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Today, I woke up in a New America. I could feel it in the air, see it in the faces of my fellow citizens - we had awakened to a new and glorious dawn, a new era for American politics and a whole new way of life. My friends, my dear readers, it's going to be AWESOME. If you enjoyed Wal-E, with its cute little trash-cleaning robot and the global warehouse chain store that created him, then stand up and rejoice. You watched it - now you get to live it.

As the announcement went out yesterday about the Supreme Court's decision to lift restrictions on corporate and union spending during political campaigns (and by "lift," they mean "obliterate"), a lot of people began with the hand-wringing and the mind-losing and the other displays of hysteria that play so well on cable television news programs. These pundits worried that the Court's decision means the end of democracy as we know it - corporate interests will use their bottomless money sacks to purchase politicians and use them as their personal Washington mouthpieces, while at the same time shilling out for advertisements that will help them further agendas that will serve mainly to line their pockets. Small grassroots campaigns funded by average voters will be crushed by the roaring behemoths that support incumbents and are paid for by corporate donors eager to keep their favorite lackeys in power. Areas with limited media markets will fall prey to political and economic monopolies as Fortune 500 companies buy up every available second and space of advertising during election cycles, and every tiny hamlet in the country will be home to a Wal Mart Superstore as the Walton family uses its seemingly limitless funds to buy off town councils one chair at a time.

They're completely right, of course, but they're missing the point. Sure, the American citizen may be doomed to a future of abject misery as he or she bears witness to ecological collapse while at the same time struggling to stay afloat on slave wages, laboring under chronic indebtedness to their new business overlords and feeling their bodies catastrophically malfunction thanks to subsiding on chemically-laden, genetically modified processed foodstuffs with all the nutritional value of the box it came in, but trust me when I say that the television programs that come with this brave new future will be spectacular. You see, now that Corporate America gets the green light to transform America into AmerInc, its main concern isn't going to be health care or fair wages or climate change or any of those silly things that take money and effort. The real goal - the pressing, vital issue that must be addressed - is how to keep the American voter/consumer entertained. Any company worth its salt knows that people want something back for their hard-earned time and money, and now that the government won't actually be working on anything pressing, AmerInc is going to have to provide some sort of value for the masses, lest a few within those masses get a clue and start fomenting Dissent, Now with Added Weapons. My prediction? Politics is about to get a lot more exciting.

It'll be subtle at first. You may catch your senator plugging a regional supermarket chain or a member of the House letting you in on the secret to young, healthy-looking skin. (I can't wait to see what brand of self-tanning lotion John Boehner uses, to be quite honest.) Later, things will get a little more overt - instead of looking at a presidential candidate and thinking that it would be nice to have a beer with them, we'll get to see them having a beer (an American beer, most assuredly) and telling us how much they love it. Once such hawking becomes commonplace, AmerInc will feel more comfortable in moving on with the next phase of the operation, which will involve finally making use of the wasted space that is Washington, D.C.'s many monuments and government buildings. Television news reports from the nation's capital will pay for themselves, as the bidding wars for space on the Capitol Building, the White House and the Washington Monument will be incredibly fierce. The networks will use the money to fund new and better reality shows, as well as refurbishing government buildings to make them ready for the next phase of the operation.

If you've ever had the misfortune to suffer from a bout of insomnia, you no doubt know that C-SPAN is the best and cheapest cure for what ails you. The channel is unbearably dull at the best of times, but once AmerInc takes over, the least-watched channel on cable will experience a ratings blitz the likes of which it has never seen. Imagine the House and Senate chambers transformed into TV studio/arenas a la WWE, complete with entrance ramps, jumbo-trons and a full pyrotechnics rig. As the leaders of the legislative branch make their way to the floor for sessions, the room will be awash in color, sound, and light, not to mention the promo bits featuring clever product placements. Never again will the American people ask what their Member of Congress does all day - they'll be able to see it live as it happens, and with that many eyes glued to the screen, you can bet that speeches and debates will be the most intense ever witnessed in the chambers. Everyone knows that people won't change the channel once they've been promised that the Mountain Dew XBox 360 Verizon Xtreme Ultimate Foreign Policy Cage Match Sponsored By Budweiser will begin after a short message from Nike. Just wait until the 2012 presidential debates. Let's see how hopefuls answer questions about immigration reform while attempting to negotiate a half-pipe.

With all this added air time, AmerInc will quickly come to the conclusion that the current politicians serving our nation are, shall we say, a bit past their prime. Only the most beautiful among us are allowed to push Rolex watches and fast food, so it's only natural that beautiful people would also be called upon to push laws, amendments and other policy changes that would best serve corporate interests. It will help soften the blow when it comes time to announce that health care premiums will be doubling once again or that air pollution regulations have been abolished to save a few pennies in the short term. No one wants to hear that from an old man in a suit, so expect a lot of young men in suits and young women in not much at all to be hitting the air waves with bright, happy smiles to tell you about all the exciting new changes that will be coming to your town soon. They'll start replacing their older colleagues on a permanent basis once they're up to speed on the jargon and get some good training time in the cage. Long may they reign, and long will they - eventually, it'll dawn on their bosses at the top that elections are costly and outdated affairs, so the best way for Americans to elect representatives is to vote with their dollars, literally. If your favorite candidate is backed by Sears, you'd do well to purchase your appliances at one of their fine retail outlets. Your money is your voice, and your voice matters to AmerInc. AmerInc - Serving, Leading and Ruling since 2010.

It's a brave, bold new world you have ahead of you, America. I can't wait to see what happens. I'll be watching from Europe.
As of last night, the Golden Globe Awards has become my new favorite Hollywood ceremony. Much like the Oscars, the premise is simple - masses of beautiful film elites (and a handful of behind-the-scenes nerdy types) gather together for a night of self-congratulatory celebration. What makes the Globes so much better is the casual atmosphere that pervades throughout the proceedings. The Oscars is an event, but the Globes is most definitely a party. Where else can you see an emcee sipping Foster's (if Ashton Kutcher's Twitter feed is to be believed) while still at the podium? And how about that emcee? Ricky Gervais was devastating in the best of ways, and I like to think that he was able to make it out of that room alive, though it's possible that Colin Ferrel and Mel Gibson are chasing him through deserted Inland Empire subdivisions as I type. Godspeed, Mr. Gervais. And god help you.

However, there was far more on display last night than a vaguely caustic and pleasantly buzzed British comic. There were surprises! There were upsets! There were beautiful gowns and absolutely no awards for costumes, make-up, set design or special effects, which bummed me out because I love those! It was a fun and noteworthy night - here are some highlights:

Paul McCartney: What the hell is Sir Paul doing at the Golden Globes? Oh, turns out he's presenting Best Animated Feature (for some reason) and getting some of the best lines of the night in the process - not only is he "that guy from Rock Band," he also slyly reveals that animation's main non-juvenile audience is comprised of "drug-taking adults." The statement is accompanied by a knowing look on McCartney's part and approving whoops on the audience's. Coraline is up for this one, and I want to see it win just to prove that animation can be a vehicle for strong stories without relying on bright colors and frenetic action to engage an audience. Instead, the Globe goes to Up, an animated movie that is a vehicle for a strong story that doesn't rely on bright colors and frenetic action to engage an audience. It's also the only film of 2009 that made me cry. The director says that he and his crew drew inspiration from their family, friends, wives, children and talking dogs. My dog seems pleased.

Best Score: Up wins this one as well, and the composer is thrilled. However, what he's really happy about is being congratulated by Sir Paul. Can't say I blame him.

T Bone Burnett: My god, that man is tall. And why'd they have him in the cheap seats?

Meryl Streep: This woman is probably running out of mantle space, so I expect her to give the Been There, Done That speech. Instead, she's...humble. Humble, sweet, and genuinely happy. I'm surprised when she chokes up as she makes a quiet, subtle reference to Haiti. It's nice to know that she cares and doesn't just lend her name to the cause du jour.

Jeff Bridges: What a lovable old hippie! Lookit him, thanking his parents! It's about time he won something.

Mad Men:
I'm starting to think that I'm the only person who hasn't seen this show. I know it's about ad executives in the 60s, and I know everyone loves it. And oh, it won Best Television Series - Drama. That's nice. Good for them.

Michael C. Hall: I've never seen your show, sir, but good on you for showing up tonight. May your recovery be swift and complete.

Drew Barrymore: Has she never won anything before? She seems as surprised and nervous as a first-timer, but she's been in the business since she was...seven? Longer? It's endearing, don't get me wrong, but also a bit odd to me.

Christoph Waltz:
Speaking of charming, how about Christoph "Hans Landa" Waltz? Inglorious Basterds may be the role that defines him for Americans, but I hear he's well known in Austria. Personally, I'll forever know him as the man who scared the hell out of me with his portrayal of a charming, manipulative and utterly sadistic Nazi who would just as soon strangle you with his bare hands as he would order you a heaping plate of strudel. (Mr. Waltz, if you are reading this, I will have you know that I have never eaten strudel, nor will I ever partake of it in this lifetime. Thanks to you, the mere word gets my stomach in knots. I won't even mention the cream.)

Anyway, I had no idea what to expect of the man when he took to the stage to receive his award, but as soon as he opened his mouth, I knew exactly why he won in the first place. Whatever I was expecting, it was not a gentle, soft-spoken, incredibly grateful man who actually had doubts about being able to hold his own with the rest of the Inglorious cast. Sir, no more of that. You made that film. I firmly believe it never would have been the hit it was without you.

Next time, play a good guy. Because you are way too good at being evil.

Best Director: I know I'm not the only one who reacted with slack-jawed disbelief at the fact that Avatar won Best Picture (I've heard the film described as both "Fern Gully in Space" and "Dances With Furries," with the overarching complaint being that the plot and dialogue are terrible), but I'm willing to give Cameron a pass here, if only because of all the new technology he invented to make this film a reality. The man's purpose in Hollywood seems to be making big, beautiful movies by making things that enable him to make aforementioned big, beautiful movies, and I suppose it's only fair to give him recognition for that every so often. And at least now we know that if you want to win a Golden Globe for Best Picture, you just have to sit the judges in front of bright colors and frenetic action. Which makes me wonder just who Sir Paul was referencing earlier.

Cecil B. DeMille Award - Martin Scorsese:
Back when I was awesome and working for All Media Guide, I became friends with the guy who wrote this column. (True story!) Mr. Seibert is a big fan of this year's Cecil B. DeMille Award, so I knew he would be happy no matter what Mr. Scorsese said. And what Mr. Scorsese said was about others - the people he worked with, the people who inspired him, and the people who work to preserve films for future generations. If you have any love for movies, go find his speech on YouTube. You'll appreciate it.

Best Actor - Musical or Comedy: This one was all about Matt Damon. When The Informant! was in theaters and the reviews were coming in, his performance was lauded as one of the best of the year, so it seemed only natural that everyone in the room settled back and took a sip of their drinks while the names of the nominees were read out.

How do you know these are consummate professionals? You know when all of them - each and every one - managed not to choke on their bubbly or forcibly expel it into the face of their tablemate when Robert Downey Jr. scored the upset of the night. (Ok, fine - the second upset of the night. The other one was the evening's final award.) I'd just seen Sherlock Holmes the day before, so his performance as everyone's favorite British detective was fresh in my mind as he made his way to the podium. Everyone was surprised, most of all Robert Downey Jr. You know he's a consummate professional by his hilarious (and apparently ab-libbed) acceptance speech. You can find it on YouTube for now, but I've transcribed it below in the terribly likely event that it's yanked from the site tomorrow.

"If you start playing violins, I will tear this joint apart.

"First of all, I'd like to thank Susan Downey for telling me that Matt Damon was going to win, so don't bother to prepare a speech. That was at about 10 a.m. I don't have anybody to thank. I'm sorry - everyone's been so gratuitous. 'It was a collaboration.' 'We all did this together...' I'm certainly not going to thank Warner Brothers. Allan Horne and...my god [mutters]. These guys needed ME. Avatar was gonna take us to the cleaners! If they didn't have me, they didn't have a shot, buddy! What am I gonna do, thank Joel Silver, the guy who's only restarted my career 12 times since I began it 25 years ago?

"I mean, I REALLY don't want to thank my wife, because I could be busing tables at the Daily Grill right now if not for her. Jesus, what a gig that'd be...

"Guy Ritchie had a great vision for this film and a lot of great people came together and we worked our asses off. And it's just a privilege. By the way, the Hollywood Foreign Press...there's a Holmes quote by Conan Doyle - who was a genius, by the way - and he said, 'Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms.' That is why I would like to thank also - or not thank - the Hollywood Foreign Press, because they are a strange bunch, and now I'm one of them! Take it easy."

And that, as they say, is a wrap.

Just got this in my e-mail:

"Dear Ms. Fulton,

Thank you for applying to the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism. We received your application package and look forward to learning more about your project and career interests.

We will begin reviewing applications in early August and should be contacting finalists for interviews in September. We expect to complete the selection process no later than October 15.

Best regards,
Bobby Klein, Student Assistant
Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism
John Glenn School of Public Affairs
The Ohio State University
www.kiplingerprogram.org "


I'm trying not to jump the gun here. There's no guarantee that this means anything, and there's no reason to believe that this is anything other than one of your standard "we got your stuff - don't bug us" messages that gets sent out to keep daily phone calls and e-mails at bay. I've been disappointed by this sort of thing before - so much so that I'm really not expecting anything to come of it. (I didn't really expect anything to come of it in the first place, but I still put all my heart and soul into the application. It's a good project, if I do say so myself, and I think it deserves some support.)

Still...to hear back about this so soon? It makes me a little excited. How could I not be?

Let's Talk...Let's Talk...

Interesting past few days here. For the curious, a recap:

-Looks like I'll be writing a new human interest piece for The Gazette, this time about a local woman who is going to an international speech contest. I'll need to get the questions written out tonight and see if I can't contact her (or someone she knows) tomorrow. It's more interesting than it sounds - if memory serves correct, she works at NASA Glenn, so she's bound to have some cool stories. I'll make a point of listening to "Space Oddity" if I interview her by phone.

-One of the characters for my whacked-out steampunk-fantasy-thriller-whatever is starting to flesh out nicely. Oddly enough, it isn't the main character. I also have no idea what the plot for this whole mess will be, other than it involving magic, airships, an escape to Niagara Falls, Canada and a cameo by Nikola Tesla.

-I owe a friend of mine an essay about creative types and why we create. I find it amusing and unsettling that the quote I'll be using to start this whole thing off is from Watchmen - "We do not do this thing because it is permitted. We do it because we have to. We do it because we are compelled."

If that doesn't make us right-brainers sound horrifying, I don't know what does.

-So many ideas for articles. So little time to get them all written and pitched.

-I heard an interview with Harlan Ellison on Cleveland Public Radio today. While I know the man can be kind of a jerk, I couldn't help but like him. He's Northeast Ohio through and through, and listening to him made me want to a) have a drink with the man, and b) be on the radio myself someday. I'll have to read some of his work, see where he's been published, and sharpen my skills. I don't want to be the next Ellison, mind you. I just want to be the first me.

-I am to have a website, though the photo shoot(!) for said site was postponed. It was supposed to happen yesterday, but weeks with little sleep finally all collapsed on me yesterday, and I felt like utter crap. Still getting used to the fact that I'm not a spastic college brat anymore.

That's all the news that's fit to print at the moment. I'll be back with more as it happens.

Fun With Foodies

I got an e-mail today from my editor at The Gazette, who has been working diligently to come up with new and exciting ideas for the county's beloved daily. The arts and entertainment section is therefore going to focus on food every Tuesday, and I was asked if I'd like to do a column. A column.

It isn't a real column, at least not in the way it's generally described. I don't get to rant about food or vegetable growing or how very aggravating it is to see the same chain restaurants everywhere. Instead, it appears that I'll be interviewing local people (including the occasional restaurant chef) about their cooking experiences and favorite recipes - my main contribution will be fun little intros to frame the pieces, as well as hunting down local types to interview. This will, of course, involve actual research - as much fun as it would be to leap out from behind endcaps at the local grocery store for ambush interviews ("CITIZEN! IN THE NAME OF JOURNALISM, DIVULGE THE COMPONENTS OF YOUR EVENING MEAL!") I'm not sure that technique would go over well with such a family-friendly publication. The local alt-weekly, maybe, but not our sweet little daily.

Of course, there's always the danger that my tenure with the food section may eventually involve me reviewing restaurants, which could indeed be the death of me. What with the day job keeping me literally tethered to my desk for eight hours, I'm not getting much exercise these days. I'm told I could get up early to work out, but I still have trouble with that. I'm very much a night owl (though it'll be a while before I can nerd by buying this car and naming it Archie1), so I'd rather work out at 11:00 p.m. than 8:00 a.m. Of course, the way things are looking, I may well have to physically engage both early and late - I loathe the way I feel and look these days, and if my future involves rich meals on the cheap (or free!), I'm gonna have to pull out every stop I have. There's a real possibilty that they'll be rolling me in and out otherwise.

Maybe it's time to consider that non-fiction book idea I had. I call it, "Results Not Typical," and it'd follow me for a year as I tried every fad diet, trendy exercise routine and diet pill available. Hey, what's the worst that could happen?

1I don't care what anyone says - to me, it looks like your friendly neighborhood owlship. It's also the closest I'll ever get to owning transport that awesome.
Though it's the sort of thing that may make people's eyes roll back into their skulls, my biggest thrill of the day was sending in my application for the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism. I got some very fantastic letters of recommendation from former colleagues - one nearly made me cry - and did my best to explain why the program should sponsor my project idea. Hopefully the judging panel will be as enthusiastic about it as the post office patrons were; it's sort of gratifying to have a stranger tell you that "you seem to have it together" when you're standing in line wearing an old T-shirt, sweatpants and mud-caked sneakers, makeup-less and soaked after a speed gardening session. (Rain or no, some harvesting was vital - the recent rains around here have caused my plants to go a little crazy.)

Poor theycallmeboy . I do hope he knows what he's getting himself into.

Now that the application is out of the way, it's time for me to start tackling other projects, including another story for the local paper and a follow-up with The Herb Companion to see if they'd like to use a story I pitched a while back. My recent freelancing course has really given me a kick in the pants when it comes to writing and pitching more, so I'd like to put that knowledge to use and get back in the game. As theycallmeboy gently reminded me, the best way to be a writer is, well, to write. I've been freaking out way too much as of late about finding a new full time gig, and it won't do me any good to have an anemic portfolio if (when?) that big interview comes around. I've also got some ideas for a number of regional publications, including Ohio Magazine and Midwest Living, that need to get committed to paper at some point.

Just like those ideas I have for a steampunk novel. Or comic book. Or something. Whatever works, really. I'll have to see what shapes up for it.

But for now, bed. Never enough hours in a day, I tell you.

(Crossposted to Life on the Margins.)