Monday, November 17, 2008


I'll be the first to admit that I'm not too well-versed in the ways of Star Trek (Star Wars is another matter, however). Despite this (or perhaps because of it), I'm intrigued by the new Trek film coming out next year, which is serving as a reboot of the franchise. It looks pretty cool, and it's also directed and produced by J.J. Abrams, who tends to turn everything he touches to gold.

The film's second trailer is causing quite a buzz, as it's the first to show more than just a bit of teaser footage to the drooling masses of Trek fans eagerly awaiting May 8, 2009. A lot of it is looking pretty neat even to me, someone relatively unfamiliar with the franchise. However, I couldn't help but notice (especially as a digital video editor and special effects artist) that there were a lot of flares in the footage shown, that were, at least for me, a little distracting. Now, I love lens flares. It's one of things I loved about Batman Begins and The Dark Knight -- the fact that there were so many flares, so beautifully and consistently shot. The thing about the flares in this Star Trek trailer is that they look less like lens flares from an on-screen light source, and more like light reflecting and refracting on/through a glass or plastic sheet in front of the camera.

You get the idea.

Is this a nod back to the original series? Is it a unique stylistic choice? Is it something else entirely? Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments -- I'm curious as to what you all think.

Watchmen Trailer #2

I missed this when it was released a few days ago, due to my recent relative absence from the interwobs, but in case you haven't seen this yet -- check it out. This film is looking extremely promising, and while there are a few things that make me wonder about the look of the film (like the Silk Spectre's slow-motion spin from the explosion -- is this going to be Watchmen edited like 300?), even those things look pretty cool, and I can't wait to see what the film turns out to be like.

You can get the links to the trailer in all different sizes (including both .mov and .wmv high definition files) here. And don't forget to look at the newly-redesigned official site here.


Remember what I was saying about momentum?

It's been a busy week on my end, and I've been away from my computer for a while. The next few days will likely be similarly busy, but I'll try and squeeze out a few posts along the way.

I hope you've all had a good week, and as always, thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

How he did it

According to the New York Times, anyway.

I really enjoyed reading this article about how the Obama team ran his campaign, all the way back from his race in the Democratic primaries, through the general election campaign against McCain. From the article:
“It was perfectly run; it made few mistakes,” Mr. Schmidt, Mr. McCain’s strategist, said of the Obama campaign.
This is the beginning of the piece:
It was the third week of September, and Senator John McCain was speaking to a nearly empty convention center in Jacksonville, Fla. Lehman Brothers had collapsed that day, a harrowing indicator of the coming financial crisis and a reminder that the presidential campaign was turning into a referendum on which candidate could best address the nation’s economic challenges.

On stage, Mr. McCain, of Arizona, was trying to show concern for the prospect of hardship but also optimism about the country’s resilience.

“The fundamentals of the economy are strong,” he said.

A thousand miles away, at Senator Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters in Chicago, the aides who monitored Mr. McCain’s every utterance knew immediately that they had just heard a potential turning point in a race that seemed to be tightening. They rushed out to tell Dan Pfeiffer, Mr. Obama’s communications director, what Mr. McCain, the Republican candidate, had just said, knowing that his words could be used to portray him as out of touch.

“Shut up!” Mr. Pfeiffer said incredulously. “He said what?” Mr. Obama, who had just arrived at a rally in Colorado, hastily inserted the comments into his speech. And by nightfall, the Obama campaign had produced an advertisement that included video of Mr. McCain making the statement that would shadow him for the rest of the campaign.

At the McCain campaign headquarters in Arlington, Va., at almost the same moment that morning, Mr. McCain’s chief strategist, Steve Schmidt, looked stricken when his war room alerted him to the comment. Within 30 minutes, he was headed for a flight to Florida to join Mr. McCain as they began a frantic and ultimately unsuccessful effort to recover.
It's a really interesting story, and brings back not only a lot of memories (remember the grueling race against Clinton? The days before Palin?), but also provides a lot of insight into the inner workings of the campaign, along with how Obama ran things. These sections are particularly telling, especially as Obama once said, "How you campaign shows how you will govern" (or something like that -- I'm paraphrasing something he said when questioned over whether McCain's negativity and lurching messages on the campaign trail were just part of the politics of campaigning, and not indicative of McCain's governing style).

I recommend you give it a read; it's a bit long, but engaging.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Iran welcomes Obama while Israel cautions him against Iran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued a statement congratulating Obama on his election as President, saying that he was looking forward to the change he anticipates Obama will bring to America's relationships with the rest of the world. From the CNN story, an excerpt from his statement:

The Americans who have spiritual tendencies expect the government to spend all its power in line with serving the people, rectify the critical situation facing the U.S., restore lost reputation as well as their hope and spirit, fully respect human rights and strengthen family foundations.

Other nations also expect war-oriented policies, occupation, bullying, contempt of nations and imposing discriminatory policies on them to be replaced by the ones advocating justice, respect for human rights, friendship and non-interference in other countries' internal affairs.
At the same time, Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni expressed apprehension over Obama's stated willingness to engage in diplomatic measures and direct talks with Iran. From the Reuters story:

"We live in a neighborhood in which sometimes dialogue -- in a situation where you have brought sanctions, and you then shift to dialogue -- is liable to be interpreted as weakness," Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said, asked on Israel Radio about policy change toward Tehran in an Obama administration.


Asked if she supported any U.S. dialogue with Iran, Livni replied: "The answer is no."

I've always been a fan of Obama's approach to this issue. As he put it in a debate, "The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them -- which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration -- is ridiculous." And while I'm no domestic policy expert, engaging nations (including and especially potentially hostile ones) in dialogue seems to me to be both a mature approach, and one that will help to ease the impression of American blustery arrogance around the world. If even such an outspoken critic of the United States as Ahmadinejad is seeing this as an opportunity for more peaceful relations, then I'm looking forward to seeing where we can go from here.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Michael Crichton

I just read that Michael Crichton, author of such bestsellers and modern science-fiction/thriller classics as The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, and Timeline, and creator of the long-standing television show ER, passed away yesterday of cancer. As a long-time reader of his books, I am saddened to hear of his death.

His final book is currently scheduled to be published posthumously, most likely next year.

What about Warren Buffett?

During the second debate, both Obama and McCain said that they though Warren Buffett would be a good candidate for the position of Secretary of the Treasury, and since Buffett has been a vocal supporter of Obama, last night's election results seemed to make that a more likely possibility. However, his name is not on the short list of contenders making its way around the media outlets. According to ABC News:

Timothy Geithner, president of New York's Federal Reserve Bank, and Larry Summers, the former treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, are believed to be the leading contenders.

I'm just wondering why Buffett's name isn't currently on the media's list anymore, especially since he was specifically mentioned by both the candidates (McCain, as he mentioned him, even pointed out that Buffett is an Obama supporter, but that he still thought he would be a good choice). Thoughts?

California passes Proposition 8

No matter what one's own thoughts on the issue are, I think the results of this vote are interesting, especially since it reversed a decision made just earlier this year.

Here are a few excerpts from an LATimes story about the vote:

"I think the voters were thinking, well, if it makes them happy, why shouldn't we let gay couples get married. And I think we made them realize that there are broader implications to society and particularly the children when you make that fundamental change that's at the core of how society is organized, which is marriage," he said.

Opponents of Proposition 8 faced a difficult challenge. Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, said California voters "very, very rarely reverse themselves" especially in such a short time.

Research and polling showed that many voters were against gay marriage, but afraid that saying so would make them seem "discriminatory" or "not cool," said Flint, so proponents hoped to show them they were not alone.

Perhaps more powerfully, the Proposition 8 campaign also seized on the issue of education, arguing in a series of advertisements and mailers that children would be subjected to a pro-gay curriculum if the measure was not approved.

"Mom, guess what I learned in school today?" a little girl said in one spot. "I learned how a prince married a prince."

As the girl's mother made a horrified face, a voice-over said: "Think it can't happen? It's already happened. . . . Teaching about gay marriage will happen unless we pass Proposition 8."

Many voters said they had been swayed by that message.

The role the media campaign had to play, as well as the sheer number of people campaigning on both sides (100,000 people went out for just one side yesterday), shows not only how important this vote was to people, but also how many resources (both financial and human) were used during the campaign for this issue -- striking especially given how many resources were already being tapped for just the presidential campaigns.

Florida and Arizona passed similar bans, by even greater margins, and Arkansas passed a measure keeping unmarried couples from adopting children or serving as foster parents.

Thoughts? Leave them (as long as they're civil) in the comments.

Barack Obama wins the Presidency

The results are still coming in, but all the networks have called the election for the 44th Presidency of the United States of America for Barack Obama, who has just finished his victory speech. No matter where your opinions lie in this election, I think we can all agree that this is a tremendously historic and pivotal moment for the United States, and for the world.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


If it's important enough for Stephen Colbert to put into his opening titles, then it's important enough for you to do.

Get information on voting (where to vote, how to vote, what voting is):

U.S. Government

And from the candidates:

Obama: Voting information, more voting information, and reporting voting problems/voter protection.
McCain: Voting information.

Make sure to leave lots of time -- while your boss may have given you an hour (which is pretty awesome of them), you might need more time -- lines for just early voting have already gotten as long as eight hours. And while this probably will not be the case everywhere, you don't want to lose your chance to vote because you didn't give yourself enough time to do so. Also, remember that if you get in line by the time the polls officially close, you have the legal right to vote (officials will keep the polls open so that everyone already in line can vote).

All the best! Feel free to leave any questions or voting stories in the comments.

The results are in

. . . well, the very first ones are, anyway.

The very first town in the United States to vote, Dixville Notch, NH, opened its polls at midnight, and has had 100% voter turnout already; according to CNN, the 21 registered voters (out of a population of approximately 75)
voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama, 15 to 6.

We'll see where the results go from here. Though my question is -- shouldn't they be waiting until all the polls in the state close before reporting the results?

Indecision 2008 Election Night Special

Right on the heels of last night's SNL Presidential Bash, Comedy Central is producing what for many (myself included) will be some of tonight's most-anticipated election night coverage -- a Stewart-Colbert joint live show! The coast-to-coast airing starts at 10 PM EST/9 PM CST/7 PM PST.

Here's a preview:

Monday, November 03, 2008

Voting = Free Stuff on November 4th

Tomorrow, both Starbucks and Ben & Jerry's are giving free coffee and ice cream, respectively, to people who voted earlier in the day, joining other companies in providing additional encouragement to vote. Very cool stuff.

If you know of any other offers like these, make sure to let everyone know! Send me an e-mail or leave it in the comments, and I'll add it to this post.

UPDATED 11.04.2008: DailyNews posts a list of all sorts of free things you can get for voting (depending where you live), including tacos, donuts, cheesecake, and sex toys (not kidding).

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Carl Phillips returns.

Twitter was abuzz tonight with reports of an alien invasion à la Orson Welles's famous October 30, 1938 radio broadcast that, in a groundbreakingly creative adaptation of H.G. Wells's
The War of the Worlds, caused a nationwide panic and solidified Welles's media career. Tonight's Twitter version, to save the masses from a similar reaction, tagged posts with #wotw2.

I write about it here because I think that this was a really clever and fun idea. In particular, as someone who has worked heavily in various forms of new media, as well as being a long-time fan of the dramatic radio of the 30s, 40s, and 50s, I was struck by the ingenuity of how Welles's idea was updated for the age in which we now live; to me, this seemed like a natural evolution of the concept, though I hadn't thought about it before I first read about this. TIME has an interesting piece looking at the original broadcast in retrospect, and drawing further parallels between the public reaction it inspired and present-day politics.

Finding new ways to utilize existing forms of media -- and keeping it simultaneously fun and safe.* I think Orson Welles would have been proud.

Download the .mp3 of the original October 30, 1938 radio broadcast here, along with a number of other Mercury Theater programs from the time.

* The 1938 radio broadcast did include a disclaimer at the beginning (not unlike the "#wotw2" tags here), though many people either forgot about it once it got underway due to the seeming verisimilitude of the news reports, or had tuned in late and missed the notice.

Thanks to these sites as the sources for the various parts of this post's graphic.