Monday, August 30, 2010


Based on some of the folks I've heard from in the past few weeks, this is just barely satire...
Man Already Knows Everything He Needs To Know About Muslims
"All Muslims are at war with America, and I will resist any attempt to challenge that assertion with potentially illuminating facts," said Gentries, who threatened to leave the room if presented with the number of Muslims who live peacefully in the United States, serve in the country's armed forces, or were victims themselves of the 9/11 attacks. "Period."
A whole lot more at the link.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mosque Misinformation

As with most manufactured stories blown out of proportion by the media, it seems some of the air is going out of the whole "Ground Zero Mosque" balloon, though that hasn't stopped an upsurge in anti-Muslim/anti-mosque violence from shaking the American Muslim community this past week.  As I've said all along with this, what's at work more than anything is certain agitators with hate-filled agendas latching onto people's ignorance like ticks on a dog, resulting in the media mess of the past few weeks.

Hoping to address at least some of this ignorance head-on, author Edward Curtis has compiled a list of five myths about mosques in America, most of which have taken root so deeply that many remain happily unaware of their status as blatant falsehoods.  One example is the big booga-booga of American mosques as sleeper cell factories churning out armies of terrorists-in-waiting (a belief I've actually heard espoused by people I know -- and from whom, frankly, I expect a little better).  As Curtis explains:
Through their mosques, U.S. Muslims are embracing the community involvement that is a hallmark of the American experience. In this light, mosques should be welcomed as premier sites of American assimilation, not feared as incubators of terrorist indoctrination.
Well, duh.

Recommended Reading

With high unemployment likely to continue unabated right on through the next presidential election, and average people still caught in the crosshairs of this so-called "jobless recovery," it's looking more and more like  President Obama's ballyhooed economic recovery plan hasn't quite panned out as planned. Newsweek has a fascinating examination of how Wall Street managed to do an end-run around the administration, in the process imperiling his presidency and, more importantly, the economy (again!).  Their conclusion?  No FDR, this.  From the article:
There was so much passion and ambition in Obama’s words about fixing the economy, and so much dispassion and caution in his policy choices. Early in the Democratic primaries, in January 2008, Obama had stunned many of his supporters by praising Reagan as a transformational president—a contrast to the eight years of Bill Clinton, Obama added cuttingly. Reagan, Obama said, “put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it.” Yet at what would seem to be a similar historical inflection point—what should have been the end of Reaganism, or deregulatory fervor—President Obama seemed unprepared to address the deeper ills of the financial system and the economy. Several officials who have worked with the Obama team said the president’s heart was in health care above all else. “He didn’t run for president to fix derivatives,” says Greenberger. “And when he brought in Summers and Geithner, he just thought he was getting the best of the best”—good financial mechanics, in other words, who would “get the car out of the ditch,” to use one of Obama’s favorite metaphors.
Check out the entire piece here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Recommended Reading

With senate primaries across the country putting an increasing number of self-described Tea Partiers such as Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, and (potentially) Joe Miller in the GOP slot for senate seats, it's hard not to wonder if the Tea Party represents the future for the Republican party, and if the Republican party is all in favor that happening.  Well, former Bush II speechwriter Michael Gerson has examined this phenomenon, and he's concluded that the Tea Party trend is bad news for the GOP.  Here's why.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The SCOTT Trade

Last week we talked about Scott Pilgrim vs. The World's less-than-impressive box office take during its opening weekend, and things didn't improve very much for its second weekend either. The Wrap's Brett Lang lays out some of the possible reasons the movie may have belly-flopped here (and I can't say I even disagree with his point about Michael Cera) but John Lopez at Vanity Fair is taking a different approach and outright imploring you to check out Pilgrim in the theaters before it's gone. Says he:
What’s with the pushiness, you ask? Why is this so important? Well, one could argue, if you’ve ever complained at all about the woeful state of cinematic storytelling—how you get more engaging narratives in email forwards than you do at the movies these days—a healthy aversion to hypocrisy pretty much compels you to get your butt in that seat. See, as much as we like to complain about cynical studios and throwaway films, the fact is they make money—or just enough money to justify the bad habits. And if you must know, that’s what studios are trying to do (make money). Further, they don’t make junk out of some callous desire to inflict bland pain on our eyeballs. If anything, they inflict bland pain on our eyeballs out of fear: fear that they’ll take a tentative, baby-step stab at something different, something that presents semi-realistic issues, imperfect characters, and complex resolutions in a novel way—and no one will come. And they’ll lose money. And all the nay-sayers will take the box-office numbers as the final word on a movie’s worth. Worse, the studios won’t make those movies because when you’ve bet $100 million on “something new” and come up short, it doesn’t matter if in your heart of hearts you can tell yourself you made a good movie: you’re not going to bet your next $100 million the same way. If you still have a $100 million to bet. Or a job.
Can't argue with that.

DEAD Rising

A few years back, I was at a comic book shop with a friend who asked me to recommend a good series for him to check out. I handed him the first volume of The Walking Dead, writer Robert Kirkman's ongoing story of "survival horror" in the wake of a zombie apocalypse, and said if he didn't like it I'd happily reimburse him the $10 cover price. When I talked to him a week later, he'd already picked up the next several volumes on his own.  And just like that the series had its latest victim.

Taking inspiration from director George A. Romero's legendary series of Dead movies (that began in 1969 with Night of the Living Dead and has continued to the present with this year's Survival of the Dead), Kirkman has lent The Walking Dead every advantage the medium offers, garnering it plenty of fans and awards. Indeed, one of the series' most high profile fans is Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont, who employed his clout towards getting the book adapted into a TV series for AMC, home of Breaking Bad and Mad Men.

Here's the promotional "sizzle reel" that AMC debuted at Comic-Con, with the show itself primed for a Halloween premiere.  As far as first impressions go, it looks absolutely horrifying and not a little unnerving. Perfect!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

(Ground) Zero Sum Games, Part IV

They finished off the trilogy last week, but this is one franchise that just keeps plugging along.  Picking up on last week's shocking revelation that Fox News is, in fact, a terrorist command center, Jon Stewart & Co. continue to follow the money:

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This one made the rounds on Sunday, and I would've posted on it sooner, but unfortunately the day sort of got away from me. On Sunday a group of folks opposed to the Park51 community center gathered en masse to exercise their First Amendment rights. Nothing wrong with that. Of course, as we've seen with similar such protests here and here, they usually don't speak well of the participants' critical thinking and reasoning skills, as evidenced when this poor guy happened to walked by...

From Gawker:
As you can see in the video above, at some point during the rally, a dark-skinned man wearing an Under Armor skullcap and what looks like a necklace with a Puerto Rican flag walked through the anti-"Mosque" crowd. The crowd, astutely recognizing that he was on his way to build the mosque, began to chant "NO MOSQUE HERE" at him. In the video, someone says, "run away, coward." The man turns around, perturbed. "Y'all motherfuckers don't know my opinion about shit," he says. Au contraire, my friend: You are a black man wearing a skullcap, after all! You are definitely a pro-Mosque, anti-freedom Jihadist! Why, aren't you, in fact... Osama Bin Laden??
(You can read the rest of their account here.)

Of course, as Glenn Greenwald points out, beyond the obvious hilarity of stupid people acting stupidly, there is a much more serious side to this issue that's been largely ignored in most of the mediated discourse:
Obviously, not all opponents of Park51 are as overtly hateful as those in that video -- and not all opponents are themselves bigots -- but the position they've adopted is inherently bigoted, as it seeks to impose guilt and blame on a large demographic group for the aberrational acts of a small number of individual members. And one thing is certain: if this campaign succeeds, it will proliferate and the sentiments driving it will become even more potent. Hatemongers always become emboldened when they triumph.
The animosity and hatred so visible here extends far beyond the location of mosques or even how we treat American Muslims. So many of our national abuses, crimes and other excesses of the last decade -- torture, invasions, bombings, illegal surveillance, assassinations, renditions, disappearances, etc. etc. -- are grounded in endless demonization of Muslims. A citizenry will submit to such policies only if they are vested with sufficient fear of an Enemy. There are, as always, a wide array of enemies capable of producing substantial fear (the Immigrants, the Gays, and, as that video reveals, the always-reliable racial minorities), but the leading Enemy over the last decade, in American political discourse, has been, and still is, the Muslim.
More from Greenwald at the link, and it's well worth a read.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Recommended Reading

By now I've had opportunity to read many, many op-eds by Muslims stating defiant opposition to the planned Park51 community center.  Many of them have seemed not a little disingenuous, driven more by political expediency than genuine concern. Maybe that's an erroneous reading on my part, but it's nonetheless the impression I've come away with. However, Hussein Rashid is the first I've seen address valid concerns about the center in terms of potential negatives for the New York (and American) Muslim community:
I do not think any of the organizers of Park51 are operating out of ill-will, but there is no indication that they actually know what they are doing on this project, either in terms of building it or running it once it is completed. I believe the core concern that many of us share is that a group that cannot lead a real estate development project cannot hope to launch a center that will create a long-term vision of what it means to be Muslim in America. For the amount of political, social, and financial capital being used on this project, its failure would set the community in New York, if not the country, back generations.
It's a good point, and one worth considering the longer this thing stretches and as people on either side get further dug in.  More at the link.

SVU Goes West

Remember last week when Dick Wolf said there were "no plans" for franchise crossovers for his new show Law & Order: Los Angeles?  Well, clearly we weren't paying attention when he followed that up with, "you never know what's going to happen."  As Access Hollywood reports, an early episode of Special Victims Unit's upcoming season will see Mariska Hargitay's Olivia Benson character travel across the country to solve a case that will then allow her to cross paths with Los Angeles star Skeet Ulrich.  It make sense to use the still-popular SVU to introduce auds to the still-untried spin-off, but, I gotta say, I kind of prefer my "Jack McCoy in board shorts and Hawaiian shirt" idea.  Look for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to kick off its twelfth season at the end of next month, and for the Los Angeles team-up episode to air shortly thereafter, just before the premiere of the series proper.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Blagold Digger

After seeing this, can we finally agree that we've gone fully through the looking glass?  Good to know he's keeping himself busy outside of politics, I guess.

(Ground) Zero Sum Games, Part III

Okay, I said I was done for the week, but just one more.  Past the hate, ignorance, and just general nastiness it's unleashed in certain quarters, I think the one upside to emerge from the Cordoba Controversy has been the comedy gems it's given Jon Stewart and Co. First up, he asks whether Fox News is a terrorist command center, and even gets Chuck Heston's POV from beyond the grave:

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Next up, Aasif Mandvi and Wyatt Cenac give Jon a preview of the upcoming religious wars.  Very funny stuff.

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Recommended Reading

After my recent sustained coverage of the Park51 mess (and its many related sub-messes), you're probably rolling your eyes when I say "Here's another one!" but trust me, this one is worth it:  Roger Ebert lists ten very important things he's learned about the "mosque," and I think it perfectly caps this story for the week.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Now Blogging at HuffPo!

So, this is kinda cool.

From now on, in addition to the usual nuggets of wisdom that you've come to know and love from me here, I'll also be blogging regularly at The Huffington Post. I have to admit, this is pretty exciting for me, as I've followed the site since its debut (which I made mention of here), so I feel like I've made it into some pretty illustrious company. Check out my HuffPo profile, and if by happenstance you were to add me as a "fan," I surely wouldn't complain...

Bartlet's Guidance

It's been a "What would Bartlet say?" kind of week for me.  While working on my piece yesterday about "Muslim Republicans," I kept thinking of "The Portland Trip," the second season West Wing episode where Bradley Whitford's Josh Lyman character -- the president's deputy chief of staff -- is incredulous that a congressional Republican who also happens to be gay would continue to support a party that's so clearly aligned against his interests.  That's the same reaction I have when I read pieces like this.

Then, there's this week's hubbub about radio shrink "Doctor" Laura Schlessinger letting fly (and fly, and fly, and fly) her inner bigot (followed by this baffling defense from the baffling Sarah Palin -- weren't we just talking about Tea Party folks not knowing where to pick their battles?).  Still, with the good doctor hoisted on her petard after a long career of condescension and derision, I couldn't help but flash to this clip from "The Midterms," also from season two, where writer Aaron Sorkin (through his avatar of President Jed Bartlet) has a...*ahem*...conversation with a certain "Dr. Jenna."

Dang, I miss this show.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Gohmert Pile-On

Last week, during Rep. Louis Gohmert and Anderson Cooper's chat that was the stuff that viral video dreams are made of, Gohmert at one point chastised the TV host by saying, "You and Jon Stewart can have your fun..."  This is what's known in the parlance as "asking for it."  Cut to last night's Daily Show, and Jon did his best to follow through on Gohmert's directive.  Enjoy:

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Paradox of the Muslim Republican

There's a story up at TPM today about how the current "Ground Zero Mosque" circus has Muslim Republicans worried that, in stoking the embers of racial and religious discord to further their political fortunes, their party is going too far.

To which I say: Really?  It took this?

Almost two years ago, during the brutal summer stretch of the last presidential campaign, I posted about an incident at a McCain rally where someone showed up lobbing a bunch of anti-Muslim hate-speech and he was promptly tossed out by the gathered crowd, including several Muslim McCain supporters.  That wasn't the story, though.  CNN had planned to interview the McCain worker who confronted the guy -- one Daniel Zubairi, a Muslim -- but the McCain camp had him pulled at the last minute.  As I said back then, what probably transpired was that the campaign looked at the political landscape and decided that they needed the hateful bigot vote slightly more than the Muslim Republican vote, so exit Mr. Zubairi, stage left.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

(Ground) Zero Sum Games, Part II

Once again Jon Stewart and his Daily Show cohorts revisited the Cordoba story last night, making for a powerful one-two punch -- following Keith Olbermann and his special comment -- responding to the blatant hypocrisy on display from several key figures who are largely responsible for fueling this fire.  Just like with last week's barnburner, this is another segment that's well worth a view:

Pilgrim's Regress

Last week we talked about the concern -- as voiced by X-Men: First Class helmer Matthew Vaughn -- that after too many years of too many comic-based movies at too low a level of quality would lead the genre to very quickly burn itself out. Then, last Friday, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Edgar Wright's big screen, big budget adaptation of Bryan O'Malley's much-loved indy graphic novel series, hit theaters armed with plaudits from critics and hosannahs from fans -- and instantly enacted the box office equivalent of hara-kiri.

Recommended Reading

With all the "monument to terror"/"victory flag for Osama" stuff in reference to Park51 (including Newt Gingrich calling its planners "radical Islamists" yesterday -- we get it, Newt, you really want to be president), one thing that's been lost in all of  bloviating is that Muslims aren't, in fact, monolithic.  Shocking, I know.  To the point at hand, the Sufi Islam practiced by Park51's Imam Feisal Abdul Rehman is about as far removed from the "radical" Wahhabi message of Bin Laden, et al, as it's possible to be, rendering the criticisms from Mr. Gingrich and his ilk even more toothless and tone deaf.  Now, given the overheated discussion the center has engendered in the public sphere so far, it may be too late for an education, but this Times piece elucidates the distinctions, and also explains why they're pretty darn important for us to understand.

"There is no 'Ground Zero Mosque'"

Here's Olbermann's commentary from last night's Countdown on the increasingly alarming (and alarmist) rhetoric in opposition to the Park51 community center.  At twelve minutes, it's an investment, but well worth it (full text here):

Monday, August 16, 2010

HIGHLY Recommended Reading

Justin Elliot at Salon runs down the precise chronology of events that led from the generally positive reception to the Cordoba Initiative's plans for their Manhattan Islamic center last December when it was first unveiled, to the raging controversy that's currently playing out on a 24-hour cable news station near you.  How did it happen?  That same convergence of bigotry and political strategy I talked about yesterday, with nutcase blogger/Islamophobe Pamela Geller and Rupert Murdoch's New York Post serving as gasoline and match, respectively.  Fascinating, fascinating stuff.

Chin Up

Remember when the conventional wisdom about Jay Leno's return to late night was how he would take a sizable hit thanks to a souring in audience goodwill following the debacle of early this year?  Well, what a difference six months makes.  While initially things were much tighter ratings-wise, Leno has claimed the crown both in the demo and overall viewers for each of the twenty-two weeks since his return, and he's now beating perpetual rival David Letterman by a very comfortable margin. With Leno's Tonight Show again averaging roughly the same number of viewers he did during his first Tonight hosting stint, I doubt Conan O'Brien's return to late night in November will do very much to alter the late night landscape.  It looks like NBC got their mulligan after all.

He is the Law

I mentioned last month that Karl Urban was in advanced talks to take on Judge Dredd's lantern jaw in a movie revival, but over the weekend we got our confirmation, courtesy of Empire. Urban, who played Eomer in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and is currently the Doctor McCoy of record in JJ Abrams' Star Trek series, earns his third geek badge with the Dredd reboot, which is described by the producers thusly:
"Our idea is to make a very hard, R-rated, gritty, realistic movie of Dredd in Megacity, so we’ve got to get the tone right. He’s not going to take off his helmet. His bike is going to feel real. He’s going to hit people and it’s going to feel real."
Here's what Urban said about the role to MTV last month, when it was still in the "rumor" column:
“[He is a] phenomenal iconic comic book character, so it’s a world I know and it would be a privilege and a pleasure to be able to bring that to life.”
And here's what he told Collider (again, last month):
“If anyone is familiar with Dredd, over the years there are many times when Dredd removes his helmet but you never fully see his face and that was construct by the creator, Mr. Wagner. He represents that faceless system of justice and law. I will say this, hypothetically if I went to a movie that was called “Judge Dredd” and the character or the actor who played Judge Dredd took the helmet and I would see his full face and features I would puke in my popcorn because that’s not Dredd. He’s mysterious and enigmatic. We’re going to do it right.”
Sounds good so far.  Here's hoping they actually deliver!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Political Courage

Well, that didn't take long.

Yesterday I was congratulating President Obama and slapping high-fives for his Friday night statement on the Cordoba center and for having the political courage to directly engage such a hot-button issue (on the heels of Michael Bloomberg's powerful speech early this month). Today I'm just shaking my head.

Said Obama on Friday:
But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.
Good stuff.  Ah, but yesterday he further "clarified" with this:
"I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding."

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Neutrali-Tea for Tools

A few weeks back I was having a very spirited discussion with a friend about the relative merits of the Tea Party, with the argument presented to me that they're just average folks who are defending the Constitution in the spirit of good ol' Thomas Jefferson, and not the ignorant boobs the media has made them out to be. The problem with this line of reasoning, of course, is that inclusion in the first category doesn't automatically preclude inclusion in the second.  This is how we end up with things like the Tea crowd actually choosing up sides against network neutrality after this week's word of a potential Google-Verizon pact that could deal the concept a fatal blow.

Now, bear in mind that net neutrality -- something that's advocated by folks on either side of the political divide -- would preserve the Internet as we've come to know it and prevent corporations from turning it into a "tiered" system like we have with cable TV.  With premiums charged to access certain content at certain speeds, the web would effectively be robbed of the very democratic underpinnings you'd think the Tea types would support.  However, in their typically Kafka-esque worldview, any attempt by the FCC to prevent a corporation from preventing free-speech is an infringement on the corporation's First Amendment rights. If you're feeling dizzy right about now, don't worry, that just means you're not jaundiced by imagined leftist conspiracies lurking under every stone.

Heck, don't take my word for it, here's Jamie Radtke, chairperson of the Virginia Tea Party Federation, on the effort to get the FCC to enforce net neutrality:
“I think the clearest thing is it’s an affront to free speech and free markets.”
Wow.  Just wow.

Oh, but it gets better.  Radtke continues:
“There are so many assaults on individual liberties — the EPA, net neutrality, cap-and-trade, card-check; the list goes on — that sometimes the Tea Party doesn’t know where to start its battles.”
Too true, Jamie.  Too true.

Recommended Reading

Glenn Greenwald calls President Obama's defense last night of religious tolerance "one of the most impressive and commendable things" he's done since being inaugurated. While I've certainly berated Obama in the past (most recently during the Shirley Sherrod dust-up) for lacking the political will for tough fights, I have to give it up to him this time. As Greenwald explains, Obama's involvement in the ginned-up Cordoba House controversy is something that's pretty much all political downside for him, but there was a higher principle that necessitated his taking a stand at this time. From his post:
The campaign against this mosque is one of the ugliest and most odious controversies in some time. It's based purely on appeals to base fear and bigotry. There are no reasonable arguments against it, and the precedent that would be set if its construction were prevented -- equating Islam with Terrorism, implying 9/11 guilt for Muslims generally, imposing serious restrictions on core religious liberty -- are quite serious. It was Michael Bloomberg who first stood up and eloquently condemned this anti-mosque campaign for what it is, but Obama's choice to lend his voice to a vital and noble cause is a rare demonstration of principled, politically risky leadership. It's not merely a symbolic gesture, but also an important substantive stand against something quite ugly and wrong. This is an act that deserves pure praise.
I concur.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Paranoia on Parade

TX Rep. Louis Gohmert's one man crusade against so-called "terror babies" has to be one of the more ridiculous right wing memes to emerge of late, and let's face it, that's really saying something given some of the recent shenanigans.  The gist of Gohmert's concern is that undesirable sorts will come to the United States with the express intention of having kids, spiriting them away, filling their minds with anti-American fervor, and then setting them loose twenty years hence to wreak all manner of havoc -- as American citizens!  He's like a live action Dale Gribble, really.  And you kinda have to applaud Gohmert, as this "terror baby" thing lets him oppose immigration, the Constitution, and the Platonic principles of rhetoric all in one fell swoop, so score one for efficiency!  Having already taken his paranoia to the House floor in a rant that Jon Stewart made merry sport of last week, Gohmert cried Cassandra again last night to CNN's Anderson Cooper, and the result was, well, see for yourself:

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Yikes.

New Info on LAW & ORDER: LA

Some new images from the upcoming Law & Order: Los Angeles have hit the web, courtesy of the New York Post, providing our first look at Alfred Molina and Regina Hall as DAs Peter Morales and Evelyn Price respectively, and also Skeet Ulrich as Det. Rex Winters (was there ever a more made-for-TV name?).

In addition to giving us our first glance at the Los Angeles cast in character, this week also saw some more information come out on what the planned direction for the show will be, and how the producers plan to set the new show apart from its recently-departed forebear. The answer? Different, but not too different.

Same inter-scene title cards, same inter-scene "thunk-THUNK," same cops-in-the-first-half/lawyers-in-the-second format with minimal character development, and much of the same writing and producing staff.

So, uh...other than the cast, the setting, and (presumably) the theme music, what's new, exactly?

Says producer/creator Dick Wolf: "It's a progressive moving-forward of the brand."


And as far as the possibility of characters from the NY-based shows teaming up with their West Coast sibs?  "Anything is possible...I mean, that's not being facile. Over the years we've done many stunts. If it's organic, anything is possible...There are no plans to do that. Everybody is 3,000 miles away, but you never know what's going to happen."

While I'll admit it'd be neat to see our old friends from New York once again, I'd rather not have a board shorts and Hawaiian shirt-wearing Jack McCoy getting caught up in a murder case while vacationing in Cali, so it's probably a good call to hold off on any sweeps-inspired brand cross-pollinations for the time being.

Time Travel Headache

The other day I mentioned some of the time paradoxes that had dawned on me after my recent repeat (and repeat, and repeat, and...) viewings of Robert Zemeckis' Back to the Future cycle.  Well, in my quest to find some answers to these questions so I can finally put an end to these restless, sleepless nights, I stumbled upon this website, which has made the dissection of cinematic time travel anomalies its stock-in-trade.  The Back to the Future analysis spans Part I here, Part II here, and Part III here, and by the time I'd finished reading all three, that insomnia had been cured by the biggest migraine I've ever had.  If you thought that timeline I linked to before represented the absolute heights of movie nerdery, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

(Fun reading, though.)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Inmates Take Over

One thing about the whole Cordoba House/Park51 argument that I've tried to make clear all along is that while reasonable people can disagree reasonably, reason itself has been in woefully short supply through much of this mess (a mess, by the way, that the center's planners -- inexplicably! -- failed to anticipate). The folks who aren't boiling the whole thing down to a simplistic Manichean divide have instead dispensed with the rhetorical niceties altogether and gone straight for the hateful jugular, getting back to my point from last month that George W. actually kept the loonier elements of the right in check. 

Providing further proof (as if further proof were needed) of how the inmates have taken over the asylum in the conversation comes this nutty tirade from Bryan Fischer, so-called "issues director" for the euphemistically-named American Family Association, with the not-at-all euphemistic title of "No more mosques, period." Subtle, no?  If you click through and read the whole post -- and be warned, there's a whole mess of crazy to trudge through -- you'll see that Mr. Fischer does about as good a job as possible to paint himself and his fellow fringe-dwellers as the hate-mongering lunatics that they are.

We already know the blind political ambition that allows someone like Newt Gingrich to issue moral imperatives without any sense of self-awareness, but when politicos like Peter King and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, doing their level best to feed the most trollish portions of their base, tag Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf as "radical" -- a meme which has been thoroughly debunked by now -- when even the Bush admin thought him at least moderate enough to tout our country's religious pluralism throughout the world, it sheds a lot of light on the up-is-down/black-is-white world some people live in where "tolerance" equals "bigotry."  

On last night's Countdown, MN representative Keith Ellison, the first Muslim in congress (who was famously tasked by Glenn Beck in '06 to prove that he wasn't working with our enemies) discussed this very issue with Olbermann, starting with Mr. Gingrich and working his way down from there, and demonstrated quite effectively which side of this artificial divide the bigotry has most clearly manifested on.  It's instructive, if not particularly eye-opening.

(Vid after the jump)

WARS Stories

When it comes to the long and winding history of the Star Wars franchise, Gary Kurtz remains an interesting figure. As George Lucas' storytelling and producing partner from 1973's American Graffitti to the original Star Wars in '77 to The Empire Strikes Back in '80, Kurtz was "present at the conception," so to speak, and -- like Bill Finger with Batman or Gene Coon with Star Trek -- made several important contributions that shaped the brand into what it is.  Those contributions remain mostly unknown to the general public, though, with Lucas' billion-dollar behemoth having long since moved on -- much to its detriment -- from the foundations Kurtz helped craft.

It's no coincidence that Empire, widely considered the strongest entry in the entire catalog, is the one that Kurtz had the most to do with and Lucas the least. I've long felt that Kurtz had been uniquely positioned to call out some of the more pronounced storytelling eccentricities of his partner, resulting in a stronger end product. This isn't to criticize George Lucas' creative instincts (well, maybe a little bit...), but rather to point out that he's at his best when teamed with a partner who will actively question those instincts. That's something he didn't get from Howard Kazanjian, who succeeded Kurtz on Return of the Jedi, and it's certainly something he didn't get from Rick McCallum, producer on the prequels.

I bring all this up because of Kurtz granting an interview to the the Los Angeles Times in anticipation of his appearance at a big Star Wars convention this weekend (celebrating Empire's 30th anniversary -- which I marked in my own inimitable fashion here).  While he's mostly kept his own council on the directions in which the franchise has headed in his absence (including a long-promised live action TV show that appears to be dead-in-the-water), he pulls no punches here, discussing with welcome candor not only where Star Wars started, but where it went awry. Some of the highlights after the jump:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Futures Past

My three-year-old watched the Back to the Future trilogy for the first time last month, and is now hopelessly hooked on the whole series (including that cartoon show I talked about here). To put this in perspective, he's playing with a light-and-sound DeLorean Time Machine toy even as I type this. Anyway, as with anything a three-year-old likes, that means I've had lots of time to watch and re-watch the movies and to try to make sense of the many time paradoxes contained therein.

What happened to the "old" timeline that Marty changed in the original movie? In Part II, how come Old Biff is able to return to "his" 2015 after he changes the past? In Part III, couldn't Marty have just gotten gas from the other DeLorean hidden in 1885 after his DeLorean's tank got hit with an arrow? As you can tell, I've spent maybe a little too much time thinking about this stuff.  While these questions may never have answers, it's gratifying to know that I'm not alone in pondering them, as graphic designer Sean Mort actually set about placing the events of the trilogy in some semblance of a chronology.

Check it out it after the jump (click the pic for the embiggened version).

(Ground) Zero Sum Games

Jon Stewart addressed the "Ground Zero Mosque" (note the quotation marks!) last night, devoting a pretty hefty chunk of his show's real estate to the ongoing mess.  As per usual, Jon pulls no punches for the Palin-Gingrich-Fox News folks who've masterfully played politics with the issue, and also takes aim at the web of Islamophobia spreading across the country that they've helped instigate.

Here's the first part:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Municipal Land-Use Hearing Update
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

And here's the second:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Municipal Land-Use Update - Ground Zero Mosque
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Well worth a view!