Wednesday, January 28, 2009

From THE ONION...

Obama Disappointed Cabinet Failed To Understand His Reference to 'Savage Sword of Conan' #24
The whole thing is gold, but this part especially cracked me up:
While Obama has not scheduled another meeting with his cabinet this week—a respite the president hopes they will use to brush up on the 235-issue Savage Sword series—he is expected to meet with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on Friday to discuss Afghanistan. A holdover from the Bush administration, Gates told reporters he may have gotten off on the wrong foot with the new president, citing an occasion when Obama asked him what he knew about 1984's Secret Wars, a 12-issue limited Marvel release. Gates then handed a visibly confused Obama 1,400 classified pages on covert CIA operations in El Salvador.

Friday, January 23, 2009

What the Fox

No big shock, but the right wing loony brigade has gone to full DEFCON to warn us of the horrors that await under President Obama, with Fox News talking heads Hannity and O'Reilly leading the charge, recent transplant Glenn Beck bringing up the rear, and Fox fave Rush Limbaugh on bass. Jon Stewart examines the phenomenon.

And really, after seeing that clip of Limbaugh, I have to ask anyone reading this who might also be a fan of El-Rushbo: What the hell is wrong with you? Seriously, that's someone you want to be caught agreeing with?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mr. President

Barack Obama becomes the former President-Elect:


Not sure I have much to add to the stuff that's already been said here and elsewhere. It's a tremendous speech, not only demonstrating the verbal virtuosity of the very best inaugurals, but also summarizing and crystallizing the hard road ahead. Let's bask in a bit of the optimism for just a little bit longer before we hunker down and ask, in the very best West Wing tradition, what's next?

Monday, January 19, 2009

End of an Error

2000 was the first time I was old enough to vote.

Not that I did, mind you.

I could have. I probably should have (okay, I know I should have). But I didn't.

Now, before you jump all over me on this, let's hop in the WABAC and peek inside the mind of Zaki 2000 as he pondered what appeared to be the Bad News Bears of presidential contests.

I appreciated Al Gore as a statesman, but let's face it, the somnambulant Al Gore of '00 is a long way removed from the "Goreacle" of 2009. Add in the singularly unappealing selection as his veep of the wormy Joe Lieberman (who, unlike his running mate, has remained pretty much exactly the same), and Gore did a pretty thorough job of making himself as unpalatable as possible to me.

Back then, Ralph Nader was the guy who everyone in my age bracket seemed to be hailing as something "new" and "different." This despite the fact that "new" and "different" sounded like pretty much the same tune he'd been dancing to since the '70s (and still is, now that I think about it). Again, something about him just didn't rub me right.

And then there was George W. Bush.

I'd love to say I had a sudden moment of clarity like Johnny Smith in The Dead Zone, where visions of every wrong action and boneheaded decision in a then-hypothetical Bush presidency raced through my brain in one bone-chilling instant and prevented me from checking the appropriate box. Or maybe that I saw past the manufactured "aw shucks" cowboy image right through to the woefully inadequate, unprepared, unexceptional man standing on his father's presidential shoulders. But...no.

"Who cares who wins?" I said to myself. "What difference does it make?" So I stayed home that day. And when the long election night turned into the long election month-and-a-half without a clear victor, I mostly shrugged my shoulders. And when the Supreme Court finally decided on our behalf to effectively hand George Bush the presidency, even then I said, "Four years. At most, eight. How bad can it be?"

Well, we found out. We found out through two wars, one arguably unnecessary, one definitely unnecessary. We found out through a city getting submerged thanks to government incompetence, not to mention the economy doing the same thing for the same reason. And on, and on, and on.

I really don't want to turn this into a Sears Catalogue of the foul-ups, bleeps, and blunders of the past eight years, but suffice it to say, the outgoing administration leaves a heavy burden for the country to bear and a whole lot of social, political, and legislative wreckage for historians and legal scholars to sift through.

How bad could he be, right?

Given all that, there's a certain unreality surrounding this moment. We're here. Finally, finally here. The sun has set on the last day of the George W. Bush presidency, and tomorrow brings the promise of...something else. Hopefully something better, but I'm not going to sit here and say "How much worse could it get?" because, well, you know.

Whether Barack Obama measures up to the symbolic promise and historic weight of his victory, whether he truly is the right man in the right job at the right time, will be something we'll surely dissect in the days and years ahead, but for now let's pause and celebrate an ending. The ending.

Bye, George.

Recommended Reading

I've long thought that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is a self-possessed jackass whose clueless cheerleading for the Iraq mess was as ideological as it was idiotic, so when I heard that his latest book was a pro-environmental broadside against consumerism, I damn near jumped out of my skin at the sheer WTF-ness of it all. Clearly, Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi had much the same reaction I did, and the shellacking he gives Friedman and his tome is a thing to behold.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ricardo Montalban, RIP

Man, it's just one of those days.

There are some famous faces who seem somehow immortal, as if they're immutable parts of our cultural landscape and will outlast us all. Ricardo Montalban was one of those faces.

Whether it was as Fantasy Island's benevolent host Mr. Rourke, the kindly circus owner Armando in the middle installments of the Planet of the Apes movie series (Escape From and Conquest of, for those keeping score), or one of innumerable other roles, it's doubtful there's anyone who watched TV or went to the movies in the last half century-plus who hadn't seen Montalban as someone in something.

My first exposure to him, naturally, was in what is arguably his most indelible role, that of the titular "Khaaaaaaan!" in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan from 1982, a role he reprised after appearing in the episode "Space Seed" from Star Trek's first season in '66. It's a testament to the lasting imprint Montalban and his rubber pecs left on the Trek franchise that they spent the next eight movies over the next twenty years trying to find a villain to match him.

And they never did.

Patrick McGoohan, RIP

Another icon passes on.

Patrick McGoohan is probably best known to contemporary audiences for his deliciously wicked turn as King Edward "Longshanks" in Mel Gibson's Braveheart, but for many his definitive role came much earlier, either as the heroic John Drake in the Brit-American TV show Danger Man, or even more likely, as the enigmatic Number Six, former secret agent trapped by unknown enemies, in the classic British series The Prisoner.

One of the most memorable and visually-arresting shows to emerge from its era, The Prisoner's scant seventeen episodes created such a lasting mythology that much of its uniquely '60s iconography is easily recognizable even to those who may be unaware of the original source.

Although McGoohan didn't create the initial concept, he did shepard it as both star and producer, and is largely responsible for the subversive, anti-establishment tone it struck, quite revolutionary for its time. Indeed, McGoohan's indignant proclamation to his captors that he would "not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered," emerged as something of a personal mantra over the years.

Although there had been rumblings over the years of a new take on The Prisoner, some with McGoohan's involvement and some without, it wasn't until this year's just-announced miniseries version on A&E, with Jim Caviezel as the titular captive and Ian McKellen as his persecutor, that anything crystalized. It's just a shame that Patrick McGoohan won't be around to give the new version his blessing.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Cinema Year That Was (Last Year)

Zaki's Flick Picks: '08

I didn't get to do one of these last year, what with the whole "taking care of the new baby" thing keeping me from getting to the theater quite as much as I would have liked. Still, now that we're two years removed, I figure the kid can take care of himself, so we're back with a look at my fave flicks for the year that just left us:

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Oh-Nine

Here's to a creatively and personally fulfilling year for all who this blog reaches. In addition to all the cookie cutter stuff about being a better person, parent, etc., my personal resolution is to post a lot more frequently than I have these past few years, including (hopefully soon!) more movie reviews.