Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Contemplative Post to Commemorate the End of 2006

Things To Avoid:

Movies starring Steven Seagal, Brian Bosworth, Warren Beatty or Casper Van Diem.

People Who Should Just Shut Up:

Anyone who argues over whether Castro has cancer: the deniers, like his brother, his Spanish doctor or Hugo Chavez, or any of the anonymous, moronic US government nitwits (I know, redundant) who keep suggesting that he does. The guy's going to die soon; it doesn't matter how, unless you're the one holding the insurance policy. Shut the fuck up and go bitch about a US invasion that will never happen (Chavez) or the price of $12,000 screwdrivers (US government nitwit).

Terrell Owens: the bone-headed receiver who takes his inexorable, unflappable whine with him to whatever team tolerates his shit for a year, complains when he doesn't catch a pass on every third play, bitches that he is being underutilized, then complains when the media writes he's whiny. Here's a secret tip to all you aspiring media people: stop interviewing the imbecile, stop printing his bullshit attitudinal rants, and ignore him. He's one semi-talented athlete in a team game, and he'll never be a part of a real winning team because he puts himself ahead of the team. Move on, already, and let us stop wasting on our time with this stain on a pair of tidy whities. Start focusing on Ladanian Tomlinson of the Chargers, Brian Urlacher of the Bears or some other exceptional athlete who doesn't warrant a swift kick in the head from a guy wearing rusty spikes.

Robin Williams: I love him, but I recently -- unfortunately -- sat through about ten minutes of Comic Relief 2006, and once I got past Billy Crystal's Animatronics-meets-House of Wax appearance, all I got was turbo, high-speed squawk from Mr. Williams. He's got to make up his mind; either he's a serious actor who's accomplished an incredible amount (both in terms of quantity and quality) since Mork and Mindy, including Good Will Hunting and Awakenings, or he's the oddball, goofy, over-the-top coked-out freak he was when he managed to be possessed by seven different personalities -- simultaneously -- while Whoopi and Billy watched, semi-bemused. Let's put it this way -- when the Comic Relief folks cut to Emeril Lagasse in New Orleans (yes, Emeril live on stage at Comic Relief -- not cooking but just standing there looking all Dom Deluise-y); I was actually relieved. I don't mind watching Emeril -- although he's rapidly approaching being included all on his own in an upcoming "People Who Should Just Go Away" list -- I would rather have him float around onstage in his chef's coat than listen to Robin Williams fire staccato bursts of noise my way.

Cab Drivers during Christmas Season: NYC is known for its relatively hospitable cab-drivers -- that is, if you've ever actually been in one, as opposed to watched movies featuring NYC cab drivers. More often than not, you're either in the back seat behind an angry young black guy listening to Farrakhan preaching race war or some Eastern European guy who has BO and muslim stickers on his dash. But occasionally, especially during the holidays, cab drivers apparently learn to speak heavily-accented English and discuss the weather and anything else to invoke the possibility of bringing up the holiday season. Traffic -- it's because of the holidays. The weather -- it's winter, you season. The music on the semi-garbled AM station which features seemingly every language but English -- that sounds like music of the holiday season. Overly-friendly cab drivers -- who aren't fully preoccupied with setting up drug buys in foreign languages on their earpiece-equipped cellphones -- seemingly abound this time of year. Some people don't give a shit about the weather, the music, the traffic, the tourists or Farrakhan's prediction of an all-black race of tree-people by 2014. Of those people, I'd be at the head of the line.

People Lamenting James Brown: Celebs always die in threes, and as Kaia pointed out, Peter Boyle (last week) and Gerald Ford (this evening) bookended James Brown's death. Inasmuch as James Brown was a guy who literally changed the face of American pop music and morphed it into soul and funk -- spawning countless other facets and offshoots of those two forms of music -- was a great, great man in the realm of music history. He indeed was a significant factor in even modern hip-hop, rap and house music -- and that's only scratching the surface. On the downside, however, he was a piece of shit who abused women, drugs and everyone with whom he came in contact. All the media stories about how great a guy he was, all the little stories about how he was really a good man deep down -- they're all bullshit. I don't mean to kick the guy when he's down and out -- and taking the ol' dirt nap pretty much qualifies him as being down and out -- but he was an awful human being. He was a great musician, singer and arranger -- but in the people skills, he shit the bed. Even in death, he abused his "widow" -- a woman half his age (he was 73, she's 36) whom he impregnated than locked out of his house. She's probably better off; but any woman who would let a 73-year-old guy no one can understand and who is well-known (and has a prison record) for his abuse of women impregnate her probably was looking to pull an Anna Nicole wedding-vows-on-her-back move. That didn't work because even in death, James Brown is a shit. Sorry, James -- it's a man's world. Stay out of prison in the next life and keep your hands off of women; start swinging at guys like Mr. T, Mean Joe Greene or anyone who participates in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and then come talk to me. And speak English, dammit.

Finally, I'd like to hit the permanent mute button on Lindsey Lohan, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Tara Reid, Jessica Simpson and Pamela Anderson. As a guy, I'm sure many readers would question my motives. My motives are simple: with the exception of Paris Hilton, all of the above-listed women are attractive, and all of them -- especially Paris Hilton -- have no real talent other than willingly partially (or fully) disrobing for mild-to-wild mens' magazines, be they Maxim, Stuff or Playboy. All of these women are fairly stupid, to varying degrees; none of them have any real redeeming qualities beyond their looks; and each of them takes being themselves -- ie being stupid -- in public to a new low. Britney's non-panties; Paris Hilton's sex video; Tara Reid's droopy, scabby boob at the Diddy-Do; Pamela Anderson's revolving door Playboy shoot/divorce record (she does one shoot for Playboy each time she gets married, divorced, or has a thought); Lindsey Lohan's need for AA before she's of legal drinking age; Jessica Simpson embodying dumb in The Dukes of Hazzard and making a stupid film that much dumber. They each manage to outdo each other by doing more ridiculous shit than the next without any thought whatsoever.

And back to my motives; it bothers me that young women of today have these plasticated, air-brushed, air-headed morons as role models. My other half is yummy, has a brain, and is someone I want to talk to all the time; she's her own person, has her own life and deserves respect. These women, beyond their looks, are stupid, devoid of interpersonal skills (unless fellatio is a form of communication), spend their time in expensive (accident-prone) vehicles going to bars, clubs and openings (their legs notwithstanding), and are punchlines -- unless you're a college intern at Maxim or another of the aforementioned jack-mags.

It's time to take out the trash and move ahead into 2007 with some new blood. I'll delve into that soon -- unless Paris Hilton comes by with a pair of Britney's panties, Tara's used implants and a video camera.

Stay tuned.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Start The Countdown

There's lots to address and so little time in which to do so. First, Kaia's impending visit is finally, well, finalized -- she's in on Friday, which also means this week is going to be chock-full of me cleaning, laundry-izing and otherwise getting the apartment up to spec. I got back to NYC late this afternoon so I managed to do all (er...most of) my laundry, and I actually began the process of Swiffering the first layer of whatever permeates my current living space. Tomorrow's another day.

In other news: it's nice to know my sentiments regarding Jamie Foxx (and those who concurred with my view) are not in the minority. Check this post at What Would Tyler Durden Do for more.

If you're living in a cave and somehow arrived here prior to learning about the death of The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, you either are far too dedicated an HoB reader or you need to start keeping up with current events. Or both. In the case of the former, thanks, but stop at every once in awhile.

As for work, thanks to the miracle of modern technology (and the ineptitude of ConEd), my office building's power has been playing havoc with my office's entire electronics profile. Phantom PC issues, problems with our office voice-mail system and general gremlins have plagued us for some time. We even have some minor issues with microwave/toaster oven usage in the kitchen (can't run 'em both simultaneously). Somehow, last week, during a regular backup, my PC's DVD drive died. Then, soon after, I checked in with Dell and found out the likely cause of DVD drive death was a power issue. Turns out the power supply got quasi-fried (just like another of our PC's earlier this year) and that not only requires the replacement of the drive but the power supply itself. Looks like tomorrow I'll be wrapping up my paperwork after I finish getting my hands dirty; could be worse -- the electrical issues could have fried all our PC's, our voice-mail AND our microwave. Ah well.

As if replacing power supplies and optical drives wasn't enough to secure my membership as a Deluxe Geek By Design, I have been participating in Fantasy Football with some friends near and far. Last week was our first week of "playoffs" -- after crunching the guy against which I was playing, I got to face the highest-scoring member of our league this weekend. Somehow, I managed to eke out a 38-point win (I scored 1224, he reached 1186). The other guy in the league (the only one who managed to beat me during the "regular" season) who was in the other playoff somehow also lost, so sometime next weekend, I expect to have won my second Fantasy Football #1 trophy. It doesn't compare to when my hockey team won the NYC Cup, but I sheepishly will admit it's been a lot of fun and adds a lot to watching football this past season -- especially considering the Giants have managed to play as awfully as they possibly can and lose in new, creative ways, each and every week. If I hadn't had some sort of emotional investment via Fantasy Football, I would have given up on football a month ago.

Having said all that, I'm still looking forward to (and hoping) the Giants making the playoffs somehow -- if for no other reason than to see Tiki Barber get one more chance to suit up and have one (or more) shots at the playoffs. Otherwise, the Giants really embarrassed their fans, the City and the memories of Wellington Mara and Bob Tisch (both of whom were long-time Giants co-owners and both of whom recently passed away). Hopefully, some Giants players will somehow arrive here and read this and know, firsthand, that they were awful this year and should forfeit this year's salaries.

Not like it would happen, but it's almost as likely as Giants players actually managing to read (this blog).

Now that we're in the throes of holiday bliss, I hope everyone enjoyed spending time with their families, friends and/or significant others thus far and before I take my leave, I want to wish everyone again a happy holiday, whether that holiday is Christmas, Chanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus or whatever else people celebrate this time of year. And while I'm at it, I hope those of you looking forward to 2007 are, like me, anticipating a happy, healthy coming year.

My best wishes to all, and to all, a good night.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Holiday Season

Tonight was the eighth and final night of Chanukkah. I've been so preoccupied I didn't even acknowledge it here, although I've lit candles each & every night this year. For those of you who celebrate Chanukkah, I wish you and your friends and families -- albeit a bit late -- a happy, healthy holiday. For those of you who don't celebrate Chanukkah, you should -- dreidel-spinning should be an Olympic sport. It's lots more entertaining than ping-pong and gets you less sweaty.

And for those of you who celebrate Christmas, I wish you and your friends and families an early happy, healthy holiday.

And for all of us on Planet Earth (aside from those pesky Chinese), a happy, healthy, productive 2007 (there's always something on which we can all agree).

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Morning Haze Returns

For whatever reason -- whether it's my crazy schedule as of late or the weather or a weird diet or too much caffeinated products (or a combination thereof) -- I've been experiencing strange sleep patterns. As a result, I've been spending more time on the phone with Kaia, my grandmother and two clients with PC issues (not all at once). On top of that, I've been slowly but surely prepping my apartment for Kaia's impending arrival.

This morning was, like the last several, typical in that I woke up ahead of my alarm gonging loudly in the background. Somehow I fell back asleep before I turned off the TV, and that's never a good thing. This morning's surreal experience: hearing, either in my trance-like dream-state or in the semi-conscious morning haze, an advertisement for Jamie Foxx's upcoming concert at Madison Square Garden.

When I finally emerged from my warm, comfortable, delusional cocoon of sleep, I was so bewildered by the possibility that Jamie Foxx would actually be welcomed to MSG as a (musical) performer that I doubted it was actually true and was yet another attempt by my mind to trick me. However, I was wrong -- he is actually performing a national tour, one that visits MSG on January 22nd. And I realized that I am now, increasingly, out of touch with why anyone not mentally deficient, developmentally-disabled or simply inebriated beyond all capability would ever be willing to pay anything beyond pocket change to witness Jamie Foxx, live, on stage at MSG.

Now I'm not picking on Jamie Foxx per se; I wouldn't pay to see Barbra Streisand at MSG or any other stage either, even though I think she's actually has bona-fide musical talent (although that nasty "me-me-me" thing has to go). But Jamie Foxx, as an example, seems to be the antithesis of musical talent. Initially I wondered if the phenomenon that inspires black people to go see shitty movies starring other black people -- examples like Martin Lawrence, Cedric The Entertainer and Anthony Anderson -- was similarly inspiring those same people to fork over a Benjamin or more to see Jamie Foxx on stage. I'm not denigrating Mr. Foxx -- as an actor, he went from being a disposable "In Living Color" alum to, deservedly so, an Oscar for Ray -- but me paying to see him perform music would be like paying to see the Pope break-dance on the 50-yard-line at Giants Stadium. And before anyone castigates me for knocking Martin Lawrence, Cedric the Entertainer or Anthony Anderson (or the Pope), keep in mind that Martin Lawrence has absolutely no talent (at doing anything beyond being an irritating shitbird), Cedric is bested by Bernie Mac, and Anthony Anderson is the luckiest sonofabitch this side of Yahoo Serious and Carrot-Top. And as far as break-dancing goes, the hell with the Pope. He's a much better snowboarder, anyway.


Something else I need to address is the fact that Time Warner Cable -- and many other entities which offer television cable network services -- have been touting the ability of parents to control what their kids watch. Whether it's the oft-maligned V-Chip, or simply built-in features in cable boxes that allow parents to password-protect certain channels at certain times, it's nice that these cable companies are helping parents be parents. After this weekend's sports telecasts, now Fox Sports and the MSG Network need to be included in those block lists. Saturday night, the Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Falcons faced off in a key NFC playoff-implicational matchup, and Terrell Owens, the imbecilic wide receiver, had a problem with Deangelo Hall of the Atlanta Falcons so he decided to spit in Mr. Hall's face. Don't get me wrong -- one adult spitting on another isn't exactly the worst thing one might encounter in the news, sports-related or otherwise -- but as Mr. Hall suggested in his post-game comments, there indeed is something wrong with Terrell Owens. I've pretty much regarded him as an Asshole Extraordinaire for a long, long time; once you cross that line -- by disrespecting your opponent and your sport and your team -- by doing something as infantile, repulsive and pathetic as spitting on an opponent -- you pretty much guarantee you'll always be known as that infantile, pathetic jerk your publicist hoped people would never see, even if for a second. Contrast Mr. Owens's behavior with that of San Diego Charger Ledanian Tomlinson, the likely league MVP and a humble, classy, incredibly-talented athlete, and it almost seems sacrilegious to use those two names in the same sentence or even regard the two as members of the same species. T.O., you're a classless idiot who doesn't belong on a football field, unless it's to clean up the shit crowds leave behind after they've watched a game. Get a clue and grow up, and just go away.

Not be forgotten, this weekend's other interesting news was another NBA brawl -- this time, it was between members of the New York Knicks (to whom I usually refer as "carjackers in shorts") and the Denver Nuggets. Punches were thrown, a nearly-uncontrollable melee spilled into the Garden crowd, and yet again, the NBA wound up on the wrong side of that fine line between thug and athlete, a dichotomy which they've precariously attempted for years. I haven't enjoyed pro basketball for awhile as a result; however, I'm not invoking nostalgia for the NBA of yesteryear, when Bill Bradley was the example rather than the exception. It's just that I can't help but believe that great players -- if not people -- like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Julius Erving would ever, ever, get involved with throwing punches, chasing other players into the crowd, or doing anything that would embarrass their teammates, their team, their families or their reputations. These days -- and for a long time now -- the NBA seems to be more closely-related to pro wrestling or ultimate fighting than it does to a legitimate sport. Put another way, something is wrong when there is more fighting in an MSG basketball game than in an MSG hockey game.

Incidentally, the only good thing about this brawl was that it reminded me of the last NBA brawl between the Pistons and the Pacers; more importantly, it reminded me of Kaia's and my first weekend together, watching the brawl unfold on the big-screen at Hi-Life, and us giggling over a series of drunken (as per usual) voice-mails from my ex. Those were the days; apparently, nothing has changed other than the Hi-Life, which has since been demolished. The NBA still has public brawls spilling into the stands, and, presumably, the ex is still getting sloshed and obsessing over everything. Some things never change.

Whip out that v-chip, close your eyes, hide your remote, and lock your children away in the basement. The professional athletes are back on TV.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Day The Music (and Free Speech) Died

Two pieces of interesting news landed on my desk this week; one is very sad and the other is somewhat surprising. The fact that they both surfaced on virtually the same day insures they'll be inevitably linked in the strands of memory I still have as I cling precariously to the rigors of daily life from here on out.

The first item concerns the death of Ahmet Ertegun, the man who founded Atlantic Records. Normally, the death of an 83-year-old record executive means little to anyone who didn't know him personally. Considering that Mr. Ertegun was a legend in his industry -- he was the one who discovered and signed over 30 major artists, including among his more-famous signings Ray Charles, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Cream, Aretha Franklin, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Bette Midler, Roberta Flack and ABBA -- people noting his death isn't nearly as surprising. The list of his accomplishments within the music business is nearly endless -- as are the accolades he received during his life. Most notably, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recently renamed a wing of the Museum to Mr. Ertegun in his honor.

So anyone who is into the British rock of the mid to late 60's, or of the R&B and the Blues of the early 60's from which this music came, should know his name.

The first time I learned about him resulted from his appearance at Atlantic Records' 40th Anniversary Celebration at MSG in 1989. He was responsible for bringing the surviving members of Led Zeppelin together to perform with John Bonham's son Jason. Then, in 1993, I met Mr. Ertegun backstage at a Robert Plant concert; he wasn't hard to miss, considering he was wearing an Armani suit and the rest of the backstage contingent, including the band -- and Robert Plant -- were sporting mostly black leather.

That, unfortunately, will be my last memory of him; dignified, professional, and always "in" it, but not central; behind the scenes, directing, observing and learning, and always searching for the next member of the Atlantic Records family. Somehow, I have a feeling he's sitting, watching Ray Charles bang away on a piano somewhere. I'm not sure if they're in heaven or hell, but wherever they are, I have a feeling they're both smiling.

The second item concerns the termination of Judith Regan, the woman who landed at HarperCollins and rose the ranks to creating her own division but who was ultimately dismissed over her intent to publish OJ Simpson's "confession," which I originally discussed in these pages about a month ago. Ms. Regan's rise was as much a result of dedication, hard work and intelligence as it was a result of her interest in tabloid-esque journalism. She nurtured projects from bona-fide authors, but her tenure at ReganBooks will most likely be remembered for her involvement with projects from Jose Canseco, Drew Barrymore and other celebrities. And her decision to green-light the OJ project -- not simply in book form, but the decision to interview him -- was likely her decision to create buzz and gossip, not to avenge abused women. However, to her credit, the bulk of her projects at ReganBooks wasn't a who's who of literary accomplishment, so my guess is that her termination was the result of in-house politics, not as a response to a complete backlash to the OJ project(s). To wit, industry estimates suggested her involvement in HarperCollins resulted in 25% of that organization's annual revenue, so to simply jettison an individual responsible for a quarter of the company's revenue over one bad decision is not plausible. Still, her dismissal isn't entirely shocking; however, even considering the OJ debacle, I still have a lot of respect for her. She's smart, very tapped into her various industries, and will emerge somewhere else, likely with a vengeance. I'm looking forward to her next move, and I'm looking forward to her retribution with respect to her former employer. It should be interesting.

I've encountered a variety of opinions with regard to her decision to publish OJ's "confession;" almost all agree that it was a bad idea, if for no other reason than selling a book, or advertising (for the interview) would no doubt be akin to profiting from murder. However, I've never seen CBS or any other legitimate TV network to squash an interview from someone like Manuel Noriega or another head of state reputed to be responsible for mass murder or genocide. What OJ purportedly did was repulsive and disgusting; however, there are a variety of people whose stories occupy books and TV interviews which did not inspire this much revulsion, let alone the dismissal of one or more of the people responsible for those decisions. I guess this story will continue, but I hope this incident doesn't set a precedent for legitimate networks and publishers. It's one thing to opt not to publish or publicize material which may be derogatory or despicable; it's quite another to censor and to dismiss people willing to look beyond social response and move forward with conviction.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Simple as Black and White

The world, as I see it, is not so simple that things can easily or typically be categorized in black and white dichotomies. There are frequently shades of grey that color various angles of issues that many people, on the surface, have one lone view to which they adhere without fail.

Whether the issue is affirmative action, euthanasia, abortion, political affiliation or a specific politician's efficacy or lack thereof, most of us believe what we believe and (when necessary), if pressed, our views can be expressed in very simple terms. When the topic is one of faith rather than simply of fact, that dedication and stubborn adherence to a belief -- even in the face of overwhelming fact disproving or discounting one's beliefs -- the only "solution," per se, is agreeing to disagree.

Then there are certain topics, like the Holocaust, which somehow manage to cut across religious and political affiliations and receive similar treatment from all but the most extreme among us. To wit, today in Tehran, Iranian President and asshole extraordinaire Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hosted a conference which openly questioned the legitimacy of the Holocaust.

You'll recall Mr. Ahmadinejad is the first world leader who in quite possibly fifty years who openly called for the destruction of another nation. His speech approximately three months ago calling for Israel's destruction was like chalk on the geopolitical chalkboard. Aside from Syria, there was a mass outcry against his comments, decrying his beliefs and his desire for Israel's destruction in tandem with his nation's simultaneous, so-called peaceful nuclear ambitions.

There is mention of this particular conference all over the place; if you haven't seen evidence of this incident, look here or here or here. Essentially, what Ahmadinejad has done is assembled, on an international scale, a collection of scumbags, dickheads, morons and bigots, coupled with ignorami, liars and an otherwise collection of despicable human beings who have more in common with fecal matter you might step in than world leaders or emissaries of anything remotely resembling intelligence or respectability. To quote the first above-linked piece penned by author Anne Applebaum, "The guest list was selective: No one with any academic eminence, or indeed any scholarly credentials, was invited. One Palestinian scholar, Khaled Ksab Mahamid, was asked to come but was then barred because he holds an Israeli passport—and also perhaps because he, unlike other guests, believes that the Holocaust really did happen."

This was not an assembly of free speech, thinkers or some unbiased group of people looking to unearth truth. This was a bunch of assholes assembled by the supreme asshole; participants of this "conference" included David Duke, a former KKK leader, and a dozen or so other denizens of bigotry. Among the invitees were also ultra-orthodox, anti-Israel Jews (is there anything more hypocritical or ridiculous than Jews against Israel, aside perhaps from Jews for Jesus?), French and German Holocaust deniers, and an assortment of supporters of groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and other groups whose military strategy include bombing hospitals, schools and places where civilians congregate. In other words, these are people -- collectively speaking -- who possess extremely unpopular, ridiculous, biased, repulsive thoughts -- and who are so unwilling to tolerate the existence of anything that differs from theirs that they are willing -- happily -- to take up arms against those who disagree with them.

Each time I hear David Duke's name, my first response is "he's a joke." Similarly with Ahmadinejad. Unfortunately, at least with respect to anti-semitism as it exists in the international forum, one cannot simply dismiss kooks, imbeciles and jerks. These are not people on the fringes of their respective societies; these are people who proudly proclaim their hatred, ignorance and beliefs in a public setting. It was easy to dismiss Hitler's Nazis before the Beer Hall Putsch semi-legitimized the repulsive, grotesque re-working of German nationalism and government, just as it is to ignore the hordes of neo-Nazis that prowl lower-class neighborhoods throughout Germany, parts of France and pockets of the Europe we don't see on the Travel Channel or in tour books.

The point is that as much as this conference, and its participants, are clearly disturbed, hateful human beings, the fact is that one of the inmates -- namely, Ahmadinejad -- have control of the asylum. For now, and until Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons, Ahmadinejad is merely a punch line; however, our failure to take another major player in world politics -- Hitler in the distant past, bin Laden in the recent past -- has similarly produced disastrous results. Dismissing an imbecile whose views contradict yours at work, in a social/party setting or on an Internet forum is one thing; doing so when said imbecile is at the helm of a nation that historically is known for radical, zealous, dangerous behavior is another.

And inasmuch as David Duke, upon his eventual return to the US, will continue to be known as a fraud of epic proportion, the fact that this "conference" took place reminds us that ignoring something like what took place today is a good way to insure it continues. The concept of "out of sight, out of mind" is the antithesis of international responsibility. Whether you want to cite the Marshall Plan or Kennedy's policy of containment, the bottom line is that ignoring this type of activity -- outrageous, inflammatory, repulsive and public -- is the best way to allow it to grow and expand and gain legitimacy.

One day, I hope the only mention of Ahmadinejad is his obituary in a bombing campaign instituted by Israel and several other nations, including the US, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. For the short term, however, I am hopeful that the next mention of Ahmadinejad is not in the context of this ridiculous "conference" but instead his response to Israel's destruction of his nation's "peaceful" nuclear program.

It's easy to dismiss stupidity, hate and finger-pointing. It isn't, however, when that malicious intent is coupled with the capability of killing a number of people on a mass scale. There's no "ignore" button in real life; Internet bullies and soap-box conspiracy theorists are easily quieted. In the real world, however, pretending something or someone will just go away or disappear is not only ineffective and unrealistic, it's dangerous and can, and could very well, have disastrous results.

When will we learn?

Let's hope we already have.

Monday, December 11, 2006

No Escape From The Joy

'Tis the season to be happy, be kind to your fellow man, and appreciate your friends, family and the life you live each and every day.


The stock-in-trade Christmas Season, as Hallmark would have you believe, is that from Black Friday to January 2nd, each and every day is an opportunity to smile and be merry. Unfortunately, that isn't quite the reality -- it would be nice, of course, but it rarely fleshes out to be 45 days of sheer joy.

Part of the reason why that sense of sheer joy is a complete fabrication is somewhat akin to why people hate voting and elections; it's not the actual day, nor is it the actual act of voting (or spending time with one's family). It's all the crap surrounding the actual event. To wit, each time an election is on the horizon, all you see on local television channels during the two weeks preceding the election are pre-recorded phone messages and TV ads denigrating the sponsor's opponent, so much so that once the thirty-second ad is complete, you not only wonder how the sponsor's opponent is running, you wonder why he hasn't been imprisoned or brought before a firing squad.

With respect to the impending Christmas holiday, everywhere you look, listen or read, there are holiday ads aplenty. There are mass-marketing appeals for you to save your money by spending it all on all kinds of useless, meaningless, pointless chazerai: bedding, lighting, furniture, clothing, electronics, personal entertainment products, hair-care products, footwear, lingerie, jewelry, housewares, books, music, cars, dvd's and the ever-popular gift certificates if none of the above blows your skirt up. In short, there is an infinite list of items by which you need to get out of your bed and your abode by 5AM so you can beat all the other imbeciles into JC Penney to get a free tissue-box holder for the first 100 stampeding consumers. If it was funny, it'd be a joke; but they actually manage to line people up outside every store from here to the Mason-Dixon Line; you know when Boston Market is selling gift certificates for free mashed potatoes and chicken pot pies, something's amiss.

And yet, what's even more disturbing is that the alcohol industry, which shutters its advertising department almost entirely through the year, suddenly wakes up, blasts its wares everywhere, and from Thanksgiving to January 2nd, suddenly you need to go buy cases of champagne, gin, vodka and beer -- that is, if you're actually going to properly celebrate the holiday.

Traditionally, I've heard over the past 20 or so years how difficult many people find the holidays; people who are far from their families and/or alone over the period from Thanksgiving to New Year's are more likely to commit suicide than any other time during the year. Why is that? Probably because anyone that despondent would have access to lots of suicidal thoughts, plenty of instruments by which to enact these thoughts, and no Aunt Mildred force-feeding you Christmas fruitcake to prevent you from doing a swan-dive in front of a minivan filled with midget cross-dressers recently escaped from Rahway State Penitentiary. Put another way, with credit to George Carlin, the reason why you don't get laid much on Thanksgiving is because all the coats are on the bed.

This year, it's likely I'll be all over the place for the holidays; regarding Chanukkah, which I usually celebrate with my family, I'll likely be spending somewhere at a friend's party in New Jersey or Connecticut -- someone will eventually let me know where it will be -- at some point this weekend. It's looking more and more likely I'll be spending Christmas, and the day after, my father's birthday, somewhere in Cali; and then New Year's in San Fran. Everything is up in the air, of course; but somehow, some way, I'll happily survive the holidays, even if it means watching Bad Santa on DVD and making sure South Park's own "Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics" is in constant rotation on my Video iPod.

One thing I am hoping for this holiday season is to find a group of carollers who know the words to (Warning: Adult Content) "The Most Offensive Christmas Song Ever" (honorable mention goes to "The Lonely Jew On Christmas"). Anyone who is willing to hold a candle while shivering through the lyrics to either of the above tunes are welcome on my stoop; any Jehovah's Witnesses come by and I'll wish them a happy holiday with my 12-gauge Remington.

Merry New Year! Care for some beef jerky?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Where The Days Go

Now that winter seemingly has arrived, it seems like it's always dark and/or cloudy; descending a subway entrance, it seems like it's always cold, and when I emerge from a subway station, it always seems like the first thing I usually do, aside from check my cell for voice- and txt messages, is to put my sunglasses away because they're so rarely needed. On some level, it feels like monotony; but then again, being that it's early December and there's all sorts of issues for me to address, I suppose that monotony could be substituted with something far worse.

First, many of you expressed some sort of concern over Kaia's post from the other day at the WP. Thankfully, the news has nothing to do with work or health or family, but that fact makes it no less devastating or upsetting. I actually put my own feelings to "paper" (herein, in draft/unpublished form) but wanted to give her the opportunity to express, on some level, what's happening. While neither of us is comfortable discussing this material publicly (even within the confines of our blogs), I wanted to let any- and everyone know that we both appreciate the concern that's been publicly and privately expressed. Despite the distance -- or heightened and magnified as a result, perhaps -- I've tried to be there to comfort her as much as possible, but the events and the possible culmination of all that's transpired in connection with this situation is, and continues to be, a source of difficulty and pain. While I can't and won't discuss it in any further detail here or elsewhere, I wanted to be sure and thank all of you for showing you care and offering your support.

As for what else is happening, the workload -- for us both -- has been a bit heavy these days, so we're both plugging away on separate coasts and haven't even spent much time deciding where we'll be -- here or there -- for New Year's. I'm sure we both will come to a decision in the next week or so, but thus far, the only thing we can both say with certainty is how badly we want/need/would love to see each other. Between this week, plus work, thinking about what we'll do to celebrate the New Year is relatively insignificant. In actuality, and I'm guessing she would agree with me, that the majority of holidays are relatively unimportant when we're apart, and even the most mundane, unimportant days are that much better when we're together. So the real focus is spending time together; whether it's to count down the minutes until January 1, 2007, or just to count the hours until one of our flights touches down in its arrival city, not much matters beyond us being together, especially these days.

As far as work is concerned, despite the year's end approaching, I've found -- as per usual -- no let up in the to-do list, the pile of stuff to be addressed, nor in the demeanor of clients who are anxiously awaiting word from one City agency or another as to the status of an Application, of some sort of violation removal, or official (or unofficial) opinion on a particular situation. For whatever reason, I'm happy to say, many of these items that are up in the air and require attention have been relatively easy to handle. In the past, it's felt something akin to juggling hot potatoes, but these days, it feels like juggling soft rubber balls in slow motion. Granted, there might be a lot of them, but I don't feel a sense of overwhelming speed or urgency, despite the fact that some of these matters do require speed and urgency. Either I'm getting better at dealing with the City in all its many guises, or I'm able to shoulder more of the load, or my use of e-mail to communicate with clients is streamlining the way I, and we, do business. Essentially, these days, despite running around downtown in a variety of different offices and agencies, I find that I get a call or request from agency A, advise client B about said request, and indicate I need item C from agency D. It's not as confusing as it sounds, but having everything floating along via e-mail rather than tucked away in folders or hiding under the plastic lip of the outgoing fax bin seems to be doing the trick. In essence, the bottom line is I'm getting lots done, and whether it's my efficiency, or a bunch of clients being drunk with the impending holiday spirit (yeah, right) or whatever else, it seems I'm sending lots more volleys back across the net faster and more efficiently than I ever did in the past. I'm hoping that's not simply a sign that it's December and most of my clients are either on vacation or not interested in working; based on the fact that I'm still handling 15 different matters a day, I'm guessing that's not the case. Guess we'll see what happens January 2nd.

More later.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Only So Many Hours In A Day

With the hours in a day seemingly dwindling, the daylight evaporating before 5PM each day, and the wind picking up and sweeping the cold air through this city, it's hard to find the time to actually stop, look around and think about what's been going on. Despite all best intentions, I have been so thoroughly preoccupied with work and everything else that's been happening, stopping in here has been a challenge, if not a virtual impossibility.

Some of the less significant items on my recent to-do list are seasoning my newly-acquired molcajete, which is a stone bowl which is much like a mortar and pestle. Essentially, what these items are for are for grinding and mixing different food items; the latter, the mortar and pestle, are used for crushing and mixing spices, pestos, spreads and any miscellaneous food items. The former is used, in addition for the aforementioned purposes, for making guacamole. A friend of mine advised me to pick one up so I did; it cost next to nothing, but since it's made of volcanic stone, it has to be prepped, or seasoned, prior to use. So I set about the seasoning process, which instead of taking only an hour or so, wound up taking almost a week. What's involved is, essentially, soaking the bowl in water overnight, scrubbing it down with a kitchen brush (a scrubbing brush), cleaning it, letting it dry, then grinding wet, white rice in the bowl, emptying it and letting it dry, and then grinding rock or sea salt in the bowl, rinsing it out and letting it dry. So, after a week of weeknight activity and overnight drying, I finally got it ready to be used and made my first batch of guacamole therein. I tossed in some salt, some garlic and some lemon and lime juice, and the guacamole was good. All things being equal, I could have saved myself a week of maintenance and prep time and gone straight to a bowl to make the guacamole, but, alas, hindsight is 20/20. I guess the lesson learned is that some old-fashioned products like self-winding watches, fountain pens and manual transmissions have tangible, aesthetic advantages over their newer, more technologically-advanced replacements. Some old-fashioned products, like vcr's and filofax/paper organizers, are far inferior to their modern counterparts in DVR and PDA's. In the case of the molcajete, I suppose it's sort of a mixed blessing; sure, it'd be easier to whip up a batch or two of guacamole in a food processor and serve it in a bowl. I suppose, as I use it more often, I'll have a better idea as to whether the week I spent getting it ready for use was wasted or worthwhile.

In the meantime, I've been regularly touching base with my grandmother, who is living upstate and, health wise, doing decently. For the most part, it's hard keeping touch with a loved one so far away -- speaking of both her and of Kaia -- but since she happens to have a quasi-pre-set schedule, it's hard to actually get her in. So I've been making a serious effort to keep in touch with her, despite the busy signals and having, when the phone isn't busy, to leave a bunch of answering machine messages. I have been planning -- looking forward to, as well -- heading up there to see her, but since things have been bouncing around here workwise and otherwise, doing so hasn't been simple; plus, more importantly, she's bounced around a bit up there, so each time it seems like I might have an opening in my schedule which permits me to consider heading up there, it turns out to be the wrong time to go. Sort of frustrating, although I've -- to my credit -- not divulged that I plan to visit her on any specific day/date. It's already disappointing enough that I haven't gone up there -- telling her I'm going to be coming and then have to renege on my promise would not be fair to her or to me.

On top of that, I'm getting more and more "I NEED IT NOW" e-mails and phone calls, and I am handling all of them without missing anything or not coming through. The trade-off, of course, is that the stuff that doesn't command that sort of urgency isn't on the forefront, and I've been making a conscious effort to address the not-so-crucial stuff simultaneously. In the past, we've been nearly overwhelmed with putting out fires and haven't been able to worry about anything beyond doing that; these days, however, I'm juggling a lot but trying to make sure nothing being juggled hits the floor, so to speak. The one plus is that I have found I am able to keep more and more in the air, and as of this writing, nothing has hit the floor in quite some time.

As for the weather, since snow is approaching this region -- it's about time, it's the first week of December -- I suppose some of my "ho-hum" days might be a result of the increasingly cold weather (and a simultaneous lack of sunshine). However, I'm not so much dreading the coming weather, I'm sort of ambivalent -- it's been in the 60's this past week (in the last week of November) -- and having winter weather in winter isn't the worst thing I could contemplate. On some level, the colder weather helps me write by putting me in the right frame of mind; or maybe it's the lack of sun, or just the increased incentive for staying indoors and being productive in front of the PC rather than outside these four walls. In either case, on some level, despite the fact that it's a pain in the ass, it's cold and the winter sucks, I'm -- for a change -- consciously looking forward to it.

One final note: I have found that the more "Mel Gibson's Apocalypto" ads I see during football and hockey games, the more I wish the guy would just disappear. The movie, as the ad relates, is "the story of one man's heroic struggle to save his family." And each time I hear and/or see the ad, I think of the voice-over, relating the ad for "Mel Gibson's Racisto" -- the story of one man's cowardly struggle to save his reputation.

It doesn't make much difference -- I wouldn't pay to see either of those, or anything else he'll do. But at least he could try and make it interesting.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Take The Long Way Home

That day, when you realize that your parents live in a house in which you used to live, but which is no longer your home or your house, is a strange and stirring reminder that you've reached adulthood and are aware of it.

Thanksgiving was a blast. It didn't snow, but it rained for hours -- the whole day, actually -- and the trip to Jersey was uneventful, even if the rain and the temperature were less-than-inviting. The day and night was great -- nothing but food, football, family and fun. And relaxation. As I pulled up to the house, my sister and my mom were preparing to go out to get some final touches for dinner -- some rolls and some other miscellaneous accoutrement to go with dinner and/or the day itself. So I wound up on turkey duty: I basted, turned, examined, took the temperature of, and basically fawned over the bird in the oven with one eye while another focused on football.

Dinner was amazing. We had some eats throughout the day -- fresh shrimp, a cheese plate, pate, the unusual suspects -- and otherwise enjoyed the collective company and the lack of any schedule or external pressure to be anywhere, do anything or have any requirements whatsoever.

The interesting thing about dinner was the lack of a microwave -- we had all our side dishes prepped and ready to go -- mashers, stuffing, string beans almondine, a mashed mix of squashes (butternut and acorn), honey-glazed cinnamon carrots and roast potatoes (my dad loves 'em) -- and the microwave took the ol' dirt nap. So aside from some fancy stepping -- and arranging both ovens to be filled with the side dishes -- everything came out hot, tasty and at the same time. Aside from Kaia and my grandmother not being with us, it was as perfect as it could be.

Without going into more detail -- and why would I want to make this entry even more boring than it already is -- it was just a nice way to spend the day with family.

That night, by the time I made it to bed, Kaia was still preoccupied, three hours to the left, with her nephews S and C. S had a recent birthday so he was undoubtedly focused on showing off his wares; C, however, took a particular shine to Kaia's cell phone, which, turned on silent, was well-hidden by C and not found until much later in the evening on the other coast. By the time Kaia called me to wish me and the family a final Happy Thanksgiving, I was already well into slumber, and apparently Ozzie, the pooch, didn't enjoy the particular ringtone which I had chosen (the opening to What I Like About You, dontcha know). So apparently, while I shluffed, Ozzie proceeded to wake up the entire house, so Friday morning, when I woke up, my phone had disappeared along with any semblance of my understanding of why it had disappeared. Did the cell-phone gremlin somehow sneak into the house, hide my phone in the couch downstairs, and then sneak off into the night?

It turns out that they grabbed the phone from my nightstand and turned it off to prevent Ozzie (and any future ringing) from keeping the house from getting its tryptofanatic sleep.

The rest of the weekend, despite my parents remaining in New Jersey, was an extension of Thanksgiving. I spent time with friends, celebrated the two extra days off, watched football, met some friends downtown for some pool, and basically got some much-needed private (phone) time with Kaia. Nothing exciting, nothing out of the ordinary, and nothing that required photos, epic anecdotes or anything that resembles any hint of reclamation. It was a great weekend -- everything was perfect, with the aforementioned absences of Kaia and my grandmother aside. I spent time with family, friends, had great food (plus leftovers), football, got in touch with friends with whom I hadn't spoken in awhile, and essentially realized, yet again, that any time I find the time to complain, I really am full of shit. I have it far better than a lot of people I know, even moreso than many people I don't know, and I can't say there's much I would change. At some point, during the festivities, I kicked back on the couch, watched the fire burning and popping, and hoped next year we'd have Kaia and my grandmother nearby on the couch, in the kitchen, or flitting about somewhere in the house. They were not in the house, but they were in our hearts, so I guess next year we'll see if we can make those two little changes.

Other'n that, it was awesome.

Anyone with any great stories to share, feel free. And for anyone out there who had a great Thanksgiving without anything memorable to share herein, glad you and your families enjoyed the holiday as much as we did.

This, incidentally, was the first time since I moved out of my parents' house that staying over felt like home.

I guess I'm an adult now. Or something akin thereto.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

How Time, The Weather, Big Balloons and The Wind Flies

I stopped by the HoB last night and didn't realize it had been nearly a week since my last official visit. There's been lots happening, and despite having every good intention of stopping in and letting loose, somehow I've been remiss in that last part, so this pre-Thanksgiving post should serve as a quasi-catch-up as to where I've been.

First, obviously, tomorrow being Thanksgiving, I've been pondering the ramifications and the factors which, for me, make Thanksgiving such a special holiday. Since 2004, I've had a new take on what the holiday means -- not only because my father is healthy and happy, but because my family, and I, are happy and healthy. posed a question in one of its daily polls regarding why Thanksgiving is so special; the question offered the meal, family and friends, a day of football and a day off from work as its choices. For the first time in awhile, I couldn't honestly answer. It's not that I'm not a Thanksgiving fan -- I am -- it's just that it's not the only day we become full-on gluttons. Sure, having a deluxe roast turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, dressing/stuffing, cranberry mold and cranberry sauce and a variety of sweet, savory and otherwise delectable foodstuffs from which to choose is never a bad thing. It's just that I enjoy the eating part of Thanksgiving but that's not why, for me, it's a celebration. The notion of Thanksgiving being a day of football is true, but it's ancillary. In truth, despite the NFL adding an unprecedented third game tomorrow, the day is about football, but for me, the New York Giants are football, so a day without a Giants game is sort of pissing in the wind. I'll watch if only because the games are televised and I'd prefer watching that than some after-school special about some epileptic break-dancer from Cleveland who is visited by the ghost of Christmas present, played by M.C. Hammer.

The day, I suppose, is about family and friends -- but the problem in that description is that since 2004, when we as a family survived a significant rough period, every day, on some level, is Thanksgiving. We've been through so much as a family since then that it's hard to point to one day to celebrate one another, and I have made -- successfully -- a concerted effort to acknowledge and appreciate my family and the friends that are in my life. Doing so on only one day, in hindsight, seems sort of inadequate, and while I recognize that many people don't have the close relationship with their family which I do, and that many people live far from any semblance of family, it's understandable, for them, to look to tomorrow as a day to celebrate their families and friends. For me, however, it's not simply about that.

For me, tomorrow marks another annual celebration of the passage of time. Some people regard New Year's as a time to check their progress -- their lives, their relationship(s), etc. -- but for me, tomorrow is a time to not only acknowledge my appreciation for my family and our collective health, it is also an acknowledgment, for me as an adult, as to where I am in my life and how my family has and does and continues to shape me as a person. There's a song by James Taylor called "The Secret O' Life" that features some mighty powerful lyrics. Against my better judgement, I've included them at the end of this post for all to peruse. The phrasing that most sums it up for me is "Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill. But since we're on our way down, we might as well enjoy the ride."

So in retrospect, I'm looking forward to gorging myself on bitchin' eats, spending time watching football with my dad, laughing and relaxing with my mom and my sister, and enjoying the passage of the day, of time, and the ride.

However, this year's Thanksgiving won't be all warm skies and butterflies. My grandmother -- who is not going to be spending Thanksgiving with us -- has been having a tough time being so far away, and we've been trying to figure out how to a) go visit her on or around the holiday, and b) work out getting her moved closer to us. So as much as Thanksgiving is a celebration of freedom of the catastrophic meltdown of 2004, my family, food and enjoying the passage of time and of life, not having her with us -- and having her feeling badly about that -- weighs on me. In addition, my aunt's father passed away after a long, protracted illness. I was never close with him but he was always a stalwart presence, the kind of guy that enjoyed and embodied life. Hearing news he had died affected me in a strange but subtle way. So forgive me if I sound melodramatic in observing that the weather, having turned cold and rainy, seems, at least in part, to reflect how I'm feeling this year.

The other negative, though it's not quite as extreme, is the fact that Kaia will be in Cali this year. We've both been dealing with a lot of work-related turmoil, and as I've disclosed above, I've got a lot to handle vis-a-vis my grandmother. At one point, I wasn't sure if I could spend the time heading out to San Fran because I was assuming I might head out to see my grandmother, and being that I spend a good deal of my working hours out of the office, downtown and at City agencies, spending so much time out of town would have not been feasible. So in short, not seeing her, or having her near me, over this holiday, is difficult in and of itself; not having her near with so much happening family-wise has been really difficult. There are relationships that can be emotionally draining and toxic; I know because I've survived one. However, despite all she's been through work-wise, all she has done has been to keep me level and keep me grounded. Anytime I've had things weighing on me, whether it's work-related, personal stuff or about the two of us, it only would take a few minutes' time for her to get me back in the right place. So despite her spending Thanksgiving out there, it's still disappointing knowing I won't be able to look over in her direction every so often and be thankful for her being in my life.

I think, on some level, there are people who "survive" life -- they go through the motions, they address their obligations, and they feel, as a result, that they are in control of who they are and their destiny on this planet. I'm not sure if any of us are actually in control of our destinies, but I am happy to say, taking stock of where I am, my family, my other half, and my life in general, there is very little I would change. And that, for me, is really what the essence of Thanksgiving is all about.

I'm sure I'll be back here in a day or two, but in the meantime, I want to wish all of you a happy and healthy and wonderful Thanksgiving.

James Taylor
The Secret O' Life

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.
Any fool can do it, there ain't nothing to it.
Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill.
But since we're on our way down, we might as well enjoy the ride.

The secret of love is in opening up your heart.
It's okay to feel afraid, but don't let that stand in your way.
Cause anyone knows that love is the only road.
And since we're only here for a while, might as well show some style. Give us a smile.

Isn't it a lovely ride? Sliding down, gliding down,
try not to try too hard, it's just a lovely ride.

Now the thing about time is that time isn't really real.
It's just your point of view, how does it feel for you?
Einstein said he could never understand it all.
Planets spinning through space, the smile upon your face, welcome to the human race.

Some kind of lovely ride. I'll be sliding down, I'll be gliding down.
Try not to try too hard, it's just a lovely ride.
Isn't it a lovely ride? Sliding down, gliding down,
try not to try too hard, it's just a lovely ride.
The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.

Friday, November 17, 2006

This Just In: The Messenger, The Message and Mother Earth

First, thank you to those of you who -- privately and anonymously -- advised me that you believe my distaste for the new Bond missed the mark. To clarify, I don't think Casino Royale will be a bad movie -- I do, however, think it will be a bad Bond movie. The Bond formula -- crass, misogynistic, charming, lucky, always-in-the-right-place-right-time guy named Bond, James Bond, finds the bad guy, lets the bad guy know he's taking him down, gets threatened by the bad guy, scores with the bad guy's wife/girlfriend/significant other, beats bad guy, fixes his slightly-mussed hair, tosses a quip or two at the camera, and then the credits roll. That's it. There's big guns, big cars, big sets, big bodies of water, big stunts, and big lines. And big box-office returns. This Bond, however, isn't about laughs or smiling or coming off as cool and charming; he's about being bad, doing his dirty job -- because someone has to do it -- and going home. It's not what the Bond formula -- at least the film version thereof -- is and has been about.

With respect to more important -- and other current -- incidents, there's the fracas -- a most underutilized and underappreciated member of the English language -- over OJ Simpson's forthcoming book entitled "If I Did It." Apparently, publisher Judith Regan -- for whom I have immense respect -- is getting all sorts of vile, disrespectful feedback over her decision to a) publish OJ's "confession;" and b) interviewing him with respect to what's in the book. Her explanation of why she went through with it isn't entirely convincing, though I think she's fairly up front and honest when it comes to this sort of thing. But more importantly, it sounds like OJ's finally addressing the fact that there are no "real" killer(s) out there hiding on golf courses while he works on his handicap (aka searches for the "real" killer).

In other news, it turns out that Sony's newest game machine, the PS3, was released in limited form around the country today. Of course, that means people actually lined up -- for days -- in front of Best Buys, Circuit Citys and any other place that purported to have some of these newly-released game machines. But since they cost upwards of $300 per, a few innovative individuals opted to make some money on the losers who were lined up ready to plunk down their hard-earned Benjamins with real hardware. Story's here. Since this wasn't one single incident but nearly a half-dozen nationwide, it really makes one wonder what, in a thousand years, our descendants will think of us as a society. Then again, based on this news item, one has to wonder whether humanity -- or this mockery thereof -- has another thousand years left.

Speaking of brainless losers, an Internet argument -- eg mutually-escalated insults hurled between geeks in chat-rooms, bulletin board forums or newsgroups -- got so intense that Moron #1 attacked Moron #2. Once I had digested the combined tale of geekdom and stupidity, it occured to me that this stuff likely happens on a regular basis. Which, perhaps, is the inspiration for the politically incorrect image to the right. There are those among us who might cringe at the awful depiction of a young, presumably disabled athlete with a less-than-flattering label. And there are those of us, myself included, who have more respect for people who are developmentally disabled than those who aren't but behave as if they are.

So the next time you encounter online someone or something eminently stupid, completely devoid of thought and/or extremely irritating -- excluding this site, of course -- don't hesitate to share with the originators of the material your opinion, unless doing so involves you getting in a car or other moving object and hunting the object of your derision down and killing them. That would be wrong.

Merciful, perhaps. But wrong nonetheless.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Shaken, Not Stirred - A James Bond Eulogy

Back when it was announced there would be a new guy replacing Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, I remember thinking "What the hell are they doing?" The James Bond franchise is more consistent than McDonald's, and far more enjoyable in repeats. I'm sure there were money and/or political issues behind the scenes, so suffice to say that I think they made a huge error canning Pierce Brosnan, especially because I think he was as close to Sean Connery -- and to the actual James Bond character -- as it gets.

Enter Daniel Craig -- the next soon-to-be former James Bond. The last time the owners of the James Bond franchise decided to go in a different direction, they hired Timothy Dalton to star in two post-Roger Moore James Bond films, and both -- while decent -- were not James Bond movies. I remember reading PR on the first of those two films, The Living Daylights, and I to this day recall how the producers opted to go in a more serious, "gritty" direction. Timothy Dalton is an accomplished Shakespearean actor, so it figures that if he could play Othello, Hamlet and MacBeth, he could handle 007.

Uh uh. The pair of movies in which he starred were mediocre, run-of-the-mill films that were a waste of the James Bond theme. And then they got wise and hired the right guy, the guy they should have hired before he became Remington Steele: Pierce Brosnan.

So after they finished the last Pierce Brosnan film, "Die Another Day," they began leaking how that was going to be it for Pierce Brosnan. And every day since then, and up until they release the new film, a remake of Casino Royale, I'll be counting the days until Daniel Craig is a former Bond.

I'm not a Bond maniac -- I haven't spent $300 on the re-reissued Bond DVD's, and I don't even have all the films on DVD -- that, despite the fact I've got about 750 DVD's (and was dumb enough to purchase the original 'XXX' starring Vin Diesel). The bottom line, while I'm not an extremist when it comes to James Bond movies, it irritates me more and more as Sony or whoever plugs the hell out of the newest Bond movie. I don't want to see it and I definitely won't bother thinking much about it when it fades from theaters. But what I don't much understand is why the producers of these films never learn. They hired Paul Haggis ("Crash") -- an excellent screenwriter -- to make the script "grittier." Except the problem is when they tried making the series grittier, they released two Timothy Dalton performances to people who let them know they wanted the "real" James Bond, not some brooding, dark version of him. Oops.

So for this Casino Royale -- the original, incidentally, was a spoof -- neither the gadget-master, Q, nor Miss Moneypenny, the ace-in-the-hole babe-a-licious secretary, are around -- this, despite the fact that the Bond movies work because they include the same elements each time around. Now, Bond's famous martini, "shaken...not stirred," is no longer. Instead, when he's asked how he wants his martini, his response is "Do I look like I give a damn?"

Yep...that'll work.

And once they're finished flushing James Bond down the toilet, perhaps they can revise the Nightmare On Elm Street series by portraying Freddy Kreuger not as a maniacal nightmare-killer but instead as an extremely persistent Amway salesman with really bad skin.

So pardon me, when you ask me whether I've noticed the new James Bond movie's in theaters, if my response is "Do I look like I give a damn?"

I don't.

The Oncoming Oooh's and Aaah's

Amid the busy weekend, I focused on getting shitloads done out and about as well as within these four walls. In the real world, my 19-year-old Mitsubishi bedroom TV sort-of died; it works really well, except when it flushes the picture and depicts white noise for a few minutes at a time. I had my cable company come in to check it out, and the guy told me it was the TV, not the cable. Skeptical, I asked him to replace my box just to be sure, and that night, sho'nuff, the new box's green digits glowing in the night, the TV was fine for a few minutes and then -- BOOM -- right back into white noise. The next day I went to Best Buy and scored a new Sharp AQUOS flat-screen EDTV. EDTV isn't a Matthew McConaughey vehicle; it's a TV format that's somewhere between standard, boring, squarish TV and those newfangled HDTV's. In fact, once I score one of them new HDTV boxes from my cable company, I'll have a picture on the new TV that's a lot closer to HDTV than plain-ol' regular TV. The biggest problem is deciding whether I want to watch TV in bed at a super-high resolution or in the living room on the bigger TV. What was strange -- sort of -- was watching the Cinemax Star Wars Marathon -- each of the six movies, in release order -- on the little screen and then on the bigger screen. The bottom line -- people spend way too much time worrying about resolution, screen size, what the cabinet looks like, and how deep -- two-point-three inches -- the new screen actually is. It's nice having a new TV in the house, but the truth is I wouldn't have bothered -- not really -- if the old one didn't die on me. I'm waiting to procure a Samsung big-screen HDTV for when Kaia and I co-habitate. In the meantime, as long as I can watch the Yankees, the Rangers and the Giants, I'm not worried about how many pixels are pouring out of the screen in order for me to do so.

On top of that, the (positive) post-party fall-out continues. I'm getting lots of positive responses from friends, both new and old, that made it to the Poobah B-Day Fest, and I'm getting all sorts of requests for our next shindig -- dates, locations, suggestions (genres of music, costume themes, etc.) -- which are always (smirk) appreciated. It's interesting, on some level, that almost all of the "constructive suggestions" seem to come from people who haven't made it to one of our parties. Or, as they say in France, those who know, know, and those who don't, should. We're shooting for sometime in early February -- most likely President's Day Weekend, which insures all the teachers that may want to be there are around, and anyone who may need to take an off-day to travel to/from NYC can do so with as little penalty vis-a-vis work as possible. The only problem is that that weekend might be tighter in terms of scheduling at places that might suggest we'll have to guarantee 200 attendees in order to not have to come up with any monies to secure the room. We might return to Iguana, but since the room opened to the public at midnight, we have reached the consensus that if the next party is at Iguana, we'll need until 1:30 or 2AM to insure everyone is drunk, smiling and ready to pass out before the public streams in. Tune in for more info.

Today, work-wise, was a mix of busy, really busy and really, really busy. I finished two mini-projects that needed to be out the door by 11 and another which needed to be finished by EOB (end of business) before I headed downtown around noon to address a variety of other projects. By the time 4PM rolled around I was on my way back to the office after completing most of what I had intended. Hopping off the train, it was raining and extremely windy so I ducked into the Time Warner Center, a short twenty-step walk under covered walkway, to take a quick jaunt through Whole Foods, which is one of the largest markets I have ever visited.

Whole Foods, at least at Columbus Circle, is an experience all its own. Most of the items in the market are natural or organic, so I didn't expect to find any food items that were overly vulgar or chemical in nature. However, I was similarly non-plussed when I saw mounds of granola, wheat germ and other products I wouldn't feed to a horse, let alone a human being. In either case, my main goal was to procure Tazo Passion tea, which is a tea I discovered (thanks to Kaia) at Starbucks. They sell it in both hot and cold forms, and the last time I visited Starbucks -- a rarity, considering I don't drink coffee and dislike tea -- I had a sore throat and opted for hot passion tea, and really liked it. So I decided to go buy a box or two, but since Whole Foods is the only place I can get it in NYC, I figured visiting Whole Foods in person -- only a few blocks from my office -- was a good idea.

I got two boxes of Passion tea, some sliced turkey for tomorrow's lunch, a Japanese pear (awesome), and some other stuff. The biggest surprise for me wasn't the fact that everything in the store seemed exorbitantly priced, but that it took me longer waiting on line to pay than it did to get everything I wanted to buy and get on line. Oh well -- if it wasn't worth waiting for then no one would bother waiting. It's similar to Eli's Vinegar Factory, which is right near my place, so I wasn't as shocked by the prices as much as I was by the fact that people were willing to wait on lines so patiently to pay excessively for organic groceries. Looks like I'll get most of my staples -- chicken, veggies, pasta, and household stuff -- at markets like Gristedes and Associated -- and the high-end stuff like fish and other exotic items at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Eli's. If anyone has any suggestions as to what stuff is really worth waiting for at Whole Foods, lemme know. Otherwise, don't expect to read much more of my experiences waiting on line at Whole Foods because -- if you hadn't guessed -- it won't be happening again anytime soon.

Finally, you may notice slight changes here at the HoB. We've moved to a newly-created server with lots more space and lots of comfy new features. It's still part of Blogspot, and for the time being we'll stay put. But soon the entire blog will be picked up and moved across the internet to its own new home. One of the nicer features is being able to block specific users and/or IP addresses, so I'll start tinkering with that in the next few days. For the most part, I try to welcome all visitors with aplomb and attitude, but there are those who manage to find their way here who should instead be in therapy or rehab or AA -- and some who should be regular visitors in all three -- and for them, I'll investigate how to encourage them to go elsewhere. There are other features which are somewhat complicated and not worth explaining; suffice to say that this space will get a slight makeover before the full-blown revamping I've been contemplating -- and promising -- for some time now. The new layout -- burgundy, charcoal, orange, et al -- is a nice interim change of pace, but I am guessing it will only be temporary and around for a little while longer. Once we make the jump, I'll be sure and leave a trail of bread-crumbs for all who wish to follow us to the new digs. In the meantime, if you're still awake and reading this, my congratulations and thanks -- now please consider cutting caffeine from your daily routine.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

...Into The Upper Deck

And go on it did.

The chronology of the past several days feels like several blurry moments. Last we left, I was prepping for a party of up to 150, making sure every detail was handled on some level, and then the party happened.

Two words: it ROCKED.

In posting the pictures I took from that night, I can only preface my thoughts by admitting the only thing that would have made the night better was if Kaia was there with me. And it would have made it a LOT better. But having said that, I was -- and am -- really pleased with everything related to that night.

In a nutshell, the space was perfect -- our group ended up at about 110 -- and it was just dark enough in the bar for us to have some privacy and/or anonymity for some random groping, gossiping and or itch-scratching ;) But overall everyone seemed pleased; the place, Club Iguana, was the perfect location for the mass of people drinking, eating, dancing and yapping.

On top of that, I got a chance to meet some people that I've known through the online world for years but never had met in person. Friends of friends, "invitee-in-laws" and people with whom I just don't get a chance to spend enough time were (finally) there. That means Roberta, my friend from Fairbanks, Alaska-cum Madison, Wisconsin-cum Shawnee Mission, Kansas, my friend Sandy from the LA area, Sheila from Houston, and a half-dozen other people with whom I've spoken to with regularity but never met face to face. All in all, it was a great -- and unfortunate -- reminder that the Internet is a double-edged sword: it facilitates human contact with people all over the world, but serves to remind that there is no substitute for genuine human contact and simultaneously can prevent that human contact from occurring. As they say in France, it's a mindfuck.

As the night wound down and a bunch -- 25 or 30 -- of us wound up at Ben Ash's Deli at 55th and 7th (around 2:30AM), everyone -- bleary-eyed, weary, tired and semi-drunk and/or fully hung over -- had post-party eats and then we all went our separate ways. I spoke to Kaia throughout the night but she had gone to sleep hours prior to me leaving Ben Ash, so I quietly walked to 6th Avenue once the crowd dispersed -- through streets that were unusually, eerily quiet and uninhabited -- grabbed a cab and went home. Since this area is where I work, I am not used to seeing this neighborhood so devoid of life or light, and it was very unsettling making my way through what is usually a densely-populated slice of my everyday life as the only moving being for what seemed like blocks. So when I finally reached home -- around 5 -- I populated the HoB Flicker site like I promised I would and went to sleep. Prior to crashing, I noticed other people had already posted some pictures from the party, and that made me smile -- people that eager must either have had a great time or had such a shitty time that they were home -- and sober -- early enough to navigate the process of posting pictures. Thankfully, the former, and not the latter, was the case.

All in all, it was a major success -- and I would have posted about it herein much sooner, as was my want -- but I basically spent the last few days fighting a post-party hangover, sleep deprivation, election stuff and yesterday's incredible news that Rumsfeld was, finally, stepping down. I'll touch on Tuesday's explosive, yet predicted, election results (and the aforementioned Rumsfeld fall-out news) later.

I apologize for not visiting here sooner after the party, but hopefully those of you who made it here soon after and/or saw the pics had a general sense of who, what, where, how and why I wasn't here. My friend who survived another birthday ;) had a lot of fun as well, and I think, overall, that the more we throw these parties, the easier -- and more enjoyable -- they become. There was only one or two people giving us advice, nagging us for guest list info, and advising us on how to make the party better (LOL) before the actual event, and one of those people wound up not even showing up.

So again, I am extremely grateful to all of the people who came, from both near and far, who braved airlines, traffic, hotels, tourists, the NYC Marathon and a cavalcade of other obstacles, to be here this past weekend. And of course I also am genuinely thankful for the people that made it here from across town -- LisaB, for coming despite injuring her knee earlier that day, bunches of people who came in from other boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the 6th Borough, New Jersey) and my friends Trip and Dara, who braved babysitters, pre-fab out-of-state visitation and a tacky yet inspiring Zorro costume ;) to be there.

As I said that night -- more times than I can count -- the next one (in February) will be even better...but this one was great :)


Friday, November 03, 2006

The Show Must Go On

Forgive my usurping the title of one of the song titles from Pink Floyd's The Wall for this post; it just seems that tomorrow night's festivities are approaching at lightning speed and no matter how many of these BoogieFests we throw, there always seems to be some hesitation to insure everything is right, every 'i' is dotted, every 't' is crossed, and every random piece fits in somewhere.

Ahead of the party, I made sure all the pics in the camera were moved over to the PC and to the HoB Flicker site. The newest set is comprised of some dreary pics I've taken over the past week or two while out and about downtown, on the West Side as well as a few in Chinatown (I didn't have the heart or the constitution to take pics of the live fish markets or the people with goiters the size of footballs -- not yet, anyway).

On top of that, and to return to the topic of the incoming party, we have a bunch of people who are in the process of coming in by plane, train, bus and/or car. On top of that, there are hotels, arrangements to stay with friends, clothing/cleaning issues, scheduling conflicts, the procuring and payment for the birthday cake for the co-host, my friend Jon (aka The Grand Poobah), and a variety of other miscellaneous items popping up in my collective neurospan. All things considered, this endeavor -- like its predecessors -- always winds up being a huge hit for everyone, including me. It's always fun seeing, hanging and partying with friends -- but just focusing on all the details and making sure everyone and everything is addressed and satisfied and ready to rock never fails to keep me guessing until the (and throughout the entire) event.

This time, I've attempted to Not Worry. For the most part, everything is clicking -- the music's ready to go, the wardrobe is ready to go, the camera's ready to go, the people are ready to go, the cake is prepped and ready for delivery -- nothing is out of place. It's sort of unnerving, really -- things shouldn't be going this smoothly. I guess, if nothing else, Kaia not being here to ground me and to remind me what's really important -- a random kiss in the living room, her holding my hand on the way to or back from Eli's -- are "real." All this other stuff -- the party details, the 125 or so guests, their flight info, the hotels, the taxis, the plans, the miscellaneous bullshit -- that's all secondary.

Of course, none of that is secondary -- and the irony is, of course, that since Kaia's not in for this particular shindig, all of that surrounding her is, this weekend, unfortunately, imaginary. Except that, for me, as much as I am looking forward to hanging with my friends -- both old and new -- I'd trade it all for a weekend with her here.

Oh well...I 'spose if it were perfect I wouldn't know when to appreciate it ;)

Well, as they say in close-quarter combat, I'll be sure and update you all from the front, or at the very least, once the siege is complete.

Keep an eye on the Flicker site for party pics -- I'll announce them here, but in the event that I am not mentally able to put together a coherent semblance of a typical HoB wrap-up/post, they'll appear before I do.

And now, without further ado...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Open Mouth, Insert Foot...

So the guy -- who happens to be the President -- is widely regarded as an uneducated moron who can't pronounce the word nuclear. The other guy, a former Democratic candidate for President, the intelligent, moral former veteran who has a Yale education and who was largely regarded as an improvement over the Republican status quo.

One of them makes a stupid, off-hand, derisive comment to college students while on the campaign trail in California, suggesting that "if you don't pursue your education, you'll wind up stuck in Iraq," suggesting that people in today's military are stupid and uneducated.

In case anyone needs John Kerry to campaign for them ahead of the upcoming elections, he'll be at home, waiting by the phone.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Timing, Location and Eloquency

Some days are relatively easy-going, laid back and smooth. Those are the kind of days that ease you out of bed, keep you moving well past lunch, with everything in its place, and every problem surmountable and solved by the late-afternoon slow-down.

Today was not one of those days.

The day started relatively easily. I had a check-up at my doctor's office, and I wound up getting to his office early, which is a rarity for me. So I was pretty pleased; that is, until I wound up sitting for a half hour, received several voicemails and realized I needed to get out of his office before he saw me.

Luckily he didn't let me run out and did a quick run-through on the basics: weight, blood pressure, breathing, blood, allergies and the miscellaneous other niceties. Everything was good -- ie going in the right direction -- and before I slipped out the door I got my annual flu shot.

Thereafter, I got to the office -- about 45 minutes later than I normally walk through the door -- and jumped right in with both feet, so to speak. First I prepped an Application that needed to be addressed, then got the materials together for a biggie meeting I had downtown with a client at a City Agency.

Anytime a client requests a meeting with a City Agency, that means one of three things: a) he/she is unhappy with the City's progress and wants a first-hand response as to why things are moving so damn slow; b) he/she is unhappy with YOUR progress and wants a first-hand response, with you sitting there, as to why things IN YOUR OFFICE are moving so damn slow; or c) he/she wants to get explicit instructions as to what will be necessary for you -- and he/she -- to obtain, provide and/or furnish to said City Agency to get everything done.

Luckily, today's meeting was not requested by my client at all, but by me. The short version is that I've been working on an Application for awhile now -- far longer than I care to admit -- and because my client hired someone who was paid a lot of money to perform a service but instead wound up taking most of that money and disappearing, which is definitely a criminal act -- it's been left, thus far, to me to clean up the mess. Today was my alert to my client that I've done everything I can without some more assistance from he and his people.

It might not sound like it's significant, but when a $750,000 matter hangs in the balance, managing egos, bullshit, attitude and frustration -- both on the part of my client(s) and the City Agency with whom we met -- is not easy. The meeting, however, went really well, and I breathed a virtual sigh of relief once I managed to head out and back to the train to return to the office.

Before I left, I arranged a meeting for the end of November with another guy in a different department but whose involvement would be equally significant to another matter on which I've been working.

Incidentally, I discuss pretty much everything that happens during working hours with Kaia, and she and I both have noticed that most of my day consists of me balancing, massaging and appeasing -- and of course, solving problems -- for people that seem bent on giving me headaches. Today, however, despite the chance for failure, was a resounding success.

I wrapped my work day and got home; there was a lot to be done once I arrived. First, a friend and I have been planning a party for this weekend in midtown. Since he's been largely out of touch -- his PC is DOA, he is out of touch at work, and his phone isn't functioning -- it's largely fallen on me to juggle the 150 party guests, the venue, the music (more on that later) and the various other vagaries that come with the title of Party Planner. People need info on where the party is, where the nearest trains are, how to get there from the East Side, from the West Side, from downtown, from across town, and from the airport. They need hotel info, good ideas for restaurants nearby, ticketing info, questions regarding people they want to bring, and the ever-popular questions about "what should I wear," "what should I bring," "how much should I bring" and "is Some Random Person going to be there?"

This time, however, the questions have been limited, easily-handled, and each and every time someone hits me with a request -- "Boogie, can you tell me the closest drugstore near the place in case I need to buy more condoms" -- it's not as irritating as it has been in the past. Either I'm getting better at this party-planning thing -- or the crowd we're in the process of assembling is getting better at trusting us with throwin' a bitchin', burn-the-house-down kinda shindig.

Which leads me to my next topic du jour.

Despite the fact part of the venue we've hired includes the services of their in-house DJ, since I don't know him/her and I get tired of the same party/club house music, I opted to throw together a disc or two of my own stuff. I don't particularly dig club tunes, but I figured I would prefer to have a say as to what I was listening -- at high volume -- at my own party. So I sat down with Nero Soundtrax -- an incredibly powerful, incredibly simple music processing/mix application, and got started. Six 80-minute cd's later, I've finally achieved nirvana. I threw together two chock-full discs of loud, party rock -- stuff that makes parents cringe, clergymen cry and young, nubile teens writhe and squeal. On top of that, I tossed up two more full discs of lounge tunes, which are an updated version of 80's-era-Sonny Crocket cool. And finally, two full discs of bouncy, mindless club tunes that blend and bleed into each other and are guaranteed to serve as 160 minutes of virtual, musical sex-olympics -- sort of. Kaia kicked in a lot of assistance from start to finish, and I ran everything I included by her, for the most part, since she's into pop stuff far more than me. I'm really pleased with the outcome, and while the final verdict will be the on-site reaction by the party crowd, I'm anything but concerned that the reception for this stuff will be overwhelmingly positive. Plus, I made sure to include some snide commentary in the form of Pink's "U + Ur Hand" buried somewhere among the tunes :)

So finally, after getting all six discs burned, labeled and sleeved, I called my contact at the club to check in. After all, despite having my name on a signed contract, the party is Saturday and I wanted to insure everything was set to go. It is. I also verified we can bring a sheet-cake in for my co-host's birthday. We can. And finally, I made sure we can bring and have the DJ spin the discs I produced. We can.

All in all, not the smoothest of days, but then again, I'm looking forward to hangin' with friends, meeting new ones, and surviving another maniacal party weekend.

The only negative is that Kaia won't be here -- but that means I'll be able to focus on making sure everyone has a blast without feeling guilty -- or crappy -- if I'm not spending my time strictly with her.

Plus, she'll be here in a week or two, so I'll be able to show her the pictures, regale her with stories of the Latest Party, and we can enjoy the music on our own -- in private (wink wink) :)

I'll make sure I swing by here prior to the gig happening, and for those of you planning on being in attendance, it is indeed BYOC ;)

More later...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Best Policy: Honesty or Silence

There is usually good reason for one to speak his or her mind, and on some level, unless doing so overtly injures another person without any otherwise recalcitrant benefit, there is very little that should prevent one from freely expressing his or her views. Legitimate personal freedoms aside, shouting fire in a crowded theater is one of several examples where the unchecked use of free speech has questionable, if not negative, implications.

Which brings us to today's story, that of Sheikh Taj el-Din al-Hilali, Australia's top Muslim cleric. Apparently, Hilali was speaking publicly -- that is, to or in front of individuals not simply limited to his followers and supporters, and shared his observations regarding how women dress in modern society. Apparently, Hilali indicated that women who do not wear a "hijab" (headscarf) are inviting sexual assault.

He continued by suggesting the "uncovered meat" is the problem. "If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab [headscarf], no problem would have occurred."

Many of you who have visited these pages before know that is not the full extent of my interest in this story. Certainly, Hilali -- like many of his fellow Muslim clerics -- manages to confound those of us with even a modicum of intelligence with his stupid, backward, ridiculous comments. He further elaborated on his point of view, which, in hindsight, is akin to what a friend of mine refers to as "polishing a turd." In his sermon, Hilali elaborated, "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside... and the cats come and eat it... whose fault is it, the cats' or the uncovered meat?"

Ignoring the overwhelming stupidity and the misogynistic aspects of this particularly disturbing reasoning, when the sermon was subsequently published and the public clamored for his removal, he apologized and stated his comments were misinterpreted and/or taken out of context, which is a fairly common excuse for post-partem stupidity. He also indicated "I had only intended to protect women's honour." Of course, he made no mention of how restricting women to wearing certain types of clothing and to staying behind closed doors whenever possible protects their honor. His apology, which seemed far from contrite, featured this particular nugget of wisdom: "Women in our Australian society have the freedom and the right to dress as they choose." Of course this seems in direct opposition to his backward notion of protecting womens' honor in the first place.

The short-term fallout from the controversy was that Hilali's apology was accepted by his Muslim colleagues, and his punishment was being barred from preaching for a period of three months. Australian Prime Minister John Howard, as well as others in the non-Muslim public, responded negatively, suggesting this punishment was not sufficient. Howard, specifically, mentioned that without further action against Hilali, he felt this incident might irreparably harm Islamic relations with the mainstream public. Personally, I think the cat was let out of the bag long ago with respect to that problem.

In case it was not, however, Hilali was subsequently interviewed once the three-month suspension was announced, and when he was asked, in the face of public anger towards his comments, he would consider resigning, he responded "After we clean the world of the White House first."

In case there is any question about that comment being taken out of context, he called the 9/11 attacks "God's work against oppressors."

So that should alleviate any confusion about Hilali's actual beliefs, whether or not a microphone is anywhere nearby when he preaches, answers a reporter's question, or protects womens' honor.

I think it's fairly clear, in this particular instance, that repairing the relationship between Muslims like Hilali and the mainstream public is a non-issue. Hilali and people who share his beliefs obviously have no interest or use for the mainstream public; in fact, based on his reference to the 9/11 attacks, it's fairly clear he despises the mainstream public as much, if not moreso, than he despises women who exercise freedom to dress, think or behave differently than he believes they should.

It seems to me that the Australian public -- politely or otherwise -- should not be considering how to repair the breech created by this imbecile's comments. I think the Australian public should find a way to return him to a nation or region where people agree with his bile.

Back to the question of freedom -- not only that of women to dress, think and go where they please -- but that of speech. Supposing Hilali was a citizen of this country and made these particular statements; how would deporting him fit in with our notion of freedom of speech?

Certainly, Hilali's beliefs -- and the public speech which is protected by the Constitution -- are diametrically opposed to mine. However, I am more committed to permitting a biased, backward piece of shit like him his comments than I am to overriding the tenets on which our government and our freedoms were based. That is to say, I have more respect for the Constitution than I do derision for Hilali and people who share his views.

However, part of the unique and incredible perspective this particular scenario offers is this: presuming Hilali were a US citizen, all one would have to do is to publicly question whether he advocates the destruction of the current form of US government. Hilali -- in all his adherence to values and morals which were en vogue a millenium past -- will obviously commit himself to the destruction of an oppressive regime. And could then be forced to leave this nation.

The purpose of the above-described scenario wasn't my hypothetical attempt to deport those whose thoughts don't conform with mine; the point was instead to demonstrate that our government was formed with the pre-knowledge that factions -- ie groups whose interests frequently opposed one another's -- would emerge, and the only path to progress was by compromise. Clearly, people whose beliefs are so backward and varied from modern belief -- like Hilali -- cannot and should not exist in a society where acceptance and mutual respect are cornerstones of membership therein.

Put another way, I am thankful that people like Hilali are so removed from modern thought and belief that they are unable to edit their beliefs and conform, or at least compromise, with modern society; people like Hilali are as dedicated and backward, in my opinion, as were the people who clamored to permit Terri Schiavo to remain on life support indefinitely. Rather than listen to reason, they resist, point, observe, and admit their beliefs without hesitation. And by doing so, they make clear their unwillingness to compromise, rather to take some in an effort to move forward.

And if nothing else, it must be reassuring to Mel Gibson that an Australian making stupid, loaded, biased, misrepresented, out-of-context comments has occupied the news without his name being mentioned.