Politics as Usual

Are you sick of the Republican primaries and caucuses yet? I’m not. I find it all unfortunately compelling. I really do try to limit my exposure to politicians, but the fact that there actually appears to be a contest makes for good television. Well, at some point, we should try to define “good” television.

The the thing is, politics and entertainment really are dangerously close. The biggest thing that popular politics has in common with the rest of the entertainment industry is the suspension of disbelief. This suspension is most evident in science fiction and fantasy:  “I know that horses can’t talk, but I won’t let my skepticism of the concept keep me from following the story.” Reality television also relies on the suspension of disbelief, but it is a bit more hidden:  “I know that these scenes are edited and contrived and that these people are acting (whether they really appreciate it or not,) but I won’t let that stop me from following the story and becoming emotionally attached to characters.” But we rarely give voice to these thoughts; the decision to ignore inconsistencies isn’t always a conscious one. When watching Mr. Ed, it isn’t a fresh struggle against skepticism every time the horse talks. We basically just turn off our skepticism as soon as we turn on the television without even having to make the conscious thought “I know what I am about to watch is not real, but I’ll ignore that fact.”

When applied to politicians, the thought is very similar: “I know that they are trying to sell me something by making promises that are unrealistic and claims that are dubious, but that won’t stop me from developing an emotional attachment to one politician because I like his unrealistic promises and dubious claims more than the other guy’s.” What makes it particularly interesting is when disbelief is not suspended uniformly: “I really believe in this candidate’s unrealistic promises and rhetoric! The other guy’s unrealistic promises are lies!” And it is all particularly entertaining when we get totally sucked in and ignore that we know it’s just a show.

Beer of the Week: NZ Pure Lager – The good people at Boundary Road Brewery are hard at work in New Zealand. They brew giant international brands Tuborg, Carlsberg and Kingfisher under licence, but they also have their own line of local, unique craft beers. And somewhere between these two groups is their NZ Pure line. NZ Pure Lager is their large scale domestic product. It is called Pure because there are neither additives nor preservatives. (Incidentally, I suspect that the lack of preservatives and the green bottle combine to account for the bulk of the bad reviews this beer gets; it really ought to be consumed as soon after bottling as possible to keep it from going bad.) Of the two bottles I had, one seemed to have succumbed to light damage. The other, was an ok beer. It was light, and clear with a quickly fading, foamy, white head. When served ice cold, it was certainly a serviceable drinking beer.

Reading of the week: Act 4, Scene 2 of Henry VI, Part 2 by William Shakespeare – Jack Cade was the leader of a populist rebellion in 1450. Like most popular politicians, Cade got his power from his rhetoric and promises to improve people’s lives. In Henry VI, Part 2, Shakespeare bases a character on Mr. Cade and makes him a stereotypical politician: a crook who puts on airs and makes extravagant, impossible promises. “The three-hooped pot; shall have ten hoops and I will make it felony to drink small beer.”

Question of the week: Does Cade propose the ban on small beer (traditional low alcohol beer, widely consumed for hydration and as a supplemental source of calories) because it has alcohol or because it doesn’t have enough alcohol?