Burbank Dances Past Exit of Tonight Show

When the Tonight Show moved to New York after more than 40 years in Burbank, people thought that Burbank might be past its prime. But the city, like a good steak, is still the primo destination for tourists looking to discover the true heart of Hollywood. The city boasts an airport and a slew of great restaurants and vintage boutiques.

What’s more, it still has all the jazz required of a movie-town destination with unique cool eateries and hot stores. See link list below.

A micropolis of just over 100,000 people, nestled into less than 18 square miles, Burbank provides Hollywood glitz and suburban charm. The town is more than leftover sparkle from Tinsel Town. It boasts two movie studios: The Walt Disney company and Warner Brothers. What’s more, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon make the city their home. Even Yahoo! is a Burbankian, with over 500 employees in town.

Visitors to Burbank certainly enjoy touring the studios in Burbank proper, as well as jumping over nearby Universal Studios. Soon the West Coast version of a Harry Potter town will be opening up in Universal City — bringing more fun and fantasy to the Burbank area. Visitors can open a treasure box of activities in Burbank proper. Everything from old diners a la Pulp Fiction — to gorgeous mountains for hiking. Burbank has a Mediterranean climate, which translates to one sunny day after another.

There is a $300 million outdoor mall called the Empire Center, a smaller indoor mall, appropriately named “Town Center Mall” and, of course, lovely downtown Burbank, a neighborhood of shops and restaurants designed for people watching. Downtown Burbank has an annual art show in April, an annual classic car show in late summer, and a weekly farmer’s market on Saturdays (behind the City Hall on Third Street). Locals and tourists alike enjoy Burbank, which has own version of the Hollywood Bowl, the more intimate Starlight Bowl.

Come on over! You might see Demi Moore at the local Monte Carlo restaurant or Jay Leno driving one of his custom cars past Johnny Carson Park.

LINK LIST

Hungry? Enjoy a Burbankian restaurant: Porto’s Bakery (sandwiches to pine for) or The Castaway (fine dining on the hill)

Ready from some unique shopping locations? Head to the famed Magnolia Boulevard: Atomic Records, Halloween Town, Creature Features

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Predicting the Legal Outcomes on Marriage Equality: What Explains Legal Change Around Civil Liberties?

When do social movements use the courts in pursuing their goals? The question might be rewritten to say: assuming that activists will always or often use the courts as one of many strategies, when are they successful in court? When is the law likely to change in response to activist’s lawsuits? This is a pertinent question as we see the U.S. Supreme Court taking up two cases about marriage equality.

One case is about Proposition 8, which took away the right for same-sex couples to marry in California (Hollingsworth v. Perry), and the other case (U.S. v. Windsor) is about the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law passed in 1996 that has the effect of denying same-sex couples a variety of the many benefits that married couples of the opposite sex receive. The Court had its choice of same-sex marriage cases and selected a DOMA case that might have signaled its leaning toward finding a constitutional right to marry. In U.S. v. Windsor, the plaintiff Edie Windsor had a 40-year engagement and 20-month, same-sex marriage to her partner, Thea Spyer. Windsor sued after being hit with half a million dollars in inheritance taxes that an opposite-sex widow would not have had to pay.

In other case, the dynamic tensions in the state of California have been made clear. Although California is widely perceived to be a democratic stronghold, or “blue” state, it has a conservative or “red” streak in non-coastal areas. Thus, the law has flip-flopped back and forth. First, the California Supreme Court opened the door for gay marriage, but a voter initiative known as Proposition 8 against same-sex nuptials just passed a few months later, in late 2008.  Then, in another reversal, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals (the federal court sitting in California) voided Prop 8 on the ground that the state could not take away a right it previously granted.

Looking at the California case and the Windsor case on DOMA from New York is like holding up a mirror to the rest of the country where over the last few decades, the cultural view on this legal issue has varied and even appears polarized—with states heading in two distinct directions, some for, and some against, same-sex marriage. But most surveys show that the dominant view is for marriage equality, especially in younger demographics.  The turning tide of the individual states, although small in overall number, is also tending toward recognizing the right to marry (9 states total), as against 31 states with DOMA-like provisions requiring one man and one woman. There seems to be a shift toward belief in marriage equality and the practice of marriage equality at the state level, and so a prediction might be ventured for a similar legal change at the federal level.

Predicting a Win for Marriage Equality

Although many factors influence a legal outcome, both legal and extra-legal (read: social) it is possible to predict legal outcomes. In my view, Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will follow the cultural trend and shift away from denying gay and lesbian rights to providing a constitutional right or at least a limited recognition of the liberty, equal protection, and privacy interests involved. So far SCOTUS has been heading, although slowly, in that direction. The Court ruled in 1972 that there is no constitutional right to marriage for same-sex couples (Baker v. Nelson), and, in 1986, upheld Georgia laws criminalizing consensual acts occurring in private between consenting gay and lesbian adults (Bowers v. Hardwick). However, in 2003, SCOTUS shifted direction, ruling that it had too narrowly construed the liberty interests of adults in the Bowers case, and so reversed itself, invalidating similar criminal laws about private conduct in Lawrence v. Texas.

What explains legal change around civil liberties and rights?  The answer comes from Durkheim, who theorized culture’s influence on legal outcomes. The impulse is to look at Weber for answers, since he was a lawyer, but Durkheim does a better job explaining legal change. What makes one law become another?

Let’s presume that activists will turn to the courts if they have the resources. Durkheimian theory explains when their lawsuits will be successful. According to Durkheim, there is interplay between cultural beliefs, on the one hand, and practices or behaviors, on the other hand, especially sanctioning behaviors. Social groups (such as a nation) develop and maintain internal cohesion because of shared practices and rituals, leading to a collective conscience and shared conceptions of the sacred. These conceptions turn back into practices. But in Durkheim’s model, practices are primary. Applying this model to the topic, there are gay and lesbian couples in our communities, and so their unions are recognized in practice. The law (or set of shared beliefs and sanctions) will follow in the tracks of the shared practices.

From Cultural Shift to Legal Shift

Marx and Bourdieu offer variations of this model of social cohesion and social change. For Marx, self-interested ideas are the primary cause of changes in both behaviors and law. Bourdieu looks at fields of endeavor (such as occupations) that generate Durkheimian groups, remaining bound together by shared beliefs regarding legitimate practices. Thus, we have practices leading to beliefs, which eventually become customs, and eventually shared cultural codes, and, soon enough, common rules or sanctions, or law.

When activists turn to law and demand legal change, it only works when the cultural conditions and political conditions are out of alignment with law. The law changes to match social beliefs and practices.  If groups within a multicultural society—such as the U.S.—have enough overlap or interaction to create shifting morals or renewed senses of the legitimate solution to potential conflicts, then conditions are right for legal change.

According to Sumner’s classic work Folkways (1907), laws change to match social mores. If there is enough interaction between groups with different mores, then practices that were once considered “outsider behaviors” or illegitimate practices, start to become part of a collective plan. What was considered illegitimate becomes tolerated, and then acceptable, and eventually customary.

Where customs are not shared, there is conflict, which must be resolved either by separating the groups (physically by place or culturally through imagined communities) or by aligning mores. To avoid conflict and enjoy shared lives in communities, marriage equality becomes important and eventually becomes the law.  An activist group brings the idea forward for legal change and if the time is right, the courts will solidify cultural shifts into new laws, thereby starting a new wave of greater acceptance. Once the legal reversals of the earlier civil rights movements occurred in the SCOTUS, with Brown v. Bd. of Education changing segregation from a legal to illegal status, and with Roe v. Wade changing abortion from a crime to a constitutional right, public opinion followed the legal change.

Is the time right for SCOTUS to rule in favor of marriage equality? Yes, because cultural communities have already incorporated this change in American life. It appears that overlapping groups across U.S. states and cities have already aligned to agree on this point of civil rights and liberties. The law is likely to follow, with folkways and customs becoming law. The rulings are expected in the pending cases sometime this summer.

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A Hero on Any Other Day: Memorial Day and the Chris Hayes Controversy

Much has already been said and written about Chris Hayes and his question about the word hero on MSNBC on Sunday night of Memorial Day weekend. He said he was not sure about the word, because it was proximate to justifications for war.

Today New York Magazine published a report by Andre Tartar that summarized what happened and who said what, both before and after Hayes spoke about the word hero. As reported by Tartar, the Veterans of Foreign Wars issued a statement that called the comments by Hayes disgusting and demanded an apology. Hayes did apologize.

The main points for Tartar were simple: all liberals hate soldiers and all soldiers died to give people, including Hayes, the right to speak freely. Holidays tend to bring out all-or-nothing logic.

Dying for one’s country is courageous. It is heroic. Those truths are self-evident. The reason for the outrage around Hayes and hero-gate is not what Hayes asked, but when he asked it, Memorial Day weekend. This is the time, set aside from ordinary time, to commemorate the extraordinary sacrifices of soldiers. Memorial Day weekend is not the time to ask whether soldiers die for a variety of reasons.

Memorial Day weekend is not the time to ask questions. Nuanced questions, such as whether it is possible to honor the soldier and to dislike the justifications offered for the war.

Not the time to ask about justifications for the war, this war, all wars, or any particular war.

But what if Hayes had wondered aloud about the justifications for war on any other day?  What if no one was ever allowed to wonder aloud about the justifications for war, on any day? Who would be outraged? What would outrage sound like, in a totalitarian context, where wondering out loud is outlawed?

Memorial Day is part of the sequence of holidays in which we commemorate not only soldiers, but nationhood. According to theories of “civil religion” advanced by Jean Jacque Rousseau a long time ago, and by Robert N. Bellah more recently, civil religion is the religion of the nation.

Memorial Day is a national holiday; a holy day set aside to venerate nation. It is not the day to deconstruct nations, wars, justifications for war, or any related topic.

On any other day, it might be possible realize that people can honor the soldier, but not the war. On any other day, it might be possible to recognize that soldiers die for reasons other than constitutional freedom. Delinking the individual sacrifice from the purposes of the collective effort is a first step toward peacemaking. Because the quality of the means does not justify the ends.

Iraq Veterans Against the War and Vietnam Veterans Against the War are two groups of soldiers who honor soldiers, but not wars. Some of the vets who question the current war threw their medals on the ground, in a street protest outside the NATO summit in Chicago last week. But they earned the right to do so.

When and how does a person having another occupation, such as journalist or a public intellectual — or perhaps even politician or world leader — earn the right to question the war?

On any other day, questioning the reasons for wars make the journalist a hero. Asking questions and seeking truth is what journalists do. But on the holidays celebrating nation, the job is more limited.

On Memorial Day weekend, the job is not to cover the story from all angles. It is not a day for journalism at all. It is not a day for questions, but instead for ritual. In his work on the Elementary Forms of Religious Life, Emile Durkheim famously defined religion as the separation of sacred and profane. He explained that the cultural boundary between sacred and profane is created and clarified through ritual.

Memorial Day Weekend is a sacred time because it is separated from the ordinary.  On ordinary days, journalists can be journalists. On any other day, being a curious journalist is heroic. On any other day, being someone willing to say what comes to mind, to think through difficult problems, and to face the criticisms of those not on the same node of the political spectrum, is the journalist’s role and profession.

But for one day a year, at least, practicing that profession is not allowed. How many days are there in which the nation and its wars can be or must be commemorated? And truly, what right to speak does a journalist have? What right does a person, who has not served in the military, have to honor the warrior, but not the war?

According to the vets against the war on terrorism, honoring the warrior, but not the war, is a possibility. It is also heroic, for soldiers and civilians alike. For journalists and politicians as well. But not today. Today is not that day.

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Does Twitter Chatter Matter?

Taking to Twitter on Thursday, the president emphasized his “all of the above” strategy on energy resources, pointing to bio fuels, wind, and solar energy. He answered just seven questions in a brief session under the hashtag #WHChat, but entirely different conversation took place outside of the controlled discussion.

Twitterers posted an array of crazy, rude, and angry questions directed at the chief executive. The string of conservative tweets illustrates — yet again — that the public sphere is multiple and fragmented. And, as it turns out, angry and ineffective.

But is it effective in any way? Does Twitter chatter matter?

One person, @cdubontw, asked this question of the president, “Do you now or have you ever considered yourself patriotic?”

A newcomer to Twitter, hailing from Colorado Springs, CO, @cdubontw uses the tagline “rebel conservative pirate monk!”

Other writers sent questions the president’s personal life, his diet, and his sexuality. Critical issues were raised — such as corporate personhood, drones, and national debt, but the posters were twittering at, not with, the President.

For Twitter to be an effective political tool, there needs to be engaged conversation.

Many were happy to report that the goal was not a conversation, but an attack

“If Obama thought that announcing chat at last min would throw cons a curve… sure his own were the dim bulbs!!!!” wrote D.L. Walker of Blaine, WA, on Twitter as ‏@didirjune19.

Between Controlled Talk and Crazy Talk

On both sides of the event, it was questionable whether this Twitter chat mattered.

The president used hand-picked questions to make a few minor points. The primary realization that comes from reading his responses is that he is not a stickler for rules.

If he had more to say than could be captured in 140-characters, he made several posts in a row.

His online foray was not widely reported in the media.

Both Twitchy.com and Yahoo! News reported that the chat was hijacked by conservatives as usual. The 1600 Report on CNN.com covered the story, but only to cast the chat as a “mini Town Hall.”

On the other hand, conservatives posting criticism and sarcasm knew their efforts would not go far.

Dudley Morales, online as ‏@dudleymorales, said, “I know you won’t read any of this criticism but it makes me feel better anyway.”

‘Feel Better’ Speech

One purpose of free speech is self-actualization. Expressing one’s personal views with fellows does not have the same political value as a conversation that is likely to influence someone who thinks differently.

An analysis of a random sample of 100 tweets posted by the public on #WHChat reveals that the majority, approximately 54%, were nonsense, jokes or ads.

Only 10% of the public tweets even mentioned an issue in the campaign, while another 10% focused on the process or purpose of having the White House use Twitter for a chat session.

Few thought that Obama would read through their outbursts.

Continuing to tweet after the president had literally left the building, Julie Borowski, online as @JulieBorowski, responded to hearing the chat had concluded by writing, “Haha I don’t care if it’s over.”

Overall, Twitterers used #WHChat as a location for connecting with like-minded followers.

Yet, having a conversation with the like-minded is not going to shift values in the public sphere. It is not likely to result in political action by either government actors or members of civil society.

Rational, respectful discussions among people and groups who do not agree is a First Amendment value that, if exercised, is more likely to bring about social change. Using Twitter to that end would matter.

It’s Official

In the official chat, the president focused on energy alternatives and emphasized ways to help small businesses, for example, with tax credits and deregulation.

The few questions selected by the White House indicated that energy goals were the order of the day. He answered two questions on energy/oil dependency, and two questions on helping small business.

The other questions in the chat touched on themes intended to be relevant to ordinary people: mortgage rates, student loans. The president ended with an easy question about the importance of compromise.

Since he did not take on the scrolls of criticism, did his chat do any good?  Was it effective? Compromise is not possible without engagement.

On the other side of the fence, did the conservative hijacking do any good, other than make a few hundred conservatives feel better?

Followers under each Twitterer’s star had a good time, watching as the sparks of their internal conversation flew by. Would it be exciting to have the president answer a question? Sure, but it was apparently just as awesome to be bad-mannered and blow off political steam with your friends and fellows.

Might as well be on Facebook.

Occupy This

Several posters thought it was a good idea to load #WHChat with nonsense, in order to teach the president a lesson. What lesson? The lesson that the president should not to use digital media? How will that lesson bring politics into the 21st century? Silence is not a First Amendment value.

Twitchy.com used a headline to argue that “Obama Still Hasn’t Learned, Trots Out #WHChat.”

Posting a link to the Twitchy.com item back on Twitter, @VelvetHammer commented that Obama was “afraid of Conservatives on twitter. hahahahaha.”

But apparently he was not afraid. The White House occupant wrote answers to selected questions and ignored the hashtag hacks.

Meanwhile, most of the public sphere ignored the splash.

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