Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: August 2008

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Casting Call

Blogger is really acting up on me tonight, so I'll keep this short and sweet. (Actually, all of Google is problematic--it wouldn't even let me in to Google Mail in Firefox, let alone Blogger.)

If McCain wanted to hijack the news cycle, it sure looks like he's gotten his wish. Nobody's talking about much else but Sarah Palin. Unfortunately for McCain, not all of the talk is positive. I still find the whole thing surreal. Earlier today, Atrios brought attention to the following graphic:

Expressing surprise that the McCain campaign itself was responsible for such a cheesy graphic, he wrote:

I'm not even sure what to say about it... I don't know. It just looks like something from a bad Hollywood sitcomish movie about a presidential campaign.

He's right--it has that quality about it. Yglesias builds on the idea and suggests Tina Fey for the role. Although the glasses are right, Fey herself is wrong for this role. It can be none but Debra Messing. But who's going to play McCain? The floor is open for suggestions.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Reading the Pick

I may be overreacting, but I sensed the faint odor of flop sweat around John McCain's pick of Sarah Palin as his running mate. Oh, sure, it was a maverick choice, all right. But what kind of logic did McCain bring to the decision? Nothing that would speak well of him as a president, that's for sure. The New York Times called it a bold move, but it has no other purpose than to be bold. It's a surprise because it's right out of left field, but surprise only lasts for so long. Once she's been in the glare of the spotlight for a couple of days, the surprise will have worn off, and then where will the McCain/Palin ticket be? Pretty much nowhere.

How would Sarah Palin do as president? Who knows? What does she bring to the table? I made fun of McCain for sending his wife to Georgia to do whatever it is she's supposed to do, but I now find myself wondering if Cindy was a better choice of emissary than the new VP candidate would be. Where does she stand on the issues? We know that she's against choice (way against). But what kind of economic policy does she support? Does she want to be in Iraq for 100 years? Is she (or can she in nine weeks become) ready to be president in case the oldest first-time presidential candidate for some reason cannot finish out his term?

Jan Crawford Greenburg related the process McCain used to get to pick Palin. Apparently he looked at all the people he'd been examining closely--Romney, Pawlenty, even Joe Lieberman--and decided that none of them were right. So he grabbed a straw out of the air and came up with someone he barely knew. What does that mean about the kinds of decisions he'd make if he makes it into the White House? "Forget what the research says! I'm my own man! I'm doing what I want to."

Friday, August 29, 2008

That Speech (So What Else Did You Expect?)

As I've been saying all week, I've been mostly trying to avoid the Democratic convention this week (and I'll do an even better job of ignoring next week's Republican convention), but I had to tune in this evening to see Obama's speech. It's a significant occasion, and given what Obama's shown us before, there was no reason to believe it wouldn't be stirring.

And guess what? It was. There's commentary and analysis to be found all over the Web, so I don't really have any great desire to add much to it. I found the most moving line to be:

America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.

He's right. This is a better country than what's been on display for the last several years, but we've fallen victim to fear and fear-mongering. Will we rise above it during this election cycle? That remains to be seen--the McCain campaign is offering us a heaping helping of it this time around (although they temper it with a nice dollop of McCain as POW--I swear, it's a good thing McCain is so reticent to bring the subject up at all--if he were willing to really milk his status as a former POW, we'd get nothing but that; it might shove the fear-mongering out the campaign toolbox altogether).

Obama and Biden are off to a good start. It looks to be an exciting ride.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Quick Hits

I missed this when it ran in the Washington Post last week, but it appears that the Department of Homeland Security is broadening its databases again.

The federal government has been using its system of border checkpoints to greatly expand a database on travelers entering the country by collecting information on all U.S. citizens crossing by land, compiling data that will be stored for 15 years and may be used in criminal and intelligence investigations.

Maybe I'm just showing my age, but back when I was in elementary school, the fact that programs like this were in place in the likes of the USSR was one more reason why we should oppose communism and be thankful we lived in the good ol' U.S.A.

A country group called Lady Antebellum was on Jimmy Kimmel tonight. I don't know if it's just me, but when I hear the word antebellum in the context of the South and country music, it reminds me of slavery. But I don't guess I'm their target demographic anyway.

Speaking of music, when the Democratic convention (I've been trying to stay away from it, but I haven't been able to block it out entirely) nominated Barack Obama by acclimation tonight, they played "Love Train." Does anybody have a problem with that?

Readers in Chicago have very likely already read about this, and maybe they've even seen the videos, so I won't dwell on it, but sometimes even politicians just need a hug.

Here's some quick baseball blogging. The six pennant races are shaping up as the Seattle Mariners became the first team to be mathematically eliminated from contention (although they're still alive--barely--for the wild card). They don't have the worst record in baseball--right now that's the Washington Nationals, who reside in the weaker National League East division--and they're not the only team to essentially be out of the running. My team, Boston, is currently leading the AL wild card race, and they're within striking distance of the inexplicable Devil Rays for taking the AL East pennant. For various reasons, I don't especially want to see an all-Chicago World Series (and frankly, I don't expect one), but for what may be the first time in history, I don't know, it's a solid possibility.

UPDATE--I knew I should've checked my baseball history before posting. Jim C. points out in a comment that the 1906 World Series was an all-Chicago affair. The Sox won in six.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Signs of Things

I started to work on this post a couple of days ago when I needed to drop Mrs. Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk off at the local Cosi, where she'd arranged to meet someone. We remembered it being next to a Chipotle, but as we passed the Chipotle in question, we didn't see it and assumed that we'd missed it. So we went around the block and parked in front of Chipotle, right next to an empty storefront with brown paper in the window. I'd walked past this block a week earlier, and although I wasn't intentionally looking to see the Cosi, I seemed to remember that it had been there. Now it was gone without a trace.

A little later, I looked around on the Net for some sort of hint as to what might have happened. I found a post on the I Hate Clark Street! blog that had a picture of the Cosi sign that said was intending to close last Tuesday. So I was right, it had been there when I walked past it a week ago.

As it turns out, Cosi, Inc., isn't doing great, but it is doing OK. There's not a massive shut down, ala Bennigans. But it did start me thinking about how the economic downturn seems to be hitting home more and more. There's a list now of businesses that have filed for bankruptcy: Linens 'n' Things, Sharper Image, Mervyn's, Bombay Company. Starbucks is famously pulling back on a number of its outlets. But it's not just regional and national companies that are having trouble. Local businesses are running into problems, as well. I heard the other day about a cafe closing not too far away. The owners felt that they needed to stay a step ahead of their landlord and emptied their place out overnight before filing for bankruptcy. Their customers just weren't coming in as often as they had been over the last few months, and the owners couldn't keep their heads above water.

It's easy to notice the stores and restaurants that are no longer at their locations, but how many others are barely holding on? Which are the ones where business is drying up? Who's going to disappear into the night next? I'm afraid that we'll discover more retailers are closer to the edge than we realize. Of course, we'll only find out after they take whatever final actions are necessary.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Political Round Up

Blogging in the Philadelphia City Paper, Atrios provides the best explanation for why the media has such an intensive presence at these conventions every four years:

The short answer is that they do so because it's fun, and because this is where the important people are. There may not be a lot of "news" going on here, but there are a lot of goings on nonetheless. Who wants to be left out?

That makes sense to me, but it does nothing to explain why anybody who's not there watches.

I wonder how many people were really surprised that Teddy Kennedy was there in a speaking role. There had been rumors that he might make an appearance, and it was said that he might even speak if he felt up to it. Did anybody really think he wouldn't feel up to it? He's Teddy Kennedy--that's what he lives for (my fingers made a Freudian slip and typed loves rather than lives--that might be even more correct). There could be a question of whether or not he was strong enough to address the convention, but there was no question in my mind that he'd go out to make a try. From clips I've seen of his speech, he looked quite strong, probably deceptively so from everything he's been through. I was expecting him to look more frail, and I wasn't sure he'd necessarily do more than say a few words (which would have provided its own sense of drama), but I had no doubt that he was going to be there.

What did surprise me today was the news that Cindy McCain was on her way to Georgia, where she'd meet with President Mikheil Saakashvili. What?! Apparently, she's been "trying to get into Georgia since the conflict started." I didn't realize that "hot war zone" was synonymous with Cindy McCain. This development is do far out of left field that I don't really have anything much more to say about it other than to ask, didn't Bill Clinton try to pull something like this, sending Hillary to Tuzla where she had to flee sniper fire while he sat comfortably in the White House. I sure hope Sinbad is going along to run interference.

Monday, August 25, 2008

It's Convention Season!

With the Beijing Olympics passing into history, the public's focus can again move over to politics with the Democratic convention starting tomorrow, and then the Republican convention following quickly on its heels. It used to be, back in the day, that political conventions were big, important, newsworthy events. Nowadays, though, I'm not sure they have much real news value at all. We know who the expected Democratic candidate is, as well as who he's going to make his running mate. The Republicans have their candidate, as well, and the only question is who he will pick to add to the ticket--no matter who it is, though, just like Obama did before him, McCain will announce his choice before his convention gets started.

Each party's platform gets worked out during the convention (although I'd imagine each one is much farther along at this point than we'd expect), but in many ways, those are relics of parties of the past. Candidates and parties give lip service to them, but they're pretty much irrelevant beyond that. What else will the conventions bring? Not much in the way of news that's not been preplanned and manufactured. The gatherings are little more than excuses to issue press releases that have already been written.

I don't actually mean to suggest that the conventions should be abandoned--politicians and party regulars have as much right to get together with their friends and have a good time as anybody else. But I'm not sure that we need to have them heavily covered in the national news. This week we'll see the Democrats try to stage manage themselves to victory while the McCainiacs do their utmost to steal focus. Then the next week the positions will be reversed, although I suspect that the Obama campaign won't have quite the same feeling of desperation in competing with the Republican convention. After both of those are over, then maybe we can get down to the actual business of running for president (he types, as though the actual issues will ever see any kind of significant attention).

Sunday, August 24, 2008


There have been a couple of changes in the lefty blogosphere of late, and it never hurts to keep up. Kevin Drum has been blogging at Washington Monthly's Political Animal for a good couple of years (actually, Drum himself pointed out, he celebrated his sixth anniversary of his start in blogging). This week, he jumped ship in favor of Mother Jones. In the time that he's been Left Blogistan, Kevin has made a solid reputation for thoughtful, considered commentary, and I don't expect that to change any time soon, so that means I've got another new link over there on the right.

While we're at it, we might as well point out that Political Animal is not going away anywhere. Washington Monthly is bringing Steve Benen over from his now defunct Carpetbagger Report to fill Kevin Drum's loafers. Benen has a fair bit if blogging behind him, and he's keeping Political Animal afloat with help from Hilzoy (who's not leaving Obsidian Wings). All of which means that there's yet another deserving blog to follow day-in and day-out as much as possible.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


The TV was on, and Craig Ferguson was just starting. In fact, announcer Shadoe Stevens had just introduced Ferguson, and the screen was interrupted by a CBS news bulletin. Was Obama going to pick Ferguson for his vice president? That would be almost as good as this (but not quite).

No, CBS was calling it for Biden. That's all they really had to say, and then they were back to regular programming. Looking around the Web at this point, CNN also claims to have sources going with Biden. MSNBC didn't have it when I started writing this post, but they've got it now. ABC doesn't have it yet, but they are reporting that Secret Service agents have been sent to Biden's house, which is the next best thing. I don't know (obviously) how many people know the secret at Obama HQ, but they've done quite a good job of keeping the news under their hats. It's not entirely realistic if they're planning to keep the news hidden until almost before the announced appearance in Springfield tomorrow. The VP candidates are being watched closely, and certain logistical realities need to be observed. Unless the campaign is intending to move a number of the candidates around for the purpose of creating red herrings, it shouldn't be too hard for them to figure out who appears to be going to Springfield.

Biden has his strengths, and one of the most appealing is his tendency to fight back and take the battle to the McCain camp. There are people Obama could've chosen to have made me happier, but he certainly could do worse than Biden. I guess we'll find out for sure when that text message goes out (just to be ornery, I hope that's sometime around 3:20 this morning).

Friday, August 22, 2008

Housing Report

If McCain is the hothead that he's reputed to be, the Obama campaign may have hit on a nice combination of factors to get a rise out of him. Although they don't seem to have had this plan in advance, it's certainly a good sign that they were able to react quickly to a gaffe by their opponent. McCain--rather famously at this point--couldn't give Politico a firm answer about the number of houses he and his wife own. Here's the passage:

"I think — I'll have my staff get to you," McCain told us in Las Cruces, N.M. "It's condominiums where — I'll have them get to you."

Obama jumped on it quickly and even put out an ad about it.

The most fun, however, was the responses from the McCain camp. They had nothing. One spokesman tried to explain away the gaffe by pointing out McCain was a POW:

This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years -- in prison.

Then there was the retort that Cindy McCain actually owns the homes, so discussing them at all is an attack on McCain's wife. Does this mean that, if McCain himself owns no homes, he actually qualifies as being homeless?

So what is the actual answer? It turns out that it depends on whom you talk to. This list, which comes with a helpful Google map, lists ten. Another entertaining list counts seven, but notes that one of these, the "Sedona Compound," actually includes five houses. Any way you count it, that's a lot of houses, whether they actually belong to John or Cindy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

OK, OK, We'll Talk Veeps

This is a subject I've been studiously avoiding. I don't know if I'm becoming disillusioned with the Obama campaign, getting testy and impatient in the summer heat, or just allowing my traditional pessimism to come through, but I'm starting to worry about Obama's chances in the fall. The Democratic convention is still a few days away, so you can easily argue that the majority of potential voters haven't really started paying attention, but it feels to me that the Obama campaign has just become a bit lackluster. And all the hype and "excitement" surrounding Obama's choice for vice president just reinforces all of this for me. I don't particularly like any of the candidates who are being bandied about. I could live with Biden, I suppose, because at least I get the feeling that he'd enjoy fighting back against the Republicans. We can be fairly confident that he'd have a reasonable rapport with Obama, at least from Biden's end--he's already on record with his recognition that Obama is clean (and articulate--don't forget articulate). Evan Bayh would be a capitulation to the Clinton wing of the party and I wonder how much he has in common with Obama philosophically. Kathleen Sibelius offers very little oomph (which is particularly notable in her delivery of the Democratic response to this year's State of the Union address. Tim Kaine would reinforce the expectation that Democrats need a Southern white guy on any national ticket they run--I have to admit, though, that Kaine's the candidate I know least about, so I don't have a whole lot to say about him. But none of these people seem to add excitement or, well, much of anything to an Obama ticket. They've got to give it to somebody.

On the other side of the aisle, I have no doubt who I wholeheartedly support for McCain's running mate: Joe Lieberman. It can be an all also-ran-from-2000 ticket. Now, that might be worth supporting.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dark Knight Plusses and Minuses

I didn't mention it when it happened, but I guess I should note it before the news is too stale. The Dark Knight lost its perch on top of the box office this past weekend, but it passed Star Wars as the number two domestic box office draw of all time. Tropic Thunder took the top spot, and I apparently didn't know what I was thinking when I missed it on the upcoming releases list (or--even worse--saw it there and didn't recognize its potency). I picked Star Wars: The Clone Wars as the film that would topple The Dark Knight, but apparently I temporarily forgot that the genius behind Star Wars was also responsible for The Star Wars Holiday Special. Matt Yglesias even links to someone who moved from assuming they didn't want to see Clone Wars to, upon hearing some of the reviews, is actively working to avoid it. I guess it won't be a threat.

Dark Knight, of course, will continue to remain in circulation and expand on its profits. Its second-place status is for domestic features, however, and not worldwide grosses--it's number 19 on that list, closing in on Independence Day--and certainly not on the list that's adjusted for inflation--it's only number 39, behind Beverly Hills Cop, there.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Line in the Sand

John McCain wouldn't stretch the truth, would he? Surely he's not "that kind of man." If he claims that a particular event gave him strength and sustenance during his years as a Vietnam POW, who are we to say it didn't? Even if he forgot to mention it for the first twenty-five years after he was released. Andrew Sullivan is on the case (and by that I mean Sullivan is on the case). He starts with a post that includes McCain's ad that describes a Christmas encounter he had with a Vietnamese guard. But there's this problem:

I've now heard it countless times. McCain has used what appears to be an intensely personal moment in a prison camp as a reason to vote for him in a campaign ad. As he tells it today, it was the pivotal moment in his struggle to survive in the Hanoi Hilton. And yet, in his first thorough account of his time in captivity, in 1973, the story is absent.

He then mentions a similar story that's been associated with Alexandr Solzhenitsyn and asks: "I have one simple question: when was the first time that McCain told this story?"

Sullivan follows that up with another post dating the earliest mention of the story he can find at 1999, even though he publicly discussed his captivity many times before that, including how his Christian faith helped him survive the experience. And then there's this one, where he quotes Hilzoy discussing a book that featured McCain's Christmases in captivity but somehow didn't mention the cross in the sand story. And Sully was just getting started: He also followed up here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here--and probably a time or two since I posted this. In and of itself, this isn't the largest issue in the campaign, but we keep being told that this is all about character, and examples such as this is the stuff that character is made of.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mavericky Maverickness

I'd originally intended to add this to last night's post, but it was already long enough, so I held it back until this morning.

In case you're not sure what real mavericks look like, here you go:

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Straight Talk About McCain

I haven't linked to a Frank Rich column in ages, maybe even since the New York Times lifted its subscription blockade and made its columnists available to everyone again. But this week is a worthy one, as Rich takes a look at the presidential candidate who remains unknown.

John McCain is being hidden behind a veneer of maverick misdirection. I don't believe that he was ever the image he presented, but it seems more certain during this campaign than ever before. There's virtually nothing left of whatever charmed the press when McCain ran in 2000, but his campaign still seems to be running on charm inertia. With a few exceptions, the press is treating McCain as they imagine him, not as he actually appears in the 2008 campaign. Here are a few paragraphs from Rich:

What is widely known is the skin-deep, out-of-date McCain image. As this fairy tale has it, the hero who survived the Hanoi Hilton has stood up as rebelliously in Washington as he did to his Vietnamese captors. He strenuously opposed the execution of the Iraq war; he slammed the president's response to Katrina; he fought the "agents of intolerance" of the religious right; he crusaded against the G.O.P. House leader Tom DeLay, the criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff and their coterie of influence-peddlers.

With the exception of McCain's imprisonment in Vietnam, every aspect of this profile in courage is inaccurate or defunct.

McCain never called for Donald Rumsfeld to be fired and didn't start criticizing the war plan until late August 2003, nearly four months after "Mission Accomplished." By then the growing insurgency was undeniable. On the day Hurricane Katrina hit, McCain laughed it up with the oblivious president at a birthday photo-op in Arizona. McCain didn't get to New Orleans for another six months and didn't sharply express public criticism of the Bush response to the calamity until this April, when he traveled to the Gulf Coast in desperate search of election-year pageantry surrounding him with black extras.

McCain long ago embraced the right's agents of intolerance, even spending months courting the Rev. John Hagee, whose fringe views about Roman Catholics and the Holocaust were known to anyone who can use the Internet. (Once the McCain campaign discovered YouTube, it ditched Hagee.) On Monday McCain is scheduled to appear at an Atlanta fund-raiser being promoted by Ralph Reed, who is not only the former aide de camp to one of the agents of intolerance McCain once vilified (Pat Robertson) but is also the former Abramoff acolyte showcased in McCain’s own Senate investigation of Indian casino lobbying.

You know the drill. Read the whole thing.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Jerry Wexler

When the news came across yesterday, it made me stop for a little while. Jerry Wexler, who died early Friday morning, was a force of nature in the American music business. He was very influential early in his career, which started at Billboard. When he joined the staff of the magazine, one of their charts tracked "Race Music," but Wexler changed the name to "Rhythm and Blues," coining a new term while he was at it. But his personal mark started when he joined Ahmet and Nasuhi Ertegun in Atlantic Records. The label became a major force in R&B and then rock music, so it's hard to imagine the three partners starting out as a small little indie at the fringes of the music business. They didn't have a massive staff--at the beginning, anyway--so everybody did a bit if everything; Wexler functioned as an A&R man and as a producer. He had an amazing ear for talent, though, and he worked with a veritable who's who of R&B stars, many of whom he found and nurtured: Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, Otis Redding, Dr. John, Etta James, Big Joe Turner, LaVern Baker. According to his page at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he once said, "No one really knew how to make a record when I started. You simply went into the studio, turned on the mike and said play." He figured it out pretty quick, though. As popular music changed, Wexler was willing to change with it, and Atlantic cast a wider net. Indirectly, he was responsible for the viability of Southern rock, bankrolling Phil Walden's Capricorn Records, home to the Allman Brothers Band, the Marshall Tucker Band, Elvin Bishop, Wet Willie, and others.

Rolling Stone, which has a nice, lengthy remembrance (as well as a twenty-song playlist of some of his best work as a producer), called Wexler a "legendary record man, music producer and ageless hipster," and I'd say they just about get it right. I was lucky enough a few years ago to find a copy of his book, Rhythm and the Blues, on a remainder table--it's only fifteen years old, but it regularly pulls in three figures on Ebay or from online used bookstores--and it brought me into his passion for the music he found and helped bring to the rest of us (check out this review from the New York Times). This was truly a man whose life and work is worth celebrating. Surely you've got something Jerry Wexler produced on your iPod. Go listen to it.

Friday, August 15, 2008

My Own Private Huffington Post

Well, not mine, exactly. Arianna Huffington is expanding her reach on The Huffington Post by targeting it even more accutely. The Post took little time establishing itself as a bohemoth in the left blogisphere, and yesterday, it launched a local Chicago section. I was in California fourteen years ago when Arianna's then-husband Michael Huffington challenged Diane Feinstein for her from the right for her Senate seat (one of his earliest commercials sang the praises of Bill Bennett and his Book of Virtues), so I was more than somewhat leary when Arianna started wearing her progressive costume, but I've got to admit that The Huffington Post has stood up reasonably well as a progressive outlet. Now that they're actually coming to town, I suppose I should add them over there in that list of links.

It appears that Chicago is just the first of a series of local sites for them (my big clue to that fact was when I read, "We are rolling out our first local version of The Huffington Post today." Here's the description of the launch:

Today's featured lineup includes Chicago-themed blog posts from John Cusack, blogging from Bangkok about his hometown; Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, responding to a recent damning federal report on conditions at the jail under his command; local boy Jonathan Alter on what makes Chicago "His Kind of Town"; Playboy's Christie Hefner on great summer outings to be found in the city; Esther Cepeda advocating for a Chicago future fueled by nuclear power; and longtime Chicago radio host Edward Lifson, weighing in on what it will take for Chicago to land the 2016 Olympic Games.

That's not a bad launch, and I don't mean to minimize the challenges in setting up such a launch, but keeping the quality up day in and day out presents its own set. We'll keep watching to see how they do (and which city gets its own focus next).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mixed Media

Everybody's got an opinion, but too much of the time you don't get to hear from the people who's ideas might actually interest you. So when you stumble over some unexpected connection to such opinions, you feel you have no other choice but to indulge. That's how I felt when I discovered that Eddie Argos, the voice behind Art Brut, was reviewing comics. I had no idea that he followed comics (and claims to be, as a matter of fact, "infatuated with DC comics"). He's not the most prolific reviewer I've ever seen, with only two reviews two weeks apart so far, but he's definitely got the enthusiasm.

His reviewing home is at Playback, a pop culture site I've so far been unaware of. He seems to take on a couple of titles at a time. In his first outing, he takes on Millar and Jones's Wanted (which may, actually, have been his impetus far starting reviewing--he claims that he's glad he got the gig "as for a long time I've been looking for an outlet to vent my hatred for the comic book Wanted, and if it hadn't turned up soon I would have started filling a sock with coins and heading down to the offices of Top Cow Publishing") and Booster Gold, which he loves. Review #2 focuses on Angel: After the Fall (which he's too intimidated to buy from his normal Camden shop but has no trouble picking up in Pasadena) and Ed Brubaker's Captain America (which he's surprised he likes, but he prefers the issues after Cap's assassination, since Cap isn't around to get in the way of the more interesting characters).

As it is on stage, Argos's enthusiasm is infectious, and even if you're not interested in the titles he's picked, it's worth the time to go take a browse. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for his next column.

UPDATE--Wow, that was quick. Down in comments, Playback's comics editor, Jason Green, alerts us to Eddie's latest column, in which he takes on the inconsistency of long-term corporate characters, in this case, Batman. He also sings the praises of Robert Kirkman's Invincible. Apparently new pieces from Eddie Argos will appear every other Friday.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

More Tidbits

Hey, it's August. That means lightweight.

It's very telling about the comics community that, in response to the statement, "We are the only industry that so loves its Colonel Parkers and so distrusts its Elvis Presleys," there's a branch of the conversation arguing that Elvis Presley wasn't all that, anyway. Tom Spurgeon made the statement in a post about recently released correspondence between Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel and executives of DC Comics (you can see a summary of the documents here), and The Beat simply passed on the quote. As for me, I've got nothing to argue with Tom about.

Here's an always-timely reminder to be sure to cancel the restraining order before the wedding ceremony.

What's the etiquette on getting out of the car if Gary Numan's "Cars" comes on just as you're parking? It is, after all, where you're safest of all. Are you just tempting fate to open the door, get out, and go about the rest of your business? Just how dangerous is that?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Quick Hits

The quote of the moment (or longer) comes from Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who was explaining to the American Bar Association why there aren't particularly going to be any prosecutions against anyone in the U.S. Attorney scandal who forced the Justice Department to become a political bludgeon: "Not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime." I think we all knew that this was the ruling philosophy of the Bush administration, but it's nice for someone to actually come out and say it. I suppose that this theory of law enforcement is most convenient if you get to identify after the fact which violations of the law aren't crimes.

As my four-year-old nephew would say, this is very weird. It turns out that Jay McInerney based his character Allison Poole, the focus of his third novel, The Story of My Life, on Rielle Hunter, John Edwards's partner in adultery. The New York Post had this last week, before Edwards came clean on Nightline on Friday. What's strange to me is that McInerney's novel came out twenty years ago (when Hunter still went by Lisa Druck), so Hunter had one brush with fame and then came back for another (unless this time it's a brush with infamy) in an entirely unrelated context. I didn't see this story until today, so I assumed that McInerney was making the claim based on current events and was trying to cash in, but it turns out that he identified Hunter as his inspiration at least three years ago. I read Bright Lights, Big City back in the day and enjoyed it, and I probably bought Random, as well, but I never read it. I may have Story of My Life around here somewhere if I found it cheap on a remainder table, but I'm not sure. If I do find it in the house, I'm still not sure I'll read it.

Matt Yglesias, late of the Atlantic brand of blogging goodness has moved his base of operations to Think Progress. He took a week off between gigs but was chomping at the bit to be back blogging by the time the new position started this week; by my count, he's put up 44 posts in three days.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Dream, a Hoax, or an Imaginary Story?

I hadn't realized quite what a Cinderella story the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were experiencing this year. Yesterday against the Mariners, the Rays set a new team record: They won 71 games. In its previous ten years as a franchise, Tampa has never had a winning record. Their best year so far has been 2004, when they went 70-91 for a .435 average. If from this point they went on to lose every one of their remaining 45 games, they still come up with a .438 average. Although that doesn't look likely, you do have to wonder how long they'll be able to keep up this over .600 play. August and September can be very cruel months (as Red Sox fans have been loathe to learn over the years), so there's a part of me that believes it's just a matter of time before the fade begins. In the meantime, it seems like Jeff Bagwell's Sports Illustrated cover from May is becoming more and more appropriate.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dark Knight Continues Its Reign

Tonight while I was walking in the neighborhood, I noticed the local movie theater advertising on the marquee, "Batman seats available." Ever since I saw The Dark Knight a couple of weeks back, I haven't been keeping tabs on how easy or difficult tickets have been to get. While I don't doubt that demand has dried up to some extent, apparently walk-up tickets are still enough of a hot commodity to deserve notice. And sure enough, a quick look over at Nikki Finke reveals that The Dark Knight remains the top film for the fourth weekend in a row. It's racking up amazing numbers--in only a bit more than three weeks, it's become the third-highest-grossing domestic film, barely slipping past Shrek 2, and now less than $20 million away from second-place Star Wars. There's still more than $150 million left to go to catch up with Titanic. Pineapple Express didn't do badly and even gave Dark Knight a run for its money, winning the day on Friday, but it couldn't do the job all the way to guarantee number one. This will probably be it for Dark Knight's run of number ones, though. Next week brings Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and that will be that.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

More Baseball Blogging

Blogging from White Sox park as the Red Sox come to town. There wasn't a whole lot of action to start with, but both teams had managed to put one run on the board. And then Boston exploded in the seventh inning. Bases were loaded with no outs when Dustin Pedroia poked a single through, which brought Jacoby Ellsbury in but only moved everybody ahead one base. That kept it bases loaded and no outs with David Ortiz at the plate. Ortiz dearly wanted a grand slam. He swung on the first two pitches far to avidly if all he hoped was to make contact with the ball. Fortunately, he passed on the next couple, proving that he wasn't so desperate that he'd swing at anything. What turned out to be almost the right ball came along, and Ortiz gave it a real whack; alas, it didn't quite have the necessary distance, reaching the wall but bouncing off of it. It was good enough for a bases-clearing double, though, and the game became 5-1. I may have some pictures to add later. I'll let you know who wins.

UPDATE--The Red Sox held their lead and won 6-2. I'm working on getting a picture up, but it may be more complicated than I expected.

UPDATE 2--Photo added. Stevie T took a number of pictures, and this is pretty much the best of the choices available. Funny, but it looked a bit sharper on the small screen of his phone. Apologies to those on the RSS feed; I reposted a couple of time to get the photo placement right.

A Lot of Hot Air

Like pretty much the whole world, I thought the entire tire gauge flap with which the McCainiacs attacked Obama was awfully ridiculous. As a quick recap, Obama suggested that, in light of rising gas prices, most of us could cut down out gas consumption by having our cars tuned up and making sure our tires were inflated to the correct pressure. Yeah, just like your mechanic down at the garage always says. I presume a wealthy guy like John McCain has a chauffeur and thus doesn't deal with the details of keeping a car running, but I can't really fathom just what he thought was so hilarious about Obama's assertion. It may have been Obama's argument that his suggestions would result in about the same amount of energy savings as offshore drilling would. Whatever the reason was, it amused McCain, and he and his surrogates started to use the tire pressure meme as a basis for ridiculing Obama, passing out tire gauges to reiterate their points. The issue raised such a high profile, in fact, that Popular Mechanics decided to take a look. They discovered that Obama is correct in his assumptions.

That's all nice background, but what caught my eye is how McCain continues to run with the tire gauge idea. John Aravosis noted that McCain was trying to piggyback the "joke" on Obama with fundraising activities. For anybody who remembers overpriced military items--coffee makers, screwdrivers, etc.--a $25 tire gauge tells us what we can expect from a McCain administration.

Friday, August 08, 2008

You Go Through St. Louie . . .

Word is that Sir Paul is getting his kicks on Route 66. (Everybody else is using that line, and God knows I didn't want to, but it turns out that it goes against the laws of physics to avoid it.) To celebrate his 66th birthday, he's making the trek with recent romantic partner Nancy Shevell. They apparently didn't stop in at the Hard Day's Nite Bed & Breakfast, George's sister's old house (which George visited 45 years ago), but that is a fair way's south of Route 66 in Benton, Illinois. Paul and Nancy have been spotted along the Mother Road, and all the reports I've seen suggest that they've been quite friendly. One place they stopped was the Joliet Area Historical Museum, which inspired the best quote I've seen so far. Describing her surprise at seeing McCartney, one of the museum workers reportedly said, "I froze. It was like seeing Bigfoot."

Over in the Sun-Times, David Hoekstra is blogging the trip. He's got the pair spending the night in Oklahoma City on Tuesday (no offence to my pals in OKC--yes, I do have some--but I've never understood the "Route 66" song's reference to your fine town being pretty), and a commenter claims to have seen them in Amarillo on Wednesday night. Surprisingly, despite their celebrity status (but is he as big a celebrity as Barack Obama?), the two are traveling by themselves in a 1989 Bronco with no entourage and no security. He's a massive celebrity! That's admirable, I guess.

I See Paris

In case you haven't had a chance to check out Paris Hilton's answer video to the John McCain (a.k.a. Wrinkly White-Haired Guy) "Brittany/Paris/Barack" ad, here's a link. This is actually much funnier than it has any right to be. It's good enough, in fact, that I assumed we must be watching a Paris imitator rather than Paris herself. But no, in fact, it is indeed the real Paris Hilton. My favorite part of it, I think, is part of the indicia at the end: "Approved by Everybody." So this is how Paris starts to get good press. Who'd've thought?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Time Flies

Or, as Howard Devoto once wrote, time crawls. August 6 brings two fairly significant anniversaries (yes, I'm well aware that this would've been better to have been written twenty-four hours ago, or so, but I hadn't realized the significance of the date then--sorry). The first, older anniversary recalls the first atomic bomb, which was dropped on Hiroshima sixty-three years ago. I tend to cut against the grain on the question of whether the bomb(s) were necessary, believing that Japanese surrender could've been accomplished without that demonstration of power and destruction (but then the United States--and more importantly, the Soviet Union--wouldn't know precisely what kind of power was at its fingertips) but I addressed some of that three years ago, so I won't go into it again here. But it is useful to recall that the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are small potatoes compared to what is out there nowadays.

Which brings us to out second anniversary. Seven years ago, George W. Bush received his infamous "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." memo and briefing. Go check out this PDF of the declassified document (via Think Progress). It's impossible to read the memo without awareness of what was soon to follow, but to a certain extent it's stunning in its simplicity and straightforward statement of facts. It's also stunning to see how, after nearly seven years of the War on Terror, much of this memo remains applicable today.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Speeding Toward the Top

Wow--that was fast. The Dark Knight passed the $400 million barrier on Monday. That's its eighteenth day in release, just one day more than three weekends. With all the various records the movie has been breaking, it goes without saying that this is another one. But what's striking is just how much it blows the last record holder out of the water: Shrek 2 previously reached that milestone in forty-three days. Dark Knight also kept The Mummy 3 out of first place for the weekend, holding on to that distinction for the third week. With Pineapple Express looking to lead the new releases from the coming weekend, I'd say Dark Knight has a good chance to go for Number 1 for the fourth weekend in a row. It's already two-thirds of the way to beating out Titanic for top-grossing domestic film of all time.

Of course, it's not a straight comparison because of inflation. But if you check out Box Office Mojo's chart for all-time grosses, you'll find those figures adjusted for inflation. But by its count, Titanic pulled in $600 million. In 2088 numbers, though, the total for all-time jumps up another $300 million, and Titanic brought in $908 million. (Gone with the Wind remains on top of the adjusted gross list, with $1.43 billion once you add all the rereleases over the years--that's just $1 billion more for Dark Knight to go!)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

It's August--Let's Start Talking About Them Boys of Summer

I need to stop blogging in the middle of the night when I'm feeling more and more desperate to go to bed. I start getting tired, and I lose track of some of what I've been thinking about during the day. On Thursday, I'd planned to write about the changes to the Boston Red Sox on the last day of eligible trading. I ended up talking about Lollapalooza, which was timely enough, but then I never came back to baseball. So now here's my chance.

I can't pretend to know what was happening with Manny Ramirez and the Red Sox. For some reason, the slugger became disillusioned with the team. It wasn't necessarily a surprise when he was included in a three-way trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Los Angeles Dodgers, but it was still a somewhat unfortunate end to his time in Boston. I'm not sure what I might've written had I dealt with this on Thursday, but even just a few extra days has made the whole thing make more sense. The Red Sox ended up with Jason Bay, who seems to be adding spark to the team. I'm not the first person to have noticed potential parallels to the '04 season when unhappy Red Sox star Nomar Garciaparra was traded away. It was counterintuitive that losing a strong player would strengthen the team, but that's exactly what happened when the Red Sox finally broke their World Series championship drought. On the flip side, Manny has blossomed in his short time in LA. According to the LA Times, as of Monday morning, he was hitting .615, and his tenure is inspiring headlines such as "Tinseltown Is Swooning Over Manny." Before the trade, I hadn't been aware that Alyssa Milano had her own baseball blog. Well, she does, she's a Dodgers fan, and she is STOKED that Manny is now in Dodger Blue. So is this trade best for everybody involved? It's too early to know for sure, but initial signs certainly are positive.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Lo-Fi Marketing

Walking around and going in and out of stores and restaurants, I noticed an odd trend that I don't quite know what to make of. At the entrances or front windows of these storefront businesses were small one-sheet posters promoting new (or kind of new) albums. No, there's nothing in that that we haven't seen before; indy bands have done that for ages. But these ads weren't for indy bands or records (although it may depend on how you define indy. I saw John Mellencamp's Life, Death, Love and Freedom; Beck's Modern Guilt; and--the weirdest of all to me--Radiohead's In Rainbows. Mellencamp and Beck at least make a little bit of sense, because they've each got new albums. But why push In Rainbows now? It was available online nine or ten months ago, and it's been in the stores for more than six months? What makes now such a perfect time to advertise it? And why advertise it--or any of these--in this lo-fi manner? Maybe I just haven't been paying attention, but this is the first time I noticed large, established artists getting their names out this way.

I wondered if it might have something to do with Radiohead's appearance at Lollapalooza this week, but the posters only mention the album and have nothing to indicate that there's more information you might need to have. Further supporting this argument, though, is the fact that I didn't happen to see any In Rainbows posters today--two days after their performance. I didn't go and check out any of the places where I saw the poster on Saturday, so I don't know if the places from which it was missing had their posters up yesterday. Still, is it some sort of attempt at viral marketing? I don't know what the deal is with TBD Records, which put out the Radiohead record. They were just established last year, and so far they've put out In Rainbows and the most recent Underworld album, so I guess they count as an indy label, but Mellencamp is out through Starbucks (an untraditional label, but not outside of a monolithic corporate structure) and Beck is Geffen. Has anyone else noticed records by high-profile musicians being advertised through such low-profile methods? It seems an overreaction to pin this to the shrinking record industry, but maybe I'm stuck in my old ways of thinking. Anyone have any insight?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Summer School

We're entering into the August doldrums. Why does everything seem to slow down in August? Is it the heat? I guess that's a big part of it. It was supposed to be in the 90s in Chicago this weekend, but the temperature has moderated a bit to just the low-to-mid-80s (which is still too warm for my blood). A major reason that we tend to slack off a bit is out of habit. That's just what August is for. If you're a kid, it's your last chance to waste time before going back to school in the fall. If you're the parent of a kid, you may use the opportunity to take off from your own job for a vacation (or, this year, a staycation.)

But in Chicago, at least, that may not hold for too much longer. The Chicago school system has more than doubled its number of year-round schools, going from 18 to 41. The big news about that is that the students at these schools are scheduled to report for the new school year just two days from now. And if the students are due to show up, that means the teachers have already been there for at least a couple of weeks. Will the August doldrums hit? Will the schools have diminishing returns? I can't imagine that they won't, which just goes away from the schools' charge anyway.

I'm very glad that I'm not one of these students for whom the summer has come to a screeching halt. Of course, instead of going to school, I get to go into my full-time job as a way to spend August. Now that I put it that way, maybe it's not quite so different after all.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Vain Attempts at Blogging

It's been a long week, and I've got to admit that my mind doesn't want to do much more than go to sleep. (That desire is so strong at the moment that I can't be sure that's not already happening and I'm not dreaming this post). Instead of going on at length over something or another, I'll just ask a simple question.

In reference to the various odd attack ads McCain has been releasing, Barack Obama pointed out that he didn't exactly look like previous presidents. McCain and his people promptly donned sackcloth and ashes and began lamenting the fact that Obama has played "the race card" (from the bottom of thE deck, even!). My question is this: Have we finally reached a point at which even acknowledging that Obama is African American is "playing the race card"? Any answers are welcome. Until they come, though, I'm going to bed.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Lolla Land

A couple of weeks back, I talked about the Pitchfork Music Festival and mentioned that Lollapalooza wasn't too far away. Well, it's just about upon us. The big show start tomorrow (actually, since it's after midnight, that should be later today), but I'm still not going. It's supposed to be miserably hot this weekend, so I don't feel bad about not spending all of it outside in a major crowd. Check out the schedule here, but beware, there are no more tickets available for Friday (as singles or as part of a multi-day package). That Radiohead sure knows how to pack 'em in. But if your heart's set on Radiohead, you may not need to despair just yet. Last year, quite by accident, we were downtown in Chicago on Lollapalooza weekend. We were in Millennium Park, quite close to Grant Park, and as we were walking along, all of a sudden we realized we were being serenaded by Muse. There are plenty of places to go and hang that aren't too far away (but not the Bennigan's next to the Art Institute). It's still not too late to pick up tickets for Saturday or Sunday, though, so seeing sets by Rage Against the Machine, Lupe Fiasco, Gnarls Barkley, and the National is still attainable. When I talked about this last, I mentioned the rumors that Barack Obama might be showing up, perhaps during the Wilco show on Saturday evening. While that's still possible, the scuttlebutt has been going fast and furious that he's instead going to introduce Kanye West. You can't discount it, certainly, and Kanye is one of the higher-profile performers at the show, but when you think about it, isn't that exactly the rumor Kanye would start--that potentially the next president is interrupting his schedule so that he can appear and sing Kanye's praises in an intro. But why not? We can all dream, can't we?

So is anybody in the sound of my voice planning to go to Lollapalooza? If so, let us know about your expectations for the show. Afterward, come back and tell us what happened.