Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Recommended Reading

The words "Vietnam" and "Iraq" are starting to get used synonymously more and more these days, which can't be good news for the Administration. The problem is, it also isn't good news for the Democrats in Congress who, almost to the one, tripped over each other to be the first to support Bush's War, and are now stuck in the quagmire right alongside him. Read Frank Rich's thoughts here.

The Blackboard Jungle

Nothing quite prepares you for it. For all the work, all the reading, all the training you may go through, there's still no way to anticipate the feeling of utter humility that washes over you as you enter the classroom on your first day as a teacher. A college teacher, at that. At least, that's what I felt last Wednesday as I began my career as Mr. Hasan. Humble.

As I stood there in front of this class packed to the gills with students who probably wanted to be anywhere but sitting in that room, I was immediately hit by the sheer implausibility of it all. Me. Teaching these kids about public speaking. Me? The same person who mumbled and shuffled his way through high school? The mind boggles! And yet here I was, telling this group that public speaking is no big deal. Not only is it no big deal, but it would actually improve their lives! What a world.

Taking my place at the front and center of the room, I could feel thirtysome pairs of eyes boring holes into the very depths of my soul. Judging me. Judging my clothes. Judging the way I part my hair. Judging that weird way I drag my right foot a teeny bit when I walk. "So this is what it's like on this side of the room," I thought to myself. My brand new blazer suddenly felt very big. Or was that just me, suddenly feeling very small?

Immediately my mind was shunted back to my own first experience with speech class. It was winter of 1997, the class was Small Group Communication at College of DuPage, and the teacher was Marco Benassi. If ever there was an instance of one class changing someone's life, this was it. The "someone" in question being me, of course. Through the sheer power of his personality Marco was able to mold a recalcitrant kid who was gunshy about whispering into someone whose entire life now revolves around public speaking in some form or another -- to the point that now, almost eight years to the day, that very same kid was standing in front of a classroom of his own, hoping against hope to maintain his composure long enough to pass on some of the very same seedlings of wisdom that had impacted his own life so profoundly. Sure, no sweat at all.

Anyway, the ending of the story is ultimately a happy one. Turns out my students were just as nervous as me. And who can blame them? For many, this is their very first post-high school academic experience. And I'm their very first post-high school academic instructor! What a world! Once I nudged to the sidelines any delusions of playing out some variation of Edward James Olmos in STAND & DELIVER (or even Danny DeVito in RENAISSANCE MAN), between my first two sessions, it turns out I did alright. Maybe not spectactularly, but hey, it is my first time, and the semester's just started. There's time.

Now I just have to get used to being called "Mr. Hasan."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

DAILY Digs Into Robertson

Here's Jon Stewart on the continuing Pat Robertson fiasco.

Also, if you have any doubts on the tangible impact of Jon and Co. on television and the media, click over to this article from Wired Magazine.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

It's Pat!

The blogosphere has been abuzz since yesterday about overzealous loudmouth Pat Robertson, who was no doubt espousing the "What would Jesus do?" mindset when he called for the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez from his 700 Club bully-pulpit.

This put him in hot water with not only his fellow Christians, who raced to distance themselves from him, but also with policy wanks inside the Bush Administration, who don't need another war on their hands when they're doing such a good job screwing up the two they're already in.

Frankly I'm so tired of hearing idiots like Robertson and his fellow fanatic Jerry Falwell that I didn't even want to give it a mention on my tiny corner of the Information Superhighway. Still, I had to break my silence when I read Robertson's half-assed repudiation:
"I didn't say 'assassination.' I said our special forces should 'take him out,'" Robertson said on his show. "'Take him out' could be a number of things including kidnapping."
Robertson paused, then added, "Of course, by take him out, I meant, literally, take him out! Buy him dinner! Take him to a nice restaurant, a fancy hotel...y'know, really show him a good time! Geez, what'd you think I meant?"

I hate to say it but...okay, I don't hate to say it. I love to say it. Anything that puts the good Reverend's feet a little closer to that fire he keeps preaching about everyone else ending up in is fine by me. Between Robert Novak and now Robertson, this month hasn't been half bad.

Still, is there something more bubbling under the surface of what appears to be the mere rantings of a lunatic? Bill C. Davis over at Common Dreams seems to think so...

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

How low can we go? -- Part II

Well, new polling numbers are out, and once again they show a precipitous drop for our GW. At this point, you really have to wonder how he's managing to avoid all those inconvenient people who keep questioning his ability to lead. As Think Progress points out, Bush has a 36% approval rating right now, as contrasted with Richard Nixon, who was at 39% at the height of the Watergate scandal (which eventually led to his resignation in disgrace, for you history buffs).

And people called Clinton the Teflon President...

DOG Doings



As promised, here are some set pics from the recent filming of TEMPLE OF THE DOG, in and around the Los Angeles area.

That first one shows our trusted lensman, Kevin Otterness. The second is director Sean Coyle watching his vision finally come together. The third one is Brian Hall ignoring me while I offer a helpful suggestion.

No respect. No respect at all.

Anyway, I'll try to post some more pics as they become available to me.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Singer at SDC

It's been another short week here at the CORNER, due mainly to the insanely demanding orientation period before my Fall teaching schedule begins. Still, I definitely wanted to make sure and post this link to Bryan Singer's latest SUPERMAN RETURNS video diary, this time covering the director's excursion to the San Diego Comicon, which I previously discussed here and here. Though the video is mostly about the director's jetlag-inducing journey, there's still plenty of footage thrown in from the much-ballyhooed video presentation, including our first glimpses of Brandon Routh actually moving around and flying in the Super-suit, as well as our first listen to his "Superman voice." So far, so good.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Recommended Reading

To listen to the Bush Administration and its media cronies, the word "quagmire" is one that doesn't belong anywhere near the efforts the US is currently waging in Iraq towards winning the Global War on Terror -- or rather, the newly-christened "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism" (try saying that one five times fast). But as Frank Rich tells it, this particular imbroglio was lost long ago, it's just that no one's quite gotten around breaking the news to GW. Here's a taste:
...just as politics are a bad motive for choosing a war, so they can be a doomed engine for running a war. In an interview with Tim Russert early last year, Mr. Bush said, "The thing about the Vietnam War that troubles me, as I look back, was it was a political war," adding that the "essential" lesson he learned from Vietnam was to not have "politicians making military decisions." But by then Mr. Bush had disastrously ignored that very lesson; he had let Mr. Rumsfeld publicly rebuke the Army's chief of staff, Eric Shinseki, after the general dared tell the truth: that several hundred thousand troops would be required to secure Iraq. To this day it's our failure to provide that security that has turned the country into the terrorist haven it hadn't been before 9/11 - "the central front in the war on terror," as Mr. Bush keeps reminding us, as if that might make us forget he's the one who recklessly created it.

More from Rich at the link above.

And that's a wrap!

Well, principal photography has wrapped on TEMPLE OF THE DOG - MARK II, with random pick-up shots and inserts the only thing remaining. I fly back to the Bay Area in a few short hours -- and not a moment too soon, if you ask me. As much as I love my work, I think the thing I enjoy most about my visits to LA is the fact that they are in fact "visits." If I lived here I'm not sure I could handle it. Anyway, I digress.

Shooting went off without the proverbial hitch. Though it's become a habit of mine to endlessly hyperbolize every forthcoming Mr. Boy project, I truly think this is our most accomplished effort yet. Not only have we attempted several techniques we've never tried before (and don't expect me to spoil the surprises), but our cast and crew all brought their "A" game. By now Team Boy has been doing this together for so long that we function like a well-oiled machine, but I really do need to make mention of our new actresses for this project -- Lori Yohe and Sarah Graham -- both of whom did an exceptional job, performing above and beyond.

As I mentioned previously, this is actually our second go at TEMPLE OF THE DOG after collectively deciding that it was the project most worth revisiting. It's interesting to note that of all the Mr. Boy shorts we've worked on in our seven short years of existence, TEMPLE is the one that's consistently been the most well-received, while also remaining the most bitter pill for me. I guess I'm just one of those guys who only sees the flaws, and in TEMPLE there were plenty of flaws, including the fact that it was very obviously shot over the course of an entire year, the lack of continuity from scene-to-scene and sometimes shot-to-shot, and the slapdash, thrown-together ending (we literally finished editing the thing about an hour and a half before our big premiere party in January of '03).

Anyway, we all thought this was as good a time as any to revisit TEMPLE OF THE DOG -- only this time do it right. Thankfully, "doing it right" didn't involve a computer-generated Jabba the Hutt or an elaborate dance sequence. Rather, it involved hiring actual actors, and bringing in Kevin Otterness, our trusted DP who first lensed BUDDY SYSTEM for us last year. This time Sean Coyle stepped exclusively behind the camera as director (after starring in the original), and Brian Hall filled the role of our hapless hero Jack. I, however, remained in the role of the clueless landlord Guillermo (in addition to my usual duties as producer, continuity pain-in-the-butt, and all around on-set gadfly).

I fly back in two weeks to work on some pick-ups, and then it's off to the races to get the thing edited before year's end. Hopefully I'll be able to post some set pics before too long, and we'll have a teaser trailer up by the middle of next month. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Off to La-La Wood

I leave in a few hours for LA, where Team Boy will be shooting a spankin' new production of TEMPLE OF THE DOG. Blogging may be a little light for the next week as I don't know when I'll have much free time, but I'll try to pop in when I can and offer production updates. In the interim, I'm going to borrow a tradition from Mark Evanier and allow you to gaze upon this lovely can of Campbell's Soup -- the universally recognized symbol for "The guy running the blog is too tied up with personal stuff to regularly update." Once the can is gone, you know I'm back. Until then...Courage.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Novak Nova

Like I said before, if Robert Novak's intent in stalking off the set of INSIDE POLITICS like a petulant prepubescent was to evade any uncomfortable queries about his involvement in the CIA leak, he may have helped accomplish the exact opposite. The embers are burning brighter than ever, only now the laser is focused squarely on Novak's alleged shady dealings.

To wit, here's a piece from The New York Times about the long-standing relationship of mutual give-and-give between Novak and Karl Rove. The Toad and the Turd -- a love story for the ages!

Meanwhile, Jay Rosen has some theories as to why Novak pulled his little disappearing act on Thursday.

Lastly, but surely not leastly, the one you've been waiting (and I'm sure the one he's been waiting for), here's Jon Stewart's reaction to the flap. This must be like Christmas-in-August for him...

Friday, August 05, 2005

UPDATED - Novak? No More.

Jon Stewart's favorite "Douchebag of Liberty" Robert Novak -- already in the soup because of his fellonious conduct in the Valerie Plame case -- is in the news once more today. As it turns out, the little toad can dish it out but he can't take it. After getting into an on-air tiff with James Carville on CNN's INSIDE POLITICS, a frustrated Novak let fly with some profanity before storming off the set in a huff.

What's interesting to me is how his little walk-off was timed just conveniently enough to avoid any inconvenient discussion of the Rove-Plame scandal, something he knew was forthcoming. In response to his theatrics, CNN has shown Novak the door indefinitely. Could not have happened to a nicer guy.

UPDATE: Predictably, the Robert Novak footage from yesterday's INSIDE POLITICS has made its way to the web and is available in a variety of forums, including here. I love how moderator Ed Henry and commentator James Carville just keep going after Novak storms off the set, not even pausing to acknowledge that he's gone.

Watching the footage, what strikes me is that the subject being discussed (Katherine Harris' non-starter Senate campaign) is a non-issue, and I'd be absolutely shocked if Novak's hissy fit wasn't directly related to impending questions about the conservative pundit's involvement in the CIA leak. It looks even worse for the little toad when Henry comes right out at the close of the segment and says he had told Novak he'd be asked about the leak.

It's funny, because the Rove-Plame scandal seemed to be dying out, and thanks to Novak's theatrics, he's probably helped put it right back out there on the front page. Kudos!

How low can we go?

New polling numbers have been released, and show another precipitous drop in popularity for GW, with 55% of those polled disapproving of the job he's doing, and 50% finding him to be dishonest. However, in a classic case of cognitive dissonance, two-thirds of respondents also found Bush to be a strong and likable leader. Inexplicable.

Still, these numbers can't be good news for the Bush Brain Trust, and coupled with the added pressure of this week's renewed insurgent attacks in Iraq, I can't imagine they're sitting real pretty over how things are going right now. It should start getting interesting for Bush's party faithful as they head into the midterm elections and start having to deal with some very ticked-off constituents.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Appeal of Rebellion

Ted Rall juxtaposes America's ongoing fascination with "rebels" and "freedom fighters", as evidenced by the pop culture soup we're all soaking in, with the ongoing insurgency in Iraq. Here's a comparison that I appreciated, especially since it's one that I've made on more than one occasion:
The mid-'80s were good for fictional American resistance movements. The miniseries "V," which premiered in 1983, was followed by a 1985 sequel and eventually a full-fledged weekly TV series, focused on a cell of underground resistance fighters who bombed police stations, government offices and important infrastructure--including an oil refinery!--in the course of a long, brutal and desperate war against reptilian invaders from outer space. (The clever creatures disguise themselves in human form to get the locals to cooperate.) The series' writers kept things interesting by writing lots of moral ambiguity into their scripts. Some aliens form a "fifth column" allied with the human resistance movement while some earthlings sell out their neighbors and relatives, but none of that matters in the end. You still root for the men and women the government and official media call "terrorists."
Rall highlights a point that's been raised numerous times before. Who is the "resistance fighter" and who is the "terrorist"? Heck, George Lucas himself has said that the heroic Rebel Alliance of his original STAR WARS trilogy would technically be considered "terrorists" by today's standards (a comparison, by the way, that becomes even more pronounced when you consider the Galactic Empire-Bush Administration analogy that emerges from EPISODE III). Despite that, here we are cheering them on as they blow up not one, but two Death Stars -- ostensibly government installations. I could probably list a half-dozen more examples from pop culture that do basically the same thing as those already mentioned, but I'm sure you see my point.

Now, just to clarify, this is not to say or imply in any way that those killing innocent people in Iraq or anywhere else are heroic by any stretch, but does that automatically file them under the heading of "terrorist"? Oh, if only life were so simple. The point, ultimately, is that we're only getting one part of the story, and we're getting it from those with a vested interest in us seeing things a certain way. Clearly this presents a problem when trying to form an objective opinion.

Read the rest of Rall at the link above. Very interesting stuff.

There Can Be Only...Seven?

Proving truly immortal, the 20 year old HIGHLANDER franchise is returning once again to the big screen. It's hard to believe a series which revolves around bad Scottish accents, beheadings, and Queen songs could have such (pun) life in it, but there you go. More surprising still is that after one memorable film and three follow-ups that range from okay to awful there's still an audience out there for the head-chopping adventures of the Clan McLeod, last seen in theaters in 2000's DOA HIGHLANDER ENDGAME.

This one is directed by Brett Leonard (1992's THE LAWNMOWERMAN MAN) and will star Adrian Paul (who is also executive-producer) in the Duncan McLeod role he originated in the '92-'98 HIGHLANDER television series, after having the sword passed on by original HIGHLANDER Chrisophe Lambert's Connor McLeod in the last film. Here's what the producers had to say: "We are truly celebrating this milestone in HIGHLANDER history by pairing Brett and Adrian in our newest Trilogy. We anticipate that this combination will recapture the filming glory of the original HIGHLANDER." Of course, that's the same thing they've said in some form or other about every HIGHLANDER film before this, and they've all laid big fat eggs, so there's room for a lot of caution here.

Though this new entry, THE SOURCE, is pegged as the first in a trilogy (everything's a trilogy, these days...), I wonder if it'll do well enough to sustain two subsequent sequels. Though HIGHLANDER has always maintained a rabidly dedicated cult following, it's never been much more than that. Given the subject matter, that's not exactly surprising. That said, having recently purchased the entire television series on DVD, I've been quite impressed with the overall quality of the productions, and the consistency of its internal mythology. It certainly holds up better than I would have expected. It's a pity they were never able to translate the charm and humor of the show over to the big screen. (The less said about the crappy '98 spin-off HIGHLANDER: THE RAVEN, the better...)

The premise of this new film does sound interesting though, supposedly delving into the origins of the immortals. Of course, the last time they tried that trick, 1991's HIGHLANDER 2, they ended up with a convoluted tale of space aliens and the ozone layer (don't ask) that was disavowed by the filmmakers and the audience pretty much the instant it hit theaters. This one holds some promise so it'll be interesting to see where things go from here. Read the full press release here.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

From THE ONION...

White House Denies Existence of Karl Rove
"To my knowledge, no one by the name of Karl Rove works for this president, his staff, or for that matter, anyone on earth, since he is not a real person," White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters Monday.

Super Liddy & Cyber Hannity

Every once in a great while, a product is released that's simply staggering in its sheer badness. If you're even luckier, you can say you were present at the birth. I think this is one of those instances. A few months ago a fellow by the name of Mike Mackey posted a topic on a comics-related messageboard I sometimes frequent. The subject of his post was an idea he had for the world's first "conservative" comic book.

He went into great detail describing his pitch -- something about right wing loudmouth Sean Hannity and convicted criminal G. Gordon Liddy reimagined as super-cyborgs in the year 2021 fighting against the evil liberal forces of France, the United Nations, and Ambassador Osama Bin Laden. Seriously, you can't make this stuff up.

I recall saying at the time that it sounded absolutely ludicrous and that I hoped it was a joke of some kind. Cut to the present, and lo and behold, Mackey's dream has now become a reality:



LIBERALITY FOR ALL. Get it? Instead of "Liberty for All"?

From what I gather, that first image shows Oliver North, Hannity, Liddy, and what appears to be a dog wearing a monocle, and the second one has Liddy on a motorcycle and Hann--oh screw it.

Seriously, if this is "mankind's last hope" or whatever, then God help us all, right? I mean, Ollie North? The only thing that's missing is Richard Nixon's head in a bottle, a la FUTURAMA. Check this out:



This Mackey guy's really been drinking the Kool-Aid.

Anyway, I don't feel like quoting the absurdly patronizing and jingoistic synopsis, but if you're so inclined you can read the thing here, or you can check out the first five pages here. Be warned, however, that it's like watching a train wreck, and a slow-moving one at that (although, to be fair, it does kinda remind me of this).

I'm tellin' ya, sometimes you just have to thank God for giving you stuff like this to blog about.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Bolton Appointment

Though my post heading may sound like a Robert Ludlum spy novel (or at the very least, a Matt Damon spy movie), what we're actually talking about is today's news that we finally have a coda for the torturous John Bolton UN nomination that has been playing out for the past several months. Fearing the Senate deadlock that would surely follow had Bolton's appointment been put to a vote, Bush has done an end-run around, well, democracy and in the best fascist tradition appointed Bolton to the post anyway. Granted, it's a recess appointment which will lapse once the new Congress begins its session (January of '07), but that's a year-and-a-half away, and frankly I can think of a lot of damage a loon like John Bolton could do between now and then.

This is hardly something new for GW, and it's right out of his "Dirty Pool" playbook. He used the exact same tactic in '03 when he appointed leading Mid-East "expert" (read: ideological zealot) Daniel Pipes to the United States Institute of Peace after it was clear Pipes wouldn't get Senate approval. This is the same Pipes who pretty much invented the now-cliched chestnut about bombing Mecca as an acceptable strategy to combate terrorism. Naturally he's a perfect fit for a Peace Institute....

Anyway, looks like the Bolton story is over for now. Nothing much to see here. That being said, it should be interesting to see how the UN treats an ambassador who wasn't even able to get the support of his own countries representatives.

Recommended Reading

As you can see, last week was a little light on the blogging, due mainly to various professional and family concerns which kept me a little preoccupied. Hopefully we can make up for lost time this week, starting with this piece for Salon.com by Doug Bandow, a Reagan Republican no less, who lays out a pretty thorough indictment of George Bush's conduct as a president. You might have to sit through an ad if you're not a Salon subscriber, but it's worth the read.