Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for President . . . of the United States of America?

 44135958 Leader Ap203Bo If the Republican Party is searching for a candidate that appeals to their religious conservative base, they need look no further. According to sources who are close to the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has expressed interest in a possible run for Republican nomination in the 2008 election. When asked about the Constitutional requirement of being a natural born citizen, he merely smiled that impish smile of his and said, “I don’t think I’ll need to worry too much about the Constitution, God is so much greater than a piece of paper. On that, you know, your President Bush and I are in complete agreement..” Why the Republican Party? A confidential source close to both Ahmadinejad and largest funders of the Republican party spoke to LtL on condition on anonymity:

Let me put it this way, we don’t believe in gays. He doesn’t believe in gays. We believe in capital punishment, he believes in capital punishment. We want to return the natural order of the sexes back into our communities, ridding women of the terrible burdens they carry because of feminism. Ahmadinejad also recognizes that it’s best when women are exempt from the many legal responsibilities that should be shouldered by men. Like, you know, voting and control of their own bodies.

Sounds positively Coulter.

Officially, the Republican Party has refused to comment on Ahmadinejad’s chances of getting the nomination, but Norman Reed, a 54 year old life-long Republican and once campaign worker for David Duke put it this way:

I’d rather have a God-fearing Sand Nigger as President than one of those Godless-communist-fags in the Democratic party, or that fruit lovin’ New Yawk city twerp. And don’t get me started on that Morman pretty boy.

Ahmadinejad may be a long shot for the nomination, but his peculiar brand of religious zealotry, misogynism, racism, intolerance, and support of the death penalty as well as a strong, inflexible patriarchal social order may be just the ticket to garner the support of those who feel betrayed by the Republican Party. Further evidence in the increasing link between Ahmadinejad and the Religious Right in the US lies in the following statement:

We again read in the Holy Book: the Almighty God sent His prophets with miracles and clear signs to guide the people and show them divine signs and purity them from sins and pollutions. And He sent the Book and the balance so that the people display justice and avoid the rebellious.

Ahmadinejad or American Family Association?

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Boycotting Starbucks

I have chosen to boycott Starbucks. Why you ask? Not for any social or political reasons, but for aesthetic reasons.

Let me explain:

Several weeks ago, I was in the Starbucks at the corner of 56th & 7th and I was waiting for my medium mocha with an extra shot of espresso and no whipped cream (which is the English translation of a “Tripled Grande No-Whip Mocha” in Starbuckese, a language I refused to use), because I don’t like their coffee. Starbucks makes crappy coffee–for the most part over roasted and burnt. Here’s the thing, they should be able to make a decent cup of coffee, seeing as that is their stated raison d’etre. But they don’t. Ok, bad coffee I can deal with, but as I stood there, waiting for a 19 year old barista who wouldn’t know his arabica from his robusta, I realized that I was surrounded by people who were ordering “triple caramel lattes” and “tall cinnamon mocha swirl” or what ever else silly, sugar-laden, dessert-y drinks served that have very, very little to do with coffee.

It was embarrassing: a bunch of grown men & women ordering liquid dessert for breakfast. I felt dirty. So I made a vow, then and there, never to be a Starbucks whore, never again to offer myself up to the corporate–at least this particular corporation–trough and drink deep the muddy waters of crappy coffee, never to suck at the teat of that crazed looking woman from the log (I mean, doesn’t she just look like she is ready to eat your soul?), never again, never again!

As Neitzsche said:

“everything ugly weakens and afflicts man. It recalls decay, danger, impotence; he actually suffers a loss of energy in its presence . . . Whenever man feels in any way depressed, he senses the proximity of something ‘ugly’ (Twilight of the Idols, 90).

Maybe that “loss of energy” is why we keep sucking down the caffeine and sugar? Starbucks is, ultimately and aesthetically an “ugly” choice for coffee consumption and I for one will continue to say “no” to their product.

A big, fat, triple venti “no” latte with vanilla syrup and whipped cream.

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Marx – Part 1

I have been reading The Marx-Engels Reader and have just finished the first section which presents a number of Marx’s early writings. I am amazed at how relevant and important his work remains. Beyond the purely academic use of Marx in Academic circles– a use that is often filtered through Louis Althusser and other post-Marx “Marxists rather than the study of Marx’s actual writings and thought–Marx’s work remains incredibly important for understanding how economic forces operate. Obviously, we live in a world far different from the one that Marx lived in. Far different, indeed, than he could ever imagine. I will also grant that he is easy to dismiss in today’s postmodern, hyper-capitalist world and in light of the seeming triumph of capitalism over communism. This series will in no way be a full-fledged defense of Marxism, but I do feel it is important and–hopefully–interesting to point out some of his core concepts and relevant thoughts in hopes of sparking conversation.

The worker becomes all the poorer the more wealth he produces, the more his production increases in power and range. The worker becomes an ever cheaper commodity the more commodities he creates. With the increasing value of the world of things proceeds in direct proportion to the devaluation of the world of men. Labour produces not only commodities; it produces itself and the worker as a commodity . . . 1

Look at how Wal-mart treats its employees and you will see that Marx’s assessment of the worker as commodity is tragically correct. Here is a company that makes so much money (over 240 billion is sales per year and over 10 billion in profit) that is has no rival, indeed, there is no other company that is even in the same league, and yet the more powerful the company becomes, the more vast wealth it makes for a few at the top of its corporate ladder. Tula Connell, writing for the AFL-CIO states that:

Four members of the Waltons, the family behind Wal-Mart, last month were ranked by Forbes as among the nation’s 10 wealthiest people in the nation, with a combined net worth of more than $72 billion. Less than two weeks after the Walton Four saw their mugs highlighted on the Forbes website, reports emerged that Wal-Mart plans to cap wages, use more part-time workers and schedule more workers on nights and weekends‚ all to save money for a company with gross annual sales of more than $250 billion and an annual profit of more than $10 billion.2

I mean, come on, a company with an annual profit of over $10 billion dollars and they can’t afford decent health care for their employees? A company that paid out $172 million because they refused to allow workers legally mandated lunch breaks and yet Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott’s “2005 salary, bonuses and stock options totaled $27.2 million‚ 871 times the hourly earnings of a full-time US Wal-Mart employee and 50,000 times the wage of a Chinese worker for a Wal-Mart supplier.”3 The growing and seemingly inexorable gap between the rich and the poor is not mysterious. It is not something that “just happens.” It is not even just a matter of education, but rather a fundamental property of capitalism. When even Alan Greenspan recognizes that the growing gap between the rich and the poor is a problem, you know that we are in trouble.4 Greenspan suggests that the root cause of this growing disparity is education. Make kids smarter and they will get better jobs. Greenspan is ignoring, because it is necessary for people like Greenspan to ignore, the messy fact that capitalist economic structures depend upon inequities in the system. Capitalism simply doesn’t work if there aren’t workers to exploit and who are forced to sell their labor power to those who control the means of production. Sure, the more education a person has, the more he/she will be able to make. Individuals can certainly rise up from the status of wage laborer and claw their way up and into a different class. That doesn’t negate the fact that as a system, capitalism requires a working class–indeed, a working class with as few life options as possible in order to keep a large group of people (preferably non-unionized) at the disposal of the wealthy.

One of the things that Marx is good for, is the reminder that nothing social is natural or innocent. Disparity between the rich few and the poor many is not “just how it is” but a product of economic relationships. The failure of education is not something that has “just happened” but is, also, a product of economic relationships. Capitalism creates certain necessary and specific relationships between people, objects, commodities, and wealth. While you might disagree with Marx’s judgement that these relationships are inherently bad for people, his descriptions of these relationships still bear considerable intellectual and philosophical weight.

  1. “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844,” 71

  2. http://blog.aflcio.org/2006/10/06/newt-gingrich-cheerleading-for-wal-mart/

  3. Ibid.

  4. http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0614/p01s03-usec.html

Other reading:

“The Wal-Mart You Don’t Know”

Karl Marx Studies – a side dedicated to the work of Laurence Baronovitch, focusing on Marx’s early works.

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Climbing Trees

When I was a boy, I was scared of heights. I would get this swirling, heavy feeling in my stomach when up high, and I knew, just knew, that I was going to fall.

So I would force myself to climb trees. As high as I could, ignoring the fast beating of my heart, the dryness of my mouth, the shaking of my hands and arms. Climbing quickly so I wouldn’t think to much about what I was doing – but not climbing carelessly, however. I was focused on the branches, testing their weight, making sure each move was the right move . . . more than that, the necessary move. I would climb higher than I wanted. Each time I wanted to stop, I would force myself to go one more branch, just one more branch. Until I could really go no further without the branches bending with my weight.

Then I would stop. Try to calm my racing heart and force myself to look down at the ground so vision-swimmingly far away, so definitely-going-to-hurt if I made a mistake. I would feel the wind, the blue air that seemed sharper to my lungs as I gulped it down, still shaking, still facing down my anxiety and fear. Even if I never quite stopped being scared, I knew, high up in my trees, that I had beat the fear, that I had accomplished something. On some level, I think that looking down at this point was always easier because I had the knowledge that I had put myself this far up and, more importantly, I knew how to get back down to the ground.

The climb down was easy because I knew how to do it, each move on the way up had been etched into my mind because of the fear and concentration, so getting down was easy, almost automatic. By the time I was back on the ground, fear had turned to excitement, nervousness to a sense of achievement.

I feel, lately, that I am climbing a very very very high tree and can no longer see the ground. Nearly every day of living here in NYC, I am faced with an assault on my senses that, while not creating fear per se, effects my body in much the same way as the fear of heights did as a child. I feel this heavy, swirling motion in my stomach as the sound of trucks blare past my window in the morning–especially the ones with air breaks that make the most god-awful, ugly sounds as they slow down–or pressed body to body with strangers in the subway. I try not to shake when the scream of the subways splits into my head, past any attempt to iPod it out. I feel this constant anxiety eating away at me because of the sheer weight and presence of steel, concrete, and people in this city.

Because NYC isn’t a tree, and because my life doesn’t have the simple shape of a tree, I can’t seem to find a moment of grace, that moment when I had climbed as high as I could and knew that the next step was the easy part of climbing back down. Here, I feel like I just keep climbing and climbing. Without the ground, I no longer know how to get down, hell, I don’t even really know in what direction I’m moving–and my moves are now either too cautious or too hurried, leading to either unnecessary and tiring strain, or the possibility of slipping, or of pulling myself onto a branch that cannot hold my weight.

So I keep climbing up, palms slick with sweat, blood pounding in my head, heart racing, stomach churning, muscles quaking.

Wondering when I might reach the apex, find a moment to breath it all in (the air sharp and clear and electric in my lungs), and when I might hear the sounds of the breeze and of birds as they calm my too-fast heart. Wondering when I might look down, and see the ground again and know, just know that I can make it back safely.

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Lars von Trier, Part 2

(click here for the first part of this essay)

The Five Obstructions, perhaps one of von Trier’s most optimistic movies, answers that question with the idea that making art–and in this case, films–might hold the key to surviving this world with one’s honor intact. The setup of the movie is that von Trier challenges the filmmaker Jorgen Leth to remake his classic 1967 film “The Perfect Human.” Not only to remake it, but remake it five different times and each time he will be faced with a set of obstructions that von Trier will impose. So, for example, the first obstruction contains the parameter that each shot can only last for 12 frames before moving to a different shot. For those of you who can count film frames, that’s 1/2 second worth of shot before moving to another shot. In the forth obstruction, Leth is required to make a cartoon version, despite his hatred of animation. The rotoscoped version that he puts together with the aid of Randy Cole (Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly) is gorgeous, one of my favorites of the obstructions.

What is amazing about this movie is the reminder to all artists, that obstacles, obstructions, strictures, and other such limitations can be incredibly productive, driving the artists to reach new heights of creativity than he/she would otherwise reach. With each set of obstructions (and that word choice is important, as it could just as easily have been “limitations” or “rules”), Leth is at first appalled, clueless as to how he will surmount the challenges that von Trier sets out. But quickly the viewer sees Leth’s mind begin to work, finding ways around, above, under, and through each set of obstructions. The film should be required viewing for all artists and is an inspiring film. I would also argue that this is von Trier’s answer to the problem of being human: we must be true to ourselves and our art regardless of the obstructions in our way. Such as path does not guarantee happiness, but it does ensure a measure of honor, of freedom. I also think that “art” can be applied broadly here, to include the art of living, of being a friend or a lover, the art of family, or the art of politics. This is not simply a message that we should all be “true to ourselves.” Rather, that the answer to the guilt of being human is to create.

This helps explain the tragic structure of Dogville. In the end, it is both Tom’s inability to create, his need to experiment in life rather than sitting down to the hard work of writing, as well as Faith’s choice of destruction that cement the tragedy into place. Before I go further, I must note that Dogville is both an intensely disturbing and technically brilliant film. On the disturbing side, the film is brutal, forcing the viewer to look at images of power and abuse that are not graphic, at least not in relation to any number of other films, but that carry a moral weight that von Trier wields like a cudgel, hitting us in the gut and the heart over and over again. This is not a movie for fun or even enjoyment. Watch it only when you are able to deal with an utterly human, but utterly caustic vision of life.

On the technical side, von Trier uses the barest of settings and shot entirely on a sound-stage, this is a kind of Our Town for movies: the houses are drawn out on the stage, there are a few architectural elements (a church bell, some bushes, and some of the interior bits and pieces of the houses), but everything is, for the most part, quite literally sketched in. But the film stands up to the technique and I, for one, quickly lost sight of the “trick” of it all and became engrossed within the characters and the story. However, there is always a slight remove, or, rather, there are times when the staging does make itself apparent and you are pulled away from identifying with the characters and are able to reflect on their actions from a slight distance. In a sense, the viewer’s position matches Tom’s position: setting forces in motion, judging people and events, but never really becoming a part of it all.

The fact that Tom is a writer who plans great novels and even greater receptions of those novels but who has never written anything, is not inconsequential. I would suggest that it is the cornerstone of von Trier’s argument. Beyond the story of rape and revenge, of innocence and power; beyond the violence and the brutality that people are capable of committing upon one another, the story is set in motion by Tom. While he is an apparently likeable character, he is also sadistic, impotent, inhumanly ethical, and humanly hypocritica man. Much has been made of Nicole Kidman’s role in this film and the brutality she suffers. Less has been made of the brutality she inflicts. What I admire about this film the most is that it offers up a vision of revenge, of retribution and then refuses to condone or criticize this act. However, looking past this one film, and keeping in mind The Five Obstructions, Faith’s decision at the end is suspect because it is a purely destructive act.

This is where we get into some gender problems with von Trier that I’m not really ready to go into beyond the briefest of glosses. Of the films I have seen, women are most likely to be the agents of destruction. Katharina Hartmann (Barbara Sukowa) sets the bomb in Zentropa, Medea kills her children, Faith orders the slaughter of the town. Even in Dancer, Selma is responsible, no matter how justified, for killing a man. This is not a facile suggestion that von Trier is sexist or misogynistic. And I would need to see some of his other films as well as reviewing the ones I’ve seen to make a coherent argument about his gender politics. However, I didn’t want to leave this essay without at least mentioning the potential problem of his representation of women.

In conclusion, I wouldn’t recommend his films, except for The Five Obstructions, to everyone. If you want to challenge yourself with films that expose the wet and bloody viscera of the human psyche, if you want to watch a master filmmaker at work, or if you want to be made to genuinely feel something while watching a movie, then Lars von Trier won’t disappoint.

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Lars von Trier, Part 1

The first Lars von Trier film I saw was Zentropa, which I saw sometime in the early 90s. This was back in his “stylized” phase and the film was beautiful: black and white, but with various bits of color added in during some of the scenes. Starting with the amazing voice of Max Von Sydow “hypnotizing” the spectator, Zentropa creates a dreamscape, memories that seemed real if not quite your own. There is an inevitablility to the film, a sense at the beginning that we have already reached the end and the spaces in between are important not because of their trajectories, but for their textues – the way light moves across her cheeks, or the smell of his aftershave; the sound of fabric against a smooth thigh or the tast of a rose petal. I still love this film. Despite it’s “tragic” ending, it is one of the more gentle films he has made.

Dancer in the Dark hits you in the gut. Hard. I remember the feeling of hollowness I had after watching it six years ago. For several weeks afterwards I told everyone I saw that they should watch the movie… yet forgot to mention just how depressing and raw the film was. What I watched it again several years later I still felt (and feel) that von Trier is capable of exposing the innards of humanity, the guts and viscera of the human psyche. Bjork’s performance is startlingly powerful, and deeply troubling when you find out how far von Trier pushed her, how sadistic he was as a director. Yet, the result is astounding. As with his movies, there is no easy answer as to the “rightness” or “wrongness” of his actions as a director. Her vow to never act again because of the depths to which he pushed–not led, not guided, but pushed her–is disturbing.

Recently I have seen three of his films, Medea, The Five Obstructions, and Dogville. These are intriguingly different films, with Medea being released in 1987 while The Five Obstructions and Dogville both came out in 2003. Medea, is an interesting take on the Medea play, with a screenplay based on a scenario by Carl Theodor Dryer, who is most known for his silent film The Passion of Saint Joan, and with whom Von Trier was supposedly in contant telapathic contact with while making the movie. Kirsten Olesen’s performance as Medea is riveting, and the film has a clautrophobic, damp feel to it, as if the walls are closing in or the mud is sucking you down. Yet, the scene in which Medea kills her children is done in the open, a landspace of sky and grass with one bare tree breaking the space. Some of the cinematography is utterly unique, creating images that surprise you, yet draw you further inwards to the heart of the story.

I wouldn’t say it is the best telling of the story, nor would I say it is the best of von Trier’s work, yet it is compellingly of a piece with his other films. Specifically, there is a sensibility to his movies that the human condition is inexorable: there is nothing we can do to escape the prisons we make for ourselves out of our desires and our fears. From what is rumored, von Trier is a sadistic director. It would be too easy, however, to dismiss his movies as merely sadistic excersizes in flaying open the human soul to the sheer fun of it. Von Trier forces the spectator to watch and, in some ways, participate in the vivisection of humanity. Medea, as with his other films, seems to me concerned, first and foremost, with issues of responsibility and culpability. There is no guilt or innoncent here: only guilt. Jason is guilty of betraying Medea, Medea is guilty of sacrificing her children. The central question for von Trier, and one that is picked up in both The Five Obstructions and Dogville, is how does one bear his/her sins? How does one take responsibility for his/her actions in a world that refuses to allow even the most innocent of characters relief from the guilt of being human.

(End Part 1, please click here for the second part of this essay)

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Seeing Death on the N Train

I saw a man this past Saturday as I was heading into the city to see a production of Pig Farm and he was dying. Not right then, but death had imprinted itself so heavily on him that it was coming soon. I think he had AIDS – his frame was gaunt, arms covered in purple bruises. His face seemed to be collapsing in on itself, one eye kept rolling down to reveal only white. He had birds tattoed on his arms. Red birds caught in flight. I could feel compassion and sadness well up within me, matched by a deep and instinctual fear, a biological imperative to disavow what I was seeing. His gaze was distant, like he was seeing something that I couldn’t–and don’t want to–understand. I realized that I have been lucky in my life, as this was the closest I have come in thirty-six years to a dying person.

When I was a toddler, my great-grandfather died–we called him Nampa–and my parents decided I was too young to attend the funeral. According to family lore, I was angry for weeks after that my parents hadn’t let me go. I don’t really remember any of this, but I still own one my Nampa’s hats and I means something to me that I have it, something inchoate and forgotten, but there nonetheless.

Then there was his wife, my Nana, who lived for a long time after her husband died and who was in a hospital for the last few years of her life, but the last time I saw here was months from her death and she was so tired and hungry for peace that it didn’t strike like this.

Also, my grandparents from my Dad’s side of the family have died, as well as my uncle Rick. I really didn’t know them though, and my sadness and loss was more for my father’s sake than my own.

The only other experience I have had personally was Mari Killilea who died in a car crash my senior year of high school. I remember hearing the news and the stunned disorientation that followed. We weren’t close, but we worked on our high school literary magazine together and I hung out a bit with her older brother. Mari was one of those people who radiated gentleness and compassion and kindness. The sharp reminder of mortality and the world was–is–poorer for her loss.

Recently, a young man who I knew as a boy died from a drug overdose. His parents are very close to my family, his father having been friends with my dad since they were teens. I hadn’t seen J. since he was 7. I remember one night, we were looking up at the stars and he asked me if I thought there were people out there. I said I did. Another time, I read a childrens story to him and his sister. I never saw him haunted and hunted by drugs. For me, he will always be a seven year old boy, a bit afraid of the world, but sweet and kind.

Seeing this man on the N train reminded me of just how lucky I have been in my life and how few losses I have had to bear. There is no real moral to this story. No true insights into the nature of life and death. Simply an encounter, a foreshadowing.

Geneva Conventions: The Drinking Game

Materials:

To play “Geneva Conventions: The Drinking Game” you need copies of the conventions as ratified by nearly every country in the world (including the US), your favorite alcoholic beverages (because you are sure-as-shit going to need some drinking), and a group of your friends. Preferably bi-partisan.

The Peace Pledge Union provides a good and quick overview of the conventions.

Wikipedia goes somewhat more in depth on the history and elements of the conventions.

The Red Cross has the full text of the Conventions, along with commentary:

Convention (I) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field. Geneva, 12 August 1949.

Convention (II) for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea. Geneva, 12 August 1949.

Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949.

Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949.

Rules:

Everyone takes turns reading the articles from the conventions. The reader must do a shot when she reads an article that the US has broken since signing. Everyone must do a shot for each article broken or flagrently ignored by any living President.

The reader and one person of her choosing must do an Irish Car Bomb if there is obvious religious hypocracy attached to the breaking of an article.

If the reader is rich and powerful, than he can say “fuck-all” to the rules and do whatever the hell he wants.

For those advanced enough in drinking or international law, the group might also consider playing Twister at the same time, thereby physically enacting the unnatural twists and turns of logic that our current government uses to nullify the moral and ethical imperatives behind the conventions.

###

Anyone else have rules you would like to suggest? Or variations on the game that might prove a useful diversion from the coming apocalypse? Comment them down and let’s get this party started!

Doctor Who

I can’t believe that it has been over a year since Doctor Who has returned to television and I haven’t said one word about it on my blog. It has been like an old friend returning after a long absence. I can remember as a child sitting in front of my grandparents old Magnavox Stereo Theater console television – you know, the old fashioned “entertainment centers” with a record player and radio on one side, the whole thing encased in wood and probably weighed as much as a Mini Cooper. When you turned it off, it would quickly shrink down to a point of light in the center of the screen that would hang there, glowing for what felt like minutes. Like it was holding its breath. Like it was reluctant to go to sleep. Like it was, somehow, alive. Then it would wink out. I would sit in front of the television, cross-legged, or sometimes lay on my stomach with my chin in my hands and become lost in time and space with my doctor, the forth: Tom Baker. His scarf and anti-authoritarian glee, his poetry and his foolishness, his bravery and his heroism that were somehow so casual and accessible.

When I moved to Berkeley and found out that the PBS stations carried the show I was so happy – I hadn’t been able to watch the show regularly for at least five or more years. Every Saturday (or was it Friday) I would watch the show, usually making a bit of a ritual of it by getting something fun to snack on and maybe a good beer or two. As they showed a story-line every week and had a good number of the early Doctor’s I had never seen before, it brought me back to a younger time, a time before I had lost myself to the world, before I had come into contact with my “darker” sides and habits and thought-patterns.

Maryland also aired the show, so I was able to watch and tape it for the three years I lived there. After the first year or so, I stopped watching religiously, unless it was either Sylvestor McCoy or a particularly good Tom Baker episode. No matter how often I hear the theme music, to this day I still feel that seven year old inside me leap for joy and excitement. Dave White is probably the only person I’m close to who is a bigger fan than I am and I’m really glad we were both at VCU last year when the new series started, because having another fan to watch them made the experience all the more enjoyable. Joya enjoys the new episodes (which is great and I love that we can watch it together), but she didn’t grow up with it and there is something inaccessible to her about my feelings regarding the show, something only those of us who grew up with the Doctor can feel. We incorporated the characters and stories and universe into our imaginations with the depth and intensity that only children can bring to narrative and something of that incorporation remains in our minds and bodies. Or at least it does for me.

Chris Eccleston

Bless Russell T. Davies for making the new Doctor Who series happen. More importantly, bless him for making it so darn good! Yes, Chris Eccleston was on for too brief a time. His Doctor was goofy but with a core of sadness and pain that created such an intense performance. There was no question that the Doctor was back and that the show was in capable hands. From his first word “Run!” to his response to the question of who he is: “D’you know like we were saying, about the Earth revolving? It’s like when your a kid, the first time they tell you that the world’s turning and you just can’t quite believe it cause everything looks like its standing still. I can feel it. The turn of the Earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles and hour and the entrie planet is hurtling round the sun at 67,000 miles an hour and I can feel it. We’re falling through sapce, you and me. Clinging to the skin of this tiny little world and if we let go… That’s who I am.”

Doctor Who has always been at its best when it makes us see our world in different ways, when it makes us question what it means to be human. Indeed, that is what makes good story-telling in any genre. Of course, as a seven-year-old boy, I was not thinking about the show on this level, instead I was caught up in the story and the characters, borne on wings of narrative and imagination, adventure and horror, humor and heart-quickening fear. Perhaps the reason I still love the show is much is that it wakes up the boy inside of the man I’ve become. When I sit down to watch it, there is a part of me that can analyze different elements of the production, such as the writing, the acting, the music, etc. But there is another part of me that is flying, in the TARDIS and with the Doctor, to a simpler time and a safer place.

Yet, it is not simply about returning to my youth. Russell T. Davies understands exactly what The Doctor in particular and heroes in general offer an audience. He has Rose speak the words that ring true with every fan of Doctor Who, or Buffy or any other story of a true Hero:

“But it was. It was a better life. I don’t mean all the traveling and aliens and seeing spaceships and things. That don’t matter. The Doctor showed me a better way of living your life… That you don’t just give up. You don’t just let things happen. You make a stand, you say no. You have the guts to do what’s right when everyone else just runs away.”

We all have different heroes in our lives. Some are fictional, some are real. Some have adventures through time and space while some get up at 5:30 every morning to go teach English; some fight aliens or vampires while others fight drug or alcohol addictions day by day, hour by hour in the hope and promise that they will do right by their loved ones. Despite the infinite variety of heroism in this world, the underlying message that the hero embodies is exactly what Rose says: that you don’t give up, you don’t just let things happen and that you have the guts to do what is right. Am I more “heroic” now that Doctor Who is back on television? Probably not. It would be ridiculous to hold any television program up as an enabler of moral courage. However, in a landscape of public corruption, political dishonesty, rampant corporatism and the media’s endorsement of extreme individualism and greed, perhaps The Doctor provides just a tiny dose of medicine to a sickly world. If we all had the “guts to do what is right” just a little bit more often than we do, our world would indeed be a better place.

David Tennant & Billie Piper

Why We Need a Progressive Party Not More Fuzzy Liberalism.

So this post is definitely a work-in-progress. I hope to develop these ideas more fully in the future, as well as post a few suggested platform points. You are more than welcome to post pro, con or simply thought provoking comments. Indeed, I look forward to some discussion of these ideas.

  1. It more appropriately counters the term “conservative.”

  2. Liberalism as a political philosophy is too vague.

  3. The word “liberal” has been infused with negative connotations. As a political definition is it damaged goods.

  4. Progressive Political Party. Alliteration makes everything better.

  5. A Progressive party can make progress. A Liberal party can’t make liberal. It’s a matter of semantics, but we are in a world where semantics means a great deal. For instance, collateral damage instead of civilian casualties, Clinton’s definition of “sex,” and almost all of what the Bush administration says.

  6. Progressivism has a rich and noble history of working for the poor and working classes, as well as against the corruption of politicians and corporations. With an increasing gap between rich and poor and with an increasing acceptance of corruption of our politicians, (on both sides of the aisle) such a history and focus is needed now more than ever.