Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Quote of the Day 12/31: New Year's Eve

It's New Years Eve, and I'm a little tired of people trashing the holiday as disappointing. Here's a quote from's Will Leitch that sums up my feelings on the subject:

"I hear people complain about New Year’s Eve, that it’s always made into a big event that ultimately disappoints, that they feel pressured to have some kind of momentously fun time. These people are sad, really, incredible dullards and whiners. Pressured to have fun? Hey, I’ll take that kind of pressure every time, no problem. I wish I was pressured to have fun every day, rather than pressured to pay the bills, pressured to hold onto my job, pressured to keep my head above water. If you can’t relax and have fun on New Year’s Eve, well, you’ve got more problems than this column can solve, so there is no hope for you here."
So enjoy tonight (safely, of course)... and happy 2009.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Still Gettin' Kicked Around

Just walked out of Frost/ Nixon, another political movie with strong award buzz. I had high hopes for it, but like Milk before, it ultimately disappointed. These movies just seem like Oscar- bait and fail to prove an ultimate point.

The film is a study of its protagonist, British TV personality David Frost, how he funded his interview project with Nixon, how he cajoled admission from the disgraced president, and the role television, as a medium, played in it all.

But Frost, as a character, is uninteresting. The drama of Nixon's remorse is fabricated. And the surface of the most compelling storyline, Nixon's psyche and personal tragedy, is barely scratched.

Frost/ Nixon does make a deft point on the oversimplification and superficiality of the television age. Just not in the way that it hoped.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Great Way to Say "Thanks"

Will Ferrell is getting set to debut his new Broadway show, You're Welcome, America: A Final Evening with George W. Bush. I'm booking my tickets right now. Here's a preview:

Friday, December 19, 2008

The President & The Pastor

President- Elect Obama is catching some flack from liberal groups for picking Saddleback Ranch pastor Rick Warren to lead the invocation at his inauguration. Warren is pro-life and anti-gay (he uses the same faulty arguments against gay marriage as Mike Huckabee).

Liberals waited to get one of their own in the White House for a long time, and giving such a high- profile honor to a social conservative has many groups uneasy.

Their disappointment is unfounded. Obama is committed to the power of what unites us. When you try to change the status quo in a profound way, you have to be. While there are fundamental differences between the incoming Obama administration and Warren and his flock, there are also important ties.

There are those who will say that it's easy for a straight person to think this way, and that a poor record on gay rights (human rights) should be a deal breaker. There are those who would accept a dialogue between Warren and Obama, but who will say that such a prominent role goes too far, that it's a slap in the face to those who fought to put Obama where he'll be on January 20.

To them, I submit that Barack Obama needs Rick Warren more than vice versa. Rick Warren is one of the most popular people in America, his readers and followers number in the millions.

He isn't going anywhere.

So, Obama can either bring him into the fold, enlist his help in the areas on which they can agree, or, he can marginalize Warren, brush off his congregation. Tell 'em to stick it, and wish 'em better luck in 2012. Then, Warren can spend his Sundays railing against the "liberals" in government and inflame his followers with exaggerations about their social agenda.

Having Warren lead the Inauguration's prayer is an attempt at unity. It's a new day for all Americans, not just the ones who voted Obama/ Biden. Just because there are fundamental disagreements doesn't mean that conservatives don't get a seat at the table. If they're shut out then real change either won't come or won't last.

And Warren, while socially conservative, is not over- the- top in his rhetoric or beliefs. This isn't Pat Robertson or Jerry Fallwell. So while the disagreements are vehement, Warren holds an ethos that's very much in the mainstream.

I'm old enough to remember the schisms that surrounded the last two presidents. One invoked conspiracy theories against his enemies, the other described the slimmest of victories as significant political capital, and governed from the extreme.

Change was temporary, achievements fleeting. President Bush in particular taught us the emptiness of the politics of division.

On Election Day, Americans chose a different path, and Obama is now leading the way. Liberals and conservatives alike should neither expect nor wish for anything different.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Drew Carey FAIL

No one had guessed the exact price of a Price Is Right showcase in almost 30 years, until this week. If a contestant guesses the price within $100 without going over, he gets both showcases. So my man Terry walked away with over $56k in prizes.

Too bad for the other contestant who was within $500.

Also too bad for Drew Carey who gets about as excited as I do when someone hands me a 30% off coupon outside a New York City subway station.

Bring back Bob Barker!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Best Christmas Song

In the spirit of the holidays, here's my favorite holiday song... It's not Christmas without "Christmas (Please Come Home)" by Darlene Love. The studio version is here, but this Letterman performance from '05 is pretty amazing.

On the Interweb

Here's a list of the top websites in December '08 with their respective market shares, and where they ranked 2 years ago (courtesy of the Drudge Report):

Unfortunately, it only gives the top 10, but I'm pretty sure SAM Online is #11.
1. Yahoo! News 6.82% 1
2. The Weather Channel - US 3.70% 3
3. 3.42% 2
4. MSNBC 3.23% 4
5. Google News 2.43% 5
6. Drudge Report 2.10% 6
7. Yahoo! Weather 1.77% 10
8. Fox News 1.77% 8
9. The New York Times 1.75% 7
10. People Magazine 1.69% 9

Here's Rankings for Most Popular Search Term Clicks
1. cnn 0.69%
2. weather 0.68%
3. fox news 0.31%
4. drudge 0.28%
5. drudge report 0.27%
6. 0.20%
7. msnbc 0.18%
8. weather channel 0.18%
9. 0.17%
10. news 0.17%
11. caylee anthony 0.15%
12. huffington post 0.14%
13. tv guide 0.13%
14. noaa 0.12%
15. people 0.11%
16. accuweather 0.11%
17. national weather service 0.10%
18. yahoo 0.10%
19. jennifer aniston 0.10%
20. new york times 0.10%

Time's '08 POY- Pic of the Day 12/17

In an announcement sure to shock absolutely no one, Time revealed its "Person of the Year" for 2008.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Cheney Out"- Quotes of the Day 12/16

"Once they get here and they're faced with the same problems we deal with every day, then they will appreciate some of the things we've put in place... We did not exceed our constitutional authority, as some have suggested. The President believes, I believe very deeply, in a strong executive, and I think that's essential in this day and age. And I think the Obama administration is not likely to cede that authority back to the Congress. I think they'll find that given a challenge they face, they'll need all the authority they can muster.

"Guantanamo has been very, very valuable. And I think they'll discover that trying to close it is a very hard proposition. They're unlawful combatants. And you if you're not going to have a place to locate them like Guantanamo, then you either have to bring them here to the continental United States and I don't know any member of Congress who's volunteering to have al Qaeda terrorists deposited in his district."

"We're on the downside of a recession that may be the worst since World War II. And if the automobile industry goes belly up now, there's a deep concern that that would be a major shock to the system."
- Vice President Dick Cheney on the Rush Limbaugh Radio Show. Cheney's support for an auto bailout has some produced some unlikely liberal allies.

His comments on Guantanamo and expansive view of executive power are decidedly less surprising.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Obama's Race

The Associated Press is reporting a dispute over whether President- Elect Barack Obama is, in fact, our first Black president. Because the Senator is mixed race, many insist that classifying him as Black is incorrect.

For his part, President- elect Obama has said, "I identify as African-American- that's how I'm treated and that's how I'm viewed. I'm proud of it."

My take on this issue is straight forward, but nuanced, and it comes from a lesson I learned freshman year of college.

One of my best female friends that year was a Black girl named Chiazor. One afternoon, Chiaz and I were hanging out in the room of mutual friends. I brought up race, and asked what I look back on now as a very ignorant question. "Why is it that Black people refer to themselves as African- American, rather than referring to a specific country?"

Chiaz looked at me strangley, unsure if I was serious, "Um... Chris... because African Americans don't know where their ancestors came from," she said slowly before laughing.

I felt like an idiot.

The story illustrates an important point on this issue: Being Black is not the same thing as being African- American.

In my opinion, the term "Black" is superficial when applied to race. Racism is based on how a person looks, so much of it is about how the world treats an individual based on his appearance. Obama seems to acknowledge this reality in his above quote. The President- elect may be biracial, but he looks far more like a Black man than he does like a caucasian.

But there is a cultural element as well, and Obama embraced Black culture by joining a prominent Black church, moving to a Black community, and marrying an African- American woman, amid other conscious decisions to embrace the culture into which society placed him.

Barack Obama is black.

However, to say he's African- American waters down the term. African- American means descended from slaves, it's a nod to the ugliest chapter of our national history. We cannot afford to lose the meaning. The President- elect knows where his Black ancestors came from. His father was a visiting student from Kenya.

Barack Obama is Kenyan- American. He is not African- American.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Quote of the Day 12/14

"Barack Obama says we only have one president at a time. The problem with that is it overstates the number of presidents we have at this time."

- Rep. Barney Frank calling for more leadership from the president- elect on 60 Minutes tonight.

Saturday Night Clips

Check out this hilarious impression Fred Armisan unveiled of NY Gov. David Paterson on Saturday Night Live.

Seth Myers and Amy Poehler ask Rod Blagojevich REALLY?!?

And this is an old clip, but it's of SNL alum Tracy Morgan on Letterman. It has probably the best line in the history of American television or f interviews in general. The entire thing is great, but go to the 3:18 mark for the best part...

Morgan currently stars on the best show on TV, 30 Rock.

The best line from this week's episode was:

Liz Lemon: Do you know the post master general?

Jack Donaghy: I do but we had a falling out over the Jerry Garcia stamp. If I want to lick a hippie, I'll return one of Joan Baez's phone calls.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nice Try, Mike Huckabee

Last night on the Daily Show, former Republican presidential candidate and current Fox News talk show host, Mike Huckabee, was on to promote his new book Do the Right Thing. He and host Jon Stewart engaged in a wide ranging debate for almost half the show touching on issues like the mortgage crisis, lobbyists and gay marriage. It was their debate on gay marriage that gave me fits, for two primary reasons.

First, Huckabee defended his "traditional" view of marriage by saying, "Even anatomically, let's face it, the only way we can create the next generation is through a male/ female relationship..." and, later, "The basic purpose of a marriage is not just to create the next generation but to train our replacements."

For how assbackwards this argument is, it's very popular. The modern understanding of marriage is not a relationship in which to have children. We don't force a 60 year old woman who wants to get married to settle for a civil union. Nor do we a sterile man. Marriage is about a level of love and commitment. To couch it in strict terms of child rearing does more to redefine it than anything else.

While a straight older or sterile couple can adopt a child and raise her in a traditional setting, single people, unmarried heterosexual couples and gays can also adopt.

Later, when Stewart talked about society's evolving definition of marriage, polygamy came up, and Huckabee stated, "If we change the definition then we have to change it to accommodate all lifestyles."

This argument makes even less sense.

A ban on gay marriage is a law that restricts gay people. A ban on polygamous marriage is a law that restricts everyone. In defining marriage, the government withholds a civil liberty from a segment of the people. This isn't to say that's illegal (not to go all Con Law but almost all laws that classify based on sexual orientation will be upheld by the Supreme Court). It is to say that banning gay marriage is state sanctioned discrimination in a way banning polygamy is not.

Once one accepts that homosexuality is innate the distinction is plain. A straight man or woman who wants to have multiple partners can still get married. If not, the government would never allow this. A gay person cannot.

Huckabee is one of the more eloquent social conservatives in the country. But not even his charm can make up for his argument's shortcomings.

(The gay marriage stuff starts w/ part II)

Monday, December 8, 2008


Oscar season is here, and a political film leads the way. Gus Van Sant's Milk is the story of Harvey Milk, the San Francisco activist who was the first openly gay person elected to American political office.

Milk is a critical darling, with a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a four- star write- up in Rolling Stone. Much of the love is directed at star Sean Penn, who delivers a layered and commanding performance in the title role. Penn is excellent, but Josh Brolin earns the highest praise for his turn as Milk's tightly wound and conflicted foil.

Despite these actors, however, the movie falls flat. Although it boasts a powerful and enlightening story, and a script that can be sharply funny, Milk devolves into standard biopic territory-- its arc is interchangeable with a movie like Ray-- even if you've never heard of Harvey Milk, you'll feel like you've seen the movie before. You have.

What the film offers in the freshness of its plot, it utterly lacks in originality and complexity. Ultimately, Milk is forgettable, and reaches the not-so lofty perch of "good" but certainly not "great."

Milk will probably clean up at award shows this year, its progressive message, star and subject have standing O potential, but it won't go down as the classic some are trying to make it. The movie is good, though, certainly better than the gratuitous, flat out boring movie that people fell for last year.

(Milk may be too conventional to be truly effective, but hopes are still high for another political entrant this season: Ron Howard's Frost/ Nixon debuts on Christmas)

He Keeps It Cool, She Likes It Hot

Friday, December 5, 2008

Big Game, Big Gays

The ACC Championship game is tomorrow at 1pm; it features Boston College up against Viriginia Tech for the second straight season.

Here's a video to get BC fans pumped up:

And here's a star- studded musical on California's Proposition 8, which passed on election night and bans gay marriage.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Thursday, December 4, 2008

PR Firms have been Busy- Pic of the Day 12/4

CEOs of the Big 3 automakers are back in DC to ask for $34bn in emergency aid. This time they have specifics on how they'd spend the money, and, apparently, a new PR firm.

Last time, they all took private jets. Now, they're driving these beautiful and economical hybrids-- available at your local dealer, come in now for 0% MSRP.

Here's the full article.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mafia Wisdom

On Thanksgiving, I finally checked off a big empty slot on my Man Card by watching the Godfather II. (I know... I know...)

One of the most famous lines from that film is particularly appropriate to today's political news, as Democrats debate the merits of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and wonder why she was tapped for the spot.

If you've seen the movie, you probably already know where I'm headed: Michael talks with Frankie Pentangeli about staying friendly with Hyman Roth, the man who tried to have him killed.

My father taught me many things here -- he taught me in this room... He taught me -- keep your friends close but your enemies closer.
Now, this isn't to suggest that there's malice between the President- elect and his future Secretary of State, I don't mean to apply the thought in that context.

I think there's a different kind of wisdom here, and there are many reasons why picking Hillary Clinton is ultimately an excellent decision.

There is the typical reasoning for the choice: President Obama will have to devote most of his time and energy to the economy, but he doesn't want to snub foreign leaders as he rebuilds our alliances and reputation. A visit from Secretary Clinton will be a great substitute for Air Force One, and she'll garner respect and media attention wherever she goes. Her celebrity will go a long way on the international scene.

However, I suspect that Hillary would have been picked even if the economy was in better shape.

The reason combines the Godfather's wisdom with the lessons of Dorris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, a book Obama cited as one of his favorites during the campaign. I read it a while back (it only took me an entire summer to get through). It details the way Abraham Lincoln filled his cabinet with the men who ran against him in a bitter battle for the Republican nomination.

These men (William Seward, Salmon Chase, et. al) viewed Lincoln as too green and backwoods to lead at such a calamitous time. But, as he'd done all his life, Lincoln eventually won them over and brought them into his fold.

This is shrewd for (at least) two reasons:

First, your opponent is often the most able person for the job. The president gets the heat and the credit, so he has the ultimate incentive to put the absolute best people around him. Putting personal greivances or even mistrust ahead of what would yield the best outcome is unwise, and would seem totally out of character for Obama.

The second is more politically practical. Obama's former rival now has a major stake in his administration. The more people tied to its outcome, the better the administration's chance for success. Think of a snowball rolling down a hill, the more people it picks up the more powerful it becomes.

Hillary and her husband are still a major force, so putting them on the team gets everyone in the party on the same page (they're a huge chunk of snow). And now, when there's a setback, the press can't run to Hillary's office for a dig on the president.

Christopher Hitchens and other out-spoken Hillary bashers complain that the choice undercuts Obama's message of change. In reality, it's just the opposite. It is difficult to remember a more precarious situation for a president- elect than to come to Washington as president after barely securing his own party's nomination, and look through the rolls of the town's top talent and see names clearly alligned with his opponent.

The old politics approach would purge DC of everything Clinton. Instead, the president- elect chooses to embrace his party's best (Rahm Emanuel, Ron Klain and Sen. Clinton, herself) because they are just that. It's a decision full of self- confidence and understanding of what it will take to reshape the country.

As Michael Corleone indicated, keeping your enemies close will allow you to eliminate them. But that doesn't necessitate a bullet, as Lincoln showed they may simply be eliminated as enemies through common interest and a shared destiny.