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Problems for Obama?
July 27, 2008, 1:13 am
Filed under: Politics

With investor and consumer confidence rising, a recent jump in sales of new homes, and the apparent success of George Bush’s troop surge, one has to wonder if Obama might well start to stumble in the coming months. Though supporters cannot admit it – it would discredit his “newpolitik” appeal – Obama, like all politicians, does play on America’s fears for political gain. Fears of another Vietnam, of a collapsing economy, of diminished standing in world affairs…each lives in the hearts of potential Obamacons all across the country, and his success in bringing them to the forefront without looking like a fear monger certainly contributes to his strong showing in national polls.

But what if the problems start to fade? If this economic recovery proves to be more than a temporary upswing, and victory in Iraq sounds less like an ironic slogan and more like a realistic possibility, it will be much harder to sell Americans on the idea that the Half-White Knight is the only man who can save us from a bumbling, out-of-touch Republican party. Traditional concerns like social security reform, energy independence, and colonizing Mars will play a bigger role in America’s choice for President, and Obama won’t be able to rely so heavily on his hope-filled promises to lead us out of the darkness.

Common sense would dictate that a Republican has no chance in this year’s elections. John McCain may be old, he may support the Iraq War, and he may be the most unpleasantly sarcastic man ever to race for the presidency, but I still cannot subscribe to the notion that Barack Obama’s victory is a foregone conclusion. This race is far from over, and, though it is unfortunate, America’s messianic perception of Obama has left him nowhere to go but down.



Whatever Happened to Mr. Ed?
July 22, 2008, 12:45 am
Filed under: Movie Review | Tags: , , ,

I’m sorry that “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” is the first thing I’ve posted about in over a month, but sometimes you see something that hurts your heart so badly, you just need to write about it.  I was going to turn this blog post into a diatribe against Andy Garcia for selling himself out and appearing alongside Drew Barrymore in a movie about Chihuahuas until I remembered that he left his dignity in the coatroom at the premier of Ocean’s 12.  Worst Movie Ever.  I would like, then, to take this opportunity to address a short open letter to Disney and any other producers out there who might have unfortunate thoughts of making another “talking dogs” movie.

Dear Producers,

You know, I really used to love your animal movies.  Dumbo, the Lion King, 101 Dalmatians…and the Fox and the Hound!  God, that movie made tear up every time.  Even Balto was alright.  I don’t know which of you slacker Disney-wannabes made it, but for once you kept from failing, and I’ll give you props for that.

I have to tell you, though, you really have to cut all this bullshit with the live-action talking-animal movies.  Beverly Hills Chihuahua?  Cats ‘n’ Dogs?  And I’m going to go ahead and throw in Alvin & The Chipmunks and Underdog too.  I know Michael Eisner probably told you that “CGI is the best thing since cramming a horse’s mouth full of peanut butter,” but you have to remember that he said it right after he greenlighted 112 Dalmatians and right before he suggested Pirates of the Caribbean Four: Captain Jack Allies With Ninja Sailors To Take Back The Flying Dutchman From Horatio Hornblower.

Don’t listen to that Mickey-killing, Goofy-stomping son of a bitch.  America can and will keep shoveling buckets full of money into your pockets as long as you keep feeding us shitty movies to drag howling kids to.  With that in mind, though, is it so much to ask that you shelve the CGI for awhile and make something tolerable?  You can animate animals just as easily in cartoon form, and I hear you can use computers for that too these days.   Kids won’t know the difference, and parents will thank you.

Please, just think about it.

Love,

Dan



What’s With the War on Terror Comedies?
June 10, 2008, 12:51 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

A few days ago, I went to go see “Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay.” Really, just looking at the title I figured it would be shitty, but a friend texted me and said she thought it could be a fun study break. And besides, movies are only $10 and it’s like an hour and a half long. Sounds like a pretty safe decision. Right?

Wrong. This sounds snobby, I know, but to even review this movie almost feels beneath my dignity. The only reason why I can even bring myself to do this review is because Harold & Kumar is the angriest a movie has made me in years. To paraphrase a good friend of mine, who said that “How I Met Your Mother” is “one Neil Patrick Harris away from a shitty sitcom,” this movie was one Neil Patrick Harris away from the worst movie of the century. And maybe he didn’t even save it.

Let’s start off with some of the lighter misdemeanors the movie commits. Every time somebody got punched in the stomach (which happened far too often) it was accompanied by a fart noise. Inmates at Guantanamo Bay eat cock meat sandwiches for their meals, evidently, which played out in an entirely pointless scene where a group of guards came in and told some unconvincing “hardened terrorists,” and our protagonists Harold & Kumar, to “get sucking.” At a completely unnecessary “bottomless party,” a male friend walks from the water and Kumar yells that his pubes “look like Osama bin Laden’s beard.”

And Rob Cordry? Horrendous acting aside, his “racist Homeland Security Officer” character might have come off as quality satire to middle schoolers who get their foreign policy news from Green Day songs, but anybody else it’ll just come off as annoyingly contrived. His death satisfied me more than any comedy casualty in history, probably because I knew that the miserable Homeland Securityplot line was gone, never to return.

Now for the cinematic war crimes. Attention Everybody: Spoilers to follow. To be honest, though, the movie is so thoroughly rotten there’s no way I could spoil it for you. The characters are all completely two dimensional. Even Harold & Kumar, who managed to pull off some degree of likeability and depth in their first film, completely lost it in this one. I didn’t give a shit one way or the other what happened to them, or to any other characters in the movie. When Kumar interrupted his ex-girlfriend’s marriage, it made me happy the way that reading a news report about a car accident two states away makes you sad. The only thing that aroused any genuine emotion was when Neil Patrick Harris died after 15 minutes in the movie. Seriously? Why did they do that? Killing NPH literally killed all the funny.

Some people liked it, evidently. One reviewer from MSNBC wrote that Escape “[A]ctually scores more points off the nation’s paranoid and repressive post-9/11 mindset than all of Hollywood’s hand-wringing war-on-terror dramas put together.” In the same review, he had the audacity to compare this movie with Dr. Strangelove. In his warped mind, John Cho and Kal Penn are to George Bush and the War on Terror what Slim Pickens and Peter Sellers were to the Cold War.

When I was looking around for other reviews of this movie, I also found this.  “Postal” only saw a limited release in the United States, but its most famous actor is Verne Troyer, which I feel really explains everything.  What’s more, movies inspired by video games aren’t worth the DVDs they’re burned on, or even the bandwidth it would take to download them.  This one claims to be more than just a video game movie, “lampooning religious extremists, minorities, bureaucrats, immigrants, cops, women, the Holocaust, gun nuts and more with evenhanded abandon.”

Really?  Verne Troyer headlines a movie in which characters dressed like George Bush and Osama bin Laden hug it out after some other B-list actors poke fun at the Holocaust?

Save yourself the hassle, put the War on Terror and all the rest of America’s problems (which, really, aren’t all that funny) aside for the moment, and laugh at Seth Rogen and crew in Pineapple Express or Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  If you still insist on watching either of these movies, at least consider the last ditch alternative:  you might be better served flushing eleven dollars down the toilet and smashing your head against a wall for two hours.



OPEC Sucks, But You Can Save Your Summer!
May 24, 2008, 11:45 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , , ,

There’s been a hell of a lot of negativity going around recently on the news, in the blogosphere, and in the homes of SUV-driving soccer moms around the country about rising oil and gas prices. The Drudge Report had a running ticker on the top for a little over a week constantly advertising the new records oil prices were breaking. It was getting updated, it seemed, almost by the hour. Farmers are switching to mules to pull their tractors, saying it’s “the way of the future!” Cops are going old school too; with their cruisers chugging gasoline like desperate alcoholics, they have no choice but to start walking their beats in an effort keep costs down. And it’s only going to get worse says Robert Hirsch, an economic analyst and apparent Prophet of the Apocalypse. Hirsch stated on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that “$12 to $15 gas is inevitable” in the next two decades. That would mean that, the average American, filling a fifteen gallon tank just once a week, would spend between 20 and 25 percent of pre-tax income on gasoline.

Anyway, with all this pessimism floating around it was refreshing to find an article that, perhaps inadvertently, took a step back and put things into perspective. Some of the highlights:

  • When you adjust for current exchange rates, gas costs $7.70 in France. Somehow it seems like it should feel better to know that somewhere, there’s a French guy getting screwed worse than you.
  • Currently, an average of 3.7% of disposable income in America goes to covering fuel for transportation. That sounds like a lot, especially compared to 1.9% just ten years ago, but it’s still not as bad as the 4.5% people paid in 1981.
  • Also, when you factor in improvements in fuel economy (which averaged LESS than 10 mpg in the 1970s!) and inflation, Americans are paying less per mile—“only” fifteen cents—than in 1981, when the cost was just a little over seventeen cents per mile.

But things are still pretty terrible, right? Well, not necessarily, for the middle class at least. In a heart-wrenching tale worthy of the silver screen, this same article wrote, “For many people, high energy costs mean fewer restaurant meals, deferred weekend outings with the kids, less air travel, and more time close to home.” Since I don’t have kids who could spend all Memorial Day weekend complaining about how we don’t get to go to Disneyland, maybe I don’t have room to talk, but it seems to me that staying at home with your family and friends to barbecue and play Frisbee instead of going to Applebee’s and spending three days crammed into an overcrowded campground with every family from suburbia is far from the worst tragedy that could befall today’s American home.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the gas crisis today is certainly a serious one. But it’s far from another Great Depression:

It isn’t even the worst energy crisis our country has faced. Just like the last one, we’ll get through it alright, and who knows? Maybe this was just the wakeup call our country—and our leaders—needed to make major strides towards energy independence.



Why You Gotta Be Like That, John?
May 22, 2008, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , ,

Just yesterday I was watching Lou Dobbs when he showed a clip of John McCain speaking to reporters on his campaign bus, criticizing Barak Obama’s plans for foreign policy. I have to say, I was a bit surprised—I knew McCain called him naïve, on more than one occasion, but he really didn’t pull any punches this time:

“Barack Obama is naïve enough to believe that if he sits across from … Raul Castro or, uh, Ahmadinejad, that they’ll be able to work things out”

This, of course, is because diplomacy, communication, and negotiation are unwieldy, time-consuming, and ineffective means for getting what you need, when you need it. If the President says the US will open talks with a rogue leader, what he’s basically saying that the United States plans on “Caving in like a little girl and giving the terrorists what they want.”

After all, when Kennedy decided to engage in an extensive dialogue with Nikita Khruschev during the Cuban Missile Crisis and install a phone line between Moscow and Washington immediately afterwards, it forced the only direct war between the Soviet Union and the US. And when Nixon went over to Beijing to talk with Mao about thawing relations between China and the US, the Communists took over the Senate in the 1974 elections. Oh, wait…I forgot. None of that actually happened, because the use of diplomacy as a viable alternative to economic sanctions, the silent treatment, or military force actually managed to heal old wounds rather than pour salt in them.

Now, before I go any further, I have to say that McCain may be right in his underlying message. An unflinching reliance on diplomacy alone, accompanied by the inability to recognize when negotiations have collapsed *cough cough Jimmy Carter cough cough* is dangerous and absurd. No president should ever take any options off the table, and the willingness to adapt should make up a major part of any approach to foreign policy-making. That goes for anything, though. The last eight years have taught us that an unflinching reliance on hard power is equally as destructive—inflexibility, like radicalism or eating paint chips, is inherently misguided.

We know McCain thinks Barack Obama is some sort of idiot romantic. But what does he think should be done instead? In one interview, he stated that he would not “legitimize someone like Raul Castro by quote, sitting down with him,” also saying that “As soon as the political prisoners are free … and free elections have been held. Then I would sit down with any freely elected president or leader of Cuba.” Now who’s naïve? Since when was ignoring a major problem ever the best solution for it? Not only do you fail to cultivate any sort of meaningful partnership, but by stubbornly giving another government the cold shoulder, you implicitly give it recognition. The “tough guy” approach also coalesces popular opinion in that country against you, as has been seen in Russia, Iran, and Iraq. If McCain, as President, plans simply to ignore the leaders of other countries and cut off diplomatic ties with them in the hopes that their people will rise up, overthrow them, and vote in a pro-American government backed by an iron-clad, democratic constitution, he is clearly living a fantasy. He would be better off coming back to reality, recognizing the current world situation, and attempting to regain Third World support for America.

McCain’s criticisms seem even more foolish when one takes into account the fact that, to my knowledge, Barack Obama is no Pollyanna about the prospects of diplomacy. It is not, and never has been, Obama’s expectation that he and Castro and Ahmadinejad and Qaddafi and Kim Jong Il would all sit down, have a couple of beers, slap each other on the back and say “Wow, sorry about all the shit that’s happened for the last few decades. You guys want to just call it even and we can go bass fishing next weekend?”

No, the route to the peaceful resolution of any dispute is much more difficult than that, and Obama knows it. Diplomacy with all nations, regardless of their values, is simply a long-neglected tool that he is willing to dust off and use to rebuild America’s image and standing in the world. McCain would be wise to quit pandering to the masses of uneducated voters who fail to grasp the current international picture, recognize that America cannot achieve her goals with her enemies with hard power alone, and start making plans of his own to meet with world leaders, both pro- and anti-American. Evil isn’t contagious, so I’m sure he could do it without endangering himself too much.