Bosses of British coffee chain Costa Coffee have banned Sir Cliff Richard's 1988 Christmas song Mistletoe And Wine from more than 1,600 of their shops after it topped a survey of the most despised festive tracks. Shakin' Stevens' 1982 hit Blue Christmas came second.
Hillary Clinton is spending her last days as Secretary of State by testifying before two Congressional Committees about the September attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. She was ready to discuss the ongoing investigation and she was ready to share the measures that will be taken to protect diplomats on foreign soil from here on out... but she was not ready to beat a dead horse. When repeatedly asked — or hounded, really — by Republicans to explain why the State Department was not forthcoming with their information in the hours after the attack, Clinton gave an explosive response. And thank goodness she did.
The handling of the tragedy, specifically the State Department's initial reports that the deaths were caused by protestors (these, of course, proved to be false, as we now know the attack was perpetrated by militant terrorists), monopolized much of the presidential debates this fall. Then, in the months that followed, Clinton accepted responsibility for the events, and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration for secretary of state after being accused of deliberately misleading the American people with the aforesaid protest story. When Clinton appeared in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, she expected to answer any remaining questions, not to defend herself against an onslaught of Republican frustration regarding an issue that has already been addressed. So when Sen. Ron Johnson pressed her on the issue, Clinton lost her cool.
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“With all due respect, the fact is, we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they would kill some Americans?" she said. "What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.”
Finally. Call it an outburst, an explosion, or an eruption if you like, but what Clinton really did here was show us how she really felt. Long criticized for being an "ice queen," Clinton allowed Wednesday's hearings to melt her chilly exterior. For, the above was not an isolated event. From her choked-up opening remarks to her animated expressions, it's clear that Clinton was feeling a lot of feelings, and wasn't afraid to show it.
If only more politicians would be as brave as Clinton. It has become the norm for politicians to hide behind stoic expressions and practiced speeches, for them to give firm handshakes to their opponents and to nod appropriately during debates. Politics has become synonymous with soullessness.
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There's a good reason "diplomatic" has come to colloquially describe compromises and negotiations as well as refer to actual state-appointed diplomats: agreements are more often easily reached with a clear mind and a staid demeanor. And so, politicians have across the board adopted straight faces. And who can blame them? A firm stance and steady gaze are signs of confidence. Politicians want their constituents to know that they are in control, that they know what to do in times of doubt, and that they can be depended on to make the right choices. A somber expression says, "You can rely on me, I've got this." It does not, however, say, "I understand you."
For politics, despite all the pomp and circumstance, is not an abstract idea. "For me this is not just a matter of policy, it's personal," Clinton says in her opening statement at the Benghazi hearing. And really, isn't all politics? The choices made by elected officials in Washington do not exist in a vacuum; they affect each and every one of us. It's easy to see how hot topic issues like marriage equality and reproductive rights have a direct effect on your life and the lives of your friends and families. But the same is true of every political issue. If a decision regarding the much-ballyhooed fiscal cliff couldn't be reached, all of our wallets would be impacted — even if you couldn't say for certain what the heck the fiscal cliff even is. You may not be familiar with Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, but the Supreme Court's latest interpretation of it could still change your life. And sometimes, we need a reminder that politicians have us in mind when they sign off on this complicated legislation.
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While politicians are elected to be the voice of the people, it's sometimes easy to forget that they are people. In those rare moments that politicians let their shiny robot veneers slip — like Clinton during Wednesday's hearing, President Barack Obama during his tearful speech following the Sandy Hook shooting, and Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie in the days after Hurricane Sandy — we are reminded that the issues that are nearest and dearest to us are also important to our leaders. Stoic exteriors can lead citizens to think that the politicians they voted into office don't care. That they aren't giving certain issues the weight they deserve. That they are more interested in putting on a suit and smiling for photo ops than they are in making real change. But in those moments of emotional truth, we see that that is not the case.
Every politician need not be someone with whom you want to share a beer or even someone you particularly like. He or she need not have the stance you prefer on every issue. But politicians do need to care about their jobs, and about the lives of those they represent. And never is this more clear than when a politician treats an issue as personal, rather than political.
Follow Abbey Stone on Twitter @abbeystone
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
George Simmons is a comedian-turned-Hollywood superstar whose comfortable Malibu existence is threatened when he is diagnosed with a rare blood disorder. Placed on a regimen of experimental meds that offer a mere 8% chance of success he’s forced to confront the very real prospect of his own mortality which not surprisingly triggers a drastic realignment of his priorities. Looking for a companion to assist him in his final days he hires Ira Wright an earnest young comedian in desperate need of a break to work as his assistant. Ira naturally jumps at the chance to be mentored by one of his idols but quickly finds himself in over his head as he accompanies George on his perilous chaotic journey of self-discovery and redemption.
WHO’S IN IT?
A newly trim Seth Rogen (Pineapple Express Observe & Report) injects an endearing blend of sensitivity and self-doubt into his normal “lovable schlub” routine as Ira the struggling performer tasked with such a strange assignment. In the role of George Adam Sandler deserves kudos for taking on a character clearly based on himself. It’s not hard to see the similarities between Sandler’s resume of high-concept critically-maligned blockbusters and George’s fictional portfolio of hits like Merman a male-centric version of Splash Re-Do the story of a grown man turned into a baby by a wizard and My Best Friend is a Robot a buddy comedy co-starring Owen Wilson. (For a more complete list check out george-simmons.com.) But in contrast to Sandler’s genial everyman persona George is an acerbic self-absorbed privileged vision of the Hollywood success run amok.
Supporting players include Leslie Mann (Drillbit Taylor Knocked Up) who plays George’s ex-girlfriend and soulmate Laura a one-time actress now married with two children in Marin County. Eric Bana (Munich The Time Traveler’s Wife) makes an inspired turn as Laura’s husband Clarke a boisterous Aussie businessman whose temperament amusingly alternates between violent aggression and teary-eyed affection. Relative newcomer Aubrey Plaza (TV’s Parks and Recreation) is a delight as Ira’s shy witty love interest Daisy while veteran Apatow players Jonah Hill (Superbad Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Jason Schwartzman (The Darjeeling Limited Walk Hard) provide much of the film’s laughs as his oddball roommates. Rounding out the supporting cast are RZA Aziz Ansari and Apatow and Mann’s real-life daughters Maude and Iris Apatow.
Cameos abound with appearances by such varied names as musician Jon Brion comedians Ray Romano and Andy Dick and rapper Eminem.
After tugging the heartstrings and tickling the funnybone with equal skill in his previous directorial efforts The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up Judd Apatow heads into darker more ambitious territory with Funny People while still trying to deliver the same raucous comedy that we’ve come to expect from him. The result is a movie that is at times heartbreakingly poignant and laugh-out-loud funny.
At almost two and a half hours in length Funny People is neither poignant nor funny enough to justify such a bloated running time. Apatow let his ambition get the best of him this time attempting to deliver — to paraphrase his own words — his funniest and most serious film to date. Methinks a shorter cut of the film might have yielded either a great comedy or a great drama depending on which path its director chose. Instead we wind up with a merely good dramedy that meanders for a while before falling off a cliff in the third act.
While offering some sobering advice to Sandler’s character at a high-class restaurant rapper Eminem catches Ray Romano staring at him and unleashes a barrage of expletives at the mortified former sitcom star much to the shock of the surrounding customers. It’s ironic that one of the film’s funniest scenes comes courtesy of one of the few non-comedians in the cast.
The film features solid performances all around but I was most impressed by Bana who displays some terrific range and comedic timing as Laura’s charismatic unstable Aussie husband. Perhaps the man who scowled and brooded his way through Munich and The Hulk might want to consider sprinkling more comedy into the mix.