November 19, 2004

Roll Up Your Sleeves

Every holiday, my family gets together and plays Monopoly. We have some dessert, spread out on the dining room table, and have a good natured round of cut-throat faux capitalism. I think I won one of these games once upon a time. In the end, winning is only incidental to me. I just like communing with my family.

Recently, I realized that, my brother Harold and my cousin Billy seem to always be among the last people standing towards the end of the game. Consequently, they tend to win more often than anyone else. Consistently. And I started thinking about why.

Typically, we'll start at around 8PM, and, with close to 10 people playing sometimes, the game can go well past 1AM on a Saturday night before we all have to drag our turkey-infused bodies to church the next morning. It's fun, but, after a while, it becomes draining. We all get a bit punch drunk and, slowly but surely, begin to mentally check out of the game. It's become a marathon and, consequently, no longer fun. Which is, of course, the whole point of playing.

For most of us.

Only then did I realize why Harold & Billy keep winning. It's because winning is FAR FAR FAR more important to either of them than simply playing or communing or having a good time. As I watch them, I can see both of them becoming more energized as the night goes on. As other people begin to fall away, Harold & Billy smell blood. They know that, with each bankruptcy, the win that they crave so much becomes that much closer. They work harder. They become more creative. They want it.


It's all that matters.

And why these guys and not, say, my mother or, even me?

Billy was a finance major in college and is a few steps away from being a licensed stock broker.

Harold is a Republican.

The moral of this story?

The Republican Party has won the last few election cycles because they never sleep. I'm reminded of a scene in "The Insider", where Russell Crowe can see the office building of his old employers: it's night and the building is dark except for the 10th Floor. The legal department.

They don't sleep. They spend every waking hour trying to find a way to advance their agenda. Think tanks. Newsletters. School boards. Letters to the editor. Meetings. Calling in to talk shows. Writing their congresspeople. Going to city council meetings. Financing candidates. Boycotts. Protests. Lawsuits. Petitions. Bills.

By any means necessary.

The point is, the GOP shows up every time. They contest EVERY open elected office, right down to school librarian. And they've been doing it for years. Even those who aren't political operatives do their small parts where they are to effect the things that are important to them.

Not just complaints. Consistent, continuous action.

Democracy is a full-time job. It requires, at the very least, active information gathering and engagement in the issues. But, it's a bit silly to know all and do nothing.

We may call ourselves Progressives, but this is really the first election in a generation when we actively pushed forward in a coordinated effort. Yes, they won. By two points. And one of those points went to Ralph Nader.

We matched them in fundraising, and we very nearly matched them in voter mobilization.

But now the election is over. Now, that same work has to be devoted to the day-to-day operation of actually governing. And that requires daily, active involvement of SOME kind.

We don't all need to run for office (although some of us definitely should). But we can all do something to create the America we want.

Rev. Tillet is in total agreement with me on this:

It's Time To Step Up

In the world of sports, whenever there is a big game or a critical situation in the game, the players and coaches will often say that, "it's time to step up." The more there is on the line, the more imperative it is that the team and its coaches "step up and bring their A Game." It is such a time for the African American community in the "United" States of America. If what is past is truly prologue, then the election results from November 2 should inform us that we can no longer have any reasonable expectation of assistance or even a sympathetic ear from the Federal government. History has also taught us that the less sympathetic the Feds are, the less support we will find at the state level, either.

So here we are, on the cusp of reaping the whirlwind from George W. Bush's first actual election to the White House, in 2004. Armed with a self-proclaimed "mandate," the courts are going to be damaged by the appointments and rulings by ideological jurists for the next generation. The government, designed to provide a Balance of Powers, won't be balancing anything. Even if the Democrats reclaim their progressive voice in 2008, it will take decades to undo the damage wreaked by these judges with lifetime appointments.

In the face of all this bad news, what are African Americans to do? I would suggest, hold ourselves accountable, set some standards and expectations in our own communities, and stop looking to government to "deliver" us. No matter who is in office, until we learn how to be producers rather than consumers, and become financially self sufficient by harnessing the power of our collective one-half trillion-dollar buying power each year, we will continue to be beggars. In a nation built on the backs of the enslaved labor of our foreparents, we continue to look for help that's not going to come from outside our own communities.

Are you unhappy with the schools? Support them with your time, presence and expectations. Better yet, open your own! But even our own schools will fail unless we have our children turn off the TV, the radio and the video games, open a book, and insist upon respectful performance from our children. Expectations begin in the home and are enforced in the home. Parents shouldn't look to "the schools" to do our job! Even if you are a parent who feels ill equipped, there are community programs, churches and mosques that will provide parenting assistance.

Are you tired of banks and insurance companies and their prejudicial loan and policy practices? Open and support honest and efficient Black banks and insurance companies. Weary of disinterested, businesses profiting on the African American community? Support honest and respectful African American businesses and stop asking for a special discount price. When "the man" comes to your house and quotes a price, you don't bargain, you pull out your checkbook. Do our own businesses deserve to be treated differently?

Perhaps you feel like the inner city and your neighborhoods have been abandoned? Start by cleaning up your own yard and your own block and hold your neighbors accountable to do likewise. We have seen the power of negative peer pressure in the decline of our communities. Positive peer pressure can also galvanize change. It's time to step up!

At this point, we have no reasonable expectation for help from those in power, who demonize us for campaign advantage and stand guard at the polls to try to keep us from voting. By managing our own schools, neighborhoods and families, African Americans can begin to take some baby steps toward self-sufficiency. No matter who is in the White House, the Congress or the courts, our destiny largely resides with us, where it belongs. It is time to stop looking for help from others when we won't help ourselves. It's time to step up!

Wondering what you can do? Here are some places to start:

Democracy for America (formerly known as Dean for America, one of my favorites)
MoveOn - they even have a manual...

New Democratic Network

Or just look for ways to infect the populace with new, progressive ideas:

There's work to do.

November 08, 2004

He's Ba-aaack!

I've been suggesting this since February.

Howard Dean is considering a run for chair of the Democratic National Committee after Terry McAuliffe's tenure ends in January.

And I say "Thank God".

After all, Dean was the one who figured out a year and a half ago that it was pointless to run to the center when Bush & Rove were simply going to fire up their natural base to swell the voter roles in their favor. As the good governor has been saying, if the people can't tell the difference between you and the GOP, and you're talking about the GOP's issues, they'll always vote for the GOP because they KNOW you're only talking like them to get their vote.

On the other hand, if you fire up your own base, on your own issues, with your own identity, NOW we can have a fight.

Dean's already doing party-building through his political action committee, Democracy For America. His mind is already on down-ticket races with an eye for a future progressive majority. Why not take it to the next level. Instead of being the leader of the self-proclaimed "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party", why not just cut to the chase and be the leader of the whole f'n party?

After all, we've proven that the Clinton cronies (yes, that's you, Terry McAuliffe) can't get the job done unless Clinton himself is the candidate. This is 3 Federal elections in a row that DLC centrism has gotten is a "moral" victory (i.e. jack squat).

Dean was and continues to be the only national figure talking about being proud to be a Democrat. He's already the Democratic Party's biggest cheerleader.

Give Dean the ball. Let him inspire candidates and partisans led by a moral, progressive vision so we can continue to reclaim local & state government. When we control a majority of the state houses & state legislatures, THEN we'll have a strong enough crop of candidates from which to pick a potential winning Presidential nominee.

More importantly, he seemed to be the only Democrat who was serious about retaking the South back from the Republicans (even if he didn't quite say it in the most polite way).

Reclaim the ethics issue (more on that later....)

Dean brings passion and integrity to the party. Even if you think he's a too intense to be president, you know EXACTLY where the man stands.

Let's have some of THAT trickle down the party ranks. A little conviction can go a long way.

From The Pulpit

So, in case you haven't noticed, we've undergone a bit of an upgrade here at Macroscope. Now, you can comment on anything we have to say here, and feel free to e-mail the posts in all their multimedia glory to your friends and neighbors.

And, I'd like to stress the word "we" here because this marks the first in a series of outside columns by my dear friend, Rev. Stephen Andrew Tillett, the Senior pastor at Asbury Broadneck United Methodist Church in Annapolis, MD.

Today, the Rev, an avowed Progressive, talks about the election and faith....

Silent No More
My late grandmother used to have a saying: "Enough is enough and too much smells!" I have been the recipient of numerous articles and commentaries from grieving progressive friends since Tuesday's election. The post mortems are beginning to circulate and there is much hand-wringing over how the Democrats allowed themselves to get punked, yet again, because of a made-for-election-year "issue." Largely because of the gay marriage "issue," John Kerry's loss is being credited to the evangelical religious right who turned out in record numbers in response to their concerns - some would say fears - over the subject.

As a member of the heretofore exceedingly courteous Religious Left, I can no longer be silent and assume that "common sense will prevail." Though I find that the whole right/left, red/blue designation inadequately captures the complexity of this nation called the United States, I will use it, for now, since it is more easily (superficially) understood. The "Religious Right" has crowned themselves as the voice for spiritual people in this country and have sought to position themselves at the very gates of Heaven to determine who gets in and who doesn't - who speaks for God and who doesn't. This is not only ludicrous, but also insulting. No more! The Progressive Religious Left has just as much of a claim to the teachings of Jesus and the Bible as anyone. Indeed, I would argue that it is more Christlike to live as Jesus lived and to try to "love my neighbor as myself" rather than to exclude as many people as I can if their sins are different from mine. (Their Big sins versus my little ones.)

Somehow, according to these folks, homosexuality has made it to the very top of the Lord's hit list of sins and now commands an inordinate amount of attention given the scant attention it receives in Scripture. Let's see what the Bible has to say. Based on my study of the issue, homosexuality is mentioned specifically a grand total of three times in the entire Bible, in Leviticus 18:22 (in the midst of an entire chapter of sexual prohibitions), Leviticus 20:13 and Romans 1:26-27. There are, of course, numerous other verses that refer to sexual immorality, fornication and the like, but these are usually attributed to depraved heterosexual behavior. Interestingly enough, there are over seven hundred prohibitions in Scripture against lying, yet millions of voters came to the polls to keep homosexuals in check while lies and misrepresentations have resulted in the deaths and maimings of several thousand US military personnel and tens of thousands of Iraqis (yes, their deaths count, too!) We are more concerned that a homosexual couple may move into the neighborhood than we are that our children may get sent to the desert to fight a war we started and cannot win. As long as those gays don't move in down the street, we can live with job losses, no health care and trillion dollar deficits. No more!

Some analysts indicate that a significant number of African American voters, spurred by their pastors, voted for George Bush on Tuesday. Rather than voting their hopes, they voted out of fear and voted for the candidate whose record indicates that the policies of his administration are anathema to a great majority of our community. Yet the GOP correctly discerned that African Americans are among the more socially conservative citizens of this nation and astutely drove a make-believe wedge right between them and their own best interests. And now they will have a president for the next four years who will do his best to keep the homosexuals in check, while he appoints judges to the courts of this land who will set us back for a generation. But as long as my gay neighbors can't get married…

Just in case anyone is paying attention, the GOP has mastered the art of manipulating legislation and ballot referenda during election years to "frighten out" (turnout) their constituency. In 2004, that "issue" was same sex marriage. In every other election cycle it is their concern for the sanctity of embryonic life. Apparently, life is precious as long as it is in the womb, but once it hits the light of day, it can be snuffed out by a semi automatic weapon on any street in our great but troubled country because everyone should be able to own as many guns as they want with no limits and no background checks. Life is precious in the womb, but if that life grows to become a retarded adult who commits a crime they don't even understand, they can be executed in one of the new state of the art prisons built for us by our booming Prison Industrial Complex. The Bible says we should care for widows and orphans, but instead we live by the world's non-Biblical credo that "the Lord helps those who help themselves." Embryonic life is precious, but Lord help them if they're born on the wrong side of town, have too much melanin in their skin, dare to want equal pay for equal work or access to credit and home loans at reasonable rates.

I, too, value the sanctity of life. I believe that abortion, as a form of after-the-fact contraception is reprehensible. I also understand that circumstances arise in everyone's life (e.g., rape, incest, or the health of the mother) where it may regrettably be necessary. I just don't think that the State should insert itself between a woman and her doctor. Also, in case you hadn't noticed, women can order pills online from the comfort of their homes that will induce a miscarriage and all the health establishment will be able to do is treat those women when they arrive at the hospital. That horse is out of the corral. As much as we might like to, we will never be able to exert as much control over that issue ever again. I also think it is short sighted to vilify and oppose a candidate over that one, personal issue, when the candidate is right on most of the issues facing our families and our future. No more!

I am a proud member of the Progressive Religious Left, otherwise known as the Body of Christ. I will no longer allow others who practice an intolerant, exclusionary brand of religiosity to be understood to speak for me. It's time we, the silent majority, rise up and allow ourselves to be heard. If we sit back and expect for common sense to prevail without our input, we will continue to reap the same results we always have. "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got!" No more!

Frankly, I couldn't agree more. And, as a guy who's STILL, to this day, angry about the 2000 Florida Recount, I'm sure Rev. Tillett will have alot more to say in the coming weeks. Glad to have him aboard.

November 05, 2004

Mommy / Daddy Syndrome

I'm a Democrat. My brother's a Republican.
I'm a progressive. My brother's a conservative.

Clearly, we see the the world VERY differently. Given the fact that we're 12 years apart, could the differences in our politics come from changes in Mom & Dad's parenting skills in the intervening decade? After all, he spent his formative years as an Army brat born in Texas, while I was the child of a bus driver and a state bureaucrat born in the working class suburbs of Baltimore.

This article seems tho think so.

November 03, 2004

".....the sun WILL rise...."

So, I know many of you are still where I was last night.

Sad. Hurt. Stunned. Disappointed.

But that was last night.

Here are the facts.

America WANTS Bush.
By a margin of nearly 4 million votes.


Because EVERYBODY is scared.

The whole electorate. The entire country is scared out of their minds, losing sleep, grinding their teeth, pulling out their hair, about something.

Half of them are terrified of Bin Laden and homosexuals. And the other half are scared of evangelical Christians, the Patriot Act, the deficit, and, quite frankly, Bush himself.

Fear was on the ballot, and it won in a landslide.

Now, we can all have fear for 4 more years. The people who voted for Bush get to be afraid of terrorists and gays for 4 more years because Bush will continue to play to those issues. And the people who voted against Bush (because, let's be honest, very few of them were actually voting FOR Kerry), get to be afraid of Bush for 4 more years.

This is the world we chose.

But it doesn't have to be this way.

We voted for fear because it's comfortable and familiar. But there are other choices.

So, I'd like to suggest that we all deal with our own fear. Whatever it is. Fear of Bin Laden. Fear of homos. Fear of financial ruin. Fear of Bush. Fear of evangelicals.

Because the more you fear something, the more of it you'll get. The more you choose fear, the more you'll get fear. So, choose something else.

For instance, choose faith. Choose to believe IN something, instead of being afraid OF something. I read recently that fear is perfect faith in evil. Choose, instead, to believe in what you love.

Instead of fearing Bin Laden, have faith in America.

Instead of fearing gay marriage, have faith in the strength and
sanctity of your own marriage, no matter what challenges come your

Instead of fear of bankruptcy, have faith in opportunity and your own ability to
prosper, to be wealthy and abundant. (As we Christians SHOULD say "see
the birds in the sky. They do not sew nor reap, yet your Heavenly
Father provides for them").

Instead of fearing Bush, have faith that this is the signal of the
beginning of a progressive era, just like 1964 was the beginning of
the conservative era (remember, Johnson beat Goldwater in a landslide,
and then Nixon routed the Democrats 4 years later. Nixon destroyed
McGovern, and was then run out of office). This election laid a

Stop being afraid.

Start having faith.

Faith in who you are. Faith in what you believe. Faith in the world you choose. Faith in the world you want.

And then share your faith with your neighbors, who are clearly wetting their pants right now, whether they voted for Kerry or Bush (after all, the Bush people voted for him primarily out of fear of Al Qaeda & some mythic gay wedding press gang).

We on the progressive side need to stop defining ourselves in opposition.

The absence of a negative is NOT a positive.

We need to define the world we want, at every level, and then proclaim it. To the heavens.

Of course, the conservative response to that will be "Damon, you're dreaming".

And my response will be "Of course I am. That's why I wake up smiling.

A better question is 'Why aren't you?'

Because clearly this bed-wetting thing can't feel too good."


Everybody should listen to some Roy Ayers today, namely his track
"Shining Symbol":

"It's not the end.
It's the beginning......"

Note: after a long hiatus, there's going to be a different kind of
Macroscope, in line with what I'm talking about. Stay tuned....

[Update - 11/4/04]: Incidentally, the book I referred to above, that talks about faith as the opposite of fear, can be found here:

This book was simply life-changing. I can't recommend it strongly enough. And I would be remiss if I did not give my sweetheart, Ms. Heather Gillespie, the credit for bringing it to my attention.

And, while I'm at it, if you want to get the Roy Ayers track I mentioned, it's on the soundtrack for the Pam Grier film, Coffy, both of which can also be found here:

November 01, 2004

The Man From Tomorrow

Ever since late July of last year, my morning ritual has been slightly different than it had been for the preceeding 29 years of my life. The daily routine of bludgeoning the snooze button, grabbing a shower, ironing some clothes that I know I should have ironed when they were hot out of the dryer, and packing up for my day had one very distinctive new process.

I pinned a blue button with the words "Howard Dean for America" to my chest.

Tomorrow, my routine will return to what it was seven months ago. And a not insignificant part of me will have died in the process.

Now, I'm sure many of you out there think that the previous sentence is the kind of hyperbole that all writers are practically addicted to when describing their emotional state. And, of course, there's a modicum of truth to that. I'm only recently becoming aware just how much my love for the taste of clever words in my mouth has chilled some friendships & relationships, and earned me the lovely title of "judgemental arsehole" on more than one occasion.

And maybe that's why I love Howard Dean. Because, quite honestly, he and I have alot in common.

Even though I'm someone who prides myself on being tactful (which is often quite easy when placed in relief next to some of my intentionally tactless immediate relatives who shall remain nameless), there are so many things that I cannot NOT say. And things like that are hard to swallow for alot of people, no matter how much sugar you sprinkle on them.

Personally, I never had much of a sweet tooth. I tend to prefer the taste of salt. Or red meat. And, let's be honest: isn't protein and iron better for you than sugar?

Dean was, more than any other person in public life that I can even think of, the guy who wasn't just willing to tell you the truth you didn't want to hear. Dean LOVED to tell you the truth that you absolutely HAD to hear. The truth that your life depended on.

The truth that, when you run the numbers, NO ONE in the middle class really got a tax cut. The truth that, even though there may actually have been a legitimate national security argument to justify invading Iraq, Bush held it in his back pocket in the hopes you'd all swallow his fear-mongering line of bovine excrement rather than doing the hard work of honest persuasion. The truth that Bush thinks Ken Lay and Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are better at spending your money than either you OR the Federal government, so we might as well just give it to them because we would only blow it to feed our $2000/month perscription Lipator habit like the degenerate junkies that we are.

Yes, all of these truths were self-evident. But only Howard Dean had the (yes, I'm going to say it) balls to actually say it.

On National TV. Loudly.

Someone with the strength of his convictions, demanding that everyone actually acknowledge that the President has no clothes.
That is leadership. Governing in the absence of fear. THAT is what I wanted in the White House.

But morale backbone was just a gateway drug.

The real intoxicant Dean sold was America itself.

Not this paranoid army of exploited Wal-Mart drones being mass produced by a cabal of elitist, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, inbred, dyslexic sock puppets too stupid to realize that they're putting their own heads on the pikes of the starving masses by bankrupting the country to stay in power. Not that America.

Dean showed us jaded Americans the America Thomas Jefferson wrote about in the Declaration of Independence - the America where regular people not only had a say in what their world looked like, but where they actually cared about what happened to their neighbor. Where the government was an instrument they all created to pool their resources and better their lives. Where they were able to fulfill the blessings of their own liberty and everyone had a stake in making sure that everyone else succeeded.

He showed us the America that Haitian refugees see when they try to ride a rowboat across the Atlantic for a better life. The America that South Asian immigrants see when they sell themselves into virtual slavery just for the chance to ride on a shipping container to the New World.

Dean showed us, for the briefest of seconds, The Land of Opportunity. The place where everything is possible.

He showed us The Future.

We used to call it the American Dream.

And he showed it to us in a way that made us all kind of slap our foreheads and say "what was I thinking? OF COURSE THIS IS WHAT I REALLY WANT!!"

I'm reminded of a speech the late Richard Harris gave in Gladiator about Rome:

"There was once a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more, and it would vanish. It would disappear. It was that fragile."

And yes, part of that dream died today. The part where Dr. Howard Brush Dean III, the former governor of the State of Vermont, becomes the President of the United States in the year 2004.

But, then again, not even Moses got to go to the promised land.

And yes, today, there is mourning for the death of that part of the dream.

But there are 640,000 people in mourning today.

We've all tasted the dream, and we're all still hungry.

The campaign for the White House may be done, but, if I can quote KRS-One:

"We will be here forever.

Do you understand me?


For ever and ever.

And ever and ever.



No link or associated article this time. Just my semi-random observations.

So, last Sunday, I watched a debate between 5 of the nine contenders for the Democratic Presidential Nomination, sponsored right here in L.A. by the League of Conservation Voters, a progressive environmental group. One of the things that struct me was how much time they all spent talking about why they are capable of beating President Bush in a general election. In many ways, it's more of the same mantra that has really burdened our political process for years - "Don't waste your vote on a loser."

This brings several things to mind. At a philosophical level, it just reinforces for me how much failure is equated almost with immorality in the American Dream. But that's a different discussion for another time.

On a more practical level, it makes me wonder how much time do we devote to thinking about who SHOULD be president as opposed to who CAN be President, because the two are clearly not always analogous. When Bob Graham says "I'm from the electable wing of the Democratic Party", my knee-jerk reaction is to castigate him for lauding his appeal to the other side as a virtue. There's so much talk about electoral calculus, i.e. if I can get the people in just the right number of states to vote for me, then I can squeeze my way into the Oval Office.

Number-crunching aside, I think that this approach is, quite frankly, beneath the ideal of what America is supposed to be. Just like, for all his virtues as a candidate, I thought Al Gore's approach of "I'll protect you good Americans from the bad Americans" is beneath America as well.

America is bigger than that.

America is, for lack of a better term, a symphony.

It is the blueprint for a song that calls upon the very best from every single instrument in the orchestra. And the President is the conductor. A conductor cannot take the elements of the piece meant for the brass section and give them to the strings simply because he likes the way the strings sound. On the other hand, the conductor can't take from the strings and give to the winds because he thinks the strings are too arrogant and full of themselves. And he certainly can't make the symphony work by catering to the natural divisions between the various sections.

The conductor's goal should be rousing, fulfilling, beautiful harmony.

Which means the President of the United States of America has to represent the entire country. Not just the red states or, my personal favorites, the blue states. Every section has a role to contribute to the endeavor, and the President's job is to led the way by which ALL sections contribute and are provided for. He must be the President for the workers, the poor, the underclass, but he must also be the President for the business community and the wealthy, those who provide the opportunities for the others. He has to find ways to balance the needs of the industrial sector to prosper with their civic function to provide for the society, by both the goods they provide and the jobs and benefits and wealth they create for employees and shareholders alike. He has to protect and defend the downtrodden and the disenfranchised while calling for responsibility on the part of those who reap the most benefits from being members in this club we call America. But, at the same time, he has to find ways that the disenfranchised can contribute to the nation as a whole, while helping the successful protect and enjoy the fruits of their labors.

The President is not beholden to PACs and lobbyists and interest groups and big donors and protest parties or the DLC or the Green Party or the Electoral College.

The President is a servant to an idea. The idea that all men & women are created equal, and deserve an equal chance here, in this place, for life, liberty, and the pursuit of their own happiness.

So, as you think about the upcoming election, don't let them drag you down to their level. Don't let them trick you into believing these false choices, that only certain people are "electable", and only this person or the other deserve to be there.

That, my friends, is an aristocracy.

Reach out with your hearts and think about who SHOULD be there. Who do you dream about being there.

It's only when we stop settling for the lesser evil that we can ever hope to get the good.

Liberty or Death

OK, so one of the many fringe benefits of participating in the Dean campaign is that I have a much better understanding of the landscape of modern political discourse. The New Republic likes to think that it's the venerable, old guard standard bearer of modern liberal thought. But, considering that they endorsed "Joe-mentum" Lieberman as the Democratic nominee, I think it's pretty safe to say that they're out of touch with the Democratic electorate.

But once I figured that out that they were really, if I may paraphrase my favorite retired ghetto superhero Al Sharpton, "elephants in donkey jackets", I started casting about for some more progressive publications. Which lead me to The American Prospect.. Admittedly, I think I've only just scratched the surface of what they do, but the punditry seems to be right on the money.

Case in point: this little blurb they put together on the potential legacy of Dean for America. I'm particularly interested in Garance Franke-Ruta's article on the way Dean has re-invigorated American democracy. One of the standard critiques of DFA has been that, given the spotlight, they concentrated on the political process (i.e. meetups, fundraising, grassroots interactions like letterwriting, etc.). But, and I quote:

"How we govern ourselves -- who has power and who can use government power to improve their lives -- may be a process question. But it's also the one this country was founded on. Americans did not fight against the British for universal health care, gay rights, and a 50-cent increase in the minimum wage. They fought for the freedom to be self-governing.

Which raises an interesting point to me.

Have we, as a country, simply forgotten what democracy is?

After decades of special treatment for the wealthy and enormous corporate donors and lobbyists at the expense of the average taxpayer, has the notion of "government of the people, for the people, by the people" simply been beaten out of us?

A democratic government is intended to be a an agent that gathers the collective resources of a group of people to act in their interests as they determine it in ways that they, as individuals cannot. And yet so many of us look at the government as irrrelevant at best, antagonistic at worst.

Dean for America was a real microcosm of what a national, American democracy could look like in the 21st century. More importantly, it reacquainted over a half million people with the idea of self-rule.

This is all a thought in progress. Stay tuned......

August 03, 2004

The Fifth Wheel

I love movies. I love comics. But, oddly enough, movies based on comics are supremely cool, while comics based on movies are, well, not.

Well, a new project that I've been keeping my eye on for a bit is 20th Century Fox's adaptation of the grandaddy of all Marvel comics. Before X-Men and before Spider-Man, there was The Fantastic Four.

Now, for those of you who don't know the story, here's my take on it, through my modern eyes: NASA won't let rediculously smart scientist Reed Richards fly his new rocket ship because he hasn't properly tested the radiation shielding. So, since The Man is holding him down, Richards just decides to fly the thing himself. Since he can't get astronauts to do it, he just hijacks the ship and gets his Air Force buddy Ben Grimm to fly it, and he convinces his girlfriend and her kid brother to help fill out the crew.

Yes, it's completely insane, and their space flight fails miserably - lucky for them they all get exposed to these weird cosmic rays that give them superpowers. Their not exactly superhero crime fighters in the traditional sense like Spider-Man or Batman. They're really explorers. Well, actually, Reed Richards is an explorer, and the rest of the team are there to project him on these crazy scientific excursions.

It's pretty crazy stuff - antimatter universes, advanced human offshoots that live on the moon, shapeshifting alien lizard people, a cosmic entity that eats entire planets, etc., etc.

So, they've hired Tim Story, who directed Barbershop, to direct this.

Yeah, that's what I said, too. But they make it sound like this new movie he's doing called "Taxi" with Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifa made the head honchos at Fox think he's their guy. They say the action is pretty crackin' in that yet to be released flick. And I'm sure the fact that he's a fan of the comic who's just a bit cheaper than Steven Spielberg didn't hurt either.

Anyway, the director made me a little nervous, but the casting has been relatively solid with.....

Michael Chiklis ("The Shield") as "The Thing" Ben Grimm

Jessica Alba ("Dark Angel") as "The Invisible Woman" Sue Storm

Some guy I've never heard of named Chris Evans as "The Human Torch" Johnny Storm

and Ioan Gruffudd (Horatio Hornblower from the A&E series) as nutty professor Reed Richards, better known as "Mr. Fantastic".

But the real juice, the role that makes or breaks this movie, is the antagonist. See, while the Fantastic Four are primarily explorers, they do have true, bloodthirsty enemies, and the king of the crop is Dr. Doom.

Proof positive that madness is relative, while Reed Richards was trying to get his girlfriend into the space program, Victor Von Doom was building a machine to break his sorceress mother's soul out of Hell. Needless to say, it failed and literally blew up in his face, leaving the former eurotrash pretty boy looking like a giant scab that he hides behind an iron mask. And, since Reed Richards was the classmate of Doom's who tried to warn him that his crazy machine wouldn't work, Doom believes that Richards sabotaged the machine. What's worse, now that Richards is a celebrity superhero with a hot, butt-kicking, invisible babe on his arm, Doom is now obsessed with proving that he's smarter and superior to Richards by, of course, killing him and his extended family. So, in addition to being a super science genius and a part-time practicioner of black magic, Doom also happens to be the monarch of a tiny little European country, which gives him diplomatic immunity for any craziness he tries against the Fantastic Four. He's just the architype for all comic book supervillains.

Ladies and gentlemen, Fox has just announced that they've cast Julian MacMahon,

who plays the wickedly self-absorbed Christian Troy on FX's "Nip/Tuck" to play Dr. Doom.

Aces! Now I'm excited.

There will be more as this develops. But, in the meantime, amuse yourselves with three of the best Fantastic Four/Dr. Doom face-offs I've read in years.

The first, called simply "1 2 3 4" by Grant Morrison & Jae Lee, has Doctor Doom splitting the team by giving two of them the things Reed Richards never could: he gives The Thing back his humanity, and he gives Sue Storm-Richards the passion of an illicit affair with Namor, the hardbodied Prince of Atlantis.

The second, "Unthinkable", by Mark Waid and Mark Wieringo, has Dr. Doom rejecting science and embracing magic, something Reed Richards can't comprehend. And Doom begins his assault on the Four by sending Reed and Sue Richards young son Franklin to Hell. Literally. And that's just the beginning.

The last, "Authoritative Action", also by Waid and Howard Porter, has Reed Richards leading the other members of the group to reluctantly invade and conquer Dr. Doom's home country of Latveria in the aftermath of "Unthinkable". Richards then sets himself up as the new Emperor.

Check 'em out.

July 28, 2004

The Future

Just in case you didn't see the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention last night...

Ladies and gentleman, I give you the first Black President of the United States: Barack Obama.

The son of a Kansas mom & a Kenyan dad, raised in Chi-town, and the former editor of the Harvard Law Review, Brother Obama is currently an Illinois state senator. This spring, he was one of six candidates running in the Democratic primary for Illinois's open seat in the U.S. Senate.

Against 5 other white candidates, Obama got 53% of the vote statewide.

And then, Obama's Republican adversary in the general election, Jack Ryan, recently imploded. Why? Because he was running as a family values conservative until the paperwork from his divorce from Jeri Ryan (yes, THIS Jeri Ryan)....

...revealed that part of their separation was her objection to his desire to take her to a sex club for public nookie.

Oh, and THEN the Republicans tried to recruit Mike Ditka (yes, THIS Mike Ditka)... run against Obama. Ditka declined.

If elected, Obama will be only the 3rd African American to serve in the Senate in American history.

The man has the juice. Look for him to take the Oath of Office in 2012 (after Kerry/Edwards are re-elected).

Don't believe me?

Check out the brother's speech.

"It’s not enough for just some of us to prosper. For alongside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga.

A belief that we are connected as one people. If there’s a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandmother. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It’s that fundamental belief—I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sisters’ keeper—that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. “E pluribus unum.” Out of many, one.

Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America—there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."

He's the real deal.

July 11, 2004

"Meet my FIST!"

On Friday, July 9th, on National Public Radio, Ralph Nader is going to debate Howard Dean.

Maybe now someone will publicly defrock Nader for the megalomaniac he's become, especially since it's mostly Republicans propping up his campaign as a Kerry spoiler.

Personally, I can't wait.

Check your local listings.

[UPDATE]: So, here are the goods - a streaming audio of the debate.

I'd like to say that the moderator, Margo Adler, should be fired. Her attempts to defuse the debate with her frivolous questions just as it was getting juicy were really starting to tick me off.

The more I listen to him, the more Nader sounds like Rorschach from Watchmen:

"No. Not even in the face of Armageddon. Never compromise."

Then again, most of Nader's big checks are also coming from people who've contributed to Bush this year, too. I guess his principles do have a price.

But I think Dean said it best:

"When the house is on fire, it's not the time to fix the furniture".

July 08, 2004

The Piece Maker

So, last night, I saw my man Joe Hernandez-Kolski's solo show, "You Wanna Piece of Me?" at the Electric Lodge in Venice, CA, where it will be running for the next 4 nights.

Digression: Can I say, I never knew there really is a street called "Electric Avenue"?

Back to the subject at hand....

The show is awesome.

Yes, the music is off the hinges - from the jaw-dropping turntable skills of Joe's DJ, Jedi (on loan from HBO's Def Poetry) and the smallest taste of Josh Silverstein's human beatbox onslaught.

Yes, the poetry is fluid and insidious - sometimes you don't even realize that Joe's performing a poem because the flow is so natural and conversational until he pulls the ripcord on the verse and it blows up like a balloon right before your eyes.

Yes, the dancing is out of this world - beyond the usual breaking and poppin' & lockin' you'd expect from a former club dancer, Joe finds ways to tell entire stories without a single word, but only the movement of his body. A piece in the middle of the show where he depicts the mind-numbingly grinding rat-race of a super-overachiever's life at Princeton is one of the most expressive performances I've ever seen.

But, at the end of the day, what makes it all work is the fact that Joe absolutely empties his soul onto that stage floor for the world to see - his own internal demons over his mixed racial heritage; the way he debunks the way men belittle women, and then debunks his own debunking as simply a means to get women; own desperate quest to make the rest of the world give as much of a damn as he does, and then his realization of the deep personal costs he pays for having the arrogance to be a self-appointed savior of everything from hip-hop music to a lost generation of Lation kids who look just like him - it's all there.

It's not every day I get to see a friend perform a vivisection on himself so he can entertain and enlighten.

Understatement of the week: He gets my props.

And the good folks at Venice Magazine, LA Weekly, and Latino LA all seem to agree with me.

The show is running for the next four nights. I cannot recommend it stronger. Go to his site (click the main link for this post or just go to

And I, for one, am hoping he and Jedi are recording some of this to put out a bootleg mix-tape soundtrack or something.

Oh, and did I mention that Joe is also going to be one of the featured poets on Def Poetry Slam, airing on September 19th on HBO? So, those of you who miss out won't have to miss out completely.

Taking The Fifth

When asked to comment about the recent indictment of former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay, a man who was the biggest contributor to Bush-Cheney 2000 (he even let James Baker use the company jet to fly to Florida to stop the recount) and who was more than likely at the head of Cheney's energy task force, the President of the United States did this:

Yes, Bush walked out and refused to take anymore questions.

Silence can speak volumes.

July 04, 2004

In Context

Just so no one misunderstands where he's coming from, here's the entire transcript of Senator Rick Santorum's (R-Pennsylvania) interview with AP where he weighs in on homosexuality, which he equates with bigamy, polygamy, incest, sodomy, and adultery as sexual activities that undermine the institution of marriage and, consequently, the society as a whole.

So, where to begin?

First of all, there are actually many instances of viable and often thriving societies built on bigamy & polygamy, so we can dismiss those from this discussion. Sodomy in and of itself becomes problematic within the context of his argument because, unless he's planning on outlawing anal sex among consenting heterosexual couples as well, then you get into a civil rights violation because you're not providing equal protection under the law to all groups.

Which leaves us with incest, adultery, and homosexuality. Well, there are biological and health reasons why incest is illegal, not to mention the psychological trauma from cross generational sexual activities within the same family (think Chinatown - "she's my sister! My daughter! My sister AND my daughter!"), so, yes, it creates emotionally unstable people which leads to an unstable society. And, because it often involves people who cannot give consent because they're underaged, there's a strong civic reason to outlaw incest.

Adultery is a bit thornier. Clearly, it undermines society because it creates emotionally unstable people, hence the term "Crime of Passion". But, since it involves consenting adults, the act in and of itself doesn't actually injure or damage anyone directly, so it probably doesn't meet the test for being made illegal. But it does constitute a breach of contract, which is why adultery is often figured into divorce proceedings in terms of asset allocation.

But, in the case of homosexuality, no one is being injured. No contracts have been breached (unless one of them is married). No crime has been committed (unless one of them is underaged). So, what are the grounds upon which you base such a decision as to make homosexual acts a crime?

The only thing that the anti-gay lobby can use against them is that gay couples can't give birth without outside assistance, like adoption, surrogates, in vitro fertilization, etc. But, there are plenty of married heterosexual couples who can't either. Should it be illegal for a couple to have sex, for instance, after the woman has undergone menopause?

There is no legal precedent to stand on, other than the fact that Sen. Santorum finds homosexual activities repugnant.

At the end of the day, it's bigotry.

And I'd respect him and others like him more if they would just admit that they don't like them.

And the Bible isn't really an adaquate excuse either. The same section of Leviticus that says a man shouldn't lay with another man because it's a hateful act also says that you shouldn't shave your beard. Why choose to observe one and not the other?

Again, bigotry.

Here's What They Think About You

For those of you who don't know, Andrew Sullivan is a center/left columnist who's work appears primarily in The New Republic. Although he claims to be a progressive, he's been a really aggressive supporter of President Bush, largely because he drank the Bush Kool-Aid that his International Crazy-Man act has actually made America safer from terrorist threats.

And just how many nuclear secrets did our buddies in Pakistan sell while we were wasting our time with Iraq? But I digress.

Sullivan is also gay, so, as you can imagine, he and a whole host of log cabin Republicans have been experiencing a tad bit of cognitive dissonance over this whole "constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage" thing. Amazingly enough, according to his blog, Sullivan & Co. were actually able to maintain a level of plausible deniability right up until the moment Bush actually came out in support of the Amendment.

Now, both he and others like him are facing a fact that most of their friends on the other side of the political spectrum have been telling them all along.

The Republican Party hates you.

And no matter how much you agree with them on other issues, no matter how many times you vote for them, no matter how much campaigning you do for them, no matter how much they pat you on the head like good little boys for a job well done, the words of the incomparable Adolph Caesar, aka Sgt. Waters, in "A Soldier's Story" remain a fact of life:

"They still hate you. They - still - HATE - you"

What I found the most interesting in looking at his blog is the sheer volume of astonished former Bush supporters. And, to a man, they've almost all said that they've looked past Bush's fiscal mismanagement of the nation's treasury because they were so scared after 9/11 and the President made them feel safe. Despite all the prior evidence to the contrary, they trusted him right up until the moment that he spat in their faces.

Of course, for those who had their world view altered by 9/11, I suppose they didn't have much choice but to trust him. After all, it's not like they were ready to impeach him or anything. Things were shaky enough as it is.

But a new thought occurred to me as I read this. Perhaps the very reasons why I think Bush is an awful President are why these folks support him. When you think your life is in danger, I suspect there's something comforting about putting your safety in the hands of an unscrupulous person because you know they're capable of anything, and that they won't let little things like the law stand in their way. As long as that goal is your safety, it's all peachy.

Of course, there in lies the problem with that argument. The unscrupulous person who'll do anything never has your best interests at heart. After all, he's unscrupulous. He'll do anything. That's why he's dangerous.

Either way, I'm heartened to see a broad coalition forming to throw this bum out in November.

But, before I go, I'd like to do two things. First, to the people who are opposed to gay marriage, can I ask a favor? Don't insult my intelligence by saying we have to "protect" marriage because it's a precious institution and that it's for the children or any of that other garbage. Polygamy has been around at least as long as monagamous marriage and all the millions of children languishing in foster care that all the heterosexual couples can't be bothered with would gladly trade two dads or two moms for a cot in a halfway house. Why don't you all just come out and say why you really oppose gay marriage: that you don't want to make sin legal. Just say it, so we can all talk honestly about what the REAL issue is. Everything else they're saying is window dressing.

The real issue of gay marriage for The Right is the legalization of sin.

Case in point: I was really struck by one of the letters Andrew Sullivan received from a supporter of the ban who begged Sullivan to turn his back on his love of sodomy so he could see the err of his ways.

The right can't talk about it because they know, from a legal standpoint, it's indefensible. But it's not like they let reality stop them these days.

Secondly, I'd like to address the Black Republicans in the audience. I know you many of you are cultural conservatives and agree with this whole "Make Sin Unconstitutional" mess, but, as usual, I think many of you are missing the larger point.

They hate you, too. Not quite as much as the gays, but they do hate you. And it's only a matter of time before they come looking for you, too.

July 02, 2004

Murder, Inc.

"8000 would have died
at the end of the night
meeting for a month
over the use of their words
as if the slaughtered
were not people
but merely sheep herds"

-excerpt from "Clinton Toe Blood", one of many poems to be found in "Say it! Say Gen-O-Cide!!", Kobina Wright's new book of verse inspired by the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.

Ladies and gentlemen, consider this your official wake-up call.

In the wake of the Holocaust, the newly minted United Nations created a convention in 1948 (in essence, a treaty, because all of the participants were required to pass laws under their own systems of government that legally bound them to the obligations of the resolution) that defined in no uncertain terms the circumstances under which it's member nations would act to prevent such an atrocity from ever happening again.

So, according to this, the legal definition of genocide (i.e. the one that the United States has been legally bound to stop for the last 56 years) is this:

"...any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

After apparently having his ass handed to him in Somalia, Bill Clinton dithered for months over whether to actually use the word "genocide" with regards to Rwanda, because the minute he said it, he was legally obligated to stop it and he no longer had the political spine for it. After all, it's not like he could have just conducted an air war against hatchet men who where killing whole families, house to house. It would have required sending in ground troops as peacekeepers (unlike Bosnia, hence the differences in the interventions).

Say what you will about Monica Lewinsky. Allowing the rape and dismemberment of 800,000 people out of cowardice is a much bigger moral failure than getting a blow job.

Which brings me to Sudan and the Congo.

Now, I can only guess why the Sudan is all of a sudden in the news. I seem to recall seeing something about this back in 1997, but, after a little web research, I see that it was only a civil war that killed thousands then. Nothing for the international community to be concerned about.

Which would be the only reasonable explanation as to why no one has done a damn thing about the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I think the only people in mainstream, apolitical America who have the foggiest idea about Congo are those who watched ER's 2002-03 season finale and 2003-04 season premiere. After their corrupt President fled in 1998, the country collapsed into a civil war that lasted 5 years, involving a bunch of different rebel groups vying for power, as well as the armies of 6 different African countries hoping to influence the outcome so that they could benefit from Congo's natural resources. The shooting officially stopped a year ago with the creation of a jury-rigged transitional government that can't quite bring itself to hold an election.

Five million died over the course of five years there.

Imagine: 2 people on average were killed every minute, for five years straight. I haven't even lived in Los Angeles that long, yet.

But, it was officially considered a civil war by the western powers, so they just let them die. Can't get involved, right?

According to article referenced above from the Washington Post, at least 30,000 Black Africans in Sudan have been systematically killed by the militias sponsored by the Arabic government of that country to squash dissent. Whole villages of Africans have been burned to the ground while Arabic villages only a few hundred yards away have been left completely untouched, and the government is actively working to prevent international aid groups from providing relief to the hundreds of thousands of refugees in an attempt to starve them out.

But Colin Powell says that he's not - quite - sure this is officially a genocide yet.

I'm sure you can understand, right? After all, the US barely has enough troops to pacify Iraq for our new figureheads over there. And, even if the US can't commit troops, it doesn't want other countries to act on the genocide convention in Sudan because they want France & Co. to send their troops to Iraq as well.


Give Colin a call at 202-647-4000 or 202-647-6607 like the good people at are suggesting and tell him about himself. I did this morning. The lady was very polite and agreed to pass my message on. Of course, the 1st number doesn't seem to be working to well right now (and hence, the point).

And call your congressional representatives. I just spoke with Jim Clark, chief of staff for my congresswoman, Diane Watson, and he says that the Congressional Black Caucus is going to introduce a concurrent resolution with the Senate (H Con Res 467 to be exact for those of you who like Thomas, the Library of Congress legislative database) that officially declares what's happening in the Sudan as genocide when the House reconvenes on July 6th.

Not surprisingly, Senator Diane Feinstein's people sounded less enthusiastic about it (i.e. "the Senator is deeply concerned about this issue, blah blah blah...") although her people did say that she plans on issuing some kind of statement.

Senator Barbara Boxer's guy had nothing, but did say he'd pass on any message I had for her. I told him to ask her to support the CBC's H. CON. RES. 467 on her side of the legislature on my behalf.

For the record, today is the first day I've ever called my congressional representatives. Pretty freakin' kewl, huh?

Similarly, Human Rights Watch has a whole list of things you can do about this, such as contacting members of the UN security council, or even yelling at the Sudanese government directly. HRW also has a full site dedicated to the atrocities in the Sudan, so you can learn about it in full detail.

My point is, do something. We don't want to celebrate another 10 year anniversary where we pretended we didn't know that 1000's were dying needlessly.

Moreover, if you do make a call or do whatever, I'd love to know about it. Drop a note here on my comments section by clicking this green text .

June 30, 2004

Statement of the Obvious of the Day

"About six months ago, the president said to me, 'Well, at least I make strong decisions, I lead.' I said, 'Mr. President, look behind you. Leaders have followers. No one's following. Nobody.'"

- Senator Joseph Biden (D-Deleware), in a roundtable discussion sponsored by Rolling Stone magazine on the current state of American foreign policy, vis-a-vis Iraq.

June 15, 2004

"Why is this man crying?" or "Karma's a You-Know-What"
First of all, I have to give credit to fellow blogger, Daily Kos, for first using this image in a campaign ad on his site. You know what they say about imitation, right?

So, I've kind of been on the sidelines for alot of the political goings-on in recent months, but this is one I had to move on.

The man in the picture above is Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, representing California's 49th Congressional District. This is a photo from a press conference Issa gave last summer.

Why do I care?

For those of you who may or may not know, Arnold Schwarzenegger is the Governor of California.

Let me repeat that.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is the Governor of California.

And who do we have to thank for this? Well, we can start with Darell Issa. Issa, who started out as a petty car thief and then graduated to stealing an entire business that has since made him millions, was the chief architect of the campaign to recall Gray Davis. Issa used nearly $2 million dollars out of his own pocket to pay "volunteers" to get signatures for the recall petition - not exactly a groundswell of public support to throw out a man who'd only been re-elected 6 months prior.

Presumably, Issa expected to become Governor himself. Then the National and State GOP realized what a good thing they had going and decided to push Arnold instead. Hence the picture above, where Issa announced, after considerable behind-the-scenes encouragement - can you say Karl Rove? - his withdrawal from his own campaign.

Well, Issa's up for re-election this year, and this gentleman, Mike Byron, an Army brat, an ex-Navy guy, and a dude who has a Ph.D. in Political Science, is the Democrat running to unseat him.

I don't know much about Mike Byron. And I don't live anywhere near the 49th Congressional District (it's Northern San Diego county and parts of Riverside).

But Darrell Issa helped the GOP steal my state.

For that alone, I'm giving Mike Byron some of my money.

If you live in California, or if you're simply offended by the gangster tactics of the Republican Party, I suggest you give Mike Byron some money, too.

Click here if you want to send this crybaby home to his mommy.

June 11, 2004

Race Snapshot

Just in case anyone's keeping score, here's my current rankings of the summer blockbusters, so far, starting from the least interesting and working our way up in quality & enjoyment:

The Chronicles of Riddick

Surprised? So am I. I had such high hopes for Riddick, but, in the end, it was alot of sound & fury, signifying nothing. That fabulous cast and the absolutely amazing production design and, honestly, a story I really like. But there's a big difference between a good story and a good screenplay. Lord knows this movie could have been a lot slimmer, and a lot punchier. I also think the action scenes are overdirected (two much camera movement and fast cutting), so that you can't actually get a sense of just how much danger the characters you care about are in. I'm actually pretty tired of movies that say that their main character is evil, but they're really just kind of bad-ass (i.e. Mel Gibson in "Payback"). Riddick would have been so much better if he really was a stone-cold sociopathic mass murderer, who just happens to be such a monster that he actually brings down an empire. So much more interesting, although it does have an extremely cool ending.

3. The Day After Tomorrow

This only gets a higher notch because of the sheer absence of suck-i-tude. But the absence of wackness does NOT equal goodness. It's definitely fun, but thin as paper. And pretty contrived. It's a nice little piece of speculative sci-fi, but the science is EXTREMELY suspect. But, in my continuing quest to elevate B list actors that I love, I'm totally digging Kenneth Welsh's transformation from homicidal ex-FBI occultist Windom Earle in Twin Peaks to a thinly veiled knock-off of Dick Cheney in this movie. Plus, the effects are awesome. And the killer cold snap is pretty f'n cool. And, as a fan of Dennis Quaid's since Dreamscape, I'm glad to see him finally cashing in as a leading man.

2. Troy

LOVED the costume design (somebody PLEASE give Bob Ringwood an Oscar for this!). Loved the battle scenes. LOVED the fact that this movie really captures just how much of a punk-ass bi-otch Orlando Bloom's Paris is. LOVED the Hector/Achilles duel. And Peter O'Toole made my day. But, alas, they do muck with the history a bit much for my tastes, and they really overplayed their hand with the whole "quest for immortality" thing. Pretty good, but not as good as...

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Surpised? Me too. I only really got interested in it based off the the great reviews and my love of Alfonso Cuaron's work on Y Tu Mama Tambien. But I'm SO glad I saw this film. So much fun. Even when the action was a little slow, there was always something interesting on screen that kept me riveted. It's amazing the difference a director can make. He had such a granular sense of detail in his depiction of Hogwarts, it felt like a real place, and not just a special effect on display. I usually hate scenes like the one where Harry rides the Hippogiff (kind of an eagle-horse) over a vast forest and nearby lake, but it was absolutely (dare I say it) magical. I'm so bummed they're getting a new director. Hopefully, he'll be back for the 5th film.

Shrek 2? Not my cup o' joe. Van Helsing? Not worth my time or money.

Hot on my list for the rest of the summer?
Spider-Man 2
The Bourne Supremacy
The Manchurian Candidate
Fahrenheit 9/11

May 19, 2004

Quote of the Day

"There has been a real lack of leadership in having someone emerge as a Christian voice, someone who doesn't speak for the right, someone who doesn't speak for the left, but someone who speaks for the people, and someone who speaks from a THEOCRATICAL perspective."

- Pastor Robert G. Upton, executive director of the Apostolic Congress, a fundamentalist Christian organization that regularly meets with Bush and other White House staff members, who're generally in agreement that Jesus won't come back until Israel controls all of the land promised them by God in the Old Testament.

These people have the President's ear, and they are actively lobbying against peace in the Middle East to fulfill their interpretation of the Book of Revelations.

Moreover, is anyone else freaked out by the fact that this non-government organization has adopted the following image as their logo?

Personally, as a Christian and an American, I find this to be immensely offensive.

While I'm on the subject, this week's episode of Frontline, entitled "The Jesus Factor", quotes Bush as saying "I believe God wants me to be President".

Personally, as a Christian and an American, I find this to be unspeakably frightening.

Oh, and they also believe the findings of some crank who alleges that traditional marriages grinded to a halt in Scandinavia after Sweden legalized same-sex marriage. Can someone please explain to me why all these good Christian heterosexuals are assuming that, given the chance, more men would choose to marry other men instead of women? Could this be an indication of their own state of mind? Hmmn....

May 18, 2004

ARIANNA ONLINE - Books: Fanatics & Fools - Excerpts

I've stayed away from politics for a bit, so, I suppose that now is as good a time as any to dip my toe back in the water.

Let's talk about words.

What are the so-called "neoconservatives" actually conserving? As the horribly misnamed "Healthy Forest" or "Clear Skies" initiatives demonstrate, it's clearly not the environment.

It certainly isn't the federal treasury, which, by all accounts, will make the full faith and credit of the United States roughly equivalent to a ball of lint in your empty pocket if we continue on the current fiscal policy.

Remember when Bush raised his hand during the Republican National Convention in 2000
(you know, the one where they paraded all six of the Black people deluded enough to run for office on the GOP platform (who were subsequently shocked, SHOCKED, to learn that other Blacks might think they were sellouts) on stage to prove how diverse they are?) and pledged to restore honor and dignity to the White House?

Nice one, George.

My point? The conservatives pretty much suck at conserving anything. Are we self-styled progressives any better at living up to our moniker?

Well, Arianna Huffington, who is an interesting figure on the political landscape, to say the least, is trying her best. Here, on her website, she's proposing a new progressive platform intended to push both the Democrats and the country into a new, bold direction. It's an attempt to envision a country that actually lives up to the ideals we espouse, instead of the vapid rhetoric of Bush & Co. Along with and Joe Trippi, she's hoping to push John Kerry to officially adopt this agenda.

Check it out. It could be the future.

May 16, 2004

The Official Site of Kobina Wright

She Does It All
Many of you may remember how I sung the praises of Kobina Elaine Wright last fall when she launched her blog as a first step to blessing the world with the words of her hypnotic pen.

What many of you may not know is that the smattering of verse she rationed out on that blog where just the tip of her artistic iceberg.

In the months since, she's completely sold out her first volume of poetry, "Growth Spurt".

She's continued to expand her original language, Anibo, to a vocabulary of well over a thousand words.

She's putting the finishing touches on a second volume of poetry, dedicated to the memory of the Rwandan genocide, due out today.

She's established an online gallery for her paintings at her newly cristened website,

AND, in addition to finishing her first feature script and outlining a second, she's hosting and performing for her very own spoken word event, tonight, May 19th, at Shelly’s Courthouse Bistro in Santa Ana, starting at 7:30.

I don't know about y'all, but I'm exhausted.

But I'll still be in Santa Ana for her show tonight. If you're in town, you should join me. And tell her I sent you.

Oh, and buy Growth Spurt AND the Rwanda book. It's well, well worth it.

May 10, 2004

.::joe hernadez-kolski aka pocho joe::.

You want a piece of him?
OK, disclaimer: Joe Hernandez-Kolski is my friend.

In fact, Joe is one of my dearest friends in the world. We go back to the days when we were just a pair of wee lads, loudly arguing in a stadium in Cambridge, MA, which sucked more, Yale or Harvard?

(Of course, the astute among you already know that the answer is Yale. Harvard, after all, does something that sounds like those lovely birds that return to San Juan Capistrano every year. Go, Tigers.)

Anyway, we've long since left behind my box fade and his mane of shoulder-length hair. And, while I busy myself these days with edutainment, cleverly wrapped in the guise of the written word, Joseph has become the consumate performer. His rhymes, moves, and just the sheer force of his conviction hits you like a brick through a store-front window.

Now, after years on stage with renowned L.A. theatres like Zoo District and Sacred Fools, countless open mic victories where he tells you exactly why McDonald's Fiesta menu is NOT COOL, and endless hours of pop-locking from the Windy City to the streets of London, Joe is bringing it all home for his multi-dimensional one-man show, "You Want A Piece Of Me?", from July 8th through the 11th, right here in the City of Angels. Check out his site, for details.

Buy his book.

And, if you're in town, check out his weekly high-school open mic event, Downbeat 720, on the 2nd & 4th Tuesday of every month at the Miles Playhouse in Santa Monica.


I love comics (can you tell) and I love science. So, sci-fi comics are like nectar for me. Which is why I'm surprised that I'm so underwhelmed by Alan Moore's Tom Strong series.

However, one of my all-time favorite characters has always been Adam Strange - an archeologist who finds himself riding an intergalatic transport beam that takes him to the futuristic planet Rann. There, he gets to play with all the toys, be a superhero, and get the girl. Except, every few weeks, the transport beam wears off and sends him back to earth. So, he has to scour the planet to figure out where the next transport beam with hit so he can go back to his preferred life.

Well, it looks like comic writer Andy Diggle, whom I've heard alot about, but never actually read any of his work in The Losers or Swamp Thing, is going to resurrect Adam this summer. And, if the story is anywhere near as juicy as the sample art, I'm in.