Tag Archives: TV

How to destroy your debate opponent

In the wake of President Obama’s inexplicably and inexcusably feckless debate performance against Mitt Romney last week, I’ve been jonesing for footage of warrior politicians able to make the Democratic case with style, with substance, with spines of steel, and with devastating effect. I haven’t been disappointed; in addition to my go-to clips from the always-brilliant West Wing, this political season has offered up some fierce and feisty real-life orators that Obama would do well to learn from. Are you taking notes, Mr. President?

This is how you enter a debate, find your mojo, and take early command of the field:

This is how you show up your opponent’s magic hand-waving and lack of substance — and how you make an eloquent argument for nuance and detail without getting lost in the weeds of nuance and detail:

This is how you do get into the weeds — but with clarity and simplicity, with an unwavering focus on underlying principles and values, and with a constant eye on the big picture and what’s at stake:

And this is how you expose, cheerfully, your opponent’s shapeshifting:

Offering inspiration from overseas, this is how Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard stands up for women and magnificently exposes misogyny and hypocrisy:

And this is how you stand up for women right here at home:

And finally, this is how you counter your opponent’s malarkey, make a forceful case for your core arguments, and fight for what you believe in with all your heart:

Mr. President, you’ve asked for passion and conviction from your supporters. You’ve asked us to believe in ourselves, to believe in the power of our concerted action, to believe in an American vision of fairness and compassion and community. But we need to believe in you as well. We need to believe that you’ll articulate and fight for that American vision with all the heart and fire and fearlessness with which you ask us to fight for it. You signed up to be the champion of our cause. We need to see you champion it.

The next debate’s coming up soon, Mr. President. Your move.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Community’s final lesson: Changing the whole game with just one move

Underneath all the geeky references, the twisted meta-storylines, the high-concept homage episodes, the weird characters, the gut-busting one-liners, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Easter eggs, the Doctor Who/Inspector Spacetime fanlove, the paintball wars, the zany Dean outfits, the disturbing Changness of Chang, the Troy-and-Abed credit scenes, and all the rest of the craziness that makes this show so special and so beloved — underneath all of that, Community has really been about a very simple thing: how to be a better human being by discovering the nature of friendship. At the heart of nearly every episode, gift-wrapped in delicious layers of pop-culture sophistication, is an uncomplicated, childlike lesson: about trust, kindness, compassion, and the bonds that connect us to each other and free us from our loneliness. It’s about stepping out of ourselves — out of our own problems and obsessions and self-pity and cynicism — and learning how to be, as the show’s title says, a community. Even Pierce learns this in the end.

And perhaps no other Jeff Winger soapbox speech delivers this message as directly and as profoundly as the one that wraps up Season Three:

Guys like me will tell you there’s no right or wrong. There’s no real truths. And as long as we all believe that, guys like me can never lose.

Because the truth is, I’m lying when I say there is no truth. The truth is — the pathetically, stupidly, inconveniently obvious truth is — helping only ourselves is bad and helping each other is good. […]

It’s that easy. You just stop thinking about what’s good for you and start thinking about what’s good for someone else. And you can change the whole game with one move.

That’s it, really. So simple and idealistic and utterly true that it hurts. And yet it’s such a hard lesson to learn, both in the show and in the real world, where corporate greed and the cynicism of politics and the polarization of rigid beliefs and the general breakdown of trust have made us all hungry for reminders that we can come together to solve our problems — that it’s the coming together that solves our problems. But “coming together” doesn’t mean asking other people to understand you and do something for you — or at least it doesn’t mean just that. It means being willing to understand and do something for them. It requires generosity, empathy, kindness, other-centeredness.

When we forget this — whether we’re religious or secular or conservative or liberal — we fall apart. When we remember this, when we learn how to devote our energy to helping others instead of ourselves, we rise above ourselves. We collectively become something greater.

And we change the whole game with just one move.

Community will return for a fourth season. But without showrunner Dan Harmon — who was unceremoniously fired by studio execs who clearly haven’t learned the show’s lessons — it won’t be the same Community, and it won’t be MY Community. As far as I’m concerned, the Season Three finale was also the series finale, and Jeff’s speech was Harmon’s final word on the subject of how human beings need to treat each other. He couldn’t have gone out on a better note.


(Photo via the AV Club)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The West Wing cast (who else?) says walking is good for you!

Who better than the reunited cast of The West Wing — television’s walk-and-talk champions — to promote the health benefits of walking? Click here for the hilarious Funny or Die video — I can’t seem to embed it, but if you’re a fan of the show it’s worth watching.


Charlie: “Sir, we need your help. We need to convince the American people to do do something that’s good for them.”

Bartlet: “That’s impossible.”

Hopefully not.

For more, visit Every Body Walk.

(Photo by Gerber Rigler, via The Washington Post)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Why stereotypes need to die, cont’d: The women of Community weigh in

A follow-up to my previous post: While movies are still failing to represent women adequately onscreen, television — at least some television — appears to be a different story. The Daily Beast has posted a great interview with the three female cast members of Community — Alison Brie, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Gillian Jacobs — along with Megan Ganz, one of the show’s writers; and if you’re a fan looking forward to the show’s return on March 15, this is definitely worth a look.

On the effect of having several women on the show’s writing staff:

Jacobs: […] It’s hard for us to tell when we get a script at a table read who wrote what line or who pitched what joke. But you always just have this feeling that there are women — smart, articulate, funny women — in the room advocating for these female characters.

Ganz: You wouldn’t be able to pull anything apart. It’s not like women work on the women types of storylines. We don’t just come in every day and say, “I think Troy and Britta should kiss.” Everybody works on every storyline. It’s the same reason that it’s good to have women in the room, and the same reason it’s good to have men and ethnicities represented and older people and younger people. If you find a story that everybody likes and everybody relates to in some way, then you know you have a good story. But if you’re telling a story and all the women are going, “I’m checked out of this, I just don’t really care,” then you’re going to have some problems.


Brown: […] I think what’s changing now is that more women are in positions of power. With your Tina Feys and Kristen Wiigs, you have more women in the driver’s seat. They know what we really are. The ladies in the Community writers’ office, they know who we really are.

On how the show challenges ethnic and gender stereotypes:

Jacobs: A friend of mine wrote a script, a feminist romantic comedy. She had a feminist scholar consult on it. My friend said, “Oh, my friend Gillian read it and really loved it.” She goes, “Gillian Jacobs, you mean: Britta Perry, feminist icon?” That gives me a lot of pride that women really identify with Britta. The thing that is unique about her is that she is never the subject of slut shaming. Like, she’s one of the only female characters that doesn’t ever get punished for having an active sex life. […]

Brown: As a black actor, it’s refreshing that I’m not playing the “sassy black woman.” It’s something that [show creator] Dan Harmon was cognizant of from the beginning. It is something that I’m always cognizant of. Every woman on the planet has sass and smart-ass qualities in them, but it seems sometimes only black women are defined by it. Shirley is a fully formed woman that had a sassy moment. Her natural set point, if anything, is rage. That’s her natural set point, suppressed rage, which comes out as kindness and trying to keep everything tight. […]

Brie: You could say the same thing too about Danny [Pudi] and Abed. I mean you know Danny’s played four or five Sanjays. […] Even still he’ll get called in for auditions and they’ll be like, “Can you do the accent?” We get to do different things in every episode, and it’s not just about gender or race. It’s about having well-rounded characters and a wide range of adventures so that we’re just never playing the same thing. […]

Ganz: The same thing that drives Dan away from your typical sitcom storylines is the same thing that drives him away from making any one character a stereotype, because it’s just too easy.

Read the rest. Community has been brilliant so far, and and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. Including, I hope, a fourth season, if there’s any justice in the universe.

(Photo via NBC Universal)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Miscellany: Blume, Hitchens, Lamarr, Tyson; The West Wing as science fiction; groupthink and solitude; what e-books can’t do; and the end of SOPA (for now)

Time for another grab-bag of links that caught my eye:

1) An NPR interview with the incomparable Judy Blume, who talks about censorship, how to inspire kids to read (and how not to), the folly of labeling authors and books according to “audience age,” and how perseverance determines a writer’s success more than talent. (Note to self: time to get to work. Again.)

2) An interview with Richard Rhodes on the scientific career of actress Hedy Lamarr, “the most beautiful woman in the world.” Fascinating stuff, and one I’ve touched on before, in a post on stereotypes and women scientists.

3) A compilation of articles written for The Nation by the late, great Christopher Hitchens, spanning 28 years (1978-2006).

4) Over the past few months my wife and I have avidly watched all seven seasons of The West Wing. Graham Sleight explains why the show is, at its heart, science fiction in spirit and impulse: “I want to argue […] that it’s SF in a more profound sense […] It makes an argument, as SF does, about possibility, about what can be done, and it does so by presenting us with a world already showing a change from our own.” Highly worth reading if you’re a West Wing fan.

5) A provocative New York Times essay by Susan Cain on “The Rise of the New Groupthink,” about the folly of insisting on constant collaboration and “teamwork” at the expense of creative solitude. This is happening in schools as well, as Cain points out, a fact that I personally find a bit worrying. Learning to work with others is great, but are we failing to appreciate the virtues of aloneness, of introspection?

6) Why books are made of win: the Abe Books blog, via Matador, offers a list of things you can’t do with an e-book. Including leaving it on a beach towel, throwing it across the room, and using it to press flowers and fallen leaves.

7) Carl Zimmer’s excellent profile of Neil deGrasse Tyson.

8) And finally — victory! Talking Points Memo analyzes how Netizens killed SOPA and PIPA. No doubt the advocates of censorship will try again; but those who stand for freedom of speech will be ready and waiting.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

“The Bark Side”

Oh, lovely, lovely, lovely. I had a ton of post ideas all lined up — then along comes this video, which just has to go up first:

Check out little Doggie Chewbacca and little Doggie Ewok. I’m melting.

(via Jalopnik)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Wonderful world


And a bonus hand-shadow interpretation:

(via Pharyngula)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized