Monday, October 27, 2008

I'm Joe the Plumber

I have commented before on the McCain campaign's new unofficial mascot of "Joe the Plumber". Well, I recently just saw a new TV ad by the McCain campaign in which multiple people look into the camera and say, "I'm Joe the Plumber". This has been a recurring theme in the McCain campaign since the third presidential debate, and I'm growing quite tired of it. The list of Joe the Plumbers has grown to include (in addition to the ones I've mentioned before):
- Molly the Engineer,
- Jane the Dental Hygenist,
- Doug the Barber,
- Chuck the Teacher,
- Phil the Bricklayer,
- Rose the Teacher,
- Jack the Hunter,
- Vicky the Realtor,
- Christine the Florist,
- Cindy the Citizen,
- and Tito the Builder.

They are supposed to represent the working Americans that McCain is trying to "fight" for. They are also the people that the McCain/Palin ticket is using to launch their new line of attack that Obama's policies represent socialism, and that it is wrong to "spread the wealth". Palin has consistently said, that it is wrong for the government to take the money of "hard-working Americans" and use it where they see fit.

Isn't the point of taxes to give the government money to spend where it sees fit? Did John McCain (and Barack Obama) not vote for the $700 billion economic rescue plan that is taking tax payer money and giving it to large corporations?

The policies of Franklin Roosevelt not only led to an economic recovery for the U.S. out of the Great Depression of the 1930s, but also brought sweeping changes to the way the government is run. In fact, many of Roosevelt's programs can be considered socialist programs. FDR's greatest achievement, which lasts to even today, is Social Security. According to the new McCain/Palin rhetoric, these programs (including Social Security) are bad for America. In order to stay consistent on their message, McCain and Palin need to outright say that Social Security is socialism and that it should be abolished! But, not only do I think they will never say that, I think that they will be hard-pressed to find very many Americans who belive Social Security should be ended.

Interestingly enough, Social Security was a very prominent issue in the 2000 election between Bush and Gore. Bush attempted reforms of Social Security, but they failed. So it is interesting that 8 years later in this 2008 election, even though Social Security has not been fixed, it has rarely been spoken of by either candidate on the campaign trail.

The ridiculousness of this "Joe the Plumber" business reached a new point at Palin rally in which during the middle of her speech a group in the crowd started chanting "I AM JOE" while holding up cards that spelled out that very phrase!

Honestly, where's Joe the Unemployed? Next up on the McCain/Palin list of working-class heroes?


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Did "The West Wing" Predict the Election?

I'm a fan of The West Wing, especially the first four seasons under the guidance of writer/producer Aaron Sorkin. I felt that after Sorkin left the show lost a lot of its witty dialogue and its focus. It was still good, but it wasn't the same show that I loved. Anyone familiar with the show knows that the last two seasons of the show focused heavily on the election to replace fictional-President Jed Bartlett (Martin Sheen), and the series finale featured the inauguration of that new president.

What's interesting is the eerie parallels between that West Wing election storyline and the way our own 2008 presidential election has played out. I came across this video online today and found it quite intriguing. And just to put things into perspective, the show's sixth and seventh seasons in which the election storyline took place aired from fall 2004 to spring 2006, long before the American election began and anyone announced their candidacy.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Film Review: W.

The Presidency of George Walker Bush hasn't even finished yet, and for most Americans (and apparently many citizens from around the world) the next 90 days can't end soon enough. And yet with three months to go until the end of the 43rd President's tenure, director Oliver Stone has already come out with a film that not only takes a look at the life and rise to power of George W. Bush, but also much of his term in the build-up and aftermath of the War in Iraq. Despite Stone's liberal leanings, it is surprising how generous it is in its portrayal of Bush Jr., whether intentional or not, but the film overall is uneven.

Not much needs to be said about the storyline as the life George W. Bush is fairly well-known. While Oliver Stone is a very capable director, the narrative felt overly repetitive, shifting too frequently between Bush's past and his presidency. I understand the intent, which was to keep things fresh so that the movie doesn't feel like its trudging from one scene to the next. Unfortunately, it happened so much that I inevitably felt that it happened way too much. Pacing was also an issue, with too many things feeling overlooked. As mentioned above, Stone is a very skilled director, unfortunately it felt like he was too aware of the clock and was trying to move things along in the interest of time. And yet, while it felt like things were missing (I'm interested in seeing what was left on the cutting room floor) the movie also felt like it extended its welcome by a good 30 minutes.

In general, the acting is top notch and the dialogue fairy believable. You can believe that you are watching and listening to George W. Bush, a nod to both screenwriter Stanley Weiser and especially actor Josh Brolin who gives the performance of a lifetime. Watch for Brolin during the award season. Also believable are Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney, Jeffrey Wright as Colin Powell and Toby Jones as Karl Rove, whose portrayals are spot-on. Scott Gleen and other administration officials blend into the background and their portrayals are somewhat hard to judge, though they seem to do well.

However, there are a couple performances that feel uneven or out-of-place. Elizabath Banks may certainly have the look of Laura Bush down, but the character felt lifeless and one-dimensional. Whether that is due to Laura Bush not being the public eye nearly as much as former-First Lady Hilary Clinton was during her husband's presidency or simply a lack of interest on the part of writer Weiser (or both), there was neither life nor substance to this pivotal person in the titular character's life. And unfortunately, this feels like a big piece of the puzzle that was greatly overlooked, as it is stated in the first scene between W. and Laura that she votes Democratic, despite W.'s Republican party affiliations. How the two overcame different viewpoints and political standings to marry and have two daughters is something that is completely overlooked. And while I mention it, there is a passing mention of the Bush twins, nothing more. We don't even get any insight into what it is like for George W. Bush to be a father.

Next, is James Cromwell. There is nothing wrong with his performance. Actually, Cromwell is one of the most reliable character actors today. But in a movie that is so focused on charactures, you never get the feeling that Cromwell is actually George Bush Sr. While you have Brolin, Dreyfuss, Jones and company delivering in such ways that you believe they are the real thing, Cromwell's portrayal of Bush Sr. feels out of place.

And finally, Thandie Newton as Condoleeza Rice is plain insulting. Her performance is characture to the extreme in such a way that it is laughable! The look is there, but the mannerisms are played to such an extreme that not only are they laughable, they are distracting. Every time Newton is onscreen, you can't help but snicker because it is so bad and out-of-place. This is one instance where less definitely would've been better. Newton was trying way too hard!

I felt like there many missed opportunities in the film. Less time should've been spent on the buildup to the war in Iraq and more on the things that made George W. Bush who he is. As mentioned before, the relationship between Bush and wife Laura is barely touched upon. One moment, they're flirting. The next, they're dating. The next, they're married. In getting from point A to C to E, B and D were skipped. Also, it quickly becomes apparent that Karl Rove played a large part in making George W. Bush the politican that he is today. And yet, it is never touched upon how they met. Suddenly, Rove is there as one of Bush's most trusted advisors, with no explanation of how he got there nor how he gained such a prominent place in the Bush presidency. A deeper look into the Bush/Rove beginners would've been interesting.

And last, the conflict between Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. At the heart of the Bush family tension is the competition between George W. and brother Jeb, who seems to be the favorite of father and mother Bush. And yet, Jeb Bush barely gets any screentime, and whether the favoritism caused any tension between the two brothers was not even addressed. Nor was it really touched upon why Jeb was much more highly favored by their parents. Was Jeb more responsible then George? Was he a better student? Was he smarter? In the end, these are questions that are left unanswered.

In the end, the film felt 30 minutes too long, yet with pieces left on the cutting room floor that would've made a better movie. It seems that the wrong parts were cut. Yet, nothing about the movie felt new. It is something that most people already knew. Stone seems more interested in depicting the events in a constantly shifting narrative rather then providing any new insight into the life of George W. Bush. However, whether it was Stone's intention or not, Bush comes across as sympathetic.

Whatever your believe of George W. Bush, W. helped affirm to me what I have long been trying to understand; George W. Bush might not be the brightest man, nor the most qualified to ever hold the highest office in America, but he really isn't a bad man. I might not have ever voted for the guy, and nor will I ever, but I do believe that he is a good, caring man who holds strong convictions, whether they be right or wrong. While he probably will never go down as one of America's greatest presidents, in some ways, you can't help but feel sorry for the guy. At the end of W., that's exactly what I felt for him; sorry.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Meet __(insert name)___ the __(insert profession)__!

Anyone who has been following the U.S. presidential election lately knows that in the last month-and-a-half, the global economic crisis has seen a large shift in the poll numbers in favor of Senator Barack Obama in his quest for the White house. John McCain's handling of the economic crisis saw his worst week in the campaign as he jumped from one message to the next from day-to-day, and in one case just a matter of hours!

Watching the way both candidates handled their approach to the situation (and the whole campaign in general) has been quite revealing to me. McCain's campaign is all over the map, with every day bringing a different message, and the overall tone is growing more and more negative and they are hitting the "fear" button whenever they can, even going as far as saying that Barack Obama "pals around with terrorists" and that his tax policies are "socialist". As we have seen, the more they hit the fear button, the worse things get and while it might appeal to far-right supporters, everyone closer to the middle and off to the left are getting turned off by this tactic. If McCain had the base that George W. Bush had in 2004, he wouldn't have to worry about Democrat or Independent voters. Bush lost both in the 2004 election, yet because of the size of his base took the election. But the size of the Republican base is much smaller then it was in 2004, and McCain now needs both his base and Independents to win the election. The problem is his tactics might be appeasing the base he needs, but they're also turning away the Independents he needs even more. Even watching John McCain in the debates, you see just how much he reacts to everything that is said, and at times there have been glimmers of the temper that has become infamous around the country.

I've been impressed by Obama's handling of the campaign and of the economic crisis as well. While McCain is saying that there needs to be swift and decisive action, had McCain been President when this crisis took place, I think we would not be better off. Obama chose to watch the way things were going and listen to economic advisors to try to determine the best course of action in a market that was simply all over the place. This showed an attempt at problem solving and critical thinking in a volatile situation where the wrong move at the wrong time could have disastrous implications.

I've also been impressed with how the Obama campaign has been run. He has a massive ground game all across the country the likes of which, many political pundits say, has never been seen. And when you watch the Obama campaign on TV in interviews they are very well coordinated and all have the same message and use the same phrase or terminology. It shows that his campaign is a well-oiled machine. And watching Obama on the debates he was always respectful, giving McCain is undivided attention, even smiling at him while McCain was speaking. Meanwhile, McCain spent the first two debates barely looking at Obama, and the third debate rolling his eyes half the time. Obama meanwhile was cool and thoughtful.

The question I face as I prepare to vote in two weeks is this: Which campaign do I want in the White House? The one that is erratic with many different messages, some of which try to divide instead of unite, with a candidate who is emotional and often times angry? Or do I want the one that is well-oiled, well-coordinated and almost-always on message, with a candidate who is cool, calm, respectful and thoughtful, assessing the situation before acting?

I've been quite amused by the way things have been since the third debate when a new star emerged onto the national scene. If you've paid attention, you know of whom I speak. Yes, I refer to Joe the Plumber.

Joe the Plumber was referenced 26 times in the last debate, something that eventually became laughable and ridiculous and fodder for late night comedians. Jon Stewart, David Letterman and the likes no doubt had a riot! Well, the McCain/Palin Campaign has taken it to such new heights that not only is Joe the Plumber their new mascot-apparent, but also given him a band of followers! In recent days, Joe the Plumber has been joined by...
  • Phil the Bricklayer
  • Rose the Teacher
  • and Tito the Builder
No, I am not making those up. Just look it up.

Oh...and they've also decided to pull Barack Obama into the fray: Barach the Wealth Spreader. Wow, how an already very nasty and ridiculous election is only going to get worse in the next fourteen days.

In 2012, we should take a hint from Canada and condense our 20-month election cycle into 37 days.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Don't Let This Be Your Wedding!

Maggie and I found this online earlier today! I sure hope this doesn't happen at our wedding!

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Return of Star Trek

Anton Yelchin, Chris Pine, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, John Cho and Zoe Saldana star as the new incarnations of Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, Scotty, Chekov, Sulu and Uhura in the new J.J. Abrams Star Trek.

Most people who know me know that I have been and always shall be a Star Trek fan. For as long as I can remember, I have loved Star Trek. I grew up watching first-run episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation ever since I lived in St. Mary's, where I also remember watching Star Trek: The Motion Picture for the first time and loving it so much I wanted to watch again! Of course, little did I know that it was two-and-a-half hour movie!

I have so many memories of loving Star Trek, from seeing Star Trek V in the movie theater (today, I cringe at how bad it was) to seeing the best cliffhanger of all-time at the end of Best of Both Worlds TNG's season 3 ender ("Mr.!" is all I can say)! I've seen every movie since The Final Frontier (the 5th) in the movie theater. Star Trek helped flourish my young imagination and gave me the desire to write my own little Star Trek stories! I have countless Trek novels and comic books, still have a number of my action figures, and own 9 of the 10 movies and four seasons of Deep Space 9 on DVD.

I've seen Star Trek during its glory days and I've seen its unfortunate decline during the late-90s. Say what you will about what contributed to Star Trek's fall from grace. Many fans blame it on producer Rick Berman for just running out of ideas. Can you blame him? He was associated with Star Trek from its re-introduction to television in 1987 all the way to May 2005! Can't you blame him for being creatively bankrupt?

For me Star Trek topped out with the 8th film and my personal favorite Star Trek: First Contact in 1996 and the final three seasons of Deep Space 9 which finished in May 1999. I admit that Voyager was entertaining for me during its 7-year run, but I have a hard time watching most rerun episodes, and while Star Trek: Enterprise had promise and potential, it was evident that Star Trek in today's society was not what it used to be. Star Trek didn't have the appeal that it used to, and it showed not only in the ratings for Enterprise, but also Star Trek: Nemesis's (2002) box office intake of $43 million!

When it was announced in February 2005 that Enterprise would be ending that May and Star Trek would be taking a break, I felt that it was necessary. Not only did it need a break, it needed fresh hands to direct it. How quickly things moved because in early- to mid-2006 it was announced that J.J. Abrams would be producing a new Star Trek movie!

While it's been going through the various stages of production since then, they finished filming in the spring and the new film is set to be released in May 2009. J.J. Abrams has run a pretty tight ship, keeping leaks and information to a minimum. In fact, many members of the cast have joked at the secrecy involved in the production!

While not much is known about the film, it is well-known by now that this is an origin story of the original crew of the Enterprise. While many fans are cautious, there is much excitement in knowing that Abrams and his team of writers are huge Trek fans and the biggest vote of confidence comes from one of its stars: Leonard Nimoy. While the characters have been recast and the look has been updated, Leonard Nimoy has agreed to come out of retirement to play an older Mr. Spock because he loved the script! For those of you who do not know, Leonard Nimoy was offered the chance to direct 1994's Star Trek: Generations but turned it down because he felt it was too weak and pointed out many of the script's flaws. For many fans, Nimoy knows what is good for Trek, especially since he is the only member of the very original cast (I mean, the first pilot pre-Shatner) to survivor into what we all know now as Star Trek.

In the last couple of days, the first photos have arisen of the new crew and various shots of the new bridge set. I can't help but feel kind of giddy at what I am seeing and I'm very excited about the possibilities for this new film! My one disappointment? So far there are no images of the new look for the Enterprise! Ah well...guess I'll just have to wait for the trailer attached to Quantum of Solace, the new Bond flick!

Don't be surprised to hear a lot from me on Star Trek over the next nine months while I wait for opening day!

Zachary Quinto is the younger Spock.

The bridge of the original U.S.S. Enterprise has never looked better!