So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

In this book Jon Ronson examines shaming and social media.

He looks in depth at examples of people whose lives, arguably, have been destroyed due to a barrage of hatred on Twitter and Facebook.  One example is Justine Sacco who sent an ironic non-pc tweet about AIDS which people interpreted literally.  It trended for several hours and resulted in her losing her job and becoming infamous worldwide.  Additionally, she suffered from depression and PTSD afterwards.

He speculates, but ultimately refutes the idea that this kind of mob hatred is the result of some fundamentally evil side of humanity.  In the process, he actually researches and undermines the Stanford Prison Experiment, interviewing one of the inmates who says that the 'evil' prison guard was just a show he put on out of boredom and an expectation to do something exciting.


Brideshead Revisited

I just watched the BBC Brideshead Revisited, from 1981, for the billionth time.

Obviously, then, in the past I loved it.

This time, however, I had a different impression of Charles Ryder, who until now I'd more or less liked.

Particularly after the scene where he's just returned from painting abroad for two years, and he hasn't seen his children (I think his youngest daughter he hasn't seen at all, since she was born after he left).  His wife says that his children are eagerly anticipating him--his son has even made a banner to welcome him home.  He tells her that he simply cannot find the time to go home, by which he means that he prefers to spend time with Julia.


SNL Gun Control Debate

Surprised by how overtly political this SNL weekend update on gun control became.

The Constitution is a lot like our grandfather.  He's wise, we love him, and he means well...but he's getting really really old and every once in a while he says something crazy and we have to go to the other room and discuss what we're going to do about it. 

Wow.  The foundation of this government is malleable and outdated.  SNL generally isn't this in your face, right?


Finkelstein-Dershowitz Debate on Democracy Now!

I really enjoyed listening to this debate (quite old now, circa 2003) between Norman Finkelstein and Alan Dershowitz on Amy Goodwin's Democracy Now.  It's pretty comically dated, at one point Finkelstein references the OJ Trial.

I found Finkelstein's accusation of plagiarism in Dershowitz' book A Case for Israel perplexing.  Does he have a point that copying a quote from another book and keeping the ellipses in the very same place is tantamount to stealing another persons' idea?

Additionally, I found it incredibly disingenuous that Finkelstein identified an inaccuracy in Derschowitz' book, (D. quotes Benny Morris as saying that 2-3K Arabs fled their homes during the 2nd Stage of the Exodus when Morris in fact says that 200-300K Arabs fled their homes) then Derchowitz vehemently denies that it's an inaccuracy and says that by understating the number he's overemphasizing his point.

Didn't really go for his excuse, and found his back tracking lacking in character.  Dershowitz really ought to pony up to the PLO with $10K as he promised if anyone to found a mistake in his book.

Additionally, I found it extremely punitive to read that following the debate, Derschowitz actually wrote a letter to Finkelstein's university advising that they deny him tenure.  What a small man, it seems, that he could so overtly make steps to jeopardize a man's career and livelihood as vindication for being humiliated in a debate.

One unfortunate side of the debate is that they spent SO much time quibbling over the quote/plagiarism argument that they never really could debate the substance of the book itself.  Overall, however, I'd say it's worth a listen.

Clearly from what I've stated you can see that IMO, Finkelstein won.


Charlie Sheen HIV Revelation

I was so touched by this interview on the Today Show where Charlie Sheen reveals that he's had HIV for the past four years.

I suppose that it's hard to tell if he made this revelation in a desperate state, purely to put an end to blackmail payouts.  And it's unclear if he told the truth in the interview about revealing his condition to every woman he had sex with, especially given that two sexual partners, including his ex girlfriend Bree Olson on the Howard Stern Show, have claimed that he did never told them.

Regardless of his motivation, this undoubtedly had to be a painful and character building revelation to make.  Hopefully he will use his celebrity status to give other HIV positive people support and encouragement, and to help rid the disease of its stigma.

This casts a new light on his 'winning/adonis DNA' days.  Although he denies to Matt Lauer that this manacial spell had anything to do his diagnosis, they both occurred so close to each other that one can't help but wonder.

Despite their hilarity, his 'winning' videos had previously stuck me as somewhat sick to watch, in that we're finding joy in some man's mental breakdown.  And in light of his revelation they now strike me as a little more heartbreaking.



WAY too much ego in this biopic about Dalton Trumbo, the screenwriter among the Hollywood Ten accused and sent to prison for being a member of the Communist Party, who later went on to garner two Academy Awards (Roman Holiday and The Brave One) while blacklisted.

The movie presented the controversial nature of Trumbo's political leanings in such a way that only a narrow minded idiot, uninterested in basic human rights, could be unsympathetic to Trumbo's plight.  Specifically in one scene at the beginning of the movie John Wayne berates Trumbo's Communist affiliations, and Trumbo deals the final blow by telling Wayne that while he was acting in war movies, Trumbo and his 'fellow commies' actually served in the army.

It felt like bunch of Hollywood elites pushing their weight around, screaming their opinions down the ears of the lowly audience.

It was hard to get past this kind of arrogance, particularly surrounding an issue with multiple shades of grey.  This movie might have made SOME attempt at nuance, explaining (if not justifying) the tense threat of nuclear war that created an atmosphere of paranoia towards people with Communist leanings.


The Great British Baking Show

Judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry sit on the left; the snappy hosts on the right.

Earlier this month I binge watched the first season of The Great British Baking Show (aka The Great British Bake-Off).   This article at vox.com aptly describes why this show ranks above most reality programs.


Mary Karr on Fresh Air

This Terri Gross interview with Mary Karr from two months ago is good, and I'd recommend it (finally getting around to publishing this post!).  Mostly due to Karr, she seems to be a funny and reflective woman.

Gross' biggest problem, tho, is how Terri Grossy she can be; exeuding some sort of faux produndity and insight when the issues she raises are so often boring and milquetost, and have been raised about 10 billion times before.

Here's her direct quote at the end, announcing her next interview:

 Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, as the U.S. prepares for Pope Francis' first visit, my guest will be journalist Paul Vallely, the author of a new book about Francis. We'll talk about the direction the Pope has been heading in on women's role in the church, birth control, divorce, annulment, homosexuality and climate change. And we'll discuss reforms Francis is making within the church hierarchy and the Vatican Bank. I hope you'll join us.

Could she have made a more banal and predictably politically correct assessment of the 'critical issues' facing the Catholic Church?

Yeah, dunno what else to say.  Wish that becoming huge didn't always translate into being dumbed down.  I geuss that I keep listenening to her tho, b/c being huge also means that big big names will consent to an interview.  Plus, she has excellent producers, so the content is listenable.


Brooklyn - the movie

This movie drew a different crowd than I expected.  I considered this a chick flick and anticipated lots of giggling girls and duty-bound boyfriends.  The viewers who I met had ties to New York or to Ireland, and I realized that the historical fiction element of the movie is perhaps its greatest allure.  Brooklyn is sort of a celebration, or commemeration of immigrants who make up New York, and this idea that, I dunno, people create entirely new lives for themselves when they moved to the United States.


reflections on the 4th Presidential debates

Did Christie really win the happy hour debate like everyone is saying?  Realizing just now that if he does return to the prime time debate his demotion was kind of a showdown between Huckabee and Christie as to who gets the axe. I just didn't see that he stood out way above the rest like some have said.  And I'm so sad to see Huckabee relagated to the happy hour debate.  I really liked him.  Seems to be one of the more genuine candidates.

Cruz afterwards in the spin room struck me as pretty cerebral and self depracating.  And the moderator Neil Cavuto really knew his stuff.  They had a good exchange, and Cruz made the interesting point that not since Regan had the Republicans nominated a 'true conservative'; rather, just moderates.  And in doing so, the 'true conservative' vote hadn't turned out to the polls.


Christmas Cards and the Secularization of Christmas

I just visited my local book store to check out the Christmas cards.  In 8 racks of Christmas cards, each rack with 7 rows each, each row has about 7-8 choices of cards--so over 350 cards--this store offered only three religious cards.  This is less than 1%.

The religious cards consisted of a card that said 'oh holy night' on the front with no images and left blank inside, an angel, also blank inside and a third that said 'oh holy night' with abstract images of the manger scene.

I was pretty blown away.  Kind of impressed to me that, in secular settings like this bookstore, any religious mention of Christmas has been entirely gutted.  I was disappointed, too, since I'd hoped to buy some cards here and now probably won't.

Ummm.....in related news, can't help but have seen this video since it's popping up everywhere on FaceBook, of Joshua Feuerstein claiming that the plain red Starbucks Christmas cups are anti-Christian and politically correct.  Towards the end of the video he says that he brought a gun into his visit Starbucks as well as wore a Jesus shirt.

I resent Feuerstein's correlating the gun and the t-shirt with the cup.  He seems to be sending a fanatical message that anyone who wants to see a less secularized representation of Christmas is additionally some sort of gun wielding Jesus freak. 

What about the people who would just like a public acknowledgement that Christmas is in fact a Christian holiday and the opportunity, say, to buy cards that represent this at their local bookstore?  The more I think about it, it seems so watered down to not have any representation of the religious aspect of this holiday, since at the end of the day, let's admit that at the very least, Christianity is a rich cultural mine, one that merits representation.

Here's another meme that's been popular on FaceBook in response to Feuerstein.

yeah ok. um.  Translation; "You worthless Christians.  If even a tiny sliver of you actually practiced what your religion preaches all human suffering could be eradicated.  But you're not.  And instead you're whining about an insignificant cup."

Hmmmmmmmm.  And ok, my re-phrasing is an exaggeration, but the meme clearly accuses Christians of being impotent.  See what I mean about the kind of response he's inviting?  He's making Christianity appear ridiculous and absurd, something that ought to be forgotten.  If I were prone to seeing conspiracy in everything, I might think that he's working for some anti-Christian organization who really DOES want to see Christianity gutted from our culture.


Ina Garten's Pasta

Here's a recipe Ina Garten cooked on one of her shows; I've made it twice now and it's quite good.

Pasta Sauce

1/4 c. olive oil
1 small Spanish onion, chopped
3-6 cloves garlic

Cook the onion and oil on the stove for about five minutes, adding the garlic for the last two minutes.

1 t. dried oregano
1/2 T - 1 T of red pepper (1 T will be quite hot)
1/3 cup vodka
2 large cans of tomatoes, crushing the tomatoes as you add them
1 t. salt
pepper, to taste

Cover in a pan and cook at 375 for 1.5 hours
After it's cooled, puree the sauce in a blender.  Add some fresh chopped oregano

Transfer the sauce back to the stove and add 1/2 cup of heavy cream.

Cook the sauce on the stove for about 10 more minutes with a dente pasta (so the pasta will absorb some of the sauce) and fresh parmesan cheese and more fresh oregano.

1 recipe will serve 5-6.
You can freeze any sauce that you don't use!


Brooklyn - the book (spoiler!)

This book is very good.  Very very good.  It's interesting that Colm Toibin, a gay man, has written such a sweet hetrosexual love story from a woman's perspective.

I love it that a man has written from a woman's perspective, he does it quite well which reminds me a little of Tolstoy--remember from the short story "Family Happiness".

This review from USA Today; "one of those magically quiet novels that sneak up on readers" very much corroborates my own experience.

Brooklyn is a story of Eilis, who around 1949 leaves Ireland at about the age of 19 to live in Brooklyn, then returns to Ireland due to a death in the family.  She then struggles with whether or not she should continue with her new life in Brooklyn or remain in her much more familiar homeland.


Melissa Harris Perry on MSNBC

Here's a clip from Melissa Harris Perry's show on MSNBC where she's interviewing Alfonso Aguilar, a conservative and former official in Bush Administration;

Aguilar Let's be fair if there is somebody who is a hard worker, when he goes to Washington, it's Paul Ryan.  He not only works with the Republicans but Democrats--you know very well that I work on the immigration issue, trying to get Republicans to support immigration reform.  Paul Ryn is somebody who has supported immigration reform, has worked with somebody like Luiz Guiterrez.  Luiz Guiterrez speaks hightly of Paul Ryan, this is somebody who is trying to govern--

Melissa Harris Perry Alphonso, I feel you, but I just want to pause on one thing because I don't disagree with you that I actually think Mr. Ryan is a great choice for this role, but I want us to be super careful when we use the language "hard worker", because I actually keep an image of folks working in cotton fields on my office wall because it is a reminder of what hard work looks like.  So I feel you that he's a hard worker.  I do, but in the context of relative privilege and I just want to point out that when you talk about work life balance and being a hard worker the moms who don't have health care who are working--we don't call them hard workers.  We call them failures.  We call them people who are sucking off the system.....no really ya'll do, that is what you guys do as a party.

Aguilar No that is very unfair.  I think we can not generalize about the Republican party.

W.O.W.  Yet another example of where political correctness has stifled our ability to express simple ideas - 'hard worker' is apparently a micro aggression.  What, then, according to Perry, would be the correct way to describe Paul Ryan's work ethic?  "A person of privilege who's fully utilized his plenteous opportunities", perhaps.....since, apparently, "hard worker" is reserved for slaves or single moms without health insurance.


Pawn Sacrifice

I like this movie about chess champion Bobby Fischer, it manages to make a chess game appear dramatic and suspenseful.  At the onset I thought that the big name actors Tobey Maguire and Liev Schreiber would distract from their characters.  And perhaps they did a little; however I could still see the Russian Boris Spassky (Leiv) and Bobby Fischer (Tobey) in these men.  At just under two hours, it did not bore me.  Some of Fischer's sisters' 70s attire seemed a bit exaggerated.  She looked like someone putridly dressed as the 70s-girl for a costume party.  Overall, though, I'd recommend it.  I liked Fischer's priest and lawyer support team.  Peter Sarsgard did a good job as the priest, William Lombardy.