Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Game of I Can't Wait

April 1st, it returns. Here's the longest look yet:

It's already been up on the Net for a few days, so please forgive me.

And, to be sure, War is Coming.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Garage Burner

By no coincidence, on the very day of the Michigan primary, where Romney and Santorum battle to see who will lose to President Obama in November, the President spoke to the United Auto Workers with a refreshing barnburner of a speech that calls out the arguments made by the GOP candidates that we should not have bailed out the auto industry in the crash they helped create. (Or maybe that we should have done it their way, or maybe we did do it their way -- depending on the day that these guys, particularly Romney, are speaking.)

I sure hope to hear more like this as we close in on November:

Willard or Rick or some non-declared GOP candidate? It only matters to the Party itself -- the Party of Failed Ideas.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Haley's Coming

Haley Reinhart, my favorite American Idol contestant to date, has her first album coming out in March. In the meantime, she's singing "Wild Horses" to Muhammad Ali on his birthday with Slash and Myles Kennedy:


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Almost Surprise-less

I started this blog six years ago on another Oscar night, when Crash won Best Picture, surprising some who thought Brokeback Mountain had it in the bag. So without any further adieu, here's my notes on tonights Academy Awards.

If there were any surprises at this year's Oscar ceremony, they were:

(1) The Artist did not sweep all it's nominated categories, losing a number to Hugo (while retaining the big ones)

(2) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo won two of it's categories, in both Film and Sound Editing, not too shabby

(3) While not a 100% surprise, I think after the SAG Award win by Viola Davis for Best Female Actor (The Help) there was some expectation that this fine actress would finally be rewarded with Oscar gold, especially since her movie has a Best Picture nomination and that of the victor did not. However, Meryl Streep finally won again 30 years after her previous win for Sophie's Choice and I think it was due to five factors.

  • Most importantly, she played a significant historical figure convincingly and aged tremendously in the role as well. That's pretty much a recipe for an acting Oscar.
  • Second, the 17 nominations have been touted heavily this year, pushed by producer Harvey Weinstein and his p.r. machine, so it's a bit of a career award as well.
  • Third, The Help has taken some hits from the left tarred as being too Civil Right-light. I think this is unfair considering how Hollywood traditionally makes serious "issue" movies, but it could not have helped.
  • Fourth, some thought Viola Davis' role was not large enough to be Best Female Actor and more of a supporting role, although that view is really only supported by the trailer for the movie, which over-emphasizes Emma Stone's crusading white girl character, while the movie is clearly Viola's story in the main plot, giving her the V.O., the beginning and the end.
  • Finally, the Academy is generally old, male and white...and Meryl is a lot closer to their demographic than Viola. One can only hope her .

At this point I find it hard to get up in arms about any Oscar slights. My three favorite films of last year, in rough order, were:
  1. The Tree of Life
  2. Shame
  3. Bridesmaids
So there were a few nominations in the bunch, but no wins. But I still got to enjoy these movies and I expect to see them again long before I rematch The Artist, which I did enjoy, albeit not at the same level as these three.

As the director and lead actor of The Artist (both Oscar winners tonight) might say:

C'est la vie.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Drip Drip

Latest polling:
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney may have had the best performance on the debate stage in Arizona last night, but Thursday morning wasn't as great -- Romney dropped to 39 percent in Rasmussen's nightly tracking poll of a potential matchup between him and President Obama nationally. Obama got 49 percent, giving him a ten point lead.
How's that electability argument going, Willard?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Best Version Ever?

I do love Robert Johnson's Sweet Home Chicago, and here's a promising new vocalist with a great new version:

Can I vote for him twice this year?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


While his television ads may be bringing up his polling in his "home state" of Michigan, and Rick Santorum's eruptions of religiosity and stupidity may be making a difference as well, Willard Mitt Romney has had to spend three times what he raised in January just to keep afloat. Crazy, crazy amounts of money, spent both by his own campaign and his "independent" PAC:

Financial reports filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission indicate that Romney's campaign spent $19 million in January -- nearly three times as much as it raised -- as the former Massachusetts governor defeated Newt Gingrich in New Hampshire, lost to him in South Carolina and then topped him in Florida.

Restore Our Future, meanwhile, raised $6.6 million and spent $13.5 million, mostly on ads attacking Gingrich that helped Romney win the Florida primary. By the end of January, Romney's campaign had $7.7 million on hand and the pro-Romney PAC had $16.3 million.

And it's not even close to General Election time yet. The Obama campaign must be loving this.

Why the need to spend so much? It's not the brilliant competitive field -- it's the candidate. Over the past few days this video, of Romney speaking at a campaign event in Michigan, has become the emblem of the flailing candidate, utterly adrift, unable to summon authenticity, speaking in what appears to be a panic:

The trees are the right height...not just the Great Lakes but the inland lakes...I love car, I love American cars...WTF, Willard?

If you want to do some local pandering, you need to be prepped with the names of local restaurants, local products, local anything specific. Normally there's front people to do this but the better candidates don't fake it, they actually know. The fact is, Romney hasn't lived in Michigan for more than half a century, but he's trying to rely on biography yet again to score disconnect from any kind of reality -- or vision.

Look, at a human level, I might feel sorry for Mitt that he has to actually compete and could quite possibly still lose his so-called "home state" to Rick the Theocrat. But I just can't feel sorry for a candidate who has consistently lied through his teeth in smearing President Obama ever since his campaign began.

He's a wealthy man, so no pity there, and he's smart enough (on paper) that he should know better. He should have studied up on Presidential leadership, not rightwing talking points. He should have taken a chance by leading on issues his party might not be in sync with him on, and shown real intelligence and grit.

Instead, he reaps the whirlwind. Just keep spending, Mitt. Your combined $32.5 million spend in January did more to boost the economy than anything your GOP Congressional party-mates have done in four years.

The Santorum Problem

He's a sanctimonious dumb person. Smartest of the dumb.
BTW, what the hell is "Theological Secularism?" Isn't that just the U.S. Religious Right trying to brand secular thought and law -- you know, the Constitution.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

This One Goes to 11

My favorite reality show has returned and it's loaded with talent. And there's even a contender for personal favorite this year like Haley Reinhart was for me last year, only this time it's a young dude with a very unusual energy and a killer rasp in his voice named (I kid you not) Phil Phillips.

This past week the contestants sang 50's and 60's tunes in groups in Las Vegas and these were the four that stood out to me, with annotations on my emerging faves. By standing out, I mean that I've listened to these versions numerous times since Thursday night, like released music. Roughly in order of overall quality (IMHO), they are:

Sealed with a Kiss, with harmonies right out of The Mamas and the Papas, sounds like a professional recording act already:

Jen Hirsh is the one to watch for top four honors as the season progresses. She clearly has range and when she goes big, it's still in control, while hinting at awesomeness to come. Creighton Fraker is unusual and powerful in his own right.

I Only Have Eyes for You feels like a 1950's act come back to life. The early part of the song, their movements and the sway, it feels like water lapping the shore:

Neco Starr is perfect as Little Anthony and the unfortunately (and, I think, erroneously) cut Jairon Jackson is flawless and mellow in tone as well. But it's the other two guys that are breaking out bigtime.

Yep, Heejun Han could be the first Asian-American Idol, so strong is his tone and the crazy surprise of the polished voice that comes out of him, when he's very drily humorous in accented English offstage. And then there's Phil Phillips, who doesn't get very much solo time on this number but it's timed for maximum impact, as if a little of his personality-rich voice goes a very long way. He's the first one this season who's music I could see actually Haley last year.

I Really Doesn't Matter Anymore: Has anyone ever done a Buddy Holly song as a slow-but-hard-driving blues grinder before?

Crazy, unusual harmonies. Again, an African-American cut (in the end-of-episode paring down, not this clip) that feels unfair and unwise, as Candice Coleman does a great job. Deandre Brackensick has the sick high-end vocals that impress as well.

But it's Jessica Sanchez who just made a name for herself this week. Did anyone expect a Jennifer Hudson-sized voice to come out of this girl? With such soul. At age 16. A star may have just been born.

The Night Has a Thousand Eyes: This was an early performance for this batch and the only one I saw that received a standing ovation from the judges. Whether that was due to the early spot or the high-quality revision of this '50's classic into a jazzy 1970's SoCal groove, you be the judge.

Eban Franckewitz is Idol's shot at a Justin Bieber but he doesn't seem to have the full control yet and could use a year or two. Chances are he'll be in the top 12 anyway. Haley Johnson is strong as well but, to my mind, the other two are the standouts.

Reed Grimm is this year's Casey Abrams, extremely musical, improving any group he's in, a good part showman, quite an instrument. He's got a signature bent-leg dance posture and even did one his Hollywood Week solo performance behind a drum kit. Could be the guy to watch for a top four spot.

Then there's Elise Testone. I'm not sure if her breaks on the top notes are planned or not, but she's got a crazy amount of soul and guts, and I love her style of singing. Some funk to come, perhaps? Some hard blues? A Janis number should she make the Top 12?

There you go: Jen, Creighton, Phil, Heejun, Jessica, Reed and Elise are my faves, as in I'm very interested to see what they do next. Others may emerge -- I want to hear more from Hallie Day, in particular. In early seasons sometimes it was a question of whether the top contestants could even stay on pitch, so that picking the final few was easy. Since last season it's felt like pitch talent isn't a problem, so what's going to make the difference is something distinctive in the voice, the musical choices and the personality that comes through.

It's way too early but let me make my prediction:

Phil Phillips FTW.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


You'd think the age of the male chauvinist pig is long over, but then you wouldn't be taking into account House Republicans or Santorum supporter Foster Friess.

First, the contraception hearings run by Congressional committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) featured, exactly, zero women:

Three Democrats walked out of a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing on religious liberty and the birth control rule on Thursday to protest Chairman Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) refusal to allow a progressive woman to testify in favor of the Obama administration's contraception rule. The morning panel at the hearing consisted exclusively of men from conservative religious organizations.

"What I want to know is, where are the women?" Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) asked Issa before walking out of the hearing after the first panel. "I look at this panel, and I don't see one single individual representing the tens of millions of women across the country who want and need insurance coverage for basic preventative health care services, including family planning. Where are the women?"

And then there's this wealthy Santorum campaign surrogate recommending the inexpensive birth control method of his use:

How refreshingly 19th Century of Issa and Friess. Way to help Obama with the female vote!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


My kind of art project: about James Bond:

That's right, the first minute of 22 Bond movies.

It's like an animated flag.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

President Barack Obama (D) vs. Senator Rick Santorum (R)

The GOP has come home to Rick Santorum. They've found their way back home: religious righteousness, Neoconservative war policy, grumpy negativism, discredited economics.

It looked like they were coming home to Newt Gingrich, but with a long enough look Republicans knew you couldn't really go home with Newt anymore. Three wives and too many nights he didn't make it home.

Mitt Romney is fighting a rearguard action after his ill-advised "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" back when President Obama authorized the auto bailouts. He's fighting a battle from four years ago while we've all moved on. He's trying to make us forget he opened that Op-Ed with this:
If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.
Mitt is not where his party is, no matter how much he tries to pander to what he thinks it is. Rick knows where it is because he is part of what it is.

His youth doesn't hurt, either. For Mitt to knock off Newt or Rick Perry, thanks for doing the Party a favor. For him to knock off Rick Santorum, that'll be like killing the GOP's baby. The Bobby Kennedy of the religious Far Right.

Santorum has said so much crazy stuff, but he has conviction, national experience, and he's a good cover for plutocratic economics sand lobbyists, since he comes from a blue collar family -- even if he's in the 1% now.

Rick Santorum said that a woman who is impregnated by raped should not be allowed a legal abortion, since still carries "a gift." Most Americans would not agree, but it won't keep him from winning his Party's nomination. I believe he can be their idealized version of themselves.

As for the President, could the timing of the contraception Obamacare bru-ha-ha have come at a better time? Rebranding the entire GOP -- and Rick Santorum in his own words -- as anti-contraception.

Almost by design.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Upside Down

Wow, what a difference 1/8 of a primary makes. And that's a rough estimate. Here's the crazy news that has completely flipped whatever conventional wisdom existed three months ago:
With the contraception issue turning into a GOP albatross and Obama's new budget (unlikely to pass the GOP Congress) setting the populist tone for the only fear is that the best finisher in national politics today may be peaking just a little early!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Rick on Mitt

Sadly, the more voters learn about Mitt Romney, the less they like him. His three state Primary numbers last night were not just atrocious, not just loser number to Rick Santorum in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota, they were actually lower vote totals than Mitt received four years ago when he lost the nomination to John McCain:

I'm far from a Rick Santorum fan, and he's hypocritical in a number of areas including lobbying, but he sure comes across as a lot more sincere (in his reactionary beliefs) than Romney. It's weird to hear Santorum speak after Romney -- almost (gulp) like a breath of fresh air. No kidding.

How bad is it for Romney? Per Frank Rich:
But a Washington Post/ABC News poll released just before these contests found that by a margin of more than two to one, Americans say that the more they learn about Mitt, the less they like him, and last night added further proof. The standard interpretation of Mitt's triple defeat on cable news (regardless of network) is that "conservatives rejected Romney." But who exactly isn't rejecting Romney? He couldn't even fill up his headquarters when speaking last night in Denver. And then he gave a talk that reminded anyone who was watching how hollow and fake a candidate he is.
Maybe in another age a phony could go further. Not right now. And it's looking like no fun being that guy:

It's the authentic guy in the White House who's having fun:

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

This is Huge. This is a Big Deal.

This country's most populous state, my adopted home, is free at last. And I don't think I can top Taryn Southern's description of how I think most Californians feel:

By the way, I have no idea who Taryn is, but she came up in a YouTube video search and has a nice, slightly confessional YouTube Channel. But that's how the Internet works.

You can't ban marriage between two people because of gender. True love cannot be property of the state (unless you're married to Newt Gingrich). Not in the Internet Age, and you can't defund Planned Parenthood or try to censor usage.

Like it says in our song, Let Freedom Ring.

Onto the Supremes?

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Super Bowl Sunday Political Notes

My father would be happy to know the Giants won today. He was a fan during so many terrible years, and now...dynastic.

The ads run during the Super Bowl all seemed short on imagination, but one stands out. Chrysler and Clint Eastwood came together for something that feels rather like an Obama campaign ad, especially in light of Mitt Romney having written an editorial at the time of the auto bailout that advocated for letting the American car companies die:

Clint's known to be an Republican but one who could care less about abortion or gay marriage issues, somewhere between Eisenhower and Libertarian. Whether he'd ever vote for Obama, I wouldn't wager, but nonetheless this seems to dovetail with the campaign.

As for Mitt, I've thought for a long time that the best GOP move would be to nominate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and corner the Libertarian vote. I don't expect that to happen, but Rep. Paul is gathering forces this run that will surely be handed to his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) in four years. This expectation is why I do not believe Rep. Paul will mount a Third Party Presidential bid this year. With the spread of Rep. Paul's message between now and then, and his son's relative youth, I expect Sen. Paul will be a bigger threat to win the nomination in 2016 than his father is now.

The other choice for the GOP would be to choose an actual hardline Conservative candidate, i.e. former Senator Rick Santorum. He's for immediate war with Iran, he's against contraception let alone a woman's choice for her own body, what's not there for a staunch rightwing Republican to like? That way, if a "true" Conservative loses, the GOP would have some soul-searching to do and (at least if they're rational) come back more "moderate" in 2016, even if only in messaging.

Instead it appears they're getting Willard Mitt Romney, who's talking like a full-blown reactionary but is suspected of Liberalism. So if/when Mitt loses to President Obama, the hardcore Republicans will just say they should have gone even more Conservative, no soul-searching required.

If I were a Republican operative in the current situation I'd say, fine, let it be Mitt, whatever, as long as he's stays rich and writing checks. Mitt has enough money to fund zillions of dollars worth of consultants, ad agencies, speechwriters, campaign staff, etc. He's a 2012 gravy train for professional GOoPers. Take his money -- I'm sure it's as green as Teresa Heinz-Kerry's in 2008 -- and get paid for the cycle. Less likely that'll happen with Newty.

As for Obama's election strategy, to circle back to Clint and Chrysler:
US Vice President Joe Biden spelled out a blunt reelection message for his boss President Barack Obama on Tuesday -- "Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive."
Simple, direct, and even a little more imaginative than 9/10ths of this year's Super Bowl ads.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Of Course He Isn't

Mitty Mitt Mitt. What's to be done with you? The day after you win the Florida GOP Presidential Primary, you remind everybody why you should never be allowed in the Oval Office:

“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there,” Romney told CNN. “If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”

Host Soledad O’Brien pointed out that the very poor are probably struggling too.

“The challenge right now — we will hear from the Democrat party the plight of the poor,” Romney responded, after repeating that he would fix any holes in the safety net. “And there’s no question it’s not good being poor and we have a safety net to help those that are very poor . . . My focus is on middle income Americans ... we have a very ample safety net and we can talk about whether it needs to be strengthened or whether there are holes in it. but we have food stamps, we have Medicaid, we have housing vouchers, we have programs to help the poor.”

I love Soledad's incredulity bordering on outright contempt, if not for his callousness then for his impolitic messaging. While I agree that it is unfair to take the quote out of context -- although it is something the Romney campaign does to President Obama unapologetically in ads itself -- the actual context is pretty dreadful, tin-eared and reveals a candidate without the Big Picture of American society today.

On one hand, it's easy to take as Freudian slip that Romney doesn't care about the "very poor," but is he essentially saying there's always going to be a permanent underclass in this country that will never move out of social welfare programs?

Or is he even aware what it means to be "very poor" and how many families in America are below or near the poverty line -- per Wikipedia, "Most Americans (58.5%) will spend at least one year below the poverty line at some point between ages 25 and 75."

Or is he making a false distinction, since employment uncertainty has grown among those "middle income Americans" thanks to layoffs like those experienced by Bain Capital-managed companies?

And where does he get the 90-95% for those "middle income Americans?" Is that what he believes, or just a pander since his wealthy, almost all now from investments, has branded him Mr. 1%?

And where does he get off even citing class differences when he's ready to excoriate Obama for "class warfare" every time the President suggests that millionaires and billionaires should pay more than a 15% capital gains tax? Class division works when you need to pander, right Mitt?

And that pander, is it actually an attempt to separate out the "middle income Americans" from the "very poor" since he's given up in trying to get votes from the "very poor" and, in fact, may benefit from his Republican Party's work suppressing those votes?

And is there some sort of missing class here? I don't mean "the very rich," I wonder about the just plain "poor." Is that a different category than the "very poor?"

And why is the GOP always trying to cut programs for the "very poor" if Mitt says it's important not only that we have safety net (Ronald Reagan's term, originally, as he cut it), but that he'll vaguely "fix it" where it isn't working?

If so, what is his analysis of the state of the safety net...and what proposals, if any, does Mitt have to fix it? The only proposals he's shown thus far benefit the rich he claims not to worry about.

And, finally, did he just admit that the Democratic Party actually does care about the poor, f'real?

To the three remaining GOP Presidential wannabes: Stay in the race. This runner stumbles. Badly and often enough and egregiously enough that his Party is questioning his ability to take on President Obama in the Fall. Some are even saying this Election Cycle is a wash, time to start strategizing for 2016.

Per the TPM video below...the concession stand is having trouble keeping enough popcorn in stock to enjoy the GOP 2012 Presidential Election show.