Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sorry, Right Number

I left my phone on the train. It fell out of my pocket, and headed south.

So when I got home, I called it. And thankfully, someone picked up.

This person did not speak English. And try as I might to get him to hand the phone to someone who I could communicate with (I recognized a few words in Spanish in what he was saying, and used what little Spanish I could muster, although now I realize I was saying "Please say my telephone to someone who speaks English" instead of "please give my telephone"), he seemed either unable to understand me or just unwilling to hand my phone over to anyone else. Hey, free phone.

Crapshacks. I think I have to get a new phone.


You know what I'd like?

I'd like to find whoever came up with the "Wall Street vs. Main Street" comparison and crack their skull open with a shovel.

It's not so much how it's used in political speeches, where I expect generalizations and glossing-over. But when I hear it in news reports, it drives me north, wall-wise. There's something about reporters referring to "Main Street" like it's an actual place, not an analogous amalgam of a whole lot of different places. Main Street, as the reporters are referring to it, does not exist. Amboy Avenue, Woodbridge Avenue and Saxer Avenue (and yes, even, on occasion, an actual Main Street) are the real deal, where people and businesses are really struggling. But when I hear about this fictional "Main Street," it's like a kick to the face. If we can't even trust our reporters not to live in Fantasyland, how the hell can we get out of this mess?

So, sorry, unknown speechwriter. I know you were just doing your job, and you obviously did it very well. You created something that will stay in our lexicon forever. You are immortal.

Until I get to Main Street and buy myself that shovel.


Don't Blame Pelosi

Or at least, don't blame her for her speech, which had no real effect on the bailout vote. Go ahead and blame her leadership, and the Republican leadership, for not being able to drum up enough votes to pass the the thing, and leaving the country hanging by its shredded credit cards for another few days, at least. But the speech flap is just politics as usual: Pelosi pinning deregulation on Republicans (correctly, I'd say, but poorly timed), and Republican knees jerking to say "she scared us away," to cover their embarrassment at not passing the bill... until they realized how petty and venal that made them sound. Anyway, for your debunking pleasure, here's a short clip of Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) saying the whole notion is hogwash.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Rob Dreams: New Orleans Zombie Outbreak

So Saturday night I was in New Orleans with my lovely wife and a bunch of friends. And there was a big zombie outbreak. ("Slow zombies or fast zombies?" my lovely wife asks. Fast zombies, baby. Really fast zombies.)

Now, Kathy and I, for reasons of our own that escape me now, had booked two hotel rooms for that night. The one at the hotel we were at (which was positively crawling with the undead), and another hotel across town (status: unknown). None of our friends had had the foresight to book two hotel rooms for the night, but somehow we were prepared for at least one of the hotels to fill up with brain-eating freaks, and were ready to pack up and move to the other hotel.

Not that it would be easy. There were a lot of casinos between the two hotels, and I really would have liked to stop at all of them and play a little poker and maybe roll some craps. And zombies looooove casinos. So there would be difficulty there, in fighting off the undead and trying to win a little money.

Our friends were coming with us, of course. We couldn't leave them behind, even if it meant eight of us cramming into one hotel room. I assured Kathy it wouldn't come to that, though. "By the time we get there, there'll be only five or six of us, tops."

That's not to say that any of you are expendable, dear friends. But there's only so much floorspace during the zombie holocaust, and it's best to always look for the silver lining.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

More on Last Night's Debate

James Fallows has some really interesting analysis of Obama's real job in the debate last night -- and why giving me (and viewers like me) a satisfying knock-out punch wasn't the priority:

Obama would have pleased his base better if he had fought back more harshly in those 90 minutes -- cutting McCain off, delivering a similarly harsh closing judgment, using comparably hostile body language, and in general acting more like a combative House of Commons debater. Those would have been effective tactics minute by minute.

But Obama either figured out, or instinctively understood, that the real battle was to make himself seem comfortable, reasonable, responsible, well-versed, and in all ways "safe" and non-outsiderish to the audience just making up its mind about him... The evidence of the polls suggests that he achieved exactly this strategic goal. He was the more "likeable," the more knowledgeable, the more temperate, etc.
Meanwhile, 538.com has an analysis of the post-debate polls: Why Voters Thought Obama Won. Here's a sample:
McCain’s essential problem is that his fundamental strength – his experience -- is specifically not viewed by voters as carrying over to the economy. And the economy is pretty much all that voters care about these days.
And Steve Benen has a post about McCain's "spending freeze" comment:
It's probably considered passe for the media to care about a policy pronouncement made during a debate, but this is a fairly big deal -- which, in theory, could be devastating to McCain. As Yglesias noted, his proposed spending freeze would, in real terms, mean "less money for your local police department. Less money for the FBI. Less money for Head Start. Less money for Pell Grants. Less money for infrastructure. Less money for everything except failed banks and endless wars."
My main concern about it is something Benen says earlier in his post:
Now, as far as I can tell, a spending freeze has never been part of McCain's policy agenda. In all likelihood, he came up with it on the spot and will never repeat this again.
McCain ad-libbed something as monumental as spending freeze. When under pressure, he goes for the Hail Mary pass. Like choosing Sarah Palin as a running mate. Like "suspending" his campaign, and trying to cancel the debate. It's about all the razzle-dazzle with him, with no thought to its consequences.

We'll see if he backs away from this idea in the next few days. But his m.o. tends to be, when caught in a mistake, or when vamping because he's not quite sure what to do, he'll double down on his original statement. Don't believe me? Just ask the Prime Minister of Spain.


O, Death

I watched Bergman's The Seventh Seal again the other day. Now, when I play chess on Facebook, I'll know that there's a chance of me dying of the black plague. It tends to focus the mind.

(In all seriousness, the movie is wonderful. If you've never seen it, you're missing out.)

"OH SNAP AGAIN Obama pulled out the Spain attack!"

While the debate is still fresh in your mind, check out MGK's debate liveblogging: funny and sharp.


Freeze on Action

Paul Newman has passed on at 83.



Apparently, CNN and CBS have conducted polls that suggest that Barack Obama won tonight's debate. (CNN has Obama winning, 51%-38%. CBS's poll says Obama won, 39%-24%.) I'm not so sure.

In one of McCain's lists of his accomplishments--I think it was the one that began with the military action in Lebanon--he made me really consider the value of his experience. It made me think, yes, he has seen a lot, and done a lot, and that is a good quality to have in a president.

(He's also apparently been more places than Carmen SanDiego and Where the Hell is Matt combined.)

Anyway, my point is that I think he came off pretty well. Part of that might be that President Bush's oratory skills have substantially lowered the bar on how well I expect Republicans to articulate their positions. McCain seemed mostly conversant on the issues. Of course, foreign policy is supposed to be his strong suit, so I don't know why I was expecting otherwise. But I had been so frustrated--so frustrated--by Bush's sheer aura of dullard in the 2000 and 2004 debates, that having someone articulate up there came as a refreshing surprise. Also, I didn't throw anything.

But ultimately, no matter his experience, McCain didn't sway me. (Big surprise, right?) Because recent experience has shown him to have very poor judgment on everything from invading Iraq to choosing a vice president. It's not an ungrateful what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude that propts these thoughts. McCain has made some good decisions in the past, and some bad ones. But looking forward, I see fewer and fewer good decisions from him on the horizon. He tends to act rashly in tight situations (choosing Palin, "suspending" his campaign, etc.), and a president's appointment book is filled with tight situations. Obama keeps a cooler head. Regardless of his ideas for his presidency (and I think they're good ones), he has the even, steady temprament for the job.

Anyway, despite the polls I thought the debate itself was pretty much a draw; it could be that I'm giving McCain too much credit for not coming off as a brush-clearing boob, though.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Cafferty, Disgusted.

"One 72-year-old's heartbeat away..."

McCain should be ashamed. She's not ready. She's nowhere near ready. And in picking her to lead this country, John McCain has shown us that he's not worthy of the post he aspires to.


Friday Arrested


Help Us Make Our Choice

Pressed in an interview on the "CBS Evening News" about whether he would show, McCain responded: "I understand how important this debate is and I'm very hopeful, but I also have to put the country first." (From TPM)
Excuse me, Senator? Helping your countrymen choose their next leader is putting the country first. Making your views clear to us so we can make an informed decision is putting your country first. Challenging your opponent on his views, and telling us why you think they're wrong is putting your country first.

Everything else you've been doing is a stunt, putting no one first but yourself.


The Science Council Never Listens

One More Reason to Love Val:

The relevant part of the Superman mythos, in my opinion, wasn't his exploits once he came to Earth -- it was back on Krypton, when those assholes were given a heads-up and decided to sit on their thumbs.
This from an open letter where she holds forth on the nature of her blog, and what people seem to want it to be.

Her blog isn't always comfortable to read, and sometimes what I read there infuriates me... but it's personal and honest and when she's right, she can be really right.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Video Killed the Parody Star

I was thinking about posting a parody of Palin's Charlie Gibson interview on this site. It's pretty funny, and more subtle than a lot of political humor, which tends to run toward the shrill side of the spectrum in these months, particularly. But instead, here's a piece of Palin's actual interview with Katie Couric, in which she breaks down exactly why Alaska being close to Russia gives her foreign policy experience.

She has foreign policy experience because Putin flies over Alaska sometimes. That's like saying NASA wants me for an astronaut because I can see the moon from my house.

I guess we'll know in November whether this is a comedy or a tragedy.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What a Surprise

McCain's debate-bailout stunt might be used to postpone the Palin/Biden debate.

McCain supporter Sen. Lindsey Graham tells CNN the McCain campaign is proposing to the Presidential Debate Commission and the Obama camp that if there's no bailout deal by Friday, the first presidential debate should take the place of the VP debate, currently scheduled for next Thursday, October 2 in St. Louis.

In this scenario, the vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin would be rescheduled for a date yet to be determined, and take place in Oxford, Mississippi, currently slated to be the site of the first presidential faceoff this Friday.

She's not ready.


This Week in Me Sitting On My Ass

I've watched a bunch of TV so far this week, and I thought I'd share some thoughts.


First of all, the Heroes premiere. For a show that added a superspeedster, those two hours sure plodded by. It's not that nothing happened: Plenty of plotlines started or were continued from last season. It's just that, with the exception of the frankly awesome super-speed effect, nothing made me sit up and take notice. Sure, characters are changing alliances and whatnot, but that's always happened on this show. And the characters are getting stupider. It's gotten to the point where (with the exception of HRG), the cast is made up of idiots and creeps, and I'm starting to root for the creeps because the idiots are so infuriating. Honestly, the only people I cheered in the entire two hour premiere were the speedster and Mama Petrelli. And as the ancient proverb goes, when you find yourself rooting for Darth Vader, it's time to stop watching Star Wars.

You know what superpower I'd like to see? The one Aaron Sorkin, Mitch Hurwitz, or Larry Gelbart has—heck, even Kieth Giffen, if you want to stay in-genre: Wit. Show me some wit, and I'm yours. Otherwise it's just Days of Our Lives with CGI.

The Mentalist

On the other hand, I really liked the first episode of The Mentalist, Simon Baker's new show. Baker plays Patrick Jane, a former talk-show "psychic" (think John Edward) who claimed to be able to talk to the dead, who has now reformed as is using the powers of observation that made him so good at cold reading. It's an interesting premise, and one tailor-made for me, as I'm interested in con artists of all stripes.

I also like the fact that Jane's not an action-hero type. When confronted with a gun in the first episode, he runs, hoping some of his cop partners can take him out. (Otherwise, he'd be called the Physicalist, I guess.)

It's a 60-minute procedural show, so we can expect a mystery in every ep, which is a nice change from the series-long mysteries of Lost and Heroes and the like. But one thing haunts Jane, and will most likely drive the season, if not the entire series. It's a serial killer nicknamed "Red John," and Jane has good reason to hate him. Problem is, Red John leaves a calling card smeared in blood on his victims' walls (you can see it behind Baker, here).

Look familiar? Maybe you'll recognize it if you take your Zoloft.

What do you think, Strong Sad?

Other than that, I really liked the show.

My Favorite Brunette

I caught this Bob Hope/Dorothy Lamour movie on TCM the other day. It's an amusing private eye spoof from 1947—really a thinly veiled excuse to do schtick. A baby photographer (Hope) is left alone in a private eye's office when... the brunette walks in. Don't take more than that to start a movie, sometimes.

Anyway, there's one gag at the end that made me laugh out loud. Hope is at this point trying to escape an angry mob of criminals in a hotel room, and is riding on the shoulders of their hired muscle. He reaches up into the chandelier, and pulls down a bottle of champagne that had been stashed up there and smashes it over the thug's head. The only explanation he gives for the bottle being in the chandelier is "Looks like Ray Milland was here!"—a reference to Milland's popular 1945 movie The Lost Weekend, about a 4-day bender.

Now that's Hollywood!


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Two Great Tastes

Today on the boards, we were having fun with "impossible collaborations" -- basically mashups of artistic works by two disparate creators. I had some fun by suggesting things like The Oldest Living Confederate Widow in King Arthur's Court (by Mark Twain and Allan Gurganus) and Se7en and the Ragged Tiger (by David Fincher and Duran Duran), and even a toy like Mike Mignola and Children Television Workshop's Tickle Me Hellboy. But where I really had fun was thinking about how other people's suggestions would play out.

For instance, LimeCoke's notion of the Legion of City Slickers inspired this exchange:

CURLY: "You know what the secret of life is?" (He holds up one finger.) "This."
MITCH: "Is that a flight ring?"

He also suggested John Hughes and John Ostrander's The Breakfast Suicide Squad:

"Dear Mrs. Waller, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in Belle Reve for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you're crazy to send us on covert ops on enemy soil. You see us as you want to see us... In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions, according to our various sentences. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain...
...and an athlete...

...and a basket case...

...a princess...

...and a guy who throws trick boomerangs.

Does that answer your question?

Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Suicide Squad."
But so far I've had the most fun riffing on Mike Parnell's proposed collaboration between Garrison Keillor and James Ellroy: Lake Wobegon Confidential.
"It's Christmas time in Lake Wobegon, and Edna Biddle would be spritzing the last few ounces of brandy on her signature fruitcakes, if she hadn't be cut down in a brutal murder at the cozy little diner she ran with her husband Carl. Carl made the best apple cobbler in town, and was a heck of a good poker player, even if he did chase an inside straight more often than was good for him... Last night Carl was found in a pile of corpses in the back of the Biddle's diner, so I guess Phyllis Wylie now makes the best apple cobbler in town."
Style-wise, Keillor's laconic prose is the polar opposite of Ellroy's staccato jabs of words, so there's really no good way of merging their styles. But when you get down to subject matter, small towns and multiple homicide go together like peanut butter and ice cream.


Monday, September 22, 2008

So It Turns Out I Don’t Live Down the Street From Popeye, After All

I was changing the oil in my car the other day. I needed a place to put the old oil, so I was going to drain it into my coffee pot. Problem was, the coffee pot was full of fresh spinach for some reason. Ah, well, I thought, the oil will just fill in around it. There’s room enough for both.

That’s when Popeye was walking by, and noticed what I was doing. Not Popeye the cartoon character or comic strip character, but the real Popeye, the guy who played Popeye in the black and white live-action serials of the 40s and 50s, the way Clayton Moore played the Lone Ranger. He lives around the block from me and runs a small grocery now. He saw what I was about to do and said, “Son, don’t you know anything about cars?” (I don’t.) And he showed me a better way to do an oil change. But the first thing he did—the very first thing—was to find a bowl to put the fresh spinach in, so I could drain the oil into the coffee pot more easily.

Later on, I’m looking back on my day, and I realize: Not only did I meet Popeye, but I met him in a spinach-related incident! What are the odds? I have got to blog about this, I thought.

It takes me ten minutes after I wake up to realize that a) to the best of my knowledge, no one played Popeye in live-action movies before Robin Williams in Robert Altman’s film version; b) Popeye doesn’t live down the street from me, and c) Me, changing the oil in my car? Come on, now.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Genius Unabated

Genius was one of the winners of Top Cow's Pilot Season contest.

More, please!


The Reign in Spain

John McCain might not know who the Prime Minister of Spain is. Or he might just think Spain is our enemy; it's tough to say.

Mightygodking has an idea as to what might have caused this confusion.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

DCU: Decisions

I just read issue 1 of DCU Decisions at lunch—and it was better than I expected. It's co-written by Bill Willingham, one of my favorite writers (and a conservative) and Judd Winick, a writer I used to like a lot but now tend to avoid like the plague (and a liberal). I expected Crossfire in comics form. What I got was very different.

There's actually very little discussion of real-world politics in this (although we learn that Green Arrow is voting Democratic—gasp! shock!—and can infer that one other longtime, well-known character is likely to vote Republican). But mostly, it seems to be focusing on the interpolitics of the superhuman community, and how Green Arrow's decision to endorse a (fictional) candidate in the Democratic primaries (which he initially does as a misstep during an interview, rather than intentionally) could change how heroes conduct themselves in public and relate to each other in private.

Plus there's a mystery, which is nice.

I kind of expected something that people on both sides of the political aisle would find something to hate in this book, but so far it seems a little to vague for that, and quite possibly better for it.

(Something of interest to me is that this cover seems to have gone through several iterations. The first one was saw—and maybe it was never intended as a cover, just promo art—was the Green Arrow endorsement poster. Next is this cover, which I took directly from DC's website a couple of minutes ago. But the cover I actually bought off the stands is this cover with one addition: "Heroes Don't Vote" is spraypainted over the poster. I wonder if this addition is the reason the comic was pulled from last week's shipment and delayed until this week? Maybe someone at DC or Warners thought the cover would be seen as an actual, unambiguous endorsement of a Dem?)


Good News, Parents!


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An Impolitic Question

Since John McCain opposes meaningful enforcement of equal pay for women, could his choice of running mate be his way of cutting the Federal budget?

Just askin'.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Brought to You By the Letter F

At Kalinara's site, I volunteered to do a meme in which I’d be assigned a letter, and then I’d write about five characters whose names begin with that letter. If you want to participate, just say so in the comments. I’m writing mostly about comic book characters, since it began as a comics meme, but I won’t impose those limits on you. Follow yer bliss.

Anyhow, my letter was F.

1. Naturally, my first character is Flash. I doubt he was the first superhero I was ever exposed to, but he was the first one I really latched onto, and remains my favorite superhero to this day. Except...

I simply can’t pick a favorite Flash. Barry Allen was the Flash of my childhood, and I still get a thrill whenever he shows up in a story. But his nephew Wally West is the Flash I grew up with, if you get my meaning. As Wally was taking on the mantle of the Flash and growing into the role, I was leaving high school, attending college, and entering the workforce. We became adults together, and as much as my sentiment leans toward Barry, Wally seems much more “my” Flash.

Either way, both Flashes’ adventures offered one thing that really appealed to me: the ability to take one specific talent and use it to maximum effect, in every way possible. It’s to writer John Broome’s credit that every issue of Flash didn’t come down to some sort of race. The never ending supply of speed tricks (a pattern he established, maintained by writers Cary Bates, William Messner-Loebs, Mark Waid and Geoff Johns) kept me coming back for more.

2. Firestorm. I’ve always dug the dual nature of Ronnie Raymond and Prof. Stein, flying around and changing machine guns into Hostess Fruit Pies and such. I also think he must seem absolutely bonkers to anyone who meets him: He talks out loud to the professor, who no one can hear. I have to admit, I’m not really up on the status quo of Jason Rusch, the new Firestorm. He seems like a nice kid, and a suitable replacement for Ronnie, but I haven’t yet read many stories he’s starred in, yet. Is the Professor still with him, or some professor-figure? That’s really the heart of Firestorm, in my opinion—without the conversations between the two, it’s just a whole different character.

3. Foggy Nelson. Daredevil’s law partner and best buddy always seemed like an accident waiting to happen. I like the fact that he’s become Matt Murdock’s rock, the one guy he can depend on through thick and thin. In that way, he’s like Ando in Heroes, even more heroic than the lead simply because he’s not built for the job. Matt sure makes his life a living hell, though, doesn’t he?

4. Fiona Webb. Man, I’d like to see what’s become of her. In the Flash series in the 1980s, she was the neighbor who Barry Allen fell in love with a few years after his wife Iris died (she got better, but only about a month before Barry himself kicked the bucket). After a tempestuous relationship (for some reason she thought Barry was an assassin hired to kill her), she and Barry were engaged to be married. But on the wedding day a) Barry never showed up (at least, not in a tux) and b) the Flash killed Professor Zoom right in front of her, in order to keep Zoom from killing Fiona (as he'd killed Iris years before). Which sent Fiona over the edge, nutty-wise. As far as I can recall, the last we saw of her, she was in the loony bin.

So now that Barry’s coming back, I sure hope we’ll get a chance to see how Fiona has fared in these last years.. and see her reaction to the man who left her at the altar coming back to his no-longer-dead first wife.

5. Fonzie. Sure, he’s not really a comic book character, but I find it fascinating that a character who routinely engaged in off-screen threesomes has become such a symbol of “a more innocent time.”


(Remember, if you want to take part in this, just post in the comments and I'll assign you a letter. Then have at!)

She's Tidied Up, But I Can't Find Anything

I haven't had a chance to read this yet, but thought I'd pass it along (as it was passed along to me*, and thus it was ever so). Science Debate 2008: The candidates answer 14 questions about where they stand on science. A good example of the important stuff that never takes center stage during the campaign.

*Thanks, Alan M.!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Read His Lips

I caught this (and another) Edgar Bergen/Charlie McCarthy short last night on TCM. Aside from its humor, I found myself just amazed by Bergen’s talent. It’s not that you can’t see him moving his mouth when he’s speaking for McCarthy. You can, and sometimes, if you look, it’s obvious. But most of the time, he misdirects you enough with McCarthy’s movements that you forget to look.

But while the misdirection is effective, it’s really not where the magic happens. As an experiment, I watched a couple minutes of the movie with my hand in front of my face so that I couldn’t see McCarthy, only Bergen. Seeing him alone, and even watching his lips slightly moving, it still seemed like he was having a conversation with another person. He was such a master of conversational timing that he could run both sides of the banter himself, and seemingly step on his own lines with McCarthy’s, and vice versa. Try it and you’ll see.

(Phil Hendrie, of course, is able to pull off this same stunt. You wouldn’t think ventriloquism would work on the radio, and then you hear him do his thing... and he simply amazes.)

Anyway, it’s a cute piece, about 10 minutes long, and it’s a great example of why Bergen and McCarthy were so popular.


One Reason To Stay Up Late Late

I don't have video yet of what Craig Ferguson said last night—but here's a great show opener from the night before. He'll never get the acclaim that Johnny Carson got—no one ever will—but Ferguson has a style that reminds me more of Carson than anyone else in late-night. It's not so apparent in the video below—while there's usually a Carsonesque warmth to his jokes, he's trying to make a point here, which isn't something I associate with Carson. But Ferguson's monologues are loose and filled with silly asides, and he'll often do sketches during the show, much like Carson did. (He regularly plays Aquaman, Prince Charles and Jessica Fletcher, for example.)

Ferguson tends to treat his guests like friends at a dinner party. Rather than flogging whatever new thing they're selling, he takes the time to talk to them, person to person. He's warm, likable, and fairly gentle with his jokes. He doesn't feel like an overgrown kid, like Conan (or even Dave). He's a grownup, albeit a silly one.

Anyway, all that is an introduction to a clip that really doesn't need an introduction, and lays out another reason Ferguson is a favorite of mine.


Speechless Today

I don't know what I was looking for today. I didn't want to write about the anniversary. I didn't have anything to say that I hadn't already said, or that others weren't saying. But at the same time, I felt like anything else I could post today would be trivial in comparison.

So I stayed up, and I read for a bit, and I drifted off to sleep on the couch. When I woke up, the TV was switching to The Late Late Show, and Craig Ferguson was explaining that he goes through a similar dilemma. He's a comic and a chat-show host, and while he didn't want to ignore the date, he's also aware that his job is making people smile before they go to bed.

When I watch his show, I'm always reminded that Ferguson is an American. He's a new American--he became a citizen earlier this year--and is obviously proud of it. He begins his monologue every night by saying, "It's a great day for America," moving from there into whatever he wants to talk about. But tonight, he spoke a little about the anniversary, and remembered the victims and heroes of that day. He concluded, "We'll do our show much the same as usual, except that I will say to you what you already know, that this day will never be a great day for America."

And hearing that? Well, I think that's what I was waiting to hear all day.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

How Much Will You Save?

CNN Money has a story comparing McCain's tax plan to Obama's.

One thing that interests me is this quote:

"Distributionally, they're markedly different. But in terms of their impact on revenue, the two plans are not terribly different," said Roberton Williams, principal research associate at the Tax Policy Center and the former deputy assistant director for tax analysis at the Congressional Budget Office.

Essentially, the country will be taking in the same money from either plan. So the differences in the plans show where the candidate's priorities are.

Here's where it get's interesting: a chart of how takes would change for people in various income brackets:

Here's how the average tax bill could change in 2009 if either John McCain's or Barack Obama's tax proposals were fully in place.

Income Avg. tax bill Avg. tax bill
Over $2.9M -$269,364 +$701,885
$603K and up -$45,361 +$115,974
$227K-$603K -$7,871 +$12
$161K-$227K -$4,380 -$2,789
$112K-$161K -$2,614 -$2,204
$66K-$112K -$1,009 -$1,290
$38K-$66K -$319 -$1,042
$19K-$38K -$113 -$892
Under $19K -$19 -$567
Source:The Tax Policy Center

So naturally, being the self-interested guy I am, I looked at my net change in taxes first. I'd pay a little less under Obama's plan than I would McCain's. So it's a win for self-interest, which is great. But it's important to note that everyone who makes less than $227,000 a year will pay less under Obama's plan than they're paying now, and from $227K to $600K, it's pretty much a wash. (If I made $600,000 a year, I wouldn't quibble over the price of a movie ticket.)

For me, and for most people I know, the difference between McCain and Obama's plans amount to a couple hundred bucks. But the really important differences are above or below me. How much is the guy who bags my groceries saving in taxes? How much is the person working in the mailroom at Netflix saving? I don't know what they make, but I imagine it's less than an editor's salary. And I want these people to be happy, because I want nicely bagged groceries and timely DVDs, and because they're my fellow human beings who aren't necessarily as fortunate as I am.

Under McCain's plan, someone making $19,000 to $38,000 a year will save $113 in taxes. Obama's plan saves them eight times as much: $892. I've worked at a job--an editing job--where I had a salary of around $20,000. That was my newspaper salary. You know what an extra $770 a year will do for a reporter? It'll put gas in his car, so he can go out and report on the stories that matter to you. That money means a lot to him. It would have meant a lot to me, I can tell you.

People making less than $19,000 a year will be saving approximately $19 under McCain. Obama's plan saves them $567-- nearly thirty times what McCain's plan saves them. If you don't think that money, that $550, will mean a lot to the people that get it, then you've never worked a minimum wage job, or have forgotten what it's like. That money pays the rent. It buys food. It buys SEPTA passes, or maybe car insurance. It will not be wasted.

Then you can look up at the top of the chart, to see where John McCain's priorities are. I think they speak for themselves.


The Sex Ad

I don’t think there’s any way to look at this ad without it being disgusting.

For one thing, it’s just a flat lie in several respects. The bill in question wasn’t passed, so it can’t be considered anyone’s “legislative accomplishment.” Furthermore, Obama wasn’t a sponsor of the bill, so even if it were passed, it wouldn’t be *his* accomplishment. It was a bill that came out of a committee he was on, that he likely supported.

But that’s picking nits. The main claim of the ad—that the bill was designed to teach five-year-olds about sex—is misleading and false. The intent of that portion of the legislation was age-appropriate safety issues... basically the difference between a good touch and a bad touch. To protect kids, not endanger them, as the ad implies.

So what do I see on the covers of two on New York’s papers today? The specious claim that Obama called Sarah Palin a pig.

What kind of world is this? John McCain runs a creepy, sick ad implying Obama is a child molester*, and we’re talking about a hoary old analogy that McCain has used himself about one of Hillary Clinton’s projects?

John McCain, you know this ad is bullshit, and you approved the message anyway. You’ll do anything—absolutely anything, no matter how degrading to yourself and to this country—to win. You have no honor, you have no decency, and you have no vision. But you’ve got a hell of a lot of fucking nerve.

*Yes, it does. Look at that expression on his face when the words "learning about sex before learning to read" are up on the screen. This ad is vile in every way possible.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The bones tell me...Nothing!

Oracle that he is, the Bastard tells my future.



I was on vacation throughout the Democratic National Convention, so I missed pretty much all of the speeches. (Because I was in a hot tub. So there.) And then I was home for the Republican Convention, but I didn't watch because there are too many items in my family room that could break my television screen when hurled with appropriate force.

I'd intended to go back and watch some of the speeches online, but so far, I haven't gotten around to it. Most video clips I watch online run for about as much time as it takes a panda to sneeze, or Strong Bad to answer an email. So once again, my attention span has failed me.

But today I realized that most of the speeches from both conventions are available as free podcasts. And that, I can do. So if you see me on the train, nodding along with my earbuds in, I'm probably rockin' out to the jammin' grooves of Dennis Kucinich.


What the Hell, Another Song

Enjoy some Screeching Weasel. I sure do.


Monday, September 08, 2008

There You Go My Friends, With Your Boxes in Your Cars

Yesterday in the car, Kathy and I listened to Sound Opinions' show featuring back-to-school music. Whatever the state of the solstice, summer's gone for another year. So here's a little eulogy for it from Dar Williams.

The colors are much brighter now, it's like they really want to tell the truth.


Lying to Our Faces

Just another day on the campaign trail for John McCain.


Some Maverick.

Some change.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

One Thing in Palin's Favor

She did award Craig Ferguson honorary citizenship. It was a great day for America.


Armed and Regular

So, being back on the Weight Watchers horse means more fruit in my diet. I borrowed a knife to cut up my nectarine today. And working where work, well... what a knife if is.

This deadly looking knife cuts through nectarines like, well, a deadly knife through a nectarine.

Our freelance proofreader walked over at the time, and said, "Jesus, is everyone in this place armed to the teeth?"


Dinosaur Spotted in Georgia

Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland calls Barack and Michelle Obama "uppity."

Lest anyone think racist dixianus was extinct...


Who Will Save Us Now?

If the Governor of Alaska is such a vital part of our national security, who will defend us while she's out campaigning? I don't want the terrorists to catch us with our national security Alaska-pants down.


Island Music

Before I forget: MGK linked to a Brooklyn band called "Previously on Lost." They do songs like "All My Friends Go Back," and "The Island Won't Let You Die." Maybe they'll make the Lost-size gap in the September TV schedule not seem so bad.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Careless Whispers of a Good Friend

Hear what Republican consultant Mike Murphy and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan are saying behind Sarah Palin's back... but into a live mic.


If I Posted About Work Here...

Man, would I be leaving a trail of charred corpses.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sharon Cracks Me Up

In yesterday's post about Palin, Sharon GR suggests one reason for McCain's unusual and ill-vetted pick was to "...garner support from former Hillary swing-vote supporters, who obviously vote based on the vagina content of their candidates."

For the record, while I have made decisions that have been influenced by vagina content, none of them had any impact on the electoral process.

(This is one of those posts where my sister has her fingers in her ears, saying "la la la I can't hear you!")

In a World...

... without Don LaFontaine.

Rest in peace, sir. I'll miss your voice.


Taking a Dive

Is John McCain throwing the presidential election?

That’s a mostly facetious question, but between the murmur of a Republican convention and his pick of Sarah Palin as his running mate, I’m not seeing a whole lot of enthusiasm for winning.

Granted, the Republicans pretty much had to board up the convention’s windows yesterday to prepare for Gustav. Katrina’s Public Enemy #1 was scheduled to speak that night, and with the odd outbreaks of spontaneous dancing, buttslaps, and chest-bumps the President has been exhibiting lately, who knows what he’d do? Maybe he’d have brought a fiddle. But even the most somber, sober of speeches would have begged the questions: Why is he here? Shouldn’t he be protecting us? I could be wrong, but I don't think Democrats would have had to run from the storm so much if it made landfall a week earlier; it would have been wise to set aside political attacks, but beyond that, the convention might have proceeded according to plan, largely because it was a Republican administration that mishandled Katrina and Rita. (Of course, hurricanes also tend to bring into focus the need for a federal government, a notion none too popular with small-government Republicans anyway.)

But beyond that accident of timing: What about Palin? A few days ago, I had no real idea who she is. But now I see that she is under investigation for allegedly pressuring a state official to fire her ex-brother-in-law, then firing the official when he wouldn’t do it. She was promoted as someone who opposed Ted Stevens' “Bridge to Nowhere,” when in reality, she supported it. The candidate of “experience” is touting her 18 months as commander and chief of the Alaska National Guard as foreign policy experience, but the campaign can’t even point to a decision she made that would have any FP relevance at all. And, oh yeah, she used to be a member of an Alaskan separatist movement.

Now, I know McCain isn’t really taking a dive. He didn’t knowingly choose someone so unsuited for the job so that he’d lose in November. But the fact remains: He chose someone who just isn’t up to the job... most likely because his team didn’t arrive in Alaska to vet her until the day before he announced her as his choice.

I don’t think it’s setting the bar too high to ask that a Presidential candidate actually bother to look into who’s going to replace him. Like most decisions a President faces, it requires research and careful consideration, not a gut feeling. Especially when that gut is so, so wrong.



What I Did on My Summer Vacations

Listed briefly:

Swam under a freezing cold waterfall.

Hiked to a boulder field.

Relaxed in two different hot tubs.

Drank in two different hot tubs.

Was asked if I was trying to drown myself in one of those hot tubs. (I wasn't; I was just tired of listening, and put my ears underwater.)

Played Magic: The Gathering.

Watched a ton of That 70s Show.

Saw Tropic Thunder. (Lots o' fun.)

Rode my bike around Corolla, NC.

Ate the best chicken I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. Oh good god, more please.

Cooked pulled pork. Cooked lasagna.

Took a kayak wildlife tour in the northern outer banks.

Rode in a SUV over miles of beach.

Saw lots of wild horses.

Recognized that we really need dunce caps to take things to the next level.



Started to learn how to play "Cruel to be Kind" on the guitar.

Participated in a campground version of The Dating Game. Claimed my special porno talent was "deep sea diving." Lost, but got a free condom anyway.

Lost a free condom. Possibly in the wash.

Tried honey whiskey, against a magic eight ball's advice.

Saw Steve Earle kick ass onstage. And Kenny White, and the Felice Brothers, and so many more.

Threw my nephew around a pool.

Explained the physics behind shotgunning beers to my niece; briefly regretted it.

Borrowed my mom's car, making the North Carolina drive much better than it would have been otherwise. (Thanks, Mom!)

Missed pretty much all of the Democratic National Convention.

And the Olympics. Though I did see one Ethiopian runner pass his countryman at the last minute to take the bronze medal in the marathon. That had to be one uncomfortable flight home.

Swam in some pummeling waves at the beach. Bodysurfed to exhaustion.

Played beach volleyball.

Read Little Girl Lost, The Way Some People Die, Songs of Innocence, and The Thin Man.

Hung out with friends.

Hung out with family.

Bought more fudge than I should have.

Saw the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kitty Hawk.

Ate a dozen raw oysters.

And more, I'm sure... but it slips my mind at the moment.