Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Prince Caspian

I saw The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian on Sunday. I was a completely virgin viewer. Not only have I never seen the first Narnia movie, but I've never read anything by C. S. Lewis.

This is the ideal way to watch a movie that comes with loads of baggage. I had no way of knowing when the movie was making massive deviations from the book. I couldn't tell when a character came across quite differently from anything C. S. Lewis intended.

Instead, I just accepted everything as it came (Talking badger? Cool! Swordsmouse? Okay!!) and didn't worry about how it all fit together. Nothing like blissful ignorance.

I was vaguely aware that the movie series had some of C. S. Lewis' Christian symbolism. But if I hadn't already known that Lewis saw his Narnia as infused with Christian meaning, I'd probably have seen the religious aspects of the movie as Hollywood trying for a deeply spiritual meaning while still being vague enough to avoid offending anyone.

Miraz is the most wonderfully stereotypical Evil Overlord I've seen in a very long time. He is an utterly uncomplicated character. He has no eccentricities or odd character traits. He is simply an Evil Overlord. Period. I can respect that.

For all I can tell

Political bloggers are all abuzz over what Tennessee Democratic Party Executive Committee member Fred Hobbs (note party affiliation) has to say about Barack Obama:
“He’s got some bad connections, and he may be terrorist connected for all I can tell. It sounds kind of like he may be.”

Political discourse is great, isn't it? Thanks to his excellent use of qualifying statements, there's no way to logically argue with any of that.

Because of such wonderful phrases as "It sounds like" and "for all I can tell", it is absolutely impossible for any of the following statements to be proven wrong:
Fred Hobbs may be a member of the Illuminati, the Priory of Sion, and NAMBLA for all I can tell. It sounds kind of like he may be.
It sounds kind of like Hillary Clinton keeps a copy of Mein Kampf by her bedside. For all I can tell she might be a Nazi.
For all I can tell, George Bush might well have summoned Hurricane Katrina with his black magic. It sure sounds like the sort of use he'd find for his wizarding skills.
It sure sounds kind of like Randall Shelton, in Mrs. Glenburg's second period trigonometry class, has no friends. He sleeps in a barn and never takes a shower for all I can tell.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Curse You, Trash Talkers!

Wherever blog comment threads turn to politics, the general intelligence level takes a nosedive. I'm okay with that - I made my peace with it long ago. But here's something that makes me uneasy.

John Scalzi has some snarky things to say about FOX News calling Michelle Obama a "Baby Mama", and Michelle Malkin's bizarre little defense of same. I agree with Scalzi.

(Aside: I generally make it a habit of not worrying about what FOX News has to say. It's easy because I don't live in the USA, and I don't own a TV. Also, I try not to think of Michelle Malkin, ever. I used to think she was a real person. Then the Dunkin' Donuts thing happened, and now I feel dumb for thinking she was a real person.)

Ninety-two comments in, one "Charles" calls Scalzi's snark "one of the most hateful rants I’ve read yet this election year." He goes on to say:
I shouldn’t be surprised though that you secular-progressive socialists, borderline communists, smear tacticians continue to defame everything about Fox News. You complain that Fox News is the right-wing news channel…blah blah blah. Okay, so the conservatives have one tv channel that leans their way. Liberals control the rest of them. I am willing to bet the majority of the people commenting on this blog have never even watched Fox News long enough to form their own opinion (not one derived from someone else you heard talking about Fox News) about their reporting.
And then he goes on for some length, in which he also repeats some rather overdone anti-Obama talking points absolutely identical to what thousands of other overly dramatic Obama critics are also saying on the Internet.

Scalzi responds:

“That had to be one of the most hateful rants I’ve read yet this election year.”

Get out more, Charles.

Also, re: “token conservative,” there are lots of conservatives who visit and comment here, and rather more substantively and with fewer rote talking point cliches than you just have, so please get over yourself. Your problem is not that you’re conservative, it’s that your comment is unoriginal, boring and lame. Other conservatives here do better in their arguments. Strive to emulate them.

And Charles issues a rebuttal:

You call it cliche, I call it truth. Very typical of a liberal to sling insults to attempt to make a point.
And so on.

Here's what bugs me. What if Charles is serious? What if he's real?

Now, I understand the attitude of "do not feed the trolls."

And a few months ago I wrote a post (also inspired by a Scalzi thread) about how most "dissenting opinion" posts on political comment threads are basically just sports fans screaming trash talk at their opponents before a game. I wholeheartedly believe that trying to calmly discuss the issues on their merits with a trash-talker (regardless of the trash-talker's political orientation) is just insufferably nerdy.

But... I've got a smidgen of doubt in my mind. What if Charles is real? What if he's sincere, just not very good at expressing his opinions? What if John Scalzi made a mistake by not trying to have a real constructive dialog with him (or just ignoring him - Scalzi's presumably got more going on in his life than participating in his own comment threads)? What if Charles actually, genuinely meant it when he said, "Very typical of a liberal to sling insults to attempt to make a point"?

Okay, I know it's hugely unlikely. This is the Internet. I wasn't born yesterday. This isn't real. Charles may be a partisan fan of the GOP, but that doesn't mean he thinks everything (or anything) he says is literally true.

But still, that bit of doubt persists. And it's why I can't be a political blogger.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

An Obama Presidency

Zompist refuses to predict the Presidential race.
I think the November election is still wide open.
Well, I'm a lot stupider than him, and I predict Obama's got a 90% chance of being the 44th President of the United States.

It mostly comes down to this: Obama and his team are much, much smarter about the nitty-gritty of politics than the Gore or Kerry campaigns ever were. The mistakes and missteps he's made so far this year have been relatively minor. Some bloggers and commentators would have you believe his campaign's been a gaffe machine since March, but I just don't see it.

I'm also encouraged that he's showing every sign of putting the GOP on defensive in states like Virginia and North Carolina, which were supposed to be safe GOP locks.

That said, I'm worried about what will almost inevitably happen when Obama's core of True Believers figures out sometime in 2009 that the man's not perfect, and that the President of the United States inevitably has to make compromises.

It's almost inevitable that a newly elected President is going to suffer a catastrophic drop in popularity in his first year, particularly one who was elected as representing a New Generation or a New Kind of Politics. About the only sure way to avoid it is for some Massive Unanticipated Event to come along and change all the rules, which is how George W. Bush managed to end his first year in office more popular than when he started it.

Massive Unanticipated Events tend to be bad news. I'm going to hope one doesn't happen.

I guess this is the same kind of thinking that gave rise to the meme that's going around GOP-Bloggerland right now that an Obama Presidency will be reminiscent of Jimmy Carter's, in all the worst ways.

But now I want to make another prediction, one which is somewhat out-there but might make me look like a genius in eight and a half years:

Barack Obama will be a two-term President, but he'll do it Grover Cleveland-style. His first term will leave a lot of his base unhappy, and he will lose the 2012 election to some Republican. After a year or two of Republican rule, some remorseful Dems will begin thinking "That Barack guy, he wasn't so bad after all". And he'll be term-limited this time, so you know he'll be an actual leader rather than some dope just worrying about his own re-election. So Obama is renominated in 2016 and wins the Presidency.

(And just to make all the Obama-haters' hair stand on end: Even in this scenario, when Obama retires from the Presidency for good in 2021 he'll still be only sixty years old. Not too old for a Supreme Court appointment...)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Texas and Ghost Cats and Cubicles

I just read James Hynes' Kings of Infinite Space. An office satire. With undead creatures. And sex. (Not in the same scenes.)

My official Thoughts While Reading It:

- I never, ever, ever, ever again want to find myself earning $8/hr to pay for the food I eat and the apartment I sleep in. I've been there and it sucks. IT SUCKS. Have I mentioned that IT SUCKS?

- This Paul Trilby guy, he's not supposed to be an Everyman character, is he? If he is, he's not a very good one. He's borderline psychotic. He drowned his ex-wife's cat in the bathtub. His condescension towards Texas suburbia is a bit overdone even for my tastes, and I'm a snobby Blue Stater who prefers Belgian beer to American beer, foreign films to NASCAR, and who plans to vote for Obama this November. (I'm relieved to see I was right. Apparently Hynes considers Paul Trilby to be his "evil stunt double".) If there's a true moral center to this novel, it's Callie the Oklahoma Girl.

- I hated Olivia more than I have hated any fictional character I've come across in months. I wanted to see her cut up into little pieces and then I wanted to see the pieces eaten by goats. In other words: Olivia is a very effective character. I wish I'd seen more of her.

- (Not that this will make any sense if you haven't read the book, but...) Just for the record, I didn't know what synecdoche meant either. But now I'll never forget it.