30 November 2006

Back to you in the studio, moron

Wow.  I just learned something from watching the local news:

Sometimes, it SNOWS in Chicago!

What a bunch of troglodytes we have for a news media here.  Tomorrow is December 1 and to ring in the new month we are going to be socked good by a major snowstorm, maybe even a blizzard.  If you watch the news, you'd think it never happened before.

Let's go live to a local hardware store and see what people are buying!  Snow shovels?  Salt? A snowblower or two?  WOW!  I'd think lawn mowers would be HOT this time of year, you know, gifts for your favorite lawn care professional.

Over at the grocery store, people are stocking up on water and other assorted types of food?  You're kidding!  I would think that with the impending storm that folks would be making dinner reservations at restaurants all over the city.  Who wants to be stuck inside cooking in winter weather?

I actually heard someone on a broadcast this afternoon say "Don't go outside tomorrow without a jacket."  Can I still bring my SPF 3,212?

But the best news coverage will come when the storm is over, and your faithful roving reporter will head out to the side streets of the city to report on what people are using to "save" parking spots that they have shoveled out for themselves.  I can't wait to see the assortment of lawn chairs, card tables, and garbage cans.

Remind me again why I have a television?

21 November 2006

We all got it coming, kid

I watched two movies last Friday.

It was a mighty depressing day.  I had trouble sleeping so I was up early, by seven, after only a few hours sleep.  It was overcast outside, the clouds hanging low enough to feel them breathing on your neck.  I was flipping through the channels when I came across a movie on the Independent Film Channel that was just starting, called The Grey Zone.  I had never heard of it.  It tells the story of a certain group of Jewish people at Auschwitz, the Sonderkomando, (can't find anything on line to adequately explain them better than I can after seeing this movie), who were forced to work in the gas chambers and crematoriums of the camp.  It was a positively gut-wrenching movie, as brutal a depiction of the Holocaust as anything I have ever seen, read or heard.  Throughout I kept telling myself that I was going to be massively depressed if I kept watching to the finish but I couldn't turn it off.  I felt obligated to watch the whole thing.

It's a powerful movie, but it is extremely difficult to watch.  And it did its job, adding to an already miserable day.  Man, was I down by noon Friday.  I got testy with a telemarketer who had the unfortunate fate of calling here in the early afternoon.  I usually do not answer calls that I don't recognize, but I was in the mood to make someone else miserable.  I also fell off a chair onto a hardwood floor reaching for something by my desk, one of those moments when it seems like you are moving in slow motion, long enough for you to think "I'm going to hit the floor hard, and it's going to really hurt."  I landed on my hip.  Good thing I am not forty years older.

In the late afternoon, I watched A Prairie Home Companion.  I enjoyed it, but it's not exactly a pick-me-up film either.  There's a ton of references to death, both literal and figurative.  It's a movie that reminds you constantly that you are going to die someday.

The movie was directed by Robert Altman, whose "someday" came yesterday at the ripe old age of 81 (insert trumpets ofirony here).  There's a profound line in the middle of the movie: "The death of an old man is not a tragedy."  That's correct.  I don't think I have ever heard of the death of someone in their eighties and thought "what a tragedy."  Rather I tend to think how fortunate that person was, to have lived that long and experience so much.  It's staggering to think about all the things that have happened in this world since 1925.

But then I remember the scenes in the first movie showing the bodies of children being tossed into mass graves, and I am reminded that there are no guarantees that any of us will live as long as Robert Altman.  Who knows, I might not even live another 81 more minutes.

(I have to go to the dentist tomorrow.  I will not miss that when I am dead.)

I'm starting to ramble.  I probably should have not watched another movie today, but I am taking a film class this semester and have to write a final paper on a film of my choice.  I wanted to select a film that I really like, and after making a list of about ten possibilities I decided on Unforgiven. Again, not exactly a pick-me-up but it's such a beautifully shot film.  I love the underlying theme of redemption in the movie.  It has a lot of great scenes, and the best is towards the end. Will Munny (Clint Eastwood) and the Scholfied kid are in a field, the kid sitting against a tree, falling apart because he just killed someone for the first time.  He starts talking about how unbelievable it is, that the man he killed isn't ever going to breathe again, and then takes a big swig from a bottle of whiskey, holding back tears.  The camera cuts to Eastwood, we see the gray sky behind him and hear the wind.  It's quiet for a moment.  What follows is my all-time favorite dialogue in movie history: 

Will Munny: It's a hell of a thing, killing a man.  You take away all he's got, and all he's ever gonna have.
The Schofield Kid: Yeah, well, I guess he had it coming.
Will Munny: We all got it coming, kid.

Indeed, we do.



14 November 2006

Blatant self-promotion, part 57

Last spring I took a class on play writing.  I went into it with no prior experience and wasn't sure what to expect.  It focused more on writing actual scenes than full plays, so I wound up writing about ten different works through the course of the semester.  I enjoyed the class.

I got a message at the start of the fall semester from the gentleman who taught the class that he was interested in producing one of my scenes, which took me by complete surprise.  Tonight, after a few re-writes, I have found out that it will be performed in December.  It's part of a review entitled "Democracy Burlesque."  The piece itself is entitled "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and deals with the tropical vacation happenings of a few mythological characters.  I don't want to say more because it has a few twists to it, on the off-chance that one of my twelve readers might actually see it!

If I had written a book, I'd be known officially now as a "published author" but I have no idea what this will make me.  No matter, it's an exceptional feeling.

13 November 2006

Bears game? What Bears game?

You will watch this many, many times. There will be times when you watch only the ball. There will be times when you watch only the goalie. There will be times when you will close your eyes and just listen. This is only four seconds long. You will spend so much more time than that watching this again and again.

07 November 2006

This is the day

I learned a lesson on Election Day 2004: never get overly excited about what you think is going to happen.  I'm getting nauseous just thinking about it.  I spent the ten days prior to that election blogging my brains out about why America had to send W back to his ranch in Crawford, and as the election dawned I really thought that it was going to happen.  I was not in the best of moods when that did not happen.

So as Election Day 2006 arrives I am reminded that things don't always go as planned.  I am optimistic that the electorate is going to slap Bush good and hard today.  I expect that the House will go to the Democrats for the first time since 1994, and I think there is a 50-50 chance that the Senate will go for them as well.  The Senate doesn't bother me much, but if the House stays Republican, I will never understand what the people of this country are thinking.

As I have gotten older, I have become more of a moderate.  In my younger days, I'd vote straight Democratic, no questions asked.  Those days are long gone, but I could live to be three hundred years old, and I would never vote for anybody who could be seen as allied to George W. Bush.  It's not a question of him being a Republican.  It's the fact that he is the worst president in the multi-century history of this country.  It's not even close.  I've wasted enough space here listing his mistakes and won't do it again.

It's not red vs. blue.  It's Bush vs. red, white and blue.  I hope to God we get it right.

I've made my preference for governor of my home state clear, and I'll vote for him even though I know he has no shot of winning.  There's no Senate race in Illinois this year.  My incumbent representative is a democrat who is finishing her first term and has gained a reputation as a moderate independent.  She'll probably be re-elected and she has my vote.  I wish I were living in my hometown's congressional district.  It's one of the races that is being watched by the entire country.  I grew up in a solidly Republican area, one of the more dependable GOP areas in the US.  They've had the same Congressman for thirty-two years, Henry Hyde, who's claim to fame is leading the impeachment hearings against Bill Clinton.  Of course, immediately afterwards, it was revealed that Hyde had an affair with a woman who worked on his staff when he was in his forties, which he chalked up as a "youthful indiscretion." 

Anyway, Hyde is 82 now and has decided that it is time to retire (don't let the door hit you on the way out, Henry).  The race is between Peter Roskam (R) and Tammy Duckworth (D).  Roskam has been in the state senate for a while.  This is Duckworth's first venture into politics.  The fact that the race is a toss-up shows just how fed up people are with the incompetence of Republican leadership.  Normally, you could run a sock puppet against a Democrat here and darn it for its inauguration.

Duckworth is a war veteran who lost both of her legs when the Apache helicopter she was piloting in Iraq was shot down.  This fact did not stop Roskam from running ads on TV stating that Duckworth wanted to "cut and run" from Iraq.  Satire, perhaps.  The ads ran for about a week until someone with a measure of taste saw the irony.  Then there was John McCain here last week campaigning for Roskam.  He mentioned that Roskam will support or troops, and McCain also went on about how he visits soldiers who have lost limbs, yet did not mention Duckworth.  Classy.

Roskam ends all of his messages with his approval because he will "bring change to Washington."  Every time I hear this I want to scream "how?"  Roskam is a Republican, running to succeed a sixteen-term Republican in the most heavily Republican area in the state.  What exactly will he change?  No one seems to know.  I'd vote for Duckworth if I could.  Roskam is full of it when he says he will bring change.  All that would change is the nameplate on the office door.

I will be casting at least one Republican vote today.  Perhaps icicles just formed in hell, but my vote for commissioner of the Cook County board is going to Tony Periaca.  Voting for a Republican in Cook County (where Chicago is) is like getting permission to have a bachelor party in church: very infrequent, if impossible.  This race is decided in March, when the primary is held.  This year, 77 year old incumbent John Stroger won the primary, less than a month after he suffered a serious stroke.  He hasn't been seen in public since.

Of course, for the first three months after the primary, we were told that Stroger was fine and that he would be recovered in plenty of time before November.  Then, just after the Fourth of July, he resigned, citing his health, and the Cook County Democrats announced that the man to replace Stroger on the ballot would be his son, Todd.

Like father, like son.  The voters had no say.  They do today, though given the demographics of the county, Todd Stroger will win.  I hope he doesn't.  I have no problem with a Republican collecting my property taxes over a nepotistic Democrat.

And that's really it for races I care about.  I'll watch a good deal of coverage tonight (may I suggest you watch Keith Olbermann on MSNBC?  You won't regret it.) and might have something to say about it later. 

Not voting?  You can't complain about anything for the next two years.


05 November 2006

Well this is just classic:

Publicly state who will you vote for, and then this comes out:

"it surfaced that Whitney was once a member of the Socialist Labor Party and editor of its newspaper. Whitney resigned from the party in 1993, and his campaign says he no longer advocates socialist policies."

Still voting for him.  Irony, delicious irony.

I doth protest

So we have a gubernatorial election in Illinois this Tuesday.  The biggest question I have about is: why do we have a "guBernatorial" election to select a "goVernor?"  Seems an odd bit of syntax to me.

You might be able to tell that I am none too excited about this election.  Our current governor, Rod "His Hair Was Perfect" Blagojevich is the beneficiary of the fact that the Illinois Republican Party is still in a complete and total shambles.  Blago's been governor for four years already and hasn't accomplished much.  His one accomplishment, creating "open road tollways" (where tolls are paid electronically so you don't have to stop) shows how large his ego is.  While it's convenient to not have to slow down and go through toll lanes, all twenty open road areas have huge signs above them that say "Open Road Tolling-Rod R. Blagojevich, Governor."  Each sign cost nineteen thousand dollars.  Maybe Blago thinks that he'll never get bounced out of office because the taxpayers of Illinois won't want to pay to change the signs.

The Republican nominee is a piece of work in her own mind.  Judy "Two Packs a Day" Baar Topinka has been the state treasurer for the last decade or so, and is pretty much the only Republican who has been able to hold statewide office since George Ryan brought the entire party down.  She's pretty much the nominee by default, and she offers nothing more than being the "anti-Blagojevich."  She also has the personality of a turnip.

There's no way Blagojevich is going to lose this election.  Blah.  Neither offers much of a future for this state.  Both have waged an incredibly negative campaign.  Blago has run ads since early spring that end with the tag line "What's she thinking?" usually while showing Topinka hanging out with George Ryan.  Not to be undone, Topinka has run plenty of ads comparing Blago to Ryan.  Aren't politics wonderful?  A GOP candidate thinks her best chance to win is by comparing her opponent to another member of her own party.

I'm voting for neither.  Rich Whitney of the Green Party is getting my vote.  If he is lucky, he will get ten percent of the vote.  He deserves more, if only for the fact that he is neither Blagojevich or Topinka.

I have hope, though, and I have aplan.  I think it is ridiculous that everyone wants Barack Obama to run for president in 2008.  What qualifies him?  And more importantly, who wants to follow George W. Bush into the White House?  It's going to take a haz-mat administration to clean up the mess he has made.  Why the rush for President Obama?  He's 43.  Why have his political career end by 2016?  It makes no sense.  2008 is not his time.

Obama's term in the US Senate expires in 2010, which happens to be the next guBernatorial election in Illinois.  Surely, Balgojevich will have worn out his welcome here by then and there will be no chance for a third term.  Obama ought to run for Illinois governor in 2010.  He'd win easily, and the electorate in this country seems to be a lot more comfortable electing governors than senators.  Depending on who wins the White House in 2008, Obama can run for president in 2012 or 2016 (if 2016, he'd be re-elected governor in 2014).  I like Obama a lot, but he needs more time and experience.  He's the type of guy who needs to be involved in the arena for a long time.

One can only hope.


01 November 2006

Damn, I almost made it

Six days from Election Day, and I have yet to say a word about it.  I have been in a political coma.  I've sort of enjoyed it.

John Kerry has brought me out of it.

I'm not going to rehash his idiocy, except to say that his idiocy lies in his smug attempts to coyly twist his words into something pithy.  Just speak plain English.  Say something along the lines of "this is why you want to do good in school, so that you don't make poor judgments like the president and administrative cronies have through the Iraq war."

Simple as that.

Two things strike me about this fire storm:  1. I'm more PO'd at Kerry for his "I will not apologize" rant yesterday than I am for getting involved in the election a week before it happens.  He should have said "look, I know it sounds like I was saying that soldiers are dumb, but I mis-spoke..." 2. I'm surprised that this has created more of a firestorm than a few weeks ago, when Kerry was on Bill Maher's HBO show.  At one point in the interview, Maher said something about him killing two birds with one stone, to which Kerry replied "maybe I could go to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (the White House) and kill the real bird with one stone."  Most people aren't even aware of this exchange.

So obviously, when John Kerry attempts to tell a "joke," it is only "not funny" if it can be twisted into a smear against American troops.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, who is taking umbrage at what Kerry said is a moron.  It is absolutely, completely, explicitly clear that Kerry was referring to Bush and Bush only.  Those bleating like sheep at how outrageous this is are doing one thing: trying to distract that American populace from the real issues that matter next week.  Every second spent on this non-issue is a second taken away from debate on the war, the ethics in Washington, etc. etc. etc.

There have been two distinct, different statements made in the past twenty-four hours by the two gentleman who ran for president in 2004.  Which of these statements do you find more offensive?

John Kerry: "You know, education -- if you make the most of it, you study hard and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."  

George W. Bush: "I want Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney to remain with me until the end of this presidency. Both those men are doing fantastic jobs and I strongly support them."

Again, which do you find more offensive? Kerry trying to imply that the president's strategy in Iraq has been idiotic, or Bush praising Rumsfeld, Cheney, and the job that they have done executing the war in Iraq?

I'm pretty sure next Tuesday we will see which statement America finds more offensive.  And I bet it isn't even close.