The High Countries

because it’s all paperweight…

The Day After — President Barack Obama

Barrack Obama elected as the 44th President of the United States of America

Barack Obama elected as the 44th President of the United States of America

Well, it’s the day after and here I sit taking in all the wonderful sentiments surrounding me.

Only days ago, only a few feet away from my cubicle, a cry rang out through my aluminum walls, “I hate Elizabeth Hasslebeck! I HATE her!” It was Evie, my twenty-something coworker down the hall. “If she says one more word, I’m gonna, its just … everything about her, just AHHH!”

It very well could have been my candy-induced, Halloween lull, but for reason (unlike my fellow coworkers) I felt calm in the early months of November. I work in a decidedly liberal environment, but had managed — remarkably — to keep a cooled temperament. Could this be the first signs of maturity?  No?! I managed to stay steady despite the all the animation around me. I’m like a European living in Texas: tea in hand, never getting too worked up over the 9-1 football squad.

After last night’s charades, I came into work this morning alive to the possibility of happiness that would come from my fellow coworkers.  I knew they’d all be on the verge of ecstatic (which is a good thing) and on my way in, I tried to prep myself with a little soul-searching of my own. It was in that morning mist that I tried to make good on a mental promise I had made some years ago: I wouldn’t be ‘that’ guy. Although I don’t agree with the President elect’s policies, I do agree with his sentiments. Fact: It’s tough to say that uniting the country is a bad thing.

It wasn’t really until early September that it hit me that Barack Obama was going to be our next President. I had held out till then, at least, tried to hold back the wave of intoxication that would follow in that single thought’s wake. ‘Barack Obama (coined ‘Barry’ by many already), our 44th President‘, will take some getting used to. And all this jumping and jiving makes me think I need a break from it all. It’s been a long campaign, has it not? There’s been a lot of firsts: a black man elected as Commander and Chief. A female presidential contender. And a VP I came to concede that I was legitimately attracted to. The 2008 run (which seemed to last the better part of two years) has finally come to a close. The dust has settled across the nation as the masses scamper home to their beds. The rallies are over. The microphones are shut off, for now. The voice of the people, although never silent, can rest awhile.

I don’t know that many of us could have done what these two men did: run rampant for 24 months, fighting back strict personal prying, holistic investigation and uber-stressful schedules amidst a raucous and crumbling economy, national pride and foreign policy. It surprises me that McCain made it this far. To be honest, by my calculations he should have died somewhere between the second and third debates. And as I sat in front of the television watching his secession speech last night, I couldn’t help but whisper to my roomate, “I wonder if he’s just sitting there, breathing deep, thinking, ‘its over…its finally over…’”. The face of a man who had just lost an election faced the nation, like many before him, with pride and dignity. He appropriately quieted the crowd when they booed, and eloquently made way for the star of the night. It may have been his only play, but still, nice job John; classy final move.

But where’s the rub? Why all of this now? Is this to make lemonade of a the lemons of loss?

Absolutely not.

For the past year, maybe more, I’ve been a proponent of change – right change. Well, more specifically, correct change. I’ve been proclaiming a better, cleaner, simpler America. I was never a supporter of Barack Hussein Obama and I don’t know that I’ll ever be thoroughly enthralled by his every move. I am, however, an American. Which is to say, there’s a price attached. As an American we’re given a choice: the option to choose right or wrong, pro or anti, lover or fighter — or maybe both. Those opportunities are given to us by a history of blood, sweat and tears and although sometimes lost amid the wear and tear of the daily grind, they should never be far from our daily living. Yep, it’s important to remember both where we came from and where we’re going. It’s important to have a dialogue with everyone around us in order to serve them, love them and enhance that daily living. But I do have a few questions. At what point though, does discussion (as arguing is so often believed to be) become divisive? Its true, there are three sides to a discussion: the mouth and the two ears. At what point do we instill confidence in our leaders by giving them our trust first and questions later? At what point do we give them trust, in accordance to the respect they deserve?

The past decade, for better or worse (and there’s been plenty), we’ve eliminated respect from the American equation. Like it or not, the people have spoken. Barack Obama is the resounding favorite in an election of divided truths. I think its time to stop and think, to sit and listen for a change. I’m not a big fan of protesting democracy.

Three years ago, after an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, I vividly remember sitting on my couch speechlessly disgusted at what I had just heard: a 60 minute diatribe of hate, disrespect and rage towards our current President, George Bush. One man, damningly proclaimed responsible for all the evil in the world, was left to rot in a never ending sea of spite and purified rage. Sure, who hasn’t been ashamed of Bush at some point? Who hasn’t been ashamed of all the presidents, at some point, that have held office in my lifetime? Problem is, at that moment, listening to one of America’s citizen’s speak so fervently hateful words, I was disgusted of this country’s citizen(s). What if the rest of the world is watching this? I felt like the father that looked behind his shoulder to see if the kids were watching, immediately ashamed of what was on.

Then a light bulb went on.

What about my thoughts towards the Clinton administration? How much legitamate hate did I have stored up in my hypocritical head? And that’s where it began … I promised myself on that day, come November 2008, I wouldn’t be ‘that’ guy. Whatever it looked like, I’d work towards common ground. I wouldn’t be filled with spite. I’d discuss with two ears and one mouth. And as this attitude rose up in me — the evangelical Right — it’d fall gently on a more beautiful America.

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November 5, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Babylong A.D. (2008)

Toorop (Vin Diesel) looks onward in the film's finest moment on screen

Toorop (Vin Diesel) looks ahead as Aurora (right, Mélanie Thierry) follows behind in the film's finest moment.

Disappointing Days

by Bryce VanKooten

Babylon A.D. read exactly like the studio knew it would: short, not-so-sweet and entirely forgettable. It’s incredibly unfortunate that a movie which started out as the daring, futuristic novel Babylon Babies got chopped up into an overtly uninspiring and subsequently shallow PG-13 disaster.

Babylon A.D., the story of Toorop, a veteran-turned-mercenary who takes the job of escorting a woman named Aurora from Central Asia to New York, stays fresh and witty in its first hour. What Toorop (Vin Diesel) thinks is an ordinarily dangerous mission soon becomes much more when he discovers that his guest is carrying twin babies, thought to be the next Messiahs. The movie begins quickly and the first hour is brilliantly average — one can only help but admit there is little chance of a blockbuster after hearing zero publicity. All preconceived notions aside, there are actually quite a few great turns at its opening, including a border-crossing scene equaling intensity with any action film. Needless to say, after the 40 minutes my hopes were high.

The movie could have got one of two ways, really. Either it stayed true to its first hour – gritty, surprising evil marked by mysterious characters or get lazy and forever be lost to theatrical mediocrity. Unfortunately (again), it was the latter. What started out great in this production plunder (over budget, cutting room hell, fist fights, tears, etc) ultimately pandered its way boredom. I had justifiable misconceptions walking in because I have seen too many movies like it. I was hoping to be surprised and hoping that the Studio made the right decision by cutting one MPAA rating and 70 minutes from this potentially epic story, however, the Hollywood equation rings sad but true: one star + below average script + cute girl = guaranteed to at least get your money back. It’s nothing short of box-office fraud I know, but I maintain that this movie had at least a chance to be above average, before coming up far short. And my oh my, did it come up short.

The movie ended in the direct opposite way it began. We were met with intrigue and let out with boredom. We were ushered in with mystery and exited with apathy. Nothing kept me thinking, nothing kept me caring. The movie ended in a lump of lazy, backward thinking – as if we cared what happened to the babies? The last scene of the film (which could have been filmed in my backyard for all I know) was about as entertaining as a Colonoscopy. Standing outside some building (his house?), Toorop held the hands of two very different looking children (the babies?) in an act of true love (Someone was in love? Who was in love?) and a commitment to raise the children on his own (Aurora’s dead? How? We just saw her at the hospital…). All this coming from a man whom we’d grown to love by seeing him throw innocent people from a vessel he was trying to board out of self preservation. Apparently Toorop turned nice in three seconds; who would’ve guessed?

If I could be blunter, I would. There were many, many things wrong with this movie outside of the fact that it was created on the floor of a cutting room. The fight sequences had to be ambiguously edited in order to show the least amount of production error and lack of footage. The characters, although almost brimming with development possibility, were left to hang like a basketball mid-flight, as if we were watching a trilogy without the courtesy of seeing part one and having no hope for part three. It was nearly torturous.

However, it’s hard for me to sit here and comment solely on the end of the movie. As I said before, the opening was quite brilliant. The rigidness of Toorop was a lovably fallen character and Aurora, played by the beautiful (and teeny) Mélanie Thierry, brought a terrific, silent balance to the harsh world around her. The characters were there. The story was in place. The stage had been set, if only for an above average picture, if only for those willing to see the two-plus-hour epic, if only given the chance.

We weren’t.

So Babylon A.D. is lost. At least until the next one.

September 8, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rudimentary Thinking

Barack Obama speaks 'hope' and 'change' in Lancaster, PA on Sept 9th, 2008

Barack Obama preaches 'hope' and 'change' in Lancaster, PA on Sept 9, 2008.

Hope, Change, Press Firmly on the Chad.

Guest Writer: Christopher Rudy

A couple of days ago, I wrote to a friend, concerning some of the ambiguity that bombarded me when I entered barackobama.com.

“…As I made my way back to the homepage of the site in question, my eyes caught a glimpse of something I had missed: the central quote to his campaign. The central thesis of his quest against tyranny – the proverbial gospel of our modern-day William Wallace:

“I’m asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington … I’m asking you to believe in yours.”

I was taken aback. I read it again. I read it again. What does that even mean?”

This is the response that followed that email…

(Bryce), I have a few thoughts to add, if I may be so bold.

I.
The inherent simplicity and broad-based appeal of Obama’s proclamation of change belie the inherent simplicity of Obama’s proclamation of change. I did not accidentally repeat myself. In proclaiming “change” as if it is some rarely extolled political virtue, Obama has ignited fervor among his cultish following. But is change a rarely extolled political virtue? Is that word; change, as out of the ordinary as Obama would like us to believe? Most Obama supporters are so worked up in their Obama-frenzy that they forget ask this question, or even question what lies beneath this change (crappy movie, great phrase).

II.
The answer is a resounding no. Change is not novel. In fact, every political candidate ever has run on the exact same platform. If you can tell me the last candidate who proclaimed, “I am going to do every single thing my predecessor did. I will support what he supported. I will not change a thing.” I will give you a bag of skittles. For free.
For those of you keeping score at home, that is one bag of skittles for me, and zero for you.

III.
To make matters worse, Obama has never spelled out his proposed changes in any great detail. Obama’s failure to elucidate his changes are exactly why he has  garnered the sort of mass-appeal that I thought could only come on the heels of Paul McCartney and those
handsome devils from the UK. The vacuum created by the generality of his rhetoric is quickly and inexplicably filled with irrational hysteria. When Obama steps out from behind the Parthenon to a crowd of 80,000 I can’t help but wonder if behind the boisterous applause is the poignant thought, “Yay, I’m clapping and I don’t know why.” Must be clapping for change.

IV.
Yet Obama’s change, he would have us believe, is different from the run-of-the mill-change that every political candidate ever has espoused. His change is going to bring everyone together. That sounds cool. Like Gilligan’s Island meets Candyland (I have no idea what that means). But is it realistic? Have you ever seen a McCain supporter and an Obama supporter interact? Invariably, every time Obama promises this change, he alienates the proportion of the population that disagrees with him. And just how does that bring everyone together? It doesn’t.  Res ipsa loquitur. The thing speaks for itself. Now, more than ever, play-at-home pundits are a bumper sticker away from getting their ass kicked by the opposition’s constituency. The ferocity of our partisanship in these tumultuous times is intensifying. And Obama is fanning the flames. The proof is in the pudding.

V.
I have another, slightly longer word for Barack Obama’s vision of change. It is called communism. It tried. It tried again. And again. And millions of people suffer every day as a result of its mechanistic, misleading imposition of the state on its people.  I am not a sensationalist. I am not a Conspiracist. But I don’t have to be either to recognize that the socialistic leanings of Barack Obama are not what this nation needs. Not now. Not ever.

September 8, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pineapple Express (2008)

(Left to Right) Seth Rogan, James Franco and Danny McBride walk back from a long, crazy night.

(Left to Right) Seth Rogan, James Franco and Danny McBride walk back from a long, crazy night.

One Crazy Night

High as a kite — eh, a great summer escape.

by Bryce VanKooten

There I was, back in high school, watching two grown men wander the streets of their hometown in search of friends and foe, drugs and dreams. I didn’t have to try very hard to see them walk through their front door to standing parents, awaiting their arrival; their disapproving looks saying it all. Before speaking they pause, minds spinning from the night’s many adventures, they rewind, trying to start from the beginning.  Then, very slowly and seriously, they begin, “You guys…I can explain. This could have happened to anyone.”

Armed with a throwaway job as a Process Server and a mediocre high school girlfriend (the very cute, Amber Heard), Dale Denton (Seth Rogan) has his daily sites set on two things: getting high today and preparation for his high tomorrow. Generally, the only thing deterring him from these goals are the minor obstacles in his path – new costume ideas for the next ‘serve’, scraping together enough cash for tonight’s purchase, calling his girlfriend – and even they rarely seem to keep him from his hazy utopia. In Denton’s eyes, he lives in the pinnacle of life’s glorious drag, sucking down joints like yesterday’s leftovers. Its comic genius, I must admit and no joke is lost among the laborious scenes of everyday puffing.The mellow attitude with which the film opens is only enhanced after we meet Saul Silver (James Franco), Dale’s just-as-lazy drug dealer. If Dale’s a pothead, I’m not sure where that puts Saul — maybe, Dale in a decade?

**Spoiler(s) ahead**

The movie stays in its smoky saga only long enough to paint the scene. After Dale witnesses a cop’s murder by the hands of a crocked dealer (Gary Cole) and leaves a joint of the infamously rare Pineapple Express at the scene of the crime the movie switches gears after he finally begins fearing for his life after realizing the rare weed’s traceability and just like that, we’ve got a full blown mouse hunt on our hands. Between Silver’s lackluster zeal for much of anything and Dale’s predisposition to practicality, the jokes are brilliantly normal and the comedy perfectly understandable. What did we expect, really? Every Apatow movie to date has been about the average man; each time finding himself in an increasingly more improbable, but never impossible, situation. Pride yourself on cleanliness and 1980’s comic books and you could be a 40 Year-Old Virgin. Hook up with a girl out of your league and both of you could very well be unhappy and Knocked Up. Follow around high school boys trying desperately to swipe the V-card and successfully purchase alcohol with a fake ID and I guarantee you the footage will be Superbad. Pineapple Express is no different. Smoke enough weed in a short period of time and this could actually happen to you, there’s not a doubt in my mind.

Don’t read me wrong here, this movie becomes more and more outlandish with each passing turn, but the jokes are never too far – save the fighting ninja warriors, those were a bit much, I suppose. After these modern-day Cheech and Chongs realize their notorious stash of PE can be traced back to them, they decide to sprint for the middle man — tweener-dealer Red (Danny McBride) and easily the funniest character of this film (and maybe the entire last year).

Each twist of fortunes finds Red fighting against someone else and by the end of the film the now-famous clip of the neck brace-wearing Red chirping, “thug life…” has never rang truer. With the dealer’s goons (The Office’s Craig Robinson and Superbad’s Kevin Corrigan) hot on their tracks, the three underdogs embark on the save-all-except-themselves mission using the PE to finance the necessities: Slurpees and snacks. After Dale gets arrested for blatantly selling to minors, their plan seems thwarted — all hope lost. Arms behind his back, trying to explain to the driving police officer, Dale glances up to see his counterpart – a Slurpee-holding Saul – standing directly in front of the speeding vehicle, willing to take a hit for his friend. The slushy drinks erupt, mostly on the windshield, make the Police cruiser now both their getaway and a seemingly obvious hit-and-run homicide. Misconception…all one big misconception, but hilarious nonetheless. I wouldn’t want to spoil the rest of the film for you, but bottom line: it’s worth a watch if you feel like a night off from responsibility.

August 6, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Film Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment