Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Obama's Pattern of Pandering, or What I Get for Second-Guessing a Nobel Laureate

During the 2008 Democratic primary battle between Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton (and Dennis Kucinich, if we really want to be accurate here), I had a deep, dense feeling of disenchantment. Not with my candidate of choice, Barack Obama (though in my heart I knew Kucinich was right), but with my favorite economist and political pundit, Paul Krugman of the New York Times. I was in the process of developing the various ideologies and mildly polarizing viewpoints that would govern my voting patterns,[1] and there were few commentators that I had more respect, more near-religious idolatry for, than Paul Krugman.

The disillusionment, then, came from Krugman’s bizarre resistance to Obama. Following the Potomac Primaries, it was quite clear from my “Obamamania” viewpoint that Hilary Clinton was the spawn of Lucifer, the kind of political gremlin who would stop at no level of slime-drenched bile and slander to win the election. And indeed, Clinton did utilize some fairly shady strategies, such as equating Obama with Whitewater-investigator Kenneth Starr, darkening Obama’s image in TV ads that ran in the racially turbulent sections of Ohio, and her inconceivable fabrications regarding her voyage to Bosnia as First Lady. Yet, Paul Krugman, my progressive hero, wrote column after column that was ceaselessly critical of every facet of Obama’s candidacy, not Clinton’s. It was a frustrating, mind-boggling process, how a man who was so right so much of the time could be, ostensibly, so wrong.

Well, that’s I get for second-guessing a Nobel laureate. The main thrust of Krugman’s criticisms was that Obama’s pragmatism, his tendency to forgo the honest and altogether correct policy for the sake of public agreement, would tarnish any of his proposed reforms. To Krugman, the kind of crisis our country was experiencing did not need a Dwight D. Eisenhower, an all-round likable figure who, despite his conservatism and genuine dislike for anything resembling progress (such as equal rights for African Americans), did not attempt to tear down the very fabric of society. It needed a Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a traitor to his class who, regardless of campaign contributions and powerful lobbyists, charged ahead with their agenda and transformed the country for the better.

And now that Candidate Obama has become President Obama, all the campaign-season cries for gimmicky bipartisanship and weak-kneed reconciliations that created such nausea with hard-lined progressives such as myself have evolved into the very governing process for our country.

Propose sweeping financial reforms, including the creation of a Consumer Protection Agency, but legalize Too Big to Fail banks and specifically legislate that roughly 80 percent of the risky derivatives and credit default swaps that destroyed the American economy be permanently left off the banks’ balance sheets, all the while shoveling tens of trillions of dollars into the banks' reserves but remaining ignorant of how they use the funds; propose universal health care reform, but secretly guarantee to Pharma that the government will not, under any circumstances, negotiate drug prices for Medicare; guarantee a public option in the aforementioned health care legislation, but water it down to such a degree that private health insurance is the only viable option; ban all uses of torture, but maintain extraordinary rendition, preemptive detention, and expand the use of “State’s Secrets” privileges to such an extent that Alberto Gonzalez would weep with jealousy; claim a change in US foreign policy, but appoint one of the key proponents of torture as the leading general in Afghanistan; claim to support an independent Palestinian state, but gush over Israel for temporarily halting illegal settlements on Palestinian territories; claim that nobody is above the law, but refuse to investigate war crimes committed by the past administration.

I think we see a fairly devastating pattern here. I could go on, but the central narrative to this dialect of disgrace is painfully clear: Krugman was right. Instead of the right man for the job, the kind of leader with the, well, audacity to deliver a unilateral "F-YOU" to the Washington establishment, we have a tepid, overtly-conciliatory sellout who will sacrifice everything for claims of bipartisanship—even the welfare of the country that elected him.

So, Paul? You were right.

[1] An undertaking that becomes more warped with each passing day—or whenever we learn a new tidbit about Tim Geithner

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Review of 'Pirates of the Caribbean 3'—Awful, bloody awful!

[I was searching for an old academic paper I wrote a couple years back and stumbled upon this review I wrote immediately after seeing 'Pirates 3.' I may be partial, but I think I properly summarize the film's many awful qualities ;). ]

This is a terrible movie; however, sad as it is, the majority of consumers are not going to see it that way.

Like "The Simpsons Movie," "At World's End" (AWE for short--but trust me, I was in no such state) is an example of previous success blinding objectivity. In the case of the Simpsons, the show's previous and unprecedented success was a nice big distraction to the film's lame, half-baked execution.

And with AWE, we get an entire series born off of one performance--that being Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in the first film--that so charmed audiences that they'll sit through whatever sludge director Gore Verbinski chooses to drag them through, just as long as they see Depp. However, like "Simpsons," AWE is a terrible movie.

Where to start, though? For a movie this flawed, it's a challenge. Verbinski direction is lazy. Showing absolutely no control over the film, he let's the plot spiral out into the horizon, aimlessly moving around with no end in sight. Yes, I have already been told by shameful supporters of this film that "it's just a complex plot, and you need to pay attention!" Wanna see a complex plot that works? watch "Memento." Want to see the plot of a director and writers who find themselves far more clever then they truly are? watch AWE. Honestly, if one more character swapped allegiances throughout the course of this trainwreck, I would have wept.

And, as a side-note, watch how the film builds up the ridiculous 'Calypso' storyline, only to completely abandon it without a moments hesitation. People, this is bad film making--please take notice.

Which brings me to the script, which is equally bad. Bearing more holes than Swiss Cheese, the awfulness of the script makes you slightly hold off on Verbinski, seeing that nobody short of Orson Welles could direct a script this geriatric and unnecessarily convoluted. And plot aside, the dialogue is also terrible, made worse by the film's downright terrible performances.

I said it with "Dead Man's Chest" and I'll say it again, Depp is bored with this character. His Jack Sparrow of AWE is a shadow of the fun it was in the first film, and I didn't even enjoy him THAT much altogether in "Curse of the Black Pearl." What he's become is a caricature of himself, and he'll ride that cliché into the sunset, as long as executives keep paying and brain dead consumers keep watching. In all fairness (and you won't find any in this review), Orlando Bloom should not be an actor. Nothing more than a product of the "Lord of the Rings" mega-trilogy, he's riding on the bank ability of himself, except unlike Depp, he can't act to save his life. Watch this film, and watch of the LOTR films...they are the EXACT same character. Oh yeah, there is a difference--their NAMES.

And then there is Keira Knightly, who has proven herself a capable actress elsewhere--but here, under Verbinski, she suffers just the same. But there was one particular moment of this movie that was revelatory, and I can thank Ms. Knightly for providing me with the moment.

There a part in the film where Knightly's Elizabeth Swan gives a 'rousing' speech to her crew, rallying them up to fight the forces of evil. Watching that, I realized that the entire "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise is nothing more than a poor-man's "Master and Commander." Possessing not even a quarter of MaC's intelligence, craftsmanship, or wit, the PotC franchise is Diet MaC.

Yet it still works and brings in the greenbacks, which I suppose is a testament to Depp's performance in the first film, and which also acts as a great inspiration to aspiring film makers around the world. If you want to find success, do not, by any means, make a great film; instead, make a film that is structurally flawed, but one that features an original, white-hot lead character with a charming actor and by golly, you will be on your way!

All in all, that's NOT a pirate's life for me!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Happiest Places on Earth (Hint: the US isn't one of 'em)

This post will be short and sweet: it's great to live in Scandinavia.

A study recently completed by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, a Paris-based group of 30 countries that analyzes the various stats and data of democratic governments, ranked the 10 happiest countries in the world, and found an absolutely shocking (*sarcasm) discovery: all the countries, with the exception of Canada, were in Northern Europe, and to be even more precise, Scandinavia (oh yeah, the US didn't even crack the top 10).

Indeed, Scandinavia boasted four of the 10 countries, including THREE in the top five (Sweden at no. 4, Finland at no. 2, and Denmark at no. 1).

This is a bittersweet experience. On one hand, there's a certain jouissance to reading these stats, especially considering how the countries of Scandinavia all have the evil government enterprises of universal health care, free education through the college level, and other various social safety nets that have stymied the worst of the current Mini-Depression (Denmark, for example, currently has a jaw-dropping 2% unemployment rating, with an hourly wage for manufacturing jobs at $47 dollars).

Then again, it could be a complete coincidence that the world's countries with the most progressive taxation, strongest social programs, and most active public sector (in other words, the most SOCIALIST) dominated this list. Complete coincidence, I know.

On the other hand, though, lists such as this are infuriating, especially in today's political climate of $10 billion a month to Iraq, millions to Israel, a health care system that leaves 47 million uninsured, a humiliating public education system, a college system akin to blood sucking leeches, and, of course, right-wing crazies at the local and federal level who want to cut taxes and spending amidst this superlative economic climate.

When will we Americans stop being so stoopid?

The in-depth study can be found here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

More Compelling Evidene Against Torture

In my post last night, I neglected to mention yet another compelling counterpoint to the effectiveness of torture: while used as a key recruiting tactic for Al-Qaeda scouts, the most successful interrogations with Al-Qaeda operatives and other insurgents came when, to the surprise of the captive, the U.S. did not torture them, as previously suspected. They cooperated and helped when we didn't torture.

Former senior military interrogator Matthew Alexander further explains:

"As a senior interrogator in Iraq, I conducted more than three hundred interrogations and monitored more than one thousand. I heard numerous foreign fighters state that the reason they came to Iraq to fight was because of the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. Our policy of torture and abuse is Al-Qaeda’s number one recruiting tool. These same insurgents have killed hundreds, if not thousands, of our troops in Iraq, not to mention Iraqi civilians. Torture and abuse are counterproductive in the long term and, ultimately, cost us more lives than they save."

Bob Baer on 'Real Time'

Former CIA agent Bob Baer appeared "Real Time with Bill Maher" last night. While Maher is an adequate interviewer at best, Baer succinctly explains why torture doesn't work. Also, Baer reminds us of the most perturbing info of all: the CIA destroyed 92 interrogation tapes, acts of tampering that were considered necessary because they were so overwhelmingly brutal. Even with all we know, the worst is yet to come.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The United States DOES Torture

—George W. Bush, November 7 2005

In what has become an administration of corruption par excellence, an assortment of criminals and hypocrites so devoid of legitimacy and so infected with power that Nixon's rotting bone marrow blushes, we still, unbelievable as it seems, sink further into the heart of darkness as more lies are exposed and more truths, horrific as they may be, surface.

It should come as no surprise that a presidency that lied about a faulty terrorist connection, lied about the justifications of war, lied about the unwarranted spying on its own citizens, lied about the firing of U.S. attorneys, lied about the politicizing of the Justice Department, and lied about the nuclear programs of Iran (and that's just a rudimentary run-through) would lie about its torture of detainees.

These past two weeks have been a flurry of affirmations, verifications of information any American with a conscience was already certain of: the United States did torture via waterboarding and other torture methods, did know what it was doing, and did gain absolutely nothing in the process.

The difficulty in assessing the Bush legacy is choosing what event will best epitomize these eight years of fear, embarrassment, and terror, but the four torture memos released by President Obama last week (an act of transparency and political bravery unmatched in modern times), along with the Senate Armed Services Committee, may just be the symbol we were looking for, detailing in shocking specificity different torture procedures, such as "Walling," which amounted to slamming a detainee's head into a wall, exact times and procedures for detainee sleep deprivation and cold storage, and, the piece de resistance of Bush administration war crimes, waterboarding, including specific times to waterboard detainees.

Further details are even more disturbing: as expected, the signing off on torture runs as high as Vice President Dick Cheney, with Donald Rumsfeld personally approving 15 tactics for Abu Ghraib and Condoleezza Rice signing off on waterboarding in 2002. The administration, though warned by previous memorandums that waterboarding was indeed torture, approved the interrogation measure in mid-2002, prior to the apprehension of Abu Zubaida and Kalik Sheikh Mohammad (and phone calls as early as December of 2001 strongly suggest conversation of torture then). And, most damning of all, the possibility that waterboarding and other "advanced interrogation methods" were used simply to provide faulty information for an illegal invasion of Iraq, and additionally, the Yoo/Bibby memos (the four released last week) as after-the-fact documents that desperately tried to legitimize the patently illegal practices of torture.

The facts are enormous and the evidence insurmountable: the United States tortured. But even beyond what we know, there are still ambiguities, such as the 100 or so detainees who died while in U.S. custody and the 30 or more who were tortured to death.

I should make one point, though: waterboarding is torture. Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, the international standard on detainee treatment, says so. The Red Cross, who investigated U.S. treatment of detainees and is, per the Geneva Conventions, the official authority on what constitutes as torture, says it is torture. Bush officials, writing pre-Yoo/Bibby memos, says it is torture. Waterboarding is not "advanced interrogation," as Fox News euphemistically dubs it. It's torture. There is no debate.

And, in closing, torture does not work. A common defense of torture is the supposed "ticking time bomb" situation, that we must resort to illegal measure in the face of daunting catastrophe. Kalik Sheik Mohammad was waterboarded 183 times in one month. That's six times a day. Abu Zubaida was waterboarded a mere 83 times in one month. The widespread use of the treatment denies any such emergency usage. Furthermore, the very information derived from the torture—information Dick Cheney still claims saved American lives—was garbage. Zubaida, for example, told the CIA everything he knew—prior to being waterboarded 83 times. Then, in the face of excruciating suffering and near death (including urinary dysfunctions he still suffers from today), Zubaida said ANYTHING to stop the pain, resulting in misleads and faulty information that cost millions of dollars.

Interrogators during World War II, in legendary sessions with Nazi soldiers, learned of invaluable information regarding Axis plots and saved thousands of lives in their efforts. How did they do this? How did they wrestle such key information from their subjects? German-speaking U.S. interrogators played chess with the Nazi soldiers.

Torture is morally reprehensible. Torture is wrong. Torture does. not. work.

I am ashamed.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Overwhelming Stoopidity of the Republican Anti-Tax Tea Party

Oh the stoopidity. Leave it to the radical right-wing fringe of the Republican party to concoct a publicity stunt so ludicrous, so contradictory, and so grounded in ignorance that it gains national media attention.

April 15th, for the majority of Americans—e.g. the sane—is Tax Day, a time where we fulfill our inconvenient-yet-essential role of citizenship by supporting our government and paying our taxes. For a the lunatic fringe of the GOP, though, the day serves as the "Anti-Tax Tea Party," a national protest allegedly taking place in 115 cities where Americans (mostly white and paranoid) gather at seaside to cast packets of tea into the water, a move reminiscent of the famed Boston Tea Party (more on that later).

Since being spearheaded by Rick Santelli—the CNBC clown whose rant on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade made Jim Cramer look like Gandhi—the event has been hyped by Fox News, particularly Glenn Beck, as a call to arms, a vicious protest of populist rage at the unfair tax-and-spend policies of President Obama! The outrage! Michelle Malkin, the idiot pit bull of movement conservatism, has written that "Revolution is brewing."

The ignorance and stoopidity of the "Anti-tax Tea Party" is so pervasive and extreme that it challenges me to know where to begin, but I'll consolidate the fatuous event into three simple points:

1. Don't know much about...the Founding Fathers!

The funniest thing about this ridiculous event is that it incorrectly assesses the very historical event it seeks to imitate. The Boston Tea Party, the famed colonial protest in which colonists, some in Native American garb, slashed and dumped the tea of the British East India Company into the Boston Harbor, was a protest against CORPORATE EXEMPTION. It was protesting a TAX HOLIDAY. In an act of severe self interest, Great Britain's Parliament passed a Tea Act that revoked the 25% tax rate that formerly applied to all East India Company tea sold in the colonies. The colonists, with the Tea Party, were protecting LOCAL BUSINESSES, the Mom & Pop shops whose businesses would be jeopardized by the tax-exempt products of the Company. The British East India Company, therefore, was the colonial equivalent of Wal-Mart.

Now, notice the insane hypocrisy here: the "Anti-Tax Tea Party," for one, is resisting supposed tax hikes (more on that in a moment), so the very essence of the protest is Topsy Turvy, but more importantly, it is funded by prominent right-wing think tanks (such as the idiotic Institute for Liberty), who are, of course, funded by right-wing, sweat-shop-utilizing corporations. An anti-corporate protest morphs into a corporate funded protest. Sweetness.

2. Don't know much about...Politics!

This obvious contradiction, though, would easily slip by the intellects of the people participating in the "Anti-Tax Tea Party," as these are namely the same groups of people who flocked to McCain/Palin rallies in October of 2008 with banners proclaiming Obama's socialism, his ties to Ché Guevara, Fidel Castro, and Muslim extremists, and other racist, inflammatory messages directly provoked by the McCain campaign. These are troubled, insecure people, puppets to the Mainstream Demented Media and willing to ignore any facts that challenge their deluded worldview.

The most prominent misconception regards taxes. The tax rates, aside from what you hear on Fox, have not risen for 16 years. The last time taxes were raised was when Bill Clinton raised the top tax to 39%. So currently, President Obama is functioning with tax rates directly organized by President George W. Bush, a man totally devoid of protest from this lunatic fringe regarding his own deficits and spending sprees. Even better, the top tax rate is still 10% LOWER than when Ronald Reagan, idiot actor and horrific president and idol to conservatives, was in charge. And what has Obama proposed to do to the top tax rate? Raise it an astonishing 4%.

Beyond taxes, though, the accusations that Obama is a socialist are childish at best. Medicare and Social Security, two of the more prominent social programs in the U.S., are not only products of past administrations, but they are overwhelmingly popular, effective programs. Furthermore, the very concept of modern socialism—the use of taxpayer funds to provide services to citizens—extends to our socialist police departments, our socialist fire departments, our socialist schools, our socialist libraries, our socialist roads, our socialist Food and Drug Administration, and so on and so forth. Clearly, we all engage in and benefit from some form of "socialism," yet the president who seeks to increase funding for these programs, to increase their effectiveness and harness a better America, is suddenly a socialist? Obama has not had a perfect 100 days (his issues with the banking crisis and Bush-era secrecy will be addressed in a future essay), but the arguments surrounding his supposed socialism is absurd on its face.

3. Don't know much about...GOP Propaganda!

This may be the most embarrassing point of all—the "Anti-Tax Tea Party" is nothing more than a propaganda campaign started by Rick Santelli and spread by GOP leaders and Fox News. It is no secret that the current incarnation of the Republican Party is in a bit of a crisis. Running on the heels of the most unpopular president in modern times and playing adversary to one of the more popular, the GOP is a party without a leader and without a message. John Boehner and Eric Cantor have both, by objective standards, been fairly horrendous party leaders, parading around the podiums with bizarre fabrications and humiliating anecdotes (Cantor, for example, missed a key Obama press conference (something he had criticized the week before) to attend...a Britney Spears concert). No coincidence, then, that Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey, the heads of the Republican Party during its "Republican Revolution" in the 90s, have both implicitly backed the "Anti-Tax Tea Party."

This is not a grassroots campaign of protest. This is a carefully calculated propaganda campaign started by Rick Santelli (in a speech that was pre-determined, mind you) and seized by Fox News and Glenn Beck.

The saddest thing about this protest, though, are the groups of people suckered in to its ranks.
Ronald Reagan was labeled "The Great Communicator" for good reason: he effectively convinced scores of lower middle-to-working class Americans that despite all evidence to the contrary, his policies were making their lives better. Despite the fact that union membership was plummeting and wages becoming stagnant, despite the fact that an easing of tariff rates was beginning to transfer jobs from the U.S. to China (a process that would cripple our world-renowned manufacturing base and result in economies of fabricated wealth like today), and despite the fact, most notably, that Reagan was effectively transferring wealth from the poor to the rich by slashing taxes on the rich and easing regulations on their businesses while drastically raising income taxes on the lower class and payroll taxes—which only account for the first $90 thousand or so dollars of incomes—to account for the massive deficits his tax cuts created. Oh, and, on the advice from Alan Greenspan, Reagan also began taking money from the social security fund. How much wealth did Reagan transfer in this fashion? At least $3 trillion.

So Reagan, in a sense, was the most socialist president we ever had, though his brand of socialism directly aided the very groups of people socialism is supposed to combat. Reagan was able to convince the masses to the contrary; it seems they have still not gotten the message.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I Remember (and Don't Remember)

I remember...the experience of having genuine excitement about a profession, in my case as a four-year-old with civil engineering, or, as I called it, "a builder."

I remember...being ecstatic at the arrival of a new building book in the mail.

I don't remember...the supposed dinner routine of my sister and I at our old house in Franklin Park, Illinois. Apparently we would dance in the family room every night to Billy Joel's "52nd Street."

I don't remember...my Uncle Bud, who, this tiny anecdote will reveal, was a man of great compassion and insight: My father and his two brothers were attending the wedding of a distant cousin (probably for the food), and each one took notice of the unusually long hair the groom flaunted on the outskirts of his ill-fitting tuxedo. As the brothers strolled out of the cathedral, their Uncle Bud sneaked behind them and said, draping his arms around their shoulders, "Boys, if you ever grow your hair that long, I'll cut your balls off."

I don't remember...ever feeling economic despair while the middle class evaporated from American life.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Some Thoughts on the Essay

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself
at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will
express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image
fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two
more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is
avoidably ugly?
---George Orwell

I chuckled as I read meditation on writing because it succinctly described my own thought process as a writer, beyond the personal essay I wrote for class last week. While my convictions are clear and senses sharp, I am frequently burdened by the realization that words are nothing more than the best available option to communicate our thoughts. George Carlin summed it up best when he said:

I love words. I thank you for hearing my words. I want to tell you something about words that I uh, I think is important. I love..as I say, they're my work, they're my play, they're my passion. Words are all we have really.

We have thoughts, but thoughts are fluid. You know, [humming]. And, then we assign a word to a thought, [clicks tongue]. And we're stuck with that word for that thought. So be careful with words.

I had this experience when writing a short story/memoir about a trivia game my family plays every Thanksgiving. Playing the game for years, each one different and better than the last, and I need to rely on mere words to explain my emotions? It feels inadequate, and inevitably so.

Next, I wonder about the "image or idiom" of the finished work. I'm a self-conscious guy, and from the comment I leave on a Facebook page to which Ralph Lauren polo shirt I'll wear with what shorts, I always devote proper thought. Writing, though, is particularly important to me, as it has become not only a professional choice but a lifestyle.

Even with a Facebook comment, then, I want to be eloquent, I want to be witty, I want to say something of value that goes beyond "LOL!" This commitment to wit, or, some would say, superciliousness (and the very use of that word is yet another example of this complicated tendency), had landed me in some intellectual war zones with former peers of mine, but I have neither the time nor platform to address those memories at this time. Beyond external conflict, though, this devotion creates considerable internal conflict as well. I constantly question the effect of the piece and whether it can be communicated in a more concise manner. Can wit and bluntness go together? There is no truer dread than that of insignificance, and writing has the unfortunate tendency of welcoming such barracks with open, golden sunned arms.

I Remember Part Deux

I remember...writing the first essay for this class and wondering if the witty, self-conscious tone would instead come across as precocious.

I remember...writing that essay, and being amazed at the fact that I had never told my parents about any of the events I was writing about.

I remember...thinking, with quiet desperation, if there is any value to my essay, my major, my future profession as a journalist.

I remember...being naturally ambidextrous as a kindergartner. I would write with my dominant left hand, and upon that hand losing vigor, would switch to my right hand.

I remember...my kindergarten teacher forcing me to write with one hand. "Which hand do you write with?" she asked, her tone accusatory. "I write with both!" I exclaimed, plucky like my childhood hero, Thomas the Tank Engine. "No!" she exclaimed. "You must choose!" I chose left. That explains a lot.

I remember...having a growing hatred for the phrase "a lot" starting my sophomore year in college.

I remember...that same kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Lion, and her odd, angular walking style, the result of a damaged leg from childhood polio.

I remember...my mother attending the first Parent/Teacher night for Mrs. Lion, an event where Lion demonstrated her "clapping" strategy to control the students—she would violently clap her hands, and the students stopped, instantaneously, in their spots. Lion beamed. My mom was horrified. Visions of totalitarian fascist sugar plums danced in her head.

I remember...loving my first grade teacher, Mrs. Berna, and as a fifth grader, taking part in a video we sent to her to commemorate her retirement. I began the video with, "Hi Mrs. Berna, I'm not sure if you remember me, but..." All the other students taking part mimicked this memory theme in their own addresses to the camera.

I remember...my utter obsession with Godzilla and dinosaurs as a second grader. My interest was so keen that at the first Parent/Teacher conference of that grade, the teacher, Mrs. Cain (who was a doll), specifically requested my mom to "tell Peter to write about something other than dinosaurs."

I remember...drawing a huge, four-foot-tall picture of Godzilla and giving it to Mrs. Cain as a present on the last day of school. Whenever I would meet students of Mrs. Cain's the following years as grade school student, they would always connect my name with the huge monster drawing proudly on display in the classroom.

I remember...the perfection that was the sixth grade. The inconsistent nature of the U.S. education system accomplishes, if anything, strong connections to great teachers, and my sixth grade teacher, Ms. Flaherty, was an academic dynamo. We had entire units devoted to Egypt, various Asian countries, medieval times (during which we constructed an entire castle from cardboard, labeling each individual section of the castle), astrophysics (we built rockets from two-liter pop bottles and launched them with compressed hair; the bottles housed eggs (our passengers)), and even a segment on acting where we wrote and acted our own one-scene plays. If only all levels of learning could be this riveting...

I would remember to send Dave the URL to my blog, except I already did so!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I remember...

I remember...running in the grass, the front yard of my house, wearing a tan jacket with brown lining that my mother affectionately called "the Indiana Jones" jacket. I fell, and grass stained the jacket. It burned.

I remember...Christmas eve. A cold, bitterly windy Chicago evening. A man dressed as Santa Claus entered the house, emitting faulty "Ho Ho Hos" like a coal plant emits greenhouse gases. The man was my Uncle Bob. "It's Uncle Bob! It's Uncle Bob!" I screamed with jubilation, proud of my ability to decipher the falsity of the fake Santa Claus, the impostor. I didn't look like

I remember...watching "The Godfather" for the first time with my father on the Fourth of July. We were sitting in our claustrophobic family room, along with my mother and brother and maybe sister (I have the odd feeling she lacked the interest to watch the film), the lights turned low, the screen on the television bright and bold, and the images of blood, loyalty, and finally, family drowning out of the picture in the brilliant and muted cinematography of Gordon Willis.

I remember...arguing with one of my more ignorant uncles on the merits of the Conflict in Iraq (I refuse to label it a war). After watching he and a fellow uncle spar on the validity of WMDs in the region, in which ignorant uncle argued against evidence suggesting WMDs were a fabrication of movement conservative imagination, I sprang into the conversation, mentioning how Iraq bore an uncomfortable resemblance to Vietnam. "No, it has no connection," the ignorant one violently exclaimed. "In Vietnam, we didn't know what we were doing." The inevitable response was that we did not know what we were doing in Iraq, but I was too stunned by the forcefulness of his attack to say anything. I often find myself speechless at the passion of men so wrong.

I remember...the funeral of my Uncle Don and Aunt Marlene. The overcast day at the graveyard. The stone, blank faces of the various family members in attendance, the crying outpourings of emotion from the others. I wanted to cry. I wanted to show emotion. In some ways, I desperately wanted to cry, to show that I cared for this man, so show that the death of him and his wife affected me. The tears did not come. After the caskets were buried, and I walked back to the car, I started crying. Uncontrollably. Strong. Unfiltered. Unexplainable.

I remember...only one conversation with Uncle Don. I had recently begun playing trumpet, and and he asked me how the experience was going. "I know someone who plays trumpet," he said, a twinkle in his eye, a glisten of his salt-and-pepper beard. "Well," I responded, "I know someone who plays trombone!" Uncle Don was a professional trombone player, alternating between gigs with a big band and an interesting tenure as a limo driver.

I remember...ripping the carpet out of the flooding basement of my Uncle Ed and Aunt Amanda. It was in this house that I had the one conversation with Uncle Don. The water rushed into the basement in a fast and furious manner, like Vin Diesel driving a Toyota Celica. My dad and I ripped carpeting out of the ground, exposing a rather hideous stone flooring the carpet had been covering. At the time, I thought it looked cool. "Hey Amanda," my dad said, "I think you should leave the carpet and use this floor." "Yeah, maybe I should," she responded. I couldn't understand their tongue-in-cheek tone.

I remember...New Years Eve at my Grandma's house, taking place in a ridiculous sideshow my sister and cousins would direct of song and dance and moments we blush at when parents tirelessly replay the events from the old dusty VHS tapes of the family camcorder. The tape shows me walking into the room, a pair of drum sticks in my hand, size 48 shorts that hung around my buttocks, and Hawaiian flowers draped around my neck. I began furiously kicking my legs in the air, imitating a dance move I recently saw in "The Mask," and I threw the flowers at the camera lens. I was trying to let the flowers launch off of my wrist like a rocket. Instead, I threw them like a mushy baseball.

I remember...my brother imitating "The Mask" when my mother's brother came to visit. He thought the brother was crazy.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Graphic Novels

(Originally published in the Ohio University Post, March 5)

"Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face."

So begins Watchmen, the 1986 graphic novel by writer Alan Moore and artist David Gibbons that was a landmark publication for the comic book industry.

Along with Maus, a graphic novel by Art Spiegelman that also came out in '86, Watchmen was the first comic to launch comic books into the mainstream literary dialogue, said Kevin Haworth, visiting professor of English at Ohio University who teaches a course about graphic novels.

"(Maus and Watchmen are) not really aesthetically connected," Haworth said, "but I think we would not be where we are now without both of them simultaneously."

Tomorrow, a film version of Watchmen, directed by Zack Snyder (300), opens nationwide, and the film's premiere coincides with increased academic uses of the graphic novel at OU.

Graphic novels combine the fundamentals of a comic - images, bubble dialogue, gridlock space - with the ambitious length and sprawl of a novel. Watchmen is an example of this dichotomy, Haworth said.

"The reason Watchmen was so interesting when it came out was because it was a graphic novel that was also a comic," he said. "It used the characters and trappings of a comic: the superheroes, the flat, bright colors, all the sorts of things you associate with the kind of semi-disposable comic. But it used all these things to create a work of scale and ambition that asked people to think about what comics were really about."

Some industry experts credit A Contract with God by Will Eisner as the first graphic novel, because he was one of the first who imagined selling comics like books, meaning in bookstores on shelves as opposed to comic book shops in cardboard boxes. Eisner, who also wrote The Spirit, has been credited for coining the term "graphic novel," Haworth said.

Graphic novels in academia

Haley Duschinski and Loren Lybarger, professors of anthropology and religion at OU, respectively, both use graphic novels in their courses.

Duschinski uses Maus, which focuses on the Holocaust, and Palestine, a 1996 graphic novel by journalist Joe Sacco about his experiences in the West Bank, for her Anthropology of Violence and Peace course. She said the graphic novel format helps her students better understand the cultures they study.

"They give the reader a different kind of entry point into the cultural context," Duschinski said. "It gives you a different kind of way of identifying with people who are living in situations of violence or people who are victims of violence."

Stefan Barber, a senior studying political science, is a student in Duschinski's class. Barber said the use of Palestine offered a new perspective on the region with its use of images.

"You actually get to witness (Sacco's) experience," Barber said, "rather than through a text-based piece where you just get to hear about it, where the story is told to you."

Lybarger uses Persepolis, a graphic novel about the Iranian revolution, in his Intro to Islam course. Lybarger said it helps him humanize Muslims and the Islamic faith.

"Those of us who ... teach Islam in the post-9/11 context, our fundamental objective is to humanize Muslims," Lybarger said. "The overwhelming starting point, at least in the popular media discourse, is that Muslims are a threat."

"Anything that will convey to my students that Muslims are human beings ... is for me grist for my mill. I will use it," Lybarger said.

In addition to Persepolis, Lybarger said he has considered using Palestine for future courses. Lybarger met the book's author while living in Gaza and makes a cameo appearance in the graphic novel as the character Larry.

From page to screen

Persepolis was originally published in 2000, and the 2007 film adaptation won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Though the Persepolis film experienced rapid production and acclaim, the literary accomplishments of Watchmen did not translate to immediate celluloid success. Broiled in development problems for almost 20 years, the graphic novel's filming came after a long line of producers, actors and directors dropped out of past projects. Celebrities like Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky, Paul Greengrass, Jude Law and Daniel Craig had been mentioned in past Watchmen proposals.

Despite the film's long-awaited completion, though, some fans still remain skeptical.

Kevin Brown, a senior studying electrical engineering, is an employee at Universe of Superheroes, a comic book store in Athens. Brown said he is hesitant about the Watchmen film.

"Generally, the movies are not as good as the comic book," Brown said. "A comic book like Watchmen I couldn't see being put in a movie well."

Haworth said he is skeptical of how the themes in Watchmen will translate on the big screen.

"I think it's reasonable to ask, 'What's the point other than making a lot of money?'" Haworth said, referencing writer Alan Moore's disdain for the film.

"Part of the reason why Watchmen is important is because it uses the medium that it's critiquing. It's critiquing the superhero comic in the form of a comic. Critiquing the superhero comic in the form of a movie is ... much less intellectually significant."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama's shocking speech

Excuse me, while I cry tears of shocked joy.

I was born at an unfortunate time, a period of a New Gilded Age in the 90s and extreme political incompetence in the new millennium. To become politically active meant to learn to hate government and its excesses and corruption, and to anguish as soldiers died, the elderly lost healthcare coverage, and poverty exploded.

Imagine my shock, then, from the moment Obama began speaking. And he began making sense.

I sat up in my chair. I moved closer to the television screen. I listened intently. A joyful, euphoric thought crossed my mind: "Holy shit. We have a serious president."

We have a president, ladies and gentlemen! Radical expansion of health care. Withdrawal from Iraq. Reinvestment in schools and infrastructure. An actual commitment to alternate energy. If someone had predicted these pronouncements to come from a U.S. president a couple years ago, I would have asked for the maker of their medication.

Even now, I still can't shake the levity of the situation, the notion that we can have faith in a brilliant, motivated, driven leader who speaks to us like we're ADULTS who are ready to improve the country.

As an e-mailing wrote to Andrew Sullivan: "After eight years of being talked to like a child (or an idiot), my president is speaking to me like I am an intelligent adult. This is going to take some getting used to."

Passionate and urgent as Bobby Jindal's rebuttal was dull and out of touch, our moment has arrived.

The revolution is before our eyes, people. Let us embrace it!

Slumdog Millionaire: worst best picture ever?

I thought "The Departed" was safe. I thought "The Departed" was sound. I thought "The Departed" would remain, irrevocably, absolutely, the worst best picture winner of modern times, as the cartoonish, embarrassing, over-the-top mess of a film seems beyond reproach. WRONG!

"Slumdog Millionaire," the dull, obsequious, overall perfunctory winner of the 2009 Best Picture, may just steal that title! Then again, the success of the film is, admittedly, entirely understandable, as the Academy has a tendency to reward sentimentality on an international scale.

Call it "The International Effect," the propensity to bestow heaps of unwarranted praise on a work of "art" simply because it uses as its setting a foreign country.

Danny Boyle, the director of "Slumdog" (who also netted best directing honors), self-consciously exploited this effect with his film, translating the same style of film he repeatedly made in the 90s to a Bollywood setting. While a first view of the movie reveals Boyle to be hardly a visionary (his camerawork, especially, is dull incarnate), his very choice of transmitting his working-class theme to Bollywood is cliche at best. We all know Bollywood, it's tendencies, it's excesses; yet, it's international, and even more, it's India, so while Boyle is doing something of little originality, you'll still have the few critics/Academy members who will herald the "vision."

Beyond Boyle's lack of creativity, though, is a truly resentful, manipulative approach to film making. Plucking a collection of unknown actors from obscurity, Boyle's movie reeks of precociousness, the conscious choosing of non-stars to create the appearance of a novel approach to making films. Even worse than this exploitative measure, though, is his cartoonish representation of Mumbai and India. Boyle wants to make a modern film of Mumbai, so naturally, he casts a British actor in the lead part; Boyle wants to make a modern film of Mumbai, so naturally, he'll pepper the remaining parts with some of the more offensive Indian caricatures this side of "40 Year Old Virgin" (note: "40" is a comedy, so in that event, the caricatures work); and finally, Boyle wants to make a modern film of Mumbai, so he'll have all the characters speak English.

India is a fascinating, multi-faceted country, one ripe with poverty, rapid industrialization, a modern Caste system its culture resists yet embraces, and a horribly violent religious conflict with Muslim Pakistan. All of these issues would make an interesting film, just don't go to "Slumdog Millionaire" to experience this.

P.S. The best film of 2008 was, without a shadow of a doubt, "Wall-E."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Rod Blagojevich—Heir of Nixon, Corrupt to the Bone

"Blagojevich and aide allegedly conspired to sell U.S. Senate appointment, engaged in
“pay-to-play” schemes and threatened to withhold state assistance to Tribune Company
for Wrigley Field to induce purge of newspaper editorial writers."

That's the summary of the official complaint from the U.S. Department of Justice, filed today in the arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. The breadth and scope of these charges is simply staggering.

I can't say I've ever had a man-crush on Blago, but I can remember supporting the man as an ignorant eighth grader for one key reason: Ryan was corrupt, Ryan was a Republican, and therefore the GOP brand of Illinois politics had to make way for a Democrat Governor. How ironic, really, that the man who ran on a platform of "reform" is arguably MORE corrupt? I'll be thinking about this phrase constantly over the impending days—only in Illinois politics.

As far as the charges are concerned: it was a well-known allegation that Blago has been involved in "pay-to-play" schemes involving government appointments, and that he had rock-solid ties with convicted lobbyist Tony Rezko. In fact, during the Rezko circus trial, Ali Ata, an ex-aide to Blago, plead guilty to his own corruption charges, alleging that Blago offered him a government position in exchange for thousands in campaign contributions. Even more incendiary was Ata's testimony, which placed him, Blago, and Rezko in the same room weeks after Blago's first election, brainstorming fund raising strategies for a potential PRESIDENTIAL campaign.

As despicable as these charges are, we have to be honest and admit they are in the vein of "Chicago politics." The other two charges though are entirely unique to Blago's corruption process.

The first of the two charges alleges that Blago withheld state assistance to Tribune Company during their attempted sale of Wrigley Field. The reason for this? Blago was fumed over negative editorials that had been published in the Tribune regarding his governorship. SO HE WITHHELD STATE AID SO THE EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS WHO DISLIKED HIM WOULD BE FIRED. Nixonian to the bone, a modern incarnation of Wilsonian fascism.

The second, though, is the allegation that will forever define Blago's failed time as governor. In a move of stunning corruption and dishonesty, the Department's report alleges that President-elect Barack Obama's open Senate seat was, and I'll quote here, "conspiring to sell or trade Illinois’ U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama for financial and other personal benefits for himself and his wife." The report lists some of these benefits as:

< A substantial salary for himself at a either a non-profit foundation or an
organization affiliated with labor unions;
< Placing his wife on paid corporate boards where he speculated she might
garner as much as $150,000 a year;
< Promises of campaign funds – including cash up front; and
< A cabinet post or ambassadorship for himself.

The entire complaint, in PDF format, can be found on the Chicago Sun-Times website (http://www.suntimes.com/index.html#).

What more needs to be said? This man was a walking bulls eye for corruption from the opening days of his administration, and I as well as many other Illinoisans are not surprised that he is finally being arrested. What IS surprising—flabbergasting, in fact—is the scope and decay of the charges, premises that, if true, will set a new low for Illinois politics.

My fellow Illinoisans: follow this story! and be enraged at what you find!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Scary Santa

Scary Santa

Published: Monday, December 8, 2008 on the Ohio University Post website
Last Modified: Monday, December 8, 2008, 6:12:55pm

Every year for the holiday season, my family engages in a rigorous act of extreme home makeover, transforming our comfortable house in Bartlett, Ill.,into a haven of Christmas decorations and good cheer. During this process, my absolute favorite decoration surfaces: a photo album chronicling our annual trip to Chicago's Marshal Field's (now Macy's), specifically our visit with the Marshal Field's Santa. While the photographs of latter years are collections of joy, the earlier snapshots-where my siblings and I are in our toddler years-are personifications of agony, despair and fear.

The psychological fears of Santa - the fact that he can see us when we're sleeping, knows when we are awake, has carte blanche to determine whether we are good or not - was subject of several low-budget horror films entitled Silent Night, Deadly Night, where Santa kills naughty children, but that was not the source of our fear, at least not early on. While I like to consider my siblings and I as a modern day incarnation of Salinger's Glass family, it is very unlikely that as diaper-boasting tots we were aware of the implicit stalker status of the jolly head elf.

What did scare us, though, was the man's image. Our faces would twist and turn at the sight, becoming puffy with tears and red with stress as a freakish old man beckoned us to sit on his lap. Seemingly proud of the destruction he was causing, he would laugh maniacally at our terrorized glances. He hides his face behind a bushy white beard and gazes at us with beady old eyes. He is dressed in daunting black boots that thunder on the ground, an extravagant belt buckle that glistens like fool's gold in the light, and his trademark red suit, a horrific exercise in mass weight loss that appears to have sprung out of the seventh ring of hell.

Whatever the rationale, Santa is a seriously scary dude, and my family is not the only one to have experienced his frightening demeanor. Deck the halls with this hearty collection of petrified youths (my personal favorite is number five): http://www.sun-sentinel.com/entertainment/holiday/sfl-scaredofsanta-ugc,0,7181908.ugcphotogallery.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A clarification on GOP voters and McCain's latest strategy

I mentioned, in my last note on McCain's luck, how democratic voters are less prejudiced than republican voters. Before republicans lose their head over the remark, let me offer an elaboration, one to clarify AND to further develop why McCain's campaign is so despicable.

First, the clarification:

Movement conservatism, the radical fringe of the GOP that has dominated the party's policy for the last 30 years, is a movement grounded in racism (1).

While it is a strange idea for modern democrats like myself to consider, the south used to be a reliably democratic region. The logic was simple: FDR's New Deal offered showers of public aid to the impoverished regions of the South, areas that remained devastated from the evaporating manufacturing markets from the Civil War. While the area was still ripe with prejudice, it was short on ignorance, as southern voters were smart enough to vote for the hand that so generously fed them.

This continued until 1964, when the Civil Rights Act was passed. LBJ knew what he was doing. By supporting African-Americans in an unprecedented legislative effort, he was single-handedly offering the South to the GOP. And boy, did they exploit it.

Crazy as he was, Richard Nixon was a brilliant manager of campaigns. He knew what the people wanted to hear, but even more was his ability to run on raw emotion. Along with scare-tactics of communism, Nixon ran on racism, gathering strong southern support by matching their ugly ideology. It didn't matter that Nixon essentially governed as a liberal, raising taxes and pushing for universal healthcare. He ran on pure emotion, and that strategy left a strong impression on budding movement conservatives(2), who would use the campaigning excessively.

To be fair, I cannot credit the success of movement conservatism to racism alone. The movement was heavily financed by rich corporations that despised the high taxes of the New Deal, and the movement ran in equal hatred of such counter-culture themes as drugs, homosexuality, and promiscuous sex (I recommend finding a speech Ronald Reagan gave during his campaign for governorship of California, where he described "vile orgies" and a student dance that had descended into an orgy!).

The fruits of these early campaigns have flourished, as the GOP has held a thorough stranglehold over the South for a solid 30 years. Most recently, George W. Bush and Karl Rove composed a campaign of such cultural misogyny that Nixon would have wept a tear in pride. In 2000, they famously leaked a rumor that John McCain had an illegitimate black child--and during the South Carolina Primary, of all times (and I did mention the baby was black, right?). And during his 2004 re-election, Bush ran on constitutionally banning gay marriage.

These are two of the more egregious examples, but you get the point. Republicans have played on prejudice and raw emotion to win elections.

Now, the elaboration on why McCain is such a scumbag:

John McCain has, essentially, nothing to run on as president. His record as a maverick is laughable upon further inspection. His recent activities, from confusing Sunni and Shia tribes to making so many gaffes on the campaign trail that a campaign manager announced he did not speak for his own campaign, have raised more than eyebrows. And his latest flip flops, on key issues like taxes and immigration, make him progressive politics' worst nightmare.

It is not surprising, then, that McCain would demolish his alleged integrity and run on fear; after all, he is running against a black man with a frightening name. These actions alone are scumbag-worthy, as anybody with a stable internet connection can deduce that Barack Obama is not raising taxes on the middle class, is not a freedom fighter from the middle east, and is not good buddies with Bill Ayers. But again, McCain is a movement conservative candidate, so this was expected.

What I never anticipated, though, was McCain of the swastika. Watching the McCain rallies last week was like being transported to a Nuremberg rally. McCain practically bated the audience, asking rhetorical questions like "Who is Barack Obama?" just begging the crowd to should out words like "A Terrorist!" Sarah Palin was just the same, questioning the crowd at her rally on why a presidential candidate would buddy-up with former terrorists? prompting a crowd member to bellow "KILL HIM!"

This is unacceptable. In an unstable time, where a member of one of the most discriminated minorities in human history is running to shatter the ultimate glass ceiling, your campaign is whipping the uneducated, prejudice base you call "supporters" into a drunken, hate-filled frenzy.

Maybe they'll get lucky and someone will finally shoot Obama.

Despicable. Manipulative. Low. This is the dirtiest political campaign I have ever seen, and I can only hope that Obama wins in a route on November 4 and McCain is forever known as the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, short man whose grisly politics cost him the election.

1. Indeed: William Buckley, the creator of the movement, defended the Southern States rights to prohibit African-Americans, or, lesser humans, from voting.

2. And Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, the fattest piece of journalistic excrement ever spat upon this earth. And yeah, he did graduate from Ohio University...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A time when Rod Stewart was cool

Rod Stewart has become a whipping post among rock music circles today, and for good reason. As if his disco-inspired heyday in the 80s were not bad enough, with his spiked hair, leather pants, and leopard-skin jackets, Rod has made a comeback recently by killing American standards like “It Had To Be You” and “Blue Skies.” And yes, even in his ripe old age of 63, he’s still trying to be sexy.

Imagine the shock, then, that the man once fronted a serious and vital rock n’ roll band. And he was cool while doing it.

Faces, a group that also included Ronnie Wood of Rolling Stones fame and Ronnie Lane, rocked a hard, boozy rock that grooved like a motha and stung like a bee. Think of a bar-band type sound, one that is so aggressive, so sloppy, and so darn fun that it could internally combust at any moment.

The group released a number of strong albums during their brief time together (“Long Player” and “A Smile is a Good as a Wink” are the ones to look into), but to fully appreciate the group’s rockin’ talents and their (gulp) diversity, the true purchase must be “Five Guys Walk into a Bar,” a four-disc box set that is simply one of the finest box set releases in the history of rock n’ roll.
There have been better bands than Faces, but as far as the purpose of a box set is concerned—to provide an ultimate showcase of a group while offering music for beginners and music for diehards—“Five Guys…” exceeds on a gargantuan scale. Assembled by group keyboardist Ian McLagan, the set features a whopping 31 unreleased tracks, which include many wild live performances. While I was aware of the hard rock side of Faces when I purchased the set, it was the featured ballads that left me stunned. Yes, ballads! While a bar-band is not the typical benchmark for emotional songs of love and loss, Faces performs a striking series of ballads that all but defy their hard rock roots.

With beautiful melodies and glistening harmonies, songs like “Debris,” “Glad and Sorry,” and especially “If I’m on the Late Side” are as fine as rock balladry gets, offering a wonderful icy cool to the heated rock numbers. This is due in no small part to Lane’s influence, a wonderful and underappreciated songwriter.

A final note is worth being made about the musicianship. Fans of the Rolling Stones will recognize Wood, but his playing throughout the set is still a revelation. Aggressively hoisting his slide guitar to the front of the group, Wood harkens back to the blues with his rendition of “Around the Plynth,” and grooves like the devil in the white city during a live recording of “You’re my Girl.” And then there’s Rod Stewart.

I began this post with Stewart, so I might as well end it with him for the sake of bookends. Stewart is great on these numbers, almost making you forget of his recent dreck. He yelps and hollers with glee during the rock numbers, but sings with feeling and sensitivity during the ballads. He adds a potent charisma to each number, displaying that he had the goods to be a great rock n’ roll vocalist; and during the early part of the 70s, he was. It’s just a crying shame that he had to sell out.

Bottom line, Faces is a band well worth investigating, as they offer harder rock than the Rolling Stones while the sensitive balladry of any folk group. Give ‘em a chance, as I am sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Friday, October 10, 2008

McCain want's somebody...to hold his hand

Poor John McCain. He had so much going for him! Aside from the fact that his campaign reeks of movement conservative politics, aside from his repeated gaffes on policy, aside from selling his soul to the radical lunatic fringe of the GOP, and aside from making the most irresponsible VP choice in modern political times, John has been hanging in there(1).

I find it exceedingly difficult, however, to imagine how his campaign can survive what has transpired the last 24 hours.

1. The stock market finished a horrendous week, dropping over 18% of its value. How bad is this? It's the worst week in the history of the stock exchange (yeah, worse than 1933). Any bad economic news is bad news for the McCain campaign, as the kind of policies he supports have directly influenced this melt down.

2. Earlier today, McCain defended the honor of Barack Obama, answering angry cries of Obama's religion and character at a Minnesota rally. After McCain made the statement, which was a basic declaration of what a decent family man Obama is, his supporters booed him for the gesture.

3. The bipartisan investigation into Sarah Palin's troopergate scandal was made public today, and it overwhelmingly concludes that Palin DID abuse her power as governor by firing Commissioner Walter Monegan, allegedly because Monegan would not fire Tim Wooten, a state trooper who was embroiled in a bitter custody battle with Palin's sister.

These developments are quite catastrophic, and they are the last thing McCain needed at this point in the campaign. His credibility slipping, his consistency nonexistence, and his integrity all but a mirage, McCain has nothing to run on. By deciding to avoid the issues, and purely run on the "controversies" and "scandals" of Barack Obama's character, McCain was playing on thin ice. These were the same strategies that Hillary Clinton employed during her own campaign battle with Obama, and obviously, Clinton lost that battle. By nature, however, democrats are less prejudiced voters than republicans, and by campaigning in such a fashion, McCain unleashed an electoral monster that he could have NEVER hoped to control, one united in racism and bound by their absolute hatred of variety. What did he expect to happen? Now that McCain has backed off on this approach, he has angered these supporters, and with them the powerful right-wing talking heads like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Idiots they are, but powerful they are as well, and their wrath will be swift.

The Palin is self-explanatory: the kind of scandal and abuse of power that we have come to expect as protocol during the Bush years. And she managed this during her first year as governor. Not only does it undermine the entire argument for her nomination--that Washington needs a new, fresh kind of politician--but it is the most blatant example of Palin's prevarication, as she was a staunch opponent to the investigation from the start, refusing to answer to subpoenas and hiding behind the McCain campaign's clout to crush the investigation. She failed, and the information is now out.

As I finish writing this, I'm listening to Otis Redding's rendition of "A Woman, a Lover, a Friend," and in the song, Otis sings:

"I want me somebody, to hold my hand. Somebody to love me, and understand."
Oh John, how Otis feels your pain.

1. With a practical tongue-bath by the press, mind you.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Leave it to Hustler: A Sarah Palin Porn Flick

How could I make this up?

Larry Flint's Hustler has made a Sarah Palin-themed porno film, and copies of the script have been leaked to the press.

I'll admit--it sure seems folksy!

P.S. While some have disagreed on the outcomes, we can all admit that this has been the zaniest, most unpredictable, and flat out wild presidential election in recent memory. Though I am still making up my mind on whether that's a good thing or not...