Upcoming Appearances

I have a couple of dramatically different talk show appearances coming up. On Monday, August 22, you can listen to a prerecorded segment on Real Perspectives with LeTonya Moore, at 6:30pm EST. LeTonya is and African American Christian, who does a pleasant and positive program.

JAMES LAMBERT UPDATED

And, for something completely different, I will be talking live with Nick Spero on his Circus Maximus Show, Friday, September 2, at 9pm CST. Nick is a conspiracy theorist, anti-Semite, White Nationalist, from what I can tell. He tweeted that we, “do not see eye to eye on many things,” but assured me that, “It will be a laid back conversation for the most part.” I said it’s more like we are standing back to back, looking in opposite directions, to which he replied, “Good point. So let’s be gentlemen. Take 10 paces. Turn around & fire. See what happens in our “Duel”.”

Is it wise or worth it to go into the belly of the beast, so to speak? I don’t know but I am curious to talk to someone this deep and find out how he got there.

Podcast: Jews and Conspiracy Theories

After I got sick last year and had my voice come and go for a couple months it became very easy to ignore my fledgling podcast. Finally I had to decide if this was really a thing or if I should just get rid of it. I told myself that I don’t have the equipment or time to this the way I would ideally want to but that’s such a copout. So I’ve made my choice and I’ve recommit myself to producing This must be the podcast.

The latest episode (available on Spreaker, Soundcloud, iTunes, and YouTube) is my first without a guest and I plan on continuing to do both formats in the future. This one is a short lecture about where conspiracy theories come from.

It is similar to an article I wrote a few months ago, “The Poison Mushroom,” but each has details not found in the other.

poison mushroom jew hating

The idea that conspiracist thinking is inexorably linked to racism and bigotry is something that many people take offense to whenever I mention it, particularly conspiracy theorists, but I haven’t had anyone make any rational arguments about how I am wrong.

Hope you will check it out and share it with others. More episodes coming soon!

I’m on AM1130 Monday Morning

Up and At Em KTLK AM1130

You can catch me on the Up & At Em morning program on KTLK AM1130 in the Twin Cities, Monday, August 15 at 8am CST. We will be discussing the assassination of President Kennedy, my film, Conspiracy Theorists Lie (2015) and the dangers of conspiracy theories in general. If you can’t tune in live I’m sure they will post the podcast version after words on their site.

UPDATE:

My interview has been moved to a new Bat Time, 8:15am; same Bat Station.

UPDATE:

Here is the podcast of the hour I was on.

Netflix Originals

It’s crazy how much good TV is being made these days, both on traditional broadcast TV channels and Internet streaming services. I can’t keep up with all the things people tell me I, “really have to see.” I can’t even keep up with all the things people tell me to watch on Netflix alone, but I have been trying.

netflix original

Last month I was able to make it through the second season of Marco Polo (2014-). It’s questionable how much of Polo’s version of his own life was accurately recorded by him in the first place but the show also takes a great deal of liberties with the historical record. You could say that it is a fictionalization of a fictionalization, but that is often the case and it sure looks good. My big complaint is that the show really should be called, “Kublai Khan,” because Kublai (Benedict Wong) is the most interesting character and the principle driver of events. I don’t think this fact has been lost on the Netflix team, considering that the ad they emailed me on July 1 to announce the return of the series centered on Kublai with Marco (Lorenzo Richelmy) looking on from the background.

marco polo email

You can also see this reflected in the trailer for season 2, which doesn’t even pretend to be about Marco, the way the first season’s trailer fools you into thinking the story centers around him.

I noticed a similar problem with Narcos (2015-). Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura) is by far the best and most important character in that show but you have to suffer through DEA Agent Steve Murphy’s (Boyd Holbrook) boring storyline and horrible voiceover narration to get to the worthwhile parts. It makes me think that Netflix is afraid to have any culturally different shows without tethering them to a white man.

Any husker du, regardless of my slight misgivings, I enjoyed Marco Polo enough to recommend it. It’s no Game of Thrones (2011-), maybe Vikings (2013-) or Rome (2005-2007) would be a better comparison, but it does have a fantasy world charm to it. The sets and the costumes (the mise en scène) and many of the visual effects are stunning, with some compelling characters to boot. But your next binge-worthy series really needs to be Stranger Things (2016-).

If you have fond memories of the 80s, or any borrowed nostalgia for them, you’ll love it. Many people, including Stephen King, have said that it plays off (or rips off) Stephen King’s work, but there’s also E.T. (1982), Goonies (1985) and more going on in this show; including older influences, like The Twilight Zone (1959-1964). The great thing is that it’s not just a cheesy, slapped together and completely predictable recreation of the 80s; it’s a really well done production that’s retro and modern at the same time. There’s also some good use of music – from pop hits like, “I melt with you,” that everyone knows, to more obscure stuff, like Joy Division – which is often critical to making a good show, great.

Of course, nothing’s perfect, and the one small problem I have with Stranger Things is the way it feeds off, and into, the conspiracist mindset. I know, it’s just a show, and vast, unrealistic conspiracies are a staple of twenty first century television, but that doesn’t mean that they are simply entertainment, free of any consequences. I think a lot of people are heavily influenced by the counterfactual conventions of mass media, without fully realizing it. But why pick on Stranger Things any more than the rest? Why not just enjoy it for what it is, right?

What are my alternatives?

Last week I watched what I could of the unRepublican Convention, where the reactionaries and nationalists anointed their cult of personality candidate. This week I’ll listen to the Democrats and think about who I can bring myself to vote for in November. As soon as The Donald became the presumptive nominee I decided I would give Hillary Clinton my vote if I felt she needed it. But I live in Minnesota and we’re not going to break our Democratic streak anytime soon (we’re the only state Reagan lost in 84, don’t cha know). There are many alternatives out there to choose from but only three, from what I can tell, that are mathematically viable (only three are on enough state ballots to theoretically win).

First is Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party, who has no realistic chance of winning even one state. I couldn’t find a video ad from his ultra-low budget campaign to show here and had to settle for this clip from his audio podcast, which is the featured item on his party’s website:

If you didn’t fall asleep listening to him, you probably realized he’s a nut. He comes out of the John Birch Society tradition, who originally believed the Soviets were on the verge of taking over America in the 1950s, and finally had to change their story into a much more complicated conspiracy when the Soviet Union fell apart more than three decades later. The Birchers are just a shell of what they once were but versions of their mentality can be found throughout our society, most directly in men like Castle, Alex Jones, and Glenn Beck, but also in the wave of madness that washed Trump onto the shore of the GOP. This doom and gloom, paranoid and bigoted view of reality – be it accusing President Kennedy of being a communist agent or accusing President Obama of being a Muslim agent, born in Africa – is so far from what America needs and so very destructive.

Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party represents a different segment of the right wing and one I used to strongly identify with. I voted Libertarian in 1996 and 2000, and still see a good deal of merit in some of their “fringe” positions (e.g. decriminalizing recreational drugs) and their general faith in market forces over government planning. After 9/11/2001, however, I couldn’t get with their often isolationist view of the world; nor could I ignore the conspiracy theories and other nonsense that too often fluoresces in their ranks. Could I put these things aside and go back to voting for them?

I must say that I was impressed by this ad from Johnson and his running mate, William Weld:

They come off as sensible alternatives to politics as usual. Unfortunately, Johnson often comes off as a less serious (if not unserious) candidate; as he did in this interview:

It would be hilarious if it was an SNL sketch, with someone playing Johnson, but it doesn’t seem very presidential to me. Granted, it’s far more presidential than Trump but that’s not saying much.

The last alternative is to run to the far left wing with Jill Stein of the Green Party. She is very actively going after Bernie Sanders Fans who can’t bring themselves to support Hillary – telling them to, “Keep the Revolution Going” – but I’m not one of those people. I can’t support the socialist end of the progressive movement and I don’t think we need any kind of revolutions.

I know she strikes a chord with many people who just want an alternative to the same old, same old, but I see no evidence that other countries are wildly better off than the USA, because they have a large number of viable parties to choose from. I see a lot of fractured collisions that lead to weak, failed governments; sometimes failed republics. Our informal two party system is easy to complain about but it has served us well for longer than most other nations have been self governing. You don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as they used to say. Stein may claim that she is offering people the opportunity to vote for their “values” rather than their “fears” but she sounds very fearful of the very nature of our republic.

So, where does that leave me? A moderately center-right conservative (for lack of a better term). I’m not sure but I did find some hopeful things in last night’s DNC speeches, particularly the remarks of Sen. Cory Booker and First Lady Michelle Obama. I’m still not buying most of the fears or solution that Democrats are selling, and I’m no fan of the Clintons, but life doesn’t always present us with great choices and at least I can get behind what these two are selling here:

I feel like the America they love is the America I love. I believe the America they want is the America I want. Not in terms of particular policies but in terms of the national tone. They see America as a constant improvement, despite our missteps, rather than a once great nation in rapid decline and desperate need of saving. I wholeheartedly agree.