Monthly Archives: March 2009

Another Reason I’m Glad I Voted for Obama

Photo by a.drian at Flickr, licensed via Creative Commons

Photo by a.drian at Flickr, licensed via Creative Commons

My COBRA health insurance coverage for me and my wife was going to cost more than $1,000 per month. Thanks to President Obama, it’ll cost about a third of that through the end of 2009, saving me about $6,000 over the next nine months.

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Filed under 2008 Election, Barack Obama

A Question for IMDb

Have Hugh Laurie and Richard E. Grant ever co-starred in a project together? (No, Spice World doesn’t count.) They could play brothers. Or would that much acid sarcasm in one frame make the universe collapse on itself?

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Filed under Movies, TV

Obama’s ‘Special’ Visit to Leno

Not sure why, aside from his wince-inducing Special Olympics joke (about 20 minutes into the clip below), President Obama’s visit to Jay Leno’s Tonight Show last night was considered such a shocking breach of presidential protocol. It’s just like when the Republicans derided Obama, puzzlingly, last summer for being too much of a “celebrity.” As if America didn’t love its celebrities, or thought there was any big deal about a presidential politician appearing on a late-night talk show. I don’t remember such complaints when Arnold Schwarzenegger (who warmly embraced Obama yesterday) announced his gubernatorial candidacy on Leno’s stage, or when John McCain announced his presidential candidacy on David Letterman’s show. Yes, Obama is now a sitting president, not a candidate, but yesterday’s visit was certainly a campaign whistlestop, and one as canny as any media-op staged by Ronald Reagan Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush.

Maybe old-school media gatekeepers are just as upset about this as GOP politicians are — after all, Leno is trespassing on their turf. But they ceded that turf to Leno, Letterman and other entertainers long ago when they allowed political chat shows (both the Sunday morning network interrogations and the nightly cable screamfests) to degenerate into pro-wrestling matches. Also, when they abdicated the role of tough, probing investigative reporter to the likes of Leno, Letterman, and Jon Stewart. The line between political journalism and entertainment has long been hopelessly blurred, and it’s awfully disingenuous to start complaining about it now. Hey, pols and press, do you want TV to take politics more seriously and stop treating it as a division of show business? Physicians, heal thyselves.

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Filed under 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Media, TV

Interview: Iconia Asks Me About Art and Religion

The intersection of fine arts and faith is a ways away from my usual beat (though it’s in the same neighborhood), so I was certainly flattered that Menachem Wecker, who explores that particular crossroads on his Iconia blog, wanted to interview me. In the newly published Q&A, we discuss, among other issues, the questions of free expression, tolerance, and sensitivity that seem to arise in our secular pluralist nation whenever a work of religion-inspired art enters the public sphere and inevitably offends someone. Other topics include religious expression in pop culture (see video below) and what social media like blogs and Twitter mean for the future of criticism. Read the full interview here.

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Filed under Arts, Censorship, Media, Movies, Religion, TV

Who Does Rush Limbaugh Remind You Of?

Is there a liberal confab anywhere that gets as much media attention as CPAC did this week? You’d think the speakers and attendees actually had some relevance to what’s going on in politics today, instead of having responded to being voted out of power by insisting that they’re going to take their ball and go home. To their credit, some of the speakers (well, Tucker Carlson) have noted that, for conservatism to recover its mojo, it needs to be based on principles other than obstructionism and pissing off liberals. In other words, it needs to come up with some actual new, practical policy ideas. (Hint: “More tax cuts” doesn’t count.)

Some conservative bloggers covering the conference have noticed this as well. Hats off to Patrick Ruffini for recognizing that his side needs more than populist anger and symbolism, though I’m not sure his prescription (Look to has-been demagogue Newt Gingrich for new ideas!) is going to change anything. Conor Friedersdorf takes a step beyond Ruffini and recognizes that most people want good policy ideas no matter which side comes up with them, just as most people want good movies without worrying much about the ideological agenda of the filmmakers. (In other words, Big Hollywood folks, tell a good story, not a propagandistic one, and the free market that you worship will finally work in your favor.) Friedersdorf is even willing to grant that people with whom he disagrees on policy aren’t necessarily operating out of bad faith or treasonous motives. Continue reading

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Filed under Barack Obama, Movies, Saturday Night Live