Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barak Obama is the new Lady Di

Well, it is official - Barak Obama is the new Lady Di.

I am in London today (Jan 20th) and I have been overwhelmed by the fawning by the London media over our new president's inauguration. The celebrity status bestowed on him and the genuine excitement that seems to attend his ascension is palpable. I haven't seen anything like this for many, many years - in fact, since the wedding of Diana to Prince Charles.

Since we often see most clearly through the eyes of others, I am forced to pause and reflect on what this means. I must admit that I have not been a fan of Obama and his political positioning, but this celebrity that Barak Obama enjoys is something that I believe must be considered. I don't suddenly agree with anything that I opposed previously, I now realize that I must come to terms with a level of emotionalism that is gripping parts of our country and our allies. All of this completely changes the political equation.

When an extreme celebrity acts "goofy" most of us excuse the behavior as just eccentric. When a Hollywood celebrity is caught with a gerbil or a prostitute, we think little of it - and still go to the next movie with little thought to the bizarre behavior we know has taken place. If a self-made porn film puts the celebrity in the news for a while, the world excuses it. If that celebrity spends their resources supporting causes on the looney fringe, so what?

The terrifying revelation that I have had is that Barak Obama is an extreme celebrity. There will be no odd sentiment that he can hold, no gerbil, no tryst, no betrayal, no act that will not be excused. There will be no action, regardless of how bizarre, that he can undertake that will not be overlooked. Among his fans, who are legion, he will be able to do virtually anything that chooses - with nary a consequence. (Lady Di lost little esteem despite some quite scandalous activities.) And this is the ominous change in the political equation.

Obama is beyond teflon, he is extreme celebrity embodied.

Friday, January 25, 2008

From Blogs to Mainstream Media

OK, something is going on. The blogosphere finally started a story that seeped over to the real " mainstream media". Too bad it is just wierd. Cool photo though, eh?
Even Reuters

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Big Pipe - 09 Jan, 2008

Pipeline was amazingly big yesterday (9 Jan, 2008). I went out to watch for an hour or so and shot some photos with my little pocket camera.

I haven't often see Pipe break way out on the third reef. Imagine 5-times head high Pipe as the inside leftovers of some REALLY big waves. Fortunately, my friend Greg showed up as I was leaving with a real camera.

Ahhh, life on the North Shore... I'm going to miss it!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Why you might be sick...

Now I know why we get sick when we travel.
This clip explains a lot about the "dirty little secrets" that hotels keep. Yechhh...

I think that I will bring my own from now on!

Thursday, March 01, 2007


While I'm on a musical theme... There is a great group, the Teapacks, who have a very interesting video out on YouTube. Once it appeared on the conservative blog circuit (like LGF) it's popularity is only bound to increase.

Today's Guardian talks about Israel's interest in this song.
It was a choice that perhaps owed more to the public mood than to any cute lyrical hook or novel musical riff.
Asked to pick a song for this year's Eurovision song contest, Israelis paid little heed to the eternal Eurovision themes of peace, love and harmony and settled instead for a number about the threat of terrorism and Armageddon called Push the Button.

The track, sung by the Teapacks in English, French and Hebrew, is a peculiar but confident amalgam of eastern sounds, rock and rap.

It was chosen this week as the country's preferred song in a phone-in television show and now the band will go forward to the Eurovision finals in Helsinki in May.

"The world is full of terror, if someone makes an error, he's gonna blow us up to kingdom come," sings Kobi Oz, leader of the Teapacks.

"There are some crazy rulers, they hide and try to fool us, with demonic, technological willingness to harm. They're gonna push the button, push the button."

I'm not sure about you, but I just like Kobi's vest.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

National Anthem: Hillary Doesn't Know the Words...

I was a little surprised to hear Hillary Clinton’s voice singing the national anthem. In the YouTube clip captured here, Hillary becomes audible about 33 seconds into the video. I don’t really mind that she doesn’t sing well – but she doesn’t even know the words.

Notice that at about second 46 instead of singing “O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave…,” Clinton says “O say, does OUR star-spangled banner yet wave…”

I would think that she would at least know the first verse…

Monday, January 22, 2007

Lange: Freedom = No Accountability

Peter Lange, Provost of Duke University and Professor of Political Science, made a very unusual address entitled “Free Speech and Speaking Freely” on January 11, 2007 to the Arts and Sciences Council of his university. Granted that the recent events at Duke embodied in the “Duke Lacrosse” case have caused quite a stir, but the tone and content of Dr. Lange’s address is quite disturbing to me. Apparently, Dr. Lange is troubled by “democratized” communication – those mechanisms that reduce 'the elitism of “publication” and the control of opinion.' He wishes certain groups (i.e., members of the Duke University faculty) to be able to make public statements without being subject to public comment and public criticism. To him, it seems, academician’s freedom of speech is somehow equated with not being held responsible for what is said.

In Dr. Lange’s address he reminds us that 88 members of Duke’s faculty posted a signed advertisement in the Duke Chronicle (the university newspaper) stating their point of view of with regard to recent events (March 2006) on and near their campus in the city of Durham, North Carolina. The impetus for their commentary was the turmoil associated with certain allegations against players on the Duke Lacrosse team. A very thorough history of this turmoil can be found covered by history Professor KC Johnson on his blog relating to the case.

Dr. Lange makes note that “some of our faculty … have been under repeated attacks in personal emails and blogs” precipitated by the message of their controversial ad (captured here). Then he makes his first troubling point:

As we all are aware blogs and email have “democratized” communication; anyone with access to a computer can get in the game as writer or spectator. In many ways this is a very good thing, for it reduces the elitism of “publication” and the control of opinion by opinion “sellers”. Nonetheless, this “democracy” is also permissive of saying almost anything, about almost anyone or anything, using any language, no matter how distasteful, disrespectful or dismissive. We can spread our ideas faster, and without the mediation of others, but we can also control neither their dispersion nor the nature and distribution of reactions to them. In fact, if those reactions distort the account of what we have said, there is likely no way to correct the record for the large number of people who may have secondarily received those distorted interpretations.

While he concedes that, “In many ways this [democratization of communication] is a very good thing” – he then proceeds to lament that it exists. For of this environment where easy transmission of ideas is possible, and where vigorous response to public statements can be heard he says, “I do not believe the extreme of this condition is productive of the best virtues of free speech. It can come to inhibit speaking freely or leave free speech on controversial issues too much to the thick-skinned or insensitive.”

The real argument of Dr. Lange is that some of his faculty should be protected from public denunciation for making controversial (or what I would call inane) statements. He seeks to stem the flood of critical comment.

To me, this is a preposterous position. Dr. Lange must believe that faculty at his esteemed institution are somehow beyond criticism by mere mortals. He seems to believe that faculty status at Duke somehow conveys an elite status that establishes faculty member’s public comments as prima facie truth. What planet did Dr. Lange come from?

As I understand the world, academic credentials certify that one is able to defend a position against criticism. It is that very ability to defend one’s positions that gives the statements of faculty credibility. The inability to defend a position (especially comments made publicly) reveals either an indefensible position, or an intellectual weakness in the defenders.

Here we have Dr. Lange arguing that democratized criticism is somehow stifling “free speech.” I have watched the criticism of the ad signed by this group of 88 faculty – and there is much intellectual criticism of the content. Dr. Lange excuses his defense by focusing on the weakest of the criticism – which we all know to be simple name calling. He ignores legitimate commentary and the unwillingness of the group of 88 to respond to real intellectual criticism.

I, for one, am quite disappointed at the attitude: one of “don’t question us or hold us responsible for defending what we say.” Lange seems to be running interference for these faculty – carrying their water, if you will. “Please leave them alone and don’t criticize,” he seems to say.

Academics must be able to defend their public statements or they should not be called academicians – this has always been the litmus test of worthiness to belong in academe. But I must say, I am less worried about the academic qualifications of these specific 88 faculty members than I am about someone within the academe (Lange) feigning ignorance of the qualifications for belonging in that group.

Seeking to excuse academicians from defending their public statements is indefensible, Lange. Don’t cheapen the profession.

[By the way, I do not think that my own comments, these in particular, should be made under the cover of anonymity. I am Craig M. Allen, Professor of Finance in the School of Business at Brigham Young University - Hawaii.]