Tuesday, February 12, 2008

American Idol Hollywood Week: Now with Extra Colossalosity

Hollywood week on American Idol is always a little irritating. The faces and voices go by so fast that you don’t really notice many of the people--except, of course, the really cute ones like Brooke White. Hubba hubba and I love her voice--it’s pretty, strong, and a little bit earthy in nature. I love the fact that they are allowing musical instruments this year, though; it makes a much more satisfying listening experience. Some of the time.

At other times it was even more brutally painful than normal--like Jacob’s drummer/singer version of “Hooked on a Feeling.” Ouch.

There is something of a “No Wannabee Left Behind” feeling to Hollywood week. It’s like every half-assed karaoke talent from around the nation was allowed to come play with the big kids. Listeners with more sensitive ears might be forgiven for thinking, “And this was the best of the bunch? Will they actually find enough decent singers to torture us with over the next few months, nurturing our inner Simons as the cruelty flows from the keyboards of countless armchair critics without the balls or talent to compete themselves?”

Or, maybe that’s just me.

It’s truly painful listening to some of the murderous thing that these kids do to the music.

“Hey, Big O, whadya got there, fella?” Love that ad.

I did like the mildly scary looking Amanda Overmeyer and her Elvira-eque hairdo. A little taste of 60’s rocker at least gives the show something grittier than a boy-band nasally whine. She isn’t a great singer, but she’s a passionate and fun performer--I’m half surprised that they let her through and are keeping her in the show. My only fear is that she’s sort of a female Lenny Kravitz--that is, a complete compilation of her influences without anything new to add to the mix. That’s fun for a while, but it gets boring after a bit.

But if she’s going to be derivative, at least she’s pulling from a unique source. She stands out from the competition in a huge way.

Josiah Leming is another one that I find interesting. He’s obviously a lost kid who has made some bad decisions, but that brit singer sound that he has going on is interesting even if it is very much playing in the Coldplay ballpark. I can’t help but like him, though.

I wonder if success would help him pull himself together or if it would give him the capacity to really screw things up.

And, yeah, I liked tattoo girl. Not only is she cute and talented, but she seems like a hell of a nice person.

Was Jack Black born to be Kung Fu Panda? I think so.

Read the Rest...

How the System Could Let Down Sgt. Patrick Lett

Read this--it would be difficult to condense it all into a few sentences or paragraphs with the time I have available to me right now.

A combination of the requirements of Federal sentencing guidelines, a lawyer who doesn’t seem to have done everything that I could have for his client, a judge who was unaware of a sentencing rule that would have allowed a lighter sentence, and a very bad decision on his own part conspired to deliver something other than justice to Sgt. Patrick Lett. While it’s impossible to avoid the fact that his legal problems are of his own design--delivering crack cocaine for his cousin in exchange for car repairs--it’s also impossible for me to avoid the conclusion that our justice system is letting him down.

Some of the guilty people who go before the courts deserve a little bit of mercy along with their punishment. Given his spotless previous record, his service to the country, the kind of people who came to speak on his behalf, and the judge’s own expressed desire to be able to give him a lesser sentence, it seems obvious that Lett is one of the people who deserves a second chance. Instead, he’s been lashed around by the courts, has probably ruined his career, and may well lose years of his life to prison--a fate I don’t believe he deserves.

Here’s hoping the Supreme Court sees fit to give Sgt. Lett a second chance; that would be justice for a man who served his country well, who admitted his error, and who had no history of legal transgressions.

Newt Endorses McCain. Okay, That Might be Overstating it a Bit.

Newt Gingrich, in a call for change in the Republican party, had this to say about the upcoming election:

“I actually believe that any reasonable conservative will, in the end, find that they have an absolute requirement to support the Republican nominee for president this fall…

“As a citizen, I would rather have a President McCain that we fight with 20 percent of the time, than a President Clinton or a President Obama that we fight with 90 percent of the time.”

So that isn’t really an endorsement of McCain, I’ll admit, than it is an endorsement of making a rational compromise for the sake of the nation.

More on this later. It will probably come up around the same time as I finish off the Three Sunday Reviews posts…

Newt had more to say, of course, and Newsmax can be relied on to give us little tiny chunks of it while trying to get us to buy something for pervasive joint pain. Read the rest.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Three Sunday Reviews, Part 2: Violence

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

The pacing does, indeed, hit something closer to plodding, but it’s made up for by an intimate view of a familiar story: how Jesse James, the psychotic and ultra-violent media star of his day was betrayed and murdered by one of his men, a jealous and dishonorable John Ford. And it’s a hell of a story.

It is easily one of the most visually engaging movies I’ve seen in a long time. With views of rough country filmed with a eye for texture and nuance, it succeeds in sheer beauty in a way that few movies ever manage; in the same way that The Cell was so richly compelling in its vision of the world of dreams and nightmares, even if The Assassination of Jesse James were a horrible movie, it would be remarkable for its gorgeous scenery. While The Cell was let down by its story and acting, though, The Assassination of Jesse James is a far more complete film.

Brad Pitt may have hit his career high point with his portrayal of James as a charismatic, unpredictable, and, ultimately, self-destructive anti-hero. Pitt is every inch believable in the role. Casey Affleck, as Robert Ford, equals Pitt with a performance that is a disturbed and tone perfect version of a man who is deeply jealous of the fame of Jesse James. These two are remarkably good together and supported by a cast that doesn’t let them down for even an instant.

It could have been tightened up and the pacing at times could be charitably described as leisurely, although brooding and introspective might be tossed into the mix, as well. The visual space and quiet moments let the thing breathe in the same way that the Mark Hollis’ song “The Color of Spring” breathes in its quiet moments--and the silence imbues the well-considered, spare piano notes with so much more meaning than if they had been buried in noise. Not for everyone, to be sure, but a treasure for people who enjoy the moment’s reflection within the art.

The pacing is a problem, but, to me, a forgivable one. Far more problematic is the homoerotic edge--it seems oddly out of place and, as far as I’m aware, has no place in historical accuracy. As an ode to Brokeback Mountain without the consummation, it’s merely a distraction. Ang Lee told the gay cowboy story better.

The girl can fall asleep during the loudest, most brutal movie when she’s at home and on the couch. It’s worth noting that she walked in on the movie late, while getting ready for bed, and was entranced by it. She was intent on it to the end, engrossed by the characters and the story. That, by itself, is a big endorsement.

It’s a worthy, quiet movie with moments of shocking violence and brutality. The poetry is in the wonderful performances, the measured unfolding of the story through its wholly real characters, and the superb artistry of its cinematography.

As I said, it’s not for everyone, but it isn’t without value. I loved it.

Three Sunday Reviews, Part 1: Love

Feast of Love

Feast of Love isn’t just bad because it is poorly written, although that’s one of its bigger problems. But we’ll get to its shortcomings in a bit. On the plus side, the acting is fine, the visuals are lovely, there are more than a few nude shots happily fulfilling my own personal desire for more gratuitous nudity in film. The pacing is a little slow, but it never quite falls into plodding. That’s the good.

Sad, then, that stilted, uneven dialog conspires with a strange landscape of characters of depth in sharp relief against cardboard cutouts that flit through the movie with hardly a sense of humanity to them. Some of the characters--an alcoholic father, in particular comes to mind--never feel real enough to achieve the kind of importance they come to play, so the emotional response is muted. Feast of Love’s biggest sin, though, is it’s moral confusion.

At one point in the film, Morgan Freeman’s wizened professor tell’s Greg Kinnear’s sadsack romantic that he can’t be angry at the failure of his wives’ sense of fidelity. After all, you can’t blame someone for falling in love. But the act of betrayal--the cruelties, lies, selfishness, and the betraying of marriages, trust, spouses, and children are brushed aside as all the couples become friends in the end. It’s a squeaky clean lie that doesn’t acknowledge the truth of the pains and angers and arguments over CDs, bills, and alimony that come with ruined marriages in real life. It’s a lie of the common era, though, that advocates a nebulous personal fulfillment above the stark and hard realities of personal responsibility--a failing, then, not of this movie, but of this culture of “finding your bliss” that has somehow made abandoning families and children into a semi-heroic stance against old notions of what constitute marriage, fidelity, love, and honor.

This is a horrific twisting of the world. And while this movie doesn’t make heros of its cheating and tortured cast, it does end up letting almost all of them off the hook for their selfishness--except for Greg Kinnear who thoughtlessly buys his wife a dog. Symbolically, he’s portrayed as the bad guy for this act (and it is, indeed, thoughtless), but she is portrayed as a fine specimen of grown up for leaving him for another woman. Brilliant.

With Morgan Freeman--who has come to occupy the position of God’s own voice in US cinema--telling us in kindly voiceover’s that everything is alright, the reality is scrubbed free of an authentic sense of the weight of failed relationships. In place of that burden is the ethereal lightness of Hollywood’s new adult: free from real responsibility, not living in a world many of us working class prols would recognize, and smiling with kind arrogance on those of us below who dare to believe that greatness comes when your personal fulfillment doesn’t come at the expense of the lives around you.

Please avoid.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Romney Almost Brings a Tear to My Eyes

Romney’s words made me feel a little misty. I admire that he would be willing to sacrifice his own ambitions to bring an opportunity for unity in the Republican party.

Even though we face an uphill fight, I know that many in this room are fully behind my campaign.” You are with me all the way to the convention. Fight on, just like Ronald Reagan did in 1976. But there is an important difference from 1976: today… we are a nation at war.
And Barack and Hillary have made their intentions clear regarding Iraq and the war on terror. They would retreat and declare defeat. And the consequence of that would be devastating. It would mean attacks on America, launched from safe havens that make Afghanistan under the Taliban look like child’s play. About this, I have no doubt.
I disagree with Senator McCain on a number of issues, as you know. But I agree with him on doing whatever it takes to be successful in Iraq, on finding and executing Osama bin Laden, and on eliminating Al Qaeda and terror. If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.

This is not an easy decision for me. I hate to lose. My family, my friends and our supporters… many of you right here in this room… have given a great deal to get me where I have a shot at becoming President. If this were only about me, I would go on. But I entered this race because I love America, and because I love America, I feel I must now stand aside, for our party and for our country.

I will continue to stand for conservative principles; I will fight alongside you for all the things we believe in. And one of those things is that we cannot allow the next President of the United States to retreat in the face evil extremism!

That bolded bit is something that I doubt you’d see from many career politicians these days, and it speaks well of Romney. It doesn’t hurt that he’s young and I’m sure he’ll be making this run again in the future, perhaps with very different results.

I’m sure it was a difficult decision. Unlike some (perhaps many) people who will drop by RSong today, I also happen to think it was the right choice. Bravo!

Read the rest of his speech.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

On Normalcy

Hope, from the Sokwanele Blog, explains a little about normalcy in Zimbabwe. As always, Sokwanele remains an excellent resource for gaining a realistic understanding of what life is like in Mugabe’s country--a frustrating, ugly view, no doubt, but far more honest than anything you’ll read from New African’s Baffour Ankomah, an apologist who not only glosses over the depredations of Mugabe’s government, but blames Western powers for Zimbabwe’s economic woes.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Huckabee Seems Confused on the Subject…

Mike Huckabee is complaining about voter “supression” after taking umbrage at the Romney campaign’s assertion that a vote for Huckabee is a vote for McCain in the upcoming primaries. That assertion may or may not be true--I’m not sure where Huckabee fans will break when their guy is forced out of the picture--but I think that Huckabee is a bit confused on the whole point of the campaign.

See, the campaign exists to convince people to vote for your side instead of the other guy’s side. Voter suppression, on the other hand, is when you try to convince people to stay home--something I try to do when faced with people who really don’t seem to care about the political process, the issues at hand, and what the candidates actually stand for.

So, for example, if I point out that there is no way in the world that, say, a vote for Obama in the general election is a vote for higher taxes than McCain or Romney will offer us, I’m not trying to suppress the pro-tax contingent, I’m simply letting you know what the consequences of your vote will end up being. Now, since over one half of my recent (and modest raise) was eaten up by taxes, let’s just say that the tax issue is a big one for me.

In case you skipped over that last bit, let me say it again: over 53% of my raise was taken away from me in taxes. Damnit. Update: See comments for just how incorrect this number is. If you’re curious.

What were we talking about? Oh, yes.

Offering up arguments to convince a person to vote A instead of B is voter re-direction, not suppression. Suppression would be me saying that Obama will win so handily that you don’t even need to show up to cast a vote. Don’t waste your time.

See the difference, Mike?

Good. Because Romney seems to have a firm grip on the subject and he’s beating you over the head with it:

Huckabee’s accusation followed Romney’s remarks to FOX News last week, in which the former Massachusetts governor said: “A vote for Huckabee is a vote for McCain, and if they want John McCain as their nominee … that’s exactly what the vote would do.”

Huckabee then cast Romney’s comment as an attempt to keep voters from going to the polls.

“If you try to discourage people from voting for somebody, what else would you call it? Isn’t voter suppression when you try to keep people from voting a certain way, by anybody’s definition? … Isn’t that voter suppression, suppressing the vote, pushing it down, keeping people from feeling comfortable and going and making a vote? I think that’s exactly what it is,” Huckabee told reporters during a stop in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Monday.
But Romney, speaking in Atlanta, dismissed the charge, saying Huckabee has misused the term.

“First a couple of rules in politics. One, no whining. And Number 2, you get them to vote for you. And so I want them not to vote for Mike Huckabee and not to vote for John McCain and to vote for me. … That’s not voter suppression. That’s known as politics,” Romney said. “I want people to vote, but I want them to vote for me.”

I’ve started wondering, somewhere deep in the back of my head, if it isn’t Ron Paul that’s plotting a third party run if he doesn’t get the nomination: unless he imagines that he’ll be offered a plum cabinet position or the VP slot for giving out his endorsement, what is Huckabee still running for? The only thing that shoots down my own little, irrational conspiracy theory is the fact that there would be nowhere for Huckabee to run.

The mind wanders.

Read the story.

Probably the Last Word on the Super Bowl Ads

I was wondering where the competing beer ads were this year. Well, the Miller common sense guy delivers his own critique on the Super Bowl ads. And I don’t much disagree with him. Amazing work from Miller pulling off this ad in such a short amount of time.

Tip of the hat to the American Copywriter.

Great Super Bowl Ads

My friend Jerry forwarded on this link to the 10 Most Memorable Super Bowl Ads. Good list--although I would kill off the annoying GoDaddy ad and put in maybe the herding cats commercial or one of the Budweiser lizard ads. Leading of with the Apple 1984 ad is almost a cliche at this point, but it would be hard to deny the spot’s narrative power.

My personal favorite might be the Monster.com ad that comes right after Apple’s, though. I swear, I almost hurt myself laughing the first time I heard one of those kids say “I want to be forced into early retirement.” That put yesterday’s Careerbuilder.com ad--"follow your heart"--to absolute shame.

Anyway, check it out. For the younger folks out there, it might be the first time you’ve seen the Xerox ad from 1977. An inspired choice.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Super Bowl: Final Impression

Congratulations to the Giants for doing what no one would have imagined a few games into the season. It wasn’t the most exciting game (until closer to the end), but it was a gritty performance.

Go Peyton’s brother!

On the other hand, how classless is it that most of the Patriots and Belichick had left the field before the final, ceremonial kneel down. Classless, rude, self-centered, arrogant, and amazingly poor sportsmanship. It makes me feel better when I think what it must mean to lose the perfect season after going 18-0.

Belichick is one of the game’s best coaches, no doubt, but his personality makes Ron Paul seem downright Churchillian in nature.

Now, back to the important part: a brand new House is coming up next!

Okay, one other thing: the MVP should have been someone on defense. The offense did enough to win, I suppose, but it’s the defense that gave them the opportunity to do so. 

Super Bowl Impressions (Updated Over and Over and Over Again…)

We’ll get back to politics later, but for now, it’s all about the Super Bowl.

And don’t forget that you’ll be able to watch the Super Bowl ads here on MySpace after the game is over.

  1. Jordin Sparks, for all that she looked about to die of fright, did the anthem very well. She did herself proud.
  2. Go Giants. I don’t know what your chances really look like, but I’m pulling for you. Even if I’m still pretty sure that the wrong Manning is playing. Er, just kidding.
  3. It’s nice that they get the ball to start the game, too. Not terribly significant, I’d guess, but nice.
  4. How smart is it of Fox to run House at the end of the game? Consider: if the game becomes a blow-out, I’m betting that lots of fans will stick around to watch it to the end simply to see a new episode of House. It’s a brilliant way to combat that second half drain that has probably plagued quite a few recent Super Bowls and a good way to show advertisers that Fox is committed to making sure that ad space in the second half still has value to advertisers.
  5. Go House!
  6. The new Ford F-150 centrifuge ad is pretty nifty. I’d love to have seen that happening live.
  7. The Audi R8 ad, with the Rolls’ “head” in the bed, was cute. Nice way to grab my attention. Extremely pretty car, too, although I wouldn’t have thought that a Rolls would be its natural enemy.
  8. The Giants are making a good go of their first drive, too. Grinding it out with Eli doing his part on third downs. The Giants are serving notice that they haven’t bought into the hype or the Vegas line.
  9. Shame they couldn’t finish off the nearly 10 minute drive with a touchdown instead of a field goal.
  10. Under Armour. Can you dig itttt?
  11. The Bridgestone screaming animals commercial was hilarious--very nicely done--as was the NFL armored robot getting its butt kicked by the Terminator.
  12. See, New England didn’t settle for no stinkin’ field goal. That first quarter went fast.
  13. This was the first time I’ve seen an ad for Wanted. I want to do that.
  14. GoDaddy irritates me, though. Their ads are entirely meaningless in relation to their products; neither are they particularly clever. Mostly they are just juvenile.
  15. Dell’s (red) ad is weak. Weak. Thank goodness the FedEx carrier pigeon ad brings back my smile as does the Cars.com circle of death ad and the Silence the Stain ad (which is relevant and clever.
  16. Beautiful catch by Amani Toomer on the sideline. I didn’t think he had his feat in bounds at first, but, with a little bit of pushing off, he made a huge grab.
  17. That interception wasn’t Eil’s fault. Smith should have caught it, even though it was a little low.
  18. Budweiser’s Rocky ad was cute. Not great, but very nicely done.
  19. So, yeah, I’ll be watching Iron Man. Even though the ratio of good to bad comic book movies isn’t really in my favor, here, I remain optimistic.
  20. Big ups to ferocious, face-eating badgers, Leatherheads, and Napoleon’s pony, too.
  21. Does anyone else get the impression that there is going to be a big, nasty brawl between these two teams before the end of the game? They don’t seem to like each other much and there’s been a bunch of extracurricular hitting and shoving.
  22. Careerbuilder.com’s “follow your heart” ad was more creepy than clever. The lizards dancing to “Thriller” was kinda cute, though. It would have been better without the dancing woman, though. Waste of space.
  23. Okay, from a purely visual standpoint, I absolutely adored the Yukon Hybrid ad from GM. The hand-drawn look, the message of persistence in the face of difficulties, and the ultimate sense of quiet triumph. Gorgeous.
  24. Oooo. Prince Caspian looks cool.
  25. Charles Barkley has a great sense of humor about himself and, apparently, so does Justin Timberlake.
  26. Darling girl insists that the Giants are just warming up. Well.
  27. Tap this, Senator Clinton.
  28. Er. Sorry.

Second half impressions are in the extended entry.

Read the Rest...

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Should You Vote for Hillary Clinton?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Take That, Carter!

It’s a good night. I just came back from Borders, it’s snowing outside enough that I have an excuse to practice a little sloth tomorrow morning, I’m watching Magnolia, and I just read Shawn Macomber deliver an eloquent pummeling to my former least favorite former president.

Once again proving why he’s one of my favorite writers, Macomber gives us a great examination of how Carter’s religious faith isn’t, perhaps, what you might have thought it was.

Carter places the miracles of government bureaucracy ahead of those of his own church, yet still wonders why the largest single contingent of Baptists in the country is skeptical of his New Covenant. “I treat theological arguments gingerly but am bolder when it comes to connecting my religious beliefs with life and current events in the world, even when the issues are controversial,” Carter writes in Living Faith. In other words, the details of scripture are uninteresting until they offer a rationale for Carter’s left-wing predilections or somehow justify the four years of tribulation known as his presidency.

Recently, another writer who I admire said something about a sentence that I had written ("Wish I’d had that line for Will in PC.") and it was the kind of compliment that made me feel about as good as you might imagine. I can’t deliver the same kind of compliment--I don’t have the same kind of professional standing as the gentleman who said those words to me--but let me say that I wish I had written that paragraph, and very specifically that last sentence, myself. It pulls together so much of my impression of Carter into one tiny package that I can’t imagine how I would improve upon it.

Go read the rest. Great stuff.

Rules for the Elect, #1

The first lesson that elected, male representatives up and down the food chain need to learn is this:

The penis stays in the pants unless you are with your doctor, significant other, or playing solitaire. If you know what I mean.

Other people don’t want to see your penis, no matter how impressive it (or your job title or your ego) may be.

Keep the penis in the pants.

I put this one first on the list because it seems to pop up fairly often. You’d think that this rule would be in some budding politician’s “Intro to Ruling the Rubes” “Your First Day on the Tax n’ Spend Trail” handbook, but it seems to have been omitted in all the pertinent literature.

Since I continue to want our elected overlords public servants to be successful and happy, I offer this up as my own public service. Sadly, it seems to have come up a little bit late for House Assistant Majority Leader Michael Garcia (D-Aurora).

House Assistant Majority Leader Michael Garcia is resigning as a state representative, effective immediately.

Our partners at the Denver Post have reported that Rep. Garcia (D-Aurora) was accused by a lobbyist of exposing himself and making lewd comments to her as they played pool and drank in a bar.

The Post also reports that the incident was reported to House Speaker Andrew Romanoff who said he could not comment on the matter.

Of course, his first mistake might have been trusting a lobbyist.

Even with this highly public advice, my guess is that politicians will continue to fall into the same trap of believing that their penises are far more desirable than rational thought might lead the rest of us to believe. Kind of like Hillary’s thoughts about the desirability of the Federal government mandating universal pre-k.

Read the rest.


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