Sunday, July 31, 2005
There's a lot on today's docket, but none of it is "hanging in the balance" per se. A week ago tomorrow, Kaia had an accident -- not her fault -- that resulted in the totaling of her BMW, and yesterday she bought a Mercedes sedan to replace Betty, her venerable, battle-tested BMW 3-series. She was describing the italicized infinity-shape headlights and the silver-on-gray colors and she was happy, which, of course, made me happy. I knew she'd come out of her post-Betty trauma unscathed and happy, but it was nice to see I was right. More importantly, it was nice to know she's smiling.
I spoke to both her parents yesterday, and they were both relieved that Kaia is okay. They were also pleased to know that I finally booked my trip out to San Fran -- I'll be out there during the first week of September, for Labor Day -- so I have a feeling that they're as anxious, excited and looking forward to meeting me as I am them.
Today's morning excitement, while Kaia slept on the West Coast, consisted of my cleaning up the apartment and getting ready for the coming week. Nothing fancy, nothing exciting -- just a brief morning skate in the heat that led to me coming back and going through the apartment, taking out some garbage and some boxes, then watching some TV. First I sat through "A Cook's Tour" on the Food Network, which is actually among the more entertaining things a true New Yorker will see on TV, period. It's a travel show starring a grizzled New York chef by the name of Anthony Bourdain, who is the House Chef for two restaurants in Manhattan, both called Les Halles (pronounced Lay-Oll). However, the show follows Mr. Bourdain's travels to all points north, south, east and west -- not just in America, either. From the shows I've seen, Mr. Bourdain has traveled to Asia, the Middle East, LA, San Fran and parts of the midwest. The entertainment comes not from his enjoyment of the various cuisines he encounters, however; it's the fact that the ironic, Letterman-esque, Steely Dan-esque sardonic wit he embodies shines through each experience the show chronicles. That, and the 6'2 Bourdain chain-smokes and waxes sarcasmic through each of his interludes outside Manhattan. He's sort of a real-life Travis Bickle meets Emeril Lagasse; he smiles, but the irony is what really shines through, especially while he chain-smokes among organic food markets, or performs as a guest-chef at Campanile in LA (or scarfing a burger thereafter at Fred 62). And through all the New York-infused, jaded, world-weary observation, he still manages to be blown away by new and different foods. Very genuine, unscripted, and the closest thing a New York foodie who enjoys to cook -- like me -- can get to getting on a plane and going elsewhere. If it's not already evident, it's worth a look.
Of course, after that ended, I sat through the last 15 minutes of Sylvester Stallone's 1986 masterpiece, Cobra. If you haven't seen this particular film, do yourself a favor -- don't. Take Sly, his then-girlfriend Brigitte Nielson, a pathetically weak plot, and some violent special effects on par with the A-Team, and you've got 90 minutes of laughably awful cinema. Truth be told, Sly is lucky -- he's made two wonderful films -- Rocky and First Blood. However, other than those two films -- the bulk of his career he's played a cartoon character of one sort or another. Even his participation in Cop Land, with Robert DeNiro and a variety of other solid actors, didn't rescue his legacy or excuse him from publishing "Sly" magazine. Next time you're in the market, look for it -- and try as best you can not to chuckle.
The last item on the agenda today is spending some time with my other half and kicking back. It's not ideal that we need the telephone to be together, but until then, I'm looking forward to the day we won't.
Friday, July 29, 2005
The problem, of course, with all technology, is that it doesn't always work. The concept of a "paperless office" has been bandied about by computer magazine weenies for the past two decades. Yet despite these prognostications, paper shredders, copy machines, fax machines and -- yes, you guessed it -- paper -- are still omnipresent facets of offices around the country, if not the world. And while I fully agree that it'd be nice to not have piles of crap adorning what once resembled my desk, I know -- based on how many people don't have any real concept of what they're doing via PC -- that with paper, it's a matter of finding it. With a PC -- a missing file might be a result of a virus, an incompetent user, hardware failure, or a combination of these possibilities. And while I personally have been keeping my schedule, contact list and all the little info I collect each day in a Palm-based personal digital assistant ("PDA"), I can affirm that the only reason why I continue to do so is because all my info is perpetually backed up ("synced") onto my PC(s). So when I purchased the newest Palm, the LifeDrive, I was pretty pleased -- it's my (holy shit) seventh Palm in about 10 years, and it's really very wild. It's got WiFi and Bluetooth so I can connect to the Internet from anywhere and transfer contacts to/from my cell-phone. It's got a 4GB mini hard drive (same one found in the iPod Mini) so I can upload therein all of my shots of Bea Arthur drunk and topless at Studio54 back in the late 70's. And I can listen to music with the LifeDrive because it has a little headphone jack.
The main problem with all this, of course, is that it isn't always perfect. The WiFi never seems to be able to find a suitable signal, unless of course I'm sitting on my couch and leeching bandwidth from my wireless router (or, better yet, someone else's in my neighborhood). But if I'm sitting on my couch, I might as well just pry my own ass up and go to the PC itself. Unless, of course, some PSP player wants to take a break and play Mario's Testicles on the PC instead.
So where is all this going? Well, back to KISS-country (keep it simple, stupid). My A/C kept shutting off last night, so I ended up spending more time kicking the damn unit (or flipping fuses trying to cure the problem) than I did sleeping (about two hours, thanQ very much). Of course, in the end, it was a very simple, obvious solution -- the filter needed to be cleaned. With that out of the way, the unit was purring and humming along happily -- just in time for me to drop from physical and mental exhaustion.
What is the lesson learned here? It's nice to have 5,000 digital cable channels at your disposal, even if it takes you longer to find a decent, watchable program than it does to determine what to order for dinner via delivery in NYC. It's nice to have your entire life schedule and your world in a device that fits in your pocket, but if you sit on or fail to charge that little gizmo, you could be outta luck faster than shit through a goose. And while it's nice to have A/C that keeps your apartment meat-locker chilly and turns your nipples into pink icicles, it's sucks when these things invariably don't stand up to daily use.
Same with cell phones. I keep my cell phone for about 18 to 24 months before I round-file it and get a new one. On the surface, I do it because the cellular technology -- not just the radiation/emissions, but the cellular networks -- improve regularly, so I try to keep current. But I just love having a phone that can play video, tell me the weather in Sydney, take video snapshots of the womens' locker room at my gym, and function as a crude flash-bang grenade should I ever be taken prisoner by a gaggle of ninja assassins. Except all I really need the phone for is to make PHONE CALLS.
That reminds me of an incident I experienced in the mid-90's. I was looking to get a new car, so I went to a BMW dealership to take a gander at the 3-series. The salesman was giving me the schpiel about how slick the car was and how it's this and that, and instead of just having me drive the thing -- which is, after all, where a BMW (especially) shines -- he showed me the trip computer. The trip computer estimates how many miles you have remaining before you're out of gas, tracks your average miles per gallon, and calculates how lame you are for bothering to actually use the trip computer. The problem is the salesman -- we'll call him Retch -- wasn't quite able to figure out how to get this one car's trip computer to work, and I spent 20 minutes watching this Aqua-Velva freak punch in codes, call his manager, read the manual and try and find the little ID card that gives Retch and anyone else wearing a cheap tie and a polyester suit the ability to unlock the trip computer.
Needless to say, I wound up getting an Audi.
Moral of the story: keep it simple and always remember that gadgets, gizmos, toys and other life-luxuries are and always should be a means to an end, not the end themselves. If your new cell phone is giving you erections and you feel the need to show off by using it everywhere, including doctors offices, waiting areas, elevators, the bathroom stall, baseball games, funerals, the movies and while you are working the express counter at the fucking post office, perhaps you should have that phone permanently installed -- in your ass. If you pay more attention to the GPS set-up in your car than the passengers therein, you should be locked in the trunk, naked, with the GPS antenna in one hole and the crowbar in the other. Guess where you should put the flare.
And if you are so busy yapping away and playing with the trip computer in your 2005 Shitbox Coupe that you wind up causing an accident, you should have the spare tire permanently installed -- in your ass.
Finally, anyone who lives in NYC and feels the need to drive a Hummer and brag about it -- despite the fact that the Hummer is one giant piece of GM-manufactured crap -- is cordially invited to experience both the GPS and spare-tire experiences. Simultaneously.
Ooh, there's my cell phone, gotta go.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
And yet...Kaia is still 3,000 miles away, so I opted to cancel my planned "Skipping Naked Through The Street" jaunt, much to the appreciation of my neighbors, relatives and friends (especially those friends who would have wound up bailing me out o' jail). But enough about the weather -- until September, the heat will more than likely inspire people to buy (and hopefully use) far more deoderant than normal, the streets will be alive with perspiration, and the typical, already-cranky New Yorker will give way to the typical cinematic New Yorker -- snippy, sarcastic, condescending and acerbic. And those are just the women ;)
In the meanwhile...work is continuing along without much in its path, which is to say that if I had a bed and a shower in the office, I'd prolly never leave. On top of that, the Yankees continue to defy explanation with their anemic hitting and pitching that would barely qualify for Little League. On a positive note, however, a variety of fun and excitement awaits me this weekend. I was offered tickets to the Dave Matthews Band concert(s) on Randalls Island this weekend, so I am going to touch base with a friend or two and get that nailed down. Aside from Coldplay, Audioslave and Cake, there's really very little "new" music I'd bother seeing live, but DMB qualifies, mostly because seeing Dave, stoned out of his eyebrows and gyrating to some subterranean groove, makes good music. He's not an especially gifted musician -- I can play rhythm on most of his stuff -- but it contributes to a good "life soundtrack."
In addition, Kaia's dad and I are starting to delve into car-talk in our e-mails...since she's in the market -- but also in the market to be moving to NYC by the end of the year -- it's sort of a conundrum. Lease a new car and be stuck with a car payment and, as an NYC resident, no place to park? Or lease a pre-owned vehicle, save on the initial depreciation hit, and then dump it or ship it to NYC when appropriate? Or keep the rental Grand Cherokee in the garage until it's time to move and then say goodbye to insurance and gas expenses for good? What lies behind door #3? Only Monty Hall and the man upstairs (no, not Monty's producer) know for sure.
One final question that's been occupying space between the few remaining brain cells between my ears: now that Hillary Clinton successfully uncovered the "hidden" sex-scenes secretly locked in the Rockstar Games product "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," will anyone buy it? More importantly, why is Hillary Clinton focusing her high-powered investigative skills addressing video games and not on the location of Jimmy Hoffa, the true identity of Bigfoot/Sasquatch, how a studio head actually green-lighted "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo," or why Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche haven't yet had a lipstick-lesbian-chic hook-up.
Okay, that last one is a tad tawdry, but I was taking a stab at what might be first and foremost on Hillary's mind. Or elsewhere.
But the jury's still out on Deuce Bigalow II: Electric Boogaloo. Meanwhile, tell Hillary to call me after she has Anne and Cynthia over for, um, tea and strumpets.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Needless to say, the main thing on everyone's mind these days isn't getting work done, it isn't finding solace in the beds of the opposite sex, and it isn't going out and getting plastered -- it's all about stayin' cool, baby! The only winners here this summer are Con Ed and any and every salesman that pushes some piece of shit A/C unit on some poor unsuspecting schmuck. Next year, the whole process will begin yet again. In the meantime, I've got 14,000 BTU's of cool, crisp love circulating around Chateau de Boogie, and it's a mere 69.8 degrees herein as I type this out. Tomorrow, it will be around 86 by 9:30AM and it's due to hit 105 if the heat index is mixed in. The heat index is one of those phrases, by the way, created by some TV weatherman who plays second fiddle to on-screen cartoon depictions of the sun, clouds, rain and Mary Lou Retton. And again, come October we'll be bitching about the rain or the weather or al-Qaeda and we'll have to re-learn the "heat index" phrase come May yet again.
So in the meantime, aside from being glad that Kaia's mostly comfy at home and not in a hospital bed, I'm going through the motions -- getting as much work done as possible, avoiding the weather (when possible), staying cool (when possible) and keeping an eye on the long-term plans. I have calls to make, errands to do, people to see and some writing to do -- but when it's this hot, all I seem to be capable of handling is coming in, having some food, kicking back and then finding my other half via telephone. Since she's slammed at work as well, it's hard for either of us to relax, but we're trying. Slowly but surely, we're trying...that, and we're looking forward to Labor Day Weekend, September, October, and, finally, Novemberish. This will be the second consecutive Thanksgiving I'll have no problem knowing for what I should be thankful.
So tomorrow -- once I climb out of bed, shower, and prepare to face the boiling pavement and the waves of heat on the sidewalks -- I'll emerge from my apartment, like I did today, and fight through the wet warm towel that engulfs me each time I leave my place.
And it's only Wednesday.
Monday, July 25, 2005
So while she is fine, the pain of coexisting long-distance reared its ugly head. I was pretty close to grabbing a cab and flying to San Fran, but she reassured me she was fine. Not being able to hug her and whisper naughty things in her ear to get her laughing was downright painful. And more importantly, it put things in perspective. It taught me that life is short, that being with the ones we love is the most important thing on Earth, and that women from Lithuania should not be allowed to drive Toyota minivans.
Oh, and that watching a homeless guy defecating on the sidewalk near the Brooklyn boro Municipal Building isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Sunday, July 24, 2005
A ephemeral but necessary run-through should start with Lance Armstrong's attempt at winning another consecutive Tour de France victory. This makes twenty-four straight Tour de France wins for Mr. Subaru (actually it's seven). But while it's nice an American manages to win the Tour de France every year (the proverbial finger-flip to the frogs, er, French living in France and all over the world), it makes me wonder how Armstrong, a cancer survivor and a guy who's dating the flat-chested post-modern hippie herself, Sheryl Crow, could (and would) actually be bothered doing so much while perched on a bicycle. It's very telling, incidentally, that with the recent proliferation of doping (another word for athletes who take performance-enhancing drugs -- no, not viagra) that my first thought of Mr. Armstrong's incredible achievement is that he's got to be taking some sort of enhancement to be able to win a grueling race like the Tour de France so many times in a row.
In either case, I'd wish him luck, but after the way his foundation jerked me in connection with those little yellow rubber-band bracelets (and the fact that, barring someone pulling a Nancy Kerrigan on him), he's going to win his seventh consecutive (and final) Tour and then become yet another unemployed Texan (albeit one who sells Subaru and Gatorade).
So...what's next on the HoB glimpse into the world of pro sports today?
Gotta be the NHL.
Without going into Lockout-related specifics in these pages yet again, the 2004-05 NHL season was officially cancelled because the League's finances were too low (their TV revenue was almost one tenth of the three major US sports -- football, baseball and basketball) and their players were making way too much money. So after more than a season was lost, and a lot of bickering, finger-pointing and bullshit ensued, the NHL and the NHL Players Association finally agreed on a new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement). The new CBA was ratified by the owners on Friday, leaving the myriad questions surrounding the financial aspects of the game in a soon-to-be extinct limbo. The main components of the new CBA, in a nutshell, are a revenue-anchored salary cap (not merely a salary cap for each team but one which shifts according to annual league revenue) and a variety of new rule changes (like decreasing the size of goalie equipment) which are designed to create more open space on the ice and therefore more opportunities to increase the most exciting part of the game -- scoring). As always, the next-to-hardest part for the "new NHL" will be for all 30 teams to get their respective houses in order financially so that each roster is within the confines of the salary cap and ready to proceed once the League starts up again. The hardest part will be to combat the collective, post-Lockout yawn this nation expresses every time the NHL is mentioned, let alone televised.
I've received e-mail from people who have asked me why I haven't addressed the NHL returning to "active duty" sooner, and I think, despite the fact that I am a die-hard hockey fan and player, the key is that the NHL's melt-down (pardon the pun) is sad and disappointing. Just as my conscience sadly questions Lance Armstrong's mettle vs. his pre-ride chemical preparation, watching the NHL flush an entire season down the toilet -- for really no good reason that I can think of -- really disappointed me on a number of levels. Yes, the recently-implemented changes (not merely the financial ones) needed to be made, and I rationally understand why the lockout was necessary (sort of). But they lost an entire season. This sport is sadly lacking in its fan base, unless you're talking to people in Canada. It's not a hot ticket to go see the New York Rangers lose a lackluster, boring game of hockey. And yet it costs $400 for a pair of tickets behind the Ranger bench. How many people in their right mind will drop that kind of money to go watch a hockey game? And now that people have ably replaced hockey in their day-to-day lives (a lot of hockey fans, apparently, took up knitting and crocheting during the lockout, I'm told) I wonder how many of those MIA fans will, now that their sport has returned, happily return and pay the reduced ticket prices to watch the sport they grew to live without.
Keep in mind, baseball and football also have logged lots of days waging CBA Civil War as well; the fans returned to both of those sports and everything worked out. The problem is there are relatively very few hockey fans, and many of those cannot afford to drop $600 to take their family of hour to see the Canadiens vs. the Penguins on a Wednesday night. Aside from the fact that the Canadian dollar is worth so little, hockey went from being a blue-collar sport to being glitzed up and depicted as a white-collar luxury. It's not. Unless the Rangers are perennial contenders like the Yankees, people in New York are largely disinterested in watching the on-ice entertainment, unless it's Barney and Friends doing the skating. So my concern these days is what the NHL will do to survive its first few post-Lockout months, and I genuinely wonder -- despite the millions of dollars at stake -- if it can legitimately escape the proverbial, self-inflicted death sentence of a lost season.
The last time I addressed the status of the New York Yankees, I was, amazedly, expressing satisfaction over the fact that this $200-million team managed to eke into first place in the American League Eastern Division. Since then, the Yankees have taken a sorta-kinda nosedive and have dropped three consecutive games, which has not only doused their first-place status but has reminded me that this team won't be doing much come playoff time. I live and die with the Yankees, so perhaps I'm over-dramatizing their plight; clearly, it seems to me that they're, as Billy Joel wrote, simply "running on ice." Rationally, I understand that this season's ups and downs (mostly downs) are simply a result of an aging, overpaid, ineffective, inconsistent starting pitching staff, and a collection of carpetbaggers in the bullpen, combined with a variety of mediocre, overpaid position players, topped off by an owner and an administration (GM Brian Cashman and Yankee President Randy Levine) who really don't know how to assemble a winning team. But it still pisses me off that a $200 million team can't string together a series of wins and actually play as well as a team being paid one eighth of their annual salary. There remains lots of baseball, but if the Yankees don't do something quick (despite another week remaining before the expiration of the MLB Trading Deadline, they publicly suggest there's not much going on in the world of possible trades), they're going to be flushed down the toilet. And while I can accept them losing to a better team, it makes me sad to watch the Yankees themselves doing the flushing.
In brief, I have been watching the ongoing saga of Danica Patrick, the 24-year-old female from Phoenix, AZ, who is gaining significance in the world of auto racing. Patrick is apparently a very talented driver (insert women drivers joke here), and I am glad to see the ol' boy network slowly but surely crumbling around us. However, it's ironic that a sport in which its participants are, largely speaking, covered head to toe for the majority of the contest(s) is gaining in popularity since Ms. Patrick, who has posed in very little clothing in the pages of Maxim Magazine, began her notable, impressive rise to the top. I'm not suggesting Ms. Patrick is unattractive: to the contrary, I think she's quite tasty. But I wonder how much the world of racing has really gained as a result of Ms. Patrick's abilities as opposed to her boobs. Men, like the nation in general, are a fickle bunch; what's hot today is tomorrow's has-been. And I seem to perceive a slow but steady shift for the world of racing, one that was on the cusp of front-page notoriety, slowly but surely returning to the back pages of the sports section once again.
And I wonder how much the sport would have grown if Ms. Patrick had accepted the rumored Playboy offer and actually posed nude.
That's all the time I have for today, and I see the checkered flag waving up ahead. I've got to attend to my other half's day-after-birthday needs, some work and some apartment cleaning, and if I have any time and/or energy remaining, I will watch the Yankees play the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. They might have lost three straight, but the one constant in an otherwise ever-changing universe is the fact that, every night, I can vicariously compete along with the Yankees and stand with them, win or lose.
If they lose again, I won't be too happy. But then again, you already knew that.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Even though 3,000 miles stand between us today, we are never apart. I hope your birthday, and each day that follows, keeps you happy, smiling and getting your each and every wish. And I hope to spend each day with you and make you as happy as you make me!
Each day is like a gift that I can't wait to open, that makes me smile, and that keeps me too excited to sleep. Thank you for making me look forward to today, tomorrow and every day. I love you!
Friday, July 22, 2005
Most importantly, if we are to embark on our daily lives with the same degree of security as we did on September 10, 2001, we're going to realize -- quickly -- that that's not quite possible anymore. I can't go downtown to view the World Trade Center, unless doing so involves me examining some photographic depiction thereof in the window of some tourist shitbox store on Fulton or Broadway, across the street from an area now known as Ground Zero. Lives were lost, true; and while I knew someone whose life ended on 9/11, the bulk of the reality for most Americans in connection with 9/11 was the imagery absorbed through television and/or from somewhat safe distances throughout the five boroughs.
Yesterday afternoon, I received a call from a friend of mine who had advised me that I should avoid taking the subway for the next couple weeks. Said friend works in the Pentagon and has, on occasion, given me general, sanitized updates as to what's going on behind the scenes in Washington and internationally. He advised me that the NYPD were advised to institute some measure of bag-checks to prevent any similar incidents in New York as had occurred in London. He implied that there was sufficient evidence, thus far, to indicate that what happened in London was also on the menu for New York. Based on his information and the timing thereof, I've come to the conclusion that he's rarely wrong.
So these days, until further notice, each time I board a subway -- depending on which station and the time of day -- I may be asked to show a police officer the contents of my messenger bag. 20 years ago, I might very well have balked at those requests and walked away in disgust. However, several incidents have since changed my mind in response to these requests. First, I was on a plane that was hijacked en route to JFK Airport from St. Martin (we landed in Havana, de-planed, and soon after returned to the plane and returned to the United States). Second, I witnessed 9/11 (on the day of 9/11, I saw smoke pouring uptown on Third Avenue -- as high up as 66th Street, approximately 80 blocks north of Ground Zero -- and the next day, I went to Ground Zero to help at the site thereof). Subsequent incidents have further convinced me of the veracity and the intelligence of the NYPD bag-check: the barbaric rituals which saw Muslim extremists cut off the heads of a variety of foreigners in Iraq and elsewhere (eg Daniel Pearl); the bombings in Madrid, Istanbul, and those in London over the past two weeks.
The world is an unsafe place, and while we as Americans occasionally forget the dangers inherent once we enter a foreign country, they are palpable and growing each day. And because Western nations aspire to freedom rather than control, relatively porous borders have provided terrorists an attractive opportunity to inflict their message in our part of the world.
Back to the bag-check: is it inconvenient to have to pass through a metal detector each time I fly or visit certain key city buildings? Absolutely. Is it intrusive to have a police officer examine the contents of my bag each time I board a train? Sure. Is it in the name of safety and security that these things are in place? Yes.
In reading today's news, I came across this article on CNN's website which portrays some reactions to NYPD's new bag-check policy. There are two especially irritating quotes which I found shocking in their eminent stupidity.
The New York Civil Liberties Union warned that the new measures violate basic rights and could invite racial or religious profiling. "The plan is not workable and will not make New Yorkers more secure but will inconvenience them as police go about finding a needle in a haystack," NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman.
William K. Williams, a 56-year-old Manhattan resident who rides the train every day, said the searches would frustrate New Yorkers. "Sometimes you need to get to an appointment, you're running late and a cop stops you to delay you even further? That's going to create a mess," said Williams, who was carrying aMs. Lieberman and Mr. Williams are two very foolish people.
briefcase outside the Brooklyn Bridge station of the subway.
Ms. Lieberman is so quick to denounce any action that will affect individual rights (which is her duty as NYCLU exec. director) that she completely overlooked the fact that this plan will absolutely make the City and its residents safer. Assuming this plan was not implemented, and a variety of bombings like the ones that occurred in London fifteen days ago occurred in NYC, how many of their fellow New Yorkers would treat Muslim residents of New York with respect and compassion? And how many of said Muslims would be abused verbally and/or physically? Would their rights be well-protected by a populace that would increasingly be paranoid around anyone wearing a turban or a heavy jacket on a packed train in the summer?
Mr. Williams is so busy to explain the lack of convenience inherent in a security checkpoint at the entryway of subways and buses that he overlooked the fact that convenience and security aren't always easily and simultaneously achieved. I have a message for Mr. Williams: next time you opt to leave the area and fly to another state (or another country), decry airport-installed metal detectors and security checkpoints. Suggest to your local representatives and anyone who will pay attention to your ridiculous whine that they are inconvenient. And get to the airport ten minutes prior to your flight's indicated take-off time.
When are people going to realize that freedom comes with a price? I'm not invoking the solemn, somber notes of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, nor am I going to refer you, the reader, to a site depicting the face of each soldier who has been killed in combat defending this nation. However, the notion of increasing our personal safety at a modest, logical price of some measure of inconvenience, seems altogether more reasonable than both Ms. Lieberman's and Mr. William's complaints and assertions to the contrary.
It seems to me that we can't afford to be this foolish nor this naive any more.
Having had twenty-four hours to process yesterday's anniversarial bombings in London, as well as the shooting of an unarmed but unresponsive Asian man by London authorities on a train in the Stockwell Underground station this morning, I'm ready to proceed with my theory and some thoughts on how this might play out over the next decade or two or five.
First, despite police forces around the world who deny it, every police force from cities on up employ some measure of racial profiling. Less than ten years ago, the New Jersey State Police were admonished publicly for admitting they employ racial profiling tactics in who they pull over on the New Jersey Turnpike. Essentially, they more often than not stop black males under the age of 30 with more frequency than any other demographic; while this sounds, on its surface, extremely prejudiced and heavily biased, it doesn't mention the fact that Newark, which is smack in the middle of the New Jersey Turnpike, is the most heavily-inundated city in this nation for carjacking and car theft. There have been a number of (bad) films made about this phenomenon, but for the most part, the statistics indicate that one in four drivers will have their vehicle stolen while as a resident or frequent traveler through Newark. More than likely, the vehicle will be stolen from said individual while they are waiting at a stop light or about to enter their vehicle. And the majority of carjackings and thefts are, based on statistics, perpetrated by -- you guessed it -- black males under the age of 30. So while the racial profiling admission by the NJ State Police seems predatory, it is a result of serving and addressing a phenomenon within the community they are tasked to protect.
That brings us to our current problem, that of cells of foreign terrorists embedded in Western democratic nations, presumably ticking like time bombs in their mission(s) to deter, upset and intimidate said nations. The loss of less than sixty people, combined, between yesterday's bombing and that two weeks prior, isn't the kind of catastrophic loss that changes generations or inspires people to rewrite history books. However, having said that, the phenomenon -- and the possible ramping-up in frequency and destruction as a result thereof -- is a significant concern. To wit, riding the subway during off-hours is a gamble, due to the possibility of mugging or other assault. But even as remote a threat as another attack by a suicide bomber is, there are people in London (as well as New York) who will be extremely reticent to go back down to ride an underground train as a result.
And even with British authorities releasing pictures of the four suspects from yesterday's bombings (one of whom ironically was photographed wearing a "New York" jersey), there are a seemingly infinite number of extremists who would be honored to undertake a suicide mission, even if that meant taking the lives of women and children. To them, this is a war: for us to try to go about our daily lives as if nothing has happened is only partially reasonable. On the surface, for us to continue with our lives and, largely speaking, ignore these incidents, will demonstrate to the individuals who perpetrate these actions that we, as a nation, as a people and as a democracy will not be intimidated by extremist animals who belong in an era five centuries in the past. However, bombs on buses and trains are one thing; how can a nation ignore an attack encompassing the scope of 9/11? And what happens when these animals one day manage to obtain a nuclear weapon of some sort? Even a so-called "dirty bomb" of mild strength can affect several city blocks and anyone in the path thereof. That cannot simply be ignored.
How can this problem be addressed so as to effect a solution and improve the situation as opposed to merely awaiting the next incident to occur? I think, as repulsive as it sounds, we ought to look at possibility of deporting or interning many of the immigrants who have come to the US via the "hotspot" nations. While the internment in camps of Japanese people living in the United States during World War II was repulsive and certainly reminiscent of Hitler's concentration camps, the nation was at war and was not willing to be attacked from within, so to speak.
Unfortunately, whether we willingly acknowledge that Iraq is far from the only war front in which the West is currently engaged, the fact that there are extremists boarding buses and subways in London and detonating bombs, to me, suggests this is a war. And while it has not yet happened on US soil, the proliferation of subways and buses as targets of this activity would not surprise anyone. Ditto suicide and car bombs in major metropolitan cities like New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, etc. These are problems the Israelis are faced with each and every day, and their solution is to close their borders and to imprison known offenders and to keep tabs on possible "recruits." While this activity has not yet occurred here on that same scale, it very well might one day reach that status.
And while I am aware my suggestion that immigrants (and even US-born muslims) be considered for deportation or internment is both extreme and repulsive, I think that, short of US policy being altered to permanently bar the entry of muslims of all beliefs into this country, the fact is that a small (minute, actually) segment of that society represents (without denial on their part) a clear and present danger to the people of this nation.
In answer to those who suggest the above-noted theory is contrary to the freedom of religion as guaranteed by the Constitution, my answer is three-fold: first, people in this nation illegally or as non-citizens are not and should not be afforded the protection of the Constitution. If they have not sworn their allegiance to it, then why should they receive its protection? Second, if an individual's freedom of speech is restricted when said speech poses an imminent danger to others (shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater is the stock example), that freedom is temporarily rescinded. So why should one's freedom of religion -- a religion which apparently condones and encourages the killing of women and children -- be protected? Third, if an individual is at war against another power, upon his capture he is not granted the same rights as a citizen or temporary resident of that nation; and since the extremist muslims in this country are, at least on some level, protected by others, they should all be regared as a threat until their intentions are clarified.
Anyone who believes I'm singling out Muslims because of an anti-Islam bias is incorrect; I believe Muslims, especially those who have expressed their religious beliefs by killing women and children and by slamming airplanes into buildings have singled themselves out. So I've devised a few basic rules which, for me, ably address my thoughts on how we should proceed in this particular situation.
Anyone in this country illegally (ie by falsified documentation) should immediately be deported or put into a prison (like Gitmo) or a camp like that which was created for Cuban refugees during the Carter Administration.
Anyone who is found to be plotting against the United States or other Western interests on US soil (and evidence of same is verified by review by the Supreme Court) should be imprisoned in solitary confinement, denied representation of any kind and should expect to spend the rest of his/her days in prison, without the Koran and without access to humanity.
I acknowledge my recommended "solution" to this problem is drastic, repulsive and vile. But I think those words more adequately describe the problem than my solution thereto.
And unless we as a people, a society and a nation are willing to undergo these types of drastic measures, we will have to bury the victims of our nonchalance. And personally, I would much prefer the former as much as I despise the latter.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
These were low-yield conventional bombs. One was rumored to be filled with nails and shrapnel to maximize its capacity to rip through human flesh. Yet the collection of four devices, all of which were remote-detonated and not suicide bombs, were barely powerful enough to cause anything more than panic.
It's pretty clear that today's incident wasn't designed to take another 50 or so lives; it was aimed at scaring the people of London, certainly, and was also a way for a group of extremists to flip London's MI5 and Intelligence Services the proverbial bird.
The events this morning (actually, lunch hour, local time) and two weeks ago are splashed across the news, and their lingering after-effects, like that from 9/11 here, will persist. However, what isn't nearly as public is the proliferation of intelligence: rumors, suggestions, leaks, intercepts, clues and evidence all are being juggled, examined and pored over each day. Eventually, security forces -- whether in the United States, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, etc. -- will act on these newly-developed avenues for understanding.
Unfortunately, until we -- meaning those nations and peoples fighting al-Qaeda and other extemist muslim terrorist groups -- change the rules and start responding in kind, these attacks will continue.
First, what I mean is that there is no way that a civilized society can maintain its civility when monsters masquerading as humans are allowed to freely mingle within the society, board buses and trains, and detonate bombs, both conventional and unconventional. There is no real defense against suicide bombers. Japanese kamikaze bombers in World War II were repelled solely because they were in different "uniforms" than their enemies; but in a society where pedestrians carry backpacks, messenger-type bags and large parcels with regularity, there is no way to determine (or prevent) more of these animals from perpetrating this type of behavior. Is it feasible or realistic to expect subway stations and buses to be protected with metal detectors? It is not. Is it realistic to expect equipment in large cities to somehow detect significant amounts of ammonium nitrate? It's possible, but the cost and the efficiency of these devices would be prohibitive and unacceptable, respectively.
Another course of action, certainly, would be for all Western nations (all nations in general, actually) to remove themselves from all Middle East countries; eliminate the state of Israel; relinquish interest and control over oil- and petroleum refineries; and accede to the beliefs and the demands of people whose life work is to blow themselves up. This seems to echo and mirror those people who suggest that had the US (and other Western nations) not embarked on the war to oust Saddam Hussein, none of this terrorist activity would be occurring to the degree it is. I certainly respect others' opinions on this matter, but anyone who suggests that the War in Iraq was has somehow worsened the status quo vis-a-vis terrorism is thoroughly misinformed.
No, there is and has to be another way.
More on the way.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Clinton, as President, made some mistakes: he had the chance to destroy Osama bin Laden (after the USS Cole incident) but opted not to; he reduced the size of the military despite the US's increasing, world-wide committments around the world; and he extended the entire Monica Lewinsky disaster by invoking Consititutional principles and attempting to hide under the Presidential Privilege umbrella (the same one that, also unsuccessfully, Richard Nixon once attempted to use).
But I digress.
The point of today's exercise in Boogiedom is not to assail President Clinton, but rather to discuss his successor's nomination of Judge John Roberts Jr. to succeed retiring justice Sandra Day O'Connor. On the surface, Judge Roberts, unlike the former President Clinton, is a good man. He's Harvard educated (both BA and JD) and has argued many cases before the Supreme Court, and his nomination as a judge to the U.S. Appeals Court, nominated by George W. Bush, was finally confirmed after the third go-round.
He's a strong conservative, which means that he has ruled against Geneva Conventions protection of the Gitmo detainees, has written briefs supprting integrating prayer in school graduation functions, and helped prepare a brief for Rust v. Sullivan (1991) which claimed "We continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled." The brief was prepared by Roberts as an attorney who represented his client. Prior to his confirmation as a judge on the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia, he was pressed on the aforementioned brief, and his answer was, apparently, sufficient in allaying fears that his bias against abortion was his overriding belief. In response to questions regarding his consideration of Roe v. Wade (1973), he answered, "Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land. ... There's nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent."
The problem is if he intrinsically believes it was wrongly decided -- whether on legal or moral grounds, if not both -- his confirmation to the Court will likely be sufficient in having Roe v. Wade overturned.
Politically, I am mostly conservative: the one glaring disparity that divides the Republican party from my vision of conservative thought is that of abortion. Republicans, apparently, believe that life is more significant than a pregnant woman's right to decide whether she wants to undergo an abortion. This is an issue which is faith-driven, so it's purely personal choice; some people believe a pregnant woman should have the right to choose whether to abort the pregnancy, while others think abortion is murder and should be outlawed. The current status of abortion rights in this country, without getting too specific, is that under the decision laid out and implemented by Roe v. Wade, a woman can legally have an abortion. If this decision is countermanded by a newly-heard case, that right -- and the legality of abortion -- could very well be rescinded.
Based on two recent events -- the "right to die" case centering around the 'life' of Terri Schindler Schiavo and the capture and sentencing of Eric Rudolph, the man responsible for the bombing in the Olympic Campus in Atlanta several years ago -- it's clear that there is much difference between people who support and rally against a woman's right to have an abortion legally. Those people who fervently sought any and all recourse to keep a woman -- whose brain was partially disintegrated -- breathing, a vegetable trapped in a human body, are -- for the most part -- the same people who rally against abortion as murder. Rudolph, ironically, attempted to commit murder on a mass scale to demonstrate that second point.
It always amazes me that the extremists who use the bible as their inspiration rarely learn compassion and respect for his/her fellow man along with the fire and brimstone they often espouse as the teaching therein.
With regard to Judge Roberts, I doubt he will be confirmed. My comparison between him and President Clinton in the opening of this post was not to suggest Judge Roberts is a liar, a cheater and, generally speaking, a shitty human being. I believe he is a good man and an intelligent, more-than-capable lawyer. However, if his brief in Rust v. Sullivan expressed his own personal views against abortion, his confirmation will never succeed simply because his views will be polarized in such a way that the public will oppose his confirmation strictly on the basis of his anti-abortion beliefs. There is nothing wrong with someone ascribing to a "right to life" position; however, when that position comprises one ninth of the legality of something so sacred that people kill in its honor (or to eliminate it altogether) than I can't see how his views will survive a confirmation hearing.
The problem, in a nutshell, is this: people who oppose abortion on all levels as murder are doing so as a result of faith or belief. Their opinion stems from their way of life and the core of their religious beliefs. It is their right to oppose abortion, just as the Amish do not use electricity, orthodox jews do not eat certain, non-kosher foods and Muslims fast during the period of Ramadan. However, unlike people who fervently and religiously oppose abortion, the aforementioned groups -- the Amish, orthodox jews, muslims, etc. -- do not otherwise call for the things which they oppose to be deemed illegal. Electricity, non-kosher food and consumption of food during daylight hours during Ramadan are parts of our world, and so is abortion. Abortion isn't an especially pleasant undertaking, but to limit a woman's choice to make her own decision regarding same is extreme, and, in many ways, more repulsive than the concept of abortion in and of itself. Unless Judge Roberts is able to honestly convince the Senate his personal beliefs are not ant-abortion on principle, he'll be remaining in the DC Court of Appeals, and this process will repeat itself.
That's certainly a big if; but considering the stakes surrounding his upcoming confirmation, this upcoming confirmation has far-reaching consequences for this and all future generations.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
I arrived at work after spending more than an hour on the bus. Normally, the bus is a pleasant, 45-minute jaunt replete with some downtime, some good music (including noise-cancelling headphones), a quick run-through of the day's schedule and to-do list (thanks, Palm) and some reflection.
Unfortunately, today wasn't that type of bus-ride.
Today was an exercise in seeing how many New Yorkers could simultaneously squeeze into clothing (including spandex) that didn't quite fit and stink. Apparently, 37 isn't a city record, but lord, it should be.
I did manage to review my to-do list and my schedule, so I was well-prepared for the day at hand. Except four voice-mail messages managed to fuck up any hope I had of sticking to the to-do list and concentrate on what I had planned to accomplish today. I did get a lot of it done, but not nearly in the manner in which I'd hoped.
Since I did wrap everything up, I'm sliding onto my couch tonight and enjoying the Yankees vs. Texas. Last night, for the first time this season, the Yankees finally made it into first place; of course, Kaia's father and I expressed our mutual shock and happiness over this particular fact. But we've got lots more to discuss: and since he's as far from a George W. Bush fan, odds are we'll focus on quality discussion topics, like why would anyone pay money to watch Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo? And more importantly, why would any studio willingly produce such a shitty film? Another excellent topic of discussion will be why is Pauly Shore willingly still in the public eye? Certainly, there will be others as well: Kaia's impending move to New York, our plans for the future, whether Bernie Williams will play next season (and if so, with which team) and what is Christopher Walken's best film.
But we'll definitely start with Deuce Bigelow...why, lord, why?
Time to go take a cold shower and watch the Yankees.
My final thought of the day: thank god the World Series of Poker isn't on every cable channel.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Friday night we fell asleep with a plan for our final weekend of Kaia's visit to the City. The plan was loosely constructed to be brunch with friends downtown, a bit of walking around after and then a surprise for dinner and a great last night.
Saturday morning we spent far too much time indoors, though neither of us regarded our time spent as wasted. Once we finally managed to shower, dress and get in touch with our friends, we were relegated to meeting for a late brunch at Mercer Kitchen at two-ish. By 2:30 four of us had gathered at a corner table and had some eats and some drinks. By fiveish we were still going strong with the latter, and another friend made his way to Mercer and sat in with us, though he declined any alcohol due to a rough night prior and a semi-current hangover.
By six-thirty we made our way out of Mercer and, at Kaia's request, to Louis Vuitton a few blocks away. The five of us snaked our way through the store, despite their closing at 7. The gents accompanied us part of the way, then left while we headed down and did a little pre-birthday shopping. Kaia's birthday is less than a week away and I needed some ideas, so I left -- with her, reluctantly, in tow -- with a pair of Vuitton business cards adorned with Vuitton model names and not one particular idea as to what I would be getting for her.
Once we closed down Vuitton, we walked down the street to Kid Robot, an amalgam of anime, japanese culture and toys. It's definitely worth a trip downtown, and this was my third visit to the store. Next door we hit the Morrison Hotel, a gallery of rock photographs that encompasses the Woodstock Era and the '70's. A cavalcade of images featuring Dylan, The Who, Woodstock, Zeppelin, The Band, Pink Floyd and The Grateful Dead adorned their walls and their catalog. We were advised that they feature a variety of different photographers, so the subjects -- and the visuals -- change regularly. I can't visit Soho without viewing the gallery's contents. And as we made our way outside, Kaia's phone rang and she got an update from her father on the Boston-Yankee game happening as we were fighting the humidity downtown. The Yankees won, which was a nice surprise, and she simply handed me the phone rather than try and come between her dad's and my glee over the Yankee victory. So he and I chatted for a bit before she let me know our friends were about to leave (to leave us to our impending surprise, final evening together). So we hung up, we bid our friends goodbye, and then we did a little walking around ourselves.
By the time we had made our way back uptown, we were both fairly spent but eager to enjoy our last night together. And we did. We talked about the past, our present and our future, and we smiled through tears as we planned the next sojourn as well as the days ahead. And we fell asleep, somewhat reluctantly, our last night together a bittersweet reminder of where we were and knowing that the last 16 days were as wonderful as saying goodbye to each other would be difficult.
Today, our last, was a study of awkward happiness. Both of us avoided the obvious sadness we were both feeling, only to avoid tears and the reality that we didn't want to say goodbye. So we headed downtown for some more shopping; we intended to grab some food but we had leftovers in the fridge and time constraints, and we opted to entertain ourselves with luxuries other than food. We did make it downtown, but we did so hurriedly and wound up back in my apartment soon thereafter. After some downtime, Kaia began packing and I took out some trash, put stuff away, and generally tried to help.
Before long we were kissing each other goodbye and grabbing her bags and hailing a cab and before I knew it she was inside a cab, waving at me and I was watching her move toward the highway and to the airport.
Next to the day I discovered my father had suffered a heart attack, today -- putting her in a cab and letting her fly back to San Francisco -- was the saddest day I've experienced since. We both tried avoiding the inevitable, but aside from the strange, cold emptiness in my apartment, we've realized that life is better when we're together. So we decided to start on the path to getting her to move to New York and for us to find a place together. The requisite goodies -- marriage, children, family -- will be there in our future, but more importantly, we'll laugh, cry, sleep, and live -- together.
These past few weeks were our attempt to see if we could be together -- 24-7, in the same (cramped) living space -- and not kill each other. And, as we (and many of our friends and family) expected, we had so much fun that we didn't -- and don't -- want it to end.
And one of the last things we discussed before she climbed into the back of that cab, one day -- soon -- it won't.
It also helps that she's probably going to pass my Yankees quiz. But just in case, prior to signing a lease or exchanging vows, I won't be trashing Joe Pepitone's number.
Just in case.
Friday, July 15, 2005
Wednesday night was to be a special night; Kaia arranged a special surprise. She wouldn't tell me where we were going, only that we were going someplace where I could go in slacks or jeans, no jacket, and that we'd have fun.
We headed back to the apartment by cab and she was refusing to tell me where we were headed (even after I threatened her with BedShark -- it's a long story), so we both showered and dressed quickly, and were out the door and in a cab, when the suprise -- when she told the driver where we were headed -- was finally revealed.
We pulled up to 72nd Street at Central Park and began walking for about five minutes when we came upon the surprise location: the Central Park Boathouse. The restaurant is situated within the park, so we had no trouble walking the five or so minutes, and it was really a great surprise, because each time we passed it on the to or from the apartment, I kept telling Kaia I wanted to take her there. I had no idea she'd made the reservations prior to my confession thereof, so it was no surprise -- and typical for us -- that we both really wanted to bring the other to this place.
The quick description of the restaurant is, essentially, old Adirondack decor mixed with a touch of New England. Essentially, the highlight of the locale is its on-the-water expansive view of the inside of the Park itself. And on top of that, the restaurant features gondola rides before and/or after dinner. We didn't partake because we were both dressed a bit more formally than the 80-degree weather would have dictated, so we opted not to hit the water. But we each sipped an ice-cold Grey Goose Orange and Tonic prior to dinner, then sat at our table right on the water.
It was really a pretty setting; I don't know how many times I thanked my other half for thinking of this (ie surprising me like she did), but I hope I did so to sufficiently communicate to her how nice it was.
Dinner itself -- ie the food -- was only so-so. We started with crabcakes and tuna tartare, the former very good and the latter tasty but not quite cold enough. To follow, she had grilled chicken and I had monkfish and salmon roe. Unfortunately, when they brought our dishes, her chicken appeared almost pink, and as our waiter served it, it seemed to have a salmony odor. After confirming it was indeed chicken (despite its color), it turns out the scent of salmon was coming from the salmon roe paired with the monkfish. Quite understandable, except I don't recall ever having a dish where salmon roe were served where they emitted an odor.
They placed my dish in front of me and we did a quick look-see to see if everything was okay. Her chicken, it turned out, seemed to be prepared properly -- but not grilled. It looked, smelled -- and most importantly, tasted -- like it had been poached. So neither of us was too thrilled with her dish. On to the monkfish; I've had monkfish a bunch of times, so I was expecting something that was a bit chewy like lobster with some softness and little, if any, "fish" taste. The monkfish, however, tasted more like cubed trout than monkfish. It was a bit fishy and not very properly prepared. So neither of us were too thrilled with the eats. The other thing that wasn't too wonderful was our waiter: he seemed to be gifted with the personality of a doorknob. But the one saving grace, other than us enjoying one another's company, was -- after dinner -- we peered over the side of the railing into the water itself and saw two baby turtles swimming along, bobbing with the slight current. We took a couple pictures and were just watching them when Kaia, out loud, said "I wonder where their mommy is." Almost on cue, a large brown head popped up slowly from the water and mommy turtle -- who was about three and a half feet long -- appeared. I instinctively reached behind me to our table to grab some bread to feed them, but our waiter -- who really should consider a career change -- managed, in his one solid move all night, to clear the table before we were completely finished with dinner. Thanks, garcon.
We spent a lot of time laughing and decided the next time we visit the Boathouse we'll just do drinks. Even if the food was less than stellar, we had too nice a night to be disappointed by the food. Finally, after we left, we were making our way back to 72nd Street and the park's exit when we heard a huge boom and turned to see a flash of sparks overhead. It turns out we forgot -- and quickly remembered -- there were fireworks in honor of the concert in the park that night. So she whipped out her cellphone and I whipped out my Nikon and between the two of us we took about twenty pictures. So it was a really wonderful night, despite the food. Fireworks and sea life and the one you love: what could be more romantical? ;-)
By the time Thursday morning rolled around, we were both so tired that we were late getting to our respective offices. On top of that, we made plans with a couple of friends to hit Acme, a bar & grill downtown that features rockin' New Orleans cuisine. Unlike their motto "An Okay Place to Eat," we really enjoyed it. Our friends arrived prior to us -- not unusual, given our proclivity for being ten to fifteen minutes late (especially due to a smashed-up Saab and another indescribable accident we saw on the way), and they were enjoying the A/C and some cold drinks when we came in. It's a homey, smallish kind of place, but it was a lot of fun. We ordered and enjoyed some cornbread. My one and only alcoholic drink was a frozen watermelon martini, and though no one at the table chided me at all, I couldn't care less that it was pink. I just wanted something cold, sweet and tasty, and it arrived quickly. The food, incidentally, arrived not long thereafter; shrimp platters, chicken and my dinner (seafood jumbalaya) were all solid and tasty. By the time exited -- sans dessert -- we were all stuffed and happy campers. The only negative -- if there was one -- was that the bar was so loaded with people that the entire restaurant was loud, to the point where we had to shout at each other in order to have a conversation. I'm not sure if it was the Thursday night-before-Friday-out-of-town crowd or what, but the noise was really something. We still had a lot of fun, and we all agreed that the next time we visit Acme we'll sit up front, away from the bar. We all cabbed uptown soon afterwards and we each went our separate ways. Kaia was so tired that she nearly immediately fell asleep after we got into bed. We went to bed happy and smiling, which -- for the past two weeks, has been the norm.
It occurs to me that you never quite know how good something is until it's gone. And, of course, the converse is true as well; you never know how bad something is until you've experienced greatness. Well, I can say that I've experienced both those extremes, and I'm glad I'm on this path. And -- for a few more days, and for the rest of mine -- I'm looking forward to continuing on this path and smiling every night and every day.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
I would think that most of us have, at one time or another, seen in a movie or television show an instance of prisoner abuse. Whether it's a cop slapping or verbally harassing someone during an interrogation, or a maniacal warden overzealously haranguing an "innocent" inmate, or one inmate abusing another on behalf of the guards...you get the picture. In the context of Gitmo, however, this is far from a simple, black-and-white situation that can be fixed with some words of wisdom and title credits.
The problem is that there is a collection of 500 muslim prisoners who opted to fight, however voluntarily, US forces in or around Afghanistan during the limited combat which took place there after September 11th. These are men who should be and are regarded as POW's. While they are technically not POW's -- their leader is not the leader of a nation but Osama bin-Laden, the head of a rogue terrorist group -- the Geneva Convention has fairly specific rules which govern the treatment of prisoners.
I think it's time we rethink the scope and the meaning of the Geneva Convention as it pertains to us and other nations in the crosshairs of non-state "combatants." I am under the impression, whether correctly or otherwise, that taking prisoners of war and treating them properly meant not abusing them or humiliating them. I didn't realize our ascribing to these rules also meant we could not interrogate said prisoners in an attempt to save American lives. The article details how the American officials used sound, heat and cold to enhance their ability to interrogate prisoners. It also mentions inappropriate touching by females, intimidation, threats, duct-taping of prisoners who refused to stop reciting verses of the Koran, and a variety of other tactics which, apparently, are no-no's according to the Geneva Convention. The problem is, for the most part, these tactics were not mere attempts to humiliate prisoners of war. They were used to gain information from people with better access thereto than suicide bombers.
Having said all that, CNN published an article today addressing the topic of Gitmo abuse as alleged by an FBI agent. The article can be found here, and I think the crux thereof can be gleaned from the following quote from the aforementioned article:
Sen. Carl Levin [D] said their investigation, which looked into FBI allegations of abuse of prisoners, shows that the purpose of the abuses recorded by investigators was to gather intelligence -- and indicated that the problem was not an isolated one.
Hopefully I won't be overly dramatizing the issue by mentioning two other notable instances of prolonged, instititutionally-implemented abuse of prisoners: Stalin in Russia, and Hitler's Nazi Germany. These are not the types of company we as a nation should aspire to keep.
But if we abuse, ridicule or otherwise degrade those POW's, then we -- as a nation -- are no better than the pieces of shit who have beheaded, abused and tortured captives in allegiance to the Taliban and Osama bin-Laden and in the name of Allah. So let's not confuse the confluence of retribution, justice, morality and an overall sense of what is right and what is wrong. Blindfolding or putting a hood over a prisoner's eyes/head and climbing on top of him to "ride" him is degrading and serves no real purpose other than to humiliate him. And what is the purpose of that humiliation? The recipient of that treatment, if he lives, will tell his Muslim brethren about his treatment by the Americans and confirm what many Islamic scholars drive into the heads of fervent "extremists" from birth: America is the world's satan and every good muslim should take up the sword, gun or explosive belt and damage it any- and every way possible. So (sic) a big thumbs-up goes out to the imbeciles (the US soldiers) who were willingly photographed abusing prisoners at Gitmo.
But we should be able to, and we need to, as a nation, defend our citizens domestically and abroad however and by whatever means necessary. So if that means we threaten, intimidate, deceive, use extreme temperature, even sodium pentathol, than we must go forward. If we can prevent another 9/11 or merely learn more about our enemy, than a mild -- as I see it -- violation of the Geneva Convention is not "abuse" of prisoners but a necessary evil.
One final note on this topic, for the time being: it bothers me that the only people seemingly complaining about prisoner abuse are (for the most part) Democrats and Muslims who have been imprisoned at Gitmo. Suicide bombers don't leave anything in their wake; so if we as a nation do not interrogate and discover what those people fighting the US in the name of religion know about our enemy, than we can genuinely expect, in my opinion, this problem to worsen, not improve. I've heard many suggest that this type of "abuse" -- interrogating prisoners, mishandling religious items which they respect (ie the Koran, which the US provides each prisoner), allowing female soldiers/guards to touch them (against their religion), etc. -- will further incite action from extremists who simply require the US to provoke further anger from Muslims worldwide. However, it seems to me that if our enemy has so much hate and religious zeal that they can -- without remorse, and instead with celebration -- behead civilians they kidnap, then we should worry less about inciting them and more about cowing or respecting them. This problem is a larger version of its microcosmic cousin, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Several years ago, a Palestinian funeral was held, depicting the religious walking of the victim's coffin through the streets prior to burial. As the coffin was being carried through a field, an Israeli airship began firing at a nearby insurgent stronghold, which caused the four men carrying the coffin to suddenly drop the coffin and run, literally, for their lives. Curiously, the victim, who had been in the now-dropped coffin, miraculously sprang to life and began to run with his fellow insurgents. The Palestinian PR machine backfired on itself; if the event had not been staged, no one would have seen this live, and no one would have seen this a thousand times thereafter on videotape.
But they did.
The fact is, the complaints of prisoner abuse -- ridiculing inmates contained at Gitmo, mocking their religious and personal beliefs, depicting said inmates in humiliating poses and capturing same on film -- is inappropriate. However, interrogating the enemy -- an enemy who has no country, no sponsor other than a known terrorist, and one who is willing to kill and to die in the name of religion -- is a right that I fully and wholeheartedly support. I believe the current wave of allegations regarding the so-called abuse at Gitmo are a (successful) PR campaign waged against the world: the world's muslims, nations "on the fence" (like France, Germany and Russia), and the democrats of the government herein who are looking for anything they can use to chip away at the effort which the Bush Administration has expended in its war on terror.
I know war is abhorrent, and I agree that prisoners -- whether they are suicide bombers, nazis or people who would rather kill themselves than accept your existence in the world -- should be afforded fair treatment and a modicum of respect. But I also realize that as the Gitmo detainees are released to their respective nations -- Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Libya, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, etc. -- many of them will find their way back to a battlefield someday soon.
And should the pacifists crying foul and alleging abuse and campaigning for proper treatment of prisoners be allowed to hamper the nation's efforts to learn about and -- hopefully -- to defeat our enemy, that battlefield might very well be a major metropolitan US city. A subway. A suicide car bomb crashing into a major American mall. A bus. Times Square. Or The White House.
Personally, I've always believed erring on the side of caution is a fair, proper policy; and I'd much rather read about complaints from my enemy and his sympathizers than news from 9/11 and from last week in London.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Since Saturday, time moved so rapidly I hadn't realized it had been a few days since my last HoB visitation. And while that makes for boredom for the reader, it makes for a crammed, chock-full catch-up for those of you in and out of the loop. In either case, I apologize for my absence, but can nonetheless affirm the delay was most absolutely worth it.
The last few days -- the remainder of the weekend, etc. -- are a blur. Saturday, we headed down to Soho and lunched at Mercer Kitchen, with a couple celebs tossed into the mix:
From (Gawker Stalker):
We sat down to lunch upstairs at Mercer Kitchen on Saturday 7/9 and
were seated 1 table away from Keira Knightley and a woman (I’m assuming her mom
or manager). Had to tell my boyfriend not to stare. She was very casual - floral
off the shoulder dress and awesome boots - and quite pretty. She was having tea
and seemed rather bored. She and the woman paid and walked into the lobby of the
Mercer Hotel. I motioned to my boyfriend that the rockerish looking older man
sitting across the way looked like Neil Young. He turned to quickly check him
out and told me that it was, in fact, Neil Young. Good sightings for both of
Eventually we headed out to Chinatown and Little Italy, as is our weekend wont. We perused a variety of stuff for our friends and family and then, well before we were ready to go elsewhere, the skies opened up and it poured for what seemed like an hour (it was actually about 20 minutes). We wound up having a few conversations with people about the weather, the location of the subway (which, with the trains being a block away, seemed like a trick question -- "Boogie Gets Punk'd") and the best place to get good Chinese food (Mr. Tang, 50 Mott).
Though the rain delayed us, it also -- mercifully -- erased some of the smell of fish and other "dried" treats in bins, boxes, containers and shelves that littered the sidewalks. So my recommendation to all you kiddies out there -- go to Chinatown only during chilly weather, lest ye nostrils be accosted by the smell of rotten fish and tourists wearing "Eau de Trailer Park." Consider yourself warned.
Once we wrapped up Chinatown and Little Italy -- with nothing much in the way of excitement or memorabilia in tow -- we returned back to the house and showered and kicked back. First we headed over to Eli's and grabbed a bunch of kickin' appetizers -- guacamole, bruschetta topping, We ordered Mexican -- yet again -- and watched Team America, which quite possibly could be the most rude, vulgar, disgusting puppet movie ever made. Made by the tandem of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the guys behind South Park, Team America was as nasty and offensive a film I've ever seen -- and I mean that as a compliment. They insulted Alec Baldwin ("F.A.G."), Matt Damon ("Matt Day-mon"), Kim Jung-Il ("So Rone-ry"), the French (deservedly so) and just about every other institution, stereotype or typical human endeavor (including sex) imaginable. Starting with the movie's theme, which is "America -- FUCK YEAH," there was nary a minute that the film didn't cross the line in some way, shape or form. Again, a compliment. And if I failed to mention the film had a pornographic sex scene -- complete with golden (and brown) showers -- between puppets -- that nearly earned it an NC-17 rating, I would be remiss in saying that the film -- for better or worse -- was incredibly funny and very entertaining.
Sunday, we managed to get ourselves moving a bit earlier than usual (read: out of the house by 1:00) and into a cab to have brunch at Panorama Cafe, which, at 85th and 2nd, is not exactly gourmet or incredible, but features good brunch and dinner fare (we opted for the former), good drinks (we got a pick-me-up of red iced sangria) and a fun, laid-back atmosphere (hence the "cafe" in its title). We headed out and hit the West Side to visit the Columbus Avenue Flea Market, which is definitely a lot of fun -- except when it's 90 degrees and humid, which it was on Sunday. Within a half hour, I was wishing I was "enjoying" the smells of Chinatown instead of the BO that was making its way across that expanse of ripening humanity.
By the time we got back to my apartment, we were drained so we just showered -- yet again -- and had some snacks. Bruschetta with toasted garlic croutons, pate with cornichons, guacamole with chips, and cucumber with garlic-herb dip. We watched a movie -- I Robot -- and by the time it was over, we were still mellow, so we followed up with Grind. The former was interesting in its scope and its effects -- though we both agreed we kinda had had enough of Fedex, JVC, Converse and Audi product placement. Grind, of course, is an altogether different ball o' wax -- that's a skateboard movie, and while -- on the surface -- it was a total waste of time -- it took a lot of liberties with Dazed and Confused, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Road Trip, Euro Road Trip and every other teen movie you can name. But it was fun and kept us awake until it was time to no longer be awake...
Monday finally rolled around, as did we, albeit a bit late. We headed to our respective offices, drained yet again, but smiling and relaxed. As the day -- and the 90-degree heat -- wound down, we each made our way back to my apartment, showered and decided -- rather than stay in -- to head out for some good eats. So we cabbed down to Dos Caminos on Park Avenue South (better than the one in Soho, incidentally) and we noticed, as we made our way to 27th Street, that DC is down the street from another restaurant high on our list, Les Halles (on 28th). Not content to wow diners with the great, uber-cool mood set by the lighting and the latin-esque soundtrack, the food was awesome. We started with some incredible tableside guacamole, then moved into chicken tacos with black beans and rice for Kaia, and the chiptole-marinated pork ribs for me. Hers was kickin', but I can honestly say I've never had better BBQ than I did that night. That statement has one caveat: we haven't yet gone to Blue Smoke (which was also around the corner from DC) which features great BBQ and awesome jazz, so I'll hold off judgement until then. By reputation, Blue Smoke pretty much has the best BBQ in the City, even besting my personal favorite, Brother Jimmy's. So since we only have a few more nights together, I'll drag my other half over there if not to Balthazar and Las Halles ASAP.
Other than that, nothing's been going on...we just keep smiling, enjoying being with each other and anticipating the day when we can wake up and not have to think how many days we have left before one of us has to return to another City. But as we both expected, these last ten or so days have only confirmed and strengthened what we already knew -- we love being with each other and the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter with each passing hour.
And I apologize for the length of this post and for not picking up the phone; as you have undoubtedly concluded, we've been pretty busy doing lots of nothing...
Saturday, July 09, 2005
Since 1967 brought a reshuffling of Israel's borders -- a war in which a variety of Arab nations attempted a coordinated attack on Israel -- the Arab hatred of the West has grown exponentially. In an earlier post herein, I cited a Dennis Miller analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. But much like Mr. Miller's take on the situation, I have come to the conclusion that many of the world's Muslims have an us versus them mentality; even those who are well-assimilated into Western Culture seem to inefficiently hide their distrust of democratic, "balanced" nations. To wit, the two-sided double-speak that emanates from most Arab nations is meant to either appease the West (read: the US and the UK) or each nation's people, who seemingly crave anti-West action in the form of bloody, violent vengeance. Recall the anti-American violence (and public, repulsive celebration thereof) of the Somali people as they dragged American servicemen from a downed helicopter through the streets of Mogadishu. Theirs is a society -- whether in Sool, Togdheer, Awdal, Sanaag, or Woqooyi Galbeed -- that is largely Sunni Muslim and controlled by warlords. Considering US action there was attempting to loosen the grip said warlords held over their fellow Somalis, the peoples' celebration, ironically, reeked of the same twisted, anti-US rhetoric that echoes in Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus and anywhere else Western support of Israel is a government- and Islam-sponsored no-no.
So in the meantime, in Afghanistan, another blinking light on a map increasingly littered with insurgent hot spots, a cleric who was notably supportive of the newly-created Afghan government was shot to death. In Iraq, an Egyptian diplomat -- who was once posted in Israel -- was kidnapped and later executed. These two legs combined with a third action, the bombings in London, to form an equilateral triangle of terror in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
It's a pretty simple, albeit ineffective strategy: intimidate nations with terror (London), isolate them (by kidnapping foreign diplomats and murdering them) and silence them (by murdering the nation's most outspoken critics of terror).
What I propose, despite how repugnant it might appear on the surface, is to simply close the doors, much as Israel has done: prevent Muslims from entering Western nations. Deport any and all Muslims (of questionable origin) and revoke citizenship to those Muslims who speak out (and encourage) anti-Western action. Of the theoretical bonfire which would destroy the Bill of Rights that I have just proposed, I'm not advocating -- nor do I support -- deportation or imprisonment of someone publicly complaining about high taxes, traffic or George W. Bush's complete ineptitude. I'm simply suggesting that revoking the citizenship or the temporary visa of a cleric or scholar who is advocating the destruction of US and/or Western interests should not be here. They should not be comfortable here, they should not be imprisoned here, and they should not be allowed freedom here. Israel, which experiences something akin to the London bombings nearly every week, has with regularity imprisoned or expelled any and all militants whom have involved themselves in attacks on Israelis. The problem is that Israel is geographically and ethnically related to the majority of the monsters who believe a belt packed with explosives is a rational, sane answer to a political problem. In this and other Western nations, a mosque that breeds hate sticks out like a sore thumb -- a sore thumb that, I believe, should no longer be tolerated but instead be amputated and discarded.
To answer those who would suggest my theory is mere xenophobic, nationalist, ethnic-fueled hate, understand that nothing could be further from the truth. The problems inherent in the escalation (and emboldened come-uppance) of the last decade's terrorism and related atrocities are not that we've pissed off a bunch of Muslims; the problem is that the West is attempting to quell violence, and Muslims (the extremists thereof) have been at war with any- and everyone who doesn't share their worldview -- for the past 4,000 years. And as anyone who sees as irrational someone detonating themselves in the name of God will attest, it seems to me that the main focus of the problem is, simply put, they will not stop until they are forced to address their differences with talk and not swords; with dialogue and mutual, earned respect, not bombs; and with an interest and desire for peace, not a lust for blood and a yearning for death. It's far easier for a fourteen-year-old in an urban sprawl to get a gun and steal money than it is to earn it; so too is it far easier for a bunch of radical, angry extremists to kill and maim civilians than to work with other members who share similar beliefs and work politically to achieve goals.
The culture of hate that has bred four decades or more of violence and death at the hands of Islamic extremists -- in our cities, our airplanes and our lives -- needs to be isolated and strangled rather than embraced. And for anyone who feels this view is elitist, xenophobic and/or hatemongering in its own right, please consider answering to the parents, husbands, wives, sons, daughters and friends of the 50 or more Londoners that were the latest victims of this non-war.
Friday, July 08, 2005
While it was across the globe for us here in America, many of us know -- or, at the very least, remember what it was like turning on the news only to find that Islam, the peaceful religion, had made another statement to the world and demonstrated just how peaceful it really is.
I know there are plenty of peace-loving Muslims out there in the world who would scoff at the notion that Islam is anything but a peaceful faith. They would -- somewhat rightfully -- advise me that the people perpetrating atrocities like yesterday's in London have perverted and corrupted the religion, and that animals like those do not represent Islam accurately or fairly. However, to them I would respond that I don't remember the last time hordes -- or even secret cells -- of Israelis strapped explosives to their bodies and blew themselves up in the hope -- aside of going to "heaven" -- they could maim or kill as many Muslims as possible. It seems to me that those who have corrupted that faith have subverted its meaning and perverted what is good therein; except the remainder don't seem too upset when Jews are maimed or killed. If they were, they would not look the other way when the bad among their kind hide among them; and they wouldn't support organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. It seems to me that they don't mind when the violence, the attacks on women and children, on civilians and on people who have nothing to do with the struggle, are put in the line of fire. Only when people suggest that the religion is at fault do they raise their voices and defend the purity and the peacefulness of Islam, a religion that is tied to the sword as much as it is academia and knowledge and peace.
Nonetheless, to condemn Islam is futile; the world has this cancer -- whether an ultra-extremist sect thereof or simply warriors fighting a holy war that the rest of the world abandoned centuries ago -- and without providing answers or understanding the mentality that fosters these disgusting choices, we'll continue going in circles.
One thing I've noticed; as people decried yesterday's bombings, at the same time there was a news story circulating that CNN was given paltry exposure to the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The story mentioned that each prisoner was given a copy of the Koran and a six-by-six cell. Prior and subsequent discussion of this has revealed that some officers have desecrated the Koran and/or abused prisoners, which, as one FBI agent discussing "Gitmo" explained, seemed to devalue human life. After watching yesterday's news with a repulsed sense of disgust, the last thing about which I care is prisoners fighting a so-called "holy war" and their protections: religion and dignity. I suspect they, or their brethren, didn't give much concern to the freedoms of religion and happiness that their brethren in London gave to the 50 or more that died yesterday; and seeing Londoners, bewildered and bloodied, didn't seem to be treated very well at the hands of the people who masterminded yesterday's bombings. So I suggest the next time someone cries foul that the US treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay is unfair, abusive and inhumane, remember yesterday's scenes of women and children, covered in blood or sheets, and think about their rights as well.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
The myriad questions surrounding this morning's bombings, for me, were whether the perpetrators thereof attempting to disrupt the G8 Summit, hit London post-Olympic announcement, or both. Of course, there is always the possibility that this attack was randomly chosen; but we all know, as there are no coincidences, that this was not a random choice. Clearly, the G8 and the Olympic announcement -- as a bonus -- gave the London bombers an international spotlight. What inspired me to relief that London (or Paris, or Sydney, or another city) was chosen in New York's place was perhaps the same impetus that wound up killing the New York West Side Stadium deal -- New York doesn't want to inherit the problems, the security hassles and the dangers of an international staging event like the Olympics. Whether it's domestic malcontents (Atlanta, Oklahoma City) or those located in underground caves and lairs, hiding like cockroaches, halfway across the world the result is the same: we don't want any more 9/11s.
It's very possible this attitude might be considered, by some, to be my attempt at cowering from the possibility of another 9/11 or an attack similar to this morning's in London. In part, that's true: however, it's not fear; if it were, I wouldn't be boarding a subway sometime within the next hour to go downtown. If it were fear, I would avoid visiting City buildings, as I am this afternoon. If it were fear, I wouldn't be living in this City, period.
What it is, and how I see this whole situation, is that there are not yet implemented ways of severely limiting these types of attacks. There's little, if anything, that can be done to destroy an enemy who is willing to detonate itself in order to injure its target. If you need examples, visit Israel, or review your history about the Vietnam War. Any time an enemy is willing to take his own life to possibly take yours, the game has changed. And this "war" is akin to any suicide missions, whether it is dubbed kamikazes, mujahadeen or intifada.
One day a good number of these attacks will be even more rare than they are now; technology and proficiency will insure same. However, the notion that these things are happening -- whether down the street, in a neighboring state or across the world -- are increasingly hard to ignore, if one so chooses to do so, simply because these problems are getting worse, not better. Take a trip on the New York City subway and count the number of police officers you encounter between the stairwells upon entering and leaving the station. Odds are good, unless you are observant, that you've missed one or two. We, like our European brethren, are playing catch-up; the only difference is that the IRA has forced the UK to be more caught up than has its North American sibling.
There is, and will be, more to the story from this morning's attack; there will be rhetoric, there will be protests, there will be "experts" angling for camera time, there will be men sporting bowties, sitting in libraries behind large oak desks, purportedly trying to give us a better picture of why today's attack occurred. The real reason it happened, and will continue to happen, is we exist. Our happiness is their misfortune, our satisfaction is their cause de celebre, our progress is their anger, and our ignorance to their complaints, interests and demands will be their motivation. As long as we continue to endure their attacks, we will be forced to do so.
And if you don't believe it, spend a week in Israel and visit a hospital ward filled with children who have been injured by Palestinian bombs. If my explanation of today's attack is insufficient, perhaps one or more of theirs will not be.
More to come, yet again.
In my world, first glance means about ten seconds.
If recent history -- the immense, all-encompassing blackout that darkened the eastern seaboard of the US two summers ago, the Hamas tactic of implementing staggered explosions in busy, rush-hour thoroughfares amid clusters of women and children, the grouped hijackings that commenced on September 11th -- teaches us anything, it's that there are no coincidences and that this morning's disturbance in London was a direct result of yesterday's awarding of the Olympics to that City.
There are cycles in history, whether it be the cessation or restoration of interfaith violence, abuse of one people by another, or the simple degradation and regeneration of relations between nations and/or movements. But today's explosions in Britan that took -- thankfully -- few lives was not a simple electrical malfunction.
My girlfriend and I were watching the news from Singapore yesterday morning regarding the Olympic vote awarding the games to London over Paris, and while she was disappointed New York didn't win the games, I was silently relieved. Aside from the prospect of increased security -- which would add to this City's hellish, bureacratic zone of snafus and re-routings and maze of problems to navigate -- it occurred to me that the magnifying lens that would be placed by the international community upon New York would be a special treat for anyone (read: Al-Qaeda) who wanted to make a statement.
And as much as I would have enjoyed being a resident of the Olympics' host city, I think the City has played the role of international victim to its logical conclusion. As much as it disappoints me to read of London's news this morning, I can -- selfishly, perhaps -- be relieved I'm reading about it and not experiencing it as I walk out my door and see its remnants and its fallout in my City.
More to come.