Friday, December 31, 2010

A Look Back in Islamophobia

In the spirit of my previous post, Talking Points Memo has taken a walk down memory lane with a fond look back at the way the "Ground Zero Mosque" hubbub last summer ignited a wave of semi-related anti-Muslim rhetoric (and incidents) across the country.  Remember Pastor Terry Jones and the great Qur'an (non) burning in Florida?  How 'bout the anti-mosque movement in Tennessee?  Now you can revisit all those good times and many more.  Of course, the TPM folks don't even get to the Islamophobic congressional campaign of Renee Ellmers in North Carolina, or Louis Gohmert and his "terror babies" nonsense, or the hysterical paranoia surrounding a proposed mosque in Temecula, CA.  No doubt there'll be a similar harvest of embarrassments to dissect at the close of next year.

Believe it or not though, while I've spent quite a bit of time covering and commenting on this stuff over the last year (far more than I would have liked, frankly), I staunchly refuse to believe it represents anything close to a plurality of opinions.  My experiences and conversations with people of all political persuasions continues to prove that out, and while some of the invective that's emerged from the most virulent (read: Pamela Geller) circles has been hateful, disgusting, and, yep, hilarious, it's also prompted many responses that've been just as nuanced, insightful, and informative, so I guess you just have to take the good with the bad.  I mean, who knew that Sarah Palin asking Muslims to "refudiate" the Park51 center would lead directly to a discussion that would in turn become my most-read post of all time?  Thanks, Sarah!

The Muslim Batman Flap

It might come as a shock to my longtime readers, but my comic reading has dropped from 20-30 titles a month to practically nil (a rapidly growing family and rapidly shrinking budget will do that) so the current Right Wing freakout over recent events in DC Comics' Batman line of comics had almost entirely passed me by.  The short version: After a several month interregnum during which he was "dead" (which, in comic book terms, has about as much permanence as a rub-on tattoo), millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne has announced to the world that he is funding Gotham City's vigilante hero Batman (unbeknownst to them, he actually is Batman...shhh).  As part of an extended storyline labelled "Batman, Inc." Wayne is seeking out similar masked heroes in all corners of the globe to provide them the financial backing necessary to become their county's very own "Batman."

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Murrow Effect

Remember Jon Stewart's show-long appeal two weeks ago for congress to pass the 9/11 responders' healthcare bill?  Well, one of the more welcome bits of news to emerge from the lame duck legislative session is that it passed (albeit with a substantially lower ticket price than was initially proposed) -- and its success is largely being laid at the feet of Stewart and The Daily Show, with many comparing the late night laugher to the late, legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow, who famously used his broadcast perch to turn public opinion against Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communist witch hunts.  In an article for The New York Times, Bill Carter (whose tome The War For Late Night I just finished, and which I highly recommend) and Brian Stelter examine Stewart's transformative role on this issue, as well as the comedian's own delicate tightrope act between social critic and circus clown.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Muslim Myths

Cracked takes a break from the usual countdowns of wacky products and lame movies that grace the site to tackle the "5 Ridiculous Things You Probably Believe About Islam."  Very funny, and very insightful.  Methinks that guy who wrote that hate blog about me a few months ago should really give it a look-see -- he might just learn something.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Worst Responders"

Earlier in the week, I linked to Jon Stewart's brilliant takedown of the GOP legislative roadblock that's kept all manner of Senate business from getting resolved before the end of the year.  While "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the START Treaty, and the DREAM Act have all fallen victim to this trend, the most egregious casualty has surely been the Zadroga bill, which would infuse federal money to address the health problems suffered by 9/11 responders.  That a bill like that can't muster the votes necessary to overcome a filibuster is as baffling as it is unconscionable, and while Stewart touched on it on Monday, he devoted the entirety of last night's show, his last of 2010, to the issue.  Check out part one and two below, then part three, the full interview with guest Mike Huckabee, after the jump.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Worst Responders
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
9/11 First Responders React to the Senate Filibuster
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

Reclaiming the Narrative

The New York Times has a great piece about how the Muslim American community in the SF Bay Area (which I've been proud to call my home for nearly ten years now) is using artistic endeavors to bridge cultural and communicative divides.  My friends Wajahat Ali (whose Domestic Crusaders was just published last week -- buy it here), Illume publisher Javed Ali, musician Baraka Blue, and many other terrifically talented folks all represent, and it's well worth a read.

THOR Unfair to White People. Seriously.

So, remember how I posted that Thor trailer last week and said it looked pretty darn solid? Well, not everyone agreed. And while some have voiced issues with the perceived fealty to the comic books, or the relative merits of the trailer itself, there's one cadre of troglodytic malcontents that's registered its displeasure for more...uh, colorful reasons. Specifically, their hackles are up because the character of Heimdall, one of the many God-folk who populate the comic book realm of Asgard in the Marvel books, is played by actor Idris Elba.

Now, if you read that last sentence and just sort of shrugged your shoulders, or scratched your head then shrugged your shoulders, congratulations, you're a rational human being. Now, for the sake of clarification, let me try connecting the dots for you. See, Elba -- the acclaimed actor most well known for his role on The Wire -- is black. Heimdall -- the not real, never-was-real Norse God -- is white. You see where I'm going with this?  Let's just let the so-called Council of Conservative Citizens take us the rest of the way:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Favreau Ironed Out

So, the big news that hit the geek wires yesterday was that Iron Man director Jon Favreau is bowing out of the third entry in the hugely-successful series, choosing instead to tackle Disney's promised product placement-palooza The Magic Kingdom. This is somewhat of a surprise considering Favreau's role as executive producer (mostly ceremonial, no doubt) of next summer's Avengers, and especially considering he was laying out plans for the franchise's future as recently as last summer. Beyond that, I don't think one can understate the key role Favreau played in the current Marvel movie renaissance, with his creative choices on the first Iron Man (including going to bat with the studio for star Robert Downey) laying the pipe for almost everything that's followed in its wake.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


One of the more disgusting sidelights in the already-disgusting tax cut argument that reached its disgusting denouement yesterday was the way that congressional Republicans hitched their lame duck stance on not allowing any legislation to advance unless the first order of business was preventing a 3% tax hike for the country's highest earners.  As Jon Stewart masterfully demonstrated on last night's Daily Show, one welcome side effect of this lockstep obstinacy is that it exposes the rank hypocrisy that's epitomized the GOP's perpetual use and abuse of 9/11 for political purposes in the near-decade since that day's tragic events:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Lame-as-F@#k Congress
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

State of ORDER

It's been awhile now since we've talked Law & Order in these parts. In the interim, Criminal Intent has been readying for its farewell season this Spring on USA, and Special Victims and Los Angeles have both been plugging away to varied creative and ratings results on NBC.  From my personal perspective, it definitely seems like SVU is ramping down, with its exec producer departing, and the iffy prospects of continuing without stars Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay (whose contracts expire at season's end).  Meanwhile, Los Angeles -- in its role as the franchise's heir apparent -- has steadily improved since its shaky start, but has yet to find an identity that allows it to truly stand on its own (though maybe that'll change with the show's impending move to Tuesdays at 10).  With all this uncertainty hanging over TV's most resilient brand, Ileane Rudolph at TV Guide again asks the question that seems to pop up every couple of years: Is this the end of the Law & Order era?


I meant to post this one sooner, but the last few days kinda got away from me.  Anyway, while discussing the impending third Transformers flick back in June, I mentioned that, at present, I'd "rather stick an icepick in my ear than watch it." I guess the best thing I can say about the teaser trailer for Transformers: Dark of the Moon that dropped last week is that it, while it doesn't move the needle significantly towards "have to see it right now!" it also doesn't put me any closer to "icepick in the ear" territory either.  The little victories...

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Yesterday, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (who I've always been a pretty big fan of) took to the Senate floor in an eight hour-plus tour de force that saw him standing defiantly (with brief assists from Sens. Sherrod Brown and -- of all people -- Mary Landrieu) against the Obama-GOP tax cut deal that was announced earlier in the week.  While Sanders' stand made for one of the more magnetic moments of parliamentary politicking of late (even crashing the Senate video server at one point due to the many views), it wasn't exactly the "Mr. Smith"-style filibuster that many in the blogosphere quickly pegged it as -- mainly because that kind of filibuster doesn't even exist anymore!  Confused?  Don't worry, Brian Beutler helpfully explains what makes a filibuster a filibuster.  If, like me, you've found yourself frustrated at the slower-than-glacial pace of darn near anything getting done on the Senate floor for the past two years, you should really read it.  Then weep.

Getting Hammered

Things have been a bit quiet on the Thor movie front lately, but that's begun to change this week, first with the very Frank Miller-esque teaser poster to the left, and then with yesterday's release of the first trailer for the film, which Marvel and Paramount have slotted for release into the early May "lead-off" position that Marvel has previously found great success in with Spider-Man, X2, and the two Iron Mans.  The trailer isn't substantially different from the Comic-Con sizzle reel I linked to in July, but since that vid got yanked by Marvel's legals, this is your chance to catch it "for reals."  My comments from back then still apply, with the added observation that I'm feeling this one way more than I was the Green Lantern trailer a few weeks ago.  I'm sure both flicks will be solid, but -- at least for now -- this one has the edge with me going in.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Recommended Reading

One of my favorite deep thinkers, George Lakoff, weighs in on the Democrats' current Obama-induced tax cut nightmare, and how (yet again) they managed to lose control of the narrative.  I have to admit, as a communications instructor, Lakoff's pieces always speak to me in a very personal way, and this one is no exception.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Pragmatism Declaration

Yesterday afternoon President Obama held a presser in which he forcefully declared why he negotiated with the Republicans (who he likened to hostage takers -- prompting this "only on Fox News" moment on Bill O'Reilly's show) to extend unemployment benefits for one more year in exchange for extending the George Bush-instigated tax cuts for two more years, even in the face of their clearly debilitative effects on the deficit.  Now, we can go back and forth on whether this was the only move open to him thanks to the chess game he finds himself in, or whether he's just a bad negotiator, but what was most definitely crystallized in Obama's often heated exchange with the press is the same thing that had already come into focus with the public option fight and the "will they/won't they" surrounding the Khalid Sheikh Mohammad trial: Obama defines himself first and foremost by a sense of political pragmatism.  This in itself may not be anything new, but his statement of such while actively rejecting the "sanctimony" and "idealism" of the left makes this a fairly significant moment in the ongoing Obama narrative -- one that David Kurtz over at TPM helps elucidate for us.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Digital Future

Here's some more Back to the Future news following on the heels of the first film's theatrical re-issue and the trilogy's Blu-ray release this past October.  Check out the trailer for the new videogame coming soon from Telltale, with a story from franchise co-creator Bob Gale, and featuring the voices of Christopher Lloyd reprising his signature role of Doc Brown, and AJ LoCascio doing a pretty dead-on impression of Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly.  Very nice.  If you read this site regularly, you know I don't really have much time for videogames, but you also know that I always have time for Back to the Future.

(Get it? Time? Huh? Huh? Where're you going?)


A few weeks back I was haranguing Team Obama for their unwillingness (or inability) to pick a principle on which to stand. Back then it seemed like a self-fulfilling prophecy when I said it was likely the White House would fold on the tax cut battle that's currently consuming Washington, and wouldn't you know, it looks like they're going to fold.  Score one for predictability.  Yet again this proves out the broader point I was making about Obama's perpetual failure to stake out a clear position and defend it.  This is a frustration that's becoming increasingly pronounced among many who've supported him, and Frank Rich articulates it quite well:
The cliché criticisms of Obama are (from the left) that he is a naïve centrist, not the audacious liberal that Democrats thought they were getting, and (from the right) that he is a socialist out to impose government on every corner of American life. But the real problem is that he’s so in distinct no one across the entire political spectrum knows who he is. A chief executive who repeatedly presents himself as a conciliator, forever searching for the “good side” of all adversaries and convening summits, in the end comes across as weightless, if not AWOL. A Rorschach test may make for a fine presidential candidate — when everyone projects their hopes on the guy. But it doesn’t work in the Oval Office: These days everyone is projecting their fears on Obama instead.
And, as if the "Birther" stuff from the other day didn't provide enough of a clue, the nonsensical "socialist" meme is only the tip of an iceberg of the anti-Obama fumes emanating from the Right.  So, given that, I'm wondering again what consensus he thinks he's achieving when the opposition has made clear time and again that they're intent on not only defeating any and all of his policy initiatives, but also on rendering him damaged and debilitated in every way possible.  It's beyond baffling -- even more so because it's actually working!  Much more from Rich at the link.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Birther Quake

I've mentioned previously on this site about the "Birther" phenomenon and how it continues despite all evidence (and common sense) to the contrary.  I can't begin to guess where the irrational belief that President Obama wasn't born in this country -- and is thus an illegitimate president -- comes from (though I certainly have my suspicions) but I've encountered some of these folks personally, and there's a whole lot of "yikes" going on there, believe you me.

Case in point is this video from Tuesday evening that's already gone viral, of CNN's Anderson Cooper confronting Texas Rep. Leo Berman (R -- natch) about a "birth certificate" bill he's advancing that's pretty clearly been dreamed up primarily as catnip for the Birther contingent.  As he's done very well in the past, Cooper does a nice job of demolishing Berman's contentions, most of them scraped off the most fevered corners of the blogosphere, in rapid succession.  If you've ever found yourself wondering where they're getting this stuff, now you know...