Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Spoiler Alert: Don' Spoil Your Two Hours on Morning Glory

To be blunt, Morning Glory was a waste of time. I can't say much good about it. If you've seen the trailer, you've seen anything that might constitute a high point.

However, let's give some thought to this film nevertheless. My thought arose from the premise of the film that the character played (really, over-played) by Harrison Ford should lighten up and get into the froth of morning TV. He is portrayed as a pompous former anchorman who wants to do "real" news. During the course of the film, our heroine, young, perky, and determined Rachel McAdams transforms by show by various antics: an anchor kissing a frog, the weatherman televised on a roller-coaster, and other inanities. And the only "real" news that occurs in this endless film comes when the sitting governor is confronted with criminal charges right before the cops show up to arrest him. This isn't news, it's a spectacle of humiliation (even if he is guilty, which no one is assumed to care about after viewing the bust). Television news becomes more and more of a wasteland all the time from what I can see (which is as little as possible beyond the Daily Show and the Colbert Report). But as much as one naturally pulls for Rachel McAdams to succeed, I kept thinking that success isn't worth it. What have you done? She gets the guy in the end, but by the end, your really don't care.

My review mixes two types of criticism, bad movie-making and bad journalism, but if you choose to go, you're forewarned.

David Frum: Good Conservative?

As a former Bush speechwriter, I never expected to like David Frum. I guess we all have our prejudices, and one of mine is George W. Bush. However, this article by Frum in the the NYT Magazine yesterday really struck me as some very good advice. He caught me with the opening truth of his first paragraph: the Democrats won in 2008 because of the economy, and the Republicans won in 2010 because of the economy. It's really that simple. Beyond that, he recognizes the value of the welfare state (picking a fine G.K. Chesterton saying along the way to makes his point); he talks about the need for Republicans (and Democrats) to take off their ideological blinders, and most importantly, he shared this insight about populism that I think really captures a great deal about our current (and much of our past) politics. About the populist divide, he writes:
American populism has almost always concentrated its anger against the educated rather than the wealthy. So much so that you might describe contemporary American politics as a class struggle between those with more education than money against those with more money than education: Jon Stewart’s America versus Bill O’Reilly’s, Barack Obama versus Sarah Palin.

Digging back in memory, this fits with theories of Richard Hofstadter and perhaps Robert Wiebe, whose works I read as an undergraduate, or shortly after. The Tea Party phenomena has been the most interesting and scary item to watch of late. Intellectually, it's incoherent, as Frum recognizes, but it captures feelings, and feelings are much, much stronger than ideas. In thinking about our recent Iowa Supreme Court election vote, I was struck by the attitude of resentment expressed more than the anti-gay aspect. VanderPlats didn't do any overt gay-bashing, he couched his argument in terms of "elites" and "activist judges" "re-writing the Constitution". This is the real problem. The problem of crowds, the uneducated, the demos, the mob, and so on. When do we move from a democracy to a tyranny of the many? The Greeks, like Aristotle and Plato, understood the downside of democracy, and as I learn more, I gain a greater appreciation of their concerns (although I still don't buy any alternative).

Getting back to Frum, it's a really thoughtful piece. Here! Here! to more conservatives like him.

Thomas Barnett on the U.S. and China

As I often find, Dr. Thomas Barnett has something interesting to say about the contemporary world. In this case, the growing rift between the U.S. and China. Each nation has its own particular needs, strengths, and weaknesses, and both need each other for continued peace and prosperity. I fear growing Chinese nationalism, but I also fear an increasingly confrontational attitude by the U.S. As Barnett notes, China has a rather unique demographic challenge, one that makes ours seem small. We have to work with their needs if they're going to work with ours. I hope that this and following administrations act out of our long-term interest toward China not out of domestic political expediency.