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August 29, 2008
Just a quick note regarding McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. This may have seemed like a good idea on paper--appeal to disgruntled Hillary voters, add a "change" component to the McCain platform, etc.--but I'm betting it's going to backfire big time.
As many have pointed out, Palin has little experience. Some argue that this works for Democrats: now McCain can not longer belittle Obama for same; others say that it works for McCain: if anyone questions Palin's experience, they'll take those quotations and run them in an ad featuring Obama's smiling mug.
So who will Palin's lack of experience ultimately favor? I say Obama--but not for the reasons everyone has seized on.
Democrats will assert that Palin's inexperience is an issue because she'll assume office if McCain dies ... and that gives them license to talk about the likelihood of such scenario. Expect incessant talk about McCain's age and his health, two topics that were largely taboo before. After all (Dems will argue), they aren't bringing up McCain's age to denigrate him--that would be a nasty personal attack, after all--but simply as something to consider when discussing Palin.
Even if the Obama inexperience v. Palin inexperience slugfest winds up as a draw, the age thing will linger. And in the final equation, Americans vote for a President, not a Vice-President. I don't think the McCain campaign thought this selection all the way through to the bitter (if cynical) end, and they are going to have buyers remorse real quick-like.
August 28, 2008
Democratic Convention Liveblogging: Barack Obama
Longtime readers of this blog know I have been in the tank for Obama for a while. In Hypothetical World my candidates were Gore and then Dodd, but among the feasible candidates there was really no question who I supported. Hillary I like, and think she would have made a fine president (and perhaps still may), but put succinctly, I am so sick of this dynasty crap.
And call me naive, but despite the (supposed) narrowing polls there's still no doubt in my mind that, barring electoral shenanigans, Obama's gonna win it. McCain is, to my mind, some sort of horrible Dole / Kerry hybrid, doomed by the utter lack of enthusiasm he engenders in his party.
Barack still has the task of introducing himself to the vast majority of America which is only now starting to pay real attention to the presidential race. It'll be interesting to see how he does so.
6:00: Good, if muted, speech by Al Gore. I've seen him get really riled up while speaking, but this was him in campaign mode, pulling his punches and just wonking-out up there. Second opinion, courtesy of The Queen: "As soon as Al Gore starts talking, I stop listening."Kind of a strange speech. The first half was like a "Greatest Hits" compilation of various lines used on the stump and in the primaries; the second half covered essentially the same ground, but was all fresh and newly written. It was like Obama pasted his usual rhetoric in Word, used it as a guide to write a brand new speech, and then neglected to delete the old stuff before delivery.
That said, the second half was great, with a lot of attention paid to Big Ideas and unity--something we haven't seen much of recently, as the Obama campaign has been bogged down in responding to the fusillade of negative messages coming from McCain. Hopefully they will again fly the banner of Hope going forward, and not get suckered into these rope-a-dope tit-for-tat flamewars.
August 27, 2008
There's a theme that recurs in your books and your speeches, both about putting country first but also about honor. I wonder if you could define honor for us?
August 26, 2008
Democratic Convention Liveblogging: Hillary Clinton
Typo week continues here at dy, as I liveblog Hillary Clinton's speech.
6:55: Hmm, Mark Warner is still speaking. He just told a convoluted story that ended with "and that's how I wound up at the gymnasium of a high school." Right. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that you keep getting older, but they stay the saaaaame age.Very nice speech. Very, very nice, I'm really impressed. She spoke about herself a fair amount as was her right, but her challenge to her supporters--were you voting for me, or were you voting for the best possible future for America?--is an almost irrefutable argument in favor of Obama.
Hillary is going to get rave reviews for this speech, as well she should.
Just in time for Hillary Clinton's appearance at the Democratic convention, the McCain campaign has rolled out a new video that samples her infamous "3 AM' ad.
Of course it just snipes at Obama, without saying what McCain himself would do if woken at 3 AM by a call. My guess is that he would groggily pick up the handset to his rotary phone, bellow "you punks quit calling about Prince Albert!!!", and then blow a sports whistle into the mouthpiece.
August 25, 2008
My alarm clock has a "Sound Machine" built into it. Not of the Miami variety (though rising to "Conga" every morning would be AWESOME), but the sort that will play soothing sounds to help you sleep: white noise, ocean waves, chirruping crickets, and the like.
One of the options is "heartbeat", and sometimes when Squiggle is monkeying around the with clock, pressing the buttons and listening to all the possible selections, he will leave it on that particular setting. The following morning I wake to the ominous luh-DUM luh-DUM luh-DUM and immediately start to panic, terrified that someone is about to discover the old man that I smothered, cut into pieces, and hid under the floorboards of my room.
Convention Liveblogging: Michelle Obama
Liveblogging! Enjoy the typos!
7:20: Commentators are filling up airtime before Michelle takes the stage. They have decided that her role will be to sell the candidacy to "disgruntled Hillary voters".Pretty uninspired, overall. I don't think I and my Y chromosome were the target audience for that tale of family, adversity, and courtship, but I wanted to learn more about Michelle Obama; instead it seems like she just heaped encomiums on her father, brother, husband and children, and did her best to fade into the background. Too bad.
August 22, 2008
Movies: Tropic Thunder
Let's begin this review by demolishing any credibility I may have accrued over the years: I like Ben Stiller. Maybe not all the films he's done--well, maybe only a few of the films he's done, on reflection--but I think he's a genuinely funny guy, and the projects he personally helms tend to make me laugh. And although he can really only do two characters--lovable loser and Zoolander--they're not bad, as characters go.
Plus, the film is getting remarkably high scores on Metacritic. That, honestly, was something I instantly regretted seeing, certain that my only hope of truly enjoying the movie was to go in with expectations as low as possible.
My prescience proved correct, in this case. If I'd gone in expecting a run-of-the-mill Stiller flick, it would have been a revelation. Instead, I found it a very funny but often disjointed movie that, while well worth seeing, fell short of the gutbuster promised by some reviews.
Downey Jr. was amaaaaaaaazing; Stiller (as writer and directory) wisely opted to give most of the funniest material to his costars and play the straightman; Jack Black's character came in a distant third in terms of interestingness (as Flickr calls it), and was often eclipsed by that of Brandon T. Jackson, whose banter with Downey Jr. composes the funniest scenes in the whole caboodle.
You never really feel like the four men are a cohesive group, but that is sort of the point: each is a self-absorbed actor, obsessed with himself and largely indifferent to others. Still, the lack of chemistry (aside from the Downey Jr. / Jackson friction), and the preponderance of action sequences as overblown as those they are presumably spoofing, sometimes make the film feel like a collection of comedy sketches
Also, the movie is awful. Unforgivably terrible and a blot on the film industry. Get your self to believe that before seeing Tropic Thunder and you'll have a blast.
Now, let's talk about the Simple Jack controversy for a moment. For those unawares, some folks have been demonstrating outside of theaters showing Tropic Thunder because, in the film, Ben Stiller plays a developmentally disabled character, and there are many usages of what the protesters refer to as "the r-word" (and then follow up with "meaning 'retard'", since otherwise you'd be going "which r-word? Republican?")
I appreciate where these folks are coming from but, man, they are totally off the mark on this one. In context there is absolutely no ambiguity about who iTropic Thunder is making fun of: that is, actors who seek our roles in films such as Rain Man and i am sam in the explicit hopes of garnering an Oscar, rather than the disabled people they portray. In fact, it's not even accurate to say that Stiller "plays a developmentally disabled character" in the movie--Stiller plays an actor who plays a developmentally disabled character, and is soundly mocked for that decision throughout.
Advocate Patricia E. Bauer acknowledges as much in this Washington Post editorial condemning the movie, but says "the studio was careful to build nuance and subtlety into the film's racial humor ... but there's no on-screen presence countering the Simple Jack portrayal." What she has failed to grasp is that the "never go full retard" scene, on which most of the criticism has been heaped, is exactly the on-screen denouncement she demands, with Downey Jr. exposing Stiller's (and, by extension, Hollywood's) shallowness for all the audience to see.
The controversy over Tropic Thunder is very reminiscent of that over The Last Temptation of Christ 20 years ago. In the latter instance, many religious folks were outraged that the film depicted Christ living a normal life--avoiding crucifixion, marrying, having children, growing old. Such a portrayal, they argued, denied Jesus his divinity. Yes, it did! That was the point! In the film (um, spoilers here, if you care), Satan temps Jesus with that life--everything we see of it is essentially a proposal put forth by the devil. But Jesus overcomes this last temptation and dies on the cross. By seizing on these scenes, and ignoring the rejection of them, protesters basically turned the meaning of the film on it's head and then groused about its message.
So too with this movie. The Simple Jack scenes are offensive, but that's a feature, not a bug. Indeed, much of Tropic Thunder is devoted to deconstructing just how offensive they are. And, as someone who has previously railed about the portrayal of developmentally disabled people on film, I am thrilled that Tropic Thunder pretty much guarantees that we won't see another The Other Sister for a decade or more. Regardless of how you feel about "the r-word", I think that's something we can all applaud.
August 21, 2008
August 12, 2008
Last night, around 11:15 PM, I suddenly realized that I needed something for work the following day. So I hopped in my car and zipped to the local grocery store, a mile away. On the way home, I was pulled over for speeding.
"Do you know how fast you were going?" the cop asked after approaching my window. I did, because I had glanced at the speedometer the moment he'd appeared in my rear-view mirror. "Yeah, about forty," I said, rounding down a bit.
He let my fudging go unchecked and moved on to question #2. "And do you know what the speed limit is?" Thirty-five, I responded dutifully.
"Well, right now it's 35," the policeman conceded. "But during the day it's only 25. Because this is a school zone."
He paused for dramatic effect, before saying "And just imagine if you'd been driving 40 when school was in session."
Maybe the suggestion was rhetorical, but I have a pretty active imagination and decided to give it a whirl. I closed my eyes and envisioned myself traveling 40 miles an hour, cresting the hill at midday. Before me are a dozen children, gaily frolicking in the middle of the street. What are they doing there? The school is half a mile away and completely fenced in. And surely they have some form of supervision, right?
I pushed aside such doubts, determined to comply with the officer's request. In fact, I decided to go the extra mile. I am not just driving my Toyota Corolla while school is in session, thought I, I am behind the wheel of a truck. A tanker truck. A tanker truck of nitroglycerin!
I barrel over the summit at 40-- no, 90 miles an hour! The cab of the vehicle briefly lifts from the ground entirely, as if about to take flight, before slamming back down to the asphalt. The scores of children sitting in the road ahead freeze, their faces suffused with apprehension. Each holds a goldfish bowl containing one of the few remaining specimens of the endangered Knysna seahorse.
As I approach, a single ray of sunshine pierces the overcast skies like a javelin thrown by God, ricochets off the Columbia Center in downtown Seattle, and strikes the back of my truck, igniting a small fire. I told those fools not to make the tank out of chipboard! In the rear-view mirror I watch as the blaze spreads, gnawing its way through the wall of the vessel.
When I again return my attention to the road ahead of me, I see that the nuns, into whose care the students have been entrusted, have rushed into the street, frantically trying the herd the children to safety. Their cries of terror echo from the houses nearby, as the distance between us dwindles ...
Haha. No, I'm just joking--I didn't imagine any of that. I just adopted my "dude you blew my mind" face for a few second and then said, "wow, yeah. I totally see your point."
Anyway, long story short, he gave me an imaginary ticket for imaginarily driving 40 during imagined school hours, and a warning.
August 11, 2008