january 2008

click here for permalink January 28, 2008

Ah January; the patron month of snow, suicide and sobriety... It just seems so much longer than all the other months, doesn't it? Taken individually, January's 31 cold, dark days are among the shortest of the year but then it's also the month we traditionally begin with a hangover and end with a mailbox full of December's credit card bills. And the darkness that falls (just after four in the afternoon at this latitude) does so undiminished by the festive lights and extended shopping hours that illuminated the long nights of December.

sickoJanuary is also the month when we traditionally realize that we haven't seen any of the Academy Award nominated films of the previous year and that, due to the ever-shrinking timeline of awards season and increasingly strategic DVD release scheduling, our chances of catching all the Best Picture nominees before February 24 are not good.

No End in SightJust like last year, Best Feature-length Documentary is the only category where I don't have an impossible amount of catching up to do. I've actually seen 3/5 of the nominees, No End in Sight, Sicko and Taxi to the Dark Side (follow the links to see the films online). For overall impact — in the "Inconvenient Truth" sense of the word — Michael Moore is probably an easy bet again this year, and deservedly so. Although I found it harder to shake the feeling of permeating bleakness and the sheer scale of the tragedy exposed in "No End in Sight." But I'm a sucker for that sort of thing.

click here for permalink January 24, 2008

(This story will sound vaguely familiar to a few friends and family but please bear with me — it is content, after all!) So, I've been watching Democracy Now every morning for about a year now. It's a little ritual that my mother, for one, would deem utterly morbid and would probably even say is counterproductive to my mental health.

My friend Charlene came over early in the morning recently as I was getting ready for work and watching Democracy Now on my computer (that's right — we'll be four years TV-free this Superbowl Sunday!). Although she tends to be more like my mother in her preferred optimistic outlook on life, Charlene only commented that she could understand why I like to start my mornings with a shot of truth, cold and shocking it may be. "It's like exercise for your brain — it wakes you up and sharpens your mind so you can face the world."

But some mornings it's like a bad day at boot camp for my brain.

Last week, they devoted an entire hour to Dennis Kucinich, giving him the opportunity to participate-after-the-fact in the Nevada debate (from which he had been excluded by NBC) by answering the same questions given to the top-tier Democratic candidates the night before. They played clips of Clinton's, Obama's and Edwards' answers followed by his comments.

I should say here that, ever since June 2003 when my friend Nicholas sent me a link to Moveon.org so that I could read all about the 2004 Democratic candidates and have fun deciding who I would vote for if I were still a participating American, I haven't been able to get through a single Kucinich interview without getting depressed and seriously questioning the future of humanity. It saddens and enrages me to think that I live in a world — if not at this moment a country — where he doesn't stand a chance of being elected and where his views are so aggressively marginalized that even those who agree with everything he stands for consider him to be unelectable.

I was momentarily excited before the Ohio primary, when Kucinich told his constituents that, if they couldn't vote for him, they should vote for Barack Obama. It seemed to bestow some much-needed credibility on the latter, who I've always sort of liked on a visceral level but wasn't sure about on actual issues. I'm much more ambivalent about Hillary Clinton, although I did read her book. She's more politician than human, though — and, unless you think "that's what it takes to run the world," that isn't much upon which to base an opinion.

Ever since we saw An Unreasonable Man and gained a new level of respect (make that reverence) for Ralph Nader, Mr. Pink has been unequivocal in his disgust with all the "top tier" Democrats. They're all the same, he reminded me, whenever I brought up something funny that Obama said in a speech or something. Even if they did have any integrity, he'd insist, it's not like they'll be able to act on it once they're in office, thanks to the corporate donations that will have bought them the Presidency.

So, after watching that debate and seeing Kucinich provide the only sane, reasonable, human responses while the others uniformly (no pun intended) promised to enforce the rights of the military to recruit on college campuses, etc., etc., I'm finally in complete, miserable agreement with Mr. Pink... which kinda sucks the fun out of the next ten months, news-wise.

I know not everyone shares my taste in morning shows — pre-dawn sausage factory tours of the inner workings of democracy — but I have to share, if for no other reason than to convince myself that I'm not alone in feeling this way and that bursting into tears over the state of the human race in the middle of ironing your pants before work isn't an entirely unhealthy or unhinged response to the news.