Stephen Fry in America

In a new six-part series that debuted on BBC earlier this month, Stephen Fry travels, mostly in a London cab (not the same one he actually drives when in Britain), through all 50 states of the country that he could have nearly called home and which has always fascinated him. In this first episode, he explores the states that make up New England, before heading south to Washington, D.C. and ending up at the civil war battlefield of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.

More from episode one is available here.

Fry describes why he made the series on his blog:

Most people who are obsessed by America are fascinated by the physical – the cars, the music, the movies, the clothes, the gadgets, the sport, the cities, the landscape and the landmarks. I am interested in all of those, of course I am, but I (perhaps because of my father’s decision) am interested in something more. I have always wanted to get right under the skin of American life. To know what it really is to be American, to have grown up and been schooled as an American; to work and play as an American; to romance, labour, succeed, fail, feud, fight, vote, shop, drift, dream and drop out as an American; to grow ill and grow old as an American.

For years then, I have harboured deep within me the desire to make a series of documentary films about ‘the real’ America. Not the usual road movies in a Mustang and certainly not the kind of films where minority maniacs are trapped into making exhibitions of themselves. It is easy enough to find Americans to sneer at if you look hard enough, just as it is easy to find ludicrous and lunatic Britons to sneer at. Without the intention of fawning and flattering then, I did want to make an honest film about America, an unashamed love letter to its physical beauty and a film that allowed Americans to reveal themselves in all their variety.

Fry talks here to Tim Dowling of The Guardian about the series and his fascination with America.


Friedman: “Hot, Flat & Crowded”

On to more interesting things… Here are two excepts from a lecture by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and NYT columnist Tom Friedman at the Sixth and I Synagogue last month concerning his new book Hot, Flat & Crowded. In the first, he criticizes the U.S. government for inaction on the fight against global warming, and calls for a “Code Green” approach to clean energy development.

In the second excerpt, he discusses the increasing trend of developing nations to aspire to U.S. levels of economic consumption, and warns that this trend may be extremely detrimental to the global environment.

The complete talk can be viewed at the website. Quite amusing that the corporate sponsor is Chevron. Oh, and by the way, here’s a little something Friedman had to say recently on NPR’s Fresh Air speaking about energy taxation being a burden on the working class that might ring a bell with some:

…[I]t should be revenue-neutral: we should tax what we don’t want, such as people using fossil fuels, raising taxes on that, and lower taxes on what we do want, which is people working. Which is why whatever tax increase we impose on oil, coal, or natural gas we should then take off on the other side from people’s weekly payroll deduction. To me, it should be revenue neutral for all but the wealthiest Americans.”

What insanity!

Palin on SNL

Well, did you watch it? I thought it was pretty funny given the constraints they’re obviously working within.

The downside of course is, as was noted in the comments yesterday, that such an appearance only works in her favour to “humanize” her. Over at The Corner they selected a typical response from their readers:

“I watched Governor Palin on SNL last night. Though I was uncomfortable with all the slams against her as she stood and sat there during the skits, I came away with even more admiration for her. She can stand with those that are vehemently opposed to her, yet show grace, humor and strength. That is exactly the kind of strength, poise and conviction of values that we desperately need in the highest office of our land.”

Groan. Yes, having the “strength” to appear on a late-night comedy program is exactly the sort of quality the American nation needs at a time of imminent financial, military and geopolitical crisis. Good lord, what morons.

McCain is Toast

Yet another nail in McCain’s coffin. This will really hurt in critical swing states like Florida and Virginia (the fact that it’s even in play this year says something) with large military constituencies.

Just listen to the whining and sour grapes from the Right via TownHall:

His rationale for his endorsement is what gives the game away. They’re two of the tropes most beloved by the elites and the media. Coincidence?

I think not. Colin Powell has long been known as someone who cares enormously about the opinion of the elite media — and, frankly, elites of all kinds. Clearly, his reputation has taken a beating in those rarified circles ever since he (along with Joe Biden, incidentally) supported the Iraq war. He’s desperate to regain his supposed “stature,” and this is a quick and easy way to do it.

Obviously, if his support for Barack were predicated on principle alone, Powell would have endorsed him back in July, when Barack was courting him, well before the Democrat Convention — when it would have been huge. Instead, he chose to wait until the media had anointed Obama a certain winner, and the polls are encouraging.

I’m sure there’s plenty of harsher comments trashing Powell and impugning his motives out there in the wingnut-o-sphere.

Should He Stay, or Should He Go?

Okay. In response to comments in a previous thread about potential leadership alternatives that presumed Dion would be announcing his departure on Monday, from those who, for whatever reason, felt that it was perhaps somewhat unfair of me to work from that premise, let’s accordingly ask a rather different question today (as has already been posed elsewhere).

I would respectfully ask committed Conservatives and those others who would never, ever (not in a million, zillion years) vote Liberal to refrain from weighing in on this one. At least on the poll-thingee. Your comments are, of course, always welcome.

And while we’re on the subject of leadership ambivalence, here’s a delightful blast from the recent past (maybe also a cautionary note) from across the pond.