Sep 21

Jewish Ideals and Judiasm

Douglas Ruskoff got his start as a media / Generation-X writer. Lately, he has turned his focus to issues of Judiasm. His book Nothing Sacred is on my "must bring on the next vacation" list. It seems to tap into much of what I’ve been thinking about Judiasm and identity and the ideas underneath Judiasm as a way of life.

So it’s interesting and disconcerting and, perhaps more than a little frustrating, when I read about the panel he was on last week, as he writes:

But it did make me think about the limited gains of attempting to spread Torah – or any universal philosophy – under a banner that for many means race. I honestly believe that I’m less likely to find people willing to engage with the underlying ideas of Judaism at a Jewish event than at almost any other. Yes, as one rabbi has advised me, it’s because Jews have so much at stake in their positions on these ideas. But that very at-stakeness translates into a closed-mindedness and an inability to engage.

But it’s an interesting idea… and one worth exploring… how much do we become stuck in our ideas because our ideas become synonymous with our own identities? How many of us would be more willing to change our minds if those ideas weren’t so powerfully intertwined who we were… the ideas of our peers (some religion, gender, race, political party, family… take your pick?)

How do we retain fluidity of ideas while also retaining a strong sense of self?

Sep 19

Eric Alterman Slams Nader

This one comes from Brad DeLong. He linked to Eric Alterman’s latest blasting of Nader for costing Gore the election. Alterman has a lot of (justified) anger at how self-serving Nader has become, and I have to agree. I managed to survive my five months working at PIRG, but just barely. I had tons of issues with Nader’s demeanor back then, but at the most basic level, I couldn’t handle the way the PIRG folks refered to him as “Saint Ralph,” and I couldn’t believe he did nothing to dissuade them. I remember, at the time, thinking that it was so obvious that Nader lives for the applause moment. Once I made that connection, his actions often seem pretty crass.

Clearly Alterman isn’t crazy about him, either.

Sep 19

Michael Moore (and me) on Wesley Clark

Now that Wesley Clark has thrown his hat into the Presidental ring, I’m finally getting around to posting Michael Moore’s open letter to Gen. Clark.

Got to say, it’s a powerful piece of writing that did a lot (more) to convince me that Gen. Clark is someone worth listening to in this process. A pro-choice, gun-control, liberal Democrat four-star General with charisma to boot is a serious threat to Bush, and also, it seems, has potential to be an excellent president.

It seems, for the first time since 1992, there are some real options in the primaries for the liberals.

Sep 17

Class Blogging

So, I’ve started keeping a blog for my New Media class. This is an elective class that meets twice a week that has for the last few years frustrated me because the practice side of the class (making short films) has gone great, but the theory side (thinking about media critically) has been less than I’d hoped for.

Blogging seems like a good solution. Today’s entry was a good question, albiet somewhat vague… 1) What role does mass-media play in your life and 2) what influence does it have over you?

It was a deliberately open-ended question, and as you can see, the answers run from well thought-out to "Why is Lehmann making me do this when I really just want to check my Yahoo Fantasy Baseball team?"

But it’s not a bad opening salvo, methinks.

My goal for this blog is ask the kids to, once a week, deconstruct a piece of media — TV show, movie, magazine — and critically analyze it. I’m still thinking about what the questions that I include in that critical log are, but I think that a) it’s a great exercise to have to do — one I will try to do myself — and b) by making it a public blog instead of private forum, we create new media while critiquing it, which is cool.

Sep 16

Texas-Sized Mess

I have been following the political mess down in Texas since it started. The GOP in Texas, under the direction of U.S. Congressman Tom Delay, have been downright naked in their attempt to change the rules to suit their own purpose — in this case redistricting three years after the last time instead of ten years, because it would give the GOP more seats in the U. S. House of Representatives. I admired the Democrats who were willing to go into exile for the past few months in order to bring this issue to the light of day.

So, I read with mixed emotions the news that the Texas Ten (they were 11) had returned. One problem is, of course, that they will probably lose. The only things that would keep the GOP from enacting the redistricting is tradition, a sense of propriety or really bad PR. DeLay and Rove have shown that they don’t care about either of the first two, and somehow, this issue is just esoteric enough to not capture America’s attention.

Sep 16

WUSA Shuts Down reports that, on the eve of the Women’s World Cup, the U.S. women’s soccer league, the WUSA, is shutting down. This both saddens and frustrates me because I know so many Beacon girls’ soccer players loved the WUSA.

As a coach of a girls basketball team, I have been following the WUSA and the WNBA with really high hopes. On some level, it bothers me that it’s going to take successful professional leagues for women’s sports to truly be embraced by mainstream America, but that’s probably the truth. Until then, lots of girls are going to have to keep fighting to convince people that they play a "real" sport.

Even at Beacon, where women’s sports are respected and thrive, it’s taken several years for the boys’ basketball coaches to finally put "Boys Basketball" on their signs, rather than just "The Basketball Team." (And thank you, John and Ninji, for not thinking I was crazy for bugging you about that.) But it’s still true in a lot of schools that girls sports are not taken seriously or the female athletes do not get the respect the boys do.

The exposure of the WNBA and the WUSA raised the bar. There’s a lot of baggage that goes with pro sports, but women’s pro sports have changed the way a lot of young girls have looked at themselves… their identities… their bodies. I went to a WUSA event last year, and to see the way the young girls looked at the athletes was to realize what power having a pro league had.

On the eve of the Women’s World Cup, it’s a shame that the WUSA couldn’t find a way to stay viable. Perhaps the WWC will respark the league, but even if it does, it appears that both major women’s sports leagues will have to struggle to survive in the immediate future.

And what message does that send to our young female athletes?

[Updated: has published another story talking about much the same ideas that I was writing about here.]

Sep 14

Required Reading on Taxes

I’m sure this article is getting linked by bloggers all over the country… and personally, I’m hoping that Brad DeLong comments on the article, but I felt I had to post it up too.

Paul Krugman’s piece, The Tax-Cut Con, in today’s NY Times Magazine is required reading to understand both the philosophies that are behind the tax-cut mania that has been around since the days of Reagan and what those policies have done and continue to do to our country.

We are slowly but surely (and not that slowly anymore, really) starving our country while we allow an elite few to garner a higher and higher percentage of the nation’s wealth. Krugman’s piece debunks a lot of myths about who is helped by tax cuts, and I’m hoping that everyone who reads it gets just a little more angry about the direction our country has been taken since 1980.

Sep 14

No Widget Left Behind

In this week’s New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell writes a great short piece about the problems of the current "standards movement" in education. While the data he uses is nothing new, what I loved about the piece was how he compared the current movement to the industrial-efficency movement of one hundred years ago. The problem, as Gladwell states, is:

The only problem, of course—and it’s not a trivial one—is that children aren’t widgets

It’s a great quick read. And all the data points coming out against NCLB these days lead us to ask an overwhelming question:

Who is actually for this bill?