Sunday, October 31, 2010

Thoughts on Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity.”

It was a great cause, even though Stewart couldn’t define the reason everyone showed up. It was just an attempt at an antidote at all the ridiculous BS that has been out there, but I really do think that Stewart did take Glenn Beck’s rally as a bit of the last straw.

The comedy was mostly tame or not all that funny. I found the “benediction” by Father Guido Sarducci pretty amusing, where he was asking God for a sign when, during a bit of a “roll call” of religions, he happened upon the right one. The music wasn’t much to my taste, I guess, but that was to be expected. At 55 years old, my tastes are not quite mainstream these days. I didn’t much care for the interruption of Yousef’s/Cat Steven’s song, Peace Train, by a Colbert running joke and bringing in Ozzie Osbourne. I mean, the concept was funny, but I would have rather heard the song. Colbert’s poem, read by Sam Waterston, was pretty damn funny.

But all of that isn’t what I was going to comment on. Stewart, when he was getting to the point of the rally, to “restore sanity” used video clips of people saying some pretty extreme things on both sides of the political spectrum, with a generous helping of mainstream media stupidity (e.g., CNN) to illustrate how out of whack our national discourse has become. I agree with all that. I am not pleased when someone on the left goes and says something that I actually might agree with, but they do it in a way that is bound to be incendiary. Joy Behar really had no reason to say that Christine O’Donnell was going to Hell. Jeez. Walking off the set of The View is fine when you are protesting something that Bill O’Reilly said, but then don’t go on and stay something incredibly stupid yourself! That’s just dumb. Keith Olbermann, even though I agree with most of what he talks about, can be just as bad. If you don’t want to look as bad as the people you are criticizing, don’t say inflammatory things. You can phrase things in a different way and make the same point. When you take the flamethrower approach, all you are going to do is make the other side accuse you of the same tactics that you are accusing them of.

So, I get Stewart’s point. Everyone needs to take it down several notches. Only Hitler was Hitler. No matter how much you disagree with the other guy on specifics, they are not “actively trying to destroy the United States.” So, fine. I got that point, and mostly agree.

But when conservatives and Republicans have constantly been accusing liberals and Democrats of everything from supporting terrorism to socialism to treason, with a huge dose of personal insult as they can dreg up, then after about 25 years, it gets to be too much to take. When conservatives have an entire “news” organization including a 24 hour, 7 day a week television channel devoted exclusively to tearing down anyone that doesn’t totally agree with them, then human nature starts to take over. As I have said at this blog before, eventually Ralphie fights back against the bully that has been terrorizing him all these years. (That’s a Christmas Story reference, if you didn’t get it.)

I thought some of the clips from MSNBC that Stewart used yesterday were taken a bit out of context and were not on the same level as the ones that he used from Fox News. I am really glad he didn’t use any clips from Rachael Maddow, as I see her as a genuine sane voice in the wilderness. Yes, MSNBC’s, The Ed Show is very much over the top and should be toned down. But for everyone of those examples you find on the left of the political spectrum, you can probably find 10 to 20 examples on the right.

So, sure. Let’s tone it down, people. Take a deep breath before you say something you know can be used as ammunition against you. But disarmament takes participation by both sides. If one side isn’t going to put down their weapons (not talking about real guns, just following along with the disarmament analogy), then you really can’t expect the other side to say, O.K., keep hitting us with your best shot. We are going to continue to sit here and take it. That’s a very unreasonable expectation.

So, thanks, Jon Stewart. That was a very good effort and may ultimately have some effect. But truly, I doubt it. The country is too far gone. The only thing that I believe will restore some sanity to our political discourse is if something very big happens to cause that correction. We can’t expect people to just agree to be more reasonable on their own. Humans don’t work like that and there is too much money and political force being exerted behind the scenes to allow that to happen.

I think some sort of blow up is going to happen. Or maybe, blow out is a more appropriate comparison. The worn out old tire has been pumped up with too much air pressure and there are danger signs all over. A blow out, at this point, may be inevitable. Hopefully, it is a small one that relieves the pressure. At that point, perhaps we can repair the blow out and then pump things carefully up back to the point of good, sustainable pressure without going overboard.

That’s about my only hope at this point. But Jon, if I may call you by your first name, I certainly applaud you and all the people who were on the National Mall yesterday for trying. Great job.

Photos from Huffington Post. I'm sure they won't mind.

Friday, October 22, 2010

"The great thing about democracy is that it gives every voter a chance to do something stupid." - Art Spander

And it appears that a very large percentage of the voting population in the U.S. is about to do something incredibly stupid. It is possible that we will give control of the House, and maybe the Senate, back to the Republicans. And these are not even the Republicans of the Clinton years, the ones who thought that making the White House Christmas card list into a huge scandal was a great idea. Most of the Republicans on the top ballot positions these days seem to be totally insane. But what absolutely astounds me is that the people who vote for these idiots are actually voting against their own personal interests. Yeah, let's repeal Obamacare! Yes, let's vote No on every single infrastructure program which this country desperately needs. Sure, let's vote to let huge corporations run unencumbered by any sort of regulatory oversight!

Let me ask some questions of the average U.S. voter.

Do you work in a coal mine or on an oil drilling rig?

Do you or anyone in your family have a "pre-existing health condition?"

Do you feel you will need Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid when you retire?

Do want to see your real earnings and savings continue to grow?

I could go on and on. I was thinking there was a quote that went something like, "A democracy depends upon an educated population." Or something like that. I couldn't find it, but it does seem like a truism to me. However, what we have here is what I believe to be a moronic voting population who will vote for anyone or anything that says anything bad about Democrats and liberals, no matter if there is not one iota of truth to it or not. It doesn't matter.

This is not going to end well.

What's that old saying about any landing you walk away from is a good landing?

Yeah, that's about airplanes, not gliders, but even so, I am not sure I would totally buy into that.

This guy was apparently very lucky to walk away from this with only a few cracked/broken ribs. Ow.

DISCLAIMER: As with a number of photos that I post here, I do not know the original source of these. It appears they are under copyright. If anyone can give me a source, I will gladly give attribution, or remove them if someone really objects. My approach is that it is O.K. to post photos such as this if you give proper attribution and a link to the person's own web page. A commercial, of sorts, and an invitation to go visit the home page of the source of the material. Just covering my butt, in other words.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Hip" phrases used by football announcers that I wish would go away.

"Pick Six" - When anyone intercepts a pass and runs it back for a touchdown, or even has the opportunity to but doesn't, it must be referred to as "pick six." It cannot be said that it was an interception for a touchdown. It is absolutely mandatory to call it "pick six." That was maybe cute for a while, but it is wearing thin. It's not even true alliteration.

"In Space" - This phrase apparently refers to the 97% of the football field that isn't inhabited by most of the players. When I first heard one of the announcers refer to a defensive player as someone "who can make great tackles in space," I was thinking, "Wow. That guy must be REALLY good. But how to you practice tackling somone in space?" I'm a very literal guy...

"Guys...?" - This is for the female sideline analysts and announcers back in the studio. When they want to turn it back to the announcers doing the game, they say "Guys...?" in the interrogative. Like, "Guys, will you now come in a rescue me from that really stupid observation that I just made that almost anyone watching the game could have concluded by themselves and makes it questionable as to why I am getting paid to do this?" Watch for this one. Once you notice it, it's almost impossible to not hear it every single time.

"Dial up" - Defensive coaches "dial up" their calls, like blitzes and different coverages. They can't just "call plays." No, they must "dial up" a blitz. Jeez, not only does the use of a "hip" term sound silly after continual usage, that is just SOOO 1990's. Dial up web access is an anachronism, a thing of the past. I don't even have dial up access anymore. Maybe they should say that the defensive coordinator has a App for that. Need a blitz? He has an App for that.

I suppose the thing I detest about sports announcers in general, and this really applies to the pre-game "analysts", is that they either feel they must, or have been directed to by their superiors, act like 22 to 25 year olds out at a bar after three rounds of drinks. Loud, rather obnoxious, constantly interrupting each other, every single thing that comes out of their mouths is said with absolute certainty at a very loud volume... This is particularly unattractive behavior when all the men in question are in the late 40's and beyond. I suppose they are trying to connect with their intended audience, which is mostly 22 to 25 year old males full of testosterone and brimming with self-confidence. But it sure wears thin. I don't bother watching anything on television that isn't the game itself, and those are becoming limited.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Christine O’Donnell scores big in her televised debate!

Her problem is that she scored big for the opposing team. This has gotten much coverage in the blogs this morning. This comes from Washington Monthly.

Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell tonight totally confused the United States' history with Afghanistan when talking about the Obama administration's plan to withdraw troops from the country.

She complained that Obama and Democratic nominee Chris Coons are advocating something dangerous by proposing a drawdown of troops begin next summer.

"A random withdrawal, that he has said he supports, will simply embolden the terrorists to come after us even more, saying, 'I've chased away the superpower,'" O'Donnell said during a nationally televised debate hosted by CNN at the University of Delaware.

But this description of recent history is just astounding: "Well if you remember when we were fighting the Soviets over there in Afghanistan in the '80s and '90s, we did not finish the job, so now we have a responsibility to finish the job and if you are gonna make these politically correct statements that it's costing us too much money, you are threatening the security of our homeland."

Um…. What? Well, I suppose one could say “we were fighting the Soviets” if you are talking about a proxy war kind of thing, because “we”, meaning the U.S., never fought in Afghanistan until after 9/11, when the Soviet Union was long gone. Sure, we supplied weapons to the “freedom fighters” of that time. Remember: freedom fighters of today are tomorrow’s terrorists. Anyway, that’s a weirdly worded statement. Plus, “the terrorists” are now in flippin’ Pakistan, Christine! You doofus.

What in the world did Christine O’Donnell see in herself that made her run for U.S. Senator? This woman in a buffoon. Not that we don’t have lots of buffoons in this country, both male and female. But you would think that anyone with any sort of sense of self awareness would realize when they are in over their head. That doesn’t seem to be true of today’s Republican Party. Buffoonery seems to be the order of the day.

I know all about the “anti-elite, anti-establishment” feelings that have been carefully cultivated by the Republicans over the last 40 years or so. But have we really gotten to a place where a large percentage of American citizens really think elected people with absolutely no qualifications to run this country is a good idea?

It’s like if your car breaks down and you need to make a choice about which mechanic to take it to in order to get it fixed so you can actually drive it and get to work each morning. Do you take it to the guy who has 30 years experience and has several certificates of accreditation on his wall? Or do you take it to the guy who has never worked on a car engine before and actually doesn’t believe people should really be driving cars in the first place?

What kind of choice is this? What do you expect is going to happen?

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Oh, man. And these people call themselves Christian.

From Crooks and Liars:

The contemptible American Family Association is no more Christian than Satan himself. The latest remarks from their evil leader Bryan Fischer about how Jesus would have allowed the Cranick's home to burn are just plain evil.

We don't know what Jesus would have done if he were in the vicinity of Gene Cranick. We don't generally send rabbis out to fight fires, after all. It's likely he probably would have called out to the crowd for someone to help the man put out the fire. But there is no example in the bible -- NONE -- where Jesus stood by and let someone suffer to teach them a lesson. Jesus suffered, but he did not bring suffering on others. He fed them. He taught them. He led them. But he did not hurt them.
Bryan Fischer's version of Christianity is not one I recognize. It feels far more like Old Testament cruelty, brought down on the poor and disenfranchised in order to consolidate power. It feels like evil.

This is a very plain example of why I think that trust and understanding between the various factions that are present in American society today is pretty much impossible. For one thing, insane people believe that they know exactly what God is thinking at any one time and therefore, having a conversation with these cretins is pretty much impossible. Logic doesn’t work. Compassion doesn’t work. Shame doesn’t work. You don’t argue with the Mind of God.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Movie Review: The Quiet Earth

Fair warning: Here be spoilers!!

As long term readers of this blog (I have some of those, right?) might remember, October is sci-fi and horror film review month! I like to review movies that most people may not have heard of, much less seen, or are so lost in the depths of time (say, 20 years ago) that many people will go, “Yeah, I think I have seen that one. Does it have Robert Downey Jr. in it?”

This little gem is from New Zealand, circa 1985. On the face of it, it resembles one of your more straight-up, end-of-the-world with only a few survivors left alive, sci-fi flicks. It has a plot that has some striking similarities to Harry Belafonte’s “The World, the Flesh, and the Devil.” After surviving an event which kills almost every other living person on the face of the earth, the borderline antisocial hero rummages around empty cities on his own for a while, and then encounters (in the following order) a beautiful woman and a rival male intent on taking his supposed mate. “Oh, you AREN’T the only guy left on the planet, are you?” The two males flirt with a duel to the death, the hero unwillingly so, but then, before they end up killing each other, they realize that working together is their only real way to survive. Come to think of it, this is also pretty much the plot of Roger Corman’s “The Day the World Ended,” except that one has a really silly guy-in-a-rubber-suit monster, where these other two are more dramatic in nature.

“The Quiet Earth” is set in New Zealand and actually attempts to inject some what might pass for a scientific explanation of why almost living thing (not just people) on the face of the earth has vanished into thin air. But that line is somewhat secondary to the film. The most interesting part of the film, in my estimation, is when Zac (that’s a nice, heroic sounding name, dontcha think?) wakes up and finds himself totally alone. After the totally expected “Where IS everyone?” panic attack, he starts going a little bit crazy, wandering around the streets of Auckland in a woman’s slip or in a policeman’s outfit playing a saxophone in the middle of the night. He sets up cardboard figures of infamous figures such as Hitler, Richard Nixon, etc. in the yard of the mansion he has appropriated for himself, and to the background of recorded triumphant music and great applause, sets himself up as God of His Domain. He also takes this opportunity to express the deep guilt he is feeling, as it turns out he and his scientific buddies were probably at the bottom of all of this. It’s kind of a fascinating study, in a very embarrassing, voyeuristic sort of way, of a descent into madness. I thought the best scene in this sequence was when Zac finds himself in grand cathedral with a shotgun in front of a life-sized statue of Jesus on the cross. He starts shouting at God. “Come on out, or the kid gets it!” And he then proceeds to blast away at Jesus. But Zac comes to his senses when he runs over a child’s stroller in a huge earth moving machine that he has just used to demolish a large building. He realizes that, right before “the event”, this stroller held a living, breathing child.

I found the second half of the film a little less enjoyable. That’s when the very cute girl shows up. After a bit of a rough start, it looks as if Zac and Joanne (that’s her name, Joanne) are going to have a nice time of it. However, they keep searching for others, just in case. Joanne: “If we find anyone alive, what do you think they will be like?” Zac Hobson: “We might find all manner of horrors. Politicians... Transvestites...” Unfortunately for Zac, they do find someone else, in the form of a very large, well muscled, could possibly be an escaped criminal, guy with some very deep unresolved issues regarding hostility and relationships with other people. I suppose I found this part rather depressing and embarrassing, as I tended to relate to Zac, the somewhat nerdy scientist that almost never gets the girl and more than likely had something to do with the end of the world as they know it rather than the hunky guy. Of COURSE, Joanne is going to pick the good looking, anti-social guy. It was obvious who was going to win that one.

I won’t bother to explain the entire plot. It’s worth seeing (maybe Netflix one weekend?) just on its own merits as an unusual, little known sci-fi film. But here is why I wanted to review this movie. It has one of the more astounding ending sequences, with just a brilliant accompanying soundtrack, of any film I have ever seen, sci-fi or otherwise. Zac, after (probably) saving Earth and everyone on it (Joanne and Api, pretty much), finds himself on the shore of an ocean on what could a moon orbiting another planet, or maybe in an entirely different dimension. As he is staring, in total bewilderment, at some very strange cloud formations over the ocean, a huge ringed planet is seen rising over the horizon. It is one of the most memorable scenes I have ever seen in a film, just utterly astounding. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. And, as I said before, the musical score behind this just adds to the awe-inspiring sight unfolding in front of the dumbstruck Zac. This single scene, which probably isn’t more than a minute long, is worth the price of sitting through the film. I found it interesting that the filmmakers chose to start running the credits on top of this stunning visual sequence. I rather wish they hadn’t done that, as I would have much rather let it play out without that visual distraction.

Rating: A to A-. Definitely worth your time, if you can find it. There are no easy answers, or even easy interpretations, of what this all means. I usually do not like vagueness in a movie, as I think, in most cases, it is just a cop-out by the filmmakers. “Here, here is a story we thought up and put on film. YOU figure out what it means. We don’t have a clue….” In this case, the lack of specificity and explanations significantly adds to the nature of this film. I think concrete explanations would have diminished the film, not enhanced it.

Photo from SciFiCool, which includes another review and also a video trailer.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

O.K., see, THIS is why I can’t blog anymore.

This is just getting absolutely insane. Well, things were insane about two years ago. But they are getting worse and worse every single day. Sort of like that story by Henry James, The Turn of the Screw, for those inclined in the literary direction.

The measure is called Proposition B or the "Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act." It aims to help eliminate the "3000 puppy mills" in Missouri that constitute "30% of all puppy mills in the U.S.," according to Michael Markarian, the Chief Operating Officer of the HSUS.

The HSUS is a national animal rights advocacy group that doesn't financially support local Humane Society shelters.
"This measure would provide common sense standards for the care of dogs," Markarian told TPM, including sufficient food and clean water, vet care, regular exercise, and adequate rest between breeding cycles, among other things. Markarian said the measure only applies to "commercial dog breeding facilities" that have more than 10 breeding females who they use for "producing puppies for the pet trade."

And, OF COURSE, the Republican Party is against that!

Well, according to the Alliance For Truth, the main force behind the anti-Prop B movement, there is something much more nefarious afoot (er, apaw) in the HSUS measure. The Alliance For Truth claims that the HSUS has a "radical agenda" and is "misleading the public with its intentions on Prop B. The society seeks only to raise the cost of breeding dogs, making it ever-more difficult for middle-class American families to be dog-owners."

A radical agenda…. Trying to stop puppy mills…. Sure, I suppose that people with radical agendas could be sitting around, playing a drinking game, I suppose, and come up with an idea to “raise the cost of breeding dogs.” Because everyone knows we liberals hate dog breeders so we want to force them out of business by raising their costs by making them provide the dogs with sanitary living conditions, clean water and decent food.

What could clearer than that?

Sort of explains why Republicans are coming out against the minimum wage.... I think. Actually, it does... No, wait a second....

I give up.

“Crazy” [krey-zee], adj.- Insisting you never said something that there is a You Tube of you saying.

Via Digby:

A new video today catches Rand Paul repeatedly supporting a $2,000 Medicare deductible on Kentucky seniors – despite his claims just last week that such a statement was a “lie.”


One trait that our current crop of politicians seem to share (and this is almost always conservatives, but I have seen where liberals fall into the same trap) is that they just say the first thing that comes into their head that they believe the “here and now” audience wants to hear or that they blurt whatever comes out of their mouths that they will think will get them off the hook. It’s amazing how many instances we have in recent months about politicians flatly contradicting themselves! They have been caught in an obvious, flat-out lie, and they don’t seem to care. And it never seems to bother their hardcore supporters, either.

I find this amazing about our society. Being caught in a lie doesn’t matter anymore. Digby is right. In a sane world, this would have immediately ended Paul’s run for office. But it won’t. The hardcore right, which is mostly made of up of older, scared white people, it seems, but they apparently haven't noticed that Rand Paul is talking about them! He is talking about making their Medicare deductible into an amount that most people on retirement pensions cannot afford. Maybe they think that they won’t be around when this kicks in, so if Paul gets his way, so it doesn’t matter to them. It will be someone else’s problem. Pretty heartless, if that is what they are doing. But I suspect it is something else. They just aren’t thinking, period. Rand Paul hates big government, is against liberals, and therefore, he is “one of them.” End of story.

Picture from Very Demotivational.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Contrary to all evidence which might suggest otherwise, I am still alive.

I just can't post anything anymore. I just cannot, for the life of me, find any inspiration to write about anything that won’t sound exactly like my last post. I am overwhelmed with the craziness of this era, and can’t even begin to comprehend what is really going on in the country.

Here’s a good link. Have a go at this one from the Village Voice. It’s spot on. And I’m a baby-boomer white guy, too.