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 “TV”

Left-Right Nihilism – Tom Rossi

There’s something in the way politics is discussed on TV, online, and even in person with many people that I find really aggravating. It’s the “left-right” thing.

A little too vague? which left-right thing, Tom??? You’re right. There are thousands of ways that could be taken, but I think this is the Emperor of them all. What I’m talking about is the way that the positioning of a person or an issue on the left-right spectrum completely dominates not only any political discussion on the matter, but that it seems to have taken over many people’s (and the entire media’s) thinking on the person or issue.

People often seem to care not about the workings of an issue, nor the meaning of a politician’s position on an issue, but only where they are told the issue or the person falls on the left-right spectrum.

Sometimes there are direct contradictions in people’s opinions, based on this left-right weirdness. A case in point is Elizabeth Warren. Many conservatives, like most liberals, want Wall Street masterminds held accountable, that is they want them to face criminal charges, for the decisions and actions that led to the decimation of the U.S. economy that started to become apparent in 2007. And yet, even though that is exactly Elizabeth Warren’s mission on this Earth, conservatives show little except hatred for her.

This is because the now well-known conservative “echo-chamber” tells its followers, over and over, that Elizabeth Warren is a “liberal”, and therefore worthy of contempt. The reason that the conservative power structure wants people to have this opinion is clear – they are really afraid of her. That’s okay, but what bothers me is that people are so willing to buy into this line of thinking.

This phenomenon is certainly not limited to the United States, either. Some woman actually phoned in a message of support for the “Crack-Smoking Mayor of Toronto”, Rob Ford, essentially excusing him for whatever he had done because he “deals with those liberals on the city council”. Yikes.

The same kind of thinking leads people to think that Sarah Palin should be president. These people only care that she’s conservative and they don’t care that she’s hardly educated and shows many signs of being an epsilon minus, semi-moron. But then, I suppose it’s not all that different from people supporting Hillary Clinton because they want “a” woman to be president. I wonder if those people would vote for Palin if she ended up being the only woman in the race?

Back to Elizabeth Warren… She is one of my heroes, and I’m not sure why it would be any different for anyone who isn’t the CEO of a Wall Street investment/banking firm. She’s not a hero for what she’s accomplished; she’s a hero for what she fights for. At least find out what she stands for before you go trashing her. Please.

Automatic, robotic thinking won’t get this country anywhere but into a permanent state of recession/depression. These days, there’s no excuse for failing to even do a quick internet search and here’s a hint… you have to go beyond your favorite, partisan site. Find out what the person actually says. Find out what’s actually at stake with an issue. Think. Please.

-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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A Place for Tree Books

My latest novel, Unwanted Heroes, was released in ebook format over Thanksgiving. I was stoked. Readers of this blog know that I am a big fan of the electronic book revolution and my Facebook status lists me in a steady relationship with my kindle. I would, I admit, consider an open relationship but no iPad came down my chimney last month – I really should ask the landlord for a chimney.

When the ebook was released and I alerted the usual suspects, I was surprised at the number of people who responded with: “Let me know when the paperback comes out.” My surprise was because many were people who enthusiastically embrace the tech revolution and could probably download and read a book simultaneously on their phone, tablet, laptop, computer, TV, and by just staring up at the cloud.

Heroes Low Res Finished Cover 11.18

But they choose to hold a ‘real’ book in their hands. They want the feel, the crackle of pages turning (there must be an app for that), the smell of a book (how about an ink-addiction app?). One person told me that, when buying a book by an author that she knows, it doesn’t feel right if she is not holding ‘a real copy’. For authors she doesn’t know personally, she buys ebooks.

Two months ago my family moved house and for a long time there was a great wall of boxes in every room. I realize that the point when I began to feel at home was when I was able to unpack and shelve my books. This was my identity, my stamp on the territory.

On Wednesday, Three Clover Press announced the release of Unwanted Heroes in paperback. So, all you tree book lovers, I would be honored for a place on your bookshelf.

I have also set myself a goal to garner five reviews on Amazon for Unwanted Heroes. If you have read the novel, please consider leaving a review. It is very important to me. Thank you. 

girl-hugging-words1

And just for the record:

Unwanted Heroes brings together an elderly, battle weary Chinese American war vet and an idealistic and somewhat pretentious young Englishmen, who share a love for San Francisco, coffee and wine. They soon discover they share even more when repressed abruptly surface, cementing an unlikely relationship that just might release each from the tragic pasts that bind them.

Set in beautiful San Francisco, this novel is a tribute to the city, its people and those who sacrificed so much to keep it and America free, as seen through the eyes of a young struggling writer from across the Atlantic, who brings more baggage than just his shiny laptop and romantic ideals.

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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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Reading is Dead. Long Live the Readers

Okay, so I might be getting a little carried away by getting excited at one quote from one young person, but I got very excited at this one quote from this one young person…

“Some weeks I completely forgot about TV. I went two weeks with only watching one show, or no shows at all. I was just reading every day.”

ELIANA LITOS, 11, on her new e-reader.

This quote appeared in the New York Times yesterday. Though my 12-year-old reads vivaciously, I know he is in a minority of his friends. They are undeniably a screen generation, actually a multi-screen generation, and everything seems to be defined through the pixels of a screen.

This is not to say that they are each ensnared in their own little worlds, they are excited and seek ways to reach out and share experiences with their friends – through screens.

So the emergence of e-readers, of reading on mobile phones and computers is, I think, a step in the right direction. Yes, there is something that they will miss in the sensory experience of holding and smelling a book, of hearing the page crack as it is turned over.

But this generation never knew the experience of taking that vinyl record out of its sleeve, of reverently wiping the dist off and laying it onto the record player, before making alchemy of needle + vinyl = music. And yet, they still get the rush of a great song, of their body moving involuntarily to the beat, of the clarity of telling lyrics.

Am I getting carried away from one quote? Perhaps. Summer has arrived (so far) to Berkeley. The sky is blue, the air pungent, and everything’s gonna be alright!


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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

 

When Fiction Can Help Us Better Understand The World

It’s been a few weeks since I finished reading Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Amir and Hassan are still with me and I pay more attention when Afghanistan is mentioned, as it is too often unfortunately in our news.

But this is my point. Those of us who even bother these days to listen to the news on the radio, watch it on TV, or open a newspaper (paper or on-line), quickly become desensitized to a topic that is consistently appearing, especially if it is something that either we know little about from the beginning, or that little impact on our personal everyday life.

Afghanistan for me, prior to the war was a vague mountainous region where some tribes seemed able to prevent the powerful Soviet army from conquering it. That was about it.

Now, having read The Kite Runner, my ears perk up when the news mentions Afghanistan. I know what a Hazara is. I understand the NPR reporter’s language when he recounted how different ethnic groups were responding to the election.

This was all made possible for me by reading a fictional account of the land, history, people and culture. I am going to assume that Khaled Hosseini is painting a fairly accurate picture of Afghan society as he sees it. I cannot assume more.

But fiction can play an important part in providing understanding and awareness of what is taking place in the world. Perhaps it can also help provide a desire to demand and work for a sustainable future for, in this case, Afghanistan.

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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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