Impulse Purchase

Just a quick note regarding McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. This may have seemed like a good idea on paper–appeal to disgruntled Hillary voters, add a “change” component to the McCain platform, etc.–but I’m betting it’s going to backfire big time.

As many have pointed out, Palin has little experience. Some argue that this works for Democrats: now McCain can not longer belittle Obama for same; others say that it works for McCain: if anyone questions Palin’s experience, they’ll take those quotations and run them in an ad featuring Obama’s smiling mug.

So who will Palin’s lack of experience ultimately favor? I say Obama–but not for the reasons everyone has seized on.

Democrats will assert that Palin’s inexperience is an issue because she’ll assume office if McCain dies … and that gives them license to talk about the likelihood of such scenario. Expect incessant talk about McCain’s age and his health, two topics that were largely taboo before. After all (Dems will argue), they aren’t bringing up McCain’s age to denigrate him–that would be a nasty personal attack, after all–but simply as something to consider when discussing Palin.

Even if the Obama inexperience v. Palin inexperience slugfest winds up as a draw, the age thing will linger. And in the final equation, Americans vote for a President, not a Vice-President. I don’t think the McCain campaign thought this selection all the way through to the bitter (if cynical) end, and they are going to have buyers remorse real quick-like.

Democratic Convention Liveblogging: Barack Obama

Longtime readers of this blog know I have been in the tank for Obama for a while. In Hypothetical World my candidates were Gore and then Dodd, but among the feasible candidates there was really no question who I supported. Hillary I like, and think she would have made a fine president (and perhaps still may), but put succinctly, I am so sick of this dynasty crap.

And call me naive, but despite the (supposed) narrowing polls there’s still no doubt in my mind that, barring electoral shenanigans, Obama’s gonna win it. McCain is, to my mind, some sort of horrible Dole / Kerry hybrid, doomed by the utter lack of enthusiasm he engenders in his party.

Barack still has the task of introducing himself to the vast majority of America which is only now starting to pay real attention to the presidential race. It’ll be interesting to see how he does so.

6:00: Good, if muted, speech by Al Gore. I’ve seen him get really riled up while speaking, but this was him in campaign mode, pulling his punches and just wonking-out up there. Second opinion, courtesy of The Queen: “As soon as Al Gore starts talking, I stop listening.”

6:12: Who is this non-Obama person, and why is she talking … ?

By the way, I busy playing Settlers of Catan last night, which is why I wasn’t able to liveblog Clinton or Biden’s speeches. Saw them both after the fact, though. Bill, it seemed to me, pulled some sort of crafty triple-cross; like, “Give me in a pre-prime time spot, will they? Well I’m going to give such a kick-ass stemwinder that they’ll be wracked with agonizing regret for having stuck me in the six o’clock slot.” Mission accomplished, Big Dog.

Biden: Yeah, whatever. He’ll eviscerate whomever he faces in the debates, but that speech was a yawner.

Now there’s someone else speaking, and he too, by all appearances, is not Obama. I feel tricked, like going to the cinema at the published time and getting 20 minutes of ads before the feature film.

6:22: Speak of the devil, it’s Joe Biden again. Time to read Go, Dog! Go! to Squiggle.

6:30: Oh jeeze, who are these people? Delegates? I gotta say, that dog party was looking a lot more lively that the democratic party, right now.

6:36: TV is on mute. A woman with indigo hair is speaking, possibly an X-man of some sort.

6:50: TV still on mute. The mouth of PBS commentator Mark Shield is moving and in my head I hear the voice of Droopy Dog.

6:57: Dick Durban is now introducing Obama, and just bad-mouthed cold pizza. WAY TO LOSE MY VOTE THERE, CHAMP.

7:00: “And now there will be a video, to introduce Barack Obama.” Up next: the cast of Gossip Girl introducing Barack Obama, followed by the 1976 Barber Of The Year (West Division), who will introduce Barack Obama.

7:08: I want a framed picture of that portrait of Obama and his grandfather. Also: whenever he says “the Fat Cats” I just want to pinch his cheeks, it’s so adorable.

7:10: Obama just came out, and the sound engineer is probably already fired. It sounds like 17 of the 60,000 people in attendance are applauding.

7:12: Apparently Obama is going to utter one “thank you” for each person in attendance before beginning.

7:14: Accepted the nomination, thanked Hillary Clinton, thanked Bill Clinton. Then stopped for a moment, pulled a piece of paper from his breast pocket, and crossed the first three items off his to-do list.

7:16: Lapel pin.

7:19: Confidential to audience: when he says “Veterans are sleeping on the streets” you’re not supposed to chap and cheer.

7:20: “On November 4th, we must stand up and say ‘eight is enough’.” Including that joke does not reflect well on his judgment.

7:21: “too much mccain. too little obama” What he said.

7:27: This speech really is for the benefit for those who have not paid attention to the race thus far. If you’ve been following the campaign at all, you’ve heard all this before.

7:30: Okay, here we go. He’s mentioning actual policy, and started with taxes. #2, taxes. #3, taxes. #4, end dependence on foreign oil.

7:33: Buh? Did he just endorse nuclear power? Ballsy and awesome.

7:35: Little hearts float out of the top of my head when Obama speaks about Big Dreams.

7:38: McCain could just repeat this portion of the speech at the RNC, if the RNC still stood for (actual) conservatism.

7:40: Just openly questioned McCain’s temperament. Oh man, I can’t wait for the debates. If McCain wears his cranky pants that day, that could be the end of it right there.

7:45: Each ten minute block of this speech is better than the last.

7:50: Bumpersticker manufactures around the nation are scrambling to get “CHANGE HAPPENS” decals on the assembly line now.

7:52: Keeps saying “promisssssss”; sounds like Gollum.

7:55: Obama is totally emulating the Dr. King speaking-style while talking about MLK. I wonder if that’s on purpose or, like, when you talk to a Brit and unconsciously lapse into an English accent.

7:56: That ended very … abruptly. Suddenly The Queen and I are sitting in our living room, drinking beer, and listening to country music against our will.

7:58: The PBS pundits are all, like, “I’m not … sure … what’s going on ..”

Kind of a strange speech. The first half was like a “Greatest Hits” compilation of various lines used on the stump and in the primaries; the second half covered essentially the same ground, but was all fresh and newly written. It was like Obama pasted his usual rhetoric in Word, used it as a guide to write a brand new speech, and then neglected to delete the old stuff before delivery.

That said, the second half was great, with a lot of attention paid to Big Ideas and unity–something we haven’t seen much of recently, as the Obama campaign has been bogged down in responding to the fusillade of negative messages coming from McCain. Hopefully they will again fly the banner of Hope going forward, and not get suckered into these rope-a-dope tit-for-tat flamewars.


McCain’s Prickly TIME Interview:

There’s a theme that recurs in your books and your speeches, both about putting country first but also about honor. I wonder if you could define honor for us?
Read it in my books.

I’ve read your books.
No, I’m not going to define it.

But honor in politics?
I defined it in five books. Read my books.

[Your] campaign today is more disciplined, more traditional, more aggressive. From your point of view, why the change?
I will do as much as we possibly can do to provide as much access to the press as possible.

But beyond the press, sir, just in terms of …
I think we’re running a fine campaign, and this is where we are.

Do you miss the old way of doing it?
I don’t know what you’re talking about.



Democratic Convention Liveblogging: Hillary Clinton

Typo week continues here at dy, as I liveblog Hillary Clinton’s speech.

6:55: Hmm, Mark Warner is still speaking. He just told a convoluted story that ended with “and that’s how I wound up at the gymnasium of a high school.” Right. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that you keep getting older, but they stay the saaaaame age.

6:59: And so ends the keynote speech. Four years ago, right at this moment, I was shouting at the television, “Holy shit dude, you’re gonna be President some day!”

7:00: By the way, some funnyguy-and/or-gal at Slate is also liveblogging the convention at Go check it out, or just keep refreshing my site–I’m gonna steal all the good jokes from there anyhow.

7:05: They are interviewing Michelle Obama now. She seems a little confused. They keep asking asking her, “what were you trying to do in your speech last night?’ and she’s, all, “I thought I covered that ground … in the speech … last night …”

7:12: Michelle says that one of the things her husband will do as President is “touch people”.
Funny, Hillary said the same thing in 1992 …

7:14: WTF, I thought Hillary was on at 7:00. No? Well, she better not come on in the next 40 minutes, because now I’m a-gonna watch this episode of Prison Break.

7:25: Okay, so see this guy is a structural engineer, and he purposely got himself locked into prison because brother, who’s on death row, was framed for– maybe I should stop liveblogging now.

7:30: Switching back and forth between Prison Break and the convention. They are starting to blur together. Except at the convention we’re not trying to get out of jail, we are trying to get out of Republican rule. And instead of looking at ripped young men in undershirts, we get to see David Brooks.

7:34: Oh, here we go: Hillary Clinton pre-speech video biography. They just showed a picture of Bill with the caption “Hillary’s Husband”

7:40: Holy smokes, I bet the Clintons went another $12m is debt making that tribute to themselves.

7:41: Hillary looks fabulous. Independent corroboration: Bill is leering at his own wife.

7:43: Affirmed her support for Obama in the first sentence. And the second. And the third. This is going to be a full-throated endorsement of unity.

7:45: Whoa, they just showed Michelle and she was either choked up with emotion or giving Hillary the hairy eyeball. GO BACK I WANT TO KNOW WHICH!!

7:48: A big shout-out to my homie autism. WOOOHOO!

7:50: LOL’d at “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits”

7:52: ZZZzzzzzzzz laundry list of Bush bad, my campaign good.

7:55: Beginning to think she’s going to accept the nomination at the end of this speech.

7:56: Okay, here we go. Making a strong case of Barack. Although when she said, “It won’t be easy” I thought for a moment she was going to finish with, “supporting Obama.”

7:58: Michelle is still making that face. You can tell that the networks aren’t sure what it means either, because as soon as they cut to her they cut away as quickly as possible.

8:00: Dude, McCain just got brutalized.

8:03: They’ve given up on Michelle. Now they are just cutting to Chelsea.

8:05: I don’t really understand where that the Harriet Tubman digression came from, but the audience lapped it up.

8:06: Conservative spin tomorrow, today: Speech didn’t end with “God bless America” and is therefore invalid in the continental US.

Very nice speech. Very, very nice, I’m really impressed. She spoke about herself a fair amount as was her right, but her challenge to her supporters–were you voting for me, or were you voting for the best possible future for America?–is an almost irrefutable argument in favor of Obama.

Hillary is going to get rave reviews for this speech, as well she should.

Washington 6-5000

Just in time for Hillary Clinton’s appearance at the Democratic convention, the McCain campaign has rolled out a new video that samples her infamous “3 AM’ ad.

Of course it just snipes at Obama, without saying what McCain himself would do if woken at 3 AM by a call. My guess is that he would groggily pick up the handset to his rotary phone, bellow “you punks quit calling about Prince Albert!!!”, and then blow a sports whistle into the mouthpiece.

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My alarm clock has a “Sound Machine” built into it. Not of the Miami variety (though rising to “Conga” every morning would be AWESOME), but the sort that will play soothing sounds to help you sleep: white noise, ocean waves, chirruping crickets, and the like.

One of the options is “heartbeat”, and sometimes when Squiggle is monkeying around the with clock, pressing the buttons and listening to all the possible selections, he will leave it on that particular setting. The following morning I wake to the ominous luh-DUM luh-DUM luh-DUM and immediately start to panic, terrified that someone is about to discover the old man that I smothered, cut into pieces, and hid under the floorboards of my room.

Convention Liveblogging: Michelle Obama

Liveblogging! Enjoy the typos!

7:20: Commentators are filling up airtime before Michelle takes the stage. They have decided that her role will be to sell the candidacy to “disgruntled Hillary voters”.

Two things, here. First, I am certain that the media is blowing the Clinton / Obama divisions waaaaaay out of proportion. Unity doesn’t interest viewers, and the news channels have no problem ginning up conflict where none (or little) exists. McCain seems delighted by this, but really, he should be concerned that the media considers him so dull that they are focusing on an imagined rivalry rather than the real one between the GOP and the Dem.

Second, the idea that Michell has to “introduce” her husband to Clinton voters is a pretty insulting, as it presupposes that they selected their candidate without bothering to learn about the alternatives. No doubt that’s true of some (just as some picked Obama from the beginning and paid no attention to Clinton’s strengths), but the vast majority should be suitably offended.

7:25: Commentators got a hold of a copy of the speech and are now discussing it before Michell takes the stage. OMG SPOILERS!!

7:27: Oh god, a pre-speech “video tribute” to Michelle Obama, complete with soft lighting, piano music in the background, and touching stories about hardship and family. The amount of red wine in my system is now matched by that of estrogen.

7:36: Michelle says she’s there as a sister, a wife, a mom, and as a daughter. Hoping she starts belting out Peaches “Sex (I’m a)

7:41: It’s becoming apparent that this speech is going to be about Barack and not Michelle.

7:43: Judging from the applause, democrats are very enthusiastic about: women having the right to vote, the military.

7:44: Hillary Clinton gets name-checked. Also: “Improbable Journeys” would be a great name for a 20’s-era science-fiction pulp.

7:50: Whenever they show the people in the stands, it’s either enthusiastic black people or listless white people (Biden foremost among them–he looks like he’s trying to recall his shopping list)

7:52: Huh, that’s it? Michelle is a good speaker, but the speech just felt like a long “About The Author” bio.

7::54: Ooo, big surprise twist at the end: Barack himself comes on screen and boasts about how many times he had to ask out Michelle before she went out with him. Yay, Stalker in Chief!

7:57: Wow, who’s idea was it to cut directly from Michelle Obama’s lovely visage to that of Jim Lehrer? Like Brussels sprouts after ice cream.

Pretty uninspired, overall. I don’t think I and my Y chromosome were the target audience for that tale of family, adversity, and courtship, but I wanted to learn more about Michelle Obama; instead it seems like she just heaped encomiums on her father, brother, husband and children, and did her best to fade into the background. Too bad.

Movies: Tropic Thunder

Let’s begin this review by demolishing any credibility I may have accrued over the years: I like Ben Stiller. Maybe not all the films he’s done–well, maybe only a few of the films he’s done, on reflection–but I think he’s a genuinely funny guy, and the projects he personally helms tend to make me laugh. And although he can really only do two characters–lovable loser and Zoolander–they’re not bad, as characters go.

Combine that with my recently-developed Robert Downey Jr. man-crush and my seeing Tropic Thunder was a foregone conclusion.

Plus, the film is getting remarkably high scores on Metacritic. That, honestly, was something I instantly regretted seeing, certain that my only hope of truly enjoying the movie was to go in with expectations as low as possible.

My prescience proved correct, in this case. If I’d gone in expecting a run-of-the-mill Stiller flick, it would have been a revelation. Instead, I found it a very funny but often disjointed movie that, while well worth seeing, fell short of the gutbuster promised by some reviews.

Downey Jr. was amaaaaaaaazing; Stiller (as writer and directory) wisely opted to give most of the funniest material to his costars and play the straightman; Jack Black’s character came in a distant third in terms of interestingness (as Flickr calls it), and was often eclipsed by that of Brandon T. Jackson, whose banter with Downey Jr. composes the funniest scenes in the whole caboodle.

You never really feel like the four men are a cohesive group, but that is sort of the point: each is a self-absorbed actor, obsessed with himself and largely indifferent to others. Still, the lack of chemistry (aside from the Downey Jr. / Jackson friction), and the preponderance of action sequences as overblown as those they are presumably spoofing, sometimes make the film feel like a collection of comedy sketches

Also, the movie is awful. Unforgivably terrible and a blot on the film industry. Get your self to believe that before seeing Tropic Thunder and you’ll have a blast.

Now, let’s talk about the Simple Jack controversy for a moment. For those unawares, some folks have been demonstrating outside of theaters showing Tropic Thunder because, in the film, Ben Stiller plays a developmentally disabled character, and there are many usages of what the protesters refer to as “the r-word” (and then follow up with “meaning ‘retard'”, since otherwise you’d be going “which r-word? Republican?”)

I appreciate where these folks are coming from but, man, they are totally off the mark on this one. In context there is absolutely no ambiguity about who iTropic Thunder is making fun of: that is, actors who seek our roles in films such as Rain Man and i am sam in the explicit hopes of garnering an Oscar, rather than the disabled people they portray. In fact, it’s not even accurate to say that Stiller “plays a developmentally disabled character” in the movie–Stiller plays an actor who plays a developmentally disabled character, and is soundly mocked for that decision throughout.

Advocate Patricia E. Bauer acknowledges as much in this Washington Post editorial condemning the movie, but says “the studio was careful to build nuance and subtlety into the film’s racial humor … but there’s no on-screen presence countering the Simple Jack portrayal.” What she has failed to grasp is that the “never go full retard” scene, on which most of the criticism has been heaped, is exactly the on-screen denouncement she demands, with Downey Jr. exposing Stiller’s (and, by extension, Hollywood’s) shallowness for all the audience to see.

The controversy over Tropic Thunder is very reminiscent of that over The Last Temptation of Christ 20 years ago. In the latter instance, many religious folks were outraged that the film depicted Christ living a normal life–avoiding crucifixion, marrying, having children, growing old. Such a portrayal, they argued, denied Jesus his divinity. Yes, it did! That was the point! In the film (um, spoilers here, if you care), Satan temps Jesus with that life–everything we see of it is essentially a proposal put forth by the devil. But Jesus overcomes this last temptation and dies on the cross. By seizing on these scenes, and ignoring the rejection of them, protesters basically turned the meaning of the film on it’s head and then groused about its message.

So too with this movie. The Simple Jack scenes are offensive, but that’s a feature, not a bug. Indeed, much of Tropic Thunder is devoted to deconstructing just how offensive they are. And, as someone who has previously railed about the portrayal of developmentally disabled people on film, I am thrilled that Tropic Thunder pretty much guarantees that we won’t see another The Other Sister for a decade or more. Regardless of how you feel about “the r-word”, I think that’s something we can all applaud.

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