Category Archives: Feuds

Imagine No Self-Righteous Outrage


Is this really a thing? Outrage over Cee-Lo Green changing one lyric in John Lennon’s “Imagine” during his New Year’s Eve performance? Granted, Cee-Lo became superfamous for singing altered lyrics to his own famously profane hit song, but we’re supposed to be surprised that he displays similar irreverence toward someone else’s work?

Fine, so he changed the lyric, “And no religion, too” to “And all religion’s true.” (The offending alteration comes in at around the five-minute mark in the video embedded above.) But if you think about it, that line is just as provocative as the line it replaces. If all religion is true, then neither Muslims nor Christians nor Jews nor Buddhists can claim a monopoly on religious truth. (And then, I guess, we should all become Unitarian Universalists.) It’s a provocative change, provocative in a good way, like the rest of the song, and I suspect that that venerable provocateur, John Lennon, might have approved of the tweak, since he considered so little to be sacred, including his own musical canon (“I don’t believe in Beatles,” as he put it). Continue reading

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Dog-Tired of Perception and Reality Games

In my field, it’s that time of year when best-movie lists are announced, and while sequels like Transformers 3 and Twilight 4.1 have dominated the box office this year, they’re not showing up on critics’ lists. Instead, critics are touting little-seen movies like The Artist or Beginners (both of which happen to feature scene-stealing Jack Russell terriers, as seen in the video above). That is, there’s a vast disparity between what’s popular and what’s actually good. This will cause a lot of handwringing, as usual, at the Academy, since they would love the popular and the good to be in sync so that more people watch the Oscar show. It will also cause grumbling among contrarians who would dismiss critics as out-of-touch elitists. But the idea that the most popular movie must also be the best is nonsense. If that were true, the People’s Choice Awards would be taken more seriously than the Oscars. In fact, why have awards at all? Why not just look at the box office chart and give the best movie prize to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II?

The notion that validity should be determined simply by popularity has infected our politics as well. There was a good example of this last week in the kerfuffle over Politifact rating the Democrats’ assertion that Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan would end Medicare as “the Lie of the Year.” It was a curious choice, since the finalists included other, more brazen lies, such as Sen. Jon Kyl’s assertion that abortion accounts for more than 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s activity, a claim Kyl’s own office said “was not intended to be a factual statement”) or presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s evidence-free assertion that the human papillomavirus vaccine can cause mental retardation. In contrast, the Medicare line comes down to, at best, a difference of interpretation. It’s a lie only if you buy the Republican argument that changing Medicare from a single-payer, guaranteed, cost-saving, government-provided health insurance program for seniors and future seniors into a single-payer, guaranteed, cost-saving, government-provided health insurance voucher program for seniors and future seniors doesn’t actually end Medicare. Continue reading

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Filed under 2012 Election, Feuds, Health Care Reform, Media, Movies

Loose Lips and Seal Team Six

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This whole notion that the White House might have leaked classified information to the makers of the upcoming movie about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, just to make President Obama look good in time for the next election
, strikes me as absurd. I mean, what kind of administration would leak national security secrets and endanger our intelligence assets in the field and our efforts on the War on Terror, just for some short term political gain?

Oh, right.

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Filed under 2012 Election, Barack Obama, Feuds, Middle East, Movies

Farewell to a Focked-Up Year

Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller in "Little Fockers"Visiting Colorado this week, I was chatting with a couple, family friends, who remarked that I was the first person they’d met who admitted to having voted for Obama. Of course, where I live, in a New York City suburb full of elite media folk, no one will admit to not having voted for Obama. Except for the politics, we had a pleasant conversation, but it dismayed me that we continue to live in two countries with seemingly irreconcilable views, not only on which policies and politicians should govern, but on how to interpret real events we all experienced.

There’s Fox Nation, where Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are distinguished sages, where Juan Williams is rewarded for the thoughtless bigotry for which NPR punished him, where Obama is an alien bent on destroying capitalism, where Andrew Breitbart is the wronged party after he’s condemned for making Shirley Sherrod notorious and costing her her job, where a proposed YMCMA a few blocks from Ground Zero is a shrine to a terrorist victory, where the midterm elections are a sign of genuine populist rejection of the Democrats’ big-government agenda, and where white Christian male privilege is a sign of embattled martyrdom and not still at the centers of power in most places.

And then there’s the place where the rest of us live, a place that doesn’t even have a name because we’re too disorganized, disputatious, and dispirited to give it one (per Yeats: the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity); call it Colbert Nation — a place where jesters Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart are taken seriously because they’re the only media/political watchdogs still actually doing their jobs, where Obama is a  Wall Street sellout who’s been too deferential to implacable obstructionists, where the midterm elections are a sign that a well-funded right-wing astroturf campaign beats an ineffectual Democratic party any time, and where the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is the only sign that we’re not on the verge of a wholesale repeal of every positive social advance of the last century.

During my brief visit to Fox Nation, I found only a couple of signs of hope that an America riven into two seemingly irreconcilable camps can find something to agree upon. Continue reading

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Filed under 2008 Election, Arts, Barack Obama, Feuds, Media, Movies, TV

“Dancing With the Stars”: The Mama Grizzly Votng Bloc

Bristol Palin (and Brandy) on "Dancing With the Stars"It’s always instructive to me when a firestorm erupts over one of my AOL posts. In this case, plenty of people, both pro- and anti-Palin, are up in arms over the controversy of Bristol Palin’s continuing presence on Dancing With the Stars after the elimination of many undeniably better dancers, including this week’s apparently shocking ouster of Brandy.

In my TV Squad post, I noted the many conspiracy theorists (including some closely affiliated with the show) who believe that Tea Partiers are stuffing ballots to vote for Palin simply because they’re political supporters of her mother. I note the evidence for fraud marshaled by Jezebel, only to reject it as inconclusive. Nowhere in the post do I discuss Bristol’s character, attitude, looks, or unwed-teen-mom status, only her dancing skills. Nonetheless, just for bringing up the possibility of vote fraud, I am apparently a liberal hack who has besmirched Bristol’s sterling reputation with my unfounded smears.

In the thousands of comments that follow my post, there’s a lot of gratuitous insult-trading going on, a lot of mean-spirited comments about Bristol and Sarah Palin, and inevitably, about Barack Obama and Harry Reid and other Democratic politicians who have nothing to do with Dancing With the Stars except that no derogatory remark about the Palins is allowed to go unanswered by the Mama Grizzly bloc. As for whether or not there’s a conspiracy here, no one can say — and I don’t think it even matters — but the support for Bristol does tell me a lot about the way Tea Partiers think politically.

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“Lost” vs. “24”: A Tale of Two Americas

Ben and Hurley in "Lost" series finale, "The End"It’s fitting that both Lost and 24 should come to a close within 24 hours of each other at the dawn of new decade. Both summed up what it felt like to be an American in the George W. Bush era of post-9/11 existential dread. But they came at that feeling from opposite angles.

I’ve tried to make sense of the ‘Lost finale in this post at AOL’s TV Squad. Of all the other ‘Lost’ post-mortems I’ve seen, this one by the Washington Post‘s Hank Steuver is the one that has best addressed what 24 and Lost said about America. Of course, each show seemed to be speaking to a different America, which itself says plenty about our conflicted age.

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The Late-Night Wars: Politics by Other Means

No, I probably won’t be watching tonight when Jay Leno returns to the Tonight Show, but I’m still fascinated with how this whole mess is going to play out. Certainly, the late-night wars are far from over, with Jay once again going head to head with longtime-rival-turned-Super-Bowl-buddy David Letterman, or with the deposed Conan O’Brien possibly barnstorming America with a live show before his likely face-off against both Dave and Jay if he lands on Fox this fall. The struggle is still of interest because. as seemed clear during the depths of the public Jay-vs.-everyone-else battle that played out in January, this is about a lot more than which pampered white guy gets to tell jokes at 11:35 p.m. It’s about great fault lines criss-crossing both our popular and political culture.

Some of those fault lines are: Continue reading

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Filed under 2008 Election, Arts, Barack Obama, Feuds, Late Night TV, Media, TV