Monday, February 27, 2017

Diffused Congruence: Azhar Usman Returns!

For this month's show, we're joined once more by world renowned comedian and true force of nature Azhar Usman. With his previous appearance on our show remaining an audience favorite even two years later, we've been hoping for a return engagement, and Azhar didn't disappoint, having built up quite a backlog of things to discuss and comment on, including some thoughts on our current politics and how language is the key to the future. He also offers a window into some of the exciting projects he has coming up in the near future (including the all-new Amazon Prime series Patriot), and much more. Check out the show at the embed below or at this link. As always, send any questions or comments to diffusedcongruence@gmail.com, or at our Facebook page.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

From The Onion...

America's Finest News Source runs down the first 100 days of the Trump Administration and...at this point I don't even know if it's satire, to be honest.

Bill Paxton, RIP

Decisions, Decisions...

Nostalgia Theater: A Lack of Visionaries

By 1987, Hasbro had pretty thoroughly conquered the toy aisle thanks to the double-barrel impact of Transformers and G.I. Joe. Both of those mega-hits prompted the toymaker to plot new worlds to conquer, which led to the creation of Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light. I remember first seeing the commercials for this during a visit to Edmonton in the summer of 1987, and the catchy theme song and flashy animation in the commercials sure did the trick to get me stoked.

However, since we were headed back to Saudi Arabia in a few weeks I wouldn't find out until the following year that Visionaries had already come -- and gone. Like both of its Hasbro contemporaries (which were still continuing along), the marketing for Visionaries was built around the three-pronged approach of a Hasbro action figure line, a Marvel comic book, and an animated series from Marvel and Hasbro's own Sunbow Productions. The show premiered in syndication in September '87, and here's what the intro looked like:

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Enemy Within

Rumana Ahmed, who joined the National Security Council under President Obama, discusses her eight days as a Muslim working in Donald Trump's White House before finally resigning. An incredibly poignant -- and deeply disturbing -- piece about the people currently manning the levers of our country's soft and hard power. Here's a snippet:
The evening before I left, bidding farewell to some of my colleagues, many of whom have also since left, I notified Trump’s senior NSC communications advisor, Michael Anton, of my departure, since we shared an office. His initial surprise, asking whether I was leaving government entirely, was followed by silence––almost in caution, not asking why. I told him anyway.  
I told him I had to leave because it was an insult walking into this country’s most historic building every day under an administration that is working against and vilifying everything I stand for as an American and as a Muslim. I told him that the administration was attacking the basic tenets of democracy. I told him that I hoped that they and those in Congress were prepared to take responsibility for all the consequences that would attend their decisions.  
He looked at me and said nothing.  
It was only later that I learned he authored an essay under a pseudonym, extolling the virtues of authoritarianism and attacking diversity as a “weakness,” and Islam as “incompatible with the modern West.”
Much more at the link, and all of it is worth a read.

One to Commit the Crime, One to Cover it Up

Back before the election, someone I consider a dear personal friend shocked me when they said they were voting for Donald Trump. When asked why, they said he was clearly nuts, but if he did anything too nuts, obviously Congress would just impeach him. Obviously, because that's exactly how Congress -- this Congress, no less -- works. Anyway, the corruption had already begun before President Trump was even sworn in, and it hasn't abated in the month (gasp) since he took office. And why is that, you may ask? Because Congress -- you know, the they-can-just-impeach-him guys, have made sure to cover his tracks and salt the trail behind him. Here's Jonathan Chait with more, and if you're not irked by this, boy, you should be.

The MovieFilm Podcast: LEGO Batman, The Great Wall, and an Interview with Bill Nighy

After an extended break, the MovieFilm Podcast is back to talk up the latest batch of new releases out of Hollywood, including smash hit The LEGO Batman Movie and Matt Damon's period fantasy epic The Great Wall (which Zaki enjoyed more than most). In addition, listen to Zaki discuss the new romantic comedy Their Finest with its co-star, the delightfully droll Bill Nighy. After that, it's on to headlines, including the tumult behind DC/WB's The Batman, with star Ben Affleck dropping out of the director's chair, and our thoughts on the new trailer for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. But that's not all, there's also the usual Listener Letters and Star Wars news you've come to expect! Lots to listen for, and you can hear it all all via the embed below, or at iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play. As always, please hit "like" on our Facebook page, and send any questions or comments to MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Islamophobe-in-Chief

For several years now there's been a virulent and thriving anti-Muslim industry that has worked hard to propagate their Islamophobic views in policy circles. Once upon a time, these people -- including former Breitbart editor-in-chief Stephen Bannon -- were largely consigned to the fringiest parts of the fringe by even their ideological fellow travelers. That is, until this past November, when the election of Donald Trump improbably ushered them right into the White House thanks to the president's political advisor: the aforementioned Stephen Bannon. Here's a piece by Abigail Hauslohner at The Washington Post that lays out how hardcore twisted these folks are, and how their vision of a "pure" America is one without Muslims. Any Muslims.

Holy Moley

Wow, so this is what it's like to have a tweet go viral! I feel like I'm breathing rarified air right now.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Nostalgia Theater: Ark II -- After the Apocalypse on Saturday Mornings

During the 1970s, dominion of Saturday morning kidvid was divided between production houses Hanna-Barbara and Lou Scheimer & Norm Prescott's Filmation. Both companies had a variety of offerings proliferating on the three broadcast nets, but while Hanna-Barbara tended to stay in the safe "funny animals, wacky teenagers" territory (with some exceptions), it was Filmation that tended to really swing for the fences in terms of experimenting with content, format, and putting a variety of different stuff out there, including live action kids' shows. One such effort was Ark II, which premiered on CBS in September of 1976. Here's the intro:

Friday, February 17, 2017

Zaki's Review: The Great Wall

When the promo campaign for Universal/Legendary's big budget opus The Great Wall first kicked into gear last year, it seems like almost all of the commentary focused on the fact that we had a Chinese-set film about China's past made by a Chinese director -- that centered on an American actor: Matt Damon. Here we go, Hollywood whitewashing history yet again, right?

Oh, the Lies You'll Tell...

Here's some facts (real, not alternative) about the many, many whoppers that President Trump tossed out in yesterday's bravura display of crazy.

From The Onion...

I think this describes a lot of people I know.
Open-Minded Man Tries To Get News From Variety Of Facebook Friends
PHILADELPHIA—Stressing the importance of hearing all sides of a story, open-minded man Brendan Kelly told reporters Friday that he always tries to get his news from a variety of Facebook friends. “For a long time, I’d just get news from my buddy Mark, but then I realized how much I was closing myself off to other perspectives,” said Kelly, adding that it is all too easy to get caught up in narrow ways of thinking, and that he now seeks out at least three or four of his friends’ posts on any given topic to ensure he’s getting the full picture. “I’ll check out high school friends, college friends, work friends—it’s important to get a good mix. I’d be doing myself a real disservice if I blindly believed claims my friend Kevin made without at least trying to verify them with comments from Heather or Dan. You can’t just accept whatever’s fed to you, you know?” Kelly went on to say that while it was essential to get his news from a variety of Facebook friends, it was equally important to avoid obviously fringe sources such as Doug.

About That Press Conference Yesterday...

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wow.

This political cartoon on the right is by artist Glenn McCoy in response to the furor over Betsy DeVos being confirmed as Secretary of Education. I guess it's what passes for biting social commentary over in right wing world. I'll take "False Equivalences" for 500, Alex.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

More Recommended Reading

John Oliver returns to his HBO talker tonight, for his first show since Donald Trump took office, and man alive, if ever there was a need for the kind of cogent, fact-based comedy that Oliver has made his forte, this is it. Check out this extended interview with Rolling Stone as the Brit comedian ponders his program's role under the new order, and whether he'll even get to stay in the country given that he's here on a Green Card.

Recommended Reading

If you're not legit worried about Steve Bannon, President Trump's de facto top aide, and his outsized ambitions for this country now that he's been suddenly -- inexplicably! -- thrust into a policy role, you're not paying nearly enough attention. Read this overview by Michael Sifry at The Nation of Bannon's long record of public statements and pronouncements, and feel a chill travel down your spine.

Technical Issues

Nostalgia Theater: Star Trek's First Duty

I've been going through the entirety of Star Trek: The Next Generation with my kids, and we just watched the episode "The First Duty," which first aired in March of 1992, just over twenty-five years ago. The Next Generation always excelled when it staked the high ground in a moral argument and allowed Patrick Stewart the chance to speechify in his typical stentorian fashion as Captain Picard, and this episode's script by Ron Moore & Naren Shankar certainly gave him an opportunity for that.

The plot is devoid of the usual spacial anomalies and time-space distortions the Enterprise would typically encounter, and instead presents a moral quandary for guest star Wil Wheaton as Starfleet Cadet Wesley Crusher. This particular portion, coming in the third act, really shows off the show at its best. It's a vid that I show regularly in my Public Speaking classes not only for its exemplifying the uses of Ethos, Logos, and Pathos in persuasion, but also the underlying lesson about the importance of truth-telling in any context:

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Whither Obamacare?

From almost the instant last fall that Republicans knew they'd be taking total control of government, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the Holy Grail they'd been questing for since the law's passage seven years ago, was finally within their grasp. And yet, from the moment they took power, the realities of governing ran headlong into the necessities of campaigning as they grappled with the negative polling associated with forcibly ripping healthcare away from millions of people. That's generally an unpopular position. This in turn might explain why we're not really hearing about Obamacare repeal much these days, and when we do, it's as a, "Yeah, we'll get there eventually" can being kicked down the curb. Why the switch? Jonathan Chait has some thoughts.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Nightmare Sauce

If anyone's looking for me, I'll be over there in the corner never sleeping ever again.
Doctors discover live cockroach in skull of woman who says she felt ‘crawling sensation’

Legion of Dumb

Nostalgia Theater: Super Force Edition

During the early '90s heyday of syndication, we saw a whole host of original programming emerge on local stations from content providers hoping to take advantage of the flexibility of bypassing networks. Sometimes this paid off quite handsomely, such as with Paramount's Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, which managed to be both creatively compelling and financially rewarding. And while it wasn't exactly Proust, Baywatch was still a huge syndicated success. Other times though, you ended with stuff like Super Force. Here, watch this:

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Left Shew Politics Podcast, Vol. 1 / Ep. 7

Click below to check out the latest episode of the Left Shew Politics Podcast, hosted by my buddy Rick Shew and featuring an interview with yours truly as we take a look at President Trump's first week in office, and try to make sense of the horrible, draconian immigration ban he's put in place via executive action. If you dig it, jump over to iTunes and subscribe!

New Interview!

The good folks at Al-Madina Institute and IMANWire talked to my partner Parvez Ahmed and myself a few months ago about all things Diffused Congruence: The American Muslim Experience, and the text and audio of the interview have just one up. Give it a listen below, or read some highlights here, as we talk the origins of the show, the aftermath of the election, and more!