George Clooney is the next American president…

Columbia Pictures has released the poster for George Clooney’s next film, a political drama which he also co-wrote and directed.  The Ides of March pulls a heavy cast including Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Paul Giamatti, and is based on the play Farragut North by former political staffer Beau Willimon, who wrote the film with Clooney.

The film tells the story of an idealistic campaign press secretary, played by Gosling, who gets caught up in a political scandal during the Ohio primary, possibly threatening Clooney’s presidential candidate’s chances of reaching the White House.

Clooney originally planed to make the film in 2008, but held off sensing the optimistic mood of the country radiating off of Obama’s campaign.  Of course now that a cynical fog of debt ceiling debates, sex scandals and political taunting between parties (Obama is mad because he’s feeling “left out” by Boehner? Are you kidding me?) has settled like pea soup over America, well, the mood is more suitable to the content.

The poster for the film is intriguing, and reflects the reality of politics and political discourse: The media—print, 24 hour, internet—and those who manipulate it, like Gosling’s press secretary, are at least half (if not more) of what and who, affects and creates policy in America.

Clooney himself is by no means a stranger to politics, or political films for that matter; he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Role in 2005s Syriana.  In the February issue of Newsweek naming Clooney the 21st Century Statesman, the cover story touches on Ides of March, saying the actor wrote the film, “giving his character lines he’d like to hear from a presidential candidate.”  The article went on to state that we shouldn’t expect to see the former ER doc running for higher office anywhere but on the big screen:

I didn’t live my life in the right way for politics, you know,” he said, “I f–ked too many chicks and did too many drugs, and that’s the truth.” A smart campaigner, he believes, “would start from the beginning by saying, ‘I did it all. I drank the bong water. Now let’s talk about issues.’ That’s gonna be my campaign slogan: ‘I drank the bong water.’?”

Given the state of American politics right now, I can honestly say, I would vote for that.

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Really Donald? Have you learned nothing…

Did Donald Trump learn nothing from his short stint as a possible GOP candidate?

This morning The Donald went on Fox and Friends to explain why he thought congressional Republicans should reject any plan brought to the table by Obama and the Dems: “Frankly the Republicans would be crazy unless they get 100% of the deal that they want right now to make any deal…If this happens, for instance if this stuff is going on prior to an election, he can’t get reelected”

Brian Kilmead pointed out that contrary to Trumps views, recent polls indicate that in the event that the US government should default on August 2, the majority of Americans would blame the Republicans.  Trump countered, saying, “… I don’t care about polls. When it comes time to default, they’re not going to remember any of the Republicans’ names. They are going to remember in history books one name, and that’s Obama.”

I find it shocking that The Donald doesn’t care about polls, considering how quickly they dashed his hopes for a presidential bid in 2012.  His April lead disappeared a mere ten days after Obama and SNL’s Seth Myers skewered the real estate mogul at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner on April 30.  Shortly after dropping to fifth place in a survey taken by Public Policy Polling in May, Trump announced that he would not be running for president in 2012.

Read more at Think Progress.

 


Otis Redding, Kanye West and Jay-Z together at last…

I could start off this post by launching into the very debatable topic of originality — in art, writing, music, film, et. al. — and whether or not anything is ever really a bona fide “first,” but I won’t.  That’s more like a dissertation topic than it is a blog post.  I will only say that, personally, I find some of the most innovative ideas are those that overtly take other concepts and build upon them to create something new. I will also say that some of the best examples of this are found in music, and that I’ve always enjoyed Kanye West and Jay-Z mainly for this reason.

Jay-Z and West are fantastic collaborators, both with each other and with others.  West’s recent “All of the Lights” which featured Rihanna, Elton John, and Kid Cudi comes to mind here, as does his collaboration with Bon Iver on “Lost in the World.”  West is of course following in the footsteps of his mentor Jay-Z, who has collaborated with artists spanning across several genres; some of my favorites include “Lost!” with Coldplay, “Numb/Encore” with Linkin Park, and the summer anthem of 2010, “Empire State of Mind” with Alicia Keys.

Now the masters of collaboration are once again, well, collaborating, and the first single is enough to get me excited for their upcoming LP Watch the Throne.  While I enjoyed their last joint effort, “H*A*M,” their new track “Otis” is more laid back with a nice sampling of Otis Redding on loop in the background.

How can you listen Otis Redding and not want to be at the beach?

I won’t try and pull in anything political here, despite there being some allusions to immigration in “Otis,” I don’t want to ruin a good thing here and read more into the song than is necessary.  To read the lyrics and more about Jay, Ye and Otis you can visit Stereogum.


The Amazing Race: Rick Perry and God

In America we love our competition reality TV, and with the big showdown coming in 2012, the lead-up to the presidential elections has yet to disappoint. Of course, it’s the GOP we’re all watching; it seems like the field of players grows every week, and every week one of them says or does something that makes you wonder if this whole thing is scripted and the GOP is making a Oscar-worthy documentary, Joaquin Phoenix-style.

One character that’s starting see more screen time is Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Touting his state’s booming economy and job growth, Perry believes that it is his fiscal leadership that has led Texas to recover faster than many other states. In a June appearance on Fox News, Perry claimed that Texas jobs accounted for 48% of the total number of jobs created in the US since April 2009. Politifact found the claim to be neither completely true nor completely false; stats on job creation in Texas are heavily disputed, ranging anywhere from 18% to 54%, depending on the time frame and who you’re talking to.

There’s no denying that Texas’ economy is doing well, but the growth comes at a price; Texas reportedly added over 211,000 jobs in 2010, 76,000 (37%) of which paid at or below minimum wage. In a New York Times Room for Debate discussion, “The Texas Jobs Juggernaut,” editor of The Texas Observer Dave Mann writes,

Texas now leads the nation in minimum-wage workers (550,000 in all). That hasn’t improved our income inequality. Despite the good economy, Texas remains a state of extreme wealth and desperate poverty. The low-tax structure means the state is chronically short of money and, this year, saddled with a huge budget shortfall. Social services and public schools are woefully underfunded. Our graduation rate is low, our dropout rate high. One in four Texans lacks health insurance, by far the highest percentage in the nation.

Mann explains that many of the driving factors of the state’s economic boom—”inexpensive cost of living and low-tax, anti-regulatory policies “—preceded Perry’s arrival to the statehouse and will remain after he’s gone.

What is most fascinating (and disturbing) about Perry singing the praises of his own economic prowess lays in his ultimate plan for fixing the US economy: God.

When speaking to an evangelical group in May, Perry repeated the beloved GOP/Tea Party line that the nation’s current policies are a threat to the founder’s vision of America, saying “Our founding fathers understood that [private property] was a very important part of the pursuit of happiness. Being able to own things that are your own is one of the things that makes America unique. But I happen to think that it’s in jeopardy. It’s in jeopardy because of taxes; it’s in jeopardy because of regulation; it’s in jeopardy because of a legal system that’s run amok. And I think it’s time for us to just hand it over to God and say, “God, You’re going to have to fix this.

Last time I looked, God was not a financial planner, so it doesn’t matter much that Perry thinks he has a direct line to the Almighty ever since He “called” upon the Gov. to help fix America after us damn liberals came in with our crazy socialist ideas, wanting to close the wealth gap and insure all citizens equally. Besides, not even God would be merciful enough to take a cabinet position to fix this mess, as one commenter posted on New York Magazine‘s website in response to Perry’s pronouncement, “God is like, ‘no thanks man, I’m cool.'”


The Dark Knight Rises

The teaser for Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film is here.

Over the weekend, as the last installment of Harry Potter hit theaters, breaking every box office record for an opening weekend known to man as the world turned out to say goodbye to the boy wizard, the first teaser trailer for The Dark Knight Rises appeared during the previews.

The teaser is dark, looking and sounding very Chris Nolan-y, dominated by monochromatic color schemes and varying degrees of gray, with music that is heavy on horns and aggressive in its beats, similar to Nolan’s previous Dark Knight films and last years Inception (best trailer music ever).  Hans Zimmer’s scores may be overbearing at times but they’re almost always right for the film, and play especially well with the tones in Nolan’s movies.

Speaking of Nolan’s Inception, the poster for Dark Knight Rises could easily be a left-over still from the enigmatic thriller.  The film also reunites Nolan with Inception actors Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard.  Truthfully though, I don’t mind the similarities; I loved Inception and Nolan’s previous Batman films, and therefore I assume that I will love this one as well.

What I’ve always found interesting about Batman is how well the character plays in good times and bad—his inherently dark nature, along with Tim Burton’s quirky rendering of the franchise was the reigning superhero of the booming 90’s, while Nolan’s Dark Knight was also well received in 2005 and 2008 as the US slowly trudged through the Bush years, fighting two wars and a recession.

There are a lot of films to look forward to in 2012 (seriously, is it 2012 yet?), but as of right now, The Dark Knight Rises is at the top of my list.


DARPA: Sci-Fi Satire or Legitimately Scary?

Whatever happened to the insect cyborgs?  Or the Iron Man suit?

For years, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or D.A.R.P.A., of the U.S. Department of Defense, has been developing projects that seem more at home in sci-fi action film than in reality, but recently that seems to be changing.

Earlier this year DARPA hosted a workshop entitled “Stories, Neuroscience and Experimental Technologies,” as part of a research initiative to answer the question, “What makes a story?”  Researchers hoped that by gaining a better understanding of story-telling, they could chart these models and apply them in situations “salient to security concerns.”

Now DARPA is turning its presumably robotic eye toward social media.  Wired‘s Adam Rawnsley reported Friday on the agency’s newest venture, the Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) project.

Rawnsley writes that SMISC goals are two-fold: “First, the program needs to help the military better understand what’s going on in social media in real time — particularly in areas where troops are deployed. Second, Darpa wants SMISC to help the military play the social media propaganda game itself.”

Further, Rawnsley states that:

SMISC is supposed to quickly flag rumors and emerging themes on social media, figure out who’s behind it and what. Moreover, Darpa wants SMISC to be able to actually figure out whether this is a random product of the hivemind or a propaganda operation by an adversary nation or group. Of course, SMISC won’t be content to just to hang back and monitor social media trends in strategic locations. It’s about building a better spin machine for Uncle Sam, too. Once SMISC’s latches on to an influence operation being launched, it’s supposed to help out in “countermessaging.”

DARPA’s latest projects aren’t nearly as easy to joke about as the development of killer robots, and call further into question the pros and cons of the Internet as a device of social change, of private versus public domain, and of the instantly gratifying means of media dissemination.

I think I want the killer robots back.


Constellations of Social Media

See something or say something: New York

“We are all made of stars.” Yes, I did just quote Moby; it’s a catchy song. And the phrase rings true when you look at the images from Eric Fischer’s new project “See Something, Say Somthing.” where he has created a world atlas depicting the number of Twitter and Flickr users. Fischer maps Twitter users in blue lights, Flickr in red, and users who employ both social networking sites in white. The images are stunning, making Manhattan seem akin to billion-year-old constellations.

With each one of us representing an individual star in the Internet universe, the images help put into perspective just how massive this universe has become. Check out the full slideshow on Eric Fischer’s Photostream.