Friday, August 29, 2008

Living History

The action is fast and furious as the year comes to a close, no sooner do we dispense with the Beijing Olympics, historic in its own right on many levels, than we have the Democratic National Convention to analyze. And analyze it we will. To wit:

The Leadup: All the speeches leading up to the nomination were excellent in my opinion. From Ted Kennedy's deeply moving words, to the always charming and eloquent Bill Clinton, to Hillary rallying her troops, to Michelle Obama showing her strength, to Joe Biden reminding us of his working class background and his dreams of America, everyone did their job.

The Clintons, much feared and reviled for their supposed ego and power-hunger, gracefully deferred to the chosen nominee and rallied support behind him. You'll be hard pressed to find Republicans exhibiting such decorum.

They, and Obama after him, managed to avoid looking like they were attacking John McCain while at the same time taking him to task for being willing to propagate the policies of the Bush administration, a double-edged sword few Democrats have been able to handle without getting cut.

The Nomination: The acclamation of Obama, led by Hillary, was perfect, as was Obama's "surprise" appearance. Call it political theater, call it, as the "fair and balanced" Britt Hume did, "pure hokum," it delivered an important symbolic message. And it worked.

The Arena: Over the top? A little, perhaps, but not so much to merit the kind of attention and derision it got. One wonders if the other side paid so much attention to the venue because they have so little else critical to say.

The Speech: Some say brilliant, others "workmanlike." This speech was a huge success. But don't take my word for it. Look at this!

Your eyes do not deceive you! Bill Kristol, the 21st century's answer to Bob Novak, liked Obama's speech! He liked it! He really liked it! While it would be a bit too much to expect all of FOX's "fair and balanced" pundits to approve of a Democrat's performance, Sean Hannity predictably dismissed it as "a bunch of liberal cliches," and we know what Hume thought, this is a pretty big endorsement, if not of Obama's policies, at least his words.

What I liked about it is that he said a lot of things that need to be said, cliche or no.

He reminded us that the Republicans will attempt to dismiss the Democrats as the party which will raise your taxes and abandon traditional values (seems like I mentioned this on this blog not too long ago.)

He reminded us that the idea that somehow because Democrats welcome diplomacy as a way to solve problems without bloodshed we are soft on security is ludicrous. This is one of the biggest lies the Republicans have managed to so successfully propagate. Wilson, who led us to victory in World War I, a Democrat. Roosevelt, who led us to victory in WWII, a Democrat. For better or for worse it was Democrats who were not afraid to march on Korea and Vietnam and Republicans who pulled us out before the "job was done," and it was Republicans responsible for these disastrous Gulf Wars. So which party produces Presidents better prepared for war?

He reminded us that the Clinton years brought us an era of undreamt of economic prosperity in contrast to Bush's eight years of economic despair.

He reminded us that Democrats can be compassionate and also strong.

And millions were listening.

The Bump: Despite the Republicans breaching etiquette and launching attack ads while the Democrats should have had the spotlight to themselves, Barack got his bump, if delayed. He went from being two points down as the convention began to being 8 points up. Even McCain's surprise reveal of Vice President Beauty Queen (more on that in a moment), doesn't seem to have stopped the rise. Of course, next week the Republicans get their shot.

And no sooner did the DNConvention end than we learned that John McCain had made his choice. Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska. Miss Wasilla, Miss Alaska Runner-up, Sarah Barracuda, The Hockey Mom. Senator McCain, a more transparent and pandering choice you could not have made.

It is beyond offensive that McCain thinks that women are so interchangable that a 44 year old Governor of a state that borders not any U.S. state, but CANADA, will pick up the votes that a respected Senator of New York and former first lady who has dedicated her life to public service while Palin was out hunting moose, brought together.

McCain, this choice will not earn you any Hillary voters and takes a huge chunk out of your credibility as someone who is not out of touch (you think the issues of Alaska represent the heartland? or the coasts?) and someone who puts heavy stock in experience (44?). One wonders who he would have chosen had Hillary won the nomination. I'm guessing this guy:

This choice is going to blow up in McCain's face,and I for one, can't wait to see if during the Vice Presidential debate, Palin gives Biden the opening to paraphrase the great Lloyd Bentsen stinger: "Governor, I served with Hillary Clinton. I know Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton is a friend of mine. Governor, you're no Hillary Clinton."

Next up: The Republican National Convention. Then: The debates. Hang on sports fans, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Olympic Breakdown

So the games of the XXIX Summer Olympiad have finally come to a close, and it's safe to look back and do some analysis. I've already talked about my feelings on the structure of the medals in an earlier post, but I think there's a lot more to talk about.

China: It just goes to show you what a totalitarian state can do when it puts its mind to it. From the effortless, flawless, diving robots the Chinese produced (the Chinese put together perfect dive after perfect dive, with the exception of their very last dive of the games, in which Zhou Lu Xin faltered ever so slightly, proving at the last moment that the Chinese were human after all, and allowing Matthew Mitcham of Australia to pull off a miracle dive to snatch the all-important 8th gold and diving sweep away), to the graceful gymnasts that seemed like they were literally born to compete, to the eight weightlifting golds they collected, the Chinese were a gold medal minting machine. An impressive display of national spirit, but also a scary one, as there was more than one story of a world-champion athlete who it seems would rather have been something else.

The Coverage: Good, if predictably ethnocentric. In fact, too good. Four years ago I would have been limited to the coverage I might be able to catch during four hours of primetime during the week and eight or so on the weekends. This year, between the Internet, multiple cable stations and TiVo, I felt obligated to pursue round the clock coverage, coming home each night to find 17 hours or so of acton waiting for me. Of course, TiVo helps as much as it hurts, allowing me to zip past Mary Carillo puff pieces on eating scorpions and pregnant pauses between gymnastics scores and the like, but still, I think I'll need the two years between now and Vancouver to recover.

The Decathlon: This is a huge mystery to me. The country that won the Decathlon this year? You'll never guess. That's right, the USA! Bryan Clay was your decathlon winner, the "world's greatest athlete." Clay has a pretty good story, since he fell just short of winning the decathlon in 2004 in Athens, taking home a silver medal, and this time went for, and got, the gold. So why no coverage? The last American to win the decathlon, Dan O'Brien, did so to much fanfare. You also may have heard of the last American to win before him, a fellow by the name of Bruce Jenner. So why no hoopla for Clay? Why did we not follow his journey? Was it because he was the first Afro-Asian American to win the title of World's Greatest Athlete? I hope not, but I'm waiting for a better explanation.

Boxing: Much controversy over the scoring and allegations of either favoritism or incompetence. I believe the technology exists to make boxing better. I'm for computer chips in the gloves themselves to help record hits. Professional boxing is always under the shadow of corruption, it would be nice not to have amateur boxing suffer the same stigma.

Moving on in this non-stop action summer, we have the Democratic National Convention. Stay tuned to this space for analysis.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pony Up, Olympic Hosts!

The Olympics are coming to a close (mercifully, no doubt, for my girlfriend who has been suffering from two weeks of 'round the clock coverage) and I think its about time I aired one of my major grievances about the Olympics: Stinginess with the medals on the part of the host country. Here is an example of what a gold medal should look like, from the 1996 games in Georgia, U.S.A:

Now here, by contrast, is a gold medal from this year's games in Beijing, China:
What happened to all the gold? What's up with the cheap plastic ring in the middle?

But here, by far, is the worst offender, from Albertville, France in 1992:

Are you freaking kidding me? Its made of GLASS! You cheap bastards!

These Olympians get one shot every four years, sacrifice their whole lives and overcome impossible adversity to get these medals. They deserve more than a gold-lined piece of glass or plastic.

I'm calling on the British Olympic Committee right now: Show 'em how its done in 2012 in London. Let's give these athletes the medals they deserve.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


So Barack Obama has selected Joe Biden as his running mate. I have great respect for Joe Biden and have since I was a kid watching him lead the confirmation hearings on Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. I think as far as what is good for this country from a governing standpoint, it's a great choice.

Of course, what is good for the country is irrelevant when it comes to electing our President. All that matters is how well the Republicans can convince people that the other guys are morally bankrupt and will raise their taxes. It doesn't matter how bad the economy gets, Americans, who never learned economics due to our underfunded education system, think that a promise not to raise taxes will protect their income and spending power (of course, they also believe that the theory of evolution means that people were sired by monkeys, so it's all relative). Democrats are going to start behind for that reason no matter what, so the issue then becomes how successfully the conservatives can smear the Democratic ticket. With Biden, they have some ammo:

1) He's an established plagiarist. Now Im sure most Americans do not consider plagiarism a crime on the level of say, marrying an unapproved person or removing a microscopic cell cluster from a womb to save countless lives, even though of course it is much, much worse, but it is still something the Reps can point to and say "Look! Integrity issues!" (and by the way, how come John McCain can completely abandon his suffering wife for a newer, richer model with no problem but John Edwards steps out for a one-off and its the end of his career?)

2) He's on record as supporting McCain over Obama.

One wonders why Democratic candidates don't think of these things when running against each other. This one is really bad and you can be sure we are going to hear about it all day long on FOX news.

3) He tends to put his foot in his mouth. Now in all fairness, the guy is 65 and had a couple of aneurysms, so you can forgive him for misspeaking every now and then, and he is charismatic enough to charm his way out of these situations most of the time, but it still gives me pause.

Will Biden hurt/help Obama? In the White House, a definite help. As far as getting elected, it probably won't matter one way or the other. Hopefully we'll get lucky and McCain will add Joe Lieberman to his ticket, since you can be sure the Fundamentalists won't stand for that.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Mortgaging the Future?

Well, after reading my Brett Favre blog posts, the football elite have finally gotten their ultimate revenge. They are sending Brett to my team, the New York Jets. Am I happy about this development? Does my team pinning their hopes on a 39 year old quarterback have me brimming with confidence? What do you think?

Serves me right for getting involved....

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Prediction Time

OK, time for another one of my fail-proof predictions: Your Democratic Vice Presidential nominee is this guy. He kind of seems like John Edwards 2.0, doesn't he? Anyway, you heard it here first.

In other news, my significant other Elizabeth and I are in the final 25 out of 900 entrants in the FOX New York Television Festival Comedy Script Contest. Stay tuned to this space as details develop!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Dark Knight Triumphant

"The Dark Knight" is currently the 12th highest grossing movie of all time, and is projected to eventually slide into the #2 spot between "Star Wars (A New Hope)" and "Titanic". It's definitely a quality movie and one that is true to the 1985 "Post-Crisis" movement, what I like to call the "Reality Shift" movement of comics. It shouldn't be surprising that a movie like this has finally come out, as guys like me who were comic-reading teenagers in the 80s have finally become old enough to make movies. It will be very interesting to see what Hollywood does with "Watchmen" and how both the non-comic reading public and the fans respond.

So, hits and misses with "The Dark Knight" from a Fanboy's perspective.

The Joker: Heath Ledger's performance is a hit, of course, although in all fairness, this is not a role that lacks meat. William Goldman, the legendary screenwriter, points out that while Dustin Hoffman received accolades for playing the autistic brother in "Rain Man," the far more challenging role is the one Tom Cruise portrays, as the brother who doesn't have all sorts of built in tics and mannerisms to play with. I think Dark Knight presents the same issue. The Joker is easy to play. Jack Nicholson had no trouble with the character in the original Batman movie and Cesar Romero didn't in the 60s TV Show. In contrast, look at the disastrous turns that guys like Val Kilmer and George Clooney had as the Caped Crusader. Playing the guy who is supposed to be in control and subdued all the time and still reveal the rage boiling underneath, that's the tough job, and I think Christian Bale pulls it off excellently. I think the real problem is that those prior actors didn't know how to play Bruce Wayne. Christian Bale does.

Two-Face: A great job actually taking the time to explore this character's backstory (although they actually changed his origin significantly) and incredible makeup/digital photography. This Two-Face looks like Two-Face is supposed to look. I hope they do more with him in the next movie.


The Joker. Didn't expect that, did you? My issue is this. In his first appearance, the Joker used Joker Venom. It poisoned his victims while causing their faces to spasm in a crooked, twisted smile. This made his murders all the more horrible and it was ignored in this film. Maybe Nolan thought corpses with big smiles would look too cartoony but I think it's an important part of the character.

Two Face: The original story, where Dent becomes Two Face after being sprayed with acid by a vengeful mobster during a prosecution, fits the character better, and I would have liked them to have worked this in. Also, we didn't get a chance to see any of Dent's "dual themed" crimes, so I sincerely hope we'll see this character again.

Still, this is definitely the movie that comic book fans have been waiting for and if you haven't seen it yet, you definitely should.

Side Note: The 999th highest grossing film of all time? Oh God! Starring George Burns.

Update: No doubt the football elite have been reading my blog, as Brett Favre has agreed to return to the Packers and the Packers have agreed to give him a shot at the starting job. See? Everybody does the right thing, everybody's happy!