Friday, May 23, 2008

Not as easy as it used to be.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

I'm just going to do a little mini-review. I'll include spoilers at the end of this and warn you of same if you care.

First off - I enjoyed the hell out of the movie. But then I'm a big fan of the other films in the series so take that as what it's worth.

The reviewer for our local paper said watching the movie was like "rekindling an old romance." I think that's spot on. Watching this movie felt like getting back together with an old boyfriend or girlfriend that you hadn't dated in over a decade. It's familiar yet surreal.

The thing that really sells the film is Harrison Ford. The last film I saw him in was a movie he did a couple of years ago called "Firewall." I couldn't help but wonder what the hell happened to him. His acting had degenerated into growling or yelling out every line. The devil-may-care attitude and the impish grin were gone. He was just phoning it in.

Well the Harrison Ford we remember, the Han Solo Harrison Ford, is back. The look, the smile and the swagger are all there. For all the shortcomings in this movie (there are a few) having Ford back in form goes a long way towards making this film work.

Then there's Karen Allen. She is still absolutely beautiful. When she's arguing with Indy or when she's just smiling I felt like I was a kid again. Marion was always the perfect woman for Indy. Willy was just plain annoying and that German spy lady from Last Crusade simply boring. Marion was the one that could kick Indy's ass.

As for Shia LaBeouf's Mutt character I was pleasantly surprised. The from what I'd seen before hand they'd portrayed the character as a wisecracking smartass. There's a little of that. He calls Indy "gramps."

But Mutt is also smart and more than a little bit sentimental. There's a point in the film where he's crying and Indy puts a hand on his shoulder and I expected him to push Indy's hand off and go back into tough guy mode. Instead he kind of did a nod to acknowledge Indy's kindness and keeps crying.

This is an example of one of the strengths in this film- it's willingness to go against what we expect. Sure; there's a LOT of the familiar in here but there's also a bunch of scenes where my mind would be a step ahead with what the next line would be and I would be pleasantly wrong. When we were leaving the theater my kids teased me because I'd told them I was sure Indy would say at some point that "it's not the mileage, it's the years." That line wasn't in the movie.

The action scenes were all crackerjack as you might expect, with my favorite scene being a motorcycle chase near the start of the film. Ford pulled off the stunts pretty well for a guy his age.

It wasn't a perfect film by a long shot. There were a couple of things in the last act that were groan-worthy in their silliness. I'd just kind of remind myself that the other movies had similar stuff. It's not like we shouldn't expect this sort of stuff.

Problems aside this is a fun movie and brought a smile to my face. Indiana Jones is back. And while I wouldn't put this at the top of the list of Indiana Jones movies I wouldn't say it doesn't belong with them on the same shelf as I would the new Star Wars films in that series.


What worked

* Harrison Ford and Karen Allen.
* Great action sequences in particular a motorcycle chase scene and a sequence involving a truck chase and ants.
* John Williams score.
* Nostalgia factor.

What worked not so much

* Middle part of film drags a bit.
* Story seemed a bit piecemeal which makes sense considering it's history.
* Great actors (John Hurt, Jim Broadbent) given absolutely nothing to do.
* Commies don't make as good of villains as Nazis.

What sucked

* Mcguffin and resolution of same at end had George Lucas' stank all over it.
* Tarzan.
* Where are the cameos by Short Round and Salah?
* Realizing that a Indy film or two could've easily happened since Last Crusade and didn't.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

It's injustice I hate, not the Normans.

If I had to reduce down all the stuff that's important to me in this presidential election to one thing it would be that we elect a democrat to replace and undo legacy the most destructive presidency in the history of the Republic.

At the core of my being that's the thing that drives me.

To that end who we picked to be the actual candidate was secondary. Sure, I had my preferences. I supported Kucinich then Edwards then Obama. But in the end the actual candidate was just a vessel towards my dreams of ending the stupid war in Iraq and restoring constitutional government to the United States.

Along the way my fellow Democrats did something incredible which I'm proud to be associated with: they narrowed the field down to a woman and an African-American man thus assuring that whomever the Democratic nominee would be that individual would be making history.

But just because I recognize this fact and respect the importance of such to the individual constituencies within the party to which this possibility represents the fulfillment of a dream I'm still left with the number one thing that's important to me being the election of the democrat as the President of the United States. In this sense it's less important to me that we're making history rather than the Bush presidency IS history.

We could argue about tactics and electability with regards to Clinton vs. Obama vs. McCain until we were blue in the face but I would like to say that, from a purely strategic level, I agree with Rachel Maddow that a nomination fight that goes to the convention will mean with absolute certainty that John McCain is elected president. A convention fight means a Bush third term.

John McCain has carefully cultivated a public persona which the help of a pliant press in which he's a moderate, centrist politician. The Democratic candidate for the presidency is going to have to break that image down and show McCain to be the lying, dishonest, corrupt, warmongering pol that he is. This is going to take some time. Two months isn't enough.

Put aside everything else that's taken place this primary season and take away this central fact: the candidate that decides to take the primary fight to the convention will be hurting the chances that we will elect a democrat as president in November.

They'll be hurting the chance that we'll end the war in Iraq.

They'll be hurting the chance that we'll bring some balance back to the federal courts.

They'll be hurting our chance to slow global warming and our dependence on foreign oil.

They'll be hurting our chance to restore the constitution to it's rightful place as the backbone of our government.

They'll be ensuring that we get courts that refuse to protect the rights of women to make their own decisions over their own bodies, a Civil Rights Department that believes it's mandate is to protect the rights of corporations when threatened by employees and a Justice Department that believes torture and detainment without representation actually fit within the framework that the founders built this country on.

Finish the voting and work out a solution to Florida/ Michigan at the Rules & Bylaws Committee meeting on the 31st but then end this damn thing. The consequences are too great to play political games.

We need a Democrat to be the one sworn in come January.

Or we'll all be history.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

If you think that Mick Jagger will still be doing the whole rock star thing at age fifty, well, then, you are sorely, sorely mistaken.

Oh for God's sakes.

Gavin over at Sadly, No! catches wingnuts blowing smoke out of their asses for the umteenth bazillion time over the 75,000 person count of people who went to see Barack Obama speak in Portland last weekend.

Apparently those people were there to see the rock band The Decembrists instead.

Question: Didn’t 75,000 people show up to hear him in Oregon?
Answer: Not really. A free rock concert preceded his appearance, News Busters reported. Oops.
I didn't make it to last Sunday's rally but I did make it a similar rally for John Kerry at the exact same location in 2004. The Kerry rally was on a weekday and drew only 50,000 people.

Kerry was accompanied by actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Jon Bon Jovi who sang "Livin on a Prayer" acoustically. I've always suspected that the majority of those people at that rally were actually there to see DiCaprio or Bon Jovi rather than the guy they hoped would replace George Bush. Now these conservatives sleuths have confirmed my suspicion.

(50,000 fans of "Titanic.")

(These Coast Guard guys kept yelling "I'm king of the world!" at DeCaprio.)

(Bridge trolls dig Bon Jovi.)

(Secret Service Snipers had Bon Jovi t-shirts on.)

(Even John Kerry was there to see Bon Jovi.)

Always knew some day you'd come walkin' back through my door.

One day left until I start to shut up about Indiana Jones!

Mrs. Wormer and the kids will be joining me at a local Megaplex tomorrow evening to see "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."
As excited as I am to see the movie I would like to make it clear I'm not expecting great cinema. I don't imagine I'm going to be stirred to the depths of my soul by the imagery and story.

I do expect to have a good time. I expect a couple of laughs, a few groans and maybe a gag at whatever the gross-out scene is going to be.

I think it's fair to say that any problems the movie has will be squarely laid on the shoulders of George Lucas by fanboys. I'll be among them. From killing the Frank Darabont draft of the script to insisting on his personal McGuffin he's all ready done a little bit of damage to this project in my opinion.

I think this very funny short film "George Lucas In Love" captured his lack of creative process perfectly.

You can't win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.

Here's the last part of Ted Kennedy's most famous speech delivered at the Democratic convention in 1980.

The dream will never die.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Oh surely, I'm but a single bot, alone, as it were, in the vast universe thing. Maybe I can change the world.

Today's the big day in Oregon. I'm heading out to the Oregon City office of the Obama campaign after work to make calls for last minute voters.

I've been meaning to do a thing on vote by mail process since it's pretty unique to Oregon. I think I have a pretty good take on VBM since I was strongly against it before it was implemented but have come around to supporting the concept.


We actually receive our ballots a couple of weeks before the election date. Included with the ballot are two envelopes - a privacy envelope and a return envelope.

The ballots are bubble-style where you fill in your choice by pen. For write ins there are bubbles marked "write in" with a line to write in your choice.

After we have completed our ballots we stick it in the privacy envelope and seal it. We then stick that envelope in the return envelope and sign the validation signature on the front of that envelope. Above the signature is the following text-

Voter's Statement
I am the person to whom this ballot was issued.
I am legally qualified to vote in the county that issued this ballot.
This is the only ballot I have voted in this election.
I still live at the address where I am registered to vote.

The ballots can either be mailed or dropped off at several collection points located around the state on election day.

Ballot Processing

The ballots are collected at the local county election's office and the signature verified against our registration on file. If there is a problem (no signature) they will contact you. They are then sorted into precinct and the secrecy envelope removed but not opened.

Beginning five days before the election the privacy envelopes are opened and the ballots prepared for counting but they do not begin counting until election day. This process is not any faster than traditional voting. Every step of the process is open to the public.

What I think of the whole thing

As I mentioned I was really against VBM when it was first proposed by the Secretary of State. There were a couple of reasons for this.

The first is that I thought there would be too much opportunity to mess with ballots. It seemed like it was a prescription for fraud.

The other reason was that I just love going down to my local poll and voting. I'm not a religious guy but this was sort of like my religion. Vote by mail seemed like it would make voting more like paying the bills.

With regard to fraud I was completely wrong. What really opened my eyes was all the focus on our election process nationally in 2000 and 2004. In Oregon there is little difference in the ballots between different counties and municipalities. Our ballots are uniform other than the names on the ballot.

With regards to my second concern I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss going down to the polls and talking to the volunteers and going through that shared sacrament of voting. I had been looking forward to taking my kids down there to watch me vote when they got old enough to teach them the importance of voting.

On the other hand we sit down with our kids and go through the ballots and discuss the issues with them when we vote. I can say without question this has made me a better voter because I don't want to be uniformed when the kids have questions. This means that there's no blowing off the downballot candidates for county board, etc. My kids are going to ask me WHY I'm voting for that person and "because they were first on the list" doesn't cut it.

Pros and Cons of VBM


  • Integrity and uniformity to process (no equal protection issue ala Bush v. Gore.)

  • Less chance for cheating.

  • More informed voters.

  • Better turnout.

  • As Swinebread pointed out you can vote naked. Although knowing Swinebread I would guess he wouldn't let traditional voting stop him from that luxury.


  • No sense of community.

  • Ballots can be picked-up by third party (potential weakness to system.)

  • Paying postage to mail ballot seems a little "poll tax-ish."

Monday, May 19, 2008

All that hate's gonna burn you up, kid.

Via Atrios- A remake of Red Dawn?

With Islamo-Arabs Fascists in place of Russians and Cubans?

Randal reminded me that Hollywood already made that movie. It was called "Invasion U.S.A."

I suppose it's lost on the wingnuts cheering for this that if the al-Qaeda had an actual army to invade the United States they wouldn't need to fly planes into skyscrapers and otherwise engage in guerilla tactics.

I'll let you in on a little secret- I'm keeping my finger's crossed this movie gets made. Having their goofy New York gets invaded by Arabs fantasies writ large in a big screen Hollywood film won't exactly help their cause. It'll highlight how stupid it is.


We didn't make it down to the Obama rally yesterday as we simply ran out of time to do all the other stuff we had to do this weekend. I was at the Kerry rally in 2004 which was also at the waterfront and drew 50,000 people. No where near Obama's 75,000. :-)

Not to take anything away from Obama but I do think the eventual democratic nominee would've seen these sort of numbers here. The Portland/ Metro area is about as blue as it can get. It also was a confluence of a whole number of different things that came together perfectly for this event including the weather which has been unseasonally crappy for the last month.

A couple of picks I stole from Kos that I like below. This one reminds me that we may have kids in the White House again. It's been a long time since we had that.

Here's the rally from what looks like the top of the bridge or a copter. They do a Blues festival and Cinco de Mayo celebration at that area of the waterfront every year. A little bit further down the waterfront we have the Navy ships and fair for our Rose Festival. Portland really is beautiful.

I can't decide if I want to be the the girl or the Chihuahua in this picture. I'll probably go with the dog but it's a toss up.