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.