Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Blind Leading the Blind Leaves Everyone in the Dark

Earlier today, one of my former co-workers posted a picture on Facebook declaring her support for Obama's re-election next year.  The picture is of the back of Obama's head, with the caption "I've got his back" across the top.  My former co-worker also added her own caption under it, saying, "It takes MORE than 4 years to CLEAN UP what someone messed up over 8 [years]!"

I don't normally like involving myself in political debates, mostly because both sides get so heated about their respective viewpoints.  In this case, I had to jump in, and below are direct copies of my comment, followed by my former co-worker's response:

Me: "I humbly disagree. This country is, in my opinion, in worse shape than when Obama first took office. The deficit is worse, unemployment is higher, and the housing market is still in the toilet (if not worse as well). Mitt Romney is my guy next year, but if Herman Cain gets the nomination I would happily vote for him too."

Her: "Not to pull the race card, cause I NEVER do, but he was NEVER given a fair chance, by the House or Senate...yet they let Bush run this country into the ground!!!
I don't follow politics enough to argue much, but from what I've taken notice of....its a race game, and in America "we" never win:)"

Her response flat-out angered me for several reasons.  In the interests of not turning things into an ugly argument via Facebook comments, I chose not to post anything else, so instead I'm going to talk about it here.  First, I was dismayed at how she completely ignored the facts that I had laid out in my comment.  She had nothing to say about the overall state of the economy, including unemployment, the federal debt, or Obama's politics.  She even openly admitted she's fairly ignorant of politics, so I don't understand how she could arbitrarily support Obama when she doesn't even know what he's trying to do (actually, I do have a theory about why she supports him, but that's for later).  Still, if she was going to post something on Facebook openly showing her support for Obama, how could she not be prepared for someone to disagree with her and/or Obama, if not openly challenge her?  If I were to put something on Facebook showing which presidential candidate I supported, I'd definitely be prepared for some blowback from the other side.

Second, it's completely inaccurate to simply state Obama wasn't given a "fair chance."  He's a Democratic President, and for the first two years of his term Congress was controlled by the Democrats on both sides.  It's downright idiotic to make a claim like that given the reality of the situation.  In fact, such a failure shows a real lack of organization among the Democrats as a party if they couldn't get together collectively and follow a single direction.  If a Democratic President working with a Democratic-controlled Congress for two years isn't a "fair chance," then I don't know what is.

Third - and this really encompasses the previous two issues I took with her comment - such a comment reflects what is the lowest common denominator among Democratic voters.  She made no secret that the fact that Obama was black was the deciding factor for her to support him.  Let me also reiterate that she had openly admitted she didn't know much about politics or the political machine as a whole, but she still chose to support him because he's black.  Friends, there's a word for that kind of behavior, and that word is racism.  Choosing to vote for a candidate because he's black is no different - and no better - than choosing to vote against a candidate because he's black.  How is such a view going to improve our country?  

I like to keep an open mind, especially about something like politics.  I've long considered myself a moderate conservative, and I have several close friends who are hard liberals.  We discuss our different views and more often than not disagree on them.  And that's fine.  We raise our beer glasses, say cheers, and take a drink afterwards.  I think it's healthy to be able to debate in a friendly manner like that.  What angers me is people like my former co-worker who blindly follow a candidate without really knowing what the candidate's views and values are.  People like that actually do a disservice to the rest of the country by not being informed and actually knowing what they're getting themselves into.

Now don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to use this post as an anti-Obama opportunity.  I may not agree with him, and I certainly won't be voting for him next year.  If anyone reads this post and can comment with an educated, well-constructed argument, I'd love to hear from you (and that's a genuine offer).  But if all you have to say is Obama needs a "fair chance" and that it was racism that kept him from achieving his goals during his first term in office, I'm going to shake my head in disgust.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Review: American Horror Story

I've been thinking of using my blog as a venue for posting reviews of movies and TV series for a while now.  The main reason I haven't done it is because I haven't seen a film worth posting a review about in a while - honestly, what kinds of thoughts could I say about Transformers: Dark of the Moon that could either encourage or discourage anyone from seeing it?  And what sort of debate could come from that?  Now if I see The Ides of March in the next couple weeks that could change things, but that's a different story for another time. 

Back to my point: Here is my review for the premiere episode of the new series American Horror Story.  It's from Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, the team behind Nip/Tuck and Glee.  Having those three series compiled on a resume is like combining Frosted Flakes, steak, and asparagus all into one meal.  Talk about radically different genres.

The series opens in 1978, where adolescent twin boys in Los Angeles take their Louisville sluggers into an old mansion for a game of wrecking ball. A young girl with Down syndrome watches them, ominously warning them if they enter the house they'll die in there.  I won't give away much else of what happens in the teaser, except to say they ignore her warning and things don't end pretty for them.

Fast forward to present day.  Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton) is dealing with a miscarriage of her baby and also discusses her husband Ben (Dylan McDermott) having an affair in the aftermath of everything with her doctor.  This is the entire setup for the series, since Ben and Vivien take their teenage daughter Violet across country to start things over as a family.  They hunt for a new house in Los Angeles, and wouldn't you know the very same mansion from the opening teaser is the same house they purchase for themselves?

It doesn't take long for Ben and Vivien to meet some of the locals, including Jessica Lange as the eccentric Southern mother of the Down syndrome girl from the teaser.  I think the last time I saw an actress chew scenery as much as Lange did in her role as Constance was - oddly enough - Jessica Lange in a terrible, terrible movie from the late 90s called Hush.  I'm not sure exactly where the character's eccentric nature ends and Lange's overacting begins, but the line is clearly blurred considering this is Ryan Murphy at work here.

Then weird stuff starts to happen.  Ben and Vivien find some bondage outfits belonging to the previous owners (who, by the way, were both killed in a murder-suicide) in the attic; a mysterious man with burn scars covering half his face approaches Ben, warning him about the house; a maid in her 50s who claimed she used to work for the previous owners wants the same position with the Harmons; and Violet befriends a boy who shares her desires to cut herself.

There's plenty more twisted stuff going on, and I haven't even gotten to the apparitions making appearances or the maid's relationship with Ben at all.  Suffice to say, even though Ryan Murphy hasn't ever gotten into the horror genre before, his stamp can clearly be seen all over this show.  Just like in Nip/Tuck and Glee, there's plenty of marital and teen angst to go around, and music plays an integral part in setting mood in key scenes.  I could have lived without crazy cutting and editing, but it's used mostly for setting mood instead of being done for its own sake, so it's a minor quibble I have with the directing.

What I liked most about the pilot was being left wondering just where in hell could they be going with the story.  I've always preferred series that aren't procedurals because they're the same damn show every week, e.g. CSI and Law & Order.  I have no idea where American Horror Story is going ultimately, especially with one of the characters telling another in the pilot episode, "Don't make me kill you again."  I have to believe it won't have a happy ending given the series' title, but it's definitely the perfect series for the Halloween season.

I don't normally like horror that involves lots of gore, or horror that involves haunted houses for that matter.  The great thing about American Horror Story is that while there are some ghastly images, it's much more about psychological horror than anything else, and the mansion is simply a setting versus a plot device.  There are lots of layers to uncover as the series unfolds, and that's the sign of real storytelling here, something that television as a whole has started moving away from over the last few years. 

Don't be misled though - American Horror Story is NOT for the faint of heart.  There's a reason why it's on at 10:00 at night.  I do recommend it for anyone interested in the horror genre and can handle some really deeply disturbed and twisted stuff in it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Only Took Me a Little Over Two Years

I had first signed up for Twitter a little over two years ago.  I really didn't understand it at the time, and I didn't know what to expect of it, either.  Some close friends who lived and died by it said it was similar to Facebook, in that it was all status updates without the possibility of comments.  When I finally checked it out, my first thought was, "This is it?"

Obviously, I was anything but impressed.

I would occasionally log in and see what was happening with Twitter, and I followed some friends on there, as well as news-related updates.  By "occasionally" I mean every couple months, if that.  I was far more interested in Facebook than Twitter with Facebook's interactivity.  I just didn't see the value or advantage of posting what amounted to only headlines.

Then about a week and a half ago I was out with some friends watching football.  I struck up a conversation with one of the bartenders about Twitter and told her how completely uninterested in it I was.  She immediately asked me if I followed any comedians on there (I didn't), and she said that was my problem.  She grabbed a napkin and wrote down several comedians she follows on Facebook, a couple of whom were friends of hers.  She gave me her own Twitter feed for me to follow too, and once I did, I finally understood what all the fuss was about.  I started with her own Twitter and nearly fell off my bar stool from laughing.  Oh, her posts were quite racy stuff, and likely would offend some sensitive folks out there.  But I loved everything.  Her friends' Twitter feeds were also awesome, and as a result I finally got a grasp on what Twitter is supposed to be used for.

Now I'd never claim to be as particularly clever or funny as the bartender or her friends, but I have added several more feeds for sports-related headlines, as well as other random news updates on Twitter as well.  I usually check it at least twice a day, and update my own feed as well. 

Better late than never.