Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Snow Trouble

There were rumours of this as early as last week, but it became official today. The White House has announced that Fox News personality Tony Snow has been tapped to replace Scott McClellan as press secretary. When you think about it, it's a pretty seamless transition for Snow. He moves from cheerleading for the Bush Administration on Rupert Murdoch's dime to cheerleading for the Bush Administration on the taxpayer's dime. Good work if you can get it.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Long Trek Back

This one hit the wires yesterday, and I've already gotten a few e-mails asking me what my thoughts are. Seemingly out of nowhere, Variety broke the story that JJ Abrams, he of Felicity, Alias, and Lost fame, set to make his theatrical directing debut with next week's release of Mission: Impossible III, has signed on to reinvigorate the Star Trek franchise, currently mouldering in the forgotten grave of TV cancellation, with a spankin' new feature film for 2008.

Supposedly, though it's yet to be confirmed, Abrams and his production team will be spearheading a prequel project chronicling the adventures of Young Captain Kirk and Li'l Mister Spock during their wild and crazy days at Starfleet Academy, before they became the bastions of deep space derring-do we've come to know and love.

This not to be confused with Star Trek: The Beginning, yet another prequel being shepharded by writer Eric Jendresen and Trek paterfamilias Rick Berman (whose name is mysteriously absent in all the Abrams brouhaha), which now appears to be dead. That project would've filled the century-long gap between the end of Enterprise and the beginning of Trek-proper, telling the tale of James Kirk's heretofore unrevealed progenitor, Tiberius Chase, and you can read about it here. To be fair, it didn't sound that bad, and it's a shame it probably won't see the light of day (or the dark of a movie theater).

The premise for the Abrams project sounds suspiciously like a similar idea that had been pitched by former Trek movie producer Harve Bennett as a follow-up to the less-than-successful fifth Star Trek feature back in '89. That too would've told a story of the Trek heroes' pasts, incorporating a framing sequence featuring stars William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. Here's a recent interview with Bennett wherein he discusses his concept.

As to my own thoughts on yesterday's news, I'm of mixed feelings. On the one hand, I don't think Paramount could possibly have found a fresher face with more "cache" than Abrams, who is not only generating considerable buzz from M:I-III pre-screenings, but whose Lost is about as popular a "cult" show as has ever existed. I still feel that the Abrams-directed Lost pilot is probably the single greatest TV pilot I've ever seen. It' s just that good.

That said, I do feel that Abrams strengths lie more behind the camera than on the business end of a keyboard. He is, after all, the same guy who wrote a (thankfully) rejected script for a Superman movie featuring a Krypton that didn't explode and a Lex Luthor who was actually a Kryptonian survivor. Not his finest hour.

The other factor that gives me pause is whether this thing is being looked at as a prequel or a reboot. The latter, I can deal with. The former, not so much. I'm sure that, based on the incontrovertible success enjoyed by Sci-Fi's Battlestar Galactica, which kicked to the curb the history of the late '70s one season-wonder in favor of a completely new take, Paramount is probably thinking of taking a similar approach to their once-crown jewel property.

Without going too geeky, I think this would be an absolutely disastrous decision. One of the things that's differentiated Star Trek from a lot of the sci-fi also-rans that litter the TV graveyard is its sense of history. Here we've got a pop culture artifact that's created an ongoing, interconnected tapestry of stories over the course of forty years that stretches across five TV series, ten features, an animated series, and several (fictional) generations. That's a remarkable achievement that remains unmatched, irrespective of the current decaying state of the Trek nation.

Granted, right now we know less than nothing on what precisely Abrams and company have planned, but this is definitely going to be one project whose development I'll be following with great interest. So, sadly, yes, you'll definitely be hearing more from me as things progress.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Recommended Reading

Here's John Dean again, this time with a piece on why all the recent changes to the window dressings over at BushCo don't amount to a whole lot, because the man in charge is still the man in charge. Pay special attention to what he has to say about an impending "October Surprise."

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Everybody Must Get Stoned

Last year columnist Richard Reeves did a column wherein he discussed a poll conducted by several presidential historians, all of whom seemed to conclude that our beloved C-in-C is one of the worst, if not the worst, to ever occupy the Oval Office. I distinctly remember writing about it, yet I can't seem to find the link.

Anyway, Rolling Stone has jumped on the "Worst President Ever" bandwagon with their latest cover story. I guess it's never too early to start planning.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Nostalgia Theatre: Chuck Norris Edition

Here we are with yet another fond recollection from the bygone era of Ronald Reagan and legwarmers. Chuck Norris: The Animated Series. Who knew? As becomes amply clear from both this and the Mr. T link I posted a few days back, it apparently didn't take much to get your own cartoon show in the 1980s.

I especially like the intros, with live-action Chuck telling kids not to use violence to solve their problems, followed immediately by a half-hour of animated Chuck using violence to solve his problems.

Like I said. The '80s.

The White House Shuffle

We saw the winds of change first begin to blow when chief of staff Andrew Card stepped aside, with Joshua Bolten taking his place. This turn of events was mostly greeted with, "Who?" followed immediately by, "Who?"

The shuffle continued today, with Scott McClellan (the "CJ Cregg" of this operation) taking the long walk, and Karl Rove losing the deputy chief of staff gig that was his "reward" for engineering GW's re-election. Of course, Karl's not actually going anywhere. We're not that lucky. No, he's merely slackening the reins so he can devote more time to his true passion -- cartoonish supervillainy.

As far as McClellan, I'm frankly amazed he lasted as long as he did. If ever there was a more inappropriate person to fill the role of designated Bush spin-meister, I think Scott was it. Not to say Ari Fleischer (McClellan's immediate predecessor) was any great shakes, but he came off as a regular Don Juan next to Scottie's "aw-shucks" Baby Huey act -- straddling that magical line between genial befuddlement and angry befuddlement.

While this move has seemingly been in the pipeline for awhile, I wouldn't be at all surprised this article in Vanity Fair is what finally pushed McClellan to hand in his walking papers. I gotta admit, while I'm no fan of the guy or the work he does, the article in question brutalizes him pretty badly, and seems like a case of piling-on. A little excessive.

Anyway, while there's much ballyhoo about all this in the media today, it's ultimately just "musical chairs," like the man said. We already know that not much of consquence will emerge as a result of these changes. The modus operandi for the past five years has always been t keep on keeping on, which is surely good news for Don Rumsfeld, who must be feeling pretty good on the eve of getting us into another military debacle...

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Point-Counterpoint

Sean Hannity says history will vindicate GW as a "strong leader" just like it did Harry Truman.

David Shribman says Bush is no Truman.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Friday, April 14, 2006

Recommended Reading

Here's a great piece by Michael Kinsley at the Washington Post on the deluded self-interest that's guided US policy for the past half-century (insofar as Iran and Iraq are concerned), and which threatens to blow up in our faces as the current Iran "crisis" escalates.

Oh, and speaking of Iran, can someone please tell this nutbar to clam up?

Head-Scratcher

This is the current top story at Yahoo! News.

Meanwhile, this is the story directly under it.

'nuff said.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Way Off WEST

Well, West Wing spoilers are beginning to trickle out on the direction things are liable to take in the Santos administration, and my big prediction about the role Arnold Vinick will play turns out to have been completely off the mark. Well, I wasn't completely off, as he still has a part to play in the unfolding drama.

Don't click over to the West Wing Continuity Guide if you want to remain blissfully unspoiled (as opposed to, say, me).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

How I Learned to Stop Worrying...

With Iraq now a certifiable quagmire, is Iran next on the White House's hit parade? If you ask George Bush, he'll say no, but Sy Hersh sure seems to think it is, and given his record, I'm frankly more inclined to believe him.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Best in the WEST

I'm a few days late getting to this, but I wanted to make sure I commented on the most recent developments in that wonderful fantasy land called The West Wing, rapidly beating a path towards its final goodbye. With Sunday night's episode, two questions, one long-held, one recently-held, were finally answered. First, who was going to step into Josiah Bartlet's considerable loafers and become the new POTUS? Second, how would the show's creatives deal with the shocking death of star John Spencer, whose character Leo McGarry was on the bottom half of the Democratic presidential ticket?

As it happens, the answers to both questions turned out to be inextricably linked. For those (like me) who assumed that a Santos win was all but inevitable, showrunner Lawrence O'Donnell has revealed to the New York Times (thanks to Rich Nelson, by the way, for posting the link) that the game-plan all along had been for the Republican (Vinick, played by Alan Alda) to win the big chair, but Spencer's death kiboshed those plans. They felt (and rightly so, in my opinion) that Santos losing both his running mate and the election – on the same day, no less – might prompt more than a few fans to walk the proverbial plank, thus the Democratic victory that we all expected anyway.

That said, what did I think of the episode itself, which was surely a key hour in the Wing firmament? As I've mentioned before on this very blog, the skill exhibited by the show's writers these past two seasons (and especially this year) has recalled the glory of the show's heyday, and in fact this last episode is probably one of the best ever to emerge during the seven-year run (though that may well be topped by next week's funeral episode).

With Spencer's Leo McGarry succumbing (off-screen, of course) to a heart attack on election day, leaving the Democratic party without a vice-president, it only heightened the suspense, leaving in genuine question who would emerge the victor. While his death could easily have hobbled the show, it was woven into the ongoing storyline with such skill that it not only advanced the story effectively, but it also serves as a worthy tribute to the much-missed actor. It also allowed for some great acting from the entire Wing ensemble, top to bottom, as they came to learn of his passing.

The news of Leo's death on the eve of the election couldn't help but remind me of when Josh received word of his father's death just as Bartlet won the Illinois primary (in the second-season premiere, “In the Shadow of Two Gunmen”). Now here he was basically reliving the same thing, this time with a surrogate father. There was a real poignancy there as he came to terms with Leo’s sudden loss, including the part he may have played in it by getting him involved in the campaign to begin with. While the circumstances leading to this story development are beyond unfortunate, there is a poetic symmetry there that I have to believe Spencer would have appreciated.

Also, word has begun to trickle out as to the role Rob Lowe will play in the newly-minted presidency when Sam Seaborne makes his two-episode Wing return. Though I'd been pegging Sam as the presumptive choice to step into Leo's shoes, the newest issue of TV Guide has poured cold water on that notion. Still, with the bottom half of the ticket yet to be filled, I'm ready to predict that Alan Alda's Arnold Vinick will be asked to fill that role.

As unlikely as such an occurence seems in our real world of political gamesmanship and backstabbing, I don't think it's at all out of the realm of possibility in West Wing-land (certainly no more than a press secretary being elevated to chief of staff). Both candidates, Vinick and Santos, have already been depicted as honorable, dedicated men who (gasp) respect one another. And while that lengthy cutaway to Vinick while Santos made his victory speech could well have meant absolutely nothing, my gut tells me that it virtually guarantees we haven't seen the last of his character. In fact, I hope not (never thought I'd say that about a Republican, fictional or no).

As the series works its way inevitably towards its final goodbye, I find myself both saddened that it's ending, and gladdened that it's doing so at the top of its game. One thing is for sure, with the clock ticking and a mere five episodes to go, there are still several hanging threads that have yet to be tied up on The West Wing, and it'll be interesting to see which direction things will go.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

From THE ONION...

In light of this week's events, this one seemed appropriate.
Tom DeLay To Pursue Corruption in Private Sector

STAFFORD, TX—Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who is facing several ethics violations and felony charges, announced Tuesday that he will resign from Congress in order to concentrate on corruption in the private sector. "I can say with a clear lack of conscience that, after 21 years of public disservice, I have done everything I could to the American people," DeLay said in a televised statement to constituents. "I have a lot to offer the corporate world, such as money laundering and influence-peddling." DeLay added that, before assuming his new irresponsibilities, he looks forward to spending more time alienating his family and cheating on his wife.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Second Coming of Caruso

From a walking, talking punchline to The Biggest Star on Earth.

All I can say is that someone up there is looking out for David Caruso.

Recommended Reading

The Nation's John Nichols takes a fond look back at the Scorched Earth of American politics that Tom DeLay leaves in his recently-departed wake.

It's not like I needed the article to tell me this, but really, what a disgusting, disgusting human being.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Another One Bites the Dust

Looks like "The Hammer" is going the way of The Hammer.

The mugshot above notwithstanding, I'm guessing Tom DeLay isn't smiling anymore.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Zaki's Review: V for Vendetta

It’s been a week now since I saw V For Vendetta, and it’s taken me that long to figure out exactly what I want to say about it.

My first exposure to writer Alan Moore was in the DC Comics graphic novel The Killing Joke, which told the (possible) origin of Batman’s eternal nemesis, The Joker. After that, I moved on to Watchmen, Moore and artist Dave Gibbons’ fascinating postulation of what would happen if superheroes actually existed in our world (and which is itself due to be adapted to film before too long). It was after these seminal works that I finally made my way to V For Vendetta, begun by Moore and artist David Llloyd in 1981 (the onset of the Thatcher era), and completed in ‘88.