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.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Now Leaving The Bermuda Triangle

My apologies for the sudden and seemingly-neverending evaporation of this space yesterday. I got a pile of e-mail asking me if I'd relocated the site, taken it down and headed out to Tazmania, or, worse, taken ill by eating far too much ecoli-tainted spinach souffle.

Fortunately, none of those things has occurred -- yet. I don't eat spinach souffle -- it's not tasty enough to risk a long, painful, drawn-out death, like that derived from enjoying the tainted, dangerous delicacy that is blowfish. As for Tazmania, I haven't received the brochures from my travel agent, though I doubt I'd enjoy it there anyway; they have strange electrical outlets, far too few Starbucks and hordes of little creatures which everywhere around the world are referred to as Tazmanian devils (though interestingly enough, in Tazmania, they call them Sharptons).

As for relocating the site, that will soon happen. I've got the new digs being prepped as we speak, and once the relocation occurs, it will require one short click (and some reshuffling of your bookmarks, favorites or that little list of your favorite internet sites you keep magnetically affixed to your refrigerator) before you arrive at the new destination.

But until that day happens, the move is merely in the works. Yesterday's site absence, apparently, was the host's growing pains; there was some sort of intended outage -- a pleasant way of saying "the shit's hitting the fan at some point soon and we're letting you know ahead of time since we know it's going to happen" as opposed to one of those sudden screw-ups akin to the oxygen masks dropping from their overhead hiding places onto unsuspecting coach passengers.

On top of the disappearing act, it appears that the draft, rather than the final (not quite ready-for-publication) version, of my last post hit the virtual shelves. So if you managed to survive it once and enjoy sado-masochistic behavior, go back and re-read it in its shiny, intended glory. If you're one of those people that doesn't take pleasure in sniffing spoiled milk, don't bother.

In either case, I apologize for what amounts to a speed bump and suggest that if and when these things are within my control I'll make sure they don't perpetuate, and for those of you who have no clue to what I'm referring (or simply are here to more effectively learn English), read on.

Either way, thank you.

- The Management -

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Political Sleight of Hand

In this "post-9/11" world, terrorists are indeed plotting to destroy the US and the Middle East is filled with people thinking up ways to destroy Israel and any and all Jews that walk the Earth. Having said that, the fact is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. There's little, if any, disparity between today's quasi-nuclear post Cold War fear of Islamic extemism than there was, say, in the early 1980's when a different yet equally facsist, ultra-nationalistic religious whacko headed Iran. Suicide bombers marched with hoods and suicide belts, brandishing AK-47's and rocket and missile launchers and chanted and prayed for the destruction of the US and Israel -- just as they do now, only then they didn't have internet access, broadcast capabilities and cheap, Japanese- and Korean-made vid-cams with which to do so.

The same thing is happening today, and the only difference is that instead of the potential to obtain high-end explosives like C-4 and Semtex, terrorists may one day obtain and use nuclear-based weapons. True, that's a big if, but the bottom line, whether we like it or not, is that as technology improves, that improvement benefits those who wish to kill on a mass scale as much as, if not moreso, those intent on preventing that from happening.

So each and every time I encounter that "post 9/11 world" phrase, I bristle on some subconscious level, if only because it suggests that the world, on that day, suddenly became aware of the capabilities and the extreme fervor spouting from that part of the world. On some level, I believe many in the West use the post 9/11 tag to describe a much more dangerous world; as I indicated above, I think that depiction, and that assumption, is foolish and incorrect. The world has always been dangerous, at least as long as there have been armies of brainwashed, uneducated, religious zealot low-life peasants pledging to die so they can achieve martyrdom and win their families the equivalent of $10,000 in post-martyr reward. In truth, those who describe our world in post-9/11 terminology to suggest merely that we now have witnessed a major attack on Western soil are probably a lot closer to getting it right.

The truth is, neither is really accurate in any particular sense; 9/11, to many, marked the change from ignoring the mission of Islamic extremists, regarding it as something to be concerned about only in terms of Europe or the Middle East. And of course, 9/11 demonstrated that that misplaced, distant worry should be amped up somewhat, if not a lot. So on some level, that term has some relevance. But mainly, when I hear some ultra-coiffed, empty-headed newscaster toss that term into the mix with as much alacrity and thought as a story about the extreme weather in North Dakota, it makes me wonder whether there is someone running the show -- whether at CNN, Fox News, or The White House -- whose sole job it is to keep America pacified and content rather than edgy, concerned, thoughtful and involved. The 9/11 stories we seem to hear most about focus either on Ground Zero and Larry Silverstein and the other major players in the redevelopment of the location or about the Bush Administration's failure to bury the constantly-spawning insurgency that claims more and more soldiers' lives each day. Rarely do they meaningfully explore what needs to be done to prevent attacks of equal or greater severity from happening again. Granted, a lot of that stuff remains behind closed doors, and it should; however, if guys like Thomas Friedman can narrow it down in two columns of text on a page in The New York Times with regularity, you'd think someone from ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN or Fox would get the hint. Disposable, sensational, ineffective, and moronic journalism have as much use as toilet tissue manufactured from sandpaper, and -- in my opinion, at least -- are less desireable.

Basically, it comes down to this: we ignore what's happening behind the closed doors in Iran, Syria, and even parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. We focus on the daily body count of American soldiers killed the prior day or the prior week, or we focus on something stupid uttered by George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld or one of their missives. We lament the nation's CEO, bemoan the absence of Dick Cheney (or question it), and we bitch and moan and point our fingers at what's on our plate rather than question what's being left off it.

Until we acknowledge and change the fact that we're looking under the wrong shell for the pea, so to speak, this behavior -- and the behavior of those far beyond our borders -- will continue. As long as we repeat the same patterns, we can't pretend to not understand why others in this "post-9/11" world are doing the same.
"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government."
- Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Piling On

Coming into this weekend, I had a variety of minor projects, goals, to-do items and things to keep in mind. With the weekend winding down, I've gotten a bunch of them finished, despite my inherent, weather-inspired laziness.

Aside from meeting a friend last night for drinks at a bar on the East Side, I essentially did a lot around the house: cleaning and cleaning up; taking out garbage; laundry; packing up CD's that are now safely ensconced in both my PC's storage and on my iPod; doing a sink's worth of dishes; electronically, via the Internet, renewing a prescription; and, most importantly, insuring my Fantasy Football picks were in (along with the Fantasy Hockey picks) prior to the start of football (and hockey) this weekend.

Notice I didn't mention the World Series -- that omission was purely intentional, as I'd rather watch ESPN 8 ("The Ocho") than watch the Cardinals/Tigers play. In fact, I spoke to a friend in Miami and he asked me if I was going to watch; my response was that, once the Yankees were/are eliminated, all remaining games -- playoffs, World Series, etc. -- are akin to spring training games. And no self-respecting baseball fan gives a shit about spring training games. It's like watching a late-night rerun of the next-to-last episode of Cheers. No suspense, no significance, no point.

I've still got a few items left on my checklist, but before readership herein sinks to match the boredom of my weekend, I'll spare the remaining details. Suffice nothing much of excitement is happening, other than Kaia and I spending time on the phone, guessing hummed TV theme songs, reminiscing about the past and the future, and fighting to stay awake.

Other than that, I'm counting the days until an upcoming party happens. It's scheduled for 11/4 in midtown, and a friend and I have been co-planning it. We figure somewhere around 100-125 people will swing by, and other than burning a bunch of mixes -- rock, lounge, dance, etc. -- all the planning the party requires is making sure everyone knows where, how, how much and when to be there. When necessary, I send out more evites, check in with people and answer the random question via e-mail or instant message. As far as the party goes, I'm really looking forward to it; we're not sure if Kaia will be in town or not, but we're hopeful that her schedule changes and she's able to make it. I've been so preoccupied I haven't done much checking in with many of the people that will be at the party, but I'm guessing as the date approaches, as it continues to do, I'll be increasingly excited about it. About the only thing that, for me, will make it perfect, is if Kaia's in town and there with me. Alas, we shall see.

I've still got a few small piles of CD's and DVD's floating around, so I'm going to return to getting them organized and boxed up in anticipation of getting my place in order and making it easier to move when the time comes. More on that later.

Finally, I forgot to mention a double birthday party I attended last weekend. My friends Linny and Dave (the same Dave who I mentioned in the last post in connection with Tony Bourdain) each had birthdays so a mutual friend decided to throw a mini-surprise party. It was a smallish group that assembled at Kanvas downtown on the West Side; but despite the small size, it was great -- everyone seemed to have fun, and it was definitely a lot of fun. It was called for 7:30 -- I know, very early for a Saturday night party -- but we didn't end up getting there until after 8. Turns out I had been doing work late Saturday afternoon and was wearing a hat, and apparently -- much to my surprise -- the hat left a nice, fat red ring across my forehead. So as I came out of the shower and spied the newly-acquired forehead graffiti, I frantically tried to rub it until it disappeared. As they say in non-gambling localities, no dice. So after 15 minutes of failed attempts at removing the offending line, I gave up, got dressed and grabbed a cab to meet Lisa (of LisaB in Da City fame) and we headed down. I apologized for running so late, and she graciously understood my predicament. By the time we made it downtown, and I had explained the situation to most, if not all, of the attendees, every one of them told me -- either truthfully or generously -- that the line was gone. Unfortunately, in my frantic rush to remove the line and to head out on time, I forgot to bring my camera, so my friends' inability to see the line was not documented, but, unfortunately, neither was the party. In either case, a (belated) happy birthday to you both!

More to come.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Best Two Minutes of Today

It started out as one of those days where I was the bug, not the windshield: a lot happening, most of it at fever pitch, and me, feeling like a pinball under a thin sheet of glass, ping-ponging fearlessly at high speeds between noisy, unflinching bumpers.

Of course, the above generally describes most of my days. But that’s hardly relevant.

In addition to the mental stress of an office deadline on the 24th, I had phone calls to place, a conference call to set up, a client in Tokyo awaiting word – along with a small committee of spectators on the related e-mail recipient list – of how we (rather, I) were next going to proceed in resolving a $3 million exemption deal; on top of that, I had to go downtown for an impromptu, emergency meeting with an inspector, his boss and a set of blueprints.

And it was raining, dammit.

So I left my office with paperwork for my meeting as well as some stuff for other Applications I planned on clocking in once I landed downtown. Since I was down to three dollars, I stopped quickly at the bank en route to Columbus Circle, which is the station from which I typically head down. I grabbed some money and hit the street towards the Time Warner Center. As I’m walking near the structure – referring to it as huge is an equal understatement to saying Paris Hilton isn’t very smart – I get a phone call from a client asking if I’ve heard one way or the other about the Fedex in connection with the aforementioned exemption deal. We talk for about thirty seconds before I advise him I’ll call him when I have info and make my way to the train and thereafter we exchange quick pleasantries and hang up. I pocket my phone and look up and the next thing I see is Anthony Bourdain strolling sorta-kinda toward/past me.

Without going into too much detail, those of you who have been here awhile know I have immense regard for Mr. Bourdain’s writing. His job title, of course, is Executive Chef at Les Halles in NYC, and he is for sure one of my favorite chefs, "celebrity" chef or otherwise. However, a burger’s a burger and a steak’s a steak. I’m far more impressed with what he’s written than his cooking, and his cooking is – admittedly – amazing. However, with respect to his writing, it’s something about his style – a combination of irreverence, self-confidence, self-effacing honesty and genuine respect for his peers and his profession (both, actually) – not to mention his ability to transform “food” into cuisine and a meal into an experience – that leads me to respect the guy.

Don’t get me wrong; if I spied Jimmy Page or Eric Clapton strolling by on some random afternoon, I’d nearly piss myself just for the opportunity to stammer their praises before they walked past me thinking I was mentally ill. I’ve had the chance to hang out with several of my “idols” – Robert Plant and Billy Joel, specifically – and while I was a bit star-struck in the presence of the former (backstage at the Meadowlands Arena after a concert on the "Manic Nirvana" tour), I wound up jamming with the latter and gave him shit (though not too-too much) when he picked up my Strat without permission.

Back to the present. So there I am – in the cool, misty late-morning outside the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle – when Tony, aka Mr. Bourdain, walks by. I say “Excuse me” in his general direction, not wanting him to think I’ve got a 9mm and a grudge. He turns and looks in my direction and I quickly force out “Mr. Bourdain?” Much to my surprise, he actually stops walking rather than simply waving and keeping on schedule. He might not have needed to be anywhere at that particular minute, but odds are good he might have had a meeting, an appointment or simply something more interesting to do than speak to some dude on the street. In either case, he stopped, I asked him a couple brief questions, let him know how much I respected and admired his work, and then quickly mentioned Les Halles. A friend of mine, Dave, and I were talking about meeting at Les Halles downtown (there’s two, one of which is on Park Avenue South in the 20’s, the other of which – the downtown version – is on John Street off Broadway), and I advised Tony I thought Les Halles on Park Avenue South was great and asked him if the John Street version was as good. I won’t reveal his answer but it was truthful, honest and he smiled at me as he said it. I thanked him and told him it was good to meet him; he thanked me, waved and went on about his journey.

As I went on about my day, I considered the number of “famous people” who I one day would really like to meet – not merely for a “wow, I saw Gallagher buying a hot dog on the street!” moment – to actually express how much I respect him or her and how he or she has been a major and/or positive influence on me. I’ve never really constructed that list, but I do know that if/when I did/do, Tony Bourdain would be on it, so I happily can check that off on my life’s Ultimate To-Do List. If I get the opportunity to meet him again, of course, I won’t complain; but I am glad I managed to let him know I’m a big fan of his, and more importantly, I can happily report that he seemed as down to earth, mellow and cool as he does in front of the camera, albeit a bit more reserved and somewhat more guarded.

It’s ironic, of course, that once he’d headed down the street (and I had sent Kaia a txt message advising her "I just met Tony Bourdain!!!"), the next song, once I fired up my iPod's random playlist, was “Limelight” by Rush.

It was a good day.

Monday, October 16, 2006

RIP CBGB & OMFUG 1973 - 2006

RIP CBGB & OMFUG 1973 - 2006

A victim of gentrification, yuppies, corporate sponsorship, MTV and beer/soda ads.

CB's was the only "gig" my band ever played; it was in late July of 1997 and we got an invite for an open-mic night sort of thing and we ended up playing three songs: "Train Kept A'Rollin'" by The Yardbirds, "Rock and Roll All Nite" by Kiss, and Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll." Immediately after we literally jumped off the stage before we got hit by any flying beer, sweat, or urine. It was hot, stuffy, cramped and uncomfortable, and we loved every minute of it. We made it, and we never looked back. It was our first and only gig other than parties, rehearsal space or loaned/gifted studio time. And it was great. Somewhere in there, our signatures are on the backstage wall, the same wall that has overseen The Ramones, Talking Heads, and countless other long-since-retired members of the former rock and roll community.

Little Steven (aka Steven Van Zandt) perhaps said it best: "New York City and rock 'n' roll in general will never recover from losing this place."


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I'm Going to Hell

This afternoon, about 3:15, began a very strange four-hour period for me. I was out getting lunch as the news began getting out about the small, single-engine plane that struck and set on fire an apartment building on New York's Upper East Side. Since I live near where the accident happened, I began receiving worried calls from friends and since there was so little info out there, everyone was calling me with differing details.

So, essentially, I got about 20 or 25 phone calls, all piggy-backed one after another, to the point that I couldn't hang up with any one person because each call was interrupted by another via the magic that is call-waiting. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not complaining that my friends care enough about me to make sure I was okay -- it was just very surreal. Every third person on the street was on a cell-phone talking about the "helicopter" -- most people seemed jittery, and with good reason -- although it was going through my head that if anyone wanted to make a real splash, they would have parked the aircraft -- helicopter, plane, whatever -- in the middle of Times Square. So I assumed this was the result of an accident.

Anyway, I was knee-deep in work upon my return to the office when I got an e-mail from CNN Update. It essentially said that Joe Torre said the plane that crashed into a building in Manhattan is registered to team pitcher Cory Lidle. And me, in my quasi-cloudy, yawning state of mind, thought "Why would Cory Lidle lend his plane out to someone that crashed it into a building?" And then it dawned on me. Cory was the guy drivin' the bus, so to speak.

By now, most of you have gotten the scoop on Lidle's background and what apparently happened with the plane. His biography, his family history, and the last public statement he gave prior to leaving Yankee Stadium will have been splashed across every New York-centric newspaper and website on the planet.

And yet, once I realized he had died in the crash, my first reaction was "Wow, now the Yankees really need pitching."

As I said, I'm definitely going to hell.

The Journey of 1,000 Steps Begins...

With a first step. North Korea tested its first nuclear weapons-grade device.

Granted, the test -- of what the North Koreans advised China was a 4-megaton device -- failed miserably, yielding about 25% of the force a 4-megaton device should capably provide.

But we're not talking about an air conditioner, a vcr, or even a car engine; talking in degrees of output in a nuclear weapon is akin to describing a new handgun's output being capable of only going through 12 inches of steel instead of 18. Any time we're talking degress of nuclear yield, we should expect to hear the experts toss about terms like collateral damage, limited civilian casualties, contaminated area, number of affected blocks, size of nuclear cloud -- and that doesn't even begin to address the US response to a "minimal" or "containable" weapon sponsored by a nuclear North Korea on an American city.

I'm the last person who should be counted among the "Sky is Falling" crowd. I'm not nervous about this latest escalation in the nuclear war of words between North Korea and the West, or as North Korea sees it, the People's Glorious Democratic Republic of North Korea and the United States. There are some reasons for concern, however, and I'd have my head buried in the sand if I even suggested otherwise.

Back when I was a wee college student whose mind was shaped by underpaid, badly-dressed, liberal-minded thinkers we call professors, I gleaned -- both from these individuals and the texts by which they verified their teachings -- that the Cold War, ie the build-up of weapons between the US and the then-Soviet Union -- was an example of nuclear proliferation. That is to say, the more nukes on the planet -- whether they sported stars and stripes or a hammer and sicle -- was a bad thing because eventually, someone might get around to putting some, if not all of them, to use.

Problem is, as much as I agree in theory that the more nukes, the not better, the issue wasn't so much the quantity of nukes but the question of how many buttons, and under whose control, were those nukes. Were those nukes in the hands of old men who basically wanted a bigger, badder Lincoln than their next-door neighbor, and did these old men actually intend to ever use them? The answers to those questions are readily, and obviously, apparent. Neither the US nor Russian side, aside from a little episode known as The Cuban Missile Crisis, really intended to actually use their nukes. I actually presented a paper some time back at the US Naval Academy called "Power As Its Own Deterrent" about the notion that despite the huge build-up, these weapons, and the finality thereof, basically insured that any sane person who had said weapons at his/her disposal would never use them and, therefore, a non-violent solution would eventually be realized. In the case of the Cold War, I, luckily, guessed right. Now, however, with Kim Jong Il scooting about his Republic with a reduced-output weapon, therein lies the rub.

The one caveat to any discussion about nuclear proliferation, and the control and limit thereof, is the notion that whoever is controlling these weapons is sane. There's no way to know if Kim Jong Il is quite all there, and sometimes it's more unlikely than likely he's playing with a full deck.

For argument's sake, however, let's assume Kim is not nuttier than a hooker standing naked in Red Square in the middle of winter. Let's assume his problem is that he wants desperately to be recognized and respected on the world stage. Firing up a nuclear weapon -- whether in an underground test or somewhere a few miles from Japan's border -- is one way of getting him a seat at the adults' table, across from the US. "So, Mr. President, you won't give us subsidies and allow me to appease my people with food, heating oil and Levi's jeans -- I'll build a nuke with technology I bought off some Pakistani nuclear engineer and then you won't be able to ignore me or keep me at bay like some petulant child."

Put in a slightly different manner, Kim Jong Il having at his disposal a nuclear device that could hit Japan, if not the US, is akin to a 15-year-old kid in the inner city realizing the power he wields when he, one day, buys a gun and brings it to school. Suddenly, when you have your finger on the trigger, people -- or nations -- perceive you in a slightly different manner.

To wit -- and this is where I lead you, dear reader -- the real concern today is not North Korea. Despite the fact that any nuclear device, no matter the yield, is a legitimate concern, North Korea is at least a decade away from being able to put that power -- again, no matter the yield -- into practical use. Granted, whether a North Korea-manufactured nuclear weapon could destroy three square blocks of midtown Manhattan and all its occupants or thirty, the concept is still troubling. But I'm withholding my concern regarding North Korea, at this point, anyway, because I remember the Hyundai Excel automobile. It was a $4,995 cavalcade of substandard parts, plastic, metal, and glass. It was a piece of shit. It ran, it was sufficient to be used for brief transportation, and it worked. But not efficiently, and not effectively, and certainly not over a long-term period. I also remember a company called Goldstar. Goldstar manufactured TV's, VCR's, toaster ovens, computer parts, tape decks, etc. -- and all of the stuff rolling off the Goldstar factory in South Korea was crap. It looked, smelled and sounded a lot like its Japanese counterpart items -- stuff made by Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba and later Aiwa -- but it was crap, through and through. Hence why Goldstar is out of business. Or are they? Actually, they are now Samsung. Samsung, today, makes some of the best, most respected, highly sought-after electronic stuff on the market.

The point is: the Koreans, whether they reside above or below the 38th parallel, are quick learners. But for the time being, we have time.

Meanwhile, the real concern is Kim's apparent heir in the "New Kid On The Nuclear Block" succession: namely, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Iran and its "Supreme Leader" (think this guy's got a small-dick complex or what?) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are now ploughing straight ahead into the "we've got nukes" club as well. The combined governments of the Middle East have failed to complete or succeed in anything without Western assistance for the past century; let's face it, they've wanted to obliterate Israel (Ahmadinejad specifically) for 50+ years and they haven't managed to do so. So why would anyone worry about what a bunch of backward-thinking imbeciles want with a nuke?

Specifically, the Arab governments might be dumb, but they're not stupid. If left unchecked, Iran will eventually achieve devices with nuclear yield; they may very well be able to one day produce a missile that could reach Israel. And since Mr. Ahmadinejad has indicated that destroying Israel is one of his goals, our concern over his threat is and should be immediate. The difference, however, between North Korea's recent nuclear test and the rhetoric coming from Tehran is this: if Kim Jong Il might be a little insane, then Ahmadinejad is a fucking lunatic.

The simple, if one can categorize this as such, solution to the problem is to destroy Iran's nuclear factory. Sure, it will inflame Iranian opinion against America and Israel and will further heighten Arab distrust in general of the West. However, considering the recent outcry against the Pope -- the POPE! -- due to some quasi-unflattering material he quoted -- QUOTED -- it seems to me that worrying about Muslim distrust and/or hatred of America and Israel isn't something we really need to worry about. It's there, it will always be there, and as long as we -- Americans, Israelis, Jews, what have you -- are still breathing, there will always be a fire burning in the hearts of every radical Muslim dumb enough to heed the call for Jihad, so long as that call involves them blowing themselves up in honor of Mohammad the Prophet and to get those 50 virgins once they die (despite the fact that their sexual pleasures while on Earth were confined to camels and goats). No, my main concern isn't North Korea's test, but Iran's path; allowing a country that advocates the destruction of another country -- publicly -- and whose nation has consistently lied, sponsored terrorism, suicide bombings and overtly flaunted its disregard for the world community as a whole, is not a nation with which should be allowed to wield nuclear weapons.

Again, to return to my college days, I once asked a professor, foolishly, why the US doles out so much in aid to Russia and other nations, when it barely bothers to look after its own poor, homeless and starving people. My professor replied, dryly: "The US government doesn't have to worry about half of the population of the Midwest starving, rallying, and overtaking nuclear silos in the middle of nowhere and holding hostage nuclear weapons. The Russian government faces that possibility every day. So we send the Russian government money and food to insure their population is content and doesn't feel the need to go hunting for misplaced or unguarded nuclear weapons."

Makes sense.

Problem is, the Iranian government makes it a habit to rile its people up, starve them, treat them like shit, and then point their fingers at the Israelis and the Americans and convince them that we're to blame, and that they should blow themselves up to kill as many of us as possible.

That doesn't sound very sane to me. And that's not the kind of entity that should be permitted to possess nuclear weapons.

Kim Jong Il just wants a seat at the Adults Table.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the rest of the government in Iran, and their successors, don't much care about the Adults Table.

They just want to blow it up.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Inner Emptiness

Somewhere above Manhattan, somewhere near Yankee Stadium, there is a collection of long since gone former Yankees floating around the ether and bemoaning the current state (of disarray) of the 2006 Yankees.

By now, everyone on the planet -- or at least those who would manage to find their way here -- know the Yankees were unceremoniously bounced from the 2006 playoffs by the Detroit Tigers. Everyone, of course, knows the Yankees won the first game before surrendering the next three with little or no resistance. And everyone knows, of course, these Yankees were not only the best team in baseball, not only the favorite to win this year's World Series, but were regarded as possessing the best offensive lineup in the history of the game. Ever.

Well, now that that's all been said, it all means nothing. Because the games are played under the lights on grass, not in front of computers on paper and electrons. The Yankees, when push came to shove, didn't push and instead were shoved aside.

Subsequently, the disarray has returned. The sick, worrisome cloud that has plagued this team's post-season performance (or lack thereof) since 2000 has yet again taken up residence above Yankee Stadium. Pathetic, silly losses to the Florida Marlins in the World Series; ALDS exits to the Anaheim Angels and ALCS chokes to the Boston Red Sox -- all a part of the club's recent history. Thing is, the franchise has the players -- for the most part -- to not only compete, but exceed. So why are high-end players like Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield not getting it done? And why is Joe Torre, a guy who has managed the team (both on- and off the field) to success suddenly been put on the firing line and rumored to be about to lose his job?

The short and long, of course, is that reputations, salaries and expectations are one thing; success -- or failure -- is a part of the game. These days, the Yankees embody the former, until it's time for the postseason, at which time they magically manage to embody the latter. Should Joe Torre be fired? No way. Should the Yankees have cleaned out their lockers today? And should there have been a dozen -- literally -- fans waiting to greet them upon their return home from Detroit? Nope.

The end result, and where we go from here, is to a new season. Granted, most of you reading this have either already clicked over to Gawker or to something far more interesting; however, for those of you who understand the loss the Yankees endured, and why we lifelong Yankee fans have taken this loss even harder than all those in recent history (minus the choke that allowed the Red Sox to break the curse), is that the team has somehow lost its direction, and when an entity like the Yankees loses its course, people who worship the Yankees and anchor their sports-related hopes and dreams thereon lose their course. Now I'm not about to jump off a bridge anytime soon; but seeing the Yankees soar so high, and then fall so low, is indeed depressing and sad.

I hope Joe Torre doesn't lose his job, and I do hope the Yankees can trade Alex Rodriguez somewhere where his inability to be a reliable guy like Derek Jeter is a non-issue. In return, I hope the Yankees get a few players who actually get off playing baseball in lieu of doing same simply because they excel at doing so. And I hope this team finds its course -- soon.

"Wait 'til next year!"

Friday, October 06, 2006

A Belly-Laugh and A Head-Shake

A friend who shall, at said friend's request, remain nameless, sent me the following link. The link details the story of a Utah couple, Julianna and Perry (I know, lame names), who intended to get married. Apparently, however, Julianna's parents (Lemuel and Julia Redd), who had already tried to dissuade her from going through with the marriage, invited her on a shopping trip the night before the wedding.

Except the trip wasn't a shopping trip but instead their way of kidnapping their daughter so she would miss the pre-wedding dinner with the groom's parents as well as the wedding itself the next day.

Sure enough, she missed the wedding -- but upon returning back to Utah -- she had her parents charged with kidnapping and went through with the wedding anyway.

The story in and of itself is a classic, but the reason why this entertained me so -- those of you who have been among the original faithfuls know from where I'm coming -- is, as I read, I had wished my ex's parents had done the same thing, only with a slight difference; instead of returning "home with their daughter when she promised her parents that she would not call the groom," I wished they would have kidnapped her and driven to South America and stayed there -- permanently.

If nothing else, this story is worth a chuckle -- and shall be the inspiration for every guy who wished his (future) in-laws were even more freakish and psychotic than they actually turned out to be -- even if that didn't seem possible.

And moreover, at least I have now encountered a pre-wedding-related tale even more ridiculous and pathetic than mine, and that, thus far, has been a pretty tall order :)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Playboy Combat Front, Part II

Some time ago -- specifically, on January 13, 2005 -- I came across and discussed in these pages a girl-fight between Carmella DeCesare and a former girlfriend of her then-boyfriend, Jeff Garcia, who happens to be a quarterback who plays for the Cleveland Browns.

Not to be outdone, there's more news on the Playmate Combat Front -- this time, however, it involves Shanna Moakler, Travis Barker, drummer for Blink-182, and none other than The Brilliant One, Paris Hilton.

Apparently, Ms. Moakler, pictured at right, was peeved that Barker filed for divorce in August, and then, a month later, was seen (and video'd) making out with "good friend" Paris Hilton. Last night, apparently, Moakler spied Paris Hilton at Hollywood's Hyde Club, and rather than civilly discussing her former husband with The Brilliant One, Ms. Moakler, according to Hilton (per this article at CNN.com), "Moakler walked up to her, 'used the most vile of language' and then punched her in her jaw."

Subsequently, according to Moakler's version per the article, "Hilton's ex-boyfriend Stavros Niarchos emerged from the entourage, bent Moakler's wrists, poured a drink on her and shoved her down some stairs."

The fall-out is that both of these nitwits filed police reports against the other, photos were taken of each of them -- theoretically documenting physical abuse inflicted on each by the other -- and, theoretically, one or both might have charges filed against the other.

Did I mention that Moakler is 31 and has two children with Mr. Barker and one with Oscar De La Hoya? Or that Paris Hilton manages to out-stupid herself with regularity?

Or that this kind of story satiates my love of stupidity and celebrity and the inexorable, intertwined marriage thereof?

Enjoy this while it lasts. I could have extolled the anticipated Yankee road to another World Series championship, but I felt you, the reader, would prefer sinking your teeth into yet another HoB-worthy story and not simply another vote of confidence for the Yankees.

This stay, however, is only temporary; I expect to return to bleeding Yankee blue within twenty-four hours.

So consider yourself warned.