Tagged: scandal

John Ostrander: Michigan Political Theater

House of Cards

I’m from Chicago. Most of you already know that. I grew up in the days of Mayor Richard J. Daley (the first Mayor Richard Daley) and the Chicago City Council of his era so I’m used to the concept of politics as theater, as popular culture. The rest of the country is catching up; the Republican Debate last week scored really high ratings for CNN. Some of the big TV shows such as House of Cards and Scandal also score well.

Given my upbringing I’m somewhat a connoisseur of political dramedy. Years ago, in one of the early visits to NYC, I read that a NYC borough president was caught in a scandal and committed suicide. I’m afraid my first rather uncharitable reaction was, “What a wimp.” I was from Chicago; when our politicians got caught and convicted, they would try to run their political fiefdoms from inside the prison and/or run their wife/brother/dog in the election to keep their seat warm until the malefactor alderman got out of the pokey.

I’ve been living in Michigan now for a number of years and we have our own set of entertaining politicos. In a state were over 60% of the population was polled and said their first priority was the state fixing our lousy and dangerous roads and bridges, the legislature has been unable to get together on a sane way of financing that fix without gutting things like education. They’d get close and then – whoops! – it was time to take a few weeks off. This, however, is simply incompetence; as I said, I’m from Chicago and I have higher standards for real political theater.

Recently, however, there has been an incident that has risen to my lofty standards. It involved two Republican members of the House of Representatives, Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat. Both are Tea Party activists and devout Christians who are self-proclaimed proponents of “traditional” marriage values. (Courser was also the representative for my former district, Lapeer.) And, of course, the two were having an affair.

Still, despite the delightful odor of hypocrisy, the affair still didn’t reach the bar for me in regards to political corruption. There was nothing really new or compelling in all this. It’s what happened next that really started making it entertaining.

Todd (the God) Courser decided to “leak” a phony e-mail saying that Courser had been caught having gay sex with a male prostitute. The “reasoning” was that it would “inoculate” Todd and Cindy if allegations of their affair came out.

Don’t ask me to explain it. I’m just reporting it.

This Dynamic Duo were using their offices and their staffs to help get this e-mail out and some of them refused. It was improper use of state funds and services. And, of course, the truth came out in all its jaw-dropping glory.

There was an investigation, Courser and Gamrat admitted to everything but asked to be censured and not expelled, there was a huge official report, and the whole messy debacle came to a head this last week. Courser resigned just before he could be expelled but Gamrat hung on to the end and got the boot. A new election was set to fill the now empty seats.

All this is fun and interesting to an old Chicago political junkie like me but it’s what happened next that raises the whole thing to Chicago level chicanery.

As of Friday, the last day for candidates to file, both Courser and Gamrat declared themselves as candidates for the very seats they just lost. That is Chicago style politics!

And they say, you can’t make this stuff up. I think if I tried to make a story that did all this, the editor would tell me it was just not believable. (Except for Mike Gold – Mike’s another old Chicago boy and he could easily cite three or four historic events that were much worse.)

Part of me is perverse enough to wonder if I should work in Courser’s and/or Gamrat’s campaign. You know; just as a way to say “thank you.” They made me nostalgic for the Chicago of my youth. I could even devise a campaign slogan: “Don’t let those bastards in Lansing tell you who can represent you! Vote Courser/Gamrat! Let the affair continue!”

Sigh. It seems like the old days all over again. I miss Chicago.

Emily S. Whitten: Awesome Con DC 2015

AwesomeCon2015LogoSo I just got back from Awesome Con DC 2015, and happily, it lived up to its name once again, because it was pretty darned awesome!

It was also kind of interesting to realize that every year I’ve gone has been a different experience, thanks to what I was doing each year. The first year, which was of course also smaller than the current con, I was reporting for ComicMix but did not have any other responsibilities. That meant I had time to see pretty much all of the floor and meet any guests I’d like, plus doing great, longer-form interviews with the talented Phil LaMarr and Billy West. Last year, I was running programming, so I saw a whole lot of back hallways, the exhibit hall whooshing by at a fast clip several times as I hurried around, many great volunteers, and a few guests for just long enough to introduce myself before they walked out on stage. (I did allow myself one break to see the voice actor Ghostbusters script reading panel, though. And may have possibly told my staff I’d kill them if they bothered me during it. Because hey. That panel was awesome.)

This year, although I was planning to report on the con, I also offered to moderate some panels if needed. I ended up moderating four really cool panels; and that gave me yet another fun perspective to add to my myriad con experiences. Interestingly, despite all being billed as Q & As, each of my panels had a very different feel. The Gerry Duggan and Mike Hawthorne panel, while naturally discussing storylines and characters both had worked on, also contained some really in-depth insights into the working process of both comics writer and artist. I found Gerry’s process for script-writing, which includes editing what was a final Deadpool script to “punch it up” more after seeing the storyboards created by Mike Hawthorne from his draft, to be particularly interesting. And Mike told a great story about working with Harvey Pekar and receiving a “script” to work from that was just two pages with many panels of stick figures – and yet somehow managing to make it work!

Mark Pellegrino’s panel was very energetic, with Mark interacting with each fan who asked a question on a personal level by having them come up and stand next to him in front of the stage while they chatted. This made for a dynamic panel; although it almost became a bit too dynamic when a Castiel cosplayer yelled, “Hey, assbutt!” And tossed a”holy fire Molotov cocktail” at Mark as she came up to ask her question. Fortunately the bottle was plastic and Mark caught it with aplomb – but really, guys – let’s not throw things at our con guests, okay? Even if you think it’s going to be totally awesome, just – don’t. For one thing, you’ll give your friendly neighborhood moderator a heart attack as she pictures a nice, unsuspecting actor getting beaned in the head and/or cut by a glass bottle; and for another, unlike with merchandise, if you break a con guest, you don’t get to buy him or her. Instead, you get big, big trouble, and possibly fandom-wide hatred.

The next panel I moderated was for George Newbern, voice of Superman from Justice League, as well as many other voice and on-screen roles, including Father of the Bride, Friends, and tons more. He’s currently playing a fascinating role as Charlie on Scandal. George was delightfully interesting to listen to given his storied career, which also includes having read over a hundred audio books. It was pretty cool to hear him demonstrating coming up with something like 140 voices for the most recent book series he did. And of course it was awesome to have Superman sitting next to me for a few moments when he did that voice. (George also worked on Switching Channels with Christopher Reeve. How cool is that?)

The last panel I moderated was Adult Swim with C. Martin Croker and Dana Snyder, which was a total trip because with Dana, “moderating” essentially means, “pointing him towards a stage and letting him go.” I did say we shouldn’t throw things at guests. However, those rules don’t go both ways – and if you go to an Adult Swim panel and you’re not paying attention, there is every chance you will get beaned in the head by a water bottle thrown by Master Shake. Fortunately, everyone was paying attention, and thus no attendees were harmed in the making of the panel. There was some fun information shared by both Clay and Dana, including that Clay recalls an episode of Space Ghost, Coast to Coast that was actually too crazy to air, and that Dana landed the role of Master Shake essentially by talking on the phone. Or at least, I think those are things we learned – I don’t know for sure, as my head was spinning from all the comedy going on next to me on stage!

Along with moderating panels, I actually got to go to some panels as well, including a few minutes of the Lord of the Rings panel with Sean Astin and John Rhys-Davies (I wanted to stay for the whole thing but had a schedule conflict), which was really great to listen to, as those two have such presence; the entirety of voice actor Jess Harnell’s panel, which was the most warm, friendly, funny, energetic one-man storytelling hour I’ve been to in some time; and the Twisted Toonz live movie script read, which this year featured all four original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Rob Paulsen, Cam Clarke, Townsend Coleman, and Barry Gordon), as well as Jess Harnell, Jim Cummings, and Phil LaMarr. The Twisted Toonz reading was a blast, as always; and if you haven’t ever seen one of these live reads, you need to check out the link above. I recommend starting with the ECCC Star Wars Trilogy.

The panels were fantastic – but they weren’t the only thing to do at Awesome Con. I also walked as much of the con floor as I had time for, seeing great costumes and buying ridiculously fun merchandise (like my new tiny and giant My Little Ponypools). 17750292184_f6da133be9_bIt was surprising and cool how many friends I ran into just wandering the con floor, which really made it feel like a warm and welcoming con. Not to mention I got to catch up with fun guests I hadn’t seen since last year’s cons, like Alex Simmons, Andrew Aydin, J.K. Woodward, Joe Kelly, Marc Hempel, Noel MacNeal, Phil LaMarr, Rob Paulsen, and Sean Astin; and meet a few neat guests I hadn’t before, like Mark McKenna, Sorah Shibao, and Diana Leto. And don’t worry, for anyone who’s sad they didn’t get to be there and have these fun experiences too – I took pictures for you!

Not only that, but I also got the chance to interview some really fantastic folks. So stay tuned in the next few weeks for some words from Jess Harnell, Jim Cummings, and all four of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!!

And until then, stay Awesome, and Servo Lectio!

The Point Radio: Making Magic With Amber Benson

Like you, we first fell in love with Amber Benson during her days on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. The feelings only grew as we watch her evolve into a director, producer and most of all a successful author. Amber’s latest project is WITCHES OF ECHO PARK and she talks about why going “magical” seemed like the next step for her. Plus actor Jon Tenney, from MAJOR CRIMES and SCANDAL, talks about the great parts of being a working actor in todays’ exploding entertainment mediums.

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE on ANY mobile device (Apple or Android). Just  get the free app, iNet Radio in The  iTunes App store – and it’s FREE!  The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE  – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.