Friday, July 29, 2011

Voters Not Taken for Granted

Ulysses S. Grant finished the week feeling like 20,000 $50 bills.
Real $50 bill too. Not just the ones with fake serial numbers and the word "SPECIMEN" printed on them to keep counterfeiters from counterfeiting. We digress.

Breyer vs. Grant
President Breyer3 (25.0%)
Ulysses S. Grant       9 (75.0%) 

And we had a record-breaking voter turnout, which we would be excited about except it's the bad kind of record-breaking. It could be that presidents that no one has ever heard of are real vote-killers. People have heard of Grant though. Who knows?

We had a brief, but interesting, debate on the mortality of cartoon characters. Librahawk pointed out that cartoons can, in fact, die.
I think it all depends on what cartoon universe the character belongs to. True, Maude Flanders died — though, I thought it was a freak T-shirt cannon accident — but let's not forget that Homer Simpson fell down Springfield Gorge.

In The Venture Bros. universe, characters do die. In fact, in the same episode President Breyer was featured, Soviet cosmonaut Lt. Anna Baldavich died when Gargantua-1 crashed.
R.I.P. Lt. Anna Baldavich — the butterface who went to space.
Though, to bring up Timbo's brought up Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which brings some depth to the debate. When toons meet with live action people, the only way the toon can be killed with by Judge Doom's Dip.

By the way, why would a toon invent a way to kill toons?

We'll see Grant again in the 2nd Round, which is scheduled to take place Dec. 5.
Next week, Abraham Lincoln will take on Zachary Taylor.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Superstar's Fun and Music-Filled, Yet Hitler-esque Rise to Power

When Tony and I were brainstorming for fictional presidents to round out the bracket to an even 64, we admittedly had some trouble coming up with 19. If memory serves, President Breyer was one of the last to be added to the list. He only got a ticket to the big dance because we're both fans of The Venture Bros.

One character that could have beat out Breyer was Max Frost, the protagonist from the 1968 film Wild in the Streets.
"Let's put a lot of reading on a poster advertising a movie geared for the under 25 set."
— Something you would never hear today

I had seen it once several years ago and thought it would be perfect for the blog. The problem was that it wasn't available on Netflix, and since there was a lot that I didn't remember about the movie or the character, I didn't really try to make a case for Frost. Now that I think about it, a Frost/Nixon fight could have been funny.

Recently, Wild in the Streets became available instantly on Netflix, so I watched it in all of its glory. It's quite campy in a 60s counter-culture sort of way and and I believe it's the only movie where we get to see Shelley Winters slap a young Greg Brady's face.
Not much of a Sunshine Day now, is it?
IMDb also says that Gary Busey appeared in the audience in one scene.
Again, with the Shelley Winters. Man, she's a freaking king-maker in this movie.
I'm glad I got to see the movie again, even though it was a little disturbing the second time around. I'll try to keep the synopsis short:

Max Flatlow Jr. left home as soon as he can, changed his name to Max Frost and became a pop superstar complete with millions of dollars, throngs of screaming fans and his own entourage including Richard Pryor.
No, really. He played drums.
Frost sang songs like Fifty-Two Percent, a song that explains that 52% of the U.S. population was under 25. I don't know if this was true in 1968, but I'll give it to him. I believe my time is better spent looking for 43-year-old pictures of Gary Busey.

Meanwhile, we have Johnny Fergus, a young Congressman who was seeking a Senate seat on the platform of lowering the voting age to 18 — so in other words, baby boomers liked him. I have a suspicion that Fergus' wife, Mary, is the older sister of Trudy Campbell from Mad Men.
Maybe I'll have to write some fan fiction making this so.
Fergus had Frost perform at a campaign rally, and Frost nearly threw a wrench into Fergus' efforts by telling his "troops" — that's how he addressed his fans —  to fight to get the voting age down to 14.

This started a movement, and the voting age is lowered to 14 (or 15... it wasn't clear to me and it's not very important) within days. Maybe if Susan B. Anthony had been a rock star, women would have gotten the vote fifty years earlier, because it's apparently very easy to get Congress to change their mind about this sort of thing.

With the younger vote, Fergus easily won his Senate seat. Hooray!

Meanwhile, a death left a vacancy in the California delegation of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Frost ran one of his entourage members in the special election.
I'd like to say election of Sally LeRoy is when things stopped getting ridiculous, but that comes later.
Rep. LeRoy's first action was to introduce a constitutional amendment lowering the minimum age for all federal offices to 14.

Needless to say, this idea didn't go over very well with the members of Congress, so Frost did what any logical, non-sociopath would do in this case. He spiked Congress' water supply with LSD.
The age minimum was lowered and Max Frost was elected president, with the largest margin of victory in history, winning every state but Hawaii. If only there were some sort of third branch of government in the nation's delicate system of checks and balances to keep things like this from happening.
"Ehh, we're cool with all of this."
—U.S. Supreme Court, 1968

Frost's first act was to make the required retirement age 30 — which just seems bad for the economy — and at age 35, citizens will be shipped off to camps where they would be given LSD. All of this with exception to the residents of Hawaii, who all seemed to have been poisoned. In an interview, Frost said that he didn't worry about the older people being hidden in attics and basements, because they would eventually be "ferreted out."

Adding to the — I'd hope — unintentional allusions to the Holocaust, the character who I joked was the older sister of Trudy Campbell was played by Millie Perkins. She's famous for playing Anne Frank in the 1959 version of The Diary of Anne Frank, about the girl who hid in an attic to keep from being sent to a camp by a dictator who was lawfully elected.
Say what you will about the guy, he never used LSD to convince people to do things.
That's about the only nice thing I can think of to say about him.
I can't really imagine Frost being much of a contender in this bracket. He doesn't have too much going for him. Yes, his charisma gives him a scary amount of power, but really all of his legwork is done by his entourage and his legion of fans. By himself, he's nothing.

He's also extremely short-sighted, which wouldn't serve him well in a fight. As president at 24, he declared everyone over 30 to be the enemy. Really? So I guess he won't be seeking re-election in four years, because that would mean that he would be in office until he's 32.

Then there's the fact that his counter-culture cred would essentially go out the window. When the police opened fire on demonstrators, killing 12, he came out with the song The Shape of Things to Come.

In 2006, this song would be used in a commercial for Target. Of course, in Frost's "utopia," Frost himself would have had spent decades out of his mind on LSD in some state-run camp funded by who knows what.

So in the end, I think I'm glad we included President Breyer and not Max Frost. Breyer may be an idiot, but he never shipped people off to camps. On the other hand, he never wrote a catchy tune.

There are still two days left to vote in the Breyer vs. Grant fight.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Breyer vs. Grant

President Breyer
Fictional president in the an episode of the TV series The Venture Bros.
Voiced by Dana Snyder
Age: Unknown. Late 50s - early 60s, based on his appearance.

PROS: Mixture of winners — For those out there who have no idea who he is, here’s what you need to know about Breyer. He’s a mixture of Lyndon B. Johnson, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Two of these presidents have already made an appearance in the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena™ and were each able to earn at least 80% of the vote. George W. Bush is yet to fight in his first matchup, but will probably fare pretty well against the old man who spent his entire month-long term with pneumonia.

Breyer was inadvertently bred for this competition.
Breyer is the Secretariat of Presidential Gladiatorial Arena™ combatants,
and is ready to give his opponents a Secretariat-style beat down.

Brash — Breyer is pretty open with his affair with his favorite secretary — who wears a blue dress, by the way. He’s pretty open with the fact that his presidency is in the crapper and he doesn’t have “a Chinaman’s chance” at re-election — his words, not mine. He doesn’t seem to care. Well, that’s not true. He cares enough to drop his current vice president, who is getting indicted. And he’s trying to get squeaky clean astronaut, Col. Bud Manstrong, as a running mate to offset his own scandals.
Man of the Year? C'mon, Tempo. Even Time changed this honor to Person of the Year in 1999.
Why doesn’t Breyer just temporarily clean up his act for the good of his country, the office of the President of the United States and his own political future? Because that’s no fun. Besides, I’m going to go ahead and assume that Breyer didn’t just start becoming a slimebucket just as he reached the White House. His whole political career must be checkered, yet he still got that far. He's gotten to the point where he can get out of anything he gets himself into, otherwise he wouldn’t have been elected president.

CONS: Well, almost everything — Breyer was once trapped in the Oval Office with a few other people. Among these people were Manstrong and his mother who may or may not have programmed his son to assassinate the president as soon as he became vice president. Yes, it's very Manchurian Candidate.

I say “may have.” There’s actually a longer story than that, which isn’t very important for the purposes of this blog. Even if there wasn’t a plot to kill the president, there was still the issue of the washed-up scientist who put up a force field around the Oval Office — again, long story. The fact of the matter is that Breyer and the six other people trapped in the Oval Office were eventually saved by these two boys with the help of Abraham Lincoln’s ghost.
The same boys who saved Breyer.
I can’t imagine what kind of dilly of a pickle I’d get myself into where the kid who accidentally sets his pants on fire would be part of the team who saves me, but it makes me wonder if I’d deserve to be rescued in the first place.

Who? — Stepping outside of how Breyer would actually fare in a fight, there’s a trend I can’t help but notice since the beginning of this blog. Fictional presidents who are not very well-known don’t do very well.

For example, the 40-something rower portrayed by 6-foot-tall almost-Olympian lost to a book worm who is a decade older. Why? Because the younger president was in some less-than-decent TV series, and the older one appears on the nickel and is credited with writing the Declaration of Independence.

The Venture Bros. has its loyal fans, but when push comes to shove, Breyer appeared for one episode of an Adult Swim show. That's not getting him too many votes anytime soon.

Ulysses S. Grant
18th President of the United States
Served: 1869-1877
Ages during term: 46-54

PROS: Military badass — When you consider that he would go on to win the freaking Civil War, Grant's military career actually started out somewhat inconspicuously. He only got into West Point because another cadet dropped out, his nominating papers got his name wrong (he was born Hiram Ulysses Grant), and he graduated 21st in his class, except, his class had all of 32 people in it.

However, Grant soon had a chance to study some real wartime strategy when the Mexican-American War broke out. Of course, the Army just about boned this up, too; Grant was a gifted horseman, but was assigned to be a quartermaster rather than going into the cavalry. However, Grant used the opportunity to study the war closely, and he did manage to get some front-line experience, especially when he served as a messenger running dispatches through sniper-lined streets.

Grant left the Army after the war ended, but was ready to sign right up again once the Civil War began. While he was initially charged with rounding up and training troops in Illinois, he eventually rose to a field command position, and the ass kickings began. Grant pushed troops into Kentucky and Tennessee, and eventually rose to command a large chunk of Union forces (known as the Army of Tennessee). He fought hard-pressed, high-casualty battles, quickly gaining the nickname "Unconditional Surrender" Grant. The Confederacy's response? Send a crapload of troops in a single-minded attempt to break Grant. The result was the Battle of Shiloh, the deadliest battle in the Civil War to that point. Grant won it.
He won it even though he looked like he should've been a train conductor rather than a general.
We could go on and on about Grant's service in the Civil War, so we'll try and constrict things to his Greatest Hits. Grant's troops eventually gave the Union control of the Mississippi River, which subsequently split the Confederacy in two. Given more of the Union army to command, Grant then cracked open Georgia, leaving it ready for Sherman's march. Finally, Grant engaged the Confederacy's greatest general, Robert E. Lee, in an intense chess match of bloody battles and tactical maneuvers. Though Lee managed to fox Grant into a statlemate at Petersburg, the writing was on the wall for the Confederacy, and Grant was eventually able to grind Lee into surrendering at Appomattox. Not bad for someone who barely made it into the Army!
Right now, Lee is thinking "I can't believe this asshole outfoxed me."
This teaches us two things — first, Grant will pursue any campaign, no matter how costly. Second, that he has the tactical mind to wear his opponents into submission. That's a powerful combo.

Surprisingly good diplomat — Before, during, and after his time as President, Grant exhibited a definite sense of diplomatic flair. For example, while still serving as General of the Army of the United States (a position that Congress created specifically for Grant), a small crisis broke out involving Irish immigrants and... Canada? Okay, so what happened was that following the Civil War, a large contingent of Irish soldiers went north and met up with Irish nationalists who were looking to start a ruckus. The plan? To invade Canada and hold the country hostage until Ireland was granted independence from Britain.
It was kinda serious; I mean, they had their own flag and everything.
In response, Grant personally traveled to Buffalo, where much of the orchestrating was taking place. He closed the border with Canada and proceeded to defuse the situation by rounding up the Irish lads, arresting over 700 of them. International crisis averted!

Grant was still at it after his presidency. He and his wife embarked on a trip around the world, eventually stopping in Tokyo, where they were received by the Emperor and his Empress. Annnnd wouldn't you know, while Grant was in town, a dispute broke out between China and Japan over the Ryukyu Islands, which both countries claimed. Since Grant was in the neighborhood, he was asked to broker a deal. He responded by essentially playing King Solomon was various island groups, giving most of the disputed islands to Japan while China walked away with Taiwan. Unfortunately, as soon as Grant left, the deal fell apart, and the two countries continued bickering on and off until... well, around 1945. But that wasn't Grant's fault! No, Grant had managed to hammer out a good deal for both sides.
He also, allegedly, planted this pine tree. So, that's nice. (Photo credit: Flickr)
A good diplomat understands what people want, and how to get it to them. Certainly Grant would be able to find a way to get his opponent to tip his hand in a similar manner.

CONS: Something of a failure — Really, there were two Ulysses S. Grants. There was the fantastically successful and popular wartime general, and then there was the guy who Reverse King Midased everything he touched. By which we mean, everything he touched (metaphorically) turned to flies.
Now you know where The Hollies came up with the idea.
Let's start by getting to the root of it: Grant liked himself a drink or five. While there are varying accounts of just how much his drinking affected his life and career, there are a few points where said drinking really screwed him. For example, his first stint in the Army came to a crashing halt when he showed up at a unit function in 1854 rip-roaring drunk. He was subsequently pressured into resigning his post, and proceeded to fail as both a farmer and a businessman. When the Civil War began, Grant was barely making ends meet selling firewood on the streets of St. Louis.

Then there was his presidency. You can give Grant a lot of credit for sticking to the goals of Reconstruction and for supporting a number of civil rights measures, but... that's about it. Grant's time as president was marked by scandal after scandal, summarized in Wikipedia in a handy little table!
The first line, for example, reads "Speculators corner the gold market and ruin the economy for several years." Not a good start.
The scandals eroded what had been a tremendous reserve of goodwill for the ex-general, and he left office in disgrace. Was he finished screwing up? No! We talked about his post-presidential worldwide tour, yes? Well, said tour pretty much depleted his cash reserves, and he ended up in bankruptcy soon thereafter (it didn't help that he got bilked by a Wall Street swindler, but still). He only barely got back into the black by the end of his life by writing and publishing his memoirs.
Still, the pattern here is clear: unless it involves leading large batches of men into battle, Grant isn't that great at, well, things. And the only person under his command in the Arena? Himself. Ruh-roh.

Too single-minded — Grant's successes on the battlefield always came at a price: lives. Okay, sure, that's being a bit dramatic. After all, if you're a wartime general, chances are you're going to have to deal with some deaths, unless you're Henry V and it's St. Crispin's Day.
"We lucky few! We band of broth-- oh... they have guns? Shit."
Grant's penchant for long, protracted battles, however, meant that his results were bloodier than most, and this almost came back to bite him in the ass, several times. In fact, following the Battle of Shiloh, it did come back to bite him, as he was briefly demoted to second in command of the Tennessee Army after Army officials criticized his handling of the battle (it didn't help that he had been rumored to have been drinking before the battle broke out, which may have led to his troops being in an unfavorable position from the get-go). The demotion didn't last long, but his critics spent the remainder of the war nipping at his heels. For every bloody battle, there were calls for Grant's resignation. It was only after he managed to crush Lee that everyone shut up.

Grant only cares about one thing: results. And he's good at getting those results. However, if he takes his eye off the ball, metaphorically-speaking, even just a little bit? He could end up smeared on the floor of the Arena.

The Fight
Doug: There is no doubt that Grant was one of the best generals in our history. He was very good at leading other people on his side to their deaths. He doesn't have the luxury of having scores of cannon fodder. This time around, he has to face his opponent alone. And it's a shame that the U.S. Army didn't take advantage of how gifted he was as a horseman. He definitely won't be able to take advantage of these skills in the Arena. While Grant seemed to be good at avoiding sniper fire, he doesn't seem to have much experience with hand-to-hand combat.

On the other hand, Breyer's past is unknown. Though given the fact that he's part-Clinton and part-G.W. Bush, it's not crazy to assume that they may have avoided military service through some finagling. However, let's not forget the fact he's got a little LBJ in there as well. And he's not one to be messed with.

Tony: Ah, but the thing with Breyer is, he relies on every bit the amount of support that Grant does! It he hadn't been surrounded by super scientists (or "super" scientists, depending on your level of disdain for Venture Industries), he'd have been toast. So, he's going to be losing his support system in the arena, as well.

Doug: True, Breyer needed outside help to get out of his little jam, but he wouldn't have needed Dean and Hank's help had it not been for their father demonstrating how amazing his force field works.
The guy who accidentally transports his body into a wall was able to invent something that worked. It's surprising, yes.
Also, the captioned dialogue may be a spoiler... so... SPOILER ALERT, I suppose.
Tony: Another thing about Breyer: he's this combination of Clinton, LBJ, and Bush II, yes? Now, okay, those guys have a lot of positive traits between them, but they also have some significant minuses. After all, between those three, you've got an impeachment and three disastrous wars. Point being, I don't think it's fair to say that combining those guys will only lead to rainbows and roses. If the crap end of that trio emerges, it won't be pretty.

Doug: Of course Breyer shoulders the weak points of the three administrations as well as the strong points. But of the minuses you mentioned — an impeachment and three disastrous wars — none of these things would actually hurt him in the Arena. It's not like Breyer's going to invade a country while he's fighting. Yeah, he's having an affair with a blue-dressed secretary / intern, but that's not going to matter in the fight. If one of the major strikes against him is that he skirted the question of whether or not he smoked pot in his past with, "I did, but I didn't inhale," then I can't really see how this will work against him.

Tony: Those things wouldn't hurt him in the Arena? They all hinge on one thing: poor decisions. You want to tell me that poor decisions wouldn't hurt him in the Arena? I beg to differ! If Breyer channels any of his combinants decision-making skills, things are going to go south faster than Sherman's Army.
And here's one thing I'll say about Grant. A lot of his faults can be traced back to the hootch. Well, guess what he won't have access to in the Arena? With his personal kryptonite out of the way, Grant will have a clear field to do what he does best. Kick ass, and take names.

Doug: I have trouble with the idea that Breyer's affair (for example) shows that Breyer is bad at decision-making. It's not like he started the affair because he thought it would be good for his presidency and then it backfired. No, he got into the affair because he wanted an affair. He didn't care what kind of mess it would cause for him because he knew that he'd get out of it.

Okay, maybe Breyer's willingness to start a war would hurt him in the Arena, but it's unclear whether or not the U.S. is even involved in a war in Breyer's universe.

And I really don't think Grant should get a free pass for all of his decisions because his faults can be traced back to the bottle. You're suggesting that everything he did would have been brilliant had not been for the drinking? So, he won't be bringing booze into the Arena with him, but does that mean that he won't drink before the fight either? Is the argument here that someone as dependent on alcohol as Grant wouldn't be suffering from massive withdrawal and would be clear-minded and able-bodied enough to win a fight?
No, Grant would be sporting a monstrous hangover and would probably be better off with some booze in his system.

Tony: Well, call me old-fashioned, but I happen to think that cheating on your wife is a bad decision, no matter what twisted logic you use to justify it. Ergo, Breyer's got some problems in the decision-making department.

I think the question of whether or not Grant is hungover or drunk when he gets whisked into the Arena hinges on his proximity to his family at the time of said whisking. History shows that Grant's drinking increased the longer he was away from home. It's not a stretch to me to say that it would work in the opposite direction; he'd get more drunk the longer his home (or family) was away from him. So, really Breyer is playing the equivalent of the Dirty Harry game; does he feel lucky, and think that Grant is on the sauce? Or does he know, deep down in his heart of hearts, that Grant is a tactical genius just ready to be awoken?

The Chief: Two drunks who have been known to make some major mistakes. This should be interesting. Polls close Friday 9am Mountain time. Be sure to vote, leave a comment and tell your friends to do the same.

Breyer vs. Grant

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Head of State (For This Week, Anyway)

Mays Gilliam's plucky can-do attitude served him well, once again.
He just squeaked by, but isn't that Gilliam's way? He's the little underdog who could, although we're not sure how much of an underdog he was in this match.
Gilliam vs. Madison
Mays Gilliam8 (53.3%)
James Madison     7 (46.7%) 
It was pretty close for both sides all week. Madison came within one vote of tying it up in the final hours of voting, but that last minute "surge" wasn't enough. (We can't really call getting a single vote in the course of a day a "surge," can we?) Even if Madison had gotten the tie, he would have lost in the tiebreaking comment-off.

Speaking of which:
There are a few good points here. Mainly the fact that if Gilliam were to meet up with the namesake of the high school where Chris Rock was bullied mercilessly, it could spell revenge time.

It kind of makes me wonder what would happen if Veronica Sawyer were to meet up with Paul Westerburg, actual namesake of the high school in Heathers. Would she get tricked into faking the suicide of a few popular kids again? 

Or if Sandy Dumbrowski were to meet up with Phineas T. Rydell, fake person I just made up who would supposedly be the namesake of the high school in Grease. Would she put on some tight leather pants and sing about how the two of them will always be together? These are questions we may never know the answer to.

Two things we do know is that Mays Gilliam is scheduled to face Theodore Roosevelt Nov. 28 and that President Breyer of The Venture Bros. will fight Ulysses S. Grant next week.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Queen of Treats

I don't want to make James Madison's wife sound whorish or anything, but she's the Queen of Treats. By which, I mean that she lends her name to some delicious food brands, though it's kind of difficult to see what her connection to these brands would be. Let's sort it all out, shall we?

Historical Aside: Before we start, it should be noted that she spelled her name Dolley Madison, not Dolly. Why these companies couldn't do a little research is beyond me.

First off, there's the Dolly Madison Bakery, which is a division of Hostess. I, personally, am a fan of their Zingers.
I actually used to refer to them as "off-brand snack foods," but since I just learned that they're owned by Hostess, I feel better about being the Zingers freak that I am. After all, has Hostess ever steered me wrong?
The connection between Dolley Madison and the Dolly Madison Bakery? Minimal. The bakery was founded in 1937, 88 years after Dolley Madison died. I found one site that assured me "that contrary to popular belief, the Zingers ... are not based on the first lady's recipes."

Duh. To put this more politely, this is good and not at all surprising. If I had to describe the taste of Zingers in three words, "preservative-y" would be two of those words. If Madison did create the Zinger, I'd imagine it would have a more natural taste, and would involve fewer ingredients that only became available in the 20th century. Oh, and it would also have a different name, since Merriam-Webster says that the word "zinger" was only first used in 1955.

Moving on to something cooler, since it's summer and we all need that...
Dolley Madison wasn't a blonde, but okay.
Growing up, we would sometimes have Dolly Madison ice cream. I can't remember much about it, except it was ice cream, which meant I probably loved it. I later found out that this brand name came from the fact that Madison invented ice cream / introduced it to the U.S. I found out later that these  trivia tidbits were varying degrees of wrong.

She did, however, serve ice cream at her husband's 1813 inauguration. It had already been introduced to the U.S. a few decades earlier, but I guess getting the inauguration treatment is a thing.

The ice cream brand with her name was founded in 1971. It still exists, though not at the level that Dolly Madison Bakery does. There was a location in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., which explains why I was familiar with it in the '80s, and there seems to be a location in Denver. I fail to see the benefits, business model-wise, of opening locations only in Eastern Long Island and Colorado. Maybe that's why the ice cream brand isn't as successful as the bakery.

That's a shame, really, because it makes me wonder what a Dolly Madison snack cake would taste like smothered in ice cream. Delicious, I presume, but I'd still like to be scientific about this and see for myself.

While I may not realize my dream of mixing Dolly Madison with Dolly Madison, you can visit our mixing of Mays Gilliam with James Madison. You know the drill: polls close on Friday, so get your votes/comments in, now!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Gilliam vs. Madison

Mays Gilliam
Portrayed in the movie Head of State by Chris Rock
Age: Rock was 42 when the movie was released

PROS: No stranger to hard work — When we first meet Mays Gilliam, he's serving as alderman to Washington D.C.'s fictitious 9th Ward. And damn if he isn't working the hell out of that job.
Now, yes, within a few minutes (in movie time) of all this, Mays loses his job, his car, his girlfriend, his office, and his bike. But, really, most of that can be chalked up to the fact that the girlfriend in question is somewhat crazy. And the rest is because you shouldn't park your damn bike in the middle of the street.

Point is, Gilliam is a leader, a problem solver, and an all around helluva guy. The kind of guy who knows how to handle himself in the Arena.

Man of integrity — Remember that clip in the beginning? When he told the guy he'd drive him to work if the bus line was shut down? Well, on election day, two big things happen: first, the Teamsters, who have been on the fence throughout the election, decide they're going to endorse Gilliam. This is seen as being somewhat important. However, the same day, that bus line gets shut down. So, what does Mays do? He takes his campaign bus down to the 9th ward, and drives everyone to work, Teamsters be damned.
SPOILER: It gets funky.
The Gilliam campaign is full of moments like that. Even when they're low on cash, Gilliam won't accept a donation from a bottling company that traffics in a malt liquor called Crib. Crib comes with a nipple top, and Mays is just slightly concerned that they're marketing to children. So that means, no deal with the company for Gilliam.

What does all of this have to do with the Arena? Well, it means he's not going to go in for any tricky business. And that's good, right?

CONS: When thing go bad, they go REALLY bad — The day that Mays Gilliam was tabbed as his party's candidate for president? That day actually started out kinda shitty for him. Actually, the fun began the previous night, when his girlfriend announced she was dumping him. Oh, and that she had neglected to take care of any of his bills, as per their arrangement. Which meant that his car got repossessed. The next day, he biked to his office to find that he had been evicted from said office. As he processes all that, a bus runs over his bike.
Mays doesn't seem to realize that he's been left with half of a perfectly-functioning unicycle. You gotta think of the positives, here.
And the fun doesn't end there! He heads downtown to find he's being replaced as 9th Ward Alderman (which seems weird, because... isn't that an elected position? Whatever, D.C. politics are weird). And when things couldn't get any lower, he runs into his ex- again, and promptly receives his own personal thunderstorm.
*insert the "Price is Right" fail sound clip, here.
So yeah, everything basically falls apart on him, all at once. This is a pattern that recurs later in the movie. After a remark Mays meant to be off-camera starts circulating, his campaign quickly finds itself part of a Bad News Montage.
The pattern is clear. Once something starts going wrong for Mays Gilliam, everything else follows suit. So, if his first move in the Arena is to trip over his own shoelaces, well, you can bet everything is going to go downhill for him, and quickly.

Man of Mystery — The thing about Mays Gilliam is, we don't know a heck of a lot about him. You'd think that being the focus of a 90-minute motion picture would lend insight into one's character. But over the course of Head of State, how much do we really learn about Mays Gilliam? Well, there's that he's committed to helping people. That's good! That's a quality trait. We also learn that he's unconventional, which can be good or bad, depending on how things shake out.

But what do we learn about his background? Not much, other than that he has a brother who is a bit of a thief. Well, I mean, in the movie, his brother is a bail bondsman. But really, the guy is played by Bernie Mac, and damn if Mac doesn't try to steal the movie right out from under Chris Rock's nose.

James Madison
4th President of the United States
Served: 1809-1817
Ages served: 57-65

PROS: Kind of a big deal, constitutionally — Madison may have a strategic edge. I’m saying this because (1) all of his ideas have remarkable staying power and (2) the First Amendment says I can say that (ehh, that’s mostly true, but you get the point). The fact that I’m able to quote the First Amendment 220 years after it was ratified is a testament to the staying power of the staying power of the ideas that come from Madison — the “Father of the Constitution” and the author of the United States Bill of Rights.
"I am your father!" Madison said after cutting off the U.S. Constitution's hand.
The U.S. had been operating under the Articles of Confederation, which was a document that loosely linked the 13 states under one military alliance. It kind of got the job done during the Revolutionary War, but with no central power keep the things in line, it kind of sucked. Like, “poor farmer organized a private army to try to invade a federal armory” suck.

That’s when Madison got the ball rolling on changing things rather than letting things devolve into allowing 13 bankrupt states go it alone. Long story slightly abridged, the U.S. Constitution was drafted, with Madison playing a major role. Getting 13 quasi-independent states to go along with this agreement that pretty much took away a bulk of the states’ rights was tough, so Madison headed the writing of the Federalist Papers, which argued for the ratification of the Constitution.

When the states ratified the Constitution, but still bristled at the fact that it granted the federal government too much power and that it didn’t enumerate rights to the people, BOOM, Madison gave us the Bill of Rights.
"I was an amendment-to-be. Oh yes, an amendment-to-be,
And I'm glad that they ratified me."
The fact that he dreamed up all of this and that we’re still living under this system experimental system centuries later show that Madison is a pretty masterful at planning things out.

Stood up to a superpower — When Madison was president, the U.S. was still getting its bearings. We were also getting no respect from England, who had been treating us as a colony despite the fact that we had actually successfully gained our independence a few decades back. They blocked our trade with France, encouraged Indian tribes to attack settlers and even took our sailors and forced them to serve in the Royal Navy.

What was a militarily ill-prepared nation to do? Declare war against a major superpower, of course.
The only royalty we're interested in is our idiotic Hollywood royalty, thank you very much.
Oh, and we're going to go crazy for your royal weddings too, I suppose.
How well did that go? Not well at first. British troops occupied our nation’s capital and destroyed the White House. Madison wasn’t there at the time. Instead he was away personally rallying the American troops. What kind of 63-year-old man spends four solid days on a horse to tell people to fight the way more powerful nation? Madison the badass, that’s who. Madison and his ragtag army led by brilliant generals — like Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison — eventually won the war and the British stepped off from our American grill.

Point is, he stared down a major superpower and rallied what little military he had to defeat it. He’s pretty fearless. Plus, we got a poem that would later become our national anthem and a pretty nice overture out of the whole deal, as well.

CONS: Dainty and delicate — At 5’4”, Madison was the shortest president. It’s not even close competition. The next shortest presidents are Martin Van Buren and Benjamin Harrison, who were 2 inches taller. And it’s not like he was just a stocky powerhouse, either. He was said to have weighed about 100 pounds.

Okay, maybe he’s just wiry. Hmm, it doesn’t seem so. When it was time for him to go away to college, he decided not to go to William & Mary, like most well-educated Virginians of the time did. He worried that Williamsburg’s climate would strain his health. To paraphrase Steely Dan, he said, "Whoa no! William & Mary won't do." Instead, he went to the College of New Jersey (now Princeton).
"Princeton allowed that wuss here?"
And even then, he spent so much time studying that he did some damage to his health, possibly even suffering a nervous collapse.

If he can’t handle hitting the books, can he handle getting hit?

Public displays of kickass and his lack thereof — Madison was a brilliant writer with great ideas, but he was a terrible public speaker. When he was pitching the idea of the Constitution to the Virginia ratifying commission, he had to go up against Patrick Henry. Yes, the “Give me liberty or give me death” guy who was generally considered one of the great orators of the time.

Madison only squeaked by in the debate only because he laid out the facts of how amazingly good his ideas were.

I don’t know how this tack will do in the Arena. I’m guessing probably not well. He might write a brilliant piece explaining why he should win this fight, and he would probably win over most of the spectators. If left to debate it, he might do kind of well, assuming his reasons are thought out and air-tight. But when it comes to actually throwing punches, Little Jemmy might be in over his head.

The Fight

Tony: So let me get this straight: Madison's big pluses are all about how good he is at writing? How persuasive his arguments for federalism are? Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and all of that good stuff...  but did he write any of that with someone punching him repeatedly in the face? I'm thinking he didn't. If he did, more power to him, and that'll probably change the dynamic of the fight. But history says... not so much.

Doug: Yes, Madison was being punched repeatedly in the face by humidity. Humidity doesn't rest and it hits the entire body all at once. Can you appreciate the difficult balancing act the Constitutional Convention was? He was finding a compromise between Alexander Hamilton and his camp and Thomas Jefferson and his. And he did this all in the oppressive heat of a Philadelphia summer, wearing full 18th century garb complete with powdered wigs. I've lived in Philadelphia in the summer. That humidity is not one to mess with. This is coming from someone who spent most of his summer days wearing shorts. I lived in modern air conditioning. The biggest compromises I had to make was to figure out where my friends and I were going to drink that night.

Tony: Okay, see, humidity doesn't exactly leave bruises, does it? Or draw blood? Or break bones? Mays Gilliam does-- or at least, I'm fairly certain that he could do those things. Also, I'd like to posit the following: being in Philadelphia during the summer sucks, granted. However, there's an important difference between your Philadelphia experience and Madison's: you could get away from that ridiculousness with the application of air conditioning. Madison didn't have that luxury, obviously. Which means that since he had nothing to compare it to, he had less reason to complain about it. I mean, what would that sound like? "Gosh, it's hot and humid today, just like every day since March." He's probably well-suited, or at least, well-adjusted to the conditions.

Doug: Humidity certainly wears a guy out. And it's not like Madison was just sitting around complaining about the heat. He was busy writing the basis of government for a future superpower. That's some pretty difficult shit.

Tony: Yeah, it's difficult, but again-- he wasn't exactly in life-threatening jeopardy the entire time. Let's have some perspective, here.

Doug: No, I agree. Madison's time with the Constitutional Convention wasn't life threatening. I'm just imagining myself moderating an argument between the Federalists and the Republicans during a Philly summer and just turning to George Mason and asking him — possibly even begging — for a punch square to the face, because it's probably better than having to pay attention to the other things going on in that room.

Anyway, it's going to feel nice to him when he steps into the somewhat climate-controlled Arena. I realize we've never established if the Arena is climate-controlled or not, but I'm going to say it is just because the Arena's owners are trying to draw a crowd here. It's for the comfort of the spectators, not necessarily the combatants, but they get to enjoy it as well.

Tony: No, the Arena is totally climate-controlled. Because, seriously. We haven't exactly established where the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena™ is located, but chances are better than not it's in some place that's hotter than balls and more humid than an Amazonian locker room. It's climate-controlled.

Meanwhile, let's talk about Gilliam. See, Gilliam is no stranger to a little punching and jabbing, seeing as though he and his brother have been roughhousing for years. It's not quite fight to the death territory, but it'll probably serve him well in a fight with Shrimpboy McAmendments over here.

Doug: I'm a little confused how being a man of integrity, like Gilliam, is of any help in the Arena. You can't be a man of integrity and then take down one of our country's forefathers. Madison single-handedly raised an army while the British were raiding Gilliam's hometown. You think Gilliam's man of integrity would be able to turn around and start wailing on this guy?

Tony: A man of integrity knows that being true to himself means surviving a cage match against some short, dead, white president. Gilliam may respect Madison, but that doesn't mean he's going to lie down and get (very slowly) pummeled to death.

Doug: I don't see how Gilliam is going to keep the shitstorm of misfortune from raining on him while he's in the Arena. Obviously, he was able to get over it long enough to get elected president, but who's to say it won't turn right back around? Madison was able to turn around his misfortune by kicking the British out and making them realize that they can't push the U.S. around anymore.

Tony: So your entire argument comes down to Madison somehow being able to marshal the fortunes of fate enough to make Gilliam unlucky? Seems like a dicey strategy to me.

Doug: No, I'm not saying Madison is going to wait around for Gilliam's luck to crap out. I'm saying that Madison is going to rally until the inevitable happens. Let me remind you of the 62-year-old president who, when Britain backed his country up against the wall, rode around for four days nonstop to get an army up and going. When returned to what was left of Washington, his Cabinet couldn't believe that he still hand the energy to go around and command-in-chief.

Madison could probably handle feuding political parties, invading Brits AND Gilliam all at the same time.

The Chief: Sounds like it's time for our readers to decide! Polls are now open, and will remain so through Friday 9 a.m., MDT. Have at it!

Gilliam vs. Madison

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Man, A Plan, A Canal — 2nd Round

On August 9, 2010, Brandon Morrow of the Toronto Blue Jays settled in for an afternoon game start against the Tampa Bay Rays. Morrow pitched a hell of a game, striking out 17 Tampa Bay batters in a complete game shutout. That was not the focus after the game, however. The focus was on the fact that through the first 9 and 2/3 innings of play, Morrow did not yield a hit. Sadly, with one out to go, Morrow's no-hit bid was broken up by Evan Longoria. He responded by striking out the next batter to end the game.

Speaking as a Jays fan, following that game to the end was an exercise in nerve-wracking intrigue. With every out, the tension mounted, and my productivity at work dropped. Anyway, you're probably wondering why I'm bringing this up. Well, it's because starting on about Wednesday, we looked at the scoreboard and thought, "hmmm, ol' Teddy's looking at a no-no." As the days and hours passed, the chances of the no-hitter increased, as did the tension. And when the final whistle sounded at 9 a.m. this morning?
Roosevelt vs. Harris
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt      19   (100%)
Baxter Harris   0    (0%) 
Yes, Teddy Roosevelt has unlocked the "No-Hitter" Achievement in Hail to the Chief... to the Death! Which means it's time for a celebration!
Atta boy.
Roosevelt's easy victory was foreseen by first-time commenter Jacqui:
Is sucking up to an author a good way to win COTW? Let's just say it's not horrible.

Roosevelt may be given a bigger challenge Nov. 28 when he makes his 2nd Round appearance.
Next week, we'll watch James Madison match up with Mays Gilliam from Head of State.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Surely, You Can't Be Serious

We're not trying to pimp out Rotten Tomatoes or anything, but it's a pretty handy site. For example, if there's a movie out there that we're a little iffy about, it's a good place to check out a general consensus of reviews. Again, we're not pimping out the site; if we were, we would have linked to it.

We didn't feel the need to check out what the general public thought of Scary Movie 3 and Scary Movie 4. They looked awful, we hadn't heard a single decent thing about either movie... plus, we kind of had to watch the movies for the blog.

Rotten Tomatoes still came in handy though, for my own amusement. Whenever I watch a terrible movie, I like to read the reviews on the site. Partly, because I like reading bad movies get ripped to shreds, but mostly because I'm fascinated by people who defend these movies. The reviews for these two movies didn't disappoint.
First thing I found interesting is that though only 36% of RT approved critics gave the movie a positive score, almost twice as many RT users gave it a 3.5 (out of 5) or more. That kind of says a lot about the RT users. This is why I ignored user comments and took comments left by "approved critics."
Let me start off with this one. I guess I can't say too much about it, except for the fact that this person says that Scary Movie 3 is a "hilariously inspired comedy."

I generally reserve reviews that positive to movies that contain no more than zero nutshots. Let me stress "generally." I'm sure there are plenty of tastefully done nutshots done out there. I can't say I've seen every movie on this list, but of the ones I did see, I can say that there is plenty of hilariously inspired comedy to be found on that list, but very few nutshots.

Please let me know if I'm forgetting any.

I'm a bit confused by this. Does he mean it's refreshing to see Leslie Nielsen back working with David Zucker, because it's only then that Nielsen is in a wacky comedy spoof that is actually funny, or that Scary Movie 3 is the first wacky comedy spook that Nielsen has appeared that is actually funny.

Benefit of the doubt, I'll say it's the first one and that I agree with this statement.
Except for that part where it's claimed that Scary Movie 3 is "actually funny."

This implies that people thing that Mother Teresa commemorative bobbleheads are funny. I'm not saying they can't be funny. I'm saying they, on their own, are not funny. I suppose they could be made to be funny.

I guess I'm just confused by the statement because I never thought that society could be split up in that way: people who think Mother Teresa commemorative bobbleheads are funny and people who don't.

If you've spent even a fraction of your time dissecting this one-sentence review, then Scary Movie 3 is definitely not for you.

Interesting. Critics liked Scary Movie 4 slightly more than they liked its predecessor. However, the audience, I guess, started to have it with the Scary Movie franchise and looked at it slightly less favorably.

Again, maybe this is just a difference of opinion, but I kind of have to disagree.

It was a very slow 83 minutes. And when it was over, I scoffed at the idea of watching the deleted scenes.

I loved this one-sentence review. It implies that:
  1. Scary Movie 3 — and not Scary Movie 2 or the first Scary Movie — came close to absolutely killing the Scary Movie franchise, and
  2. Scary Movie 4 — which, in my opinion, is pretty indistinguishable from Scary Movie 3 — undid all of that damage caused by its predecessor, making the franchise workable once again.

This is another critic who seems to give Scary Movie 3 no love, yet thinks the nearly identical Scary Movie 4 — the Scary Movie film that had Carmen Electra's blind character mistake a town hall meeting for a bathroom... toilet noises ensues — as the movie that is way superior.

While this person claims that Scary Movie 4 is five times as funny as Scary Movie 3, it should be noted that 0.08 is five times more than 0.016, but neither number are very high. So saying that one movie is five times as funny as another doesn't really mean much if the original is barely funny at all.

I'd like to also point out that five times zero happens to be zero, so that means even less.

Clearly, it doesn't matter what I think, because they're apparently going to keep making these movies.
And apparently 86% of RT users can't wait.

Unfortunately, readers, you'll have to wait another nine months for this film to come out. A good way to pass the time would be to vote in this week's fight between Theodore Roosevelt and Baxter Harris.