No Country For Old Men: A magnificent film that is completely sold up the river by too many of its mishandled, incomprehensible endings.
Friday, February 29, 2008
No Country For Old Men: A magnificent film that is completely sold up the river by too many of its mishandled, incomprehensible endings.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
So apparently all it will take for Kate to settle down and stay in one place is stealing Aaron from Claire.
Obviously more to that story. Questions abound, thanks to that ending (though it did provide one answer: I think it is safe to assume that Aaron is the “he” Kate had to get home to at the end of the Season 3 finale). Is Claire dead? Is she stuck on the island, based on whatever terms allowed only six survivors to leave, and she gave Aaron to Kate to get him off the island? We know Desmond saw her and Aaron boarding a helicopter, and we know his visions are always more or less correct, but we also now know that helicopter rides off the island don’t always translate to a safe and speedy rescue. My best guess at this point is that Claire and Aaron take a copter to the freighter, and something happens to Claire at that point.
Kate’s flash forward this week is the first one that shows a character moving forward after getting off the island. After watching Kate in flashback after flashback struggling to get her mother’s acceptance for her actions while running from the law, she finally gets a resolution of sorts and is exonerated of her crimes. Her quick acceptance of the “stay in the state” clause shows that this is a different Kate, one who is capable and willing to finally stop running. The flash forward also gave us a glimpse of the lie the Oceanic 6 are telling: that they crashed in the water, that only eight people survived the crash, that Kate did much of what Jack really did: administered first aid, found water and shelter, etc. (it’s unclear if this lie was created specifically with Kate’s trial in mind, or is part of the larger story created by whomever rescued them and forced them to conceal the truth). It’s no wonder that Beardo-Jack is as distraught as he is in the season three finale, and that good-hearted Hurley cracks under the pressure of the lie before him.
On the island, we got to see Locke go from creepy to uber creepy, making thinly and not-so-thinly veiled threats, passing judgments and affirming that his non-democratic word is law. The scene with Miles was pretty hardcore, but I bet the grenade Locke shoved into Miles’ ever-open maw wasn’t live: Locke wouldn’t want to run the risk of Miles blowing up before talking to him.
We also saw a return of the backgammon game. Ever since Locke and Walt’s tournaments in the first season, backgammon has been suggested as a metaphor for the overarching plot of the show: two opposing sides "Two players. Two sides. One is light, one is dark,” battling for control over the island. Speculation on the two combatants waging this “island backgammon game” range from Jacob vs. Alvar Hanso, Ben vs. Charles Widmore, Dharma vs. the Others, any combination thereof and countless others. It’s no coincidence that the game reappeared in an episode that confirmed that the Freighties are looking Ben because a specific (assumedly powerful) individual is after him, and that Ben is very much aware of his adversary. It can be convincingly argued that Ben (and by extension Locke/Jacob/the Others) represent one side of the greater backgammon game and that whomever is ultimately responsible for sending the Freighties after Ben represents the other side (last week’s flash forward also suggests this game is being waged off the island and for some time to come, as well). It’s also worth noting that during Sawyer and Locke’s game, Sawyer had the white pieces, meaning Locke had the dark ones (I’m pretty sure when Locke played Walt, he had the white pieces).
Sawyer, calling Kate out on her bullshit, saying she’ll come running back once Jack does something else to piss her off. Slap him all you want; the man has a point.
Did You Notice?
After speaking to (and having his head messed up by) a captive Ben, Locke makes a mess of Ben’s breakfast in frustration, just like in Season Two’s Maternity Leave
The book Locke brought Ben was VALIS by Philip K. Dick. I’ve never read it, but I understand it’s a pretty messed up book, even by Dick’s standards.
The music Kate was listening to in Claire’s house was Patsy Cline, which she listens to in almost all of her flashbacks, often right before she runs away again.
Eggtown? Where’d that title come from? The eggs Locke made Ben at the beginning, and Miles’ egg shaped grenade breakfast at the end? Some kind of philosophical chicken/egg theme? Is that the name of the Dharma barracks/New Otherton?
Is Kate really not pregnant, or was she lying to provoke Sawyer and give her a reason to leave again? How would she know for sure, one way or the other?
Where does Kate raising Aaron fit into the psychic’s predictions for Claire? In Raised By Another, back in season one, the psychic Claire visited in her flashback made it very clear that Aaron must be raised by Claire, going so far as to dupe Claire into meeting with potential adoptive parents in LA so that she’d be on Oceanic Flight 815. The implication was that the psychic knew the plane would crash, thus forcing Claire to raise Aaron as her own. With this episode, we have to wonder, was Kate’s adoption of Aaron something the psychic was trying to facilitate or prevent?
Why did Miles specifically ask for 3.2 million? Ben obviously recognizes there is some significance to that specific amount.
What were Daniel and Charlotte doing with the cards? Testing his memory (remember how Daniel didn’t know why he was so upset over the discovery of 815)? Or testing some kind of clairvoyant power (it reminded me Bill Murray using a psychic test to hit on women in Ghostbusters)? Was it part of the “work” they stayed on the island to do?
Why doesn’t Future Jack want to see Aaron? Did he and/or Kate do something to Claire in order to get rescued, and Aaron reminds him of that, or does Aaron just remind him that others (possibly including Claire) got left behind/killed in the course of their rescue? Does Future Jack know that Aaron is his nephew?
Was Miles talking to ghosts before Kate walked in? His position and posture was similar to when he was ghostbusting the grandson’s room during his flashback. I read online a scene from last episode’s script that had been cut for time, in which Sayid, Kate and Miles came upon the sonic fence. While Kate and Sayid discussed a way to get over/through it, it was suggested that Miles spoke to some kind of ghost and told Kate and Sayid the fence was off, and then crossed it, injury-free.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Yes, I know, the Oscars are more about Hollywood feeling good about itself than they are about honoring quality films. Yes, the Oscars have a terrible track record of honoring only films by white males. The Oscars are not diverse, often overlooking smaller independent films, or foreign films, or comedies and sci-fi and other genres, and they have a ridiculously short memory, often forgetting about many fantastic films that are released before the fall “awards season.” The academy has many screwy eligibility rules that make little sense, and the voting methods of the academy members are mysterious and often hard to fathom. You’re right, Rocky had no business winning in 1976 over Network or All the Presidents Men; Kevin Costner shouldn’t have won the Best Director Oscar for Dancing with Wolves in 1990 over Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Often times, the “best” or “greatest” film doesn’t win, or is even nominated. But most of the time, at least a “great” film does win.
At the end of the night, above all else, the Oscars are about celebrating movies. That’s why I love them. It’s like the Super Bowl: one can either watch it because their favorite team is playing, or because they just enjoy watching football and the Super Bowl should be, at least, a good football game. The Oscars are like that, but for movies. Even if a favorite or better film isn’t nominated or is but has no hope of winning, I still like to watch because I love movies and the Oscars celebrate that.
People like to complain about how long the ceremony is or the number of montages they show. I don’t mind the length and I love the montages. I love the Oscars so I don’t mind if they run longer than they should: that’s more to love. And the montages remind me of great movies I’ve seen and suggest others I still need to make a point to watch. (I could do without the interpretive dance numbers and tedious “thank yous” though. Nothing is better than a poignant acceptance speech from someone who knows how to speak in public, and nothing is more boring than a winner prattling off a list of people, including their lawyer and hairdresser.)
All of this is really just a rambling preamble to my Oscar picks, intended to shed some light on why, despite its flaws, Oscar Night is one of my favorite nights of the year. Without further ado, here are my thoughts on the six Oscar categories most people care about:
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Cate Blanchett in “I’m Not There”
Ruby Dee in “American Gangster”
Saoirse Ronan in “Atonement”
Amy Ryan in “Gone Baby Gone”
Tilda Swinton in “Michael Clayton”
Historically, this category is either a lock or incredibly difficult to predict, especially since it is also historically prone for upsets. This year it’s the latter, with several strong-but-not-lights-out performances. Saoirse Ronan really was fantastic in Atonement but was missing from the second half of the film. Cate Blanchett is supposedly awesome as one aspect of Bob Dylan, but she is competing against herself in the Best Actress category and thus, likely to split her votes. It also wasn’t too long ago that she won this award for her playing another real person in the Aviator. I heard some buzz on Ruby Dee a while back (I believe Roger Ebert picked her for the win) and she could win on the “lifetime achievement” platform, but the role is small (shorter even than Judi Dench’s win for Shakespeare in Love) in a film that was more or less shut out of the Oscars despite being heavily favored when it was released. Amy Ryan received critical praise and a few awards for her performance in Ben Affleck’s directorial debut, but I haven’t seen this film either. And finally, Tilda Swinton is one of those actresses who consistently turns in Academy friendly performances looking for a win. The strength of Michael Clayton seems to be in its performances (it’s the only film to get multiple acting noms) and this is an award voters could use to honor that. This is a tough call, and one that will probably knock me out of the Oscar pool.
1st Pick: Tilda Swinton
2nd Pick: Ruby Dee
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Casey Affleck in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”
Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men”
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Charlie Wilson’s War”
Hal Holbrook in “Into the Wild”
Tom Wilkinson in “Michael Clayton”
Javier Bardem’s victory is, perhaps, the biggest lock this year. In a film praised endlessly, nothing receives more praise than his performance of the relentless and enigmatic, cattle-stunner killer, Anton Chigurh. Casey Affleck received a lot of praise for his role, but his first time nomination is his reward. Philip Seymour Hoffman is more or less nominated in this category every year, but his role is the only Charlie Wilson’s War blip on Oscar’s radar. There is some buzz that Hal Holbrook, a longtime veteran, may edge out a surprise upset over Bardem if voters decide to approach this award as a lifetime achievement one for Holbrook (similar to what happened last year with Alan Arkin’s upset over Eddie “Fatsuit” Murphy). Most of Holbrook’s work has been in TV, though, and academy voters are notorious snobs when it comes to that, so they may feel his nomination is award enough, for the time being.
1st Pick: Javier Bardem
2nd Pick: Hal Holbrook
Performance by an actress in a leading role
Cate Blanchett in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”
Julie Christie in “Away from Her”
Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose”
Laura Linney in “The Savages”
Ellen Page in “Juno”
I’ve only seen one of these performances: Ellen Page in Juno. She certainly carried the film, but she is another young up-and-comer for whom the nomination is likely her reward. Most of the buzz seems to be around Julie Christie, who is said to have turned in a phenomenal performance on top of being a well respected actress. I hear good things about Laura Linney’s performance but the film has operated pretty far under the voter’s radar. Marion Cotillard has also received rave reviews in a film few in the public have seen or heard of, and it’s traditionally tough for actors to win awards in foreign language films (but don’t tell Roberto that). If Cate Blanchett can overcome her split and eke out a win, buzz says it would be for her turn in the Dylan biopic, not for this role, where just the nomination surprised the hell out of most people since the film was apparently a clunker.
1st Pick: Julie Christie
2nd Pick: Ellen Page
Performance by an actor in a leading role
George Clooney in “Michael Clayton”
Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood”
Johnny Depp in “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
Tommy Lee Jones in “In the Valley of Elah”
Viggo Mortensen in “Eastern Promises”
The next closest thing to a lock this year is cademy favorite Daniel Day-Lewis, who’s been given this award by twenty-two different voting bodies already this year. George Clooney has been getting some buzz in the run up the ceremony, but most insiders feel that while this may be his best performance yet, it’s come too close to his recent Oscar win for Good Night and Good Luck. It seems that while the other three nominees all turned in critically praised performances, it’s Day-Lewis’ award to lose.
1st Pick: Daniel Day-Lewis
2nd Pick: George Clooney
Achievement in directing
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” Julian Schnabel
“Juno” Jason Reitman
“Michael Clayton” Tony Gilroy
“No Country for Old Men” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
“There Will Be Blood” Paul Thomas Anderson
The Coen Brothers are critical and commercial successes looking to win their first Oscar. It seems the enigmatically well-received No Country for Old Men will be the one to bring it home for them. Anderson, another Academy favorite looking to score his first win, could be a spoiler, especially since the old maxim that the Best Director winner’s film goes on to win Best Picture has proven to be less a sure thing in recent years; so voters could very well split the prizes, giving Anderson the win here and No Country best picture. Then again, the Coens won the DGA award, and that has been an unbelievably reliable predictor of the Academy award. Julian Schnabel suffers from the lack of a best picture nod for Diving Bell, and Juno is the kind of film in recent years the academy likes to nominate to show how diverse it can be, without actually awarding it anything big (see Little Miss Sunshine last year).
1st Pick: Joel and Ethan Coen
2nd Pick: Paul Thomas Anderson
Best motion picture of the year
“Atonement” (Focus Features)
“Juno” (Fox Searchlight)
“Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.)
“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage)
“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax)
After heaping tons of critical praise and numerous guild awards, this has been No Country for Old Men’s category, almost since the film premiered. Atonement was a well-crafted, elegant film that would have been the front runner in 1996 (the last time the Coen’s were nominated, for Fargo). Plus, Joe Wright’s lack of a best director nom shows a lack of academy support for the film as a whole. As for Juno, well, see above. The strength of Michael Clayton, again, seems to be its performances. So it’s down to There Will be Blood and No Country (tied for the most nominations, another reliable predictor of best Picture victory), and while There Will be Blood could pull a Crash-like upset at the last minute (perhaps the academy splitting the awards opposite of how I speculated it could go down above), it looks more than likely that, love it or hate it, No Country will acquire the final award needed to complete its collection on Sunday.
1st Pick: No Country For Old Men
2nd Pick: There Will Be Blood
Friday, February 22, 2008
As a farmer, Washington introduced the mule to America. He also grew marijuana but didn’t have to hide it under a camouflage net: historians claim that at the time, the crop was grown mainly for its industrial use as hemp and to help stabilize soil, and that it wouldn’t be until many years after Washington that the recreational and illegal use of the plant became popular. We all know the truth, however: Washington was down with the ganj.
In sharp contrast to William Henry “I don’t know well enough to wear a coat in the rain while giving the longest inaugural address in history” Harrison, Washington’s second inaugural address was the shortest ever delivered: 135 words (compared to Harrison’s 8,443 words).
Thursday, February 21, 2008
But sports are fun to talk about and there's been a lot of sporting news out there. And I know you're anxious to get my take on it all. Well, today I'm going to talk about a certain pitcher by the name of Johan Santana.
In case you didn’t know, Johan Santana was traded to the New York Mets for this:That’s right, magic beans. Four to be exact. You see, the thing about magic beans is that you don’t know what will come of them. Maybe they’ll grow into a giant beanstalk and lead you to the goose that lays golden eggs or maybe they’ll not grow at all and you’re just left with a lot of wasted energy. The fact is, no matter how you evaluate the bean, you just never know.
Sometimes selling a cow for magic beans will work out for you. But you have to make sure the cow you sell is worth the risk. If it’s a good cow that may be near its end but still has a few years of quality milk left to produce, perhaps it’s best to sell it for some magic beans and hope for the best. When you have a prize cow that is the best milk producer of all cows today and also craps out golden eggs, then perhaps it’s wise to just keep the cow instead of selling it for 4 magic beans which, even if they do sprout into beanstalks, still wouldn’t be as valuable as the cow you gave up. That’s just stupid.
OK, I think I’ve taken this metaphor as far as it can go. Needless to say, Santana is the prized cow and the four prospects we traded for him for are the magic beans. A lot of people say it had to be this way. A lot of people say that we HAD to take this trade. To both of those statements I call shenanigans. Let’s evaluate the arguments.
1. Johan Santana’s too expensive for the Twins to keep to begin with:
Last time checked the Twins had the richest owner in baseball…who will be given $392 million to help build a stadium which will help make more money for him.
Beyond that, the Twins just failed to sign Torii Hunter and Carlos Silva. This helps their money situation out immensely. Look at it this way, the Twins payroll last year was $71 million, this year it will be $49 million. If they had signed the same contract with Santana that Santana signed with the Mets, the Twins payroll this year would be approximately $70 million. Yes, they could have kept Santana and still have lowered the payroll from last year.
What it really came down to was the number of years Santana wanted in his contract. God forbid the Twins overpay for player in 5 years while they are raking in the money from the new stadium, right?
2. Santana didn’t want to play in Minnesota anymore:
If that’s the case, then that’s the case. But I would’ve preferred the Twins to offer the money to Santana and see how badly he really wanted out. If Santana rejected a Mets like deal, then I could’ve swallowed this move a lot easier.
3. Every team knew the Twins had to trade Santana, so the teams low balled the Twins:
If you’re trading the best pitcher in baseball and other teams are low balling you, you know what you do? Sign him.
4. Santana forced the Twins hand by threatening to invoke his no trade clause:
Supposedly Santana’s agent said they needed a resolution in two days or Santana would refuse to be traded the rest of the season and wait for free agency. If that’s the case, and you can’t get a good offer, you call Santana’s bluff.
Are you saying that if the Twins waited two weeks and the news of Curt Schilling’s injury and Andy Pettite’s possible suspension hit Boston and New York and a bidding war for Santana sparked between the two teams that Santana would refuse to be traded to teams like the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox? I think not.
The fact is, the Twins had the worst timing here. If they traded Santana earlier they could have had better packages included guys like Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera or Jacoby Ellsbury and some Boston prospects. Both packages included major league players that are a level above ‘magic bean’ status.
But the Twins thought they could do better and waited things out and both offers were pulled of the table. If the Twins waited a few weeks after the actual trade, then the bidding war I suggested above may have happened. The way I look at it, the Twins traded Santana at the worst possible time and ended up getting only prospects from a terrible farm system of the New York Mets. It just screamed of poor management.
5. Fans just don’t like prospects because they never heard of them but this still could be a good deal:
No matter how good these players turn out, this will still be a bad trade because we should’ve been able to get these players plus more for the best pitcher in baseball.
And I understand that fans don’t scout prospects so when you trade for prospects fans get upset because they never heard of any of them. But aren’t the fans the reason sports exist? Don’t fans supply the money to pay athletes? Shouldn’t keeping fans happy be part of your decision making process?
6. Every non-large-market team needs to go through a rebuilding phase:
OK, I’ll buy that. But what are the Twins rebuilding from? Four division titles, three of which came because the division was weak and only one playoff series win between all four years? I figure a team should at least be built in some way before you start rebuilding.
That last point brings me to my grand conclusion. I have very little reason to cheer for the Twins. What the Twins proved the last few years is that they are content with being mediocre and will never actually ‘go for it’. To ‘go for it’ you need to get a good team and then sign those one or two extra players to make you a great team. The Twins had been good 4 of the past 6 years, but they were never great and I never felt that they made a move to at least attempt to become great.
So now that they’re ‘rebuilding’, what motivation do I have to watch the team? Sure, I could watch them become good, but the Twins have shown that they won’t spend the extra money to change their good team to a great team. I could watch this team for young stars like Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. But how can I invest in these guys when, if they become great and reach their prime, the Twins will just jettison them because they’re too expensive.
Frankly, this is a minor league team. It develops talent and then ships it out. So I’m not going give this team major league attention until it acts like a major league team. In fact, I am going to try and not spend a penny on this team this year. I feel betrayed by an owner whose taking our money to buy a stadium and has so far proved that he won’t reinvest that money into the team. I also feel like this team just won’t be very good. So, I may watch a few games but I’m not opening my wallet for the Minnesota Twins.
What the Twins must do is something simple. Many have done it before and many will do it again. Minnesota Twins, your task is to prove that you’re smarter than me. I think you made a mistake in trading Santana and made your team worse. I think you’re going to be lousy. Prove me to be wrong. Start winning. Prove that you can win with this low budget roster and I’ll start paying attention. If you can show me that you’re fielding a major league team that can contend for championships then I won’t care what your payroll is. And only when I consider you major league once again will I open my wallet to you.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Thus far the flash forwards have painted a picture of the Oceanic 6 as dissolute people fallen into self-destructive roles: Jack is a broken, drunk and addicted to painkillers, Hurley is back in the mental hospital, Sayid is once again ignoring his caring nature to harm people on the order of others. In fact, between these grim pictures and the portraits of incomplete, frustrated and broken people the flashbacks presented, it’s becoming even clearer that for many of the characters, they are at their best on the island (a notion given some voice by Sawyer’s conversation with Kate-but more on that later).
Sayid’s concern for Naomi in this episode was meant to establish a thematic parallel to the flash forward, showing us two women caught in the middle of a larger struggle, as well to reinforce the idea that at heart, Sayid is a good man who has been forced into doing bad things. Was Sayid’s concern for Naomi (reflecting on her bracelet, closing her eyes, bringing her on the copter) manufactured for this episode just to strengthen the parallel to Elsa and remind us of Sayid’s caring nature (since we have never seen Sayid express any extraordinary concern or feeling towards Naomi before this episode) or is there something more to it? It seemed out of place; usually the on island/off island themes are paralleled with more subtlety or less shoe-horning.
The talk of lists between Ben and Sayid reminded me once again of the Other’s/Jacob’s list. Is the list Future Ben is working off of compiled by the same still unknown criteria as the Jacob list? If so, then it seems that the Ben/Jacob/Others agenda (whatever that may be) is bigger than the island, which is reinforced by the discovery of Ben’s “traveling closet” and the implication that Ben is leaving the island to conduct business all over the world. Since the closet was hidden, we have to assume that these adventures are a further illustration of the fact that Ben has been less than honest with at least some of his Other followers when it comes to his true goals.
Finally, I was completely taken in by the Hurley ruse, and I think it worked so well because both the characters and the audience trust Hurley implicitly, and because Locke locking Hurley in a closet and abandoning him as punishment for Hurley second guessing him is something we all can totally see Locke doing at this point.
Hurley, on Miles: “Oh. Awesome. The ship sent us another Sawyer.” Or Jack, after Kate says now he knows what it’s like to be left behind: “Does that mean I should wait twenty minutes and go anyway?”
Did You Notice?
Frank specifically told Sayid that if Sayid brought him Charlotte, Frank’d take him “off the island”; not to the freighter, but off the island. It may mean nothing, or perhaps we’ll find out Frank cheated as much as Sayid did in that arrangement.
Now that Miles is with Locke’s group, he and his ghostbusting abilities are in a better position to confront some of the islands biggest mysteries (the seemingly walking dead) and also find out about the purge (from the pile of dead Dharma bodies), which may become significant if any of this group turns out to be involved with Dharma in some way (as many are theorizing to be the case).
This is an older, ongoing one, but this episode brought it up, and then, frustratingly, didn’t answer it: why DOES Kate want to leave the island so badly? As the audience has been thinking and Sawyer FINALLY pointed out, she was jail bound before the crash. Obviously, we know from the flash forward that she wriggles out of that somehow, but she doesn’t know that yet. I mean, I can understand her not wanting to live out her life on an island, but a more “if it happens, great, if not, I’ll survive” attitude would make more sense, given her fugitive status, than the “do whatever it takes to get off the island” attitude she’s always had.
Who is the titular Economist? On most other shows, the fact that his identity remained unrevealed, I could let slide, but on this show, his identity has to be important.
I’m not even going to try to wrap my head around what Dan’s experiment could possibly mean, and simply point out that it seems to give further evidence that there is something screwy involving time and/or distance on the island, and say that I would like to learn more.
What was the deal with the bracelets? Naomi’s seemed to be personally inscribed, but then Elsa had one: was her bracelet the exact same one as Naomi’s, and Sayid gave it to her? Why? If it was a similar but different (different engraving or something) bracelet what was the point of the emphasis the camera put on it? Simply to emphasize the thematic parallels, or something more?
That ending barrages us with questions, including: Why is Sayid working for Ben? What is Ben’s goal? Is it a new one, or a continuation of what he and the Others were doing on the island? What exactly happened the last time “Sayid thought with his heart?” Why did they meet at an animal hospital? Has Ben always been able to perform the “field surgery” he administers to Sayid?
Where does Sayid’s flash forward fit in the flash forward timeline? I’m guessing after Hurley’s but before Jack’s, but that’s just a guess.
Where’s Nadia in the future? Is she how Ben is controlling Sayid, or a casualty of the last time Sayid “thought with his heart?”
Monday, February 18, 2008
There's Taylor, there's Tyler, there's Fillmore and there's Hayes.
Martin Van Buren (aka Martin Van Who?) was the first president born in the United States: the preceding Presidents were all born when the United States was still known as“the colonies” and drinking the King’s tea.
William Henry Harrison is perhaps the best known of the mediocre Presidents, being famous for dying in “thirty days.” It is believed Harrison died of pneumonia brought on by delivering the longest inaugural address in American history (8,444 words which took nearly two hours to deliver) on an extremely cold and wet March 4th without wearing his overcoat, followed by an inaugural parade through the streets. One has to wonder how many people actually heard his speech, in a day lacking mass communication and delivered in such miserable weather. The condition was later worsened by the fact that Harrison was unable to properly rest following his inauguration as he was deluged at the White House by office seekers, as was the custom at the time. Perhaps the country was better off having a man who lacked the good sense to at least wear a coat in the rain last only thirty days as President.
John Tyler was Harrison’s Vice President and thus, most likely to become president upon Harrison’s death. However, this was the first time a president had died in office and the rules of succession were not made very clear by the framers of the constitution. Tyler took it upon himself to take the presidential oath of office, initiating a custom that would influence all future successions (but remained a custom until the 25th Amendment was passed in 1967). Often referred to as the “Acting President” or “His Accidency”, Tyler was not taken seriously. Shortly after taking office he vetoed almost the entire Congressional agenda of his Whig party members and was officially expelled from the party, becoming known as “the man without a party.”
Tyler was also the president with the most children: 15. So, you know, good for him.
Zachary Taylor, the last southerner elected until Woodrow Wilson, was elected on the strength of his popularity as a general in the Mexican War. He had a short tenure as president, dying in office shortly after a Fourth of July ceremony celebrating the groundbreaking of the Washington monument, at which he consumed a snack of iced milk and cold cherries, which, combined with heat stroke, is considered by most historians to have killed him.
(Incidentally, Americans used to really love electing generals as presidents. Twelve presidents were formerly generals: Washington, Andrew Jackson, William H. Harrison, Taylor, Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, U. S. Grant, Hayes, James Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Bemjamin Harrison, and Eisenhower. Which means there is still hope for General Hawk in ’08)
James Buchanan was the only president to never marry and may also be the only gay President, as rumors of his homosexuality circulated at the time of his election based on the close relationship he shared with his predecessor’s Vice President. Also, he was the president right before Abraham Lincoln and really didn’t do much to ease sectional strife, kind of dropping the ball on that whole “War Between the States” thing.
Rutherford B. Hayes shows us that Dubya wasn’t the first Republican to steal an election; that honor belongs to “Rutherfraud B. Hayes” as Democrats would come to refer to him following the election. Hayes lost the popular vote to his heavily favored opponent, Democrat Samuel J. Tilden by about 250,000 votes in the election of 1876. However, four state’s electoral college votes, three of which were southern states still under military rule, were contested. To win, a candidate had to muster 185 votes. Tilden was short just one and Hayes had 166. 19 votes were being disputed.
A special electoral commission was created to decide the election, comprised of congressmen and Supreme Court justices. Two days before the inauguration, the commission voted along party lines, 8-7 to give Hayes all the remaining votes, and the presidency.
After some southern Democrats threatened rebellion over what they believed was the theft of the election, an agreement put forth by key Republican leaders, known as the Compromise of the 1877, was reached to placate these Democrats. It stated that Hayes would pull federal troops out of the South and end Reconstruction, and include a southern Democrat in his cabinet.
After all this hullabaloo, you’d think Hayes would want a good stiff drink. He might have, but his wife, who was a vocal leader of the temperance movement, did not, and thus all liquor and wine was banished from the White House for the duration of his presidency.
William Taft is the only President to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and thus the only former President to swear in subsequent Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. He thought of his time as Chief Justice to be the high point of his career: allegedly he once said, "I don't remember that I ever was President."
Also, Taft weighed eight metric tons and was, needless to say, the heaviest president. He once got stuck in the White House bathtub, and had to have a larger one installed to accommodate his girth.
Gerald Ford is the only president to never be elected in a popular election. After Nixon VP Spiro Agnew resigned, Ford, Speaker of the House at the time, was chosen to replace him, and then became president when Nixon himself resigned.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Do I think she’s experienced and intelligent? Sure. She’d have to be to get this far in politics. That’s her problem, though. She’s just like every other politician who’s come before her. Holden Caulfield and I label her a phony.
I’ll tell you what I’m ready for – a president with a non-Washington viewpoint. Every Democrat claims that they are the candidate of change who cares about every American. When Obama says it, I believe him. He has all the necessary traits – charisma, honesty, sincerity, and willingness to compromise. Unfortunately, his name conjures notions Islamic terrorism to those who are narrow-minded bigots. I don’t think those people will be able to stop his rise. An Obama presidency could turn this country back towards peace and prosperity.
I grew up during the last golden era of Saturday Night Live when the cast included Mike Myers, Phil Hartman, Dennis Miller, Chris Rock and Dana Carvey. The last member mentioned had a George Hebert Walker Bush impersonation that imbedded in me the ludicrousness of the people who hold one of the highest offices known today.
“Not gonna do it.”
Politics piss me off, but the people who engage in it fascinate me. I’ve taken a keen interest in their actions, motives, and the influence they have over the average Joe.
My first vote was cast for Jesse ‘the mind’ Ventura for Governor. Did he agree with everything for which I stand? Hardly. Did I think he was genuine? Totally. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s lying. I don’t think Jesse ever tried to do anything in office he wasn’t open and forthright about. The guy may have been a dink at times but at least he didn’t lie about it.
My next two votes went to Ralph Nader, holder of one of the greatest lines in political history. In response to the media and the Democratic Party portraying him as a spoiler in the 2000 presidential election, Ralph responded –
“I do think that Al Gore cost me the election, especially in Florida.”
Many of Nader’s dedicated supporters ran away from him in 2004 despite saying they still believed in everything for which he stood. They were voting for John Kerry not because they believed in Kerry, but because they didn’t want Bush in office. I’m glad they lost. Easily wavered people like that are scum. Stick your morals and ideals. Don’t follow the lemmings.
No one’s vote should be taken for granted. Every vote should be earned and balloted from the heart. You’re not going to agree with every aspect of any candidate’s personality or stances. We’re all unique and beautiful snowflakes. We all make mistakes. The best you should hope for is the self-satisfaction of giving your vote to someone in whom you believe.
If you don’t believe in a candidate, DON’T VOTE!
If you don’t know anything about any of the candidates, DON’T VOTE!
Thursday, February 14, 2008
For all you guys out there, if you don't have a significant other to share this day with, don't fret! There's plenty of lesbian porn on the internet to enjoy!!!
For da ladies, remember these valuable words of wisdom:
"Feminism refuses the true nature of woman, confuses the natural and supernatural relations between the sexes and embarks upon a deviant path at the end of which the suicide of thought and the death of womanhood is inevitable."
And you married gals, don't forget this:
"Husbands will consequently take responsibility and leadership, even when they feel inadequate, and wives will take delight in denying their own will and obeying their husbands"
Full story: http://blogs.usatoday.com/sportsscope/2008/02/catholic-school.html
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
President Lincoln was the first president to have a beard while in office, a worthy precursor of such magnificently hirsute commanders-in-chiefs as Rutherford B. Hayes and Benjamin Harrison.
Lincoln was also the only president to obtain a patent (for a complicated device designed to lift ships over rocks or something like that; it was never put into widespread use) and the first president to be born in a state that wasn’t one of the thirteen original colonies (Kentucky).
Lincoln was known to take his dreams very seriously: the morning before he was assassinated he discussed a dream at a cabinet meeting, in which he saw himself sailing “in an indescribable vessel and moving rapidly toward an indistinct shore.” A week before he was killed, he had a dream in which he awoke to the sound of sobbing and followed it to the East Room of the White House. Inside he found a black draped casket and asked “Who is dead?” A military guard told him it was the President. So apparently, amongst his many other powers, President Lincoln had eerily prophetic dreams.
The coolest true story you’ll ever hear about Abraham Lincoln? In 1842 Lincoln was challenged to a duel by a state auditor, who was furious over a letter to the local paper Lincoln’s wife had written. Given the choice of weapons, as was the custom at the time, Lincoln chose broadswords, being accomplished as he was in the medieval arts (actually, because he was tall with long arms, thus giving him a large advantage when dueling with a frickin’ BROADSWORD, so Lincoln believed such a choice would likely scare off his opponent). Sure enough, the idea of facing off against a broadsword-wielding Lincoln was frightening enough for his opponent, and the challenger wisely decided to settle his differences with Lincoln without the duel. After all, there can be only one.
Monday, February 11, 2008
We learned via the kaleidoscopic flashbacks that each of the Freighties has some connection to the island or the Lostaways (some more tenuous than others, granted). We also learned that Naomi was something of a leader to the group, and her approach to the mission, as seen in the flashback, seemed militaristic. Her job was to not get any of the team killed; does it still count as a win if they live but she doesn’t? Also, we saw Creepy Lawyer from Hurley’s flashforward giving Naomi her orders and insisting there are no survivors of flight 815: towing the company line, or reinforcing additional orders for Naomi? Either way, I think it’s clear that either Oceanic is another shadowy company with hidden agendas, or is a smaller part of a larger, shadowy-er company with hidden agendas.
Dr. Bitz pointed out that the arrival of these new island residents has setup an interesting parallel between the Freighties and the Lostaways now and the Lostaways and Others in the first two seasons. Just like the Others claimed dominance on the island and backed it up with force, refusing open dialogue with the 815 survivors, now we have Jack and company wielding weapons at the Freighties, ignoring their questions and acting with suspicion towards them. It remains to be seen if that suspicion is warranted, but I have a feeling the writers are likely to further explore this parallel as the season progresses and the Freighties further ingratiate themselves into the story.
The fourth wall breaking discussion about Walt between Locke and Sawyer. “It was Walt. Only...taller” and “you didn’t ask any follow up question?”
Did You Notice?
Both Ben and Locke were surprised that Hurley saw the cabin. Whatever it is that is unique about them in relation to Jacob, it appears they share it with Hurley.
When Locke and Sawyer are arguing about whether or not to kill Ben towards the beginning, Sawyer looks to Hurley, who shakes his head no. Only then does Sawyer back down.
Charlotte’s (the female Indiana Jones wannabe) initials are CS Lewis, another reference to alternate worlds.
This episode gave us two quick answers to two different questions: yes, Naomi’s dying words were a code, and the Freighties are on the island looking for Ben. Why are they after Ben? I didn’t say they answered everything…
So why do the Freighties want Ben? Who’s his man on the boat? Anyone we know? The Internet is thinking Michael (or at least, that Michael is on the boat, perhaps providing intel on the island and the survivors, in addition to whomever is working for Ben). It’d be an interesting way to bring him back on the show outside of a flashback/forward.
How’d that Dharma polar bear get in the desert? Methinks this Dharma orientation video for the Orchid station released last summer may have some answers.
Is Ben sick of getting his face pounded yet? What’s that, three, four times in a day?
Whose eye was that at the window of Jacob’s cabin last episode? I was pretty sure it was Locke’s, but now that seems unlikely, since this episode, Locke didn’t seem to know that Hurley had seen the cabin.
This may be a nitpick, but why was Lawnmower Man so sure the other pilot’s wedding ring wouldn’t have fallen off in the course of the crash/decomposition on the ocean floor?
We know a little more about Naomi now, but we still don’t know how or why she got that picture of Penny and Desmond.
What was Faraday so upset about in the beginning? Did he know someone on the plane? Is he (being a physicist) why the Freighties were able to find the island? What was the case of gas masks for? Were they going to gas Ben?
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Ben, politely asking to join Locke’s group. “Jack, with your permission, I'd like to go with John.”
When Charlie swam up to the glass in the interrogation room, he had “they need you” written on his hand.
These questions will obviously drive the whole season, if not the rest of the show: Why are there only six known survivors of the crash? Was everyone else left behind, or dead? Did others get off the island unknown to the public? If so, how and why? We can safely presume that Jack and Kate are part of the Oceanic 6 along with Hurley; who are the other three? If Claire and Aaron got rescued (as Desmond’s flash suggested) would Aaron count as one of the six, since he technically wasn’t on the Oceanic flight? Who are the “they” referenced by both Creepy Maybe Lawyer and Ghost Charlie? What secret are the six keeping and why do Hurley and Beard-o Jack want to go back?
Monday, February 4, 2008
From: Tom Brady [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, February 04, 2008 3:16 PM
To: Dr. Bitz [email@example.com]
Subject: You've been blessed with an e-mail from The Tom Brady
Dear Dr. Bitz,
Never let anybody tell you you're not special. Like everyone in this world, you are special in your own way. You are one of the few people in this world that has taught me something. And that's special. You have opened my eyes.
In my endless quest to scour the Internet for any site that may mention my name I came across your blog. I find it amusing that you would encourage being leisurely when man's true nature is the pursuit of excellence in all phases of life, but I digress. I saw your post about rooting against the Patriots and, after staring at that picture of me you posted for a few hours, I read what you said about me and realized that you were on to something.
My existence has indeed come at a price. Allowing myself to be like this at the cost of 500 def, dumb, blind, crippled, mentally handicapped children simply wouldn't do. I did a bit of meditation whilst looking in the mirror and combing my golden locks and the answer became clear on what I must do.
On Superbowl Sunday I allowed myself to be fallible. Like Moses parting the red sea, I parted my offensive line and allowed the New York Giant defenders through. I allowed Michael Strahan to touch the hem of my garments. I allowed myself to fall to the ground and taste of the dirt God created. This is the sacrifice I made. I did it for the children.
However, my quarterbacking skills and abilities are so finely honed that sometimes they take on a life of their own. This is why I accidentally took my team on a drive down the field to take a 14 to 10 lead with 2 minutes 45 seconds left in the game. My precision passing and second-to-none decision making kicked in without me knowing and suddenly I found myself nearly winning the Superbowl!
In a desperate attempt to correct this mistake I quickly donned a David Tyree jersey and went out to play wide receiver for the New York Giants. On the play everyone is talking about, I saw Not Tom Brady in trouble so I parted my defenders to allow him to get free. Then, when Not Tom Brady threw a non-Brady-like pass I was forced to make that miraculous off my helmet catch to keep the drive alive and give the New York Giants the opportunity to score the go-ahead touchdown and win Superbowl XLII.
I am glad to announce that thanks to my noble sacrifice (and rogue stem-cell researchers) 25 of the 500 def, dumb, blind, crippled, mentally handicapped children were miraculously cured. This is truly a blessing and warms my heart.
I must remind you, though, that I am Tom Brady and I can only be so fallible. I cannot make any promises about my performances next year. However, I did what I needed to do this year and in some odd way I feel like I was victorious in Superbowl XLII too.
Thank you for opening my eyes and I wish you at least 10% of the happiness that I experience on a daily basis.
You are almost as beautiful as I,
#12 Tom Brady
New England Patriots
I work for a global logistics company where they pay me to sit in front of a computer copying and pasting tracking numbers from a spreadsheet to another computer program for 8 hours a day 7 days a week.
My manager and supervisor have assured me I am performing a valuable task for the company but i know how tedious and truly pointless my job is compared to real world problems.
It's just freight.
A bigger company recently bought out our company so our slogan changed from Your Success is Personal to Us to Making Business Flow.
Making Business Flow sounds like a children's potty training book.
Doing what I do bores me. When I get bored I tend to get in trouble.
"Don't poke the bear, Adam," I hear my supervisor say often.
The original Gentlemen of Leisure invited me to contribute to their blog under the strict stipulation I never disagree with anything they say. This prohibition came about after I wrote a rebuttal to Dr. Bitz's I Hate Huckabee post. With Super Tuesday coming up tomorrow, despite the voice in the back of my head telling me, "Don't poke the bear!", here's my take on the remaining presidential candidates.
JOHN McCAIN (Republican) - Okay I get it. You fought in an unpopular war. Obviously you weren't much of a soldier though since you got caught and spent several years in a POW camp. How does that qualify you to lead one of the most powerful nations of all time? That's like a bicyclist saying he shoulld be in charge of the Tour de France just because he got hit by a bus while competing in it.
Effective leaders need to have certain qualities starting with charisma. If people don't like you they more than likely won't follow you on the path you blaze. McCain has about as much charisma as a bag of wet hair.
MITT ROMNEY (Republican) - Guess what? A rich white guy is running for the presidential nomination! Unlike "Captured by the 'cong" McCain, this guy sweats charisma and sells it to Ivy league jocks as liquid spanish fly. Unfortunately he even s things out by being greatly deficient in the next effective leadership quality - Trustworthiness. Ignore how he looks when he's speaking and concentrate on the constant contradiction spewing out of his lips. Mitt is a liar. Every word he says is laced with half truths and audible syphilis. How many multi-millionaire businessmen would you trust to babysit your children or perform a prostate examine on you?
Romney couldn't care less about this country's citizens, especially the ones at the bottom of the payscale. You never hear about all the philantropy work he's doing, if any. All you hear about is how much of his own money is being flushed into his campaign machine to buy his way to one of the most pwerful and prestgious positions in the world. Mitt's out for himself.
MIKE HUCKABEE (Republican) - People hear he used to be a preacher man and visions of abortion clinic bombing zealots pop in to their heads. They hear he's pro-life yet allowed the death penalty while in public office so they think he's a hypocrit because they fail to see the difference between selfish murder and capital punishment.
Huckabee has charisma. If you listen to him speak or overhear a conversation of his you can't help but be drawn to his likable and relatable demeanor. The words that come out of his mouth are genuine and commendable. I dare you to tell him he can't do something. If you do you'll see his 100% believable and emotional reaction, not some calculated political soundbite. What he doesn't have is name recognition or a hefty bankroll.
Even after being Arkansas' Governor for almost 11 years, the Colbert Bump, and winning the Iowa caucus, many people have no idea who this guy is! He's a man of morals, however. Washington and the big corporations do not like that combination! Because of that the media and even his own party have rallied against him. Being strapped for cash, Huckabee's campaign concentrated their resources on the South Carolina primary. Out of hundreds of thousands of voters, Huckabee lost to the vastly more powerful, finacially and politically, McCain campaign by a few thousand votes. Instantly the media calimed he was finished and stopped covering his presidential run as a possiblity. Millions of Americans only follow governement elections on the boob tube, so if the nightly news says he's an also-ran or a has-been , the majority rights him off.
Ignorance is bliss.
RON PAUL (Republican) - My feelings have fluctuated for the good congressmen from intriguing idea-man to raving lunactic and back to the notion he may be one of the few politicians who actual sound like they could and would change our governemnt for the benefit of the whole world.
The guy whole-heartedly stands for everything the Republican Party claims to stand for in a postive manner. Therefore his own party sneers at him and says he is virtually unelectable. Paul's message has resonated with the youth of America and the rickotty old man on the porch won't go away. I say good for him. If congress was packed with Ron Paul's their approval rating would be glorifying and things would start get accomplished beginning with getting the govenment out of our lives. The last thing we want is Big Brother looking over our shoulder. Many Americans think that's exactly was has been happening though.
Later in the week I'll weigh in on the Democratic candidates and disperse my voting philosophy.
TO BE CONTINUED . . .