Friday, October 12, 2018

Withdrawing from popular culture

Taylor Swift
by Rod Williams, Oct. 12, 2019 - I have finally, almost completely, withdrawn from popular culture.  Part of it may be a function of getting older. When I was younger, I realized that old people often were "out of touch."  They often did not know the name of popular music, or the latest popular sit-com, or the latest fad or the buzz about the most recent movie.  Now that I am older I may, to a certain extent, be following a long-time trend in which older adults simply do not care that much about the latest thing as they did when they were younger.  I think looking back, you realize that a lot of things you tried to stay informed about were very transitory and simply lose their importance with time.  Also, when you are young, up until some point in adulthood, you don't want to be uninformed. Popular kids are well-informed about pop culture. Also, being informed about current popular culture simply gives you something to talk about with other people.

I was never one to follow the crowd however.  I always thought caring about which movie star was dating which movie star was shallow.  I was a fan and followed Country Music for many years and kept up with who had out new music and who was winning awards. I often knew who wrote a song as well as who performed it. I had a slight interest in news involving Country music artist but never cared enough to keep up with latest rumor or arrest or lawsuit.

Throughout adulthood, while I did not purposely seek out knowledge of popular culture I did not avoid it.  There was something unifying about sharing your reaction with co-workers and family about what happened on Johnny Carson the night before or recalling a funny skit on Saturday Night Live.   And, I thought some of the old SNL was really funny and clever.  I enjoyed it and enjoyed sharing the enjoyment with others. Still, there were limits to how much of my bandwidth I was going to let be dominated by popular culture.  I could not believe how many and how much people cared when the Beatles broke up. It was kind of a ho-hum event to me. I didn't cry the day John Lennon died.  I never understood the degree of interest in Princess Diana. I thought caring that much about English royalty was just silly. I could care less.

I guess I have always had a certain feeling that being absorbed by popular culture was some how shallow.  Maybe, I even felt a little superior to those who were absorbed by the Princess Diana story and Hollywood gossip. My recent losing of interest in popular culture is not simply a function of a greater degree of the way I have always felt or a function of getting older however.  Now, I am not simply less interested in popular culture, I am purposely rejecting and withdrawing from popular culture. It is not that it just doesn't interest me; I am rebelling against it.

In the past, popular culture served a function. It has always been awkward to talk about serious matters with people you don't know well.  Politics and religion are best avoided with casual acquaintances, but sports, weather and popular culture were fairly safe. There is little that is safe anymore.  You can talk sports if you can avoid the disrespect the flag movement. You can talk about the weather but someone may pipe up and blame the recent weather on global warming and then you get in uncomfortable territory.  Popular culture is absolutely no longer safe territory.

I think popular culture has always, since at least the sixties, had a leftward tilt. Certainly the world of rock music was part of the left-wing counter culture movement of the late sixties. Other parts of culture was touched less and as the sixties faded, musicians were either less political or kept their opinions more to themselves. While popular culture may have leaned left, there was a distinction between "counter culture" and popular culture. Now, the popular culture is the concluding victory of counter culture. There are politically correct ways to think that dominate the culture.  Acceptance of deviancy, unwed mothers, the "right to chose," diversity, and hating Trump are norms of popular culture. These norms are not opinions that one keeps to themselves. Those who do not share these norms are bullied into keeping quite and are marginalized.

In recent years, especially the last two years since Donald Trump has been in office, popular culture has become part of "the resistance." Popular culture is no longer a reflection of a system of shared values that avoids making others uncomfortable.  The NFL has endorsed the movement to disrespect the flag. The Vice President cannot go see a Broadway play without being called out for booing.  The awards shows of all types have become occasions for Trump-bashing speeches.

The worst offenders are the late night talk shows such as Jimmy Kimmel, Steve Colbert, and Jimmy Fallon. They are liberal through and through.  I have never watched any one of them for very long. I have never watched a complete show of any. I always change the channel in disgust soon after the monologue starts. I have not even sampled one in about the last year.  Jack Parr was before my time, but I watched Johnny Carson growing up until well into adulthood.  Johnny Carson was on TV from 1962 to 1992. That is thirty years and I never knew if he was a Republican or a Democrat.  Johnny Carson was someone that a politically mixed family could watch together without anyone feeling uncomfortable or getting mad.  He could bring people together rather than driving people apart.  Since Carson, David Letterman and Jay Leno were much the same.  They would do humor at the expense of the powerful but it was never vile and cruel and it was not designed to inflame political passion. Now late night TV is more like a political rally and only those left of center could find it funny.

Taylor Swift at the American Music Awards recently went political and took the opportunity to campaign for Democrats. She had previously been careful not to be drawn into stating her opinion on political matters but she recently broke her silence to endorse Democratic candidates for Congress Phil Bredeson and Jim Cooper.

“In the past," said Swift in an Instagram post, "I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now. I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country.”

At the AMA awards Swift was awarded the Artist of the Year award. “This award and every single award given out tonight were voted on by the people, and you know what else is voted on by the people?” Swift told the audience. “It is the midterm elections on November 6. Get out and vote."

Rather than boycotting Taylor Swift, which would do no hard because I was never going to go see her in concert or buy a Taylor Swift CD anyway, I am withdrawing from popular culture.  Recently, I had the occasion to go see a concert at Ascend of Steve Earl, Lucinda Williams, and Dwight Yokum. I love Lucinda Williams and Dwight Yokum and have several CD's of each of them. Luckily, they did not get political but Steve Earl sure did. He took a couple opportunities to proclaim that the people were going to retake the country and to bash Trump. He even changed the lyrics of a song to bash Trump. It kind of spoiled the evening for me.

I stay informed, and I get news from a variety of sources not just those that tell it fair and balanced. I even watch Rachel Maddow and the left-wing pundits of MSNBC. I want to know what the left is thinking. I am not withdrawing from being an informed citizen.  I am withdrawing from being made to feel "like a whore in church."  I am withdrawing from being lectured to by someone whose views I abhor. I especially am withdrawing from spending my money for someone to insult me.  I will only attend events that I think are safe from offense. Luckily, there are still plenty of neutral non-political things one can do, but if you do not want to be insulted, angered and offended you cannot watch the late night comedy talk shows or most award shows.  Also most stand up comics are funny only if you are a liberal.  Back before dropping Netflix, on several occasions I tried to watch a standup comic. The humor almost always involved bashing of Trump or traditional values.  I think at this point, the only award show still safe to watch is the CMA's. If an artist takes the opportunity of being honored, to offer a political opinion with which I disagree, I will also mark the CMA's off my list too.

My withdrawal has not been painful. I have had no withdrawal symptoms. I am not missing it. In some ways it has felt liberating. In addition to avoiding anger, offense and insult, I am avoiding a lot of pure mind-numbing shallow garbage.  With the choices available through devices like Rhoku, there is much more to watch than the major networks.  I cut the cord about a year ago and do not have mainstream network TV. I do not miss it.  For comedy, I love the Greg Gutfield show on Fox News. It is a news opinion show but he cracks me up. His opening monologues are very funny. Unfortunately, he has a new episode only once a week. I wish his show would be expanded into a format that also covered broader topics and had musical guest. The show is funny but, not something you want to watch with your liberal siblings.

I know my withdrawing from popular culture will not change it, but if enough of us did, it might.  It might change it by making the award shows and late night TV comedy talk shows avoid politics. Some standup comics might find other topics to talk about. Award shows, comics and late night talk shows might move back to being non-political or neutral. They might discover that some things can be funny that both Republicans and Democrats can enjoy. Or, it might change the culture by offering a conservative alternative to a show like Jimmy Fallon.  I can see Greg Gutfield hosting that type of nightly show.  There is a lot of talent that is not left of center or overtly political.  That talent needs a platform and I suspect that we may have reached a point to where there is a market for it.

The danger with the popular culture becoming the exclusive playground of the left is that there probably will eventually develop a conservative alternative. How far will it go? Will we reach a point to where conservative and liberals wear different brands of tennis shoes?  Will we have Republican restaurants and Democrat restaurants?  I would prefer a return to a society that existed when people would talk about the latest Johnny Carson episode around the water cooler. I would prefer a climate in which you could pay money to be entertained and not be insulted.  I doubt that is the direction we are headed.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Recalling the solemn experience of honoring the flag

by Judd Cowan - We were out for a photo shoot this weekend, and we stopped by Saint Henry’s

Judd Cowan
church (where I have been a parishioner for most of my life). I ended up doing some reminiscing while we were taking some pictures around the church property, and I thought I would share them with you.

I am an Eagle Scout, but during my days at Saint Henry’s School I was only a tenderfoot or second class scout (ranks for people who are not familiar with scouting). Being a Scout, I knew how to fold a flag and ended up on flag patrol. There were always three of us. Awkward, almost teenagers wearing ill-fitting khaki pants and white oxford shirts. Doing our best to model military precision, we’d start from the edge of the sidewalk and march in tandem to the flagpole. One of us lowered the flag, one caught the bars, and the other unhooked it and held the stars for folding. We’d walk Old Glory back to the office and put it into storage until the next morning.

I remember it as a solemn experience.

I never realized it at the time, but we children understood that tradition of honoring our flag twice a day in its most pure and beautiful sense. When we folded and carried the flag, it was without criticism or jingoism. We didn’t know much about the world, but we had recently witnessed 9/11. We understood that our nation’s ideologies were under attack. We fathomed that our flag was hated by evil men around the world. We saw it defamed, trampled, and burned in the news.

I don’t think that I could have appreciated our nation’s freedoms at the time, but I understood our place in the world simply by how other people, cultures, and nations reacted to our national symbol. We were children, but we went out in the cold, in the heat, and in the notorious Tennessee ice and did our best to honor Old Glory.

G. K. Chesterton once said “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” Our flag doesn’t stand for one group or ethnicity, like it would anywhere else in the world. Our flag stands for the ideas composed by our Founding Fathers; the ideas fought and died for by our citizens for over 200 years. When we honor our flag, we’re not just heralding a square of cotton. We’re celebrating over 200 hundred years of brave men and women who have dared to question mankind’s historical norm of tyranny and despotism. We’re celebrating this bizarre American experiment that, against all odds, has flourished and brought the world into the greatest age of prosperity ever known. I’m proud to say that I took part in the respectable tradition of honoring our flag. 

Judd Cowan is the Republican candidate for State House seat district 50 and has a good chance to unseat Bo Mitchell. He needs financial contributions and volunteers. To visit his website, follow this link.

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Monday, October 08, 2018

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to be 1st Tuesday guest, Wednesday Oct. 17th.

From Tim Skow: 
1ST TUESDAY Members and friends

With the ROLLER COASTER over the last 3 weeks and early voting starting starting OCT 17th... 

WHAT could be more timely than a 1ST TUESDAY event featuring each of the following?? 

A] The man who hired ''JUSTICE Kavanaugh'' to join the BUSH '43 White House team for 3 years.
B] A man who played a key role in the process of getting Supreme Court nominees approved
C] A man who knows 1st hand what President Bush was doing to help get "JUSTICE Kavanaugh" confirmed
D] A man who with the latest insights and polling numbers from Republican National Senatorial Committee 

IMAGINE .... having all of this... AND MORE... for lunch on the 1st day of EARLY VOTING !! 
[ Yes!  ... Early voting in TN starts next week on Wednesday, October 17th !! ]

Many of you know that before President Bush nominated Alberto Gonzales to become his next US
Alberto Gonzales
Attorney General,
Al spent several years as the President's Chief Legal Counsel. Al's first role included a myriad of tasks including helping the President determine who to nominate for a Supreme Court opening and overseeing the confirmation process. Al also hired and oversaw the powerful legal staff the office of the President requires. For one of the most critical roles, Al hired a rising super star in the legal community, 
none other than ... Supreme Court Justice-to-be ... BRETT KAVANAUGH!  
Al also knows ALL the 2018 players [ McConnell, Schumer, Grassley, Feinstein, Graham, Collins and more]. You're invited to hear 1st-hand from someone who has been there before, and knows what has been going on behind the scenes the last 3 months. Rest assured ..... THIS WILL ANYTHING BUT BORING !! 

ALSO - We will get a private internal polling update from the Republican Nat'l Senatorial Committee.

WHAT an EVENT will have on Wednesday, October 17th !!

Doors at WALLER Law [511 Union Street] open at 11:00am. Lunch starts at 11:25 with program at NOON sharp! Al will follow a brief update from the RNSC with a Q&A session till 1:00pm. Event is $20 for 2018 Members and $25 for Guests. Secure seating at 

REMEMBER ... parking under the building is just $7 for 2 hours. 

Expect more updates ... AND ... Soon !!

Looking forward to seeing you on Wednesday, OCT 17th ... if not before [see events reminders below]
Tim Skow
Host of 1ST TUESDAY 

*  Nashville Republican Women meet OCT 10th -- featured guest, State Party Chairman Scott Golden
* DEBATE ... Marsha's last tangle with Phi Bredesen  ... Wednesday, OCT 10th at 6PM
* DEBATE ... Bill Lee and Karl Dean on FRIDAY - OCT 12th at 6pm

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Shawn Joseph has got to go!

About as soon as Shawn Joseph was hired as Director of Metro Schools I started thinking he was the wrong person for the job. I don't recall the early specifics but over time more and more issues came to light that made be more certain that he was not doing a good job. For one thing, and the most obvious, is that our schools are getting worse. This was born out by declining enrollment and falling test scores. As Nashville's population is growing school enrollment was shrinking.  Maybe that is a function of the demographics. Maybe, it is only childless couples and single people moving to Davidson County but I doubt it.  I suspect that couples with school age children are moving to surrounding districts or sending their kids to private schools. Simply from anecdotal reports and opinions of average people, I concluded there was something terribly wrong with Metro Schools.  When a company or institutions is failing, the first place to look is at the top.  Maybe, it is time for new leadership.

Recently three school board members, Fran Bush, Amy Frogge and Jill Speering, wrote an opinion piece in The Tennessean and laid out a long list of particulars as to why Leadership change is needed at MNPS.  Some of this I had observed and knew; some was new to me. Here is a summary of the reasons these school board members say it is time for a change:

  • The number of Nashville’s priority schools (those in the bottom 5 percent of the state) has more than doubled under Director of Schools Shawn Joseph’s watch, making Nashville the district with the greatest number of priority schools in the State.
  • Proficiency levels in nearly every MNPS high school have dropped.
  • Only about a quarter of MNPS students read proficiently on grade level.
  • Director Joseph is paid substantially more than any other superintendent in the state and yet employee morale is at an all-time low, and the district suffers a chronic teacher shortage.
  • Cronyism abounds.
  • The director insists on using a bus driver as a chauffeur, even though no previous MNPS director has required a personal drive and this had a time when there is chronic shortage of school bus drivers leading to long commute times and wait times for students.
  • He has cut effective reading programs.
  • He is forcing highly skills teachers to teach from cookie-cutter lesson plans.
  • He has attempted to ban school staff from talking to school board members. 
  • Sexual harassment lawsuits and claims of inappropriate behavior by district employees and leaders continue to arise and the Director attempts to sweep these concerns under the rug and minimize them. 
  • The Director has apparently broken stat law by failing to report teacher misconduct to the state.
I would add to the list these:
  • He has cut "Legacy positions" include things such as  world language, Suzuki Strings, STEM (Science, technology, engineering and math), advanced academics, International Baccalaureate and overall enhanced staffing. These are programs that attract parents who want a better education for their child. Cutting these programs drives away the best students. Also, by losing these better students we lose the funding they bring to the schools system from the state.
  • He does not share our "Nashville values."  He played a snippet of a  rap song to the school board members at a school board meeting as an example of songs that provide him with inspirations with the going gets tough. The song contained the words "bitch," "Nigger," and "fuck," and praises pimping and taking a hit off of blunt, and getting locked up and says that "real hoes still know they gots to fuck." (link)
It is time for Dr. Shawn Joseph to resign or be fired. We need new leadership at Metro Schools. 

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Happy Columbus Day!

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Nashville's middle class in growing and Nashville's income inequality is actually lessening.

In an article published in the Tennessean on Sunday it is reported that contrary to what many believe, 

new census data shows that the city’s income inequality is actually lessening in Nashville. Nashville’s economic growth attracts both higher-paying jobs and rising wages in low-skilled sectors. According to census data, the middle class has been growing in the greater 14-county Nashville metro area.

According to Alan Berube, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, “Nashville stood out among larger Metro areas of having a larger than average middle class. The kinds of industries that have been growing — they pay better than they did before. There seems to be an engine of prosperity in Nashville that’s helping pull the income distribution to the right."

Here is an excerpt from the article:
In 2017, 63.2 percent of the metro area’s households were in the broad middle class, defined as having incomes between $23,000 and $113,000, according to the Brookings analysis of Census data. That’s up from 61.6 percent in 2000.

It represents the seventh-fastest middle-class growth among the nation’s 100 largest metro areas. Meanwhile, the share of households in the low-income category dropped.
This is good news. As one sees the change taking place and the loss of small 1950-style brick homes replaced by more expensive larger homes, one may just assume that this signifies a change for the worse for those who cannot afford those new homes. However, one needs to keep in mind that many can afford those new homes. Incomes are increasing.  Those homes are affordable for most people in Nashville.

The article does not delve into who is living where. When one says "Nashville" in a news report they are not usually referring to the urban area of Nashville or even Davidson County but a 14-county area that is the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical Area. That includes Watertown and Burns as well as Franklin and Brentwood. There obviouosly are pockets of less wealthy and more wealthy which result in the average.  In any event, this is good news. The gap between the poor and the rich is getting smaller in Nashville, not larger.

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The Brett Kavanaugh Senate Confirmation comic book

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Blackburn Has 8-Point Lead Over Bredesen, CBS News Poll Finds

Blackburn Has 8-Point Lead Over Bredesen, CBS News Poll Finds

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