Before turning the page on 2008, I have to post one more thing about Motown's gridiron heroes, the Detroit Lions.
This isn't about the firing of coach Rod Marinelli. That was a no-brainer. The man was the worst ever at his job. No one else has ever gone winless in a 16-game season. How the hell do you bring that guy back? So no surprise there.
No, this post is to stand and give a slow clap to the poor guy who had to watch all of the crappy football southeastern Michigan's most prominent professional and college teams inflicted upon its fans this year and describe it those of us who followed the games on radio. Yes, he was paid for it, as a professional broadcaster. But he also surely paid a price, having to endure some soul-crushingly bad football.
We're talking about Jim Brandstatter, color analyst for both the Michigan football and Detroit Lions radio broadcasts. Out of the 28 games he called this season, Brandstatter provided commentary for only three victories. Michigan went 3-9. The pitiful Lions failed to win a single game. He witnessed the worst season Michigan football has had in 46 years. And as we've already covered, the Lions set NFL history for losing all 16 of their games.
Hey, at least we had the option of turning off the TV or radio. (And I did that more this year than I ever have.) Not Brandy. Hopefully, the strength and discipline instilled in him when he played for Bo Schembechler at Michigan helped him through this.
Salutes must also be given to my buddy Big Al, who live-blogged every single one of the Lions' incompetent performances, in addition to posting related news and commentary each day at The Wayne Fontes Experience. (I thought blogging about the Detroit Tigers was tough.) And to my fellow SB Nation blogger Sean Yuille, who authors blogs devoted to both University of Michigan sports and the Lions. Man, that's a tough year.
Can we please turn the calendar on 2008 in Detroit sports? (Except for the Red Wings. You guys are doing a hell of a job and shouldn't be overlooked. Even though I kind of just did that.) 2009 can't possibly be as bad. Can it?
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Before turning the page on 2008, I have to post one more thing about Motown's gridiron heroes, the Detroit Lions.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
It would kind of be like what the 1972 Miami Dolphins do every time an undefeated team fails to break their record. (Although Snopes.com says that's a myth.) Except I imagine those '72 Bucs would be more than happy to get knocked out of the record books. (Unless they had a few Brian Kingman types on that roster.) Lee Roy Selmon and Steve Spurrier will surely gladly pass that baton of suckitude over to Dan Orlovsky and Cory Redding.
If you regularly stop by here, you know where I stand on the Lions and 0-16. I want to see it happen and resent anyone who says I'm not a true fan for that. Maybe it's delusional to think that fresh grass can only grow after the old, dry stuff is burned away, but at least that provides some hope.
Kudos and condolences to my buddy Big Al at The Wayne Fontes Experience, who will be following the march of Detroit's gridiron heroes to the historic oh-fer. Having devotedly blogged the Detroit Tigers' 2008 last-place finish, I know what a drag it can be to follow consistent losing day after day, week after week. Maybe he and I can have our own champagne toast sometime after the New Year.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Did you catch the report on 60 Minutes this past Sunday about the elephant orphanage in Kenya that rescues those left behind after their parents were killed for their ivory tusks? I was blown away by it (which is to say, I stopped eating while watching this - and for me, that's saying something), both by the tragedy of the slaughtered elephants and the heroic care provided by the keepers working at the orphanage.
It's kind of a long clip to watch, but if you have 15 minutes to spare, I defy you not to fall in love with these elephants, especially when they smother Bob Simon with attention and affection.
You can read a transcript of the report here.
Happy Festivus to one and all!
Since I'll likely be deprived of gathering my family around and telling them all the ways they have disappointed me over the past year, I'll have to settle for engaging in Feats of Strength. Surely, I can find a suitable opponent while doing some last-minute Christmas shopping this morning. It will be a Festivus miracle!
Monday, December 22, 2008
If you put yourself through Steven Zallian's remake of All the King's Men, and endured Sean Penn's ridiculous, scenery-devouring performance as Willie Stark, perhaps you began to wonder if Penn was on his way to becoming a new version of Al Pacino, someone who was just going to impose himself upon a movie, yelling and screaming over his co-stars and the script. After watching his portrayal of Harvey Milk, however, I take that thought back because Penn shows what a fantastic actor he can be by totally immersing himself into a character who relishes his free-spirited, hedonistic lifestyle, while also living in fear of hatred and persecution, but eventually finds his identity and purpose in a passionate fight for legitmacy and equality.
Everyone involved with the production does great work here - whether it's James Franco, who exudes a subtle strength and warmth as Milk's lover and best friend; Emile Hirsch, as perhaps a younger version of Milk, who finds fulfillment in a larger cause; or Josh Brolin, who loses his apparent innocence in what he perceives as a betrayal - including Gus Van Sant, who's emerged from the hibernation of smaller, experimental films to create what I think is the best movie he's ever made.
It's not a perfect film, with a screenplay that follows some of the standard biopic story beats and perhaps tries to fit too many characters in - though I certainly wouldn't dare to suggest who would be taken out, as these are real people who all played a role in actual events, and each actor makes you care about his or her character (with the unfortunate exception of Diego Luna, who's really kind of annoying) - but maybe I just felt the end came about too quickly because I was enjoying the whole thing so damn much.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
So I'm watching "SportsWorks" on Fox 2 Sunday night, as Dan Miller, Jamie Samuelsen, and Sean Baligian try to pick apart yet another loss (the 14th of the season) by the Detroit Lions. And there's really only so much to say when the losing continues week after week. Maybe the Lions are showing a little bit of fight at the end of the season, especially as it tries to avoid becoming the first team in NFL history to go winless over a 16-game season, but with only two games left on the schedule, they're running out of chances to avoid pro football infamy.
But while discussing that very possibility, Miller asked Samuelsen and Baligian if they're part of the "moron contingent" of Lions fans that is rooting for the team to go 0-16. And when I heard that, I sat up. Because I count myself among the segment of Detroit sports fans that want to see the Lions suck on a historical level. And maybe my perception is influenced by the echo chamber of my friends, but I don't believe I'm in the minority on this. I think many Lions fans believe that the only way the team has any chance of getting better is for the ownership to suffer the kind of humiliating indignity that they'll never want to experience again.
Apparently, that makes me a "moron." Or as MLive.com's Tom Kowalski put it, not a real Lions fan.
If you want these things to happen and you still want to call yourself a Lions fan, I have a huge problem with that. It might be a silly little pet peeve of mine, but I firmly believe that once you start rooting for your team to lose, you're no longer a fan.
My response to Miller and Kowalski on this consists of two words.
(What, did you think they'd be "Merry Christmas"? I'm sorry, but no other words better capture how I feel about this.)
Let me get this straight: two members of the credentialed Detroit sports media - who are paid to attend games and watch them from what is essentially an office environment in the press box - are going to tell people whether or not they're fans? Miller, as the radio play-by-play man for the Lions, is literally a professional mouthpiece for the team. Kowalski is presumably impartial as a beat reporter, but when you spend that much time around a group of coaches, players, and executives, it's impossible to remain completely objective. And he doesn't.
Am I less of a Lions fan than I was three years ago? Absolutely! This team - and its entire organization - has given me nothing to root for. Their games are a frustrating, joyless ordeal. And I can't even watch another, better team that might play more enjoyable football. (Believe me; I've tried to find a new team. But what fun is it to root for Pittsburgh's team? Or New York's team?) The Lions have actually drained my love of the sport right out of me.
Would I be more of a fan to blindly surrender my loyalty to a team that has given its fans an utterly inferior - and progressively worse - product for eight years? Am I not a fan because I want the team that represents my community to get better and know, deep down, that it can only be rebuilt once it's completely destroyed?
Miller and Kowalski dispute that line of thinking, asserting that changes are going to be made, so there's ultimately no difference between a 1-15 and 0-16 season. No, there is every bit of difference. Other teams have gone 1-15 or 2-14 before. No team has gone winless. And if the Detroit Lions have to carry that weight around their collective necks, maybe they'll work that much harder to make us forget what a laughingstock they've been.
The fact that I'm hoping for that, that I care enough to have typed out 600 words about all this, makes me a fan. How dare someone in the media try to tell me otherwise.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I know I saw the original The Day the Earth Stood Still on TV as a child (probably on a Saturday afternoon), but other than the iconic image of the big robot (which I didn't even remember was named Gort), what I mostly remember is that any message that much of science fiction from the 50s and 60s tried to convey was totally lost on a kid who just wanted to see laser guns firing and spaceships zooming through battle. So I didn't carry any nostalgia or affection into this remake.
But as I was watching Keanu Reeves drone his way past Jennifer Connelly's wide-eyed disbelief throughout this new version, I wondered if anyone else would've come up with this story and these characters if they weren't following the blueprint of the original movie, rather than just thinking it would be cool to update the special effects and make the message more pertinent to 2008, and if the answer is no, then what was the point of making this movie? However, I could just be cranky about the borderline criminal underuse of Jon Hamm, whose role could've been played by a Jon Hamm's John Ham sandwich.
Monday, December 15, 2008
By now, you've surely heard or read about an Iraqi journalist throwing a shoe at President Bush during a press conference. Of course, seeing the shoe-chucking in action makes the whole thing a little more real.
So there was a little more significance to throwing a shoe at Bush than just wanting to hurl an object at him. In Iraqi culture, the gesture is considered the worst possible insult, a sign of extreme contempt and disrespect. The journalist yelled "Dog! Dog!" as he was tackled to the ground by security officers.
Speaking of security officers, did it not seem like it took a while for them to get to the guy once it was clear he had malicious intent? Obviously, the Secret Service would make sure there were no weapons of any sort in the room, and the overall space seemed small enough to close in quickly if something had occurred. Still, that's the President of the United States having to duck from an attack, and regardless of what you or I might think about him, that's a little bit disturbing.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
With revenge stories such a popular film genre (there were two of them last year with The Brave One and Death Sentence), I find it kind of baffling that, in three different attempts, Hollywood somehow can't figure out how to make a decent movie with Marvel Comics' gun-toting crusader, the Punisher.
Maybe it's that filmmakers think they have to do something different, otherwise they've just made yet another revenge movie, or that they think the lead character must be super-heroic since he comes from the comic books, or that they feel Frank Castle has to show a glimpse of humanity to placate a mainstream audience, whereas comic book readers don't care if he just pops into the story, blows off a half-dozen heads, throws out a one-liner, and moves on to the next criminal slaughter.
As someone who grew up reading some Punisher comics (and greatly enjoyed Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's darkly humorous take of a few years ago), I think what makes the Punisher so appealing to comics fans is that they're used to seeing a hero who's content to put the villain in jail because he has to do the right thing and doesn't want to kill, so to see someone whose version of justice is to spray the bad guys' brains all over the wall brings an entirely different sense of wish fulfillment.
Punisher: War Zone definitely gets that right (as you can see here), yet beyond the extreme blood and gore, there isn't any "art" to the violence - none of the slow-motion fetishizing of gunfire or balletically choreographed fight scenes that we've become accustomed to - which reminded me of an interview I read with Ray Stevenson, where he said he wanted to make sure no one left the theater wanting to be the Punisher, and while that might be noble, such a sentiment may have resulted in a movie much less gratuitously entertaining than it could've been.
Friday, December 12, 2008
First, he's the Sexiest Man Alive. Now Hugh Jackman's hosting the Oscars?
What would Dr. Perry Cox think of this?
My first thought about Jackman hosting the Oscars, even though he's hosted the Tonys before, is "lame." We need a comedian to get us through those three-plus hours!
But I probably wouldn't tell Wolverine that to his face. Maybe he'll compensate by going shirtless several times. Not sure what that'll do for us heterosexual men, though.
Monday, December 08, 2008
I forgot that Saturday Night Live wasn't a rerun this weekend, so missed Amy Poehler's (brief) return to the show as Hillary Clinton. ("Is my new job better than being Governor of Alaska? Yes, it is.")
Apparently, I also missed this, closer to 1 a.m. EST. And perhaps not safe for work:
Reminiscent of the Pet Shop Boys, no? And maybe the best acting Molly Sims has ever done. (Not a fan.) SNL could get a whole lot better if they became a bit riskier past midnight, instead of, well, lame.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Though the reviews for Punisher: War Zone have not been very kind, I think I could go for some gratuitous violence at the movies. Look at this web trailer; it's hilarious! (And most definitely not safe for work.)
Okay, maybe an assault on the senses. Great pull quotes, though, don't you think?
With the Detroit Lions once again blacked out from local TV - and really, I'd rather be on the business end of one of Frank Castle's big guns at this point than watch that joke of a football team - a Sunday matinee sounds nice. Especially if someone puts his fist through an enemy's head during the story.
Friday, December 05, 2008
Maybe I'm speaking for myself here, but if you've been to (or participated in) a good share of weddings in your lifetime - even if someone close to you is getting married - they all seem kind of the same, and it's kind of the same with wedding-centered movies, as well, with story beats that includes the groom having cold feet, the bride being a control-freak monster, the interfering mother, and the best man/good friend guest who's just a little too cool for school and manages to make some fun for himself.
What's so refreshing about Rachel Getting Married is that none of these formulaic elements apply, so all of the characters and their foibles felt very real, and while watching the movie, I kept thinking to myself that this was a wedding I really would've enjoyed attending - as long as I had some distance from the family drama (enough of my own, thanks).
Anne Hathaway's character, Kym, comes into the story like a looming natural disaster, a destructive force ready to lay her narcissism, manipulation, and guilt trips all over the family that's dared to move on with their lives while she's in drug rehab and living with a tragedy no one should have to carry on his or her own, and though everyone seems to dread her arrival, cringing in anticipation of what terrible thing she might say or do to ruin her sister's nuptuals, you realize that those feelings of hurt, resentment, and hate are only so passionate because they're fueled by an inherent love.
With one of the main secondary characters being a musician (and played by Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio), you might expect music to be a part of the movie, but Jonathan Demme cleverly utilizes the various musicians scattered around the family compound - out in the yard or on the porch, practicing what they'll be playing for the wedding and jamming among contemporaries - to provide a score for the film, and though maybe it's a bit precious for them to be playing sad music when Kym is feeling melancholy, for example, the overall effect is an unexpected, yet understated, surprise.
Friday, November 28, 2008
If you didn't catch this on Countdown with Keith Olbermann Wednesday night, Slate put together a hilarious mash-up of the immediately infamous Sarah Palin turkey massacre video:
For once, I agree with Gov. Mooseburger. That sure was fun.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
I was tempted to pick one of these up at Whole
Paycheck Foods during some last-minute shopping/jostling yesterday, but I already had a turkey sitting at home. Plus, Tofurkey is a little pricey to try for a laugh.
But maybe they'll be discounted tomorrow, and I'll take the plunge into vegetarian feasting. It'll have to wait, of course, since we'll have Thanksgiving leftovers. And I love my leftovers.
I suspect, however, that even Timmy the Turkey here is wondering why you'd bother with a fake turkey. Not when you can still make all those tasty side dishes.
He might not be big on stuffing, though. Just like this guy. Oh, but I believe he's really staring at me because I haven't said what I'm thankful for this year.
Friends and family. I know - everyone says that. But as we've become more estranged from my father's side of the family, I've come to appreciate what I really have. It's the same with friends; I've drifted away from some, while becoming closer to others.
It's sort of like boiling something down, until you're left with the good stuff. Like evaporated milk, maybe. (Is it obvious I'm about to make a pumpkin pie?)
I know I can count on those that are still around. These are the people that I love, that allow me to be and accept me for who I really am, and I'm extremely grateful to have that. And hopefully, they feel the same way about me.
And I should probably leave it at that. Ticking off frivolous answers like podcasts, banh mi sandwiches, the Sunday New York Times (and the Wednesday food section), blogs, Tina Fey, my cast-iron skillet, stadium seating in movie theaters, Aaron Sorkin dialogue, that first cup of coffee on a crisp winter morning, wi-fi, a President-Elect I truly admire, eggs sunny-side up, RSS readers, Stewart and Colbert, 80s music (all of it), instant messaging, and the great game that is baseball isn't quite as meaningful.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I'd like to post a list of what I've been thankful for over the past year (mostly to remind myself not to be so grumpy), but if I don't get to that, I'll at least post this video of Paul Rudd dancing on The Daily Show. Because I'm definitely thankful for the laughs it brings me.
Ah, yes - the joy of dance. Do it like no one's lookin'. This also proves that almost anything looks good when set to Primal Scream's "Rocks."
I'm hoping Role Models will be part of my holiday, non-eating itinerary. I hear it has little kids swearing. And there's nothing funnier - nothing - than little kids swearing.
And clearly, Rudd has to do Dancing With the Stars next.
Monday, November 24, 2008
So FOX News' Sean Hannity is about to lose his co-host. Maybe he'll end up spewing his anti-Obama fear-mongering by himself. But if not, I have an idea for who can replace Alan Colmes:
Of course, Robert Gibbs already has a new job - as President-Elect Obama's press secretary.
Ever since Barack Obama hired Rahm Emanuel to be his White House Chief of Staff, I've been kind of fascinated with the guy. Mostly because of the stories of his temper and profanity-fueled tirades that have become almost mythical. (Plus, he reportedly sent a dead fish to someone that really pissed him off, which I find strangely admirable.)
So Saturday Night Live made fun of Emanuel this weekend - or planned to, at least. Yet for some reason, this sketch didn't air. Why, I don't know, since it's funnier than almost anything else that was on the show. (The parody of the auto industry bailout hearings was sharp, though..)
Too much swearing? (Even though it's all bleeped out? And it's nothing worse than Joe Scarborough said on the air.) But it made the stab at Joe Lieberman that much more hilarious. (If only that had really happened...)
Friday, November 21, 2008
Just when I thought I wouldn't have to hear Gov. Mooseburger's voice for at least the rest of the year, she's on my television again. But this time, it's not an attempt to salvage her image. No, she's out there, once again meeting with the people of Alaska... as they slaughter animals while mugging for TV cameras.
As if I needed to tell you, keep your eyes on the right part of the screen:
And she just... keeps... talking. What's worse: the slaughtering of the turkey or Gov. Mooseburger's slaughtering of the English language as she prattles on and on?
Here's a reminder that no matter how hard Saturday Night Live tried to lampoon Sarah Palin (and they did a great job of it), even Tina Fey and Seth Meyers can't always create something funnier than the actual product.
"Gov. Palin, they're slaughtering a turkey over your left shoulder as you're talking, stuffing its head into a metal cone of death that drains into a tub of blood as you talk about next year's budget. Are you sure you don't want to film the interview somewhere else?"
"Nah, that's Bill the Turkey Killer. We call him Bill the Grinder. He's real America. We're desiring for that bird to be on our table. Also too, I'm killin' one after we're done talkin'. We gotta feed Bristol. She's eating for two, you betcha."
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I really try not to swear here, because of who sometimes stops over to read, but occasionally, you have to go with what best expresses your feelings.
Mitt Romney is a kind of an asshole. And a fraud.
Here's a guy who sold himself as a "son of Michigan" during the Republican presidential primary, which helped him to a win over John McCain. And part of the reason Romney won is because he said things Michiganders wanted to hear. (I know - shocking from a politician, right?) But Romney led voters on by saying that the manufacturing jobs that had been lost in Michigan could be brought back.
10 months later, Romney writes in the New York Times that the auto industry needs to go bankrupt.
When he was running for national office, Romney was "going to fight for every single job." Now, without the burden of trying to get the average worker to like him, he thinks the auto industry pays its workforce too much:
First, their huge disadvantage in costs relative to foreign brands must be eliminated. That means new labor agreements to align pay and benefits to match those of workers at competitors like BMW, Honda, Nissan and Toyota. Furthermore, retiree benefits must be reduced so that the total burden per auto for domestic makers is not higher than that of foreign producers.
Never mind that working on the assembly line was one of the few jobs in this area that allowed someone to support his or her family with just a high school education. And a lot of subsequent Generation X and Y'ers had their college educations funded by those wages.
To be fair, Romney is also critical of the management that put the "Big Three" auto companies in this financial predicament, portraying them as overpaid and detached. If the government does give the auto industry a bailout, it seems clear that conditions have to come with that aid because these executives have shown they can't be trusted.
Yet if those companies are allowed to go bankrupt, how exactly will they pay for the new technological innovations that Romney calls for in his Op-Ed? Where will the money that would presumably allow the auto industry to reorganize come from when credit markets are frozen and the economy is sucked dry?
Maybe I'm talking completely out of my league here. I'm no economist. I have no background in business. But as far as I can tell - and I've been trying to learn as much as I can over the past 2-3 weeks - bankruptcy would mean death for the industry that Romney claims he wants to save. Those jobs that he supposedly wanted to save would be long gone.
So who is he kidding?
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I realize it's been kind of video-heavy here lately (and it never looks that impressive in RSS readers, when the video doesn't embed), but there's just too much funny stuff out there to share.
Case in point: I really miss John King's "Magic Wall" at CNN. (And Chuck Todd's touchscreen table at MSNBC, of course. A moment of silence, please, for Viva Chuck Todd.) Not having them on TV covering the election is like watching a kid have to put away his toys and come in for dinner. They just want to keep playing!
So, apparently, does The Daily Show's John Oliver. The power is surely intoxicating. If only he could make King stop haunting him...
Man, I want to play with a Magic Wall. Someday, perhaps.
King was wonderfully deadpan in that segment. Personally, however, I'd prefer to be haunted by his CNN colleague, Jessica Yellin. Even via hologram.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Barack Obama tackled some tough issues facing our country during his interview with Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes. Restore the economy? Sure. Reform health care? Soon, hopefully.
But he saved perhaps the most important concern for last, surely for dramatic effect. What about a college football playoff, President-Elect Obama?
Hey, the man isn't going to let his mandate go to waste. This is important, sir. Break glass in case of emergency? The emergency is here! Down with the
BS BCS! Give us a real college football champion!
Monday, November 17, 2008
After watching most of the Sunday morning political talk shows, my feelings on a possible auto industry bailout by the federal government are still pretty conflicted. But I think The Onion summed up the general sentiment around the country with this roundtable discussion:
To me, that clip's even funnier if you imagine Sen. Carl Levin as the loud black woman on the panel. ("America needs the money hole!")
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I'm still not convinced that non-comic book fans will be interested in seeing Watchmen (though Warner Bros. is trying to get people's attention with some really cool-looking posters). But maybe that won't matter if it's just a really good movie.
This new trailer makes my inner comic book fan sing (though it's not as cool as the teaser that came out this summer). But I'm curious what anyone who doesn't even know what Watchmen is might think. (Although I think this explains the general story rather well.)
You can see it bigger here.
My only complaint - and it's a little, fanboyish one - is Billy Crudup's voice as Dr. Manhattan. When reading the graphic novel, I always imagined it as sounding... more-than-human somehow. (Look at how his speech balloons are drawn.) But maybe there's a point to that decision.
Anyway, four months until Watchmen hits theaters.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
With rumblings over who the new White House chef might be under Barack Obama, I almost immediately thought of Jeff Bridges in The Contender, whose President Jackson Evans loves challenging his kitchen staff.
Here's a highlight reel:
"That's a shark steak sandwich. Fucking shark steak. You want half?"
I love that line.
And wouldn't you know it: Obama says Jeff Bridges was his favorite movie president.
Somebody's getting a shark sandwich when he moves into the White House.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I'm sure we'll eventually stop posting about politics, but for now, stuff like this is just too funny. (Has it already been a week since Election Day?)
Just in case you wanted a preview of conservative talk radio and Fox News for the next 100 days to four years.
I just hope a newly Democratic administration doesn't dull the edge on David Rees's blade.
(via Andrew Sullivan)
Monday, November 10, 2008
And YouTube, for that matter.
Joe Scarborough got a little loose with the lips, talking about Barack Obama's new Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, on Morning Joe today. (And apparently didn't even realize it.)
Ah, c'mon - who hasn't let the ol' f-bomb slip out when feeling relaxed among friends and colleagues?
That definitely made breakfast more entertaining. As you might imagine, this was a prevalent topic of discussion (and giggling) the rest of the morning.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
So maybe this is why I'm feeling so lethargic today.
From The Onion:
No presidential election? No baseball? What is a guy to do? I can only watch and read so much about the transition.
Well, there's football, but the local pro team is dead to me and the college team is rebuilding.
On the bright side, I might be more pleasant now that I'm not trying to pick arguments with Republicans and getting angry at almost everything I see on cable news.
I guess I can read a book. That's something I haven't done in a while.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
I know Barack Obama has some deadly serious business to deal with as the President-Elect (and he's getting to work on it much faster than anyone should've expected him to), but yesterday's press conference brought two thoughts to mind.
1) I hope Obama meets with the press frequently throughout his presidency. JFK held 64 press conferences during his three years in office. That averaged out to about once every two weeks. Compare that to the closed ranks approach of the last eight years under George W. Bush.
2) When it's appropriate, I hope our new President allows his sense of humor to shine through. Case in point, responding to a question about the puppy he promised to his daughters during his acceptance speech:
I love how Obama tries to maintain his super-serious demeanor, using the "Clinton thumb" hand gesture for emphasis. But the mischievous twinkle in his eye gives him away. (As does Michigan's esteemed Governor, Jennifer Granholm, giggling in the background, in case you weren't sure.) Nicely done, sir.
Friday, November 07, 2008
South Park came so very close to capturing how I felt on Wednesday morning. (Tuesday night, any mean streak was buried underneath a "love everyone, faith in humanity" kind of high.)
Fortunately, I resisted the urge to derisively dial or send taunting e-mails to those I know were disappointed by the election results. Though I wasn't strong enough to resist trying to poke a Republican about the geographical and ideological status of his party through second-hand channels earlier this evening, and got bitten back for it.
Lesson learned for not being gracious, I suppose.
(via Andrew Sullivan)
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
"If there is anyone out there who doubts that America is a place where anything is possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."
-- Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
It'll be a few hours before I can go vote, so I suppose I'll write about it while I'm sitting here, engine revving.
Going back to my previous post, when I was in Malaysia, my uncle and I spent much of our drives from Kelar to Pasir Mas, and further out to Kota Bharu, talking about Barack Obama and how his presidency would be viewed in Asia. Looking back now, I think it was our way of getting to know each other when not telling stories about ourselves.
I'll admit part of my outspokenness for Obama may have been passively directed at other people in the car who didn't see things my way, but I relished the opportunity to really voice my beliefs, which is something I hadn't done much back home, even among close friends.
Despite my saying that I thought electing Obama would send the right message to the rest of the world, I believe my uncle wanted to know why I was so serious about him. Because I didn't just shrug my shoulders and say I usually voted for the Democratic candidate. This was about something more.
I told him I admired Obama for not changing who he was (or conveyed himself to be) simply to attract voters, not swaying to whichever way the political winds blew. The message may have taken a few turns, depending on what was happening in the world, but he stayed focused. And that was before Obama began campaigning against John McCain, when he had every reason to become outraged, as his Americanism, patriotism, religion, and ethnicity were constantly questioned (in fairness, not all by McCain himself). Yet he stayed calm and disciplined.
Compare that to his opponent, who didn't find his message until an unlicensed plumber who was presumably concerned that the money he'll likely never make is going to be taxed in an Obama administration (though his ignorance has since been exposed) ended up as a mascot used to pander to the middle class.
That's not to say Obama just sat there and took it, either. Just because he didn't get nasty doesn't mean he didn't fight. And that is the biggest difference in the Democratic party, compared to four years ago. At the time, I wrote this as part of one of the first posts to this blog:
But those who want change in this country have to start acting right now. Democrats can't take another three years to figure out what our message and ideological stand is, as they did during most of the last three years. We have to keep the pressure on Bush and the Republicans from the outset and not let up until 2008. And we have to rally behind a candidate early in the process, whether it's John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, or the past two runners-up, Kerry and Gore. We can't waste time figuring out who we are, as we did with nine (??) candidates throughout most of last year.
It didn't work out exactly that way, of course. Obama kind of came out of nowhere (known mostly for his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention) choosing to seize the moment, rather than wait his turn. And he did it his way, with his guys, instead of consulting the old guard and taking the safe road already traveled. The Bob Shrums, Paul Begalas, and James Carvilles sat this race out.
But somewhere along the way, the Democratic party still found its voice. Howard Dean showed us it was okay to be angry. Rahm Emanuel demonstrated how to fight Republicans on their turf. David Brock took on the right-wing noise machine. And though Hillary Clinton nearly divided the party, trying to bring back the 1990s, the body blows she landed on Obama during the primaries made him a much tougher candidate.
From there, any attacks the McCain campaign threw at Obama deflected like bullets off Superman's chest. And a leader was forged before our eyes.
Now, here we are, on what should be a new day for our country. No matter what happens, things have changed.
Later this afternoon, I'll be taking my mother to the polls for her first presidential election. Two years ago, she became a U.S. citizen and one of the first things she said to me after being sworn in was, "Now I get to vote!" Today, she'll be voting for Barack Obama.
Monday, November 03, 2008
When I visited Malaysia with my family earlier this year, a topic of discussion that quickly came up as we ate our first meal together was Barack Obama. My uncle, in particular, seemed fascinated by Obama and wondered whether or not he could really become President of the United States.
Though it was pretty apparent by then that Obama would win the Democratic nomination over Hillary Clinton, I was quickly singled out among our American contingent as the one who firmly supported him. The inevitable question came from my aunt.
I paused before responding because I didn't want to give a lofty answer that wasn't substantive or might cause eye-rolling among certain others sitting at the table. Even though I certainly wanted to say I believed Obama was a once-in-a-lifetime candidate, an inspirational figure who might change the direction of our country for the better.
So I looked at my aunt straight in the eye and said, "Because I think he sends the right message to the rest of the world." I looked around the table and continued. "I think he represents that we're capable of doing better things, and I'm not sure other countries believe that about us right now."
Was that answer any less lofty than I'd intended? Probably not. And I certainly could have gone on for at least another 10 minutes. But it drew seemingly approving nods from my relatives. Eventually, however, one of them said, "I don't know if America will elect a black man."
Now, she wasn't talking about all Americans. But doesn't it bother you that people in other parts of the world think that about us? That we could still be so narrow-minded, and led by our prejudices? What better way could there be to dispel that belief?
Tomorrow, everything could change. Finally. And the world will begin to notice for all the right reasons. This could be historic.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
After John McCain's appearance on Saturday Night Live last night, I'm sure we'll be reading plenty of "If only this guy had run for president instead..." lamentations from pundits and reporters. And I'll agree with that. That's the guy many of us liked in the early part of this decade.
McCain might even have a better sense of humor than Barack Obama, or at least might not take himself so seriously. Unfortunately, he hasn't shown that until two days before the election. And we're far past the point of voting for a guy because he can poke fun at himself.
Speaking of someone who takes himself really seriously, Keith Olbermann got poked pretty hard by Ben Affleck.
Okay, it wasn't the best impersonation of him, but the skit certainly captured the bloviating indignance Olbermann has so often filled the TV screen with this election season. (I mean, I'm glad he's on "our" side, but still... what's going to happen to him if Obama wins?)
Of course, if you don't watch Countdown, you might not have found that funny at all.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Just in case you missed it... or if you want to see it again, like I do, here's Barack Obama's 30-minute spot from last night.
On "Morning Joe" today, Mika Brzezinski called it "a visual scented candle," which is pretty funny. But at the risk of sounding sappy (and I'm obviously biased), isn't some optimism refreshing? Is it so wrong to feel inspired by a candidate?
At this point, if you're still saying you don't know what Obama stands for, you're just not paying attention. And maybe willfully so.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
It's probably a bit too cute to wonder whether or not Oliver Stone has, well, lost his stones, but his last two films - World Trade Center and, now, W - haven't had much of what I like to call "whacked out Oliver Stone shit" in them, with no acid-tripped cuts or close-ups, long monologues, or seemingly warped, demented insights into his characters. But with these two most recent films, depicting events so fresh in our history and memory, perhaps there just isn't enough distance from them, leaving Stone without the time or inclination to create whatever theories or attacks might normally brew in his mind (though he was apparently leaning that way at one point), and I think that's reflected in the film's rather open ending.
Having said that, I still enjoyed this movie quite a bit, largely because of the acting (Josh Brolin is great as George W. Bush, portraying him as something of a buffoon, but also as someone who eventually believes he may have found a calling, even if it's taken him to a place where he's in way over his head; Richard Dreyfuss is sufficiently menacing and manipulative as Dick Cheney, especially when it comes to making the case for war; but I still haven't figured out if Thandie Newton's version of Condoleezza Rice, in which she almost comes off as a stroke victim and supreme ass-kisser, is brilliant caricature or a SNL-like parody that doesn't fit with the rest of the cast) but also because it gives political junkies a "greatest hits" re-telling of the last six to eight years, confirming much of the bellicosity, megalomania and arrogance that we've perceived from the Bush administration.
Stone attempts to be accurate in this film (something he presumes to care about, judging from these footnotes at the movie's official website) - and perhaps more fair than haters would've liked him to be, though plenty of cheap shots are taken - but his attempt at an overarching view of Bush, to figure out the man through the events and people that may have shaped him, also causes him to overlook two key events that will surely dictate this president's legacy - 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina - yet haven't been studied and investigated as thoroughly as the administration's march to war, which further cements the sentiment that a story that is still being told, whose ending has yet to be finalized, probably shouldn't have been told quite yet.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
For instance, I could come to regret not seeing John Hodgman read from his new book at Borders here in Ann Arbor last night.
For those who would like to say "I told you so," the line starts off to the right. Keep your reprimands brief; I'm a sensitive man.
I know, I know. Look, it was for my own good. I didn't have the strength to walk into Borders and not buy a copy of his book. I have too much to read already. Way too much. Went a little bit crazy with the purchases after baseball season ended.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Ah, now this is the clip from this weekend's SNL that I wanted to post here. Thanks, Hulu.
This week, SNL didn't stink after the opening sketch. And I think we have Mad Men's Jon Hamm to thank for that. This guy might have a future in comedy.
Man, it's a good thing I didn't have my credit card nearby when that sketch ran!
Now, if I could put a Jon Hamm's John Ham roll on one of those iPod toilet paper dispensers, I might not have a reason to leave the commode some nights. (Full disclosure: I would need to redesign my bathroom to have two walls around my toilet. Maybe I could just set the paper on the floor.)
Or maybe I could install a roller inside my refrigerator. But then I wouldn't have ham I can eat in the bathroom.
And Boar's Head really does make good deli meat. That would be good ham.
Everyone's coming out to support Barack Obama.
Poor Dookie. I know the feeling.
Has it really been eight years since these ads were on TV? (And eight years since I annoyed my co-workers at Borders by often saying "Wassaaaaaaaaap?" when I picked up the phone? How did no one punch me in the face?)
By the way, this would be way better than the nasty anti-Obama PAC ads that are running in Michigan right now.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Apparently, the whole "Ian Casselberry" thing isn't working for me. According to Don Draper, anyway...
I'm going over Mr. Draper's checklist now. Dressing like a 20-year-old college kid probably doesn't help me much either. Maybe I could drink and smoke more... ?
SNL had a pretty good Mad Men parody, as well, if you missed it.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
"A financial investment will yield returns beyond your hopes."
What, is Jim Cramer doing fortune cookies now?
This is a good time to get into the stock market, they say.
What do you call those things firefighters use to catch jumpers? Trampolines? Life nets? Is there a publicly traded company that makes those things? With the way the economy is going, that could be a good investment. Hmm...
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Earlier this week, I mentioned on both my Google Talk status message and Twitter feed that I was "working on a zen-like calm." Two friends have asked me what that was all about. While this video isn't directly the cause of it, the sentiment expressed by the woman from Virginia is at the root of my need to simma down now.
Here's the full clip from PBS' NOW, which provides a better context. The woman's husband is still trying to decide who he'll vote for.
This is almost a follow-up to my post about Bill Maher's Religulous. I understand the value religion can hold in people's lives. But when it's used to justify a horribly narrow and deliberately divisive worldview, and to mask ignorance and bigotry, I just can't abide by that. And it gives others people of faith a terrible name.
My father, a Lutheran, was a deeply religious man. Toward the end of his life, he was conflicted about his church's lack of inclusiveness in certain matters. He would be disgusted by this.
And during this 2008 presidential election, that kind of mentality has somehow become the view of the Republican party. At least for those still on board the sinking ship of the McCain campaign.
After November 4, I hope I don't have to hear much more of this thinly veiled prejudice. Or I hope I just won't pay attention and let it get to me.
(via Andrew Sullivan)
Remember Zima? Maybe not, if you're under 30.
Otherwise, it's okay to admit you at least tried it that one time. The bottles looked kind of cool, after all. And it was kind of the ancestor of all the hard lemonade, "alcopop" drinks out there nowadays.
But when's the last time you saw it in the beer cooler of your favorite grocery store, let alone someone drinking it? Apparently, however, it was still available. That is, until two weeks ago.
MillerCoors LLC says goodbye to Zima.
The joint venture between SABMiller's U.S. unit and Molson Coors Brewing Co. told distributors in a letter Monday that production of the malt liquor beverage was discontinued as of Oct. 10.
Chief Marketing Officer Andy England says the decision was due to weakness in the "malternative" segment and declining consumer interest.
HA! "Malternative." Well, we still have wine coolers.
(via The Stew)
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
My favorite types of people tend to be those who are intellectually curious, who realize that they might not know much about a particular subject and thus try to learn more about it (as Sarah Vowell said in a recent interview, "Why wouldn't you want to be as smart as you can?"), so I was pretty envious of Bill Maher getting himself a director and film crew and touring the world in an attempt to understand various religions and the people who put such credence in them.
As funny as this movie was when Maher either got an unexpectedly candid response from one of his interview subjects or brought light to some of the more, shall we say, extreme belief systems that have been created in the name of worship, it also seems disingenuous of him to say "I don't know" and use it as the fundamental premise of his opposition to what he sees as the blind allegiance of organized religion, but then acting like the smartest guy in the room when he's talking to someone about their faith.
Have you ever had an argument or discussion with someone whose views you knew just weren't going to change, who can barely even bother to acknowledge the other side, no matter what was said?
Ultimately, that's what prevented me from absolutely loving Religulous, despite my sharing many of Maher's views on the divisiveness that organized religion has caused in our culture and society at-large, a yearning to understand those differences, and an envy of those who can lean upon their faith to make some sense of the world they live in.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I was just saying to someone the other day, "How can anyone be undecided at this point? The election is two weeks away!" Fortunately, David Sedaris put it much more eloquently (and humorously) in the New Yorker:
I don’t know that it was always this way, but, for as long as I can remember, just as we move into the final weeks of the Presidential campaign the focus shifts to the undecided voters. “Who are they?” the news anchors ask. “And how might they determine the outcome of this election?”
Then you’ll see this man or woman— someone, I always think, who looks very happy to be on TV. “Well, Charlie,” they say, “I’ve gone back and forth on the issues and whatnot, but I just can’t seem to make up my mind!” Some insist that there’s very little difference between candidate A and candidate B. Others claim that they’re with A on defense and health care but are leaning toward B when it comes to the economy.
To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”
Look, I can understand being conflicted (even if I think the choice is high-definition clear). I don't know who to root for in the World Series between the Phillies and Rays. So you have two more weeks to figure it out.
But do the undecideds just want attention, like "Joe the Plumber"? (Okay, that's probably a bad example.) Or does that "undecided" really mean something else when it comes to Barack Obama? (I hate being that cynical.)
Monday, October 20, 2008
I've gotten much better over the past six months with articulating exactly why I support Barack Obama. (One of the first times I really explained my feelings on the subject was to my family in Malaysia.) I haven't truly put it into words here, and I plan on doing so at some point over the next two weeks.
But today, if I was struggling to detail exactly why I think Obama should be the next President of the United States, I might just play this clip from Colin Powell's appearance on Meet the Press. Gen. Powell voices Obama's appeal perfectly - even better than Andrew Sullivan did at the end of last year, which I wasn't sure was possible.
If you're still trying to decide who to vote for, please watch this. And if this is preaching to the choir, well... what's wrong with a little affirmation? (Especially when it was given on Sunday morning! Can I get an "Amen"?)
It's reassuring to hear a public figure - Democrat or Republican - acknowledge just how divisive the McCain campaign has been with its xenophobic rhetoric, trying to provoke fears of "the other," instead of keeping the discussion civil and issue-driven. (Here is the photo Gen. Powell was referring to, the one that invoked such strong feelings against the polarization that seems to be the current GOP platform.)
I'm also troubled by, not what Sen. McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said, such things as, "Well, you that know Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian.
But the really right answer is: What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America.
I don't know about you, but I stood up in my living room this morning and clapped when I heard that. It shouldn't be like this in America. We can have disagreements, but there's still far too much fear and hatred in pockets throughout this country, much of it fueled (and provoked) by ignorance. We should be better than that. And we can be. But as Rage Against the Machine once put it (and man, does that name ring true these days), it has to start somewhere, it has to start sometime... what better time than now?
Believe it or not, Powell came out even stronger later on in the day, when he talked to reporters afterwards. He sounds like a man who wonders what the hell happened to his party. And maybe, just maybe, Powell is seeking a bit of redemption after being duped by the Bush administration into selling the Iraq war to the United Nations back in 2003.
Combine Powell's endorsement with news of the Obama campaign raising $150 million (!!) in September and drawing a crowd of 100,000 in St. Louis, and it just hasn't been a very good weekend for the McCain campaign. (Unless you think Gov. Mooseburger did well on SNL.)
Here's the full transcript of Powell's interview with Tom Brokaw.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
After sounding like a man who doesn't have much of a sense of humor about Andy Samberg's imitation of him (maybe having to promote a movie like Max Payne has something to do with that), Mark Wahlberg stopped by SNL and showed that maybe he can laugh at himself, after all.
Yeah, I know everyone's talking about Gov. Mooseburger's appearance on the show. Okay, maybe she showed she's a good sport. But c'mon, was she really that funny or was it everyone else around her? Any publicity is good publicity, I suppose. (Unless you're with the McCain campaign and watched Meet the Press this morning, that is.)
That sounded cranky of me, didn't it? Hopefully, the cure for that fever comes in 16 days.
Friday, October 17, 2008
I don't know if anyone else expected the "Crazy McCain Rally Lady" (the one who said she couldn't trust Barack Obama because she believes he's "an Arab") to pop up on SNL's "Weekend Update Thursday," but I sure didn't see that coming. But thanks to Hulu.com, we all get to see it again.
The clip runs a bit long (and includes other stuff), so if you're pressed for time, the Republican nominee's enlightened supporter interrupts Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers's newscast between the 1:14 and 4:04 marks.
Brilliant! And much funnier than anything in the presidential debate parody that began the program. Kristen Wiig is a national treasure. She nailed that clueless, somewhat disheartened "No... ?" perfectly. If SNL gave her the chance, I get she could do a better Obama than Fred Armisen, too.
If Barack Obama becomes President of the United States, I can only hope that his State of the Union addresses go something like this:
Making a Superman reference will always go a long way with me, Senator.
John McCain also had his chance to roast at last night's Al Smith Dinner. I'm obviously biased, so I thought he was more mean-spirited and less funny, but you can see that clip here.
Finally, a note to MSNBC: I'm a fan, but "Breaking News" for that? Really? C'mon.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
I'm a day late on this, but... has it really been 20 years since Kirk Gibson's home run off Dennis Eckersley?
Vin Scully's call - "High fly ball into right field... she is GONE!" - still gives me chills to this day. (Jack Buck's "I don't believe what I just saw!" is great too, capturing the sheer exuberance of the moment, but I love Scully's understated awe just a bit more.)
Even if it was a bittersweet note for Detroit Tigers fans, watching "our guy" in another uniform, helping his new team toward an eventual World Series victory, and perhaps making us feel something like seeing an ex-girlfriend with a new man (or ex-boyfriend with a new woman; we're equal opportunity melancholy here), did you feel great for Kirk Gibson? Did you feel envious of the Dodger fans? Did you just love baseball?
If you watched the game at the time, the anticipation building up to that moment was incredible, too. Would the guy that helped carry the Dodgers to this point, the man who eventually was awarded the National League MVP that season, be able to bite down and tell pain to go sit down while he walked to the plate to bat against the best closer in baseball?
Gibby's homer was also a testament to the vital importance of scouting, with Mel Didier's infamous advice, "Partner, as sure as I'm standing here breathing, Eckersley throws a backdoor slider on 3-2." With that in his pocket, Gibson just had to flip his bat at that pitch. How did the ball go that far with that kind of swing?
I still remember my phone ringing as soon as the Dodgers celebrated victory. It was Aaron Thompson, with whom I had a bet on the World Series, picking the Oakland Athletics to win. (Yet I'd won our previous bet, picking the Dodgers to beat the Mets in the National League Championship Series. Go figure.) "Did you just see that!" he screamed into the phone. I couldn't even be upset. I was too amazed. Ah, gambling among youth...
Former baseball commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti once wrote of the game, "It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart." For the Dodgers fan, is there no more vivid example of this than remembering this great moment on the same day your team was unceremoniously eliminated from the 2008 NLCS?
Here's a look back at one of the great moments in World Series history, courtesy of MLB.com.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
In honor of Paul Krugman winning the Nobel Prize for Economics yesterday, let's post this clip of him arguing with Bill O'Reilly on Tim Russert's MSNBC interview show. I remember watching this on a Saturday afternoon in my Iowa apartment four years ago and howling at O'Reilly's bullying histrionics. (The captions are supplied by Jim Gilliam.)
I love that O'Reilly attempts to explain what a recession is to a man who happens to be a professor of Economics at Princeton University. His supremely clueless arrogance is astounding. From there, O'Reilly tries to intimidate his point across by just yelling louder. But if you're already familiar with Bill-O, you know that's what he does.
Unfortunately, the part where Krugman really gets under O'Reilly's skin by saying "this isn't your show; you can't cut my mic" is mostly cut out. You hear Krugman say that, but don't see O'Reilly's "Hey, that's a cheap shot, pal!" reaction.
If you're curious about the work that got Krugman the Nobel Prize, Justin Fox of TIME magazine blogged about an article he wrote nine years ago that detailed those theories.