Homo homini rodentius est

Super (Bowl) Tuesday

Super Bowl Tuesday
It’s just like the SATs all over again! Eli is to Tom as Barack is to Hillary.

Hillary Clinton spent part of Sunday night watching the Super Bowl at a bar called Dixie’s in St. Paul MN. Of course, her enthusiasm for the Giants was about as authentic as the tears she’s been known to shed on cue (do you think she even knows who Eli Manning is?) and she whooped and hollered with the best of them when Manning’s already legendary drive defeated the sure-bet Patriots in one of the biggest upsets in NFL history. But I wonder if the irony of the situation was lost on her? Her putative hometown team aren’t the only guys making late drives at formidable opponents: CNN [released a poll today] showing that Barack Obama has not just caught up to Clinton in nationwide polls going into Super Tuesday, he may have surpassed her. The storied game plan from the Clinton camp has been that the rush of contests on Tuesday, coming so soon after Obama’s big win in South Carolina, will benefit her because her established name and reputation will trump his nascent momentum. But they may have underestimated the depth of Obama’s appeal and the dissatisfaction level toward Clinton’s candidacy within the party.

If Obama pulls off an upset the contest will drag on to the convention. That’s a long time for allegiances to settle into stony loyalties that will not easily switch come general election time. Some people are muttering about an eventual “dream ticket” of Clinton-Obama, or vice-versa. That’ll never happen — whoever wins the nomination will have to start running to the center to beat McCain and will need to pick a centrist running mate. Someone like Evan Bayh.

Meanwhile, just across the aisle, McCain looks to put a lock on his nomination on Tuesday, giving him plenty of time to shore up his right flank and prepare his assault on the eventual Democratic nominee. Alas, no Giants-like come from behind upset for Mitt Romney. He’s done.

Frozen Grand Central

[Improv Everywhere], a performance art group who — in their words — cause “scenes of chaos and joy in public places” pull off a bit of genius: 207 people milling through Grand Central Station suddenly freeze in place for 5 minutes. Brilliant.

South Carolina Dems elect McCain

Meet your new President.

It has become a cliché among the political punditry that the only thing standing between the Democrats and the White House are… Democrats themselves. With the notable exception of Bill Clinton, Democratic candidates and their party faithful seem congenitally incapable of putting together a candidacy that can win the support not just of Independents and the scant Republican crossover voter but of their own motley base. Barack Obama’s resounding victory in the South Carolina primary pretty much rings the death knell on the chances for a Democratic victory in the fall and, I would say, guarantees that our next president will be John McCain.

It would appear that Democrats learned nothing from the debacle of the 2000 election. That election showed the profound impact that a fracture in their base could have — had Ralph Nader not shaved just a few percentage points off the totals for Al Gore, there would have been no need for a Supreme Court coronation of George Bush. This time it’s worse. As has been noted [many times], outside of the Democratic party Hillary Clinton is not a very popular character. Her chances in a general election were dicey to begin with unless she faced a particularly weak Republican and, as McCain ascends, that looks unlikely. A full-on challenge to her from within her own party is evidence that even Democrats are not satisfied with their choices. And the nature of the dissatisfaction — as evidenced in the South Carolina vote — must encourage the Republicans. Obama won South Carolina with overwhelming support from blacks (78%) and women (54%), but fewer than one out of four white Democrats voted for him. And these are white Democrats. A Democrat cannot win the general election without picking up Southern states and they cannot win Southern states without white votes.

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Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger 1979-2008

So sad. So awfully sad.

UPDATE 1/26: It’s been a few days since hearing the news about Ledger’s death. The day after he died a colleague and I went by his building to place a couple of flowers at the ad hoc memorial that fans had created. Looked up at the large dark windows of his apartment and commented on the strange irony that — if it’s true that his overdose was not accidental — someone who had touched so many and who was the target of such affection could feel so bereft and desperate. Seeing his body in that large wooden crate being loaded into a hearse for the trip back to Australia was jarring. I walked past him on 8th Avenue a few months ago. He was hard to miss — very tall and lanky, his gaze cast down toward the street as he walked with a woman. He didn’t see me recognize him but she did and her look at me suggested wariness that I’d interrupt them with some gushing fan tribute. I never would. The joy came in simply knowing that I could walk past him. We were both New Yorkers.

Heath Ledger fan memorial

Short Bites

Pleshette in The Birds

Alien + Predator + Cloverfield
A friend and I spent our day off doing a double-feature of Alien vs. Predator and Cloverfield. Fun. I’ve avoided the AVP franchise in the past because I loved the original Alien movies so much — I practically grew up with them and, by the early-nineties, facing the onslaught of AIDS, the [theme] of an alien invader and the heroic warrior who faced it down made the series almost sacred. The AVP movie is a decent B-movie thriller, happily repurposing the tried and true tropes of the earlier Alien and Predator films (warrior woman and little girl take on the now long-in-the-tooth monsters) and just goes to show that, in Hollywood, nothing is allowed to die until the last penny has been wrung from it. In the same derivative vein, Cloverfield is nowhere near original — Godzilla meets Blair Witch Project — but the execution is clever and the idea of an honest-to-gosh monster rampaging through the streets of Manhattan is kind of audacious in its simplicity. Some people are up in arms about the parallels to 9/11 — but it’s no different from Godzilla rising out of post-war Tokyo and probably serves the same purpose.

Pleshette in The Birds

Suzanne Pleshette (1937 – 2008)
Most people think of Suzanne Pleshette from her role in the 70’s Bob Newhart Show. I could never watch that show because, though I liked her and Newhart, the supporting cast made my skin crawl (Peter Bonerz… *shudder*). But I will always think of her as the only interesting character in The Birds. In a movie that was camp the second it hit the can, her portrayal of husky-voiced booze swilling Annie Hayworth provided an authenticity otherwise lacking in the film and made her co-star, the definitively inauthentic “Tippi” Hedren, look even more artificial than she was. Mo Rocca, channeling his inner girl, goes into more depth on this [here].

Monty Python organist

The Organist Entertains
For the life of me I don’t know why I don’t live in Britain. English culture seems still, after all this time, to be a culture not just tolerant of eccentricity but fully committed to it. A perfect example is the weekly BBC radio show [The Organist Entertains], where, according to the website, “Nigel Ogden presents a programme of popular organ recordings”. Not just organ recordings mind you… popular organ recordings. If you have a yen to hear the Wurlitzer put through its paces, this is the show for you. It has been broadcast without interruption for almost 40 years and — perhaps most eccentric of all — originally went on the air in 1969, amid the mod psychedelia of swinging 60’s London. God knows how I came across it, but I’ll sometimes put it on while I’m making dinner and it instantly dispels a bad day. It’s hilarious.

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