Saturday, April 16, 2016

West Wing best scenes

While there are a select few out there who don't agree, The West Wing, which ran from 1999-2006 on NBC, is one of the better shows about politics and government, ever produced. As an undergrad at Whittier College one of my professors felt so strongly about this that he actually assigned the show as homework; this was before streaming services, so I vividly remember getting an exam question wrong that asked about "Leo McGarry" (I didn't do the "homework"). To this day I still think it was unfair for my professor to assign a TV show as required viewing. But years later I was given the boxset, and finally watched the show in its entirety. I have now watched all 7 seasons at least 3 times, and a few episodes more than others.

For this post I select what I think are the 10 best scenes from its 7 season run. Some of the scenes I select for their humor, and others for their savvy use of political science theories, or recognition of my field. Beware, SPOILERS ABOUND.

10.  S2 E19 Bad Moon Rising
In this scene, White House counsel, Oliver Babbish played by guest star Oliver Platt, complains about a broken recorder of his that won't turn off. In the next scene President Bartlet comes into Babbish's office to admit he has been concealing his relapsing remitting MS. Realizing this, Babbish picks up his oversized gavel and violently smashes the recorder.
WHY WE LIKE IT: Hilarious!



9. S2 E13 Barlet's Third State of the Union
In this scene, Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman discusses the results of a poll the White House put in the field. Here, pollster Joey Lucas describes what could be response bias, given the way the question was asked, or interpreted, to explain that the numbers aren't always right.
WHY WE LIKE IT: RESPONSE BIAS! in action.



8. S2 E26 In This White House
In this memorable scene Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn confidently approaches his counterpart Ansley Hayes for a debate on the fictious DC news program Capital Beat (think "Crossfire"). Both the host and Sam assume Ansley was sent to be an empty skirt, until she handily takes Seaborn down, when he incorrectly identifies Kirkwood as in California.
WHY WE LIKE IT: Score one for the matriarchy 



7. S2 E3 The Midterms
Here, President Barlet stops by the Radio Broadcaster event at the White House, and takes down a talk show radio host for her selective interpretation of the Bible. This scene is key to the series' story arc about President Barlet's religiosity.
WHY WE LIKE IT: Presidential leadership is more than brute strength and military might. 



6. S6 E18 La Palabra
Here, Congressman Matt Santos, who is running for president at Josh Lyman's urging, explains why he's willing to take out a second mortgage on his home in order to run in the presidential primary in his home state of Texas.
WHY WE LIKE IT: Identity politics in (subtle) action



5. S2 E2 In the Shadow of Two Gunman Part II
After being shot, Josh Lyman is experiencing PTSD. At Leo's urging, Josh sees a psychiatrist. Afterwards, Leo explains why he was so persistent in getting Josh help with this excellent story about a guy in a hole.
WHY WE LIKE IT: Sentimentality  




4. S7 E2 The Mommy Problem
In the presidential campaign to elect Bartlet's successor, Josh explains the 'Mommy Problem' to Congressman Santos, which is the theory that in times of crisis the public wants a father; when the public is concerned most about domestic issues the public wants a mommy. This reflects the idea of issue ownership, and agenda setting, which makes my political science heart sing!
WHY WE LIKE IT: Political science agenda setting manipulation

Unfortunately I can't find this video clip but here is the quote:

Josh: People think the campaign's about two competing answers to the same question. They're not. They're a fight over the question itself.

Josh: When voters want a national daddy...someone to be tough and strong and defend the country, they vote Republican. When they want a mommy, someone to give them jobs, health care...the policy equivalent of matzoh ball soup, they vote Democratic.

3. S2 E 22 Two Cathedrals 
In another display of President Bartlet's struggle with his faith, this scene shows Barlet cursing God after his longtime assistant and friend, Doris Landingham, died in a car accident.
WHY WE LIKE IT: Internal conflict


2. S1 E2 Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc
In this scene, Communications Director CJ Cregg explains that comments made by then candidate Barlet offended residents of Texas, and thus assumes that these comments are why they lost Texas. To which President Bartlet responds "Post Hoc Ergo Proper Hoc... Do you know when we lost Texas?" And CJ coyly responds, "When you learned to speak latin?" Bartlet: "Go figure."
WHY WE LIKE IT: POLITICAL METHODOLOGY: Correlation versus Causation. 



...and the unofficial greatest scene of The West Wing...

1. S3 E16 Dead Irish Writers
In this unforgettable display of political cunning, President Bartlet fools everyone, including his staff, into thinking he accidentally insults the Republican presidential nominee with a perfect gun metaphor, on local television in the swing state of Pennsylvania. Of Robert Richie President Barlet says, "I think we might be talking about a .22 caliber mind in a .357 magnum world."
WHY WE LIKE IT: Regional politics and message framing






Thursday, November 26, 2015

Before I forget... Basketball shoes

I cant quite remember why, but I loved watching the NBA when I was a kid. Its not like my dad was a big fan, nor was my older brother. And growing up in Idaho meant I didn't have a local team for whom to cheer. But I was a fanatic. I would never miss Ahmad Rashad and Hannah Storm on NBA Inside Stuff. Inside Stuff also had a magazine, and I was a subscriber--I read each issue cover to cover, several times, and would tear out articles and pictures to put up in my locker, or in the front of my binder, to broadcast my fandom. Plus, each magazine would include a poster, and so my bedroom walls were covered in blown up pictures of Grant Hill, Reggie Miller, Stephon Marbury, Allen Iverson, and Kobe Bryant.



As I got older, I tuned into the show less, but was still crazy about the NBA. And I also turned out to be pretty good at basketball. I grew up across the street from a kid, Chase, who also played basketball, and he and I would play one-on-one, bump, and just shoot around, several times a week. Playing against him, consistently, is probably one of the reasons I turned out to be pretty good at basketball. Side note, his dad was a girls basketball coach--I played varsity at Meridian High, but Chase's dad coached varsity at Centennial High. Centennial was really good at basketball for decades, but my junior and senior year Meridian was the best in the league, so I always found it kind of funny that Meridian was good those years, in part, because I was good, and I was good because of the Centennial High coach's son.

Because I was pretty crazy about the NBA, I would also select my own jersey number based on my favorite player if it was available, and also I would wear the shoes of my favorite players, if I could convince my parents to spend that much money on basketball shoes.

And I've decided to reminisce about basketball shoes because there is this semi new song on the radio, White Iverson by Post Malone which got me thinking back to my own basketball days. In "White Iverson" he sings about basketball in general, but mostly Allen Iverson. He sings

I got me some braids and I got me some hoes (Iverson wore corn rows)
Started rockin' the sleeve, I can't ball with no Joes(Iverson wore the long sleeve over his elbow)
You know how I do it, Concords on my toes(Apparently, in college at Georgetown Iverson wore Concords--he didn't have a shoe deal yet)
....
I'm the new 3 and I change out to my new 3s(Iverson wore the number three, and his shoes were called the I3s)

Allen Iverson was one of my favorite players, and between 1998-2001 I owned three pairs of Iversons "The Question"--in yellow, metallic blue, and red. The song "White Iverson" is Post Malone referring to himself as the White Iverson (THANKS RAP GENUIS!).

My first NBA obsession was Detroit Piston, Grant Hill. In 7th grade I played AAU league basketball and wore the #33. I also had the Grant Hill Fila shoes, but I cant find any pictures of me in the shoes, unfortunately. It was 1996, and they were hideous.

1996 Fila, Grant Hill

in 8th and 9th grade my new favorite player was rookie Kobe Bryant. He took Brandy to Prom, and then went straight to the NBA! What a badass! I'll never forget taking my first pair of Kobe's out of the box. They were called the Crazy 8, after Kobe's first jersey number with the Lakers, no. 8.
The Kobe's, 1997
I wore the Kobe's my 8th grade year and also my freshman year, when I was on Meridian High's Freshman "A" team. Im not sure why, but I wore the number 50 for the next two years.
They made us wear mouth guards. But no one made me wear those socks.
My Sophomore year I was obsessed with Antoine Walker for reasons I cant recall. It was 1998 and he was in his second season with the Boston Celtics. He also had a contract with Adidas. I wore these shoes my sophomore year, when I played on Meridian High's JV basketball team.

Antoine Walker's Adidas


My junior year I made the varsity team and went pretty crazy with my shoe selection. I had the red Adidas Super Stars (I guess I really liked Adidas), but also the Iverson's in Yellow and Red. I remember my Red Iverson's were stolen and I was so so upset. Fortunately I still had the Red Superstars and Yellow Iverson's. Also, I got the number 33 back! but had stopped wearing the Grant Hill shoes--just the number.


The Question, in red


My yellow Iversons
We went into the State Championships that season with an 18-1 record. But finished 4th in the state that year; we lost the consolation game to Boise High.

My senior year I stuck with the Iverson's, but this time I went with Blue to match MHS's blue and gold colors.



my metallic blue Iversons (the internet says its "pearlized navy")
We went to the state tournament with a 14-6 record, and finished 4th again; we lost the consolation game this time to Madison High.

I had a pretty solid selection of shoes in the late 1990s and wanted to be sure to remember it all, before I forget.




Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A wedding, beaches, and bird watching

Last month, 2 of my best friends got married!!! I actually introduced them, though I'll be honest and say I wasn't necessarily trying to set them up. But once I saw they were interested in each other, it made sense. The wedding was beautiful, and I got to be one of her bridesmaids. The bridesmaids all had different dresses, but they were all black and floral. The groomsmen all had different floral ties. Every detail was perfect. Here are some pics from the day.



Then last weekend I went to Pismo with my Huntington Beach friends. At Pismo you can drive out and camp directly on the sand, so that is what we did. Kyle and I did dinner one of the nights--we grilled basil tomato cheese sandwiches. Not to toot my own horn, but they were friggin good. Kyle is a birdwatcher, and so we spent a little bit of time walking the beaches identifying shore birds, but then more time in Santa Barbara at a bird reserve. it was so cool. And I was able to hang in Santa B, even just for a day. I hadn't been back since my graduation in 2010.





Thursday, June 25, 2015

office selfies

a thing i do is take office selfies to keep track of just how disheveled i tend to look when i have early classes; and also capture the rare chance that i look perfectly put together before a lecture :)
as you can see, i wear about 3-4 solid colors. I'm a real fashionista!

here is my academic year 2014-2015 office selfie report!


Monday, May 25, 2015

Kaitlyn's Bachelorette: Ep 1

My favorite podcast of late is Popaganda, "the feminist response to pop culture," produced by Bitch Media. The title of the latest episode is "Guilty Pleasures." In this episode host Sara Mirk admits to blasting Top 40s pop when she's alone, and interviews other feminists who admit to love affairs with macho action films, Game of Thrones, and Rom Coms. The guilt that accompanies each of these pleasures for the women in this episode stems from their acknowledged consumption of something that isn't likely feminist--macho films elevate men as the heroes, Game of Thrones is gratuitously violent and sexual, and Rom Coms usually suggest a woman's singular pursuit is the love of a man. And yet, feminists and non-feminists alike, consume it all. 

I was actually in the process of thinking about getting back into blogging about the Bachelorette when this podcast aired. It struck a chord, because the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise has long been my personal guilty pleasure. I justify my interest in the show by telling friends I watch it for the psychological aspect. And its true, I am fascinated by the decisions made in the truly experimental, abnormal setting that is the famed Bachelor Mansion. But I also love it for the same reason other people love it--the drama! 
bach mansion
As you probably expected, I have decided to indulge my guilty pleasure and watch this season of the Bachelorette. But I decided to critique the show, in case anyone was curious as to why this show makes me feel so guilty.

What's Wrong with the Bachelorette?


The typical critique of the Bachelorette/Bachelor is that the shows are embarrassingly white. Of the 19 bachelors and 16 bachelorettes, all have been white, with the exception of the 18th bachelor, Juan Pablo, who is an American-born Venezuelan. Furthermore, the contestants selected for the show are also overwhelmingly white, though I don't know the ratio, nor do I have data on the degree to which individuals of other races and ethnicities apply to be on the show. That would be an interesting data set. 


But even if we over look the racial under-representation, there is still the problem with sexuality and class. That "problem" being that where media focus on particular classes and categories of people over others, those classes are promoted and often elevated. I do understand, though, that the targeted audiences are likely to drive the heterosexual premise of the show. If you're interested, Jesse Tyler Ferguson (of Modern Family fame) starred in a hilarious spoof of The Bachelor (with host George Takai!) if the show were to produce a gay spinoff. SPOILER ALERT the gay men in the house just date each other instead of vying for the attention of one man. 


Regarding class, the contestants, especially the men, are middle-to-upper class. And I suppose this makes sense. It might be problematic for the show to encourage financially unstable people to enter into longterm commitments. But its very clear that the 19 men selected to be the main Bachelors are especially financially secure. Bachelor 19, Chris Soules, may be a humble, hardworking farmer, but he's also a millionaire. Other former Bachelors include Andrew Firestone, of Firestone tires, worth 50 million, self-proclaimed businessman Bob Guiney worth 1.5 million, an Italian Prince, and Juan Pablo is a millionaire as well. A few others are *only* worth 500-600k, like two-time bachelor Brad Womack, Sean Lowe, and professional fisherman Byron Velvick. (An embarrassing amount of googling was invested in writing this paragraph).


Also, there is obviously a preference for younger women on the show. The men are young as well, but the women especially are more likely to be in their 20s. This just further perpetuates the stigma that older women are less deserving of sexual desire and love. I don't know about the average age of the contestants vying for love (I only have so much time to devote to bachelorette blogging!), but the average age of the Bachelors is 32. The average age of the Bachelorettes is 28. To put this in some context, the average marrying age for women in the US is 27, and for men the average is 29.

Finally, my last issue with the show has to do with the way the show treats sex, and furthermore, the public and personal shame that results when the cast members have sex prior to the arbitrary fantasy suite date, which for some reason has established itself as the magical number/date for appropriate sex. The fantasy suite dates are around week 9, when there are 3 contestants still left; this is the week after the hometown dates. If any sex happens before this night, the fallout is pretty disastrous. Ive only watched the series since 2009, but in that time there have been a few memorable fallouts from pre-fantasy suite sex. For instance, Juan Pablo and Claire Crawley "went in the ocean" one night and yada yada yada. During the show, they never refer to what they did as sex… its merely "that night in the ocean" or "what happened in the ocean." It was so strange to hear a show that is so overtly sexual, tiptoe around actual sex.


an annoying Juan Pablo and a sad Claire
And then in the previews for the current season, its clear that Kaitlyn has sex with someone before week 9. In the previews we see her crying on multiple occasions about her "mistake" and feeling really terrible for what she did. If she feels bad, fine. But it looks to me that she's more so embarrassed by the implications of having sex before week 9. Which, to me, is so stupid. If the show were about monogamy and abstinence, then I would get it. But its not. which is part of what makes it so popular. The International Business Times reports (Um, okay?) on an interview with Entertainment Tonight, where Kaitlyn said she wasn't ashamed of having sex and the tears were more so because she worried that her actions would jeopardize her relationships with the other men. You can read that here.




Kaitlyn in the previews for the season: "I made a huge mistake."
OK, back to MY guilt, not hers. The under-representations of race, sexuality, class, age, and implications of sexual behavior can have resounding effects on our societal beliefs about love and deservingness--that only white, upper-class, straight, physically flawless, young people deserve love.

But what is clear is this show, while technically "reality TV," is not at all characteristic of what's real when dating. This show is not about what's normal or average, because of course these people aren't average, and the situation is not normal, which is why their behaviors are so entertaining. But the show does likely perpetuate an ideal for young men and women to subscribe. And it's one to which I do not...

...And yet, I love to watch. Why? I think my enthusiasm for the show is that I love to analyze people's behaviors and speculate on underlying motivation for their actions. Are they insecure? Inexperienced? Inebriated? This show puts people in a situation that is so absurd--25 single men vying for the attention of 1 woman, with no other women around!--that insecurities, inexperience and inebriation are very likely.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Man Enough? Talk at Boise State

I was invited to speak about my research by the political science department at Boise State, this Friday, at noon, as a part of their "Brown Bag" lunch series. I am really looking forward to it!

Their Blue Review, which is a newsletter edited by the College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs, published a nice summary of what I plan to discuss, and you can read that here:

https://thebluereview.org/female-candidates-presidency-masculinity/

I wish I could embed the entire article, here, but I am not that tech savvy.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Meredith lately

Here's what I've been up to, lately!

Kyle came to town in February and we went to Palm Springs with some of my friends.

We also took in a Ducks game. "The quack attack is back, baby!"
Anita Hill came to my campus to speak about equal rights, workplace harassment, and the importance of descriptiverepresentation in our political institutions such as the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Supreme Court.
 My kittens are still the cutest.