Friday, April 08, 2005

Random thoughts

I'm willing to bet that at some point, every blogger will get into a mood where practically anything could be made into a post, but practically nothing will seem to merit a whole post on its own. In the last week or so, I've had a bunch of ideas for a post floating around, but none of them really seemed to grab hold of the keyboard. So in order to clear out the mental closets, here are a few random thoughts that have occured to me.

One thing I noticed is that there have been a couple of recently released movies that operate from the premise that high school athletics are not the most important thing in the world. Friday Night Lights is one aspect of this premise with its familiar pairing of the sports-obsessed dad with the not-quite-as-sports-obsessed son. From a different perspective, Coach Carter has the amazing moment of a Coach with the guts to give academics a higher priority than athletics for his students (given that the average teacher can't give out too many B's to his or her students without feeling some heat, you have to give Coach Carter a lot of credit for toughness).

The wierd thought I had is that this emphasis, even to the point of irrationality, on athleticism within America's educational culture feels like an instance of a institution that has become to conservative, although not in the sense of Newt Gingrich taking control of the school system. What better way to root students within their community, rally the community morale, and build a sense of a shared purpose and participation for everyone than to put together the community's student athletes and give them all uniforms and a mascot and great victories to play for and to win if the community can just cheer them on a little bit louder than before? Isn't a big part of the drama of Friday Night Lights or Coach Carter really just the conflict of liberalism, in the sense of the liberal educational ideal, conflicting with this casual conservatism?

Another thought that I had some time ago was that the movie The Ring seemed to bear a resemblance to the short story "The King in Yellow". The Ring is about a mysterious video-tape; if you view it, a phone call informs you that you will die (presumably horribly) seven days later. "The King in Yellow" is about a mysterious sequence of events and strange dreams that, one after the other seem to be irrevocal steps that propel the protagonist to his doom. In both cases, the horrible end is predicated upon a script that the doomed character is fated to fulfill. Similarly, the yellow sign is a mark of doom similar to the wierd distortion of photographs or images of the cursed characters of The Ring. The key difference between the two is that one cannot just run the blasphemous manuscript "The King in Yellow" through a copying machine to live free again the way that reproducing the cursed videotape basically gets Rachael and Aiden off the hook (damnation was a lot harder to shake off in 1895, the year "The King in Yellow" was written).

Did you ever notice that the Democratic Party's public crusade against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is looking a lot like their assualt against Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, or alternatively, revenge for the Republican Party's public crusade against ex-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle? Launching a drive to get your enemy's experienced, battle-hardended commander knocked out of the leadership and replaced by a second-stringer is presumably Washington D.C.'s version of basic politics.

Here's a bit of hypocrisy to be on the lookout for. Regarding the so-called "nuclear option", the Senate Republicans are claiming that they simply want a majority vote to confirm judicial nominees reported out of committee, and nothing else. On the other hand, Senate Democrats are claiming that the Republicans are trying to destroy the cherished Senatorial privilege of the filibuster entirely, and in order to deter the Republicans from exercising the nuclear option they are threatening to bring business in the Senate to a standstill. Wouldn't it be ironic if the Democrats protest their "loss of the right to filibuster" by... launching a set of filibusters?

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