December 16, 2008

Comic Book Quote of The Day


"The Earth is at ground zero of a Doomsday Singularity. The impact of Darkseid's fall is causing cracks to spread through all space sectors."


"John Stewart's still down there! Darkseid's dragging all our friends into Hell with him!"

"Then I say we go in after him, Guy. You, me, Kyle, anybody else who wants to.
And we kick his ass."

- Green Lanterns The Green Man, Guy Gardner, and, finally, Hal Jordan, pictured here, in DC Comic's Final Crisis #5

Gotta love those cosmic superheroes with no fear. DC editorial may be a colossal train wreck, but this is easily the deepest, neatest, most broadly conceived superhero comic I've read in quite a while. Grant Morrison rocks.

November 14, 2008

For Guido, or requiem for a true tiger

When I was in college, the term "facebook" may as well have been more accurately translated to "sex menu".

I cannot tell you how many hours I and my fellow classmates spent looking through the official guide book published by the university, listing names, addresses, and, yes, pictures of the faces of all the members of our incoming class to determine who was hot or not and just how far away that hotness was from our respective dorm rooms. The freshmen facebook was irreparably dog-eared well before the end of orientation week every September, and I suspect that tradition still lives on today.

Of course, Facebook now has a totally different meaning, turning into an online version of the game show "where are they now?" In many ways, I think the reason Facebook has garnered so much more attention than MySpace is that it seems uniquely designed to help you rediscover those people whom you never thought you would miss until you see their name in a friend request.

Guido Sohne was one of those people.


It would be a bald-faced lie to say that Guido and I were anything more than casual acquaintances back at Princeton. And, considering how few black faces there were, especially within the confines of the Computer Science department during the early '90's, that says a lot. It wouldn't be accurate to say Guido kept to himself, because all I really know is that he didn't really hang out with me. And there's clearly an element of arrogance there on my part - after all, I was the president for Princeton's chapter of NSBE, the National Society of Black Engineers, for two years running and organized an entire little community within a community of Black & African students aimed at helping ourselves survive the Princeton E-Quad gauntlet. So I knew and studied and partied and traveled with everybody. If he wasn't where I was, he couldn't possibly be out somewhere else with a whole other set of people, right?

I think that was the weird trick about Princeton: for even a relatively small school (~4,500 undergraduates back in the day), there was enough self-segregation that you could always find ways to make it seem even smaller. As one brother once told me, "I don't even see the white people. I walk around campus, and, it's like they're blurry. Like they're not even really there."

All I really knew about Guido was that he was very cool, friendly, and way, way, way smarter about computer science than I was. He'd disappear for seemingly entire semesters, while the rumors circled around him about some amazing thing he'd done back in his home country of Ghana or some other part of the world.

So, I must admit that I was very pleasantly surprised to reconnect with him via Facebook. Just glad to see his face.

He sent me a pretty long e-mail back describing all of the amazing technological and political activist work he was involved in back in Africa, although he hadn't been back to the US since he left Princeton because, in his words, he'd decided that he was going to come back successful or not at all.

That was October 1, 2007.

And I never replied.

I guess I was just lazy. Like Louis Armstrong said, "we have all the time in the world", right?

The next time I saw Guido's name was when a mutual friend send me a Facebook message this past June asking me if I'd heard that he'd died.

Died.

Of heart failure.

Guido was 34 years old.






Here's a guy who founded companies, co-founded NGOs, advised international foundations, all in the interest of bringing the promise of technology and innovation to those in his home who were less fortunate than he was. He was the living, breathing embodiment of everything Thomas Friedman talks about in his book "The World Is Flat". Someone who had dedicated his life to nothing less than transforming Africa.



It wasn't right.

Guido's death just struck me as colossally, cosmically unfair. Like a tiny crime against humanity had been committed.

And, on top of the injustice of it all, I must admit that I also felt a tremendous sense of shame.

I mean, let's be honest: I firmly believe that what I do, namely tell stories that can both move people's hearts and, if I'm really good, shift their perspectives a little, is one of the single most powerful and important ways to effect the human condition. Everything that is begins with an idea, and it takes storytellers to help grow the new ideas that become the future, especially the one that we desire. But even if I'm the most successful filmmaker the world has ever known, my effect on the world is very subtle. It's not an exercise in direct action like what Guido did every single day in Ghana. Hell, just BEING an open source programmer and advocate in the middle of Accra is a form of direct political action. Let alone those who have been educated, or empowered, perhaps even enriched, directly through his efforts.

Guido was in the arena. And his death reminded me that I hadn't really done much to get my hands very dirty.

But we all have our specific roles to play, and the fact remains that I, personally, will never be as technically proficient or politically courageous as Guido Sohne.

I cannot be Guido Sohne.

But it occurred to me that I could certainly do my best to find the NEXT Guido Sohne.

So, after a summer of informal chats with some of my other classmates and members of the university faculty and administration, we've created the Guido Sohne Memorial Fund at Princeton University.

The idea is this: In conjunction with the Engineering School, we'll conduct a search each semester for an African college student who's studying computer science, and, when we've identified the top candidate, we will pay for him or her to spend a semester studying in Princeton. And, at the end of the term, if there are funds left over, we'll send an American Princeton student over to Africa for a summer to study as well.

In order to do that, we're all engaged in the process of raising the initial $50,000 that's necessary to establish the scholarship. Ultimately, we need to raise $250,000 to make the scholarship self-sustaining over a period of years.

Most of the time, if I ask you folks who read Macroscope to do anything, it's usually to go see a movie or vote in an election. Maybe read a specific book every now and then. I believe this is the first (and, most likely, the last time) I will ever ask you to reach into your wallets so directly.

But, if you're motivated and inspired by Guido's story the way I was, I would ask you to contribute. You don't have to be associated with Princeton in any way to make a donation. Simply mail a check made out to `Princeton University', referencing the "Guido Sohne Memorial Fund", to the following address:

Jotham Johnson '64
Director of Stewardship
Princeton University
330 Alexander Road
Princeton, New Jersey 08540

Yes, I know - checks are so 20th century. Apparently, the university still only accepts direct credit card donations for their annual giving campaign, so we're still trying to figure out a way to facilitate credit card and/or PayPal donations to Princeton that doesn't put either me or any of my classmates (i.e. people who are not official representatives of the university) in charge of anyone else's money (and we're definitely open to suggestions). And I would LOVE to find a company who could do a matching gift of some sort.... especially since Guido was actually working FOR Microsoft at the time of his death (still trying to figure out how to recruit them to get involved).

The point is, contribute. However you can. If we can help even one kid come across the Atlantic and live up to his full potential, there's no telling how many lives will be directly transformed for the better. It's opportunities like these that can literally change the world.

If you're on Facebook, click the title of this blog post to become a fan of the Guido Sohne Fellowship there. Or just click this URL:

http://www.facebook.com/inbox/?ref=mb#/pages/Guido-Sohne-Fellowship/42008299168?ref=ts

On that page, you can find links to a number of articles detailing Guido's work and life. And you should absolutely feel free to forward this e-mail and/or blog post to as many other people as you see fit.

Princeton's unofficial motto is "In The World's Service". Guido helped remind me of that. And I hope I'm not the only one.

November 11, 2008

Seven Days Later


Barack Hussein Obama II will be the 44th President of the United States of America.

Honestly, I don't even know where to begin.

Moments after the networks called the election on Obama's behalf, my friend called me and said, simply "this proves that Love Beats Fear."

A few days later, another friend called and said this:

"Yo, man. I had this dream last Tuesday night, where this whack dude was the President, and he was fuckin' everything up. So we had an election, and there was another old whack dude running against a black dude.

And you know what? The black dude won.

Crazy shit, right?

So, I was just callin' to ask, did you have the same dream?"


My own personal analogy is that it's the difference between standing in a room in the dark for eight years, and suddenly someone switches on the lights. Nothing physically in the room has changed. But the light banishes the shadows. It makes the gems in the room shine. It illuminates the paths forward. Where once there was nothing but fear and uncertainty, we can now, all see the possibilities.

Now, let's take them.

U.S.A.

For the Vets

Those of you who've seen my short film "5" know that, at the end credits, there's a dedication in honor of my brother and all of the other brave men and women who put on the uniform of the United States military to defend our nation.

Now, I'm far from a jingoist. I do think there's more than a little veracity to Smedley Butler's claims about the relationship between American military activism and the advancement of corporate agendas.



On the other hand, I like to think of myself as an aggressive pacifist. Or, in the words of our new president elect, I'll never throw the first punch, but I'll for damn sure throw the last one.

And, as much distaste as I have for non-fictional violence, I do recognize that sometimes you do have to throw that punch. And, consequently, you need people who are willing and able to throw it.

As my brother so aptly put it, "It's easy to stand on your principles when you aren't responsible for people's lives."

So, today, I want to take a moment to salute not just my brother, recently minted as a major in the U.S. Army Reserves, but to all of my family members - cousins, uncles, even dear old Dad - who've put on the colors.

Happy Veterans Day, gentlemen. You deserve it.

October 28, 2008

Movies That Are Actually Scary

Because far too many people falsely believe bloody=scary.

And, frankly, there's a difference between thrilling (i.e. 28 Days Later) and frightening.

I'm talking about the stuff of nightmares, here.

So, in honor of All Hallow's Eve, here are some films that legitimately made me afraid to turn off the lights at one point or another, in no particular order.

Anyone out there want to suggest any additions to my list?

Three Strikes

Christopher Nolan on 'Dark Knight' and its box-office billion: 'It's mystifying to me' | Hero Complex | Los Angeles Times

Reading this great interview with Christopher Nolan as he contemplates the possibility of doing a third "Batman" film really does raise the question: Has there EVER been a third film in a trilogy that's as good or better than the first two?

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was quite good, and definitely better than The Temple of Doom.

Revenge of the Sith? Well, it's the best of the three, but the whole trilogy is so suspect, I don't really want to count it.

Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is a very good 80's horror film, definitely better than part 2, but not as freakishly scary as the first film.

Matrix Revolutions contains elements of a brilliant film, but there spliced in with nearly an hour of a really terrible mecha war movie, so, no.

Rocky III? Not a particularly artistic or emotionally honest film like the first, but MAN, that movie is good clean fun! Mr. T and Hulk Hogan? What's there not to love?

Die Hard With A Vengeance? I enjoyed it, but it's not nearly as tight or well written as the first film, and the ending is kinda random, so, no.

Batman Forever? Again, I enjoyed it, but it was not nearly as rich as either of Burton's two films (of which, I think Batman Returns is the best).

The Bourne Ultimatum is an exceptional action movie, but, without the Marie character, it really lacks emotional resonance and, in the end, it's about very little.

Return of the King is, in my mind, the only one that surpasses the other two films in the series. And that's only because the entire series was conceived as one complete story beforehand, where Act Three is the big payoff.

Most other part threes are commissioned largely for commercial purposes, with people trying to find a story to justify a reason to capitalize on the success of the first two films.

In short, I would LOVE to see Nolan find a reason to do a 3rd Batman.

(My recommendation? Cast Daniel Day Lewis as Dr. Hugo Strange for the main villain. "Who the Hell is Hugo Strange?" you ask? Who cares? Outside of comic fanboys, who the Hell ever heard of Ra's Al Ghul before "Batman Begins"?)

But I hope it's for the right reasons. Story reasons.

October 16, 2008

Diary of a bunch of Mad Black Writers

According to Nikki Finke, it looks like Tyler Perry finally got the message and is going to sign onto the WGA contract.

"Peace in our time", ladies and gentlemen.

And I'll refrain from referencing Chris Rock's old joke about people who want credit for things they're supposed to do. For now.

Mirror, Mirror

As I've mentioned in the past, one of my favorite episodes of the original Star Trek is entitled "The Enemy Within" - a transporter malfunction creates two versions of Captain Kirk.

One is intelligent, wise, compassionate, yet indecisive.

The other is....

Well, see for yourself:



Forceful? Yes. Decisive? Yes. But also crazed, lustful, paranoid.

And yet, as Spock points out, while separated, neither one is capable of surviving without the other. In the end, as much as the two repulse each other, they're forced to literally embrace each other to both survive and lead.

So, I've been following the coverage of the growing lynch mob qualities of the Palin/McCain rallies over the last few weeks.

And let's be real about this: McCain may be the official party nominee, but Sarah Palin is really the standard bearer for this particular facet of the Republican party these days. Given the choice, I'm sure many of them would prefer to have her at the top of the ticket simply because they trust her more. In their mind, she's one of them, through and through. McCain is, sadly, just someone who's hitched his carriage to them on the vain hope that this pony will carry him all the way to the Oval Office.

Honestly, I feel sort of sorry for both of them.

McCain, because, after the abuse he suffered at the hands of Bush & Co. back in 2000, could not get over his Presidential fixation and has debased himself over and over again by cowtowing to Bush, Falwell, et. al., hoping that these people that he once scorned will finally let him in the club. Frankly, much of his career has been spent seeking acceptance from the "cool kids". Originally, he hoped that by being a rebel Republican, he'd be popular among the Hollywood & press elites. And it worked. But it wasn't enough to get him elected, because as far as most Democrats are concerned, he's still a Republican. One they might want to have a beer with, but a Republican, nonetheless. So he did a switch, seeking favor from within his party. But, by then, it was too late, he'd pissed too many of them off. And the only reason he's the nominee now is because everyone else in the GOP field proved to be unacceptable to at least one sizable faction within the party (Rudy's too liberal and Romney's too Mormon for the cultural conservatives, and Huckabee was too much of a policy lightweight for the neocons and finance conservatives). In short, everyone else's constituencies killed the one guy they were the most offended by, and none of them were paying attention to McCain, leaving him the last man standing.

Sarah Palin's just like McCain in that her ambition consistently overrides whatever better judgment she may have about her career. I get the sense that when she was approached about taking the VP spot, she must have said to herself "well, how hard can it be?" My sympathy for her comes from the fact that she'll probably go down in the annuls of presidential election history in the same breath as Admiral Stockdale or Dan Quayle as a figure of national ridicule. But don't be misled. Even if McCain loses, we've probably not heard the last of Gov. Palin on the national stage.

Of course, there are limits to my sympathy.

And I suspect that McCain didn't fully appreciate the Frankenstein's monster he'd created by turning Palin loose to stoke up her base with the notion that Obama might somehow be a member of some fictitious joint Black/Muslim sleeper cell.



And, for the record, I'd just like to say two things:

1. If I were Obama, I would stand up during that prime time speech he's going to give the week before the election and say "Yes, my full name is, in fact Barack HUSSEIN Obama, and I have about as much in common with with Saddam Hussein as Bill Clinton has with George Clinton. Think, people!"

2. "Muslim" != "Enemy". My family was all raised in Protestant, Methodist traditions in the country churches on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Yet, my uncle converted to Islam some 30 years ago. And I can tell you that he, his wife, and his six children are among the most thoughtful, considerate, compassionate, disciplined, spiritual people I have ever known. His Islamic faith has given him a core of inner peace and personal strength the likes of which I feel I have almost never seen among even Christian clergy. And the VAST majority of Muslims are like that. Blaming all Muslims for the actions of a man like Bin Laden is like blaming all Christians for the actions of Hitler. Or Jim Jones. Or Timothy McVeigh.

But my point is this:

Even if Obama wins in a landslide next month (which, according to FiveThirtyEight.com, has a better than 50% probability of occurring. Hope springs eternal), these people who are currently literally screaming for his head aren't going anywhere.

The fearful, the paranoid, the hateful - these, too, are very much part of America. Always have been.

And yet, in these very same parts of the country, you probably get the highest recruitment ranks from the military. The highest church participation and activism. These people love this country. Many of them have wildly different, and, in some cases, mutually exclusive view of what this country is supposed to be.

And, as long as no one is picking up a pitchfork or a rope, that's actually OK.

It's called democracy.

I know Kos likes to talk about "breaking their spirits" and Karl Rove was renowned for seeking a permanent Republican majority, the fact of the matter is, short of straight up genocide, neither side can ever get rid of the other.

No matter how much it disgusts or repulses us, that other America is still America. And we could not have what we have without it.

That's not to say that it's a good thing. Far from it. The provincial hatreds and prejudices and fears are, in my mind, a part of our national shame.

And the generational times are changing for the better. But I don't think any of us on either side of the divide should delude ourselves into thinking that we can ever be rid of the other completely.

So, with that in mind, we have to look for the common ground, where it can be found.

And, where it cannot, and it comes to a point where we have to lay hands on each other in a non-Christian way to resolve our differences...

Well, just the thought of that makes me sad. But I have to acknowledge that there may just be some people who are beyond reasoning.

At which point, like Jill Scott said, we just have to take off these rings and deal with it.

It's ALL America. The good and the bad.

But, personally, just like J.J. Abrams, I'm encouraged by the fact that Star Trek is making it's return in the same year that a transformative, hopeful figure like Barack Obama potentially becomes the new leader of the free world. It's no accident that Star Trek's Final Frontier was the projected future from JFK's New Frontier. I mean, who can dispute the Kennedy-eque qualities of a character like this:



Yes, it's always been a challenge. But I, for one, am filled with hope.

The hope that this country will have leadership again who will once again make us proud through their actions at home and abroad. The hope that we will find the means and the will to resolve our most pressing problems while capitalizing on our most golden opportunities.

I believe the cultural zeitgeist is changing. I believe the sci-fi worlds of "Blade Runner" and "Mad Max" where an outgrown of our sense that The Future was dying. But now, people have hope again. The future looks bright again.



There will always be serpents. But that doesn't make the fruits of the garden any less sweet.

October 03, 2008

Crabs in a Barrel

So, first, let's get to the facts:

A few days ago, Tyler Perry fired a bunch of black writers from his cable sitcom "House of Payne". In response, the Writers Guild of America just filed suit against Perry with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging unfair labor practices. Perry says the writers were fired because of the quality of their work. The writers say they were fired because they were pushing to have the show covered under a WGA contract.

When I first heard this, I did a double-take. The highest rated sit-com on basic cable is a non-union show?

But, as I researched it more, it was even worse than I thought.

"House of Payne" is a DGA signatory. Of course it is: Tyler directs most of the episodes, and he's a member of the Directors' Guild, so it would have to be.

"House of Payne" is also a SAG signatory. Of course it is: if it wasn't, he couldn't have cast actors like Allen Payne, who, like most of his castmates, are members of the Screen Actors Guild.

But, "House of Payne" is NOT a WGA signatory.

I mean, the one group that he COULD screw, he DID screw.

Now, to be totally fair, a number of the fired writers are WGAw members, so, they really had no business working on a non-union show in the first place, unless, of course, part of their agreement when they were hired was that the show would become a guild signatory. The guild has provisions to allow for that. And, if I had to guess, that is probably the essence of the case they're bringing to the NLRB.

Tyler recently signed a deal with TBS to create 100 episodes of "House of Payne" for $200 million, or $2,000,000 per episode. The WGA considers a show a "high budget minimum" if its budget exceeds $100,000 per episode for non-network primetime, in which case, the guild minimum fee for writing one such episode is ~$12,000. It also requires that, if you're on staff, meaning you're under the regular employ of the producer instead of a hired gun who's brought in on a one-off basis to write an episode, your minimum weekly salary for a basic cable show of this length is roughly $3,000.

Plus health benefits, pension, etc.

Pretty good work if you can get it. But even if you assume they make an episode a week (and they clearly work much faster, given how many they've produced in the last two years), and let's assume that the pension & health insurance costs as much as the total salary & writing fees involved for these writers (and it's considerably less), and you round up to the nearest $10,000, you're still only talking about $50,000 per episode, or 2.5% of the total budget per episode.

And it's not like House of Payne is an expensive show. It's a three camera comedy, meaning they have a series of standing sets in front of a studio audience with two stationary cameras and a third on a track, so that the actors get to perform almost like it's theater. No expensive locations. No special effects. Allen Payne is probably the highest paid actor on the show after Tyler Perry himself, and I guarantee you that brother is not making a million dollars an episode.

But let's put all of that aside for a moment.

For a guy who's built his career around promoting a certain kind of Black Christian faith and community responsibility....

I just don't understand.

Just like BET. Actually, worse than BET. At least BET is more up front about the fact that they're making money by getting over on Black people.

I was never particularly a fan of Tyler Perry's work. The minute I'm shown yet another Black man in drag for laughs, I immediately turn off. I think this trend, going all the way back to Flip Wilson, and continued through Will Smith & Martin Lawrence, has always been a double-edged diss against Black people. It perpetuates a de-feminized stereotype of Black women & mothers while simultaneously emasculating some of our more prominent Black male performers. And yet, I always had respect for him as an artist and a businessman who'd found a way to successfully navigate the entertainment industry while still owning his original content. I was really happy to see him succeed in film, especially as his films seem to reach for more authentic representations of Black relationships.

But come ON, man!!!! Pay the fucking writers! It's not like you don't have it.

Jeez.

Wrapped in the Flag

Comic Book Resources is running a poll on who should play Captain America in the new movie slated for 2010. So far, here are the results:

And I have to say, I don't like the idea of any of these guys as Captain America, even though many of them are actors I really enjoy and respect.

Pardon me while I think out loud for a bit.

Here's the deal: Captain America is a scrawny blonde-haired, blue-eyed kid who grew up on the lower east side of Manhattan during the Great Depression who gets injected with some super steroids by Uncle Sam to become a patriotic juggernaut against the forces of tyranny during the 2nd World War before being frozen in suspended animation and thawed out in modern times. He's like a character out of a Mickey Rooney movie who gets transformed into the one superhero that every other superhero instantly defers to as soon as they're in his presence.


May favorite line about Captain America comes from the 1st issue of Mark Millar's genius re-imagining of The Avengers in "The Ultimates", where a paratrooper about to be dropped into a Nazi hot zone calls Cap crazy to his sidekick, Bucky Barnes, for not wearing a parachute.

Bucky just laughs and says "Cap things chutes are for sissies."

Or, better yet, towards the end of that same series, where a villain demands that he surrender, a bloodied Cap points to the "A" printed on his mask and shouts:

"You think this letter on my head stands for FRANCE?!?!?!"

So, which of those actors can you imagine believably pulling off that role in the same way that you just nodded in total agreement about the casting of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man? Honestly, the closest to it would be Matthew McConaughey - he's whitebread enough and, judging by his performance in "Reign of Fire" he can do intensity, but he's bit too southern to play a New Yorker, and he doesn't really have the steel in his eyes that I would want for that character.

Aaron Eckhart is pretty close, but just perhaps a bit older than I would want, simply because I have a hard time seeing him doing much of the fighting & stuntwork that goes into Captain America. Although, to be perfectly honest, Tim Roth did a great job as kind of a proto-super soldier in "The Incredible Hulk" this summer, but that was only in one scene against a CGI Hulk. Personally, I want the scene where Cap wades into a gang of 30 Hydra agents and hands them their collective asses like a red-white-and-blue fighting whirling dervish, and I want it as authentic as the fighting Messrs. Bale & Nolan put together in "The Dark Knight".

I love Wil Smith, but, I'm sorry, Captain America is not Black. Period.

Hmmm. Eric Bana? No, that would be like casting a Yankee to play James Bond.

Frankly, I don't think you need a big name. In fact, I think it's better that you go with an unknown and let him create the role.

How about Timothy Olyphant? Anybody who's seen "Deadwood" knows he's an intense bugger, can get physical, and is a heck of an actor. But, to be perfectly honest, I really want him for "Green Lantern" - he was born to play cocky test pilot Hal Jordan.

OK, now I'm really rambling. :-) I'll have a LOT more to say about Green Lantern at a later date.

The short answer is "Go with an unknown, Marvel". Captain America is not Iron Man. Everybody knows who that character is, so you don't need a star to sell the movie.

October 02, 2008

Fear of a Black President

So, this has been on my mind for a long time.

But first, a speech from Richard Truma of the AFL-CIO:



Now, lets be clear, there's race-based voting happening all over the place.

As a Democrat and as an American, I am proud of the stand, the policies, the campaign, and the kind of thoughtful, principled Federal government that Barack Obama represents. In many ways, he's an extension of what I loved so much about Dean for America.

But, as a Black man in America, I am even more proud that it is a Black man at the center of these representations.

So, yes, there are probably a fair number of people, across all races, who are voting for Barack Obama simply because he's Black.

Now, I'm going to say something that will probably get me into a lot of trouble, but, fuck it, here goes.

I have much less of a problem with people voting for Barack Obama just because he's Black than I do with people voting for, say, Michael Steele or Alan Keyes just because they're Black, because, frankly, I consider Steele and Keyes to be sellouts.

There. I said it.

And here's why.

Whenever you hear about voter suppression, it's almost always targeted at poor Black communities, and it's almost always done on behalf of Republican candidates. It's been that way since Nixon and his so-called "Southern Strategy". Someone, somewhere within the GOP has decided that they stand a better chance of getting into office when Black people are prevented from exercising their rights as American citizens to participate in the electoral process.

Now, if you're a Black conservative - you believe in strong defense (whatever that means) and lower taxes and school choice - that's all well and good. We can agree to disagree on this point, and I can respect your convictions.

But I have NEVER, EVER heard a single Black Republican condemn the obvious and well-documented history of Black voter suppression committed by their own party. Not one. Which says to me that they're more than happy to keep more people who look just like them from voting as long as it helps them advance.

If you are willing to get ahead at the expense of large numbers of people from your own ethnic background who're less fortunate than you, you have, by definition, sold out.

My larger point is, while there is plenty of race-based voting to go around, there is very little moral equivalence, in my mind.

So, just to be clear, yes, given the history of this country, I do think there is, in fact, some nobility in being more inclined to vote for Obama just because he's Black.

Now, let's look at the other side of the equation.

There are two types of anti-Obama race-based votes. There are those who just hate Black people, and there are those who are afraid of Black people.

Needless to say, there's probably quite a bit of overlap there, but I want to speak to these two camps.

Well, I only really want to speak to the 2nd camp because, frankly, if you just hate Black people, chances are, you stopped reading this blog the minute I wrote "as a Black man in America..." And, honestly, what do you and I have to say to each other? You hate me because....

Remind me why you hate me again?

Because I went to Princeton and you didn't? Nevermind the ~3000 rich white people who also got into Princeton while I was there, you're mad at me and the other Black Princetonians (who, at the time, I believe, comprised somewhere between 4-6% of the student body, i.e. half the percentage of our representation in the general population).

Because I got a certain job and you didn't? I'm always amazed when racists complain about how the negroes are taking all of their jobs. As I said before, we're only 12% of the population, and, in case you haven't noticed, a whole lot of us aren't working. Again, maybe you should talk to the 10 other white kids who got hired at that company's particular office at the same time I did. They might have a bit more to do with it, statistically speaking.

Because I hooked up with your sister? I don't know why? I mean, she sure seemed to enjoy it. :-)

Which reminds me of a story one of my college classmates told me, about a study session where the instructor made a comment about the presumed sexual prowess of the Black man, and some young white guy just blurted out "BUT THAT'S JUST A MYTH, ISN'T IT?"

Is that really what the race hatred all comes down to? Should I rename this post "Fear of a Black Penis", just to make it more accurate? And are all of these other little hate bullet points just variations on that theme - the sense of powerlessness and inadequacy that then gets personified in the form of the opposite, the other, The Blacks, and the only way you can prove that you are not, in fact, impotent, is to destroy and humiliate and dehumanize The Black?

In the end, I suppose, it's all based on fear.

There's that word again.

Which brings us to the other, probably larger camp: those who won't vote for the Black man out of fear.

Consider this report I saw a few months ago on AlJazeeraEnglish, at about 2:20 minutes in:



It's the heart of the same fear that mobilized so many in opposition to the Black Panthers. This notion that the Black people, after years of getting dumped on by the white establishment, are going to flip the script as soon as they get into power and bring some righteous retribution against the white majority.

Or, as John Stewart so succinctly put it to Senator Obama himself during an episode of "The Daily Show":

"Is it true that, once you're elected, you intend to enslave the white race?"


I wonder how many people know that the full name of the organization was "The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense"? Or that it was originally conceived in response to rampant police brutality and officially sanctioned violence against Blacks in cities around the country?

The short answer is, those of you who're afraid that Obama's going to mandate that all the major broadcast networks air a new reality show called "America's Next Top White Lynching", take a chill pill. Your fear has yet again demonstrated your ignorance about Black America. When we say we want what you've got, that doesn't mean we want to take it from you. It means we want one of those for ourselves. This is not a zero sum game. As my dear friend Brokenbeatnik likes to say, the pie is enormous, big enough for everybody to have as big of a slice as they like.

I mean, really, when people say they don't trust Obama or they're afraid of having a Black president, what do you really think is going to happen? Seriously?

Take a moment and really look at your fear. Spend some time with it. Talk it out.

And let's take a step back for a moment. For those of you who say "well, I don't think he's sufficiently patriotic enough to be President, what with Bill Ayers and Rev. Wright and all of that."

Let's just assume, for argument's sake, that you're right. Let's assume that Obama has a negative view of America, which means he wants to be president in order to change it into something more to his liking. Let's assume all of that.

Because clearly George W. Bush and Dick Cheney love America to death. Literally.

It's like, they loved America so much that they gave the country a gigantic bear hug for the last 8 years, breaking all of our ribs and puncturing our lungs in the process. Yeah, they really loved the Hell out of America.

I think what many Whites may not understand is that Blacks are deeply acquainted with the concept of "tough love". In other words, because I love you, I'm going to tell you about all of the unpleasant stuff you don't want to know about, because I believe you can be better and I'm not going to allow you to keep slacking off.

I think we could use some of that kind of love right now. Don't you?

Coming in the air tonight

I think this video says it way better than I ever could:



Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Except for the telcos that were hoping to make a mint off of new exclusive rights, and who're already unleashing the stormtroopers of lobbying to make that happen.

Do us all a favor. Sign the petition.

FreeTheAirwaves.com

October 01, 2008

You ARE registered to vote, right?



Maybe I'm just naive.

I simply cannot think of a single person who might potentially be reading this blog who is SO disconnected that they're not yet registered to vote. It would really just astound me, absolutely astound me to find someone on here who's not registered to vote.

Like, the crazy Jamaican guy next door might not be registered to vote, but, like I said, he's crazy. "Crazy" as in "talks to the side of your head, not to your face, before spontaneously bursting out into reggae free-style lyrics" crazy. Like "punching my driveway gate and cursing at me then saying that he would never do something like that 15 minutes later" crazy. That joker may not even be a citizen.

And, if you haven't guessed, he clearly does not read this blog.

That I know of.


I guess I have to go have a conversation with him.

Maybe I'll talk to his wife, first. She seems, well, normal. Except for being married to him.

But, you get my point.

Are you seriously not registered to vote? SERIOUSLY? Are you actually in the same category as THAT dude?

Wow.

Uhm, go handle that right now.

Thank you.

September 30, 2008

Review: Let The Right One In


I'm sick of vampires.

Well, more specifically, vampire movies. I've just seen so many and I feel like it's all been done and it's so cliched and the metaphors of vampires for sex or vampires for AIDS or whatever.

I'm just tired. Sick and tired.

Where are the new monsters, people?

When I got to Comic-Con this past summer and saw the signs for HBO's new series "True Blood" plastered all over the place, I think I rolled my eyes for five days straight. And the only reason I even bothered Tivo-ing the pilot episode of the show is because my roommate is an obsessive fan of Christine Feehan's Dark Series and I figured she would like it.

OK, so, maybe I'm not THAT tired of vampires.

I totally overlooked the social metaphors inherent in the Sookie Stackhouse stories, and I have to admit that True Blood has been one of the more consistently compelling hours of TV drama I've seen in the while.

It's good stuff.

So, when I got the invite to check out the Swedish vampire flick "Let The Right One In" as part of Mahalo.com's inaugural Movie Night here in Los Angeles, I was already primed for something good.

It didn't hurt that the film had gotten a nice mention on American Movie Classic's horror movie blog, MonsterFest, as a part of their emerging thesis that all of the good horror is coming from places other than North America (a thesis, with a few notable exceptions, that I tend to agree with).



I must say, even though I found parts of the pacing to be excruciatingly slow, "Let The Right One In" is an incredibly haunting film. It kind of takes the notion of Claudia from "Interview with The Vampire" and explores it to it's full potential. What would it be like to 12 years old... forever? And what's the inherent heartbreak of knowing you can only truly find love with a child, who'll always grow old, always disappoint, always become less than what they were, while you stand still in time?

In many ways, it's heartbreaking, even though it appears to have a happy ending, because we already know what the REAL ending is.

Which, of course, is not to say that it doesn't have it's crazy, only-in-a-vampire-movie moments. The vampire/house cat battle royal has to be seen to be believed.

And I cannot say enough about the two young leads, especially Lina Leandersson. You can totally understand how, even knowing exactly what she is, a lonely young boy could just completely lose himself in her pleading eyes, eternal hellfire be damned.

If you have the patience, it's definitely worth it.



Class War

I wish I could remember who said this first, but I read where some old social scientist said that the problem with democracy is that, eventually, the majority figures out that they can pass a law that just gives them all of the money in the society.

Consider that as you think about the current credit crisis. Eight years ago, we had a massive surplus in taxpayer revenues. Today, we're on the cusp of the biggest deficit in our history, and the vast majority of that money has gone to private entities with no oversight or competitive bids. And now they want to give an extra trillion on the way out the door.

I'm sort of in agreement with Randi Rhodes - we may be witnessing the biggest bank heist in the history of mankind.

And it's an inside job.

September 26, 2008

But, then again, what do I know?

Well, I clearly seem to be in the minority opinion tonight. Just about everybody else gives the victory to Obama by varying degrees.

Which, frankly, is fine by me. I'll take the "w".

If everyone else thought this was a great performance, here's hoping they're all pleasantly shocked when he delivers the coup de grĂ¢ce in the final debate just before the election.

Now, on to the REALLY juicy one - the VP debate. I think it will be akin to how one sportscaster once described a Mike Tyson fight: it's thrilling because literally anything can happen.

Knives in GunFights

I remember back in college watching Shaquille O'Neal play for LSU during the NCAA tournament. He was an absolute monster - at one point, it seemed as though the entire opposing team was defending Shaq as he stood under the basket, and the other four members of the LSU team all just stood outside of the 3 point line WITH THE BALL, completely dumbfounded as to what they should do next.

They passed the ball to Shaq through quadruple coverage, and he still dunked it for the score.

He was a freight train. And if it wasn't for the other scrubs on that team, he would have been completely unstoppable.

In 1995, Shaq lead the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals in only his 3rd season in the league.

And this unstoppable superman and his team got swept by the Houston Rockets and one of Shaq's idols, Hakeem Olajuwon. Swept and embarassed.

Shaq admits that this was only the second time in his life that he cried openly. And he said he father told him "I think you paid Mr. Olajuwon a little too much respect."

I watched tonight's debate literally screaming at the TV.

McCain left himself open to at least a half-dozen areas of attack tonight, and Obama didn't take a single one. Not one. Meanwhile, McCain built an argument across the entire debate, like a prosecutor making a case - "Senator Obama just doesn't understand A, B, and C", and concluded that Barack doesn't possess the wisdom or judgement to be president.

And all the while, Obama opened damn near every statement with "John is right about this".

Like Al Gore said, you've got to be ready to rip your opponent's lungs out in a debate.

Obama is brilliant, and charismatic, and has the collective hopes and dreams and positive wishes of an entire generation behind him.

But, as my roommate pointed out, "they still crucified Jesus."

That debate performance may have just cost us the election.

God help us.

President? But why?


I have a Democratic friend who, to this day, is still violently pissed off over the 2000 election. He emailed me a message that had been forwarded to him by a mutual acquaintance by some anti-gay zealot and asked my opinion.

Now, anyone who's a longtime reader of Macroscope knows, I have very strong feelings in favor of gay rights: In my opinion, the way we as heterosexuals brought up in Christian traditions treat homosexuals, personally & politically, is the very definition of putting your faith in action. And I don't think God will look kindly on those who use anachronistic scriptures to justify their bigotry, while ignoring those very same scriptures on things like personal hygiene.

In other words, I have no patience for gay bashers of any stripe, and it really offends me when other people of faith defend or exalt them.

So, when I responded to my friend, I pretty quickly dissected the zealot's argument and dismissed it. At which point my friend responded by forwarding the response of our mutual acquaintance to MY response (Yeah, I know - read it again if it's confusing), where he basically called me a bunch of names.

I was pretty pissed off, and responded in kind. And my friend had the nerve to respond, in so many words, "why are you so angry?"

In other words, he'd asked my opinion out of the blue. I gave it. He then forwarded me, unsolicited, an insult in response to my opinion, and then was perplexed that I might be a tad miffed.

That whole exchange just showed me that there are some people who actually really love to fight. I have an ex who once told me that the way her family showed that they loved each other was that they'd scream and yell and argue with each other until everybody started crying. And then they'd hug and make up.

It's like "Fight Club" - some people need to be punched in the face to feel alive, so they'll go around punching other people in the face just to earn a new knuckle sandwich.

I don't enjoy fighting. I never have. It simply doesn't feel good.

That's why I had to stop seeing that girl (which was, shall we say, messy).

That's why I stopped arguing politics with my brother, the Republican.

And that's why I stopped responding to the e-mails that this particular friend sends me that are political in nature.

It just doesn't feel good.

And, ultimately, fighting just for fighting's sake is a waste of time. I'm much more interested in having a discussion where both sides are open to being swayed. If you can change my mind and I can change your mind, well, that's a conversation worth having.

Conversation, mind you. Not argument. Not even discussion. Conversation. Dialogue.

But I can see the Fight Seekers coming a mile a way, now. On both sides of the aisle, someone will post something provocative about one or the other candidate, just to get a rise out of their supporters, and then it will just be ON!

And far too many of us non-combatants fall into this vicious cycle - we think this is the only way to participate and respond: with verbal fists.

Is anyone, then, still surprised at how poisoned our political process is today?

So, here's my challenge to you all:

Tell me why YOU are voting FOR your candidate. And not just "because we need change" or "I believe in strong defense", because, frankly, those aren't answers. Tell me what you think is the most important, concrete, actual THING you expect either Barack Obama or John McCain to do once either one gets into office, and why.

And be forewarned, McCainites - if your response is "He'll win the war in Iraq", I expect you to say both how you define winning, and how you expect him to achieve it. No more of this Nixonian "I have a secret plan to end the war" bullshit.

(And, let's be honest, if MCain really does have a plan, why hasn't he shared it with the President? I'm sure he'd appreciate the help)

Personally, the single most important thing I expect Obama to do as president is begin planning & implementing some sort of phased withdrawal of our combat troops from Iraq. Why?
  1. It will stop the unnecessary drain of literally billions of dollars from our treasury during a time of fiscal & economic chaos.
  2. It will free our military to deal with the REAL terrorist threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  3. It will stop the series of accidental Iraqi civilian deaths at the hands of American soldiers, which just generates more potential terrorists.
  4. It will show the world that America, in the end, does finally learn from its mistakes.
So, what about you? What do you want from President Whomever in January?

September 20, 2008

Feudalism

You know, I try to keep my inner "crazy-conspiracy-theorist" in check, but sometimes....

So, if the United States government assumes sweeping authority to actually take ownership of millions of mortgages, essentially becoming the landowner for vast tracks of the American landscape....

I mean, isn't this kind of "eminent domain" taking to its absolutely worst extreme?

September 17, 2008

Tina Fay as Sarah Palin was great, BUT....

...what I'm really waiting for is for Saturday Night Live to bring back Jon Lovitz so he can do John McCain as Tommy Flanagan, Pathological Liar.

"Yeah, when I said the economy was strong, I was talking about the biceps on the workers. Yeah, that's the ticket."

Living in a Post-Rational World

So, before all of you liberals, progressives, and Democrats start doing the electoral victory dance because the failing economy has turned the tide presumably in Obama's favor, let me make one observation:

Although most people don't want to admit it, the vast majority of the electorate does not cast a vote for a specific policy or issue, even when they say they do. They're not voting for the issue, but for their emotional response to the issue.

They're not voting FOR a pro-life platform - they're voting because aligning themselves with the pro-life platform makes them FEEL better about their relationship with God.

They're not voting FOR environmental platform - they're voting because aligning with conservationism makes them FEEL like responsible stewards of the planet.

They're not voting FOR gun control - they're voting because the idea of gun control makes them FEEL safer.

As I mentioned earlier, Republicans figured this out a long time ago and decided to just cut out the middle man: they don't even really bother to run on issues anymore. Their campaigns are almost like reality TV shows, with characters cast in the roles as candidates to elicit specific emotional responses.

"The Maverick"

"The Hockey Mom"

"The Guy You'd Like To Have A Beer With"

Bill Clinton got it. He was "The Man From A Place Called 'Hope'".

Obama gets it, too. Just look at the early speeches.

The point is, if you're pinning your hopes for the election on convincing people with a rational argument about taxes and incentives and plans and such, I've got news for you: the average American is not listening.

They're feeling.

And if you want to win, you'd better start feeling and sharing and eliciting those feelings right along with them.

September 12, 2008

The Place Where Dreams Are Born

Let me wax poetic for a moment.

A few days ago, I wrote a blog post about the use of both negative and positive manifestation through the manipulation of collective emotional energy in the election process. I titled it "Before Sunrise", to hearken back to my Election '04 postmortem, "The Sun WILL Rise" (with a little nod to Richard Linklater), but also because so many of us seemed to be in a dark, scary place during this part of the election cycle, and, as they say, it's always darkest before the dawn.

But what else happens in the dark before the dawn?

We dream.

One of my dreams as I wrote that blog was that there would be a place where people could share their dreams and hopes and aspirations for the future of this country and the world, and where that collective, beautiful, joyous energy could coalesce into powerful, inspired action.

So, imagine my shock when a friend pointed me to this brand new blog:

Change. Hope. Dream.

Yes, a new blog, inspired by MY blog, that does exactly what I was hoping for.

Talk about a manifestation!

Dreams do become real.

So, GO THERE. Share your dreams. Share the blog. Help us all conjure the real magic that will transform the world around us.

September 10, 2008

Before Sunrise


I love logic.

That comes from my training and natural inclinations towards math, science, and the rational process. I like to know how and why things work.

I have also always been a creature of faith.

Perhaps it's the rural roots of my family and our own brushes with the esoteric and unseen.

And I don't consider these to be mutually exclusive.

One of my all-time favorite books is "Fire In The Mind" by George Johnson. In it, he examines a pair of seemingly mutually exclusive systems of thought in Santa Fe, New Mexico - the nuclear physics labs in Los Alamos and the traditional religions of the local Native American tribes - and shows that, in many ways, they have much more in common than the average person would think. After all, whether it's a sky god or an electron, they both use a series of instruments and tools to predict the behavior of things we cannot experience directly with our 5 senses, but which they both assume have a direct impact on your everyday life.

So, let's start with a somewhat lazy logical argument:

I'm an enormous believer in Arthur C. Clarke's so-called Third Law of Prediction:
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"
And by "technology", I'm pretty much in agreement with Wikipedia's initial definition that it is "a broad concept that deals with a species' usage and knowledge of tools and crafts, and how it affects a species' ability to control and adapt to its environment."

Now, if that's true, than the logic student in me would also posit a corollary - that anything that appears to be magic is simply the usage and knowledge of a series of tools and crafts that the observer does not fully understand.

In short, magic is simply a science you haven't figured out yet.

Which is why I'm a big fan of John Dee.

For those of you who don't know, Dee was, officially, the queen's surgeon, as in Queen Elizabeth I of England, way back in the 16th century. Not only was Dee a scientist and a mathematician of the first order, he was also a specialist in mysticism and the occult. So, not only did the queen turn to Dee for his scientific acumen, but she relied on him to interpret her dreams, to check the path and influence of the stars, etc. Because, of course, back in those days, if you were a scholar, you studied everything and treated it all with equal weight based on the actual results, without having a bias to one system of thought over another (e.g. rational science over mysticism).

But, you'll notice, individuals in positions of power almost always have someone next to them, just behind the scenes, who is doing.... something that the average layman doesn't quite understand.

Every King Arthur has a Merlin behind him to "work the roots", as they used to say back in "the country", to help him stay in power.

Now, I'm sure some of you have read this and said "wow, Day really hides his insanity quite well. I had no idea he was such a madman."

And that's OK, because I needed to put what I'm about to say in some context first.

I want to talk about Karl Rove.

I know what you're thinking.

And, yes, you're 100% right - I AM saying that Rove is to Bush as Merlin is to King Arthur or Gandalf is to Aragorn and so on and so on.

And it didn't fully click for me until today. Here's why.

Right after the 2004 Presidential election, I wrote a post called "The Sun WILL Rise", in which I said the reason why Bush won was because he was, literally, The Candidate of Fear (tm). The entire electorate had bought into the fear paradigm - Republicans were afraid of what might happen to them if Bush lost, and Democrats were afraid of what might happen if Bush won. But the fact of the matter was that everyone's attention and emotional energy was all focused on Bush. Our collective national fear put him in office.

So, as I wrote in a 2006 blog called "The California Democratic Party Sucks", I was no longer going to vote out of fear ever again, even if the absence of my vote for Phil Angelides meant that Arnold would get re-elected governor. I was only going to vote FOR what I believed in, not AGAINST anything.

And, yes, Arnold was re-elected, but, if you look at his record since then, for all intents and purposes, he may as well have been a blue-dog Democrat for the last two years.

Now, consider what's happened this year - there had been a tremendous amount of positive energy flowing in Barack Obama's direction. He figured out that it wasn't enough to have good policies. You also had to inspire people and activate their hearts. Luckily, he also has the skills to do that. The Democrats were on their way to a landslide victory.

Until McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Oh, wait - let me clarify that.

Until Karl Rove and his surrogates who are now running McCain's campaign forced him to choose Sarah Palin as his running mate.

And, while everyone on the left and in the media is screaming "but she's completely unqualified!!! She's a right-wing ideologue!!! She has a history of misuse of power!!!", they've all completely missed the point.

The Rovians made McCain pick her BECAUSE she's unqualified. BECAUSE she's an ideologue. BECAUSE she has a history of misusing power.

They picked her because she terrifies us.

Sarah Palin is The New Candidate of Fear (tm).

And now, instead of all this talk about hope and the future, we get Democrats and Obama supporters running around with their hair literally on fire over the possibility of President Palin.

I mean, people who've been completely silent over the course of this entire campaign have suddenly been bombarding me with crazed e-mails, sounding like Randy Quaid in "Independence Day":
"We've got to stop them!!!!!!"
The entire focus of the campaign is now on her - those who love her, and those who're afraid of her. And, at the moment, our collective national fear is putting her in office.

The manipulation of the emotional state of a group of people as large as a voting electorate is a science that Rove has employed for decades to adjust and control the political landscape to his liking. A science that the average person simply doesn't understand.

It's magic.

So, for those of you who support Barack Obama like I do, here's the plan - remember how you felt when you saw this?


Don't be misled by the news or the opposition: Our candidate gets it. He knows the power of the collective American spirit is what has propelled him this far and is what can bring him to victory.

So, from now until Election Day, stop forwarding all of those e-mails about how crazy Sarah Palin is.

Instead, tell me stories about the America you dream about.

The President and leadership you hope for.

The Future you believe in.

Write about your own faith in tomorrow, and forward THAT email to everybody in your address book. Re-ignite your belief in the horizon and pass those on to everyone you know.

There's a reason why this is Obama's logo:


To paraphrase Harvey Dent, it's always darkest before the dawn, but keep dreaming about the warmth of the sun on your face, and I promise you, THE DAWN IS COMING.

And remember to vote FOR Obama.

September 01, 2008

Lords of Illusions

I think both the haphazard process McCain employed to pick her as well as her own general lightweightness as a national candidate, not to mention McCain's proposed trip to the Gulf Coast while local officials are trying to prepare for a freakin' hurricane.... all of this simply reinforces the reality that the modern Republican party (at least, at the national level) is far more interested in symbolism and appearances than in actually, you know, doing what they're elected to do.

Let's LOOK like I'm doing something to respond to the hurricane.

Let's LOOK like I actually vetted my potential running mate.

Let's pick someone who literally LOOKS like she could appeal to the Hilary voters.

Let's drill for oil off our shores so that we LOOK like we're doing something for high gas prices.

Let's pass a law called "No Child Left Behind" so that it LOOKS like we're not leaving any children behing.

Let's pass a law called "Clear Skies" or something so that it LOOKS like we're doing something about the environment.

The GOP is just a massive sleight of hand being perpetrated on the American populace. There's no "there" there.

August 29, 2008

Human Shield

Given the verbal smackdown he received at the hands of Obama last night, isn't McCain's selection of Gov. Palin kind of the equivalent of The Macho Man Randy Savage pulling Miss Elizabeth between himself and the Ultimate Warrior and saying "you wouldn't hit a girl, would you?"

Of course, if he'd picked Kay Bailey Hutchinson, the GOP version of Sensational Sherri, it might be a different story....

What You Got To Say NOW?


Watching that Obama acceptance speech tonight, I kept thinking back to the end of "8 Mile", with Eminem in the final MC battle against his nemesis, Papa Doc, the head of the so-called "Leaders of the Free World" clique.

Now, for those of you who've never seen an MC Battle before, it's basically a competitive performance where two rappers are given a fixed period of time in a hip-hop club to mock each other with rhyming lyrics they make up on the spot, i.e. freestyle. The crowd decides which one dissed the other the hardest, and awards him the victory.

By this point in the film, Eminem, who lived in a trailer park with his broke down mom (Kim Basinger) had just gotten his ass kicked by the entire Free World crew in a team beatdown, after one of them had had sex with his new girlfriend. And his own crew were so lame that one of them had even shot himself in the foot trying to be tough.

But watch how it all plays out. It's profane, but, man, is it worth it.


 After that total tongue lashing, where Eminem basically threw every attack he knew was coming right back in Papa Doc's face, he as completely speechless and was booed off stage. Eminem wins.

I'm saying all of that to say, what could John McCain and the Republicans possibly say next week in response to Obama tonight that could have any weight or value?

Obama just asked McCain and the Rovians "Is THAT the best you've got?"

The balls in your court, boys.

August 22, 2008

Saving Superman


Warner Bets on Fewer, Bigger Movies - WSJ.com

I think the WSJ article above is somewhat encouraging to me, as both a movie fan and a comic fan on a number of levels:
  1. I think we can all finally agree that "Superman Returns" was a failure.
  2. I think we can all finally agree that a "JLA" movie as a spin-off spaminator is a bad idea.
  3. I think we're all starting to agree that comic book movies do not have to be aimed at small children, since comic books themselves stopped being aimed at them at least 20 years ago.
I'm still a bit antsy about this "Green Arrow/SuperMax" movie, because I'd rather see Green Arrow as Green Arrow, not as the superhero version of Tom Selleck in "An Innocent Man". I'm also concerned that the studio may be making the same mistaken assumption about superhero storytelling that the comic industry made in the late '80's in the wake of the success of "The Dark Knight Returns" and "Watchmen": namely, that all superheroes need to be dark, grim, and gritty. Yes, it can work for certain characters - Batman, Wolverine, The Punisher, Green Arrow, even Wonder Woman to an extent (I mean, the S&M aspects built into that character from the very beginning are just too rich to ignore).

But Superman is different.

And, frankly, all this talk about how Superman is no longer relevant in today's world is a bunch of B.S. In fact, I think Superman is even MORE relevant than ever.

What most don't seem to get is that the best Superman stories are, essentially, morality plays. When you can do ANYTHING, it's not the physical obstacles that are the challenges, it's the CHOICES you must make.

Moreover, Superman's purpose is not just to save us physically, but to save our spirits by inspiring us to be better.

Honestly, in my dream version of "Superman Returns", he comes back and finds that the Earth has turned into....

naw. Can't give that one away. I may still get the call. :-)

Point being, you don't hire Paul Greengrass to direct a Superman movie. With the right script, I actually really like the idea of Tim Burton - the Tim Burton who did "Big Fish" and "Mars Attacks", not "Nightmare Before Christmas" Burton - making it into a sort of modern fairytale.

On second thought, the guy who could REALLY do it right would have been Luc Besson from about 10 years ago - Leelo Dallas was basically a female version of Superman.


In short, I'm cautiously optimistic. I'll relax when I see someone with real DC Comic street cred step up to be the Warner's equivalent of Avi Arad.

August 10, 2008

The Half-Way Mark

According to the CDC, as of 2004, the average life expectancy for a Black Man in the United States is 69.8 years.

Three days ago, I turned 35.

It's sobering to know that my government now considers my life half over.

Especially since I feel like it's really just getting started.

But then, I suppose I've been beating the statistics since the day I was born. A girl once pointed out to me on a date some 15 years ago, I was young black man from Baltimore who'd never been to jail, had no children, and was in the process of receiving an Ivy League education. "You don't realize how unique you are", she said.

Wow. 15 years ago.

My best friend just pointed out in his birthday wishes on my Facebook page that we've been friends for nearly 30 years. I can barely process the fact that I can measure anything over such a long period of time.

I can vividly remember my brother pumping his fists in the hospital the day that his son was born. Three months ago, that little baby just graduated from college. In the pictures from my recent trip to Comic-Con, my young cousin the photographer made a point of acknowledging me as "his older cousin".

But, for all of this talk about age, why can't I stop smiling this week?

Why do I feel so.... alive?

I feel like I've waited my entire life to be this age.

All week long, as people ask me how was my birthday and how do I feel to be another year older, I keep telling them the same thing:

I feel GRAND. In every sense of the word.

This has been a great year. And the next one? Even better.

Thank you everyone for all of the calls, emails, notes, well wishes, free drinks, cards, unmentionables, and everything else I've gotten in tribute this week. You all make every single moment sparkle like new money, and I appreciate every second.

Now, time to get back to it!

August 08, 2008

I should have listened to my mother

Last Christmas, when we were all sitting around chatting about the upcoming election over some Yultide dessert, my mother, a fairly reliable progressive Democrat, said that, while she was a Hilary girl who found herself falling head over heels for Obama, under no circumstances whatsoever would she vote for John Edwards.

I was shocked.

That's when several of my cousins also nodded in agreement.

"Why?" I asked my family. "Why not Edwards?"

The response?

"There's just something about him. He just seems shifty".

I couldn't see it. I'd been a fan of Edwards from back in '04 - he was actually my choice before I became a Deaniac. He seemed to be the guy who'd be forceful in his defense of progressive beliefs and values, almost to the point of recklessness. No one could deny how passionate he was. Surely no one could doubt that, given the chance, he'd be a good advocate for that other America he kept talking about.

No, let's be honest.

I didn't WANT to see it.

Not even subconsciously.

This election has been a real education as to how so many negative traits aren't just inherent in members of a given party.

Because a man who'll do anything for a given cause, no matter how noble it may be, is, by definition, a man who cannot be trusted. And it's just as true of John Edwards as it is about George W. Bush.

July 17, 2008

Eight Months To Midnight


The clock is officially ticking.

It took 22 years for the seminal graphic novel "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" to give birth to a movie version of the Caped Crusader that truly matched its sensibilities both in tone and substance, namely Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight".

Although, to be fair, "The Dark Knight"'s actual literary reference points are "Batman: The Killing Joke" and "Batman: The Long Halloween", featuring The Joker and Two-Face, respectively, but "The Dark Knight Returns" really reshaped the character into something much more rich and essential.


Three months after the last issue of "The Dark Knight Returns" shipped to comic stores, a comic with a blood-stained smiley face on the cover appeared on the newsstands that asked a very simple question:

How would the world that we know actually have changed if a man gained superhuman powers and declared himself our protector?

That was the beginning of "Watchmen", by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. And what Frank Miller did for Batman in "The Dark Knight Returns", Moore & Gibbons did for the entire genre of superheroes.

So, now that this is the year that the superhero movie has finally arrived (thank you Iron Man, Hulk, Hellboy, and Batman), it's only fitting that the story that dismantled superheroes should follow right behind.

Friends, the trailer for Zack Snyder's movie adaptation of "Watchmen":



Will this be as rich and satisfying and as qualitative a film as "The Dark Knight" appears to be? Doubtful. Chris Nolan is a singular storyteller who wrestles every single aspect of the film to make it tell the story, and nothing more. Zack Snyder is a director with a tremendous visual eye and a great sense for good stories. But the difference between them is Nolan is also a writer, and Snyder is not. In fact, when Snyder says that he's absolutely committed to everything put on the page in the Watchmen graphic novel, that actually makes me MORE nervous about the final film. Slavish devotion to a literary piece is not what makes for a great film.

Just ask Mark Steven Johnson, who directed Daredevil and Ghost Rider.

In fact, I would even suggest that the reason why The Dark Knight surpasses Spider-Man and Iron Man is that Nolan was willing to jettison whatever didn't fully support what he felt was the basic premise of Batman - a regular man who makes himself into a superhero through the application of his wealth and force of will in self-mastery. It's the absolute commitment to reality that makes The Dark Knight transcend other films in the genre.

And, frankly, given the basic premise of "Watchmen", that should be the same basis of that film as well.

At least, that's what I would do. :-)

In other words, I seriously doubt there will be any Oscar buzz around Watchmen.

But I DO think it it will be a fabulously fun movie, with the potential to be a very provocative film in the vein of "The Dark Knight" if they stay true to the heart of the story itself.

In short, I'm excited! Can't wait.