If you read my blog regularly, you know I am an avid reader of The New Yorker.  There are many varying stories in any given issue of the magazine, and I usually read them all.  But, I am want to ever read something that compels me enough to write about it. Today, one of those articles did just that.

The article was a review written by my one of my favorite music and culture writers – Alex Ross.  The article is titled “The Naysayers: Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and the critique of pop culture.”  I have linked to the article here, but chances are, readers won’t be able to access it unless one has an online New Yorker account.  That being said, I recommend getting one. :)

What intrigued from the beginning about this article was that it expounds upon a topic for which I devoted much of master’s thesis to – the influence and role of popular culture in our modern society, and how it has come to affect the consumption of culture and art from within a consumerist mindset, as opposed to experiencing it as a representation of our humanity through personal expression.

Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin

Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin

In the article, Ross discusses the lives and works of Benjamin and Adorno, as described in a new biography.  I expect that Ross is reviewing these men in conjunction with a new book on Wagner he is currently writing, but that is only a hunch.  Throughout, Ross compares and contrasts the similar, although at times contrasting views of the two gentleman, and concludes the article with his own poignant take on the state of affairs.

It is worth producing the last few paragraphs of the article here in full:

If Adorno were to look upon the cultural landscape of the twenty-first century, he might take grim satisfaction in seeing his fondest fears realized.  The pop hegemony is all but complete, its superstars dominating the media and wielding the economic might of tycoons. They live full time in the unreal realm of the mega-rich, yet they hide behind a folksy façade, wolfing down pizza at the Oscars and cheering sports teams from V.I.P. boxes. Meanwhile, traditional bourgeois genres are kicked to the margins, their demographics undesirable, their life styles uncool, their formal intricacies ill suited to the transmission networks of the digital age. Opera, dance, poetry, and the literary novel are still called “élitist,” despite the fact that the world’s real power has little use for them. The old hierarchy of high and low has become a sham: pop is the ruling party.

The Internet threatens final confirmation of Adorno and Horkheimer’s dictum that the culture industry allows the “freedom to choose what is always the same.” Champions of online life promised a utopia of infinite availability: a “long tail” of perpetually in-stock products would revive interest in non-mainstream culture. One need not have read Astra Taylor and other critics to sense that this utopia has been slow in arriving. Culture appears more monolithic than ever, with a few gigantic corporations—Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon—presiding over unprecedented monopolies. Internet discourse has become tighter, more coercive. Search engines guide you away from peculiar words. (“Did you mean . . . ?”) Headlines have an authoritarian bark (“This Map of Planes in the Air Right Now Will Blow Your Mind”). “Most Read” lists at the top of Web sites imply that you should read the same stories everyone else is reading. Technology conspires with populism to create an ideologically vacant dictatorship of likes.

This, at least, is the drastic view. Benjamin’s heirs have suggested how messages of dissent can emanate from the heart of the culture industry, particularly in giving voice to oppressed or marginalized groups. Any narrative of cultural regression must confront evidence of social advance: the position of Jews, women, gay men, and people of color is a great deal more secure in today’s neo-liberal democracies than it was in the old bourgeois Europe. (The Frankfurt School’s indifference to race and gender is a conspicuous flaw.) The late Jamaican-born British scholar Stuart Hall, a pioneer of cultural studies, presented a double-sided picture of youth pop, defining it, in an essay co-written with Paddy Whannel, as a “contradictory mixture of the authentic and the manufactured.” In the same vein, the NPR pop critic Ann Powers wrote last month about listening to Nico & Vinz’s slickly soulful hit “Am I Wrong” in the wake of the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, and catching the song’s undercurrents of unease. “Pop is all about commodification: the soft center of what adapts,” Powers writes. “But sometimes, when history collides with it, a simple song gains dimension.”

One way or another, the Frankfurt School mode of criticism—its skeptical ardor, its relentless scouring of mundane surfaces—has spread far. When online recappers expend thousands of words debating the depiction of rape on “Game of Thrones,” or when writers publish histories of sneakers or of the office cubicle, they show intense awareness of mass culture’s ability to shape society. And in some cases the analysis takes a recognizably dialectical turn, as in Hua Hsu’s 2011 essay, for Grantland, on Kanye West and Jay-Z’s album “Watch the Throne.” A dispassionate hip-hop fan, Hua Hsu ponders the spectacle of two leading rappers making an “album against austerity,” in which they mark their ascension to a world of “MoMA and Rothko, Larry Gagosian, and luxury hotels across three continents,” and at the same time forfeit a hip-hop tradition of fantasy and protest. Citing the Kanye track “Power”—“Grab a camera, shoot a viral / Take the power in your own hands”—Hsu writes, “This version of power is entrancing—it explains an entire generation. But it also confuses ubiquity for importance, the familiarity of a celebrity’s face for true authority.” There is no telling how Adorno and Benjamin might have negotiated such contemporary labyrinths. Perhaps, on a peaceful day, they would have accepted the compromise devised by Fredric Jameson, who has written that the “cultural evolution of late capitalism” can be understood “dialectically, as catastrophe and progress all together.”

These implacable voices should stay active in our minds. Their dialectic of doubt prods us to pursue connections between what troubles us and what distracts us, to see the riven world behind the seamless screen. “There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism”: Benjamin’s great formula, as forceful as a Klieg light, should be fixed as steadily on pop culture, the ritual apparatus of American capitalism, as it has been on the art works of the European bourgeoisie. Adorno asked for only so much. Above all, these figures present a model for thinking differently, and not in the glib sense touted by Steve Jobs. As the homogenization of culture proceeds apace, as the technology of surveillance hovers at the borders of our brains, such spaces are becoming rarer and more confined. I am haunted by a sentence from Virginia Woolf’s “The Waves”: “One cannot live outside the machine for more perhaps than half an hour.” ♦ 

- Alex Ross, The New Yorker, September 15, 2014

Two quotes from within this last section of the article really hit home:

“Technology conspires with populism to create an ideology vacant dictatorship of likes.”  and the quote he ends with of Virginia Woolf’s, “One cannot live outside the machine for more perhaps than half an hour.”

 

Quote  —  Posted: September 20, 2014 in arts culture, Books, Cultural Theory, Media, New Yorker
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Tonight, I saw the recently released documentary about Donald Rumsfeld.  It was about his handling of the Iraq War, and an overarching perspective of the decisions he has made throughout his political career….I think.  The film is called “The Unknown Known“, and it was directed and written by Errol Morris.  I say ,”I think” that is what I saw, because throughout the entire 103 minutes of interviews and footage (all of it entirely between Mr. Morris and Mr. Rumsfeld), I had a hard time deciphering the narrative, or “point”, of the whole thing.  More precise, I could not figure out Mr. Morris’ position on the matter of Mr. Rumsfeld.

Based on the promotional spots for this film, I believed I was going to see a documentary that somehow revealed something about Mr. Rumsfeld that I had not already thought before.  In short, that there was something more behind the public persona he portrayed while in public office; a persona, I might add, that I remember as coming off as calculating and manipulative. However, the movie left me with a feeling of utter vagueness.  I couldn’t tell what the point of it all was.Unknown knowns

At some points throughout the film, I felt that Morris was trying to prove Rumsfeld was complicit in his knowledge of a plan for the second Iraq War in 2003, prior to the attacks on 9/11.  Rumsfeld is filmed reading memos he had written that seem to indicate he had some foreknowledge of the plans to attack Iraq.  Or, what some also might call, the “Neo-Conservative Agenda for the Middle East.”  But then, a few minutes later, Morris allows Rumsfeld the cliché when asked about the outcome of the Iraq War, “Everything seems amazing in retrospect…Stuff happens.”  What is Morris trying to prove here?  That Rumsfeld is complicit in something sinister, or that he deserves the benefit of the doubt?

The film then delves into a historical exploration of Rumsfeld’s political career, coupled with a smattering of personal anecdotes (I guess for the purpose of humanizing the subject of the film).  And yet, each of the sub-topics of his civic and political career; his time in the U.S. Navy; his positions in the Nixon and Ford Administrations; his actions leading up to and during 9/11; seem to have an implication that “something fishy is going on”.  And yet, these “fishy implications” are never summarized, or spelled out by Mr. Morris.  One is left wondering, “what was the point of all that?”  I for one left wondering, “what did I just see?”

Was I to believe Rumsfeld was culpable for covering up something during his time in the Bush Administration?  Or, was I to believe that he was a noble man, doing his job, and simply made an honest series of mistaken decisions along the way?  There is much evidence to suggest that the latter is not the case.  Morris does not offer an overt position or explanation on either in the film.

In fairness, it could have been Mr. Morris’ intention all along to present a nuanced portrayal of a controversial figure.  Perhaps, I am simply too caught up in my pre-conceived notions of Mr. Rumsfeld to give him a fair shot.  Or, perhaps Mr. Morris knowingly used Mr. Rumsfeld’s own words and calculated demeanor to paint a picture of him that so may Americans already suspect…

Just as Mr. Rumsfeld perfected the art of language manipulation in his press conferences (as the film shows), Mr. Morris utilizes Mr. Rumsfeld’s own words and smarmy gestures to show that there really might be something lurking under the surface that is not entirely tangible.  There just might be, as Morris hints at throughout the film, something hiding behind that wide grin….Something, as Rumsfled might say, that could be considered an “unknown known.”

 

I just got back to Phoenix from my second Opera America Conference.  This year’s theme was “Audiences Re-imagined”, and it was hosted by San Francisco Opera in the lovely “city by the bay”.  Summers in San Francisco are unlike most places in the United States.  Cool days and even cooler evenings are a normal forecast this time of year.  As Mark Twain was once reportedly to have said,

The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.

I on the other hand will happily take 65 degree temps any day over the sweltering hell-scape that is Phoenix mid-summer.  Weather talk aside, there were some very interesting moments this past week as opera administrators, composers, directors, librettists, and artistic minds of varied disciplines, convened on the Grand Hyatt Hotel in the heart of downtown San Francisco to discuss the state of Opera and opera companies in our modern culture. Here are some of my main takeaways from the week.

Relevant Stories Matter

It might seem like common sense, but for the longest time, a large majority of opera companies in the U.S. have neglected telling stories that reflect the lives and experiences of those people in their communities.  Yes, there are still relevant stories to be found amongst the war horses of the operatic canon, but they are more often than not loose teachings on the most base elements of the human condition- love, death, revenge, honor, etc.   These are still all concepts we can relate to, but the older operas deliver them in a context that is not always so easily relatable – i.e., 18th century aristocratic households, or grandiose displays of power amidst the temples of Egypt.

More and more in recent years, however, the notion of telling localized stories; stories that will relate directly to one’s community, are increasingly the direction opera companies are taking.  One company I know and respect well is beginning a series of commissioning projects around stories that relate to the military, and issues surrounding war’s impact on individuals and families in their community. Another company, Opera Memphis and their General Director, Ned Canty, is incorporating individual tales of an abandoned building into a series of short operas.  In their most recent homegrown commission, Opera Memphis partnered with a series of composers and a librettist to transform a number of locally sourced stories into a mini-opera – Ghosts of Crosstown.  The stories all surrounded the abandoned Sears Crosstown distribution building that has been in the community for decades, and a place that multiple generations of people living in Memphis have some sort of story about.  The coolest part about the whole thing?  They performed the completed work IN the abandoned Sears building, thus bringing to life the “ghosts” and stories of the building.

The trend with opera programming is now extending beyond the opera houses and into the community.  I think continually finding ways of incorporating smaller scale programming that can relate to our local communities’ stories is the way opera remains relevant. In short, artistic visions should extend beyond merely mainstage programming.

Presenting versus Producing

Another trend in programing is the fact that more and more companies are opening up to the idea of presenting new works, highly specialized works, or works that might be slightly outside of their own production capabilities, as opposed to feeling the need to produce everything in house.  Opening up to presenting allows more companies to showcase programming that they feel is important, and that their audiences should see, but would not normally produce alone.  One of the hottest co-presenters in recent years is Beth Morrison Projects and Prototype Festival .  Next season, for example, L.A. Opera and Forth Worth Opera, both companies that are quite comfortable producing on their own, will present Dog Days, a co-presentation with Beth Morrison Projects.

Ethnography approach to patron research

This idea came up in the lightning round talks from Erika Hall, co-founder and director of strategy for Mule Design.  An Ethnography  approach to patron and audience research shifts the focus of questioning away from asking people what they “would” or “might” do in the future, to what they ALREADY do.  In short, if you want to know what people WILL do, ask them what they ALREADY do.  Most audience and patron research questions are too full of wishful thinking on the parts of the questioners, in the hopes that they will hear the answers they want to hear.

Erika Hall’s underlying philosophy behind why this is is simple:  People are the problem. People are notoriously lazy, habit forming, and liars (guilty as charged). However, people are also the solution, because their behavior holds the answer to our questions.

People, with a capital “P”, are generally very self-conscious about how what they share publicly reflects on their own intellect and status. So, asking someone if they “intend to go to the opera in the future” has a hidden value judgment that most people perceive as, “Going to the opera is the smart thing to do, so I’ll say yes.”.  They will answer in the affirmative because it makes them look “smart” “well informed” “well connected”, etc. Exploring further an ethnographic approach to audience research within one’s own organization may help one get a better understanding not only of one’s current audiences, but also help to determine better ways in which to engage new audiences.

Handling PR and Board support for new works

One of the recurring questions in the sessions I attended was, “How do we get funders and board members onboard with a new project early enough in the process?”.  Another big question was how to handle negative reaction to new works.

The most common response to the first question was to “get funders and board members in on the process early, so that they have time to learn about and become invested in the new work idea.”  It can be a tricky balance when developing a new work to find the “right” time to bring in funders and key stakeholders.  One doesn’t want to bring them in too early and give them an incomplete picture of something; a picture that might give them the wrong idea.  On the other hand, you want them in on the process early enough so they have time to “fall in love” with it.  A good rule of thumb is to bring them in as early as possible, but also keep the lines of communication open with them about the project and its intended direction.

Once a new work is ready to go public, especially around topics that could be perceived as controversial, preparing the staff and board with talking points is key.  This is to insure that when talking about the project publicly, everyone is on the same page. In the lead up to the opening of a new work, public symposia and discussions surrounding the subject matter are a great way get your audience and the community prepared for the story they will see.

Inevitably, there will be people who do not like the new work.  No matter how much time you’ve put into public discourse around a topic, and no matter how thoroughly one may think they have addressed all sides of an issue in the presentation of a new work, there will always be those who believe a work is “offensive”, “one-sided”, or “not opera”.  Take a deep breath, this is pretty normal.  The key thing to remember is there will always be a vocal few.  One must never be afraid to program based on the loud voices of some.  Gauging what this threshold is in your own community between acceptance and/or rejection of a topic should be addressed on an individual basis.

Understanding the complete Opera Ecology

According to Alan Brown of Wolf Brown, the opera ecology has three overlapping layers:

  1. Artistic vibrancy - The Australia Council for the Arts has put together a thorough defining of artistic vibrancy, and ways to measure it in one’s community and organization.  The five areas that comprise artistic vibrancy are: (1) Quality and excellence of craft (2) Audience engagement and stimulation (3) Curation and development of art form (4) Development of artists (5) Community relevance.  The website thoroughly explains each area, and ways to test for them.
  2. Civic impact – some key points about how to achieve this are:
    • Obtaining unsolicited press coverage. This shows your community is already paying attention to you.
    • Programming addresses peoples and stories BEYOND the existing audience (i.e., white, old people).
    • Being a part of how your patrons form their preferences. People form their preferences in various ways, whether through “self-guided discovery” (i.e., Youtube, Amazon, Netflix), “socially-guided discovery” (i.e., friends and family tell them about stuff), “curated discovery” (i.e., museums put together an exhibition that people see, but all the pieces have been picked by the museum. This is also what most opera companies do.), or “media-based discovery” (i.e., they see stuff on television that sparks their interest in something).  Opera companies should try to find ways to also be preference makers outside of opera.  For example, there is no reason not to suggest high quality drama on Netflix to patrons during the off season.
    • Having a series of strong community partners outside of the arts. It’s one thing to partner with other arts organizations, it’s another thing entirely to find ways for opera companies to partner with other community organizations outside of the arts field.  Finding ways to connect one’s organization deeper into the community in order to reach circles of people outside of the typical arts circle, is how we can become more integrated into the cultural and civic fabric of our communities.
    • Diagnostic Capacity. Developing ways to diagnose within our community how art, and more specifically the art form, can address the overall health of the community by providing an outlet for civic discourse on relevant issues.
  3. Increased public support and participation:
    • This is the third piece of the opera ecology, but not necessarily the final step or end result. Increased public support and participation are a byproduct of artistic vibrancy and civic impact. Having improvements and refinements in these other areas only helps to cause the cycle to begin again with new ideas for ways to improve/increase artistic vibrancy and civic impact. As long as this process stays alive and continues to develop, avoiding stagnation and “mission creep”, our communities will become more engaged with what we do and want an ever-increasing part in it.

These were some of the main takeaways for me this past week at conference.  No doubt, others would have highly varied reports.  All in all, this was one conference where I left feeling uplifted and hopeful for the future of opera in America.  There are so many bright people working towards the promotion of this art form, and who are open to exploring all of its possibilities for growth both internally and externally within the community.  A good sign.

 

 

I posted on the topic of the debt ceiling the last time it came around in the political news cycle.  It seems like we keep facing these ridiculous fights over whether or not our government will or will not raise the debt ceiling.  My argument that I made a few months ago (which I have posted again below) is that Republicans’ attempt to use the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip is in stark violation to their oath to the Constitution, more specifically, the 14th Amendment.  This is pretty ballsy for a group that loves to tout their unfettered and pure devotion to our most important of founding documents.

I came across a video today that reiterates my point from my previous post, except this time it is from someone who has the respected credentials to speak authoritatively on the subject….Here is a link to the Bloomberg News report.

Obama and the Debt Ceiling

***(originally posted on 8/15/2013***

The debt ceiling debate is, in my opinion, much more straight-forward and simple to argue for from a Constitutional perspective than the gun control debate. Let’s get right to the Constitutional clause in question, namely Amendment XIV, Section 4, which reads in part:

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including all debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned…

If there is one thing I learned from countless courses in philosophy and critical thinking, not to mention my dealings with contracts, it’s that certain words carry certain inarguable meanings. In the case of this Constitutional Amendment, the words are very clear. If one simply takes out the additional clauses from the middle part, and just focuses on the root meaning of the sentence, it reads: “The validity of the public debt of the United States shall not be questioned.” From a merely etymological perspective, this Constitutional prescription is non-negotiable. Case in point, the word “shall”. This is not an arguable term in the English language. It does not carry the same loose obligation as, say, the word “may” or even “will”. “Shall” denotes duty, responsibility, and most importantly for purposes of our current debate, obligation. It does not imply in any way, based on it’s historical definition, anything other than that which must be done. Period. End of story. Need I go on?

In other words, there is and shall not be any debate over whether or not the Federal Government should or should not pay for those services for which it has already accrued debt. As long as those debts have been previously legislated and voted on by Congress (which all current debt has), then the Federal Government has a strict obligation to pay those debts. The way that many in the Republican party are holding this issue hostage is counter to their Constitutional duties as members of Congress. They are, if one simply reads the words of the Constitution, not fulfilling their duties by “questioning” the “validity” of the United States debt.

Why so much hate?!  Bill Maher explains…

Video  —  Posted: September 21, 2013 in Comedy, Cultural Theory, marketing, Media, Sociology
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The title of this post is the tag line of a website that I’ve fallen in love with – Retronaut.com.

It’s very well possible that I am completely behind the times on this, but I can’t stop exploring this site! Pick an era of time since the invention of photography, and Retronaunt has curated collections of provoking images that peal back the standard imagery for a given time period, and reveal a side not often seen.

Cellophane baby

cocainedropsFor example, Cocaine Tooth Drops reminds us of the good ol’ days, when cocaine was a medicinal form used for pain relief.

Or, the days when Cellophane was so exciting and new, that we wanted to wrap our babies in it.

OR, my personal favorite gem, Stuffed Girls Heads : one of the most Stuffed-Girls-Headscompelling artifacts I’ve seen which shows how we once lived in an era of blatant, unapologetic misogyny.

Once you start digging through this site, you’re not going to want to stop.  Consider yourself forewarned!

Do you ever feel guilty going shopping on Labor Day? I do. Pushing through throngs of people; just another of the mindless consumer cattle in search of a bargain for some cheaply made textile or electronics.  Upon having our fill, quickly shoving up to the nearest counter, plopping down our goods and avoiding eye contact and conversation with the person on the other side.  Spare me the conversation, we just want to pay for our stuff, and get the hell out.  All the while, we are missing the blatant irony of making this purchase on Labor Day.

More often than not, the products Americans are mindlessly buying are made overseas with ridiculously cheap labor.  Chances are, your Labor Day spending spree is not supporting American workers.  Sure, you’re spending your hard earned money at stores here in America, thereby keeping those behind the cash register employed, but your not supporting an American industry.  The “service industry” is devoid of substance.  It is product free.  Furthermore, the share of those Labor Day purchases that actually go towards paying those ringing  you up or taking your order, or giving them health insurance (or lack thereof), or potential wage increases, is little to none.  Where do all your hard earned dollars go?  Right into the coffers of the multi-national corporations that exploit cheap labor and take away decent paying jobs in America. Corporations that fight against wage increases, that fight against providing health care, that fight against living wages.  That’s where.  Retail, food service and hospitality sectors, are just a few of the major economic sectors that treat Labor Day as just another Profit Day, exploiting faux patriotism along the way.

Corporate ProfitsThe fact of the matter is, real wages for the average American middle class worker has lagged so much over the last 30 years that it is virtually stagnant compared to the gross increases in corporate wealth.

Labor Day began as a commemoration of the progress made by labor unions to protect the rights and wages of every day, middle class workers.  When did Labor Day become synonymous in most American’s minds with nothing more than an extra beach day and a good day for shopping deals?  So many Americans are ignorant of the history behind this holiday.  It’s sad.  Even sadder, can you imagine a holiday like Labor Day being created in today’s political climate?  Anyone supporting such an idea today would undoubtedly be accused of being a Socialist!  I can just hear Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh now.  It doesn’t help that the corporations pretty much own all of our elected leaders, in one way or another.

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking to yourself, “But what can I do about it?!”.  Talk is cheap, as I all too often experience.  Actions are important.  So how do you use the consumerist system against itself?  You don’t consume.  I for one will not be spending any money on Labor Day, at least not at any corporately owned stores.  I try to make that a daily practice anyway, but tomorrow I am going to be especially cognizant of it.  Sure, you could go even further and petition your company to allow you to unionize.  The reality is very few people have the will or stomachs to do such a thing.  So, if you do one thing this Labor Day to commemorate the sacrifice and honor of the American worker, don’t buy into the corporations that exploit them.

And if you want six things to help boost American labor this Labor Day, Robert Reich has you covered:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yl0NaFG2B_k

Debt Ceiling

The debt ceiling debate is, in my opinion, much more straight-forward and simple to argue for from a Constitutional perspective than the gun control debate. Let’s get right to the Constitutional clause in question, namely Amendment XIV, Section 4, which reads in part:

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including all debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned…

If there is one thing I learned from countless courses in philosophy and critical thinking, not to mention my dealings with contracts, it’s that certain words carry certain inarguable meanings. In the case of this Constitutional Amendment, the words are very clear. If one simply takes out the additional clauses from the middle part, and just focuses on the root meaning of the sentence, it reads: “The validity of the public debt of the United States shall not be questioned.” From a merely etymological perspective, this Constitutional prescription is non-negotiable. Case in point, the word “shall”. This is not an arguable term in the English language. It does not carry the same loose obligation as, say, the word “may” or even “will”. “Shall” denotes duty, responsibility, and most importantly for purposes of our current debate, obligation. It does not imply in any way, based on it’s historical definition, anything other than that which must be done. Period. End of story. Need I go on?

In other words, there is and shall not be any debate over whether or not the Federal Government should or should not pay for those services for which it has already accrued debt. As long as those debts have been previously legislated and voted on by Congress (which all current debt has), then the Federal Government has a strict obligation to pay those debts. The way that many in the Republican party are holding this issue hostage is counter to their Constitutional duties as members of Congress. They are, if one simply reads the words of the Constitution, not fulfilling their duties by “questioning” the “validity” of the United States debt.

Aside  —  Posted: August 15, 2013 in Politics
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No words necessary.  Just watch.

 

Video  —  Posted: August 13, 2013 in Cultural Theory, Media, Sociology
Tags: ,

Who doesn’t love a good period drama?  Whether it’s the classic movie “Gone with the Wind”…, or the more recent successes of “Lincoln” and “Downton Abbey”, westerners (Americans) love reliving the “good ol’ days” when everything seemed more simple; more, tidy.  While these shows are certainly entertaining, do we really get an accurate picture for how real individuals from those time periods would have spoken about and acted towards issues such as equality? Think about it:  we watch these programs about 19th and early 20th century societies, but we wrap them in a cozy, warm blanket of 21st century, post civil rights viewpoints.  carson

As this NPR story details, the key to discovering how we impress our 21st century morals onto the past is by paying close attention to the use of words and phrases in our favorite Pre-WWI drama series’.  Did Abolitionist Republicans during the time of Lincoln use the word “equality” the same way we think of the word today?  Most likely not.  Are the butlers and maids in Downton Abbey really struggling with their own feelings of homophobia?  Probably not, considering the notion of “being gay” as part of a person’s identity and not merely a sexual behavior, is an idea prominently attuned to the 20th century.

Although, I guess this could happen in reverse too.  Think about those 1960s and 70s movies about what “the future” will hold.  More often than not, modern versions of the future are nothing more than a stylized reflection of the present.  That is of course unless aliens and superhuman’s decided to adopt from us such revolutionary styles as “the afro” and “polyester wear”.

The point is, try as we might to recreate the past, or project the future, we are always imposing upon it our own modern notions of right, wrong, and what outfit will make this character look most sexy?