Tuesday, January 23, 2007

State of the Union revue

States of the Union are like children: I love them all. Each year is defined by its own unique little tension. In 2004 it was the Joint Chiefs refusing to clap; last year it was the Democrats booing; this year it's a toss-up between the Applause War that raged between Nancy Pelosi and the Republicans or the eerie lack of applause during the section on Iraq. The sole constant in this whole process is the look of complete exasperation carved on the face of Hilary Clinton. Yes, I love them all.

I'm not sure where this whole thing came from that we're all now suddenly supposed to embrace the Green movement, but I like it. Sam Seaborn says: "Let’s forget the fact that you’re coming a little late to the party and embrace the fact that you showed up at all."

I also don't get the President's bold new plan to balance the budget; haven't gotten it since he announced it a couple weeks ago. I haven't examined his plan in depth, so perhaps that explains my confusion, but his belief that we can balance the budget while still cutting taxes sort of strikes me on its face as an exercise in defying logic. That's like saying you're going to pay off your credit card debt by quitting your job. I'm really not sure there's $9 trillion worth of wasteful federal spending going around...especially in a time when we need more, not less, government spending. Forget universal health care or public schools that don't rank dead last and just focus on the two wars we're waging.

Mostly, though, I want to talk about the speechwriting, because for such an important address, it was pretty bad. The Iraq section was okay, but the earlier parts made some odd choices. Like the very first line: "Tonight I have the high privilege and distinct honor of my own as the first president to begin the State of the Union message with these words: 'Madame Speaker.'" He took a moment that was supposed to be about Nancy Pelosi and made it about himself.

A more substantive example was when the President was talking about public schools. "We can lift student achievement even higher by giving local leaders flexibility to turn around failing schools...and by giving families with children stuck in failing schools the right to choose some place better." I think you meant the means to choose someplace better, George. They already have the right; there's no law that prevents parents from sneding their children to private school. But you're really talking about vouchers here. You're beef is that they don't have the means to do so.

I also thought this part was weak: "We need to resolve the status of the illegal immigrants who are already in our country — without animosity and without amnesty." I think he really should have said "without animosity BUT ALSO without amnesty," so as to juxtapose these two seemingly competing values and to lend weight to his anti-amnesty stance.

I'm not really sure what was up with the ending. "Now it's time to close my major policy address with some fun anecdotes about some people I know." Wesley Autrey, the Subway Hero, had my undying respect, up until the point he showed up at the State of the Union. Struttin' in front of Congress? Chronically pointing to Bush with the whole world watching? "The President is my dawg, yo!" A little much. The President says, "There is something wonderful about a country that produces a brave and humble man like Wesley Autrey," and I can't help but ponder how those are two adjectives that could never be applied to him.

And when did Dikembe Mutumbo become an example of the American spirit? He's not even American. The White House really couldn't find more than three natural citizens to parade in front of Congress? They had to resort to immigrants? Really? I also like the sentiment that when black people try to be doctors in this country we stick basketballs in their hands so they can entertain us instead. No one's probably going to extract that message other than me, but it's definitely there, lurking, just waiting for a social-conflict theorist to pry it free.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

There's strong, and then there's American Idol strong

I watched American Idol last night. I don't normally watch it, but one of my friends IMed me with, "omg, AI* is on right now!" so I figured what the hell. This is the part worth watching. The bad auditions - the "horrible wannabes," as the commercials put it. I don't understand the democraphic that watches the show for the people who can sing. I have CDs full of people who can sing, I don't need to tune into Fox for it. I guess it's sort of like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books, but since I won't buy the album of whoever wins anyway, I really don't care.

* Maybe she meant Artificial Intelligence?

But I do love those bad auditions. These people who get in front of national television and absolutely embarrass themselves. Who cannot sing and must endure the humiliation of this startling revelation. I find it hard to believe that this many people truly think they're good singers when they so clearly can't sing. Actually, auditioning on American Idol reminds me a little bit of being called on in law school. You try to sputter out some response and then...

Long pause.

"That is the absolute worst answer I have ever heard."

I also wish people would come up with more creative responses. "Samantha, why are you auditioning today?" "Because I am the next American Idol!" Granted, it's a pretty stupid question. It reminds me of one time when I went to a Howie Day concert, and this kid from class came up to me and said, "Oh my god, what are YOU doing here?" Um, I'm here to see the Ringling Brothers Circus. Why do you think I'm here?

I was gonna talk about how last night's auditions were from Minneapolis, but what I really want to talk about is all the troops who performed. First of all, we all knew the guy from the Reagan was gonna go to the next round. Even before he performed. They introduce him, and then they cut to a whole bit where we get to see the aircraft carrier he serves on. We got to meet his C.O. Was I really supposed to think Fox would bother doing this whole bit just for a guy who failed the first round?

I also found the National Guard woman a little annoying - the one whose husband is in Iraq but who she knows will be okay because he's "strong." I gotta say, that statement reflects a borderline offensive ignorance about the death count. I think death in Iraq has less to do with being "strong" and more to do with being near a car bomb when it goes off. Were all 3,000 of those poor schmucks who already died weak? Is that why they died? And why was she dressed in her camoflauge uniform for the audition? Unless she was on her way to building a bridge or, you know, not helping Katrina victims, I really don't see the need.

Mostly, though, I want to draw attention to something I talked about a few months ago. Are our troops really as selfless, sacrificing, and self-sacrificng as we pretend? We have at least two examples last night of troops who said, "Hmm...I could dedicate my life in the service of my country...or I could be on American Idol!" Doesn't exactly make me want to break out into a rendition of "God Bless the U.S.A."

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Buck the Fuckeyes

I didn't really want to blog during my vacation, but I have to say something about last night's game. The BCS game. The Bull-Crap-Shit game. Ohio State v. Florida. I wasn't looking forward to this game to begin with, what with me having to root for Ohio State and all. I had to root for Ohio State. I wanted Ohio State to crush Florida, so that everyone could see that Michigan held up better against the undisputed #1 team and deserved to go to the finals for a rematch. Instead, I got to watch Ohio get slammed. Buck the Fuckeyes, indeed.

First of all, let's get a couple things straight. Florida beat OSU 41-14, but they already had them at 34-14 at the half. They only scored one touchdown in the entire second half. That's not so impressive.

Second, quotes like this are such bullshit: "'Honestly, we've played a lot better teams than them,' Florida defensive end Jarvis Moss said. 'I could name four or five teams in the SEC that could probably compete with them and play the same type of game we did against them.'" Yeah, yeah, the SEC is so much better than the Big Ten, the SEC is God's gift to college football (if not necessarily His gift to academia). Go buck yourself. The BCS sort of reminds me of law school exams. You could be awesome at Constitutional Law, for example, but if you have an off-day on the day of the exam and get a C, you're branded as a Con Law moron for the rest of your days. I'm not saying Ohio State's dismal performance should all be dismissed as an off day - champions show up to play - but clearly OSU did not play the OSU game we've seen all year.

We saw a reverse example of this last night. The Florida kicker - I can't remember his name - was 4-for-13 all season in field goals, but he nailed his first two for 40 yards right down the center.

Also, if Florida is so much better than OSU, how come they couldn't contain Ted Ginn long enough to prevent him from scoring in the first 16 seconds of the game? I hate to use a Lord of the Rings reference when talking about college football, but he was like Legolas on that return, or the Ginger Bread Man; weaving this way, bobbing that. You can't catch me, I'm Ted Ginn Jr...until I hurt my foot.

Mostly, though, where the hell was Troy Smith? I don't know who that guy was with the #10 jersey throwing the football, but it wasn't Troy Smith. It's too bad he didn't bother to show up for the game, because then he would have made it such a game..or at least he would have made a completion. You don't need the Heisman Trophy to know that Troy Smith was the undisputed best player this year in college football, but last night he played like Chad Henne. Tim Tebow made better throws than him.

A final note. I found a certain irony in John McCain being the Grand Marshall or whatever he was. Here he was, the presumptive Republican frontrunner for the 2008 Presidential election, marshalling a game between the flagship schools for the two most critical swing states in the past two elections. West Wing couldn't have done it better.