Click a program icon to find a chapter
Click here for other Liberally programs

Pound it!

American Tradition and the Gonzo Talent

Screening Liberally Big Picture
by Brooke Olaussen

Pop culture has immortalized Hunter S. Thompson as Dr. Gonzo blazing through Las Vegas in a red Cadillac – trunk brimming with drugs, mind bubbling with fear and loathing. How well does pop culture remember Thompson’s quest to document the death of the American Dream?

Thompson’s 1970 bid for Sheriff of Aspen, Colorado is perhaps less-well remembered. For his campaign he developed his own logo: a two-thumbed fist (think black power) clenching a peyote button (think freak power). Thompson offered a thorough restructuring of power. The second proposal of his platform for sheriff read as follows: "Change the name of Aspen to Fat City. This would prevent greedheads, landrapers, and other human jackels from capitalizing on the name of Aspen." He also offered humor.

And did you know that this anti-Christ trained in the Air Force? It was, however, a short stint. "In summary," his commanding officer reported before recommending him for early honorable discharge, "this airman, although talented, will not be guided by policy."

Hunter S. Thompson was so visionary, so mad, so titillating articulate that upon reflection he seems bred from ethereal waters. Yet, Thompson’s greatness came not from broadcasting a new, different, freakish American culture, but just the opposite. He understood and believed in the tradition of the American political system so deeply that he sought out a vision of America in which the American Dream was attainable. In this call for intellectual revolution he was far from alone.

Alex Gibney’s new documentary Gonzo: The life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson propels you into the aura of Thompson and the forces of his times. It’s Thompson’s alter-ego Gonzo synergized with the last 50 years of American political history.

Everything you could want in a documentary film is in this one. By bringing you the mood and life-force of Gonzo, the film enchants, both visually and philosophically. The multiplicity of voices/interviews, footage, photographs, and songs transports you into the scene, as if like Alice you stepped through the looking glass. The soundtrack, Johnny Depp’s narration of Thompson’s writing,and interviews with friends and family guide you through Thompson’s wonderland. Those interviewed include: illustrator Ralph Steadman, fellow journalists and friends Tom Wolfe and Tim Crouse, historian Douglas Brinkley, his Rolling Stones editor, an ex-Hell’s Angel’s leader, his first wife, second wife, his son Juan Thompson, and even Pat Buchanan.

Click Read More for, well, more.

City Leaders Begin Registering for the National Conference

The Charlotte, NC chapter of Living Liberally city leaders to the National Conference September 5-7.

(Dick Cheney will not be wearing his hunting vest to Charlotte in September, so the proverbial ducks should be safe.)

We booked a hotel that the telecoms haven't 'bugged' yet. We've reserved a meeting space that will double as the holding cell for Rove and his buddies from the White House come January. We found an airport shuttle that runs on a clean-burning 75/25 mix of organic beer and wine. And finally, we promise to count every single Living Liberally libation drunk, er, vote cast here in Charlotte!

It's about that time, City Leaders. Register for our National Conference today!

Rocking Liberally (or Liberalmente that is)

On recent US tours, Latino musicians including Juanes, from Colombia, Los Tigres del Norte and Mana from Mexico, and even Dominican merengue star Juan luis Guerra have been doing much more than playing some melodias calientes and rocking sus corazones out.

These superestrellas are urging their US fans to register to vote and help to put Barack Obama in the White House. That Rocks (liberally)!

Now for some classic Juanes:

Praying Liberally: Obama Update

It seems that a key part of Obama's Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships plan has been left out of most of the coverage.

Obama would allow charities to impose faith requirements hiring for those programs that did not receive federal funding. Federally-funded programs would have to be discrimination-free but since discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not prohibited, Obama wants to find a way to bring the state of the law back to where it was before President Bush's executive orders on religious hiring rights.

Sounds good to me!

The Search for the Ultimate McCain Video

As an intern here at Living Liberally HQ, a big chunk of my day is spent looking for John McCain stories on the internet (don't worry, I don't get paid). And since we just had our McCain-themed comedy night with guest authors Cliff Schecter and Paul Waldman, I'm coming off a week-long stretch of Google searches like "John McCain, old," "John McCain, flip-flop" and "John McCain, unflattering pictures." I've learned a lot of fun facts about old Johnny boy: he is a Virgo, his favorite movie is Some Like It Hot and he graduated high school in the same year as Fred Flintstone. But what I haven't found are consistently funny internet videos about John McCain.

Sure, I've found plenty of videos--there's the whole slew up at Brave New Films which aren't comedic, but still do a great job of making you want to move to Germany if McCain gets elected, plus droves of flashy, moderately-amusing clips like this McCain rap song (worth watching for the Chris Matthews sample) and John McCain's Spring Break Tips (cute, but the skin cancer jokes are kind of a low blow). Overall, though, I haven't been able to find that one McCain video that's, you know, worth blogging about.

However, I think the answer may lie with the man himself. Wacky McCain impersonators or Midwestern teenagers with their dads' camcorders can't touch the lunacy of the real McCain as he hurtles towards senility. I laughed hardest at this clip of McCain getting owned on Meet The Press (no Russert jokes here; I'm not a monster) and I also love watching this six-second clip of McCain babbling about sending bottled hot water to dehydrated babies over and over on a loop.

In many ways, I have come to feel as though I am Ahab and the world's funniest McCain video is my White Whale. And like Ahab, I will not rest until (spoiler alert!) my resources have been totally exhausted and the blood of both myself and my shipmates has been spilled. Or until the McCain Girls make another 80s music video parody. Because, you know. That would also be pretty funny.

Hello, Dolly! and the future of humanity

Walking into the theater to see the newest Pixar/Disney transplant, WALL-E, I expected to see a friendly tale of a quirky robot. I was pleasantly surprised and delighted when before my very eyes unfolded a social commentary as relevant to today as the campaign is long.

For those of you who think that WALL-E is a kid's film you may find yourself eating your words. It is great to see Disney using it's power for good rather than evil. Some of you may remember some of the social faux pas in the Disney closet: the racist movie we don't talk about, Song of the South, the subtle anti-Arab lyrics in the song "Arabian Nights" of Aladdin, and of course the good old belief that a woman should lie down and wait for her prince to come and rescue her from her dragon guarded castle in order to achieve happiness.

The jury is still out on whether Disney has gotten the PC bug or the Disney-Pixar marriage has given the Disney folk a younger more open outlook on the world. One thing is for sure, if their movies keep moving in a WALL-E direction then I will have no qualms with raising kids in the arms of the mouse.

The rumors you have heard about a lack of dialogue in WALL-E are true, the first forty five minutes are a sobering dialogue-less view into Earth 700 years after humans have left. The genius behind the WALL-E sound is the legendary Ben Burtt, the man responsible for the trademark sound effects of Star Wars.The sound effects in the film greatly make up for the lack of dialogue.

More important than sound or even lovable robots is the state of Earth and its former inhabitants, us. The Earth it seems has become our worst nightmare come to life, mountains of waste which tower over today's skyscrapers, holographic images of superfluous products of consumerism gone extreme, and a single international mega-corporation dominating the market on Earth and beyond. As the movie continued it became apparent that Pixar writer and director Andrew Stanton could very well have been listening to conversations between progressives across the country.

In the world of WALL-E humans have become dependent on liquid meals and their hover chairs, so much that they have all become obese. They also seem to have a problem disconnecting themselves from their holographic entertainment and servant bots, resulting in the loss of the ability to walk.

I fully recommend WALL-E for all who are young at heart and concerned about the future of humanity and our precious planet. Plus if you're trying to sell a "progressive" idea to the masses it doesn't hurt to have a unique robot on your side who is obsessed with Hello, Dolly!

Praying Liberally: Looking at the Obama Plan

Obama's new plan to create a Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, that would increase funding to grassroots religious groups to solve problems ranging from closing the achievement gap in education to fighting global warming has turned into quite the news story. Although some say that this is Obama's expansion of Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, Obama attacked Bush's "Office" as a flimsy "photo-op", saying that the office has failed to provide support for meaningful faith-based initiatives.

This new proposal has reasonably drawn quite a bit of criticism from the left. Some say that this is just another example of Obama moving to the right for the general, a Sistah Souljah moment if you will.

I disagree. For starters, grassroots faith-based activism is at the core Obama's experience. As many of you know, Obama started his public service career as a community organizer, working with Chicago churches to fight for worker's rights and provide job training to those who had been laid off. Obama knows firsthand the possibilities of how faith-based programs can initiate social change.

Obama also rightly criticizes Bush and the Republicans for treating these religious groups as props instead of partners in the fight for a better world, and frames the need for faith-based efforts in an inclusive and liberal manner. While Bush created his OFBCI because he felt that people of shared faith could better communicate with each other, a divisive rationale, Obama argues that it is important to engage faith communities because they are the rootsy-est of the grassroots. The sense of local community they foster exemplifies Obama's bottom-up strategy.

To add to that, I agree with Obama (and this is one place where many readers might disagree, get your blockquotes ready) that "The challenges we face today ... are simply too big for government to solve alone." Part of a progressive strategy must be empowering those who are able to effectively make specific types change. There are certain issues that a Church is more equipped to deal with than the government. Some people might be more motivated to "Go Green" if doing so were part of a moral responsibility. A Church-based program might also be a good introduction into the environmental movement, for people not already familiar. Also, religious programs like soup kitchens and homeless shelters are already some of the most effective.

Finally, if you really look at it, Obama's plan doesn't break the barriers between church and state. The funding only goes towards secular programs, and the money can't be used "to proselytize to the people you help and you can't discriminate against them - or against the people you hire - on the basis of their religion."

I am really glad that Obama has continued his emphasis on bottom-up change. This is a program that might win Obama some votes in November, but more importantly, I believe, could help him make real, substantive change, once he's elected.