Friday, February 29, 2008

Best Story Attributed to a President

Sadly, this is probably apocryphal, but it still needs to be shared. It's from David Greenberg's excellent biography of Calvin Coolidge.
Calvin and Grace Coolidge are at a farm, and Mrs Coolidge is told that a rooster mates several times a day.
"Tell that to the President!" she is reported to have replied.
President Coolidge then asked if the rooster mated with the same hen each time. When he was informed that it was always a different hen, he said, quietly: "Be sure to tell that to Mrs Coolidge."

This year, I am apparently a Republican

Well, now that the Democrats are taking part in their favourite sport (verbally abusing other Democrats), I find myself leaning towards Republican Senator John McCain, who is bound to be the Republican nomination for President, even though Mike ("Don't Believe In Evolution & The World Is Only 6000yrs Old") Huckabee and Ron ("I'm Fun, But Mad") Paul are still convinced they can snatch victory from the jaws of insignificance.
McCain is a great man, and a great senator. Of the 37 measures he presented on the Senate floor in 2007, all have been meaningful measures - covering mainly military matters, but also a welcome number of environmental protection motions for this home state of Arizona. Compared to Obama and Clinton, who seem to have the senate equivalent of tourettes (each has proposed over 100 motions, most sadly non-binding and vacuous), McCain appears to be the better politician and also more conscientious of what he proposes.
Rather than spreading himself too thin with proposals that are mere window-dressing or pandering to special interests (Obama wants to create a Rosa Parks commemoration stamp, for example - woot! So much for eschewing racial politics), McCain has decided to do what he can achieve, and what is sensible, without pandering to anyone. Sure, his environmental measures are Arizona based, but he is the Arizona senator, so of course he needs to look after his state - that's why he was sent to Washington in the first place.
Not only that, I think McCain would make a better president than either Clinton or Obama. I'm concerned about who he might choose for his VP candidate, but ultimately, I think he'd make an excellent president. It's a pity he's running against two historically significant candidates, and also that he's running as the candidate for the same party as George W Bush, who has managed to disappoint just about everyone in the US (not to mention much of the rest of the world). It's quite possible that many people will vote for a Democrat because they are just fed up of Republican rule, despite the fact that McCain is an unusual Republican (i.e. a moderate).
Even the "dirt" on McCain is harmless. The New York Times is running the story (again) about his ties to lobbyists - it first surfaced in 2000, when he was running against GWB for the Republican nomination. Turns out, a lobbyist from Paxson Communications asked McCain to act on long-delayed bid for a local Pittsburgh TV station that was before the FCC for a decision. Rather than be a poodle for the lobbyist, McCain agreed to ask the FCC to speed up their deliberation, but refused to argue for or against the purchase - indeed, he bluntly admitted asking the FCC to speed up, and admitted that campaign contributions he received through Paxson contacts would "absolutely" look corrupt to the average voter. But, because he didn't push the FCC to vote in favour of Paxson's client, I can't see how it could be argued that he did anything wrong. This is not really a scandal. In the post-Jack Abramoff world of lobbying, not to mention the slew of other Republican money (and sex) scandals that emerged in 2007, McCain's actions look tame in the extreme.
We shall see what happens, I guess. McCain is the only Republican I've ever wanted to vote for (at least, Republicans from my admittedly short lifetime thus far), and if I was a US citizen I have no doubt that I would pull the lever for McCain.

"Jumper"

I recently saw "Jumper" at the cinema. It was not bad. It was not great. Empire said "it lays the foundations on which a great franchise can be built". True, but it would have been nice if they actually laid the foundations of the story, too.



Too much of the movie was style (it was very stylish) and not much story. They really should have spent some more time explaining what the hell was going on. Sure, too much exposition would have come across as forced, but a little bit of exposition would have not only extended the movie beyond 1.5hrs, and also made it a more well-rounded movie.

There was vast potential to expand the story. The ideas behind the "jumping", and how doing so leaves a "jump-scar" was, to my mind, inspired! The complete lack of explanation as to why the Paladins were chasing the jumpers, and why chief paladin (played by the ever-excellent Samuel L Jackson) always uses a specific, ancient, blood-encrusted knife to dispatch each jumper he captures is never explained.

A good movie, sadly let down by a small budget? Considering the movie was directed by Doug Liman, this is unlikely - he directed Mr & Mrs Smith and The Bourne Identity. Also, considering it stars the young Darth Vader (the marginally-improved Hayden Christensen), this should have been given a relatively generous budget. The special effects were cool, and very well done.
The movie was better than expected, and I think it is for this reason I was disappointed with the short-shrift they gave to the background and story. If this is the beginning of a franchise/series, then I'm very happy about that, as the concepts and storyline leave things wide open, with oodles of potential for expansion and development!

Monday, February 18, 2008

A truly bizarre system...

According to the Economist (Feb 16th 2008, pp.48-49), even though Barack Obama has won 22 of the 35 primary races for the Democratic nomination, winning all the remaining races would not give him enough delegates to claim victory over Hillary Clinton. This is just downright weird.
He's won 22 states so far, giving him 1,253 delegates to Clinton's 1,221 (from 13 states). Surely his winning the most states should be enough? I understand that certain states have considerably larger 'power' in these primaries, and I can appreciate why (California, New York and Texas are where most of the nation's money is, for example), but there's something decidedly undemocratic about the Democratic parties system.
I know, not a very deep posting, but it's something that came to me as I sit here, waiting to take applications for the Warm Front grant...