooed them away. But
Your sostenuto rendering of Chaucer
Was already perpetual. What followed
Found my attention too full
And had to go back into oblivion.

The 45th Presidency

Like the Obama Presidency thread, I’m starting this as a repository for articles and comments about the Trump presidency. I know this is probably too early for Mitchell, as he wants to distance himself from politics (which I totally understand), but some things have occurred that I want to mark down.

Before I do I want to share a few thoughts:

  • I definitely have a mix of emotions right now. On one hand, anger and frustration. On the other hand, I’m trying to be fair and open to Trump (which isn’t easy). I also want to turn my energies to positive ideas to move our country in the right direction.
  • While I want to be fair–and I will do my best–given what I’ve seen and read over the last year, my realistic view isn’t so optimistic. If we go by the theory that past behavior is a reliable predictor of future behavior, then Trump presidency looks like a disaster. The question is, to what extent?
  • Having said that, I agree with President Obama that if Trump succeeds, we, as Americans, will all succeed as well. So, a part of me is really rooting for him, too–because I don’t want the country to suffer.

OK, let’s start with Trump’s concession speech. I was truly grateful for the following words he said: Continue reading ‘The 45th Presidency’

NFL 2016: Week 10

Browns-Ravens Continue reading ‘NFL 2016: Week 10’