Saturday, November 07, 2009

Saturday Rock Show

I bought Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral and immediately realized what Trent Reznor was up to. While in many ways the songs feel very dated - especially the minor hit "Closer" - and I relate far less to the rage and self-absorption evident in many of the songs, it still stands as an important part of the history of industrial rock. While the kindergarten politics of "March of the Pigs" and the swipe at gangster-posers in "Big Man With a Gun" can be dismissed, other songs, like "Hurt" and "The Becoming" are important because they end up being about far more than Reznor venting his own sense of meaninglessness. Indeed, "Hurt" was powerful enough for Johnny Cash to record a version that takes it away from teen angst and makes it about the brooding realities that even successful, accomplished individuals sense in themselves.

"Eraser" is perhaps the most disturbing song on the disc, with its repeated "Kill Me" winding the song down. Indeed, the song seems to be a kind of therapeutic confession of the inexorable slide from desire for another person, through the warping of that desire in to something dangerous, to the guilt and remorse that can consume a person who realizes that something beautiful has turned demonic. All I can say is, I grok, dude. Should go without saying that this song is not for the faint of heart.

When Religion Is Irrelevant

In the wake of the mass killings at Ft. Hood, TX by Army Major Hasan Nidal, the reaction among many has been to raise the issue of Nidal's religion as central to his alleged shooting. At, a review of stories on the event takes issue with an article by Michael Moss in The New York Times, specifically the following:
“When a white guy shoots up a post office, they call that going postal,” said Victor Benjamin II, 30, a former member of the Army. “But when a Muslim does it, they call it jihad.

“Ultimately it was Brother Nidal’s doing, but the command should be held accountable,” Mr. Benjamin said. “G.I.’s are like any equipment in the Army. When it breaks, those who were in charge of keeping it fit should be held responsible for it.”

For my part, I find this point-of-view refreshing as a reality-check. There have been a slew of reports, although nothing overarching and definitive, on the long-term effects of our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, on the mental health of veterans. The long-simmering understanding that returning vets have a greater tendency for violence and self-destruction, and the limited resources allocated to confront this problem frames the events at Ft. Hood in a completely different light than raising the question of whether or not Major Nidal's religious views played a part. Granted, Maj. Nidal was not a returning vet, and it seems highly likely, as the facts continue to emerge from the fog and blood of Texas, that religion indeed played a part. Yet, as Benjamin points out in the quote above, as part of a hierarchy of command within the military - and with a history of warning signs clear enough for the military already to note that action was taken in Nidal's case - there is a certain amount of responsibility to be placed at Nidal's commanders.

It should also be pointed out that there are thousands of active-duty military personnel who are faithful Muslims who haven't gone around shooting up their fellow service members. This, too, should raise the question of the relevance of Maj. Nidal's religious beliefs as a factor governing his actions.

I am still waiting for more facts to surface, more information on what triggered Nidal to allegedly begin shooting up folks with whom he worked and served. I certainly reserve the right to change my mind as to the role his religious beliefs may or may not have played in determining his actions. In the end, though, I think complaining that a particular quote in a story doesn't bring up religion because religion may not have been a factor misses an obvious point. Maj. Nidal's religious beliefs may not have played a role, and there are other issues, including the role of the military chain of command and the lack of mental health resources (ironic, of course, because Nidal was an Army psychiatrist) made available to active duty personnel and veterans.

A Year After Victory

Rick Perlstein in The Daily Beast:
With too few exceptions, Obama very much not among them, the Democrats have shown neither the willingness nor the ability to foment populist politics from the left. The right comes to own a monopoly on an emotion in ever more plentiful supply: anger. They have, of course, no solutions. But when it only takes 40 senators to filibuster—and “filibuster” means merely signing a petition—legislators representing only the 20 least populated states in the union, and about 9 percent of American citizens, can at the very least stop Obama from claiming credit for solutions. And then the mainstream media—tada!—reports that Obama’s a failure. How’s his performance been? I just wish that question mattered more. On the big questions, it’s almost moot. Though fortunately the government has been and will be far, far better administered in the meantime.

Me here on this blog:
[President Obama] doesn't operate on the nightly news schedule. He gives speeches, to be sure, and does appearances - most recently at a green factory in Iowa - but he isn't focused on whether or not he gets a good story on the three networks, or a good spin during the on-going 24-hour news stations. Recognizing the artificiality of the pressure-cooker created by 24-hour news channels, Obama has opted, for whatever his reasons may be, to govern as an adult. He understands the depth of the challenges he faces, not the least of them being an establishment that is geared to doubt the effectiveness of any attempt he may make at correcting the situation.


[M]any liberals are upset that Obama has not simply moved with lightning speed, for example, to take legal action against those who authorized the use of torture during the Bush Administration. I think that he will no more be pushed to act by his natural constituency than by his opponents. Part of the reason for this, I think, is a sense of propriety; one of the things Obama is asserting is the inherent limitations of the Office of the President, and simultaneously the independence of the Department of Justice. He has also refused to insist that Congress do anything - in regard to the torture memos or anything else - precisely because it is an equal branch of government to the Executive.

In other words, we are looking at a patient, fairly deliberate man using that patience and deliberation for the long-term benefit of the country.

Where I believe my own view differs from Perlstein's (and isn't that pretty humble of me . . .) is I am not sure what else the President could do, or should do, that he hasn't already done, for example, on pushing Congress on health care reform legislation. Many liberals and left-wing advocates are frustrated that he seems to be wishy-washy on the question of a public option; yet he has made clear that "reform" is his desire. If that includes a public option, and it is done in a workable form, that's great. If universal or near-universal health care access is achieved without it, then that's fine by him (and I'm not sure why this point isn't emphasized more, except that too many liberals are far too vested in those two magic words to understand what the President is trying to do).

With the glaring exception of a troop draw-down in Iraq, and raising the specter of a greater commitment to Afghanistan, the President has actually achieved, one year after being elected, quite a bit of his agenda. He has also signaled his willingness to address DADT in the military (which he cannot simply ignore or set aside since it's a statutory, not executive or administrative, policy), which he did not address at all during the campaign. He has signed historic hate crimes legislation that will, I believe, be as important in the long run as the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

On the glaring exceptions - the occupation of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan - I can only wonder whether there are structural impediments to Obama moving forward with troop withdrawal. Add to that his penchant for caution when acting, and perhaps taking seriously any criticism he may face as a Commander-in-Chief who has never served in the military, and there is a recipe for lethargy that frustrates many (myself included).

I stand by my early assertions that the President is governing in the only way he sees he can govern; the criticism Perlstein levels at the President (that what he does seems to matter very little) ignores the reality that the trouble isn't the Executive Branch, or even the lower House of Congress. As Perlstein rightly states, the brakes are being applied by just a few members of the United States Senate. What can the President possibly do to address this? Indeed, what can any of us do that hasn't already been done?

These are issues to be addressed by the House and Senate Democratic majorities, who as a group seem determined to act as if they are still the minority, and were not elected with majorities great enough to determine the agenda. The best the President can do is a combination of cajolery and admonition to Congressional leadership; if they refuse to step up and act like a party that can govern, is that the President's fault?

While I think "mixed" is a good way to describe Pres. Obama's overall success - he certainly hasn't faced any major defeats; he just hasn't secured a victory on health care reform yet - my guess is much of the left-wing whining about his performance is a desire to have elected a different man, with a different set of governing principles, in office. I do believe that Obama's performance matters, and I think it is better, in many ways, than any Democratic President since Lyndon Johnson (well, there have been only two since then . . .). The structural and ideological impediments to enacting any kind of progressive or left-wing populist agenda are far greater now than forty-five years ago, and Congressional Democrats and the President have done pretty well so far. Once health care reform passes, my guess is the Democratic leadership in the House will beg off other big legislative items - a new stimulus, financial regulatory overhaul, cap-and-trade legislation - and then we will see the President push them a little bit more.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Makes Me Want To Cry

OMFG! To think I was going to enter a contest in which the judges thought this piece of craptastic offal was worth publishing.

Talk about dodging a bullet.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Waiting For The Deluge

The only thing I feel like saying about today's events at Fort Hood, Texas - beyond my sadness and prayers for the families of those slain - is we all know the nuts are going to pick up on the Muslim-sounding name of the alleged perpetrator and get their hate on. With no evidence, this is going to be tagged an al Qaeda sleeper cell hit against the Army. Just wait.

Adding, it will be Obama's fault.


I haven't been posting a whole lot lately because, for one thing, I've been busy. Another reason that keeps me from doing more is an on-going frustration that seems to have no resolution. With commanding majorities in both Houses of Congress and a President elected with the largest plurality in decades, the Democrats continue to act as if they are the minority part, as if their ideas were suspect from the get-go, and as if everything the Republican "leadership" in Congress does is far more effective with the American people than the Democratic electoral victories.

There are days I feel like going to Capitol Hill and dope-slapping some of these people. Lead! Govern! Stop listening to idiots like Evan Bayh and Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson and Olympia Snowe!

Earlier this year, when Congress was actually doing the stuff it was elected to do, it was popular. All the dithering, all the deference to the party out of power and their refusal to actually legislate and govern has dragged down the approval ratings for the Democratic Party. This isn't the result of the American people suddenly awakening from some haze to discover the secret Marxism of the Democrats. Rather, it is frustration at their fiddling while Rome continues to burn.

Writing these folks doesn't seem to help. Calling, either. The Washington-based national press corps continues to act as if the Republicans are in charge, and the Democratic hasn't done anything to prove them wrong.

If I may add a slam at some seriously big liberal blogs and websites, I am quite tired of the daily posts on the idiotic antics of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. I. Don't. Care. What. They. Say. Continuing to pay attention to them gives them far more power and influence than they might otherwise have. "Debunking" them - a la Media Matters and such - is useless because they aren't going to change, and supporters and detractors know the score anyway. Time and energy is wasted on this kind of thing.

One website, Crooks and Liars, seems almost obsessed with Beck, and Minnesota's answer to Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann. The best thing to do for the country would be to ignore them, unless laughter is involved, and let them slide back in to the obscurity from which they emerged. Both of them are certifiable. Rather than a long, detailed fact-based challenge to whatever they say, just copy & paste with the single comment - HAHAHAHAHA!!.

Which criticisms of lefty bloggers and all leads me to another point. We won, folks. All these liberal web sites continue to act as if it were 2005-2006, as if George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and Denny Hastert were still in charge and we had all sorts of structural and procedural impediments to moving forward with a progressive agenda. We don't, and it would be nice if liberals grew a pair. Celebrate victories a little more loudly, and stop whining about the mean stuff and lies the Republicans and conservatives are saying.

The loser attitude among Democrats and liberals, both in office and in the public, has to stop. We won, and we won big, and we should take that win and run with it. Whether it's John Boehner and Mitch McConnell or Olympia Snow and Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh, we need to remind them of some simple facts, the first one of which is the job of a legislature is to legislate. If they don't want to pass laws, they have every right to vote against them. If they believe their sole role in this Congress is to stop it from doing stuff, however, they have no place at a table discussing how best to craft legislation.

How simple is that? They don't like it, why, they can run home to their constituents and get re-elected on a platform of, "I've been serving in Congress and done nothing for the country! Re-Elect me and I'll continue to draw a public paycheck and sit on my ass!"

Who cares about the freakin' tea-baggers and birthers and the rest of the loons. Mindless, idiotic . . . so much of our public discourse is still warped by deference to crazy people. Just let them hold their little protests and allow that time to be spent on something substantive. If Republican members of Congress want to join them, so much the better - one can pass legislation without their vote (which would happen anyway).

OK, this somewhat unfocused rant is drawing to a close. . .

One positive note (I so want to end on an upbeat) - thank you, Congress and President Obama for passing the hate crimes bill.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

No Right Answer

Duncan posts again on our elite's fetish for policy over politics. My take on this phenomenon - call it, for lack of a better term, the Rodney King ("Can't we all just get along?") phenomenon - is rooted in a sincere, but ultimately misguided belief that there is one right answer for our social ills, and an efficient, non-adversarial approach to solving them is the best solution.

That's completely and utterly wrong.

We in the west are inheritors of a philosophical tradition that insists that, for every question asked, there is only one answer that is correct. Whether that question is, "What is the sum of two and two?" or, "What is the best allocation of our public resources for the greatest good?", there is only one correct answer. By making these questions similar both in effect and affect, we are making the huge error that all questions are the same. Yet, a mathematical question concerns a very limited set of criteria, while a question concerned with politics is far more broad, and there is no set of criteria to which one can point a priori to determine how one arrives at an answer.

This problem was sketched out long ago, in Jacques Ellul's classic The Technological Society, and been addressed time and again by many other social and cultural historians and critics. Whether in the watered-down approach of a social commentator like David Broder, or a far more sophisticated approach such as Alan Bloom, there is this belief that the acceptance of difference on a social, cultural, and political level is an error because it ignores the singularity of Truth.

This is why, to those who have faith in democracy and the democratic process, our elites too often sound anti-democratic. Democratic politics, as the creature has evolved in America, are a messy business precisely because the notion that the search for "solutions" involves a rational discussion leading to a single, "correct" conclusion is erroneous. While there are, indeed, guidelines and general principles, for example, in economics, that are helpful for arriving at a policy that best serves the public good, they are hardly determinative.

It would be nice if there were a right answer to what ails us. It would be nice if interested parties could sit down and hash out together, with an eye on both a method and desired result that was acceptable to everyone, how best to solve our social ills. They can't and won't because such a procedure is anathema to democracy.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Music For Your Monday

I've been enjoying my second reading of Barker & Taylor's Faking It. Since I'm a fan of music that is usually outside critical acceptance, whether authenticity is a category critics use or don't use, I thought that it might be fun to put up what I consider some important "turning points" in my own evolving journey with music.

I might have mentioned before - or maybe I didn't I'm not sure - that hearing "Star Cycle" by Jeff Beck was really the beginning of it all for me. From the fusion-oriented There and Back LP, that the song even received airplay is astounding to me. That it received enough to push me to purchase the album and pretty much wear out the grooves listening to it is shocking. A record such as this would disappear almost upon release today. Since almost no one I knew had even heard of it, I knew I was on to something different because this was just . . . I still can't find the words to describe my reaction to it. Except that here - right here - was something that made sense.

Hearing Judas Priest and Iron Maiden as a high school student was one thing. Hearing Metallica as a college student, though, was on a different scale altogether. While I have come to appreciate the simple pleasures of Judas Priest on occasion, and find some of Iron Maiden's songs to be entertaining, the material on Metallica's first four records still stands out for me as taking heavy metal beyond the Black Sabbath/Motorhead/Judas Priest orbit on the one hand, and the darker musings of their musical mentors like Venom and Danzig. They certainly flirted with darker themes without succumbing to the stupidity of death metal, while also refusing to rest easy with blues-based song structures. Their subsequent career, especially after their eponymous "Black" album of 1991 is a long, slow death spiral. While their early experiments in speed metal were interesting, it was when I first heard "Creeping Death" that I knew there was something more going on here.

I remember the moment, for some odd reason, I first heard Dream Theater's song, "Pull Me Under". After a late winter/early spring of nothing but grunge, I was wondering what, exactly, came next. I happened to be driving southwest on Western Ave, the street that is the border between the District of Columbia and Maryland, and without any introduction at all came the opening. I knew, immediately, I had to have it (I can be stupid that way, I guess). In the seventeen years since then, I've purchased their CDs, gone to their concerts, absorbed their aesthetic, and am still amazed that anyone besides me loves this band. I am happy to report that my older daughter, Moriah, loves this song, too.

Writing About Religion

I dismissed an article at Alternet as "garbage" because I found it to be shallow, without any reference to any actual thought by actual people, a parody of criticism of serious thought. I continue to be amazed, years after the fact, that the rules of serious intellectual engagement and criticism can be suspended if one is attacking "religion" or "Christianity". The fact that allegedly "serious" writers like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins can use these two words as synonyms without being called on it, even by reviewers in reputable publications, makes me wonder what's wrong with people who claim that the threat to intellectual life is one of their beefs with religious beliefs. If that is so, I respond, show it by being more vigorous and knowledgeable about the subject matter you are criticizing. In the case of both Harris and Dawkins, they are so woefully ignorant of even the most basic facts concerning Christianity - for example, it is only one expression of religious belief, and in both its theoretical and practiced forms is so diverse as to evade a single-word appellation; it is far more correct to talk about "Christianities" - that anything else they write about the subject becomes tainted by their ignorance.

A similar ignorance pervades journalistic discussions of religious life and belief as well. Many religious critics of mainstream religious journalism set that down to a lack of religious belief among journalists; in other words, they are operating out of ignorance. Yet, most journalists are ignorant of any subject they cover because they aren't zoning-law experts, criminal attorneys, or politicians, but journalists. They are trained not as these and other professionals, but as writers about a topic. As such, it would seem they have a duty to inform themselves about their subject matter, at least insofar as they are presenting a particular story to the public. Yet, one finds (for example) the Washington Post/Newsweek online "On Faith" Forum to be so poorly researched, I for one wonder why it attracts readers at all. Many of the regular, featured, writers - Eboo Patel and Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite in particular - are both gifted writers and present their ideas with a deep understanding of their faith, and a deep faith as well; for the most part, though, the stuff there can be ignored out of hand.

We are in the midst of two wars in lands soaked in a religious tradition foreign to our own, largely Christian, heritage; yet most commentary on both Christianity and Islam is ignorant of some of the most basic facts of either religious belief, and how even in an increasingly secularizing atmosphere religious belief still shapes who we are as a people. A doctor working at a health clinic for women is murdered, and people claim to support him and his act of premeditated homicide as a religiously-inspired moral act. One cannot dismiss such a claim out of hand without an understanding that there are serious precedents for such a claim. Among the fastest growing branches of Christianity are the Seventh-Day Adventists and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; there are many mainstream Christians who consider both of these outside the communion of Christianity (especially the LDS Church because of its additional, Third Testament of Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon). Yet, how do we in the mainstream communicate with these branches of the faith if we are unwilling to grant that they, too, have something to offer people?

This little rant really comes down to this simple point: I am quite exhausted by the ignorance that pervades our talk about "religion" and "Christianity". Whether in criticisms of it that are void of any serious intellectual merit, yet sell hundreds of thousands of copies, making their authors notorious overnight without any justification of which I am aware; or in our public discourse that ignores the reality that we are currently occupying two countries that exist within far different faith traditions than our own, faith traditions of which we know next to nothing. The simple reality is, despite the insistence for over a century that religion is less and less important in our collective lives, it continues to be a major driving force and underlying current in our public events. That we cannot discuss it with even a modicum of intellectual honesty, or even accept the simple factual nature of the assertion, troubles me deeply.

Unfortunately, I don't know what to do about it.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Question That Answered Itself In Real Time

A former aide to discredited and vilified former Vice President Dick Cheney, John Hannah poses a question in NRO that, perhaps without knowing it, was answered.
Does anyone advising President Obama and the secretary of state really believe that this kind of partisanship and trash-talking abroad about another American president is really going to buy us much long-term goodwill among either our friends or our adversaries? Do they imagine that this sort of thing really helps to advance U.S. national interests?

Michael Crowley points out in The New Republic that Sec. Clinton was applauded when she said these words. Since Bush and Cheney are still less popular than a root canal without anesthesia, it isn't a surprise.

Long-term, though, we need to show that the promise Obama embodies for the world comes true. There is all the difference in the world between a salesman who offers you a new and improved mousetrap, and the mousetrap actually catching more mice faster, easier, and with less clean-up.

For now, though, it is enough for John Hannah to say that Sec. Clinton must have thought our interests are advanced by pointing out that she does not represent Bush/Cheney. We are all still trying to wake up from that nightmare, and this was a good shake on the shoulder.

A Rerun With Edits

I originally ran this on All Saint's Day two years ago. I have changed it slightly to reflect that two VERY prominent names on my list have changed their status, as it were. I have lost Steve Creech, and will always mourn that loss and feel responsible for the distance that grew between us. I love you, Steve. Recently, all who care about the UM Church lost a powerful, loving voice when the Rev. Dr. James Logan passed away. Our church is better for his life and gifts and service.

Today is one of my favorite feast days in the church calendar, All Saints Day. This is the day to celebrate and remember that "great cloud of witnesses" that surrounds, upholds, and gifts us by their presence in our lives. In the spirit of the day, I want to offer a partial list of those who have enriched my life, some of whom will never meet me, many of whom are long dead, and all of whom are faithful witnesses in their own way to the power of God's loving care. Should some of those listed prefer not to be associated with me, I can understand. Yet, I would be dishonest in the extreme were I to omit the names of those whose impact upon my life has been through admonishment, criticism, and (on one or two occasions) rejection.

My family, most especially my daughters Moriah and Miriam, come first. Not just on this list, but in my life.


The members of Poplar Grove United Methodist Church, Poplar Grove, IL; the people of Community United Methodist Church, LaMoille, IL; the people of Centenary United Methodist Church, Jarratt, VA; Steven Creech (d); the faculty of Wesley Theological Seminary, particularly those who, through direct instruction, taught me the true meaning of what the marriage of knowledge and vital piety could be - Rev. Dr. Sharon Ringe, Rev. Dr. John Godsey, the late Dr. Roy Morrison , the late Rev. Dr. James Cecil Logan, Rev. Dr. Josiah Young, Dr. David Hopkins, then-Dean Dr. M. Douglas Meeks, Rev. Dr. Laurence Hull Stookey, Rev. Dr. Mark Burrows, Rev. Dr. Douglas Strong, Rev. Dr. William Shopshire; my fellow students at Wesley Theological Seminary, especially Rev. Rodney Lorenzo Graves, Rev. Alpha Estes Brown, Rev. Scott Prinster, Mitchell Bond, Pamela Monn, Rev. Dr. Lauren Heather Lay, Rev. David & Sarah Roberts, Michael Jones; Rev. Kim Kathleen Capps; Janet Powers; Rev. Lisa-Jean Hoefner; James and Lucinda Krager; Revs. Hugh & Sarah Miller; Rev. Edwin Martin; Robert & Valerie Crocker and all my fellow members of the Sayre, PA First UMC UMYF; Rev. Richard H. Schuster (d.); Barbara Bouton; my teachers long-distance, most especially Gary Dorrien for his insights on the small, yet vital, movement of liberal Christianity in America; Gustavo Gutierrez; Rev. Dr. James Cone; those teachers who have passed from this life, but whose work illuminates the lives of many - Langdon Gilkey, Paul Tillich, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Friederich Schleiermacher, John Wesley, Charles Wesley, John Calvin, Martin Luther, William Ockham, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, Origen, the Cappadocian Fathers, Tertullian, St. Paul, the Gospel writers.

Jesus Christ.

I know I have forgotten many, many people (and they are probably thankful).

He Believes His Own Hype

At least I know who to blame for Jon Gosselin.
When my late partner Mary-Ellis Bunim, a producer of daytime soaps, and I came together in the late 1980s to create MTV's "The Real World," reality television, as we know it today, was nonexistent. Our plan at first had been to do a scripted series about young people starting out their lives in New York. But a scripted show was prohibitively expensive, so we took the documentary approach instead. We quickly realized that an unscripted, real-life show would be much more relevant to MTV's young audience.

The problem with this entire piece isn't that "reality television" has created monsters such as the balloon boy, the train-wreck Jon & Kate Plus Eight, or the Kardashians. The problem, embedded in Murray's article (presumably) in his own words, is the contradiction at the heart of the genre.
We don't tell the cast what to say, but we do edit the episodes to contain stories with a beginning, middle and end.

So, despite calling it "reality" television, it is just . . . television. There is nothing real about it. Life isn't a story, with clean beginnings, plot-lines and story points, and endings that tie up all the loose ends. Presenting something as "real" that is deliberately contrived doesn't so much create false expectations among the viewers or participants as it does misrepresent the challenges and ambiguities of real life. By offering "ordinary people" the opportunity for fame, if not necessarily fortune, it also appeals to the most superficial desire for instant fame without any sacrifice. As the Gosselins, the Kardashians, and many others have found, though, sacrifice usually comes at some point, and if not offered voluntarily, extracts an even greater toll further on.

There was nothing "real" about the original MTV's The Real World, any more than there is Survivor, Fear Factor, or any of the rest of these abominations. Murray's contention that the shows are real because they aren't scripted belies the fact that, by editing out the boring, or uncontroversial, or too controversial, parts the producers end up with a representation not of reality, but of a narrative of certain events, some of which may not even have transpired as presented.

The lure of fame, and the promise of easy success that seems to flow out of Hollywood's shit factories has reached a kind of resting place with reality television. As the example of the train-wreck life of Jon and Kate Gosselin should demonstrate for anyone with a modicum of sense, the issue isn't reality. The issue is fame, and how emotionally equipped an individual or family is to handle it. Even the hardiest psyche would probably buckle a little bit under the various pressures presented by the constant presence of a television production crew, the creation of a reality more real than the humdrum, boring, existence we all live offered up for world-wide delectation, and the sudden realization that one can become "well-known" for no other reason than having one's face on television.

Yet, Murray believes people should get "real". The easiest way to do this is to shut off the boob tube, stop believing that fame, money, and ease come without price and sacrifice, and start living without the expectation that there is anything more real, or wonderful, than the ambiguous lives we all lead.

Virtual Tin Cup

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