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Saturday, Sep 20, 2014

The Right Stuff

A politics blog by Tom Jackson

Tom Jackson's baseball card - if he had one - would report he throws left, writes right. In his columns and blog, "The Right Stuff," southpaw Jackson provides insight into the evolving human condition from a distinctly conservative point of view.

Lefties miss Sofia’s joke, plus courtesy vs. entitlement at 35,000 feet

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Tom Jackson’s “The Right Stuff” blog updates throughout the week at TBO.com.

Having avoided social media Monday night, The Right Stuff was surprised to learn the left had taken to its collective fainting couch late in the Emmys, its vapors triggered by Sofia Vergara, the preternaturally self-aware Colombian bombshell who understands as well as anyone since Lucille Ball — perhaps including Lucille Ball — why outlandishness is good for a laugh.

In her willingness to spoof the spotlight’s unspoken hunger for the compelling image, Vergara, the breakout star of best-comedy Emmy champ “Modern Family,” rocketed what otherwise is a prime opportunity to visit the loo — the traditional, obligatory, bloodless address by the chairman of the organizing committee — into the show’s top-three most remarked-upon moments.

By now, we all know what went down. Or around. While Art Rosenblum, chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, delivered a speech punchy with sly double entendres, Vergara spun all old-Hollywood va-va-va-voomish atop a rotating pedestal.

If this was exploitation, you couldn’t have proved by Vergara, whose flirtacious poise conveyed she was not merely in on the gag, she was its master.

Alas, even as Rosenblum stuck his landing — “What truly matters is that we never forget that our success is based on always giving the viewer something compelling to watch” — the Internet churned with scandalized posts by the humor- impaired. Time called it sexist. Salon and the Huffington Post settled on objectifying. Vox went with the generalized “terrible.”

Never mind that mere hours before, red carpet critics, playing their snarky hits-and-misses game, swooned over Vergara:

“We cannot get enough of Sofia in this glamorous white gown!” wrote Hollywood Life’s Bonnie Fuller. “The silver lining was strategically placed and only added to the silhouette of the gown, making her curves look even hotter!”

So, what’s fabulous on the promenade is damaging to All Women when it’s played for giggles as part of the show? Good to know. Hypocritical, but good to know.

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Proper conduct in airline seating has become an issue, which only goes to show that modern humans will never run out of things to get upset about. Additionally, the intensity of feelings surrounding said conduct suggests we’ve just about exhausted our patience with other unsolvable puzzles such as Ferguson, the border, lost government emails, climate change, Ukraine and the objectifying of women.

At headline-making issue, astonishingly, is under what FAA-approved circumstances economy- conscious airline travelers should recline their seat backs.

I concede there’s a certain weirdness to the entireconcept. Strangers who would never invade another’s space while upright think it’s perfectly all right — without so much as an “incoming!” alert — to drop their heads practically into fellow travelers’ laps the moment the landing gear retracts, reasoning if the airline hadn’t intended them to achieve maximum supine-ity, they wouldn’t have installed the look-out-below triggering device in the first place.

Then came the scuffle at 35,000 feet when a woman’s attempt to achieve an obtuse body angle was prevented by the man who’d locked the suddenly famous “Knee Defender” onto the arms of his tray table behind her. It’s the ideal passive-aggressive device for these times, when we broadcast instant opinions to anonymous audiences on Twitter but cannot muster a few moments of personal communication. Pathetic.

While I lack a particularly strong opinion about the rights of the recline-prone, I am firm about the dictates of etiquette, courtesy being the oil on civilization’s gears.

Airlines have maximized the number of rows on each plane while shrinking the space for each derriere and cutting back on the amenities, meaning the potential for airborne hell is ever-lurking. You want to recline? Glance back. Make eye contact. “May I?” never killed anybody.

Ah, who am I kidding? The fighting fliers were in United’s “economy plus” section, which, with 4 extra inches between rows, ought to have established a recliner-war DMZ.

But no. In a world where no one knows how to talk to the person next to them, every clash of entitlements is bound to end badly.

tjackson@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1851

Twitter: @tjacksonTBO

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