Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Big C

If you haven't caught the first season of Showtime's The Big C you are missing one of the best shows on TV. Following a woman who has just received a terminal cancer diagnosis this show is funny and has more heart than anything else on the air today.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Full Green Lantern Trailer

So the full Green Lantern trailer is definitely better than the sneak peak I posted earlier. My biggest concern though still hasn't been rectified. The costume still looks a little cheesy, especially the mask. Watch for yourself, hopefully they still have time to fix the effects.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

WARNING: 1st Green Lantern Footage Highly Questionable

Entertainment Tonight just debuted the first look the the Green Lantern Trailer and I am extremely concerned. The costume looks lame, the projections of the ring are just ok, and the tone of the film seems immature at best. This could be one of the biggest disappointments for fans of the Lantern comics. I am holding out hope though.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why the Walking Dead Matters

"When the dead started walking, we had to start living."

AMC premiered its graphic novel inspired zombie epic the Walking Dead two weeks ago and the show is already slated for a second season. It appears that suffering zombie fans have finally been vindicated with a serious, mainstream treatment of their beloved subject matter. If you haven't seen it yet I encourage you to get onboard with the best show on TV Sunday's at 10pm on AMC.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Where Frank Miller Went Wrong



If Watchmen was the graphic novel that introduced me to the medium then Frank Miller's Batman epic The Dark Knight Returns sold me on the genre for life. An aging Batman who has stepped away from the cowl for ten years taking up his mantle to right the wrongs modernity has perpetrated against Gotham City, who could ask for anything more. Batman is by far my favorite comic book hero and TDKR really made the character of Bruce Wayne into something along the lines of a serious literary figure. The issues tackled by Miller demonstrate an unparalleled command of his craft and an emotional maturity that Batman has lacked in the past. The scope of this particular book is noteworthy as well because it incorporates the second most famous character from the D.C. comics universe into the plot's climax.

Naturally I jumped at the chance to read Miller's follow up to The Dark Knight Returns entitled The Dark Knight Strikes Again. This longer effort delves into the events that occurred a few years after the presumptive death of Bruce Wayne at the hands of Superman. Brainiac and Lex Luthor have taken control of the United States by subjugating Earth's heroes and using the public's suspicion of there powers to convince those they could not conquer to simply leave the planet (i.e. Hal Jordan/The Green Lantern). While the story is certainly epic in scope, it's reliance on the entirety of the Justice League/D.C. Universe roster makes it incredibly hard to follow for casual readers of graphic novels like myself. In addition the plot left me feeling as if I missed a pivotal chapter in the lives of these characters between the two books. Ultimately though the biggest problem I had with The Dark Knight Strikes Again was the lack of the Dark Knight in it! Batman himself is not seen until nearly a quarter of the story has already gone by. Further it never really feels like a Batman story, the entire plot revolves around a city of shrunken kyptons, Supergirl, and two classic SUPERMAN VILLIANS. The one attempt to link this story with the Batman heritage is an awkward tie in with yet another "Robin has gone mad" tale. This may be the worst manifestation of the trend that was the focal point for the animated feature Batman: Under the Red Hood because this evil sidekick has been genetically altered making him virtually indestructible, for no apparent reason. If it isn't broken, please don't fix it Frank Miller. I am afraid the only thing this graphic novel can do for your legacy with Batman is to tarnish it.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Brett Easton Ellis

So I finally got around to reading Brett Easton Ellis' American Pyscho a full two years after seeing the terrifying film version. I honestly did not know much about the author prior to impulse buying his book at the bookstore in Boston's South Station after a few drinks. I was blown away by what I found. A terrifying demented tale of excess in the 80's American Pyscho is a frighteningly authentic look at madness in an age without sanity. This is to date the only book I have ever had to put down because it was making me physically ill. Far from light reading this violence is not gratuitious, but instead a calculated expression of the madness and excess of 1980's Wall Street. Without question this is one of the most powerful works I have ever read.

With my new found interest in Ellis' work and the 1980's I quickly snatched up Less than Zero as well as Rules of Attraction (which is one of my favorite movies). I have just finished up Less than Zero and am very torn as to how I felt about the novel. While it included a biting critique of the drugs, sex, and money all too prevalent in 1980's LA it was not nearly the story American Psycho was. The characters were more detached, less interesting, and come to no real resolution (a similarity to Psycho).

While I enjoyed both books its clear that American Psycho is the superior and more unique work. I hope to be able to say that Brett Easton Ellis has outdone himself with The Informers and Rules of Attraction though.

Friday, September 3, 2010

New Internship


When I am not in class this semester I will be working at the David All Group in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Doors Opening



Back to D.C. to orient the "1st year students" and move them into their "residence halls."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Top Five Most Anticipated Movies

I know I have already addressed the startling lack of quality summer movies, so I thought I would provide a silver lining by laying out the five movies I wish were coming out this week.

1. Battle: Los Angeles
Release Date: TBA 2011
Starring: Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez

Why it will be great: While there are no shortage of alien invasion movies in the film lexicon, Battle: LA looks as if it just may provide the new take on this classic genre. Taking a semi-documentary style this film follows the modern day battle between a group of U.S. Marines (helmed by Eckhart) and an alien invasion force. What makes Battle: Los Angeles noteworthy however is that the director was aiming to channel the feel of soldiers fighting in Irag in Afghanistan as opposed to Independence Day. The hyper realism hinted by the films cast and crew indicates that the alien force has air superiority yet both sides are evenly matched on the ground. One of the few things moviegoers have yet to see effectively depicted is a functional alien military command structure. The largest challenge facing this movie the the successful integration of sci-fi and fantasy elements into a realistic military situation. Hurt Locker meets District 9, Battle: Los Angeles looks to be one of the most promising films debuting in 2011.

For more information check out the viral marketing sight for Battle: Los Angeles http://reportthreats.org/

2. Green Lantern
Release Date: June 17, 2011
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Mark Strong, Peter Sarsgaard, Blake Lively


Why it will be great: So prior to this movie being announced I had little interest in delving into the mythology of the Green Lantern comic book character. I mean seriously the guy's power came from a magic ring and he is essentially a space cop. Doing some background research however has really turned around my opinion and I have begun to drink the Green Lantern Kool-Aid. Rather than being a liability I think the non-traditional nature of this particular superhero property will be a huge advantage going into a summer chock full of other heroes (Captain America etc.) Another reason to get excited for this movie is that the studio is supposedly already given the green light for the filming of two more Lantern movies back to back. By far the most compelling case to invest in a ticket to see Green Lantern is that thus far (with the exception of Superman Returns) DC Comics has carefully protected their characters from crappy movie adaptations. You only have to look at the Batman films to see the care in which DC chooses who will bring their characters to the big screen.

3. Monsters
Release Date: October 29th, 2010 (limited release)
Starring: Whitney Able, Scoot McNairy (yeah I don't know who they are either)

Why it will be great: Aside from blowing crowds away at the Cannes Film Festival this low budget sci-fi story seems to largely flown under the radar. Telling the story of a NASA probes that crashes in southern Mexico while returning with samples of the first recorded life on another plant, Monsters picks up with massive creatures being cordoned off in a quarantine zone inside of Mexico. The U.S. and Mexican military patrol their respective borders to keep the creatures inside the predetermined boundaries. Similar to District 9 in both the size of the budget and quality of the special effects produced, this film looks to be a sleeper hit.

For more information and the trailer check out Screen Rant's piece on Monsters

4. Sucker Punch
Release Date: March 25th, 2011
Starring: Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens, Jon Hamm

Why it will be great: The undisputed winner of Comic-Con 2010's much sought after buzz-worthy status Sucker Punch is now among the most anticipated films of 2011. From the mind if 300 Director Zac Synder Sucker Punch is the story of a girl who is detained in a mental institution by her step-father and uses alternative reality as a means of formulating an escape plan. While on the surface that sounds like a quiet drama more akin to Girl Interrupted than 300 the trailer tells another story all together. This alternative reality is a war zone that transcends time and space. The protagonist (Baby Doll) joined by several of the other girls from the facility much fight their way to freedom in a steam punk inspired dream world. This film offers massive gun battles, sword play, and a healthy dose of female empowerment. The most important aspect of this movie however is that it is an original concept. The box office is flooded with crappy buddy comedies, remakes, reboots, and rehashing of characters that audiences are frankly sick of. While I am sure this won't be on everyone short list I will certainly be buying a ticket.

For more information check out the Official Sucker Punch website

5. Cowboys and Aliens
Release Date: July 29th, 2011
Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Sam Rockwell

Why it will be great: So this movie is exactly what you think it is. Based on a graphic novel by the same name Cowboys and Aliens focuses on the battle between the local inhabitants of frontier New Mexico (Cowboys and Indians) and the aliens aboard a crazed spaceship. If this movie wasn't starring Harrison Ford, Dan Craig, Sam Rockwell, and directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man) I would not even consider seeing it. But they are and I am interested. The clip shown at Comic-Con just two weeks after filming started had people really excited for this film. I think this movie will do well because people are looking for an updated western. This year's Jonah Hex utterly failed to strike a balance between the western source material and its sci-fi inspiration. I think Cowboys and Aliens will succeed where others have failed and I will definitely be seeing this movie.

Honorable Mentions

Let Me In
Release Date: October 1st, 2010
- Remake of an incredibly chilling Swedish Vampire movie starring Chloe Moretz.

Tron Legacy
Release Date: December 17th, 2010
- Follow up to the ground breaking Tron starring two versions of Jeff Bridges.

Devil
Release Date: September 17th 2010
- Story of five people trapped in an elevator one of whom is the Devil. Despite being from the mind of M. Night Shamaylan this movie shows real promise (especially because he isn't directing!)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Graphic Novels




So for the last two years I have been incredibly skeptical about the validity of this particular literary medium. Watchmen went a long way to changing my opinion of graphic novels for the better but without question Frank Miller's Batman: Return of the Dark Night has simply blown me away. It is easy to see how Christopher Nolan's Batman films were a direct product of the gritty realism present in Miller's aging Caped Crusader.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Zombie Literature- Jury is Still Out


I recently started on the zombie anthology The Living Dead edited by John Joseph Adams and am having a hard time rendering judgement on the collection as a whole. While I am a stalwart of all things zombie I had an incredibly tough time getting into about half of the stories included in this collection. While I have enjoyed the diversity offered by a collection of short stories the lack of resolution has been frustrating. Overall I would recommend purchasing a true zombie novel such as World War Z by Max Brooks (which is slated hit a theater near you in just a few years) or Dead in the West by Joe Landsdale.

Golden Age for US Soccer?


For the last twenty years there has been a natural order in which every kid plays soccer growing up then promptly at around high school age they forget they ever cared about the sport and place their interests in "legitimate" sporting events. It seems impossible to watch ESPN for an hour without a passing reference to the US's disinterest in "the beautiful game." The 2010 World Cup has however challenged this order and brought the possibility of soccer fever here in the United States. All of a sudden the States has a legitimate superstar in Landon Donovan, thousands traveled to South Africa to watch the US Men's National Team, and millions more watched across the country as the US's never say die attitude created some of the most exciting moments in the tournament's opening rounds. This is US Soccer's chance to assert itself as a force in the international football community and the trends seem to be in their favor. It is little secret that the USA is currently bidding to host either the 2018 or 2022 FIFA World Cup and are the alternate site for the 2014 cup currently slated to be hosted in Brazil. Coupled with the prospect of American players entering the Premier leagues of Europe and recent victories by US teams over major players in the international soccer community, soccer could finally take root in the US of A.

Personally I hope we do embrace the game of soccer both because it is an international tradition and because we have the demographics to dominate. Given the cultural diversity and size of the United States full engagement in the sport of soccer will likely yield incredibly successful national and MLS teams. Only time will tell is these are lasting or temporary trends but I think soccer just may be here to stay.

Inception


All I can say is go see this movie.

Despite the naysayers Nolan, DiCaprio, etc. delivered in a big way providing a film that I am still thinking about over a week after I saw it.

The fact that it also had Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow in Batman Begins) didn't hurt and it was cool seeing someone I had met at a production of the play Jerusalem in London last winter.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What Has Chelsea [Handler] Done For Me Lately



I am a huge fan of Chelsea Handler's comedic talk show Chelsea Lately on E! and actually almost everything she has done so far. Her stand up is funny and her first two books were great. I started reading her third effort Chelsea, Chelsea Bang, Bang with naturally high expectations. I was tremendously let down. Far and away the best part of this book is her scantily clad picture on the cover. The stories (all more recent than in her earlier works) are not funny and rather mundane, trite crap. To add insult to injury the book is ridiculously short, comprised of just eleven chapters that are VERY liberally spaced.

In searching for the underlying reason for the suckiness of this book I keep arriving at just one conclusion: Chelsea Handler's relationship with E! Executive Ted Something or Other. This relationship severely limits the discussion of Handler's funniest topic, her sexual escapades. More importantly though she loses her ability to relate to the audience while discussing the absurd lifestyle allotted to her by Ted. Lets face it no one likes the person who is sleeping with the boss, living in the boss'sweet house, and mooching off of him at every turn.

The lone bright spot in this book is the use of original pictures from her blackberry but even those are not nearly enough to save this train wreck.

Live Every Week Like It's Shark Week

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Inception, The Silver Lining to a Summer of Crappy Movies


I am a huge fan of going to movies. Normally during the summer I go at least twice a month and usually more often. I rotate between the four cinemas in my area with stadium seating so that the employees don't think I am casing the joint. So how many trips have I made this summer, at almost the halfway point of the season? One, one disappointing trip to see the Iron Man franchise dumbed down to the point that I felt as if I had paid ten dollars to simply watch a long trailer for the Avenger's movie. So what gives this year. Well to start people are sick and tired of remakes, gratuitious sequels (excusing Toy Story 3 here because I heard it was great), and reboots of franchises. It seems as if Hollywood as run out of ideas and instead is simply replaying the highlight reel.

Now for those of you nodding your heads our there the main question may be what have we done to deserve this? Well, we went to a lot of shitty movies thats what. Each time we buy a ticket to a movie we are giving an implicit endorsement that we agree with the content, tone, and level of brain activity required by the production. Movies won't get any better until we demand a better class of films to take the place of the fluffy nonsense that currently dominates the box office.

Now to my main point. From early reviews as well as a gut instinct I think the notable exception of the summer is going to be Christopher Nolan's Inception starring Leonardo DiCaprio (Departed, duh), Joseph Gordon-Leavitt (500 Days of Summer), and Ellen Page (Juno). Basically about thieves who utilize dreams to extract information this film looks to be the smartest movie of the summer. Our jobs as movie goers is to make it a success. By rewarding films that require more thinking than an afternoon nap we can give studios an incentive to green-light similarly intelligent projects. Now I am not saying to get rid of every stupid movie, far from it. Those movies have a crucial role to play and they can quite a bit of fun. I am concerned that these films have become the industry standard instead of simply a part of a larger pool of viewing options.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

2008 Campaign Books

The 2008 election cycle was one of the most significant in American history. The election of the first African-American President of the United States as well as large Democratic majorities in the House and Senate have prompted a nearly absurd amount of authors to try and cash in with books about the events leading up to November 4th 2008. As a politics major I have read five or six of these books and three entries stand head and shoulders above the rest.

The Audacity to Win by David Plouffe- Written by Barack Obama's campaign manager The Audacity to Win presents an inside look into the campaign of the man who is now the President. From the first meeting to election night this book is a compelling and generally honest account of the going on within Obama for America. I was surprised to see that most of the book was dedicated not to the General Election but instead to the Democratic Primary against Senator (now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton). In Plouffe's own words this breakdown was simply because "the team we beat (Clinton) was better than the team the Republicans nominated." I was also fascinated with Plouffe's treatment of the introduction of Sarah Palin as McCain's VP selection. It turns out this choice was as much a shock to Obama's camp as it was to the American public. Despite it's positive qualities and must read status for anyone interested in learning more about how Barack Obama scored his decisive victory over John McCain there are one or two aspects of this book that did turn me off. Naturally when being presented with only one side of the narrative Plouffe tends to sugarcoat several of the less savory aspects of the Obama campaign and chooses not to discuss controversies such as ACORN. What bothered me the most though was his final chapter in which he transitions from narrative to political commentary on how evil Republicans are destroying the country. More cheap shot than astute analysis, this chapter really undermines both Obama's message of bridging the partisan divide and the validity of his book as a faithful retelling of the events that occurred between late 2006 and November 2008.

Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin- For those who always wondered what it would have been like to be a fly on the wall of the most important happenings of the 2008 election this book satisfies in a big way. Covering the Democratic Primary, the Republican Primary (albeit slightly), and the General Election Game Change reads more like a novel than a nonfiction on American politics. A thorough examination of the behind the scenes for Obama, Hillary, McCain, Biden, Edwards, and Palin this book shows the candidates warts and all. One of the most unique aspects of this particular publication is the choice to begin with Hillary's decision not to make a last minute entry into the 2004 Democratic Primary. I would have to say that this is my personal favorite as it presents a non-biased account and information that others simply don't have.

The Politician by Andrew Young- One of the great political scandals of our time the collapse of John Edwards served as the main political sideshow the of the 2008 cycle. What is most compelling about this particular book is the author's background. In place of your typical pundit The Politician is written by longtime Edwards aide Andrew Young and the man who claimed to sire Rielle Hunter's child as cover for John Edwards. Truly a scenario you couldn't come up with if you tried this book tells the complete story of Edwards' senate run, his participation in the 2004 veepstakes, the run up to the 2008 election, the affair with Hunter, and the eventual fall of a one time promising presidential hopeful. Edwards is a truly tragic figure in modern politics with Macbeth like ambition, the poisinous advice he received from his terminally ill wife (who morgaged sympathy in an attempt to put her husband in the White House), his grotesque infidelity, and the gall to make a run for the Presidency despite it all. At the end of the day though Edwards is remarkable only because he is the realization of every negative stereotype about politics in America. The effects of his near obsession with the White House however have affected no one more than Andrew Young and watching the destruction of this young man is terrible, although he clearly has made some terrible decisions along the way. Akin to a train wreck, The Politician is the type of book you simply cannot look away from.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My Netflix Dilemma

Last summer while I was living with in a cramped apartment in DC and working for slave wages I decided to join Netflix because it came with a three month free trial and was cheaper than going out. Turns out this is one of the best decisions I have made. I was always skeptical about why this service was so appealing. Well...I get it now. I am a certifiable Netflix addict. Its gotten to the point that I now have a strict system for returning movies ASAP so I can get the next movie from my queue faster. The problem I am running into is that I am running out of movies that I actually want to see on both the DVD and the watch at home collections. This problem is further compounded by the recent deal with movie studios which make new releases exclusive to Blockbuster for 28 days prior to their release on Netflix. This seems to be a bizarre arrangement as Netflix is poised to topple the former video rental giant at the very field it invented. The only silver lining I can see to this development is that it will keep the price of Netflix down as it still (at least on paper) must compete with Blockbuster. Only time will tell if this new deal will prop us Blockbuster's falling revenues, but I honestly see this as a last desperation move on their part.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Why In The Loop Is a Must See



So after weeks of prodding I reluctantly placed the 2009 British Comedy "In The Loop" on my netflix queue. Honestly my expectations for this film were almost non-existent, the only thing I was sure of was that I would be sending it back as soon as possible so that I could get the next movie on my list. Yet, the movie still sits in my DVD player, and it arrived in the mail over a week ago. Simply put I was blown away by this high quality, intelligent, and irrevently funny examination of the events leading up to a joint US - British invasion of an unnamed Middle Eastern Country (*hint *hint).

In the Loop follows the series of missteps that lead bumbling British Minister for International Development Simon Foster and his aide Toby to the foreground of the international debate on whether or not to invade Ira....I mean the country in question. Pawns in a much larger game between elements within the US State Department, the film provides a refreshing, if unsettling look, at how the decision to use military force is made.

As someone who has spent time working in the UK political system this movie provides a frightenly accurate picture of how underqualified government ministers often are as well as the realities of what being a constituency MP is all about. In one scene in particular Minister Foster is attending a town meeting and a constituents refusing to stop talking about a wall that is falling over into his property. The contrast between the debate on the war and the debate over what to do about this wall is hysterical. Further it is often largely true! More than once I had to calm constituents down who were enraged about seemingly simple things like tree branches extending into their gardens, people parking on the street near there home, and most memorably the woman who told me that she saw kids planting weeds in her garden. Unlike in the United States British Cabinet Ministers are also full time members of the House of Commons. This duality is expertly portrayed and creates the most inconic scenes of the film.

Another aspect of this movie I personally identified with was the role that interns and recent college graduates play in the realm of government. At one point a British govt. employee remarks that "its all kids in Washington" after she meets her American counterpart (who is a good ten years younger than her). The phenomenon she refers to however is not strictly limited to the US. During my time interning in the House of Commons I found that the vast majority of the people I interacted with were under the age of thirty, with the notable exception of most Member's Personal Assistants who were often older. A few poorly timed comments and being in the wrong place at the wrong time by Foster's aide shows just how quickly interns can leave their mark on an office (and not in a good way).

All in all I highly recommend "In The Loop" to any viewer who has ever interned, has an interest in politics, or those just willing to spend an hour and a half laughing.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

New Summer Job



This summer I am leaving the world of political internships temporarily for a postion with Fidelity Investments in Boston.

David Cameron, The Post Political Prime Minister?

As the dust finally settled following Britain's 2010 General Election Conservative Party leader David Cameron was invited by the Queen to become Prime Minister and form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats. In the spirit of full disclosure this was not the move I was hoping for on the part of the Conservative Party. I was a fan of a Conservative minority government in which Cameron's message to the Lib Dems and to Labour was "try to stop us from governing." However, I can't help but be impressed with how effective Cameron has been at creating a government that better reflects the voters wishes and insulates the Conservative Party partially from blame. To elaborate on the latter point I found it interesting that the areas of compromise (many of which Lib Dems will head as ministers) were already included in the Conservative Manifesto.

From a political point of view the coalition may turn off Labour voters who tactically voted Lib Dem in order to keep the Tories out of government. Further I believe the coalition puts Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems in a terrible spot in terms of campaigning. First they will not be able to profess a new politics and instead will be inevitably wedded to the role of third party. No longer can they claim to blow the wheels off of the two party system as was there rallying cry in 2010. A cycle in which the Liberal Democrats lost nine seats and there share of the popular vote dropped two percent.

While the Lib Dems will have to create a new electoral narrative when the next election is called, the Conservatives have a huge opportunity to build upon one they have already established. Assuming the economy improves David Cameron and the Conservatives will have the chance to argue that "Conservative-Lite" has saved the UK just wait until you see a full fledged Conservative Government can do. Lastly, the Conservatives are the only party in British politics with the money on hand to run an effective campaign anytime soon. Both the Lib Dems and the Labour Party are cash poor and this provides further incentive for the Lib Dems to make the coalition work and possibly make concessions they otherwise would not.

Post UK Update

So I haven't updated this in quite some time and I am sure the masses have been waiting singularly for the return of this site. I am officially back from the UK, finished interning in Parliament, fought a British General Election Campaign, lost a British General Election Campaign, lived with my boss, got a new internship for the summer in Boston, and just started work last week.

In February I discontinued my blogging efforts temporarily because the Member of Parliament I was working for was a little paranoid about the idea of me blasting out potenitally sensitive information across the internet. As a concession though I was allowed to give his internet outreach a much needed update. In order to bring new media up to date in Eastbourne the campaign overhauled my MP's(Nigel Waterson) facebook, started managing press hits, as well as a number of tools tied in with the Conservative Party's voter identification software called Merlin. Despite coming up 3,500 votes short working the 2010 General Election was an incredible experience and one that has made me reevaluate some of the camapaigning techniques I have previously advocated. There truly is something electric about working a marginal seat in any country. Watching Nigel and his local team (supplemented of course with a bevy of past and present interns from London) pound the pavement to get out the vote and combat the most negative campaign I have ever seen on the part of his Liberal Democrat opponent Stephen Lloyd was truly inspiring. Combining the best and worst aspects of politics this race was (to paraphrase Cory Bookers 2004 Mayoral bid) a "Street Fight."

Although very different from working in Nigel's Westminister Parliamentary office I found the campaign trail to be a place of great opportunity for someone like myself. More specifically a willingness to work hard and quick thinking were valued over age and how long you had known the Boss. Although the first weeks were stressful as Nigel's Researcher Joel and I established the basic practices of the campaign and divided our duties. We did not overcome the administrative challenges we were faced with until about halfway through the campaign. However, with two weeks to go the campaign hit its stride and began playing offense instead of responding to the lies and smear tactics utilized by the Eastbourne Liberal Democrats. One major issues we were confronted with was getting campaign posters up and keeping them up. Within a day of putting posters up they were quickly torn down by our opponents (a practice Nigel forbade anyone in the campaign from taking part in). This issues got so bad that a former Lib Dem Councillor (local official)was arrested for harrasing our volunteers, attempting to bribe our volunteers, and destroying dozens of Conservative Party signs.

Polling day in the UK is just as hectic here in the States. The major difference I found was the emphasis on the ground game. The size of the modern American Congressional District makes door knocking extremely difficult and usually not terribly effective. Being a tenth of the size makes a Parliamentary Constituency not only walkable, but allows for micro targeting. Based upon returns from our representatives at each of the polling places Conservative Party Software generates "knock up lists" that give specific addresses for us to get out the pledged Conservative Vote. Despite losing Nigel earned 21,223, an INCREASE of 190 votes from 2005. With this in mind I would have to attribute Lloyd's increase of nearly 5000 votes to winning the youth vote as well as tactical voting on the part of Labour Party supports (with a 50% drop in support from 2005).

One of the most surreal experiences of the campaign was being present at the election night count, a process by which all of the votes are manually counted. Further building the tension, packets of 1000 votes are clothespinned together and placed on tables. The way the tables were arranged gave the impression that Nigel had not only won, but possibly increased his majority. However when the votes were tabulated it was clear we had been defeated. Each of the candidates stands on stage alongside their opponents and gives final remarks.

Just one day later I packed my Flat in Maida Vale off of the Warwick Avenue Tube Stop and headed to Heathrow for the long flight home. Volcanic ash extended my trip by a few hours but in the end I made it back to Boston. After a week in DC for CUA's graduation I was back in MA and ready to start my summer job as an Administrative Intern with Fidelity Investments in Boston.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Campaigning


Over the past three years I have certianly done my fair share of campaigning and I am quite at home in a van full of campaign literature for days at a time. I think my personal count at this point is six states, and last weekend I had the chance to add the UK to that list as well. I travelled to Eastbourne to campaign with my MP for the upcoming election (tentatively scheduled for May 6th). Eastbourne itself was quite nice, every bit the coastal town I had been told to expect from my time in the office thus far.

What did take me by surprise was who was actually doing the canvassing. We met up with a group of about ten older members of the Conservative Party along with the local politicians and Nigel himself. Although the process is largely the same in the United States and the United Kingdom there is something about walking the streets with the official you are representing that is a rush. In the States the sheer size of Congressional districts precludes the candidates from physically canvassing the constituency. However the UK benefits from having districts that are 1/10th the size of an U.S. Congressional District and therefore politics has a decidely local feel to it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Emerald Isle

A few weeks back I made a weekend trip to Ireland touring both Dublin, and Galway along the Western coast. Despite being majority Irish I have never really felt connected to any particular part of my heritage. I mean I'm English, Irish, Scottish, and Native American. It was really interesting to visit where my ancestors were from though and I now have a much better understanding of Irish-American culture back in the States.

Also had my first hostel experience......not the nicest place in the world but it did the job just fine. At the very least we met a few characters in the process. One that really stood out however was this French girl named Lara. She had been staying in the hostel for three months with no apparent direction and was just sorting out her life after finishing her first year studying philosophy in Paris. She was very nice (despite enjoying Rousseau) but what struck me the most was that she was completely fine living in a hell hole in Dublin no idea what she is going to do with herself. You could never get away with that in the United States, and I cannot quite figure out why. We have a very different attitude about education and more importantly we leave our college educations with so much debt that roaming around for a few years is a financial impossibility. I also think it goes further than that though.

Similarly one of the interns who trained me here in my office has already graduated from University and is doing unpaid work while living at home. Due to student loans and pride most US students want to get jobs and get their own place as quickly as possible after graduation. One of the most interesting aspects of going abroad thus far has been seeing how the role of young adults varies from place to place.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Age of the Flip

So before embarking on my Eurotrip my girlfriend bought me a Flip Mino mini camcorder. Smaller than most most cellphones the Flip comes equipped with speakers a LCD display as well as a built in USB port so you don't have to worry about losing any cords, a huge help while traveling. The big question regarding this technology is whether or not the convenience is outweighed by the loss of quality from a larger, more expensive model. In my opinion these cameras are not simply a blip on the radar but are fast becoming one of the most important means of personal, political, and media expression available.

With the advent of the YouTube generation people have an incredible desire to voice their opinions (or share funny videos of the their children and pets) and these cameras provide a low cost but technologically advanced means of transmitting these things. More importantly however camera's such as the Flip are empowering the average person and making them a contributing player in a much larger (in many cases) global exchange on a number of issues Politics has not been unaffected following the introduction of this technology either. David Plouffe, Campaign Manager for then Senator Barack Obama's Presidential Campaign, discusses in his book The Audacity to Win the incredible effect video messages had in campaign e-mails. Interestingly enough Obama supporters were not yearning for a clip with an especially high production value, instead they wanted something real. This desire for something authentic is what has propelled the video diary of freshman Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah to an internet sensation on CNN's Freshman Year video blog. The UK has also seen the introduction of highly portable video camera's in Conservative Leader David Cameron's WebCameron video exclusives. In addition to providing a real look at the inner working of politics video messaging also gives voters not simply a name, or logo but a face and a person to identify with.

Portable video technology will also create a more fluid definition of the news media than exists even today. With almost anyone able to produce, record, or create a clip the sky truly is the limit in regards to who can break the next story or be first on the scene of a major topic.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Soccer Hooligans

We tried to visit this very authentic British pub called the Hole in the Wall over by Waterloo station but were asked by Police to find another place to grab lunch and have a drink as "there were going to be problems here." It seems the bar was taken over by soccer fans and then they were escorted out for fighting. video

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Commentary from Across the Pond

As I sit here and use the free internet in an English McDonald's I am still blown away by the result of last night's Senate Race in Massachusetts. Interestingly enough Americans are not the only ones in awe by this. At work this morning (a little late I admit from staying up until the race was called for Brown) I received a phone call from my Boss send his congratulations in regards to the "right proper beating" that was administered last night.

While a historic night without a doubt the lesson is not that 2010 will be a cake walk for Republicans across the nation. Instead the message, and one the GOP should take heed of, is that no state is permanently dyed one color, Red or Blue. To win Republicans will have to work as hard, if not harder than Senator-elect Brown, but it can be done. Moving forward the GOP must also realize that you run to win, but that is not an end unto itself. You win to govern. Without a cohesive strategy for governing the United States then Republicans are no better than their Democratic counterparts. One year ago President Obama was inaugurated promising a new kind of politics. Since then two states that solidly supported Obama have become less than certain he is capable, or sincere about the advent of a new America. Voters in Virginia and New Jersey turned to Republicans who offered a message of change and hope to fulfill this promise. Last night the people of Massachusetts did the same. Republicans must not take these gains for granted, nor can they afford to pay passing lip service to the policy promises that got them there. The national GOP establishment would be wise to see what resonates with the American public. Specifically the promise of a better tomorrow, promotion of policies to help during these tough economic times, candidates who promise to be stewards of taxpayer funds, and the wholesale rejection of politics as usual. Don't forget this, regardless of how the chips fall in November.

In London the response has been surprise. It is clear the Republican Party was counted out, however many of the same conservative principles will be judged by the people here in just a few short months when Gordon Brown calls for a General Election campaign. Dubbed "The Year for Change" the Conservative Party is poised to make significant gains, but they too will be left with the challenge of not simply winning, but governing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Confessions of a Massachusetts Republican

As far as election campaigns go I have been around the block....No not like that. I have campaigned in MA, NJ, PA, FL, DC, VA for races ranging from local elections all the way up to a Presidential Campaign (and everything in between). I have always taken a certain amount of pride in challenging the belief that a Republican could not claim the Governor's mansion or a North Eastern PA Congressional Seat (coming back for that one in 2010). One thing I always excepted however was that Massachusetts will never (at least not in my lifetime) send a Republican to Congress, let alone the United States Senate. With that in mind I worked harder and longer to challenge places where the term Republican was a dirty word.

I don't think I was ever as distressed about the one party control of my state until I began interning. Quickly it became clear that I would not be able to apply to any of the Members of Congress who represented me. Luckily I found an adoptive home in the midwest office of the future Governor of Oklahoma. But with an hour to go before polls close in the Bay State it looks like for the first time in 40 years a Republican just may be representing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the Senate. What a difference a year makes! More than the opportunity to intern for a person I believe in from MA, Scott Brown's campaign represents an affirmation of something every parent has told their child from a young age. Hard work is rewarded. Win or lose Brown has outworked his opponent and ignored the pundits who said it was a pipe dream. I wish him the best of luck tonight and I cast my ballot almost two weeks ago for him.

Until the polls close I am just keeping the faith.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mind the Gap

So as a Washington, D.C. college student I consider myself a bit of an authority on public transportation. In my short time in DC I have experienced the good and the bad(see June crash, recent suicides) about the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority. After spending just a few days in London I have some thoughts about the Underground, aka the Tube. Although quite a bit more expensive than my beloved Metro, the Tube is incredibly fast. I think I have only waited a total of ten minutes in about 15 trips. Also the tube does frequent updates regarding the service on each line letting travelers know well in advance if there are any issues.

Something else I enjoyed about the Tube is that each of the stations is incredibly unique. Unlike the D.C. metro system where uniform stations are the norm, British stations are each very different. A reflection of the age of London itself these stations are lined with some of the most effective advertising I have seen in my life. There is barely an empty wall. It makes me wonder why the D.C. metro is so inadequately utilized as far as advertising space is concerned. I have also been blown away by the quality of service from the Underground employees. Each time I have been lost they were quick to help with a smile on their faces. A stark contrast to the horrendous attitude displayed by WMATA employees. Lastly I was shocked to see how clean the cars of the Tube are. Unlike the D.C. metro there are few to no signs warning of penalties resulting from consuming food or drink on the trains.

However, despite the positives I noticed a few less than ideal things as well. Many of the lines on the Tube are undergoing track work during the weekends causing issues for the new traveler like myself. My primary criticism with this impressive transit system is the price though. As I alluded too earlier the Tube is incredibly expensive. With a price of nearly $2 for even the shortest ride "topping up" (adding money too) your oyster card (smarttrip card) can quickly drain your funds. I hope within the next two weeks to pick up a discounted student oyster card to help stave off some of these expenses. The availability of this card, even though it may be tough to get, underscores the need for a student smart trip in the D.C. WMATA system. Not only would this incentives student use of the metro it would also be a means of limited bad behavior on the Metro. If Metro Police can threaten to revoke a Student Smart Trip instead of applying a simple fine they may provide a persistent economic reason for college students to better treat their transit system.

Monday, January 11, 2010

England Update

Gonna keep track of all the places I visit and my thoughts on the cuisine, etc.

Sports Cafe- American style bar. Pretty solid place to avoid all things British, which I do not recommend at all. Nice to have in the case of an important Patriots game though (wish it turned out differently)! The beer was a little pricey and the place was packed. I enjoyed a Becks and a Carlsberg. The latter was far superior, in terms of both taste and price.

On the way home from the beating the Pats took at the hands of the Ravens Tanner, Pat, and I stopped for a pizza and a drink. The pies were delicious but the beer left something to be desired. We were drinking Peroni, it was fine but not a show stopper by any means.

Also realized that many of the pubs here in London utilize the same menu. Slight drag if your looking for variety but pub grub is a cheap alternative for lunch. Will be avoiding any menu with the same bold type stating "English Pub Food Served All Day." Looking forward to checking out some of the more unique and ethnic areas of the city.

London Calling

I arrived in London on Saturday morning. I flew Virgin Atlantic from Boston (Logan) to London (Heathrow). I packed a ton of stuff, so much so that I had a garment bag, a huge rolling duffel, and a small duffel bag in addition to my carry on. The result was a bit of a disaster. I don't care who you are, unless you are the Hulk you would not have been able to carry this amount of luggage around London. With that in mind I elected to take a cab from the airport to the hotel where my key for my flat was supposedly waiting. The ride was really long, and really expensive. Then to cap it off the Hotel Umi did not have my key. I must have misread an e-mail from the Study Abroad people and it took me a good hour to track down the right hotel to pick up my key. Luckily from the time I picked up my key to when I moved into the flat was very uneventful. After unpacking a little bit I actually fell asleep in the living room and passed out for a few hours.

I ended up waking up too two of the other guys moving in. We got our stuff together and then went into the city to grab some food and do a little bit of exploring. Attempting to channel my english roots Tanner, Mike, and myself went off to find a pub for dinner. After much debate and quite a bit of walking around in Picadily Circus (which for the record has no circus animals or any other resemblance to an American circus) we ended up at the Sussex Pub. The food was pretty basic but it was nice to sit down and feel a part of the city. I had a burger and "chips." Also took part in another British tradition of having a pint or two. I drank a 1664 which was a pretty decent beer and something I remember people drinking from my previous trip to Europe. I also tried a Strongbow cider and instantly became a fan. The raging hangover I received from it I was less enthusiastic about.

After dinner the three of us headed out for a late night tour of some of London's most notable sites. We saw Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the House of Parliament. Overall a cool way of seeing the city.