A Candidate Of Self-Inflicted Wounds

Voting has started today in the New Hampshire primary.  The polls and pundits are saying that Senator Bernie Sanders is likely to beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, further puncturing the air of inevitability that her campaign has sought to project.

Why is Hillary Clinton struggling?  She’s got tons of money, and tons of endorsements, and allies up and down the Democratic Party structure.  She can point to a record that includes service as a Senator and Secretary of State.  She’s the first woman to seriously contend for the presidency and has that historic element to her candidacy.  And she’s got an ex-President always ready to go out and campaign for her.

635615989866784419-ap-dem-2016-clintonSo, why isn’t she wiping the floor with Senator Bernie Sanders, the self-avowed socialist?

I think it’s because Hillary Clinton is the candidate of self-inflicted wounds.  A lot of politics is instinctive, and her instincts just aren’t there.  Time and again, she doesn’t effectively deal with questions or issues, and then rather than changing tack she digs in and just makes the issue more difficult for herself.

The latest example of this is the continuing runout of the Hillary Clinton Goldman Sachs speeches story.  At the most recent Democratic candidate debate, Clinton was asked if she would release the transcripts of those speeches.  Clinton said, guardedly, that she would “look into it.”  It’s a classic non-answer, a deferral in hopes that people will just forget about it.  But, of course, the media is like a dog with a bone — when a story has legs, as the Wall Street speeches story does, the press won’t let go.

So the media reports that transcripts of the speeches were required by contracts covering the speeches, at Clinton’s insistence, and that she owns the transcripts and controls the ability to release them.  Then, when the Clinton campaign doesn’t promptly announce its decision after “looking into” the issue, the press asks about it, which leads to stories speculating about why she wouldn’t release the transcripts — unless there’s something bad in them.  Days later, Clinton tries to stop the bleeding by saying she’ll release her transcripts if every other candidate who has given a speech for money agrees to release those transcripts.  It’s another non-answer and deferral technique, because nobody is seeking every transcript of every speech by every other candidate — they just want to know what Hillary Clinton said at Goldman Sachs.

It must be frustrating for Clinton’s supporters and campaign staff, to deal with the constant drip, drip, drip of stories about issues that won’t go away and that won’t allow Clinton to try to deliver her own, coherent campaign message.  Why won’t she just release the damn transcripts and be done with it?  If Hillary Clinton doesn’t beat Bernie Sanders, she should just look in the mirror for the culprit, because she is the candidate of self-inflicted wounds.

That Doritos Ultrasound Commercial

I admit it:  I laughed out loud at the Doritos ultrasound commercial during the Super Bowl yesterday.  Any guy who’s been to a sonogram appointment would like the set-up, because even the most disheveled slacker would never dream of taking a bag of Doritos to munch on while the doctor is showing you live pictures of the soon-to-be newest member of the family.  The idea that the baby was aware of the Doritos and wanted some is just a funny concept.  And the ending caught me totally by surprise.

I didn’t think about the commercial again until I read some articles this morning showing that the commercial has become the latest focus of the abortion debate.  NARAL Pro-Choice America sent out a tweet saying that the ad was “using #antichoice tactic of humanizing fetuses & sexist tropes of dads as clueless & moms as uptight.”  And the pro-lifers then came out to depict the commercial as a strong pro-life statement.

Really, people?  Pregnancy and childbirth and new babies used to be the source of a lot of great humor.  There was a classic episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show where Rob Petrie is convinced that Baby Petrie wasn’t their child and was switched at birth with Baby Peters — setting up one of the funniest moments in TV sitcom history, shown below.  I’d hate to think that political sensibilities are now going to make that area out of bounds.

Sigmund Freud purportedly said “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”  C’mon, people — sometimes a funny, silly commercial is just a funny, silly commercial, not some momentous political statement.  Can we please lighten up a bit?

Greatest Headline Ever!

moses-breaking-the-tablets-of-the-lawI won’t spoil the suspense; you’ll have to click on the link to find out precisely what the greatest headline ever written is.  And I don’t want to cause our lofty family blog to sink to new, sordid depths, but whoever wrote the headline for the Nigerian Scoop website deserves a raise.

I predict this story will be required reading for men’s Bible study classes for so long as such groups exist, and that devout but worried mothers of teenage boys might leave a printout on their son’s pillows.

I also predict that the Book of Ezekiel will suddenly become a lot more popular.

Hail, Caesar!

Hail, Caesar!, the latest Coen brothers film, won’t win any awards for best picture, but it probably should win some kind of recognition for most misleading preview.

hail-caesar-heroIf you’ve seen the preview, the movie looks like a very funny take on movie-making at a Hollywood studio in the ’50s, where a clueless leading man making a Biblical Roman epic gets kidnapped by some band representing “the future” and other stars seem to be enlisted to try to bring him home in the face of the unknown threat.  In other words, exactly the kind of quirky scenario in which the Coen brothers — creators of classics like Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and No Country For Old Men — would thrive.

Uhh, not so much.  Sure, all of the scenes shown in the preview are in the movie, but that’s where the similarity ends.  The quirkiness of the trailer becomes a pretty basic, slow-paced linear story about a Hollywood movie studio fixer type (Josh Brolin) who spends a lot of time walking briskly through studio lots in his double-breasted suit, telling his secretary to handle this and that, and stabbing the blinking lights on his old phone as he deals with each new crisis.  And speaking of old phones, this is the kind of movie that people who like production design would love.  It’s got vintage phones, vintage cars, vintage office fans, vintage restaurant settings, vintage Hollywood gossip columnist outfits, vintage film editing equipment, and countless other touches that do a pretty convincing job of depicting Hollywood in 1951, all of which are beautifully photographed.  If you like that kind of thing, this is the film for you.  Most of us, though, are looking for something more.

People who like Hail, Caesar! describe it as a kind of loving tribute to movie-making under the old studio system — which seems like it’s been done to death already, frankly — and the film has lots of behind the scenes shots of sets and sound stages, as well as well done set pieces featuring the filming of a synchronized swimming water movie, a western, and sailors getting ready to ship out dancing in a bar.  They don’t really advance the storyline, much, because there really isn’t much of a story in the first place.  It turns out that the group representing “the future” isn’t anything particularly interesting, but just a gang of Communist Hollywood writers who kidnap leading man Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) because they feel they’ve been exploited by the studios.  The Commies talk to the dim-witted Whitlock about dialectics and economics as the studio fixer addresses problem after problem and wrestles with whether he should stay in his job or take another one.

This is one of those Hollywood insiders movies that comes out from time to time and gets good reviews from people who know all of the references and probably can find exquisite humor in the dialogue.  For us, however, it was a big ho hum rather than the kind of funny film we expected.  It’s a good lesson — sometimes you just can’t trust a trailer.

 

I’ll Go With Carolina, Thanks

Usually I don’t watch the Super Bowl, because there’s always something about the game that reminds me, deflatingly, of the ongoing dismal state of the Cleveland Browns.

PrintWhen the AFC representative in the Super Bowl is the New England Patriots, I recall that Bill Belichick once was the head coach of the Browns.  When the AFC representative is the Baltimore Ravens, I remember that the Ravens once were the Browns, before they abandoned Cleveland and then promptly won two Super Bowls.  When one of the teams in the game is a newer franchise, like the Seattle Seahawks or Carolina Panthers, I’m reminded, again, that we have reached Super Bowl L and the Browns have never made to the Big Game — not once, in 50 years.  It’s an amazing, seemingly impossible record of ineptitude and futility that saddles Browns fans with an overwhelming weight of despair and crushed hopes.

So, normally I wouldn’t watch the Super Bowl.  I’m not sure whether I will or not, this year, but it’s not hard for me to say who I want to win.  I’ll take the Carolina Panthers over the Denver Broncos any day, for one reason:  John Elway.  He cut the heart out of Browns fans, two years in a row, and if I have to see his chiklet-toothed grin as he hoists the Super Bowl trophy I’m sure I’ll throw up or hurl a shoe at the TV screen.  Besides, the Carolina Panthers have a lot of ex-Buckeyes on their roster, and all of those players have been big contributors to their success this season.  Ted Ginn, Jr., Philly Brown, Kurt Coleman, and Andrew Norwell will remind me that there is at least one Ohio-based football team that I root for that knows what the hell it’s doing on the gridiron.

Go Carolina!  Make John Elway suffer!

Valter’s At The Maennerchor

Last night we checked out the latest restaurant to grace the German Village venue:  Valter’s at the Maennerchor.  It’s a new food option at one of the oldest, most iconic locations in Columbus — the Columbus Maennerchor (German for men’s choir) building.  The Maennerchor itself has been a part of the Columbus arts community since 1848.

IMG_0443It’s not surprising, then, that the restaurant has a strong German theme, from the Maennerchor plaques on the walls, to the cozy rooms, to the excellent beer selection, and finally to the menu options themselves.  (Although, when we where there, a bagpiper and drummer from the Columbus Shamrock Club stopped by to treat us to some music before enjoying a few pints at the bar, and when they left they departed with a heartfelt rendition of Carmen Ohio, The Ohio State University’s familiar alma mater.  I can now attest that Carmen Ohio sounds pretty darned good when played on a bagpipe.)

We started our meal with the sauerkraut ball and potato pancake appetizers.  Both were very good, but the potato pancakes are worthy of a special note because they were prepared in the preferred way:  crisp, well-crusted, and served the traditional way with dark mustard and applesauce.  For my entree I got the weinerschnitzel and spaetzle, which is the acid test for any German restaurant.  The schnitzel was tender and flavorful with a very nice breading, and the spaetzle was as light as spaetzle can be — after all, German cuisine is of the stick to your ribs variety — and had an excellent, peppery flavoring.  The portions were abundant, too, which is another German trademark, and the prices were very reasonable.

During our meal we met Valter himself, who made the rounds of the tables and later graciously treated us to some very tasty mini cream puffs.  He suggested that we stop by for brunch some weekend, and showed us a picture of a pancake concoction that made having brunch at the Maennerchor look like a very wise decision.

It’s nice to have another fun German food option in German Village.

 

Winging It

The Super Bowl is the greatest chicken wing-consuming event in America.  The National Chicken Council forecasts that Americans will chow down on 1.3 billion chicken wings during the game tomorrow.  That’s four wings for every man, woman, and child in America.  As the vice president for communications of the National Chicken Council aptly stated:  “Any way you measure it, that’s a lot of freaking wings.”

slide_3So, if you’re going to eat chicken wings tomorrow — and chances are, if you are a red-blooded, football-loving, commercial-watching American, you will be — and if you live in the Columbus, Ohio area, why not get your wings from a place that the Only in Your State website recently announced was one of the 11 restaurants with the best wings in Ohio?  The wings from JT’s Pizza & Pub made the top 11 list, and I can tell you from firsthand experience that the JT’s wings are excellent.

In the interests of full and fair disclosure, please note that JT’s is owned and operated by our nephew, Joe Hartnett, who’s been doing a bang-up job as a small businessman.  Now that the conflict of interest disclosures are out of the way, why not stop at JT’s to satisfy that Super Bowl wing craving?  You’ll find JT’s and its magic wings at 2390 West Dublin Granville Road — also know as Route 161 — in Columbus.