Tuesday, January 31, 2012

2012 - Most Important Election of Our Lifetime?

Winner of the actual "most
important election" of my lifetime
After a robust spanking in the Florida primary on Tuesday, Newt Gingrich took the stage to deliver his concession speech, and he told a crowd of supporters the 2012 election is the "most important election" of our lifetime.

Really? I don't think so, Newt.

As I recall, that's exactly how Democrats felt about the election in 2004, and we were right. Democrats desperately feared the impact of four more years of President Bush, and history has proven those fears to be justified.

We lost the 2004 election to GWB, and as a result: we saw our government continue to mismanage an illegal and unjust war, we exploded our national debt, we experienced a devastating housing bubble, and we saw the near collapse of our financial industry. All of this together resulted in the worst period of American economic recession in eight decades.

So is 2012 the most important election in our lifetimes? Nope. The 2004 election was and we blew it.

And The Oscar Goes To...

It's February and that can only mean one thing - Academy Awards season is here! Okay, two things - if you count Valentine's Day. Three things, if you consider President's Day. But who the hell cares about all that when I'm announcing...

...the first ever WTT (Way Things Turn) Online Oscar Pickin' Contest!

In years past, we commemorated Oscar night with "Jeff's Annual Honey Baked Ham and Academy Awards Party." This was a particularly raucous and rowdy event when I lived in Tampa, where I celebrated the glamorous ceremony with the many friends I have in the sunshine state who love cinema, and honey baked ham, as much as I do.

On a typical Oscar night, we gathered at my house well in advance of the show, allowing us ample time to belittle the red carpet segment, and giving us plenty of opportunity to gasp, shriek, and debate the worst outfits of the night. We also leveraged those last precious minutes before the start of the show to conclude our Premiere Magazine research, prior to tossing $5 into the Oscar pool and submitting our picks for winners. There was usually only about $75 at stake, but the competition was fierce nonetheless. We had our pride and a year's worth of bragging rights, after all.

I'm too old and tired to host a party this year, but I'm pleased to announce the launch of an online Academy Award selection contest. Here's how it will work:
  • Entry in the contest is free! 
  • Ballots will be collected via online survey (I'll publish a link a few days before the show)
  • Participants will vote on the following 8 categories:
    • Best Picture
    • Best Director
    • Leading Actor
    • Leading Actress
    • Supporting Actor
    • Supporting Actress
    • Original Screenplay
    • Adapted Screenplay
  • A super-fantabulous prize will be awarded to the person who makes the most correct picks (okay, probably a $25 gift card - but what do you expect to win for a free contest!). If needed, we'll use an official "end-time" of the show as a tie-breaker.
Check the blog for more details and more of my movie reviews in the weeks ahead. Until then, here is a printable list of nominees in all categories you can use as a reference to help you decide what movies you still need to see before Oscar night. The Academy Awards show airs on Sunday February 26, so get thee to a theatre!

Related Posts: Oscar Movie Posters That Tell the Truth,  Tinker, Tailor...Winner

Oscar Movie Posters That Tell the Truth

With the Academy Awards coming soon (Feb 26), the British website theshiznit.co.uk has given us a peak into what's really behind some of the top films.

They've altered the promotional posters to more honestly explain the plot lines. Take a look at these funny-cuz-they're-true movie posters.

FYI - I'll publish details of The Way Things Turn Oscar picks contest soon. We will only pick 7 or 8 categories, but for your reference, here's a link to a complete printable Oscar ballot. Now, get your butt off the couch and get to the movies so you're ready to make your picks!

Daily Zen - Tuesday, January 31

By being kind to ourselves, we become kind to others.
                     - Pema Chodron

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Shallow End - Backflips For All Seasons

Sam the backflipper collecting his
winnings from the wager with his dad.
Millions of people can do backflips, right?

A backflip every day for a year? Okay. 

Capturing your daily backflips on video? Pretty cool.

Filming a backflip every day, staging them in incredibly creative and novel locations (like the Brooklyn Bridge, inside Barnes & Noble, or at an airport), and using a wicked variety of props? I'm impressed, as was Sam Morrison's dad, and 500,000 other people who saw this video on YouTube.

Viewing Tip: Click the title bar at the top to view the video in a bigger window.

Daily Zen - Monday, January 30

To set up what you like against what you don’t like—this is the disease of the mind.  
                      - Sengtsan

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Djokovic/Nadal Barely Upright After Heroic Final

Nadal - defeated and empty
After a 5 hour and 53 minute heavyweight slugfest, Novak Djokovic eventually triumphed over Rafael Nadal in the men's singles final of the Australian Open (5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5).

The nearly six-hour match, which ended near 2:00 am local time in Melbourne, clocked in as the longest grand slam final in history.

With the win, Djokovic secured his fifth grand slam title and cemented his place at the top of the men's game, while Nadal, despite a brilliant effort, is now the first man to lose three consecutive major finals.

To gain a better idea of the physical toll taken on these athletes during a five-set, six-hour tennis match, check out this short video clip of the post-match trophy presentation ceremony. Both men, clearly exhausted, begin to stretch, cramp, and nearly collapse, in what appears to be (for Nadal at least) sheer agony, before an intelligent and thoughtful tournament official provides relief around the 3:05 mark in the clip.

Week In Review - January 28, 2012

This week Google told us more about how they use our online search data to market directly to us. Find out what age and gender Google thinks you are. Regardless of your demographics, at one point or another you've probably disliked Newt Gingrich, just like the entire Republican party used to, as evidenced by these 1998 front-page headlines. Really, no one likes Newt except for his sugar daddy, who recently provided Newt with a second $5M cash injection, intended to help him secure the 50 critical delegates at stake in Tuesday's Florida primary.

Newt made tons of noise about Mitt Romney's surprisingly low tax rate, but based on his slide in the polls this week, Gingrich's own five year-old "ghetto" insult to Latinos may be registering stronger with voters. Meanwhile, the President is sitting back and enjoying the slugfest, wondering as The Smiths did musically back in the eighties, What Difference Does It Make?

It wasn't all politics in Florida. Disney created its own buzz (pun intended), updating their company policy to allow theme park workers to sport beards and mustaches. Free at last, free at last, good God almighty, we're free at last.

Across the continent in L.A., the Academy Award nominees were announced. Among them was Gary Oldman, who was recognized for his performance in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. As you'll see in my review of the film, I couldn't agree more with the nomination. We'll have to wait a few weeks to see who wins the Oscars, but we already know who won the much-anticipated Roger-Rafa rematch in the Australian Open semi-finals. Rafa won, and so did tennis in general, as both athletes displayed the grace and class we've come to expect.

As always, thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Weekend Zen, January 28-29

Who is content with nothing possesses all things.  
             - Nicolas Boileau-Despreaux

Friday, January 27, 2012

Turn Up the Sound - Here Come The Smiths

With the recent release of The Smiths' Complete Works boxed set, we have to close out this week with a raucous Smiths' classic. Oh the sweet and tortured gyrations of Morrissey - how I miss the  80s.

"So what difference does it make? It makes none...."

Let Google Guess Your Age and Gender

Very interesting. Apparently, I browse the internet like a 34 year-old. Even though my appearance and physical abilities match my 46 years of age, at least I skew younger online. What does Google think about you?

Click here to let Google guess your age and gender.

Daily Zen - Friday, January 27

Each moment is a place you've never been.
                       - Mark Strand

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fun Facts About Newt's $10 Million Dollar Man

1. Sheldon Adelson has made two donations totaling $10 million to Newt Gingrich's Super PAC.

2. According to Forbes, Adelson is the 8th richest man in America. He is also the self-proclaimed "richest Jew"in the world.

3. He made his fortune in the casino biz and he is the CEO of the Las Vegas Sands corporation.

Campaign finance experts indicate Adelson's individual contributions are among the largest in American history. Should we care? Hell yes.

I acknowledge the fact that there is likely no getting the money out of politics, but I don't accept that the first amendment protects the rights of individuals, corporations, and unions to make UNLIMITED donations in support of a single candidate. But, that's the law since the Supreme Court handed down a ruling known as "Citizens United" in January 2010.

This landmark judicial decision prohibits government from putting limitations on "independent" campaign spending, meaning people and corporations cannot dump their cash directly into a campaign's coffers, but they can contribute whatever they want to a candidate's Super PAC. Super PACs, which are legally unaffiliated with formal campaigns, often operate for the sole purpose of supporting a single candidate, and they are typically run by political operatives who are former employees of a candidate's campaign team.

The "Citizens United" ruling overturned decades of campaign finance law, and blew a giant hole in the structure that existed to ensure singular donors, individual or corporate, did not wield undue influence in the political process.

Daily Zen - Thursday, January 26

Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
                           - Dalai Lama

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Roger and Rafa - An Epic Night in Aussie Semis

If you haven't followed tennis' Australian Open closely, you might not be aware of the Federer-Nadal rematch scheduled for 3:30am (Eastern) on Thursday. The two tennis greats meet for the 27th time in their careers, facing off in an eagerly anticipated semi-final match that fans and analysts expect to be an instant classic.

Throughout their careers, Roger and Rafa have approached their sport with unimaginable intensity and grit, constantly enduring the pressure of enormously high professional expectations, and equally challenging personal aspirations.

Tonight's match, while only a semi-final, carries incredible weight for both players. As Federer works to ensure his continued relevance in the top tier of the sport, Nadal is striving to recapture the element of invincibility he brought to tennis, prior to the shocking string of defeats he suffered last year at the hands of current world #1 Novak Djokovic.

How Did Republicans Like Newt in 1998?

I'm not bashing Newt. I am simply sharing some useful and instructive headlines to remind people of the national news the House Speaker made thirteen years ago. Considering how divided and vitriolic the atmosphere is in Washington today, do we need a guy as President who had to quit the highest elective office he ever held because he couldn't maintain the support of his own party?

Find more fun Newt headlines here (all from one day in November 1998), courtesy of the Breaking Copy blog.

Turn of Phrase - Newt Says Spanish Is "Ghetto"

"We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English, so people learn the common language of the country, and so they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto."

- Newt Gingrich, in a 2007 speech to the National Federation of Republican Women that was captured on video.

This quote is nearly five years old, but with the Florida primary happening in less than a week and Hispanics making up more than 13% of registered voters and 23% of the total population in the state, Gingrich's words are extremely relevant.

When politicians, or any of the rest of us for that matter, make pronouncements like this, we expose something inherently real about how we see the world. Regardless of intent or motive, words like these reveal our core beliefs. Consequently, an apology for this kind of outright racism can only be seen as a disingenuous and desperate attempt at political recovery.

If you watch the clip, you'll see the original statement, as well as part of Newt's apology to the Hispanic community (in poorly spoken Spanish no less), and you can decide if this is the kind of man who represents the best America has to offer, someone who should be a legit contender for our highest office.

Daily Zen - Wednesday, January 25

Things are always changing, so nothing can be yours.

                      - Shunryu Suzuki

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Thought Republicans Liked Lower Tax Rates

I'm not happy that Mitt Romney's tax rate is lower than mine, but I'm thoroughly confused at why Newt Gingrich is climbing up Romney's ass about it. I'm even more confounded at how the whole thing isn't a giant plus for Romney with Republicans.

First, Mitt makes $20 million per year primarily from his financial investments. Don't Republicans love capitalism, unfettered success, and all that? I mean c'mon, it's not like Mitt is a community organizer or something.

Second, because he has the money and expertise to work the system, his tax rate is only 13.9%. This is far below the top tier tax rate of 35%, and only slightly higher than the average working class American rate. But hey, aren't Republicans the party that demands tax cuts for the top 1%? Don't most Republican flat-taxers argue for a uniform rate of around 15% anyway?

Third, under Mitt's proposed tax policy, his share of income taxes owed would be reduced by about 40%. BUT, under Newt's tax proposal, capital gains taxes would be eliminated completely and Mitt's tax burden would be nearly zero. Sounds fair, right? Isn't that how Republican economics are supposed to work?

Gingrich is trying to have it both ways. He's arguing for economic policies that further line the pockets of the 1%, while simultaneously slathering Mitt with a populist paintbrush to make him look even more like the one-tenth of one percenter that he is. Mitt may be a rich, out-of-touch, elitist, but Newt is an angry, hateful, and devious douche.

Daily Zen - Tuesday, January 24

The secret is not to fly in the air, or to walk on the water, but to walk on the earth.
                       - Chinese Proverb

Monday, January 23, 2012

Disney Makes Bold Civil Rights Move

In 1996 the Walt Disney company extended domestic partner benefits to its gay and lesbian employees. After fifteen years, the organization has taken another brave step down the path to equality and justice, knocking down yet another barrier to ensuring civil rights for all.

Beginning February 3, workers at Disney parks in both Florida and California will be allowed to grow facial hair. Thank god bearded and mustachioed citizens will now be treated with the respect and dignity they (we) deserve. Well done, Disney. Always ready to lead the revolution, eh?

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier - Winner in the Theater

The Golden Globes have come and gone, and Oscar season is here. With only a few weeks to go until awards night, it's time for me to seriously step up my moviegoing game. As I get into theaters and check films off my "must see" list, I'll review a few of them, and I'm starting with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

Based on a John LeCarre novel, Tinker Tailor is a cold war espionage thriller about an MI-6 officer who is resurrected from a shameful forced retirement to ferret out a Russian infiltrator from the British intelligence service.

This film stands out for a host of reasons. Tinker Tailor is complicated, as a spy thriller should be, but without being overly dense. The pace of the film is incredibly deliberate, but never butt-cheek numbingly slow. It's as realistic an international spy movie as I can imagine (and having been rejected by the CIA in my twenties, imagination is all I have to go on), without ever feeling documentary. When the closing credits rolled, I felt as though I had just seen a compelling "action" movie, and yet Tinker offers a generally quiet tone and nary a car chase.

Daily Zen - Monday, January 23

Learn to make the whole world your own. No one is a stranger, my child; this whole world is your own. 

                   - Sri Sarada Devi

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Florida's Primary More Key Than Expected

The Florida primary, scheduled for Tuesday January 31, is going to be a far more important battleground than previously anticipated. On this South Carolina primary day, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has surged and could easily end the day with a victory. Combine that with a revised result coming out of Iowa where the GOP has now declared Rick Santorum as the winner, and Mitt Romney's clear win in New Hampshire, and we could head into Florida with a different winner in each of the three prior contests.

Florida is a large and expensive place to operate a campaign, and with the biggest bankroll and best ground game in the state, Romney has a definite advantage, but with strong performances likely in South Carolina, Santorum and Gingrich will have momentum. Barring new revelations about three-ways, hookers, or internet porn addiction from Newt's ex-wives, the race into Florida, while still Mitt's election to lose, should still be competitive.

Friends in Florida - the bad news is that yard signs, television ads, and robo-calls will ramp up big time tomorrow. The good news is - your votes will have a significant impact on the direction of the Republican presidential race.

Week In Review - January 21, 2012

Despite his classic Republican bloodlust and passion for administering "tough justice," Texas Governor Rick Perry failed to garner enough support to maintain his presidential campaign. Pundits, bloggers, and comedians are bitterly sad and bereft of material, as the remaining candidates, most of whom actually speak in complete sentences, lack the clown appeal of those who have dropped from the race already. Newt Gingrich is doing his best to fill the content void by throwing increasingly indignant tantrums whenever the "media elite" ask questions about his numerous mistresses and wives.

Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert, a recent entry into the Republican primary race, kept politics fun this week, appearing on Morning Joe and comparing Ron Paul to Rumplestiltskin. President Obama, not to be outdone as a politician or an entertainer, sang an Al Green song during a Live at the Apollo fundraising event.

Daniel Radcliffe, one of Hollywood's more recent stars, took on his most challenging role - portraying Casey Anthony's dog on SNL, while Betty White, one of entertainment's oldest stars, celebrated her funniest moments and her 90th birthday. Legendary blues singer Etta James left us this week, but we have a wealth of amazing songs to remember her by.

Lastly, after a few weeks in Florida helping my father recover from open heart surgery, I returned to California on Thursday. During my travels, I found myself sitting alone in a Houston airport bar, reflecting on middle-age and waxing sentimental about what "going home" really means to me.

As always, thanks for reading!

Weekend Zen, January 21-22

Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.
                       - John Wooden

Friday, January 20, 2012

Stephen Colbert Wins Big on Morning Joe

Former GOP representative Joe Scarborough is by far my favorite TV Republican. Scarborough takes a reasoned, intelligent, and bi-partisan approach to politics, and he typically features guests on his show who do the same. Whenever I'm awake at the crack of dawn, my TV is tuned to "Morning Joe" on MSNBC.

Today Joe had a hilarious 20-minute segment with guest Stephen Colbert, who tackled topics like open marriage and poor candidate favorability ratings with his typical unflinching tongue-in-cheek demeanor.

Here's a short clip from the Colbert segment - my favorite moment  is when Scarborough completely loses it, as Colbert compares Ron Paul to fairy tale imp Rumplestiltskin.

Newt Balks at Public Scrutiny of Private Affairs

Newt Gingrich is righteously indignant because the media has focused on something as intensely personal as his serial infidelity and his second wife's recent claim that he asked her for an "open marriage." In this clip from the presidential debate in South Carolina, Gingrich expresses his outrage at being asked about his ex-wife's allegation.

Gingrich is absolutely right; his desire to enjoy women other than his wife is no one's business but his. And his wife's. And the other women he chooses to bring into his marriage. And their husbands, if they happen to be married too.

Really, who are we to sit in judgment? Even if the Speaker chose to engage in Fundamentalist LDS-style plural marriage, where he and his wives and dozens of kids live together on a secret Colorado compound, or maybe have separate houses like Bill Pullman's wives on Big Love, is that really our business?

I mean, if Newt Gingrich wants to have a Hugh Hefner harem of hot little bunnies, who sit around naked in hot tubs, drinking champagne and kissing each other all over, should we care? Not as long as they are all women of legal age!

What if Newt wants to invite some friendly neighborhood pets into his marriage bed? Should we really judge him so long as the animals are consenting? Really, who doesn't love dogs? Leave this poor guy alone!

The intimate details of Newt's personal life are simply not appropriate for media scrutiny, and who Gingrich or any man loves in the privacy of his own home, should never be the subject of public debate.

Well, almost never. I mean, if we are talking about two people of the same gender having a relationship, that's different. Then we should pry and judge and make high moral pronouncements, and maybe even create laws against it. Right, Newt?

President Obama Sings At the Apollo

You can add singing voice and sense of humor to the list of reasons I like President Obama.

At a fundraiser this week held at the Apollo Theater in New York, the POTUS busted out some Al Green "Let's Stay Together." Seriously, he is by far the coolest president ever.

Turn Up the Sound: RIP Ms. Etta James

Sad news about legendary blues songstress Etta James, who died in Riverside, California this morning from complications arising from leukemia. Ms. James was 73.

Sultry, smoky...Etta. Her velvet voice joined thousands of couples in the bonds of holy matrimony, and rightly so. We all get lonely from time to time, and Ms. James' rendition of "At Last" perfectly captures the consummate sense of joy and relief we feel when our desperate thirst for love is finally quenched.

As the story of her death is covered by media outlets everywhere, I'm certain we'll hear countless renditions of "At Last," so I thought I would offer something a little different in tribute. Rest in peace, Etta.

Daily Zen - Friday, January 20

When the mind neither sorrows nor delights, that is supreme attainment of virtue.

                    - Huai-nan-tzu

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Always Home

As I grow older, home is an ever more elusive concept.

My home is in Northern California, amid the rolling green hills and canyons, a short drive away from the Pacific Ocean. Golden Gate territory, where the fog rolls in and slips over the mountaintops like thick Fisherman’s Wharf chowder. Home is where Paul is, the three-bedroom condo where we sit comfortably on our sofa to watch football on Sundays and Glee on Tuesday nights. It’s the apartment-sized kitchen where Paul prepares the tasty meals he learns about from Ina Garten, and where I choose to wash our dishes by hand, before placing them in the dishwasher to dry. Home is my Starbucks on Laurel Avenue in downtown San Carlos, staffed by my barista friends, and it’s the nearby tennis courts, where I try so desperately to be a better tennis player, and a little less diligently to be a better sport. Home is the new friends I’ve made in California, and the old friends who have moved here, each in search of their own west coast adventures.

But as I sit aboard a 54-seat Continental Airlines jet, climbing high above the panhandle of Florida where I was born and where my family still lives, as I look down and see the Gulf of Mexico, my Gulf of Mexico, drifting further away out the airplane window, I know that I am leaving another place I call home. Living with my mom and dad for the last three weeks and assisting with my father’s recovery from open-heart surgery has been a powerful reminder about my other home – my original home. Morning coffee and politics with dad, afternoon errands and late night talks with mom. A nephew’s baseball tryouts, a niece’s impromptu violin recital, an evening meal with my father seated at the head of the table. A barbecue and beer shared with my brother-in-law, laughter and hugs shared with my sister. An afternoon rekindling an old friendship, a visit to the university, a half-dozen desperate trips to my beloved Chick-Fil-A. I am home.

If home really is to be found where the heart is, where love is, then my home is indeed in two places, and really, even more. The place where I am from, the places I have lived, and the place I call home now. The galaxy where those who love me most have made their lives, and the far away universe where I build my life now, and love them back as best I can.

All these places are home now – the old world where my roots run real and deep, and the new world, where my heart is open and alive, and where my dreams are taking flight. I am unfathomably grateful for the gifts each place has given me, and for every person who has shaped my life along the way. I am thankful that I'll never have to choose between one place or the other. I am home. As I forge ahead carrying the past inside me, into a future that can only be imagined, always home.

But, Where Are the Clowns?

First, Donald Trump decided not to don his superhero cape and save America. Then, Herman Cain had to withdraw early (probably for the first time from the sound of things). Michele Bachmann dropped out when enough people finally realized she was insane. And now, no more Rick Perry - 'cuz the wizard never delivered on the brain he was promised.

Oh well, we've got Rick Santorum for now, and we'll probably always have Newt.

Daily Zen - Thursday, January 19

If a journey is a departure from where we usually are, a few minutes may be enough for us to go away and come back.

                - Kazuaki Tanahashi

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Betty White - Platinum Career, Heart of Gold

Betty enjoying the 90th birthday celebration and tribute.

Actress and comedian Betty White just celebrated her 90th birthday and she has never been a hotter commodity. From films to variety shows to sitcoms to gameshows, Betty has done it all in her illustrious entertainment career, and after seventy years in show business, she is still working hard at it. She has recently published a book, she co-stars in a weekly sitcom (Hot In Cleveland), and she is a popular regular on both the morning and late night talk show circuits. While she seldom tackles starring roles any more, White frequently makes film and television cameos, which are usually comedy gold and always ratings boosters.

Betty White's enormous popularity is due in large part to the doddering senior citizen persona she portrays, but behind her adorable old lady-ness lies a razor-sharp wit and keen comedy instinct. From Mary Tyler Moore to the Golden Girls and at all points in between, she has endeared us to characters whose naiveté and inability to grasp the obvious lead to absurd misunderstandings and hilarious awkward moments.

White is a master of self-deprecation which adds to her charm, and with her quick sense of humor, she is perpetually ready to pounce on any opportunities presented to shock and delight her audience. No one scores as big as Betty White does by tossing out the occasional curse word or crude remark, and no one is more lovable doing it. Seriously, who wouldn't want Betty White as their motherf*cking grandmother?

To carry on the celebration of Betty's birthday this week, I'm including a few favorite clips below. With seventy years in the business, the bulk of Betty White's work is behind her, but at the rate she's going some of her funniest and most memorable moments are likely still to come.

A classic Golden Girls moment...

Betty tackles some gridiron work for Snickers...

Betty enjoys a vodka on ice with Letterman...

Daily Zen - Wednesday, January 18

Your work is to discover your work, and then with all your heart give yourself to it.
                               - Buddha

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Republicans Really Do Like to Kill Stuff

GOP frontrunners (and guys with funny first names).
After writing this headline, I wondered if it was too inflammatory or exaggerated, so I asked Paul, who sat across the breakfast table from me, if I should use the line as written. "Why not," he said, "they do like to kill stuff."

Last night's Republican debate spawned this line of thinking.
  • When Mitt Romney was asked about the legitimacy of launching a military attack inside another sovereign nation to pursue a terrorist, his kill-them-anytime-any place answer drew enthusiastic applause from the right-wing crowd. 
  • Not to be outdone, when asked how he would handle intelligence related to the secret location of Osama Bin Laden, Newt Gingrich managed an even more red-meat reply, tossing in a historical reference to a famous South Carolinian - "Andrew Jackson had a pretty clear idea about America's enemies - kill them."
Similar examples of primitive Republican bravado and bloodlust can be cited from almost any of the countless presidential debates we have endured. And it's not just terrorists who must be killed, according to the GOP. Remember the loud cheer Governor Rick Perry received upon referencing the "ultimate justice" his state administered to 234 death row inmates? (Incidentally, Republicans love killing animals too - don't forget Sarah Palin's support for helicopter hunting in Alaska, Rick Perry's infamous association with a hunting camp [name withheld - but it rhymes with "bigger head"], and Dick Cheney's penchant for quail hunting and shooting his friends...in the face.)

I'm certainly not arguing against the capture and, if necessary, killing of terrorists, nor am I opposing the implementation of the death penalty, which I reluctantly support. I'm simply confused by those who see the sometimes necessary killing of others as causes for celebration. Republicans garner their biggest applause lines at debates when they act like big-dick shoot-em-up cowboys, and I honestly find it deplorable. 

The Republican with the most useful and legitimate foreign policy experience in the presidential race, whose name ironically is Huntsman, has dropped out of the running, but that's understandable. As our ambassador to China, Huntsman possesses first-hand knowledge of the realistic and viable options we have for interacting with our enemies, and he is is too intelligent and too serious a statesman to make the kind of unrealistic blanket statements about killing people that play well with the GOP debate crowd. 

Daily Zen - Tuesday, January 17

The basic nature of human beings is gentleness; we are so fundamentally nurtured by affection.

                    - Tenzin Gyatso

SNL's Weekend Update - Daniel Radcliffe as Casey Anthony's Dog

Having starred in Equus and How to Succeed in Business on Broadway, Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe is now prepared to take on his most demanding role yet - Casey Anthony's adopted yorkshire terrier.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Daily Zen - Monday, January 16

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

           - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Week In Review - January 14, 2012

I've been visiting with my family in Florida and assisting with my dad's recovery from heart surgery, so it was another light week on the blog. With the New Hampshire primary and all the GOP fun, I couldn't stay away completely.

Jon Huntsman, the under-valued but best-qualified GOP presidential candidate, finished a strong third in New Hampshire, which keeps some dim hope alive for an eventual Republican party return to sanity. Huntsman would make a better president than his party rivals, and as I proved in my photo comparison of Huntsman and Santorum, he is also probably a better guy to have a beer with (although his brew might be non-alcoholic). Mitt Romney continued his primary domination with a win in New Hampshire, and while he remained cautiously optimistic about his candidacy, his haircut spoke out boldly and confidently.

While Romney's hair spoke out this week, former child actress Kristy McNichol, best known for her role on the television drama Family, came out this week. McNichol publicly acknowledged that she is a lesbian, in an attempt to serve as a role model for GLBT youth who are struggling with their sexual orientation. Sadly, valiant efforts like McNichol's, along with programs like the It Gets Better video project, while commendable, are sometimes not enough to save the most distraught and disparaged young people - kids like Eric James Borges, the 19 year-old Californian who took his own life this week, becoming the most recent gay teen to do so in a disturbing trend. Though not likely his intention, indie musician Mike Cavanaugh perfectly captured the message I wish we could help these very sad gay kids believe - just Hold On.

I don't want to end on an overly morose note, so give yourself a smile before you leave the blog and check out the latest Rick Perry Bad Lip Reading video clip. He's an idiot, but he rocks that Brokeback Mountain coat like nobody's business.

As always, thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Weekend Zen, January 14-15

It is only when we give complete attention to a problem, and solve it immediately - never carrying it over to the next day, the next minute - that there is solitude.
                        - Krishnamurti

Friday, January 13, 2012

When "It Gets Better" Isn't Good Enough

Eric James Borges, dead at 19
Why are some of the gay teens who make It Gets Better videos still killing themselves?

Three days ago 19 year-old gay California teen Eric James Borges ended his life. One month before his death, EricJames, as he liked to be called by his friends, participated in the It Gets Better project. In the five minute video he produced for the program, he paints a vivid picture of the shame and painful rejection he experienced as a gay teen, but by the end of his video, he assures other GLBT youth that their lives will eventually become easier, as they grow and mature, and gain new experience and perspectives.

In September 2011, 14 year-old Jamey Rodemeyer, who was also a bullied and ostracized gay teen, ended his life. Four months prior to his death, Jamey, like EricJames, recorded a video for It Gets Better in which he urges other struggling GLBT kids to be strong, and then convincingly reassures them that their lives, while tough right now, will most assuredly improve over time. 

It's understandable how the current generation of teenage kids are naturally drawn to the internet to connect with others who may understand and empathize with their struggles. It's also logical that kids who have been raised in our age of vast technological interconnectedness use the internet to find solutions to the sometimes seemingly hopeless situations in which they find themselves. 

What is less clear and far more disheartening is that teens like Jamey and EricJames would actually discover many of the programs made available to them, and even participate in using these resources to assist both themselves and others, and then still choose to take their own lives. Somehow, these kids were selfless enough to try and convince others who are suffering that "it gets better," while clearly never really buying into the message themselves.

Turn Up the Sound - Bittersweet and Beautiful

Singer-songwriter Mike Cavanaugh
I recently received a note through Facebook from an indie singer-songwriter named Mike Cavanaugh who was promoting his music. The email piqued my curiosity mostly because it referenced my appreciation for alt-country/rock musician Ryan Adams, and so I decided to listen to a few tracks from Mike's Facebook page.

What I discovered were beautifully sweet and lonely rhythms, mostly piano and acoustic guitar driven, and whispery melancholy vocals that are indeed reminiscent of the quieter moments on a Ryan Adams album. I listened to several songs on Facebook and on ReverbNation, but found myself repeatedly returning to one particular track.

I had just finished reading two internet news articles about Eric James Borges, a 19 year-old Californian who is the most recent victim in a string of horrible and unnecessary gay teen suicides. As I read about EricJames (as he liked to be called), I was left feeling angry and distraught, and particularly vulnerable to a beautifully sad song like Mike Cavanaugh's Hold On. Make no mistake though, this bittersweet and haunting piano ballad stands tall on its own merits.

It's a soft, simple, and honest song that I've listened to about ten times this afternoon. I'm including a YouTube version below, so give it a listen, share it if you like it, and maybe pop over to iTunes to buy a copy for yourself. I did.

Daily Zen - Friday, January 13

One thing took deep root in me - the conviction that morality is the basis of things, and that truth is the substance of all morality.

                    - Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Bold Message From Mitt Romney's Haircut

Look at my hair - stunning, eh?
If haircuts were actors in cop movies, Mitt Romney's haircut would be Dirty Harry. It's the Manny Pacquiao of haircuts, kicking all other haircut asses in its path.

No one with eyes and a brain can deny its total badassness. The GOP frontrunner's haircut has so much swagger, even George Clooney's hair gives it respect.

Romney's haircut has spoken out in a recent McSweeney's article, and as you might expect, it stomps Newt Gingrich's douche-y grey mop and then throws down the gauntlet directly at President Obama's close-cropped style.

Daily Zen - Thursday, January 12

To know what we do not know is the beginning of wisdom.

    - Maha Sthavira Sangarakshita

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Daily Zen - Wednesday, January 10

When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everybody will respect you.

                       - Lao Tzu

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Compare and Contrast - Huntsman vs Santorum

In a recent Time magazine article, political columnist Joe Klein contrasted the amateurish idiocy of Rick Santorum against the sound conservative professionalism of Jon Huntsman. Klein's article does a nice job of drawing distinctions, but sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

Which of these two guys would you rather trust to run your country?

The one who wears a cool bomber jacket and looks a dog squarely in the eyes...


The one who sports a lavender suit and spouts hateful things from the pulpit.

Republicans Make or Break Their Best Option Today in New Hampshire

Huntsman gaining ground in NH
For months former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman has deserved more attention than he has received from both the media and the Republican base. With a slight bump in the polls in New Hampshire and some noteworthy moments in recent candidate debates, Huntsman has gained prominence in the news, but it may be too late to impact his bid for the Oval Office.

The New Hampshire primary, which is underway even as I type this morning, will tell the tale by the end of today.

The inability of Huntsman to gain traction with right-wing voters may be the biggest tragedy to befall the Republican party since the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004. Jon Huntsman's experience in foreign policy, his demeanor, and his tenure as an executive leader in government, along with the serious and intelligent focus he places on the substantive policy issues of this election, should earn him a top three finish in every primary, and an occasional first place finish in states with more moderate electorate populations, like New Hampshire. Should, but may not. If only Huntsman had challenged the President's birth certificate instead of his economic policies.

Huntsman's clear qualifications for the presidency and his electability have not been sufficient thus far in moving him significantly closer to his party's nomination. Most Republicans would find themselves relatively comfortable with Huntsman's economic and national security positions (if they learned about them), and because of his consistently right-wing stance on deal-breaker issues like abortion and taxes, they could probably overlook his moderate views on gay rights and other social issues. The problem for the former governor and ambassador to China is his refusal to participate in the fiery, albeit groundless, Obama-bashing that energizes Tea Partiers, and his preference for reasonable policy-talk over the kind of divisive bullshit sideshow rhetoric that dominates the broadcast news cycle.

Daily Zen - Tuesday, January 10

Human nature is disposed to do good, just as water flows downward. There is no man that does not show this tendency to goodness. 
                         - Mencius

More Bad Lip Reading With Rick Perry

The Bad Lip Reading folks take on Rick Perry again, this time when he's wandering the hillsides in his Brokeback Mountain coat.

Perry's overall cultural relevance has an expiration date that coincides with his upcoming defeat in the South Carolina primary, so enjoy it while you can.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Daily Zen - Monday, January 9

Compassion is based on keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.  

                         - Thomas Merton

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Week In Review - January 7, 2012

Primary season officially kicked off on Tuesday with the Iowa caucus, and Newt Gingrich pessimistically and accurately predicted his own fate before the first vote was cast. Mitt Romney, who "won" the caucus, was seemingly unfazed by the strong performance of challenger Rick Santorum in Iowa, as the frontrunner kept his attention focused on attacks on President Obama. While ignoring his primary rivals seems like a suspect strategy, it's working for Romney, in large part because of the vigorous anyone-but-Obama zeal that exists within the Republican ranks, and the belief that Romney represents the party's best shot at defeating the incumbent. 

Off the campaign trail, we saw mixed results for the holiday retail season, while in the world of medicine, researchers shared overwhelmingly positive news related to control of the AIDS pandemic

Thanks to a wickedly funny newspaper type-o, there was a not-so-serious medical injury reported in sports this week. Also in the athletic arena, I compiled a comprehensive preview of the year ahead in tennis (I stand beside my Federer prediction, despite the injury to the champion's back this week).

Lastly, we laughed with the SNL skit that featured Melissa McCarthy's desperately horny office worker, and with the faux-bituary I penned for simian acting legend Cheetah, who passed away at the age of 80 last week.

As always, thanks for reading!

Former TV Star Kristy McNichol Likes the Ladies

Kristy McNichol, former teen star of the weekly 80's television drama Family, has come out as a lesbian.

In other shocking news...Nebraska has corn, the ocean is deep, and pizza is delicious.

Seriously though, good job Kristy. Young GLBT folks need all the role models they can get, and every actress, athlete, musician, or celebrity who publicly ventures outside the closet helps.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Weekend Zen, January 7-8

If either wealth or poverty is come by honestly, there is no shame.

                         - Confucius

Friday, January 6, 2012

Romney Aiming at Wrong Target

During a campaign stop in South Carolina today, Mitt Romney accused President Obama of not understanding how the American economy works, and then added, "It's time to get a president who does."

I appreciate a good stump speech as much as the next guy, but I think Team Romney's attention might be better focused elsewhere. The last thing I want is to see Romney lose additional ground to his more insane fundamentalist challengers. In the spirit of support, I'm sharing a few headlines from today's news that might encourage the GOP frontrunner to climb off the President's back and get his message back on the right track.

Seems the President has the economy under control, and the Romney folks should pay more attention to the rest of the GOP. I'm sure the former governor's campaign team would like to believe they can ignore Santorum and head straight for the general election, but with the Republican base still looking for any other viable options to Romney, the frontrunner would be well-served not to underestimate any opponent. 

Note to Team Romney - Remember the Patriots-Giants Superbowl from 2008? Don't get too comfortable. There's a reason why they make you play the game.

If You Think Tearing Your ACL Is Bad...

This was printed in the Charlotte Observer today. It's either the worst type-o ever or NBA player Baron Davis has suffered an incredibly rare basketball injury.

From the January 6, 2012 Charlotte Observer