Saturday, October 30, 2010

At the End of the Rally

Watching the Rally to Restore Sanity on Comedy Central's website, the connection was very slow so I refreshed the page. Apparently, that made me miss about half an hour, because it changed from Kidd Rock's song to Jon Stewart's too serious, unfunny speech at the end.

On the New York Times's Rally post Charles Homans of Foreign Policy is quoted as saying: "I'm so far back in this crowd I can't even see Jon Stewart jump the shark." That isn't fair. This rally isn't a sign that the people of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report are out of good ideas. It just shows that they should stick to doing what they do best - writing a late-night satirical show on television, not producing mass fake political rallies. After all, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who bombed badly today, are both still excellent on their shows.

Take a look at my previous impressions of the rally here.

The Rally So Far

Okay, we're about two-thirds into the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. Any one of the news organizations that just got Stephen Colbert's Medal of Fear for not allowing their employees to participate in the rally were wrong to be worried that it would be political. There hasn't been any politics in here, really. Sadly, though, there haven't been many laughs either. They're really trying to be funny and mostly falling flat. I found only two things amusing so far: Sam Waterson's reading of Stephen Colbert's "Greatest Poem Ever Written" and the way Colbert came up to the stage like a Chilean miner.

This rally is too heavy on music (40 minutes of the Roots, really?). And that thing with Cat Stevens and Ozzy Osbourne was just not funny. Besides, is Stevens, now known as Youssef, really a symbol of sanity? He's quite a controversial figure. And the religious roll call with the fake Father Guido Sarduci? He didn't have anything funny to say about those religions other than the fact that both Muslims and Jews aren't allowed to eat pork. It was just a time filler.

Update: My final impressions about the rally are here.

The Rally to Restore Sanity

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear is just six hours away. Pundits all over the internet and on television are asking: Is Stewart finally going into politics? No, he isn't. I expect this to be a funny comedy show. It won't be a political rally, but rather a parody and a satire of political rallies. Sure, there's something somewhat political about it, but no more than any other kind of satire, which by definition can't be apolitical. After all, if you don't criticize somethings, or at least imply criticism, it ain't satire.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert may have a problem on their hands, though. Not only does the media seem to want this to be political, so do many of the people coming to the rally or supporting it. Look at the rally's companion website, Sane or Not, where people upload rally signs and vote on their sanity, or lack thereof. The site is supposed to be funny, with signs parodying real political slogans, or laughing at the gap between the idea of quiet moderates and the idea of carrying huge political banners. Unfortunately, many of the signs are just plain political, usually liberal. There are plenty of pro-marijuana legalization signs (not that there's anything wrong with that). I have a feeling that the crowd would cheer at the name of any Democrat and boo any Republican.

Anyway, I look forward to watching the rally on Comedy Central's website. It should be a good show.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New Yorkers Abroad and the 2010 Elections

I got an e-mail informing me that the Board of Elections in New York City, as well as a few other counties upstate, has failed to send out absentee ballots to military personnel and civilians living abroad. According to the recently passed MOVE Act, the ballots were supposed to be sent 45 days before the election, but New York received an extension until October 1, which it also missed. As of three days ago, the city still has not mailed the ballots.

I'm a "special federal voter" in New York, one of those whose ballots have not been sent. I can still vote using the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB), but many people may not be aware of this option. People in the military, especially, might not have access to the FWAB. This is irritating and some people on the elections board should lose their jobs. Also, New York should consider moving its primary to an earlier date, to widen the window between the end of counting primary votes and the time the general election ballots are supposed to be mailed.

In truth, I don't know if I'll vote at all this year. It doesn't seem like my vote will matter, since all three races I'm eligible to vote in this year seem like slam dunks for the Democrats (who I would vote for anyway). Even Kirsten Gillibrand seems sure to win by a double-digit margin. So why even bother to pay the postage?

Update (Oct. 13): My ballot has arrived in the mail, postmarked October 8.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Jon Stewart vs. Autism

The other day I watched one of my favorite shows, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Actress Naomi Watts was on the show and they discussed "A Night of Too Many Stars", an event to raise money and awareness for autism education, hosted by Jon Stewart. Watts said that at first all she knew about the benefit was that its goal was "to raise money for autism", to which Stewart responded that it's really "money against autism, not money for autism. That would be a cause where you would say that seems cruel".

In a way, he's right. Education and social services for people with autism are supposed to mitigate the effects of autism so autistics will be able to function as normally and as independently as possible. Having said that, Jon Stewart's statement seems insensitive to autistic people who may understand the phrase "against autism" as meaning "against autistics". I'm sure that was not his intent. He probably sees autism in much the same way as people see cancer - which is how I used to see it as well. When you're fighting cancer, of course you're not fighting cancer patients. But the two aren't quite the same. For one thing, autism is not a disease, but more importantly, many autistics see it as a part of their personality, without which they would be completely different people.

I wouldn't really expect Jon Stewart to know this. When he was asked to host the first event for autism education he probably did research about autism itself and not about what actual people with autism think about themselves. If I didn't have an autistic nephew, I'd probably do the same as Stewart.

Anyway, after the jump you can watch the interview:

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Predicting the Nobel Prizes 2010

It is well into Nobel Week, with the Nobel Prizes in medicine and chemistry already having been announced. Today, the winner of the physics prize will be announced, and tomorrow and on Friday the non-scientific laureates will be declared. These two, the literature and peace categories, are what interest me the most. People are guessing who will win, and I'll join the game, even though there is a 99.9% of being wrong.

And my nominees for the Nobel Prize in Literature are:

1. Amos Oz - he's mentioned every year, and he is one of the most respected authors in the world. I read somewhere that all kinds of bookies have his chances listed as being very low this year, compared with very high chances in 2009. They say this might mean that information leaked that Oz wasn't even on the shortlist. I'm hoping that's wrong.

2. David Grossman - he's both a great author and a bereaved father through whom the Nobel Committee can send an anti-war message.

3. Margaret Atwood - novelist, poet and essayist all in one.

4. Etgar Keret - he's too young to win, but one can still hope that one of my favorite authors will win. Not this year, I guess, but in 2030 perhaps?

5. Art Spiegelman - will the Nobel Committee have the guts to award the prize to one of the first people to prove that comics are a respectable genre?

And my nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize are:

1. One or more of the Afghan women leading the fight for equal rights in the war-torn country.

2. Parents Circle - Bereaved Families - this year no Israeli or Palestinian leader deserves the prize, but maybe the Committee will award a grassroots effort by those hurt the most by the conflict.

3. Bill Clinton - Two US presidents year after year? Slim chance, but I'd like my favorite leader to win for his Clinton Global Initiative and other efforts.

4. The International Committee of the Red Cross - the Nobel Committee can always go with a safe choice and award the ICRC with a fourth Peace Prize, which it last won back in the Mad Men era, 1963.

5. Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident - he seems like the top candidate on the lists of other bloggers and pundits, so I'll mention the possibility, too, just to be on the safe side.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Return of the Original Refugees

Robbie Sabel and Oded Eran have an interesting solution for the Palestinian refugee problem. In an op-ed piece (no English translation is currently available) in today's Haaretz they say that Israel should agree to the return of those refugees who were physically present in what is now Israel and became refugees during 1947-1948. Their descendents would not be allowed to come with them, since they were never here, but rather were born elsewhere.

Repatriation of the original refugees would mean that Israel abides by Resolution 194, readmitting those who left or were driven out and are now willing to live in peace within Israel. According to Sabel and Eran, there are currently about 42,000 original refugees, and it is not known how many of them would want to return.

Sabel and Eran correctly argue that even if we agree to take in refugees, we must not call it an implementation of the right of return. Saying that such a right exists for this smaller group (and it really doesn't) may strengthen calls for the right of return of the generations born after 1948 as well.

In addition to the repatriation of older Palestinians, some form of compensation and reparations for loss of property would also be paid.