I won’t be watching Secret Invasion. If you haven’t heard, Disney—the most powerful and profitable entertainment studio the world has ever known—opted to exploit AI, plagiarize real artists, and save a few bucks to generate the show’s opening credits sequence. They claim the method fits the show’s themes.
It’s a story about spies fighting shapeshifting aliens.
It’s a shame because many real artists did work on the series, and I’m sure it’s great. My hope is Disney, Marvel, Method Studios, and the show’s producers change course, hire actual artists to create a new opening credits sequence, and commit to never using AI-generated creative content again.
Let’s leverage AI to do the work nobody wants to do, and let’s empower people to do the work they actually want to do, especially if that work explores human creativity in any form.
At the end of 2018, I re-read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. After 15 years (and this time picking it up because I wanted to, not because I needed to for a class), I found it extraordinarily powerful and prescient. I then wrote this review but never posted it. Oops. I figured I’d post it now with some edits because these thoughts weren’t doing anyone any good sitting on my hard drive.
I’ve been thinking and reading about demagogues a lot this summer. Demagogues are political leaders who appeal through pathos rather than logos. For the non-Greek, feelings rather than logic. Most commonly, demagogues manipulate our fear and anger, and they generally direct those emotions at an other or a “them.” Demagogues require opponents as scapegoats. They require division.
We’ve seen their kind many times throughout history, yet I’m optimistic about them. For every one that has risen to power, I like to think many failed to gain any traction. Recognizing them is simple, something I expect any American should be able to do instinctually, yet if you find yourself caught by their influence, it may all seem a bit vexing and complicated. That’s because some of what they’re saying, on some level, makes sense and is, on some level, true. They require reality distorted.
Despite his country continuing to face a historic pandemic and unaddressed racial tensions, Trump is proceeding with his “Salute to America” celebration tomorrow, and that tracks, considering the kind of questionable leadership he has exhibited not only throughout these crises but also throughout his term.
While I’m seeing talk about how much the event is costing us and the wisdom of holding such an event right now, I’m wondering why more people aren’t more outraged about the principle that he’s once again co-opted our most sacrosanct holiday for personal and political gain. Independence Day used to be a day of unity for all of us to set aside our differences and come together to celebrate the best ideals of America, but Trump has turned it into a divisive campaign rally to highlight the worst of America at our expense. Regardless of politics, this should set off even the most adamantly self-proclaimed patriots among us.
It’s not right, and it’s just one more of the countless reasons you shouldn’t vote for him in November. Of course, it is far less compelling of a reason than the thousands of Americans who have died from Covid-19 due to his poor leadership; his woefully inadequate response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the far too many others, and the social movements clamoring for change; and the countless other indicators of his ineptitude and harm; but I digress.
After two years of holding partisan control of the federal government during which border security was not an emergency, a president the American people don’t want is declaring a state of emergency that doesn’t exist to build a wasteful and ineffective wall the American people don’t want, by taking money from the military’s tax-funded budget, not Mexico as he promised, and to satisfy prejudices and assuage fears he helped create with lies and demagoguery, thus sidestepping democracy and invoking autocracy in the country that used to be the leader of the free world where self-proclaimed patriots and champions of liberty used to criticize a black president for using the power of executive order and now are celebrating victory for getting nothing their country wants or needs, because one failed businessman turned celebrity exploits the popular scorn of modern American politics to convince them he knows best and reinforces that belief with propaganda, confirmation bias, and the cognitive dissonance of a generation that stripped future generations of their prosperity and is losing its grasp on the modern world.
I didn’t bother watching the state of the union address this week. I figured that, as long as Trump stuck to the speech he didn’t write, stumbled through nine out of ten words correctly, and didn’t wet himself at the dais, he’d be forgiven the falsehoods and misleading statements, and it appears I was more or less right about that.
I did watch Joe Kennedy’s rebuttal speech, and I found it eloquently expressed an idea that’s been weighing on liberal America these last 18 months or so since the GOP nominated a guy who was not only unqualified and unfit to lead its party, but also a desecration to it.
“Constitutional crisis” has been buzzing around recently because Congress made about as unanimous of a decision as it can (517-5) to impose sanctions on Russia for what our intelligence community is in consensus was an attack on American democracy, but of course, the Trump administration is refusing to enforce those sanctions because he’s a traitor (probably) and democracy is dying and the GOP doesn’t care as long as they win, because party over country, and …
Hey, Charlottesville. I hear you’re having a bad day. I know you pretty well, and I want you to know that, though the world is looking at you today and normally is content to ignore you, I know you’re a friendly, small city in one of the most beautiful regions of the United States, and you’re a beacon of culture, art, and enlightenment, and you’re trying to be a good home for a lot of different people with different stories and different ideas.
And that’s not an easy thing to do.
Much of that is why some of the worst of humanity is there today. You see, they don’t like you. They want to hurt you. They aren’t content to be a part of something great. To them, it is not great unless they dominate it.
But I want you to know that I know they are not you. I know that, today, this is not you at your worst. Today is us at our worst, and it just so happens to have found its way to you.
I’m really sorry about that and wish I could do something. Today, all I can really do is watch to make sure you make it through all right, and when you do, I want you to know I still love you.
Yesterday, the president of the Boy Scouts of America apologized for the political content of Donald Trump’s speech at the National Jamboree.
It’s July 2017. Donald Trump has been in office for roughly six months. Before that, we had about ten weeks to really prepare for his presidency. Before that, we endured his despicable 18-month-long campaign, and before that, anyone who was paying attention watched him transition from a once-failing businessman who saved himself by branding and licensing his reputation and becoming an inconsequential celebrity whose only real chance at relevance was stoking fires and pandering to American desperation and resentment through conspiracy theories, lies, and post-truthism.
My point is we’ve known what Donald Trump is for a long time. Or, maybe you’re just joining us because he’s put on full display the worst of America using the world’s biggest stage. Either way, love him or hate him, you know what you’re getting with Donald Trump.
If you read Chris Cornell’s obituary today, you’ll learn he was the frontman for Soundgarden and Audioslave; you’ll learn he had a unique voice.
He was so much more than that.
Obviously, he was a person with family and friends who cared about him, knew him intimately, and will never forget him. But he also was one of the last remaining legends of a rock and roll era that has already lost so much or seen its heroes falter and fade.
My wife bought us tickets to see him solo a couple years back at this music hall near our home that typically hosts classical and traditional musical acts. What struck me about him was not his performance. It was his attitude and presence. Alone on a stage in front of hundreds, in a place that was maybe out of his element, he didn’t just command the room, he owned the whole damn building, because we did.
We flooded those halls with t-shirts bearing Soundgarden, Audioslave, and even Temple of the Dog album covers; everything from tattoo sleeves and beards to shaven faces and button-ups.
For many people who dislike Trump, I think this is a good expression of why. For those of you who consider his policies and business acumen his saving grace, I think this is important to consider, too.
Many of us believe the presidency (not just the person who occupies the Oval Office, but the institution) should represent the highest qualities, values, and ideals that make Americans great. The common sentiment used to be that the president should be someone for our children to look up to, and while I’ve heard the argument that we’re beyond that and would wholeheartedly disagree with it, the presidency has become a much more important global figure in these last few decades than our founding fathers could have ever imagined or even hoped. Not only is the president our spokesperson in an increasingly global society, but the president is a political leader for the whole world specifically because of America’s influence, and it benefits American citizens in myriad ways.
While it’s unfair to compare anyone who holds that office to the historic presidents who came before, and while it’s unfair to expect every U.S. president to be an ideal representative for the American people, there is a certain standard we must hold the president to, and in this regard (again, policy aside), Trump fails.