Friday, August 29, 2008

The Time Is Now

I was not, initially, a fan of Barack Obama. I mean don't get me wrong, I was glad he was my senator, but in the early stages of the primary my choice was Dennis Kucinich. Yeah, I know, but hear me out. As you may have noticed if you've read this blog before, I lean pretty far left. Of the politicians whose names regularly appear when the presidential campaign season heats up, Kucinich was the one who leaned furthest in my direction. Did I ever think he had a real chance of winning the nomination, let alone the general election? Not really. He's just too spazzy to take seriously, even if he does have a smokin' hot British wife. (Seriously, how did he pull that off?)

From Obama's appearance at the 2004 Democratic National Convention I knew the guy could give a speech. It was easy to see the excitement growing around him, especially here in Chicago where he is considered a favorite son. When the talk about him running for president really got going I thought he would make a great candidate someday, but not just yet. There were others in line who, considering the clusterfuck that is the Bush legacy, simply could not lose. My one fear was that Hillary might get the nomination, not because she'd be a bad president (she'd be a great one), but because the Clintons are so hated by the Right that her nomination might inspire the Republicans to new lows to keep her out of the White House. As for Obama, brilliant orator that he was, he was just too middle-of-the-road for me. I wasn't feeling it.

It had been my intention to vote for Kucinich in the Illinois primary, but for the second time in as many presidential primaries my candidate dropped out of the race before I got the chance. Again, I knew he wouldn't win, but I felt it was my duty to vote for the candidate I felt best represented my views.

It got down to Obama and Clinton, and things got interesting. I was pretty sure I would go with Obama, but what clinched it was his speech on race that he gave last March. As Jon Stewart remarked that day on The Daily Show, "a prominent politician spoke to Americans about race as though they were adults." I knew then, like so many had figured out before me, that something was happening here that had not been seen in my lifetime.

I watched his speech last night on MSNBC, and for the first time in my life I felt like I was a part of something historic. I was watching something my grandkids will ask me about. I saw, for the first time, a real statesman — the kind you only knew about from history books. Men like Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton. Men like Lincoln. Men like Roosevelt and Kennedy. Men who changed the world with the force of their words.

It is trite now to point out that this election is a turning point, but what else can you call it? If all goes well then years from now we will look back and see the time before, and the time after, and we will marvel at how close we came to disaster, and far we've gotten from it since.

But right now, these few weeks between the nominations and the election, is a strange sort of twilight. We all feel it. November cannot get here soon enough.


John McCain has chosen Alaska governor and "hockey mom" Sarah Palin as his VP candidate in a misguided and rather offensive effort to steal away a few Clinton PUMAs while simultaneously shoring up his cred with the religious right. This is fantastic: All this talk about the Democrats selecting their first African-American presidential candidate being historic, while the NY Times calls the first female Republican candidate for the vice presidency a "novelty." Is that sexist? Or more proof of the press' "liberal slant"? Who cares? It's hilarious. She's anti-abortion, anti-polar bear, and under investigation for abusing her power as governor. Way to pick 'em, John!

Monday, August 25, 2008

That's What She Said

This Wednesday, August 27th, I will be participating in the staged reading of a spec script of The Office written by my good friend, the brilliant comic and writer Dan Telfer. The Office reading is the second of two readings that evening. The festivities begin at 7:00 at the Lakeshore Theater, 3175 North Broadway Avenue in Chicago. Tickets are COMPLETELY FREE, so you have no excuse. Be there!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Barack Obama Drunk-Dialed Me

First he goes and talks to the Evangelicals, and now this. I'm a little disappointed in Barack Obama.

I signed up to receive one of the text messages announcing Senator Obama's pick for VP. I put myself on the list because I wanted to be the guy in the office who, in the middle of the afternoon, could stand up and say, "Hey everybody! Barack Obama picked so-and so!" Fat lot of good that plan did me. I ended up getting the news the same way everybody else did — from the actual news. Did I not receive the text message? Oh, I got it . . .

. . . at 3:40 in the morning.

I don't even remember I own a cell phone until I've been awake for an hour and eaten breakfast and read the news on Yahoo. Was that supposed to be a play on the whole 3 AM phone call thing? Who knows? [Apparently it was an attempt to beat a press leak that revealed the name. Still, dick move.] All I know is that I gave this guy my cell phone number, thus opening myself up to untold annoyances in the form of requests for support and donations, all for the promise of being "one of the first" to receive the news. What a gyp.

However, I cannot say I'm disappointed, or even surprised, by who Obama selected. By now you must have heard that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee selected Senator Joe Biden of Delaware as his running mate. I'm cool with this; I've always liked Senator Biden. I will enjoy watching him shred whatever douche McCain picks when they debate. I almost hope it's Leiberman, just because I already saw Senator Biden totally own that tool on Meet the Press just a few weeks ago.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Evolution. Is Nice!

Several months ago a film came out called Expelled. Narrated by Ben Stein, the film purported to uncover some sort of anti-creationist bias in the scientific community. I did not see this movie, nor will I until I have the opportunity to see it for free. I can't bring myself to give the producers a dime. By all accounts (at least, all accounts that I consider worth listening to), the film not only fails in its mission as creationist propaganda, but also fails as an example of documentary filmmaking. In many an Atheist blog the producers of Expelled were taken to task for the underhanded methods they employed to get prominent pro-evolution figures to agree to be interviewed for the film. My favorite evolutionary biologist PZ Myers, for example, was told he was being interviewed for a film with a different title, subject, and even a different production company. Many accused the filmmakers of fearing the truth; people claimed that the producers lied because they were afraid of what the interview subjects might say if they knew who was really interviewing them, and why. Or worse, these scientists and scholars might refuse to be interviewed at all.

Now comes Religulous, featuring Bill Maher. I intend to see this movie because I know in advance that it will give me a smug sense of self-righteousness, and that is a pleasant sensation even if it annoys the people around me. Part of me wishes the film could score a TKO against all organized religion, or at least the douchebags who want to blur the line separating church and state. Of course it won't do that. Most creationists probably won't see it, or at least not pay to see it, and either way their minds are already made up. There are probably very few people in the country who will be moved to change their lives as a result of what this movie has to say. Rather, many folk will probably be put off by the devious methods the filmmakers employed to get interviews from noteworthy figures representing the other side. According to this article from the LA Times, the makers of Religulous pulled pretty much all the same crap as the guys who made Expelled. Of course Religulous was directed by Larry Charles, who also spearheaded Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, so you can imagine he's pretty much an expert at this kind of stuff. We Atheists and anti-creationists will at least have the satisfaction of knowing that our movie was better made.

And thinking about Borat, I realize that I have no problem with the filmmakers fooling their subjects. Seriously, can you think of a recent film that gives a more realistic depiction of heartland America than Borat?

The downside here is that, when using Borat-style filmmaking tactics to tackle subjects like evolution and religion, you can't take the end result any more seriously.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Slight Makeover

As you can see, my little corner of the Internets has undergone a very slight remodeling. I hope you don't mind. I was kinda bored. There may be some more changes in the near future, depending on whether or not I feel like it.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The X-Files: I Want to Believe

A bunch of us saw The X-Files: I Want to Believe last night because, well, we wanted to believe. I, for one, wanted to see if the dynamite chemistry between Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny still had the old magic, and in that particular case I was not disappointed. The movie would have made for one of the better stand-alone episodes of the original series. Having entered the theater with modest expectations thanks to the many bad reviews and poor box office showing, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the storytelling and filmmaking. There were some issues, sure — Mark Snow's iconic theme was probably the only part of the score that was not distracting — but the performances and most of the technical aspects were entirely satisfactory.

There was, however, something about this movie that surprised me in a very unpleasant way.

Now, the religious subtext in The X-Files is nothing new to fans of the show. Scully's Christian beliefs were a major part of the show. I tended to only pay enough attention to that stuff to make sure I wasn't missing part of the larger story arc. The theme is carried over in the new movie, which finds Dr. Scully working at a Catholic hospital. In a slight twist, it is now Scully who chafes under authority as she clashes with her hospital superiors over a patient, suffering from a rare and fatal brain disease, who reminds Scully of her long-lost son. I have no issue with this subplot, and in fact enjoyed the several great acting moments it provided for Gillian Anderson. I do, however, find myself rather grossed out by what seems to be the Catholic message the film provides.

A central character in the movie, Father Joe (played ably by Billy Connolly), is a convicted pedophile. For some reason the reveal of this fact leads to dry one-liners from Mulder. Throughout the course of the film we are forced to feel sorry for Father Joe, and eventually come to the conclusion that he has performed his penance and received absolution from God for his sins.


On the other hand we have the villains, about whom I do not want to go into too much detail lest I spoil the film. I will point out, however, that the two main villains are, for no reason that relates to the plot I can see, homosexual (married in Massachussetts, no less). Without giving too much away, I can tell you they are revealed to be perverted in the extreme. They are X-Files villains, after all.

So, what did we learn? We learned that we should forgive the child-molesting priests, and that homosexuals are filthy perverts who will stop at nothing to satisfy their obscene lust.

Oh, and it turns out that after all those years of chasing aliens and ghosts and things that go bump in the night, all Mulder and Scully really needed was a vacation. The End.