Archive for January 27th, 2014

by lizard

If I can find the stomach for it, I may tune in to the state of our union. At least the beginning, to see if Obama will adhere to the mostly consistent projection of confidence that the state of our union is strong.

I don’t expect president Obama to go all Gerald Ford circa 1975:

What I will be looking for is some presidential pushback against the congressional insurrection against Iran diplomacy. I’m also a little curious if Obama will drop any hints about the insidious Trans-Pacific Partnership. I try to avoid using RT as a source, but I’ll lazily reference this:

Congressional leaders on the US trade policy have introduced legislation that would grant President Barack Obama “fast-track authority” to enact three looming global trade accords, including the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership.

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R) and top Senate Finance Committee members Max Baucus (D) and Orrin Hatch (R) on Thursday unveiled the Trade Priorities Act of 2014 that would require a simple up-or-down vote on major trade deals without the opportunity to offer amendments to pertinent bills.

The [Trade Priorities Act] legislation we are introducing today will make sure that these trade deals get done, and get done right,” Sen. Baucus said in a statement. “This is our opportunity to tell the administration – and our trading partners – what Congress’s negotiating priorities are.”

The Obama administration is seeking the heightened authority in trade deals, allowing the Executive Branch to smooth congressional negotiations on accords. The two major deals, both long in the works, that are likely to be subject to such legislation are the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the 28-nation pact with the European Union, the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA). The deals would establish the world’s largest so-called free-trade zones.

It would be cool if Obama gave a shout out to Jamie Dimon, like, hey Jamie, nice bonus you got there buddy! In the real world costing your company billions in fines doesn’t usually feature such lavish perks. If you are tempted to be perturbed by Dimon’s illogical compensation, just watch this convenient 60 Minutes gusher about Year Up.

I’m also curious to see if/how Obama spins austerity amidst the continued splurging on “defense”. Those two issues would of course never appear in proximity to each other, but both merit at least a mention.

Anyway, consider this a State of the Union open thread.

by lizard

I’ve sometimes wondered what allowed me to resist the suburban conditioning of my youth. Was it experimenting with mind-alerting substances? My appetite for reading? My anti-authoritarian tendencies?

After reading a fascinating article yesterday, there’s a new possibility I can add to the potential factors at play in my formative years: Fraggle Rock.

Elizabeth Stevens has a piece titled Why the Ideal Creative Workplace Looks A Lot Like “Fraggle Rock” published last month at The Awl, and it’s a great read. Here’s an excerpt describing Jim Henson’s vision for the show:

“Fraggle Rock” “was made in service of a compelling vision,” Stevenson said. When Jim Henson brought together the three people who would ultimately create the world of “Fraggle Rock”—head writer Jerry Juhl, designer Michael Frith, and writer Joceyln Stevenson—he told them he wanted to make an international show that would “help stop war.” His initial producer on the project, Duncan Kenworthy, said that everyone “almost laughed” at him, because “it’s such a—on the face of it—impossible, enormous, grandiose sort of idea.”

Henson not only made an anti-war show, he did it with a light hand and silliness. The episode “Fraggle Wars” deals with McCarthyism overtly (“My name is Mokey Fraggle, and I am not now nor have I ever been a member of the enemy Fraggles”). But most of the time, the message is imperceptible; it was written in the structure of the show’s universe. In the show there are three species that don’t see eye-to-eye, both figuratively and literally. The Doozers were “knee-high to a Fraggle,” and the Gorgs were sheer giants. In DVD interviews, Kenworthy explained that “Fraggle Rock” modeled how conflicts could be “loosened” by exploring each of the different points of view involved. Adults may be a lost cause, but “the children,” he said, “could understand the Gorgs… the Fraggles… the Doozers, and see why they couldn’t understand each other.”

“Fraggle Rock” was made a few years before the toppling of the Berlin Wall and aired in countries across the world (the United States, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and eastern Europe). It was key that the show rejected the “good versus evil” thinking of the Cold War, and introduced the idea of being a global citizen to an emerging Millennial generation during their most formative years. Did Henson stop war? No, but he may have helped change the attitude of the next generation. The very fact that the show had a compelling mission—this dream of peace—made it a peaceful place to work.

Read the whole article, it’s great. Stevens delves into Henson’s Fraggle Rock workplace to figure why literally everyone who worked on the show said it was the best job they ever had. What she finds is the antidote to corporate culture.

Another world is possible.

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