Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Barack Obama

The day is here! Everyone I know is ecstatic and amazingly hopeful about what we’re about to embark upon.

It’s still hard to believe that it’s happening. New York City is an amazing amalgamation of people, but politically it’s been largely pro-Obama. During the race, I heard so many people wonder aloud “How is Obama not going to win? There’s so much support for him!”

But I knew better. I know that not every American has the same mindset. So I’ve tried hard to keep a wider perspective and find out what people who differ from me are thinking.

This American Life has a great episode which attempts to do the same thing: take a cross-section of the country and hear the spectrum of viewpoints. It’s enlightening, frightening and somehow reassuring. Take a listen...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fleet Foxes on SNL

I have mixed feelings about the boys appearing on SNL, but love that they played Mykonos.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Addicted to drug(shows)

I’m deeply entrenched in HBO’s The Wire. I’ve just finished the third season which isn’t too bad since I started a few months ago. I’ve been trying to plow through the series as quickly as possible, which isn’t to say I’m not enjoying the story. In actuality, the show is as engrossing and impressive as the accolades would have you believe.

It’s just that I feel as if my free time is scarce as it is. I haven’t even tried to add up how much time five seasons of an hour-long show is consuming out of my life, and it’s probably best not to know.

Also, I learned my lesson with The Sopranos which I watched at a leisurely pace of years in between episodes. Needless to say I was lost as to what was happening several times. “Wait, I thought that chick was whacked last season!” “When did that guy get made??”

Last week, I noticed that one of my roommates had purchased the first season of Weeds and left it in the living room for us roommates to watch. Naturally, I need another television show to occupy my time. After viewing a few episodes, I noticed how jarring it was to go from one drug show, The Wire to another, whose tone and viewpoint was in such contrast. The Wire is all about an unflinching depiction of the misery and corruption within the ecosphere of drugs, where even the good guys are flawed and capable of evil things. Weeds goes about drugs in a much more saccharine and light-hearted way. Addicts are friendly, successful family guys; rival dealers “threaten” each other by dinging cars with pennies; and the drug suppliers offer fresh baked cookies.

I find the contrasts enthralling. I noticed a similar relationship in movies like The Matrix which treat guns in a nonchalant manner. Throughout the movie, bullets are whizzing by, guns are whipped out and discarded, people are blown to bits, and we the viewers watch with giddy amazement. Then, a movie like American Beauty will feature a single gun, fired once, and the gravitas of it deeply affects all of the characters in the story. It’s amazing how people are able to take similar subjects and wield them in drastically different ways.

Back to The Wire, which benefitted from my trip back to my parents’ house for the holidays. I was able to sit through a pile of episodes in those few days. My parents even sat down to see what the buzz was all about. My dad, having missed out on the first 25 episodes was completely lost. Through him, I realized that over the course of the series, the character roster had grown to easily over 20 and plot threads dated back to the very first episode. The Wire is definitely not a show you can just casually watch, which while is more demanding on the viewer, also results in richer payoffs in the story.

My mom’s reaction was much more interesting. She pointed out how everyone is bad, and the whole story is so bleak. Why would people want to watch such a depressing show? Why don’t people like happy stories that make them feel good? I sort of laughed it off, but she has a point. Why are we so much more interested in drama and conflict? Shakespearean tragedies, unrequited love, depictions of war... We can’t get enough.

I’m thinking, who wants to watch happy people in love? Everyone hates seeing people like that. Look at all the shows that got dull and unpopular after their leads got together (also known as the Moonlighting effect, or for us younger people maybe the X-files effect). The only show that seems to be capable of bucking that trend is The Office, and even then, it’s being treated very gingerly and Jim and Pam have been pushed to the background much more than in previous seasons.

Still, I don’t think we’re always just focused on the bad, horrible things. There are plenty of happy, feel-good love stories out there. I consider myself a romantic most of the times. But damned if I don’t enjoy a good story of suffering. The Godfather and it’s epic demise of Michael Corleone’s soul? So great.

For now, I’m trying to end the run of The Wire soon. I’m expecting amazing things. Terrible, awful things. But amazing nonetheless.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Beating around the Bush

The Bush Presidency is in its last days and I imagine there will be much reflection on GW’s legacy and where he stands historically. It’ll be interesting to see what the perception of Bush will be a decade or two from now. Will he still be as reviled? Or will he be vindicated? I imagine that time will most likely soften the anti-Bush sentiment. But the blunders of war and fraying of international relations will probably keep his presidency from being viewed as a successful one.

Perhaps it’s too soon to come to any conclusions, but NPR’s latest Intelligence Squared segment tries to tackle the legacy of Bush and where he stands in comparison to the accomplishments and perceptions of other presidents in the modern era of the U.S. I’m not sure if the debate ended up altering my thoughts on the man, but it’s an interesting session nonetheless.

I have to question the decision to include Karl Rove on the panel. I would’ve preferred a more objective expert rather than someone who is so close and biased to the subject of the debate. It didn’t help that Rove’s debate style grated on me immensely. He was very defensive, condescending and aggressive towards the other panelists. If there’s any personality type that pushes my buttons, it’s probably one like Rove’s.

It seems like most of the country (and the world) is itching for the transfer of power to Obama, which hopefully leads to a period of healing and upward progress for this country. The debate raised an interesting question of whether Obama has a tougher or easier time because of what Bush has left in his wake. It’s hard for me to view Bush in any positive light, but I can’t deny that his stubbornness on the troop surge probably left Iraq in a better state for Obama than if he’d consented to the strategy of an early draw-down as Obama had called for. Of course if he hadn’t invaded Iraq in the first place...

Check out the debate