Archive for August, 2007

Beware of sex-soliciting senators at Union Station
August 30, 2007

This story about Larry Craig is something that I find hilarious, puzzling, frustrating, depressing, and a little bit hopeful all at the same time.

I first heard about the story when I heard about it on CNN. They showed a clip of Larry Craig going out onto his podium and giving a press conference speech about how he wasn’t gay and how the newspapers have no proof and blah, blah, blah, and I kind of believed him when he was saying it because I’m just that gullible when a politician launches some heartfelt appeal for people to believe him. I didn’t have any reason not to believe him until the minute the speech ended, when the pundits on the Larry King show analyze the speech: They had a journalist for the paper that broke the story along with a strategist from both the democratic and republican parties and none of them believed him. They discussed how damaging this was to American politics and the Democratic Strategist (I think his name was Carville?) talked about how these guys are just human beings and we shouldn’t be so hard on them. This was the part of the story that made me seem hopeful about the future of politics: That someone from the other side could preach forgiveness. Carville went on to say that the only problem was that the Republican Party tends to go about preaching moral superiority so it’s a little hard to forgive him. I personally agree to that, especially since Senator Craig has apparently voted against measures to aid Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

At the same time, I was kind of curious because they didn’t say exactly what lewd act transpired in the bathroom. Fortunately, newspapers like the Idaho Statesman have left no stone unturned in their investigation and by going to their website I was able to get more details than I ever wanted to know including testinomies of someone who claims to have had sex with Senator Craig in a Union Station bathroom (audio clip). If only I had the skills of John Stewart, Colin Quinn, Jay Leno or Jimmy Kimmel, I think I could make a really good joke about this and since I know they’ve probably already collectively made over 100 jokes about this, I’m not even going to attempt it.

I think the troubling part of this whole episode is how even liberal papers like the Washington Post are writing articles about the incident and Craig’s career in terms of his chances to recover from this scandal. I think in the process of doing that, newspapers inadvertantly condone these games that people play in Washington. If you lied, you should admit to it. That’s just common decency, not bad strategy. There’s no sense of truth in Washington anymore, it’s all about spinning things, using perception as a strategy. And the end result is that a senator, one of the most prestigious public servants that represents our country to all those who watch us from abroad, can go onto a podium, look us straight in the eye and lie to us. Following this, a room full of pundits and analysts will then discuss whether this was good or bad strategy, when in fact, they should simply be dismissing lies like this as wrong.

On the other hand: Girls, Guys, and taxi cabs
August 28, 2007

I think that whenever guys and girls talk about how hard they have it, they should both calm down and realize that each gender has its advantages. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that guys and girls have it about even. If a feminist group is reading this and gets upset at this assertion, they can then attack me and that is one weapon that girls have that guys don’t. There are no men’s protection rights group out there, nor am I saying there should be, that would attack anti-men’s statements in publication. One could make a case, however, that chauvinistic organizations like fraternities and football teams might very much serve that purpose of protecting guy’s rights.

One naive person might say that guys are naturally smarter and have more opportunities but on the other hand, a recent study shows that at certain ages, girls score higher on tests. It can be scientifically measured that guys are physically more capable than women. They run faster and throw stronger, but on the other hand, there’s a significant amount of overlap. At every level of competition in track and field for example, the female county champ, state high school champion, NCAA All-American or Olympic qualifier can beat a great many of her male counterparts at any level. Women will also live longer.

Guys might have more power in the workplace but I think it’s fair to say that women have more power in terms of relationships. On the other hand, I’ve heard complaints from both sides in terms of how difficult it is for a girl to wait to be asked out vs. how difficult it is for a guy to do the asking. Women are far more often in danger of being harrassed in the workplace but on the other hand, guys are often far more in danger of being misaccused as harrassers and with the extreme disgust that society today views people with unhealthy sexual behavior (which explains the popularity of “To Catch a Predator”) guys are increasily in danger of having to watch what they do and how their actions are interpreted even when their intentions are not malicious.

I think politics, however, might be the great divider for gender. A woman president might be hard to pull off, but on the other hand, I don’t want people thinking that I don’t think a woman can be president simply because I don’t support Hillary Clinton.

I was thinking about all this the other night as I saw a couple girls at the state theater in Falls Church hail a taxi cab and how they needed him to wait while some of their friends got out of the theater. One girl suggested that in order to prevent him from running up the meter, she flirt with the driver for a while. Unless the girl is actually going to actually do anything with the driver, I thought that was pretty blatantly wrong to go about flirting with the driver as if the pleasure of watching a girl smile at you and stroke her hair is worth losing a cab fare or two. At the same time I was thinking how unfortunately a guy would do never be able to get away with that.

Film roundup
August 28, 2007

Where is everyone else on this blog? Anyway, I was in Europe and fell far behind on all the movies that have come out. That’s kind of what this over saturated summer makes you feel like with so many back-to-back films lined up in a row. In fact, I’ve only seen four films since I left to Europe on July 13th, so that’s like 6 or 7 weeks. Here’s what I saw:

Bourne Ultimatum: I actually had a slightly negative impression of Bourne Identity because I saw the entire plot as pretty much action-based, so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself actually caring about the characters in this back-end to the trilogy. I found the whole plot very relevant and relatable to much about the War on Terror and our current state of politics, and another highlight was the use of aerial photography. The line, “Do you even know why you’re shooting at me” that Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne says to one of the CIA-ordered snipers is one that will stuck with me for a while.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry: I’m kind of a sucker for fish-out-of-water comedies because I practically grew up on those kinds of films in the ’90s, so I did end up liking this film, even though I’m usually weary about seeing an Adam Sandler film (Click was, by far, the worst movie I saw last year). I was surprised how well thought-out the plot was because it seems like when Adam Sandler writes these films, he devotes about 10% of his time to thinking about the plot and 90% of his time to thinking ways to inject the maximum amount of bathroom humor and fat jokes possible. It will be interesting to see how GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) reacts to this film when they have their annual awards considering the film both capitalizes on gay stereotypes and sends a moralistic message against them.

Invasion: The second horror/thriller movie I’ve seen this summer (I also regrettably saw 1408), this film was helped out most by actors who treated the material as if it weren’t so laughably implausible. It’s based on a famous 1956 movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and the movie is true to the spirit of those older sci-fi films that came from a time when filmmakers didn’t really know much about science at all.

Transformers: I ended up stumbling upon this movie inadvertently (I was waiting for another movie to start and wandered into the Transformers theater) and I was fortunate to discover THE event picture of the summer even if it was eight weeks past its release and there was no one left who hadn’t seen it that I could proclaim it’s greatness to. Produced by Stephen Spielberg and directed by Michael Bay, I’m happy to report that between the clash of these two creative visionaries (or should I say one creative visionary and a guy whose primary interest as a movie director is making things explode), that the end result is a movie that’s far more Spielberg than it is Bay. Transformers plays out along the lines of Spielberg’s “Things are best seen from a children’s point of view” theme that is most closely associated with E.T. Along the lines of this E.T. analogy, massive credit goes to the casting department for using Shia LeBouf in the “Drew Barrymore” role, because he is largely the reason the film works so well. Charismatic, a little vulnerable, and witty, Shia LeBouf balances the heavy mythology with lighthearted fun reminiscent of Han Solo’s role in Star Wars. I think it’s also a good bet that like Harrison Ford, Shia LeBouf will enjoy a rich and long-lived career.

While coming off as the second coming of E.T., the film also has a touch of Roland Emmerich films like The Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day where the impossible task of trying to portray an entire planet as it deals with a global attack is portrayed through a cross-section of people whose story lines weave closer together as the plot progresses and there were plenty of interesting characters from Jon Voight’s airhead Secretary of defense (a little reminiscent of Rumsfeld but a slightly better listener) to Jon Turturro as a special agent to Rachel Taylor as a sexy intelligent computer programmer to Megan Fox as a very compelling girl-next-door type who commands the protagonist’s interest.

Of course, with Michael Bay as the director, the action gets a little excessive (especially in the final battle scene), but ultimately, the film is all about character and that’s what makes it memorable

The Smartcard Dilemna
August 21, 2007

It’s safe to say that since the introduction of the Smarttrip card my life as a metro commuter has gotten significantly easier.

Among the advantages:
-I don’t have to carry around exact change all the time when I board a bus
-I don’t have to wait in line to get a ticket
-I save time by not having to pull a card out of my wallet
-I don’t have to worry about my card being demagnetized

Smarttrip would be perfect, however, if everyone would take it. It used to be that I had to use exact change and pay with cash on the bus from Ballston to McLean/Tysons Corner which was such a pain because I was so used to carrying a Smarttrip card. Whenever I would forget my change, the bus driver would look at me like I was a vagrant trying to bum a free ride. “But look, I have a smarttrip card here! I’m not a bum! I have a hundred dollars worth of money on it! I’ll even write you a check, just let me on the damn bus!” Then the bus driver obliges, but scolds me and says “next time, bring money.” Of course, this is so frustrating because I have 5 or 6 forms of payment to give him.

Things improved when the Metro announced that they were going to have every bus system in the Metro Area use Smarttrip by the end of 2004. Noticeable changes were made. The 15 and 23 buses that serviced McLean got the Smarttrip and I’m pretty sure that every bus that is a metro bus (ones that say Metro on them, I don’t know how else to define it) uses Smarttrip (feel free to write a comment on this post if you know of a bus line that doesn’t use it). Also, the George in Falls Church uses Smarttrip and I’m sure there are a few others. In my immediate area, however, the Cue Bus of Fairfax City, the Arl of Arlington, and the Georgetown-Dupont Circle shuttle do not use the Smarttrip, and that still drives me insane. It’s been three years since the promise has been made to switch to Smarttrip and I’ve been hearing the same excuses from the drivers these past three years.

Outdoor Film Screenings
August 19, 2007

One great thing I’ve discovered a little bit this summer as a movie watcher are the outdoor film series that have been showing throughout the D.C. Area. Festivals like Screen on the Green or the NIH Outdoor Film Festival offer people a chance to see films in a less claustrophobic setting than a movie theater with plenty of room to eat a picnic dinner or even play frisbee while the film is showing.

There is the Classic Screen on the Green series which is advertised all over the Metro and takes place on the National Mall. This year they showed All the King’s Men, Casablanca, Wait Until Dark, The Thing from Another World, and Annie Hall. Annie Hall and Casablanca are two of the most beloved movies of all time. All the King’s Men is also an appropriate choice because aside from being a great film, it was remade in the last year so it offers a chance for those who saw the remake to see the original. It also is about Louisiana which is a state that needs to be in the public consciousness more considering the devastation done by Hurricane Katrina. I don’t know anything about The Thing from Another World, but Wait Until Dark is a great underrated gem starring Audrey Hepburn as a blind woman who is clued onto a potential murder plot involving her by a 12-year old neighbor. It’s a great suspense thriller.

The Comcast/NIH Outdoor Film Festival ends tonight at the Strathmore in North Bethesda, Maryland, and although I’m posting this kind of close to the event, the last movie being shown is Happy Feet and it’s practically free. It’s only a $2 suggested donation which goes to various NIH charities. See here for details: http://www.filmfestnih.org/. The filming showed mostly films from last year (Da Vinci Code, Night at the Museum, Casino Royale, Happy Feet, Over the Hedge and Devil Wears Prada) which provided people the opportunity to see one of the great films of last year (most of these were critically successful) on the big screen rather than on DVD. They also had an advanced screening of Resurrecting the Champ and showed two classics in Wizard of Oz and North by Northwest.

Lastly, there’s the Hang’Em High film festival which plays in Rosslyn’s Gateway Park and honors Clint Eastwood. Clint Eastwood is quite possibly this decade’s most preeminent director (along with Scorsesee) which is why it’s so interesting to explore him retroactively and see him as a star. The film festival plays on a slightly smaller screen but the audio is still pretty good. There are two film showings left. This coming Friday is Clint Eastwood’s Western masterpiece Unforgiven which won him his first directing Oscar and put him on the map. It stars Morgan Freeman, Clint Eastwood, and Gene Hackman among others. The week after that is a film called Shane which is, along with Unforgiven, on AFI’s list of top 100 American films, and doesn’t star Clint Eastwood at all but I imagine they added it on because it’s a Western. It’s one of the most well-known of films in the Western genre and it focuses on the relationship between the 12-year old son of a farming household and a Western hero he befriends. I personally wasn’t a fan of it, but I imagine there are many who are. It’s a good family film if nothing else.

Poor Record Labels… Right…
August 16, 2007

Alright.

First of all – Rolling Stone? Like they haven’t contributed to the diluting of reputable music through their support of flash-in-the-pan “artists”. Of course they’re feeding you information about how this generation is mistreating record labels, they thrive on the same cheap, money hogging tendencies that the crank-out-the-club-hits labels do. Any media that puts Lindsey Lohan on the cover and tries to pass her off an a real, honest to god songwriter, is not a media that has any right to tell the public how and where they should get music they’re interested in.

Let’s break it down. A band signs to a record label. The record label gives them $200,000 to record a wildly produced record. When it’s done, they put it on the market and it sells everywhere. The Record Label takes back all the money they “gave” the band, and also a huge portion of record sales (not to mention cuts given to management teams and tour funding). Bands make about $1 per cd sale. Say a band of five musicians sells 100,000 cds. That’s $20,000 each until the next record. So, who are we stealing from, really- the high-roller label or the starving artist? For the most part, labels have the best interest of their bank accounts in mind, not of the artist or the creative process (Of course, this is completely different from independent artists and labels living and breathing off record sales and gigs paying $100 for a 3 hour performance.).

So, how do WE take responsibility for ourselves? We go to shows (something seeing a band play on a YouTube video doesn’t even compare to), we buy merch., and we support independent artists. I don’t know if there’s anything we can at all do about the greediness of the record label industry, but shifting blame towards civilian listeners is absurd. The question is not anymore, ‘why do we do this?’ but instead, ‘now that it’s going to continue, how do we support artists?’

Does our generation even know what we’re doing to the record industry?
August 11, 2007

I read an article from Rolling Stone recently (found here: http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/15137581/the_record_industrys_decline/2) that makes me even more aware if how our generation seems to have lost a sense of right or wrong in terms of artistic copyright theft. We all understand it’s wrong to steal a sweater from a department store but due to years of conditioning from Napster, the Napster copy-offs, and now Youtube, we don’t seem to feel the same way about stealing a song, TV episode or movie. If we want a song, TV show, or movie we don’t ask “how much does it cost? can i find it at a reasonable price?” but rather “how quickly can i download it?”, “is it on youtube yet?”, “why not?”

I’m not sure what it is that has separated us from our moral radar in this particular sector of consumption but I think it’s among our most important. I would really hate to see an inability for those in the arts (musicians, scriptwriters, and filmmakers) to be able to commercially succeed when their material is being diluted by the Internet and not being properly acquired. Do we just assume that recording artists are so rich that they won’t know the difference? Maybe, it’s that we’ve always felt that concerts is where musicians make most of their money anyway. I think with youtube showing us live concerts, that gets diluted as well. I care more about that than whether everyone who comes out of the GAP with a new sweater has paid for it. And that’s what’s being affected. If we truly respect the artists who we’re flocking to on you tube and whose songs or TV episodes we’re downloading, I would hope that we would respect them enough to support their endeavours commercially. I am not saying I have never downloaded anything ever, but I do make it a point to buy a CD here or there.

I also understand Youtube’s potential to promote certain causes and artists although I believe it’s shaky ground. If you post an entire episode of a TV show than that’s crossing the line, because you take away any incentive for someone to go to itunes and buy the episode for $1.99.

I think there’s a lot of emphasis on how the record executives should deal with this crisis, but there’s very little emphasis on how we as consumers take responsibility for ourselves, as if that’s just a moot point.

my great experiences at the internship at NBC
August 2, 2007

Today’s blog is about the best memories of my internship experience at NBC-4 this summer.

1. Seeing my first concert (The Smashing Pumpkins) at the 9:30 Club

2. The DC Scene event on June 30 at the Rock and Roll Hotel (the bands playing were Hello Tokyo and Golem)

3. The Kickball games

4. The final Kickball party

5. The interviews (my favorite interviews were with Greg Proops and Eddie Gosling)

That’s all for now.

Brave The Grog
August 2, 2007


Grog and Tankard
Friday, Aug. 3rd
8 pm
PA- based indie rockers pass through the city tomorrow night and you should just drop everything and go see them. Plenty of harmonica and a dash of accordion. Promise.
Listen at myspace.com/raiseuproofbeams.

upcoming scary movies that will be worth checking out this fall
August 1, 2007

Today’s blog is about the horror movie that look interesting and will be worth checking out.

1. Halloween (coming out August 31)- Directed by Rob Zombie! This movie looks like it will be one of the best, if not the best horror movie this year. The reason is because it is a re imaging of the Halloween story and it will cover the origins of Michael Myers. The cast looks great. Hopefully it will be better than last year’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Beginning, although that one did have R. Lee Ermey in it”.

2. 30 days Of Night (coming out October 19)- Produced By Sam (Spider-Man) Raimi This movie has a good premise. The town Sheriff (Josh Hartnett), his wife and a small band of other townspeople must fight off a group of vampires in a town in northern Alaska for a whole month. The reason is that every year the town (Barrow) is in the extreme northern hemisphere and that area is in complete darkness for a whole month each year.

3. Saw 4 (coming out October 26) – Mainly for fans of the Saw Movies. It will be interesting to see how they will be able to continue the series after what happened in Saw 3. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about be sure to see Saw 3, before seeing this one.)