When will the madness end?

The state Democratic parties of Florida and Michigan broke Democratic National Committee rules by moving the dates of their primaries up. The punishment was to be stripped of their delegates at the convention in Denver in August. With no delegates, candidates were told not to campaign in either Florida or Michigan. Prior to the start of primary season, before the first ballot had been cast, all the Democratic presidential candidates agreed to this.

Now, here we are, finally at the end of this long and miserable primary season, and the DNC is meeting to decide what to do about Florida and Michigan's delegates. See, because Hillary Clinton campaigned in both states. Because Hillary Clinton broke the rules and campaigned and "won" both states, she wants their delegates to be counted. Oh, she masks her righteous outrage by saying that every vote should be counted, that every voter should be heard, but c'mon, does anyone really think she'd feel this way had Barack Obama "won" Florida and Michigan? Would we even be having this conversation?

Florida and Michigan broke the rules and were punished for it. They knew what would happen, but they did it anyway, knowingly and willingly. None of the candidates besides Hillary campaigned in either state. Hell, Obama wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan, and Hillary wants to talk about fair?

What about the millions of voters who didn't bother to vote in both Florida and Michigan because they were told their votes wouldn't matter, their delegates wouldn't be seated. How many Obama supporters do you think just stayed home? How much closer might the races in Florida and Michigan have been had Obama actively campaigned in the two states? How much closer might Michigan have been had Obama's name actually been on the freakin' ballot?

Florida and Michigan broke the rules and shouldn't get any delegates.

Hillary has turned the election season into a farce. All she does is whine and complain and the DNC doesn't have the backbone to tell her to pack it in because she's lost. She lost this election months ago, but no one in a position of power in the DNC bothered to tell her, out of deference, out of respect to her and her husband's cheating. The DNC has just kept hoping she'd get the hint and drop out, but she's far too stubborn for that, changing the rules in the middle of the game every time she loses another contest: Oh, caucus states don't count. Small states don't count. Michigan and Florida need to be counted because I won them in unfair elections where I was the only candidate on the ballot.

She needs to stop. It's over. And the goddamn superdelegates need to get off their asses and end this before it rips the party in two. Hillary lost. Obama won. November is only six months away. The Democratic Party needs to focus its attention on beating the wizened, senile, PTSD-suffering John McCain instead of beating itself up. It's time to move on.

Say goodnight, Hillary. You're done.


Sydney Pollack, RIP

Director and actor Sydney Pollack died today at the age of 73. Cancer. Damn shame. He was a good one. He's probably best known for directing Tootsie and the Oscar-winning Out of Africa, but he was also a solid character actor, often appearing in smallish roles in his own films. The last movie I saw him in was the Oscar-nominated Michael Clayton, which he also produced.

He was a huge name in Hollywood, a great talent, a nice Jewish boy, and he will be sorely missed.

Little Brother

I read the most wonderful book over the past two days, Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. The story, set in the very near future, follows Marcus, a 17-year-old kid from San Francisco who, when he and his friends are kidnapped by the Department of Homeland Security, becomes a terror suspect after the Bay Bridge is blown up.

Marcus is a regular, normal kid who happens to be something of a geek. He used to be a LARPer (Live Action Role-Playing), but after merciless teasing from schoolmates, he and his friends moved on to ARGing (Alternate Reality Game). He knows how to write computer code and has a fascinating with hacking. Not the criminal kind of hacking you see in cheesy action movies, but fun stuff, like how to scam the RFID chips in his school's library books, and how to beat the gait recognition cameras that line the halls of his school. Simple, harmless hacks that anyone could do.

When Marcus and three of his friends, Jolu, Darryl and Van, skip school to investigate the newest clue in their favorite ARG, they're caught up in a world they never knew existed. The Bay Bridge is blown up and in the ensuing chaos Darryl is injured. Marcus tries to flag down one of the emergency vehicles that are zooming past them on the street, finally stepping in front of a Hummer to get it to stop. Unfortunately, the Hummer is full of DHS agents who immediately take Marcus and his friends into custody, i.e. kidnap them, and hold them, interrogate them, illegally, with no evidence of any wrongdoing, for days.

When Marcus is finally released, broken and humiliated, he vows vengeance on the overreaching Department of Homeland Security, the government agency that has locked down the city of San Francisco and turned everyone who lives there into a terror suspect, all in the name of security, of protecting them. Much like the government reaction after 9/11, the DHS decides to treat everyone like a criminal while claiming it's for their own protection.

Utilizing the computer skills of he and his friends, Marcus rallies the youth of the city. "Don't Trust Anyone Over 25" becomes their mantra as they wage war against those who would throw them in prison for life because of nothing more than a suspicion.

Little Brother is 1984 for a new generation, a primer for how to fight back against the tyranny and oppression of a government out of control with fear and terror. It's about our rights as citizens, rights that don't suddenly stop protecting us simply because they're deemed inconvenient. The Constitution is not, as some would have us believe, an archaic document written by men who couldn't possibly fathom the world we live in today. That document is our protection against government power run rampant, something we desperately need today as much as they needed it more than 200 years ago.

Don't get me wrong. Little Brother isn't a dry, boring lecture. There's plenty of action and intrigue, and great, realistic characters and situations. That's part of why the book kind of scares me, too. Everything Doctorow wrote about could happen. Secret detention facilities on American soil. The torture of American citizens. Ceaseless surveillance of every single man, woman and child. They tell us it's for our protection, and sure, what could be safer than putting everyone in prison. An invisible prison at that, where they watch us 24/7 with closed-circuit video cameras and track our every movement with RFID tags attached to our cars, embedded in our credit cards and IDs. Yeah, that'd make me feel real safe. Being secure doesn't mean we have to relinquish our rights to privacy, our rights to free expression.

Wouldn't it be better if the government spent their time and our money tracking actual bad guys who want to do us harm instead of wasting it by tracking everybody? It's like finding a needle in a haystack when you created the haystack.

This has turned into a bit of a rant and I didn't mean for that to happen. It's just that I love this book and everything it stands for so much. I think it's a really important book, a cautionary tale that we all need to heed before it's too late and we really do live in a police state. And, to top it off, you have no reason not to read this book. Doctorow has made the entire text available online in a bunch of different formats, free of charge, right here, under a Creative Commons license.

So, everyone should download and read the book. And while I'm old enough to bristle at "Don't Trust Anyone Over 25," I think we're never too old to be skeptical of all authority figures. That's what the Constitution is really all about. Just because someone is in a position of authority, that doesn't mean they have your best interests at heart. Question authority, don't follow it blindly.


I just watched the HBO docudrama, Recount, which told the insiders' story of the presidential election debacle eight years ago, when the Supreme Court of the United States decided to saddle us with a retarded puppet for president. I thought, hey, eight years, that's enough time to let the wound heal over, but watching HBO tonight, all it did was tear the wound open once more. I felt so many different emotions, from anger to sadness to a bizarre form of hope that maybe, just maybe, they'd finally get it right, even though the outcome was decided long before they filmed the movie.

There has never been a doubt in my mind that George W. Bush and his cronies stole the 2000 election, that we've been cursed with his blundering, bungling presence in the White House for these past eight years because of blatant partisanship and the very worst kind of political hackery. And those feelings were nothing but reinforced by Recount.

This country's plunge into war and fear and terror has not been because of Dick Cheney's favorite Middle Eastern bogeyman, Osama bin Laden, and 19 nameless, faceless hijackers. It's because of a childish buffoon of a man who never had the right to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in the first place. America jumped the shark in 2000, and the rest of the world quickly followed suit.

And while I hope we've finally come to our senses, as scores of dead and wounded continue to return home from the pointless, needless clusterfuck in Iraq, I fear the 2008 election will be snatched from the grasp of sanity, of reality, much like the 2004 contest. I fear another presidential coup, and four more years of this utterly baffling madness, this time led by a bumbling, wizened septuagenarian with decades of untreated, pent-up Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

If I believed in a god, I would pray I'm wrong, that my fears are unfounded, but because I choose to live in the really real world, all I can do is wait through six more agonizingly slow months before I find out if my fellow Americans have gotten the hint, or if they prefer to live in a country of fear, with their heads buried in the sand, a country where the laws can be bent and broken with complete and utter abandon, where the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are spat upon when they become inconvenient.

November can't come soon enough.


Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

While I had relatively low expectations for this fourth installment of the revered Indiana Jones franchise, I always held out a small inkling of hope that it would, if not surpass the previous films, at least come close to the high bar set by Spielberg, Lucas and Ford over the past 27 years. And, I find myself pleased to announce, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, despite having one of the worst titles ever, is an incredibly fun, enjoyable film, a rip-roaring adventure that neither denigrates nor elevates the legacy of the earlier movies, but rather insinuates itself snugly into the famed archeologist's legend.

Mild spoilers may follow, but probably nothing you haven't heard/couldn't figure out for yourself.

Set more than twenty years after we watched Indiana Jones and his father ride off into the sunset, Crystal Skull finds Dr. Jones Jr. (Harrison Ford) embroiled in a bit of Cold War intrigue, complete with international globe trotting (as opposed to, say, domestic globe trotting, which I imagine would take one to much less exotic locales), Communist paranoia, double crosses and psychic KGB agents. Indy's first foray into the atomic age is certainly ushered in with a bang (literally - you'll see).

To say that Indiana Jones films are formulaic would be an understatement, but that certainly hasn't detracted from their fun, and Crystal Skull is no exception. Instead of Nazis, bent on world domination, chasing after the lost ark and the holy grail, this time it's Stalin's Soviet Russia and an ancient, mystical (aren't they all?) artifact, a crystal skull said to possess the ability to read the minds of men, and to control them. Soviet psychic Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) thinks the United States government, Indiana Jones, specifically, has knowledge as to the whereabouts of the titular skull, and she, like Indy's previous foils, will stop at nothing to get what she wants. (And, as in the earlier films, "get it" she does, only "it" is not exactly what she expects.)

Indy, who, during World War II, was a spy for the Allies and earned the rank of colonel, is joined by his British treasure-hunting cohort, MI6 agent George "Mac" McHale (Ray Winstone), a young man named Mutt (Shia LaBeouf, who must have named himself after the dog, too; guess it runs in the family) who has a penchant for motorcycles and leather jackets, and Mutt's mother, the funny and beautiful Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), who, with a twinkle in her eye and a devilish grin, is a sight for sore eyes, both for Indy and the audience. She and Indy quickly fall back into old habits, firing witty wisecracks back and forth while busting Na-, I mean, Commie heads. It's almost hard to believe 27 years have passed since Marion's Tibetan bar went up in flames, the way Harrison Ford and Karen Allen slipped right back into character without missing a beat

There are winks and nods galore to Indy's past adventures, from photographs of his father and Marcus Brody atop Indy's desk to a certain Hebrew relic collecting dust in an Area-51 warehouse to this look, this great, wonderful look Indy gives to Mutt after the two of them escape the clutches of the KGB. It's the exact same withering look Henry Jones Sr. gives his son after they escape on motorcycle from the Nazis in Austria, before they go to Berlin to retrieve the grail diary.

I can certainly see Shia LaBeouf slip into the worn leather jacket and fedora in a fifth film, as Spielberg recently intimated at Cannes. He and Ford share a great chemistry. You can almost see the admiration in the young man's eyes as he realizes he's making an Indiana Jones movie with Harrison Ford and Steve Spielberg. I cannot imagine the fun they must have had making this movie.

Along with my disdain for the title, I'm also not keen on the extraterrestrial turn the story takes, but I imagine that's more of an issue of taste than of good or bad storytelling. After all, if the wrath of God can melt Nazis in the first and third films, are little green men, so to speak, really that big of a leap? I'm just glad they didn't look like E.T.

But, despite Crystal Skull's otherworldly nature, I really did find myself having a great time. I felt like I was seeing old friends I thought I'd long ago left behind. I don't think I could have asked for anything more.


One month later ...

It's been a month since I last wrote a post for the blog. My reasons for taking such an extended time away are numerous and varied, but the main reason is probably that I've been feeling pretty burnt out. This was not an easy semester for me, though I'd be hard-pressed to tell you why. When the semester began, I thought I was going to be graduating this month, on Friday, to be precise. But it turned out that I'm a few credits short, hence the two classes I'm taking this summer, hence the graduation in August. And then ... who knows? I've felt equally exasperated, exhausted and lifeless this semester. I can only hope I can hold it together for these last two classes, and for the endless job search that's sure to follow. Even now, with a month between the end of these classes and the beginning of the new ones, I feel worn out, worn through, threadbare. I want to get out of here, recharge, refresh, but I don't know where I could go to "get away from it all." I worry so much, so often, I don't think I've ever gotten away from it all. Something I need to work on, to be sure. Anyway, more later, when I'm more coherent and less rambly.