By Will Allison, on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 8:30 AM ET
I haven’t watched network TV in many years. I can’t stand pretty much any contemporary music act. I enjoy professional sports, but do not follow them, and always embarrass myself when I pretend that I do. However, I do faithfully watch a handful of cable television programs. Here they are, with some thoughts on each:
5. True Blood
As President Obama would say, let me be clear. This show is as dumb as a bag of hammers. I am dumber after I watch it. All of us are. The pilot episode offered the worst dialogue I had ever heard on a television show. The performances as a rule are unbelievably repetitive. A handful of the characters—including THE LEAD—are unusually annoying. When did Anna Paquin decide that every line should be served with three extra helpings of sass? And Tara, thanks, but if I wanted to be yelled at for an hour, I’d time travel back to Mrs. Phillips’ seventh grade math class.
This scene alone invoked three separate articles of the Geneva Conventions.
OK, I confess. The damn show is entertaining. As dumb as it is, dumb also means I get to turn my brain off for an hour and watch vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters, witches, whoknowswhathehellelse go at it. In bad Cajun accents. Usually, sans clothing. There are worse ways to spend an evening.
4. Game Of Thrones
This series appeared at first to be a conventional medieval fantasy epic, told in the style of The Lord Of The Rings, pitting good against evil. It slowly revealed itself to be a far more complex piece of storytelling. The “good” guys in this tale often behave stupidly and are far too trusting of their enemies, not to mention the “neutral” parties of whom they assume good faith. The “bad” guys are regularly more successful because they do not slow themselves down with quaint notions of “honor”. They also may have more legitimate grievances than we are initially led to believe. The history of the world in which these people reside is slowly revealed to the audience. It is a world nowhere as simple as that depicted in The Lord Of The Rings, a world much more like our own, where nothing good is accomplished easily–if at all–and what “good” actually is becomes harder to define at each turn.
Exemplifying this outlook is the performance of Peter Dinklage, who has created the most fascinating supporting character on television since…Omar. He is The Imp, a little person living in a chaotic world ruled by “might is right”, and yet The Imp manages to slip through incredible dangers using his mental ingenuity alone. He is neither good nor bad, possessing no innate hostility towards perceived enemies, nor any frivolous notions of “honor” that would too firmly entrench him. The Imp has no problem helping strangers, and bets they’ll never realize how much more he needs them. He has only his wits, and his mouth. In a land where most have lost sight of what matters save some ancient moral code, the man with none may be the most moral of them all.
3. Teen Mom
I generally detest reality television. I believe 99.9% of it is useless, vapid exhibitionism of the lowest order. I think anyone who would put themselves on a reality television program is very likely to have either some kind of severe personality disorder, or simply be un-hirable in any other occupation.
Teen Mom is one of the most gripping and educational shows ever put on the screen. The show is pretty straightforward: let’s film the repercussions of some teenagers who got themselves pregnant. Let’s show what it’s like to be an 18 year-old girl with a 2 year-old boy. What happens when that girl wants to go out with her friends, but doesn’t have any time, because she has a 2 year-old boy, and doesn’t have any money, because she doesn’t have a job, because she can’t get a job, because she has to stay home to take care of the 2 year-old boy. And if she gets a job, it won’t be a good job, because she didn’t finish high school, and even if she did, she didn’t go to college, because she has a 2 year-old boy. And if she tries to go to college, then she’s being a bad mom, because she’s not devoting herself entirely to the 2 year-old boy, and eventually one of her parents will step in and fight for ownership of the 2 year-old boy. And God forbid she go and try to do what got her into this mess in the first place: fall in love. On Teen Mom, nothing is more dangerous than trying to have a life of your own. And that is what makes it truly compelling television, as well as essential life education. I wish it was shown in every middle and high school in America.
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Will Allison: Top Five TV Shows
By Will Allison, on Wed Jul 27, 2011 at 12:00 PM ET
Like I said, this deal ain’t happenin’.
People keep telling me that a deal on raising the debt ceiling will definitely happen. It must happen. Both sides agree it must happen. The fate of the global economy depends on no less. They’re back at the negotiation table. Sure, Speaker Boehner walked out on Friday, but he was back in the White House on Saturday. Some kind of product must emerge from these negotiations.
A few days ago, as I was walking down the street in Lower Manhattan, I saw a man reach into a garbage can, fish out an open can of soda, and chug whatever was left in it. It was a hot day, but Jesus Christ.
At this point, any product that would emerge from negotiations between the President and the Tea Party would be as valuable as that can of soda.
Those who believe otherwise must also believe that the behavior of the House Republican majority—intransigent to the point of nihilism–will radically change in the next week. That’s right: we have one week left until default. One week left before the crash.
Here is an example of the behavior of the new House Republican Majority. Allen West is a freshman GOP Congressman from Florida, a star of the 2010 Tea Party wave. He is an Iraq War veteran, discharged from the service after torturing an Iraqi police officer. Most people would try to put that kind of shameful incident behind them. West returned home and campaigned on it. Successfully.
A couple of weeks ago, Congressman West shot off an email to Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose congressional district adjoins his. In the email, he wrote, “You are the most vile, unprofessional, and despicable member of the U.S. House of Representatives. If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise, shut the heck up. Focus on your own congressional district!” Not done, he followed that up with “You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me!” Then he copied most of Congress on the email, just to let everyone else know how hurt his feelings were.
What did Debbie Wasserman Schultz do to poor Mr. West to provoke such a tirade? Steal his daughter’s Justin Bieber tickets? Drown his cat? Assert the supremacy of Mellencamp over Springsteen?
(Pictured above: a former Lieutenant Colonel’s worst nightmare.)
Even worse. This “lady” had the nerve to actually describe Allen West’s plans for Medicare recipients, via the debt ceiling negotiations: “The gentleman from Florida. who represents thousands of Medicare beneficiaries, as do I, is supportive of this plan that would increase costs for Medicare beneficiaries, unbelievable from a Member from South Florida”.
That’s it. That’s what set him off. In West’s defense, perhaps he felt physically threatened by Wasserman Schultz. After all, she does look awfully intimidating.
These are the kinds of people President Obama is trying to negotiate a debt ceiling increase out of. Crazy people. Not to say they aren’t serious people. No, these people take themselves very, very seriously. As to their role as stewards of our nation’s well-being? Taken about as seriously as a box of Lucky Charms.
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Will Allison: Unloading Their Guns
By Will Allison, on Mon Jul 11, 2011 at 12:00 PM ET
On August 2, the United States of America is set to default on its debt obligations. I am not an economist, and would not deign to pretend that I understand the economic repercussions of such a move. However, I do have another important credential, and that is called a “survival instinct.” This instinct is stronger than I remembered.
I know this, because I am now up at 3am, scared right out my damn sleep from the horror movie that would be defaulting on our nation’s debt. I have read too many of these Freddy Krueger-themed articles not to believe it. Phrases like “global financial meltdown”, “financial apocalypse”, “the American economy dragging the global economy down the drain”, and “millions of unemployed joined by millions more” own me now, people. This is a cry for help.
The raising of the debt ceiling, typically a pro forma vote Congress takes every year to meet our rising spending obligations, has met a wall this summer with a newly emboldened, GOP-controlled House. This House is heavily influenced if not directed by the Tea Party, willing to risk default to deal with what it feels is our top fiscal priority: spending cuts. In response, the Democrats, true to their nature, have already offered massive concessions on spending, in return for some kind—any kind—of tax increase on the very wealthy. The GOP has replied with “no”. Despite their deficit-obsessed rhetoric, they are not interested in increasing revenues to lower the deficit. They only want spending cuts, and apparently are willing to allow our economy to collapse if they don’t get exactly that, only that, and on a massive scale.
And so it goes. The Republican Party’s “top negotiator” on the debt ceiling, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, has already walked out of the talks. Democrats, in return, have begun to urge the President to invoke a little-known clause in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that may legally require our nation not to default on its debt. The President could simply say he’s not legally allowed to permit our nation to default, and instruct the Treasury to continue to pay the bills. The GOP’s response is to threaten impeachment if the president goes that route, claiming he will have superseded Congress’ power of the purse. I am going insane trying to keep up with this stuff, people.
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Will Allison: Watching the Ceiling Cave In
By Will Allison, on Wed Jul 6, 2011 at 10:30 AM ET
Hello there! My name is Will Allison, and Jonathan has quite generously offered to let me blog at RP. I thought I’d use my inaugural piece to fill readers in on who I am, and where I am coming from.
You might be wondering…who? Well, first and foremost, I am a proud native son of Louisville, KY. I grew up in the Highlands, in a family that passionately mixed politics with the arts. My father was a civil rights attorney, my mother an actress and acting teacher. If we weren’t at Actor’s Theatre, we were at a rally at Memorial Hall. One of my earliest memories is watching my mother perform in a one-woman show, portraying the South African anti-apartheid activist Ruth First. I guess you could say that experience was emblematic of my parents’ activism, and the values they taught their children.
Both of my sisters entered the arts, so as I became a teenager, I tried to take a different path, focusing on writing rather than politics or the theatre. However, I was quickly drawn back to the stage, attending the Youth Performing Arts School and falling in love all over again with Euripides and Stephen Sondheim alike. Assured I would become the next Ralph Fiennes, I journeyed far after high school from Louisville to Boston to continue my acting training. I had some great moments with Pinter, Brecht, Kaufman, Shakespeare and others. Assured I would become the next Philip Seymour Hoffman, I journeyed (not so) far after college from Boston to New York, to take the world by storm.
Well, that didn’t pan out so much. So, I turned back to the other family business.
In the spring of 2002, I joined Democrat Jane Hoffman’s campaign for Lieutenant Governor of NY State as a junior staffer. It’s worth pointing out that joining any Democrat’s campaign for anything in the spring of 2002 was a risky proposition at best. The city was still reeling from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. George W. Bush had poll numbers in the stratosphere. Locally, Republican Rudy Giuliani had gone from disgraced philanderer and failed Senate candidate to “America’s Mayor”. And Gov. George Pataki was cruising to re-election for a third term with more money than any opponent could compete with. All three men were wielding 9/11 as a deadly political weapon, and doing it brilliantly (if cynically).
But Jane was a compelling presence on the stump, a dedicated Consumer Affairs Commissioner, and a highly telegenic figure. As the summer campaign wore on, we felt we had at least an outsider’s shot of upsetting the establishment candidates in the race. That feeling ended the day Jane announced she had become very ill with a rare eye disease, and the campaign would have to end. A campaign without a victory is by its very nature a sad place to be, but I can’t recall a sadder way to end a campaign than that.
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Will Allison: Let’s Begin the Conversation