Most of Steve Almond’s criticisms about reality TV in general, and ‘Real Housewives of New Jersey’ specifically, are no surprise. But as long as we’re watching it in spite of knowing better, TV will keep pumping more of it out for us.

“It’s no secret at this point that reality TV is a genre built on the perverse pageantry of degradation. For years, the basic formula has been to fill a mansion with unstable wannabe actors, pit them against one another, feed them booze, and watch them fuck and fight. As long as everyone is of age (and has filled out the required paperwork indemnifying the network) it’s all fair game. There’s no law against people making fools of themselves on national TV.
“But what happens when the genre’s demographic reach starts to invade childhood – when those caught in the manufactured mayhem are too young to protect themselves?
“The answer is pretty simple: Exploitation.”

“During a recent episode, Danielle – informed that the other housewives are throwing a party – threatens to drive over and confront them.
“The only reason she doesn’t is because her daughters, who are trapped in the back seat of her SUV, literally beg her not to. It’s a heart-wrenching scene, specifically because Danielle’s children have to battle not only their deranged mother, but a team of producers deeply invested in her derangement.”

I also hear good things about his book “Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life.”



…and the debate rages on…

“The great irony is that the climate skeptics have prospered by insisting that their opponents are radicals. In fact, those who work to prevent global warming are deeply conservative, insistent that we should leave the world in something like the shape we found it. We want our kids to know the world we knew. Here’s the definition of radical: doubling the carbon content of the atmosphere because you’re not completely convinced it will be a disaster.”,_climate_change%27s_o.j._simpson_moment/


Politically and socioculturally polarizing, a fashionista with a filthy-rich husband, and self-admittedly tone-deaf, M.I.A. has, nonetheless, become a very important ‘musician.’ Lynn Hirschberg profiles her in the NYT magazine this week.

“There was a lot of cynicism about Maya,” (Richard Russell of XL Recordings) said. “She wasn’t a musician, and she had no basic musical craft. The label’s ethic is music that’s quite serious, and we work with people where music is not a way to become famous. It’s everything they’re about and, with Maya, people couldn’t see beyond the fact that she wasn’t a musician. Now, as much as I respect musicians, nothing takes the place of ingenuity and inspiration and originality. If you’ve got that spark, something to say and you’re determined enough, it might be quite interesting.”

Economics / Politics

Michael Lewis has a terrific op-ed in the NYT today, but make sure your Irony Detectors are fully engaged before reading.

“All of these (congress-)people are continually engaged in the same mental calculation: are the votes I might gain with this remark or this idea or this position greater than the votes I can buy with the money given to me by Wall Street firms? With each uptick in the level of public scrutiny — with every minute of televised debate — our money means less.
“In the short term, we must do whatever we can to dissuade Representative Barney Frank from allowing any part of these discussions between senators and representatives to be televised. In the longer term we must return to the shadows. Do your work in private; allow your money to speak for you; and remember, the only way we’ll get the financial reform we need is if we pay for it. No one else can afford it.”

Socioculture / Politics

“Many Americans, a vocal and varied segment of the public at large, have now convinced themselves that educated elites—politicians, bureaucrats, reporters, but also doctors, scientists, even schoolteachers—are controlling our lives. And they want them to stop. They say they are tired of being told what counts as news or what they should think about global warming; tired of being told what their children should be taught, how much of their paychecks they get to keep, whether to insure themselves, which medicines they can have, where they can build their homes, which guns they can buy, when they have to wear seatbelts and helmets, whether they can talk on the phone while driving, which foods they can eat, how much soda they can drink…the list is long. But it is not a list of political grievances in the conventional sense.
“Historically, populist movements use the rhetoric of class solidarity to seize political power so that “the people” can exercise it for their common benefit. American populist rhetoric does something altogether different today. It fires up emotions by appealing to individual opinion, individual autonomy, and individual choice, all in the service of neutralizing, not using, political power. It gives voice to those who feel they are being bullied, but this voice has only one, Garbo-like thing to say: I want to be left alone.
“A new strain of populism is metastasizing before our eyes, nourished by the same libertarian impulses that have unsettled American society for half a century now. Anarchistic like the Sixties, selfish like the Eighties, contradicting neither, it is estranged, aimless, and as juvenile as our new century. It appeals to petulant individuals convinced that they can do everything themselves if they are only left alone, and that others are conspiring to keep them from doing just that. This is the one threat that will bring Americans into the streets.
“Welcome to the politics of the libertarian mob.”