Kendall's Khronicles

Morro dos Pescadores, Rio de Janeiro

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Losing control

I belong to a email discussion group. No Yahoo groups or other forums, we just keep a list of emails and exchange opinions, comments, or links to stories we think interesting to everyone. Recently, a friend of posted the following comments on the state of the media in our society that were so to the point I felt it should have as broad as possible a airing.

Enjoy, cry, then do something . . .

On Dec 18, 2009, at 12:54 PM, Homer Ferguson wrote:

“I remember that almost everyone trusted Walter Cronkite.  The sense of distrust and its accompanying attitude of cynicism may be a consequence of our feeling that there are no news sources we can trust as a nation. 
“I remember the advent of CNN: 24/7 news on a cable channel.  The idea was novel at the time; not yet having access to the internet, we could tune into a cable channel on TV or into the companion radio station and hear news.  At first we trusted CNN.  The rot began to really set in when Fox "News" and the hate talk-show hosts began to pander in large numbers to people whose frustrations and anger found validation. At the same time, the government was allowing corporations to acquire news outlets, even though most of them operated businesses unrelated to journalism.  These corporations, including those whose business had included news broadcasting (like CBS), driven to make ever-greater profits, had no interest in serving the public's right to know.  It should come as no surprise that they would pressure--if not force--the news outlets which they had bought to attract more viewers and listeners. 
To do so, these outlets now find themselves with little choice beyond offering entertainment, gossip, and sensationalism.  It should not come as a surprise, either, that the acquiring corporations look askance on any broadcasts whose content portrays them in an unfavorable manner.  By virtue of ownership or control, then, the owner exercises censorship.  It decides what the public will know and what it will not know--to the extent that the public tunes in to news outlets owned or controlled by their owner.  
According to (a nonpartisan site launched by Robert W. McChesney, journalist John Nichols and Josh Silver), six behemoths now own and/or control most of the media outlets today: GE, Walt Disney, News Corp., TimeWarner, VIACOM, and CBS  News Corp., its name notwithstanding, is the antithesis of true journalism: it belongs to Rupert Murdoch, a mogul who uses his wealth to become wealthier while controlling the content, tone, and (in)accuracy of his holdings.  The fact that he can rake in huge profits delivering equivocations, sophisms, corporatist propaganda (to him the heart of his message), misinformation, and even lies by pandering to the anger and anti-intellectualism (anti-intellectualism has long been an undercurrent of our culture; it should not be confused with intelligence, since many anti-intellectuals are far more intelligent that I) of tens of millions of Americans is living proof of the profitability of tapping into popular anger and preconceptions. 
Because turning Americans against Americans produces a house divided, the wealthiest élite can fly under the radar, not being held responsible for shipping out our manufacturing jobs and industrial base, for siphoning away taxpayer dollars in the hundreds of billions in the forms of subsidies, tax cuts, and contracts (including the breathtaking amounts we spend on military "contractors").  While we remain distracted as we squabble over display of the Ten Commandments, the flag as a symbol, gay marriage, the unenforceable recriminalization of abortion, etc., our pockets are being picked, our wages reduced, costs of our health care increased while accessibility to health care is reduced, and our pensions wiped out by the reckless gambling of the corporations on whose value and profits those pensions rely.
The corporatist right hammers us with scapegoats on which we can blame our financial and social woes.  It offers no solutions, of course, since any real solution must begin by the laying of responsibility for the state of our nation and economy at the doors of the few global corporations seeking, like cockroaches, to hide in the dark and the shadows.
We will remain uninformed, mutually suspicious, and cynical as long as we allow a few of the wealthiest entities ever known to run our government, manage the content of our media, and control our lives.  For this reason, I place at a premium the importance of breaking these corporations up under the anti-trust laws. 
Being a true conservative, I want to see a return of free, independent media governed by high journalistic ethics, many businesses in intense competition with each other--none of them vertically integrated.  No business should have the power to tell consumers how much they will pay for goods and services; whenever intense competition is possible and workable, prices, fees, and quality are (as a rule) best determined by competition. 
Workers must be afforded the right to organize into unions not just on paper but in real life so that they can bargain collectively with they employers rather than have their wages, working conditions, and dignity dictated to them by their bosses.  Enterprises abroad must pay workers a wage suffient for those workers to buy the necessaries of living their lives in dignity and providing for the futures of their children and the means for them to retire and live in dignity.  Those same enterprises must be held, at a minimum, to the same standards at which they would be held in the US by OSHA and the EPA.  Tax breaks for investing abroad must be ended.  The goods they bring into this country must be inspected for contraband, drugs, and any weapons or other means of destruction, and the exporter must pay fees for this inspection.
Women and men who elect to care for their children at homes must be provided a measure of societal gratitude and personal security--at the very least, quarterly credits for social security and access to the best health care this nation can provide.
There is much more.  But Americans can do and what we can dream are not allowed to come to fruition today: we no longer have a government daring us as a people to stride boldly into the future.  Our government, the global corporate sector, demands and gets the stagnant status quo.
I'll stop here.  Take care,

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Review of A Happy Marriage

What makes a happy marriage? Rafael Yglesias, prodigy novelist--he published his first novel at 16--and screenwriter, turns his considerable talent to answering that question in his new book, entitled appropriately enough, A Happy Marriage. It is no spoiler to say the answer turns out far too complex for a simple review like this one. Nor is the conclusion that along the paths happy marriages take unhappiness and grief are strewn. The book never explicitly says so, but happily married couples already knew it and the book confirms it.

It is impossible to know anything about Yglesias without realizing how heavily autobiographical is A Happy Marriage. All the major touchstones of his real life marriage to Margaret Joskow are mirrored in the fictional characters, Enrique Sabas and Margaret Cohen: their courtship, their ups and downs, even a few not too salacious scenes from their sex life. We can guess he’s probably taken liberties with details; we don’t which.

If you find it hard to imagine a book with a name like A Happy Marriage having enough conflict to hold a modern reader’s attention, I predict a pleasant surprise because it is riveting. At least it was for me, even though by the second chapter I knew the inevitable end. Yglesias first takes us to Enrique and Margaret’s original meeting, next, to knowledge of the cancer that eats away at her body and spirit, all 21 chapters alternating symmetrically between their lifetime together and the final few weeks they have left. In Yglesias’ expert hands, it pulls you breakneck through the novel as you plunge ahead insistently to see what will happen.

One other aspect needs mentioning, for although a novel, it should be read by couples facing cancer. Yglesias’ depiction of the agonizing sense of helplessness a person faces seeing a beloved life partner slowly die, the inability to communicate with friends addled by their embarrassed squeamishness at his plight, the jarring perception of how terminal illness cruelly and sweetly brings you closer, rings painfully true to this reviewer. The cosmopolitan, Jewish intellectual that is Enrique Sabas could not be more culturally distant from this Texas Baptist who also had a cherished spouse die of cancer. Yet, that his crystalline emotions were my own allowed me the modicum of comfort their universality makes possible.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nicholas Sparks' THE CHOICE

We can nod at the obvious that The Choice is typical Nicholas Sparks; faithful readers are not likely to be disappointed. Unless, of course, they actually think about it too much.

To be fair, Sparks has declared his interest is writing best-sellers, not something else, and in today’s world that means formulaic and predictable. Again, the readers he wants to please are probably not going to be disappointed with The Choice.

At the lowest resolution, there isn’t much more to be said.

If we look a little closer, however, some cracks have begun to appear, almost as though he has tired of repeating himself; or is having trouble making new plots fit the very very profitable formula.

The Choice starts of with a typical boy-meets-girl set up; Gabby moves to a Florida to be close to her boyfriend Kevin. And (wouldn’t you know it), the oh-so-eligible Travis lives next door. You already see the choice, right? Well, wait till you get to Part II and that isn’t the choice at all. Not that it isn’t a choice, but it’s not the one in the book.

As I’ve tried to follow Nicholas Sparks, after all he was, at my last checking, the third best-selling author in the world, the formula is pretty clear: (1) a timely subject--livings wills in this case, (2) a maudlin 'voice' or writing style, (3) a male character outwardly very masculine, but who wants a relationship like women wish men did, (4) quick bonding, one principle is conflicted about it. but permanent once achieved --contretemps keep the plot moving, not seven-year itches, (5) an uncomplicated plot that can be told simply and gushingly. This keeps the book relatively short, readable in two or three sittings. (5) No nastiness like cursing (you won’t be embarrassed to recommend it to your friends), and sex is just explicit enough we know what’s happening (though Sparks appears to subscribe to the modern myth that chastity has no selective advantage over promiscuity in selecting a mate).

The crack in this edifice is that the choice of The Choice doesn’t come until Part II. It is as though Sparks changed his mind about the book after Part 1, which was a fairly humdrum romance with little action and almost no plot. It appears Sparks realized he would have to do something to pull it out, and didn’t want to go back and rewrite the whole damn thing.

Still, Sparks’ readers will be happy. So, I'm confident, will his publisher.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Larger Truths

It been so long since my last posting you might get the idea I'm avoiding the subject of me, well surprise, you're right. Don't toot your own horn as my mother put to me in her soooo 19th century way . She was born in 1904, so technically she isn't 19th century, but since the last century didn't get rolling until 1914 , calling her 19th century is the larger truth.

Someone objects that there are no larger truths? Excellent! You're very perceptive, but the 19th century believed piously in larger truths, and that conviction was my mother's lasting bequest to me.

So, about me? Well, I believe larger truths are out there (You'd already figured that our, right!), and homo sapiens sapiens's (that's us, in spite of having been misnamed) mission on Earth is to find THEM. The 20th-century destroyed all those larger truth Western Civilization had built up in the last several hundred hears, to leave one single overarching larger truth: That there are no larger truths !.

Which is why the 21st is on its way to hell in a hand-basket.

Now, as coincidence would have it, that is also the worldview of Bob Kwadekarahds a.k.a. 'Kaddy', narrator-hero of my novel-in-progress DEATH ON A SLIDE: A Story of Murder and Music. 'Kaddy' plays trombone in a little band but finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation and, wouldn't you know it, he wants larger reasons.

Monday, January 03, 2005

The New Year

This is not really for divulgation. Rather, it is only my effort to get this blog started, and the New Year is a good time to do it. I would like to say it is full of promise, but in fact I see danger at every turn; openings to turn the situation around sparce; and a leader most notable for a simplistic view of the rest of the world and an dangerous insistance on ideological purity. All this leaves me pessimistic and afraid.