Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Our Word is Our Weapon

A book suggestion. If you've never heard of the Zapatista Movement, or never heard of Subcomandate Marcos, who is the unofficial herald of the Zapatista Movement, take a few hours and pore over Our Word is Our Weapon, a selection of writings from the charismatic and enigmatic figure in the fight for indigenous rights in Mexico.
Subcomandate Marcos has become a wildly popular figurehead for the indigenous peoples of rural Mexico, whose message has resounded broadly throughout the world with all peoples that feel they are being exploited and unheard by their governments. The sentiments of the Zapatista are not that dissimilar from the movements of the "Arab Spring" or Occupy Wall Street, or even the Tea Party. The message is apolitical, but it's implications could and should be at least a wakeup call for corrupt politicans around the world, if not a call to movement for the rest of us.
While the tactics of the Zapatista have been called into question by authorities as disruptive and violent, the response is that they're simply doing whatever they must to gain the right to be heard. As with Marx's assertion that revolution, violent if necessary, will be required to bring about change because those in power will be unwilling to give it up without a fight. We in this country have taken to sitting back as armchair politicans, while our elected officials undermine our economy, our security and our very freedoms, while all we do is complain. The Zapatista have chosen to stop complaining about why their situation is the way it is and change it. And because the government was so used to dismissing its citizens, especially its indigenous citizens, it patronizingly dismissed the indigenous people of Mexico to its detriment.
We as a world need to heed the signs of the times. Hopefully the governments of the first world can and will improve, because if they don't, not only are they going to come undone themselves, but they're going to drive down the country's that they represent as a whole. We'll see chaos as the so-called military and economic superpowers are swallowed in a sea of worldwide economic collapse and general discontent. The military will mean nothing, because their no longer will be a specific "enemy" to target our weapons at, because WE will have become the rogue, the enemy, the failed state.
Our leaders need to head the warning signs, or we need to head them for them and toss them out, otherwise we're going to be looking at a world where economies, militaries, corporations and governments don't matter; it will be a Hobbesian struggle of every man [person] for themselves. Seems dark, and not plausible in the near future. But just how much can the rest of the world take; and just how much can we as citizens under these quasi-fascist, plutocratic, oligarchic, society stand, until we've reached our breaking point?
"I know not with what weapons WWIII will be fought, but WWIV will be fought with sticks and stones." ~ Albert Einstein

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Get rich quick gimmick...

I'm not the biggest sports fan on the planet. And up until a couple of years ago, I'd been on a self-inflicted sports diet for about 7 years. However, I've slowly started watching most sports again over the past couple of years, and I have to say that my casual interest, coupled with using the games as an excuse to hang out with friends and drink beer, has made my spectating experience a much happier one.
However, even during this self-imposed sports blackout, I remained committedly interested in college football. College football is so much fun to watch, because the teams are forever changing, and a team that is good one year/multiple years/decade, will flounder in ensuing years, due to poor recruiting, sanctions, etc. The action is slower and less polished than pro football; but because they're playing for either the simple love of the game, or because they're trying desperately to get onto a pro roster, the players are much more invested than the pro athletes seem to be.
So why it is that we as a college football watching crowd, or really as a society in general, have allowed the Bowl Championship Series to manipulate college football, and take advantage of the free talent at their disposal, is beyond me. It all started back in the late 90s. College teams had been complaining that simply having bowl games which pitted specific conferences against one another both unfairly putting good teams into unwatched bowls, but also did nothing to demonstrate who the best team in the country was*. Therefore, the BCS was created to give college football a National Championship game. However, what has happened is that we have now a huge money-making business for the BCS, that has almost nothing to do with college football or the universities, but instead has as its sole purpose to sell ad revenue and make huge profits off the NCAA and the free labor that comes out of it.
The names of the bowl games is a clear indicator of where the priorities lie. The games used to be called the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl and the Sugar Bowl. Now, with the advent of the BCS, the games are now called the FedEx Orange Bowl, the Allstate Sugar Bowl, the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, and the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio. These names are stupid. It's the same as the stadium names in professional sports, but at least the athletes are being paid in the Pro's.
But names are really the least of our worries; the larger issue with the BCS is that it's decidedly unfair. The ranking is unfair, the choice of which team goes to which bowl is unfair, the amount of money that teams spend and receive is unfair, and the fact the college students are being exploited is unfair.
College football rankings; Harris, Coaches and BCS polls all are unfairly bias toward bigger schools in either the midwest or the south, most specifically teams in the Big 12 and the SEC. For some reason the "power rankings" always reflect these conferences as being the toughest, regardless of how good the teams in that conference are. This year, the SEC happens to have some very good teams, four teams in the BCS top 10 in fact (a little suspicious...), but it's a little odd that the same teams and conferences happen to be in the top 25, regardless of how their seasons actually turn out. The Pac 12 gets a little respect, simply because their teams are so dominant, but still will lose out in power rankings to and SEC or Big 12 team, who supposedly have tougher schedules.
Make no mistake, LSU is the best team in the country. They're undefeated, and they've had a very tough season, with many tough games on the road. However, after that, it's difficult to figure out exactly how and why they ranked the teams the way they did.

Let me know what you think of the BCS.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Eye of Newt...

Blowhard. Newt Gingrich is a bloviating, pedantic, annoying asshole that just won't seem to leave the national political stage. The guy has been around in politics for the last 30 years, flirting with presidential runs several times - and actually succumbing in a couple of instances - and basically just disrupting the political process wherever he can.
So how is it that this jackass is now leading the Republican primary field? Simple. The guy talks straight, I'll give him that, and these conservative voters like that, regardless of what he's actually saying. Herman Cain had overwhelming positive numbers, and his star was on the rise, until Republican primary voters actually started paying attention to the substance of his 9-9-9 plan, and the implications of his policies (there were a few, I think, but few and far between) - not to mention the sexual harassment and infidelity issues.
The problem with Newt Gingrich, is that he has so much personal and political baggage that he'll have a tough time winning against the equally vacillating Mitt Romney. Also, if Newt is to stay strong, he'll have to get the religious conservatives to look past his spotty (to say the least) past of moral indiscretions (which they're alway wont to do with Democrats, but always seem to be able to do with Republicans). Maybe Newt can salvage his relationship with these right-wing Christians by telling them that he has repented for his past sins, and that he'll need their help and guidance to stay on the straight and narrow moving forward.
All of that being said, I don't see Newt having any staying power. His baggage and his haughty attitude are too much for any electorate to overcome, even one as desperate for alternatives as Republican primary voters are for an alternative to Mitt Romney. Look for all of his old moral shortcomings to come up again, as well as his sometimes more moderate political positions. He's the "flavor of the week", as so many pundits have been using for the literal plethora of Republican primary frontrunners - some running and some deciding against running; Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, Chris Christie, Ron Paul (unfortunately John Huntsman, the only rational Republican in the race, cannot seem to get any traction) - and his parabolic rise will eventually slide back down the other side.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What's on Television...

Alright, below is another top 10 list. These are what I believe to be the top 10 best television shows/series of all time. This is quite a difficult feat to accomplish,considering that I've liked so many different shows at different times in my life, and the fact that I haven't had cable television for the last 10 years has made it difficult to keep up shows regularly. However, I think this list is comprehensive, spans decades, and still includes some truly great contemporary classics. While I'd like to put G.I. Joe and He-Man on the list, I've also omitted any children's shows - though I will admit that some of them are wonderful.

Here we go; and, as always, this is in no particular order.

1. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Is it bold to call this show one of the best ever? Probably. I understand that the show's comedy is very esoteric (get the connection), and therefore not necessarily appealing to a broad audience; but I personally have always been much more attracted to a show's whose comedy is a bit more nuanced, than those stupid Everybody Loves Raymond, laugh-track type, bullshit shows.

2. The Wire
HBO does it right. I think their marketing over the last several years has been perfect, calling themselves a character-driven network. The characters on this show are incredibly complex and give the show a sense of realism that is lacking on so many other cop shows. Not to mention the pace of this show, due to it's one hour run time, giving a season somewhere around 12 - 13 hours of total runtime, as opposed to a network show that has a total season runtime of about 7 - 8 hours, allows the writers to create much more realistic timelines for drama to unfold, as opposed to the short episodic nature of the network cop shows that have to wrap everything up in half an hour.

3. Party Down
This show was lucky to ever get made, and still remains unknown or at least unwatched by most people. But this show truly brings it. The humor in this show is all about the character interactions; and the mix of actors that they brought together worked perfectly together.

4. Seinfeld
This is bar none my favorite show of all time. The great thing about this show is exactly the opposite of what makes The Wire a great show. They get in, get out, and the everything is wrapped up nicely in every episode. There are comedic themes and threads that run throughout several shows, or even the entire series, but overall the show is just a bunch of assholes who act rotten toward one and other, and the world writ large, and because of this sometimes find themselves in funny or awkward positions.

5. Curb Your Enthusiasm
I love this show for one of the reasons that I love Seinfeld. The fact that Larry is such an asshole to everyone, and because he is constantly messing things up, he often finds himself in hilarious (and what some people think are annoying or unbelievable) situations. The ways he manages to mess things up and piss people off can only come from autobiographically similar situations in the life of this brilliant jackass.

6. The Wonder Years
Going back a few years, but a true classic. It's funny that this show is such a hit with my generation, when it really seems as though it was more geared toward my parents' generations, who actually lived through the Vietnam War. But I think what I connected to as a young person watching the show was the sense of angst in a society that was focused on other things; and slowly trying to figure out what was really important in life, and how to bring my life growing up into the reality of the greater world.

7. Saved by the Bell
This show must be on the list. I've probably seen every episode of this show at least 10 times. I think I was still watching this show occasionally on syndication up until a couple of years ago (you can probably still find episodes on several stations, every now and then). I think the reason I liked this show so much is because the kids in the show were pretty much the exact same age as I was. Sure, the situations were ridiculous. Sure, the characters were stereotypes and completely unbelievable. But none of that mattered, it was funny, dramatic, sometimes witty, sometimes heartwarming, and always entertaining.

8. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
I can say basically the same thing about the Fresh Prince that I can say about SBTB, except that instead of a bunch of kids in a school, it was just young Will Smith getting himself into a whole bunch of shenanigans.

9. Growing Pains
Mike Seaver was a badass (before all that Left Behind stuff). Forget the fact that he tormented Tracy Gold to the point that she actually developed an eating disorder. Or the fact that Kirk Cameron got a character kicked of the show because she had posed nude in Playboy, which went against his puritanical Christian moral beliefs. Just focus on the fact that it was a great family-oriented show, that attempted to focus its episodes on different characters on different nights, but always managed to bring everyone along for a great story, that sometimes even had a great message to boot.

10. The Cosby Show
Brilliant show from the mind of a truly brilliant man, and wonderful comedian. Bill Cosby led this show, and his comedy was muted, but always witty, but the other cast of characters, and the situations that the show confronted were what made it great. This show was REAL. It dealt with tough situations in a real way, and showed characters that had to deal with the consequences of their actions. The situations occasionally got wrapped up in a bow too nicely for reality, but I think that the show was interesting in showing an upper-middle to upper class family, living in Brooklyn Heights in the 80s, and the issues that they dealt with trying to raise their kids. Not to mention the fact that the show led to a great spinoff - A Different World.

Let me know what you think of mine, and tell me yours.