Friday, July 24, 2009

Can I Run for President Now?

In the interest of full disclosure to my fellow Americans, I have reviewed my copy of my original birth certificate, exactly as it was presented to me, black-outs and all. My middle name at birth is blacked out, so it could be Muhammad or Hussein. Moreover, the certificate doesn't indicate my race or religion, so it could be that I was born a Black Muslim. However, my pasty skin and blue eyes, and the apparent absence of mosques from Somervell County, Texas, in 1962 would seem to call into question these possibilities. But, hey, someone will need to lean on the Denton, Texas, 16th District Court to gain definitive answers to any questions about my middle name, race, or religion. I've given you all that I can. Now, can I run for President when Obama becomes ineligible for reelection in 2016?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Puddle of Evil

DW and I watched the first two seasons of Damages in marathon sessions stretching over one week. Glenn Close stars as Patty Hewes, New York's most celebrated plaintiffs' lawyer. Hewes is openly ruthless, but few know just how ruthless she really is. The show opens with a seemingly naive new lawyer, Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne), taking a job with Patty, in order to help common men and women fight for justice against big, evil corporations. In S1, those evil corporations are personified in the character of Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson). Frobisher has a jolly exterior, but he is utterly ruthless and amoral on the interior, just like Patty. Frobisher's lawyer (played by Zejlko Ivanek) is Patty's nominal adversary, but Frobisher is the real adversary of S1. Patty sues Frobisher on behalf of his former employees after his company collapses in an accounting scandal, a la Enron. As the suit progresses, the main characters drag themselves down deeper and deeper in a puddle of evil. Ellen is compromised with surprising ease, but she rationalizes her actions as a necessary evil in Patty's crusade for the common folks. Patty and Frobisher, meanwhile, will stop at absolutely nothing to come out ahead. Murder and official corruption are not above these two eeeeevil people. Everybody, it seems, has a hidden agenda, and most of the characters are thoroughly rotten.

Damages plays like a kind of 24 for s-m-r-t people, in that there are unexpected plot twists galore. Also, there are three or four storylines moving along simultaneously--some present, some past, some future. The storylines merge nicely towards the end of each season. The production values of this show are first-rate; the tinting and texture of the past and future scenes distinguish them from the present ones, though the producers added temporal subtitles in S2 (e.g., "6 months later"). Some scenes were filmed with handheld cameras, giving them a jumpy, neurotic quality matching the characters' mental state. The writing is excellent, but the quality of the acting really holds the show together, IMHO. Glenn Close and Ted Danson are over-the-top mean and evil, though both appear to be reasonable professionals to those who don't know them. Close and Ivanek took home Emmys for Season 1, and Rose Byrne, Ted Danson, William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, and Timothy Olyphant all managed to hold their own.