Category Archives: essay

Sensationalist Journalism Legitimizes Debates That Never Should Be Legitimized

This video was posted on CNN yesterday with the headline, “Is Obama an Islamic Sympathizer?”  The sub-description of the video is, “CNN’s Anderson Cooper talks with a panel about whether President Obama’s views are ‘un-American.'”

The several-minute video is Anderson Cooper hosting 4 panelists: Paul Begala, Ari Fleischer, David Gergen, and Fareed Zakaria.  Cooper’s lead-in to the piece, and presumably the genesis of the entire video, is this poll:

A poll worthy of discussion, apparently

Cooper asks each panelist in turn what they make of this.  The first two, Begala and Fleischer, both agree that it shouldn’t be taken seriously and is nothing more than an indicator of the bitterness of America’s current political landscape.  The following two, Gergen and Zakaria, turn the conversation into a brief discussion of America’s tolerance or intolerance for Muslims and Obama’s role in that.  As you might expect, nobody really agrees with anyone, different viewpoints are offered, and the impression you get at the end is that America is a big country and some people really don’t like Obama but most Americans are reasonable.  Astounding!

What drives me up the wall about this video is the branding.  I clicked on the video because of the title, “Is Obama an Islamic Sympathizer?”  CNN’s webmasters gave it that title precisely so that it would draw page views, which generate revenue.  Of course, no one in the video agrees with that question, and they pretty soon stop talking about entirely.*  But the title legitimizes a debate which, in my view, should not be legitimized.

*(Not before Cooper offers this leading question to the first panelist: “Or do you really think that the numbers say that people think the President of the United States supports Sharia law?”  Which is, of course, very different than being an ‘Islamic sympathizer.’  I’m a doormouse sympathizer but I don’t let them eat my cereal.)  

Does the video discuss the various ways one can be “sympathetic” to Islam?  Does it discuss what it means to have “un-American views?”  No.*  Does anyone in the video even bring up the concept of a President with un-American views?  No.  The video would more accurately be titled, “Is American Politics Religiously Divided?”  But in going for the controversy and ad revenue, CNN legitimizes the “debate” over Obama’s patriotism and whether being “sympathetic” to Islam is an acceptable stance in this country.  It doesn’t matter that the content of the video mostly ignores the question and certainly doesn’t endorse it.  It is merely the presence of the question, prominently displayed on CNN.com, which legitimizes it as a question worthy of national discussion.

*(Again, the damage is done in the asking.  The question is raised by the headline, and you have to watch the video to find out that no, ultimately, Obama’s views are not un-American.  Or you would find that out, if they even addressed the question.  Perhaps we should post this discussion: “Is CNN Run by the Mob?”  Inclined readers can wade through 4 pages of comment board posts to find out that no, it isn’t.)

There are people in this country who fervently believe Obama wants to impose Sharia Law.  They point to CNN and say, “See?  The debate continues.”  I believe in freedom of speech, but the attention being given to that viewpoint and similar views is out of proportion to the number of people who legitimately believe it.  I believe others do not actually believe such things, but stoke this fire because it furthers their own political agenda.  The debate over Obama’s secret Islamic objectives is even less of a debate than the “debate” over global warming.  Yet a mainstream news outlet like CNN legitimizes the “other side” of the debate for…what?  Ad revenue.  And the national political debate suffers for it.

The problem is that the wackos don’t give the rest of us the same deal.  If you went to a website trumpeting the Obama-as-Muslim cause, you would not see a video called, “Three Reasons Why Obama May Be Christian.”  Even FoxNews does not have videos titled, “Is Obama’s Economic Policy Paying Dividends?”  No, at Fox you get links like, “How Much Will the Transition to Digital Medical Records Cost You?” and “Stimulus Plan in Hindsight: Did Obama’s Agenda Hobble Economic Recovery?”

The New York Times or CNN would not be muckraking to report on the Obama-as-Muslim conspiracy theories, or the elected officials who doubt global warming, or any other sign of these nutty times.  But there is a way to cover such trends and people that does not legitimize their viewpoints.  When the paper covers a house fire, it doesn’t use the headline, “Was House Meant To Burn Down?”

I believe the Obama-as-Muslim theorists are not only wrong, but the promotion of that debate materially hurts America’s pursuit of our diplomatic objectives and increases anti-American sentiment abroad.  There are stakes here.  But the media’s pursuit of bad news and provocative opinion creates a positive feedback loop which gives these fringe perspectives more clout than they deserve.  They can then point to the phantom debate created by the media coverage as a retroactive legitimization of what we dun been sayin’ since way back when Grandpop told us that de Foundin Fathers knew that dark-skinned folk ain’t mean to live in democracy.  Now we just glad we’s gettin some attentun fer it.

We need and deserve more sophisticated consideration from those organizations and individuals who, in these divisive times, sit in the control room of our national attention.

Dan Shaughnessy Is Worried About the Celtics – Yeah, That Must Be It

Do not let this man talk to you about sports

Applebees waiter-turned-sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy posted a recent dither on SI.com about fraternization among professional athletes.  Shaughussy’s “thesis” is that the LeBron-Wade-Bosh union in Miami is proof that athletes are too friendly with the competition.  Back in the good old days, Shauhessy pines, players wanted to beat the competition, not hug them.

Now, Shawnmessy should stop tricking Sports Illustrated into perceiving his opinions as “journalism” and go back to telling us about Applebee’s new 550-calorie menu options.  But he does bring up an interesting subject (to us, not him): the balance of competition and good sportsmanship in American professional sports.  I’m steamed about his article, but I’m going to do my best to focus on this topic.

The question of what lessons professional athletes should teach us is a long and unsettled debate.  Shaughmessy gives anecdotes about Ted Williams embarrassing a young pitcher who asked him for an autograph.  He also relates how he somehow cornered Bob Gibson (in an Applebees booth, probably) and told him about a young hitter homering off Roger Clemens and then asking Clemens to sign the ball.  According to Seanmessy, Gibson was so enthralled by this story that he got really, really mad.  This, Shaunbotony suggests, is how real athletes treat their competition.  With contempt and scorn.  They stomp young, admiring players into the mud and then piss on their broken carcases for daring to acknowledge that striking out Ted Williams or hitting a home run off Bob Gibson is likely to be the pinnacle of their professional careers.

Ty Cobb is more his speed

Our American society is pretty far removed from the constant threat of warfare which has characterized most of human history.  Sports, particularly football, are surrogates for that warfare, allowing us to choose a side and pretend that life, death, and glory are on the line.  It’s safe because we know, at the end of the day, nobody dies.  But we like the adrenaline and we need a source of honor to defend.

We hold up athletics as a way to pursue an upstanding, moral life.  We try to make professional athletes role models, and get all pissy when they fail us.  Sport teaches us important lessons about hard work, dedication, teamwork, and dealing with success and failure.  Must we really choose between respecting one’s opponent (a noble virtue) and seeking their total destruction with every ounce of our strength and cunning (a profitable attitude, but somewhat unstable when found widely throughout society)?

Shabalabadingdong bemoans the hugfest that the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry has apparently become in the last 15 years.  Were the 2003 and 2004 series not filled with enmity?  Was Aaron Boone’s walk-off home run not sufficiently competitive?  Did the Red Sox go soft in 2004 by not taking a team piss on the Yankees logo after Game 7?  What about the whole Pedro-Don Zimmer fiasco?

A hug gone wrong, apparently

Surely we can agree that animosity towards your opponent can go too far.  In 1999 Wichita State star pitcher Ben Christensen hit an opposing batter in the eye with a 90 mph pitch because that batter was timing his warm-up pitches from the on-deck circle.  Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson said afterwards that Wichita got the worse end of the deal because Christensen was ejected and suspended.  A horrifying incident and one that not even an Applebees waiter watching 300 trailers on Youtube would think is proper sporting conduct.

In my view, sport creates within the structure of the game sufficient space for competitive animosity.  Roy Halladay wants to dominate the other team every time he takes the ball.  Kevin Garnett takes every point scored on him as a personal affront and challenge.  Roger Federer seeks to methodically turn every opponent he faces into a quivering mass of sneakers and useless synthetic gut string.  The fact that none of these world-class athletes go out of their way to mock, humiliate, or denigrate their opponents outside of the playing arena makes them better, not lesser, athletes. 

Hockey even has a built-in system for the sort of competitive rage Shoonoshy apparently craves.  Enforcers’ primary purpose is to get into fights with the other team and provide violent retaliation (exactly the sort of behavior D. Night Shaunessy wants to see in home plate collisions).  Yet (most) NHL enforcers do not continue the fight in the parking lot after the game.  They know the boundaries of the game, and they “leave it all on the field” (a cliché that our Applebees Serving Associate would probably attribute to the sort of athletes he thinks we don’t see anymore).

Want examples of true contempt for the opposition?  Look at soccer riots, or LeGarrett Blount’s punch, or the Kermit Washington-Rudy Tomjanovich punch.  That’s where the line is crossed.  That is when people lose respect for their athletic opponents.

Perhaps nearly 1,000 words is 1,000 too many to spend in reaction to an SI.Com puff piece faxed to the editors on the back of an Applebees kids’ menu.  But when there’s dog shit on the sidewalk, you do everybody a favor by pointing it out.  Baseball needs dirtier play the way MMA needs smaller compression shorts.  Athletes who give their all in the game, and respect their opponents outside of the game, should be encouraged in the national media, not denigrated.

So what’s the ultimate reading of Dan Shantwritewell’s puff piece?  He’s scared the Miami Heat are going to spend the next 5 years steamrolling his beloved Boston Celtics.

*NOTE: there are a million issues I have with the SI.com article I’m reacting to with this.  But I’m all worked up and doing my best to keep this piece in some semblance of order.

good reading and thoughts on corporations

Today the New York Times published this article by author Wes Davis.  In it Davis discusses the Bell Corporation’s mid-century attempt to broaden the intellectual and educational horizons of its young executives.  In 1952, the President of Bell Telephone, W.D. Gillen, created the Institute of Humanistic Studies for Executives at the University of Pennsylvania.  The Institute provided a 10-month crash course in the liberal arts to select Bell Telephone managers and executives.  The objective was to stock the company with educated, mentally flexible executives who could respond to problems intelligently and creatively.

I had never heard of this before, and I find it fascinating.  What’s most fascinating, however, is this part at the end:

The institute was judged a success by Morris S. Viteles, one of the pioneers of industrial psychology, who evaluated its graduates. But Bell gradually withdrew its support after yet another positive assessment found that while executives came out of the program more confident and more intellectually engaged, they were also less interested in putting the company’s bottom line ahead of their commitments to their families and communities. By 1960, the Institute of Humanistic Studies for Executives was finished.

This provides historical data to a belief I’ve held for some time about big corporations: that despite being composed of individuals, corporations themselves have no interest in the welfare of individuals or communities.  Their first and only responsibility is to their own preservation, as measured by profit, growth, market share, and other indicators of a company’s success.

This seems all the more relevant today, as national political debate simmers above the stovetop burners of the bank bailout and the BP oil spill.  BP has no fundamental interest in cleaning up the oil spill, except to the extent that it calculates doing so will help its bottom line.  If the profit gained from an improved corporate image is greater than the costs involved in improving that image, BP will clean up the spill.  If not, it won’t. 

Of course, individuals working for BP might feel strongly that BP should clean up the spill.  But the reason BP can’t and won’t clean up the spill is because it has competitor oil companies that won’t help, either.  Like any major corporation, BP has competitors, and they are locked in a never-ending race for financial success.  Every dollar BP spends unnecessarily is a dollar lost in its race with Exxon, Texaco, and others.  This fact requires BP to focus only on what helps its own short and long-term viability, and it must find individual workers who are best at obtaining those ends.  So BP naturally seeks and promotes individuals who are willing to place the company’s fiscal objectives ahead of any personal feelings, interests or moral responsibilities that might interfere.

Of course, what is best for BP is likely to be best for its workers, and they are individuals with families, communities, and environments.  But layoffs are the internal demonstration of how a corporation cares no more for its own employees than it does for the wider population.  If BP is $1 more profitable without you at your desk, you will be laid off.  To not lay you off is to lose a dollar’s worth of ground to the competition.

I believe this to be the case, which is why calls for massive deregulation drive me batty.  Big corporations are, like distant gods, indifferent at best to our livelihoods.  They are interested only to the extent that what is best for a community or an environment coincidentally overlap with its own interests.  Otherwise, they cannot step outside of their own objectives without risking their fundamental existence.  Some free market arguments would suggest that healthy communities and preserved environments are ultimately profitable for everyone, and so the market will look after them.  This has not yet been proven, and it’s not a hypothesis I wish the world to test.

The one corporation that can afford to deviate from the path of profitability is a monopoly.  With no rivals that threaten its existence, it can pursue other objectives.  The only such organization in this country is the government.  It is the only actor in the pantheon of corporate gods with the power to force them to care about our welfare.

So, hats off to that Bell executive who sought to broaden the horizons of Bell employees.  The company spent money to invest in its workforce as people.  Sadly, when it discovered that the investment resulted in less company-oriented workers, it cancelled the program.

—-

UPDATE: Two articles in the July 8th, 2010 edition of the NYTimes are useful examples of the way large corporations do not behave with an eye towards anything but their own economic health.  The first is an article about Wal-Mart’s exhaustive fight against the $7,000 fine assessed against them after an employee was trampled to death on Black Friday in 2008.  The second is about Transocean, the off-shore drilling company involved in the Gulf of Mexico disaster.  Check out this example of Transocean’s attempts to improve it’s all-important bottom line:

A Norwegian newspaper, Dagens Naeringsliv, reported several years ago that a Transocean rig, while returning from a repair yard in Norway to a drilling site in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea, diverted for several hours into British waters. During that time, Transocean transferred ownership of the rig between subsidiaries and later argued that it did not have to pay Norwegian taxes because profits on the transaction had been earned outside the country. The company subsequently settled the case involving that rig.

Viggo Mortensen, the Famous Actor

“Despite all his gifts [Viggo] Mortensen is a somewhat accidental movie star.  The first two roles he landed, in “Swing Shift” and “Purple Rose of Cairo,” were both cut from the finished films, though no one told him.  When he took his family to see the movies, they thought he was delusional.” ~New York Times, 9/10/2009

Not a homeless man. Actually a famous and talented actor.

1984 – Movie Theater

Viggo:  Okay, everybody, here comes my big scene!

Father:  My boy is a movie star!

Mother:  This is so exciting!  There’s Goldie Hawn!

[scene]

Viggo:  Wait…

Father:  I didn’t see you in there.

Viggo:  They cut it!  It was supposed to be right there!

Mother:  Oh honey, I’m so sorry.

1985 – Movie Theater

Viggo:  Thanks for coming again, guys.

Father:  Sure thing, son.  Happy to be supportive.

Viggo:  Woody Allen was great to work with.  Mom, you loved Annie Hall, remember?

Mother:  Of course, dear!

Viggo:  Okay, quiet, here’s my entrance.

[scene]

Viggo:  I can’t fucking believe it.

Mother:  Viggo, are you sure you’re feeling okay?  You look a little feverish.

Viggo:  No, I swear I was in this movie!  That’s where I was for those three weeks last summer!  Filming this movie!

Father:  Right, son. Listen, we know you really want to be in the movies…[exchanges glance with Mother]

Viggo:  I’m feverish because I got cut from the movie!  I really was in that movie!

Mother:  I’m going to check…the car.  I think the meter may be running out.

1990 – phone call

Viggo:  Mom, there’s a movie coming out that I have a part in.

Mother:  And what’s it called?  Home Alone?

Viggo:  Very funny.  No, mother.  I don’t want to get into this again.

Mother:  Listen, Viggo.  You’re…doing okay out there in Hollywood, right?  I mean, you’re spending time with good people?

Viggo:  It’s kind of a superficial town, but I’ve made some friends.  Sure.

Mother:  Well, your father and I want to be supportive, but we’re just a little…I mean, I worry because I read an article about some of the more…adult movies they make out there–

Viggo:  I’m not in pornography!

Mother:  Of course you aren’t, honey, I didn’t think that.  So what’s the name of the new movie you’re in?

Viggo:  Uh…Leatherface Chainsaw Massacre III.

Mother:  Oh my…listen, I think the kettle’s whistling.  Thanks for calling!

1995 – voice mail

Viggo:  Hi dad, it’s me.  Listen, the joke’s over.  Really.  You remember Mr. Thurber, my drama teacher?  He says he saw you and Mom seeing Crimson Tide at the theater downtown.  I’m in that movie!  I play Lieutenant Peter Ince!  Mr. Thurber saw you in the theater!  Please call me back.

2002 – Entertainment Tonight

Anchor:  Part of the magic of the Lord of the Rings is due to its combination of digital and old-fashioned special effects.  Andy Serkis, the actor who plays Gollum, wore a digital suit which captured his body motion, and then special effects technicians painted it over with the Gollum character!

[Mother leaves room]

Anchor:  Handsome leading man Viggo Mortensen, shown here on set talking with director Peter Jackson, is known for his old-school character preparation.

[Mother re-enters room]

Anchor:  Here is a photo of Viggo sleeping in his ranger cloak in a park in New Zealand and practicing sword fighting.  Police responding to a report of a homeless  man swinging a sword found Viggo asleep on a bench and asked him to leave.

Mother:  Oh dear…

Summer 2008 – post card

Viggo:  Dear Mom and Dad – hello from rural PA, where I’m working on the set of the movie ‘The Road.’  I made this postcard with our studio’s printing machine, which is expensive and real and belongs to a real movie studio.  The photo is of me, the director John, and Kodi who plays my son.  Yes, I have another “homeless man” beard, but that’s just for the role.  Anyhow, I think the movie is going to be great, and I hope you will see it.  I’m in practically every fucking frame.  It comes out in the fall.  Love, Viggo.  PS  I have made something like $30 million dollars over the past decade doing my “imaginary movies.”  I’m not making my bank account up.

Spring 2009 – at the Post Office

Cashier:  Got another post card for you, Ms. Mortensen.  You want it?

Mother:  [sigh] I don’t know.  He says he’s in a movie called “The Road.”  He said it was supposed to come out last fall.

Cashier:  You know I don’t watch many of them movies.  But yeah, I think I heard about that one from my daughter.  She said it’s delayed.  Maybe it’ll come out in the fall.  Maybe never.  Nobody’s actually seen it.

Mother:  Huh.  How funny the way these things seem to happen.

Cashier:  You know, your son sure is handsome in all these photos.  Except for the homeless man beards, of course.

Lyrics are Words, Part 2

In Part I, we examined the lyrics to Linkin Park’s “In the End” and discovered that the song isn’t about anything.  And not in a whimsical way, but in the same way a Twinkie doesn’t have any actual food in it.

Now let’s look at the opposite end of the spectrum: The Decemberists.  I like this “hyper-literate prog rock” (Stephen Colbert’s term) band quite a bit, but they can go overboard with specificity.  Their newest album, “The Hazards of Love,” contains the word ‘taiga’ three times in the first three songs.

Solzhenitsyn used 'taiga' less frequently than the Decemberists

To give you an example of just how indulgent The Decemberists can be with specificity of meaning and word choice, we will pick a doozy: “The Infanta” from their 2005 album Picaresque.  As a help to readers, here is a link to the Oxford English Dictionary.

The SAT people call these guys when they want a really hard word

Interpretation Key:

  • Blue is a figure of speech or truism which doesn’t mean anything
  • Red is a frustratingly nonspecific word or phrase
  • Green is something specific we can sink our teeth into
  • Orange is a word I had to look up

Here she comes in her palanquin
On the back of an elephant
On a bed made of linen and sequins and silk
All astride on her father’s line
With the king and his concubines
And her nurse with her pitchers of liquors and milk
And we’ll all come praise the infanta
And we’ll all come praise the infanta

Among five score pachyderm
Each canopied and passengered
Sit the duke and the duchess’ luscious young girls
Within sight of the baronness
Seething spite for this live largesse
By her side sits the baron
Her barrenness barbs her
And we’ll all come praise the infanta
And we’ll all come praise the infanta

A phalanx on camelback
Thirty ranks on a forward tack
Followed close, their shiny bright standards a-waving
While behind in their coach in fours
Ride the wives of the king of Moors
And the veiled young virgin, the prince’s betrothed
And we’ll all come praise the infanta
And we’ll all come praise the infanta

And as she sits upon her place
Her innocence laid on her face
From all atop the parapets blow a multitude of coronets
Melodies rhapsodical and fair
And all our hearts afire
The sky ablaze with cannon fire
We all raise our voices to the air
To the air…
[For a moment there, I thought we were getting bland, with the dull rhyme of ‘place’ and ‘face.’  Of course, the very next line rhymes ‘parapet’ with ‘coronet,’ and we’re back to the Renaissance Faire-themed vocab test]

And above all this falderal
On a bed made of chaparral
She is laid, a coronal placed on her brow
And the babe, all in slumber dreams
Of a place filled with quiet streams
And the lake where her cradle was pulled from the water
And we’ll all come praise the infanta
And we’ll all come praise the infanta

[Well, my fingers hurt from flipping through a dictionary for the past forty five minutes.  Let’s see, this song was about an extraordinarily elaborate procession of elephants, soldiers on camelback, various royalty and kept women, and a dazzling array of trade goods found on the Silk Road.  The procession is in honor of and in tribute to an “infanta,” which I learned is the title given to a Spanish King’s infant daughter.  And they throw in a bit of potential myth-making at the end, with the suggestion that the babe may have a destiny intertwined with lakeside abandonment.]

COMING SOON: ne’er the twain shall meet…or shall they?

Lyrics Are Words and Words Mean Specific Things

I can’t talk to you about music.  I’m not entirely sure what a chord progression is, and the notion of recognizing notes played on a guitar borders on magic.   Jamming, as far as I’m concerned, should be impossible.  But I do pay attention to lyrics, because they are something I understand and can appreciate (or not).

Somewhere recently I overheard a Linkin Park song.  I listened to them in high school as part of my 2,000 hours of life-mandated angsty community service, and I understand they’re still around.  Well, Linkin Park makes a genre of music that has always bugged me – the kind of angsty, emotional-sounding alt rock where they don’t say a goddam thing.  It’s like they’re trying to make the song as widely applicable as possible, so they include no specifics of any kind.  To show you what I mean, let us look at “In The End” by Linkin Park (2000).

We have feelings about a lot of stuff

Interpretation Key:

  • Blue is a figure of speech or truism which doesn’t mean anything
  • Red is a frustratingly nonspecific word or phrase
  • Green is something specific we can sink our teeth into
  • Orange is a word I had to look up

It starts with one thing
I don’t know why
It doesn’t even matter how hard you try
Keep that in mind
I designed this rhyme
To explain in due time
All I know
[Okay, so far we’re talking about “it” starting with “one thing.”  What thing?  Nevermind, the narrator’s going to explain all he knows.  Sounds like a big project; let’s find out what he knows:]

Time is a valuable thing
Watch it fly by as the pendulum swings

Watch it count down to the end of the day
The clock ticks life away
It’s so unreal
Didn’t look out below
Watch the time go right out the window

Trying to hold on, but didn’t even know
Wasted it all just to watch you go
I kept everything inside and even though I tried, it all fell apart
What it meant to me will eventually be a memory of a time when
[The narrator is upset over the passing of time.  The first 43 words are devoted to that sentiment.  Is that all he knows?  We are momentarily excited by the introduction of a new character: “you.”  But then the narrator is keeping everything inside.  What is he keeping?  His feelings about time?  The mysterious “one thing” from the beginning?  Perhaps the chorus will shed some thematic light.]

I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter
I had to fall
To lose it all
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter
[Mr. Sajak, I’d like to buy a proper noun.   Sheesh.  The chorus only presents new questions.  How far, exactly, did the narrator get?  How, or from where, did the narrator fall?  There’s a hint of some kind of redemption story here, with the character falling and losing it all.  But then apparently “it” didn’t even matter.  The “one thing” from earlier?   If that doesn’t matter, what are we talking about?]

 One thing, I don’t know why
It doesn’t even matter how hard you try
Keep that in mind
I designed this rhyme, to explain in due time
I tried so hard
In spite of the way you were mocking me
Acting like I was part of your property
Remembering all the times you fought with me

I’m surprised it got so (far)

Specifics! That's a bingo!

 [Forgive my hasty judgment!  Just when I thought this song wasn’t about anything, we get a double whammy.  The reintroduction of our mysterious “one thing,” and then the assigning of a recognizable pattern of behavior to “you!”  It was some kind of relationship, and “you” mocked the narrator and took him/her for granted!  We’ve got emotional involvement, a relationship dynamic, two characters interacting with each other, and a view point on the situation.  Perhaps the first half of the song was merely an aperitif!  An amuse-bouche!  I can’t wait to see how this turns out.]

Things aren’t the way they were before
You wouldn’t even recognize me anymore
Not that you knew me back then
But it all comes back to me (in the end)
You kept everything inside and even though I tried, it all fell apart
What it meant to me will eventually be a memory of a time when I
[Um, okay, so things have changed since the time of the relationship…the narrator was and is a different person, got it.  But – what comes back to him/her?  Those views on time?  And now “you” also kept everything inside?  And the narrator “tried”?  What will eventually be a memory?  The narrator’s efforts in the relationship?  C’mon, Linkin Park, give me more! ]

[Chorus]
[Not helpful.]

I’ve put my trust in you
Pushed as far as I can go
And for all this
There’s only one thing you should know
[Sigh…only “one thing” I should know?  I bet I know what that one thing is.]

(2x) Chorus
I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter
I had to fall
To lose it all
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter
[Yup.

What was the “one thing?”  Was it the narrator’s views on time?  His relationship with “you”?  Perhaps like the suitcase in Pulp Fiction, or the suitcase in Ronin, we were never supposed to know what the “one thing” was.  Perhaps…that was the point?!

No.  It’s just an angsty, overwrought song which is so vague as to be entirely shapeless.]

COMING SOON: the other end of the spectrum

McGwire and Steroids

Still had a pretty swing

Mark McGwire admitted finally that he took steroids.  I’ve always liked McGwire, and felt sorry that he took as much public abuse as he did.  Here’s a link to an All Swings Considered post I wrote about the fantasy press conference I would want McGwire to hold with reporters.

My Imaginary McGwire Steroid Press Conference

Best McGwire story:  He hit a 515 ft home run to left field off of Randy Johnson in the Kingdom in Seattle.  After the game Griffey was asked about it.  He said that the entire stadium fell quiet when McGwire hit the ball, and all he could hear from where he stood in center field was Jay Buhner over in right yelling, “Daaaaaaaaaaamn!”

Deleted Excerpts From John Carlin’s Biography of Nelson Mandela

“According to Mr. Freeman, his mission to portray Mr. Mandela on the screen began with a public invitation from the subject himself. At a press conference to promote the publication of his 1994 memoir, ‘Long Walk to Freedom,’ someone asked Mr. Mandela who should play him in the movie.  ‘And he said he wanted me,’ Mr. Freeman recalled….Mr. Freeman sought Mr. Mandela’s blessing, bought the rights [to John Carlin’s book on Mandela] and persuaded Mr. Eastwood to direct.” ~New York Times, 12/06/2009
 
Once Mandela was transferred to Victor Verster Prison in 1988, his circumstances changed considerably.  The hard labor in the lime quarry was a painful but receding memory.  He was now allowed guests, and better food and medical attention.  With these new comforts came the ability to reflect.

Mandela confessed to his friend Harry Schwarz that he spent many days in solitary reflection.  During this time he considered the events of the past three decades, and the trials and tribulations yet to come.  There was still much to do, and much about which Mandela was uncertain.  The one thing Mandela knew for certain was that Morgan Freeman was the actor to play him in a movie about his life.  The other questions were not so easy.

Doubts lingered from the years before his imprisonment.  The violence of the African National Congress had been borne out of desperation.  But was that the route Morgan Freeman would have chosen?  Was there an option Mandela had not considered, a hidden path overlooked?  Or did he, like Morgan Freeman in “Unforgiven,” acquiesce to the violent path of an old friend unable to shake his former demons?
 
Mandela allowed himself a bit of pride in recalling his closing statement at the trial that would send him to prison for 27 years.  But how had he delivered it?  He could no longer quite recall.  He wondered if he had spoken with the distinction and moral gravitas with which Morgan Freeman would deliver those lines.  Had he conveyed deep emotion without losing his eloquence, the way Morgan Freeman spoke to those soldiers in “Glory”?  Mandela suspected he had, a sliver of vanity which had steeled his resolve during his long imprisonment.

For Mandela, the future was no less certain.  It seemed likely that President de Klerk was going to arrange for his release.  This meant that, in some not too distant future, Mandela might run for the South African presidency.  But the country was still sitting on powderkegs.  Any presidential candidate would have to address that danger without appearing to give in to despair.  The way Morgan Freeman did as the President in “Deep Impact.”

Would Mandela be able to unify the country?  He was not sure.  Even if he could achieve progress, could he see South Africa to a brighter future, the way Morgan Freeman guides Tim Robbins’ character to redemption in “The Shawshank Redemption?”  Or would the people, white and black, rail at him as an unjust and out-of-touch despot, the way Jim Carrey rails at Morgan Freeman in the first, oh, twenty five minutes or so of “Bruce Almighty”?

Morgan Freeman!  Mandela spoke with unnerving candor of the great and wide shadow cast by that timeless actor.  Would he be able to walk in his shoes?  Could Mandela match the effortless dignity Morgan Freeman would surely summon in playing him?  Had Mandela trod a hard but true path the way Morgan Freeman would suggest Nelson Mandela had trod it?  In short, was he a good enough man to live a life worthy of Morgan Freeman’s stirring evocation of that life?
 
These doubts lingered with Mandela as he awaited news of his release.

Author’s note: since writing the above, I have been shown this graphic, which I must tip my hat to as being downright amazing.