Sic Semper Disappointment

/Film this week reported something very disappointing:

For years Steven Spielberg has been developing a biopic of Abraham Lincoln, and Liam Neeson has long been attached to the title role. But the film has failed to come together for various reasons [...]. “I’m not actually playing Lincoln now,” Neeson said to GMTV. “I was attached to it for a while, but it’s now I’m past my sell-by date.”

I hope this changes, because Liam Neeson as Lincoln would be spectacular.

Counting the Vote

The Massachusetts state legislature today passed a bill that would force its state electoral votes to be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes nationally.  Having done my graduate school thesis project on Electoral College reforms, I had to jump on this.

Forcing the Electoral College to follow the national popular vote effectively renders the Electoral College moot.  The winner of the national popular vote would automatically be the winner of the Electoral College—at which point the Electoral College serves no purpose.  But without a constitutional amendment, the Electoral College has to exist is some bastardized form of a LOST-esque purgatory.

A national popular vote, while seemingly popular, probably wouldn’t change election outcomes much; candidates will still likely campaign the same or similarly to how they do now.  The Democratic candidate still will not campaign in Massachusetts, California, or Illinois, and the Republican candidate will still not campaign in Texas, Georgia, Utah, or Oklahoma.  Who most voters in these states will vote for is all-but determined before the election season even starts.   Instead, both candidates will still campaign in the battleground states of our existing electoral system in an effort to secure as many toss-up votes as possible.   Why?  Because this is where the majority of toss-up votes are.  They’re battleground states for a reason.

If the purpose to switching to a national popular vote is out of anger at the Electoral College, the anger is misplaced.  The thing is, a close election will be a close election no matter how the vote is counted.  Take 2000 as an example.  Of the roughly 105 million votes cast, less than 540,000 votes separated Bush & Gore—roughly 0.0052 of the total.  In 1888, another year the popular-vote winner lost the presidency, out of 11 million votes cast, less than 91,000 votes separated Harrison and Cleveland—roughly 0.008 of the total.

Close elections will remain controversial.  The nightmare scenario with a national popular vote would be a recount of every vote in the nation.  What would the recount threshold be?  0.01?  0.005?

A far more interesting Electoral College reform to explore is a proportional allocation of each state’s electoral votes.

As a review, whichever candidate in a state receives the most popular votes in the state also receives all of that states electoral votes.  If the candidate receives 1 more vote or 1 million more votes, that candidate gets all of the electoral votes.  This process is in effect in every state but Maine and Nebraska (these two states award electoral votes based on which candidate wins each congressional district and two for the winner of the state’s popular vote.  Maine adopted this method in 1972 and has never split its vote; Nebraska adopted this in 1992 and only split its vote once: 2008).

The proportional allocation plan splits a state’s electoral votes according to what percentage of the state’s popular vote the candidate won.  So if a candidate wins 60% of the state’s popular vote, the candidate receives 60% of the state’s electoral votes.

With a proportional allocation plan, no disbanding of the Electoral College would be necessary.  State results are still state results—thus retaining the federalist aspect of presidential elections.  And, switching the Electoral College to proportional allocation wouldn’t require a constitutional amendment; rather, each state would pass a law directing their electoral votes to be proportionally allocated (there isn’t anything in the Constitution on how a state’s electoral votes be allocated; only that they must exist).

More than anything else, though, the best aspect of proportional allocation is the likelihood of increased voter participation.  Suddenly, every vote matters. Candidates would have to alter their campaign strategies.  California’s 55 electoral votes and Texas’s 34 are up for grabs more so than they are now.  John McCain would have won 20 electoral votes in California and Barack Obama 15 in Texas.  Republicans in decidedly-Democratic states and Democrats in decidedly-Republican states who might not vote in the current system because “their vote doesn’t count” now have more relevance and have more purpose to vote.

And that, is the point.  Increased voter participation is the real issue.  So whether proportional allocation is the method or a national popular vote, if more people vote and vote smartly, everyone wins.

If you’re interested in how reform proposals might have changed past presidential elections, check out my thesis project where you can apply a reform proposal to a past election and see the results both nationally and state-by-state (mouse-over each state for further breakdown of results).

Kevin Spacey Is Awesome

Impersonations of Jimmy Stewart, Clint Eastwood, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Jack Lemmon, and others:

(via Daring Fireball)

Great Hair

One of the best descriptions of Mitt Romney I’ve read came from The Daily Dish yesterday:

A hologram of a politician defined only by
ambition and great hair.

Good Morning from the Cape

sunrise

Sacred Honor

us flag

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence

Happy Independence Day.

GOOOOOLden Graphics

I’ve talked about the music of ESPN’s World Cup coverage, but what about some of the graphics?   Motionographer recently posted a montage of Prologue’s graphics package for ESPN.   Great stuff.   Check it out!

prologue espn

NBA Free Agents

On SportsCenter yesterday, my NBA free agents touchscreen graphic debuted with NBA analyst Chris Broussard:

I still have a few tweaks and updates to work on, so the graphic isn’t finished, but after spending two months working on it, finally seeing it on TV is a great feeling.

What’s special about this graphic is the on-the-fly calculations of NBA team salaries based on several factors: signed player salaries, free agent cap holds if they have Bird rights, and team roster charges if the team has less than 12 players.   Each time a player is moved to or from a roster or a team renounces all or individual free agents, the graphic runs through a series of calculations to determine the team’s new salary total and their available cap room.

Because of this graphic, I now know more about the NBA free agency process than 1.) I care to know and 2.) I ever thought I would all thanks to this year’s big story: LeBron James.

Here was my view in the studio yesterday:

free agents graphic

free agents graphic

Waiting for Superman

Watch this.   You won’t be disappointed.

Created by the people at Buck who were also behind those fantastic Sherwin Williams paint chip commercials here and here.

(Via: Nagle)

AT-AT Day Afternoon

In case you haven’t seen Patrick Boivin’s “AT-AT Day Afternoon” yet, check it out. Terrifically well-done and cute idea.

Sonofabitch

I can’t get my hands on an iPhone 4 yet, and this effing guy is BLENDING one?! Sonofabitch.

(via TUAW)

Title Sequence: Human Target

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a title sequence, so here’s one for you.

Designed by: Jeremy Cox (check out his other great work!)
Year: 2010

(Via Motionographer)

Raiders of the Lost Ark: 1954, 1981, 2008

After seeing that awesome original trailer for The Empire Strikes Back last month, I poked around for one of my other favorite 80s flicks: Raiders of the Lost Ark.   Not only did I find the original 1981 trailer, I found two other great videos.

Here’s the 1981 Raiders trailer:

Here’s a remade Raiders trailer from 2008. EPIC:

And finally, here’s user whoiseyevan‘s 1950s version of Raiders featuring all the influences and inspirations of the film:

Soundtrack Review: The Karate Kid

karate kid

After so many years of ranting against, detesting, abhorring, and otherwise loathing James Horner, I found myself in great enjoyment of his score for Avatar.   Sure there were similarities with past works (standard for a Horner score and what I most derided him for), but the pieces came together in a magical and magnificent package.

But could my new-found Horner liking last into another score?   His score for the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid would test that liking.   The verdict?   Yes, another great Horner score.   I must be sick.

James Horner’s score for The Karate Kid is terrific, memorable, and balances light-heartedness, tenderness, and otherwise kick-ass-ness.

Originally, Zimmer-goon Atli Örvarsson was to score the film, and we’d likely end up with some half-baked mishmash of crap like Marc Streitenfeld’s Robin Hood score.    Thankfully, we are treated to a proper score.

“Leaving Detroit” opens the score with a light and fanciful recurring theme:

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“Kung Fu Heaven” wouldn’t be out of place in John Debney’s score for The Passion of the Christ:

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“The Forbidden City” includes some lush string writing:

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In “Journey to the Spiritual Mountain,” Horner gives us some sumptuous travel music:

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I imagine “Hard Training” accompanying a training montage:

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Then we arrive at the ten-and-a-half-minute “From Master to Student to Master” which is undoubtedly the highlight of the album.   Roughly six minutes of the cue is soft, reflective music featuring a lovely solo piano. The rest of the cue is balls-to-the-wall epicness.    Horner lets loose with a magnificent, multi-part theme that repeats with varying instrumentation and arrangements.    I have no intentions of seeing the film, but I’d love to know what is happening during this cue.

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The track concludes with a rousing Horner ending:

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“Dre’s Gift and Apology” slows things down a bit and reprises on solo piano the theme first heard in the opening track:

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“Final Contest” gives us another full dose of the epic multi-part theme in “From Master to Student to Master” and splendidly finishes out the album:

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As the film takes place in China, Horner takes care to include some Eastern instrumentation.   There aren’t any explicitly-Eastern cues, but traditional Chinese instruments are effectively used as texture throughout the score.   And as usual, the Japanese shakuhachi Horner’s favorite ethnic instrument makes an appearance in the score.

Always the question with a Horner score is how much did he plagiarize himself.   I am surely not a Horner expert and am only familiar with his more mainstream works, but I don’t hear much that jumps out and screams, “Hey! I’m the theme from such-and-such movie that Horner ripped off!”   Certainly there are echos of his past works, but this is more likely his writing style coming through (e.g. his crashing pianos make an appearance) rather than a true “Hornerism” of copy-and-pasting himself (surprisingly and thankfully his trademarked four-note danger theme is absent from the album).   Even without the self-quoting, this is definitely a Horner score from start to finish.

The Amazon page for the score says, “A release date has not yet been set for this title,” but you can pre-order the score.   If you’re not willing to wait indefinitely, you can purchase the score via iTunes.

And you should, because with his score for The Karate Kid, James Horner has provided another terrific score and is slowly making me a believer.   His tender, solo piano themes and his epic, full-blown orchestral might leave me wanting more.   James Horner kicks-ass with The Karate Kid.

4.5/5

One Theme Changes Everything, cont.

Continuing my discussion on Lisle Moore’s outstanding theme for ESPN’s coverage of the World Cup, here’s a better recording-session video that showcases the music better.   If you’ve been watching ESPN’s coverage of the World Cup, you’ve heard the music.

Also, the Salt Lake Tribune wrote about the Utah-native Moore:

The theme you will hear during ESPN’s monthlong soccer coverage was written by Highland composer Lisle Moore. Moore, with the assistance of Salt Lake City’s Non-Stop Music, created the grand, inspiring music that melds African voices with a full orchestra.

Moore, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music and a Utah resident since 1994, has written music for TNT’s coverage of the NBA, and has worked with ESPN before on golf and tennis coverage. “This is a bigger deal,” said the sports buff who calls himself a die-hard Jazz fan. “This is worldwide.” [...]

When ESPN contacted him about a year ago asking for a proposal for 2010 World Cup music, Moore knew the network was looking for more than a traditional score for the event. It wanted a musical reflection of where the tournament was being held, while enticing ESPN viewers to keep watching throughout an entire month of programming. “I had to do a lot of listening on iTunes to see what I was up against,” Moore said. [...]

With the go-ahead from ESPN, Moore composed 16 variations of the theme so the music could be used in multiple ways on TV, such as during the highlights show, promos, and before and after commercial breaks.

Again, outstanding effort from Moore.   Awesome music that captures the excitement and the setting of the games.   Bravo!

LOST in Michael Giacchino’s Musical World

(Before LOST ended, I saved the website and article I discuss below for after the show was over, but I forgot about them.  Fortunately, Instapaper did not, and now they are found again.)

An indelible part of the six seasons of LOST was the musical score provided by Academy-Award-winning composer Michael Giacchino.  With his purposely scant ensemble of strings, trombones, and percussion, he crafted a sometimes subtle, sometimes striking, and often moving musical counterpart to the mysteries and the characters of the island.

The first five seasons of music are available to purchase (hopefully the sixth will be soon, too).  But if you want a closer look at each theme and each motif Giacchino created for characters, events, and specific situations, check out the website Music by Michael Giacchino.

On the site’s special LOST page, each episode is listed with samples of the themes and motifs that episode introduced.  Every theme and motif quite an impressive undertaking by whomever is behind the site.

Some of my favorites:

Giacchino’s Oceanic Six theme is probably the finest theme he wrote for the show.  Beautiful.

Finally, if you’re interested in a little behind-the-scenes action, Maria Elena Fernandez of The Los Angeles Times blog Show Tracker featured exclusive video of a rehearsal for a LOST concert with Giacchino and his ensemble.  Below is one of the videos, but be sure to check out the rest.

Blaming Obama?

obama

Ezra Klein this week wrote an insightful post regarding blaming the oil disaster on President Obama.   He writes:

It strains credulity to suggest that presidents will enter office and zero in on failures at tiny regulatory agencies [like the Mineral Management Service]. But their underlings should. And they appoint their underlings. So insofar as Ken Salazar fell down on the job, it’s Obama’s fault in a “buck stops here” sort of way.

But this is also evidence of what a bad idea it is to routinely elect people who make it a point to degrade the capacity of regulatory agencies. If your regulators are going to be effective, the commitment to their effectiveness has to be continuous, not episodic. If every other administration has to come into office and nurse a sabotaged bureaucracy back to health, they’re going to miss some of the problems, and much of the damage will already have been done.

So though Obama deserves to take his lumps on this one, Americans should take the lesson of recent disasters, from the financial crisis to the BP spill to Katrina, and realize that they actually like having good regulators and they get upset when their regulators fail them. Which might mean it’s a good idea to elect people who are interested in making sure regulators don’t stop doing their jobs every couple of years, as opposed to people who think that the best regulation is no regulation, and the second-best regulation is whatever the relevant industry tells them it is.

(Photo: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Toles

toles

We Need a Hero

Jon Stewart had a pretty good take-down of the president this week (starting around 4:39):

Whether or not there is more that the president can do, he needs to convince the American public that he is doing all that he can. Every classic story has a villain and a hero. We have a villain: BP and Big Oil. Now we need a hero. Especially if the computer models are correct (via Discovery News) or if a hurricane (or two) blow through the Gulf.

Heartbreaking

If you haven’t seen The Big Picture’s post yesterday of birds caught in the oil spill, check them out.   The pictures are as disgusting as they are heartbreaking, and thinking that they’re just the beginning is difficult.   I drive a car everyday.   This is my spill, too.   Below, a bird caked with oil:

oil bird

Jacob’s LOST Ark

One of my coworkers this week (thanks, Steve!) enlightened me to something deliciously interesting about the musical theme Michael Giacchino wrote for Jacob on LOST.  Here’s Jacob’s theme:

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The main construct of the theme is a suspended note followed by two ascending notes.

Now here is John Williams’s theme for the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark:

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The main construct of this theme is a suspended note followed by two descending notes.

Very clever.  A theme for a mystical, god-like person paying homage to a theme for a mystical, god-related object.  Nice work, Michael.

Why So Serious, Woody?

The Dark Knight trailer audio + Toy Story video = Awesome.

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(Via Ezra Klein)

A World of Paint Chips, Part 2

Buck recently released their second Sherwin Williams paint chip spot.   Another beauty, just like their first.   (And a third is on its way.)

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(Via: Motionographer)

New Rule

News reports must stop referring to the Gulf oil gusher as a “leak.”   Drippy faucets leak.   THIS is not a leak:

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Socialism!!!

top tax rate

(Via Chart Porn)