Posts Tagged ‘politics

28
May
13

Job Creation: A TED Talk

Rather fitting that this gets posted above Promised Land. It’s of the same ilk, an ilk I do favor.

04
Dec
12

Peter Capaldi (Malcolm Tucker) Interview

12
Jun
12

Boss

If The West Wing offers the kind of politics, I dream of, Boss shows the kind of politics I fear we have, i.e. Tales from the Dark Side of Power, Greed and Lust. 

On my flight from Beijing I discovered Kelsey Grammer’s Boss, a high testosterone drama about a fictitious Chicago mayor trying to control city and Illinois politics while hiding his degenerative neurological disorder. Longtime mayor Tom Kane (Grammer) combines Richard Daley and King Lear. Kane’s wife Meredith is a cold-blooded daughter of the former mayor. His daughter has a character that I couldn’t buy. She appears to be a Presbyterian minister who runs a free medical clinic, uses heroine and has sex with her drug dealer. Her theology is quite severe and Biblically literal, yet she only lives out an isolated form of social justice. She seems to have no friends and the mentality of a schizophrenic. I found her character a set up for audience stimulation with little believability, though the actress is compelling.

His staff consists of a taciiturn chief of staff, who has thugs on speed dial and a blonde bombshell with a highly calibrated libido so she can up the show’s heat.

More intriguing characters are a reporter who’s sniffing around sensing that something’s wrong with the mayor’s health while also investigating corruption and wrong doing emanating from the mayor’s office. The Illinois governor and his up and coming challenger illustrate how the mayor is the most influential politician in the state.

I watched four episodes so I was pulled in despite my the female characters. I pretty much figure that the writers are going to fall short of Shakespeare in their ability to write about both genders.

15
May
12

The Diane Rehm Show on China and US Relations

Diane Rehm at WMU

Diane Rehm at WMU (Photo credit: Jay P.)

Diane Rehm hosted a fascinating panel on China-US Relations. Her panelists clarified the recent events that could be hard to really understand when so many news sources oversimplify.

29
Mar
12

Iron Lady

I made my way through Iron Lady, the Margaret Thatcher biopic with Meryl Streep. While I agree Streep should be commended for her portrayal of Thatcher, I can’t say I’d want to sit through the film again. It’s an interesting take in some respects, but I had to make myself resume watching as I found the foggy look back at Thatcher’s life through the fog of dementia got old after awhile.

I liked the opening scenes with an old, retired Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher slipping out to get some milk at a mom and pop store, and I stayed with the film in the beginning as it cut back and forth between the time of Thatcher’s later years when memories of her past and hallucinations of her jovial dead husband come up unbidden (yet in more or less chronological order) and the start of her career.  Yet as the movie progressed and the film never headed for deeper water, I got bored.

I learned that Thatcher was a grocer’s daughter and that she had idolized her father who espoused staunch “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” conservatism. She got accepted at Oxford and we don’t see much of her days there. It seems Oxford didn’t get her to change or deepen her thinking one iota. Evidently, university wasn’t an important part of her life. I must remind myself that since the story is seen through the eyes of someone with dementia the narrator isn’t reliable. (Not a technique I’d use for a biopic after seeing this.) Soon the film jumps to Maggie’s catching the eye of Denis Thatcher at a political meeting and they’re soon married. Denis starts out as a progressive man who is attracted to Margaret’s strength, but as the movie continues he’s sort of a cheerleader with few ideas of substance to offer his political wife.

After some speech lessons and media coaching Margaret soon manages to get elected as the first female Prime Minister of the U.K. With overhead shots of a sole light blue suited woman amongst a herd of dark suited men and one white pair of white pumps surrounded by a dozen brown Oxfords, Iron Lady offers us strong images accentuating the gender imbalance Thatcher faced. I do applaud her for making her way into this Old Boy’s Club, yet I felt it was too bad that apparently she didn’t bother to bring in even one other woman.

The scenes when Thatcher had to make hard decisions regarding the Falkland Islands and economic policy present us with a real iron lady, but Thatcher also seems to be a woman with one idea and no friends whatsoever. She does grieve over an aide who died when the IRA planted a car bomb, but there was no dimension to that friendship. There isn’t much dimension to any of the relationships or ideology. From this I suppose Thatcher was as flat and simple as Reagan, her pal.

I appreciate the demands of the film which required that Streep play an ambitious politician who has to fight for her place at the table and a faltering, once  powerful woman, aware that her mind’s playing tricks. In the end that wasn’t enough. I grew tired of the shifting from the present to the past.

I know what dementia’s like and it’s a losing battle, thus not one I’d choose for a main character. I also found myself judging her children and the Brits for not providing adequate care for their aging Prime Minister. Surely, Thatcher wasn’t the first P.M. to decline this way. Why would she be left on her own so much? Why would those who care for her have that amateurish “Oh, she’s losing it” surprise that people who aren’t experts in dementia have (which the patient’s aware of and hates)?

In the end I wish they’d have sacrificed some of the cool images and given us more depth of character.

19
Jan
12

Elizabeth Rex

The Chicago Shakespeare Theater‘s Elizabeth Rex is strong, witty and thought-provoking. Written by Timothy Findley, Elizabeth Rex is a hypothetical look at what might have transpired the night before the Earl of Essex‘s execution. Findley plays with the fact that Elizabeth went to see a Shakespearean play the night before the Earl of Essex, who plotted to overthrow the queen, was executed. Findley’s what if’s are:

  • What if the queen and Essex had an affair? According to the Windy City Times review, they didn’t.
  • What if Elizabeth at age 70 had insecurities about her femininity since she had to wield power as a woman in a man’s age?
  • What if she spent the night in the company of Shakespeare’s actor’s who’re cooped up in a barn near the theater due to curfew restrictions? (Couldn’t the queen waive them or get everyone to a more commodious venue?)
  • What if one of the actors was a gay man dying of pox with insight into gender?
The questions are fascinating. The acting was strong; dialog full of repartee; and the costumes gorgeous. From the time the lights went up energy level was full speed ahead and I was transported to Shakespeare’s ribald, trenchant, lively world. The Queen surprises Shakespeare’s troupe with a visit hoping for a diversion from Essex’s impending execution. What she gets is a questioning and prodding from Ned Lowenscroft, an actor who plays strong lead women with great veracity, we’re told. (We just saw him act in one scene and I didn’t find him particularly convincing as a woman. Some kabuki actors are better and I know they’re men too.)
Much of the play’s energy comes from the sparring between Queen Elizabeth and Ned, who spar. Ned feels he can teach the queen how to be a real woman, i.e. forgiving and emotional. The Shakespeare and the actors were secondary figures, entertaining, but not in the lime light, which was fine. The troupe all seemed to feel the Queen should pardon Essex. What I felt was missing was a voice, a genuine voice that sided with the Queen. Essex did try to seize London and lead a rebellion. No one in this troupe  agreed that “off with his head” was a smart move. It seems to me in any gathering of more than 5 people, there’s bound to be a wide range of opinion.
The first act was swift and engaging, except for an interlude with Ned’s pet bear. I’m not sure what the purpose of that was. A stab at comic relief? It didn’t work for me.
The second half lagged slightly as the play didn’t cover new ground. Ned still urges the Queen to forgive her former lover, and he reveals more about his dearest lover who gave him the pox, i.e. syphillis, the story was interesting, but I don’t want the most powerful parts of a drama to be exposition. Some of the most interesting parts of the play were retold rather than dramatized.
All in all, if you’re looking for a lively, well acted play, if you want to consider some Elizabethan hypotheticals, go see the engaging Elizabeth Rex. After seeing the play I did wonder how plausible it was. Would Elizabethans think or speak of gender in these ways? It would be interesting to find some articles on that. I don’t suggest this as a fault but rather a springboard to deeper study.
04
Jan
12

Please Vote for Me

The Candidates for Class Monitor

Thank you Netflix. Again they led me to a gem that I’d have never seen. Please Vote for Me is a documentary on the first time a Chinese elementary school has an election for a class monitor. In China, from primary – tertiary school each class has a monitor, who leads, reprimands, organizes and if need be rats on his or her classmates. This role in a class and sometimes these children develop good leadership skills and sometimes they just flounder in their own disorganization. In any event, taking on the position looks good on a resume and can be a step into the Communist Party.

So Evergreen Elementary School in Wuhan embarks on this democratic experiment with kids who have no idea what democracy is. It’s captivating to see the crooked roads the students often take urged on by their parents. There’s no smoked filled back rooms, but that’s not necessary to rig an election we soon see.

The teachers select three candidates: one’s been Class Monitor for two terms already, then there’s a cute, rather docile girl and jocular, yet shrewd boy. In the lead up to voting the candidates must participate in a talent show and a debate or rather ad hominem attack contest, and give a final speech.

More often than not, the race gets negative and kids start crying. Sometimes most of the class is in tears. What struck me was how the teacher just smiled through the drama never trying to teach a lesson in fairness or counsel a candidate to be more respectful. There really was no educational consequence for running a smear campaign.

You will see who wins and I’ll just say it’s the kid I liked the least. I wondered why a school in one party China would attempt this. By the end I thought, this experiment is sure to cure anyone with a desire to make the country more democratic. By making an election, a painful childhood memory, few Chinese will choose that form of government when they’re older.

If you don’t subscribe to Netflix, you can see the film on YouTube.




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