Monday, December 28, 2009

Short Story: Bill 342 (aka Vice President Temp Job)

A brief return to an old blog for the purposes of publishing a short story. Please enjoy!

Bill 342

How Thomas Jacobs became the youngest President in American history, one approaching 30, was not by hook or crook, or the destruction of the U.S. Constitution (though Thomas’s father certainly thought the Constitution was ruled invalid with Thomas’s ascension into the Presidency, well, he would have thought that had he been alive to see that day. Besides he would have no one to blame but himself anyways). No, young Thomas Jacobs became the 52nd President of the United States (in a nice twist of fate, as 52 is an inversion of his age) by the way of a heart attack. You see, Thomas Jacobs’ father was David Jacobs, the 51st president (51 was not an inversion of his age) and Bill 342, a law Congress passed, the elder Jacobs vetoed, and Congress pushed through anyways.

Bill 342, or as it was colloquially known “The Vice Presidential Temp Bill,” was basically what its nickname described it as. In the case where the Vice President spot in the one-two punch at the top of government is empty, the President can appoint anyone who fulfills the Constitutional guidelines to be Vice President. Of course, this appointment needs to be approved by Congress. Checks and balances and all of that. It is all in the 25th Amendment. Congress, in their infinite wisdom, decided that due to partisan bickering, the appointment of a Vice President might take more than an hour and decided to fix that. Not by solving their party differences and agreeing that in the chance a Veep needed to be confirmed to do it quickly, no, they decided to draft and put to vote Bill 342.

Bill 342, at its core, said that a President can name a temporary Vice President once during his term. The temp would only last 90 days, surely more than enough time for pork barrel politics to be fried on the pan of democracy. In order to further highlight how unique this proposal was and how it was meant only to be a stopgate, the bill included the provision saying that the temp VP did not even have to meet any of the requirements a “real” Vice President would have to. In the time of emergency, when a VP needed to be named immediately (as was Congress’s motivation for coming up with the bill), the man in charge of the tie-breaking vote in the Senate need not be American, could have flown in on the latest flight from Amsterdam where they have lived for the past 14 years, or barely have started puberty. On that last point, Thomas found himself in the crosshairs (though rest assured, puberty was long behind the young Jacobs).

The 51st President, David Jacobs, was furious at the Legislative for passing such a bill. A staunch Constitutionalist, 51st President Jacobs stared in horror at the bill when it was placed on his desk. As the big black X beckoned his signature, Jacobs thought of all the nasty things he could sign instead of his name. But that would not be presidential, not at all. And if there was something he liked more than being a staunch Constitutionalist, it was being presidential. So instead of signing the bill with regards to a few Congressmen’s mothers, 51st President Jacobs instead vetoed. He set his presidential office, his Chief of Staff, his deputy, his Communication Director, her deputy, his wolfpack, as he thought of them, upon the House and the Senate to make sure they would not overturn his veto. They overturned his veto. In fact, the bill gained more supporters the second go round, mainly because it was an election year, and the bill was framed as a safety measure. Why would anyone oppose a safety measure? That is, unless they read the fine print.

To say that 51st President Jacobs was boiling with Constitutional rage after that development would be an understatement. To say he was fuming would also be an understatement. He had reached the triple point of rage, where it could exist as a gas, solid, and liquid with the slightest poke. He begged the Supreme Court to rule the new guideline unconstitutional, but they refused. For while they agreed it was a pretty cut and dry case they could not do anything until it was brought up in the court of law as being illegal. That could only happen if the President actually appointed a Vice President by the use of Bill 342.

At this point in the story, it would be appropriate to bring up the fact that 51st President Jacobs did not have a Vice President to call his own when the bill was passed. The departure of his previous VP via the slip and fall down some icy steps left a piece of the ticket empty. Maybe Congress panicked and thought the ice was put there by an enemy of the state and that spurred the massive support of Bill 342 or they just didn’t like who 51st President Jacobs picked as his next Veep, but whatever the reason, the perfect situation that Bill 342 envisioned was present on the day of its birth.

So President David Jacobs, feeling like the only sane man in the Federal Triangle, decided to appoint his own son, Thomas, as the Vice President. Why not? It perfectly followed Bill 342, would get the ball rolling at the Department of Justice, and his son, while not interested in politics was a smart kid. The elder Jacobs knew Thomas had been by his side as David Jacobs went about being a lifelong politician, from governor of Florida, to Senator, to even a brief stint as mayor of a one road town in Southern Florida. Thomas had a good political head on his shoulder, through the very act of osmosis. Not that 51st President Jacobs was worried about Thomas having to do any politicking. He was sure that once Congress wiped the collective egg off their face for allowing such an eye-rolling appointment to be made without their approval, they would either hurry to pass another bill outlawing 342 or quite dragging their feet on Jacobs’ real pick for Vice President.

Surely, this would have happened had the stress of handling Bill 342 had not finally caught up to 51st President Jacobs the night he made his announcement of his son’s new role in the government to his inner circle. He wanted to hold off on a formal press conference till morning, imagining the Representatives and Senators waking up and eating their toast and nearly choking on their OJ as the President’s press secretary stood behind the podium, reading a prepared statement. Thomas Jacobs, visiting from graduate school in the Midwest, hesitantly said he would be at that press conference to smile at the cameras. While he stood behind his father’s decision, understanding fully both his dad’s reasoning and the impact of Bill 342, he was a scientist, not a politician. The last hand he had shook was encased in a plastic glove and the hand shaking only followed a transfer of chemicals. The little voice in Thomas’s head said that this situation could wildly fly out of control, but the scientist/politician-by-osmosis voice said this was a control test, in both the scientific and politician senses.

If the story ended there, well, it wouldn’t be much of a story now would it? Pretty boring. No, the story really begins when Thomas Jacobs was awoken at exactly 2:12 AM in the guest bedroom of the President Residence.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Now Movie Review Double Shot: "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Iron Man"

Very rarely have I seen two movies in the theaters on two consecutive days. When I do, usually the second movie suffers if the first movie was an enjoyable flick. In the case of first seeing Forgetting Sarah Marshall and then Iron Man, this situation may have been in effect.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

I thoroughly enjoyed this comedy from producer Judd Apatow and written by and starring Jason Segal. Segal plays TV music composer Peter, who works on the same show his long time girlfriend Sarah Marshall, played by Miss It TV Kristen Bell. When Sarah dumps him, Peter has a long downward spiral to go. Eventually he lands in Hawaii, where he runs into Sarah and her new boyfriend, but he also finds love with his hotel's front desk staffer (who is apparently the only one working the front desk) Rachel, played by another TV gal, Mila Kunis.

Though the movie does play with some romantic comedy cliches, it is a movie typical of Apatow's involvement: somewhat naughty, but very sweet at its core. Segal plays a sadsack very well and you can't help but root for him. The movie does make some odd leaps as at times it tries to make Sarah sympathetic and Peter an ass, but in the end, it rights itself and keeps the laughs going. As always, the supporting players are excellent with Jonah Hill playing a waiter obsessed with Sarah's new boyfriend, British rocker Aldso Snow. Jack McBrayer plays yet another naive boyish man, similar to his Kenneth on 30 Rock. And Bill Hader plays Peter's stepbrother to hilarious degrees.

I would definitely recommend this movie
4 Cliff Jumps out of 5.

Iron Man

Iron Man, which has been getting knockout reviews and taking box office crowns all over the place, sadly did not live up to my personal expectations. Not to say the movie was bad, it was good, but I don't see it as being a top 5 movie. To me, it felt both dragging (Stark's inprisonment) and rushed (The Iron Monger's rise to villainy). There were some nagging plotholes (Stark was missing for 3 months, yet as soon as he freed himself, he was saved by his personal friend Jim Rhodes, along with the press conference at the end). It seemed all action, but there was very little action until the end. It was mostly Tony and his suit, which while awesome, didn't sustain as much as it wanted to.

However, the acting of the movie was good and lighthearted, as superhero movies need to be. Robert Downey Jr. embodied Tony Stark, Gwyneth Paltrow had a nice charm as Pepper Pots, Stark's assistant, Terrance Howard played Jim Rhodes well, and Jeff Bridges, as Obidiah Stane, chewed the scenery well. Though it seemed at times the movie was spinning its wheels (or robotic arms as the case may be), the actors seemed to be having fun and that made the audience feel the fun too.

I can't pinpoint exactly what I didn't like about the film besides listing some of the headscratching parts, and even that contradicts with itself. The best part of the movie didn't even happen during the movie proper, but after the credits. But after the meaty stories of X-Men 2, Spider-Man 2 and Batman Begins, Iron Man seemed all thrust, no landing.

3 Comic In-jokes out of 5.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Classic Movie Review: "The Producers"

I am going to review the original The Producers, not the reinvented, musical The Producers that came out a few years ago. Why? Because the 1960s "Producers" is deemed a classic. The Matthew Broderick-Nathan Lane one? Not so much.

Of course, The Producers plot is now a familiar one: failing play producer Max Bialystock hooks up with neurotic accountant Leo Bloom to produce the world's largest flop. Because, naturally, a flop earns more money than a hit, if you tweak the books enough. A script sent from Heaven (or maybe Hell) falls into their hands, called Springtime for Hitler. It is written by a former German soldier and portends to tell the secret, nicer side of Hitler. Bialystock and Bloom turn it into a musical, with Hitler being played by a Hippie with the non-coincidental initials L.S.D. Of course, the play turns out to be a hit, because the audience views it as a comedy, not a serious endeavor.

The Producers was Mel Brooks first major movie. It is a little rough around the edges and there aren't really any punchlines, as many of the jokes come from reactions or actions. As such, we get a constant cycle of character reinforcements: Bialystock is a blowhard, Bloom is neurotic, the German writer is crazy, etc. It is funny, no doubt, but not hilarious. However, although the plot and ending are well known, the movie still entertains. Brooks gets a lot of kudos for this film and while it isn't his best (Blazing Saddles has to have that honor for combining humor and an excellent plot), it is definitely in his top 5. His later films (Spaceballs for example) are hilarious but not very meaty. The Producers is meaty but not that hilarious.

For fans of classic comedy, this movie is a definite must see. I want to point out that the reason why it might not be all that funny isn't because it doesn't age well (it does), but rather because of the points I made above. I guess I have to see the new edition of The Producers and see how much worse (or better) it is than the classic edition.

3 Little Old Ladies out of 5.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

New Movie Review: "21"

The list of movies dealing with card games is long. The list of good movies that deal with card games is significantly lower. The movie 21 will not find itself on the latter list, but it is somewhat entertaining and isn't too boring (though it is never too exciting either, as it follows cliche after cliche).

The story, which is more inspired by than based upon the nonfiction book "Bringing Down the House," follows Ben (Jim Sturgess, Jude from Across the Universe) as an MIT student needing to pay for Harvard Medical School. Appling for a scholarship, the man in charge says Ben needs to dazzle, jump off the page, to get a free ride. Of course, that suggestion eventually leads to Ben's decision to join up with Professor Rosa (Kevin Spacey) and his group of students, one of which is Kate Bosworth, as they try to count cards in blackjack. I say eventually because there are two or three scenes after Rosa approaches Ben where Ben completely shuts him down. It isn't new territory to say the least when a main character denies, denies, denies, then accepts somewhat out of the blue, or after a lackluster motivational plot comes up (in this case, in the form of a check Ben's mom gives him to pay for tuition).

From there, the movie picks up, as we are introduced to another character: Vegas. Vegas becomes Ben's focal point, abandoning his two best friends and becoming the place where he says "he can become anybody." It is quite funny for him to say that, and for the other members of the group to sometimes adapt disguises to hide themselves, but Jim Sturgess never dons one until the end. Even Kate Bosworth gets in some hideous wigs and accents. Talking about accents, Sturgess's Boston accents comes and goes with hilarious effect. It is quite interesting to see after remembering his British accent in Across the Universe. Sturgess is from the UK.

Back to the plot: once it kicks in, everything you come to expect happens. Sturgess because a great card counter, invoking jealousy in one other counter, he eventually gets caught by a security guy played by Lawrence Fishbourne, Ben abandons his friends back home and starts to lose, falls out with Spacey, etc. I won't spoil the ending, but chances are, you already know it.

Despite all that, the movie is okay. Nothing too great, but nothing mind numbing. It is interesting to see card ocunting portrayed on the big screen and the system that was used comes to life quite well. Spacey plays the ambigious bad guy well (his Luthor should be as teeming with nefarious intentions under the skin as Rosa). But, in the end, the movie shows there is nothing knew under the sun and it really should have tried to take some more risks and hit on the soft 17.

2 1/2 Hand Signals out of 5.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Lost to be Canceled!

ABC quietly announced today that the hit series Lost will not have a fifth and sixth season as originally planned due to plummeting ratings. It was hoped that the move to Thursdays would help boost the faltering series, but the last three episodes before the strike-imposed break have been the lowest rated original runs in the show's history.

Lost was a huge hit when it debuted in 2004. Along with Grey's Anatomy, it helped lead ABC to the front of the ratings pack. However, after 3 and 1/2 seasons of mysteries inside of mysteries, many viewers have been left confused and subsequently, left the show. Stephen McPherson, head of ABC entertainment, had this to say, "We here at ABC love Lost, however, it is quite clear that America is no longer in love with Smokey, Jacob, and The Island. We have no choice but to pull the plug before things get too confusing. We are going to replace Lost in the short term with the new reality show Whose Eyes are Closer Together?"

Executive producer Damon Lindelof released a statement of his own: "I really enjoyed working on Lost. It has opened so many doors for me. I am now able to translate my fan fiction about Star Trek into a movie (coming out Summer 09). I never had some much fun throwing darts and writing scripts based off the position of the landing." Original creator J.J. Abrams could not be reached for comment, as he was too busy creating another show that he would leave after year two.

It was reported that upon hearing the news of the cancellation, the cast of the show, which included Matthew Fox and Terry O'Quinn, went to a local bar. The Hawaii Police is currently complaining of overcrowding of the local jail cells as the party dispersed. Jorge Garcia, who plays lovable Hurley, was not at the party, as he had already landed a role in the new Martin Scorsese picture and was in L.A. for a screentest with Leonardo DiCaprio. He is already an early favorite for the Oscars next year.

One cast member probably hit hardest by the news is Harold Perrineau. Perrineau just recently returned to the show originally leaving after Season 2. At the time, it was reported that Perrineau wanted more money. Now left with only a few episodes of work, the man who plays Michael Dawson was heard to be asking if any cities still have the need for a town cryer, hoping to parlay his skill at yelling out names into a new career. Evangeline Lilly, who plays Kate, was also seen talking on the phone about what her next career move would be: falling-from-grace starlet or another role as a corpse in a Stephen King miniseries.

As far as what is behind all the mysteries and enigmas of the show? Lindelof said this: "A wizard did it."

-Reporting by Adam Entertainment

Sunday, March 02, 2008

New Gnarls Barkley Video

Holy crap, a post about music!

I am a fan of Gnarls Barkley, the duo that did "Crazy" and "Smiley Faces." I actually saw them in concert and they are as devoted to being both silly and serious as they come. Their first album, St. Elsewhere, was brillant, and their new one, continuing the theme of titles taken from TV Shows, The Odd Couple, is due out April 8th.

Here is their newest single, "Run". Warning, they do have some effects that may cause dizziness. Also, Justin Timberlake!

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New Movie Review: "Semi-Pro"

Will Ferrell, in a sports movie? Haven't we seen this before, at least a thousand times? Yes. Haven't we seen Will Ferrell play the guy with the way healthy ego a bunch of times too? Yes.

But Semi-Pro is a bit different from what has come before. It isn't as off the wall absurb as Talledega Nights or Blades of Glory. It doesn't focus solely on Will Ferrell's character, Jackie Moon, as the ads would have you think. Rather, there is significant screentime for Woody Harrelson's Monix and Andre Benjamin's (Andre 3000 from the group Outkast) Coffee Black.

The movie is typical sports movie fare: Ferrell owns the ABA team The Flint Tropics. The ABA was another basketball league that popped up in the 70s. It was eventually merged into the NBA. Here, Ferrell's Moon is a proud man who doesn't want to lose his team in the merger (only 4 teams with cross over to the NBA. The Tropics suck so badly, they are in last place and barely draw anyone). Moon makes a deal that the top 4 teams should be merged and then he works towards improving his team by trading for the former NBA player Monix. Moon isn't much of anything, except for a great promoter (one who doesn't like to give out the 10,000 dollars someone wins for making a cross court foul shot or giving everyone a free corndog for scoring over 125 points).

Since the focus is spread around, the typical Ferrell character fall doesn't happen. Moon does hit rock bottom at one point, but it isn't a loud fall like in Ferrell's other movies. Moon, unlike Ricky Bobby et al., actually cares about other people exemplified by his motto: "Everybody Love Everybody." It was refreshing to see a Will Ferrell movie not a cookiecutter "remake" of his other movies.

Alongside Harrelson and Benjamin, the film has a great cast including Will Arnett (Arrested Development) and Maura Tierny (ER). Arnett shines as the surly play-by-play announcer, often with a scotch and a smoke in his hand. Even Oscar nominated actor Jackie Earle Haley shows up in an extended cameo. As per usual, a comedy is only as good as the supporting cast.

While the commercials for Semi-Pro aren't doing the movie any favors (focusing solely on Ferrell, revealing some of the funnier jokes), the film is an entertaining way to kill some time.

3 Escaped Bears out of 5

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Thoughts on The Oscars as it Unfolded!

Somewhere in between a live blog and a recap comes my Oscar review!

8:30 - Here we go! The opening bit with characters/props from a score of movies is similar to last years.

8:32 - Here's Jon-ny! No filmed opening bit for him?

8:33 - Heh, knew Jon was going to talk about the strike initially.

8:33 - Yearly calling out of nominees.

8:36 - Atonement = Yom Kippur?

8:41 - Good opening nut seems like JS remembered the criticism of his last time hosting and brought up the political guns.

8:44 - Did we really needs to see Babs?

8:47 - Yay. A montage. Those are always...something...

8:52 - Steve Carell makes fun of Stewart. Excellent.

8:54 - Ratattouille wins! Rat-a-cal.

8:59 - Stewart does a good job presenting the first Best Song and Amy Adams runs with it.

9:06 - Finally, Dwayne Johnson (nee The Rock) has come back to the Oscars!

9:10 - Cate Blanchett always looks so regal. I guess that's why she has played Queen Elizabeth twice.

9:11 - I like Johnny Depp with glasses.

9:15 - Could Jennifer Hudson be anymore wooden?

9:18 - Javier Bardem wins Best Supporting Actor. No surprise.

9:23 - Nice spoof of montages by Stewart.

9:31 - Jerry Seinfeld shows up as Barry from Bee Movie. Would have been funnier if it wasn't animated.

9:38 - In a minor upset, Tilda Swinton wins Best Supporting Actress. I liked her in Constantine.

9:44 - Eye candy alert when Jessica Alba shows up. They always seem to pick a geek guy's fantasy for the Tech Awards. Who else but The Invisible Woman. By the way, I didn't notice that Alba was pregnant.

9:47 - Josh Brolin apologizes to Jack Nicholson for a bad impersonation. Hah!

9:48 - Coens win for No Country. I liked Fargo, so I might have to see No Country.

9:52 - As others have said, what does Miley Cyrus have to do with movies?

10:02 - Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill pretend to be Halle Berry and Judi Dench to great effect.

10:08 - Time for a big award: Best Actress.

10:13 - The actress from La Vie en Rose wins, which isn't surprising considering she won some previous awards (it wasn't totally out of left field). EW did hypothesize that the cancellation of the Golden Globes might have hurt her chances because she was out there in public for the voters to see. A weird reasoning.

10:18 - Jon Stewart plays the Wii?

10:22 - Jack does Jack and mumbles his was through his lines.

10:23 - Oh, this will actually be a nice montage: all the Best Pics.

10:28 - Renee Zwelleger does have an ugly mug.

10:34 - Honorary Oscars are a nice, but somewhat boring, portion of the show.

10: 57 - Jon Stewart very nicely allows for the woman from "Once" to complete her speech.

11:01 - Obligatory "In Memory" portion.

11:08 - 2 out of the 3 score examples were from Spielberg/Williams collaborations. Naturally.

11:12 - Cool gesture with the soldiers from Baghdad presenting the Short Doc Award.

11:24 - Could Harrison Ford seem anymore bored?

11:25 - Hooray! Diablo Cody wins for Best Original Screenplay. She deserves it based solely on it being her first script and seeming very polished.

11:30 - Lead Actor time. Daniel Day Lewis gets ready...and he wins.

11:43 - The Coens take the Oscar for Directing No Country. And it creeps up my Netflix list.

11:44 - Right to Best Motion Picture.

11:45 - Much like The Departed last year, No Country is now a Must See for me as it wins.

Not too exciting of a night. I think Stewart did a fine job hosting, but it seemed like the small amount of time the writers strike allowed him write hurt. He wasn't as biting as he was last time, which some people criticized him for in 2006, but I like that part of his act. As for the awards themselves, I wasn't too invested in any movies this year, so it was hard to get too worked up about.

Hopefully, next year is better!

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