Thursday, December 28, 2006

I'm Back!

Okay who missed me? I'll take that silence as everyone. Well I missed yall too. I hope everyone had a lovely Xmas!

I really had to write up a storm the last couple of weeks. And while it might not be that much for a studious student, it was a hell of a lot for my lazy butt. Hah. (For the record it was about 12k words.)

Anyway, I finished everything just a couple of days ago and I'm looking forward to reading a good book or two, and watching a great NFL game or three. But I also have to deal with Law School applications. I'll be completing them ASAP.

Speaking of books, I've always been interested in learning more about graphic novels. It seems two of the powerhouses in the graphic novel venue are authors Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. I've picked up two of the most celebrated graphic novels, Watchmen (by Moore) and The Sandman Series(by Gaiman). I've started Watchmen and I must say it is very interesting, compelling, engaging stuff. As a young'n I dabbled in superhero comic books, so it is refreshing to read Moore's noirish, deconstructed take on the superhero. That being said, Watchmen seems to be simply wonderful, top notch fiction, not something solely for comic book fans. I'll post a book review once I've completed it.

I know that Ffleur is a big graphic novel fan and expert, and she posts reviews of what she's reading from time to time. If anyone else is into graphic novels please comment or post a favorite of yours or something.

Anyway, continued Happy Holidays everyone! I understand everyone must be gearing up for New Year's Eve! Have a great one and stay safe folks! (designate a driver, call a taxi, or a sober friend, no matter how late!)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Still AWOL

So I thought I'd quickly post something. It has been 14 days of no blogging whatsoever. I didn't think I would make it. Actually, the plan was no blogging until the semester ended on the 22nd. So I guess I sorta didn't make it. Whatever.

Anyway, I'm going back into blog hibernation. I still have another paper and a take-home exam to deal with. And then I'll return to finishing my original paper. If anyone wants to handle one of these papers for me, that would be swell. Plus I can pay you. Like 5 bucks.

But I'd like to leave you with two of the greatest songs in the history of the universe. Or something like that. The first is "Fidelity" by Regina Spektor.

The second is "One Step Closer To You" by Michael Franti featuring, of all people, Pink. To hear this song head on over to Franti's myspace page and wait for the myspace player to load it.

And just in case I'm tied up or praying to the term paper Gods, I'd like to wish everyone a very special Xmas and a merry New Year's! And designate a driver and stay safe folks! Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I have like a gazillion papers due, so I'll be cutting back on the blogging for the next couple weeks. So if I don't visit your blog in the near future, it is because the Man is making me write about Foucault and Structural Adjustment Policies. Damn the Man! If I ever see the Man, I'll be sure to give him a swift kick in the balls.

The good news is that once I'm done with papers I'll be on winter recess. And that means more time for blogging. Oh yeah, and some time for applications. But, I must finish these papers first.

Anyway, sorry about the downtime folks. And please pray that the Writing Fairy blesses me with David Mamet-like focus and Stephen King-like dedication.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Thanks to a love of film and an addiction to tv, I don't spend much time diving into music. This means I'm always a bit late in discovering a good song. Case in point, "Gone" by Jack Johnson. While many of you have probably already heard this song, I'd like to post the lyrics and a YouTube link to Jack Johnson performing the song in studio. You know, just in case someone isn't familiar with the song. It's simply a magical, mesmerizing tune.

Look at all those fancy clothes,
But these could keep us warm just like those.
And what about your soul? Is it cold?
Is it straight from the mold, and ready to be sold?

And cars and phones and diamond rings,
Bling, bling, because those are only removable things.
And what about your mind? Does it shine?
Are there things that concern you, more than your time?

Gone, going.
Gone, everything.
Gone, don’t give a damn.
Gone, be the birds, when they don’t wanna sing.
Gone, people, all awkward with their things,

Look at you, out to make a deal.
You try to be appealing, but you lose your appeal.
And what about those shoes you’re in today?
They’ll do no good, on the bridges you burnt along the way.

And you're willing to sell, anything?
Gone, with your head.
Leave your footprints,
And we’ll shame them with our words.
Gone, people, all careless and consumed, gone

Gone, gone, gone, everything.
Gone, don’t give a damn.
Gone, be the birds, when they don’t wanna sing.
Gone, people, all awkward with their things, Gone.

YouTube clip of Jack Johnson performing "Gone"

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Yes, you do like basketball.

Below is a clip of a block in a recent NBA game. Two players are involved. One is 7'5" (Yao Ming). The other is 5'9" on a good day (Nate Robinson). Guess who blocks who ...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Turkey Day is a very special holiday. While we celebrate what we are thankful for and get fat on turkey, the real treasure of Thanksgiving is, let's face it, pumpkin pie. In fact, I believe the holiday's full title is: Thanksgiving: Rise of the Pumpkin Pie. Pumpkin Pie is truly a magical dish. Just one bite will send waves of scrumtrulesence throughout your body. The Puritans actually left evil Britain because of pumpkin pie prohibition. That and they were allergic to dancing or something. So today, while you're enjoying the company of family and some turkey, make sure to celebrate Thanksgiving right and enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie. Your belly will thank you.

In other Turkey Day news, my Mom called some relatives in the UK and wished them a happy Thanksgiving. Little did she realize that they don't celebrate Thanksgiving in the UK. One reason being the Pilgrims and Puritans were basically trying to get away from the other British. Anyway, Happy Turkey Day to the Brits, and the Chinese, and the Kenyans, and the Vegans (Happy Tofurkey Day!), and to everyone else.

And I'll leave you all with this wonderful Turkey Day cartoon:

*Pumpkin Pie pic taken from cheesecake & dessert
**Cartoon taken from ("Happy Turkey Day!")

Monday, November 20, 2006

Links, Enjoy!

Before I begin I just want to say that if any of you have gmail and want to add me to your contact list my addy is And don't act like you don't want to add me. You know you want me to IM you at 2am and say, "Is there anything more wonderful than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Lightly toasted, natch."

Anyway, the other day Marse had a McSweeney's Internet Tendancy link on her gmail. I've known about McSweeney's Internet Tendancy for some time but I've been very lazy in consuming the works of literary genius that fill it. Anyway, I just want to link to three works and publicly affirm that I will be reading McSweeney's Internet Tendancy more often.




And there's also this:

Saturday, November 18, 2006

SMCWAPG vol. 2

This is the second installment of my award winning series, "Straight Male Celebs Who Are Probably Gay". Also, please be on the look out for spin-offs to the series: "Gay Male Celebs Who Are Probably Straight" and "Straight Female Celebs Who Are Probably Gay".

The subject of this edition is the good-looking and talented Hugh Jackman. Why is he most likely gay? First of all, the guy's name is Hugh Jackman. Now I am very open minded. So I do think a gay porn star could make the transition to Hollywood leading man. However I would think he wouldn't be able to use his porn star moniker. Clearly, "Hugh Jackman" has proven me wrong.

Second, he's done musical theater throughout his career. Even after becoming a major movie star. I can understand singing and dancing to make some money or to get recognition, but once you've become a bankable star there's no need to go back to musical theater. Unless you actually enjoy it. And let's face it, only gay men and women enjoy musical theater. It is proven scientific fact that if a heterosexual man experiences more than one hour of musical theater, his testicles begin to shrink. After 90 minutes, he will begin to spontaneously sing Barbra Streisand tunes.

Third, he's extremely buff for a lanky guy. Here's photographic evidence:You see I have a theory. Which is really an irrational opinion. Which is really fact, like all my crazy opinions. According to this irrational, factual theory, gay men have a "buff gene" which greatly encourages them to lift weights in comparison to straight men. And it allows gay men to build bigger muscles faster. This explains why Hugh Jackman has bulging biceps and I look like a coat hanger. Nothing else could explain this discrepancy. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

Moving on. I hate to be mean but the final clue is that he's almost certainly married to his beard. Yes, she's only 8 years older, and if the genders were reversed we'd call Hugh Jackman old-fashioned for keeping the age difference within a decade. But while I'm sure she was a total babe when they met she seems to have let herself go a bit since then. Meanwhile Hugh certainly hasn't let himself go. Now I understand having children can alter a woman's body. But the Jackmans have adopted both their children. This leads me to conclude that everytime his "wife" has tried to bed him, Hugh runs out of the room screaming, "Kootie Contamination! I must be quarantined!" And other times screaming, "Oh my gawd! Did I just touch a booby? Hold me Rudolpho!"

Folks, the evidence is clear. Hugh Jackman, many a woman's fantasy, is actually just as interested in fashion and make-up and Prince and penises as they are.

Jackman bicep photo taken from All Hands On Deck.

PS - Please let me know if the part about Hugh Jackman being married to his beard was too mean. I was only trying to be funny but maybe calling his wife his beard is a bit over the line. For the record, I am clearly not trying to be mean but to be funny, which is harder than I expected. Anyway, if anyone thinks it isn't in good taste, please let me know. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


A couple weeks back Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize. He shared the prize with the Grameen Bank which he founded. Yunus is a Bangladeshi economist, he received his PhD from Vanderbilt. He won the prize for his work on stimulating development through microcredit. In 1976 he created the Grameen Bank in order to facilitate loans to Bangladesh's rural poor.

I'm not sure if you have ever used a loan but they can be very effective and helpful. They (can!) help us buy large necessities we need to increase our future income. Such as a car or a college tuition. In the same vein, the entrepreneurial poor of the third world need loans to make their businesses more competitive, to expand their businesses, or even to get their businesses off the ground. Unfortunately, these individuals do not have access to the same lending institutions we do. Because of their lower economic status they are deemed too risky for loans by commercial institutions. Usually their only option is a local, exploitative loanshark who will lend money with astronomical interest rates (upwards of 100% is normal).

However, the Grameen Bank and other microfinance institutions changed all this by engaging with the poor and working out an effective credit delivery system. This has produced substantial results in developing nations where jobs are scarce and self-employment is a robust option. This has also produced a real trickle down effect as the income created gets invested locally. And this is also a feminist achievement as the vast majority of loan recipients are women. Women who have been historically neglected and discriminated. Women who organize together to receive loans and then help others in similar situations.

Another wonderful microfinance institution is Accion International. They have been around for a long time and have established large microfinance networks in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and even the United States. In addition to micofinance services, Accion Intl also provides small business training.

If you're wondering what the loan repayment rate is for both these organizations, it is over 97%.

A new microfinance organization that is bringing a personal, intimate touch to all of this is Kiva. Let's say you have an extra 100, 50, or 25 dollars. And by extra I mean you don't need to save it. Making a charitable donation would be a great idea. But what if an entrepreneurial single mother from Africa knocked on your door and asked if she could borrow the 25 bucks from you? That she needed it to expand her small but robust peanut butter business. And that she would pay you back in a year. Over that year she would send you updates as to how the loan has helped her business. Also, she's recommended as a perfect loan candidate by a local non-profit that has yet to recommended an individual who hasn't paid back their loan. If you'd like to loan her the 25 bucks, now you can! Thanks to Kiva!

Kiva is a small microloan non-profit in San Francisco. I learned about them when they were featured in a FRONTLINE/World documentary. You can view the video online at the website. Simply put, Kiva connects borrowers and lenders through the internet. They work with local, community-based non-profits who seek out good loan candidates. A profile of the borrower is posted on the Kiva website. It lists the type of business, how much money is needed, where the borrower is located, who has partnered with the borrower (the local non-profit), over what time period will the loan be repaid, and other pertinent information. It also gives some personal information about the borrower and their business and explains what the money will be used for. Once a loan is filled, the borrower keeps a journal informing everyone of how they have utilized the loan and how their business is going.

What Kiva has done is simply spectacular. It connects people of different ages, locations, economic status, etc in a very personal way. And it is not charity. You are lending money to someone who will not only use it in a profound way, but will ultimately pay you back. Currently, thanks to the attention brought by the FRONTLINE/World doc, Kiva has limited lending to 25 dollars per person. I think it is a great start, especially since that is within my budget, lol. Anyway, I haven't signed up yet but I will very soon. When I loan my 25 bucks I will post about Kiva again. Anyway, I hope you found this post interesting.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


I love "LOST". It's a phenomenal, original, epic story. One with a large, richly diverse, and extraordinarily talented cast. This week "LOST" aired its midseason finale. The show will return in February and air continuous episodes with no repeats. The main reason for this is because "LOST" pulls pitiful ratings during a repeat. So ABC has decided to scrap repeats all together and use the timeslot to introduce a new series (something called "Daybreak" starring Taye Diggs). It's funny, but what makes "LOST" so entertaining, intense, and clever is ultimately limiting its broadcast viewership. "LOST" tells the epic journey of plane crash victims as they survive and explore a mysterious island. There are of course multiple dimensions to this complex story, from the conspiratorial syndicate called "the others" to the lush backstories that bring insight to the various main characters as well as uncover how the characters are ultimately connected. Suffice it to say, it is a long, continuous, detailed, sophisticated, delicate story. One that is slowly unraveled, albeit with plenty of action and suspense, over multiple seasons. So while it is not impossible for a viewer to follow along with the show in the middle of a season or without viewing the vast majority of episodes, it is rather difficult. This means new viewers are rather rare, especially midseason, because it takes a rather large investment to get caught up with the show. The vast, vast majority of "LOST" viewers are dedicated fans who have seen virtually every episode. Since these fans do not miss a new episode, they rarely watch repeats, which results in the very low ratings a repeat episode gets. There's another way in which the show's intricate, epic story limits viewership. Some of the dedicated viewers are going to lose their patience with the show and simply stop watching. So while "LOST" opened to such popularity and fanfare in its debut season, from here on out it is going to slowly dwindle in viewership because its complex story makes it difficult to attract new viewers and its long pace causes impatient viewers to give up regular viewing. Fortunately, I doubt this means the show will ever be canceled. It still is relatively popular and does quite well in DVD sales. Also, I've read the creators will complete the series in six seasons. The erosion of viewership by season 6 doesn't seem to be astronomical. And in any case, I'm sure they would complete the show on DVD.

For me, "LOST" is both an exceptional sci-fi thriller and an intense, touching human drama. I'd describe "HEROES" in the same way, but as a lighter version. Both shows, because of their sci-fi subject matter and themes, lend themselves, at times, to melodrama (you certainly see this a bit more in "HEROES"). But, to a certain degree, that's to be expected.

****NOTE: From here on out there will be spoilers. Please beware.

Anyway, I'm just curious as to which characters are people's favorites. And which backstorylines do people find most interesting. I'm a huge Jack fan. I was surprised to hear on Slowly Boiling Frog that many fans actually don't like Jack. Early in the show, for a short time, I leaned towards Locke. The actor who plays Locke was on "THE X-FILES" and I really enjoyed his "The Island will tell us the answers" spooky spirituality. But he got a little crazy and irrational rather fast. And I felt bad that I betrayed Jack --- never again! Lol. I also like how Sayid has progressed and his backstory was very interesting. I like Jack's backstory but I think it got a little weak, especially his obsession over his ex-wife. Perhaps I can't see Jack's faults. But I think that's because he doesn't have any, lol. Sun and Kim are a cute couple but, at first, I wasn't a big fan of their backstory because Sun's father was such a villain. But then it turned out Sun was cheating. And their backstory got a lot more interesting. And how buff is Kim? That guy is ripped. I don't know who is buffer, Kim or Kate. Out of the newer characters, I'm a fan of Desmond. I'm looking forward to seeing more of this mysterious character and his backstory, brother. Anyway, if you're also a fan of "LOST" who are your favorite characters and backstories?

And, finally, I have a major plot question. If Ben and The Others can get things from outside the island (like the World Series tape) AND they claim to have a way to get Jack off the island (and presumably Michael and Walt utilized this option to get off the island), then why wouldn't Ben use this option to get off the island and have his tumor removed?

PS - For those of you wondering who Jacob is, I think I know. After scanning a few forums, I believe Jacob is this guy --- who is also Patchy. The forum link leds to the website Lostpedia, which seems like a wonderful resource.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veterans Day

To those who have served in the past. And to those who are currently serving. Thank you for your service and selflessness.

Um ...

Apparently there's going to be a Fantasy Soap League. I kid you not.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

This Dawn Commercial

I have no idea if Dawn is really into the environment or if this is a PR stunt.

But now I want to bathe and clean a penguin.

And I know what you're thinking. That only girly girls and girly gays want to bathe and clean penguins. Clearly this is a stereotype and you should be ashamed of yourself. Furthermore, I think these penguins found themselves in some unhealthy chemicals so my wanting to bathe and clean them is purely motivated by environmental concerns. And ubermore, a lot of manly, virile (which, NOT coincidentally, is how my name is pronounced) men like to wash cute, cuddly animals. I'm sure many of you are familiar with the stories of Steve McQueen shampooing sea otters.

Speaking of sea otters and penguins, the super, amazing, brilliant Monterey Bay Aquarium has webcams of each (as well as other things). They're live from 7am to 7pm PST, but you can watch pre-recorded snippets in the off hours.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Dems take House, Senate up for grabs

I must admit I didn't think the Senate would still be up for grabs but it is ... AND it actually looks as though the Dems might take it. At the time of this post, there are 2 Senate seats still undecided. The Dems do need to take both. But they are leading, ever so slightly, in each race.

The Dems did take control of the House, decidedly. Of course this doesn't mean everything is all of a sudden going to be roses. But, at the very least, we'll finally have some semblance of a check on the Bush Administration. Which, in case you're wondering, is a very, very, very, very good thing.

If the Dems do take the Senate, then a Dem led Legislative Branch will be a significant check on the Executive Branch. And, as importantly, the Dems will be able to push through some real, beneficial changes. Such as tax relief for the lower and middle classes, an energy policy that doesn't simply siphon money into the oil companies, a medicare prescription drug plan that puts the needs of retirees over drug companies, etc.

Clearly I hope the Dems take the Senate. I have a midterm tomorrow so I should get some rest. But I might stay up a bit to see how the Senate turns out. Lol.

Also, major props to Arizona (a red state!) for striking down a Gay Marriage Ban. Unfortunately it seems every other state that had a ban on the ballot has passed it. But also a few boos towards Arizona for passing some xenophobic anti-immigration measures.

In conclusion, the people have spoken for change (though maybe they should have come to their senses two years ago?!?! better late than never I guess). The Dems take control of the House and have a great shot at taking over the Senate. What's next? Obama in 2008!!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Spot the Lie Meme - Updated

So the lie was numero 4. No one guessed it although Mishy was on the right track only to succumb to the sports related item. But I was very sneaky about number 4. Not only was it the blandest item, but I dropped in an X-Files reference which threw a few people off. See, I was very sneaky. Anyway, even the "truths" need a little explaining so here goes:

1. I never really made a living reading/reviewing scripts because I mostly did it for free. I was an intern (which means work for free) at the company and, like many interns, my primary duties were answering the phone (which rings 24-7, I still have nightmares) and reviewing the gazillion scripts that a company like that gets. And for those of you that think you'll get to read the next CASABLANCA or THE GODFATHER or BLADE RUNNER or A.I. or even THE MATRIX, ummm, think again. They say at the top companies 1 out of 100 scripts will get made. I think the ratio is probably higher. And in any case, the fact is, most of the scripts you read are crappy. Anyway, taking a page from Sage, I think in the winter recess I would like to post a bit about my time trying to get a job in the film development industry.

2. I love basketball and since college I've become a fairly decent player. But I'm no natural hoopster. I was so terrible as a young'n that I played 4 seasons of community-league basketball and scored a single basket. I can't believe I just admitted this.

3. There's some truthiness to this one. I went "part-time" at college for numerous reasons. And at the time I really got into poker and actually thought I could make some money from it. I was naive, foolish, and a bit too optimistic. You know the guy that sees something new and immediately goes, "I could do that. Hell, it ain't rocket science."? Well I'm that a-hole, lol. Well, it turns out poker is sort of like rocket science, in that it is quite complicated and it helps if you're good at math. For those who are curious, poker is actually a game of skill. It involves a good deal of luck, but in the end it is a game of strategy and skill. So for those who are amazing at it, the possibility of making a very good living is certainly there. But it is a very complicated profession that certainly is not easy or for the faint of heart, by any means. Anyway, maybe I can do a poker post in the future.

4. This one is the lie. Man, I was so sneaky. Sorry about that folks, I shouldn't have been that sneaky.

5. It is true folks. I do not drink alcohol nor partake in recreational drugs. I, however, have no qualms about other people doing either. This is just something I choose to do, for various reasons. I understand the 'no alcohol' portion seems a bit strange but I've never been curious about it. In high school I never had that urge (for lack of a better term) to see what it felt or tasted like. And I've not been curious about it ever since. Anyway, that't the best way I can explain it. Hopefully it doesn't sound so weird.

Remember to Vote!

Just a reminder to vote. Though I highly doubt anyone is going to read this post and go, "Thanks for the reminder, I almost forgot to vote!" But if that does happen, I've done my job. Lol.

Anyway, if you're curious about polls check out Slate's Election Scorecard. Though polls are often incorrect. If I remember correctly, polls in 2004 were leaning towards Kerry.

And now something unrelated, except that it is also from Slate. Many guys like to say that they sleep around because it's in their genes. Well here's something that says women may have comparable genes. And, clearly coincidentally, this behavior doesn't work out so well for the males.

I, personally, feel gay-marriage is an equal-rights issue and should be allowed immediately. As well as marriage benefits and protections for any couple who has been living together for some time, and perhaps may have a family together. So I clearly think these Ban Gay-Marriage Amendments, like Virginia's (why are you red states so intolerent sometimes?), are wrong (I would say immoral). However, these amendments also have legal implications on domestic violence laws, adoption laws, and other issues dealing with unmarried couples. Slate's Dahlia Lithwick has a wonderful article on the subject.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Who saw "The Office"?

First, I'll post an explanation of the "Spot the Lie" meme on Tuesday. My guess is that everyone who wanted to vote has voted and waiting until Tuesday for the unfashionably late commenters is a bit harsh for those wanting to know the answer already. But I'm going to have it both ways. For those of you that haven't voted scroll down (NOW!, right this very minute!) to the next post and leave a comment. For those wondering which is the lie it is: #4 (highlight for answer)

I was very sneaky with my version of the meme. Sorry about that folks. Anyway, I'll explain my sneakiness on Tuesday.

Now, to the important stuff. Okay, last week's episode of "The Office" in which the employees went to a Diwali festival/party was beyond funny. Perhaps I found it a bit more hilarious in that I've been to several of these as a child. The episode was written by Mindy Kaling who plays Kelly on the show. I'm sure others had a hand in it, but it shows that Kaling is a skillful writer. She smoothly plays the East-Indian/Hindu culture card for smart laughs, and just as easily uses the new environment to accentuate the quirky idiosyncracies of the main cast --- the show's bread and butter source for its humor. Anyway, I admit it. It's fun to see a fellow Indo-American on TV and an episode that revolves around Diwali. And it doesn't hurt that the episode was BEYOND FUNNY! Seriously people, the episode might be worth two bucks. Maybe. But I'm cheap. Hello, I'm Indian!?!? Hah.

My favorite line from the ep:

Kelly's Mother (talking about Michael's date played by Nancy Walls): She's very fair.

Michael: Yes, she's very fair and kind.

For those who do not see it, this is a clever semi-gibe at the preference of lighter (fairer) skin by many developing nations. India is no different.

Anyway, now I'm going to turn this into a Mindy Kaling link post:
IMDb profile page
TVSquad profile
TVSquad interview
Go Fug Yourself fashion critique
Kaling sells soroity-comedy script

PS - On the Pam and Jim issue. Um, does anyone else feel bad for Roy? I mean he totally took Pam for granted and was a bad boyfriend/fiance. But I think he's a changed man. He got into shape and overtly misses and pines for Pam. I'm sorry but part of me thinks they can work it out, lol. Plus, clearly, Jim's coworker is going to take advantage of Jim's drunken state. I have to hand it to the writers. It's not easy to keep a semi-believeable and funny plot in which Jim and Pam remain apart for very long but they certainly seem to be doing it.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Spot the Lie Meme

I'm not a big meme blogger but this one (which the lovely Princess in Galoshes tagged me with) is actually pretty fun and interesting. So here's the gist of it. Below will be 5 biographical statements, only 1 of them will be a lie. You'll have to guess which statement is the lie.

Now I'm a rather plain, boring guy so my version of the meme will be a bit vanilla. That's why I hope you check out others who have been tagged. AND. Rather than tag 5 bloggers I think everyone who comments should do the meme on their blog (as long as they have the time for it). Anyway here goes, guess which one is the lie:

1. I used to read scripts for Morgan Freeman's film development company.
2. My favorite sport (to play and watch) is basketball; I'm a major hoop-head. However, from age 9 to 12 I played in an open, community-based league and scored a total of 1 basket. That's 1 basket in 4 seasons of play.
3. Two years ago I went "part-time" at college and decided I would make a living playing poker.
4. I've been Han Solo, a Vulcan, and Agent Mulder for Halloween.
5. I have, to the best of my knowledge, never had an alcoholic beverage nor smoked tobacco, hash, weed, etc.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Something New! Kinda.

I like making fun of celebrities. I just do. Most of the time the comments aren't so insulting as obvious, and let's face it, many are very deserving of laughter at their expense. I also think it is a good, if very light, form of social criticism.

Anyway, over a year ago I actually thought I could poke fun of celebs on a daily basis. Not only that, but that the world would laugh, and flock to the site. Like my short lived professional poker career, that didn't turn out so well.

However, I've decided that this current blog needs some supertaining posts every now and again. So I'm going to try something new. Though in the same vein as my original blog.

I'm introducing a new column called "Male Celebs who are almost certainly gay." I'm doing this for two reasons. First of all I have super gaydar. I have studied the gay extensively to see why women love the gay and not me. Second, and much more important, I need to squash the myth that these super-ripped, perfectly coiffed, sweater-vest wearing male celebs are heterosexual. And why do I need to squash this myth? Because you ladies think hetero guys can turn into this homo ideal, this homo-metro-uber man, if you will. I'm sorry ladies, but the reality is quite different. You're just going to have to choose amongst us hairy, bald, disheveled, husky truehetero men. Either that or go lesbian.

So for the first installment we have singer-songwriter James Blunt. I know what you're thinking, how can this smooth crooner, this sensitive ladies man actually be gay. Well it's actually quite easy. First of all he is British. That right there means a 60% chance of homosexuality. Secondly, he plays the piano. Hello? Elton John anyone? Thank you. Heterosexual men play video games, not pianos. We're afraid someone would call us a pianist. Something Mr. Blunt doesn't seem to afraid of. And finally, for those who still close their eyes from the obvious, here are some of his lyrics:

"Goodbye my lover.
Goodbye my friend.
You have been the one.
You have been the one for me."

Only a gay man would use the term "lover". And notice the unisex quality of the terms "lover", "friend", and "the one". Clearly he's talking about Richard Simmons. I rest my case.

A Quote Post or why the Bush Admin must be stopped

"However they put it, the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses, (t)hat's what's at stake in this election. The Democrat goal is to get out of Iraq. The Republican goal is to win in Iraq."

That's a quote from the President of United States, George W. Bush. I have so many problems with this. First, how can anyone even begin to believe in such a simplistic and asinine, not to mention false, comment. He's calling Democrats traitors and those who will vote for them. The last time I checked about 50% of the voting public chose a Democrat. If you're going to call me a traitor Dubya, say it to my face. This just reeks of political desperation. The problem is that these tactics seem to work on a certain segment of the population. And it is a damn shame. And finally, Dubya, what exactly is "winning in Iraq"? Because you were all smiles with the "Mission Accomplished" banner behind you a couple years back. And if you think the current situation in Iraq is "winning" you are sadly mistaken. And are we fighting terrorists in Iraq or an insurgency? Or are we caught in a civil war which could lead to ethnic cleansing? Maybe all of the above? Well I'm glad you took the time to illustrate this complex issue in your quote.

For those who are wondering if there is a civil war in Iraq, check out this tidbit from Slate's Oct 29 edition of Today's Papers: The best Iraq piece of the day, however, comes from the Post's Anthony Shadid. He visits Baghdad again after covering mayhem elsewhere and offers his own take on whether, in fact, Iraq is engaged in civil war: "Civil war was perhaps too easy a term, a little too tidy."

Much of the Bush Administration and Republican talk on Iraq deals with security for the Iraqi people. The simplistic sound bite goes, once our troops train Iraqi Police to provide security we can start bringing the troops home. Well I wonder how that training is going. This is from today's TP column: The WP spent some time with U.S. troops in charge of training the Iraqi police and tries to explain why some believe it may take "decades" before local forces are able to take on responsibility for the country's security. The head of the police-transition team of a U.S. military battalion tells the paper 70 percent of the Iraqi police force has been infiltrated by militias. Although U.S. soldiers say they frequently gather evidence of militia ties from within the police ranks, Iraqi officials don't take action on this information and no one has been fired.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Ramblings On Beauty

So the other day I linked to one of Yllwdaisies' posts in which she discussed an insightful vid from Dove. The vid basically displayed, in sped up time, the manpower, artistry, and digital magic needed to turn the good-looking gal on the street into the gorgeous face of a cosmetic ad. I understand that most of us are aware that the flawless images of celebrities and models we see in advertising and the media are "touched up" to some extent. However I would just like to stress how important it is that we remind ourselves of this fact by viewing media that critically shows the "enhancements" at work. Personally speaking, I may view something like the Dove vid once for every hundred of touched up images I see. And while I am aware these advertising and celebrity images are enhanced, when I view them I do not get to see the enhancement process the image went through ... I only see the finished product, which is presented as though it were real and natural.

I understand I must sound like a raging anti-advertising luddite/media critic. And, I admit, I basically am. But that's for another post. The basic point of this post is that it is of the utmost importance that we (the public, the consumers of this advertising and media) maintain a sort of critical vigilance when we consume these images. Therefore I'd like to return to Yllwdaisies' post. She has updated it with a link (that I believe she found on Nello's website) to a digital imaging company called FluidEffect. One of the company's services is retouching. However, a section of the website shows celebrity and model images after AND BEFORE digital enhancement. To get to the section you'll need to click on PORTFOLIO, then AGREE to their terms for viewing, and finally select their BEFORE/AFTER portfolio.

The before and after images are very enlightening. Take the Billy Bob Thornton photograph for example. While Billy Bob looks pretty good for a 50 year old in the before image. The after image shows him to have flawless skin with nary a wrinkle. The enhancement of his neck speaks volumes.

The enhancement of skin is a common characteristic in most of the images. As someone who has terrible skin it comes as a relief to truly see how unreal the flawless skin one sees in the world of advertising and celebrity is. Now I am not saying these celebs and models have terrible skin. Their before images show good, normal skin, though clearly not flawless. And this brings me to my final point.

When I walk to campus or down a busy city street I see beautiful faces everywhere. I would even argue that the vast majority of the faces are attractive. These faces have good, but not great skin and strong, but not chiseled features. Could they substitute for the faces of celebrities and models we see in advertising? Of course they could! --- once their images went through the same enhancement process. These faces I see everyday are just as beautiful as the faces of celebrities and models! However if I was to compare these faces with the finished, touched up images of celebs and models, perhaps I would come to a different conclusion. Perhaps I would think these everyday faces were attractive but they weren't flawlessly beautiful like the faces of celebrities and models. I may then conclude, this is the reason celebrities and models are used in advertising and the attractive person I just walked passed is not. Unfortunately were I to think this way, I would clearly be wrong.

And that's one of the powers of uncovering the enhancement process advertising and media images go through. Many people are blessed with good skin and nice facial features. As someone who isn't so blessed I think it is of primary importance that people who are, the majority of people, understand that they are the essence of beautiful. That it is impossible to compare their face to the unreal, enhanced images of advertising. And that if they had the $10K to pay for a team of professional stylists and digital retouchers, their face would also be plastered across Times Square.

You are as beautiful, perhaps more. It is just that simple.

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Wow. What a random, strange post from me. Well not that random because I do think about these things quite often. Anyway, I'm kind of afraid to post this but I'm clearly not going to waste the time and energy I put into this. So here goes.

PS - check out the COMPOSITE/MANIPULATION portfolio on the FluidEffect website; it doesn't show as much enhancement but there is some.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Almost Back to Normal.

Thanks yall. Nothing like "get well" comments to fight a terrible cold. Seriously, thank you everyone. I'll probably return to regular posts towards the end of this week. But I wanted to link to something, quite simply, extraordinary. Some of you may have already seen this but for those of you who have not ... get ready to be awed ...

Six months ago a vid appeared on YouTube. A vid so amazing, so mesmerizing, so captivating that it has been viewed over 34 million times. It is the most viewed vid on YouTube and in comparison, the second place vid has been viewed a meager 16.7 million times. Behold blogfolks! The Evolution of Dance!

(it's 6 min in length)

Okay. So it's just this guy Judson Laipply dancing. But you must admit this dance anthropologist/motivational speaker/comedian is pretty darn good. And who says white guys can't dance? I guess Judson needs to add "stereotype buster" to his list of professions.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I have a cold.

Yes. I am the first victim of the oncoming winter. I hope this means that I won't fall to the cold/flu bug again this winter.

Anyway, this means gallons of chicken noodle soup are in my future. This also means I probably won't be posting for the next few days. But I'd like to leave the bloghood with this post. I can't resist the chance to get sympathy comments. Yes, that is kinda sad. How dare you! Whatever.

So I'd like to talk about another tv show that I think is stellar. But before that, I'd like to point you towards Yllwdaisies' blog. She's posted a powerful short film from Dove. It's part of Dove's campaign on beauty and shows just what it takes to get a photograph onto a beauty advertisement. Most of us know about the process at work, but seeing it from start to finish in this short vid simply underscores the unreality of advertising. In any case, it is a striking short film.

And before I get to "Heroes" I must drop a Slate link. So what do you all think about Sophia Coppola? She has a new film out about Marie Antoinette. I have yet to see a Sophia Coppola film. I have seen her, umm, "role" in THE GODFATHER, PART III. And I am also aware of her meteoric rise to magazine (maybe critics') darling as a director. Anyway, Slate's Dana Stevens (a superb film reviewer, in my opinion) tackles Sophia Coppola and her new film in this very interesting review.

So I've posted about "Heroes" before and mentioned that I'm becoming a major fan of the show. Tonight, for those of you not watching the World Series or are on the West Coast, NBC is showing all 3 previously broadcasted episodes. If you're a sci-fi or comic book fan or once was, I strongly recommend you check out the episodes. "Heroes" is simply a sharp, smart show that embodies the creativity of sci-fi and the suspense of comic books. If you think the show is not believable and is soap-operatic melodrama (as I did before watching an episode), you will be pleasantly surprised. The show is building a methodical, intricate, and thoroughly entertaining tale of the "hero's journey" and supporting it with engaging side stories. If you are at all interested I strongly urge you to check the show out.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Jim and Pam

I like "The Office" as much as the next person but do they really have to drag out this Jim and Pam thing?!?! They do not. But. I must admit they are handling it rather well. I thought the storyline would quickly lose its adorable charm but it hasn't for me. Umm, did I just admit being gay? Anyway, moving on. I can understand why Jim wouldn't make a move because he was so honest right before Pam's wedding and got a semi rejection. Which means this is sorta Pam's fault. I mean she totally has the greenlight to make even just a semblance of a move. See, I'm not gay. Because I (sorta, basically) blame Pam. And the writers, of course. And Pam better hurry because Jim's co-worker is pretty hot. Anyway everyone can now tell me how wrong I am.

FRONTLINE: the lost year in iraq

On Tuesday (the 17th) FRONTLINE aired their latest investigative documentary. The doc (titled "The Lost Year in Iraq") detailed the first year of the US Occupation of Iraq. The details are not pretty. The doc shows a clueless and unprepared effort by the Dept of Defense and the CPA. One of the things that I found startling was that Rumsfeld and his buddies Wolfowitz and Feith thought they would be able to pull most soldiers out within the year (2003). To think that the Iraqi people will treat the soldiers as liberators is one thing, but to think that Iraq will transition to a stable and robust democracy (and no longer need US soldiers) in about a year is beyond ludicrous. Another startling matter is how the Bush Admin (Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc on down) replaced qualified experts in the CPA (the US Govt Agency in charge of the occupation and getting Iraq back on its feet) with inexperienced, unqualified political loyalists. The following quotes illustrate the point:

(These quotes are taken from the doc's website's extended interviews section.)

My favorite example of this was, on Garner's team, there's a guy named Skip Burkle, who's an assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development [USAID]. Skip is described by his colleagues as one of the foremost experts in post-conflict public health around the world. It was his job to rehabilitate Iraq's health care system. Burkle has a medical degree, four postgraduate degrees. He's got purple hearts. He served in Kosovo and in Somalia, in Haiti.

But a week into it he gets an e-mail from his senior official back in Washington, a friend of his, saying the White House wants a loyalist on the job, and in his place was a guy named Jim Haveman. He was no doctor. He was the director of community health in Michigan. His pal, the Republican governor of Michigan, John Engler, contacted Tommy Thompson, the secretary of health and human services. He contacted Paul Wolfowitz and said, "Hey, this guy Haveman would be really good."

Haveman's international experience really was limited to sort of doing outreach for the Dutch Reform Church. He had worked previously at an adoption agency where they encouraged children not to have abortions. He'd never worked in the Middle East. He never had any experience in post-conflict health care. But he was the guy the administration saw fit to send out there.

He got out there, and he came up with ideas like not devoting much money to fixing Iraq's emergency rooms, even though injuries from car bombings and insurgent attacks were probably the single largest health crisis the country is facing. Instead, he brought in a team of people to go line by line through the list of drugs that the country was importing to try to figure out which ones could be taken off the list. He wanted to develop a new formula. Why did he want to do this? Because in Michigan, he had saved millions of taxpayer dollars doing this.
-Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who was WaPost Iraq Bureau Chief during the Lost Year.

The second quote deals with Lt. Gen. Garner and State Dept Official Warrick. In February of 2003 there is the first meeting of all US Govt Officials who are thinking about the future of Iraq (meaning post-war Iraq). The invasion is roughly six weeks away. Lt. Gen. Garner has been told he will be in charge of post-war Iraq. (In reality he will be usurped by J. Paul Bremer just before the invasion is over.) Garner is surprised at how chaotic the meeting is. However, over and over again one man seems to have most of the answers to his questions:

Finally at noon, as they're sitting down to lunch, Garner turns to this guy and says: "Who are you? Why have you got all of the answers?" The guy says: "Well, I'm Tom Warrick. I'm from the State Department, and I've been working on this Future of Iraq Project for over a year now." Garner says, "Well, as of Monday, you come to work for me." "OK," says Warrick. Finally somebody wants to know this stuff. Then, unfortunately, Garner runs into a bus. He's told not long afterward by Donald Rumsfeld, "By the way, you need to get rid of this Tom Warrick guy, and also that [Deputy National Security Adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan] Meghan O'Sullivan woman." Garner is deeply puzzled by this: "Wait a second. I need these people. I finally am finding the experts I need."

This goes back to the issue of the Bush administration not wanting expertise, because it was getting in the way; it was asking difficult questions. It was very shadowy to Garner. But his conclusion was that it was Vice President Cheney's office vetting people, really on their politics, and saying, "We don't like that Warrick guy; we don't like that Meghan O'Sullivan person," and telling Rumsfeld, "Get rid of those people."
-Thomas Ricks, WaPost Pentagon Correspondent

The next quote is Rajiv Chandrasekaran's response when he was asked about the DoD/CPA's hiring process and on who got hired:

It was a bunch of young kids -- had no experience managing finances -- who were given the task of running Iraq's budget. It turned out that this group of kids who had come over together couldn't quite figure out why they'd been chosen. They finally discovered that what had tied them together was that they had all applied for jobs at the Heritage Foundation, this conservative think tank in Washington.

What happened was that the hiring was done by the White House liaison to the Pentagon, an office of the Pentagon political appointee. This office served as the gatekeeper. Instead of casting out widely for people with knowledge of Arabic, knowledge of the Middle East, knowledge of post-conflict reconstruction, they went after the political loyalists and canvassed the offices of Republic congressmen, conservative think tanks and other places where they knew they would find people who would be unfailingly loyal to the president and to the president's mission in Iraq. ...

The hiring process involved questions that would have landed a private-sector employer in jail. They asked people what their views on Roe v. Wade were, whether they believed in capital punishment. A man of Middle Eastern descent was asked whether he was Muslim or Christian. People were asked who they voted for for president. ...

Bremer, after some months in Iraq, realized he needed more people to help, and as a former guy from the private sector, he had a pragmatic streak in him, and he dispatched one of his deputies back to Washington to scour the country and get some of the best people sent over to Baghdad.

This deputy, who was a former Goldman Sachs banker, did what anybody in the private sector might do. He contacted a couple of his friends who work for large executive headhunting firms, and he asked them to come to the Pentagon and help identify promising candidates to go to Baghdad.

When the White House [liaison] office to the Pentagon found out about this, they freaked, and they ordered those guys to pack up and leave that same day. Bremer's deputy interceded and managed to keep the headhunters around, but their jobs were relegated to sort of vetting people's résumés. The actual decisions of who's going to be brought in, that all rested with the White House and the White House's people at the Pentagon, and with people like Paul Wolfowitz and Don Rumsfeld. They were able to tap people.

So you wind up getting people like John Agresto to go run Iraq's higher education system instead of getting somebody who had, let's say, run a very large public university system. He was a former president of a small college in Santa Fe, N.M., with 500 students. But he had connections. He served on the National Endowment for the Humanities with Lynne Cheney; Joyce Rumsfeld sat on his board of directors at St. John's College.

For [Iraq's] primary and secondary education, [they] brought in a guy from the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, a very conservative think tank, who had written extensively on the need for school vouchers. This is not a guy who has any experience in rebuilding school systems in the Middle East.

We've talked about Jim Haveman, the guy from Michigan who had very little experience in public health, being brought over to rebuild Iraq's health care system. And the list goes on -- a bunch of political appointees with very little practical experience.
-Rajiv Chandrasekaran

These quotes show just how inept the Bush Administration was during, perhaps, the most important time of the Iraq Occupation. For those interested, "The Lost Year in Iraq" is a powerful, deeply informative documentary which goes on to show how inept Bush Administration policy was (not just execution) as well as how badly the Bush Admin/DoD/CPA handled such things as the insurgency. It is an incisive documentary and if you have an hour you can watch the entire doc at its website.

Sweet Coffee

I don't know much about music. For that reason I try to stay away from most pop music on the radio. I know much of it is crappy, sentimental, and banal. But many times I cannot help myself and a catchy, crappy tune will hypnotize me. What I should be doing is reading up on and listening to alternative, independent musicians who inject art into the heart of their music. I also should be listening to the great songs of the past. For example classical music.

Which brings me to Tchaikovsky's "Coffee" from "The Nutcracker" ballet. It's an enchanting melody and I was lucky enough to come across it when my local PBS station broadcasted an enchanting short film called "Sweet". "Sweet" tells the tale of two soul mates, two neighbors with no dialogue and simply set to "Coffee". As the short film's title suggests, it is a bit syrupy, but if you have a spark of old-fashioned romance inside of you, then the short will definitely win you over. It's a wonderful classical music video and I wish there were more of them. For those interested you can view the short film below or go to its webpage on ifilm. Also, for more information on who made the short film check out its Imagemaker (PBS) webpage as well as its IMDb webpage. Enjoy!

FYI: The short's duration is 4min 20sec. Also there's a scene in which the lady wears lingerie or a nightgown. The film is completely tasteful so I would strongly say the short is safe for work. But I just wanted to mention it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


The Iraq Occupation has gone disastrously. One of the main reasons for this is the reported unpreparedness and ineptitude by those in power. In other words, by the Dept of Defense, the CPA, and ultimately, the Bush Administration.

Tonight on FRONTLINE the program will showcase a documentary investigating the lost year in Iraq. What is the lost year in Iraq? Well let me quote directly from the website:
"In the aftermath of the fall of Saddam Hussein, a group of Americans led by Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III set off to Baghdad to build a new nation and establish democracy in the Arab Middle East. One year later, with Bremer forced to secretly exit what some have called "the most dangerous place on earth," the group left behind lawlessness, insurgency, economic collapse, death, destruction--and much of their idealism. Three years later, as the U.S. continues to look for an exit strategy, the government the Americans helped create and the infrastructure they designed are being tested. FRONTLINE Producer Michael Kirk follows the early efforts and ideals of this group as they tried to seize control and disband the Iraqi police, army and Baathist government--and how they became hardened along the way to the realities of postwar Iraq."

Also, I forgot to post about last week's FRONTLINE episode. Last week FRONTLINE (in concert with the NYTimes) investigated the Government's claims that several high profile domestic terror arrests resulted in the capture of al Qaida connected operatives. And that significant terror plots were thwarted. Upon closer examination that does not seem to be the case. While a couple plots may have resulted in major harm and even death, there was no connection to AQ and the plot would be considered domestic terror that the police and the FBI handle. Nothing like 9/11 or the European Train Bombings. I would like to point out that an AQ connected plot has been thwarted. It was thwarted in 2000 by the border patrol (it is known as the LAX Millenium Bombing plot). For more info check out FRONTLINE's doc on the plot. Back to last week's FRONTLINE doc. I would like to point out that the plot case at the center of the documentary revolves around Pakistani-American individuals in Lodi. The doc strongly shows that the individuals involved had sympathies to AQ and the Taliban but they were not helping a terrorist organization in anyway. But this brings up another point. Many Muslim-Americans have sympathic views towards AQ and the Taliban. This in itself is not a crime. But it points to the larger war of ideas that perhaps we are not winning. If these individuals can be so easily brainwashed by islamic fundamentalist rhetoric, even when they live inside the United States, we must not be effectively handling the war of ideas. For interested you can watch last week's FRONTLINE doc in its entirety on the website.

Slate Rundown - Special Edition

This is going to be a special edition of the Slate rundown in that the linked articles will all be connected by a theme. And that theme ... the corruption and ineptitude that is our (US) political parties. The criticism here is going to lean heavily towards the Republicans because they are in power and they screw up a lot. Though a couple of the links will show why the Democrats suck too and, especially, that they are not a party of the left but a moderate party. Which is completely fine, but at least admit it. Anyway, here we go.

Remember the Abramoff scandal? It's the one in which lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave hefty political contributions in order to get Congressional votes for his clients. It seems Abramoff's money was also welcomed by "independent" conservative nonprofits (aka "think tanks"). This WaPost article has the lowdown: "The report includes previously unreleased e-mails between the now-disgraced lobbyist and officers of the nonprofit groups, showing that Abramoff funneled money from his clients to the groups. In exchange, the groups, among other things, produced ostensibly independent newspaper op-ed columns or news releases that favored the clients' positions." One of the nonprofits is run by uber-Republican operative Grover Norquist (who is a prominent figure in the Abramoff scandal, naturally). Norquist is the type of libertarian, small-government idealogue who believes government agencies like the EPA are unnecessary. His insane views would simply be funny if he wasn't an advisor to the President on occasions.

In other Abramoff news, Representative Bob Ney (Republican, of course) pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the Abramoff scandal.

Since the Foley scandal midterm election polls are showing strong support for the Democrats. However, from what I heard the WaPost and NYTimes political reporters mention on the News Hour yesterday, while the Dems look poised to take over the House they still need some luck to take over the Senate. Therefore the reporters mentioned that the GOP would focus all its resources on the close Senate campaigns. I understand that this is going to sound extremely partisan but with all the overt corruption and ineptitude by the Republicans how can some of these races be so close? It's as if some of the Republican voters, who know of the corruption and mistakes, think voting for a Democrat would be unpatriotic or something. However, one of the most patriotic things a voter could do in this coming election is vote Democrat. The reason for this is that by giving the Democrats control of Congress the opposition party would be in control of the legislative branch. Now I'm not going to say that with the Dems in control they will immediately pounce on the abusive and inept Bush Administration/Republican policies and come up with wonderful alternatives. That is definitely not going to happen. But with the Dems in power of Congress they will, at the least, be the headache and obstacle that an opposition party with some power can be. They will be some semblance of a check on executive power by the Bush Admin. And for that reason alone the Dems need to take control of Congress.

I will now illustrate this point with the recent Detainee Bill passed in Congress. When the Detainee Bill was going through the Senate a number of prominent Republicans (McCain, Warner, Graham) cried foul and stated the Bill should uphold the Geneva Conventions. A compromise with the Bush Admin soon followed in which the public was told the Geneva Conventions would be upheld, therefore torture would be banned. However, as Dahlia Lithwick of Slate points out, it is unclear if the torture practices in question have been ruled out. Furthermore, an enemy combatant detainee cannot go to a court in order to claim Geneva Convention protection. It seems like a compromise in name only. Also, as Lisa points out in this post (and Lithwick does as well in her post), the Detainee Bill has stripped the courts of habeas-corpus jurisdiction. The legal doctrine of habeas-corpus runs all the way back to the 12th century (perhaps even earlier) and is basically the right of any detained (i.e. jailed/imprisoned) individual to ask the state to provide justification for his detainment to a neutral third party (a judge). This is extremely important if innocent individuals are being swept up when the state casts its wide detainment net. In Februrary of this year Slate's Dahlia Lithwick had an incisive article on 3 major Gitmo reports (I think I linked to it when it was first published). One of the reports strongly argued that the vast majority of Gitmo detainees did very little wrong and clearly are not terrorists. These two FRONTLINE docs touched on the subject as well. Without habeas corpus when would these detainees (many who are most likely innocent) get their day in court?

Now, would a Democratic Congress stop a bill like this? I'm not completely sure but they would have been a bigger obstacle to it and would have made public many of these points, at the least, strictly for political partisanship.

Anyway, if you are feeling a bit sad and gloomy because of this Detainee Bill, there is hope. The Bill will eventually reach the Supreme Court which has a greater appreciation for habeas corpus and the US Constitution. However, several of the Senators who voted for the Bill know this and are basically passing the buck to the Supreme Court.

Well, once again, I've written an overlong post. If you're still reading this thank you so very much. And I will be your bestest friend. And here is a little bit on why the Democrats, for the most part, suck.

Slate has a great piece on the lame leaders of the Dems.

Dem Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) is in the news because of a suspicious land deal he made in 2004 and for using campaign funds for personal use. He is also pro-life, anti-gun control, and anti-gay marriage. I'd just like to repeat here that this guy is the Senate** Majority Leader of the US political party for the left.

And back to the Detainee Bill that was just passed in the Senate. The Senate voting on the Bill was 65 to 34. Which means that 12 Democrats voted for the Bill (and one Republican voted against). So maybe even with the Democrats in control, the Senate will remain a rubber stamp for the Bush Administration. You can find out how the Senate voted here.

**EDIT: When I first published this post I mistakenly typed that Reid was the House Majority Leader. He is in fact a Senator, therefore the Senate Majority Leader. My mistake has now been corrected.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Ariel Levy on Colbert

Here's the segment I was talking about in the previous post. In case anyone was interested in the author and her book. It's good stuff. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Books You Might Want to Read

This is a slightly strange post. I'm going to recommend four books. Unfortunately I haven't read any of them. I've heard and seen interviews with three of the authors and I am a bit familiar with two of them. Now, granted, this isn't the best way to recommend a book ... but I'm a little busy reading books for school. So these are books that have piqued my interest and perhaps you'll find them interesting as well.

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis. You may remember Lewis from his critically acclaimed and popular book Moneyball. In his new book Lewis focuses on football and how the game has evolved to highly prize the left tackle offensive lineman. The prototypical left tackle would be 6'8", 330 lbs, and run a 40 yard dash in 4.5 seconds. Clearly it takes the rare male who can solidify an offensive line and protect the QB from ferocious, highly efficient defensive pash rushes. At the heart of Lewis' book is the story of such a talent. A young man who will one day start at left tackle for an NFL team. A young man who went from being a street kid who did not know his real name to a college football star. FYI: Lewis is married to Tabitha Soren. Yes, that Tabitha Soren. From MTV. Remember?!?!? Oh man I'm so old.

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Dr. Dawkins is a prominent ethologist, evolutionary theorist, and popular sciencey guy (yes, the last one is a technical term). Dawkins is perhaps most famous for his 1979 book The Selfish Gene in which he argues evolution is gene centered. Another book I need to read. Anyway, in his new book Dawkins takes on religion and the existence of God. An outspoken atheist, Dawkins ardently criticizes religion and argues the existence of a supreme being is supremely improbable. On a planet where atheists are a clear minority, this book might seem controversial or, at the least, be treated as controversial. I strongly feel it shouldn't be. Here is one of the planet's intelligent and eloquent scientific minds and he is simply making an argument. To treat his detailed argument as controversial or taboo is simply irrational and intolerant. Anyway, as someone who fluctuates from pantheism to agnosticism to reluctant atheism perhaps I'm a bit afraid Dawkins' argument will be rather convincing. Like Agent Mulder, I want to believe.

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins. I'm the least familiar with this book and its author. I have yet to read or hear or view an interview with Perkins. However I am a bit familiar with the great corporate influence over globalization policies since taking a course of Global Political Economy and from currently reading The Bush Agenda (which I will post about very soon). And as a purported Economic Hit Man, Perkins states that he directly influenced the economic policy of developing nations. He makes very pointed allegations and because of that this is a controversial book. The B&N synopsis of the book reads:
"Perkins was one of those highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars by funneling development aid money into the coffers of huge corporations and a few wealthy families who control the planet's natural resources. Fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder are among their tools. He had begun to confess his role and expose the game since the early 1980s, but was always stopped by bribes or threats. September 11th was the final spur."
I'm not sure what evidence Perkins provides but the high indebtedness of many developing nations has continued under the structural adjustment policies that the IMF/World Bank has made developing nations implement in exchange for needed loans. More on this when I post about The Bush Agenda (a great book that I feel is slightly mis-titled). FYI, the US State Dept has a webpage refuting some of the book.

Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy. I caught the lovely Ariel Levy on The Colbert Report. Her book critizes a segment of modern female culture which seems to have embraced and one-upped male chauvinism. Back when she was writing the book she followed a Girls Gone Wild camera crew and wrote a Dispatch column for Slate. (Yes people, it all turns back to Slate! Moving on.) Levy made insightful points on The Colbert Report. One was that the "female talent" of Girls Gone Wild are not paid. I remember reading about this in Levy's Slate piece. I also remember reading that a couple of the young ladies who were taped were graduate students (though I doubt Levy asked them for ID). I must admit I was a bit shocked (just a tad bit). But perhaps I'm just old and/or I don't see the feminist perspective (or empowerment) in the embrace of what Levy refers to as raunch culture.


WHY WE FIGHT (2005) is an incisive documentary by Eugene Jarecki that makes the argument that United States military policy (therefore foreign policy) is heavily influenced by the military industrial complex. The military industrial complex is a term coined by President Eisenhower during his presidential farewell address to the US public. It refers to the symbiotic and incestuous relationship between the military/Dept of Defense, the Defense Industry, and the elected officials who make policy. The Defense Industry receives huge contracts from the Department of Defense, therefore spending enormous resources to lobby and influence elected and military officials who write policy (that creates the need for weapons and logistical support) and award the contracts. As the documentary points out, this leads to the behemoth defense multinational corporations setting up factories in virtually every state so that the loss of a large contract will immediately lead to the loss of numerous jobs in a representative or senator's backyard. This complex also means that appointed and elected military and political officials are richly rewarded with a cushy job at a defense company after they have facilitated contracts. This "scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" procedure is referred to as the "revolving door" policy. And it can be seen in virtually every major corporate industry and signifies the greater problem of the large influence multinational corporations have over our government. For more info on the impact of the "revolving door" policy check out this Huffington Post piece by Charlie Cray. Of course the reason the military industrial complex is so influential is because it results in large amounts of money for all the sides involved. Many retired US generals who had influence over contracts find themselves on the boards of the corporations which were awarded the contracts. And it goes much higher than US generals. In 1992 the Department of Defense under SecDef Dick Cheney awarded a Halliburton subsidiary $9 million dollars to see if private corporations could take over the military's logistical support division. The Halliburton subsidiary responded with an affirmative. Since then Halliburton and its subsidiaries have received $2.5 billion dollars in logistical support contracts. And of course in 1995 Dick Cheney became Halliburton's CEO and Chairman. Posts he held until becoming Vice President in 2000. He still holds significant Halliburton stock which has tripled since the start of the War in Iraq.

The documentary also deals with the Iraq War. Something I am going to post about soon. One of the documentary's strengths is that the talking heads are sharp, insightful, credible, and informative. Two are recently retired US military (a General and a Lt. Colonel) whose criticisms illustrate the heart of the problem. There's also Joseph Cirincione and Charles Lewis. Lewis founded the Center for Public Integrity which is dedicated to independent investigative journalism. Currently on their website they have articles on the revolving door in state politics.

I saw the documentary in an Intl Relations class. However I highly recommend it to anyone who is curious about it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

More good music

I'm not that familiar with John Fogerty but I recently came across a stellar song of his. It's from 2004 and was part of the Vote for Change tour that supported John Kerry in that year's presidential election. The song is titled Deja Vu (All Over Again). It is a political song about the Iraq War and resonanted with many in 2004. Perhaps it resonants with more today. But, regardless, it is simply a good song. The YouTube clip of the song has terrible audio, you'll probably have to increase the volume a good deal.

The next two are pretty popular so I'll briefly mention them. KT Tunstall and Corinne Bailey Rae. They're both from the United Kingdom as well. Tunstall is Scottish and Rae is British. Each one has a pretty popular tune right now, Suddenly I See for Tunstall and Put Your Records for Rae. Hmm, I just realized both songs are pretty girly. Man, I need to butch up.

And I'll do just that by mentioning a singer who's voice I have never heard. Robin Thicke. I think I saw an ad for his album or something. Anyway, upon seeing the last name I immediately thought of Alan Thicke. Yeap, the dad on "Growing Pains". It turns out Robin Thicke is Alan's son. Alan Thicke used to date Kristy Swanson when she was like 18 and he was 40. He also seemed like a douche for other reasons. Anyway, I checked out Robin Thicke's wikipedia entry and the guy doesn't seem so douchey. Seems like he's really into his music. And he's written a bunch of pop and R&B hits. Well more power to ya Robin! And your wife is hot. And, more importantly, near your age.

I like Macs ...

Not those Macs. Though I keep hearing and reading those are better than these.

And not Big Macs. As Morgan can tell you, they are quite unhealthy.

I'm a big fan of T-Mac. With the rock he is poetry on the hardwood.

And I absolutely, absolutely adore S-Mac. This song, World on Fire, is from Sarah Maclachlan's 2003 album Afterglow. According to Wikipedia, in 2004 she released a wonderful music video of the song. It's the rare music video that moves you and makes you think while being simply mesmerizing. Plus S-Mac is looking super hot.

I've been a big S-Mac fan since Building a Mystery. Which is kinda late in the S-Mac game so some of you were probably on the S-Mac wagon before me. Nevertheless I simply adore her and her music. She's even married to an East-Indian guy (a Canadian, as is she). Now I just have to figure out a way to replace this guy. I mean we all look a like. If anything Sarah would think of it as an improvement. I mean I just know S-Mac is the kind of girl who cannot resist a hairy belly.

(Raise your hand if you are tired of hearing about my hairy belly.)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

v Knows Baseball!

Do I know baseball or what?

I picked the Yankees and the Tigers swept them in 4 games (Game 1 was just the exception that proved the rule: pitching, picthing, pitching).

I picked the Twins and the A's swept them.

I picked the Dodgers and the Mets swept them.

I picked the Cards and that was only because they won Game 1 before I posted my predictions. Otherwise I would have probably gone with the Padres, who are currently down 2 games to 1.

Anyway, this proves it. I know my baseball.

And I must discuss the news that George Steinbrenner will fire Joe Torre and bring in Lou Pinella. This isn't Joe Torre's fault Steiny, its your fault for thinking you can just spend your way to the World Series. When the Yankees won they had great pitching. Yeah, every baseball team needs great hitters, but as we've seen time and time again ... postseason success is predicated on great pitching. There's another trend the Yankees should be aware of. The more Steinbrenner gets involved, the farther the World Series seems to get.

Portrait of a Hairy Belly (part 2)

Before I complete humiliating myself, I'd just like to say thanks for the kind words. And as everyone can see, I was not lying, I do have a hairy belly. And it is magnificent. Actually, laser hair removal is in my future but first I need to return to a decent shape. Speaking of which here's another photograph from 5 weeks ago:

Once again the hairy belly is on display. Anyway, since then I've been exercising regularly. The regimen is not as intense as a year ago, but it seems to be working. I've lost 5 pounds by doing cardio 4 times a week, weights/resistance 2 times a week, and limiting my fat and caloric intake. (I cannot stress how important the 3 elements are together in order to burn fat and keep it off.) Here's a photograph from a few days ago:

Clearly I'm not close to my goal but I can see a visual difference in my body, the stomach is a bit flatter and there's a semblance of shape. It's only been 5 weeks and while I was hoping for some better results, I am content with the progress.

One of the reasons for posting these photos is of course motivational. Now I have extra motivation to keep up (perhaps even instensify) my workouts so that I can show I'm making progress and that I once was actually in decent shape. As others have mentioned, motivation can be hard to gain and maintain. But it is of the utmost importance because it will get one through the tough early stages where results seem too far away or impossible. Motivation will also get one back on track after the inevitable missteps and obstacles. Anyway, what I'm basically getting at (something I've thrown out there earlier on this blog, I think) is that if anyone out there is also starting or is in the middle of a fat burning regimen, I suggest with start up an informal "getting in shape" club. Now, of course, this doesn't mean posting pictures of yourself every month. (Though I would suggest taking photographs of your body for your own viewing because sometimes your body will change shape but the scale will only show a minimal loss. This is because fat isn't burnt uniformly throughout your body, certain problem areas are quite stubborn in burning fat. And you will probably gain some muscle which will offset the weight loss from the burnt fat.) But it would be nice to post about the progress one is making (or not making) once a month or so. Other members of this informal club could then comment encouragement and motivation, as well as share information on what methods seem to work best for them. There's a lot of information out there on how best to burn fat, it can get confusing. However, everyone is going to be a little different and need slightly tweaked regimens due to their personal characteristics.

Before February of this year, I made a few attempts to get into shape. Unfortunately, I'm a stubborn bonehead and I made a plethora of mistakes. But eventually I got the right information, mainly from a pretty smart, informative fitness expert named Tom Venuto. He runs a few informative websites, I believe they are all connected to his e-book titled "Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle" or something like that. I didn't pay for the e-book because I was able to glean enough information from his websites and google searches. The information worked for me, until I stopped exercising, of course. However, if anyone out there would like me to post about what type of exercise and diet regimen I am using to get back into shape, please let me know and I'll do so. I was planning to post about it anyway, but I was waiting to return to photograph 1 shape before doing so. To basically prove that the regimen/information works. To summarize, the basic keys are that one needs to do cardio, weights/resistance, AND to watch what they eat (limit calories and fat, while improving protein intake). But it is a bit more complicated than just that. Everyone has a different body shape and type. And it is best to either burn fat or gain muscle but not optimal to try to do both at the same time.

Wow. This post is way too long. But I'm going to post it anyway. My sincerest apologies if you read the entire thing. However thank you and I'll be your best friend. Or do one load of laundry for you. But it has to be colors. Have a good one.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Portrait of a Hairy Belly (part I)

I'm not exactly sure why I'm doing this. Clearly I want attention. But I still think that if I document my failure to remain in shape along with my arduous and disciplined (I want it to sound harsher than it really is) journey to get back in shape, that it will help someone else gauge what kind of results are possible and what will result if they stop working out. And, at the least, the world will be able to view my glorious hairy belly.

This post starts in February of this year. After about 3 months of working out consistently and watching what I ate, my body looked like this:

I understand it's nothing special but I was particularly pleased with the flat belly. As you may be able to tell, I was so pleased I used some hair remover, lol.

Anyway, sometime in March or April I slowly regressed in my exercising habits and completely stopped working out soon after. There are several reasons for this. School was taking a little more time than usual and there are other factors I really don't want to talk about. After 4+ months of no exercise whatsoever and not really caring about what type of food I would put in my belly, I lost some muscle and gained some fat. This is my body on August 31, about 5 weeks ago:

There it is folks. The legendary hairy belly. As you can see the hair removal was temporary, lol. I must admit, the hairy belly does have a certain charm. If you look deeply, it has a mesmerizing effect.

Anyway, on August 31 I decided I'd have to raise the rent on my abdomen and kick this freeloading hairy belly goodbye. In part 2 I will document the change that has occurred over the last 5 weeks. I'm not exercising as intensely as I did leading up to the first photograph, but I am working out and it is on a regular basis.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

THE WIRE; indelible

HBO's "The Wire" is simply one of (if not) the greatest things to ever grace a television screen. I have been catching season 3 on DVD and it is as captivating as ever. The treatment of the gritty inner-city drug trade, the mainly ineffectual police work, and the CYA atmosphere of city politics combine to bring the viewer a thoroughly in-depth and insightful look into the major US city we call Baltimore. For anyone who is even remotely curious about this unbelieveable show, I highly, highly, highly recommend it. However, for those of you who won't be able to catch the show, I thought I would quote a memorable conversation from season 3.

I have thoroughly and utterly ripped off this idea of a Quotes Post from the Sage-man. Sage writes a wonderful blog filled with evocative stories from his past and present. Sage is also a voracious reader like many of the blog buddies I frequent. A few weeks back he came up with the ingenius idea of a post filled with quotes from the books he was reading. I am now going to "borrow" this idea, lol. In fact, I will have a post sometime next week with quotes from the school books that I am reading. Unfortunately, I'm not reading anything non-school related at this time. I am however watching a good amount of TV though. Some of it actually good, lol. "THE WIRE" is clearly something I adore and I thought the best way to share its power would be by paraphrasing a this conversation.

This conversation needs some context so I'll quickly describe the situation. It revolves around the character Dennis "Cutty" Wise. Dennis just completed a 15 year stint in prison for the manslaughter of a rival drug dealer. Something that was simply part of his job as muscle for one of Baltimore's major drug crews. Released from prison he seems to be a changed man, but has trouble finding work. Living in his grandmother's basement, he's trying to stay away from the drug trade. With few options, he tries to track down his old girlfriend. He does so, only to find her living a different, quiet life as a speech teacher in the suburbs. He's removed the mothballs from his suit and catches his old girlfriend, Grace, as she reaches her car on the school parking lot. Wearing the suit, Grace assumes he's returned to the drug game. Dennis explains he's trying to stay away from that. Grace, who seems a slight bit perturbed by his contacting her (though at the same time understanding of his situation), informs him that she is miles away from her old life. After an awkward silence Grace does say she might be able to get him in contact with a Church group that might be able to find him some work. Dennis appreciates the help but is also trying to reconnect with one of the few people he must have thought about for all those years in prison. I found the end of the conversation insightful, poignant, and incisively honest. I'll try my best to remember it from memory, but I am paraphrasing.

(As Grace opens the backseat of her car to place her briefcase, Dennis looks into the backseat to see a baby chair.)

DENNIS: So what's the name of your kid?

GRACE: Allen.

DENNIS: After Iverson?

GRACE: No. (Grace laughs slightly.) After his father.


(Awkward Silence)

DENNIS: You know Grace ... seeing you like this ... after all these years ... well, looking at you ... it hurts.

GRACE: Well, then don't look.

(Grace enters her car and drives away.)