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Extremism at the Gates

October 19, 2010 Leave a comment

The Hutaree Militia: faces of the new extremism.

This morning, the news that shots were fired at the Pentagon broke. I want to direct towards you to my immediate reaction: “Man, that is one step closer to a cataclysmic attack by right wing extremists. Nut jobs.” Then I stopped myself. Was that really my first reaction? WHEN did we get to a point in this country that my mind instantaneously went there? It is probably part fear-mongering media. Oh, and part political sensationalism. It is possible, though, that another part of it might actually be realistic fear? Disturbingly, I think that might just be the case.

Right-wing anger and fringe extremism began its resurgent crescendo during the lead-up to the 2008 election. President Obama received Secret Service protection earlier than anyone else in history during an election cycle. That was just the beginning. Then came threats against Democratic lawmakers during Healthcare reform. Then the Huturee Militia. Then James von Brunn and the Holocaust Museum shooting. So what’s next? A shooting at the Pentagon? It really does not seem so off-kilter when you put the last two years in context. It’s really shocking. This is not what America is about. Clearly, fringe elements are creeping closer and closer to the middle of society.

If we broaden our scope (to include nonviolent extremism), that point becomes even more pointedly clear. Look no further than the candidacies Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell. Sharron Angle, taking on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada, has suggested agitated Americans could take up arms against the government, told Hispanic students that they “look more Asian” and lambasted the idea of mandated maternity leave and care for autistic childern. Christine O’Donnell, running against Chris Coons in Delaware, has discussed her dabbling in witchcraft, faltered at naming one  (ONE!!!) Supreme Court decision she did not agree with in the past two years and, just today, questioned the validity of the separation of church and state.

Sharron Angle leads Sen. Reid 50%-47%. Christine O’Donnell (mercifully) now trails Mr. Coons 51%-40%.*

No matter where your political allegiances lie, I hope we can all admit that the mere contention of these candidates in Senate races signifies a shift to the more polarized ends of the political spectrum. It would not have even been conceivable 10 years ago. But these candidates, and their chances, are real. The anger that has propelled them to prominence is real. What does it all mean? I am not entirely sure. But I do know this: extremism, of all kinds, is closer to the gates of our society and political system than any other time in the past 50 years.

We should all, Democrats and Republicans, be on notice.

*It is important to note that Delaware is much more consistently a “blue” state than Nevada.

Helping Things Get Better

October 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Life will get better.

Most of my posts on the Fodder’s domestic issues are borderline rambling and have to do with recent Congressional bills, political happenings or a hot-button issue that has taken control of the most recent news cycle. Today will be different. It will be short and to the point. Today, all I want is to draw your attention to a YouTube initiative started by author, activist and media pundit Dan Savage:  The “It Gets Better Project

Founded before the nationally covered, tragic suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, It Gets Better is a forum for happy, openly gay adults to post their own stories of bully-filled, persecuted childhoods (not that all LGBT childhood are by any means) and to deliver one message: “It gets better.” Life gets better. Narrow, close-minded, spiteful people will try to wear you down; but do no, do not,t let them take away your spirit. It gets better. In a time where suicides in the LGBT communities are increasingly prevalent, the testimonials on the itgetsbetterproject channel are touching, powerful and necessary.

In ways, it’s a shame that Mr. Savage and his fellow contributors had to turn to an internet/social media campaign, circumventing the “traditional” media sources, to bring a message to a population of vulnerable teenagers. In other ways, it is a fitting venue considering some in this society would still consider this a “subversive” message.  Either way, all I ask of you is to log on to YouTube and watch a video or two or three. You will be so happy you did.

Listen to a NPR interview with Mr. Savage here.

To add some star-power (so I can tag it an increase some hits!), watch Project Runway’s Tim Gunn‘s testimonial here.

Finally, please “like” the project on Facebook!

SAVE THE DATE!

October 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Cocktail Fodder is back. But a little different. Photo by Hector Garcia.

Cocktail Fodder is back! Save the date! One week from today, on October 11th, your favorite conversation-starting, fun-fact generating, snarktastic blog will be back, producing new content.

Yes, the Fodder has been on hiatus for a little longer than expected. Yes, we’re officially down a founding member. Yes, we’ll have to slim down content for the time being before we find a bright young mind to join the cause. Yes, Captain Adam is still churning out the good ole alcohol related humor. No, we will not waver from our goal or stop rocking your world with brain-stimulating, morally challenging opinions and espresso machine fodder tidbits. No, you won’t get those 30 minutes back each day you spend on Cocktail Fodder. Sorry.

So mark you calendar. Put it in your Blackberry. Throw it in your iCal on your iPad or iPhone. Do what you need to do. Just remember, we’re back and better than ever. Get ready.

The Week in Fodder

July 30, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s Friday… and what’s this… a Week in Fodder posted on the correct day?!!! WEIRD. Well, we did it, got it out in time. A lot of good stuff in this week’s edition… Hezbollah and Lebanon, Catalonian independence, the ESB, Warren Jeffs, mandatory minimums, alcohol and arthritis, crazy Philly fans and SO much more. Enjoy!

World Views:

Hezbollah: Creating tension in Lebanon.

Pakistan Air Blue Crash: Early Wednesday morning an Air Blue flight from Karachi to Islamabad crashed in the hills of Northern Pakistan just minutes before landing. Sadly, all 146 passengers along with 6 crew members perished in the accident. In a remote area, the crash site is near unreachable due to a lack of any form or roads and rough jungle terrain. Rescue workers immediately found a flight recorder; officials are hoping that the recorder will provide insight into the cause of the crash; beyond the weather that was the most likely cause.

Favela Makeover: On Tuesday, Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes announced that slums (favelas) surrounding the city will be receiving a facelift before the 2016 Summer Olympics. Affecting over 200,000 households, the renovations and clearing of the favelas will cost over $4.5 billion. With over 600 communities receiving the “facelift,” the action-plan is audacious. The 13,000 families from the 123 communities that will be displaced by the actual destruction of the most decrepit areas will be relocated. This is the latest move in the ongoing struggle between the Brazilian government and the favela residents. After deadly landslides killed over 200 in April, the Rio government signed a decree into law that would allow the forcible eviction of favela residents. In May, a report by a non-governmental group found the official justification to be standing on shaky legal ground. The bottom line is that the Rio government sees the favelas as a hinderance to modernization for a handful of different reasons. The Olympics provide the municipal powers with the perfect rationalization to make a significant change. It all smacks, disturbingly, of Beijing’s attitude and tactics in the days and months leading up to the 2008 Games.

KGB Redux?: Thursday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed into law a bill that will expand the powers of the ESB; the descendant of the Soviet KGB. The bill passed both houses of Parliament but sparked major debate. In a country where dissent in relation to the Kremlin’s preferred policies is – let’s say – frowned upon, the fact this bill has been so strongly opposed raises red flags about the danger of the new law. The controversy revolves around specific language in the new law. ESB agents will now have the power to “warn officially an individual about the inadmissibility of actions that create the conditions for the commission of crimes.” That is terribly vague and dangerously usable language. In country where freedoms are shrinking, opposition journalists are murdered and Vladimir Putin casts a ever-present shadow, the ESB’s new powers are a disturbing development.

Bullfighting Ban: The Parliament of Catalonia, the semi-autonomous southern region of Spain, voted to ban bullfighting this week. With the vote, Catalonia becomes the first region of Spain to outlaw the historic national pastime. The measure made it to Parliament on the back of a petition signed by over 180,000 persons. While the decision can be seen within the scope of an animal rights campaign, many Spanish political experts believe that this was a power move by Catalonian nationalists to separate themselves from the rest of Spain; proof of a different historical identity. If it was, it was tactfully done. Keep an eye on this story.

Lebanese Tension: After a round of groundbreaking talk between Lebanese, Saudi and Syrian officials in Beirut, there has been a united call for maintained stability and piece in the volatile Mediterranean country. There are signs of a renewed conflict within its borders. After years of turmoil following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the withdrawal of Syrian troops in 2005, a unity government was finally formed in 2008. This, of course, included the politically powerful Hezbollah. As the UN investigation into Mr. Hariri’s death wraps up and it becomes more and more likely that it will condemn Hezbollah members, tension is rising. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the spiritual leader of Hezbollah, stated in a television interview this week that he would not stand for the defamation of his organization; a warning shot across the bow of the UN. After the 2006 War with Israel, Lebanon cannot handle another step backwards. Keep an eye on this story when the UN report comes out.

American Matters:

As his followers stay true, Warren Jeffs gets a new trial in Utah.

SB 1070 Blocked: On Wednesday, Federal District Court Judge Susan Bolton struck down some of the most controversial aspects – the ability of police officers to detain persons the believe to be “removable,” the pressing of all officers to determine immigration status in any kind of routine encounter with citizens and the requirement for all legal and illegal residents to carry proof of residency/legal immigration – of Arizona’s hot-button immigration law. Issuing an injunction against those facets, Judge Bolton cited the laws usurpation of the Federal Government’s sole right to make immigration law in the United States. Arizona immediately launched an appeal. Reaction has been varied. (Here is a little sampling.) SB 1070 is undoubtedly on a fast-track to the Supreme Court.

Jeffs’ Verdict Overturned: The 2007 conviction of Warren Jeffs, the self-proclaimed prophetical leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints*** (FLDS), was overturned this week by the Utah Supreme Court. Found guilty of facilitating the rape of a 14 year old FLDS member, Mr. Jeffs was sentenced to two concurrent 5 to life terms in prison. Citing a misrepresentation of legal facts by the judge in the 2007 case, a unanimous decision by the Utah Supreme Court means that further legal action against Mr. Jeffs in Utah is highly unlikely. Luckily, there are charges pending in Texas and on the Federal level against the FLDS leader. Mr. Jeffs ideology and church are immoral, dangerous and unacceptable in our modern United States; I only hope that he stays in prison where he belongs.

***This link is to the FLDS website run by the FLDS. Take it for what you will. OR, as they say, with a grain of salt.

Mandatory Minimum Victory: On Wednesday, after almost 25 years of injustice, Congress finally passed legislation to change the disparity in crack cocaine-powder cocaine mandatory sentencing on a national level. Since 1986, in the midst of the crack scare, Congress passed a law that put the mandatory minimum sentence of a first time crack cocaine offense at a level of 100 to 1 to the same first time offense of powder cocaine. Because of the cheapness of crack compared to powder, the issue quickly became socioeconomic; this inevitably led to a racial disparity. I won’t get into a lecture here. All I will say is this: it’s about damn time Congress.

Blago Trial: Illinois is officially on verdict watch in the Rod Blagojevich trial. After a controversy over Mr. Blagojevich’s lawyer’s closing argument, the jury started deliberation on Thursday. Facing over 20 criminal charges, Mr. Blagojevich is in the midst of one of the most prolific political corruption trial in recent memory. As in all high profile cases, the jury will most likely pontificate for a longer period of time before returning a verdict. Look for one early next week. Until then, however, you can place your bets on when they will come back, here, on Chicagoist.com.

Arlington Controversy: Earlier this year, John Melzer – the former superintendent of the Arlington National Cemetery – was forced to retire over a scandal involving the mislabeling and lack of labeling of at least 600 graves in the national resting place. Yesterday, Mr. Melzer and his right-hand man, Thurman Higginbotham, testified to a hostile Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), citing her own investigation, stated that the errors in labeling, in reality, affected somewhere between 4,000-7,000 graves. Senators on both sides of the aisle attacked Mr. Melzer and Mr. Higginbotham’s handling of the situation. The latter ended up pleading the 5th in response to a myriad of questions; the former blamed most of the errors on his staff. Let’s hope this unfortunate disrespect of our nation’s heros can be fixed sooner rather than later.

Off the Beaten Path:

Feeling arthritic? Drink it down, baby.

Alcohol and Arthritis: A study by the University of Sheffield released this week has found a direct link between drinking alcohol and rheumatoid arthritis relief. The study concludes, using two different test groups, that people who frequently drink alcohol, on whole, have less joint pain and swelling. It’s a victory for all college students, winos and arthritis suffers all over the world. I can already see it. A cop walks up to a car in a suspected DUI stop… “Have you been drinking tonight?” “Sory ociffer, my artritis was flaring up today…(insert hiccup).”

Paul the Octopus… the Great Satan Incarnate?: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave Islamist groups everywhere another reason to hate the West this week: Paul the Octopus. Claiming the octopus represents “decadence” and “decay” among his Western enemies, Ahmadinejad stated that people who believed in soothsaying octopi could not possibly aspire to the “human perfection” that the Islamic Republic does. Let’s call a spade a spade here… Ahmadinejad is a hater. Pure Haterade. He’s just jealous Paulie Boy didn’t pick Iran to win the World Cup. I’ll raise a drink to Paul the Octopus tonight. Will anyone else join me?

Apache on Main Street: This week, an Apache helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing on a street in Kershaw, S.C. due to mechanical problems. The Apache landed on the nearest, safest road when the crew decided it was too dangerous to continue on. The Army left it parked on the street overnight until it could send a truck to pick it up. I can only imagine that AAA call. “What kind of car is it?”…. “It’s actually a $56.25 million Apache…” “You know we only cover the first 20 miles of towing… right?”

The Northwest Passage: Over 150 years ago, the HMS Investigator traveled toward the Arctic searching for the legendary Northwest Passage and a quick link to the Indian silk routes. After getting marooned on the Arctic ice, the crew abandoned the ship. This week, an archaeological team found the ship’s remains. There may be some controversy over this discovery, however. Since the Investigator was found in Canada’s Western Arctic, there will probably be a turf war between Canadian and British authorities as to where the ship’s final resting place will be. I, personally, think it should stay where it is. It’s a testament to the explorers that opened this world for the rest of us; let it sit!

Vomit and the Phillies: Anyone who knows sports knows that Philadelphia fans are a special breed; intense, passionate and mostly crazy. Well this story – and what a story it is – would only happen at a Phillies game. Last Friday, Matthew Clemmens – a native of the Dirty Jerz, that’s a whole different story – intentionally vomited on a spectator and his daughter as the Phillies played the Washington Nationals. That spectator was actually an off-duty police officer; talk about karma. Anyway, Clemmens was sentenced to three months in jail and two years of probation. I mean, are we serious here? When was the last time you went to a sporting even, heckled the person in front of you for an hour and then pulled the trigger and puked on them? Oh right, never. Get better Matthew Clemmens.

Oh, and here’s some Phillies fan action for you…

Quotes of the Week:

LOVING the yacht controversy...

“If you guys think that John Kerry doesn’t have enough sense of either propriety or common sense, that I’m going to be sailing my boat around Massachusetts where I’m highly recognizable but it’s going to somehow stay in Rhode Island and I’m going to avoid a tax . . . I’d be crazy to think that I’m going to be doing that, and that was never our long-term intention here.’’ – Sen. John Kerry in a Boston Globe interview concerning the controversy surrounding his new yacht. New $7 million yacht and referring to himself in the third person? NBD.

“I’m working every day to clear this black mark from me and my family. Give me the opportunity to show you who I am and not who I was that one afternoon.” – Matthew Clemmens at his sentencing. Good luck with that, kid.

Idiom of the Week: To be a bundle of nerves.

This week’s Idiom of the Week describes someone who is nervous and uptight.

Example #1: John was quite a bundle of nerves when his name was called on to read a passage of Hamlet aloud in front of the class.

Example #2: John Kerry was a bundle of nerves when he realized he didn’t pay taxes on his new yacht.

Song of the Week:

This week’s Song of the Week comes from the New Jersey band Real Estate. It’s a great chill, summer tune to put on in the background. Enjoy!

That concludes our Week in Fodder. Hope you got something for your weekend shenanigans. Thanks for tuning in. Until next week, keep living the good life!

Cocktailfodder.com

July 22, 2010 Leave a comment

cocktailfodder.com!!!

We are now at cocktailfodder.com! That’s right, we made the jump.

That is all.

The Movie Maven: INCEPTION

July 22, 2010 2 comments

You know they really wanted to call this movie "Conception" but then just really couldn't.

In the spirit of our new content expansion, we wanted to start you off right with our new resident film critic… The Movie Maven. She’s the harshest, smartest and most analytical movie watcher we know and she jumped at the opportunity to start a column on the Fodder. She’ll review new, old and different movies… bringing a fresh and snarktastic viewpoint to all of them. What better movie to start with than Inception…

Greetings, homies! I’m sure this whole film-reviewing thing will take its own shape in time, but I can say with conviction that I will always include a part at the end (The Good, The Bad) and if I think the film at hand is worth the exorbitant amount that movies cost nowadays. This means my feelings won’t be shattered if you decide to skip to the end. Who are we are kidding? We all have the attention spans of toddlers. But on with the show…

Here is what I have to say about Inception: go see it before everyone talks it to death. If you haven’t seen it, don’t read this review. Seriously. Though there really aren’t any spoilers (And even if you heard them, they would not make the least bit of sense, thus rendering them spoiler-less. Unspoiled?), it is worth going into this movie with an unsullied mind. Everyone is allowed to have a unique opinion about Inception because the subject matter is, of course, relatable. Everyone dreams.

But not everyone dreams like this and no movie that I’ve ever seen has tackled the dream-state in quite this fashion. No one flies in this movie, and there are no ‘trippy’ elements to the cinematography. Don’t get me wrong, reality is defied at every turn, but just not in the way you would think. This dream world is not magical, but rather a world that very rigidly adheres to its own systems of logic. It is extremely dangerous, for both the subject and the – let’s call them ‘invaders’ – placing the moviegoer in a constant state of anxiety; although one that is not altogether unpleasant.

Inception could fall into the classic post-apocalyptic sci-fi film category (sigh, maybe my favorite sub-genre…) but it feels fresh. It is your standard: “In the not so distant future, the military/government/rebel scientists/people with too much money discover shared dreaming/artificial intelligence/artificial intelligence/artificial intelligence. Man cannot control the power he’s unleashed and all is nearly destroyed. But wait, there’s hope!–” but yet not really. Not really at all.

While I struggle to pinpoint what it is about Inception that makes it feel like new territory (when it really isn’t), I find the bottom line to be this: the movie is very, very good. To shout out KSchwed, (who I’ve seen this with twice, and who has, herself, seen it thrice), the best way to determine if you’d like this movie is to ask yourself the following: did you like The Matrix? Great, me too. Were you disturbed by and also blown away by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Samesies. Does the sound of those two titles in tandem make you see dollar signs? Then you agree with Warner Bros, because that was very likely the pitch for this movie.

Similarities methinks.

For those of you who don’t have the IMDB app at your fingertips – and care about other things besides the fact that the guy who plays Eames in this movie is also the guy from Layer CakeChris Nolan, the movie’s director, is the writer/director of Memento and The Prestige, but you probably know him best for the fact that he not only saved the Batman franchise from B-movie obscurity, but made it, well, ridiculously awesome. In a nutshell, Chris Nolan likes to entertain you and fuck with your head at the same time. He is a very skilled filmmaker. (I wish he’d gotten to Superman before Bryan Singer made that drivel, but I digress.)

Ah, reality. The reality Inception presents us with is, itself, ambiguous. After watching the movie, you’ll see that there are multiple (and solid) arguments for multiple interpretations. Like any well-crafted novel, different analytic readings will result in new thought-provoking possibilities. I have one that I prefer to put my stake in, but no argument is completely secure, because Chris Nolan wants the themes of the film (reality and our perception of it) to be reflected in the nature of the movie going experience itself. Isn’t reality just something we collectively agree upon? Try playing the game of “Is the blue you see the same as the blue I see?” It is this lack of any “answer” that makes this movie smart.

What makes this movie entertaining… aka The Good:

It is a wholly absorbing experience, for all types of movie-goers.

  • From the visuals to the sensory-depriving-yet-still-hauntingly-beautiful score by Hans Zimmer to the excellent action sequences and their prevalent but not obvious use of water (rain, lake, ocean, even bathtub). The plot is multi-layered but not, in my opinion, convoluted because the universal themes of love, guilt, redemption and duty run a current of simplicity through it all. You won’t be trying to figure out who has ulterior motives, or what isn’t as it seems. It’s all a dream, we already know that.

There are plenty of nice things to look at/ really solid acting

  • Leonardo DiCaprio, of course, is a great leading man, though Cobb reminds me far too much of his character in the awful mess that was Shutter Island and I have a theory that Leo has an accent in almost all his movies because his voice is, well, weird, but that’s another story for another day.
  • Marion Cotillard is just plain stunning and brings a lot of skill to a role that could have easily been a one-dimensional romantic figure. Cotillard’s Mal is perplexing, alluring and terrifying all wrapped up in one hot French package.
  • Michael Caine is Michael Caine, though we get him for maybe three minutes.
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt channeling Neo with his stiff, jerky movement and stoic yet sexy visage is hysterical at times.
  • Cillian Murphy is just plain good in any character he plays. Also, I’m pretty sure Danny Boyle and Chris Nolan have joint custody.

The Bad

  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt channeling Neo with his stiff, jerky movement and stoic yet sexy visage is hysterical at times.
  • Ellen Page. She plays Ariadne (REALLY? No, it’s ok, we’ll name a character after the woman from Greek Mythology who leads Theseus through the LABYRINTH to escape the minotaur), a character who exists SOLELY to ask questions so that the audience knows what’s going on, and doesn’t do it with any finesse. And guess what her totem is? Yup, a PAWN. Subtle, guys.
  • Certain moments of heavy-handedness. (See above) There are times when you may laugh at how strongly the movie believes in itself. One example comes within the first 10 minutes, Leo: “You’re asking me for Inception. I hope you do understand the gravity of that request.” DUN DUN DUN. We get, we get it. Inception, whatever it is, is a big deal. It’s the title of the movie.
  • Just watch the cuts of the van in free fall. We’ll talk after. (Thanks again KSchwed, for noticing this one.)

Is this movie worth it?

As I said, I’ve seen it twice. And I’m both a tough critic and very, very poor. You do the math.

If you want to read a hysterical thunderous verbal attack of the movie by someone who clearly missed the point, read Rex Reed’s New York Observer post.

Reinventing the Metaphorical Wheel

July 22, 2010 1 comment

Ch-ch-ch-changesss.

Alright, maybe what we’re about to tell you isn’t that drastic. Well, come to think of it, it’s not even close…. but things are changing at the Fodder. When we posted A Feel for Cocktail Fodder, we mentioned that this blog would be filled with trial and error along the way; our goal was to seek out what works and what doesn’t, what people like and don’t like, etc. So in that vein, we’ve decided to reformat our Thursday content. Of course, we’ll still give you AWC’s brilliant footie posts, but we feel like we need to expand. There are too many other interesting areas of life we need to cover.

Not Your Average Sports” Thursdays are morphing into a sports/pop culture/entertainment/fashion Thursdays; we admittedly haven’t thought of a catchy name yet. This change opens us up to a whole new world of Fodder. We’ll introduce you to our resident movie critic, AWC will enlighten everyone with his fashion passions, the Captain will give you his take on pop culture absurdity and I’ll lambast a few celebrities. Fun had by all. Hopefully it will bring you a whole new palate of Fodder. Enjoy!