Amusing Ourselves to Death

Neil Postman's prescient examination of the role of mainstream broadcast media on public discourse was in full display last evening in the GOP debate.

What a shameful display.

I've already lodged my vote in the Florida Democratic Primary, but I am, of course, keeping tabs on the GOP as well. Sanders and Clinton have positive attributes and negative attributes.

Marco Rubio, a conservative centrist that has done some good things for the state of Florida, has positive attributes and negative attributes.

Ted Cruz and Donald Trump? I don't see anything to recommend either of these guys, and their public displays of intellect, critical thinking, and substantive content leave so much to be desired that I actually am a bit fearful of what might happen if one of them won the nomination.

Postman's argument rests on the notion that convergence in radio, print, and television transformed actionable information into edutainment. He notes that the contemporary media is context free, truncated, titillating, and shallow. He mentions the waning of the private self in contemporary society and he cautions against the dangers of losing historical perspective.

It's an excellent text and, even though I'm generally an optimist, last night's debate perfectly illustrates how far we've fallen in terms of public discourse. The name calling and mud slinging was discouraging. It was like watching adolescents fight in the back seat of Mom and Dad's station wagon, and the sad thing is that Rubio had to get down into the dirt with these guys. 

Ultimately, Americans--and particularly supporters of the far-right contemporary GOP--lust for this type of thing. When Trump tweets that Cruz is a loser, which he does a few times a week, he is pandering to a base that gobbles up the negativity like candy. When he states that he'd like to punch a protester with a different opinion--the very definition of American democracy, mind you--in the face, dim-witted ogres at his rallies cheer for him. 

Seriously. This isn't the kind of thing we should be cheering, people.

Trump epitomizes the very thing that Postman warned us to be very wary of. A bombastic dullard, Trump has declared bankruptcy multiple times. His projects routinely fail. he hasn't an iota of a clue on the legislative process, and he's never done anything truly meaningful for America. 

He is not a viable leader of the United States of America.

Rubio said that Trump would be selling watches in Manhattan if he hadn't received a $200 million dollar inheritance. I'm sad he had to stoop down into the gutters for a handful of mud, but I'm glad he finally did it because Trump deserves to take a bit of the abuse he so commonly dishes out. 


Workshop on Narrative Theory

I will be presenting a workshop (Building the Killer Hook: How to Get—and Keep—Your Audience’s Attention) this Saturday at the Ponte Vedra Public Library. The workshop begins at 10:30 a.m. and will run for about an hour. 

Drop by if you're in the area and you want to chat about writing!


The Revenant (2015)

The Revenant (2015) is the best film that I've seen since really enjoying Interstellar and Fury Road last year. Innaritu has crafted a film that instantly propels itself into the pantheon of classic filmic storytelling. The use of natural light, panoramic landscapes, and stark natural environments recalls Dances with Wolves. There is a touch of the angst and tension that permeates There Will be Blood here as well, as Leonardo DiCaprio's Hugh Glass seeks revenge for a variety of offenses against himself and his family. 

DiCaprio delivers the performance of his fine career here. That final shot--that close-up on his shimmering eyes and fatigued face--perfectly captures the immensity inherent in all that he has lost. It's as physical a role as he's ever played, and he nails it. I sincerely hope that he takes home an Oscar for this one, as I can't imagine a more difficult or trying turn.

The folklore surround Glass's travails is, in itself, a fascinating tale. The Revenant tells the story of the American West and the Great Plains in such a way that you'll want to look into the American Indian Wars more closely, and in particular the skirmishes between expansionist trappers and pioneers and the Ree Tribes of the Dakotas.

It's a total film, with fine, memorable turns, artistic photography, a captivating score, and a rich narrative. I give this one an 'A' mark on every count, and I highly recommend that you look at it in the theater, where the cinematography has its greatest impact.


Turning to Peace

It's cool and rainy out. Feels a lot like Oregon today, and I had this kind of day at the word processor. Feeling good about the work, about the process, and about what the finished product might look like...

You Know When It's Good

If you spend any real time at the word processor, you understand that sometimes the writing flows and you just know in your heart and in you...