26 April, 2007

Democratic Primary Debate Reaction

Tonight, April 26, 2006 was the first debate among the Democratic candidates for President. Here's a run down of their performances in one writer's opinion:

Mike Gravel: The former Alaskan Senator who has been out of public office since 1981 (that's 8 years before I was even born) provided some of the wildest entertainment of the night. I felt he unfairly received very few questions, but he was a spectacle when he answered the questions he was offered. I felt Gravel offered observers something that most of the other candidates couldn't offer: candid opinions on current issues he hasn't had to campaign on for more than two decades. His outright belittling of the leading candidates drew laughter from everyone and offered an unexpected element of comedy to the event.

Hillary Clinton: The former First Lady did nothing to debunk the image of Mrs. Establishment that I have of her. Her long drawn responses were only trumped in length by her on-stage neighbor, Barack Obama. She routinely attacked the Bush administration and even referenced the "Clinton administration" (oddly, not "my husband's administration" or something a bit friendlier) a few times as a point of comparison. Ironically, when moderator Brian Williams asked her to react to the fact that she has been voted the most unlikable candidate, or some other unpleasant label like that, she did little to improve her image. As long as the funds keep flowing in, Hillary will be around for quite a while, despite what this writer thought (and thinks) of her.

Dennis Kucinich: This man has got a lot of good things to say, too bad he received near Gravelian (yep, I said it) amounts of questions thrown his way. This lack of questioning often lead him to resort to answering already asked questions despite the question currently being presented to him. Kucinich does not appear physically bold, but he's got a fightin' spirit. In response to "one mistake you have made" was "When I was Mayor of Cleveland, I fired the Police Chief live on the 6 o'clock news" (a nice change of pace from the rest of candidates answering "getting duped by the Bush Administration about Iraq). His other highlight had to be defending his calls to impeach VP Dick Cheney by pulling out a pocket Constitution, which he claims Cheney has no regard for, and holding it at eye level for the entirety of his answer.

Chris Dodd: The "Meh" award was easily captured by Chris Dodd at tonight's debate. The most intriguing thing Dodd presented was the vast color difference between his hair (snowy valley white) and his eyebrows (dark chocolately brown). He also didn't have too many questions to answer, but failed to have any moments that have stuck with me less than 4 hours after the debate ended.

Barack Obama: Recent BU visitor, Barack Obama, may have spoken the most of all candidates at the debate, not only because he received a lot of questions but because his responses often required an intermission because of their length (I will be attempting to watch Lawrence of Arabia [216 minutes] during his responses at the next debate). I felt Obama invoked too many of his accomplishments during responses rather than getting to the core of the questions he was supposed to be answering. I am still very interested in what Barack Obama has to offer but it'll take a little more campaign trail wear and tear before I can get a real feel for this candidate.

Joe Biden: Long ago, I was behind Joe Biden in '08. He hasn't done nearly enough as the other leading candidates to be a realistic possibility, not to mention him calling Obama "clean" and "articulate" as part of his own candidacy announcement. I like Biden's tough delivery on the issues and his air of defiance (displayed when talking about voting against the Roberts and Alito confirmations). But that approach doesn't work on the presidential level (as the Bush administration has demonstrated. I think Biden's best bet is to remain in the Senate as a top notch Senator from the glorious land of Delaware. He has to be given credit for writing his own comedy though, when he simply answered "Yes" to Brian Williams question along the lines of "Do you think your reputation as being boisterous and verbose in many circumstances is accurate?"

Bill Richardson: The Governor of New Mexico has a lot going for him in the credentials department. He is very much a western Democrat as well and expressed his moderation through many of his responses. I felt Richardson doesn't have the charisma it's going to take to win in this incredibly competitive election and his moderation probably won't get him through the primary stages. Brian Williams also pointed out that Richardson is the NRA's favorite candidate, in either party. Oh boy...

John Edwards: Alright, so I did save my favorite for last, despite my "in no particular order" label at the top of this post. I thought John Edwards did the best at answering the questions that were asked of him without being too long winded or bragging of his accomplishments that may or may not be tangentially related to the question content. Edwards offered real solutions for proposals like universal health care and climate change. His responses were not scripted and he was clearly thinking of the answers as he went along. Anyone with a soft spot has to give him credit for citing his wife as one of his three moral role models. Nice job Johnny.

29 March, 2007

Salt, Pepper, Ketchup on your Pink Flowers?

This is not a piece on the delicacy of the Taylor Ham, Egg and Cheese sandwich which I recently discovered is a New Jersey only phenomenon, a phenomenon I am very proud to be a part of. No, I am talking about something that brings honor and glory to the state of New Jersey. That's right, Salt the Sky. Salt the Sky is a band I've been following for a few years now with quite a bit of interest, largely because they are from my town and I know the members but also because the music they produce is so different and lets me escape for a bit in a way that mainstream music doesn't. That is not to say that their sound is inaccessible to all but the most pretentious music lovers but simply that they offer something new and different to the huge musical landscape we already have to choose from. A video on the band's myspace refers to me lovingly as "their only fan" or something along those lines. This is not true, but if it was, well I believe now that they've gotten their music together and out for mass consumption, new fans will be found everywhere.

I love the band's variety in their songs that draws from influences all over the musical spectrum and can be heard on their debut album, Pink Flowers. The album is available for free at a variety of places around their hometown, Pequannock Township, NJ and should not be hard to obtain if you contact the band through their site, http://www.myspace.com/saltthesky, where several of the tracks are available for streaming and download. If you are not going out right now to seek this music, you are being lazy. Free music is directly proportional to many people's happiness these days, so do yourself a favor, and make yourself happy. Get this album that you can obtain for free and will also offer you a whole album of great music.

Salt the Sky's first album reminds me of groups such as Pink Floyd and The Arcade Fire at points, but then offers completely new sounds on the next track. At parts eerie, at times depressing, Pink Flowers has a lot to offer through its heavy use of synthesizer successfully combined with the more traditional bass, guitar and drums. The vocals sound great, a problem that plagued Salt the Sky for a long time early on. Many of the tracks have long instrumental sections and some are entirely instrumental, a much appreciated departure from the verse-chorus-verse structure of so much of today's music.

I can't speak highly enough of the band and will listen to a lot of their music on my midnight drive down to Washington, DC I am about to embark on. Salt the Sky tops my list of summer concerts I am looking forward to. The band always goes all out in the stage presence and energy departments at live shows and with this impressive repertoire now at their disposal, their shows will be a can't miss ticket for anyone in the know.

06 March, 2007

Did You Say Dennis Kucinich?

Ohio Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich ran for President in 2004 an got little attention. He is a four-term member of Congress and former mayor Cleveland but garnered very few votes in both the primaries and the general election, which he did stick around for. In the lead up to 2004 he was the butt of many jokes and we'll be sure to see it again in the coming months, as he is out on the campaign trail again.

I'll be honest though, Dennis Kucinich is a unique, straight shooting politician. He's not out to BS American voters into voting for him by letting them hear what they want to hear. Sure some of his initiatives are interesting (such as creating a Department of Peace in the Executive Branch) but what the things he says make sense. He was against the war from the beginning, an unpopular move at the time. Kucinich appears to me as one of the most articulate candidates of recent memory and has the discipline to live a vegan lifestyle as well.

At 5 foot 7 inches and 60 years of age, he doesn't come across being aesthetically "presidential" but he has a lot of good things to say. I think this YouTube video sums up the man pretty well in just a few minutes: Kucinich talks to George Stephanopoulos.

Sure, Kucinich's chances aren't even close to great in the next election, but I think he deserves some coverage. With the election over a year away, I'm already getting a little annoyed and disillusioned with the current field of Democratic candidates. It'd be nice to see an underdog like Dennis Kucinich or a candidate on a real mission like Al Gore come on the scene and shake things up a little bit. If you're still interested by the time you get here, check out Joe Klein's profile of Kucinich in these week's Time Magazine, which inspired me to write this.

02 March, 2007


So apparently the Free Press will not let a debate play out on its pages so here's the rebuttal I wrote with hopes of publication:

Rebuttal to Rosenberg's Response:

It’s strange that Arestia Rosenberg would mention Hollywood’s relationship with Washington in her response to my letter, Hollywood’s double standard, because I didn’t mention this relationship in mine. My impression of global warming is that it is a problem that transcends politics, transcends partisanship and, oh yeah, it’s global! We need not concern ourselves with Hollywood’s role in American politics when it comes to global warming because it’s not a political issue, it’s a human civilization issue that we need to deal with now.

I was as happy as anyone to see the Hollywood elite get behind Al Gore’s initiatives in as visible a way as they could. However, I was let down by the small, non-indicative (at least that’s what Rosenberg would lead me to believe) piece of Hollywood that came to Boston University last Monday.

No one can belittle the positive charity work that Hollywood does either. Whether they do it out of compassion or for their image, it is charity work nonetheless. Certainly some charities seem to have highs and lows of popularity, both among the people in Hollywood and the general public, but any work with any charity is commendable.

Kevin Spacey is a great actor and from the research Rosenberg did (and I did not, as she was quick to point out) a philanthropist as well. I’m sure he and his friends in Hollywood will soon start doing their part for this particular cause. It is undeniable how much they do already, but it frustrates me that we have seen very little from them recently regarding global warming, a cause they overwhelmingly showed support for at the film industry’s biggest event of the year. The film production I saw first hand the other day showed no signs of change from the old ways and that’s where my frustration stems from.

Again, global warming should be on all our minds because we can all make a difference. Charity work is great and Hollywood does a lot of it, but environmental initiatives are in another realm completely because they affect every living thing on this planet.

For the time being, I will continue to do my part for this cause, remain “self-righteous,” and get ready for post-graduate employment as “that assistant fresh out of college” that Rosenberg assured me I will be.

Response to My Letter

Well I guess it's only fair to post the other side:

LETTER: Hollywood not given credit

Issue date: 3/2/07 Section: Opinion

It's never enough, is it? While I may not always agree with Hollywood and Washington's relationship (in fact, I rarely do), I do have to applaud the efforts stars try to make with their popularity. When it's cool to support a charity, the masses follow.

Look at the telethon event after the tsunami in which you could call in to donate and maybe even speak with George Clooney or any other one of his triple A-list pals pals. I don't care if they do it just to look good or because it's fashionable - celebrities still make a difference.

Which is why I couldn't help but roll my eyes at Michael O'Leary's letter (Hollywood's Double Standard, Mar. 1, p. 9). I'm willing to go to the bank on the fact that Kevin Spacey does not make arrangements for his transportation. Some bleary-eyed 20-something assistant probably made the call for a car during the 17-hour-plus work-day while O'Leary was busy frowning at the trailers needed to shoot a movie.

I'm pretty sure they weren't too concerned with what the students of Boston University would think if their boss showed up in anything less than a hybrid because they're too busy balancing things like Spacey's schedule and phone list and too stressed about things, such as paying rent and having money to eat, to even have time to watch the Academy Awards.

So, I ask again: How come it's never enough? Never mind the charities Spacey sponsors, like Medicinema, which brings movie theatres to hospitals so patients can escape their illnesses, or Declare Yourself, which helps young people (like O'Leary) get educated and inspired by voting (so that green issues can have a voice) or any of the countless other fundraising events he attends throughout the year. I did my research. Did O'Leary?

So, I'll tell him what. When he is that assistant fresh out of college (and he will be), he can be the one to make sure his boss is going green and be self-righteous about who is doing their part. I think Hollywood is doing okay.

Arestia Rosenberg
COM '07

LETTER: Hollywood not given credit