Huge win tonight in South Carolina for Barack Obama. Seventy-five percent more people voted in this year's primary than the one in 2004. Nearly 300,000 people voted for Obama, which is 10,000 more people than even voted in 2004. Big, big win. Obama had a great speech, as he usually does. Watching him tonight, I got the very distinct impression that I was looking at the future president of the United States. Caroline Kennedy, daughter of John, niece of Bobby and Ted, certainly thinks so.

John Edwards posted a pretty strong third place finish, with nearly 20 percent of the vote, a lot more than anyone thought he was going to get at the beginning of the week. So when Edwards has to eventually withdraw from the race, I'm thinking he'll throw his support behind Obama, which would increase by a fairly substantial margin his lead over Clinton.

I think "Obama/Edwards '08" has a very nice ring to it, and it will sound even sweeter come November.

::EDIT 1/28/08::

Speaking of Teddy Kennedy, looks like he's an Obama fan, too.


The world's first cyborg?

Double amputee walks again due to Bluetooth


Have you ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?

The Associated Press, CNN and MSNBC are all reporting that actor Heath Ledger has been found dead in his New York apartment, naked and surrounded by pills. It is currently unknown whether his death is a suicide or an accidental overdose.

Ledger recently wrapped filming his role as the Joker in The Dark Knight, the sequel to 2005's Batman Begins, set for release in June.

He had a young daughter with fellow actor Michelle Williams, whom he met on the set of Brokeback Mountain, a film for which Ledger earned an Oscar nomination. He was a good actor, and a decent fellow by all accounts. What a damn shame.

2008 Oscar Nominations

Yes, it's that time of year again, when talking heads the world over prognosticate and erudiate their choices for the best movies and actors of the past year, like so many bloviating blowhards who think their opinions actually matter. Much like the upcoming presidential election, the coming weeks will be filled with discussion and debate, and while I usually like to think of myself as above the usual fray of Hollywood gossip, Oscar time is something else entirely.

And so, without further ado, here are the nominees in the major catagories (film, actors, writers, directors), along with some pointless commentary. My picks are in bold. (For a complete list of this year's nominees, click here.)

Best Picture
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

From the moment I walked out of the theatre on Thanksgiving, No Country for Old Men has been my favorite movie of the year, and while I saw a lot of really amazing movies in 2007, Michael Clayton and Juno among them, nothing quite topped the Coen Brothers' film. Of course, I still have to see Atonement and There Will Be Blood, which hasn't opened here yet, so I reserve my right to change my mind. But I don't think I will.

Best Actor
George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises

Clooney may be the safe choice amidst such an amazing array of talent, but I do think his performance in Michael Clayton was the best of his career to date. Viggo was extremely impressive, too, in Eastern Promises, and like I said above, I haven't seen There Will Be Blood yet, and I've heard great things about Day-Lewis in that movie. So, again, I reserve the right to change my mind.

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie, Away From Her
Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
Laura Linney, The Savages
Ellen Page, Juno

Juno ran a very close second to No Country for Old Men for my favorite movie of 2007 and Ellen Page was a big reason why. She was so funny and endearing as the title character that even if I had seen any of the other films from which actresses were nominated, Page would still top my list.

Best Supporting Actor
Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

Both Hoffman and Wilkinson were wonderful in their respective roles, but Javier Bardem was such a monstrous force of nature in No Country for Old Men, I can't imagine anyone else winning.

Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
Ruby Dee, American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

Amy Ryan took what could have been a cartoonish, stereotypical character, the alcoholic, drug abusing, neglectful mother, and turned her into a real person, someone with whom we could identify and understand, and ultimately care about.

Best Director
Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Jason Reitman, Juno
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

Best movie of the year generally, though not always, equals best director of the year. This is one of the years in which it most certainly does.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Christopher Hampton, Atonement
Sarah Polley, Away from Her
Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

I've always thought it was difficult to have a best movie without also having the best screenplay to work from.

Best Original Screenplay
Diablo Cody, Juno
Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava & Jim Capobianco, Ratatouille
Tamara Jenkins, The Savages

I cannot express how extremely heartened I am to see Ratatouille, an animated film, on this list. As comics are more and more garnering respect as a true art form, so too are animated films, which I one day hope to see included in the discussion of best picture instead of being lumped into a separate category. That being said, Diablo Cody has such a strong and unique voice. She took her first screenplay and really knocked it out of the ballpark.

Best Animated Feature Film
Surf's Up

Persepolis has not come to Omaha yet, so I haven't had a chance to see it, and while my head might lean toward it, due to its graphic novel roots, Brad Bird's Ratatouille is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen, and probably one of my new favorite films. It's full of such wonderfully imaginative characters, and you can really feel the sheer, absolute joy the filmmakers must have felt while creating it. Ratatouille is easily one of the best movies of 2007 (and it would have made my list of best movies of the year had I actually seen it in the theatre last year, instead of having bought and watched the DVD only a few weeks ago).


MLK on Vietnam

The man knew how to give a speech, that's for damn sure:

When I look at those who are vying for leadership in this country, it almost makes me want to cry. Whether it's the candidates themselves or simply the vile game that American politics has become, there isn't a man or woman among them who elevates the discussion and inspires the masses the way Martin Luther King Jr. could.

He was part of a dying breed while he lived, Dr. King was. Him and Bobby Kennedy. And they were both murdered for their trouble. And today? Today there doesn't appear to be anyone like either one of them left in the country. And that is a damn, sad shame.


The Jewish Americans

Last Wednesday PBS aired the first of three two-hour segments of a documentary called "The Jewish Americans." The second part aired tonight, with the third airing next Wednesday.

It's a wonderfully produced documentary, filled with fascinating insights into America's Jewish community, which began over 350 years ago, when 23 Jews arrived in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (later known as New York). It's a fantastic, well-researched examination of how those early American Jews assimilated themselves into American culture, and, in some cases, even helped shape the way America has evolved and grown.

I am, of course, a big Jewish geek, especially when it comes to the history and culture of my people, so this kind of thing is of great interest to me. The documentary is filled with incredible old photos and newsreels and filmstrips, along with interviews with well-known American Jews like Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and comedian Sid Caesar, as well as non-famous Jews, children of immigrants from the early 20th century.

This documentary is so cool, I'm halfway tempted to spend the $40 on the DVD set.


Countdown to uncertainty

My final semester of classes begins tomorrow at 10 a.m. I'm taking five classes this semester, the most at one time since I returned to school with a single class at Metro in the summer of 2005. Graduation is May 9 (with a party to follow; details will be forthcoming - all are invited).

I've been trying to figure out how I feel about my upcoming graduation. It's been a long, strange, twisty little road from that first year of college, way back in '97/'98 at Youngstown State, to now. For long time, during the intervening years, I thought I might never seriously go back to school, while at the same time I had no idea what I was actually doing with my life. Then I moved to SoCal, had an epiphany of sorts (in truth, I simply had no job, no money and was scared out of my mind), and here I am, nearly three years later.

For a brief period of a few days, maybe a week, I was pretty terrified at the thought of actually graduating. What the hell do I know about the real world, y'know? Enough to realize I wasn't exactly ready for it a few years ago, I guess. Yet the question remains, am I any more ready for it now? In some ways, the answer is probably yes. Regardless of what some may believe about a college degree, the number of doors that are opened for those who have one are still greater than for those without. I keep thinking about what my cousin said to me last summer, while I was interning in Los Angeles. She said that she won't even interview someone for a position at her company unless they have a college degree. Of course, I can only assume that that's also true for the majority of production companies in L.A., instead of my cousin being an exception to the rule.

And even if she is the exception, I came back to school with the goal of finally graduating. I was ready for it, after all this time. Once my first class began at Metro, I knew I wasn't going to stop until I had that degree. If for no one else, than for me. And now I'm thisclose to getting it. And then ... I don't know what.

I'm flying out to San Francisco in February, to visit Rose and Johnny, who are graciously allowing me to crash at their place, and to attend this year's WonderCon, the first big comic book convention in the country. I'll visit with some friends, hopefully run into the BOOM! crew, whomever they decide will be manning the booth, and try to speak with as many editors and publishers as I can find.

The reality is, after these years back in school, I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Though I do know what I want to do: I want to work as an editor at a comic book company, or a magazine, or a newspaper. I would love to work at a production company in Los Angeles. (Of course, I can't imagine a great many of them hiring right now, what with the ongoing WGA strike, but the strike will have to end sooner or later, right?) I want to work in a creative field, with like-minded, creative people. I want to help tell stories, all kinds of stories, any kind of stories. It's what I've wanted to do since elementary school.

Maybe I'll have an opportunity to go back to BOOM!. Maybe my cousin would be able to put me in touch with people she knows in the industry. Maybe I'll meet someone at WonderCon and that will lead to a job, if maybe not a career. I have no idea what's going to happen. After May 9, it's all up in the air.

The only things I'm sure of are, a) I'm going to graduate from college in a little less than four months, and b) I'm not scared anymore.


New Hampshire '08

So Hillary came back from the dead, so to speak, as many pundits had buried her after her third place (by the barest of margins behind John Edwards) finish last week in Iowa, and especially after her supposed (and overblown) "emotional meltdown" yesterday, and won New Hampshire, with Barack Obama, the winner in Iowa, coming in a close second.

It's still early in primary season and no one knows, despite all the talking heads' vapid bloviating, who's going to eventually nab the presidential nominations. That's a subject for a later date, at least after Super Tuesday next month. But one thing is absolutely certain after Iowa and New Hampshire:

Regardless of your political affiliations, whether you hate Hillary or love her, whether you think Obama has enough experience to be president, you have to admit that it's pretty damn cool that a black man and a woman won the first two major primaries of the year.

That, my friends, is called History.


Decision '08

This year's presidential election can be summed up thusly:

In the blue corner, stumping for Democratic Senator Barack Obama, we have the lovely and talented Scarlett Johansson.

And in the red corner, on the campaign trail with Bible-thumping Republican and former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, the washed up has-been that is Chuck Norris.

You make the call, America. Scarlett or Chuck. Who's it gonna be?


The Final Frontier

This is why I love science:

(More awesome space images in the link.)


Happy New Year!

Had dinner with the parents last night before swinging by Mick's to drop a Mark Waid signature off for him and shoot the shit for a little while. He and I haven't had much opportunity to talk lately, other than via Gchat. I'd always enjoyed talking with him. He is truly a Geek's Geek, well-versed in the customs and trappings of Geekdom. (I assume I don't have to point out that I mean that as a compliment.)

After leaving Mick's with a bagful of comics he's lending me to read, I drove down to Becky & Jason and TJ's to ring in the new year. I showed up close to 11 p.m., I think, and hung out 'til about 3:30 a.m. Got home at four this morning. Slept 'til nearly noon, which is a good eight hours that I've gotten accustomed to getting.

Other than a little bit of champagne at midnight (and a Jack & Coke at dinner), I didn't drink last night. I like to think my head is thanking me for it this morning. Of course, I'm a little sick now, too, with a sore throat and a stuffed-up nose. Couple that with a lot of alcohol and I'm pretty sure I'd be feeling fairly crappy this morning, so I'm glad I didn't imbibe. Plus, I didn't want to black/pass out and wind up sleeping on their bathroom floor again. Once was enough, thank you very much.

I hope everyone had a fun (and safe) night last night. And to steal a little something from Neil Gaiman:

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

Have a great 2008 everybody!