Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscar Night (Part Two)

Once again the Oscars have come and gone.

As I've said before, I'm a huge Oscar fan. There's very little they can do that will upset me. But this year managed to pull it off. I really did not like the broadcast this year - worst ever that I've seen, in fact.

Hugh Jackman was not a host, he was a side show - and a poorly put together one at that. The highlight of the presenters was undoubtedly Steve Martin and Tina Fey. The nominees may disagree with me, but the bringing out of all those people and having us sit and watch them while they "extemporize" about how wonderful everyone is was embarrassing to me at least.

And those musical numbers. Oh my god. What was Baz Luhrman THINKING!?? Not everything needs to be a medley, people. Really! And while I love John Legend, he just didn't sound right singing that Peter Garbriel song. Tsk tsk tsk. No, no, no.

I did appreciate the "grouping" this year - the design oscars being together, the sort of "story" it all told (i.e. "how a movie is made.") And the Best Picture montage may possibly have made up for the rest of them. Except...Good Will Hunting was in there, and that didn't win no best picture. Hm. Confused.

As far as the awards went, there weren't any major surprises, as far as I was concerned. I was thrilled for Penelope Cruz and Sean Penn (and Heath!), all of whom I picked to win. Slumdog seemed to sweep most of its categories, and rightfully so. Kate Winslet cannot be more glamorous and beautiful even if she tried. And yes, I will say it - Poor Merryl. Maybe 16's a charm.

The surprise of the night, for me was Dustin Lance Black. Personally, I wanted WALL-E to win for best original screenplay, but let me say two things:

-His speech was incredibly special and so worthwhile (Fey and Martin were awkward getting back into the humor after that.)

-And it occured to me, afterwards, that even though it may not have had the strongest character relationships, this script was so vitally important to our day and time; and perhaps the members of the academy saw that, too. And if that's true, then I am so happy, and I hope that the tide of history is truly turning in favor of equal human rights.

Either that, or the academy really just is, as Sean Penn put it, "A bunch of commie, homo-lovers."

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Would this be considered political suicide? Or political murder?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Quote of the Day

A valentine message from Rep. Zach Wamp to Democrats:

"Just because republicans spent too much money after September 11 and lost our way on financial matters doesn't mean the Democratic party should be allowed to wreck our ship of state."

Ship of state? Which ship would that be? Perhaps the bipartisan-ship?

Get on board, Wamp. You had your chance to fuck up. Don't bitch about the fact that America gave the power to the other team this time around. What's wrong? Afraid they might do better?

Stimul-US, or Stimul-NOT THEM?

This whole thing over "bipartisanship" has got me all confused.

Chip Reid summed up the media's perspective in Obama's presidential press conference. "You, [Mr. President], have often said that bipartisanship is extraordinarily important overall, and in the stimulus package. But now when we ask your advisors about the lack of bipartisanship so far -- zero votes in the House, three in the Senate -- they say, well, it's not the number of votes that matters, it's the number of jobs that will be created."

Obama then went on (and on, and on...boy, all those thoughtful, well articulated answers are enough to drive someone to Bill O'Reilly level boredom) to explain how he made a series of Overtures to the Republicans, not just to get short-term votes, but to build up trust over time. And we all recall what W. did to build up trust, which was of course to take away our right to distrust him.

I don't understand why bipartisanship is being measured solely by Obama's obvious efforts to reach out to republicans. "Bi" still means two, right Jason Mraz? The GOP's new policy of "Nope" seems to be getting in the way here. They seem to think that an atmosphere of bitpartisanship means "we get our way, period!"

Obama, in my opinion, has done an incredible amount of work to delete pork spending in this bill, and include unprecedented accountability, putting the power of the government into the hands of the people (how's that for republican ideals???)

And yes, I agree with Obama's views on what will ulimately stimulate our economy in the long run (arts funding, green collar jobs, education, education, education!) and yes, you may disagree. You may disagree that the federal government has no business butting into affairs like energy, education, and health care. In fact, it seems that republicans of late believe the government should only be involved with war and foreign policy (and by foreign policy I mean war.) But as Obama so rightfully said in his inaugural address: "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works."

I have been asked my thoughts on the "speed" at which Obama and Pelosi pushed the bill. I know that Bill O'Reilly is on record as having said that Pelosi hi-jacked the bill, but I have also heard it said that Obama has owned this bill, and I agree that he has, so let's put Pelosi aside. reported that "Some repulicans in the House expressed frustration over how little time they had to read the 1,000-plus-page bill, and others predicted ruin if it passed." Look, Republicans, I hated my english teacher Mr. Burke for assigning King Lear, Hamlet, and Othello over one weekend, but do what I did and bully some smaller senators into reading it out loud to you.

I, personally, think our government moves too slowly in general, but especially in this instance, I agree that swift action is entirely necessary. Not everybody I know is being immediately affected by this recession, but I am. I recently joined the daily growing number of Americans on unemployment, and I do not say that proudly, or self-righteously (as many artists do.) Looking at this, we see just how rapid this economic downturn is...well, downturning.

This is an image of the literal definition of "Off The F*cking Chart."

So, do I think that the extra waiting around, the back and forth about more tax cuts (as though there aren't ANY tax cuts) or less spending (is less spending reeeally going to get rid of the wolves at the door? and by wolves I mean state governments?) I am listening, and I hear Obama when he says that no plan is perfect. I also hear when Rahm Emmanuel says "you never let a good crisis go to waste." And so, while I will be watching very closely, I will also understand that we needed a BIG booster shot and we needed it four months ago (when there "was no recession.")

If my foot is about to fall off, and they pump me full of so many drugs that one of them covers my body in hair, but ultimately saves my foot - hey, no harm done, right? I can always shave the hair off, I can't always get a new foot. Okay, so maybe a bad example.

The point is it's not my foot, it's OUR foot. And it's not a foot at all. It's our jobs, our livelihoods, our futures, our whole damn country. We're in the middle of a big pile of shit and an even bigger shit storm is on the horizon. Whether we dig or whether we swim, we're still going to be eating shit. If we start start acting together now, and if we're lucky, we'll make it out in time.

If least we know the "Number of Jobless Americans Chart Industry" will be booming!

Friday, February 6, 2009

"A.E. Housman, sir"

Oh who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrists?
And what has he been after that they groan and shake their fists?
And wherefore is he wearing such a conscience-stricken air?
Oh they're taking him to prison for the colour of his hair.

'Tis a shame to human nature, such a head of hair as his;
In the good old time 'twas hanging for the colour that it is;
Though hanging isn't bad enough and flaying would be fair
For the nameless and abominable colour of his hair.

Oh a deal of pains he's taken and a pretty price he's paid
To hide his poll or dye it of a mentionable shade;
But they've pulled the beggar's hat off for the world to see and stare,
And they're haling him to justice for the colour of his hair.

Now 'tis oakum for his fingers and the treadmill for his feet
And the quarry-gang on Portland in the cold and in the heat,
And between his spells of labour in the time he has to spare
He can curse the God that made him for the colour of his hair.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Robert Glibbs

I understand that being the White House Press Secretary must be a very hard job, and I'm not versed enough to say who has best held that position recently. But I don't find Robert Gibbs particularly...good at it.

I feel like with an eloquent, articulate President like Obama should require an equally eloquent, articulate Press Secretary. Gibbs bumbles, is often glib, can sometimes be rude, and doesn't necessarily illuminate the obvious aspects of his talking points when responding to questions. And in some cases, he seems unprepared, or un-knowledgeable, about things like schedules, recent developments, and even major agenda points (perhaps, purposefully, so - plausible deniability and all that.)

Don't Divorce Us

News broke this Tuesday, according to Courage Campaign, that the California supreme court will hear oral arguments on March 5, and will then make a decision within 90 days on the validity of Prop 8 and 18,000 American marriages.

Ken Star (yes, that Ken Star) has filed a legal brief that would FORCIBLY DIVORCE 18,000 American marriages. (Mr. Star apparently on a rampage to break up marriages, after failing to break up the Clintons'.)

Watch this video, and then please tell the supreme court not to divorce Americans.
Doesn't matter where you are, could be California, New York, or even...gulp...Wisconsin.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Quote of the Night

Stephen Colbert on Pope Benedict rehabilitating Bishop Richard Williamson, a known holocaust denier:

"Apparently, Bishop Williamson has enough evidence that 2000 years ago a man rose from the dead, but not enough evidence that 60 years ago the Nazis were pretty bad."

Quote of the Day

This, from the former VP of the Christian President who ran under the title "compassionate conservative":

"Protecting the country’s security is a tough, mean, dirty, nasty business. These are evil people. And we’re not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek."
~Dick Cheney

I wonder what Jesus would have to say about that. After he was finished eradicating all the gay people, I mean.

Words Matter

In one of the best essays that I have ever read, George Orwell, in 1946 wrote, in Politics and the English Language:

"Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible."

As an intellectual and a cultural elitist (that's right - get your rotten tomatoes ready) I feel Orwell's call to, essentially, pull our minds from the mud by way of our words. Even in my own career practice, acting, I've learned recently how using certain vocabulary belies a specific kind of understanding (or belies little understanding at all) of certain topics.

Susan Jacoby, who I've blogged about before, wrote a book called
The Age of American Unreason. I have yet to read this book in its entirety, but the first chapter addresses the issue of language in our politics in very clear, easy to understand, AMERICAN terms. I highly reccomend you read it here.

She talks about Former President Bush's all-encompassing use of the word
"folks." "Folks", Jacoby argues, as opposed to "Ladies and Gentlemen" or "The American People" degrades the American sense of self. I know, I know, look at me spouting off my grandiloquent and confusing intellectual, elitist philosophies here, but hang with me - I'll try my best not use too big of words (aside from grandiloquent.)

"The specific political use of folks as an exclusionary and inclusionary signal, designed to make the speaker sound like one of the boys or girls, is symptomatic of a debasement of public speech inseparable from a more general erosion of American cultural standards. Casual, colloquial language also conveys an implicit denial of the seriousness of whatever issue is being debated: talking about folks going off to war is the equivalent of describing rape victims as girls (unless the victims are, in fact, little girls and not grown women.)"

So, folks aside, let's move on to a few other political words that have become meaningless: democracy, liberal, conservative, and my personal favorite, and the point of this blog: terror - specifically The War on Terror.

How, pray tell, does one fight a War on Terror? And who can debate anyone the fact that Terror is bad and therefore we must fight said War on Terror? It can't be done, but the fact is, it is rhetorically empty and meaningless, which is exactly what our politicians would like, because then the War on Terror can be used to justify anything (Iraq, anyone?)

So you can understand how my intellectual, elitist heart jumped for joy when, while watching Anderson Cooper interview President Obama, they had this exchange:

ANDERSON: "I've noticed you don't use the term 'War on Terror.'...Is that conscience? Is there something about that term that you find objectionable or not useful?"

OBAMA: "Well, I think it is very important for us to recognize that we have a battle, or a war, against some terrorist organizations; but that those organizations aren't representative of a broader Arab community, Muslim community. Words matter in this situation because one of the ways we're going to win this struggle is through the battle of hearts and minds. What I want to do is make sure that I'm constantly talking about 'Al Queda' and other affliated organizations because we, I believe, can win over moderate Muslims, to recognize that that kind of destruction and nihilism ultimately leads to a dead end, and that we should be working together to make sure that everybody's got a better life."

If I wasn't already swooning over Cooper and Obama in the same room, then this really got me going. Orwell would be so proud. We should all be so proud.

Even if you don't quite understand it, that's okay - there's a good chance, now, that someday you will.

Growing Pains

I'm confused as to why we're shaking our heads at Obama in utter disappointment over Daschle and Killefer.

Oh, I'm not. It's fun to create heroes and then knock them down.

I believe Obama when he says Daschle was the most qualified person for the job as head of HHS. Is it Obama's fault that Daschle has tax issues? Is it better for Obama to nominate a completely unqualified individual (or even a lesser qualified individual) just because that person has a clean tax record. No one tried to hide his tax evasion. It came up fairly quickly, and, I'm sure, would have been worked out just as quickly. Daschle, I assume, was vetted on his ability to run HHS, not his ability to pay taxes.

I understand Obama, too, when he says it can suggest a double standard. But a.) Washington can't be changed in 15 days, and b.) Change has to start SOMEWHERE. Obama can't change what Daschle did in the past, only what he will do from now on. And isn't that important, too?

And what's this about Daschle being a semi-lobbyist?? Because he worked for a law firm that did business on behalf of lobbyists? According to NPR last night, that makes half of Washington Lobbyists. All congresspeople and ex-congresspeople still have the phone numbers of their colleagues, and will still call them to...y'know...strategize, group, pitch, lobby for certain bills. So if that was the criteria, very few people in Washington would pass that litmus test.

The point is - that ISN'T the criteria. You must be a registered lobbyist and engage in "lobbying contacts" (okay, whatever...?) The critieria's strength, according to NPR, lies in its narrow defintion of LOBBYIST, covering only the most important part of what it is a lobbyist does - actual lobbying.

Not to mention (hat tip Tony) that Obama, not 4 hours after Daschle's announcement, was APOLOGIZING to the American public. Remind me again when Bush apologized for making the wrong appointment (let alone eating cake, while New Orleans drowned.)

We have an expectation that our Politicians are gods. If they make a mistake, we don't want to vote for them. Yet, if they make a mistake and try to talk their way around it, we see through it and we criticize them. Obama's approval rating has "shot down" (to an alarming 66%...66%!! More than twice what Bush spent his last year in office with) because he 'fessed up to a mistake.

We need to grow up.