The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I was born with a need to be the center of attention and, of course, you’re the center of the world when you’re acting.” — Julie Christie

IT WAS SEVEN YEARS AGO TODAY

Former House Speaker Tip O’Neill once famously said, “All politics is local.”

I, less famously, counter: “All politics is theater.”

Most of the Republican Party’s formula for success since the late 1960s has been its ability to present its standard-bearers as tough guys, strong men, and decisive generals. The GOP has acted more as a talent agent than a producer of statesmen for the last 45 years.

Richard Nixon won the 1968 presidential election because he told the nation he would stand firm against the madness in the streets. He’d beat down the savage blacks who were threatening to explode out of their ghettos. And he’d swiftly kick the crap out of the North Vietnamese and bring the boys home.

Save Us, Dick

We believed him. Just as many of us have believed pro wrestling is on the up and up and Judge Judy is our nation’s top jurist.

Ronald Reagan won the 1980 presidential election because he told us we were terrific and the 1984 campaign by telling us it was Morning in America. Ham that he was, he knew the Soviet Union was on its way out so he talked tough and thereby snatched all the credit for that empire’s inevitable collapse.

Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves, Ronnie

Theater.

George W. Bush’s role as resolute CEO of the Great United States, Inc. propelled him to victory over a couple of namby pamby Dem opponents in 2000 and 2004. The nation was terrified of presidents who liked blow jobs, college educated eggheads who’d ponder us into paralysis, and crazy Arabs who’d blow up our cities. Bush was the antidote to all those existential threats.

Be The Boss, George

But then came Hurricane Katrina and the theater went dark.

The worst natural disaster in America’s history presented Bush with a dramatic challenge he was unable to play. It was as if Kristen Stewart were cast in the role of Margaret Thatcher.

Streep As Thatcher; Stewart As, Um, Stewart

Katrina’s president was a role that was written for Bill Clinton. He’d have set up a second White House in New Orleans. He’d have hugged the storm’s victims until his arms ached. Had Clinton been in office when Katrina hit, people would have been marveling to this day about how fabulous the federal government’s response was to the tragedy.

And in the most practical sense, Clinton wouldn’t have done a thing different than Bush did.

Bush knew how to play the business executive and the military commander. He had a feel for the role of the manly hero who saves the day.

His greatest line before his downfall was, “They hate us for our freedoms.”

Which was, of course, as phony a line as, say, “Go ahead, make my day,” or “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

“Well, do ya, punk?”

But we in this holy land have always been a cooperative audience. We’ll forgive any political actor for chewing the scenery as long as it makes us feel good. It’s only when pols don’t make us feel all tingly and warm or bold and adventurous that we turn on them.

Witness Jimmy Carter’s malaise speech. Bye bye, Jimmy.

Bush’s Carter moment came when he uttered those unforgettable words, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”

People were still sitting on rooftops waiting to be rescued when Bush said that. The Superdome was filled with refugees at the time of the quote. New Orleans cops were shooting up citizens.

Yet Bush found it important to bestow frat boy bonhomie upon his emergency response point man at that moment in time.

Bush Takes It All In From Above

And like that, Bush was finished. No matter that no government could ever have responded adequately to Katrina. Nothing like it had ever happened before in America.

But when nature sucker punches us in the belly, we have to blame someone. And it’s not just Americans who react that way. Be it an earthquake in Afghanistan or a flood in India, people will shriek “Where’s our government?” even as the government is digging itself out of the rubble.

At times like that, the first and best thing government can do is assure us everything will turn out alright. The boys in charge must tell us that they’ll move heaven and Earth to set our lives right again.

Bush didn’t know that. He was the wrong actor for the part.

Theater.

Here’s how I waste my time. How about you? Share your fave sites with us via the comments section. Just type in the name of the site, not the url; we’ll find them. If we like them, we’ll include them — if not, we’ll ignore them.

I Love ChartsLife as seen through charts.

XKCD — “A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.”

SkepchickWomen scientists look at the world and the universe.

IndexedAll the answers in graph form, on index cards.

I Fucking Love ScienceA Facebook community of science geeks.

Present/&/CorrectFun, compelling, gorgeous and/or scary graphic designs and visual creations throughout the years and from all over the world.

Flip Flop Fly BallBaseball as seen through infographics, haikus, song lyrics, and other odd communications devices.

Mental FlossFacts.

SodaplayCreate your own models or play with other people’s models.

Eat Sleep DrawAn endless stream of artwork submitted by an endless stream of people.

Big ThinkTapping the brains of notable intellectuals for their opinions, predictions, and diagnoses.

The Daily PuppySo shoot me.

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, games, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Muddy Boots Cafe, Nashville — Music: Barbara McGuire; 6-8:30pm

Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural CenterBuddhism in Everyday Life Series: Ani Choekye presents “What Are Realizations?”; 6:30pm

Unity ChurchBloomington Peace Choir weekly meeting, new members welcome; 7pm

The Player’s PubMusic: Stardusters; 7:30pm

Max’s PlaceOpen mic; 7:30pm

Harmony SchoolContra dancing; 8-10:30pm

The BluebirdMusic: Rod Tufcurls & the Benchpress; 9pm

◗ IU Kirkwood ObservatoryOpen house, public viewing through the main telescope; 9:30pm

The BishopMusic: Kentucky Nightmare, Panic Strikes a Chord, Dead Beach; 9:30pm

ONGOING

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • “40 Years of Artists from Pygmalion’s”; through September 1st

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • “A Tribute to William Zimmerman,” wildlife artist; through September 9th

  • Willi Baumeister, “Baumeister in Print”; through September 9th

  • Annibale and Agostino Carracci, “The Bolognese School”; through September 16th

  • “Contemporary Explorations: Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists”; through October 14th

  • David Hockney, “New Acquisitions”; through October 21st

  • Utagawa Kuniyoshi, “Paragons of Filial Piety”; through fall semester 2012

  • Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan, “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers”; through December 31st

  • “French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century”; through December 31st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits:

  • “Media Life,” drawings and animation by Miek von Dongen; through September 15th

  • “Axe of Vengeance: Ghanaian Film Posters and Film Viewing Culture”; through September 15th

◗ IU Kinsey Institute Gallery“Ephemeral Ink: Selections of Tattoo Art from the Kinsey Institute Collection”; through September 21st

◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit, “Translating the Canon: Building Special Collections in the 21st Century”; through September 1st

◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesClosed for semester break, reopens Tuesday, August 21st

Monroe County History CenterPhoto exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

One thought on “The Pencil Today:

  1. Leona Roszkowski says:

    Here a website for your list or not. Thomas.loc.gov. I mention this dear husband of the cousin because I was on my way to class at the local community college when I came across what appeared to a young adult version of Ann Romney working the Romney desk in the student union. Always looking to stir the pot I brought up the republicant (Ryan) bill to redefine rape and got a “we don’t agree with Akin” response. I said put the Akin comments aside and lets discuss the bill Ryan put forth with the verbiage “forceable” rape she said he didn’t do such I thing. I invited her to open her laptop and check the Thomas.gov site she gave me the “that’s just the liberal media spin you should look at a variety of websites” REALLY?!?!? Thomas is the website of the Legislative Branch I say, that’s how the publish info for the general public. No she contends it’s liberal she says and starts reguritating the usual TPs. If you’re going to shit on the info at Thomas.loc.gov as liberal spin I’m taking my skyrocketing blood pressure and going to class – and maybe hon, you should be registering for US Govt 101. Now back in the day there were Republicans I supported, voted for and voted for their re-election but I don’t see that happening again. You poo-poo science, and now the actual version of the laws get back on your effing dancing unicorn.

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