Thursday, October 15, 2015
On "Seinfeld" and Nothingness: As the predominant sitcom on American network TV (NBC) in the 1990s, Seinfeld was largely a show about nothingness. But nothingness is something. And to that point, nothingness can be defined within a spectrum of things, mostly minutia. Perhaps Seinfeld was at its best when minutia (or trivial details) became prevailing motifs/themes in any given episode. With episode titles like "The Parking Space" and "The Gum," Seinfeld was still able to maintain a full story (with sub-plots and counter narratives) on what would otherwise be considered trivial matters. If anything, the show teaches its audience that human existence really does center on the "little things." Whether it's a trip to the post office or a phone call to order Chinese food, individuals are conditioned to believe that such events are relatively meaningless in the grand scheme of their lives. Yet if taken personally enough, that phone call to order Chinese food could quickly contain infinite meaning (especially if you have to make an existential choice between "Wonton" and "Hot and Sour" soup when you have a peanut allergy).
Thursday, October 1, 2015
On the Intellectual Roots of Modern Liberalism: After World War I, a swift dissolution of Progressivism occurred in the United States, which effectively divided liberals into two main groups. On one hand, there were the moral, middle-class types who pushed for prohibition, women's suffrage, and a general "leveling" of social classes. While on the other hand, there were the radical, elitist types who advocated the establishment of a new industrial "order" (or "lack of order") to guide the masses. And it was the latter of the two groups, which included folks like H. L. Mencken, Randolph Bourne, Emma Goldman, and Floyd Dell, whose ideas precipitated the kind of American liberalism that emerged in the 1960s. Of the four aforementioned candidates, perhaps the greatest example of "modern liberal" thinking in the 1920s was Mencken. His classically sarcastic reporting for The Baltimore Sun coupled with his general preference for anything European over anything American made him one of the first elitist snobs to garner mass attention in American society. In particular, Mencken took special pride in introducing the American public to radical European thinkers such as George Bernard Shaw and Friedrich Nietzsche, whom he believed epitomized modern liberal thought in an industrializing and urbanizing world.