Monthly Archives: August 2012

Clint Eastwood’s One-Man Show

There was a lot wrong about Clint Eastwood’s speech at the Republican National Convention last night. Eastwood was joined on stage by an empty chair where President Barack Obama was “seated” and “conversing” with the 82 year-old actor and Oscar-winning director.

Obama as invisible, the prime example of Other, not there, unlike you and I (the true Americans)—these are the tired assumptions of the whole pathetic bit. When Eastwood used a slicing motion toward his throat as a visual for “letting Obama go,” I wonder how many Republican delegates in the hall sensed that the actor had crossed a line in essentially calling for the president’s head.

There may be one thing in America worse than being Other: being a lawyer. Eastwood—who did little to defy the notion that many Republicans are old, rich white guys—gave his thoughts about who should be in the White House running the country.

Surprise! It’s not a lawyer.

See, I never thought it was a good idea for attorneys to be president, anyway. I think attorneys are so busy. You know, they’re always taught to argue everything, always weigh everything, weigh both sides. They are always devil’s advocating this and bifurcating this and bifurcating that. You know all that stuff. But I think it is maybe time—what do you think?—for maybe a businessman. How about that?

Setting aside the fact that Mitt Romney has both a business and a law degree from Harvard, I take issue with Eastwood’s argument that America needs to be run by a corporatist. Let’s examine some basic assumptions here.

Why is weighing both sides, especially by the president of the United States, such a bad thing? Does “Dirty Harry” really believe that business people don’t weigh options? Are they better thinkers, better decision-makers, when compared to attorneys? Since all businessmen view themselves as “job creators” and not just self-interested money hounds, does this mean that Romney would reduce American unemployment more effectively than President Obama simply because Romney made millions at Bain Capital?

These questions could go on, but I’d like to highlight something more complex at play here. Many people on the Right who dislike him have labeled President Obama “professorial.” He was, after all, a senior lecturer on constitutional law at the University of Chicago. Hidden behind this resentment of Obama’s ties to academia is an attitude that has dominated American culture for over two centuries: anti-intellectualism.

That darn Obama, he just talks at us. He thinks he’s so smart. All he does is lecture. Pontificate. Over-analyze.

Most Americans don’t fare too well during actual lectures, so I understand their distaste for and distrust of critical thinking. (And, yes, I doubt the average American, when considering President Obama—or any other speaker—would ever use the word “pontificate.”)

Many Republicans embrace rigid thinking rooted in superstition and fear-mongering. They have little use for the other side of an argument. They want a decider, not a debater, regardless of the consequences our country could face, such as when the last great “decider president” took us to two wars without consulting Congress and then lowered taxes on the wealthiest Americans without considering how those wars would be funded.

Shallow thinkers that they are, those revved up Republican delegates loved the utter stupidity of Eastwood’s performance, a one-man show that left the anti-Obama crowd wanting more nonsense and less intelligent discussion.

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Can You Feel My Love Buzz?

I like my music loud and aggressive. It’s been that way since I fell in love with Guns N’ Roses in grade school. By no means have I outgrown my passion for rock n’ roll. My anger, as with the frustrations that accompany adulthood, remains stronger than ever.

Indeed rebellion plays a big role here. But what am I rebelling against?

Perhaps it’s from the sublimation of my desires. That great twentieth-century psychoanalyst was on to something when he outlined this idea. In order for each of us to live safely in society, we must forgo dangerous impulses toward things like sex and violence. We sacrifice our strongest urges for the comfort of community.

But civilization, in domesticating us, ultimately fails to tame our inner beast. We still crave action, especially where it’s prohibited. When I can’t get what I want, this very moment, I get angry but refrain from expressing my fury lest I be judged a threat to myself or others.

Bands like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against The Machine bring me temporary relief through the guitars, drums, microphones and amplifiers they employ. Or so this theory goes.

Here’s another, less complicated take.

My high school graduation was over fourteen years ago, but I still remember the daily battles between the jocks and freaks—the clever label given to artsy kids who liked to skateboard and don super baggy jeans. There’s no denying that I embodied the essence of the anti-jock, but I wasn’t a full-fledged freak either.

I was just a geeky teen looking for love. Listening to grunge and punk songs made me feel special and immune from the herd mentality. It gave me confidence and helped me tackle the day.

Better yet, it helped me impress the ladies.

The jocks had their games (and gym class) to show off. I had poetry, music, art. We both wanted the same thing, though: to get laid. Rather than simply allowing me to release my rage, music afforded me a chance to turn my experience of it into a performance to wow the crowd. A crowd, I still hope today, with at least one chick that digs me.

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Filed under Life, Philosophy, Rock And Roll

And How Does That Make You Feel?

GENTLE HURRICANES

I searched for happiness
kept getting a blank page
been chasing vapors
supple ghosts
of former selves

my will’s in limbo
cursed with good intentions
I taste sour
even in the sweetest kiss
fight fire with fire
without stopping
to drop and roll

I kill time with kindness
assume the fatal position
where the sun don’t shine

in my prime
can barely muster
gentle hurricanes

nobody reads me right
especially my profile
here’s the whole story
one-hundred-forty
shadows or less

c b snoad
8-28-12

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Make A Wish

As another birthday approaches, I find myself looking at the big picture. Like everyone else in the world, I’ve suffered through–and survived–some rather terrible things. Some experiences stung more than others. Their intensity and duration often overshadow all those amazingly beautiful moments that seem to fade so fast.

But I can’t allow myself to forget the good or relinquish my hope. Depression, by its nature, doesn’t leave the depressed much room for optimism. There have been many times in which I’ve encountered a challenge and thought, “OK, how am I going to fuck this up?” And then I’d find a way to crumble.

Lately, though, I’ve been working to flip my default switch from negative to positive. After all the pain and sadness I’ve endured, what if tomorrow will be better? What if the worst is over?

Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of strife and heartache with which I’ll have to contend, but I’m now operating under the assumption that the really shitty stuff has passed. And I’m daring myself to accept the possibility that not just a reprieve of suffering lies ahead, but genuine joy. That’s my birthday wish.

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Engaging Critical Thinking

We’re still learning how the Internet is affecting communication. It’s clear, though, that our daily online experience has fundamentally altered the act of reading. I’ll let Alan Kirby, a PhD in twentieth-century literature and culture, explain via metaphor what’s going on here:

If literary research is like marriage (a mind entwined with the tastes, whims, and thoughts of another for years) and ordinary reading is like dating (a mind entwined with another for a limited, pleasure-governed but intimate time), then Internet reading often resembles gazing from a second-floor window at the passersby on the street below. It’s dispassionate and uninvolved, and implicitly embraces a sense of frustration, an incapacity to engage.

–Alan Kirby, Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure Our Culture, 2009, pp. 67-8.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that the average reader needs to enter the marriage that is literary research, but I am suggesting that ordinary reading (the dating in Kirby’s analysis) is a lost art in the post-Internet age.

Most people skim articles for information and then move on to the next enticing mouse-click, wherein they skim again, digesting little beyond the juicy headline. When it’s a piece on Jennifer Aniston getting engaged, this is often an effective strategy. After all, we’ve yet to read the next link regarding Kristen Stewart and her cheating ways.

But treading the surface of facts without diving in and immersing oneself in the whole story goes beyond reading articles and into thinking critically, especially where politics is concerned.

Politicians have always been hard to read; now it’s nearly impossible. The practical implications of our ignorance are mounting. How can we make informed decisions about Mitt Romney or President Obama if we only skim their sound bites and talking points?

Looking out the window at passersby might be temporarily pleasing, but to peek out the curtains for a few seconds is a terrible approach when you’re choosing the leader of the free world. Let’s take critical thinking out for dinner and a movie before November 6. We might just fall in love with reasoning.

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