Biden's Combativeness Infuriates Mainstream Media, a $400B City from Scratch? What to do with the Robert E. Lee Statue Removal, Emmys...Nominate Shows People Actually Watch?! (The Five for 09/10/21)

Hey, welcome to The Five.

This publication isn’t formatted for exploring personal thoughts and emotions around the 20th Anniversary of 9/11…but I hope you’ll set aside some time this weekend to commemorate and remember those we lost.

As I’ve previously written about, for a brief period of time, I thought my uncle, a private pilot, had perished in the Twin Towers collapse (he was in NYC, but not in the building) and my friend Anthony’s dad had died in the Pentagon (he was called to a meeting, and the walk to another part of the building at 10:30 am on 9/11/01 saved his life).

There’s a lot of good coverage out there. My friend Craig Dunham’s essay is an excellent place to start.

I hope you take time to reflect, to remember, to pray and to process the single most significant national incident any of us have lived through.

With that being said, let’s get into Culture & Commentary.

[one]

NOTE: Because The Five was built on avoiding “hot takes,” Biden’s new corporate vaccine mandate is not covered in this story. The news broke too late to cover it well.

It appears that inflation, a down-sliding economy and the Afghanistan withdrawal have turned even traditionally left-leaning publications against Biden.

From Politico:

Biden was always fundamentally a default president, elected in opposition to Donald Trump and initially buoyed by the contrast to his outlandish predecessor, who ended his time in office in the worst manner possible.

Now, he’s lost his foil in Trump, who is still issuing harsh and thunderous press releases, but isn’t driving every news cycle or occasioning mass protests against him in the streets.

The best case for Biden was that he could ride in the slipstream of good economic growth and a receding pandemic, beaten back by the vaccines that began to be administered before Biden took office. Instead, the labor market is still rocky and the Delta variant has surged, leading to headlines about overstretched health care systems that most people assumed that we’d left behind in the spring of 2020.

With his honeymoon gone, with Trump less of a factor, with economic conditions and the state of the virus not as favorable as expected, Biden had been stripped down to a more natural level of support and sliding in the polls since around June.

Then, he made the first major, historic decision of his presidency, and completely botched it. Biden has tried to deflect responsibility for his exit from Afghanistan onto Trump and his execrable deal with the Taliban. Yet, the decision to quit when he did and how he did was all on Biden.

He hasn’t shown a hint of doubt or regret. The notion of leaving Afghanistan is popular in theory; the way Biden did it is radioactive in practice. The White House may tell itself that Biden’s decision will come to seem farsighted, and its possible that the harmful political effect will wear off over time.

This is purely anecdotal, but I bet you can relate…I don’t personally know anyone who was excited about Biden during the primaries. I know many who were enthusiastic to vote against Trump, and Biden was there, dressed as the store-brand version of the Obama years.

There were signs from the beginning that Biden wasn’t the nice old grandpa the campaign ads propped him up as. The cracks started to show when he told a factory worker who asked a question that he was “full of sh*t”, or when he called an Iowa resident fat and challenged him to a push up contest.

In other words, Biden is being who he told us he would be on the campaign trail. He’s a politician who does not apologize, even when the offense is leaving American civilians behind enemy lines.

And he’s finally pissed off the left wing media.

The question now becomes…what’s next? Ever since Biden was elected as the oldest President, there’s been speculation that he wouldn’t finish his first term, and if the mainstream media is starting to turn on him, I’d say the odds of that theory becoming a reality increase.

However, Kamala Harris is so deeply unpopular, even among Democrats, that she was forced to exit the primaries before getting slaughtered in her home state of California. So, any Democratic leaders who might privately pressure Biden to step down from the office…must deal with the grim reality that Harris is basically un-electable, even as an incumbent.

It’s Friday, so this is a culture question, not a political one. And the big cultural question is…what happens when, during a highly unstable, divisive time, the majority of a country hates it’s leader?

I can only assume trust in institutions, elections and democracy itself will continue to erode.

But I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

[two]

A former Wal-Mart executive…thinks he can build a massive American city from scratch, location TBD.

CNN reports:

The cleanliness of Tokyo, the diversity of New York and the social services of Stockholm: Billionaire Marc Lore has outlined his vision for a 5-million-person "new city in America" and appointed a world-famous architect to design it.

Now, he just needs somewhere to build it -- and $400 billion in funding.

The former Walmart executive last week unveiled plans for Telosa, a sustainable metropolis that he hopes to create, from scratch, in the American desert. The ambitious 150,000-acre proposal promises eco-friendly architecture, sustainable energy production and a purportedly drought-resistant water system. A so-called "15-minute city design" will allow residents to access their workplaces, schools and amenities within a quarter-hour commute of their homes.

Although planners are still scouting for locations, possible targets include Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Texas and the Appalachian region, according to the project's official website.

Traditionally, we’ve been a nation of big ideas. The car. The iPhone. Baseball. Radio. TV. The lightbulb.

The last five years or so of the nation have been more about tearing down and looking back than building up and looking forward.

Even if this city is absurd, even if it’s a pipe dream…even if it only gets half built…it’s just good to see somebody swinging at a fastball rather than standing back and cursing the game.

[three]

The Robert E. Lee statue was removed in Richmond, VA this week, which has no doubt spawned a thousand think pieces.

I’m not much of a Civil War buff, nor am I particularly into reading about any general from any war (although I devour history--Civil War stuff isn’t much my thing).

What did strike me, however, is that removing a statue does nothing to teach history.

One oddball theory I’ve played with is that we should erect monuments to our national shame, to keep the painful lessons of the past alive.

I would like to propose we put up an ugly, disfigured statue to President Andrew Johnson, who took over after Lincoln was killed.

He is simultaneously the most openly racist, and likely worst economic, POTUS in the history of our nation.

From Politico:

Although Congress had already put in place some features of the post-war period that would serve as flash points with the new administration—like the Freedmen’s Bureau, charged primarily with feeding and caring for former slaves—Johnson came to the top job with a very different conception of post-war reunification. He questioned the federal government’s right to do much of anything in the formerly rebellious states until they had representatives back in Congress, even if those officials were former Confederates. His vision, of course, clashed with the so-called Radical Republicans in Congress, intent on reconstructing the South from Washington in order to guarantee the freedoms of those who had been enslaved for so long.

Johnson rankled most legislators, and the vast majority of Northerners, almost immediately. He released leading members of the Confederate Cabinet from government custody, up to and including the former Confederate vice president, Alexander H. Stephens. He appointed governors in Southern states and allowed their legislatures to meet. Dominated by secessionists, these governments passed “black codes,” allowing slavery in all but name to continue in many areas.

Johnson also made his racist views clear in statements like this one to the federal commissioner of the Public Buildings Service: “Everyone would, and must admit, that the white race was superior to the black, and that while we ought to do our best to bring them . . . up to our present level, that, in doing so, we should, at the same time raise our own intellectual status so that the relative position of the two races would be the same.”

Andrew Johnson’s lack of reconstruction can still be seen today, with states in the Southeast suffering from the some of the highest rates of poverty in the U.S. He had no moral character whatsoever…the man showed up drunk to his own swearing in.

We should remember, not just this one, but all of our worst leaders, alongside our best.

Put Johnson’s sins into bronzed format and let us look upon them.

And be better.

[four]

Traditionally, The Five has completely skipped covering awards shows because in the two years since this outlet started publishing…awards have traditionally gone to the kind of projects that appear to only be viewed by people in Hollywood, and people writing about Hollywood.

In 1976, Rocky won best picture. The coveted award went to Return of the King in 2003, so there is a long history of popular films winning prestigious awards. Comparatively, the 2018’s best picture winner The Shape of Water, took in only $63 million at the box office. Parasite, which won the award in 2020, barely scraped together $50 million in multiplex ticket sales. In other words, less than 3% of Americans saw The Shape of Water and Parasite in theaters…combined.

For the last five years or so, Hollywood has expected everyday Americans to turn into 3+ hour awards shows to receive bloviated lectures from actors with no particular expertise in the subjects they prattle on about as trophies are handed out for movies and TV pretty much nobody watched.

Unsurprisingly (well, unsurprising to everyone buy Hollywood executives) awards shows tanked in the ratings to the point of cancellation from broadcast TV.

This year, the market seems to be correcting itself as popular series including WandaVision, The Boys, The Mandalorian, Lovecraft Country, Falcon and The Winter Soldier, The Umbrella Academy, Doom Patrol and Lucifer are all up for awards at the 2021 Emmys.

Outside of critical darling Game of Thrones, sci-fi, action and horror shows are traditionally ignored for awards consideration…at least until this year.

Entertainment weekly reports:

"I think what streaming has allowed, plus frankly a year where there weren't that many Hollywood movies, there's an openness to the sci-fi/fantasy genre more than there has been [before]," Eric Kripke, creator of the Outstanding Drama Series nominee The Boys, tells EW. "If you look at who else is nominated, The Mandalorian is cleaning up, and Umbrella Academy is there and Lovecraft Country, maybe people are starting to realize collectively that there's more to [the genre] than just what's on the surface. It's beyond superhero stuff — be it horror or science fiction or superheroes. I think everyone is just doing such extraordinary work that it's finally becoming noticed."

Giancarlo Esposito, who is nominated again for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his work as Moff Gideon on The Mandalorian, is thrilled to see "that people's minds are finally opening" to viewing genre TV as awards-worthy. "When you cultivate really good subject matter and really great themes in a show, it takes to the forefront, it begins to lead the way in that progressive thinking. These shows are good, and so why not have them be considered as some of the best? The attention to detail of Mandalorian and the technological imagination that went into creating this show is epic."

The Emmy Awards change of course is one reason why I try to avoid “the sky is falling” Chicken Little style journalism.

I used to relish covering awards shows back in the 00’s (while writing for traditional magazines), but then they became so insufferably pretentious and preachy I just tuned them out (literally and figuratively).

Rather than spill digital ink bemoaning about “loss of the culture” or something, I shrugged and just kept moving forward. Much of what the peanut gallery of TV, podcast and YouTube commentators decry as the apocalypse is simply the end of a pendulum swing, and is nearly ready to reverse.

[five]

Let’s head into the weekend with a pop culture roundup.

  • Nearly two decades after the initial trilogy ended, the hype around The Matrix franchise returns with the first trailer for The Matrix: Resurrections.

  • Netflix dropped a pair of trailers that are absolute bangers (and awards show bait). Don’t Look Up is a disaster movie (comet coming to kill everything), starring Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic, Inception), Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games, Silver Linings Playbook) Timothee Chalamet (Dune, Little Women), Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street, Moneyball), Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada, Big Little Lies) Ron Pearlman (Sons of Anarchy, Hellboy) and Tyler Perry (Gone Girl). Hits Netflix and select theaters (for awards season) on Christmas Eve.

  • …and the streaming giant also announced a new Jake Gyllenhaal (Prisoners, Nightcrawler) thriller The Guilty, which follows a single (very eventful) day in the life of a 911 operator—streaming October 1.

  • Amazon Prime Video makes a bet on The Wheel of Time as the next Game of Thrones. Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, Jack Reacher) leads the cast for a series set in a high fantasy world of magic and monsters. If that’s your thing, catch the first three episodes November 19th before the final three episodes move to a weekly release schedule (which is a super weird rollout). First trailer here.

  • Probably worth noting that Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has the highest Rotten Tomatoes score of any Marvel movie.

MY PICK: My Buddy Dan Buffa (catch him on various TV/radio outlets if you’re in STL, bookmark his site for film reviews) pointed out that Warrior released 10 years ago this week. Tom Hardy turns in an absolutely mezmorizing performance and Nick Nolte got an Oscar nod for his portrayal of a recovering alcoholic father of two brothers who meet in an MMA fight. Highly reccomended.

NEW MUSIC: (Kinda) country songstress Kacey Musgraves releases her highly anticipated divorce album, and it’s pretty great (meaning: the album accomplishes it’s goal of being very sad). Somebody needs to tell famous musicians and artists to stop marrying other famous musicians and artists and just settle down with a normie, so there’s one non-crazy person in the relationship. Midwestern emo mainstay act Hawthorn Heights are back with “The Rain Just Follows Me” which feels like the first fall-ish album to be released (no, I can’t explain this). I’m not sure what to say about “The Metallica Blacklist,” a compilation album, except that apparently somebody out there thought the world needed to hear Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish fame, Reggaeton star J Balvin and Brooklyn hip hop group Flatbush Zombies are among the 53 artists covering the classic thrash metal band. If that sounds like the musical equivalent of putting butterscotch pudding on top of a Denver omelet…yup.

[epilogue]

Born in 1913, Joseph Medicine Crow was the last living person to hear a first hand account of the Battle of Little Bighorn. When it came his time to fight, Crow donned warpaint beneath his uniform and a sacred feather beneath his helmet.

While in combat with the 103rd Infantry, Joseph accomplished the four tests to become a war chief:

  • touching an enemy without killing him

  • taking an enemy’s weapon

  • leading a war party

  • stealing an enemy’s horse

WWII was the very last conflict where stealing a horse was even possible (as it was the last war where horses were in use), and Joseph accomplished it behind enemy lines. He came upon a group of Nazi officers sleeping in a farm house where thoroughbred race horses were kept.

Joseph tied makeshift reigns out of a rope, opened the gate and chased 50 horses out of the stable, riding one bareback and singing a Crow war song. This awaked the Nazi officers, who stumbled outside (confused) and fired their lugers at the fleeing warrior in vain.

After the war, he became the first member of the Crow nation to earn a graduate degree. In 2009, he received the Medal of Freedom from President Obama.

Joseph died in 2016, the last Crow war chief this world will ever see.

Until the next one,

-sth