Friday, May 30, 2008

Sunshine State Fantasy

Growing up in the Midwest, I always fancied Florida as a visual paradise of saturated greens and blues, fantastically tacky souvenir stands, and theme parks. I also considered people living in the state as the luckiest on Earth.

Since this time, however, my relationship with the Sunshine State has evolved significantly. On one hand, I have grown much closer to Florida; I have extended family there whom I enjoy visiting, and nearly wed a transplanted Floridian who grew up around Orlando. My late father’s ashes are also buried in the gritty, shallow inlets of Fort Myers Beach.

Yet despite my affection for Florida, I am always happy to return home, and leave its traffic, endless retail outlets, and blue-haired zombies far behind.

Nevertheless, the kid in me still loves the Florida of my imagination in all its nick-nacky glory, which inspired me to post the following from the U of Miami on its collection of Florida postcards dating back 100 years.

I still can’t get enough of this stuff. Cheesy, gator-themed souvenirs are my delicious, delicious crack.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Schauenfreude Rocks

Whether its allegations of White House chicanery are true or not—and I have few reasons to doubt them—it’s funny how the Bush administration was caught completely flat-footed by the release of ex-press secretary Scott McClellan’s new book titled “What Happened” in which he paints his former boss and co-workers in a most unflattering light.

But sure enough, Bush’s right-wing media lackeys (including drug-addled gasbag Rush Limbaugh, and 99% of Fox “News”) are quickly dusting off the same formula they have used before when circling the wagons versus former yes-men turned critics, dispensing classic buzzwords like “sour grapes," "disgruntled," and “out of the loop” to downplay McClellan, with some Bush ring-kissers—like Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer—even questioning whether “What Happened” wasn't truly ghost-written by faceless liberals…no doubt on the payroll of George Soros or Hugo Chavez.

Either way, it’s fun to watch these bad actors twist in the wind as they scramble to maintain their fiction of absolute confidence in a president with historically low approval ratings.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Pep Talk

I'll be participating in a local disc golf tournament tomorrow, my first in almost a year. I've gotten in a lot of practice since then, but need a little inspiration... just a few choice words to put me in the perfect frame of mind for competition.

Governor, can you help me out?

Yeah, that's the stuff...

PS: Well, so much for crushing enemies. I had fun at today's tourney, plus $2K in cash and food donations was raised for local veterans, but after 20 holes of play I ended up at 21 over...which is not great. What bugs me most of all is that I began my round well, but after falling down hard on three holes on the back nine with a twitchy short game, I was in a bottomless pit from which it was impossible to recover. Such is the curse of golf-related games; it is very unforgiving. Granted, this was a challenging course I'd only played once before, and may others struggled as well, but I had hoped to come away with better results. Oh, welly.

PPS: On top of all this, I think I'm becoming a vampire in my old age, as any prolonged sun exposure--and today's was mild--leaves me feeling drained and suffering from a headache. Also, instead of craving blood, I crave chocolate milk on a daily basis. Perhaps my vampirism is lactose-based.

"Indy 4": A Very Brief Review

In a nutshell, “Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull” is the most empty-headed of all the “Indy” films dating back to 1981 – yes, even worse than 1984’s “Temple of Doom” with all of Kate Capshaw’s relentless screeching.

In fact, in many ways “Skull” is as much brainless formula as that film.

“Skull” is not without its clever moments—most at the beginning and very end—but it is yet another example of Steven Spielberg emphasizing product over story, with Indy and his latest gang of sidekicks (including Karen Allen) traipsing through one artificial environment after another with cookie-cutter fascists and angry tribes in constant pursuit.

Yes, I love Harrison Ford, and Indiana Jones is one of the greatest characters to ever come out of Hollywood, but “Skull” has as much depth and coherence as a spinning theme park ride.

And we waited 19 years for this?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Patty Cake

Following last night’s by-the-numbers primary outcomes in KY and OR, the pilings have finally been driven for Barack Obama to accept his party’s nomination in Denver, despite Hillary Clinton’s desperate claims to the contrary.

This said, how should Obama now strategically approach his GOP opponent John McCain from here on out?

In my view, it all comes down to the following:

If Obama’s people are smart—really smart—they will reproduce this shot of McCain embracing Bush like a baby koala at a recent campaign rally on every conceivable medium: billboards, mouse pads, t-shirts, TV ads, yard signs, coffee mugs, tortillas, baby bibs…if it’s a transferrable surface, use it.

No underlying text is necessary.

And even though his name will not be on the ballot this November, my two-cents to Obama’s people is to make Bush every bit as much a part of this campaign as McCain and his eventual running mate.

Use every possible chance to drive the message that Bush and McCain are political twinsies, and that a McCain victory in November would equal a third Bush term in office.

Now granted, I doubt this would be so were McCain to be elected; he shares more political differences with Bush than he does similarities. Yet for raw psychological power, the above image is the embodiment of a picture being worth a thousand words. And if used properly, is as damning a connection for McCain as Jeremiah Wright ever was for Obama.

Further, it forces McCain into an unenviable position of having to constantly defend his connections with Bush—the current leader of the Republican party—when the latter’s public disapproval ratings keep moving skyward.

True, other, more relevant national issues like the economy and the Iraq War will be equally pivotal for both Dems and Republicans in 2008. But this shot of Bush and McCain is a divine gift for the former.

My advice to them is to run it into the ground.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Belaboring The Obvious

Like many are also predicting, look for another primary split tomorrow between Barack Obama (win in OR), and Hillary Clinton (win in KY).

At this point, margins of victory in the Democratic nomination process no longer matter. Hillary’s campaign is under water, although at her Kentucky victory speech tomorrow, expect her now-familiar routine of bobbing her head in victory while desperately soliciting donations at her website – not because Hillary needs the cash to help her win future races, but to ease her campaign’s $20M debt.

This One's For Bruce

Friday, May 16, 2008

Volume Trumps Fact

For a timeless example of the Ann Coulter School of Political Rhetoric—where volume trumps details like facts—check out this example of stupidity in action courtesy of conservative radio talker Kevin James, who in an “interview” with Chris Mathews humiliates himself while trying to compare Barack Obama to Neville Chamberlain in 1938.

Did this moron ever crack the spine on a history book?

Click here for a great commentary on this embarrassment via a Canadian conservative writer.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Society Marches On

Wow, am I stupid.

To think I actually believed that American society had come a long way toward mending its racial wounds since 1964.

But then over on Pandagon I saw the following post about a t-shirt that’s been floating about Marietta, GA, and no doubt elsewhere.

What’s next? Bringing back that old chestnut of a law that dictates that blacks cannot vote, or be out on the streets after sundown?

Y'see, this is why I hate rednecks more than the bubonic plague.

PS (5-16-08): Read several public comments on various news blogs today related to the above story, with several posters defending the shirt design as no big deal, and one individual on CNN adding: “Great idea. I wish I’d thought of it.”…no doubt while collecting his white hood and robes at the local dry cleaners.

Meanwhile, the publisher of the “Curious George” book series is considering legal action (for copyright infringement) versus Mike Norman, the Marietta-based purveyor of the “Obama ‘08” shirt who is claiming he’ll donate all sales proceeds from it to charity.

Thanks, Albert Schweitzer. I’m sure MDA can use the extra cash.

On the way to the corner to mail your donation to Jerry’s kids, be sure to lynch a 14 year-old black kid for whistling at a white gal.

Them darkies is getting’ way too uppity these days.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Ghost Stories

Speaking of the Barack-Obama-Is-A-Muslim myth (noted previously on this blog) refusing to die, I had a revealing phone conversation on the same topic with my stepmother during Mom’s Day.

When the topic of politics came up, she voiced reservations with the idea of voting for Obama this fall. When I asked why, she said “Well, isn’t he a Muslim?”

I was gob-smacked.

Even worse, when I pointed out to my stepmother that Obama has never been a Muslim--not that being so is illegal--she seemed genuinely surprised.

It seems that debunking this political ghost story is going to be a tougher challenge for the Obama campaign than expected.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Chocolate Jesus War

Once again, thanks to Ed Brayton for posting the following, very disturbing piece about a First Amendment case set surrounding an Ohio HS teacher claiming the right to keep a Bible on his desk, and the resulting little civil war that’s broken out among the student body between various fundie Christians (the majority), and non-believers and/or other Christians refusing to support the teacher in question (the minority).

Particularly charming is this account:

“[Beth Murdoch, mother of a female student at the school] said I don’t think people realize the depth of what’s going on between the students. It’s a mob mentality right now. It’s peer pressure. To not wear a T-shirt and to not bring your Bible when they say "Bring your Bible and wear a T-shirt", you’re asking for trouble.”

[Murdoch] said one of [her daughter's] friends wore a T-shirt to school that read, “I don’t need to wear a special T-shirt to be a Christian.” That individual was reportedly pushed into the lockers and called a “stupid atheist [bitch].” That is not acceptable in Murdoch’s mind.

Beth (who is Christian herself) then goes on to say:

“No matter who it is, they have a right to their opinion...That’s what freedom is all about. As Christians ourselves, we support freedom of religion 100 percent. But freedom of religion means freedom for all religions, not just one.’

Thank Christ, at least someone in that town is thinking like an adult.

Lit Cops

When you’re a kid, it’s easy for adults—be they your parents or not—to deny access to books you may want to investigate.

And while some of this “questionable” material is truly not geared for little readers—in part because its content would sail over their heads—one of the perks of growing up is that you can tell those same people who warned you at age thirteen against reading JD Salinger or Alice Walker to get bent as an adult.

So here’s my advice, kids: read what you want.

If you want to check out “The Golden Compass” or “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” or teen Manga serials then go for it.

God knows when it comes to the pitfalls of adolescence, there are a lot worse dangers out there for “concerned” parents to wring their mitts over than “Huck Finn.”

By the bye: Click here for the ALA’s 2007 list of the most challenged books in US schools and libraries.

Then laugh out loud, and go check them out.

Never Bet Against Stupidity

Read the following quote at the Chicago Sun-Times website today regarding an ongoing myth circulating among voters about Barack Obama:

At a restaurant outside Indianapolis Tuesday morning, one man waved Obama away when the senator approached him to shake his hand. The man told a reporter, "I can't stand him. He's a Muslim. He's not even pro-American as far as I'm concerned."

Obama has never been a Muslim, but bogus e-mails accuse him of being a Muslim who put his hand on a copy of the Quran to be sworn into the U.S. Senate and refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

This sort of thing (sheer ignorance fanned by Obama’s detractors) is going to be an issue for him this fall. Yet what’s even sadder is this myth encourages an overall prejudice versus Muslims, which in today’s society feels disturbingly tolerated.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I Promised Myself I Wouldn't Cry

Putting the subject of politics aside for a moment (you’re welcome) I ran across the following piece on Slate today by David Haglund on the 1956 Oscar-winning short film “The Red Balloon” by Albert Lamorisse.

Now out on DVD, this is a film a vaguely remember seeing as a small child, centering on a Parisian boy who befriends a cheeky red balloon with a mind of its own. I won’t reveal the rest of the story, but it wields a heartbreaking climax—a pale Christ allegory, not that I knew it then—that had me soaking my Garanimals with my own tears until a mega-happy ending kicked in.

Still, the emotional bruising was delivered, just as in another painful scene in “Dumbo” (posted below, I defy you not to sniffle) wherein our little hero’s mother—caged for defending her child from bullies—nuzzles him sweetly from the window of a locked wagon. Sure, “Dumbo” sports a mega-happy ending also, but this particular scene flayed open my four year-old heart like a trout.

Thanks for that, Uncle Walt.

But I digress.

The Haglund piece on “The Red Balloon” is well-worth reading, and includes mention of a 2008 reinterpretation—to say “remake” would be inaccurate—of the film by Taiwanese director Hou Hsaio-hsein retitled “The Flight of The Red Balloon” featuring a blond Juliette Binoche as the boy’s mother.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Garbage Time

Not that you asked, but look for another Democratic primary split today with Hillary taking Indiana by 4-6 percentage points, and Obama winning NC by 5-7.

That leaves the remaining contests to play out until June 3: Kentucky (Hillary wins), West Virginia (Hillary), Oregon (Obama), Montana (Obama), North Dakota (Obama), and Puerto Rico (Hillary).

After today, also look for superdelegates to begin substantially breaking for Obama. The math heavily favors his nomination this summer, and no matter how Hillary and her surrogates spin it otherwise, her candidacy is virtually over – although she will not admit it until the bitter end.

Monday, May 5, 2008


Over at Superhero Hype, the production team at Marvel Studios is as giddy as proverbial schoolgirls over the box office success of “Iron Man” during its opening weekend, not to mention the worthy Oscar buzz for Robert Downey, Jr.

So giddy is Marvel, in fact, that tentative dates for a Shellhead sequel have been targeted for 2010, in addition to features for Thor (also 2010), and Captain America (May 2011) - all culminating in an Avengers feature (July 2011).

Ambitious, no?

If everything pans out, I wonder how many Avengers will be on the roster, and who’ll play them? Plus, who would the team fight? Loki? But most importantly, who will be cast as this guy?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Oh, Ben...I Had Such Hopes For You

Found the following link (via Ed Brayton’s “Dispatches” blog) to a press release by the Anti-Defamation League protesting the tack taken by Ben Stein in the pro-ID documentary “Expelled” (which despite a huge investment in advertising is doing horribly at the box office).

In a nutshell, Stein and the producers of “Expelled” blame Darwinism for motivating the Nazi Holocaust, which is idiotic on its face when one ponders if Hitler would have believed for a moment that his ideal Aryan super-soldier had descended from apes.

To coin a phrase: not bloody likely.

Recently, Ben Stein also made the following statement in support of “Expelled” during an interview with the Trinity Broadcast System.

Although, fair warning: not only is it a scorcher, reading it may cause a few trillion of your brain cells to implode out of sheer incredulity.

Note: In all candor, I have not seen “Expelled” myself, but have watched the first several minutes of the film on its website. Needless to say, when Ben Stein ominously warns viewers that they may be risking their jobs or personal reputations by watching the film, I could not help but laugh aloud.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Take A Number

In the line now forming in Pennsylvania to be the first to throw the persons responsible for this act of mindless cruelty headfirst down a flight of stairs, can I be first?


"Iron Man": A Very Brief Review

Although I disagree with those who feel “Iron Man” is the best Marvel hero movie to date (for my cash, that’s still “Spider-Man 2”), it’s still very solid.

Robert Downey makes the movie as Tony Stark, and Director Jon Favreau does a good job keeping his film’s visuals and action taut despite the whole running a tad long. Co-stars Gwyneth Paltrow (as Pepper Potts) and Terrence Howard (as Rhodey) clock in good supporting performances, but Jeff Bridges shines even better as Stark Industries’ shadowy partner Obadiah Stane.

(I also enjoyed the idea of Stark’s A.I. assistant being named “Jarvis,” after the Avengers’ longtime butler).

Stick around after the credits for a 30-second scene at Stark’s oceanside home sure to make fanboys squeal.