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Archive for the ‘Rant’ Category

There’s a great little article by Christopher Orr over at The New Republic that pretty much nails my own feelings about the “Avatar phenomenon” and how it will almost certainly translate into Oscar gold for the film.  The argument is that while Avatar is almost certainly not deserving best picture, there is an overwhelming possibility that it will be the last movie standing on Oscar Sunday for two reasons; Academy politics and money.  Orr writes the following:

Again, the issue is not merely, nor even primarily, that Avatar made so much money; it’s that The Hurt Locker made so little. The all-time lowest-grossing Best Picture winner to date (adjusted for inflation) is Crash, which made $55 million in 2005—more than five times Hurt Locker’s adjusted box office. About half as many people saw Bigelow’s picture in its entire theatrical run as saw Cameron’s on its opening day. For the Academy to elevate so small a picture over one so big would be wildly out of keeping both with its recent, much-discussed desire to keep the Oscars “relevant” to a mass audience, and with its lifelong prejudice in favor of films that succeed commercially.

I find his points to be pretty compelling.  Orr also aptly points out that while Sean Penn was probably not the most deserving nominated best actor last year (a suggestion that I happen to also agree with), he took the home the award for his performance in Milk.  He cites a possible explanation for this was the Academy looking to rebuke claims that they were out of touch with the gay community after Brokeback Mountain lost its own best picture race to the less celebrated Crash a couple of years prior.  The mere fact that this argument holds water and is in anyway credible in itself highlights what’s wrong with the Academy Awards.  They are so very much about politics and campaigning and so little about actually rewarding quality.

Now, I don’t have the same venom for Avatar that Orr does.  While he hated the film, I merely found it to be so-so and highly overrated.  I do think that the idea of that movie being celebrated as the best of the year, though, would be nothing short of ludicrous.  Like Orr, I’m of the belief that Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker was by far and away the best film of the year, regardless of how many people saw it.  However, at the same time I’m aware of the fact that regardless of how the Oscar race shakes out, the film is already something of a big winner.  The mere fact that it has been nominated and crowned as the front-runner has probably sent millions more viewers rushing to the television to watch it than would have experienced it otherwise.  As a (relatively) low-budget Iraq-war movie, it was never going to attract the viewers that a big, dumb, action movie like Avatar was.  But while even a best picture win will likely do little to expand upon Avatar‘s essentially maxed-out fanbase, even just a nomination has done exactly that for The Hurt Locker.

Cinema fans will have to take their victories where they can get them, I suppose.

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Over at CNN it has been projected that Republican Senator Scott Brown has won the election for the seat previously held by Ted Kennedy.  While there are some surefire implications of this change in seating (most notably for the President’s Health Care agenda), there are some things that you can be sure to expect to hear. Republicans are going to tell you that this upset is reflective of the country’s indictment of Democrat’s failures. Democrats will tell you that it’s a disappointment, but ultimately no big deal.  The major news media outlets will either tell you that this is a ray of light beaming down on America, or that the sky is falling (depending on what your outlet of choice is).  Finally, Lucifer in the disguise of Matt Drudge will gloat and come up with some childish and obnoxious headline that is supposed to pass for conservative wit.

Brown’s victory made real the once unthinkable prospect of a Republican filling the seat held by Kennedy, known as the liberal lion, for almost 47 years until his death from brain cancer in August.

Voters across Massachusetts braved winter cold and snow for an election with high stakes — the domestic agenda of President Obama, including his priority of health care reform.

Brown’s victory strips Democrats of the 60-seat Senate supermajority needed to overcome GOP filibusters against future Senate action on a broad range of White House priorities. Senate Democrats needed all 60 votes in their caucus to pass the health care bill, and the loss of one seat imperils generating that support again for a compromise measure worked out with the House.

Now, am I disappointed that Teddy Kennedy’s seat has been taken by a Republican?  Of course.  Do I think it’s a blow that the Democrats have lost their magic 60 in the Senate?  Absolutely.  Do I think that Massachusetts voters have made a mistake?  Of course.  But make no mistake, this isn’t the end of the world.  Health care reform was tricky with 60 and it will be even more so with 59, but that doesn’t make it impossible.  Additionally, as much as I don’t like the fact that the seat tipped toward the Republicans, I still think it’s way to early to attribute this upset to any real national trend to the right, we just don’t have the data to support that thesis.  Basically, at this point I am taking my political lumps and hoping for the best.

I was watching Rachel Maddow a little earlier this evening and did think it was interesting when she pointed out Massachusetts’ poor record when it comes to supporting female candidates for major elected offices.  I’m not sure that had a whole ton to do with the vote in Massachusetts tonight, but it is interesting to ponder where exactly somebody like Martha Coakley fits in post-Obama America, and how much has really changed in the eyes of voters.  Frankly, I’m unsure what makes me more uncomfortable, that voters dismissed Coakley because she was a woman, or that they actually understood and preferred Brown’s ideas. Distressing stuff either way, but as they say, the sun will come out tomorrow.

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Some Words On Haiti

I haven’t posted about the situation in Haiti yet.  This is mostly due to the fact that it’s so unbelievably staggering, that I just have had absolutely no idea what it is that I could say.  The death toll is astronomical, the country is in a state of near-chaos, and so far the global community has been unable to provide the kind of aid that is needed.  In short, it is one of the single worst disasters that has occurred in my lifetime, and in the aftermath is a nation that is teetering on the edge.

I am not on the ground in Haiti.  I have never been to Haiti.  I cannot paint an accurate picture of what is going on in the country right now, or what needs to be done.  This being the case, here is the picture as painted by some sources with much more authority and expertise than I would ever claim to have.

From The Los Angeles Times:

For residents, the shortages of food, water and fuel carried the prospect of increased hardship in a nation with a volatile history. Chaotic lines formed at gas stations, though it was unclear whether any gasoline would be pumped. Those with enough fuel created a noisy traffic jam on one main boulevard heading out of the capital.

People scavenged for water, carrying empty canisters in the street.

One elderly man, who wanted to be identified by only his first name, Milton, said Haitians were hoping that U.S. Marines, who have been deployed during times of political upheaval, would come again.

“When the U.S. occupation is good and big, it creates work, builds roads, helps people,” he said. Not only that, Milton added, Marines tended to toss the remains of their meals into the city’s omnipresent mountains of garbage.

From The New York Times:

For rescuers and those buried, every hour that passed was the enemy.

“The time window is ever shrinking,” said Florian Westphal, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva.

Residents interviewed through the city said that the cries that they heard emanating from many collapsed buildings in the initial hours after the quake had begun to soften, if not quiet completely.

“There’s no more life here,” said a grandmother Thursday, who nonetheless rapped a broom against concrete in hopes that her four missing relatives believed to be buried inside might somehow respond.

From CNN:

“If help doesn’t come quickly, it probably will [get worse],” Agnes Pierre-Louis, manager of her family-owned hotel, the Le Plaza in downtown Port-au-Prince. “We’re not hearing anything from the government. We’re not seeing any foreign aid yet.”

But Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, deputy commander of the U.S. Southern Command, said forces have not “seen a great deal of insecurity.” The priority now, he said, is cranking up rescue and relief efforts to stave off restiveness.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates echoed that sentiment, saying that “other than some scavenging and minor looting, our understanding is the security situation is pretty good.”

“The key is to get the food and the water in there as quickly as possible so that people don’t, in their desperation, turn to violence or lead to the security situation deteriorating.”

From MSNBC:

The situation is especially dire for children, who make up an estimated 40 percent to 50 percent of the Port-au-Prince population. They’re smaller and more vulnerable to injury than adults, but they also suffer faster from dehydration, blood loss and shock. Their immature immune systems also make it harder to fight back against illness and infection than adults, health experts said.

In the meantime, medical teams on the ground will continue to grapple with the aftermath of early triage, which postponed treatment for those whose injuries may have been serious, but not life-threatening.

Victims with arm or leg fractures, for instance, wouldn’t have been a top priority, Cummings said. But the untended wounded remain ripe for infections and shock and they’re more vulnerable to other illness.

It’s a no-win choice for health workers who have to make hard decisions about who gets care — and who doesn’t.

From the BBC:

Most of the bodies are covered in white bed sheets or rolled inside carpets, but others have been left exposed to the hot sun and the stench of rotting bodies has begun to fill the air.

Families who are desperately searching for their loved ones are gingerly uncovering the sheets that cover the corpses in the hope they can at least identify family members.

But even if bodies are identified there is nowhere for them to be laid to rest.

Mass graves are now appearing across the city.

The mood for the past 24 hours has been one of patience and solidarity, but there is now a sense of anger and frustration that could change the atmosphere here drastically.

From The Washington Post:

All day Thursday, it was mainly the people of this shattered city, working with bare hands and simple tools, who clawed at the rubble and pulled at slabs of concrete and blocks of debris to get at those still trapped.

The dead and injured were pushed through the streets in wheelbarrows. At the overwhelmed central hospital, anguished patients lay in a weedy parking lot on gurneys fashioned from wooden doors. Calls for help went unanswered, and no doctors were in sight.

Refugees in tent cities sang hymns far into the night, and a chilling series of strong aftershocks shook awake those who were sleeping.

There were scant signs of help from the Haitian government, itself scattered by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake Tuesday evening. The streets were filled with beleaguered residents milling about, left with no jobs, no instructions on what to do, and no place to buy food or to take the injured. Many said they felt totally alone and saw no evidence that relief was on the way, as their mournful pleas began to give way to anger.

Some very sobering stuff to so the very least.  As all of these words certainly indicate, the situation is dire, and immediate action is vital.  If you feel compelled to donate, which I would certainly urge you to do, here are some places that you can go to safely do so;  Unicef, Direct Relief International, Yele Haiti. There are countless other excellent organizations that are accepting donations, but I would caution you to make sure that they are legitimate before you donate.

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Al Gore Is Fired Up

If you truck your merry self over to Slate than you will find their exclusive interview with former VP, one-time Nobel Prize winner, and general environmental do-gooder Al Gore.  Now, it’s a pretty long and comprehensive interview that covers a whole ton of relevant stuff regarding environmental topics, ranging from the meeting in Copenhagen to the potential for a CO2 tax, it’s all very interesting and you should definitely give it a comprehensive read.  This being said, the “sexy” subject right now is the emails that were leaked from the decade old research unit at East Angila University, which proponents of the idea that climate change is a naturally occurring phenomenon have been latching onto.  It’s specifically this section of the interview that caught my eye at the outset, as Gore seemed to get a bit agitated;

“These people are examining what they can or should do to deal with the P.R. dimensions of this, but where the scientific consensus is concerned, it’s completely unchanged. What we’re seeing is a set of changes worldwide that just make this discussion over 10-year-old e-mails kind of silly. The entire North Polar ice cap is disappearing before our very eyes. It’s been the size of the continental United States for the last 3 million years and now 40 percent is gone and the rest of it is going. The mountain glaciers are going. We’ve had record storms, droughts, fires, and floods. There is an air of unreality in debating these arcane points when the world is changing in such dramatic ways right in front of our eyes because of global warming.”

Now, when I’m reading this it’s really Al Gore preaching to the converted (as it likely is for most people reading any interview with Al Gore) but the underlying tone of frustration in his answer really resonated with me because I often feel it myself.  The environment is literally decaying before our eyes, and when the situation would seem to warrant being extra-cautious when it comes to emissions standards and waste runoff and the like, we instead are becoming a culture of willful ignorance and a purveying belief that the whole thing is some liberal conspiracy to swindle companies out of their bottom lines.  It’s not only baffling to witness, but it could also end up costing us dearly.

For me, and apparently for Gore as well, these emails (while a bit embarrassing) change absolutely nothing in the overall debate on climate change.  The papers in question were such a small subsection of the research that has been going on that to place any real importance in the emails is to make a mountain out of a mere molehill.  If there’s anything that the meeting in Copenhagen and the press these emails have gotten indicates to me, it’s that we are constantly finding distractions to distract us from the real issues and make us forget what’s actually at stake, and it’s happening when we can afford such distractions the least.  I would like nothing more than to eloquently illustrate this point myself, but I’m afraid that Mr. Gore does it better than I could hope to;

“We’re already at the point where it’s stretching our capacity to reach an agreement that will solve the problem, but it’s still within our capacity. There are abundant reasons for hope that we will act in time. If you look at the difference between today and 10 years ago, there is a global consensus. More than 70 leaders from nations are gathering at Copenhagen. Many nations have taken action and the world is waiting for the natural leader, the United States to move on this.”

It’s important to keep this in mind, that what’s at stake is nothing less than the future of our planet, and by extension our very civilization.  But it’s good to leave things on a note of hopeful optimism, so that’s what I will close my rant with.  You, however, should definitely read the rest of the interview for yourself, as there’s lots of great stuff in there on a wide array of environmental issues.  Also, there’s a bit about Gore’s new book Our Choice, which is of course about climate change and the future of the planet (could it be the perfect stocking stuffer?).  I would suggest checking it all out regardless of which side of the issue you happen to all on.

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BC

As far as staunch secular atheists go, I would like to think that I’m generally a pretty non-judgmental and opened minded one.  That being said, this story from the Los Angeles Times leaves a pretty bad taste in even my mouth.  Apparently, thanks to the efforts of producer Carl Amari, hundreds of well known actor have gotten together to lend their talents to a 79 CD (!)  audio compilation known as the, wait for it, “Word of Promise Audio Bible.”

Now, why do I (as the title of this post states) think this is a terrible idea?  For one, I can’t possibly imagine anybody who actually wants to own a 95 hour rendition of the New and Old Testaments, no matter how classily acted and scored it is.  Secondly, since when is Hollywood the land of the righteous?  I mean, if this is indeed the kind of thing that is going to be marketed toward the Bible-belt crowd (and how could it not be), why is it featuring voice acting straight from the land of drug use and premarital fornication?  Were Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck busy or something?  I don’t know about you guys, but to me, nothing says the Holy Bible like Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander (I can wager a guess as to which of the roles he’ll be playing).

All kidding and condescension aside, I can understand the thinking behind putting together a big budget rendition of the Bible from a dollars and cents perspective.  Mel Gibson proved a long time ago that there’s a market out there for religious adaptation.  However, on the flipside, projects like the Nativity Story also showed that people are picky about what problems they embrace.  With the CD generally looking like a dying medium, any Bible project on compact-disc that comes with a whopping price tag somewhere north of four million dollars is going to be a big risk.

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Picture 1

The image above comes from the front page of Matt Drudge’s Drudge Report this morning.  You may wonder, why do I choose to put this up instead of just discussing Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue” directly?  Because it perfectly illustrates the two things that most infuriate me most about this latest turn in the wild ride that is the Sarah Palin phenomenon.  The first is that she just won’t go away!  I mean, let’s face it, the last year has not exactly been a series of political successes’ for her.  She ran for Vice President and her ticket lost in a drubbing, then she resigned (!) from her position as the Governor of Alaska, which leads me to my second irritation; no matter how insignificant she has become, or how many times she drops the ball, there are still some devout conservatives who kneel at her alter to worship their idol.  I’m looking at you Drudge.

At the risk of creating a straw-man argument, the rationale that I most often hear for supporting Palin these days is that she’s been one of the few conservatives willing to stand up to Obama.   There are a couple of problems with this statement, the most glaring, though, is that she isn’t even a politician anymore.  In what sense do people think that she’s standing up to anybody?  Second, as the “death panels” controversy so eloquently displayed, half the time she’s not even basing her claims and arguments up with any kind of facts, just malicious lies.

Enter Matt Drudge into my rant.  Matt Drudge, for all intents and purposes, is smart enough to realize that this woman is nothing more than a hollow representation of what angry and frightened conservatives hoped the Republican party would become.  The man has created a very successful news site and has made more money than most of us can even imagine, clearly he’s not an idiot.  Yet somehow we get headline’s like “Her Turn!” for this piece of redundant, and most likely inaccurate, piece of conservative pandering.  So if he’s smart enough to realize that Palin’s schtick is bad for politics (hell, it’s even bad for the Republican party), what are we left with?  The only answer is that his intents are calculatingly spiteful, and he’s knowingly deceitful to his readers with his “endorsements.”  And that, my friends, I cannot abide by.  If Matt Drudge were playing antichrist somewhere in a bubble where he wasn’t influencing people who were easily duped, that would be one thing, but millions of people get their news from his Drudge Report, and when he puts slants on the news that he links to, he should be held accountable for the way in which he does so.

Matt Drudge isn’t necessarily as bad for America as Sarah Palin, he’s much, much, worse.  She spreads lies and hate because she’s a puppet of conservative influences and she just doesn’t know any better.  He does the same even though he knows better and because he chooses to.  That’s a scary thought.

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V

ABC, in their ever-continuing quest to duplicate the success of Lost, debuted their new remake of the 1980’s sci-fi series V.  Now, the people who watched it seemed to have had two almost universal critiques of the show.  The first was that it was only so-so, not terrible television, but not great either. The second was that it was very, very, surprisingly, specifically, critical of President Obama through the use of some ham-fisted metaphors.  Hold on, what the what?

Over at The New Republic, Jonathon Chait (a favorite here at the Void) wrote a little summary and reaction to the show that you should almost certainly read for yourself.  Before I let you go scurrying over there though, here’s one of my favorite highlights of Chait’s write up:

“The visitors are young, charismatic, futuristic, and have a one-worldish vision of peace. They target the young by enticing them to join an idealistic (but, in reality, sinister) youth group. A few perceptive humans warn of the dangers of hopping on the bandwagon before we know what the bandwagon is really about. The alien leader, Ana, promises to use futuristic technology to heal humans. “You mean universal health care!” gapes a reporter, who, naturally, has been co-opted by the aliens. Anna soothes skeptics by declaring that accepting change can be difficult. A small band of human resistors forms. The lead character is skeptical–what proof do you have she asks, besides some scary thing “you read on the internet.” But the seemingly hysterical message from the internet is true! The charismatic new leader is masking her true identity! The death panels are real! Etc., etc.”

In fairness, I should say that Chait later points out that there is still plenty of liberal bias in Hollywood (personally, I say that compassion and reality have a liberal bias, but that’s just me), and one show that has a conservative spin is hardly the end of the world.  I can agree with that.  Additionally, I’ve noticed that even when shows seem to exude principles that conservatives should appreciate, that particular crowd seems slow to catch on (I mean, Kings was based on the Book of David and it couldn’t find an audience?  Come on conservatives!).  So it’s not like the end of the world or anything, even if it is misguided and kind of a waste.

Additionally, I’ve got to admit, while this most definitely sounds like something that I should hate, the weird thing is, it might just prompt me into watching!  You see unlike Chait, I don’t have any nostalgia for the original series, in fact, I found it to be dull.  So originally I had planned on skipping V all together!  But now that it’s being describes as a sci-fi series for the Fox News crowd (and one that possess all the subtly of… well, Fox News), I don’t know if I will be able to keep myself from checking out the pilot.  If anybody is feeling similarly curious, you should be able to view the episode on ABC’s webpage for the show, but be forewarned, this might have been what those crafty ABC folks had in mind all along.

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