The Clare Spark Blog

November 2, 2014

“The Affair” and the Country versus the City

the-affair

[Update 12-14-2015: there were minor errors in my first impressions of this series, which got a Golden Globes award for Drama after the first season. 1. The murder victim is Cole’s brother, Scottie, a junkie. 2. Alison’s baby died of drowning (hence the pervasive water images). 3. Alison has become a symbol of the persistent attraction of small town life, and has gone darker, as has Noah. 4. Oscar (the red-headed Jew (?) is apparently the father of Alison’s baby owing to an impulsive one-night stand. 4. The most favorable characters are now the discarded spouses, Helen and Cole. Indeed, Maura Tierney (Helen) has been nominated for a Golden Globes Award, which she will probably win. To conclude: the 1960s turn to primitivism (in emotion, hence in closeness to “Nature”  is probably the most obvious theme of this (anti-modern) series.]

Showtime has a new drama series about two married persons living in Montauk (one is vacationing there) that I would thought would be no more than the usual soft porn directed at a middle class cable audience, but it is more interesting than that.

Here are the features that I find indicative of current politics:

First, the hero (“Noah Soloway,” played by Dominic West), a writer with one published work of fiction to his name, has married above his socio-economic class and must cope with bourgeois, success-driven in-laws, an intelligent wife (Maura Tierney) and four children. His successful father-in-law is also a writer, but a best seller author who taunts him. His mother-in-law, also outspoken and nasty, calls him a [loony] “idealist” in front of the protagonist’s family.

dominicwest

Second, the anti-hero has a meeting with his wife’s father’s agent (arranged by dad), in which he telegraphs the theme of the series: it will about the decline of “the American pastoral” and the struggle to preserve small town values in the face of modernization and urbanization. In the end, the married protagonist will kill his small-town lover. That alone interests the agent.

Third, there is a mystery: the female lover’s boss wants to put a bowling alley next to his diner; “Cole” (played by Joshua Jackson) the husband of the Ruth Wilson character (“Alison Lockhart,” a bereaved parent whose son has recently died, perhaps of cancer), makes a substantial speech at a town meeting that is considering the over-commercialization of Montauk and the subsequent loss of “community.” At this point, we suspect that someone has murdered Cole (probably the upwardly mobile avatar of “progress”), for the two lovers are being interrogated by a detective, and a male murder victim is mentioned. Since Alison is present, and mentions missing “him” the suspense does not lie in who killed whom.

ruthwilson

Fourth, each episode is divided in half. The first half describes events mostly from “Noah’s recollection, while the second half is told from the woman’s perspective. They are drastically different, with Noah recalling the sexual aggressiveness of his partner in deception, while Alison has much more on her mind, namely politics and her grief. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Affair_(TV_series).

Clearly, Showtime is run by progressives, who demonstrate their postmodern, hip commitments by criticizing the intact heterosexual family and showing the subjectivity of “perspectivism.” In addition to class and gender struggle, some nudity and forbidden sex, we have the critique of progress. Indeed, one of the characters sneers at the thought of Montauk turning into Easthampton.

And are not these identical themes being played out in our current political struggle for the US Senate? And it will be the redneck diner owner (“Oscar” played by Darren Goldstein) who probably did the dirty deed: how dare he strive for “development?”

July 20, 2013

Obama’s intervention 7-19-13

LBJ signs Voting Rights Act

LBJ signs Voting Rights Act

The day of the scheduled rallies protesting the not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman case, the Wall Street Journal led with a news article by Coleen McCain Nelson entitled “Obama Speaks Frankly On Race.”

The word Race was devoid of inverted commas, signifying that there was nothing suspect about the concept of ‘race’.  Just as problematic, the news article described Trayvon Martin as an African-American, and we all are taught that “perspectivism” is the correct epistemology.  No need for inverted commas there either, for there is no truth, only points of view that are incomprehensible to other groups. Such are the wages of multiculturalism, the preferred liberal policy for dealing with group conflict as the acceptance of “diversity” based on race and gender.

On this website, nothing has been so frequently described as ‘race,’ racism, and how a covertly racialist discourse has dominated public debate since black supremacists hijacked the integrationist movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. For a sampling, see any of the following blogs:

https://clarespark.com/2012/01/21/the-persistence-of-white-racism/, https://clarespark.com/2013/07/02/groupiness-group-think-and-race/, https://clarespark.com/2011/02/27/remembering-ralph-bunche-american/ https://clarespark.com/2011/03/28/index-to-multiculturalism-blogs/, and especially https://clarespark.com/2009/10/31/the-offing-of-martin-luther-king-jr-and-ralph-bunche/.

It appears that the most we can expect from Rupert Murdoch’s publications (The Wall Street Journal and “fair and balanced” Fox News Channel), is the namby-pamby pseudo-moderation of approved journalists and some sociologists.

On the jump page (A-5), WSJ quoted sociologist Abigail Thernstrom, who viewed the President’s intervention as inappropriate. Thernstrom is a brave voice in the wilderness, who puts the same priority on progress in the black population as I and my readers do (though her writings on that issue are not mentioned in the WSJ article. See her thoughts on progress here:  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304723304577369913528826798.html ).

What about education for black children? I have yet to see a single discussion on Fox News Channel on the shocking neglect of inner-city public schools. Reform in that quarter has been blocked by the teachers unions and the NAACP that demonstrated against one of Eva Moskowitz’s charter schools in Harlem.  The American Right, following the Daniel Moynihan Report  has put much emphasis on reconstructing the black family with fathers at the helm. It is time that they put comparable energy into rectifying the major institution outside the family that is socializing our black children. There are dozens of rallies in support of Trayvon Martin scheduled today. Will any of them put the word ‘race’ in inverted commas? Will anyone criticize “African-American” leadership for obliviousness to the education of young black males? See https://clarespark.com/2013/05/26/eva-moskowitz-and-the-charter-school-movement/.

Namby-pamby pony

Namby-pamby pony

September 19, 2012

Bullies

Harvard Gr.School of Ed. magazine

[A note to the reader: Bullying is indeed a social problem, but the most prestigious education school in the land has nothing to recommend but nostrums that have been in place since the 1960s, and that have never worked. Nowhere does this article stress the search for truth as the highest value. There are only “points of view.” I don’t remember such a line being taught when I attended this school, holding the only Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship for projected leadership in science teaching. They offered me another full fellowship in Guidance, but I got married instead. It took me many years to begin to vindicate my fellowship, even as it brings me into conflict with Harvard as it currently exists. OTOH, the school may always have been progressive, and I didn’t recognize the regnant ideology as a science major.]

The Harvard Graduate School of Education devotes six pages in its Fall 2012 issue of Ed to what it sees as the all-consuming problem of bullying in the schools. Their solutions exactly mirror the prescriptions of “socially responsible capitalists” and multiculturalists, all of whom have focused on the affective side of public education: We are too focused on intellectual achievement (measured in standardized tests) to the neglect of “empathy, perspective-taking, and mindfulness”.  They have nothing more to offer other than the names of Lady Gaga and her friend Oprah Winfrey, who agree with them that we are Born This Way.

And yet their first example of the bullied student was not Born This Way. I quote their opening paragraph: “High school student Zachary Kerr didn’t know what to do. As a sophomore transitioning from female to male, he was met with comments in the classroom from whom one might least expect it: a teacher who voiced his disapproval of Kerr’s gender change. ‘It was hard to figure out what to do because it was a teacher,’ Kerr, now 18, says about his experience. ‘Do I complain about it? This teacher was responsible for grading me, and [his] was one of my favorite classes. Do I let it go and be uncomfortable? My decision was to let it go.’ He spent the rest of the year not speaking in the class about his transition.” [No mention in the article of any rebuttal by the teacher. I am pro-gay rights, but wonder why this particular example of unconfirmed bullying was the LEAD item in a six-page article.]

Skip a few paragraphs (one mentions a suicide, with no explanation as to the cause) to the meat of the article: Lecturer Richard Weissbourd, Ed.D.’87 explains his remedy for this apparently intractable problem: “’It’s a window into our failure to develop empathy in kids, or caring and responsibility in kids,’ he says. ‘It’s an opportunity to talk about social-emotional learning, moral development, responsibility for others, standing up and having courage, and also an opportunity to talk about the ways schools function and what we are doing and not doing to prepare adults to connect to students and to be helpful to them around peer troubles. You can’t prevent bullying without doing most of these things.’”

Next, Harvard tries to find the right balance: Headline: SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE. “In the era of standardized testing, incorporating these aforementioned lessons in the classroom isn’t easy. Across the board, experts and educators agree that with an increased focus on academic achievement comes an inadvertent decreased focus on social-emotional learning—the process for recognizing and managing emotion and how to develop concern for others.”

The author gives an example: a five-year old grabs a toy from another child. The [badass] kid is asked, how would you feel if someone took your toy by force?  Dear reader, this article I am quoting from was not written by Republicans but by the Democratic Party education establishment, or as I like to call them, the moderate men.

Note that Harvard educators of educators are not worried that our young adults cannot read or comprehend Shakespeare or Milton (say Hamlet, King Lear, The Tempest, or Paradise Lost), let alone such American classics as Moby-Dick). It is not bullying to throw out the masterpieces of civilization as written by dead white males, but it is bullying for a teacher to express disapproval of a sex-change operation, assuming that the interaction even took place as reported by “Zachary Kerr.” (The teacher was not given a platform to respond.) Victims never lie or exaggerate. (For more on the smashup of the old literary canon see https://clarespark.com/2010/06/10/herman-melville-dead-white-male/.)

When I was briefly a student at P.S. 13 in Elmhurst Queens, right after the war, a gang of boys and maybe girls chased me home, as they brandished a knife. (I was the only Jewish kid in the class, and was perhaps resented as a teacher’s pet.) My mother went to the school and complained, only to be told by the principal, one Lillian Eschenbecker (of German descent?), that “Clare is like an apple: beautiful on the outside, but rotten at the core.” She really said that, and my mother told me about it. Perhaps she even believed this authoritative principal. I don’t know. Maybe I was Born This Way.

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