Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn will seek to offset federal aid to victims of a massive tornado that blasted through Oklahoma City suburbs on Monday with cuts elsewhere in the budget.> more ... (0 comments)
I was on a bit of a Wikipedia safari a little earlier in the day, and I wound up looking up the record on George H.W. Bush’s judicial nominations. Bush, of course, had a couple of controversial picks: Clarence Thomas, David Souter, Sam Alito (for Circuit Court) and Sonia Sotomayor (for District Court). So it’s fascinating to look down the list and see the following things:
- Literally every District Court nomination was approved, either unanimously or by voice vote.
- Same with every Circuit Court nomination except for one.
- Bush I also managed to appoint more judges in one term than Obama has to date.
Guess I don’t have much to note other than that “times change” and that It’s Different For Republicans, but it’s almost a sublime encounter when you think of how it works these days.
I saw it.
I might wind up changing my mind, but I actually thought it was a substantial improvement on the prior installment. Villains that had actual, comprehensible motives for doing what they did! Not having a central plot device handled as stupidly as imaginable (so the black hole sent Spock and Nero back in time the first time, but didn’t send the explosion back, or presumably Nero back the second time?). And in comparison with its predecessor, this was a well-oiled storytelling machine, rather than one shuffling between nearly a dozen subplots and origin stories. Abrams’s strengths were present, the acting and visuals were quite strong, of course. It even managed to address one of the glaring incredulities of the last movie, that Kirk would be given command of a ship with zero experience, by turning that inexperience into the Big Theme of the movie. So points for all that.
I actually kind of liked it, I must say. Of course, Abrams is still Abrams, meaning he can’t pay anything off, and that of course means you’re in for a shitty climax like all his other movies. Seriously, just like all his other movies, as they all have the same climax. Two guys fighting on top of moving vehicles for an extended period of time? This sort of thing was done before in Mission: Impossible and Skyfall more recently, and this movie manages to do it in a much less interesting way than either film. They don’t even have to duck under the occasional tunnel, it’s just one guy punching and then the other guy punching for minute after tedious minute. Snore. With Abrams, the ramp-up is always bigger than the payoff. I mean, you might be able to remember how all the plot points were resolved in Mission Impossible III, but can you actually recall anything from the last half hour of that movie? And why should you, it was just a bunch of standard-issue chase and fight scenes, with minimal variation and creativity. All I remember was Tom Cruise tossing the Macguffin to Ving Rhames at the end, and only that because he didn’t know what was in it and tossing it like a softball seemed a little dangerous under the circumstances.
But I found it to be a fairly watchable movie overall. The prior film I’d put in C+ territory, and this one is probably more B/B+. It’s dumb, but it isn’t throw something at the wall dumb. Still an improvement, even if they’re not even close to where they need to be. But I have hope that the last scene teasing out the famous five-year mission of exploration doubles as an indication that Abrams will move onto Star Wars soon, and leave the series in the hands of a different creative team. Let’s hope.
- So yeah, it’s Khan. I kind of dreaded that, but it wound up being not a problem at all. Cumberbatch was great, delivered just the performance he needed to, one that didn’t make me miss dear departed Ricardo. Now that you’ve done it well, Star Trek, can we never call back to The Wrath of Khan again please?
- I like the Deep Space Nine reference and all, but Marcus blurting out something about Section 31 isn’t right. Plausible deniability is the whole point of those guys, and while Marcus’s insane plans seem very much in the wheelhouse of what 31 would do, they’d never just reveal themselves like that.
- Carol Marcus, alternate timeline version, goes from an American civilian scientist with a disdain for military service to a British career officer? Is there any reason for this, other than to fuck with the obsessive fan contingent that keeps this whole venture afloat? I get that the structure of these reboots ensures that any continuity criticism has an automatic refutation, but the trajectory of her life up until a few years earlier should have remained exactly the same, right?
From the Department of Pretentious and Idle Noodling Department: In regards to the “all gates/no stile” situation the news macheen finds itself in currently, I got to thinking that what the GOP lacks is an appropriate sense of wu-wei.
Which is a lie; I never thought anything of the sort. I mean, come on; only a baby’s arse would say something like that.
What I did note was that the GOP keeps chasing one shiney maybe-scandal after another, which just ends up reminding everyone they’ve been doing the same shit for years: running around like hyperbolic ninnies, transparently bitching about shit like it was the end of the world, not because they actually cared about the shit they were bitching (about), or wanted to, say, leave the world a better place for certain values of “better,” but rather for who-knows-what. Clobbering the dink, winning the news cycle, black president — search me. As a result, it seems to me the public perception of their behavior that they themselves engineered isn’t “they’re doing this today, in response to [X]” but rather “this is what they do”.
Fifty-nine percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party, tying the all-time record for negative views of the GOP. That’s a five-point increase since March, and raises the possibility that the public approves of the GOP’s actions on IRS and Benghazi but might be put off by the way the party has been making its point. Favorable ratings for the Democratic Party are up six points in that same time.
[...] Sen. Rand Paul claimed Sunday there was a “written policy” floating around the agency that said IRS officials were “targeting people who were opposed to the president.”
“And when that comes forward, we need to know who wrote the policy and who approved the policy,” the Republican senator from Kentucky said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Pressed for more precise details about the memo he was referring to, Paul said he hasn’t seen such a policy statement but has heard about it.
“Well, we keep hearing the reports and we have several specifically worded items saying who was being targeted. In fact, one of the bullet points says those who are critical of the president. So I don’t know if that comes from a policy, but that’s what’s being reported in the press and reported orally[.]“
the more “it’s just who they are.”
(“Reported orally,” he said. Ha!)
Anyway, wu-wei. Here’s a couple of quotes from The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu (trans. Burton Watson, Columbia University Press, New York, 1968) I read these the other day and it seemed appropriate.
Water that is still gives back a clear image of beard and eyebrows; reposing in the water level, it offers a measure to the great carpenter. And if the water in stillness possesses such clarity, how much more must pure spirit. The sage’s mind in stillness is the mirror of Heaven and earth, the glass of the ten thousand things.
When the monkey trainer was handing out acorns, he said, “You get three in the morning and four at night.” This made all the monkeys furious. “Well then,” he said, “you get four in the morning and three at night.” The monkeys were all delighted.
And we all know what monkeys do, right?
This post seems to draw people to the site and generate comments even years after the fact, so I might as well follow it up by commenting on the series Hannibal. Also, yes, I am deliberately writing more on pop culture since politics is so damn boring at the moment.
I think the show’s great. I really do. I hope this is correct and it gets a full or at least another partial season. The show is more in the Manhunter/Silence of the Lambs tradition than the later and less successful films, where it’s a story about a person, rather than a story about Hannibal. I like Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham, he’s a little less internal than William Petersen’s, but projects the same kind of wounded vulnerability. And Mads Mikklesen’s Lecter is restrained and utterly top-notch. Certainly a more interesting Hannibal than Hopkins’s version, more in line with Bryan Cox’s interpretation. Really, it does feel a lot like Manhunter in the best ways, with an appropriately updated style and all.
What’s surprising about the series so far is that it’s actually succeeding in making Hannibal Lecter an interesting, deeper character than he ever has been (in the movies). They’ve actually made him capable of surprise again! The series has played coy with its advertisements and such, and it doles out information about the character only as necessary. I’m not entirely sure where along the line he is in his journey to cannibalism and complete alienation from humanity, but he’s not quite there yet, and quite often the show surprises me by having him do something, then you wonder why he did that, and then ultimately it’s revealed in a way that makes sense and defies expectations. It’s ever-so offbeat, and this is highly appreciated by me. Bryan Fuller’s accomplishment here is distinctive, but most impressive is that he’s actually made a version of Hannibal that could probably carry a show. I am happy though that it’s still Will Graham’s show, as I fear that a Hannibal-centric series would be inevitably soulless, and having a Graham or a Clarice figure really is essential to making the thing work.
Matt Yglesias’s wide-angle take on the Star Trek franchise is great, even if his rankings contain serious deficiencies. But I won’t get into that. I agree entirely with his belief that a new TV show is the best option for the future, and in terms of the economics and business approach, as well as the creative latitude. It’s sort of an ironic turnaround. The movies with the original cast allowed for a lot more variety in terms of the kinds of stories that were told. Just check out this home-made chart, comparing the first six movies with the original crew, and the second six (the four TNG films, and the two by JJ Abrams to date):
Admittedly, this chart is a little propagandistic. Simply having the same elements doesn’t mean you automatically tell the same stories. First Contact was also about revenge, and a threat to destroy earth, and had one main villain for the crew to defeat. However, that movie was redeemed by the ingenious twist of making the vengeance Picard’s, rather than the Borg Queen’s. This made it a movie about the psychological battle going on within Picard’s mind, rather than a pedestrian plot to stop an unambiguously evil supervillain bent on destruction (though, admittedly, every movie in the second sextet aside from First Contact has this very story, with the most modest of variations between them). And obviously there are quibbles: Chang from The Undiscovered Country could be counted as a main villain, though I see the cross-species conspiracy of hawks to be the villain of that film, and Chang is merely their muscle. Also, trying to accomplish specific political goals is different from the mad ambition of, say, a Khan, who is uninterested in doing anything other than indulging his own grief and anger at Kirk.
But nonetheless, I think this chart does say a lot. For one thing, it’s not fair to blame J.J. Abrams alone for the problems with Trek movies, those started even before his Felicity days. If anything, he’s found a better way of combining all those elements so that they’re more entertaining to watch, even if he can’t payoff anything to save his life, such that every movie he’s ever made has had a shitty climax. In the first six movies, pretty much every movie represented a change in tone, theme and content from what came before. The only two that really resemble each other are The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country, i.e. II and VI, which happened to have the same writer-director and thus a lot of the same preoccupations, such as aging. But even in that case, the aging theme was updated and developed. Khan was a movie about adapting to middle age, while Country was about adapting to old age. That’s moving the ball forward, not stagnating. And it told a different kind of story: Country was all about politics, and Khan was not. But other than that, about half the movies kept the spirit of the show alive by often centering around dealing with different kinds of life from us, and all featured at least some sort of moral or ethical dilemma. Admittedly, some of those were more sophisticated than others. Also interesting to note that the two original cast movies with main villains and the two in which Earth was threatened were not the same movies. The more recent half-dozen, on the other hand, present the audience with a simple moral situation where it’s not even a question of who’s right or wrong, and then it’s all about taking out the bad guy. Really, it just makes a person appreciate First Contact more and more–problematic as the script to that movie was, it fundamentally told a human story, one that made some logical sense and was pretty compelling, and presented us with at least some kind of challenging questions about our characters. I doubt we’ll ever see its like again.
I actually think this is wrong. The IRS scandal is probably not going to give much of an additional boost to the GOP in 2014. I just don’t see it. When you have nearly half of the Republican Party ready for armed revolution (should it be necessary, of course) and a similar percentage who sees Barack Obama as the antichrist, where can you really go? How much less esteem can they really have for the guy? How much more of a turnout factor can they get? Republicans have an automatic advantage for midterms anyway because their base is composed more of people who are inclined to vote/the ability to vote without hassle/can take off work to do so without losing a job. I can’t be certain of this, but I’m reasonably sure that any gain from any one scandal will be minimal–this “validates” rightwing paranoia inasmuch as everything does, and they’re always finding “proof” for their theories anyway. This one is a bit more dangerous because it’s real and because the MSM is likely to push it, but the result likely won’t be much different.
In fact, I’m convinced that we’re living in a post-scandal world for the most part, within and without politics (but especially when it comes to politics). The scandal fixation among the press is obsolete, frankly. Since the ’70s and ’80s, political polarization has become an immutable fact of life, one of the few areas left where Americans are allowed to be proudly, unrepentantly tribalistic (sports team rooting is another). In both of these areas, this tendency is taken to silly extremes, but if you basically assume that people are tribal creatures and that our society gives very little space for expression of this fact, it kind of makes sense. Back in the Good Old Days*, all manner of racial, religious, ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation tribal hooks were considered more or less fair game. Now, none of that is acceptable in polite society, only in the realm of dog whistles. And let’s not act as though tribalism is entirely a right-wing phenomenon–though it does appear stronger there due to unending pseudopopulist appeal from talk radio and FOX News–in fact, a lot of liberal tribal identifiers from long ago have not really aged as poorly, as it’s still quite acceptable to reduce large parts of the country as being as ignorant and religiously fanatical as Republican politicians tend to be, while this is an exaggeration of a more complicated picture. In any event, my point is that if you accentuate these tribal instincts–and conservative attempts to do so will wind up working both ways–you come into a place where loyalty to parties and leaders essentially become cultural attitudes and aren’t really porous to things like scandals. Dubya held onto his base for his entire time in office, though he lost literally everyone outside of it due to utter incompetence in nearly every conceivable domain. Obama is not going to lose much from a scandal that doesn’t even go all the way to the top of the IRS, probably just some low-info types who aren’t likely to vote in a midterm anywhere. Really, short of a double-dip, there’s no reason to be especially worried.
*For White Men
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