Friday, July 29, 2011

One Sentence Review of Crazy, Stupid, Love

Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling make a surprisingly believable bromantic couple in a romcom that manages to enjoyably play around with genre conventions without ultimately breaking them, and any movie is made better by the appearance of the always charming Marisa Tomei and the up and coming Emma Stone (the random inclusion of Kevin Bacon will make your next game of '6 Degrees' that much easier).

Friday Freakshow Roundup: Negative Net, Nobody, and Neo-Nazies

In the political news system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the Republicans who do insane things, and this blogger who mocks them. These are their stories:
  • As I mentioned earlier this week, Gay Barbarians invaded the Bachmann's Pray Away the Gay clinic throwing glitter in protest. Gay Tea Party activists are now calling on them to stop because they're embarrassing the gay rights movement. As opposed to being a Gay Tea Party activist, which is doing so much to help the gay community.
  • It would be a really cheap shot to point out that another one of Sarah Palin's kids has conceived a child out of wedlock. It would also be a cheap shot to mock the guy for being named Track. So instead I'm just going to point out that Palin's movie which cost more than a million dollars to make, has brought in less than $100,000 gross in it's first two weeks.
  • Speaking of terrible parents and $100,000 Tea Party darling Congressman Joe Walsh (R-IL) owes $100,000 in back child support. Because nothing says family values and fiscal responsibility like skipping out on your child support.
  • Jon Huntsman is completely overhauling his campaign strategy as a 'natural evolution' of his old plan, and not because he's polling within the margin of error of zero and his campaign manager just quit. Remember, Natural. Evolution.
  • Conservative Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) has identified the true victim of the recession: country club members. And if we don't protect the rich from 'class warfare', it may keep them from using their private jets to chauffeur their kids to summer camp. Won't somebody think of the children?
  • And just to get everyone's heart pumping before the weekend, Glenn Beck's thoughts on the Norway tragedy? A political summer camp sounds an awful lot like the Nazi Youth.
When you stop seeing red, I hope you have a great weekend. See you next week!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

An Ode to the Possible

I'm writing this while sitting on a bus headed towards Washington, DC. When I finish, with the press of a button this piece will be instantly available from wherever I am to everywhere in the world. A fact I can confirm if I so choose by looking on my phone which has a processor more powerful than the computers used to get man to the moon. And yet soon, for the first time since the 1960's, the United States will no longer possess the ability to go into space with the dismantling of the shuttle program. Increasingly public debate in this country has become not about the great things we can accomplish together, but rather those things we have been able to do in the past that we no longer can. We are told repeatedly by the Republicans that we can no longer afford to care for our sick and provide for our old, that in order to 'save' Medicare and Social Security we must destroy them. And the response from Democrats has not been a call to expand and better fund these programs, but largely instead to simply debate the size and types of cuts that our necessary.

I belong to the Party of FDR who brought us back from the Great Depression, turned us into a Superpower to win a World War, and established the social safety net. I belong to the Party of Kennedy who believed that we should do great things 'not because they are easy, but because they are hard' and of Johnson who did the hard work necessary to turn those dreams into reality. And too often I look at those who are leading our Party today and I do not see that vision, that drive, that will to do something great, but merely a desire to survive the political battles of today so that we will be around to attempt to survive the battles of tomorrow. And that's not how you win, that's not how you expand what is in the realm of the possible. That is simply the death of our Party's dream by a thousand cuts.

Instead of curtailing our space program, we should be going to Mars. Instead of raising the Medicare eligibility age, we should be lowering it. And instead of paying off our debt on the backs of the middle and the working classes, we should be reminding the public that the Bush tax cuts were largely responsible for that debt and their greatest beneficiaries are the ones who crashed our economy and now hoard their wealth in a jobless recovery. The Right will attack us no matter what we do, no matter how much we compromise our values. And so we should do these things and more because you cannot win people to your side without saying what your side is for, and no one will stand with someone who stands for nothing. We should do these things because our history is one of expanding what is politically possible through fighting for what we believe should be, not what is.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Terrific Tuesday Tidings: Dan, Debt, and the Demise of the Republican Party

It's Tuesday, and that means it's time for the next step in my ongoing quest to become a more positive person. Here are the news stories that actually made me like politics this week:
  • Starting a little slow, Dan Savage thinks that Obama's reversal on DOMA is a sign that Gay Rights are starting to become politically smart for Democrats to support. Which isn't as good as doing it because it's the right thing to do, but I'll take it.
  • Al Franken during Senate testimony discovered bigots one weakness: facts.
  • John Seavey over at Mightygodking had a Modest Proposal for the self proclaimed job creators and their lackeys in Congress.
Until next week, stay positive everyone! (and if something good happens, let me know)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Makeover: The Eraser

Lenny Fiasco, the man who would become the Eraser, first appeared in 1966's Batman #188. Lenny made a lot of mistakes in college, not so much bad life choices, as he was constantly making errors on tests and papers and had to correct them. This image of him was so common that the only time anyone could remember seeing him not holding an eraser in his hands was when he was crying watching Bruce Wayne take the girl he had a crush on to the ice festival.From that rather modest setback, Lenny Fiasco decided to dedicate himself to a life of crime so no one would ever laugh at him again, created a helmet that somehow erases all evidence from a crime scene, then dressed up as a pencil (how this ties into not getting laughed at I'm unsure), and started auctioning his criminal skills in the newspaper.This brought him to the attention of Batman who investigated him disguised as an organ grinder (Robin was dressed up as the monkey). Batman gets captured and brought back to the Eraser's hideout which is a recreation of the ice festival Bruce Wayne took Lenny's crush to (this is possibly the most insane thing any supervillain has ever done). Batman escapes, the Eraser goes to jail, and is promptly forgotten about by everyone except for a couple supervillain crowd shots.....until today.

I am actually unsure why the Eraser has not gotten more play than he has. Sure the costume is pretty lame, but there are worse out there and a talented artist could always do a redesign. Admittedly his origin is somehow bizarre and tame at the same time and a psuedo-magical evidence erasing helmet is weird, but who cares. The Eraser makes crimes impossible to solve in a city protected by the World's Greatest Detective. That's impressive and certainly more of a thematic tie to Batman than either Kite Man or Calendar Man ever had, even though both have had many more appearance than the poor Eraser. I don't want to overstate my case here, the Eraser is not and should not be an A-List villain like the Joker or Two Face, but if the Crime Doctor can go from a mob healer to go to torturer for the supervillain set and the Calculator can evolve from a guy in a silly costume into an evil information broker, why can't the Eraser be a B- or C-list villain who pops up every now and again? All that would really need to be tweaked are his origin and his costume.

Lenny Fiasco was the best forensic scientist the Gotham City Police Department had ever had, spotting clues that everyone else missed and cracking cases long thought cold. He was so good that no one even questioned it the few times he couldn't find any leads at a crime scene, 'if Fiasco couldn't make the case no one could' they'd say. And the first couple of times it happened that was true. But he had a taste for the finer things in life and soon all of the praise went to Lenny's head and he felt he deserved more than he was earning on his lab tech salary. So he started making evidence disappear for the mob and altering the results of tests to frame someone else, all for a fee of course. He didn't do it too often, and there were so many dirty cops in the GCPD it wasn't likely Internal Affairs was going to turn it's sights on the forensic scientist with the highest conviction rate in the City. And for a long time it worked, but eventually Batman dangled the wrong mobster off a building and Lenny's secret life was unveiled. Of course there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute, Lenny had made sure of that, but it was enough to get Commissioner Gordon to fire him. Unemployed and with no hope of getting new work in his field, he decided his only option was to embrace the satisfied criminal customers he'd done business with in the past. For 20% of the score, Lenny would follow the criminals on their heists and clean up after them. He shaved his head so he'd leave behind no hair and scoured his skin until it shined pink every day so there wouldn't be a speck of dead skin at a crime scene. In fact neither the police nor Batman could find anything at the crime scenes except for a business card with two words on it. Two words the press wouldn't be able to resist publishing, two words that would make sure Lenny Fiasco would have all the customers he could ever want: The Eraser.

Concept Art Provided by JJ Conway.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Freakshow Roundup: Movies, Mosques, and Murdoch

It's Friday, and that means it's time for another Roundup of the Freakshow we fondly call the conservative movement:
  • Sarah Palin's documentary opened to largely empty theaters this week, which seems like just another reason calling it "Undefeated" may have been a little absurd. At least Ron Paul's make believe movie sounds entertainingly crazy.
  • Showing that Republicans are always reasonable in a negotiation, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) pledges not to vote for a single dollar in tax increases no matter how much is cut from the budget.
  • Speaking of Republicans who must be smoking crack, David VanderLeest went down in a crushing 68-31 defeat in Wisconsin's first recall election.
  • Former Bush White House ethics lawyer thinks that RNC Chair Reince Priebus is an embarrassment to the Party for attacking Obama over a raffle. And when Bush's ETHICS lawyer thinks you're an embarrassment, you've really got to ask yourself what you're doing with your life.
  • Herman Cain sites the First Amendment as the reason we should have the right to ban mosques, which I'll at least grant is creatively insane.
  • Which makes this the perfect week for Mitt Romney to flip flop on the dangers of carbon emissions. While it's always heartwarming to see Republicans pandering to the anti-science crowd, this appeal to the lowest common denominator may come to late to keep him from hitting his own personal fundraising ceiling. Which is probably not where he wants to be as he continues to slip in the polls.
  • While I think that the argument that migraines should disqualify Michele Bachmann from being President is pretty sexist on it's face (and ignores the much stronger argument that her insanity should disqualify her), it did give Tim Pawlenty the opportunity to remind us that he doesn't even have the courage to stand by his attacks. I believe there's a word for a candidate that is trailing in the polls and can't be aggressive, and that word is loser.
  • Fox News' Eric Bolling can't remember any terrorist attacks on American soil under President Bush, which hopefully means they won't be covering whatever campaign stunt the Republicans pull in a month and a half on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.
That's it for this time, have a great weekend and I'll see you next Friday!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

6 Suggestions for the Next Batch of Superhero Flicks

The last decade has seen a huge resurgence of the superhero genre in cinema. And next summer is shaping up to be the biggest year yet with the culmination of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy in The Dark Knight Rises, a rebooting of the Superman and Spider-Man franchises in The Man of Steel and The Amazing Spider-Man, and Marvel Studios unprecedented superhero teamup/crossover movie The Avengers which they already plan to spin several new franchises out of. With franchises ending, being rebooted, and new ones hopefully created, I have a few suggestions for Hollywood on how to keep the genre fresh and bringing in the dollars:

1. Tell New Stories, Not Origins
No, I don't mean you can't adapt classic comic stories, in fact you should probably do that more often. What I do mean is that with several franchises reaching their conclusion and rebooting in the next few years, studios should not feel compelled to retell the origin stories of our heroes just because they're pretending that the older movies didn't happen as they appear to be doing with The Amazing Spider-Man. Sam Raimi's Spider-Man came out in 2002 and was one of the biggest summer action blockbuster movies of all time. The general public is aware of the basic 'loser bit by spider, gains powers, loses uncle, learns responsibility' narrative. It's a classic precisely because it's so relatively simple. You can even review it during the opening credit sequence for those who have been living under a rock or were too young to catch it the first time around. Don't believe it can be done? Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely did Superman's origin in 4 panels and 8 words for their opening of All Star Superman. Anyone who can't do the same over the course of two minutes at the start of the film probably shouldn't be working on the character to begin with.

2. The Fantastic Four are not Batman
This one's probably going to be the hardest for Hollywood to accept. I honestly believe that almost any comic book superhero could be turned into a great successful movie franchise, but that doesn't mean that those films should look anything like each other. Case in point: After the success of the first two X-Men films and Batman Begins, Fox released Fantastic Four as a dark gritty character drama. Now the X-Men are a parable about persecution and Batman basically is the definition of dark and gritty, but the Fantastic Four are supposed to be, well....fantastic. Putting aside that Fantastic Four simply wasn't as good a movie as the other three, the tone was simply wrong for the property. At it's core, the Fantastic Four are about a family with incredible powers having larger than life impossible science fiction adventures. Iron Man, The Incredibles, and about a hundred other summer blockbusters prove that you can make a huge blockbuster off that premise. Make the movie around the characters, and whether it's gritty or larger than life, it can be a success.

Bonus Content: My pitch for a Fantastic Four movie? They travel back in time to the Dark Ages to stop Dr. Doom from teaming up with Morgan Le Fey and taking over the world. At some point the Human Torch fights a dragon.

3. Steal from James Bond
When I was little, I remember marathoning all of the James Bond movies with my dad. While they've all pretty much blurred together for me at this point, I still remember my favorite part of all of them was the opening scene. Each movie began with Bond finishing up with some other case he was working on in a spectacular action sequence that would end up having nothing to do with the plot for the rest of the film. But it always opened the movie with a bang, and reminded you that Bond was a badass who had a whole lot of adventures offscreen. Which is one of the things I've always loved about comic books, if you pick up an issue you're jumping in in the middle of a story that stretches back to the 1930s. A good writer will always make sure you have enough information to know generally who the characters are, what their relationships are like, and what motivates them, but beyond that if you're interested in learning more, you should go read more comics. It's that expansive history and depth that superhero movies can tap into that makes them different from other action movies.

Which brings us back to James Bond. Starting in medias res is a great way to hook your audience in quickly and ensure they stay on the edge of their seat. Superheroes lend themselves to this perfectly, chiefly because they have so many villains that for one reason or another make poor choices as lead antagonists for a movie. Take Spider-Man's villain The Rhino for example. He has super-strength, an indestructible rhino costume, and isn't very bright. I have trouble imagining how he could carry a film as a villain. But a 5-10 minute action sequence of Spider-Man desperately trying to stop him as he makes his way through midtown Manhattan after a bank robbery by ramming through buildings? That sounds a hell of a lot more interesting to me than whatever scene of Peter Parker getting bullied is going to be used to kick off The Amazing Spider-Man next summer.

4. Don't Kill the Villains
In the same vain as implying that there are other villains and adventures for our heroes that we don't see, there's no reason to kill off supervillains at the end of the movie except that that's what happens at the end of every other action film. But superhero movies shouldn't just be generic action films. Part of the fun of comic books is the omnipresent threat that no matter how well things are going for the hero, at any time their villains could return and ruin everything. Even if there's no intention of ever following up on it (and Heath Ledger dying pretty much ended any chance of it), the Joker's ending in The Dark Knight is far more satisfying than his death in Burton's Batman.

5. Give Some Other Villains a Chance, Lex Luthor
Now I'm a huge fan of Lex Luthor. I think he makes a perfect foil for Superman and the man versus god dynamic is the stuff of legend. But he's been the main villain in all 5 Superman movies to date. Which is excessive even before you consider the fact that as a regular human being he poses absolutely no physical threat to Superman in what is supposed to be an action movie. Batman Begins proved that you could make a successful film without a villain with wide name recognition with the obscure one-two punch of Scarecrow and Ra's al Ghul. With almost 80 years of stories to draw on it's true not every supervillain is going to be a winner, but by the same token it means there are plenty of options to choose from. And using a lesser known villain gives you the opportunity to raise the stakes in the sequel. Just as Begins was great with unknown villains, The Dark Knight credibly escalated the franchise by being able to use the Joker and Two Face. There are some great characters in every superhero's rogues gallery just waiting for their shot at the big screen, and Hollywood should give some of them a chance (if for no other reason than the chance to sell some new toys).

Bonus Content: My pitch for a Superman movie? Brainiac invades the Earth from outer space and Superman has to save us. From there it pretty much plays out like Independence Day only with Clark Kent playing the Jeff Goldblum nerdy investigator role, and Superman as an amalgam of Will Smith and Bill Pullman (the only thing cooler than the President giving this speech, is if Superman gave it). Also Superman gets to actually punch someone.

6. If You're Not Pulling a Marvel, Pull A Christopher Nolan
I'll start by saying I'm a huge fan of what Marvel Studios is doing with it's films, creating a massive shared world all leading up to The Avengers next summer. It's ambitious, unprecedented, and something unique that the superhero genre can do that other's can't. And for the life of me I can't really understand why Warner Brothers hasn't gotten it's act together and done the same thing given that they own DC Comics and the film rights to all of it's characters, including the Justice League. That said, Warner Brothers doesn't seem to want to go in that direction, and other studios don't have the option (X-Men's rights are owned by Fox, while Spider-Man is owned by Sony for example). So if you can't or won't go the Marvel Studios 'shared universe' route, you need to model your franchises on Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. No, I'm not recommending aping his style (see Suggestion No. 1), but rather having one core cast and director tell a self contained story over a set number of films and then be done and reboot with a new cast, a new director, and a new creative vision. If you don't, you end up with the disappointment that was X-Men: Last Stand or the film which almost killed the entire genre, Batman and Robin.

Accept that Bryan Singer did a great grim and gritty X-Men in his two films, and instead of bringing in someone else to try to keep his version going (Brett Ratner with X-Men: Last Stand), give someone else a chance to try something different (Matthew Vaughn's period piece X-Men: First Class). Christopher Nolan has given us a perfect 'Dark Knight' interpretation of Batman, but there's a lot his Batman can't do. He can't be the colorful 'Caped Crusader' fighting freaks and monsters like Clayface, Killer Croc, or Mr. Freeze. And he can't be the headliner in the Dynamic Duo, teaching a young boy how to deal with his loss instead of being consumed by it. When Nolan finishes his Batman saga next summer, Warner Brothers should find someone with a different (but equally valid) interpretation of Batman to steer the franchise rather than try to clone his success.

Regardless of whether Hollywood takes any of my advice, I do hope they keep making superhero movies though, because even when they're not great, they can still make us believe that a man can fly:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Terrific Tuesday Tidings: It's Me, Only Optimistic

I've been writing the Friday Freakshow Roundup of crazy conservative news stories for about a month now. Then the other day, I was talking to a friend and she mentioned how much she enjoyed it, but she wondered why I didn't also write a weekly post about all the great things that liberals were doing so that I wouldn't have to be so negative all the time. After I got done laughing at the idea of elected Democrats doing things that would make me proud, I thought about it, and promised I'd give it a try.

Originally, I confess, the joke of this first Terrific Tuesday Tidings post was going to be that I couldn't find a single positive news story that made me happy or hopeful in the past week. Instead it turns out that the joke is that I only found one:
  • Family Law Judges in New York are going into work this Sunday so that gay couples will be able to get married on the first day it's legal in the state. That's pretty cool.
Aaaand that's it for this week. Clearly I'm going to need some help with this whole 'optimistic outlook on politics' thing, so if you see any progressive leaders winning major victories or just being generally badass let me know. Maybe with your help by this time next week I'll have smiled twice while reading the news, stranger things have happened.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Makeover: Signalman

Phillip Cobb came to Gotham in 1957's Batman #112 with a dream of becoming the biggest crime boss the city had ever seen. It was not the most normal or constructive dream, but it was his and it was crushed by criminals who refused to work for him because they'd never heard of him and preferred to work for more mainstream crime bosses like the Joker or Two Face. Dejected, Phillip was prepared to walk straight out of town, but on his way he looked up in the sky, saw the Bat Signal shining in the sky, and came up with a plan. He would "use signals to give Batman clues to his crimes, and then he would use other signals to commit those crimes." And so by becoming Signalman, Phillip Cobb would be able to gain the respect of the criminal community and fulfill his lifelong dream. Unfortunately after meeting with some initial success (including stealing the Batboat and trapping Batman inside the Bat Signal somehow), he came to be known mostly as the guy who kept getting punched in the face by Batman and then sent to jail. Undeterred, Signalman spent his time in prison taking notes from his cellmate, Green Arrow villain Bulls-Eye. Upon escaping, he resumed his criminal career this time stealing Green Arrow's trick arrow gimmick and calling himself the Blue Bowman. Shockingly, this didn't really slow Batman down at all, and after getting sent back to prison he decided to stick to being just Signalman. He then spent most of the last 40 years in the background of shots of the Secret Society of Supervillains, occasionally being made fun of for having an ampersand on his cape. Oh, and then he was turned into a drug addict snitch before being tortured to death by Phobia and Dr. Moon (violent and pointless death's are becoming a common theme for character's that earn a Makeover).

There's a lot of work needed to turn Signalman into a credible character. For starters he has no motivation for becoming a criminal in the first place, is laughed at by henchman when he suggests he's up to the job, and then takes the Bat Signal, an omnipresent reminder that crime doesn't pay in Gotham City, as his inspiration for a career in supervillainy. His costume is regularly made fun of in the comics, and he didn't even have the dedication to stick with it. And ultimately all writers could think to do with him is turn him into a drug addict and then murder him. So what's to be done?

Phil Cobb grew up wanting just one thing, to be famous. When he was in elementary school he wanted to be the quarterback for the Gotham Knights, in high school he wanted to be a rockstar, and in college he applied to be on every reality tv show he could find. By the time he dropped out he was no closer to being famous then he had been in kindergarten. Stuck in a string of dead end jobs, Cobb was despondent. He'd even started to consider elaborate ways to kill himself, figuring at least he might gain some notoriety post-mortem, when something magical happened. A killer clown threatened to poison the city's reservoir, then a disfigured DA kidnapped the mayor's twins, and a man covered in question marks hacked every computer in town to display cryptic clues to which bank he would rob next. Soon there were dozens of these colorful characters filling up the evening news, and Phil Cobb finally knew what he needed to do to become famous. He would become a supervillain. Without an ideology or obsession beyond fame to guide him, he created the most garish costume he could thing of to draw attention to himself. And he knew that the best way to grab the front page was to fight Batman, so like the Riddler he left clues so that Batman would be able to figure out where he would be. And since he wasn't trying to prove how smart he was, he made them simple so that hopefully the press would figure them out too. Just a couple covers on Gotham Weekly, maybe a video recorded on a victim's cellphone that goes viral on Youtube, and he'd finally be famous. Signalman was born, and hopefully the groupies would follow.
Concept Art provided by JJ Conway.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What Song Can a Republican Presidential Candidate Play?

Earlier this month Tom Petty asked Michelle Bachmann to stop using "American Girl" as her campaign theme song. In fairness she is just the most recent in a long line of Republican Presidential Candidates getting their wrists slapped for using the songs of liberal artists without their permission. John McCain had to stop using Mellencamp's "Our Country" in 2008, Sting stung George W. Bush in 2000 for using "Brand New Day" without his permission, Bob Dole had to stop using his parody version of "Soul Man" in 1996, George H.W. Bush had to stop using "Don't Worry, Be Happy" in 1988, and most famously, Bruce Springsteen blasted Ronald Reagan in 1984 for using "Born in the USA".

Adding insult to Republican injury, popular musicians tend to flock to Democratic Presidential Candidates. The band Fleetwood Mac famously even reunited to play at Bill Clinton's inauguration after he used their song "Don't Stop" during his campaign. Given the importance of a campaign song to set the tone for your campaign, inspire supporters, and crystalize your message, Republicans are left in the unenviable position of having to choose between using a liberal artist's popular song and getting attacked for it or going with some Country Singer or Ted Nugent. I want to help, and since I don't listen to country and am scared of Ted Nugent I'm left recommending songs that happen to be in my iPod right now. And so without further ado, my recommendations for the 2012 Republican Presidential Candidates:

Mitt Romney
The Bravery - "An Honest Mistake": Sure he's the early frontrunner in the field, but when even Tim Pawlenty can come up with a zinger like 'ObamneyCare", you know he's going to run into problems with his Massachusetts Healthcare Program. As is so often the case, he needs to just get out ahead of it and admit it was just an honest mistake. Plus the song is catchy.

Jon Huntsman
Abba - "Take a Chance on Me": Given that his entire campaign strategy is seemingly based around Mitt Romney being abducted by aliens before the New Hampshire primary, it only seems fitting for Huntsman to have a campaign song who's opening lyrics are: "If you change your mind/I'm the first in line."

Rick Santorum
Avenue Q - "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist": Sure a song from a musical is an unconventional choice, but Rick Santorum is an unconventional candidate. And after recently signing a pledge stating that African-American children were better off under slavery because at least their parents were married then, reaching out to the little racist inside every primary voter is probably his only shot.

Herman Cain
Herman Cain - "This is the Day": Herman Cain holds the unique advantage of being the only candidate to have released his own album, and clearly he should take advantage of it. I think "This is the Day" sounds the most Presidential, but it's a tough call.

Ron Paul
Abba - "Money, Money, Money": Yes, I realize this is the second Abba song on the list. What can I say, I like Abba. Ron Paul wants to abolish the Fed and all government regulations. Tell me that's not a Rich Man's World. And if you really question this choice, just watch the random flashes of gold coins in that music video.

Tim Pawlenty
Green Day - "Reject": Tim Pawlenty has got to be jealous that Michelle Bachmann is the politician from Minnesota that's getting all of the attention in this race. And as the song says, his only chance of winning is that "when the smoke clears, here I am/Your reject All-American."

Newt Gingrich
Barenaked Ladies - "If I Had a Million Dollars": I honestly didn't notice the irony of picking a Barenaked Ladies song for Gingrich until I started typing this. Instead I just felt that this slow meandering song about what two stoners would do if they had a million dollars was the perfect metaphor for Newt Gingrich's slow meandering campaign that is less likely to win than those two stoners, who also happens to be a million dollars in debt. But you should feel free to insert a joke about Gingrich's affairs with Barenaked Ladies here.

Michelle Bachmann
Gnarles Barkley - "Crazy": And we come back full circle to Michelle Bachmann. Why should she choose this song? Because she is actually insane.

Entertained Organizer
Bonnie Tyler - "Holding Out for a Hero": No, I'm not declaring my candidacy for the Republican Presidential Nomination, but if I ever ran for elected office this would absolutely be my campaign song. The lyrics are vaguely fitting, you can't help but get pumped listening to it, and there's a chance people might start referring to me as "a street-wise Hercules", and I would be ok with that.

So what's your campaign theme song?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Freakshow Roundup: Gilligan's Island, Gay Marriage, and Gospel Music

You take the good, you take the bad, and there you have....more Republican crazy:
  • Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) kicked off the week by by making the rather shocking claim that all multi-millionaires aren't like Thurston Howell from Gilligan's Island and we shouldn't tax the truly poor like those making only $200,000. The next day, Sherwood Schwartz, the creator of Gilligan's Island, died at 94. Hopefully the two are unrelated, but Sen. Hatch should probably be more careful about the stupid analogies he chooses to make from the floor of the Senate.
  • Newt Gingrich refused to sign a controversial Iowa Family Values Group's Anti-Gay Marriage Pledge, possibly after realizing that the clause stating that married people have better sex was referring to the married couple themselves, and not him and whatever staffer he was cheating on his wife with this month.
  • In news that absolutely no one was waiting for, Rudy Giuliani plans to announce whether or not he's going to run for President again very soon.
  • In other Bachmann news, her church claims that the Pope is the Anti-Christ. Which given the latest revelations about the Vatican's coverup of even more child molestations in Ireland, isn't even close to the craziest thing on this list.
  • Speaking of women who are running for President, Sarah Palin's PAC has hired a company named Republican Presidential Travel to fly her around the country. I'm sure no one should read anything into that.
  • Proving once again that no one is more gracious in defeat than the Republicans, the RNCC released a statement on Janice Hahn's special election victory stating that she "is adding to the pollution in the swamp of Washington corruption built by Nancy Pelosi's Democrats." Stay classy Republicans, stay classy.
  • And finally, if any of this has disturbed you, just let the dulcet tones of Herman Cain's recently released Gospel Music Album soothe you into a relaxing weekend.
If I survive Carmageddon, I'll see you all next week!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

West Wing Wednesday

Dr. Laura is off the radio and Glenn Beck is off TV. I wonder if they're still allowed into the monthly meeting of the Ignorant Tightass Club?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday Makeover: Kite Man

Charles "Chuck" Brown (his name is the first clue that he's going to be pathetic) was fascinated with kites as a small child, and that was all the motivation he needed to begin his super villain career as Kite Man in 1960's Batman #133. Most notable for his rocket propelled hang-glider, he used a variety of gimmicky kite weapons to rob penthouses and break criminals out of jail. He was regularly stopped by Batman (naturally using a bat-shaped hang-glider) and accidentally crashing into trees. And that was pretty much it for Kite Man, after a couple of appearances in the 60s and 70s, he could pretty much only be found somewhere in the background of crowd shots of super villains. Eventually Deathstroke killed him by throwing him off a building without his kites for refusing to join the Secret Society of Super Villains. He was then killed again a few years later for refusing to join Intergang. Yes, two different writers both went looking for a disposable super villain to kill and thought of Kite Man, and the second one didn't bother to check that he was already dead.

Kite Man's flaws as a character are numerous. We can start with him choosing a life of crime because of a fascination with kites. While a love of kites is a bit odd in a grown man, nothing about it actually suggests a need to commit crimes. And if you're going to be a super villain, a pink and yellow costume isn't exactly awe inspiring and the green version isn't a huge improvement. And like a lot of the weaker villain concepts, he also has no clear reason to be Batman's villain as opposed to any other superhero's, and obviously any character killed off twice to prove a point is in desperate need of a makeover. So what can be done to help Kite Man out?

Charles Brown was born rich. His parents largely ignored him, bouncing him from boarding school to boarding school and between tutors and nannies. He started shoplifting as a cry for attention but quickly grew addicted to the thrill it gave him. When he was eventually caught, his parents' money kept the store owner from pressing charges, and his father's beating dissuaded him from trying it again. The hunger for adrenaline was still there though. He found substitutes of course--mountain climbing, the x-games, MMA fighting--though he quickly grew bored with each. After his parents died and he inherited a fortune, Charles upped the ante. He raced fast cars, picked fights in bars, and set the record for the longest freefall in skydiving history. But eventually even that stopped giving him the rush he needed. All hope seemed lost until one day he turned on the tv and saw a man in a mask jumping off rooftops, and he knew what he needed to do. His family's resources bought him all the high tech equipment he could dream of, a lifetime of thrill seeking had given him the training, and Batman would provide all the adrenaline he could ever want. Kite Man was born.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Dark Seedy Underbelly of "You've Got Mail"

I have a startling confession to make, I secretly enjoy Romantic Comedies. Just as I take comfort in the predictability of alien invasion movies--the sure knowledge that just as humanity seems doomed, someone will give an inspiring speech and then we'll defeat the impossibly superior alien menace--there's something about turning off my brain for an hour and a half assured that no matter how monumental the obstacle or how amusingly mismatched the protagonists, in a Romantic Comedy love will inevitably conquer all. Which is all a long rambling segue into the fact that I was bored yesterday afternoon and rewatched You've Got Mail and was reminded of just how deeply disturbing that movie is.

The film starts off normally enough for a Romantic Comedy, Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) and Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) are two New Yorkers stuck in pleasant enough but dead end relationships that have lead them to find each other anonymously online as NY152 and Shopgirl. We're of course not supposed to feel bad for either of their partners as Kathleen's pretentious boyfriend (played as only Greg Kinnear can) will find an equally pretentious new girl and Joe's girlfriend is simply obnoxious (and therefore not someone we should feel bad for in these movies).

No, their significant others are not the obstacle for these two star crossed lovers, but rather that unknown to each other, Joe owns the giant corporate Fox Books chain that is opening up across the street from Kathleen's independent bookstore "The Shop Around the Corner" and will soon put her out of business (ironically, the same internet that brought them together is now putting the big book chains out of business). They both hate each other instantly upon first meeting in real life while still exchanging heartfelt anonymous messages online. Classic romantic comedy setup. But then it takes a sharp and creepy turn.

In a normal Romantic Comedy, supporting characters would realize what was going on and slowly orchestrate the reveal to the two characters. That's not what happens in You've Got Mail. Instead upon setting up a real life rendezvous between NY152 and Shopgirl, Joe figures out what's going on and after initially being conflicted decides to trick her into falling in love with him in real life. Basically, he uses his position of anonymous online confidant to engineer situations for them to bump into each other in real life and have things to talk about. NY152 refuses to meet her in person because he's "in the middle of a project that needs...tweaking," while he toys with her emotions both on and offline. In a remarkable and disturbing moment of personal honesty, Joe explains exactly what NY152 is doing:
"The timing here is everything, he's waiting until you're primed you see. He's waiting until you're sure there's no other man you could possibly love."
Which is of course both exactly what he is doing AND completely psychotic. You cannot and should not manipulate someone into being with you. We have names for people who try, chiefly stalker and abusive partner. Now it's a Romantic Comedy, so it ends with her exclaiming that she always wanted it to be him, as opposed to the more likely reality of her being terrified and him chaining her up in his boat until eventually dumping her body in the Atlantic.

I realize that this is more thought than a movie created by Time Warner to promote AOL (who they were merging with) probably deserves. But I get creeped out every time Tom Hanks 'just happens' to bump into Meg Ryan, and that's not what a Romantic Comedy should do. If you are looking for an actually good RomCom that you probably haven't seen before, I'd strongly recommend Definitely, Maybe.

You may judge me now.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Freakshow Roundup: Sweatshops, Pilots, and White Supremacists

Just because the week was short doesn't mean that we're short on Republican crazy:
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry is set to execute a Mexican national in defiance of international treaties, possibly in an attempt to cement the fact that he's not as compassionate or as prone to compromise as his mentor former President George W. Bush. Because that's how I remember him.
  • Newt Gingrich has found an interesting spin for his campaign staff quitting on him: since he doesn't have to pay their salaries anymore, it won't take him long to pay off his campaign's million dollar fundraising deficit. Maybe he should look into taking out another line of credit at Tiffany's?
  • Jon Huntsman's son was caught on camera cheering at one of Mitt Romney's rallies, possibly after visiting and realizing if his dad was disorganized enough to let that happen, he was never going to win.
  • Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) said that he would vote to raise the debt ceiling provided Congress first passed a balanced budget amendment that would prevent Congress from raising the debt ceiling. If the leadership doesn't cede to his demands (or understand them) he plans to filibuster every piece of legislation in the Senate.
  • In other Senate news, James Inhofe (R-OK) wants to create a Pilots Bill of Rights to prevent the FAA from stripping pilots of their license for say.....nearly killing a construction crew trying to land on a closed runway after being warned off by the tower, also known as pulling an Inhofe.
  • White Supremecists are gearing up to run for office in 2012. And David Duke is seriously considering a run for the Presidency. I know there's supposed to be a joke here, but I confess I get to the phrase "white civil rights advocates" and my brain just kind of shuts down.
  • Which is apparently exactly what Karl Rove wants to happen, as his Super-PAC just started releasing ads with subliminal messages.
  • If you're looking for something to do this weekend, maybe you can join Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his law clerks for their annual viewing of The Fountainhead. That would be the movie whose hero rapes a woman before blowing up a building for including too much affordable housing and getting off at trial by giving an impassioned speech about property rights. To be fair, this does help explain a lot of his rulings.
Have a great weekend everybody!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bachmann and Romney: A Woman Crazy Enough to Win and A Man Without a Country

The 2012 Republican Primary has been shaping up to be every bit as insane as liberals could have hoped for. Between Donald “Birther” Trump, the CEO of Godfather Pizza, and the complete implosion of Newt Gingrich we’ve already been taken on quite a rollercoaster ride. And as the real race starts to pick up, it’s only going to get wilder, because I think Michele Bachmann just may win this thing. Now here me out. Yes Bachmann wants to bring back the House Un-American Activities Committee, and yes she thinks that gay people are possessed by Satan, and no none of that will matter to Republican primary and caucus voters. Instead look at the dynamics of the race.

Romney is undoubtedly the frontrunner right now having never stopped campaigning from 2008. But his failure to close in Iowa last time coupled with his decision not to go all in there this time means that the earliest he can hope to lock down the nomination will be in New Hampshire. And that presents a two-fold problem for him. First, it guarantees that the media will create a Not-Romney candidate, almost certainly the winner of Iowa. Coronations are never good for ratings, and after the excitement of the Clinton/Obama slugfest in 2008 they’re going to want a repeat. And second, because New Hampshire is such an ideal state for Romney, his frontrunner status, universal name recognition, and vaunted fundraising prowess it’s going to be almost impossible for him to exceed expectations there, and indeed it may be difficult for him to even meet them.

As recently as four months ago his campaign was predicting that he’d raise $50 million by the end of the second quarter. Official numbers will be released on Friday, but campaign sources are saying he’s raised less than half of that, and probably less than $20 million. Being the frontrunner this far out also means that every other Republican in the race will be gunning for him over the next six months, and between Romneycare, his admitting that global warming is both real and caused by man, and his recent stumble over whether Obama’s stimulus was effective or not, they’ll have plenty of ammunition. Which has had the cumulative effect of him dropping 12 points from 37% to 25% in New Hampshire over the last three months. And his universal name recognition means most people have already made up their mind about him and he has an uphill battle to improve support.

So what about the potential Not-Romney’s? Tim Pawlenty seemed a solid choice, except he is the most boring man alive and proved himself unwilling to press his advantage in the last debate. I’ve had nightmares about a Huntsman/Rubio ticket in 2016 for the last few years, but with the stink of his time in the Obama administration still fresh and his bizarre decision to completely skip Iowa and the name recognition it could bring, at best he steals 5-10% of Romney’s vote in New Hampshire. Herman Cain is quickly collapsing as his staff quits him in Iowa because apparently being CEO of a Pizza Company did not actually teach him anything about campaigning. Ron Paul is Ron Paul. And Newt Gingrich is currently polling with the margin of error of zero.

Which leaves us with Michele Bachmann. A prodigious fundraiser originally hailing from Iowa and serving in Congress from a neighboring state give her a hometown advantage there that is magnified by evangelical and tea party roots being a perfect fit for the Hawkeye State. That’s enough to get her statistically tied in Iowa with Romney for the last month. Add in Republican campaign strategist extraordinaire Ed Rollins and his 2008 team that led Mike Huckabee to a shocking first place finish in Iowa and suddenly she has the makings of an impressive victory there. Which then takes her on to New Hampshire, where while Romney has dropped 12 points over the last three months, she’s shot up 14 to 18%. With room to grow on her name recognition in the state coupled with being the logical inheritor of Cain and Gingrich supporters after Iowa, all it would take was Huntsman over performing expectations there to drag Romney down enough for a surprise upset in the Granite State. Even in the more likely scenario where she simply comes in a strong second, she’ll head strong into South Carolina whose evangelical voter base will favor her over Romney. Leaving her going into the Nevada Caucus 2-1 against Romney, who will be pitting his Mormon roots against her superior voter enthusiasm, which in a caucus can be deadly. Romney’s whole campaign has been based off him being an inevitable juggernaut that the Republican base was just going to have to accept. If he goes into Super Tuesday against a well-funded Tea Party darling it’s anyone’s guess what happens next.

Now a lot can change in the next 6 months, and either Palin or Perry entering the race would throw a huge wrench into Bachmann’s plan. But with Intrade having Bachmann at only 17.5% if I had any money I’d be betting on that going up significantly before this is over. And if I were Romney, I’d be on the phone to Wasilla, Alaska.

West Wing Wednesday

Why exactly are Democrats seriously considering any deal that includes Medicare and Social Security cuts?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day Everyone

Monday Makeover: Killer Moth

The villain known as Killer Moth started his career in 1951’s Batman #63. It was much later revealed that his real name was Drury Walker, but originally he was known only by his prison serial number, 234026 (and it’s always a good sign when a writer doesn’t bother to think up a name for his characters). Upon being released from prison, he used the hidden proceeds from his previous crimes to fund two new identities. By day he would be millionaire philanthropist Cameron van Cleer, and by night he would be Killer Moth, the Batman of the underworld. Putting aside the gimmicky Moth-Signal, Moth Mobile, and the Moth Cave, the idea was actually pretty clever. For a cut of the proceeds from a heist, Killer Moth would fight Batman while the criminals got away. Even more impressively he not only once but twice figured out that Batman is really Bruce Wayne (a lucky gunshot wound to the head caused him to forget, hey it was the Silver Age). Basically he kept up a decent career as a C-List villain (including creating his own team of C-List villains, the Misfits), until the 90s. The 90s were not kind to Killer Moth. In an effort to prove how grim and gritty comics were, Killer Moth made a literal deal with the Devil in order to become powerful and intimidating. Shocking exactly no one, except Killer Moth, the Devil did not grant his wish in the way he expected. Instead, Killer Moth was turned into a giant acid-drooling mindless moth monster named Charaxes. Future writers realized that there’s not actually a lot of story potential for a giant acid-drooling mindless moth monster named Charaxes, and basically ignored him until eventually he was ripped in half by an evil Superman from a parallel dimension. Yes, that’s actually what happened.

There’s a lot to pick on as bad when it comes to Killer Moth. Putting aside the name itself, nothing about an orange, purple, and green costume screams Killer MOTH, as opposed to say a rodeo clown. And his gimmick essentially makes him a poor man’s Batman that intentionally picks fights with the Caped Crusader that he can’t win, so it became very easy for him to spiral down into becoming something of a punchline. Oh ya, and then he was turned into a giant acid-drooling mindless moth monster named Charaxes. That didn’t help him in the not-lame department either.

But here’s the thing, I actually really like Killer Moth. Underneath the terrible costume and even worse stories is a good idea. At his core, what do we know about Drury Walker? Before getting sent to prison he managed to steal millions and successfully hide it. And when he gets out, he’s smart enough to come up with a new criminal enterprise that’s unlikely to actually get him sent back to prison. After all, while assaulting Batman is technically a crime, it’s not like he’s going to stick around to file a complaint, and since he doesn’t actually take part in the heist there won’t be any physical evidence to link him to it. As long as the thieves get away, there’s no one to actually tie him to the crime at all. And while incredibly stupid, asking the Devil for respect points to a very humanizing insecurity.

My Drury Walker is smart and strong and things have always come easily for him. He squirreled away a modest fortune as a mercenary. On the outside, life looked pretty good for him, but inside he felt empty. Since things had always come easily for him, he didn’t really feel like he’d earned his success. A part of him knew it was a mistake to let his friends talk him into being extra muscle on that bank heist, but a bigger part wanted to watch his life burn to ash. And the Batman was there, bigger and better to make sure he succeeded. Prison didn’t help his depression. Sure when he got out he created the Cameron van Cleer identity, a chance to have a fresh start and enjoy his wealth. But deep down he still didn’t feel like he deserved it. And that’s where Killer Moth was born. It’s a smart scheme, skimming off the top of other criminals’ hauls. But that’s not why he does it. Joker does what he does to try to drive Batman insane, Catwoman to seduce him, and Riddler to prove he’s smarter. Killer Moth does what he does because it guarantees that he’ll go toe to toe with Batman, so he can lose. Because Batman’s the only one good enough to beat him and that’s the only way for him to validate his low self-esteem. And so he’s drawn back over and over again like a moth to the flame, hoping to get burned.

It’s a good thing the psychiatrist at Arkham are terrible, because if he just got over his depression, he’d be truly dangerous.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday Freakshow Roundup: Serial Killers, Stranglers, and Fashion Advice

Another week older and what did I get? More Republican crazy:
  • Glenn Beck hosted his last show on television. Like any other news program, he admitted that The Glenn Beck Show bought chalk by the tub.
  • Michele Bachmann officially kicked off her campaign in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa. Starting a campaign in a town called Waterloo isn't actually the funny part. No, that would be when she said she hoped to bring the spirit of another famous Waterloo resident, John Wayne, to the campaign trail. Only problem, the famous John Wayne from Waterloo would be serial killer John Wayne Gacy, not the movie star. Really brings a new meaning to the phrase 'killer campaign instinct.'
  • In other Bachmann news, Bristol Palin called her out for stealing Sarah Palin's look. Because Palin was of course the first female politician to ever wear a red top. One can only hope that this gets settled once and for all in a Walk Off, Zoolander style.
  • Not to be outdone, Texas Governor Rick Perry let it be known that he thinks Medicaid, the Clean Air Act and School Assistance are all unconstitutional. If he hopes this might boost his chances jumping into the Republican Primary late, he might want to look at this poll which says that Obama would even beat him in his home state.
  • Conservative commentators let it be known that removing tax breaks on corporate jets is class warfare, while eliminating Medicare and Social Security is just fiscally responsible.
  • It came out that recently re-elected Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser is under investigation for attempting to strangle a fellow Justice during deliberations over the constitutionality of Governor Walker's union busting bill. Understanding the need to appear calm and rational after such accusations, he followed it up by ripping a microphone out of the hands of a reporter trying to ask him questions.
  • Speaking of which, Governor Walker admitted that maybe the reason people are upset with his union busting is that he gave no indication it was coming. Fortunately, voters are likely to get a do over as signatures for his recall can start being collected in November.
  • Last and certainly least, Thaddeus McCotter is planning to announce his intention to run for the Republican nomination. If you're anything like me and assumed that Thaddeus McCotter was a Confederate general you learned about in high school, you'd be wrong. He's the Michigan Congressman who gave this valuable lesson on translating "Democrat Speak". My personal favorite is that when we say "diplomacy" what we really mean is "magic," if only because I'm pretty sure that means Hillary Clinton is the Headmaster of Hogwarts.
Enjoy the long weekend everybody!