Thursday, February 28, 2008

Buckshot: Lo, there shall be a movie marathon!

This past Saturday, my friend Ben and I each ponied up the $30 and made the trek to Easton Town Center in Columbus to attend the AMC Theaters Best Picture Showcase. 12 hours, 5 films. We started at 11am with Michael Clayton, and No Country For Old Men wrapped up just after 11pm. Obviously, at this point we know which of these films walked away with awards, but I still wanted to do a recap of the day.

I thought about taking a camera with me, but decided against it in the end. I do have a couple shots of the swanky pass they gave everyone. I thought the little mini-posters were a neat touch. Apologies for the fuzziness of the second photo. I couldn’t get it to focus properly, but you get the idea.

Michael Clayton

Tom Wilkinson kicks this one off with a fantastic monologue that made me want to hand him an Oscar based on that alone. He’s great, as is Clooney. The film is really a slow burn, culminating in a crowd-pleaser of an ending that made it a great choice to start the day. This is the first thing I’ve seen Tony Gilroy do aside from writing the Bourne films, and I’m eager to see what he brings us in the future. B+

Brief break for bathroom and popcorn. A nerdy theater employee named Jared welcomes everyone and asks a couple of Oscar trivia questions. It’s rather poorly thought-out though, as people simply shout out their answers. Winners get some manner of prize package. I don’t know what was in those. The two they gave away later in the day were a Juno mug and the Atonement novel. There's a reporter from The Columbus Dispatch talking to a group of guys behind us from Dayton. She asks if she can check in with them after each movie to get their opinions on how the day is going. After hearing one of the boneheaded comments one makes following There Will Be Blood, I decide she's interviewing the wrong people.

1:20 PM
There Will Be Blood

Daniel Day-Lewis deserved that Oscar. The film is an interesting one. I know I liked it, but I can’t decide if it was solely due to Day-Lewis’ performance or not. Either way, I find myself thinking about it a lot, and visiting this site to read discussion threads about some of the more interesting elements of the film. Technically, it’s quite an achievement, and while I don’t think it will end up in my collection, I will definitely be watching it again in the future. A-

Break. As we exit the theater, Ben points to the man who's been sitting two seats down from him and declares, "I hate that guy." Who, the big, somewhat effeminate man who's showing off his movie-buff pretentiousness to the group he's with? The one who's seen all 5 of these movies already, but decided to spend $30 to show his friends (and everyone in the immediate vicinity) he knows how great they are? Can't imagine why you'd hate him.

We hustle down to the small food court downstairs and must decide: Sbarro or Panda Express? We both really want Panda Express, but decide pizza and breadsticks would probably be easier to eat in a darkened theater. Naturally, others sitting near us purchase Panda Express, and the glorious aroma of cheap Chinese food mocks us.


This was the one film out of these five that, if I were adding to my Blockbuster queue, I probably would have skipped. British period romances are a hard sell with me. But I’m glad I got to see it, as I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. The first twenty minutes or so are quite funny, with a comedy of errors and miscommunication that we weren’t expecting. And then the movie switches to drama. It’s well-done, and the much-talked about 5 ½-minute tracking shot of the evacuation of Dunkirk during WWII is nothing short of breathtaking. Still, despite good performances from McAvoy, Knightley, and Saoirse Ronan as the younger Briony, kind of a down ending. Definitely time for a comedy. B+

Break for popcorn and soda. I briefly consider a beer, but decide it would probably taste like ass when coupled with the popcorn, and I desperately need something salty after gorging on Twizzlers and Whoppers. We've also been treated to the same "Before they were stars" pre-show trivia before every movie.

Did you know that:

* Sandra Bullock lived in Germany until she was 12?

* Meryl Streep was almost a lawyer, but overslept and missed her law school interview?

* Marilyn Monroe was an avid reader, leaving behind a library of hundreds of books?


Given the quickness of the dialogue and obscure nature of some of the references, it was like a weird hybrid of Arrested Development and Gilmore Girls. Very funny, though. Ellen Page was great, and I absolutely loved J.K. Simmons as her father. There’s really no weak link in the cast, and I’ll give Diablo Cody credit for not making it completely predictable. There are some touches thrown in with the prospective adoptive parents of Juno’s baby that I didn’t see coming. But in the end, was it Best Picture worthy? I don't think so. There were other films that were, frankly, better. David Fincher's Zodiac or American Gangster, or maybe Once, for instance (Seriously, if you haven't seen Once, go out and rent it. A terrific little film). And while I haven't seen them yet, the buzz around The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, La Vie En Rose, and Into the Wild made me surprised they weren't nominated in this category. That's not meant as a slight to Juno though, because it's a great little movie. Heck, it's the only one of the night that got applause at the end, though I think that was mostly because we’d all been so depressed after Atonement. A-

Last bathroom break before the Coens have a chance to redeem themselves after The Ladykillers. In line for a soda refill, I bounce on my heels to maintain bloodflow in my legs. I ask Ben, "Can you feel it yet?" He responds, "You mean the fact that we've spent the entire day sitting on our asses, literally doing nothing?" "Pretty much." Surprisingly, our butts are not numb. Kudos on the comfortable seats, AMC!

No Country For Old Men

What to say that hasn’t been said already? It’s a great film. So many people complain about the abruptness of the ending, but it makes perfect sense. Especially if you actually listened to Tommy Lee Jones’ opening narration. The ending dovetails that perfectly. What more did you people want? Everyone involved is great. Jones gives a great world-weary performance, and I was disappointed that Josh Brolin wasn’t nominated, as his performance drives much of the film. And, of course, Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh, one of the best screen villains to come along in a long time. A great way to end the evening. A

We finish out the night with a run through the McDonald's drive-thru to get some food in our stomachs that isn't popcorn or pure sugar. I declare No Country my favorite of the night, with Michael Clayton a close second. Ben decides he liked There Will Be Blood the most, because of the third-act insanity. Naturally, part of the drive home consists of us coming up with wacky variations on the "I drink your milkshake!" line.

And that's a wrap!


Read on, faithful few!

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Hooplah: He's more Obama now than man, idealistic and hopeful.

Great friend and political duelist Matthew Saniie, who single-handedly wrangled a quarter of Iowa's caucus-age teens, has a presence on the Interwebs! Support his blissful ideology and send him a message, letting him know that his time in the LoneStar State isn't for naught.

Then tell him to get crackin' on that policy.


Read on, faithful few!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Buckshot: Last-Minute Oscar Picks

Updated with winners and comments.

The Academy Awards are just over 3 hours away, so I'll be brief. But after yesterday's "5 movies in 12 hours" marathon viewing in which I saw all 5 Best Picture contenders, I wanted to throw something up. I still haven't seen every film that's been nominated in the acting categories, but these are my picks. I'll do a longer post about the event, possibly tomorrow.

I'm going to do the 6 key categories: Actor/Actress, Supporting Actor/Actress, Director, and Film. My picks were in bold, the winners are in red.

Best Supporting Actor:
Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford)
Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Charlie Wilson's War)
Hal Holbrook (Into the Wild)
Tom Wilkenson (Michael Clayton)

I'm 1-1 so far.

Best Supporting Actress:
Cate Blanchett (I'm Not There)
Ruby Dee (American Gangster)
Saoirse Ronan (Atonement)
Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone)
Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton)

Ruby Dee was great, but I can see why Swinton won.

Best Actress:
Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth: The Golden Age)
Julie Christie (Away From Her)
Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose)
Laura Linney (The Savages)
Ellen Page (Juno)

I'll admit that Page was a shot in the dark for me. She was the only one in this category I'd actually seen, so I kind of had to pick her. That's not to say that she didn't do a good job. She was great in Juno.

Best Actor:
George Clooney (Michael Clayton)
Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood)
Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)
Tommy Lee Jones (In The Valley of Elah)
Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises)

The smart money was on Daniel Day-Lewis, and he was great as Daniel Plainview, but I just don't think I enjoyed him as much in There Will Be Blood as I did in Gangs of New York. So I went with the potential upset with Clooney, who gave a great understated performance.

Best Director:
Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood)
Joel & Ethan Coen (No Country For Old Men)
Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton)
Jason Reitman (Juno)
Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)

I'm 2-5 at this point.

Best Picture:
Michael Clayton
There Will Be Blood
No Country For Old Men

So I ended up batting .500 on my picks. While I didn't do picks for every category, I was glad to see Ratatouille take Best Animated Feature and "Falling Slowly" from Once take Best Original Song. It was also nice to see the Coens chalk up another one with Best Adapted Screenplay and Diablo Cody get Best Original Screenplay for Juno.

Even though the awards have been given out, I still think I'll do something tonight or tomorrow recapping the marathon viewing of Saturday with mini reviews for each film.


Read on, faithful few!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Buckshot: "Curse you, Richards!"

More of an update, a preview of things to come, if you will. But I swear there's more Buckshot in your future. I hope to get something more concrete up by the end of the weekend.

Here's what's coming down the line:

* As the above image indicates, we've got something Doom-related on the horizon. Namely a collection of Dr. Doom-inspired quips from Hooper and myself. We've been e-mailing them back and forth to each other all week, and I'm going to collect them in a column.

* A recap of tomorrow's Best Picture Showcase, along with my Oscar predictions. (Yes, I realize that I'll only get my predictions up a few hours before the actual telecast, but what can you do? I didn't schedule the flippin' event.)

* I might, should the mood strike me, share with you all a piece I'm writing for one of my graduate courses; one that recounts a journey deep into the no man's land that exists beneath one of America's unassuming, red-bricked universities.

Until then!


Read on, faithful few!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"Hillary, these aren't the delegates you're looking for...."

The Political "Brief"
Obamamentum tramples Hillary, McCain continues to slap Huckabee

When discussing last night's Wisconsin primary with M. Hunter Griffin, reviewer for Time Out Chicago, I made a prediction that I'll repeat here: if Hillary loses by more than 10 points in WI, she loses overall. Now I know she didn't fully compete in WI, that she has been focused on Ohio and Texas since the Chesapeake disaster, but there is still, demographically, strong support for her in WI. Not enough for her to win, I argued, but enough to keep it closer than not, and if she did lose big, it would mean her base voters - blue collar, women, low-income - were abandoning her.

I consider the returns to be damning for the carpetbagger Senator from New York. With his stunning victories in WI and Hawaii, Obama has captured TEN victories in a row. Arguments can be made for caucuses going his way, for large blocks of blacks, for Hawaii being his homestate, but that doesn't explain Maryland or Wisconsin. It doesn't explain why Virginia was such a catastrophic loss for Hillary, not entirely. Her support is slowly eroding, even as senior party officials wring their hands at their choice's fading numbers.

March 4th: mark that on your calendar. It will be the day Hillarious Clinton sees Obama mercilessly beat her campaign to death. She will win Ohio, if the poll numbers hold, but will lose Texas in the delegate battle. Her supporters there are latino, and they haven't voted as much in the last two primaries as Obama's key racial demographic, blacks. See, this is how Texas awards delegates to districts, based on voter turnout in the previous two primaries. The Texas Democratic party basically rewards voter turnout, regardless of population. If it were up to raw popular vote numbers, I'd say Hillary has a stronger chance, but she doesn't.

What follows is a little opinion, a small amount of sympathy for what Hillary's no doubt thinking, and a brief departure from the tenuous grip on balance I've tried to maintain.

Her only saving grace is hammering to the voters her record of, you know, doing stuff. Obama, some argue, has been running for President since he was first elected to the Illinois state house. He'll have been a US Senator for less than a full term, introducing no major legislation, campaigning on rhetoric and the ephemeral "hope" platform where concrete successes are absent. I know his supporters argue otherwise, that he is the fresh voice we need, that his experiences trump Hillary's experience, but dreams need anchors in reality. MLK marched for his dreams, he forced awareness and created beachheads in the greater public consciousness of civil rights absence or abuse. Obama is no MLK; his speeches, filled with amazing control and excellent pacing, are more examples of how to give a great speech than provide a concrete foundation for change. This is where I'll agree with Hillary that we need a candidate with solutions, not speeches. Great success begins with expansive vision; it moves from conception to reality by hard work and intelligence and laying out that elusive roadmap. I've listend to Obama and read his press and have yet to see that roadmap, or a glimmer of it.

Okay, I got that out.

Michelle Obama also claimes that now is the only time she has ever being proud of America, or being an American. One of the two. So, 44 years living here, and now that she and Barack are famous, it's all good? If you guessed she's being ripped apart by the Clintons, McCain, talk radio and pundits, you'd be right.


McCain beat Huckabee, surprise surprise.

If Huckabee stays in after the (eventual) McCain victories on March 4th, know this: he does not want to be VP - he's trying to be a third party candidate. He claims he is in for principle, for ideas, not ego. Does that mean he is gathering "conservative" support around him for an eventual schism in the Republican party? Maybe. I think he is shaping himself into a leader of the "true" Right, while Romney is wisely supporting McCain and realizing that fomenting a major split in the (R)s damages any chance they have of winning this Fall.


If something politically noteworthy happens, I'll post a bit. If not, I'll see you March 3rd.


Read on, faithful few!

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Hooplah: iRant

SUBMIT to iLIFE: Bliss Through Acquiescence

Apple is making me nervous. The brilliant folks at the pirate computer company have keelhauled the souls of millions!

All right, perhaps it’s not as bad as that. Apple makes fine products in its two key lines, computers and portable media devices [iPhone inclusive]. Their computers are arguably the best for graphics work, ease of interface and reliability (even if they lack some of the functionality of a PC). I've been tossing around the idea for a while now of getting one, if just for the space considerations. I've friends and family with the machines, and they are quite happy with their purchases.

These same people also have iPods, those fancy little numbers in stylish colors, rounded and sleek. They are part of a horde of consumers who have made the iPod one of the most successful product launches ever. Stores run out, people line up, they lose the iPod and buy a new one heedless of cost. If crack had a headphone jack and a thumbwheel, it would be something like this.

There is a level of addiction to this product that I have rarely seen in my own frenzied consumerism. The only computer-linked item that has grappled onto the public so quickly is Blizzard's World of Warcraft, at 7 million customers worldwide and counting, the juggernaut and new standard of online massive multiplayer RPGs (before, subscriptions in the hundreds of thousands was considered good; Blizzard past that after some three months). But even that people quit.

People just can't quit those iPods, though. A former co-worker of mine loves to espouse the benefits of the iPod and the iLife it engenders. Recently, her iPod ran out of batteries…and though that happens in all electronic devices, iPods of her generation cannot be given new life with new batteries. Once they crap out, they're buried. Were I the consumer in her shoes, I'd be upset. After all, I paid several hundred dollars on this thing, expecting a good life at least equal to my Discman (thank you, Sony, for not messing that up like your batteries; it's still going strong after 14 years), and four years in it says, "Goodbye"? That dog won't hunt, monseigneur.

She decided to buy a new iPod, my co-worker. When? At lunch. It ran out of batteries in the morning and by lunch she intends to have it replaced so that by this time tomorrow it will be fully armed and operational. If she could, she would run back to her apartment and load it up before the work day was out so, when commuting home, she wouldn’t have to listen to the drone of fellow "el" passengers or the clank of the tracks. And she is not alone in her obsession with the little device. It's become, if not a status symbol like a fancy car or a big house, then a social symbol. Do you have an iPod? Are you one of us?

To call them pod people would be too obvious, and iLife is too cute, but also eerily close to what's happening, beginning with these things. It's almost as if, while listening to your favorite playlist, a subtle addiction is formed in the back of your mind. You have to have your iPod, lest you feel cold and alone. It comforts you whenever it’s around, like a security blanket, and like a child you do get upset and flustered when you don't have it handy. You'll do anything, spend any price, to make sure it is always a part of your life. Buy the car adapter, so it broadcasts on a very localized station. Make sure to have the waterproof case so when you head to the beach, it won't get damaged. Leave a charger at work and at home, in the car or at your parents' house; you never know when it'll need a little boost. Plug it into a one of a variety of port and speaker options at home, so it can function as your stereo, your alarm clock, the white noise in the background while you stare vacantly at the wall. Don't have a lot of money? Buy a Nano, which used to be a Mini (now discontinued). Have too much scratch? Try the iTouch, or wait a few months (if you can wait five minutes) for the iPhone to become available with your network. Feel your wallet lighten, your spirits plateau and your mind slowly tumble off a precipice.

This might all be a rant because I fear the demise of physical media distribution systems: CDs. The record is a novelty item, the 8-track a nearly forgotten bad dream, the tape a fondly remembered childhood item and now the CD: how soon until its head falls on the chopping block? I'm a fan of the CD, of the clever liner notes you can get and the case styles, the tactile quality of it all, knowing you own a thing instead of just nebulous bytes on a small harddrive.

Swap tapes when you were younger, or CDs more recently? I love the concept of trading music collections, and MP3s are as ready a format as CDs, but they take a little of the personality out of the equation, and perhaps that's more at the core of my problem with iPods. They insulate us against the outside world since, for many of the people who use them, they use them all the time. Between classes, on the train, in the elevator, on lunch breaks, jogging, shopping, relaxing at home: there isn't a function of the waking (or sleeping!) day that an iPod can't insinuate itself in. My co-worker put it best when she said it's a "way of life. Once you have an iPod, there's no going back." Her sentiments were echoed by the others in my cubicle area who also own iPods.

It’s a way of life. What does that mean about our society then, that we're captivated so by this small thing, this pocket-sized device that spews out our shuffled musical tastes in 3-minute helpings? People aren't killing people over the things, thank God; no, only clothing drives us to kill when fashion tastes are involved. But iPods are certainly creating distinctions in the American population, a thin, sleek line if you will, where you have one and you're One of Us or you don't, and then the others just pity you, trapped in your caveman-like past. Even the commercials show a lack of individuality, a sort of conform or die quality with the shadow shapes flailing about all the same, their iPods in common, letting us know this is how you find your group, your
self, your spot.

It's Apple we're talking about, not Microsoft, but why do I feel the former is being more sinister? I could be paranoid; the claim has been made before. But think to your friends who have the Objects: do they cherish it a bit too much, pat themselves on the back for owning it, shake their head that you don't own one, isolate themselves in its stereophonic cocoon whenever they get a chance (car ride, bus, train, bathroom, dinner, homework, work, nocturnal activities)? Is iLife the new way for America, a polished, sleek, uniformity that numbs us at the press of a button?

Ah, but all that sounds so serious. I have an iPod Nano (free) waiting for me at home, but I just haven't been able to bring myself to use it very often. I'm sure I will, though, if just for convenience, right? It's just a little old MP3 player. What's the harm in that? It's not like everyone in the US has an iPod variant.

Just one in six.


Read on, faithful few!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Buckshot - 2/14/08

So we're adding something here at The Den of Mystery. Hooper and I are starting our own columns, The Hooplah and Buckshot. (It's pretty easy to tell who their respective authors are.) These will be a sort of catch-all for us. Interesting links, random thoughts...basically whatever happens to be on our minds when we sit down to post them. Now without further ado, the first installment of Buckshot.

Now, sometimes this column will have a singluar focus (like the write-up I plan to do after going to the AMC Best Picture Showcase next Saturday), sometimes not. This is one of the not times.

  • The teaser trailer for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is finally online. May 22nd can't come soon enough.

  • I don't remember why I signed up for it, but I've been getting e-mail updates whenever Marvel Comics adds to their digital comics catalog. (They've been posting their substantial catalog of titles online.) This was in the most recent e-mail update:

"Long Run Focus: Amazing Spider-Man #1-100 When Peter Parker, the geeky teenager with the glasses and the scientific aspirations, transformed into Spider-Man—it stunned the pop culture world and anchored the advent of the Silver Age of comics. Plain and simple, these 100 comics are not only Marvel history, they're global history!"

Now, I won't deny the cultural impact Spider-Man has had on the world. 40+ years of publication, 3 grossly successful films, the list goes on. He's undoubtedly in the top five most globally recognized comic book characters. But a piece of global history? I think that's giving him a little too much credit. (Marvel is notorious for tooting their own horn.)

Let's try it...

"Indiana, we are simply passing through history. These Spider-Man comics...they are history.", I think it had more resonance when he was talking about the Ark of the Covenant. Sorry, Spidey.

  • Video: Alka-Seltzer in Microgravity. This is pretty slick.

  • As you know, the writers' strike is finally over. Many shows will resume production in the next few days. Some new shows like Chuck, Life, and Pushing Daisies, and a handful of established shows, such as Heroes will sit it out until the fall season. Sadly, 24 won't be back until January 2009. Here's some info on return dates for NBC and CBS. ABC, The CW and other networks haven't made their announcements yet. In the meantime, you can find all sorts of television news and reviews at TV Squad.

  • Variety has done a series of photos re-creating scenes from classic Hitchcock films with modern-day actors and actresses. I think the one with Seth Rogen doing the cropdusting scene from North by Northwest is my favorite.

  • Why do these bullet points show up as flowers?

Well, that will just about do it for the inaugural round of Buckshot. As always, comments are appreciated. Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day!


Read on, faithful few!

The Hooplah: Breakfast Thoughts

What about a Cthluhu/Indiana Jones crossover? Slashfic? My eggs are cold. On the plus side, the muffin top is crunchy. I really need to hook up my printer, or get a new one, at home. I can't believe the train has been late every day this week. Would I be able to pull off a turtleneck without a ski slope behind me? My eggs are still cold. The quantity of paper used in one business office is astounding. Snapple Facts are the only unknown bits of information in the suburban world. Rules are meant to be broken and laws bent, edicts will be suffered and decrees we lament. I cut my finger while making a sandwich and, afraid there might be blood in the sandwich, pretended it was the BBQ sauce I'd put on and watched American Idol on a full stomach. Cold eggs do not warm through the power of thought. Webster's Dictionary may some day have "Misc" as a word, since few can actually spell miscellany or miscellaneous, or know they exist. People who think noises don't exist when people aren't around to hear them, such as falling trees in forests, should remain mute if there's no one in the room to hear them. I finished my eggs anyway.


Read on, faithful few!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"You like delegates? Well how do you like THESE delegates!"

The Political "Brief"
Obama takes the reins while McCain slaps Huckabee around

Yesterday's Potomac/Chesapeake Primary (Maryland, Virginia, Washington DC) put Obama in command of the delegate count in a way no one can argue: pure and simple, he has won more competitive delegates than Hillary. Take Superdelegates into account, and Hillary might be in the lead. That is a big might. Last night, Obama proved his support surpasses race (though that was a huge factor in winning) by claiming victories in all major demographics save white women.

So what is Hillary to do...?
Sorry to say, she won't curl up and say die. This is going to be a prolonged battle, going at least another month if not more. Texas and Ohio loom large in the primary horizon. Despite Obama's string of victories, the successes themselves can be largely written off by the Clinton camp as a demographics battle (Did you know Obama is black? Black people now do, after being unsure for a while) and the "caucus argument." Due to his wild popularity with youth - and those strange feelings of hope and optimism engendered in many hearts - Obama is well-positioned to win any caucus, as the whole point is to persuade your fellow voter why you are right. And how better than with soaring rhetoric and mental bridges to the shining future?

So losing at those caucuses over the weekend is no great blow. Maryland is, Virginia not as much. Clinton still leads Obama 56% to 38% in Ohio as of a poll released today (Survey America? ABC? I forget), and taking error margins into account, she still trounces him. Texas looks thusly: 48% Hillary vs 38% Obama (Feb. 1). I'm sure these numbers will flex a little differently after this current round.

Clinton and Obama are exactly tied according to an average of the last twelve days of polling, with 44% apiece. Hawaii is coming up, but Obama was born there and has home field advantage.


McCain came away with victories across the board, and though close for a while in Virginia, was there ever any doubt? Huckabee remains in the to prove one of two points: "conservatives count!" or "I should be your VP." McCain is three hundred delegates (roughly) from the Nomination, and Huckabee - were he to win everything else - would come up very short. Unlike Romney, who knows he's not first choice for VP and that he had no chance winning after his poor Super Tuesday performance, Huckabee sees his victories last week and over the weekend as proof of his beliefs and electability. Really, this can also be chalked up to conservative backlash that's already fading.

While the Democratic party will face a brokered convention in August (unless someone drops out...), the Republicans look to have a nominee after the next three weeks of contests. That helps them immensely in fundraising and exposure; it also gives the nominee a break from the rigors of the primary season (let John go back to work for at least two days in a row!).


Washington and Wisconsin Primaries next Tuesday (19th), along with the (D) caucus in Hawaii (prediction: Mike Gravel from left field!).

Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont take place on March 4th, and Hillary absolutely has to win Ohio and Texas to remain viable. Ideally...this will all be over the evening of March 4th. Huckabee will be defeated, and some Democrat will pull ahead by more than a few dozen delegates (this would be Obama sustaining growth, or Hillary stepping up her campaign).


Read on, faithful few!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What do Jesus, Captain Marvel and He-Man have in common?

Why, the source of their powers! Can't say I've ever seen such a weird lightning strike picture.

Full Image after the jump.


Read on, faithful few!

Friday, February 8, 2008

"I'll chase him 'round the bayous of Louisiana and 'round the Chesapeake maelstrom and through Perdition's flame!"

The Political "Brief"
Super Tuesday Wrap-Up; The Race Moves On...

Pardon the delay, but I'm in the midst of bathroom renovation and...y' I wanted to get a far more detailed summary of what happened, but there's too much real stuff in the way. If I get requests (hah!), I'll post per candidate what their wins mean.

So onward and upward!


Barack Obama won the following states: Alaska , Alabama, Colorado, Conn., Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, N. Dakota, Utah

Hillary won the following: Arkansas, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee

New Mexico is still being processed.

Barack is a force, a Movement unto himself, but there's little more than hot air in his sails right now. Give him a chance to unwind some sound proposals, and he'll without a doubt beat Hillary. So long as she looks like the one more able to propose valid, liberal legislation and win in a tough election, he'll just be the untested JUNIOR senator from IL. Both are virtually tied in delegates.


The Republican side was a three-way tussle, but McCain still came out ahead.

McCain: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma

Romney: Colorado , Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota, Utah

Hucabkee: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, West Virginia

Huckabee kept Romney from a position of strength, splitting conservatives, and though he went far to proving it doesn't take money to buy states, it also proved him a regional candidate. Outside of the South, Huckabee is that funny-named Baptist guy who used to be a fatty. His support is purely based on being a Southern two-term governor. Romney is similar, and his wins have all along shown him to be a Western regional candidate, with his support stemming from a Mormon base, so much so that other candidates didn't really run around Utah at all. Mitt also won Michigan and Mass., but he was 1) from there and 2) governor, so if he lost, he lost.

McCain now has the unenviable job of proving to conservatives that he's not a patsy for the left, a liberal in Reagan's clothing. If remains to be seen if Romney and Huckabee will stump for McCain and seek to shore up that "right" that fractured this primary season.


Super Tuesday came and went, and the first casualty has been felt. Mitt Romney announced yesterday in a fiery speech that he was withdrawing. Hanging around in the race delayed the launch of a national campaign, John McCain's essentially, and in a time of war, he could not stand to do that. You can find his speech here, and boy is it full of gutfire and conservatism. It is my opinion that Romney wishes to position himself for a major leadership role in the Republican party, and could make a run for some other governmental position in 2010 should he be kept out of the Cabinet or not offered the VP slot. But he definitely said to all conservatives that he is their man, despite his past record.


This Saturday, there are several more contests:

Washington (D)
Louisiana (D, R)
Nebraska (D)
Kansas (R)
Virgin Islands (D)
Maine (D; Sunday)

There's no use talking about the Republican aspect of the race, though Huckabee, if he didn't make a deal with McCain to hurt Romney, might still make some trouble. And Romney didn't explicitly state he was backing McCain, just that he didn't want to delay a national campaign.

Each of the contests for the Democrats are caucuses, and Obama does well in those. Just ask Matt Saniie, Obama staffer and caucus organizer from Iowa. The logic here is that those passionate, idealistic Obama supporters are 1) more likely to show up and 2) great arguers for their side. The fervor surrounding Obama is more intense than Hillary, and it shows everywhere. She's in for a tough few days between Saturday and next Tuesday, the Chesapeake primary (DC, Maryland, Virginia) where demographics key in on Obama (ie, there's a reason Old Man Cochran called it Chocolate City).


Read on, faithful few!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Could it be? Dare we say it? Credibility?

Hooper was looking at our data on StatCounter, and he shared something very interesting with me. Among StatCounter's services is a tracking tool that lets you see what sites people clicked through to yours from. And one of those sites was...The Wall Street Journal.

(Click to embiggen the pics.)
Here's the original article:

And at the bottom...

There we are, a "related article and/or blog." It seems pretty clear to me that the Wall Street Journal has lost all journalistic integrity by linking to us. I mean, did they not see the Kiefer Sutherland/Christmas Tree slugfest I posted earlier this week? Honestly.


Read on, faithful few!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Brief Review of Super Tuesday

I'll have the full report later today or tomorrow. What a wild night...

For the Democrats in the audience

Obamarama sweeps the country in what can only be seen as a stunning upset of Clinton's march to the White House. Winning across more states than expected, and several key states of strategic importance (like Missouri, of all places, and Georgia), Obama legitimized - if he hadn't already done so - his campaign and the made tatters of the idea that a black man can't get votes at this level in our fair country. Clinton probably comes out ahead right now the delegate total, and surely will rack up more wins, but not only is the wind our of her sails, I think her ship's taking on a little water. Both are a few hundred votes shy of just half what they need for the nod. Brokered convention? More possible today than yesterday. The level of vitriol spewed between the lines of each campaign's speeches and statements is high enough to pretty much mean a ticket with both of these folks on it looks like a bleak prospect. Then again, GHW Bush and Reagan were far from buddies in the 1980 campaign, and look what happened there.

Long/short of the night for the (D)s: Obama defines momentum, defies "Washington" politics; Hillary wept.

For the Republicans in the audience

If you are on the Straight Talk Express with John McCain, be glad, but not overjoyed. Coming away with a commanding delegate lead and some big states, he nevertheless failed to clinch to nomination. Not that he had to; the Obama camp has stated he is the man to beat in November, ignoring the other challengers. Huckabee, by staying in the race, denied Romney scores of delegates and a true second place finish. Instead, while Romney did well, he's got a long way to go to beat McCain. If he catches up, he might only delay the inevitable and cause a brokered convention, a prospect the news mongers (like myself) would love to see. I think we need to take Huckabee's wins with a grain of salt, as they were regional only (though so were Romney's; the West is largely his). Some have whispered of a deal between the Mac and the Huck, keeping the latter in the race to defray conservative support for Romney, with the VP slot as the reward. Personally, Romney as the VP makes more sense, with Huck as a campaign advisor and potential Cabinet official.

Long/short of the night for the (R)s: peaceful resolution in the party is elusive, as McCain is denied the crown.

-Hooper McFinney

Read on, faithful few!

Buckshot: Video: Kiefer Sutherland Tackles a Christmas Tree

From the documentary I Trust You to Kill Me. Admit it, if it had happened in an episode of 24, you'd think it was the most brilliant thing you'd ever seen. I know I would.


Read on, faithful few!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Everybody votes, nobody quits. If you don't do your job I'll kill you myself...

The Political "Brief"
It's all about today...until this November.

Today, nearly half the country will vote in primaries or caucuses across the country. Some states will vote just for Republicans or Democrats, but most will have the option of both ballots for its voters. Some major states are up for grabs, over a thousand delegates per party and possibly the lead or nomination in all but name. This is also a great test for the idea of several large-scale primary days opposed to a dragged on process that lasts nearly half the year. But there are arguments for both sides, and I want to eat lunch, not argue.


Moving on! Obama is closing fast to Hillary in not only key states like California, but also nationally. Did the Kennedy clan endorsement (strengthened by Maria Shriver the other day) actually do the good the media claimed it would? Or is this backlash against Bill Clinton's antics? Whatever the reason - and I think it's a combination of the two, as well as a great stump speech strategy and decent debate showing - Obama has pulled from a double-digit deficit in the national polls to a statistical dead head, according to CNN, USA Today, Gallup and CBS News. Others have Hillary up slightly, or Obama way up and past the error range. The running average over the last four days sees Clinton with a scant point lead. What is in both their favors (and counting against them) is the proportional awarding of delegates, where "losing" a state's popular vote by a few hundred might still net you the same number of delegates.

Is Hillary really on the outs? I doubt it. She has the experience card and the hard data that Obama lacks. He's running a far more ideological campaign, whereas Hillary sees it as a political horse race and tries to add some degree of substance to the themes of "change" and "hope." My prediction isn't really crazy, as I don't think the Democratic nomination will be decided today. It will rage for another month or so as each tries to reach the magic number.


On the Right side of the aisle, McCain continues to steamroll across the country, but Romney isn't going down without a fight. California is heating up to be the major battleground today between Romney and McCain, as well as Hillary and Obama. McCain held the lead there, tenuously at times, over the last week, but Romney's performance at last Thursday's Reagan Library Republican debate underscored his conservative credentials and he is seeing a boost in his standing. One poll has him seven points ahead of McCain. This might matter, if he wins California. Should he lose, it's over.

McCain has a solid block of states for him, including NY, NJ, CT and IL. He is giving the Huck a run for his money in Missouri, which has a great record for picking presidents. Nationwide polling is on Mac's side, but the downward trend in CA is troublesome for him. While there certainly is a strong conservative base in California, many Republicans are moderate, and there are also independents there attracted to McCain - ideally. Romney steals from Huckabee, who is spoiling Romney to begin with, and the conservative vote remains more/less intact against McCain.


An interesting point is brought up by Papa McFinney, the Hon. R. Slade: with certain candidates ahead by such leaps and bounds in many states, a vote for the opposition that you were going to cast, though in little way capable of changing the outcome, can tell the eventual victor, "I cast my vote for this person and for these ideas, so you remember in November that I disagreed with you on key points." Conservatives might vote for McCain in Nov., but Romney in a primary state where the Mormon has zero chance, in essence voicing a mild disapproval but not condemnation.


The states participating today:

American Samoa (participates in both primaries, but not the general election)
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Dakota
West Virginia


Of course, make sure to jettison cynicism before proceeding.

We should all be proud to have such a spirited contest - on both sides, Republican and Democrat. For many election cycles, they've been just that: our system stuck in a loop. A few times we see new candidates with ground-breaking campaigns that challenge our notions of politics. Even rarer is the introduction of a new party or independent candidate, like Ross Perot, the Bull Moose Party (for TR's 1912 bid) or to a lesser extent, the Green Party & Nader (who has filed, by the way). Savor the choices you have and the influence your vote brings.

Hooper McFinney

Read on, faithful few!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Buckshot: Tom and L. Ron's Excellent Adventure

A bit of hilarity to break up the political coverage. I simply had to share this with you all. By now, surely most of you have heard of, if not seen the infamous Tom Cruise Scientology video. And perhaps you've seen the hysterical response Jerry O'Connell did for Funny or Die. (His Tom Cruise laugh is perhaps even more frightening than the genuine article.) But maybe you haven't seen the tribute webcomic the guys at Hijinks Ensue put up. Click on over there and check it out. It's a 3-part odyssey so full of creative insanity that Hooper and I should hope to be so lucky as to come up with something half as good. (While you're there, check out their webcomic archive. Some great geek humor to be found there.)


Read on, faithful few!