The Weekly Tendown June 12-18 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dear Internet:

Here's Tendown 81.

1. Lil' Oprah

Over the shoulder of Oprah's executive producer, from this week's episode of one of the best shows on television in 2011, the behind the scenes reality show of Oprah's final season, is what I've decided to call Lil' Oprah.

"Hey, Hugh Jackman, you left your toothbrush at my house!  Hey, J-Hud, you lose your ability to tell time with those 75 pounds?  Hey - that's Tyra Banks, fool!"

One of the shows being shot during this week's Oprah Behind the Scenes was a "legendary lady rock star" episode (Pat Benatar, Stevie Nicks, Joan Jett).  In an introduction, Oprah was to say that these are the "greatest" women rockers ever, or some such description.  It was a line that she did not like, specifically because Tina Turner was not there, and she did not want to say that there was a group of the greatest women rockers that didn't include Tina Turner.  Oprah went into the control room during the taping and said something approximating, "look, you get to go back to the suburbs, or wherever it is you all live, but I'll be at a cocktail party with a shrimp in my hand having to explain why I left Tina Turner off the list."

It could have been a joke, but its kidding on the square.  Oprah's saying "I got rich people problems that you all do not have."

Which was tremendous, particularly in the context of what has been a lurking story all season long that really reached a head in this episode - the only person not sorry to see the Oprah show end is Oprah.  There was a great commercial the week of her final episodes showing clips of the canonical "last episodes" in TV history (Mary Tyler Moore, Cheers, Carson) and you could not help, when watching her final shows, of considering the emotion even in those old clips and contrasting how bloodless the final Oprah episodes were.  The final episode of Boy Meets World would choke you up more than the last episode of Oprah's show.  What will happen to Topanga?  Will she be okay?  Will she get her own show on the Style network?

Hell, the last episode of the Dish was more emotional than the last episode of Oprah.

The reason for that is clear in watching Oprah Behind the Scenes - Oprah is absolutely done with that show; she is counting down the minutes like a high school senior.  Her final episode, in which she spoke to camera for the hour, was a valedictory address.  She's dumped her boyfriend, told off her calculus teacher, and is headed to Dartmouth to double major in Rhetoric and Renaissance Studies.

                        You can stay here in the suburbs.  I've got to seize my day.

I thought about this episode of Oprah when later that same night, LeBron James said this:

All the people that were rooting for me to fail, at the end of the day, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before. ... I'm going to continue to live the way I want to live. ...
"They can get a few days or a few months ... on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they have to get back to the real world at some point."  

Hope you enjoy feeling good about my 8 point Game 4.  Have a good day in the suburbs.

I liked all of that - Oprah told the truth; LeBron told the truth - hell, let's go 3 for 3:

And it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Which might be the most true thing Obama's said.

If Oprah proclaims three white women as the greatest female rock stars ever, she will have to answer why that is.  The real answer "I've heard one Joan Jett song in my life; I'm just reading a script and running out the clock until I can go take a bath in thousand dollar bills" isn't one well understood by her staff, whose entire lives, by necessity, are the Oprah Winfrey Show.

The United States government, in the same decade that saw it preside over the greatest upward transfer of wealth from working and middle class people to millionaires and billionaires in the history of western civilization, spent upwards of 70 million dollars to convict Barry Bonds of using prescription drugs without a prescription (I'm sorry, that's not charitable; he was convicted of giving a poorly constructed answer to a question regarding his use of prescription drugs without a prescription).  The Congressional steroid hearings were widely supported by the general public, and my guess is were you to ask something like "what is more immoral - our two decade long middle eastern wars that drove up the federal deficit that we decided to care about once the Republicans were out of office and killed hundreds of thousands of civilians or professional athletes who use drugs to aid their performance" the result would be to hit the athletes.  I'm guessing if you were to ask, "what gets you angrier, this proposal":

"Or...professional basketball players who leave their hometowns to take their talents to South Beach" the answer would similarly condemn LeBron.

There's an element of class consciousness in all of that - Oprah, LeBron, Obama, there's an element of "there are people with small lives" to their thoughts - and we, who have the small lives (Tony Kornheiser calls us "the littles") feel that instinctively, feel a sense that we are being put down based on financial status - and we respond to perceived rhetorical slights.

Where we don't respond are to actual slights.  Like the last 30 years of right wing economics.  Or the last 10 years of Bush tax cuts.  Or to the current economic proposals on the floor by the Republican candidates for President.  Cut taxes for millionaires.  Raise taxes for working class.  Perhaps that's because we don't understand what's happened to us; we buy into the right wing class warfare line that our real enemies are those of social classes lower than us and our own personal failings.  Perhaps that's because the evil of right wing economics, the evil of handing over our country to large corporate shareholders is just so immense that we turn to something that makes more sense - we cling to our hatred of LeBron James in difficult times.

Who hates LeBron the most are Ohioans - as reflected this week in this executive pronouncement:

   Ohio’s Legislative Dick Move: Mavs Honored For Taking Down LeBron

That's the Governor of Ohio saying - you know what real Ohioans do?  They stay with their employer no matter what.  Loyalty!  That's what James lacked.  He was drafted by the Cavaliers; therefore it is, according to the state of Ohio - officially disloyal to ever leave.  It's John Kasich, rabidly "free market" right wing governor of Ohio saying that LeBron James shouldn't have freely chosen to move from one employer to another.  That choice was an immoral choice.  Now, had the team, presumably, chosen to trade him to Miami - that would be fine.  The appropriate place to put power is in the hands of corporations.  Not people. 

Here's what else is going on in Ohio.

Under that same Governor's recently passed budget, half of the funding for local governments would get cut.

That's probably going to result in some job loss, right?  About 51,000 Ohioans would lose their jobs.

School districts and local governments will, of course, do everything possible to avoid laying people off. But they’ve already made the easy cuts and pared their budgets dramatically. So when the Governor proposes to cut school funding by $3 billion and local government funding by 50%, firing workers or raising local taxes are the only realistic choices they have left. By stubbornly insisting that an $8 billion deficit must be closed through cuts and one-time money alone, Gov. Kasich is intentionally pursuing a policy that will cost tens of thousands of Ohioans their jobs.

Now - can they move to Miami?  Or would that also make them disloyal?

Education's cut 11% under that budget; state universities in Ohio get cut 13%.  Do these cuts model the "loyalty, integrity, and teamwork" model that the Governor so admires in the Dallas Mavericks?  How about cutting the state's consumer protection agency in half? Is that a decision to benefit the "proud city of Cleveland?"  Meanwhile, the estate tax goes away in Ohio in 2013, which would have been great for James had he kept an Akron mansion - but won't do a thing for over 90% of Ohioans who don't have enough wealth to pay taxes on their estates upon their deaths anyway.

Further, there's a tax cut in 2011 for all Ohioans - if you make less than 40 grand a year, you'll save anywhere between 0 dollars and 27 dollars in 2011.  If you make between 40 and 80 thousand dollars, you'll save 80 bucks.  And if you make over 200 grand a year, you'll save a thousand dollars.

Hey, you people in the suburbs can really use that 80 bucks.  That's a couple of good trips to the Chili's.  Get some of those Southwestern Eggrolls.  Maybe a BigMouth Burger or two.  Am I right?

The Governor's budget got passed last week.  The Governor responded to critics who asked why it disproportionately seemed to target the middle and working classes while benefiting the wealthy.  He was very specific.

"What we've been doing is driving successful people out of Ohio, which has put Ohio in a ditch," Kasich said. "I don't know why we would want to punish success in Ohio."   

Read it again.

Apparently, all LeBron would have had to have done is say "To avoid the punitive Ohio estate tax, which unfairly targets the most successful of us, I'm taking my talents to South Beach.  Now, if instead, you were to fire some schoolteachers and let me keep more of my money, I'd reconsider" then that would have earned him his own commendation from the Governor's office.

Don't ever leave Ohio, says the right wing Governor.

Unless it's to avoid paying taxes on your estate.  Then - we understand.

I'd cling to my LeBron hate too, Ohio.  Otherwise, you have to face the reality of life in America in 2011.

2. One In Four
Here's a reality of life in America in 2011.  One in Four state representatives don't have college degrees.

Which explains a lot.

3. On Our Knees

The Governor of Texas is hosting a day of Christian prayer and fasting, designed to guide the United States through its "unprecedented struggles."

"There is hope for America," the site explains. "It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees."

The goal of the rally according to a spokesman is conversion.

A lot of people want to criticize what we’re doing, as if we’re somehow being exclusive of other faiths. But anyone who comes to this solemn assembly regardless of their faith tradition or background, will feel the love, grace, and warmth of Jesus Christ in that assembly hall, in that arena. And that’s what we want to convey, that there’s acceptance and that there’s love and that there’s hope if people will seek out the living Christ.

I live in West Palm Beach, where a prolonged drought has left the city with less than 2 weeks of drinking water left.  Presumably, I should spend less time working my now 3 jobs it takes to pay my monthly bills and more time praying to the living Christ.

Oh yeah, the Texas governor already suggested that.

Apparently, there are many in Texas who dislike their Governor, perhaps because, you know, that his public policy solutions come out of the Middle Ages.  His response.

                                 a prophet is generally not loved in their hometown

Now, if I asked, who said "a prophet is generally not loved in their hometown", LeBron James or the Governor of Texas, which would you have picked?

And shouldn't we get at least as angry at a Governor who says that as we'd get at a basketball player?

Because if LeBron said that - it would be six months before Skip Bayless stopped talking about it.

4. Why Does God Hate Us?
If its the Christian God to whom we need to turn to...what....lower the Ohio estate tax....or make it rain; it stands to figure that He's been awfully mad at us this year.

There's been a heat wave that's broken nearly 3,000 all time records and killed 8 people already this year.

And clearly the living Christ hates Joplin, Missouri:

Looking eastward at the tornado's path.

More than 500 people dead this year because of tornadoes.  Deadliest year in the US in over half a century.

Fortunately, Glenn Beck is around to tell us who God is mad at.  It's Obama.

And - liberals like me, and perhaps, you too.

5. The One Article to Read This Week:
The 10 Scariest States to be an Atheist.

6. Hey, Has David Vitter Quit Yet?

Anthony Weiner didn't survive the week.

In an unrelated story, family values conservative David Vitter remains a US Senator.

Here's Greenwald, correctly contextualizing the Weiner story.

7. Remember When Willie Horton Was an Offensive Campaign Ad?
Here's what the right wing is doing to a California Congresswoman.

8. Did the Bush White House Try to Smear Juan Cole
The story is here.

9. Why I Won't Watch Sarah Michelle Gellar's New Show

I like Sarah Michelle Gellar; I won't watch her show that starts this fall, I think on the CW.

It's because she's playing two different characters.  And that's a dealbreaker for me.

My Lady Type Friend (who now, at her request, will be referred to as my Ladygal) and I have been together more than 3 years, but it wasn't until this week that we realized we had a mutual dislike for films or television shows where actors play multiple roles.  It takes us instantly out of the world, reminding us that this is an actor displaying versatility.  This disinterests me.  Outside of Adaptation, I don't think there's an occasion where I didn't find myself thinking about the performance (even if it was a good one, like Kevin Kline in Dave) as it's happening, which really limits engagement in that performance.  Hard to be immersed if you are standing outside of the pool.

As I was having this conversation with my Ladygal, I stood outside of it, as I wondered (1) how many other people dislike it when actors play multiple parts and (2) how many other things we believed this strongly that we had never discussed, even after 3 years and (3) what it says that I was having these thoughts about the conversation as I was having the conversation - and if it was similar to thinking about an acting performance while watching the performance - and if that meant I was not as engaged, not as present for this conversation as I should be - and to what degree I should express these thoughts to my Ladygal as they were happening, and if the expression of those thoughts would be more harmful (as now I'm hijacking the conversation, making it about what's going on in my head as opposed to the content of the conversation, something of which I've occasionally been accurately accused of doing) than keeping them inside and essentially having a conversation with myself while I was having it with her (4) and to what extent I'm always doing that, to what extent every single interaction I have with everyone is really subordinate to my internal monologue I'm having about that interaction as its occurring - and, increasingly, over the past five years as I've been regularly blogging and mining my real life for material (5) said monologue includes thoughts about how that interaction and my accompanying monologue might be reformatted into this space; and if thinking about that reformatting as the original conversation is taking place changes the substance of that original conversation - in the same way that Oprah, in her own control room, will speak differently to her producers because of the presence of the documentary cameras, not even intentionally, necessarily - but the act of observing something can change it, and to some degree my observation of myself, much like my observation of two Sarah Michelle Gellars, alters the experience even as its happening and (6) at what point I'll no longer be able to hold six simultaneous thoughts before I'm completely incapable of relating in any way to other people and (7) that, obviously, that happened 30 years ago, this is what it means to live entirely inside my own head which is why I've spent most of my life estranged from other people (8) except for now, that I have a Ladygal who also dislikes when actors play multiple roles, and she doesn't seem to mind that I have 8 thoughts in my head as we have a conversation and (9) perhaps that also means that she also does, that she's carrying on her own 9 dimensional discussion with herself and does that mean that I am insufficiently interesting to capture her attention, if perhaps my fragmented performance in our relationship is not unlike an actor playing too many roles, that it causes her to grow disinterested and want to turn the channel to instead perhaps watch the new Zooey Deschanel show instead (10) and that's the best reference that I'll end this piece with when I turn it into a blog Sunday.

And that's why I won't watch Sarah Michelle Gellar's new show.

10. Monday - Keith.

Don't forget, Keith's back Monday.

That's all for this time.  A rousing Tendown 81.  I'll be back next time, if there is a next time...

Your pal,

Yeah I was on Oprah in My Photos by Lil Penny Hardaway


John DeWolfe said...

I was wondering if you'd pick up on the LeBron statement. I can't say I disagree with you at all on the broader political premise, but I do sort of feel like I need to defend why I so fervently rooted against the Heat.

Sports fandom is fundamentally irrational. In no other form of entertainment do we arrange our interests around the companies that organize the entertainment. No one says, in response to "What kind of music do you like?", "I don't care as long as Arista distributes it!" No one roots for every show on, say, CBS regardless of quality unless they happen to work for CBS. But in sports, we stick with an irrational decision we made as children pretty much regardless of any real world consideration. Ask your average sports fan who they root for, and the answer is effectively "The company owned by whatever billionaire happened to own the stadium closest to where I grew up". (Bill Simmons, in a rare moment of perceptiveness in response to the Kendrick Perkins trade, pointed out that he felt like he was cheering for laundry - which he is. We all are. In baseball, my favourite players are whatever dudes happen to be wearing Red Sox jerseys at any given time. It's not rational.)

Given all of this, I believe no one needs to have a valid, reasoned argument why they like one team or player and dislike another. That's the beauty of sports - and that's what LeBron's comments get at - none of this affects our real lives. We can indulge our atavistic human need to feel like partisans of Group X and to rabidly hate Group Y, the long time enemies of X, without it actually meaning we then cheer when some dude wearing a uniform of X stabs a dude in the uniform of Y. It's just fucking basketball, not nationalism or politics or religion. We pick someone we hate and hope they lose basketball games, then they go home to their hot wives and nice houses and fancy cars and I go back to my shitty Pontiac with the trunk latch that won't close properly. No one gets hurt, no great principles are at stake - so long as we don't start using what happens in sports as a metaphor for the rest of life. That's where I get off the bandwagon.

I wanted the Heat to lose. I was pleased when they did. But I don't think that says anything about the deference employees owe or do not owe to employers, or about race or class. For some people it does, and those people are wrong and need to get a sense of perspective. I just think LeBron's an arrogant douchebag and I want him to lose basketball games.

I mean, seriously, when I parse that statement of his, it comes across as something you say to go out of your way to get heel heat. I could totally see Christian showing up next week on Smackdown, newly won World title in hand - fingers crossed - and doing a whole "You can boo me all you like, but at the end of the day I go home to a hot blonde wife and a luxury home with two swimming pools, and you take the bus to work at Walmart" thing. It's cheap heel heat. LeBron is a heel and he seems to embrace being a heel. I don't see the problem in booing him, as long as we don't get carried away. I think you're right to point out the implications for ordinary workers in the idea of "loyalty" being exalted, but I still defend my right to want the Heat to lose basketball games.

Jim said...

That's well said and I totally agree. I've written about it before in the context of Mike Vick, I think, saying that my emotional pull to root for my various teams would win out over any political or personal behavior. The Giants were owned by a union buster and a 49er running back once made homophobic comments and one of my 5 favorite basketball players ever was Timmy Hardaway and if he had said he hated gay people back when he was still with GSW I would have kept rooting for him the same way. I've made that a thread through some of my work; professional sports are corporatist and even my college of choice (USC) is particularly rabidly conservative; it just goes where it goes.

I think it's worth kicking around where the degree of anti-Lebron passion came from in a sociological way.

I also like a lot of sports hate; it's good, makes the games more fun.

It's when it moves to real life; where we lose the ability of distinguishing it from real life, that it really needs to be called out. And Ohio's where that happens this week, I think - when you see the Governor give the stamp of approval of the state to the proposition that LeBron was disloyal and Dirk wasn't - that's real life, that's a real life moral lesson and not a joke they're attempting to tell. The official position of the governor's office in Ohio is it was wrong of LeBron James to leave Cleveland, that it reflects upon his character. And, particularly in the context of the rest of the Ohio political environment, that seems really, really wrong to me. And I like to make cross-cultural connections where I can, I don't think anyone else has found that Kasich quote and connected it to the language in the Mavs proclamation. When the right wing adopts such a fervent policy of what they call laissez-faire, to the point where Kasich says "our tax policy is driving people out of Ohio" - and then turns around and advocates closed market policies (teams shouldn't have to compete for James, he should stay in Cleveland like Dirk stayed in Dallas) that's revelatory, I think of a broader political issue, bigger than who we choose (or don't choose)to root for. That Kasich language connected with the Mavs becoming honorary Ohioans language is really in the wheelhouse of where I think there's meaning in LeBron as culturally important.

Blog said...

If you can't handle an actor/actress doing multiple roles in a single show, then how can you handle an actor/actress doing multiple roles over multiple shows? Won't Calista Flockhart always be Ally McBeal in your eyes?

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