THE DEATH OF GREATNESS IN OUR TIME.

Posted in Rants on July 27th, 2004 by Ed

Given how political conventions are completely devoid of actual news and about as relevant as a melon baller, my mind wandered last night during the Democratic convention. I started mentally comparing it to past conventions and looking at the lineup of speakers in objective terms. After hearing Clinton speak, I was absolutely floored by how terrific he was. It was one of the more amazing political performances in recent memory. Then it hit me.

This is not a good thing.

The idea of great men and women participating in politics is, with my reaction to Clinton, officially dead to me. When the current crop of party leaders, candidates, representatives, and sitting administration are so sub-moronic and coarse that Bill Clinton looks like Lord Palmerston in comparison, we've been witnesses to the death of the idea of the great orator and statesman.

Think about this. Jimmy Carter has been a Democratic pariah for over two decades. In the 1980s they wouldn't give him a damn bleacher seat to the convention……and now he was the lead-off speaker? Jimmy Carter??? In sports they say that a team is really headed for hard times when the rookies aren't good enough to replace the old, broken-down veterans who can't play anymore. The options offered by the current politicians are so bad that in comparison Carter – the least popular president since Hoover – suddenly looks great. Who knew that 20 years beyond Carter's failed administration we'd be looking back on his quivering passivity and lamenting "We had it so good back then."

Who qualifies as a statesman anymore? The regurgitation of insults in sound-bite form have completely replaced oratory and any sense of dignity. What communication does exist simply consists of telling the loyal troops what they already believe. The Republican Party has gone from the eloquent (Lincoln) to the silently dignified (Coolidge) to the vacuous but inspirational (Reagan) to the barely literate. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose mere diction and lunkheaded manner is enough to provoke laughter, is a keynote speaker for the GOP convention. Our current President, when not reading off a script, looks like a man who alternately needs a thesaurus and a clean pair of underpants.

Among the opposition, Jefferson's populism gave way to FDR's fatherly comforts, which in turn begat Kennedy's boy-wonder persona, and finally Bill Clinton's car-salesman charm. John Edwards is just any other lawyer – pointed, myopic, and vaguely threatening. John Kerry couldn't inspire a pack of starving dogs to run towards fresh meat.

Is this what it's come to? We are yielding too much with regards to our expectations. We want a Lincoln or Churchill, but if not we'll take an FDR. If we can't have an FDR then I guess Woodrow Wilson will do. Failing that, can we at least get a Henry Luce? No? Well, how about a Reagan? Oh, come on, you're killing us. Alright. Fine. We'll take Tip O'Neill. Aww, come on, this is bullshit. What do you have?

And that is how Bill Clinton became the greatest living statesman in American politics. No, Bill, that's not a compliment.

Daniel Webster is rolling over in his grave, no doubt. But that much we already knew. What is more troubling is the fact that our national political debate has become so asinine simply because the people conducting it can themselves no longer debate. Camus said "Men with greatness in their hearts do not go in for politics". With the continuous downward revision of the lowest common denominator at the hands of the current President, politicos are revealing a deeper connection to existentialism than I ever knew existed. Because this election is playing out as though everyone involved is on a myopic quest to prove Camus right once and for all.

IMPORTANT MOMENTS IN POLITICAL CONVENTION HISTORY

Posted in Rants on July 26th, 2004 by Ed

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The state of my fridge, saturday afternoon

Posted in Uncategorized on July 24th, 2004 by Mike


Happy Birthday to me. Just so you kids know, at a Binny's Beverage Depot Sir Robert Burnett Gin sells for $12.95 for 1.75L.

Read that again. 1.75L. Most gins at 1.75L top the $30 mark – Sir Robert Burnett stays under the $13 mark. And it has a plastic bottle, so when the other creators of ginandtacos.com and I polish it for my b-day tonight and drop it on the floor, it will just bounce.

I'm not familiar with British customs, but if it is possible to knight a man twice it needs to be done to Sir Robert Burnett.

The Gay Gambit

Posted in Uncategorized on July 22nd, 2004 by Mike

Last weekend, I went and flyered for a Get out the Vote in Swing States group with strong anti-Bush leanings in the amazing Millenium Park during it's opening weekend celebration. During that time, I learned how much I absolutely hate flyering. I suppose I deserve bad luck, as I always turn away from people who are passing out flyers. Even if someone was to come up to me with a flyer for the "Gin-drinking-Buffy-fan-comic-books-and-tacos-club" I'd still not make eye contact and speed up my walking. I learned I'm not alone in this speeding up process.

It got to the point where I was really thinking that this election is going to be old overweight white men with bad mustaches versus everyone else. One particularly large man in ill-fitted shorts was holding six hotdogs, and gave me this look when I asked him if he wanted to help beat Bush in November that said "I'm an overweight middle aged white-man who is about to sit down and eat six hot dogs – I'm clearly ok with the direction this country is taking."

Every person over the age of 22 was avoiding us except one group: gay people. We eventually stopped counting the number of times two men holding hands came up to us and gave us encouraging words and listened to what we had to say. For those visiting our page from across the universe, Chicago has a very active gay community on the North Side called Boystown – it is relatively close to the Park (it shares a train line anyway) and thus a lot of gay couples were out for the day. And they all hate Bush. All of them. A lot. And who can blame them?

When this whole gay marriage thing came up from the administration, I thought Bush is just circling his wagons and energizing his base. He's not going to be losing votes. And then I learned I was wrong. According to a Jan 2001 post-election analysis by the Log Cabin Republicans: "Bush captured 25% of the gay vote [1.1 million votes] nationwide, a record number for a GOP presidential candidate." Can you believe 1 million gay people voted for Bush?!?! Remember back in those days? Bush didn't say a word about marriage or gay people – he was a "compassionate conservative" chock full of inclusion and bringing people together; Dick Cheney even had a gay daughter who campaigned for him! How progressive!


Mary Cheney, the only gay supporter of George Bush in 2004.
And they only had to pay her $100,000 to do it.

I'm not going to even bother to describe how Bush ditched those million voters. I think what's worse for him is that by not just slighting them, but instead refering to their existence as undermining the entirety of Western Civilization (an insult you can't help but imagine you wouldn't forget), he's gotten them energized to support Kerry, a candidate that one needs to be blamed for the decline of Western Civilization in order to get excited about.

And what did Bush gain? Did he rally his own base? This is the big question, and I honestly don't think he is earning any votes. People who are so opposed to gay people that they blame them as disrupting all of life and want to pass an Constitutional Amendment with the speed and lack of debate as if it was a Highway Bill Amendment almost certainly were going to vote for Bush on election day anyway. I can't imagine someone who is so infuriated by gay people that they would let gay marriage decide their vote in an election in 2004 (with real problems like dirty bombs and occupations and half a trillion dollar deficits) not supporting Bush no matter what.

Kerry et. al get a lot of flak for not really standing strong on the gay marriage issue, but I think that it reflect a lot of popular thinking among adults – "I'm sorta ok with it – I'm not 'not ok' with it." I think a lot of people are generally uncomfortable with it, but don't want to immediately sic the federal government on any minority group. I don't pretend to know what the gay community was thinking about four more years of Bush pre-gay-marriage debate – I imagine they were split like the rest of the country. Well, we can almost be certain, with the notable exception of Mary Cheney in all her self-loathing 2004 campaigning glory, nobody there likes him now – and that's a million votes Bush had that he has now lost.

Perhaps Bush is acting on principle on this and not on electioneering: That's the thought that actually scares me more. But I just don't see it. If he was really serious about a defense of marriage he would be attacking the 50% of boomers who get divorces. As far as I know, there hasn't been a single word.

Governor Schwarzenegger Revisited

Posted in Uncategorized on July 19th, 2004 by Erik

When Arnold followed Jesse Ventura in gaining a governorship, the rest of us were left only to wonder how long it would be until Carl Weathers decided to run. For those of us that don't live in California I don't think there is any possible way for us to figure out why exactly this happened. Complicated things like "car taxes" were in play.

To the casual observer, it seemed the Mr. Schwarzenegger was elected based on several principles.

  • The people of California were paying too much money to drive their cars.
  • Arnold's campaign was largely based around quoting lines he had once said in various movies.
  • Californians found that his accent, and virtual inability to speak English inspired trust.
  • The desire to not have to see previews for another Arnold Schwarzenegger movie for at least 4 years.

The only thing that I had really heard about his role as governor was that he did in fact give all residents of California a rebate on their car tax. The George W. Bush school of economic theory seemed firmly in place. Combat the fact that you are dealing with massive deficit spending and debt by telling your constituents that if you are elected you will cut them a check. Threaten that if anyone else is elected they will take your money away.

Today I saw something even more amusing. Arnold insinuated today that the democrats in the state were, in fact, "girlie-men". So apparently I am too believe that if I am a resident of California, what I really want to inspire confidence that the economic nightmare I am currently living in will soon be over is a leader quoting Saturday Night Live luminaries "Hanz and Franz."

Don't worry, all the state really needs is for democrats to get "pumped up".

Not to let their own personal brand of stupidity be relegated to second place, democrats promptly demanded an apology. No, they were not offended that Arnold had not noticed the time they had spent in the gym recently. They proclaimed that use of the term "girlie-man" is sexist and homophobic. Well yeah, I guess it is. If you were to assume that the use of the term connoted that legislators were either acting like women, or were effeminate men instead of invoking an image of Dana Carvey in a padded sweat suit.

So here is the question I pose, who is the real idiot here? Is it Schwarzenegger for continuing to pander to the lowest common denominator? Or are the state legislators the true political morons for taking his idiotic remarks so damned seriously?

THESE COLORS DON'T RUN. OR READ AT A 10th-GRADE LEVEL.

Posted in Uncategorized on July 17th, 2004 by Ed

After the 2000 election, a hoax set of "facts" spread around the internet showing that states with a higher "average IQ" voted for Gore while states in which the comics are the most-read part of the newspaper voted for Bush. Of course, average IQ scores are not tested or recorded in this country.

However, I decided to have a look-see at the 2000 US Census and its measures of educational attainment. Specifically, they record the percentage of the adult population that has earned a high school diploma, bachelor's degree, and so on. And, while the "IQ data" was made up, it was also uncannily accurate. Let's look at the real data from Table 13 of US Census document P20-536, published December 19, 2000 along with for whom the state voted in the 2000 election.

Our president managed only four states among the 15 most educated, but in case you were doubting his resolve, fear not. As we can see, he makes up for it with a strong finish in the 15 least educated states.

Feel free to reproduce the above image on your page, blog, or just as an email attachment to all your friends and family.

And there you have it. Call me un-American, but it is a clear commentary on our leader's rhetorical methods, platform, and intelligence when the states in which fancy book learnin' is frowned upon and one's eulogy is likely to contain the phrase "Git'er done!" are voting for him in unflinching unison. And it also shows you what a bang-up job years of fantastic conservative policy have done for the bottom states' educational systems.

random wednesday updates

Posted in Uncategorized on July 14th, 2004 by Mike

1) Anchorman review on the movie page.

2) For those of you who read the excellent New York Times magazine article on current comic books, I have written up my thoughts on it. They'll eventually also work their way over to the comics page once a get a free moment.

3) I know we need to comment on the possibility of Dikta running for the Senate, but writing about it has that same feeling of a middle-aged virgin hiring a prostitute or a hungry man eating raw garbage – we don't want to admit that "it's come to this." If this keeps going on we'll comment though. Don't worry.

LIKE JESUS JOINING FORCES WITH BUDDAH, ONLY BETTER.

Posted in Rants on July 14th, 2004 by Ed

Music-industry secrecy is pretty much completely co-opted when one sets up a live webcam to broadcast one's studio recording, as Trent Reznor found out yesterday. Sharp-eyed fans logged on recently to see a very incognito Dave Grohl in Reznor's studio, at which point Reznor admitted that Grohl will be playing live drums on 15 of the 20 tracks being recorded for NIN's forthcoming Bleed Through.

I know that's a lot to take in. It's OK. Just rest for a second and catch your breath. Dave Grohl is playing drums on the new NIN album. If they're not careful, this might even make up for the "Tapeworm" and "Probot" side projects.

I have always had a soft spot for shameless action movies.

Posted in Uncategorized on July 13th, 2004 by Erik

I enjoy the occasional action movie. I am not ashamed of that. I think that it is perfectly natural. About a year ago I saw the movie "The Bourne Identity". All said, it was fairly decent. It contained all of the elements of an action movie that are required. That being of course…action and Franka Potente. I have to admit to then being a bit intellectually confused by the movie. I knew at the time that it was based on a book by Robert Ludlum, but was really unaware of anything else about Robert Ludlum or the book. What confused me was the fact that this fun 2 hour long action movie was ever actually a book.

This confusion turned to interest one evening when I was at my parents’ house and saw an old copy of the book. What the hell, I thought. Its summer, I can read some meaningless action book. Let me take a moment from this long (and no doubt uninteresting to most) tirade to point out that I am morally opposed to criticizing a movie for not remaining true to the book. However, the degree to which the movie The Bourne Identity strayed from the book was nearly laughable. I was surprised to find that Robert Ludlum was actually a very good mystery/suspense writer. The book was exceptionally dynamic with a quite intricate plot.

Okay, now I will very briefly describe what happens in the movie. Jason Bourne is pulled from the ocean unconscious and shot several times. He suffers from amnesia, has no clue who he is aside from a Swiss bank account number. A bit of a shady premise, I know. Anyway he then embarks on an action filled trip to Paris on the way coming across a bohemian (read unemployed and worthless) woman, Franka Potente, and numerous US government agents trying to kill him. It turns out that he was a government assassin that had a change of heart.

Yes, really I know. It sounds lame. It was lame, but it was amusing.

Now, on July 23rd, one of the most confusing action movie sequels is going to be released.


The Bourne Supremacy

I really know that I should not be at all shocked. All action movies that do moderately well get a sequel or two. This whole thing seems a bit off to me because the original book was actually a trilogy. There were two built in sequels. Yet for some odd reason the screenwriters removed every single bit of the plot that let there be a sequel. The series is supposed to be about Bourne's ongoing struggle with an international hitman named "Carlos." To the best of my knowledge "Carlos" does not actually appear in the movies at all. This is not the only major plot element that was changed for not perceivable reason.

  • Franka Potente's character is supposed to be an intelligent internationally recognized Canadian economist- whose influence in the Canadian government is important to the story. For some reason this powerful female character was turned into a worthless idiot.
  • Jason Bourne was never an assassin; he was just an undercover government agent trying to arrest an assassin.
  • They killed off Bourne's best friend for the rest of the trilogy in the first movie.
  • The government never actually tries to kill him but once. Most of the harms way he is in comes from Carlos.

This is of course not even mentioning that the movie did not come address any of the psychological issues that were in the books, and removed almost all of the mystery and suspense in favor of more action. I only mentioned things that really made no sense to be changed.

Oh well. I will probably see the movie when it comes out just out of curiosity. The sequel is supposed to be about how Jason Bourne goes to Asia after his wife is kidnapped. He has to find and kill an assassin posing as him in order for her to be released. We will see how this goes. Bare in mind, I actually thought that the first movie was all right until I realized how good of a story it could have been.

What the hell is wrong with Hollywood? Why do they seem categorically opposed to having both action and a good plot on the same screen? Why do they take a story that is good and remove all the interesting bits? These are questions for which there are no answers.

1 + 1 = ELECTORAL COLLEGE FUN

Posted in Rants on July 12th, 2004 by Ed

Here's a little mandatory reading for every resident of the state of Ohio before the next election. No pressure, but……the fate of the country and the free world for the next four years is in your hands.

No pressure. Take your time.

Here is a map representing current exit polling and the 2000 election results combined to yield a very accurate predictor for 2004, provided by the fantastic David Liep at The US Election Atlas. The only deviation from year 2000 results in this model is that New Hampshire goes to Kerry, which is a reasonable guess.

pred04P.gif

Now, this model gives 264 for John Kerry and 274 for Bush. All is lost, you say. Well, not quite. According to the polling (over 1000 different polls were used for each state), Ohio is a complete toss-up. No one really has any firm idea of which way it will go. The Kerry campaign needs to divert 90% of the resources they have on hand to making sure Kerry wins that state. How important is it?

If Kerry wins Ohio, its 20 electoral votes will mean that of the three states in which his winning margin is smallest in this model (Iowa, Oregon, and New Mexico), he can lose two and still win the election. And Florida will be completely irrelevant. Kerry is currently leading in Oregon (7) and Iowa (7), but even if he were to lose both, a win in Ohio would give him 270 electoral votes to Bush's 268.

So, in summary, if you live in Ohio or know anyone who does, take it upon yourself to beg, cajole, bribe, threaten, and beat them into voting for Kerry.

And just for electoral kicks, the states in which Bush's margin is smallest at the moment are West Virginia (5) and Nevada (5). If Bush wins one but loses the other while keeping all other states in this model constant, both candidates will have exactly 269 electoral votes, Congress will vote for Bush, and we will have a fucking national crisis on our hands.

The Electoral College: as fraught with dangers as it is archaic and stupid. I mean FOR CHRIST'S SAKE you'd think someone would have been smart enough to draw it up with an odd numbered total so there couldn't be a tie. The election of the leader of the free world should not be able to end like a soccer game.