Words by Woods

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Category: Art (page 2 of 3)

Barack ‘The Wiz’ Obama

Last February, I posted a YouTube video on one of my favorite movies ‘The Wiz.’

I described how the movie refuted black archetypes from the 70s by rejecting collectivism and advocating individualism.

The Crows represented the Gang, the chorus collective, that enforce group identity.

The Scarecrow represented the Bookworm, the intellectual, who transforms from repeating others’ ideas to interacting with reality and developing his own thoughts.

The Tinman represents the Hustler, who wastes away in the pursuit of false and ephemeral values, but revitalizes once he develops the heart (or I would say head) to truly value.

The Lion represents the Militant, who is hard and brash on the outside but without substance and courage on the inside; through the discovery of his values he learns to act virtuously and with courage.

The Wiz represents the politicians who deliver empty rhetoric instead of the results of Justice.

Dorothy, the teacher, acts as a catalyst to move characters from stereotypes to viable individuals. She represents the promise of education to advance individuals beyond the circumstances of the 70s ghettos and housing projects.


In this video, I make reference to the parallel between Obama and The Wiz. The campaign and his election has only reinforced that link in my mind as his voters believe that if they will follow the yellow brick road to the Obama that they will be able to get their brain, or heart, or courage, or gasoline, or mortgage paid.

For that reason, I rename our president-elect Barack ‘The Wiz’ Obama; the panacea in which his true believers see the fulfillment of their whims by his simply gifting it to them.

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Pravda American-style

In the bad old days of communist Russia (perhaps today as well), Russians reading their media news sources had to learn to read between the lines to figure out what was really happening.

While current American media news sources are free from government coercion (at least until the Democrats can change that condition), there exists a self-imposed ideological blank-out in the news.

Recently, I was explaining on-line to someone in South Korea that Americans from experience are aware that educated Muslims who self-identify as being Muslims before being Americans are too frequently the supporters of terrorism and potentially actors in terrorist violence. While this is true, I was momentarily struck by the realization that this is not what the media reports but that these facts are understood by what the media omits from its reporting.

A classic example of this in a non-terrorism related crime story would be the police searching for a rape suspect who is black, but the local media does not report this identifying characteristic. Thus, when the media failed to report the race of a rape suspect, it is understood by viewers that the suspect was black because that was the only time they would make such an omission.

Currently, in the case of an apparently random act of violence, the media omits or de-emphasizes reporting names, ethnicity, and religious affiliations when the suspect is Muslim. In a time when we are at war with Islamic extremists and al-Qaeda is becoming increasingly influential as a loosely affiliated network inspiring others to commit random acts of violence, such Islamic characteristics by suspects in violent crime is essential to an objective report of the incident.

If I were a Muslim, I would find such blank-out reporting of relevant facts offensive and dangerous on two levels. First, as I parent, I need to know how to protect my children from coming under the influence of these types of extremists, so I need to know as much about them as possible. Second, by failing to expose to the public the differentiating criteria between these Islamic extremists and regular every day Muslims in America who are our friends, neighbors, and co-workers, the media distributes ignorance instead of practical information relevant to our lives.

In America, this phenomenon of reading between the lines of news reporting is not limited to these cases but is a more general condition that is not a new problem. However, it is important to recognize it as this flaw contributes to many avoidable missteps in public policy issues.

Perhaps, one day a smart business executive at one of the media organizations will recognize that they are marketing a defective product that is costing their business market share. In the meantime, as consumers of news, we will need to remain focused on objective principles and observation of reality as tools to help us read between the lines of the latest news report.

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Breakup Songs

My indenture is done with minimal legal process remaining to sanctify the milestone of being relieved of a millstone. The past year I have been totally absorbed in the needs of the girls when not completing the Herculean tasks demanded by my past offense. Oh that Hydra what a task she was.

With the armistice signed and the ebb of hostilities, regret rears its head. Not regret for recent actions taken, but values lost long ago if they had really existed at all.

At the end of a twenty-year relationship, its time for twenty-year old breakup songs. Breakups have an odd time warp effect. It is not as apparent in a short relationship, but one‘s mind resets to before the relationship in many aspects.

I was not looking for breakup songs, at least not consciously, but simply wanted to find a distant memory of a song long lost to me by the band Marillion. The only thing I could firmly remember was a stack of Marshalls in the video. Thanks to YouTube, everything old is new again so I could rediscover “Kayleigh.”Also, I think my hair has time warped as I’m looking a little too like Steve Rothery (the guitarist) in the video.

The lyricsfrom “Kayleigh” really captures well my mood of nostalgia contrasted with the consequence. Thanks Fish…it begins:

Do you remember chalk hearts melting on a playground wall
Do you remember dawn escapes from moon washed college halls
Do you remember the cherry blossom in the market square
Do you remember I thought it was confetti in our hair

By the way didn’t I break your heart?
Please excuse me, I never meant to break your heart
So sorry, I never meant to break your heart
But you broke mine

Another of their later songs that grabbed me in this flushing mood when all is done was named after a traditional English holiday confection, “Sugar Mice.”

I was flicking through the channels on the TV
On a Sunday in Milwaukee in the rain
Trying to piece together conversations
Trying to find out where to lay the blame

But when it comes right down to it there’s no use trying to pretend
For when it gets right down to it there’s no one here that’s left to blame
Blame it on me, you can blame it on me
We’re just sugar mice in the rain

Reminds me of an all too familiar diversion of self-recriminations that is soon to end once the county clerk records the pending termination.

I must confess that I have been irritating Ms. Daisy as too often upon entering the car she finds Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” playing to which she orders, “Get over it!”

Since you been gone I can do whatever I want
I can see whomever I choose
I can eat my dinner in a fancy restaurant
but nothing
I said nothing can take away these blues,
‘cos nothing compares
nothing compares to you

But, Ms. Daisy misses the meaning I find from the lyric in the reason that nothing compares to It, and it ain’t good. Assung more recently, “Snap back to reality…” And with that hopefully, I move on from my bout with what I have referred to as a domestic terrorism situation.

Speaking of terrorism and the breakup songs for state sponsors of terrorism, YouTube has an integration of Pat Benatar’s song “Invincible” with 9/11 footage.

This shattered dream you cannot justify
Were gonna scream until were satisfied
What are we running for?
We’ve got the right to be angry
What are we running for?
When there’s no where we can run to anymore

We can’t afford to be innocent
Stand up and face the enemy
It’s a do or die situation
We will be invincible
And with the power of conviction
There is no sacrifice
It’s a do or die situation
We will be invincible

“We’ve got a right!” “Conviction!” “No sacrifice!” “Stand up and face the enemy!“ Billie Jean for President!

Reporter: What do you say to the wives and children of all the terrorists killed when you invaded and conquered Iran, Syria, Sudan, Cuba, and North Korea?
President Billie Jean: Fair is fair!

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Did Ayn Rand Win the Cold War?

It has been common to credit Ronald Reagan with winning the Cold War, and I have done so myself.

Last Saturday, C-SPAN radio broadcast a speech to the Young America’s Foundation by former Attorney General Ed Meese and long time aid to Ronald Reagan on the 25th anniversary of 1981 Tax Recovery Act. ÂIn commenting on President Reagan success in dealing with the Soviets, Mr. Meese credited his time in Hollywood dealing with the communists there, and that during that experience Mr. Reagan conducted significant opposition research regarding the communists as the basis for his future anti-communist efforts.

When a discussion combines Hollywood and anti-communism, I inevitably think of the contributions that Ayn Rand made in creating the intellectual foundation for opposing communism in Hollywood, where she provided intellectual leadership to the anti-communist Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. Through her work with the Alliance, Ayn Rand wrote the Screen Guide for AmericansÂ(1947) and Textbook of Americanism (1946), which contrasted the communist efforts with American ideas.

In a 1966 letter, Ronald Reagan said that he was “an admirer of Ayn Rand.” Both Ayn Rand and Ronald Reagan testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (1947) on communist infiltration into Hollywood. Given Mr. Reagan’s professed admiration of Ayn Rand, their concurrent efforts in opposing communism in Hollywood, her intellectual leadership on this issue in Hollywood, and Mr. Meese’s crediting this period in Mr. Reagan’s life with American victory in the Cold War, I find it credible that Ayn Rand was directly the foundation for the ideas that won the Cold War. I wonder if any research has been done to strongly substantiate this link between Ayn Rand’s ideas and those effective actions of President Reagan in facilitating Soviet implosion.Â


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Day of Wrath

The movie “Day of Wrath” straight to video release was almost good, but it is most interesting because the setting is a lifeboat situation that makes the depiction of a moral choice impossible.

Christopher Lambert plays a village sheriff Ruy de Mendoza in Inquisition racked Spain. He keeps finding dead bodies of prominent individuals, but the bodies and all the evidence keeps disappearing before others can see it. Further, the widows keep insisting that their husband’s are alive but out of town. In his investigation, everyone, including his mother, is lying to him and covering up a secret.

While the world around him contains characters committed to faith and tradition, Mendoza remains committed to truth and justice. Unfortunately, he ends up as a Levin (Anna Karenina) who gives up those values. At least, Mendoza has the excuse that truth and justice are impossible to achieve in Inquisition Spain, because both will lead to the death of himself and his family.

While I would have wanted to seen a complete condemnation of faith in this movie, it does exhibit the dark consequences of church-state integration. Ultimately, the power of the state expressed through the sheriff is inferior to that of the church through the Inquisitor. Thus, it reflects the modern problem in the Muslim world where open opposition to the Islamic extremists means certain death to self and loved ones.

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DoubleLight Update

Lance reports that he has written all the songs for DoubleLight‘s new CD. He writes:

    I’ve worked on these songs for two years. Needless to say I’m ecstatic to have enough quality material now to make up a full album’s worth. Here are some of the song titles:

      To Break The Clock Waiting
      Devils Down on Wall Street
      The Greatest Show on Earth
      Purple Heart

DoubleLight’s first CD “The Assembly of the Wondrous Head” is on sale at CD Baby. Samples of several songs are available at that store.

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My New Print

When I recently moved, the first thing I brought into my new home was a print of a photo by Lee Sandstead of the Nike in Evelyn Beatrice Longman 1926 sculpture for a Spanish-American War memorial. It was my Xmas gift to myself. I think of it habitually while contemplating the current war, which I do often and sometimes to distraction.

To add some balance to my wall and life, I have just purchased another print of a Longman statute from The Monument Light Store. This time, it is the Genius of Electricity, which inspired me upon my first sight of it during a Sandstead lecture to a period of sleepless productivity. Now that personal distractions have diminished, this new print will nourish me in a renewed bout of productivity. While I will not neglect my body by depriving it of sleep, I will fuel my soul with art.

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New Waters

OK, so I don’t get out to look at new CDs often, so I just became aware that Roger Water’s had released a new CD at the end of September.

It is an opera titled “Ça Ira” based upon the early period of the French Revolution before the Terror.

I need to listen to it, but the subject did not excite me given the omitted consequences. It smells of elevating ideology over reality in a way that reminds me of Karl Mannheim.

More information and tracks are available on-line here.

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The Third Man

I watched “The Third Man” (1949) last night but was disappointed. In fairness to the movie, in my pre-conceived notions, I was looking for an excellent performance by Alida Valli [“Noi vivi” and “Addio Kira” (1942), a.k.a. “We the Living”], unfortunately her character just was not up to my expectations. In fairness to me, I had seen her give an interesting performance in “The Paradine Case” (1942), when I did not make the connection between her and “We the Living.”

Over all the best performance in the film was by Trevor Howard as Major Calloway, a British officer investigating deaths and injuries caused by black market penicillin. Joseph Cotton [“Love Letters” (1945)] played Holly Martins, an American in Vienna investigating the murder of his friend. His performance was often good, but inconsistent characterization of his role in the script made me wish at times that he would fly home so the movie could be over. Orsen Welles plays a potentially vivid character, who is let down by his dialogue. My favorite surprise of the movie was seeing Wilfred Hyde-White [Col. Pickering in “My Fair Lady” (1964)], while his character had little to say I do so enjoy his voice.

As a thriller, it has an excellent twist which at the time might have been very surprising, but almost 60 years later we have seen it before in subsequent works. However, it was still well done.

This should have been a silent movie because it is visually stunning, which would be why it won an Oscar for Best Cinematography – Black & White, and was nominated for Best Director and Best Film Editing. If there was a category for it, it should have been nominated for best chase scene in a sewer (not a pun). The setting of post war Vienna is breathtaking, beautiful art and buildings next to rubble still remaining from the war. Even the actors visual portrayals are excellent. Perhaps I should watch it again with the sound off.

By now it is clear, that my complaint about the movie is the dialogue because I have referenced it frequently enough. There were moments when one of the characters would say something interesting but it was never enough. When these came I would think right there is where this story will really get interesting but the words stopped to abruptly ending before anything significant could be communicated.

If I had not had high expectations going into the film, I might have thought it wonderful. The visuals and the plot are the best aspects of this film. As a valuable take away, it was a reminder to me (for application to Iraq) of post war difficulties.

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Justice Denied

Recently, I watched the HBO produced movie “The Jack Bull” starring John Cusak. About a man who was denied Justice by the legal system and took the law into his own hands, it had some good moments but was completely undermind by Christian principals, all the good characters die while most all of the evil characters remain to suffer on Earth.

As the movie is a Western adaptation based upon Heinrich von Kleist’s novelle Michael Kohlhass (written in 1810 and set in 16th century Germany), I wondered how true these elements were to the original work. While I am still reading, I did come across the following good quote, where Kohlhass explains to his wife why he sold his farm after the courts denied his claim:

    “…I will not go on living in a country where they won’t protect me in my rights. I’d rather be a dog, if people are going to kick me, than a man!” [p. 30]

Update 11/25/2005: I have finished the novella, and found one additional good quote. Kohlhaas has secreted himself into Martin Luther’s chambers so that he can explain himself after Luther’s public condemnation of him. Kohlhaas says:

    “I call that man an outcast who is denied the protection of the laws! For I need this protection if my peaceful calling is to prosper; yes, it is for the protection that its laws afford me and mine that I seek shelter in the community; and whoever denies me it thrusts me out among the beasts of the wilderness; he is the one–how can you deny it?–who puts into my hand the club that I defend myself with.” [p. 55]

While I do not recommend the the novella, it does have several redeeming qualities: (1) as a historical fiction based upon actual events it provides a sense of the times, and (2) its portrail of Luther’s politics is consistent with his writing “Secular Authority: To What Extent It Should be Obeyed“.

As an classroom exercise, a comparison between the novella and the movie could be an interesting assignment.

Another interesting comparison could be made between Kohlhaas and President Bush in the War on Terror. Kohlhaas has an out-of-context idealized sense of Justice that leads to his choice for self-destruction by making war on the state. Like Kohlhaas, President Bush’s appeals to Justice against state sponsors of terrorism have been denied by the United Nations, which is as corrupt because of its relationships as 16th century Germany portrayed by von Kleist. In addition, both Kohlhaas and President Bush have a religious orientation inconsistent with the choices they make to seek Justice. To what extent is the religious aspect an Achilles-heel?

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