Wednesday, March 20, 2013

American Labor History: A Conspiracy of Silence?

Uncovering other studies or articles written on the correlation of the labor movement and television gives me a rush of solidarity.  Solidarity in the sense me and another academic out there share similar ways of thinking and partake in the same preoccupation for our brother and sister workers.  

Roy Rosenzweig writes the article by first mentioning the absence, a conspiracy theory, as he likes to put it, of the labor unions in political/historical magazines, such as American Heritage.  Other public sites, such as museums, historical landmarks, and, quite literally, movies, lack in their representation of the labor movement as well.  

Rosenzweig says that he could talk about this absence for a while, which is a disturbing thought--that a lot of citizens sure do not care a whole lot about their neighbors--but he would also like to analyze the misrepresentation of unions and the "divorce" of the past labor movement to the present labor movement. 

The recent anti-union sentiment would shame your great-grandparents and mine.  People are far too separated from others and dangerously unaware of the source of their consumption.  If we were to build up a relationship with the people we do business with, like if you were to meet the person who picks the apple that you eat every morning, we would have a more personal and emotional investment in our environment and therefore the success of people around us.  

Other types of organizations, like unions themselves or conglomerate unions, like the AFL-CIO, put on workshops and spread awareness of the labor movement and its current ambitions.  Films have also been successful in their portrayal of labor unions, Norma Ray was repeatedly listed in all of the other previous articles.  

While there still are successes in the labor movement, labor unions are receiving abysmally small coverage in the lens of academics, org leaders, politicians, and even the common people.  More has to be done on informing workers and their community of their rights, and there is no better way than with the visual aid and entertainment of television.  

link to article:

Monday, March 11, 2013

Revision 2013 Oscar Academy Awards Ceremony: Hosts get two thumbs down

“Here is to the losers… the losers of them all!!!” belted out Oscar and red carpet hosts, Seth McFarlane and Kristen Chenoweth.  The two formed the tackiest duo; their derogatory slurs and mindless prattling clashed with the most exclusive night in Hollywood.

But enough of the losers… let’s talk about the winners of the evening.

Breaking free from his typecast as a pea-brained heartthrob (as seen in He’s Just Not That Into You or Forces of Nature), director and leading actor Ben Affleck received the Best Picture Oscar for Argo on Sunday at the 85th Academy Awards ceremony.  Co-produced by Grant Heslov, George Clooney and Affleck, the “sexiest producers alive” approached the stage to thank their crew, family, and “Canada.” 

According to Oscars’ history, there is a direct correlation between the Best Picture and Director awards, but not last evening.  Ang Lee, the first non-white filmmaker who received Best Director for Brokeback Mountain in 2005, also won the honor this year for his Life of Pi.

Another first in Oscar’s history was its theme: music in film.  Live performances are a whole new world for Hollywood stars; some cannot do without their cappuccino break, so it was incredible to see actors such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Daniel Radcliff, choreographed in song and dance.  Catherine Zeta Jones (43 years-old) made it even more surreal as she (still) flaunted her seductiveness in “All that Jazz.” 

However, the show stealer was the cast of Les Miserables, who performed a medley of “One More Day” and “Suddenly.” No wonder people pay thousands for a seat in the nosebleed section. No wonder Anne Hathaway took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.  Wow.

Jennifer Lawrence, a winner for her edgy role in Silver Lining’s Playbook, looked star-struck as she gazed in astonishment at the crowd applauding her for winning Best Actress. 

Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln and Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained received Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor (respectively) for their portrayal of characters from the 19th century.

The two walked the stage and thanked the crowd like gentlemen and exhibited exquisite manners: Waltz paid due gratitude to Tarantino and Day-Lewis bashfully acknowledged that he has “received more than [his] portion on good things in life.” 

Even though Day-Lewis became the most decorated male actor in Oscar’s history, with three Best Actor awards, he received the honor with humility and a smile. 

Perhaps he’ll offer acting classes to McFarlane and Chenoweth, who could learn a little bit of social etiquette.  Or at least learn to feign it. 

The Submission: A Hope for America

It seems sensible that a country suffering from the deadliest terrorist attack in its history would intend to seek out peace and solidarity, something to unite people together and support one another.  But, as we become aware in The Submission, that is not the “American” way.

The Submission does more than capture America at its worst: it captures the worse Americans.  America is thought to be some righteous land of the free, a dream of equality and liberty, but the truth is that the United States has some work to do, and Amy Waldman calls the “Most-Powerful-Nation-in-the-World” out.

Waldman portrays all of America.  Her characters are more than believable-- they seem like real people.  From the right-wing radio host and a witless journalist who devises slogans such as “I Slam Islam” and “The problem with Islam is Islam,” to wishy-washy politicians (the President that doesn’t do anything but make a statement to the press), to a retired old man who makes decisions based on his feelings below the waistline, Waldman has them all. 

She describes the reality of life, it is almost as if reading her pages was people watching downtown.  Particular detail like  “She ate ramen noodles from the vending machine, their texture just a few molecular recombinations from the Styrofoam cup containing them” makes the novel appear to be non-fiction. 

Yet, she does not get too descriptive with her writing and overload it with witty images. With the help of her sagacious statements, “Nothing in life gets dropped without someone else having to pick it up” are borderline prophecies.

These thematic statements help the novel on two levels: to connect the reader with a greater depth of reflection, especially in accordance with the characters, and to act as a social critique on modern America:  “Perhaps this was the secret to being at peace: want nothing but what is given to you.” 

Although the third person narrative switches between chapters, allowing the reader to develop an authentic interest to almost all of the characters (--even for Sean, a prejudice man who is in charge of picketing against the “Victory Garden”--) it is clear that Claire and Mo are Waldman’s warriors amongst the social angst.

Claire, a 9/11 widow selected to represent the families on the jury choosing the memorial, never looses sight of the real America, the one without discrimination and equality: “It will send a message, a good message, that in America, it doesn’t matter what your name is.”  

Even Mohammed Khan, the Muslim American architect whose winning design was chosen to be the memorial at ground zero, does not loose his confidence or composure in the America he knows: “But sometimes America has to be pushed—it has to be reminded of what it is.” 

The faith that America can reach its true potential is Waldman’s drive for the novel. A character in the novel asks, “But does America want to live in peace with Muslims?”  Perhaps a more accurate question would be does America want to live in peace...?