Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Some disconnected ramblings on money, Mitt, Oscar and Rhonda.

Is it curmudgeonly of me to attack the Oscars for being a shameless paean to nipples, excess and gaud? I know that we're supposed to check our brains at the door and suspend disbelief when we go to see a moviebut the Oscars isn't a movie. The Oscars is/are real life to Hollywood. These people take it all seriously. They dress up in tuxes and gowns like royalty and answer reporters' fawning questions about "who they're wearing" and strut across the stage and coquettishly show lots of leg and act as if they're important and entitled to live the unapologetically greedy lives they lead...exactly as if they earned it.

And what does it say about
us that we watch this tripe? Would an "Oscars" for achievements in science pull a billion viewers worldwide? I think not. An Oscars for achievements in teaching? Don't make me laugh.

Or how 'bout
get thisan Oscar for achievemnents in consciencein empathy for one's fellow man. (Now you're probably laughing.) What do you think of an Oscar for forgoing just one set of 24K gold bathroom fixtures or that extra Lambo (driven only on weekends in nice weather) so that another family or set of families somewhere can have whatever that prodigal $1742 or $376,000 respectively buys? (And don't talk to me about Farm Aid or Live Aid or Comic Relief or any other benefits, please.... So you drive home from those "benefits" in your chauffeured Rolls and pat yourself on the back for your fine humanitarian spirit?)

Apropos of which.... How can we not attack the GOP for being a (nearly) shameless paean to greed, excess and gaud ? Rush Limbaugh declares (and Mitt implies) that we envy the super-rich because we secretly want to be like them
we hate what they have and we don'tso, peevish miscreants that we are, we don't want them to have it either. Perhaps so. But should we have it? Should anyone have it? Does anyone deserve it? If the first mission of government is ensuring the security of the people, shouldn't part of its mandate also be to promote the general security of those who've been less fortunate in life than Mitt or The Donald? (Which is almost all of us.)

Ergo, progressively higher taxes for the progressively more rich.

And finally... Keep in mind that Rhonda's The Secret and the unadulterated uber-narcissism of its law of attraction are a spiritualized rendering of the Republican creed, which tells us that America is about getting more, and then more than more, in the process devoting all of your mental energy to what you really want out of life.

It's all about you...and the rest can go screw.


RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, you describe "paean to nipples, excess and gaud" as it=f it were a bad thing! I personally enjoy the benign titillation, and get a good bit of entertainment out of the fact that celebrities take themselves so seriously. Matter of fact, I'd wager that our political landscape would be improved by a few more nipples, though it has already reached an unprecedented pinnacle of excess and gaud. Face it... the potential for a Sarah Palin wardrobe malfunction at the Republican convention would at least get more people watching, if not participating.

And who could deny the comedic value of the primaries? I used to chuckle at the Democrats' MO of holding circular firing squads during their primaries, but they can't hold a candle to the Republicans' games of circular Russian Roulette. They each shoot blanks at each other, and save the live ammo for use on themselves.

On a related note, The Onion posted a particularly funny (and uncomfortably accurate) headline this morning that read, "Romney Thanks State He Was Born And Raised In For Just Barely Giving Him Enough Votes To Beat Total Maniac." I mean, you'd have to go to a bunch of comedy clubs to find comedy of that caliber. Perhaps when Newt builds his colonies on the moon, he'll open an Improv franchise there. My only hope is that they forget to bring along the vagina police, and that their sermons & pontifications aren't simulcast here on Earth.

Anonymous said...

Those Hollywood stars who embody "nipples, excess, and gaud", every last one of them is a Democrat.

Kathryn Price said...

I'm with you on this, Steve. I no longer watch the Oscars. I find it insulting that we are expected to be captivated by so little and that celebrities seem to think they're gifting us by exposing themselves. Self important, indeed.

I'd love to see an Oscar for empathy. As for Limbaugh et al. citing envy as our reason for criticizing a focus on acquiring as much wealth as possible while ignoring the potential costs to others of such pursuits, I was just told on my review of The Power that my "negative" commentary is due to jealousy. Perhaps the commenter listens to Rush? At any rate, in the minds of many in the GOP, wealth is its own justification and deifies those who have obtained it, placing them beyond questions or criticism, above ordinary, pedestrian ethics or moral concerns, or coherency (Rhonda Byrne), or any of the current GOP candidates. Has one of them presented a coherent argument for anything, especially for why they should be considered for POTUS?

roger o'keefe said...

Steve, I still say people who feel the way you feel would not feel that way if you had the kind of money "the wealthy" have. You may think your point of view is objective and honorable, but it's highly subjective and I have to feel, colored by class envy. Besides which I'm sorry, a wealthy person who worked hard to earn his station in life and also gievs out millions to charity as many wealthy people do, owes no apology to anyone for the way he lives.

Anonymous said...

Oh Roger, the days of the 'wealthy person who worked hard to earn his station in life and also gievs out millions to charity as many wealthy people do' are long gone--or did you miss that little ponzi scheme blow-up in 2008 that gave us all a glimpse of how things truly work in this brave new world?

We're all suckers now, valued only for what few tax dollars we are good for to funnel to the vampire squid of Wall Street.

RevRon's Rants said...

Milexi Roger, I'll see your "class envy" and raise you one "class guilt/rationalization." The incessant need to alternatively flaunt and justify excess is pretty transparent to anyone not caught up in the game.

We lease our home from one of the wealthiest families in the region, yet who are some of the kindest folks you'd ever want to meet. Sure, we'd enjoy having the freedom from financial challenges that they enjoy, but not to the point of envy, by any means. We're glad that they have what they have. Of course, it helps that they strive to improve the lives - both humans and animals - of those around them, realizing that just like the rest of us, they are responsible to (but not for) their fellow beings. It is that attitude that separates the genuinely wealthy from those who attain and strive to hoard and flaunt possessions as a means of validating of their sense of superiority.

Liza D. said...

If there were an awards ceremony for scientific achievement, and the people dressed as they do for the Oscars, you can bet I'd watch it. That would combine two of my very favorite things (and my two businesses) -- beautiful dresses ( and science (

I watch the awards ceremonies to see the pretty gowns. Couldn't care less who they're by, or any of the rest of it. I'd argue, also, that the good use a good number of those celebrities put their fame and fortune to outweighs the posturing, etc., you complain about.

Have you, for instance, seen this (the film, not the article)?:

Furthermore, when did being rich become something to scorn, rather than to strive for? I've always found Roger Moore to be insufferable for that very reason. He's still walking around in a dirty sweatshirt and baseball cap, telling us that somehow, poor people are morally superior. Not every rich person is immoral. Not every poor person is Mother Theresa. It's ridiculous to suggest it.

Remember the great depression and how people loved going to the movies, to see the fabulous stars dressed tip to toe in diamonds and furs? I'm guessing the "bloggers" of their day found the same faults you do with that excess in a time of want.

Anonymous said...

Quite a stretch going from the Oscars to the Republican Party.

That would be like someone watching "Deepthroat"--which then reminded them of Bill Clinton and Jack Kennedy and therefore lead them to the conclusion that Democrats were about sexual gratification when the taxpayer was picking up the carpet cleaning bill.

"Anonymous" nailed it with his observation as to who's nipples were on display.

Instead on watching the Oscars, I was taking a free online course on the Constitution @

Based upon your misinterpreted constitutional comment, you might wish to forgo the mind candy of the Oscars for a more nourishing fare.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon 9:56, possibly you're the same anon who's "had it in for me" lately--my sense is that you'd attack me if I said the sky is blue--but be that as it may, I'll respond to the point you made about the Constitution. I assume it to be a response to my previous post in which I riffed on the phrase "all men are created equal." For the record, that phrase appeared in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. Further, there is no question that the Framers were majorly out of touch with their own hypocrisy/sanctimony, and were also ignorant of how antiquated (and sometimes irrelevant) the passing years would make their noble document. We can discuss this at another time, if you like.

RevRon's Rants said...

I'd wager that if the framers had been able to see how their experiment is working today, they'd have torn the Constitution to pieces and started over. I kinda think they would hang on to the Amendments, however...

Anonymous said...

Not sure want you mean. Could you develop this more?

Anonymous said...


Kindly check out the following article. Is it not interesting that our neighbors to the North would do such research and publish it, yet our own media seems to be more concerned with Kardashian tweets and worshipping drug addict Whitney Houston?

Stever Robbins said...

I have nothing against the rich. I've been rich (well, upper middle class, which is rich by world standards). I've been poor. Right now I'm pretty much middle class.

It's the uber-ultra wealth concentration that I'm not very fond of.

Wealth distribution is one of those fascinating topics that people feel very strongly about, without any sense of magnitude of the topic. I wrote a blog post on wealth distribution and the super-rich where I found myself calculating out exactly how rich some of the super-rich are in concrete terms.

It turns out that Bill Gates's net worth, for example, is enough to support a median American family of four for a million years! While he definitely earned it according to the rules of our economy, what I'm asking is: (a) is there any moral or ethical system under which that level of disparity would be considered just? Or to put it another way, (b) is it actually possible that Bill Gates has singlehandedly created as much value as a family of four would create in a million years, or is he simply the happy recipient of a quirk in how our system works? (And remember, a million years is 10x as long as the human race has existed, so that family of four would almost certainly produce a number of geniuses along the way.)

Stever Robbins said...

Anon 9:12pm: While I am usually quite sympathetic to evidence of government excess, I can't take that critique of Michelle Obama's staff seriously with comparing it against other First Ladies.

Most of those people are social secretaries and travel coordinators. Given the size of social events held at the White House (which the First Lady is supposed to be involved in arranging), I have no trouble believing it's a full-time job for several people.

Having several travel coordinators is also reasonable for a head of state. Both a President and a First Lady are on the road a lot, for governance, political, and charitable reasons. It can take up to six weeks advance notice to plan the security, movement, etc. detail for the secret service, etc. It's a huge job.

(I once had the privileged of meeting a former President during an appearance and hearing firsthand from the event planners at the hotel how much advance planning went into it.)

RevRon's Rants said...

Anon 9:01 - The information you seek is cleverly concealed in daily reports of the activities of our legislators. Legislating the process by which campaigning and elected officials are to be bribed is a good start. Insertion of poison pill riders into bills in order to circumvent the democratic legislative process. Making a commitment to filibuster any proposal offered by the opposing party. Those are just a few. Do your research, strive to be objective, and it will become clear to you.

As to your 9:12 comment, I read the article, and the one point it somehow fails to make is the dramatic increase in the complexity and scope of a First Lady's position, even in the last half-century. Especially a First Lady who is motivated to affect positive changes in more than one area. Few CEOs actions have as far-reaching an impact not only upon governance, but upon global events, but I recognize that there are those who would prefer that she stay in the residence and smile sweetly, but to remain always cognizant of "her place."

Anonymous said...

I think Bill Gates is the happy recipient of an understanding of how human nature works, i.e. always wanting more, newer, faster things to distract from the inevitable restlessness and boredom experienced between cradle and grave.

That doesn't make him a evil person, IMO, just another fallible human contributing his bit to the landfill problems of the planet.
The fact that he is now trying to divest himself of some of his gains, albeit while maintaining control of how it is spent, indicates that even he is embarassed by the disparity between his accumulated bank balances and the plight of the starving hordes without a pot to piss in.

On the other hand, his later-life benevolence may just be a belated attempt to garner some much needed PR--as even he must realise that being so high profile and wealthy makes him a prime target of hatred for any of the starving hordes who decide to assuage their hunger by reading up on a bit of revolutionary theory.
Hunger trumps restless and bored every time.

Bill Gates was once hungry for world domination--and, thanks to another happy quirk of colliding with the zeitgeist, achieved it with his DOS system and clever marketing practices--but even he is vulnerable to the quirks of human nature that lead us to loathe and despise the tall poppies, even as we type on their products.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Steve Salerno said...

Re Gates: Not just earthly PR, but some street cred with the (just-maybe?) Man Upstairs as Bill approaches his own personal blue screen of death.

RevRon's Rants said...

Gates embarrassed by his success? Fearful of meeting his maker? Hungry to improve his public image? Perhaps. It's also quite possible that by having "everything," he has realized that "having everything" isn't as important as he once thought it was, and discovered the satisfaction of stewardship, in whatever way he describes it. Or it might be a combination of some or all the above.

I think that our conjecture speaks more about us than about Gates, fashion, or even nipples. Not as a value judgment, but as a learning tool. A sculpture speaks more to the heart and skill of the artist than to any quality in the stone.

Anonymous said...

'as Bill approaches his own personal blue screen of death.'

Nice metaphor. Makes me think of Adam Curtis and his wonderfully thought-provoking documentary, 'All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace', sadly not available to the US online but being screened in NY soon.

Elizabeth said...

Anon, Curtis' most excellent documentaries (a must watch for anyone) ARE available in the US, on the wondrous YouTube where they are easy to find.

P.S. Hi, Steve.

P.P.S. My, you have changed, Rev!

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz! Where you been??

Dimension Skipper said...

Yes, Elizabeth, so **GLAD** to see you back!!!

I'd tried inquiries and even raised the issue of your whereabouts on here a couple times because I was quite concerned by your lengthy absence both from here and your own venue.

Elizabeth said...

Coping with life. My wonderful dad, who is responsible for anything that's good in and about me, is dying of cancer. It's, well, terrible.

But I'm glad to see the friendly and eloquent banter, spurred on by the host's most excellent posts, going on at SHAMblog, still.

Maybe will stop by again.

BTW, hi all. :)

RevRon's Rants said...

rbastorWelcome back, Eliz! You've been missed.

I'm sorry to hear about your dad. I know the feeling, all too well. And all I can offer is a virtual hug. Sigh...

And I haven't changed... at least, not in a long time. It's just that my inconsistencies know no bounds. :-)

And welcome back to you as well, Stever. Always nice to hear a reasoned voice (which, of course, means one with whom I can agree!). :-)

Elizabeth said...

DimSkip and Rev, thanks, guys -- I haven't had the opportunity to come back and do it right away.

My dad passed away a month ago.

Steve Salerno said...

Sorry about your Dad, Eliz. It's something we all go through--and yet it never feels like "just part of life" when it happens. Be well.

Elizabeth said...

Thank you, Steve.