Sunday, August 31, 2008

All Night Long

Random Babbles continues live from Jamaica.

I think I have to take back the joke I made about surviving Gustav. Yeah, it was pretty miserable with the strong winds and rain, leading to a good amount of damage and flooding here in Jamaica. But it wasn't too too bad. If the storm is really going to hit Category 5 tomorrow and now Ray Nagin has ordered mandatory evacuation of New Orleans, we could be a day or two away from a catastrophe much greater than just the sum of the hurricane damage. I feel weird even thinking that this hurts the Republicans because they so badly screwed up Katrina. I don't know what the folks in NOLA did to deserve all this.

On a lighter note, it seems like Lionel Ritchie is hugely popular in Jamaica. Every DJ or cover band plays a large number of his songs. You'd think that would be Bob Marley, but is it possible that Marley is to Jamaica as Lee Greenwood is to the USA? That's probably more than just a bit of a stretch.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Tropical Storms and More

Random Babbles continues from hurricane-ridden Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Ok, so it wasn't an actual hurricane, just a tropical storm that had wind 4 miles-per-hour away from being a hurricane. It wasn't that bad when I posted last night, but it got pretty bad during the night. Windows shaking, trees going sideways. In honor, we drank hurricanes (a lot of them) which led to the sad event of us gambling on a musical chairs game between little kids. Not directly, I suppose, but both things happened.

But still, not much to do when there's a freaking tropical storm going on outside all day. So when Gustav obliterates New Orleans and there's a revolution because the government screwed up again, those of us can just laugh and say: "I slept through that m-f-er."

May not post tomorrow, with the big wedding coming up. I have to give the toast and I've settled on a Barack Obama joke as the opening remark. May not work for the non-Americans that are there, but screw them. You know, not being American and all.

So that's that for now, and I'll ignore that John McCain picked an attractive younger woman to be his running mate (you know, a very old, weak heartbeat away from a nightmarish presidency). I just hope she's not rich, too. That would be bad for Cindy, knowing J-Mac's history.

Friday, August 29, 2008

DNC, Day Four: The Fierce Urgency of... Pow!

Random Babbles goes international -- tonight's post is brought to you from Montego Bay, Jamaica. And yes, right smack in the middle of Tropical Storm Gustav. It's just a little bit windy around here.

No, not "Pow" as in Prisoner of War. I'll write more later, maybe tomorrow, maybe when I get back to the States on Sunday, but I absolutely love this observation from Andrew Sullivan: "What he didn't do was give an airy, abstract, dreamy confection of rhetoric. The McCain campaign set Obama up as a celebrity airhead, a Paris Hilton of wealth and elitism. And he let them portray him that way, and let them over-reach, and let them punch him again and again ... and then he turned around and destroyed them. If the Rove Republicans thought they were playing with a patsy, they just got a reality check."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

DNC, Day Three: 'Nuff Said

Maybe I'm posting too early, because I know that Biden will raise hell with the Dem faithful, but I can't step all over the best thing said at this convention. If you want to know why I've supported Barack Obama since January, why I've given more money to him than to any other cause (that I don't work for) in my life, why I think his presidency is so important, you only need this one line from Bill Clinton's brilliant speech: "People around the world have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power." I leave it at that for the night.

DNC, Day Two: Right Now, Over Me

The buzz began earlier than most of the networks showed. I started to get sick of Chris Matthews talking over people as they spoke, so I started flipping to C-Span to watch the straight feed, then to CNN and, yes, Fox to see what they were showing. Only CNN caught the beginning of the craziness in the Pepsi Center tonight. At around 10:15, President Clinton walked into the hall and started to make his way to a seat in one of the luxury boxes, shaking hands and giving hugs. We saw Joe Biden for the first time as he sat next to Michelle Obama. And Brian Schweitzer, with his bolo tie, took the stage. I've heard a lot about Schweitzer -- everyone who knows anything about him seems to be madly in love with him -- and I think I kind of like him too now. He blew the doors off of the arena with a rousing attack on foreign oil dependency and used a fantastic ending to get the gathered on their feet, screaming and hollering. The perfect set-up going into the Hillary video, the very brief introduction, the introduction by Chelsea.

Then, Hillary Clinton, long-vilified by Obama supporters, her motivations questioned for the last two months, stepped up to the plate. And, frankly, George Mitchell might want to look into any dealings she might have had with Brian McNamee, because she knocked the sucker out of the park. At this point, I'm not even sure what my expectations were. In retrospect, it seems stupid to think she would have been anything but completely on board with the Obama campaign. It would have been bad for her, personally, and for the party over the long term. So, the tone was great, but maybe that comes as no real surprise. But what I didn't expect was the quality of her speech. Yeah, her concession speech was pretty good, but throughout the campaign she was up against Obama himself and that was obviously not much of a contest.

"No way, no how, no McCain!" Her line about the Twin Cities, which was so unexpected and great that I actually clapped from my couch. I always kind of laugh when I see Bill Clinton with his big goofy grin. He knows the cameras are going to be on him so he hams it up a little and I can't believe that smile is real. As Hillary got into the meat of the speech, I had that exact smile on my face. I could feel it, but it was involuntary. She was great tonight, there's not much more to say about it, except to talk about my moment of the night and to look ahead to tomorrow.

At one point, early (maybe at the beginning during the very long ovation?), the cameras showed a closeup of Bill and he mouthed, I have to think spontaneously, "I love you. I love you." I've made my feeling for the unscripted Obama family moment last night clear, but this one was almost as good. And, as I thought about this, an I had an epiphany about Bill's speech tomorrow night. With the good will and the excitement that Hillary created tonight, do you really think he's going to come out and give a half-hearted endorsement of Obama tomorrow? If anything, I say the Comeback Kid relishes the low expectations for his enthusiasm. I think he comes out tomorrow and wows us. He is, after all, a pretty good speaker. Which apparently makes two Clintons who have that talent.

Monday, August 25, 2008

DNC, Day One: A Lady, First, Above All

In some ways, Michelle Obama is my hero. I've certainly admired her ever since I read Lauren Collins' stirring piece in The New Yorker from March. I use the qualifier, "in some ways," because it's as much what she represents of the archetype of "feminine strength" as it is Michelle Obama herself. I also say, "in some ways," because I have no feel for what it's like to be a woman and therefore can only admire what I see, from my perspective, of her qualities as a woman in her position. If that sounds confusing (and confused), it's because I'm attracted to a strength in her that I can't really explain through the lenses of my gender.

Look, and this may come as a surprise, I can't understand how women think all of the time. I don't even mean in a romantic sense, but just in the general world view. During this political year, I've been baffled by how Clinton voters have reacted and, I'll admit, have thought most likely sexist thoughts about what I see as their inability to just freaking deal with it. I don't know what it's like to run up against a glass ceiling. I can't even begin to fathom it and why Hillary's run meant so much in light of it. In the classic Democratic party battle between gender politics and race politics, I come down firmly on the race side. It's not that I can promise that I'll try to be better, to attempt to look through other people's eyes. It's that I am wholly, now and forever, incapable of it.

But that's not to say that I can't get some vestige of an inkling of an idea about what there is to look up to in Mrs. Obama. Watching her family tonight, I was struck by the thought that I want nothing more out of my life than to have a family as sweet and loving and, well, American as the Obamas. She, like her husband, embodies the American Dream (TM), but she has done it in a way that evinces more strength. She had to overcome not just race and poverty, but a systemic gender disadvantage as well. While Barack's quiet but evident confidence can be mistaken for arrogance, Michelle exudes strength and her own confidence that can only put off those who fear a strong black woman and all the societal apprehension that one invokes. Even if she weren't married to the next President -- the great change agent, the man who became a movement -- even then, she would have been successful and admirable and strong in her own right. I, through my admittedly limited lens, don't know how any disenfranchised Clinton voter can have watched this speech tonight and not seen what Michelle will mean to this country, and to American women, as First Lady.

I say that, in some ways, Michelle Obama is my hero because I see in her what I see in her husband, an America unblemished by bias and stronger for it. An America where one can say that any person can reach the highest peaks by working hard for it, and not meaning that as an empty slogan. It's all that my great-grandparents asked for when they came to this country and to come one giant step towards recognizing that dream is all that any of us can ask for having lived our lives here.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Fifty-Year-Old Guilt Trip

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • Caught The Mist on DVD. It's based on the novella of the same name from Stephen King's Skeleton Crew collection and being a connoisseur and collector of King's work, I am very picky when it comes to such adaptations. This one is directed by Frank Darabont, who helmed the not-so-arguably two greatest King adaptations, The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption (Kubrick's The Shining is good as a movie, but he took too many liberties for me to love it as an adaptation). Sure enough, Darabont is very true to the source, with the exception of the ending, which is truly horrifying. The Mist wasn't as good as the other two books that Darabont had to work with, so the movie isn't as good, but it's still pretty solid.
    • I also caught the original The Blob starring freaking badass Steve McQueen in his first lead role, "freaking badass" being his honorific, like "Doctor" (his "We deal in lead, friend." in The Magnificent Seven is the most badass quote in movie history). Anyway, enough about freaking badass McQueen, the movie's okay. Not bad for a scifi flick from 1958. More on it later.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • Congrats to my friend at Shtetl Fabulous on her 100th post today and much love for the shout-out.
    • This is a video that someone submitted to a contest at The Daily Dish. It really cracked me up.
    • Say it with me: noun, verb, P.O.W. No doubt, John McCain is a tougher son-of-a-gun than I'll ever be, but one might start to believe that even he thinks his only qualification for being President (and the job is President, not Commander-In-Chief; that's only a part of it) is having been a P.O.W. Mac, please don't make it okay for all of us to make fun of you for it.
  • Daily Rant:
    • So, back to The Blob. I suppose it was supposed to be scary because people feared weird, radioactive stuff during the Cold War, or maybe because it's about how adults have an innate distrust for teenagers. What usually happens with these types of movies is that over time, they lose the fright factor because our culture and its Jungian collective fears change. It's true of this flick, also. Until the end. What was supposed to be a dumb throwaway shock line at the end has turned into a guilt- and depression-inducing prophecy. To set it up, McQueen and company have just escaped the Blob's attack, having discovered that it hates the cold. The police and the town's high schoolers bring in fire extinguishers with which they shoot the Blob to weaken it. The army is called in to bring a transport plane so the monster can be dropped near the North Pole and therefore kept in check. The last two lines of the movie are as such: Lieutenant Dave: "At least we've got it stopped." Steve Andrews (McQueen): "Yeah, as long as the Arctic stays cold." D'oh! Thanks guys for making us environment-killing twenty-first-century folks feel like crap!

Joe-Mentum, Or A Joe-sy Outlook

I'm overjoyed by the VP selection. Biden adds toughness to the campaign, can serve as a mentor in some respects (in this way, he's not wholly unlike Cheney to Dubya), can rip any debate opponent to shreds (oh man, do I hope it's the Mittster), and can go after McCain without looking like a disrespectful upstart. Basically, Biden is the Malone to Obama's Eliot Ness, except Obama does things "The Chicago Way" and Joe will teach him "The Scranton Way".

In staying up late to wait for the text and then reading countless stories this morning, I was able to uncover a bizarre fact about the VP search. The campaign was insisting that the candidate be named Joe. It ensured a "regular guy" feel with so many attacks about Obama as "other". Here is the list that I stumbled across of other Joes that the campaign vetted:
  • Joe DiMaggio. In order to stay with the whole Kennedy thing, the campaign wanted someone who had also slept with Marilyn Monroe. Unfortunately, it turned out that he's not actually alive. It's the morbid answer to the question: "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?"
  • Joe Frazier. With Mohammed Ali set to appear at the DNC, this wouldn't have ended well.
  • Joe Lieberman. He would have been a tremendous shadow agent for the Republicans, but he played his hand too early. They may have actually trusted him after his 2000 run, but, to be honest, [joke deleted because it was deemed too offensive by Standards & Practices].
  • Joe McCarthy. Also, unfortunately, dead. It wouldn't have gone over too well anyway, since he would have probably called Nancy Pelosi a "dirty commie" during his speech and then have gotten creamed for joking that his running mate was at the top of "my Black List".
  • Glass Joe. The campaign didn't need to hear all of the teasing, where John McCain would be referred to as "Little Mac". Also, notoriously weak and slow with easy-to-read attack patterns. (Note: The "Little Mac" reference also apparently ruled out Kathleen "Piston Honda" Sebelius.)
  • Joe Millionaire. Built-in financing and the ability to woo desperate women (read: Clinton voters). No major downside until it turned out that he was actually a poor construction worker.
  • Joe Mama. Ha, gotcha!
  • Joe Carter. A) Nobody was sure if he was American or Canadian, and B) unlikely that the GOP would select Mitch Williams to face him in a debate.
  • Joe E. Tata. He was actually really close to getting the gig, since he could dispense great advice and make a mean pie. Unfortunately, he was ruled out after vetting turned up his shady dealings with Valerie Malone and Dylan McKay.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

And They Are Indisputable

These are the facts:
  • Sure, I sent a hoax text (not a very good one) to a friend and he sent one back. But then tonight, amid all of the rumored scrambling in Delaware, I'm talking to my mom on the phone when I get a text. I stammer, "Mom, I gotta go. I'll give you a call back." But no, just one from the same friend furthering the Biden speculation. Word is it's coming in the morning.
  • I have to be fair and balanced like Fox, so let me say that this video that a bunch of celebrities did for Obama sucks. It's lame and creepy at the same time. It, or any other video, still has a long way to go to take the title of cheesiest campaign video. That still belongs to "Hillary4U&Me".
  • A short discussion at work today centered on the 6th pick in a fantasy football draft. Assuming 1-5 are, in some order, Tomlinson, Peterson, Jackson, Westbrook, and L. Johnson, do you go for the beginning of the second tier RBs like MBIII or Portis, or do you go to Brady? If you're taking a QB that high, it means that you think he'll duplicate last year's numbers. I just don't see it happening.
  • Guys I won't touch with a ten-foot pole in a fantasy draft this year (just off the top of my head): Maroney, Fargas, E. Manning, anyone with (X-Mia) next to their name.
  • I was going to complain that preparing for a fantasy football draft is tough, but then I realized that I can't complain because John McCain couldn't prepare for his fantasy football draft for five and a half years -- in prison.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Vicious Vitriol

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • Heard the new Metallica single, "The Day That Never Comes". People are saying it sounds like "One", but it's not nearly as good (of course). It is reminiscent of ...And Justice For All with a slow beginning and a fast ending comprised of very intricate guitar parts. Supposedly, this one is the slowest song on the album, which bodes well.
    • If you haven't heard, by the way, the new album Death Magnetic will be the first album to be released as DLC for the Guitar Hero series at the same time as it hits stores. Great strategy. Also, apparently coming next spring: Guitar Hero: Metallica. I'm there.
    • If you haven't heard, Rachel Maddow is getting her own show on MSNBC, starting on September 8. With the exception of Chuck Todd, no other news person has broken onto the scene as well as she has this year. She's a folk hero for progressives at this point.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • Whew, I finally got the text today. Who would have guessed that Obama would pick Jonny Fairplay to be his VP? (The picture is not a fake.)
    • Seriously though, I keep picking up my cell phone and staring at it. I'm like a 15-year-old girl, sitting at home, doing my nails, waiting for my crush to call. In reality, I'm a 32-year-old guy, sitting at home, biting my nails, waiting for my crush to text. Why won't he call? I know he likes me. His friend David Plouffe tells me every day in an e-mail.
    • While we wait, please enjoy a clip in the running for favorite of the year: America Ferrera, bored and disgusted with her annoying co-star.
  • Daily Rant:
    • I'm a big fan of etymology, so today we'll look at a word that describes the style of restaurant in which I ate this afternoon. In Ancient Greece, the myths tell of a group of people who lived a charmed life in a forest just outside of Athens. They wanted for nothing, never going hungry or cold or unprotected from the wild. They were watched over by Zeus and they were happy. As time wore on, these people became bored with all that they had. They took the good life for granted and they began to stray. In time, they found a new god to worship who showed them ways in which they could spite all that they had been given. While people in other parts of Greece were not so lucky and starved, these people gave themselves over to their new deity. They renamed themselves after him and practiced a kind of self-denial that was not noble, but rather self-serving and incomprehensible. They began to flaunt their new practices in the faces of the other Greeks, saying that only they knew the true way and they were better for it. The rest of the country alternated between disgust, confusion, and mockery of this group, who had squandered their advantages and followed their god into a miserable, miserable existence. This god, from the Greek words ve, meaning "No", and ga, meaning "Fun", was named Vega. The people called themselves "Vegans".

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Random Americana: D.C.

Part Three in an on-going series.

As I ascended the impossibly long escalator in the Dupont Circle Metro station on Monday night, I thought my ears were deceiving me. I could have expected to hear some guy playing guitar badly, maybe a squeaky saxophone, certainly those pan pipe guys that show up everywhere in which more than one person is gathered. But no, I heard a full dixie-land brass band, playing their butts off. They were really good, having attracted a fairly large crowd on the corner of Mass and 19th. At 10PM. This speaks to the energy of any number of large cities around the world, to be sure, but I'm partial to my own.

There's something about D.C. The centerpiece of the city -- the National Mall and its monuments -- is simultaneously majestic and lively. On any given weekend, one can walk among the monstrous stone obelisks and temples while watching kites and kickball games. It's but one of the contradictions that define the District. It's a city famous for its crime, but it has beautiful parks and neighborhoods. When one thinks of D.C., the vision of old white men immediately jumps to mind, yet it was the hometown of Duke Ellington. It is the ultimate center of establishment, yet it is also a cool college town that is descended upon by young interns every summer.

There are any number of free things to do in the city with one of the great museum systems in the world, but one of my favorite free things is to just walk around and watch. To watch the protestors at the White House, no matter how crazy they may be. To watch the throngs of people in Georgetown or the patrons of the ethnic restaurants in Adams Morgan. To watch the juxtaposition of homelessness and power, of Southeast and K Street. It's a great people-watching city.

I'm not saying all of these things to encourage tourism. In fact, please stay the heck away! We have enough interesting people without some mega-bus rolling in from Omaha carrying people who ask dumb questions and don't understand the unwritten rules (and sometimes the written ones) of Walk/Don't Walk signs. I'm trying to get across that it's pretty special to live some place that you love, a place that will always hold surprises and new places to explore. I'm not one for blind patriotism, but watching the Fourth of July fireworks over the Washington Monument (when I've gone, before they outlawed alcohol) has always consumed me with one irrational thought: "I sure am proud to be an American." It's a thought I wish I had more often, but it's one that you can't help but feel in Washington.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Costas' Surprising and Uncharacteristic Ignorance

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • I know I'm a day late on my next "Random Americana" installment, but I needed to go with a regular post for a few reasons.
    • I know this whole cat-eating-spaghetti obsession is getting out of control, so I'll put it to bed with one final note. This is the actual segment (thanks, Evan). You can't fast-forward the video and there's no clock, so the best I can say is that the cut is about 14 dots in. Put aside that these women are wastes of God's creation and the creepiness of the hosts playing around with wanting to know if the girls have ever been sexually assaulted (without actually asking it), when you see the mess-up in context, the whole thing goes from "insanely funny" to "bizarrely awesome".
    • Okay, I'm bracing myself for the ridicule of being a month late on this one, but my excuse is that, until today, I have not historically been a huge Joss Whedon fan. Not that I hated his work, just didn't go out of my way to watch it. But, after the buzz and messing around on, I discovered Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. The story of how this came to be is classic entrepreneurship -- Whedon and his brother Jed decided, during the writer's strike, to prove that original web content can be well-made, popular, and revenue-generating. What came of it was a musical starring Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion about an aspiring super-villain, his romantic missteps, and his obnoxious arch-enemy. If you haven't seen it yet, drop whatever you're doing (assuming you have 42 minutes, or at least 13 for the first act) and watch it now.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • The line that Elisha left out last night -- and to be fair she used it when she was giving me the Dateline crap vocally on my way downtown last night, and it killed me -- was when I say to Hansen, "But this is my first time ever doing this." That one should be familiar to anyone who has watched "To Catch A Predator" as much as I have.
    • Obama will be speaking at noon on Saturday on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield. For those (many) of us who got shivers watching as he announced his candidacy at that exact place on February 10, 2007, this speech/appearance will draw nearly as much anticipation as the big Thursday night one.
  • Daily Rant:
    • Bob Costas is one of my absolute favorites, but he really got to me during Olympics coverage last night. I've disagreed with him before on some of his ultra-purist baseball ideas, like being against the Wild Card, but this one was much deeper. At the beginning of NBC's coverage, Costas was speaking with someone about Usain Bolt's amazing performance in the 100M when he started complaining about Bolt's showmanship at the end of the race. Costas talked about how Bolt disrespected the fans by not getting his best time, since he could have gone even faster if he hadn't started celebrating before crossing the finish line. Don't give me that BS! First and foremost, Bolt won and he won by a lot. I don't think he cheated the fans too too much. Second, if Bolt had won quietly, we would all have forgotten his name in two seconds. It's because of the showboating that we'll remember him for a long time. Too many people -- and NBC (understandably) is the worst culprit by far in this -- take the Olympics too seriously. The games lost all claim to purism when pros started playing, but that's assuming purism is even legitimate. It isn't. Saying that someone "wins or plays the 'right' way" is as overt as discrimination gets without being entirely vocalized. I don't mean racism (in most cases, certainly not in this one), but rather ageism or self-centrism. What does Costas know about being the fastest man in the world? One would have to assume that it's Bolt's attitude that makes him great and, rather than cheating us, he would be cheating himself if he strayed from that in his finest hour. Play on, Usain, be proud of what you've done.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Why Don't You Have a Seat...

While I doubt anything I will write will be quite as funny as the random cat-eating-spaghetti clip from the Morning Show with Mike and Juliet, I was asked to pinch hit for Mr. Random Babbles himself. Where is Josh tonight? He's being Mr. Good Guy and is helping chaperone a random group of teenagers from Philadelphia during an overnight stay in downtown DC. This, of course, brought up hilarious possible scenarios of what might happen upon his arrival...

(Chris Hanson) Hello there... glad you found the place okay. Why don't you have a seat...
(Random Babbles) Oh, hi, I didn't expect to see you here...
(CH) So, what exactly brings you here tonight?
(RB) I was asked to come help out... they said they needed another male chaperone to stay with the teens
(CH) Sure... sure... I'm sure that's what they told you..
(RB) No, it's not what you think. It's all quite innocent - they just needed someone who was older and male to sleep with the teens...
(CH) So, what did you bring here?
(RB) Just my sleeping bag and the pillow.. it was kind of a hassle schlepping it on the Metro down here...
(CH) The problem is... you've left the pretend world of the internet, and you've come here to sleep with teens...
(RB) No, no, Chris, I know what you're thinking, and it's not that at all... I'm chaperoning - there are other adults... I'm not SLEEPING with the teens.. I'm just sleeping with them...
(CH) Well, you'll just have to tell that one to the police...

The Week Ahead

On Saturday, we had out biggest day ever, with 76 hits. Almost every single one was from a search for some form of "Mike and Juliet cat eating spaghetti". Thank you to the person who posted the YouTube link to the Chat Stew segment from Friday's "The Soup"! I'm sticking it here on the main page for easy access.

Today went by in mostly a daze after a bachelor's party last night and very little sleep. With not much to report on, let's look ahead to this coming week. You might think that it will be the last quiet week before November, with the Democratic National Convention starting next Monday, but there's plenty going on. Here's a taste:

  • Obama names his running mate. By sometime on Tuesday, my palm will have an AT&T imprint on it after more than a day of gripping my phone tightly as I wait for the big text. Now, it looks like Biden is the favorite? I don't really buy into any purported leaks; we'll have to wait and see.
  • The first post-Olympics week. It'll be interesting to see what NBC puts on prime time leading up to the start of the season. Wait, the Olympics aren't over yet? Oh... Well, I think they ended Saturday night as far as just about everyone is concerned.
  • Birthdays galore. Shoot, just on tomorrow, the 18th, you have Andy Samberg (I wonder what kind of present you could get him), Edward Norton, Redskin great Brian Mitchell, and Antonio Salieri (who gets a bad rap because of the movie Amadeus). That's not to mention "Celebrity Rehab" star Ricco Rodriguez (the 19th), Ray "Leland Palmer" Wise (the 20th), Hayden Panettiere (the 21st; her 18th birthday, gentlemen), Scooter Libby (the 22nd), and Kobe Bryant (the 23rd).
  • Plenty of crazy stuff from the McCain camp. With the conventions approaching, this week is McCain's last chance to control the media before the huge bounce comes. At this point, his campaign is becoming a Monty Python-type deal. You never know what they'll make up next.
  • The last NFL dress rehearsals. The third preseason game is always the one where the starters play the longest. Watch and figure out who will be good. Answer if you don't feel like watching: New England and Indianapolis. That's it. That's the list.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Day At The Movies

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • As promised, reviews of the two big comedies out right now. But first, it looks like the big race tonight may be one of the rare instances where a slo-mo replay wasn't as good as full speed. At real time, you can see that last explosion by Phelps to sneak in there, but it's not apparent when slowed down.
    • First, we went to see Pineapple Express. Friends and regular readers may know that I'm officially a big Seth Rogen fan and of the Apatow movies overall. This one is interesting in that they try to re-think the genre a bit, by adding violence to the standard stoner comedy (I don't count True Romance as a stoner comedy, Brad Pitt's performance notwithstanding). It ends up coming off as a bit of a buddy movie with a lot of funny lines and a lot of gay jokes. It's not as good as Superbad, but it's still pretty good. While the comedy is different, I'd compare it to Hot Fuzz.
    • The second was Tropic Thunder. I almost don't know how much to say without giving too much away. To be simple, it's absolutely the funniest movie of the year. Ben Stiller almost overdoes it at times with his acting (he starts to be a little Zoolander-ish), but there are a few scenes where he shines. Jack Black is never let loose enough to overshadow anyone else and Robert Downey, Jr. is spectacular. There are a few other big name stars that steal the show at times, but as they're not in the trailer, I won't spoil it. I liked both movies, but of the two, this is the must-see.
    • The overlap between the two movies is funny. Danny McBride is in both, and funny in both, as is Bill Hader. Obviously, this overlap isn't a huge surprise, seeing as how Stiller was in "Freaks and Geeks" for an episode and Jay Baruchel (in Tropic Thunder) was in "Undeclared" and Knocked Up.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • I'm a little bitter that I can't find a link to the video from "The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet" that included the random picture of a cat with spaghetti. It's in the running for my funniest video of the year, so I'll hunt it down.
    • Have fun with this movie quiz! Very cool idea.
  • Night Off:
    • Bachelor party tomorrow night for a friend, so we're going dark for a night. In fact, everyone who posts on this blog will be at either that or the accompanying bachelorette party.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Baltimore County Representing

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • Phelps does it again. Apparently the 100M Fly, tomorrow night, is the one where he may not be the favorite.
    • You have to love the Olympics in that it's about the only time you'll hear a national commentator be purely partisan. As Rebecca Soni came on to win her upset victory, Rowdy Gaines screamed, "Yes! Yes!" Not going to hear Troy Aikman do that too often during NFL coverage.
    • They showed Mary Lou Retton during gymnastics coverage (and it's weird watching these little girls; the same reason I don't like the Little League World Series) right as she was drinking a bottle of Coke Zero. They told her she was about to be on, right? I mean, nobody actually drinks that stuff, right?
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • I love this story about McCain and Ridge. It not only feeds into the fears of social conservatives, but it also helps to highlight that McCain himself is anti-choice, which could be a big factor in expanding Obama's lead among women.
    • Taking the day off tomorrow and going to see Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder. I'll be sure to review them, obviously.
  • Daily Rant:
    • In line at Safeway tonight, the girl in front of me had a cheek piercing. Yes, her cheek, right smack in the middle of it. It looked like she had a gold safety pin sticking out of her face. Do you know how f***ing stupid that looks?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Recency Effect Runs Amok

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • Slow news week, outside of the Olympics. The polls have seemed to have gone back to where they were a month ago after McCain scored some points with the "Celebrity" stuff, but national polls don't really matter anyway (see: Gore, Al).
    • I'm so turned around on the VP thing. I know that the GOP one will come out of nowhere, but I've read convincing arguments in the last few days for Sebelius, Bayh, Biden, and Clark. Who knows.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • I have a few friends' blogs to the left, but today's the day to point out the coolest one (and the one I'm most jealous of), Rachel's Travel Blog. My new ex-coworker is taking eight months to travel all over the world and blogging about it.
    • The Madden game for Wii may not be as pure a gaming experience as it is for other systems, but it sure is fun. The controls are so complex with nunchuk/remote motion added to it, that they have an "All-Play" format that dumbs down the things you have to do. Either way, the action of having to snap, throw, juke, catch, and stiff-arm, adds a whole new dimension to the classic series. Maybe the only weird thing, because it is Wii, they "cartoon" it up a little with a John Madden Mii giving you tips and your friends' Miis acting as refs.
  • Daily Rant:
    • After Phelps went to five-for-five last night, there was a lot of talk this morning in the media about this question: "Is Michael Phelps the greatest living athlete or the greatest athlete of all time?" I'll put him in a class with Tiger, where he's not only better than everyone else, but a lot better. But greatest athlete? Do you put him above Tiger or Lance Armstrong or Alex Rodriguez? As for all-time, Dave Winfield was drafted in football and basketball along with baseball. Babe Ruth would have been in the Hall of Fame as a pitcher. Wilt Chamberlain was a world-class volleyball player and a championship sprinter. Jim Brown is in the Lacrosse Hall of Fame. So, Michael Phelps is certainly the greatest swimmer ever and most likely the greatest Olympian. But I have to disrespect swimming a little as a sport to produce a "greatest-ever" athlete. I can swim. I may not swim as well as Phelps (or one one-millionth as well), but I can jump in the water and do the strokes. But, let me tell you, I am an equal athletically with Michael Phelps on one thing. Neither of us can hit a curve ball.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Thought For The Night

While I stay up late to watch Phelps and maybe ice my arms which are sore from playing Madden on Wii, I just leave you with one thought for tonight, based on this picture from Getty Images: What a freaking jackass.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Would Wolfson Like Some Cheese?

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • Watched Scanners, the 1981 sci-fi/horror film by David Cronenberg. I suppose it's considered a low-budget classic, but I don't quite understand why. The makeup effects at the end are very good, but the acting is very bad.
    • However, it does co-star Patrick "Number 6" McGoohan of the classic 1960s show, "The Prisoner". "The Prisoner" is out on DVD now and I highly highly recommend it, having watched a marathon of its 17 episodes on SciFi some years back. It deals with a British secret agent who is kidnapped and sent to an island that is a giant metaphor for the Soviet Union. The climax in the show's final episode is a much more effective spoof of Dr. No than Austin Powers is.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • Okay, this is horrible nitpicking and could very well be a coincedence. But it's pretty amusing.
    • Here's Obama's response ad to the "Celebrity" stuff. It's funny enough, but it fails to mention McCain's appearances in "24" or Wedding Crashers. Maybe they couldn't get the rights?
  • Daily Rant:
    • Howard Wolfson is a moron. A moron. Here's an analysis of why by Nate Silver, but you don't even need the fancy numbers. Wolfson's claim is an obvious fallacy of logic, but even more so, he's playing sour grapes by calling into question the legitimacy of the party's nominee. Not that the whole Clinton machine hasn't been doing that, mature adults that they are. But, Howard, you do want to work again in Washington, right?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Two Non-Jews Named Bernie And Isaac

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe has been one of the early stars of the Olympics, with a surprise silver in the 400 IM and a World Record in the 100 backstroke semifinal. She did go to Auburn for college, but she has zero foreign accent. Weird, since she's legitimately from Zimbabwe.
    • I love that they worked it so Phelps was live at night here, but am I being overly whiny if I complain that his medal race tonight wasn't until 11:20 or so?
    • Dubya was on live with Costas from Beijing. A fine interview (other than his snapping at Costas for insinuating that America has problems right now), but I was amused that a picture of the Chairman from across the street was over Bush's right shoulder the entire time. It was like one of those old Looney Tunes commercials where Mao was playing devil's advocate and saying things like, "You will eliminate religion!"
    • Anyone catch Paddy Harrington's putts to win the PGA, his second consecutive major? The winner on 18 was especially sick.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • I had the fortune of walking through an Outdoor World today for the first time ever. I was offered a chance to win a $25,000 shopping spree and I almost jumped on it until I realized it was Bass Pro Shops. Oh, well, nevermind. I'll live without a lifetime supply of camo.
    • Picked up Mario Kart Wii today. Awesome, especially the on-line play which is smooth and allows you to play against people from around the world or from your general region.
  • Daily Rant:
    • First Bernie Mac and now Isaac Hayes. We've lost a couple of greats this weekend. Anyone who saw The Original Kings of Comedy, if not his TV show, knows how great Mac was. As for Hayes? Well, he was one baaaaad mother-- (shut your mouth!). I was just talking about Isaac Hayes. (We can dig it.)

Standing Up For The Big Guy

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • Watched the first episode of "Hard Knocks" and you can't deny that T.O. is one funny dude. But what really got me was Tank Johnson and Adam Jones being on the same team. Talk about shooting the gap.
    • Transformers premiered on HBO tonight and, having not bought it on DVD yet, I had been wanting to re-watch it for a while. It really holds up as one of the more fun movies from last year. When it came out, I referred to it as "Michael Bay's Citizen Kane", since Bay is unlikely to ever again make anything better (or close to as good).
    • I'm not the biggest Olympics fanatic (I'm due for a rant about the basketball team), but I am really liking the HD Basketball and HD Soccer channels. NBC's doing a great job with using all of their networks and the internet to provide comprehensive coverage, a lot of it live. Remember back to Nagano in 1998 and how unpopular the games were because every event was tape-delayed.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • Today is the anniversary of Nixon's resignation. Wasn't it nice when law-breaking presidents used to do the right thing?
    • The weather was perfect today, as in it could not have gotten any better. I love staying inside and even I found excuses, beyond just walking the dog, to get out.
  • Daily Rant:
    • I was looking for something on Target's website today and saw a note that there are no Target locations in Alaska, Hawaii, or Vermont (thanks, hippies). I mention this on the tail of a conversation I had with a co-worker a few days ago where she was lamenting the power of chains and the dearth of small stores. I disagree. Small businesses still exist, but we're better off for having the economy of scale and wide variety of product choice that come with a big chain store. I went to our town center this evening to grab something to eat. It's almost all chains, yet there was a definite community feel thanks to good urban planning. Chains, in and of themselves, do not mean the death of a community.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

How Often Do You See A Living Legend?

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • Went tonight to see 89-year-old Legend (with a capital L) Pete Seeger perform. I hope that I'm as spry at that age as he is. The best review I can give is that at one point as the performers (Seeger with his grandson and blues/folk singer Guy Davis) were about to perform "This Little Light Of Mine", Davis said, "Let's get a little meat and potatoes here." He's exactly right. These songs and the sounds of a banjo and a guitar are meat and potatoes for the soul.
    • The big game of the night was figuring which number would be higher: A) The amount of people wearing Obama gear; or B) the number of people who looked like they could change their name to Alexander Supertramp and starve to death in a bus in Alaska. A) was the overwhelming winner. Turns out that most of the people my age were the preppy children of hippies. Color me guilty of that as well. By the way, a quick poll of the room showed that the approval ratings for Bush and Cheney were 0% and 0%, respectively, while the approval rating for Obama was 100%.
    • The America Ferrera clip on "The Soup" tonight is in the running for my favorite clip of the year, but I almost choked laughing at Anderson Cooper's payoff line from the Clip of the Week.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • The videos are being taken down from YouTube as fast as they're going up, but you must see the entire torch lighting ceremony (maybe NBC will put it up on-line or On Demand). It was unprecedented and breath-taking.
    • Please to enjoy the audio from the 911 call involving the idiot and his sandwich without sauce.
  • Daily Rant:
    • I'm not doing enough for the election yet. I worked during the primaries and I've convinced a number of people to support Obama and I've given money, but I live twenty minutes from one of the three most important states in the election and I can do more.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Broadway Brett And The Jets

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • Andrew Sullivan started a contest on his blog to find viral campaign videos. He's only posted one or two entries so far, but it's worth checking out.
    • I'm going out tomorrow night and I keep thinking I should DVR the Opening Ceremonies. However, I don't think I'm really all that excited about them. The NBC hype machine is getting to me.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • Thanks to a double-header, my DVR recorded exciting Washington Nationals baseball tonight instead of the Ravens-Pats preseason game. With Brady not playing, you can't read anything into the Ravens' defense playing well. Boller's stats looked efficient, but who knows.
    • Back to the cartoon raps. Spongebob and company crank dat Soulja Boy.
    • Or maybe you prefer Pooh and friends.
  • Daily Rant:
    • Maybe I disagree with a lot of people, but I say that Favre is the villain in all this, unless you can prove that Green Bay pressured him into "retiring". I wish him luck in his future Jet endeavors, though. Have fun with the Madden Curse, buddy.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Our Tires Were Low And We Liked It!

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • Three editorial/blog pieces that I really enjoyed today. First, Maureen Dowd attempts to psychoanalyze the "Celebrity" ad.
    • Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle, one of my favorites, has some suggestions for Bush voters who may be feeling ashamed of their past decisions.
    • Finally, the ever-hilarious Dan Savage with some NSFW thoughts (no pictures or anything) on Ms. Buffalo Chip. He's so right.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • Here is the video from "Countdown" that Roy posted to the comments from last night. Watch the McCain video and I want you to focus especially on the part where he's saying, "Tell 'em to come back and get to work!" Does that remind you of anything?
    • Is it too late in the season for Manny Ramirez to win MVP?
    • I don't think I care about the Edwards thing. I just can't manage to work up any emotion one way or the other.
    • What are these live "SportsCenter" commercials and how can we make sure they go away?
  • Jokes And Jokes And Jokes And Jokes:
    • This tire inflation thing has been somewhat of a big embarrassment for McCain. How big is it? It's really blown up in his face. He doesn't have a lot of credibility to spare. It hasn't gotten his base pumped. It's been a big donut in the win column. His line of reasoning was totally jacked up. It's just another sign that this won't be a Goodyear for the GOP. Ok, enough.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Eight Boring Nights

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • I'm not totally feeling the Nancy/Esteban thing on "Weeds", but the Andy as Moses jokes were hilarious. "He gave us a juice box and big crackers."
    • Watched the movie Stop-Loss last night, starring Ryan Phillippe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and others. It's kind of overly dramatic, but it's well done. Phillippe is one of my favorite recent actors, great in Breach and Crash and Flags of Our Fathers. Obviously, the point of the movie is to drive home how horrible war is and how poorly the government treats some soldiers. I don't know that in real life it's quite so extreme, though I do think cases happen, of course. Regardless, I'll go on believing what I've believed all along. No matter the partial success of the surge, no matter the drop in casualties; we lost this war, in the grand sense, the second we invaded.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • Eric Cantor doesn't guarantee McCain Virginia, just like Evan Bayh won't (yes, I said will not) guarantee Obama Indiana. I'm not going out on a limb to say that, right?
    • From the website of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (the second-funniest current writing team to Judd Apatow and _________), here is Paris Hilton's response to John McCain as she announces her candidacy for the White House. Unfortunately for her, the number 35 in the Constitution refers to minimum age and not minimum blood-alcohol level. Yes, I'm looking at you, Andrew Jackson.
    • After watching that video, I clicked around on some other ones. How have I never spent time on Funny Or Die? Great stuff.
  • Daily Rant:
    • I'm going to be single for the next eight days. Some married guys might cherish this, but I don't think they remember being single. I'm bound to get fired when I show up for work early next week unshaven, with wrinkled clothing and the unmistakable stench of laziness.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Random Americana: Freedom

Part 2 of a continuing series on America.

Think back eight years ago this month. This is two months before hanging chads, thirteen months before 9/11, two years before Iraq. A friend and I went to Russia in late August of 2000 to visit another friend who was studying there. She was staying with a family and we visited their apartment for dinner. On August 12, the Russian submarine Kursk had exploded, trapping and killing 118 men. It was a huge global story and this was our chance to hear first-hand what actual Russians had to say about the tragedy and about the government's slow response (Putin was on vacation at the time and didn't act right away). This Russian family was saddened and disappointed in their government. More than anything, though, they were delighted that they could be openly disappointed in their government. I remember the excitement in the mother's eyes as she spoke about how she couldn't always vocalize criticism of her country.

Freedom's a funny word in the US. How many times does it appear in the Declaration of Independence? Zero. "Free" shows up four times, but not until well below any famous passage, and two of those times in describing the colonies as "Free and Independent States". The Bill of Rights? One "freedom" in the First Amendement, one "free" in the First and one "free" in the Second. That's it. Other words are used to establish our freedoms, more active words. Freedom is too abstract a notion, but it's everywhere we turn. We are the land of the free. We let freedom ring. Our troops are fighting for our freedom. It's a word that gets thrown around to mean something on which we can't quite put our fingers.

Is freedom an all-or-nothing proposition? If the right to own a gun is taken away, is freedom shattered, or is just a freedom gone. If the government decides to suspend certain liberties in the name of security, are we no longer a "free people" as a whole? Everyone has their own interpretation of this. We live in a democracy, so the majority gets to determine the definition.

I can pretty easily make the case that we have lost freedoms over these last eight years, but I refer to them in exactly that word, "freedoms". No matter how much we fret over torture or the PATRIOT act or the lies leading up to the war, we still have important freedoms left. There are plenty of societies in the world, right now, where I couldn't complain about the government or talk openly about controversial issues, such as Iran, ranked among the worst countries of the world for censorship. I think about this and I can't help but remember how excited that Russian family was to speak freely. More than anything else, freedom is something that we Americans take for granted. That's a choice that we can make, if we like, but with all apologies to the original, with great freedom comes great responsibility.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hair Of The Dog

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • What an awkward half-hour of "Meet The Press" this morning. Lieberman was angry and twitchy, Kerry was angry and trying to look gregarious. Brokaw is too loose and too into the conventional wisdom; the show misses Russert a lot.
    • Caught up on "Monk". Last week's episode featured a great performance by the great David Strathairn and the most recent involved subtle digs at "C.S.I.: Miami" (which apparently has become a national pasttime). For a show that has been going so long with a fairly unchanging formula, it continues to entertain.
    • Having finished the latest Dexter book by Jeff Lindsay, I'm on to Under The Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer. It's a true crime novel that deals with a murder committed by members of an FLDS sect, with an investigation of such sects' history and philosophy. It was published in 2003 and is framed as an examination of a Taliban-like culture in America. Of course, FLDS has become much more timely now.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • Okay, granted he emphasizes "may" in his statement, but in light of this week's events, this video of McCain on Letterman in 2001 is a bit damning.
    • I seem to remember having a reason to go searching for quite a while to find this picture, but I forget now, and besides it doesn't really matter. So, just for the sake of one of my favorite pictures of all time, I give you... Duck Baby!
    • Long live Duck Baby!
  • Daily Rant:
    • I'm not in favor of Obama's energy rebate for the same reason that I hate the stimulus checks. I have no problems with the windfall tax, but use the proceeds to invest in R&D for alternative fuels. Don't just give more money to people so they can buy that much more gas. Makes no sense over the long-term.

Night Off

I'm taking my birthday off, but to thank my wife for setting up a great dinner, enjoy this!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

If You Can't Beat Sense Into 'Em, Join 'Em

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • I think what makes "The Soup" truly great is its use of running jokes. Tonight, they made fun of a short joke last week involving Keith Olbermann and Simon Pegg. If you don't watch the show regularly, there must be so much that you miss.
    • Ditto the synergy between "The Soup" and "Countdown". It doesn't happen most weeks, but sometimes you'll get a joke that gets thrown back and forth between the shows. McHale showed part of the clip from Olbermann on Monday, but it was a better pay-off if you had actually seen the original broadcast.
    • Re-watched Hellboy tonight. I hated it the first time I watched it, but I felt the need to re-visit it with the sequel out and so many people excited. I was wrong. It's a solid B-minus. I don't know what problems I had, other than the fact that it's reasonably anti-climactic.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • The McCain campaign is getting a bit pathetic with their lies and stupid videos. Maybe it's hitting Obama for now, but they can't keep up this crap for much longer. And, little guy, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton aren't exactly huge celebrities anymore. The joy of all of this is in this aggregate of polls from Notice how, no matter how much Obama gets hit, McCain's numbers don't actually go up?
    • I don't see how the Red Sox trade Manny, no matter how obnoxious he gets. He's one of the truly irreplaceable players in baseball. The Yanks and Rays have to be psyched.
    • I've always been a huge Magic Johnson fan. Next year, it'll be Eddie Murray (sorry, Larry Bird).
  • Daily Rant:
    • Off-shore drilling is stupid, period. I'm very against it. Even the current Department of Energy has said it would not significantly affect oil prices in even the next twenty years. Off-shore platforms contributed to 124 spills during Katrina and Rita. That being said, I can live (though not happily) with Obama saying that offshore drilling can be a part of a compromise on energy. It's the right political move, seeing as how people are coming out more and more in favor of the practice. I don't understand why people are in favor of it since no source has said it will help us out economically ever, but, hey, people are either stupid or panicking because of the economy or both. It's the same as with the lapel pin; might as well not fight a fight that people are too dumb to understand.