Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Buckshot: Who are you and why are you texting me?


First of all, welcome back! We hope everyone had a festive holiday.

Second, welcome to what may end up being the final Den of Mystery post of 2008. Hooper and I both have some material in the works, but those may not be posted before the day is out.

This post is yet another amusing text message conversation. Except it didn't take place between Hooper and I, though it is all ultimately his fault. Confused? So was I...


It all started yesterday evening when I received a picture message. It was a picture of five books, accompanied by the message:"Went to Half-Price, picked up the following:"


Now, Hooper and I quite often fill each other in on bargains we find at used book stores, so this sort of message wasn't a surprise. What was a surprise was that it didn't come from his number. I responded with a bit of sarcasm (as I am wont to do), and so the conversation began (my half in blue, the other party's in black):

Congratulations? Are you looking for some sort of validation? And is this a new number?


Huh?

Who is this?

Lol u sent me a message. My name is Jesse.

All I did was respond to the picture message I received from this number. I don’t know you, but you’re sending me pictures of books you bought. (While typing this message, another picture arrived, this time of some graphic novels. "It's Hooper," Mrs. Buck emphatically stated. "Who else is going to send you pictures of comic books?" I protested. "But it's not coming from his number!" I cried in vain.)

Lol I have no idea.

What books?

I’m getting pictures of books from this number.

Ok well idk what you’re talking about.

Are you from Orlando?

No. I’m in Ohio. Trust me, we do not know each other.

Oh ok then.

Finally, I sent a message to Hooper in desperation.

You didn’t send me picture messages of books did you? I appear to be in some sort of cellular twilight zone.

Some time later, I would receive this response:

Yes I did.

I immediately called him up and demanded answers. Turns out he sent the photos, and from his phone. But through what I can only describe as the 21st-century equivalent of a telephone operator connecting the wrong wires, they arrived on my phone as having originated from a different number.

And thus, a very confusing and partially frustrating situation came to a close, and some poor soul in Florida named Jesse thinks I'm a crazy person who texts strangers at random. Has anything like this ever happened to you, dear readers? If so, please share in the comments section.


-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!



Happy Holidays from Hooper and Buck!




NOTE: The views of Optimus Prime do not necessarily reflect those of The Den of Mystery. We merely encourage you to celebrate, be it Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus...whatever holiday you recognize, have a merry one.

Read on, faithful few!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Buckshot: Seriously? It's a haircut.


From Yahoo!:

"Twilight" fans are in an uproar after star Robert Pattinson shreds his signature hairdo.

Congratulations, Robert. You just became the new Felicity.

(And yes, I know the average Twilight fan is way too young to get that reference.)

-Buck

(Let's see if having a post with a "Twilight" tag gets us more site traffic.)

Read on, faithful few!

Buckshot: "Oddly enough, I think I liked Tinkerbell the most..."


What follows is the conversation Hooper and I had via text message this past Saturday, and my meager defense for expressing a liking for Tinkerbell. Please click through, because it makes for good readin'.



7:20 PM
Buck: I'm pretty sure the voice of Sebastian the Crab in Disney on Ice is Hermes Conrad from Futurama. You know, I should be live-blogging this…

7:37 PM
Buck: And the Lion King costumes look like live-action Thundercats…sort of. Are you enjoying these texts?

7:43 PM
Hooper: What are you doing to have this useless info?

7:46 PM
Buck: We brought Susan’s sisters (5 and 11) to the ice show. A friend of ours does the costumes and got us free tickets.

7:50 PM
Buck: Leopards with some manner of cape/wing apparatus? This does not match the established continuity of the Lion King film.

8:02 PM
Hooper: Director’s Cut – Simba also makes his own lightsaber before rescuing Nala from life as a dancer for Scar. There’s also a sandstorm.

8:04 PM
Buck: Coming soon from the Disney Vault! Actually, the Pumba costume was pretty nifty.

8:09 PM
Buck: What does it say about me that the eel costumes from the Little Mermaid portion reminded me of Megatron from Transformers: Beast Wars?

8:11 PM
Hooper: …you need to get out more?

8:18 PM
Buck: But I am out. I’m at Disney on Ice…watching fairies skate about…*sigh*

8:56 PM
Buck: Oddly enough, I think I liked the Tinkerbell segment the most. I’ll explain myself/defend my masculinity in a Den post.

9:35 PM
Hooper: That castle surrendered long ago.

10:08 PM
Buck: How droll.

But I digress...

The show was Disney on Ice presents: Worlds of Fantasy, and included Pixar's Cars, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, and Tinkerbell. For the record, the reason the Tinkerbell segment appealed the most was simply because I haven't seen the recent Tinkerbell animated feature and didn't know what was going to happen next. The Cars segment, while interesting to watch six full-size automobiles navigate a small ice rink, was pretty short. And the Lion King and Little Mermaid segments basically told their entire films' stories in 10 minutes (and I'm sure the kids loved it, but if you actually tried to follow those stories considering everything they left out, you'd be hopelessly lost). And I grew up with those films, so the stories and songs are familiar. So speaking as an adult, it made those portions a little slow (although the wildebeest stampede costumes in Lion King were inspired). Tinkerbell simply offered something I hadn't seen before, so it held more appeal. (Well, the cute girls in skimpy fairy costumes certainly didn't hurt.)

I now open the floor to the inevitable snarky comments regarding my trip to the ice show.


-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Buckshot: Video Edition


Some of these have been floating around the intertubes for a while now, so you may have seen them already. But as NBC used to be so fond of telling us, if you haven't seen it, it's new to you!


First up is the very funny "Prop 8 - The Musical" from Funny or Die. John C. Reilly, Neil Patrick Harris, Jack Black as Jesus...what more could you ask for?




Next up is an outstanding John Williams tribute: Lyrics about Star Wars sung to the tunes of some of Williams' most famous movie scores. The lyrics and vocals are by an a cappella group named Moosebutter; the gentleman in the video simply added the visuals. I just read it's been nominated for a Peoples' Choice Award.




Movie Trailers!

Star Trek - Okay, I agree with the disenfranchised nerds that having the Enterprise being built on Earth is kind of a dumb idea. But beyond that, this looks like a crazy ride that should be an interesting experiment if nothing else. Let's face it, this franchise needs a kick in the pants.

Watchmen - A large part of me continues to scream warnings about the hazards of adapting the seminal story. But damned if I don't get excited every time I see Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan brought to life in the previews.

Friday the 13th - I think I'm in the minority for liking the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake with Jessica Biel. But this new visit to Camp Crystal Lake is by the same director and crew, so I'm looking forward to it. Plus it's got Jared Padalecki, one of the stars of my current favorite show, Supernatural. And how can you not love the body count gag callback to the trailers for the original film?

Terminator: Salvation - Christian Bale takes over the role of Bruce Way--I mean, John Connor as we begin a new era of post-apocalyptic robot vs. human violence. Sounds good to me. The new giant Terminators in the trailer certainly don't hurt.

Race to Witch Mountain - Yes, it's a Disney movie. Yes, it's a remake of an old kiddie flick. Yes, it stars The Rock. But I think it looks like a lot of fun.

Duplicity - Julia Roberts and Clive Owen in an Ocean's Eleven-style heist? Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson fighting like schoolchildren on an airport tarmac? It's from Tony Gilroy, who wrote and directed Michael Clayton, one of my favorite films of 2007? Can I pre-order my ticket yet?

Well, dear readers, which video tickled your fancy the most?

-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

The Hooplah: Moral Quandry


So I feel dirty for purchasing a particular CD. See, I downloaded (for $5) Viva la Vida by Coldplay, and I don't know how I can rationalize it next to other CDs of true artistic merit in my collection. It's not a bad CD, rather catchy at times and better than other singles I've heard from them over the years. But I can't shake that by buying this, supporting this sort of...pop...I'm sullying my artistic integrity as a consumer!

This is tearing me up inside.

I understand, logically, that I shouldn't care about this. Buck thinks I worry too much about other people's opinion, but I could care less about the general public. What concerns me is me.

Friends who have discussed music with me over the years know I have broad tastes, but I tend to shy from mainstream pop & rock and hip hop/rap. All else is fair game. So the purchase of a Coldplay CD, one of the most successful pop-rock acts of the last decade forces me to reconsider, where I might not want to, those bands and CDs and genres I've so long avoided.

This is not the first time I've faced this dilemma.

When I met my wife, some six years ago, she (re)introduced me to country music, a genre I'd avoided like the plague since the early 90s and some...line dancing...that we shan't mention again. Back in Garth Brooks' heyday, I enjoyed some country, but not enough to buy any CDs. As country degenerated sharply during the 90s (not that it was at some creative heights before), I shut it out. Then came Mandy, with her bold appreciation for this type of music I had outright vilified.

Now I have two country radio presets programmed of my own free will. I found artistry within country music; more than any type, country best continues the storytelling tradition of balladeers and folk singers that form such a huge basis of American music over the last few hundred years. Dig past the top 20, and you'll discover a wealth of material that isn't all twangy, overproduced songs about wives in pick-up trucks running away with the dog.

Circling back around to Coldplay, I have derided them since I first heard "Yellow," a song still terrible to contemplate. Their emo stylings, masquerading as rock or mainstream pop didn't sit well, and I wrote them off to weepy girls and the guys who want to get them (sorry, Lindberg). So ignored, they slipped off my radar until this summer when I heard bits and pieces from their new album, which promised less falsetto and angst and arrangements more in line with the "alt. rock" tag they get in the press. It has more weight than previous material of theirs that I've heard (of course, it's also their first full-length album I've deigned listen to, so a full accounting might have to wait until I've gone to the library or dallied in illegal downloading).

In short, I like it. But I don't know if I like that I like it. Get me?

It's hard to set aside a musical elitism, especially one so finely cultured over hours of dead-end arguments with with other sonic snobs. Does this mean I've changed somehow, perhaps matured?

Do I have to vote Democratic next time?

Ah, but who cares? None of you. We're all sonic snobs in our own way (how many of you refuse to consider the idea that country music or rap or prog. rock might have merit?), and to overcome that obstacle and embrace new bands and genres (change you can listen to!) is a grudging thing.

Thank God Queen is still unpopular in the US outside of high fallutin' classic and prog. rock circles or I'd be screwed.

-Hooper

Read on, faithful few!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Buckshot: Martian Eyebrows


Comic Book Resources has posted the solicitations for DC Comics products shipping in March. I know Hooper reads most of the solicitation copy for the titles he regularly reads, but for me it's usually just an excuse to skim through the cover images, looking for interesting pieces. Like this one. Not a cover, but a shot of DC's latest Martian Manhunter figure.



Short of Leonard Nimoy, I've never seen a more expressive raised eyebrow. Kudos to the figure's sculptor. I have, of course, taken my own liberties with the image:




Feel free to share your own interpretation in the comments.

-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Buckshot: Everything Must Go!


Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich is having a going out of business sale! Zina Saunders brings us the below image:



Simply amazing. Hooper, the politics of your fair state never fail to entertain.

-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Popculturia: Inside Our Minds


To give you flavor of the minds of Buck & Hooper, the Den presents the following exchange, originally over e-mail, from Nov. 17, 2008.

(And as a bonus, you also get a bit of debate over Blu-Ray DVD and whether it's prudent to buy a player now or just wait. It's more engaging than you think!)


From: "Hooper"
To: "Buck"
Subject: The horror...


Hooper: I read [Steve Niles'] 30 Days of Night and [Mike Mignola's] Hellboy: The Troll Witch & Others. Both considered "horror" in their own ways, but with very different approaches. Of course I enjoyed the next outing of Mignola's big red and the contributions in this volume by P Craig Russell and Richard Corbett (?) on art. The stories are always fun and immersive; I'm even thinking about the archive editions being put out since I only have three of the trades, all purchased used or very discounted.

I understand your opinion on Niles' breakthrough work. How did this spawn so much? you more/less asked. I see it as one small story in a larger world of supernatural (vampire) terror. It's the prologue of a novel. I'll no doubt check out more as I see them. These vampires are almost more akin to zombies (destroy the head) than regular Draculas.

We've been watching Wonderfalls, the criminally cancelled Fox series from 2004. Four episodes aired, in two time slots, a year after they were supposed to debut. Thankfully, that meant we have a half season (13 eps) of a one hour show that form a mini-series, if nothing else. Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me, soon-to-be Heroes, I've heard) is one of the main creative forces; the only two people it stars of note are Lee Pace (Ned from Pushing Daisies) and William Sadler (villain from Die Hard: Die Harder, and a Frank Darabont player). It's a great show, full of whimsy and wit. If you don't remember, it follows the exploits of slacker Jaye who, after nearly choking to death, now is talked to by anything with an animal face. She sees them move, hears them talk and they tell her to do things. Sometimes cryptic, but always helpful in the end (even if it takes a while to see how). It feels like a mash-up between Joan of Arcadia and Dead Like Me but that's not a bad thing. I suggest renting it, if you can. Lots of fun.

Speaking of Dead Like Me, a new direct-to-DVD movie is being released in February, "Life After Death." It doesn't have Mandy Patinkin in it (when has he ever stayed with a show past the second season?!), but his head reaper role is filled by a new character played by Henry Ian Cusack (is that right?), Desmond from Lost.

I look forward to Quantum of Solace regardless of bad reviews.


Buck: I know of Wonderfalls without having seen it. Might rent it, as it also involved producer Tim Minear (Angel, Firefly, Whedon's upcoming Dollhouse). Fuller said something in an interview recently that he may try to revisit some Wonderfalls stuff in Pushing Daisies (which probably won't happen now, as it looks like it's going to be cancelled). And he was actually on Heroes during the first season, so it would be a homecoming for him. (Are you glad they axed Loeb from the show?)

We'd gotten behind on House and Numbers lately, so Friday night saw us watching two weeks' worth of Numbers online and taping the new episode (which we'll watch this week) and last night we watched the episode of House where Cuddy almost got her baby, and have last week's taped and ready to watch. Also working our way through Buffy Season 3.

From the Cuddy/baby episode:
House: I need a genetic disease.
Wilson: I'm sure you're carrying a few.

Also, we might be getting a Blue-Ray [sic] player. Really weren't considering it too strongly right now, but Sears has a nice-looking Sharp player for more than half off the sticker price.


Hooper: Blu Ray, really? I hear there a lot of software upgrades needed and with prices what they are.... You know me. Where you had a book of DVDs started our sophomore year, I had somewhere like ten discs, and three of those were Shaka Zulu. It's not that I don't support new tech, but I want to see prices drop. And is the format really all its cracked up to be? Can you tell me, with an example, how this is a Great Leap Forward and not just LaserDisc or DivX come round again?


Buck: From what I've read, many consider it to be the last physical format we'll have until digital download becomes the norm. What do you mean by upgrades? You don't just plug it in? As for prices, I was looking at some movies from earlier this year and last year, that have been out long enough there's no "first week of release" price drop or anything, and for example, on Amazon, Transformers on Blue-Ray [sic] is actually $5 cheaper than the 2-disc standard format. The player itself is only $180, so considering the format it's a hell of a deal, and I imagine we'd get at least a good 5 years out of it. We've had our current player that long.

Again, it's not like we're running out and buying it. We just noticed


Hooper: When I say "upgrade," I mean when I buy a blu-ray release, what benefits (aside from audio/visual which, not having an HD TV, means nothing to me) does it offer over a regular release? You mentioned price, but from recent Best Buy and Target jaunts, they are still pricier. I mean features. Do I get everything from a 2-disc DVD plus more all on one disc? Is that the benefit?


Buck: Sometimes there are Blue-Ray [sic] exclusive features, but I believe all the usual standard features are also on the BD disc. I think many special editions are still 2 discs though.

Another reason for the considertion that I hadn't mentioned is that our current player is a DVD/VCR combo. We really don't use the VCR side of it anymore, and it's just getting a little old in general. So our basic thinking is why not upgrade to the fancy player while it's cheap? For the record, this doesn't mean I would buy exclusively in the Blue-Ray [sic] format. I really don't need to see Tropic Thunder in HD, for example, but stuff like Transformers, Iron Man and the like would look nice in that format (here I refer to the inevitable purchase of the sequels; not planning to double-dip just to get HD).


Hooper: See, that first paragraph is where I have an issue. I don't really care about the sharpness of picture as some people do; DVD video is, in general, great to me. What I look for with DVD is utilization of the format - i.e., taking that extra space and packing it with supplemental features. I think regular DVDs have been getting better and better at this, but I see the promise of a BR disc is two - or maybe three - discs worth of material on one disc.

Consider this. If I remember correctly, DVDs have around 5 GB of memory, but BR approach 45 GB (was HD 50?). Nine times the capacity. Granted, much is taken up with picture and sound, but that's not so much. If you don't film the extra features in the most luxurious definition, basically just a little better than regular DVD, are you telling me you can't get, say, the 3-disc Hellboy (first one) on one disc?

I do think we'll see a more formidable disc format before direct downloads (which I think are a decade off, unless T3 ethernet or fiber optic cables start replicating underground and jacking everyone into a system ten times faster than what we currently have). It's too capitalistic, not enthusiastic. Looking for the buck, not the bang.

Maybe I'm just too idealistic. You know what they say about Republicans: our dreams, like our vampire forefathers, are immortal.


Buck: The last line of your e-mail is going on my Christmas cards this year.

That aside, there's one thing that hadn't occurred to me until a few minutes ago: Originally, we'd planned on upgrading to an LCD television after we moved because the price is going down and many of our local stations are already broadcasting in HD. (We'll probably still do this.) Blu-Ray was something we'd discussed here and there, but hadn't seriously talked about it until Susan saw this sale price this morning. But if we're not upgrading the TV for another 6 months or so, what's the point of upgrading to Blu-Ray and not being able to enjoy it? If we just need a new DVD player, Wal-Mart's got a couple for $35. Or we could just watch it through the Playstation (which we did a couple of days ago when one didn't want to play in the regular player; sound's not as good going through the Playstation though). So yeah...maybe we won't upgrade right now.

Oh, and I think the 3-disc for Hellboy 2 is a 2-disc on Blu-Ray. Just for sake of argument.


Hooper: That's my point. This is next-gen media. Why get it unless you can go whole hog, and that means TV + player? Mandy and I have an all-in-one (TV-VHS-DVD) that is sucking hard and refusing to play DVDs (unless you open and close the tray a number of times), but we're looking to get a new DVD-VHS player to use until BR players drop in price in general, not just outside sales (and the hardware and software loses some of the bugs).


Buck: Good point. I think we'll stick with what we have for now, possibly getting one of those ultra-cheap players at Wal-Mart I mentioned if ours is in fact dying.

Who knows? By next summer they may have an LCD tv with a built-in Blu-Ray player (They already have them with standard players built-in).





[Note from Buck: I quite often send Hooper amusing webcomics I run across in my daily browsings. These sorts of images are a vital part of our e-mail interactions.]


Moving on to new topics, did you read either my Quantum mini review or the War of the Worlds updates?


Hooper: Yes to the first, no to the second. I intend to see QoS, and I'm sure I'll enjoy it. Is it better than Die Another Day? Then I shall enjoy it.


Buck: If you liked what I did the first time around with WotW, then you'll love the updates.

I like how your litmus test for Bond films is that it only has to be better than what was possibly the worst entry in the franchise. I thought on the way home from the theater about your disdain for that film, and again say that if you start the film with Bond's release from the Korean prison and stop it just before he meets Jinx, it's actually a pretty decent spy story. Of course, then it's only 20 minutes long and has no resolution, but we can't afford to be picky.

***

Now you know! And knowing? That's right.

Read on, faithful few!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Buckshot: Well, that figures.


On Friday, I made a quick stop at the grocery store, as we were out of some of the essentials: bread, butter, and milk. The total cost for the three items confirmed something about myself that, quite frankly, I'd suspected for some time. (Click to embiggen.)



-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Future

I am posting this from my G1.

Booyah!

-Hooper

Read on, faithful few!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

A happy holiday to you and yours, from The Den of Mystery. We hope you gobbled it good today.


Bonus holiday dinner thought to ponder, courtesy of Hooper: "I can't take anymore stuffing!"*


Bonus holiday question to ponder, courtesy of Buck:

Can you watch any scene in Iron Man where Jeff Bridges is enjoying a drink and not picture The Dude nursing a White Russian? (Granted, you probably need a passing familiarity with The Big Lebowski to make the connection.)



-The Management

*(That's what she said.)

Read on, faithful few!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Buckshot: Mini-Review: Quantum of Solace



Is it better than Casino Royale? Well, no, at least not in my opinion. But I also don't feel it deserves the bad rap it's getting. Based on reviews I'd seen, I was expecting the Bond equivalent of a Michael Bay film (And I say that with complete love and admiration for Michael Bay. Have you seen Bad Boys II?). You know, non-stop action with little time for plot or character development. But I was quite pleased with the film. It continues the story where Casino Royale left off, opening with Bond and M interrogating Mr. White, whom Bond captured at the end of the previous film. From there we follow James around the world as he learns more about the mysterious organization known as Quantum and seeks some measure of closure in the death of Vesper Lynd.

Is there a lot of action? Yes, but I don't feel it's at the cost of story. Daniel Craig gets more comfortable in Bond's skin and the supporting players all do an admirable job. I was particularly impressed with Olga Kurylenko as Bond's ally Camille. Her character was given a decent amount of backstory, and Bond didn't even try to sleep with her! This may be the first Bond film where he doesn't bed the female lead; at least I can't think of any others (come on, Bond devotees, are there any other instances?). In fact, we're two films into this new era of Bond, and he's only slept with two women (on-screen, at least). My, what an age we live in.

So go enjoy Quantum of Solace. You could do far worse at the theater this weekend.

-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Buckshot: Martians Go Home!




After finishing my War of the Worlds post a couple of weeks ago (which Hooper described as "amazing"), I found I still had Martians on the brain. So I did some more investigating on the interwebs and updated the post with many more links and accounts of other invasion broadcasts that followed the original by Orson Welles in 1938.

It's good stuff, so check it out.

-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Buckshot: Let's Get Maverick-y



"And I'll tell you something else: I got so damned sick of that 'Maverick' crap. The original Maverick was James Garner."

~ The usually Republican-voting Papa Buck, discussing the election with yours truly.

-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Audacity of Joke

The following is available from Red Bubble on a t-shirt:



Politigeeks, try to tell me you don't need to change your pants after seeing that.

This is, of course, a parody of:




-Hooper

Read on, faithful few!

Michael Crichton, 1942-2008




The Den of Mystery takes a moment to mark the passing of author Michael Crichton, who lost a battle with cancer this past Tuesday.


Buck:
I devoured much of Crichton's oeuvre in my formative years, with The Andromeda Strain, Sphere, and Jurassic Park being my favorites. In fact, I just finished re-reading Jurassic Park last week. I must confess that aside from Prey, I haven't read much of his more recent work. I remember not loving it, but perhaps I'll take the time to revisit it now, as well as checking out State of Fear, Next, and the as-yet untitled work that will sadly be his final novel, to be released next year.

Hooper:
When I started reading with real intent, Crichton was one of the first authors I really took to, absorbing much the same books as Buck mentioned, as well as Congo, The Lost World and the brilliant The Case of Need (writing as "Jeffrey Hudson"). His prose was always clear, crisp and accessible, without speaking down to the reader. No one will confuse him with Faulkner; his writing was mainstream and any messages weren't to be hidden by complicated stylistic structures or obtuse characters. My dad's favorite is undoubtedly the Viking-centric Eaters of the Dead, which only shows Crichton's range as an author. Hard Case Crime is re-releasing his early mystery novels, published under pseudonyms, in affordable paperbacks. If you love to read, you'll love the blend of science, thrills, humor and excitement that Crichton brought to the craft. He will be dearly missed. (He is the second of my favorite authors to have died this year, following the (cowardly; that's right, I said it) suicide of David Foster Wallace.)

-The Management

Read on, faithful few!

Buckshot: More Election Fun

Well the results are in, and thankfully, no one went with this candidate:

However, after becoming aware of this party, I can't help but think that we as a nation have made a horrible oversight:



-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Buckshot: Election Day


E-Day is finally here. And whether you're voting the environmental ticket:


Voting for true change:


Casting a vote for truthiness:


Or voting for the Goddamn Batman:


Get out there and vote!



-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Monday, November 3, 2008

TPH: Make Your Case (Part 2)


The Political Hoedown!
Noting the irony in the phrase "Red America"



Jump on over the the Political Hoedown to see near-daily updates (that's right - it now pays to go there daily) as well as the last in a batch of Cases for or against the Presidential candidates:

He Ain't No Maverick: The Case Against John McCain
by Jim Jubilee

Based on Merit: The Case for Barack Obama by Townser

Rebuild: The Case for John McCain by Nashville Sticks

Aside from those, there are a bunch of other posts including a look at media bias (in the form of a letter to the editor), what's become of middle-ground politics, Obama's superior position going into election day, last-minute polling numbers and the resulting head-scratching, and a heartfelt, open letter to Sen. Obama by a small businessman from Texas that is absolutely essential reading on both sides.

Remember to vote tomorrow if you haven't, and do so for the candidate you think will do the best job, not the one your party supports or your parents taught you to like. Ignore the outside noise and focus on the country and the issues facing it. Who has the best chance of meaningful change? Which candidate believes in your version of American and her dream?

Walk proudly into the voting booth and make your choice. I only hope I've helped inform it a little these last ten months.

(And yes, you will hear from me tomorrow.)

Best regards,


-Hooper

The Political Hoedown

Advancing the Conversation

Read on, faithful few!

Night of the Smelly Basset


Yeah, Mandy and I might have gone a touch overboard with the full-body skunk costume for brave, twice-sprayed Neville. It's like waterboarding...for a dog.





-Hooper

Read on, faithful few!

Buckshot: Really?


A teenager has changed his name to Captain Fantastic Faster Than Superman Spiderman Batman Wolverine Hulk And The Flash Combined.



Now, I could get all comic geek nit-picky and point out that Spider-Man should have a hyphen, and while he's referred to as "the Flash," his name is just Flash, not The Flash...but what's the point? Instead, I'll just say this:

Kid, you're an idiot.

-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Buckshot: War of the Worlds

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a grave announcement to make. Incredible as it may seem, both the observations of science and the evidence of our eyes lead to the inescapable assumption that those strange beings who landed in the Jersey farmlands tonight are the vanguard of an invading army from the planet Mars.

Seventy years ago tonight, Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre on the Air scared the living crap out of a good portion of the country with their adaptaton of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. In honor of that anniversary, I've compiled some interesting links to help celebrate the night Welles & Co. "...annihilated the world before your very ears..."


I have an unabashed love for this radio drama, and have it on a CD I managed to find for $5 when I was in junior high. I listened to it again while working the other day and damned if it doesn't hold up seven decades later. It's easy to see how the public was fooled. If you listened from the very beginning, you knew it was a regular radio play, and there's a break at the halfway point that reminds you you're listening to the Mercury Theatre. But let's be honest. If you tuned in late and only heard the horrified words of Carl Phillips as the Martians unleashed their heat ray, you wouldn't be sticking around to hear that reminder that it's not real. You were packing up Mabel and the kids, loading your shotgun, and heading for a safe haven.

I took a science fiction course last spring as part of my graduate studies, and the professor played roughly the first half of the recording. I was surprised (and a bit disappointed) by how many giggles I heard. Then I realized that these kids weren't listening to it simply to enjoy it; they were looking for signs that it was all a hoax. And yes, if you listen and pay attention to the timeline, it's pretty obvious that things, while chaotic, were happening almost too fast. Nevertheless, Welles and his troupe made radio history that night, and I never get tired of listening to "the Mercury Theatre's own radio version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying Boo!"

Oh, but The War of the Worlds didn't end in 1938...

1949: Quito, Ecuador

Eleven years after the Welles broadcast, the staff of Radio Quito decided to try their hand at re-creating the famous invasion. Was it a success? Well…sort of. It was a success in that it scared people; probably scared them a little too much though. People bought into the broadcast so heavily that they were running to the churches to confess their sins before the Martians arrived to kill them, and a local military unit was seen racing through town to fight off the invaders.

When the station realized the panic they had wrought, they came clean that it was a dramatization and issued a plea for calm. Unfortunately, the citizens of Quito didn’t see it that way and a large mob stormed the radio station. In the ensuing chaos, six people died and the station itself burned to the ground. Radio Quito’s art director (and architect of the event) Leonardo Paez allegedly fled the country never to return.

Sadly, no audio recording of this infamous broadcast survived.


1968: Buffalo, New York

For the 30th anniversary of the Mercury Theatre’s broadcast, WKBW in Buffalo decided to do a modern version of the invasion, with more of a newsroom feel to it. And you’d think that people would have realized it was a hoax…but no. Local police and other authorities were flooded with calls, and there are reports that Canada sent military units to border bridges to repel any Martians that set their eyes on our neighbors to the north. To its credit, WKBW did mention several times during the broadcast that it was a dramatization.

In 1971, they did a revised version that cut the length from 90 minutes to roughly an hour. This is the version that’s most readily available online. I’m not sure a copy of the 1968 broadcast has survived to this day, at least not in a wide circulation.

So how is it? Well…if you can get past the God-awful DJ at the beginning who interrupts his rockin’ Halloween night broadcast to bring you news of explosions on Mars, it’s not too bad. In particular, there are a couple of sequences where they’re supposed to be broadcasting directly from the newsroom that are very well-done, as you hear the chaos of phones ringing and people shouting to each other in the background trying to figure out just what’s going on. I like the structure, and the fact that you see it solely through the eyes of the broadcasters; they don’t hand control of the station over to the National Guard like the 1938 version did. But in my opinion, the original by Welles and Co. is simply a better performance.

War of the Worlds in other mediums:

H.G. Wells' story also inspired many film adaptations. The best of those is probably still the 1953 version by producer George Pal, if only because you get the amazing bit where a priest approaches a Martian war machine, bible raised in his hand, and gets atomized. (I imagine that was a little edgy for the 1950s.) But I think the Spielberg/Cruise joint from 2005 is pretty good, if not great. If nothing else, you have to respect how good it looks for being completed in less than a year, considering all the visual effects work.

Not to be outdone, in 1978, there was even a musical version produced by Jeff Wayne. It's supposed to be great, though I haven't had a chance to get my hands on it yet.

Downloads

The Mercury Theatre on the Air (Here you can download the entire broadcast as an mp3.)

Daevid MacKenzie does something interesting here: He attempts to re-create what many people actually heard on the night of October 30, 1938. A large portion of the audience was actually tuned in to The Chase and Sanborn Hour, only to switch over to the Mercury Theatre broadcast right around the time the Martian cylinder opens. MacKenzie blends audio of both shows to give you an idea of how it might have sounded to suddenly tune into a Martian invasion.

The Glowing Dial is an Old-Time Radio podcast, and this entry from 2003 has it all. Not only do you get the 1938 broadcast, but there’s a snippet from the press conference Orson Welles gave the next day, a brief interview between Orson Welles and H.G. Wells from 1940, and the 1971 WKBW broadcast. The hosts have kind of a groan-inducing sense of humor, but the amount of material they put together is very impressive.

Radiolab is a show broadcast on NPR that featured War of the Worlds this past March. They discuss the 1938 broadcast, as well as the subsequent versions. It’s a bit better analysis of the phenomenon than you get from The Glowing Dial.

Here you can listen to the 1938 and 1971 broadcasts in-browser if you don’t want to download them.

More War of the Worlds links:

War of the Worlds: The Complete War of the Worlds Website This site has everything you could ask for. Information on every incarnation of WotW from the original novel to radio and film adaptations and beyond.

Wikipedia entry on the broadcast.

Another comprehensive WotW website.

Wars of the Worlds - A load of links and chronology of other WotW broadcasts.

The full transcript of the 1938 broadcast can be found here or here.

And to close, I can't think of any words better than those spoken by Welles himself at the conclusion of the broadcast:

So goodbye everybody, and remember the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody's there, that was no Martian. . .it's Halloween.


-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Buckshot: Eye of the Tiger


This popped up as a surprise outtake following this past Thursday's episode of Supernatural. It is without a doubt some of the most hysterical 76 seconds you'll ever see.



-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

TPH: Make Your Case (Part 1) & The Hoedown Moves!


The Political Hoedown

Some of you might have noticed the Hoedown hasn't been posted in a few days. Well, it's leaving these shores, though I'm not leaving the Den. I'm proud to present the all-new, yet-still-the-same Political Hoedown. With its own site, I can post daily without clogging up the Den's main page. There will still be TPH posts here, important ones, but the bulk won't be linked directly.

So add
The Political Hoedown to your bookmarks. It's all the same exemplary political coverage, but now even moreso.

Onward! The following are the first of six posts aiming to convince you to vote one way or another. Following this round, we'll have another case for each candidate, as well as one against McCain.

Serving Democracy: The Case for Barack Obama by the Carolinian

Spelling Disaster: The Case Against Barack Obama by L.O.G.

The Limitless American Dream: The Case for John McCain by Erik M. Held


Be sure to check out all of the Political Hoedown's new site. There have been posts you may no nothing about! As usual, no registration is required to comment, and we appreciated any and all feedback.

Thanks for your continued support!


-Hooper

Read on, faithful few!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

TPH: The Final Debate (Dun dun duuuuuun!!!)


The Political Hoedown
The Sit-Down Debate (#3)


Forced to share the a table, John McCain and Barack Obama faced off in an uncaged verbal death match last night at Hofstra University. Moderating was the elderly, but deft Bob Schieffer of CBS, probably the best moderator we've seen this political season. The questions cut to the quick on many issues, were not softballs and prompted intense back-and-forths unlike anything we've seen in the previous 2008 Presidential debates.

Not that it was really that exciting.


***

Obama still monotoned his way through most answers, sticking to the stump speech talking points, using the phrase "middle class" about as often as he could and, if the opportunity arose, getting in some quick jabs or "nuh uhs!" to block McCain's attacks. On the issues, he was able to give a broad, appealing answer for any Health Care questions without really getting into the nuts and bolts of the matter. It was probably his best response, but certainly he did not show a complete mastery of all domestic matters.

On education, a key issue for any parent or potential parent, he said nothing. Oh, he said a lot of words, but they boiled down to an ignorance of the underlying problems and a desire to increase funding at a federal level without holding states at all accountable for the money they currently spend from their own coffers, much less the federal dollars. When the talk turned to vouchers in District of Columbia public schools, he agreed with McCain that they worked, then said he wanted to move away from them because there weren't enough available.

If something works in a pilot program, you usually expand, rather than eliminate, the specifics of the program. That leap in logic, pretty small, eluded Obama and I'm sure McCain is hoping this resonates particularly with urban parents who see their schools deteriorating and want another option.

Taken overall, it was another bland performance, or as the punditry says, "reassuring." He might be black, in other words, but he's not gonna steal your Jeep's spare tire. Smooth move, media.

But this wasn't about Obama. The last two debates haven't been. He has proven that he can give reasoned answers to questions, regardless of their origin (read: stump speeches), and that he can "look" presidential. It is known he is a good speaker, able to portray his ideas in a way that most can understand, even if nuts-and-bolts workings aren't overtly discussed. He has done very well in these debates, because there wasn't a very high standard he had to reach. Provided he didn't ramble like Kerry or act peevish like Gore or wild-eyed and hostile like Hillary, he had it in the bag.

Could you sit for 90 minutes and act respectable? Exactly. Not a lot of pressure was placed on him to present specifics on all of his plans, how they differ from McCain's (they are both very close on education and energy with only a few, though key, differences), how bipartisan they are or can be. Nor was he really pressed about his past legislative experience. He had to show up, not look like a clown and, three even-if-unexciting debates later, no big shoes or red, honking nose.

***

For all he was expected to do, McCain both hit the mark and wildly missed it. His two biggest missteps were Health Care and Obama's associations. There are enough circumstantial links between ACORN, Ayers and Obama to keep the latter flummoxed and without enough time to answer everything, but McCain only scratched the surface, trying to keep things above board (as his was considered the more negative campaign going into the debate).

On Health Care, his plan looks more complicated, but below the surface turns out to be a savings for the regular consumer and a "hand up" type proposal; he did not let people know Obama's was more hand out than not, and that simple in appearance, it was a mess when you get into it (a little partisan, I apologize, but I'm very concerned about health care costs long-term). Another prime opportunity to back Obama against the wall and he didn't take it.

True, the format - only 90 minutes with supposedly only 10 minutes per topic - limits the sort of true back-and-forth we need on these issues. For a candidate coming from behind, they either need a stellar quip that rocks their opponent back on their heels, or a mini-speech that effectively outlines a proposal while showing its merits versus the other guy's. McCain constantly needed more time to make his case now that he's realized there are three weeks left, his campaign staff led him astray for months and if he wants to even lose with dignity, he needs to make up at least four points in the polls and about fifty electoral college votes.

Sounds pessimistic, but as I mentioned when talking about Obama, McCain scored big on education. In the past, he's talked about the Department of Education in less-than-fond terms, even supporting its elimination. Right now, states provide the bulk of education funding for their states, though the Federal Government also chips in. A lot of money is thrown at education, but it's inexpertly applied. We're lagging in worldwide education standing because we can't add up the numbers we're spending on it, to paraphrase a joke my wife told me. McCain made it clear that he would aggressively attack education funding to cut the wheat from the chaff, make schools accountable, increase charter schools (which work) and vouchers (which also work, but aren't out of test districts yet). It's classic conservative policy - lean, efficient funding that gets the job done right, instead of a bloated budget (to be increased more under Obama) so big it's bound to hit the right beat every now and again.

And that leads in to McCain's key - and potentially game-changing - victory for the night. Spending & the Government. He emphasized time and again that he was for reduced government spending, spending freezes coupled with a "scrubbing" of every department of government to rid them of waste and lower taxes for everyone. Saying the corporate tax should be lowered was a gamble, and an open invitation to Obama to bring up Exxon and other oil companies that would benefit (McCain never in the debates reminded Americans that more than oil companies are corporations and will benefit from such a cut, as will your pocketbook), but it got the idea out there and gave him another stump speech talking point. Obama repeatedly mentioned that we needed to invest in this or that program, code for increased government spending.

By reigniting, even at this stage, the idea of a tax-and-spend Democrat running deficits up and mortgaging our children's future, McCain can avoid character assassination as the driving strategy. Here, domestically, is where they differ. Can McCain drive that stake into the Obama's campaign and make it stick? That's the big question.

***

The line that sticks in everyone's mind? John McCain said, "I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago." It effectively stopped the "Bush III" or Bush/McCain bit Obama's been throwing around, and opened the door for McCain to attack Obama on never opposing his party (to which Barack failed utterly to present a time he did think for himself. The tort reform bill? 40% of Senate Democrats supported it. Hardly breaking with your party).

Does the winning sound bite mean he won? For that accurate hit that line landed, it did not make up for Obama's measured, cool, almost detached approach to answering questions. McCain was hopped up on crack for most of last night, full of energy, overflowing with talking points, righteous indignation and hope for victory. It, unfortunately, did not come through that way in the split screen, the big judge of debater's success, i.e. reaction shots.

So I can't say that McCain won based on his performance. Reading the transcript, I can't honestly say Obama won, since he repeated himself for the third time in a row. No change, no deviation, no off-the-cuff explanations of programs. Even McCain's answers seem run through with too much excitement, throwing him off track at times. He dominated for a third, went off the rails and missed opportunities, but then came back to finish strong. I think it was his best showing. Obama's best was last week, and here he appeared peevish, annoyed that he had to sit next to this old coot, and uninterested in really diving into the discussion. But he also appeared more focused for the balance of the night, and that might have won him the election right there.

***

Obama and McCain have been campaigning since early 2007 at this point. We know where they stand and the depth of their stances. By now, if you don't know a particular policy - unrelated to the bailout or economic correction/crisis/collapse - that's not the candidate's fault. Through writing, speeches, debates and surrogate interviews they have articulated exactly what they think about taxes, health care, Iraq, Iran, education, abortion, etc.

Last night's debate reminded us that for the first half of 2007 and 2008, John McCain led in national head-to-head polls. He's passionate, driven, focused on reform in government and changing course from what was promised in the Bush Administration to what we ended up with. Yesterday we also understood, yet again, why Barack Obama is a Democratic golden child, a leader and mouthpiece for his party, the true victor of the primaries and the driving force behind every political discussion in the latter half of the year.

Who is John McCain? Who is Barack Obama? What do they stand for and do I know more last night than I did yesterday morning?

I hope the debate came close to answering those questions. It was important, somewhat boring at times yet crackling with electricity at others.

***

We vote two weeks from next Tuesday. Not much time to make up your minds. We will be presenting cases for and against each candidates to help you if you're on the fence or give you talking points if you're not.

If you want to participate, send me an e-mail at denofmystery@gmail.com or, if you're on the distribution list, reply and let me know what you think.

A bit of humor: when interacting with the crowd at the end, McCain sort of waved his hands at one guy and did a little Gene Simmons' impression, over and done in a second. Well, someone had their camera ready:



God bless him, but that is not a flattering picture.

But Obama has looked...goofy, to say the least, including in this shot, at the first really featuring Joe Biden:



I don't know what to say that wouldn't be offensive. I...guess that means I'm going to hell.

-Hooper

Read on, faithful few!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Buckshot: Through the Lens of Nostalgia

Sometimes I read comments on the interwebs wherein a person watched a film they loved in their youth, only to realize in hindsight that it's not very good. Well, it's happened to me. On Sunday afternoon, I popped this in, thinking I was about to dazzle Mrs. Buck with my taste in films, and shine a light on one of those forgotten gems of the '80s: Red Dawn.


Man. That film has not aged well. Don't get me wrong, I'll always love the hell out of this movie, but for all the wrong reasons. It's definitely a guilty pleasure, and I'm kind of glad I don't have it in the collection. It's better-suited as one to rent and revisit every few years.

PROS:
Powers Boothe's much-needed gravitas
Harry Dean Stanton's melodramatic cameo ("Avenge me, boys! Aveeeeeeeenge meeeeee!")
C. Thomas Howell's goofy, Lord of the Flies-esque transformation

CONS:
Most of the line deliveries from the kids (although Swayze and Sheen come out all right for the most part)
The Yakov Smirnoff look-alike Soviet commander
The...ah, screw it. It's still a great movie!


Wolverines!


-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Meet the Press: January 22, 2006


Tim Russert interviewed Barack Obama in January 2006, covering a variety of subjects including 2008 campaign possibilities.

***

MR. RUSSERT: But there seems to be an evolution in your thinking. This is what you told the Chicago Tribune last month: “Have you ruled out running for another office before your term is up?” Obama answer: “It’s not something I anticipate doing.” But when we talked back in November of ‘04 after your election I said, “There’s been enormous speculation about your political future. Will you serve your six-year term as United States senator from Illinois?” Obama: “Absolutely.”

SEN. OBAMA: I will serve out my full six-year term. You know, Tim, if you get asked enough, sooner or later you get weary and you start looking for new ways of saying things. But my thinking has not changed.

MR. RUSSERT: So you will not run for president or vice president in 2008?

SEN. OBAMA: I will not.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator, thank you very much for your candor and for joining us and sharing your views.


***

Read the full interview here.

-Hooper

Read on, faithful few!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

TPH: Can I respond? Pleeeaase?!? (Debate #2)


The Political Hoedown
The Town Hall Presidential Debate

Wouldn't it have been neat if they could've actually done the town hall debate in a town hall instead of another cheaply built, blue felt stage? I think so.

I also think it's very hard to watch these two debate. McCain obviously dislikes Obama, finds him repellent on a number of issues and morally questionable. Obama, on the other hand, thinks McCain = Bush and that Bush = Misguided and Evil so....

Tom Brokaw moderated at Belmont University in Nashville, TN. Could've been worse, but it wasn't terrific, let me tell you.

Deep breath, people. Here we go. I promise to be quick.


***

The night started very well for John McCain, since Barack Obama didn't even thank him for being there, a standard courtesy. In their first economic go around, McCain had decidedly more "original" content in his answer than Obama's bland stump speech cannibalization. In fact, we were introduced to what could have been (and sort of was) a too-repeated Obama phrase, like McCain with maverick: middle class.

That's right, Obama let you know, America, then he believes there is such a thing as the "middle class." Class. McCain referred to this strata of citizens as "middle income," a key distinction. Republicans start culture wars, but Democrats thrive on class warfare. This set the tone for much of the economic and domestic back-and-forth. While McCain hammered down his various tax and health care policies (on the latter, not as effectively as he might've), Obama insisted it was all to benefit the upper class in the country, not you, the...middle class.

It doesn't matter than 2/3 of corporate tax cuts benefit the workers directly in bonus, incentive and wage increases, or that the last President to raise taxes on anyone during a recession-leading-to-depression was Herbert Hoover. But it's hard to say that (and McCain tried with the latter) without sounding angry and crotchety, and McCain already has enough issues with that. Obama had to rest on his laurels last night, his staid, tried and true method of cheerleading his tax policy, and that's tying the cuts under the Bush Administration to McCain (though he voted against them).

***

Let's be quick about Tom Brokaw. He wasn't a bad moderator, and would've been decent for a standard debate, but he put too many of his own questions in the mix. What he was good at was slapping Obama down each time he ran over his limit or tried to get the last word in after good McCain jabs. It was inappropriate for Obama to, acting like a brat, interrupt Brokaw or McCain (Can I respond? Can I? I need to!) just because he felt he'd gotten the bad end of a question.

!!Commentary!! The media won't pick up on it or criticize him for this, because it'd show he isn't cool under pressure, can't practice proper decorum and just doesn't look presidential at all times. !!Commentary!!

***

*Bush + McCain = Answer for Obama
*Obama's Inexperience + My Record = McCain's Responses
*Fannie Mae + Obama = McCain Attack Strategy
*Deregulation + McCain = Obama's Sharp Retorts

There are many formulas like those, used broadly over the last and this debate. Obama really went after every economic turn by McCain as an attack on the middle class by dint of being pro-business and pro-across-the-board tax cuts. On foreign policy, McCain is hammering the line that Obama doesn't have the wherewithal to be commander-in-chief, the experience, the judgement. Their attacks against the other weren't as pointed as their VPs made in their debate, as the mood of the country has turned from that thinking and what's less hostility and more solutions.

The one spot where McCain came out clearly ahead and didn't lose even after Obama spoke was on energy and climate change. He made the case that he stood against Bush, that he toured the world seeing the effects of global warming and that he had a solution - which he spelled out - for what to do. Obama agreed with McCain and restated McCain's solution in his own words, to sound different, added a few canned points as an afterthought. In a time-tested method, Obama used bigger numbers (5 million new jobs with green tech, he said, vs. McCain's hundreds of thousands) to try and seem like his version of the same was shinier, better. But it was the same answer.

To be perfectly fair, the biggest score for Obama came when he brought up the "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran" jingle McCain sang with a group of vet buddies (to the tune of the Beach Boys' Barbara Ann) and talked about McCain's "annihilate North Korea" comment (I can't find a direct quote). It started with a compliment to McCain, to which McCain laughed and said "Thank you," but turned on a dime into a direct attack. Obama knew he had the Arizonan by the short ones, McCain knew it and probably anyone who reads an editorial by a center/center-left writer knows it, too. The purpose is clear: McCain is hardly even-tempered or a cool hand at the tiller, but a reckless man. Will it work, or do people want a little saltiness in their commander-in-chief and President?

To ramble on about each topic would take up too much of your time. Find the transcript if you want fuller quotes. I will talk briefly about health care and what was left unsaid.

***

Health care is a huge issue, one that will be at the centerpiece of the next debate. McCain can turn opinion toward him if he drives home a broad, solid domestic agenda that touches on health care, entitlement spending and education, coupled with an economic life preserver. But last night, that first issue wasn't really handled all that well - by either.

Obama spoke about his plan, which includes you keeping your policy if you like it, going after insurance giants to lower premiums and offering a buy-in to the federal insurance package government employees get for the uninsured, though he didn't mention any of his penalties or mandates, which do exist, and how this would increase the government's participation in the process.

At his turn, McCain glossed over any tax on employers' health care plans, a key attack-point by Obama, but did stress the $5,000 deductible credit offered towards insurance, allowing people to supplement, compliment or replace their current coverage. He also talked about state insurance regulation and how he'd do away with it so insurance companies will be forced to compete across state lines, something controversial, but theoretically promising.

So what's the net gain here? Both have policies that read very well for the average income American, but each has hidden clauses, and we're left until next week (or a search on Wikipedia) to find out what they are. I wasn't satisfied with Obama's answer, because he denied what he was offering was really a massive expansion of government spending and insurance interaction, and when has increased government in our personal lives every been that good? God love him, but McCain didn't defend the tax portion of his plan, which is a new revenue stream, and why it netted out ahead for the consumer (if it did).

So that was a failing that needs to be addressed next week.

***

Where do they turn now?

According to Gallup, McCain is down 11 points (52 vs 41). Look at Rasmussen, and the situation is a little better (51 v 45) and Zogby is even rosier (47 v 45), but RCP's average has Obama up well over five points.

"Despair" is the word I use when talking to McCain supporters. Obama has a dozen days of positive polling numbers and a terrific spread for most of that. Coming back, it's climbing uphill while greased up, drunk and chained to a few ranting partisans.

McCain didn't mention William Ayres, unrepentant radical/domestic terrorist, radical Rev. Jeremiah Wright or Tony Rezko, the unholy trinity in Obama's past. If he is sincere about winning, he has to swallow his ethical objections and start telling America that not only is Obama inexperienced, he has past associations (not including the Fannie Mae tie) that should preclude him from the Oval Office, dangerous associations with people whose views are not only out-of-step with "middle America," but even most liberals.

Sarah Palin has been going after the Obama-Ayers connection, and the media is slowly picking up on it. Watch this topic.

Comfortably in the lead, at least a few points outside the margin of error in polls, Obama needs to play defense and limit his negativity. Barring any "October surprise" regarding terrorism (or massive, Republican-backed economic recovery), Obama can rest easily knowing that he doesn't have anything to do him active damage beyond his control. Bringing up the Keating Five scandal won't help him, because McCain has been relatively forthwith about it. With the proper ad campaign, tailored to link Bush and McCain even more, while stressing his economic plan, the odds are stacked for him to walk away with a bigger victory than Bush in 2004.

***

Next Wednesday is the final debate, another standard podium affair. It'll cover domestic issues and the economy, so look for fireworks and hard proposals.

I'll be back before then if there's a reason.

By the by, if anyone out there wants to write "The Case for Obama," let me know. I'd like a last-week binge of opinion, including pieces pro-Obama as well as McCain.

-Hooper

Read on, faithful few!

Buckshot: Weekend in Review

Ideally, this would have been posted Sunday night, or sometime Monday. Why wasn't it? Shut up! That's why.

But do click through for some pretty pictures, if nothing else.

***************************************

Friday
Friday night saw Mrs. Buck and I making the trek to the annual Loudonville Street Fair.

Loudonville is a small town south of the not-much-larger town of Ashland, which we used to call home. So the Street Fair is something of a tradition for us. We indulged in fair food, and I maintained my streak of not visiting an event in that area without partaking of the delectable fried Swiss cheese on a stick (trust me, it's even better than it sounds). But what did mine eyes behold as we wandered amongst the food vendors?


That's right, dear readers. Gator on a stick. I was skeptical at first, especially of the price: $8.00. But a friend offered to go halvsies on the basis of when are we going to run across another opportunity to eat gator on a stick? I could not pass it up.


And there it is, in all its glory. (Sorry for the blurriness.) The verdict? Tastes like chicken, except it was a little gamey. But the cajun spices it was deep-fried in made up for it. We declared the experiment a resounding success.

A few more pictures from the evening:


Again, the new camera phone, while very nice, does not take excellent night-time pictures. (That's a street lined with old tractors.)

This was on the "doodle board" in the building that was showcasing 4-H artwork. C'mon, conservatives! Sarah's a biblical name, for crying out loud! You're embarrassing the baby Jesus. (Oddly enough, Barack Obama's name was spelled correctly in the two places it appeared on the board.)

***************************************

Saturday

Saturday morning, I visited two local libraries for book sales, which were very productive. I picked up 9 books and a DVD for $5.50.

Beyond that, we didn't do much besides hitting up the new Sonic drive-in in Streetsboro for lunch. And Saturday evening, at Mrs. Buck's request, we watched this:


Verdict: Not nearly as bad as I'd expected. Not that I plan to run out and watch the entire series, but it certainly wasn't the 2.5 hours of Hell I'd anticipated.

***************************************

Sunday

Sunday we drove up to the Bedford Reservation in the Cleveland Metroparks for a walk around the Bridal Veil Falls. Some photos for your enjoyment:

Tinkers Creek Road is one of my favorites among the interesting road names you stumble upon in Northeast Ohio. Other favorites include Gore Orphanage Road and Lost Nation Road.



-Buck

Read on, faithful few!