What I bring with me into the voting booth tomorrow


Thoughts one day before the election:

Months ago, I committed to voting for Hillary because of the unique threat Trump poses. I’ve been vocal about my decision to vote for Hillary and have written about why it is important to stop Trump and have asked others to vote for Hillary as well. I have also asked for tolerance and understanding for the myriad experiences taking place during this election cycle. I have tried to offer perspective on why it is difficult for many to vote for Hillary even under these extreme circumstances and those like myself who will vote for her, but for whom it is a deep and oftentimes painful and confusing struggle. I had hoped that as a liberal reaching out to other liberals, I would be met with some measure of understanding. In some instances that has happened. Unfortunately, in far too many, it has not.

Hillary is not as dangerous as Trump. I believe that with utmost certainty. That is why I chose to vote for her. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that in this final week, I have been on the receiving end of and have witnessed much that has forced me to second-guess that decision to vote for her, that has made that personal struggle even more intense.

Yes, Hillary is not as bad as Trump. However, I have found that far too many Hillary-supporters are as dangerous in my mind as your average Trump-supporter. The level of intolerance and shaming I have seen has left me feeling that the divide between conservatives and liberals isn’t as wide as we might think or believe, that we are all susceptible to being both manipulated and instigated by fear. Even though I am voting for Clinton, I have still been called “selfish” and “irresponsible” for trying to express and share with others why that decision is such a difficult one; to offer perspective for those out there struggling to understand why and how this decision could be fraught, could be immensely challenging, even painful.

This has come from people who believe they speak for and represent the party of inclusiveness, empathy, open-mindedness, equality, freedom of speech and choice, and are fighting for the “common good.” I have witnessed a level of hate and intolerance and bullying that has left me spinning. In addition to the names that I have been called, in addition to the immense intolerance I have been shown by so very many, I have also watched women attacking other women for expressing their difficulties in voting for Hillary, for having a different perspective or a different struggle. I have seen groups of women calling other women “twats” and claiming that those women don’t even have a right to be called “women.” To me, this is incredibly destructive, it is the antithesis of empowerment. It is most certainly not inclusive or compassionate. And it certainly isn’t working toward any “common good.” The phenomenon or “trend” I am witnessing, of fear and anxiety manifesting as intolerance and discrimination and taking the form of browbeating and hostility, feels like a rampant response that has only escalated as election day approaches. Hate and intolerance doesn’t lead Democrats to a different place than it does Republicans. It’s the same road.  Continue reading “What I bring with me into the voting booth tomorrow”

What I bring with me into the voting booth tomorrow

A Challenge to Democrats to be more Democratic

gavel and the US Flag

One of the more unfortunate accusations that I’ve been hearing lately is that Bernie Sanders supporters are tearing apart the Democratic Party. That Sanders needs to “back down” so we can unite. But Sanders supporters are fighting for the Democratic party to be more democratic. The media and others, however, have done a bang-up job framing real political challenges from the people (which Sanders represents) as “selfish” and “hurtful.” And a good number of Democrats are taking up those pitchforks and torches and joining the chorus without truly understanding what it is they are attempting to self-righteously snuff out.

John Nichols’ article in The Nation, A Contested Convention Is Exactly What the Democratic Party Needs, (an article widely forwarded by Bill Moyers) speaks directly to why it is so very crucial to continue to challenge not just Hillary Clinton, but the entire Democratic Party. THIS is what Democracy is all about! This is our job description! But so many people have lost sight of that – or never really knew what they could or should do beyond just casting a vote – or what the Democratic Party used to be, its history, and so they don’t recognize what it has the potential to do right now. Hillary might be the nominee in the end (though that’s STILL not a guarantee), but there’s more to be done and more to be gained by continuing to challenge her and those she surrounds herself with. At the very least to the Convention. Hopefully, a lot farther.

John Nichols:

“Prospective nominees tend to favor weaker platforms; Harry Truman would have preferred milder civil-rights commitments than were made in his party’s 1948 platform, and it took steady pressure from unions, liberals and Ted Kennedy to get Jimmy Carter to finally embrace spending on jobs programs. It will take similar pressure to get Clinton and her inner circle to accept a Democratic platform that Sanders says must include “a $15-an-hour minimum wage, an end to our disastrous trade policies, a Medicare-for-all health-care system, breaking up Wall Street financial institutions, ending fracking in our country, making public colleges and universities tuition-free, and passing a carbon tax so we can effectively address the planetary crisis of climate change.” Clinton stalwarts may want to keep things vague, but look for the Sanders team to demand specifics, such as an explicit endorsement of a national $15 minimum wage instead of the $12 proposal that Clinton initially offered, and an unequivocal rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that President Obama supports and that Clinton once championed but now criticizes.”

Continue reading “A Challenge to Democrats to be more Democratic”

A Challenge to Democrats to be more Democratic

Who Else Can McCain Alienate? Today, David Letterman, Tomorrow…

John McCain has managed to alienate much of the American media. And if we’re lucky, perhaps even some Republicans. Today, he cancelled his appearance on the David Letterman Show at the last minute which, well, gave Mr. Letterman some unplanned opportunities to fill the sudden gap in his show with a whole lot of talk about… You guessed it,  John McCain.

Who Else Can McCain Alienate? Today, David Letterman, Tomorrow…

McCain’s Distraction: Slipping Candidate Calls “Time Out”

McCain has slipped in the polls. The economic disaster that began in America and is now trickling down throughout the rest of the world has put him in a spotlight he’d rather not be in. Why? Simply put, McCain’s policies are the same ones that got us where we are today. What else? Well, McCain doesn’t have a solid solution to the problem and knows that Obama has a good chance of making him look bad in this Friday’s debate. As good a debater as McCain may be, all eyes are strongly focused on the economy and it’s gonna be tricky to skirt this particular issue with stolen slogans and talk of Iraq. 

This morning, Senator Obama called Senator McCain asking him to join forces in coming up with a joint solution for a financial bailout package. While Senator McCain agreed, he made his first move to “suspend’ his presidential campaign and ask that tomorrow night’s debate be postponed. His stated reason? “Country first”. But most agree that Obama and McCain suspending their campaigns and going to Washington would be of little help and might, in fact, delay results. 

Is the country better served by having the two presidential candidates suspend their campaigns–and engage directly in the negotiations, as McCain just urged? I’m not so sure. I, for one, think Congress has been handling this pretty well so far. The Bush Administration came to them with an obviously flawed package. They responded with appropriate skepticism and are busy coming up with what look like sensible alternatives. Jonathan Cohn, The New Republic.

I understand that the candidates are putting together a joint statement at Senator Obama’s suggestion. But it would not be helpful at this time to have them come back during these negotiations and risk injecting presidential politics into this process or distract important talks about the future of our nation’s economy. If that changes, we will call upon them. We need leadership; not a campaign photo op.

If there were ever a time for both candidates to hold a debate before the American people about this serious challenge, it is now.–Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

John McCain has skipped more votes during this session than any member of the Senate except for Tim Johnson, who had major brain surgery. All of a sudden, McCain demands that the presidential race shut down so he can return to Washington? —Nico Pitney, Huffington Post.

[McCain’s] move is a mark, most of all, that he doesn’t like the way this campaign is going… The only thing that’s changed in the last 48 hours is the public polling.–Ben Smith, Politico.com.

So, in the midst of an uproar that McCain has been alienating the press to the point where journalists have dubbed his campaign bus the “No Talk Express“, McCain wants to keep any honest (or even dishonest) debate away from public eyes and ears just a little while longer. Kind of like stalling “Troopergate” till after the election, no? Hopefully this won’t fly and the debate will go on as scheduled. As always, distraction is the best medicine when you find yourself in a jam. 

As Michael D. Shear of the Washington Post pointed out two days ago:

The country may have turned its attention to the economic crisis and a staggering $700 billion bailout proposal, but political operatives still have their eyes on other issues.

Among them, for the Democrats, is keeping track of how long it’s been since the Republican presidential ticket has answered questions from the media. A Web site keeps track.

As of this writing, it has been 39 days and 22 hours since Sen. John McCain last held a news conference (despite having promised to hold weekly Q&A sessions with the press if he’s elected). According to the Democrats, it’s been 24 days and 11 hours since his running mate, Sarah Palin, held one.

Not the most important issue of the day, perhaps. But maybe the most ironic, given where McCain and Palin were Monday: In Media, Pa.

Where they didn’t take questions.

McCain’s Distraction: Slipping Candidate Calls “Time Out”

Handheld Zombie Madness: DIARY OF THE DEAD, [REC] & The Culture Of Media Experience

About fifteen years ago, my then writing partner, Teal Minton, said to me, “You know that scene in ALIENS where we see everything that’s happening through the cameras in the guys’ helmets? We should do a whole horror film just like that.”

It was a great idea. We had many great ideas. This is one we should have acted on.

Today, handheld horror films are spreading like the plague. Starting with THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and still going strong, these films are a running commentary – whether intentional or not – on our society’s obsession with and technology’s ability to record life as it happens in a way never available to us before. Even “reality” TV is an offspring of this relatively new potential. History will now be recorded and distorted in ways we never imagined before! And stories will be told in ways that are both viscerally exciting and, if done well, almost indistinguishable from real life events and how we experience them. And I’m referring to events that we are not personally a part of, but through the eye of the camera, we become both viewer and participant all at the same time.

Take the Hurricane Katrina disaster, for example. For the billions of people around the world who were not in New Orleans themselves, they experienced those horrific events through – not only the lens of a news camera – but through cell phone cameras, home digital cameras, camcorders, etc. Those events came streaming to us on the web as well as on our televisions. And as a result, the media was no longer able to control what we saw and what we didn’t. And technology has expanded swiftly since then. The current war in Iraq is another prime example as soldiers and other eye-witnesses upload their experiences for all to see. A new language is being written; a new way of sharing; a new way of living; a new way of experiencing.

This year’s CLOVERFIELD was another example of a familiar horror genre being adapted to this new language. A monster movie a la GODZILLA or 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH or, yes, ALIENS. But this time told through the lens of a “witness”, our visual narrator, our third eye.

George Romero, the director who single-handedly defined the rules of the contemporary zombie genre via NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD and many others to follow, has finally found his way to this new form of storytelling. But a little background first. Romero’s early film, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, changed my life. I saw it at a much too early age and was instantly traumatized. And addicted. Not to the blood and guts that became the primary focus of so many horror films to follow, but to the level of true primal horror Romero’s films tapped into. Never one to miss an opportunity for social commentary, Romero knew the strength of the genre and managed to use it to its fullest and most extreme.

Then came his recent Hollywood studio attempt at the genre, which resulted in the very un-scary and at times downright ridiculous LAND OF THE DEAD. With its awful digital zombies and overwrought action, the film drowned under the studio’s heavy hand, which apparently weighed down on Romero like an anchor.

Diary Of The DeadBut then he bounced back earlier this year with a super low-budget installment of the franchise titled DIARY OF THE DEAD. The film garnered mixed critical response, but I personally found it a welcome return to form for Romero. DIARY is scary, at times darkly funny (Romero’s wit is hard to suppress) and insightful as to the pros and cons of society’s newfound love of the digital recorder. Granted, Romero’s film is a little lacking in subtlety, but this I can forgive as it still posed interesting questions while scaring the pants off of me. Never before had I thought so much about the future of film and felt I might be witnessing the beginning of the end of storytelling as I’ve grown to know and love it. And then there’s the notion of being the detached voyeur; does witnessing these seemingly real events through a camera’s lens allow us to become part of what’s happening, or does it offer us a newfound detachment (i.e who are the real zombies?)? When we record something in our own lives, are we still experiencing it as people who are present, or are we there, but somehow disconnected as our experience is not through our own eyes, but through the comfortable familiarity of a camera lens?

[REC]Then there’s the recent Spanish zombie flick [REC], by directors, Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza. [REC] is still unavailable in the U.S., but is currently being remade – for American audiences too lazy to read subtitles – under the new name QUARANTINE. I was lucky enough to score a copy of [REC] and, though not the social commentary DIARY was, it’s one hell of a scary film and a new take on Romero’s style of zombie flick. In a “normal” movie, the director is outside the action. We know that we are being told the story by someone who was not actually there, someone who is not himself in any danger, but who can pick and choose what we see and what we don’t so as to allow us the best storytelling experience. While the reality is actually the same in films like DIARY OF THE DEAD, [REC], CLOVERFIELD and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, the illusion is that no one is in control, that we are helpless viewers watching events unfold through the eyes of helpless participants.

[REC] had me covering my mouth in fear as I watched (yeah, I’m a big baby). And, just as I’d done only nights before after viewing DIARY, I asked myself what it is about this experience that I keep coming back to. I loved horror films as a kid, but I all but abandoned them as an adult. They ceased to scare me anymore. Slasher pics, torture porn, the last 20 years of horror films had slipped into a void more obsessed with the makeup and effects than with the psychological and social impact these films were capable of having. It’s one of the reasons I made THE PLAGUE, though, as many already know, that film was destroyed by its own producers who were simply not ready to make a horror film that tapped into real primal fears, and instead reverted back to what I think of as their safety zone of harmless, meaningless, ineffectual horror.

But thanks to some other filmmakers and some (oddly enough) less frightened producers, we are starting to see a trend emerge that still has a lot of unknown territory yet to explore. And hopefully I will continue to be moved to ask myself why I – and so many other audience members like me – feel it is somehow cathartic to experience helplessness, panic and terror, while also being artistically, socially and morally stimulated.

Handheld Zombie Madness: DIARY OF THE DEAD, [REC] & The Culture Of Media Experience