Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Hollywood”

Happy Birthday, Brad Pitt and Pele

Today is my oldest son’s birthday. He is fourteen and definitely a teenager. He wouldn’t want me to write a blog about him, though I am guilty of this and this. However it doesn’t seem right to wish Brad Pitt a happy birthday (his is tomorrow) and ignore my son ‘n heir, as we Brits are wont to say. So happy birthday, Pele.

Heralding from the olde countrye I am royally not amused with the whims and ways of actors and actresses. Living in California, I can’t help but note the amount of time people spend talking about them, and not necessarily their artistic achievements either.

We have family in SoCal which brings me, a few times a year, closer to Hollywood, duly noted by the fact that the stories often contain personal anecdotes: I met xxxx at the supermarket, I swam in yyyy’s pool.

But I do have a crush on Brad Pitt. I don’t think it is because of his devilish good looks and I am not even sure in what movies I have seen him. The crush was preceded by admiration. Upset with the failure of our government to come to the aid of those who lost their houses to Hurricane Katrina and the levee debacle, Pitt got some like-minded friends together and went to work, creating an organization called Make It Right.

But Pitt isn’t just about building houses. He wanted to make an environmental statement. People in the area talk about their houses being too cold in the winter and an oven in the summer. Heaters and air conditioners work around the clock for those who can, and often those who can’t afford them (I’m talking about the inhabitants and the environment).

Pitt’s houses are environmentally suited to the climate of New Orleans and some can even elevate in times of emergency to rise above the floodwaters. Critics will tell you that it looks like these houses have landed from another planet and do not reflect the culture of New Orleans. This is correct, but not necessarily a bad thing. It is okay to move with the times, to acknowledge that we can improve on the past and to seize an opportunity when a visionary comes to town.

Finally, these houses are not donated. The residents receive help obtaining a mortgage and purchase their homes. There is no charity involved. These are not Brad Pitt’s houses. They belong to the people who  live there.

Brad Pitt has not only helped restore a neighborhood, he has helped restore pride. You can’t put a price on that. And I hear he’s a pretty good actor too!

Happy Birthday, Brad & Pele.

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Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

The Moron Interview – Tom Rossi

One of the things that often angers me about journalism (hey, what would I do with myself if I wasn’t angry about something?) in recent years is the way that time is wasted during network television news broadcasts.

Video: I LOVE being angry!

 watch?v=i9R09GVzTCA

News shows on TV are usually broken up into half-hour segments. They may be scheduled for an hour like, say, the “5 o’clock news,” but often the second half hour starts off repeating the top stories from the first half hour. That’s the first way that valuable time is eliminated – repitition.

 

Then, there is the inevitable story about some celebrity. This is never an actual news story like, “Jennifer Aniston goes on shooting spree in the U.S. House of Representatives.” No, it’s always something like, “Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorcing.” Tripe.

 

Then, if that wasn’t enough time wasted on Hollywood “news,” it’s followed by the “Hollywood Minute,” “What’s up in Hollywood,” or “Celebrity Corner,” or something equally ridiculous (it’s never only a minute, by the way).

 

Then there might be a legitimate (sort of) news story as sort of a break in the inanity, followed by a newish and horrifying phenomenon, the “What’s Hot on Twitter/Google/Facebook” segment. Really? Is this news? Is there really nothing more important going on than this?

 

As stupid, annoying, and wasteful of my time and, worse, the opportunity to actually inform the populace about current events and concerns these useless segments and stories are, they pale in comparison to the most offensive snippet of all: the street moron interview.

 

“Yeah, the train got shut down, I guess, and I had to wait over two hours to get on a bus to get to work. I was late and everything.”

 

“I never saw anything like it! It was mud! Just flowing down the street!”

 

“I was just standing out here and, like, I heard, like, “pop, pop, pop!” And I looked, and this dude was, like, laying in the street, and I was like, ‘Whoa!'”

 

What purpose do these interviews serve? What insight do they provide into the events? Why are these interviews taking up my news time?

 

In the never ending quest to make news more “entertaining,” the news deteriorates further and further. During a half hour news cast a few months ago, I saw an eight-minute story about one of the Jonas brothers doing a solo album. And when news room managers are asked about this pathetic state of affairs, they always say: “That’s what people want.”

 

It’s not what I want. And the people who want Hollywood gossip don’t watch the news. News managers are failing in their responsibility to inform the public. They are violating our trust. They are depriving us of opportunities to educate ourselves about the community and the world around us. Those of us who actually want news are getting sick of it and turning, more and more, to the internet. With considerable research, we are finding better alternatives.

 

Before I forget…

This just in: Michael Jackson is still dead.

 

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Brad Pitt – Jon Stewart has a crush too

So I gushed about Brad Pitt. Guys can do that and, frankly he deserves it. Still, it is nice to know that I am not the only one. Jon Stewart had his say too. I couldn’t embed the clip, so please click here.

Interview 2 – this is the one regarding his work in New Orleans. The other is just cute and funny.

Both are worth it and you can donate to the work at Making It Right.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

I Love Brad Pitt

Heralding from the olde countrye I am not amused with the whims and ways of actors and actresses. Living in California, I can’t help but note the amount of time people spend talking about them, and not necessarily their artistic achievements either.

We have family in SoCal which brings me, a few times a year, closer to Hollywood, duly noted by the fact that the stories often contain personal anecdotes: I met xxxx at the supermarket, I swam in yyyy’s pool.

But I do have a crush on Brad Pitt. I don’t think it is because of his devilish good looks and I am not even sure in what movies I have seen him. The crush was preceded by admiration. Upset with the failure of our government to come to the aid of those who lost their houses to Hurricane Katrina and the levee debacle, Pitt got some like-minded friends together and went to work, creating an organization called Make It Right.

But Pitt isn’t just about building houses. He wanted to make an environmental statement. People in the area talk about their houses being too cold in the winter and an oven in the summer. Heaters and air conditioners work around the clock for those who can, and often those who can’t afford them (I’m talking about the inhabitants and the environment).

Pitt’s houses are environmentally suited to the climate of New Orleans and some can even elevate in times of emergency to rise above the floodwater. Critics will tell you that it looks like these houses have landed from another planet and do not reflect the culture of New Orleans. This is correct, but not necessarily a bad thing. It is okay to move with the times, to acknowledge that we can improve on the past and to seize an opportunity when a visionary comes to town.

Finally, these houses are not donated. The residents receive help obtaining a mortgage and buy their homes. There is no charity involved. These are not Brad Pitt’s houses. They belong to the people who  live there.

Brad Pitt has not only helped restore a neighborhood, he has helped restore pride. You can’t put a price on that. And I hear he’s a pretty good actor too!

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Merchants of Doubt

It’s numbingly cold outside. What does a frustrated activist need to do to stay warm? How about reading a book that’s going to get the blood coursing through the body, while remaining wrapped in a blanket on the sofa drinking hot chocolate?

Merchants of Doubt does just that. This is a book of highly educated and venerated scientists who fail to adhere to the need to improve society though research and hypothesis. It is a stunningly detailed account of how they have prostituted their knowledge to advance lies and myths that will ultimately harm the individual and society, all in the name of making money for themselves and the masters they serve.

Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway do a great job tracking eminent physicists and other scientists who are able to manipulate the truth. One stunning realization that I took from this is that their “truths” are perpetuated by harried journalist and opinionated bloggers. DON’T READ BLOGS! Here I said it – and you can believe me ’cause I blog everyday .

Seriously, this book has garnered tremendous respect. I think that it says a lot for their research when they unabashedly name names and have not found themselves in court. It might be a book to delve into from time-to-time rather than consumed in one sitting, but Oreskes and Conway have done us a great service. To quote Former Vice President, Al Gore:

“Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway have demonstrated what many of us have long suspected: that the ‘debate’ over the climate crisis–and many other environmental issues–was manufactured by the same people who brought you ‘safe’ cigarettes.  Anyone concerned about the state of democracy in America should read this book.”

I think, Mr. Gore, that it is far beyond the democracy of the US. This inconvenient truth is a global issue.

Another book that illustrates this so clearly is Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley. While he does clearly state that this is a novel, he hits many of the points that Merchants of Doubt proves. He also has you laughing rather than seeking the next spaceship off of the planet.

“Buckley’s caricatures of Washington politics, corporate power plays, media spin control, Hollywood pretensions and the human foibles of self-delusion and denial are appallingly right on the money.” –San Francisco Chronicle.

See what I mean?
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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

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