Monday, January 29, 2007

'Tis The Season... freeze one's ass off, buy a Vornado room-heater from Bed, Bath & Beyond, and survive the winter.

On the other hand, I've been doing lots around my place and the City, here'n'there-style. I've also been doing a lot of writing on one or two fiction (non-blog) things. A good chunk of the inspiration, aside from Kaia asking when she can finally read my stuff, is the show Futureweapons on Discovery. Hosted by former Navy SEAL Richard Machowicz, Futureweapons cutting-edge military weaponry, from grenade launchers, missile systems and advanced, semi-automatic sniper rifles to bulletproof material, infrared illumination systems and unmanned attack copters. It's a little over the top -- it's as thick with military lingo as it is plain English -- but it's mostly very entertaining and really thought-provoking. Mack, as Machowicz is known, demonstrated a multi-barrelled grenade launcher that can fire an infrared grenade that can bathe a battlefield with -- you guessed it -- infrared light. That means if one army is advancing at night -- quietly -- then one of those grenades can enable the advancing army to see -- with IR/night-vision equipment -- what's out there with the enemy not even seeing the light, so to speak. It's a lot cooler onscreen, so when/if you get a chance, look it up -- it's a pisser. It's like taking James Bond goodies and placing them in the hands of a real-world soldier to test and demonstrate, and for my money, every episode features something worthwhile (if not mind-blowing).

Beyond that, essentially, I've just been keeping my place organized for Kaia's impending return (in either February, if we have time, or mid/late March for my birthday and the upcoming party-fest in midtown. The friend with whom I'm planning/throwing the party is so busy with work he hasn't been able to see his girlfriend for about ten days, and I semi-seriously told him that's not that bad (they live 90 minutes apart). I explained that Kaia and I get to see each other every six or so weeks, and while we spend a lot of time on the phone during the day and well into the night -- usually falling asleep with one another on the phone -- I understand his frustration. It's just that I can't feel sorry for him -- being 3,000 miles away from someone whose presence you crave has essentially sapped my sympathy for anyone who can see his/her other half but doesn't. Time constraints, schedules, homework -- all that bullshit is an excuse I wish I could contemplate. I guess we'll wait until Kaia's a full-fledged New Yorker -- then I'll see, first-hand, how often I can't spend time with her or be thankful for the opportunity.

Without sounding self-indulgent, I have a feeling that, having spent the last 26 (holy shit) months only wanting to spend time with her, I'll appreciate not having to pick up the phone to whisper sweet nothings in her ear. And while I, of course, understand what my friend and others like him are going through, I guess waiting for she and I to be behind the same front door is akin to Steve Miller's ode to air travel: "You've got to go through hell before you get to heaven."

Amen, brother. Amen.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ironic, Iconic Collateral Damage

Back in 1987, an up-and-coming civil rights activist named Al Sharpton, Jr. became involved in the investigation of what happened to a 15-year-old black girl named Tawana Brawley, a woman who claimed she had been kidnapped and repeatedly raped in woods near an apartment building she lived in in the upstate New York village of Wappingers Falls. She was found bound and spaced out in a garbage bag near her former apartment building. Brawley accused up to six white men, some of whom were police officers, of kidnapping and rape, and the case went from accusation to media sensation, thanks to Al Sharpton, almost overnight.

By the time the grand jury got ahold of the case, it was clear that, despite having racial epithets scrawled in charcoal over her body, there was no real incident and that instead, Brawley had essentially made up the whole thing. The aftermath of the entire episode was she was branded a liar and Al Sharpton, after accusing several officials of being rapists and racists, went from being a promising politician to, essentially, a cartoon character.

Fast forward to 2006, Duke University. A black stripper, a student of nearby North Carolina Central University, accused three or more members of the Duke Lacrosse Team of kidnapping and raping her while performing her duties at their on-campus house. The lead prosecutor in the case, Mike Nifong, takes charge of the case and hits the media trail, announcing loudly and proudly that he'll see this to its judicial conclusion.

After presenting the unnamed student with photos of all white members of the team, she picks out three of them and their names and faces are plastered across the media, from print to internet to TV. Nifong brands them, in the media, hooligans that will get what they deserve. They receive death threats, letters of suspension from Duke and watch as the Duke Lacrosse Team first loses its coach to dismissal and its season to cancellation.

Subsequently, Nifong has DNA testing performed on the panties worn by the accuser the night of the alleged incident. However, before the lab's report is prepared, Nifong is advised, by said lab, that the panties contained DNA of three men, none of whom match the DNA of any of the players on the lacrosse team, let alone the three accused players. As a gesture towards exoneration, each member (aside from the lone black member) of the team was asked to provide DNA samples, yet when the lab did testing which should have -- on some level -- exonerated the accused, Nifong not only did not drop the charges, but hid the fact the DNA evidence disproved the woman's story.

Subsequently, the other stripper performing at the house on the night in question also testified that the accuser was not out of her sight for more than a few minutes here or there and believed her story was untrue. She also relayed other facts which did serious damage to the accuser's credibility, such as suggesting that she wanted bruises or other marks on her to somehow corroborate the false story. All of this came out during a 2006 broadcast of 60 Minutes. What also came out was that Nifong, contrary to typical procedure, never performed a proper interview of the accused, relying instead on police investigation details to formulate his case.

Several weeks ago, the accuser changed her story -- again -- suggesting that she could not be 100% sure she was raped (ie penetrated by a penis) but that she was "sexually assaulted" nonetheless. The rape charges were dropped by Nifong, but the kidnapping and assault charges remained in place.

Subsequent to her altering of her claim, the North Carolina State Bar leveled charges at Nifong, claiming that his inflammatory statements to the press against the three accused players was unethical and improper. Once it was made public that Nifong hid the lack of DNA evidence against the three accused players, the North Carolina State Bar further charged him with ethics violations for not only not availing the DNA evidence in a timely manner but by testifying in court that he had no knowledge of any evidence which would exonerate these players.

What's interesting, of course, is that no indictments were handed down when the initial report was furnished to him by the DNA lab; a week after receiving the report which showed no lacrosse player DNA present on the woman or her clothing was issued to Nifong, he still went ahead and indicted the three players who currently stand accused.

As of this writing, charges are still pending against David Evans, Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty. Despite their strong protestation of innocence, no one really knows what happened that night, except the players and the accuser and her partner. Based on the facts of what has happened since the night in question, I'm guessing that there may have been some incidental contact but nothing out of the ordinary in a situation involving a stripper and a bunch of horny guys. While the events of any typical visit to a strip club are not necessarily family-friendly, there's nothing in the ordinary course that warrants charges (criminal ones, as opposed to credit-card-based charges). As for the issue of racial epithets, I am not sure if anything shouted at these women, who are both black, exceeded the anticipated "shake that black ass, sister!" type stuff; but what I do know is that these three guys will forever be known as having been accused of rape in a national spotlight, and had Nifong not abused his position as prosecutor (in order, in theory, to increase his chances for re-election), these three guys would already have been exonerated of all charges and this would have all disappeared, for both these three and for Nifong, who is, apparently, about to be disbarred for prosecutorial misconduct and for ethics violations.

This all assumes that these three men are not guilty of rape or the other charges, which may be erroneous; but in his zeal and haste to prosecute these three guys without merit, evidence or the restraint of prosecutorial ethics, Nifong cost himself his livelihood, scarred these three guys and their futures, and the only one who likely will escape without any real harm is the anonymous accuser, who likely fabricated the entire story in the first place.

It's a scary reminder of the dangers of free speech in the wrong hands; it's not just shouting fire in a crowded theater that can damage people, and the fact is that the name Tawana Brawley will forever be a synonym for a liar, and the name Mike Nifong will forever be an example of the government going after people with little or no reason. The only irony here, of course, is that Nifong is white, while Al Sharpton is black; otherwise, the same tenets of the story, and of this problem, are the same. Wathing an episode like this one unfold every twenty or so years isn't awful, but the question isn't "what will happen to these three guys?" Certainly, we know what will happen to the stripper -- she'll remain anonymous and continue doing whatever it is she's doing. And Nifong -- we know what will happen to him.

The real question is: what would have happened if that were me, or a friend of mine? What's to stop someone who has less than honorable intent from leveling meritless, malicious accusations just for shits and giggles?

Good question.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Whole Lotta Nuffin'

How little excitement is swirling about my life these days is a matter for debate, but I can largely attest to the fact that a combination of the weather in NYC (cold and frosty, albeit with little or no snow), the heavy workload and laundry, cleaning and the myriad other errands I find myself chasing are not the stuff of edge-of-your-seat thrill-rides.

What's remote for the TV, cable box and stereo in my bedroom finally crapped out, so I replaced it with a new one from Harmony since it was on sale for a ridiculously low amount. Harmony, now owned by Logitech, makes these combo unit remotes that are able to control everything from your little TV that Aunt Mildred gave you 20 years ago up to a cutting-edge HD Theater System, all thanks to the fact that they plug into your PC and dial up a database online. What's wild is punching in the models your various stuff -- TV, stereo, cable box, DVD player, etc. -- and watching it all being assimilated into the day-to-day (or in my case, night-to-night) activities. Suffice to say that Harmony's remotes exude that cool factor, especially knowing they light up in the dark whenever you pick one up, that is necessary for any uber-geek's living quarters, even if it's for simply turning on the TV before falling asleep at night.

I also finagled myself a copy of a book by Ross Bernstein about the NHL and fighting called "The Code: The Unwritten Rules Of Fighting And Retaliation In The NHL. It's not exactly earth-shattering or a political thriller which I'm usually reading, but it's actually an interesting discussion of why keeping fighting in the NHL is a way to manage to cut down on the violence inherent in the sport of hockey. It's a conundrum similar to the theory that speed on the basepaths in baseball slows the game down. If you're a non-sports fan entirely, it's both boring AND irrelevant; but if you know anything about hockey or baseball, you'll (sort of) know what I mean.

In other news...we've finally announced (and are in the process of planning) our next big party; we've sent out about 500 evites and are expecting something in the neighborhood of 200 or so "yes" responses. That's been taking small chunks of my time here and there, but even knowing that I "have" to address one thing or another in connection with the upcoming party (March 24th in NYC, to be more specific) doesn't weigh on me like, say, cleaning the toilet. It's something akin to a labor of love, and since the majority of the invite recipients are groovy people with whom I am looking forward to partying, it's not exactly hard work. Basically, I'm counting down the hours to my birthday on St. Patrick's Day and then to the party a week later. Almost everyone has been incredibly positive and excited as well, so it's just a question of how many people manage to get into NYC from all over (we expect somewhere between 35 and 40 states of representation when all is said and done).

Otherwise, there's not much left on the agenda to discuss. I nixed the State Of The Union address last night, for several reasons, but mostly because I've accepted the fact that the country right now is rudderless. Whether or not I trust Bush/Cheney & co. to do the right or wrong thing (whether we're talking foreign policy, domestic policy, future law or even present-day legal issues), I have gotten tired of watching the President dig his way out of holes (60 Minutes,, etc.). Iraq, unfortunately, will be both his legacy and his albatross. I am not quite sure if Saddam Hussein's hanging will have made all this worth it, but I do know that every day we don't mention Iran and instead focus on partisan finger-pointing over the war in Iraq, the worse off we'll be in the near future. The only thing that eases my concern over what's going on in Iran is the fact that Israel isn't constrained by the same finger-pointing that our Congress and President seem to be. When/if Iran gets closer to possessing nuclear weapons, I'm fairly confident that Israel will find a way to make that reality a non-reality, as they have in the past. My only real concern is whether we, as a nation, will somehow interrupt or otherwise meddle in Israel taking action. For those of you who read below the top lines on the front page of newspapers, it's true the US sent another carrier group to the Gulf, and it's also true that THAD (a long-range missile destruction system akin but more advanced than the Patriot) is also rumored to be onboard. However, what Iran has been gambling on is that their anti-US rhetoric, coupled with the last four years of The Iraq Vacation Plan, will sour US interest in fighting another bunch of asswipe extremists.

On some level, I'm hopeful they're wrong; but knowing (and hearing) what I do out of this new version of Congress (perhaps the opposite of progress), this is not going to be easy, simple, quick or clean and neat.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Things Better Left Unsaid

When in the course we find ourselves, that is civilians living in modern civilization, there comes a time when we can ignore the status quo -- whether that be politics, human rights, or any other number of ills that pervade our modern world -- or we can actually focus on those things which we each, on some level, feel need to be said.

For a while now -- especially (but not simply) since 9/11, I've been, in the back of my mind, contemplating modern geopolitique. Before four planes leveled the World Trade Center, this "terrorist" problem was far from nonexistent. Having recently watched Steven Spielberg's "Munich" (an excellent re-dux of George Jonas' book "Vengeance"), I was reminded that this problem -- ie radical Muslims empowering themselves by blowing themselves up and killing everything in their paths is nothing new -- just ask the families of the Israeli athletes that were indiscriminately murdered in 1972 simply because they were representative of Israel.

So essentially, each time I come across something in this realm -- a news item, an essay, or coverage that lends credence to someone supporting al-Qaeda's brand of "Death by Islam," I don't recoil in horror or disgust; on the contrary -- if anything, I inevitably conclude "See? I knew it." Each time I come across stories, accounts and/or personal confessions of Muslims who proclaim that Islam is a peaceful religion that means no harm to anyone whose goal is to simply coexist peacefully on this planet with its non-Islamic fellow humans, I scoff. I know it's wrong, because I know plenty of Muslims who would rather shake my hand than cut it off, and I've had some intellectual discussions about what the differences between radical and modern Islam are (some within these very pages), yet I still scoff. In fact, since I'm being honest, I completely, utterly and totally find it immensely difficult to believe that the "peace-loving" brand of Islam should even be considered the same as the Islam projected by Omar Brooks, a British-born radical Muslim who believes Mohammad's message is "I come to slaughter all of you." As per the linked article, Mr. Brooks continues with:

"'We are the Muslims,' said Omar Brooks, an extremist also known as Abu Izzadeen. 'We drink the blood of the enemy, and we can face them anywhere. That is Islam and that is jihad.'"

I understand there are varying degrees of religious belief within each of the main world religions (those being Catholicism, Judaism and Islam), but that's a pretty wide berth. Those interested in peace, line up on the left. Those interested in slaughtering an entire race or planet of people and drink their blood, line up on the right. Those undecided, be careful of the people on the right.

If you continue reading the previously-linked article, it continues thusly:

Anjem Choudary, the public face of Islamist extremism in Britain, added that Muslims have no choice but to take the fight to the West. "What are Muslims supposed to do when they are being killed in the streets in Afghanistan and Baghdad and Palestine? Do they not have the same rights to defend themselves? In war, people die. People don't make love; they kill each other," he said.

It occurred to me, at least at some point, that here, in the "modern" world, there is a widening gap between rational, sane Islam and the extreme kind that dictates suicide bombing, killing infidels to go to heaven and targeting women and children in lieu of soldiers. The problem is that the rational, sane brand of Islam gets no press because -- rightfully -- people whose beliefs aren't cancerous and dangerous don't make the front pages. People who proclaim that all non-believers should die in as fiery and visible a manner as possible do get press.

Each time this type of discussion arises -- questioning what nations should do with their cancerous, extremist Muslim populations -- those Muslims on the non-radical front regularly point to foreign policy as being the catalyst for these factions within otherwise cohesive societies. In modern-day America, we've witnessed Bush Jr. tossing out privacy in favor of questionable wiretaps and surveillance. In Britain, laws are being enacted and redacted which protect individual rights and permit the government more leeway in surveilling its citizenry. In both cases, and in the face of this kind of internal cancer, what is the answer? I'd like to believe that Bush's wiretap program is unnecessary and excessive, and on some level I do believe that, but I understand why he has pushed that particular program as hard as he has. We're not in the position of disposing of the Constitution; but when we permit entry to people whose sole objective is to destroy this nation, there's not much in the way of solution beyond crossing lines of privacy and individual protection. Obviously, the answer is to insure people gaining entry into this country (and to other Western nations) are not here under false pretense.

Does that mean closing our borders? Does that mean barring student and extended-visit visas for people of Arab descent? I'm not sure how fair that is, but I think that's one option. The interesting thing is that, in the US, there is a sizeable Muslim population but thus far that population has not demonstrated its interests are anti-US. In Britain, however, it's a different story. Aside from the aforementioned Omar Brooks (who advocates drinking infidel blood), there's Anjem Choudary, another extremist who despises democracy and predicts Britain will be ruled by Sharia, Islamic law. How the West has inherited these people -- people who accuse the West of cancerous, aggressive behavior and advocate the same behavior they claim is the strategy of their enemies -- is beyond me. Personally, I am increasingly supportive of the expulsion of people like Brooks (aka "Abu Izzadeen") and Choudary to whatever nation will have them. They cannot be deported because they were born in Britain and are thus citizens of the UK. But that doesn't mean they can't be forced to leave the country. What baffles me is that their bile, vitriol and fervor against democracy and the West should inspire them to leave, yet they live among us and preach hatred on the very soil they hope to one day possess. Britain under Islamic law? What planet are these people on? I'd (rhetorically) ask whether they're actually serious, but we all know, unfortunately, the answer to that question.

I apologize to those Muslims who believe I am disparaging Islam. I am not -- I am disparaging people who -- through fervor, obsession, and/or mental illness -- have corrupted and distorted Islam and transformed it into something sick, twisted and evil. One day, when the TV's broken and I have plenty of free time, I'll make the comparison between Hitler's Nazism and modern-day fascism in the case of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and other jolly characters like Sadr in Lebanon and the various warlord factions on the Afghani-Pakistani border who exercise their murderous, bloody power in the name of religion. In the meantime, however, I believe, based on what I've been digesting with respect to this situation, that the burden of proof -- proof that Islam is not a cancer or a blight on the Western nations of the world, or the world itself -- lies with the moderate Muslim population of the world to temper and to destroy the radical factions which propose to consume the rest of the planet (either in Islamic law or fire). I use the term "cancer" to describe radical Muslims; as detestable as that term may be, ask any Iraqi civilian what he thinks of the radical Muslims whose sole goal in Iraq these days is to kill as many of his kind as possible before starting an open civil war. I would wryly suggest that the average Iraqi civilian who faces the prospect of being dismembered by a car-bomb does not share his brethren's taste for explosive political statements.

The real puzzle is that we have a world in which many Arabs -- Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world in general -- describe Israel as an agressive cancer in the Mid-East. But unfortunately, based on the news each day -- whether from Iraq, 9/11, the London train bombings from 2005, etc. -- we know that the real cancer is extreme Islam. The problem is now, how do we -- Western nations, civilized people, and modern societies -- solve that problem?

I think, as indicated above, reviewing and revising our immigration and visa policies is a good place to start. I also think that some measure of increased surveillance should be tolerated -- albeit with an expiration date. And I think, at some point, the obviously distasteful notion of expulsion and "suggestive" police tactics has to be broached. Put another way, I think people who openly call for and whose objective is to educate others similarly to destroy a nation should be invited to leave, politely or otherwise. In my USA, an American-born version of Omar Brooks would not be here for very long. Free speech is something to be cherished and protected, but when that speech encourages the destruction of the nation, that speech has to be checked. Like shouting fire in a crowded theater, there are times when free speech -- ie the rights of the individual -- must be negated in favor of the rights of the many. Mr. Brooks, and others like him, are entitled to their beliefs; but if they openly call for the destruction of a nation and/or a government -- even the nation/government which protects their right to proclaim their beliefs -- isn't that behavior an attempt to incite a riot, or at least the action of a traitor to one's country? Imprison or evict or otherwise; but to permit that type of speech is mystifying to me. Granted, we have to determine what line not to cross; if I stand on a corner and shout I want to dump a bucket of shit on the President, that's not necessarily actionable, but if I stand on a corner and shout I want to shoot the President, that might be. But what we're discussing here is obviously, and clearly, in another category. These are people who are openly encouraging and preaching the destruction of a nation, and they are doing so with the protection of the very nation which they have targeted their hatred and beliefs. I understand the Catch-22 we've inherited here, but my personal belief is that when you discover a cancer, you don't debate -- you cut it out, you remove as much of it as quickly as possible, and you throw it away.

And you keep doing so until there is no more cancer.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Place Under The Sun

Sometimes, despite all manner of things happening in and around my day-to-day activities, there's not much impetus to actually commit anything to this space. It's not a lack of motivation, nor is it a result of an otherwise unexciting span of days, nor is it plain ol' apathy.

I think, on some level, it's the return -- or the evaporation -- of normalcy in the wake of Kaia's return to Cali that leaves me, each and every time, with some degree of melancholy. Coupled with the weather and the impending crunch of a heavy workload, plus the exit of the holiday season, and thus -- nothing there worth noting.

There are bright spots, of course -- seeing a Gwen Stefani-esque woman during the Saints-Eagles game (nationally broadcast by Fox) sporting a "Fuck Da Eagles" belly shirt; that was a high point. Another was surviving the last few days of cold, rainy weather that suddenly permeated the otherwise meandering temperatures of NYC's winter thus far. And yet another was a random jaunt to Eli's just because it reminded me of Kaia's presence.

It occurred to me that this past weekend was the first since December that Kaia wasn't here; now while I might sound a tad depressed, it's not a clinical problem that has me out on a ledge, pondering the worth of my life and my future. On the contrary; I am actually pretty happy, despite Kaia not being here (physically, anyway). It's just seems that every time we get into a groove and settle into enjoying everyday life -- waking up together, falling asleep together, being able to share whispered conversation without having to switch phones -- she or I have to catch a flight. Beyond bittersweet, it's a bit frustrating knowing that -- for now -- when we're together, we're "on the clock" rather than able to enjoy being with one another without schedules, timelines or the rush to do things in advance of our eventual parting.

Inasmuch as I am thankful on a number of levels that I finally found my other half, and knowing, based on our plans and our future together, that this situation is a temporary one that is soon going to change for the better, it's still a kick in the ass. There are plenty of people who don't share their lives with someone for whom they have love and respect, so if my rumination appears headed toward some sort of self-pity or complaining, that's far from accurate. It's really knowing how great we are together, and how happy we make one another, and wondering why either of us would willingly go without for even a day. Of course, the key is "willing" -- reality, as of this moment, dictates we're still in the planning phase, though that is definitely near its conclusion. I suppose, if one day I'll look back on this period of my life I'll regard this as a "learning" period, one in which I learned to appreciate everything that is in my life as much as everything that is no longer in my life.

My family is doing well and everyone is healthy; many, if not all, of my friends -- both near and far -- are doing well, moving forward and happy within their respective existences; our next mongo party, scheduled for late March, is solidifying faster than Krazy Glue fresh from the tube; and we're already planning our next rendezvous, most likely next month in San Fran. But it still stinks to have to go back to a three-hour, three-thousand-mile disparity that reminds us how great we are together, even when we're physically far apart.

I think, what it comes down to, is that when you're with the wrong person, you think in terms of generalities with respect to the future: where you'll live, what you'll be doing, the types of people with whom you'll associate, etc. When you're with the right person, and when there's no debate about that, there's no need for generality or a focus on the future. The future is discussed with the knowledge that everything will come together; not as a result of some sort of fairy-tale "love conquers all" motif, but instead as a result of knowing your other half is going to be there with you for the rest of her life, and that prospect is something that not only doesn't frighten or worry you, but entices you to run to that "for the rest of eternity" at top speed. You think things out in your head, you debate the little details all the way up to the big ones, and approach it full-boar once you are convinced. The only real question is when, so until we figure out the answer to that one, we'll be left knowing that we're lucky to have found one another, and accept that things could be better, but confident, and satisfied, knowing that things for each of us could be far, far worse.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Do-Over & One More Night of Normalcy

This space hasn't been updated for a week, and despite the fact that that might be understandable, there has been enough material billowing around the cloudy space between my ears during the past week to occupy a dozen posts. So...without further ado, I'll get to it.

First, Kaia and I had, as per usual, what amounts to a great couple of weeks. We had fun over New Year's Eve and subsequently enjoyed the next eleven days. We got to see my sister on her birthday and thereafter, and we also got to spend time with a bunch of friends, albeit we missed -- yet again -- hanging out with a friend of ours who neither of us has seen in person in what seems like ages. So we agreed that the next time Kaia hits the city, hanging out with her will be on the top of our list.

In between dinner, keeping warm in a chilly-overheated apartment, sharing the Body Pillow, movies, TV, some (ahem) private time, and the usual running around shopping, spending time in the City, and just enjoying being together, we managed to smile, laugh and, as per usual, wonder why 3,000 miles are still geographically between us. I think we'll have that question wrapped up sometime over the next few months, once job, financial and situational constraints are addressed. The nice part is that once all the reality is handled, we'll be fine -- it just seems that most of what we do, no matter who we're with, where we are or what we're doing, we're laughing together. It's a nice way to spend a week or two or a lifetime.

I'm not delving too far into the minute details of our travels over the past couple weeks; we did manage to hit most of our usual haunts, see most -- but not all -- our friends, and do most of what we're accustomed to doing. We did Dos Caminos with a couple of good friends, and we managed -- the next night -- to spend time with another friend of ours also in from Cali at Kanvas (an uber-hip lounge in Chelsea). After that we wound up at Mare, a seafood restaurant we hadn't visited before (Kanvas is worth the trip, Mare isn't).

We also managed to (mostly) get all our work done; I happened to do more than I expected, and started getting to work an hour earlier than usual, a habit I'll happily continue observing. Kaia, however, had a small accident with her notebook that left her hard drive unusable, which not only left her without all her data, but with little or no means to get her work done. She got a new drive Fedexed to her but piecing together all her prior deals and data on the fly was a bit too much to ask. She's accumulated some of it, but until the high-end data recovery people get to it and see what can and can't be recovered, she's in PC limbo. We're keeping our fingers crossed.

On top of that, we scored some good tunes while she was here. A friend of ours, DJ Lui at Lounge in Soho, plies us with house discs (some pre-fab, some homemade by Lui himself) and a variety of acid jazz, club music and over-the-top mixes. Most of it isn't bad, although I managed to grab some tunes of my own: Dave Matthews' Best of What's Around (a two-disc set I got for Kaia for Chanookah), a copy of the brand-spanking-new Beatles disc Love, which is the first new Beatles thing in decades -- literally -- that is worth the price (and then some) of admission. And on top of that, U2's 18 Singles is a redux of yet another greatest hits with a few new things tossed into the mix. More importantly, we got ahold of the Ali G movie (Ali G In Da House, from 1999) and loved it in its simplistic stupidity. No, we never got around to seeing Borat in the theater; once we're under the same roof, I think we'll be more willing to see movies, but until we do, seeing movies when we could instead be actively doing something together seems to be relegated to the back burner. We had a blast seeing The 40 Year Old Virgin on Union in San Fran, and I think we'll always share that memory -- not just of the movie but the experience of being together in that theater, on that night -- but we have the rest of our lives to go out to watch films instead of watching them in bed on the shiny new Aquos.

To wrap this up, I'll just say that Kaia got in safely -- after missing her flight yesterday -- which was actually sort of fortuitous. We got to spend another night together, and I got to say goodbye to her again. Normally, that's the last thing I would ever be willing to do once, let alone twice; but getting the chance to re-do our last night and our last day together was a nice, if bittersweet, surprise. Bitter because watching her cab pull away is an awful experience; but sweet was seeing her at my door, smelling her perfume and knowing we had a few more hours before she was back on her way to Cali.

There's lots to discuss in the "real" world, but for the time being, that's all I can really process, so I'll promise to keep updating this space (and more frequently). I think, for the most part, it's hard to express angst, displeasure, criticism and dissatisfaction herein when she's around me all the time; I'm far too happy to be bothered.

I'll make a better effort next time; hopefully that will be soon. In the meantime, however, that's about as good -- and honest -- as it gets.

More later.

Spam phrase of the week:
"Indeed, a surly salad dressing plays pinochle with a carpet tack inside a grand piano."

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Sports Blotter

Normally, whether it's the nostalgic scene from Hill Street Blues or a tired, musty police station, when one thinks of a blotter, it either involves something that protects the surface of a desk or refers to a list of crimes, criminals and things that lead to one's photo on the wall of your local post office.

These days, when I visit or the countless other sites which devote themselves to the news surrounding professional and collegiate sports, I am noticing that maybe 20% of what's discussed on any of these sites focuses on the actual on-field, on-court or in-match play. I'm not maligning these sites, and I'm not suggesting that the actual activity within the confines of the sports world is merely confined to the actual playing of the sport(s). There's the pre-game, post-game, off-season, spring training, Injured Reserve, surgical repair, charity work, and free agency. That last one, of course, is the biggest aspect of the pro sports -- free agency took a simple game -- or four (baseball, football, basketball and hockey) -- and made it into a multi-billion dollar business. It gives guys who can barely read and whose careers are over by the time they're 35 into multi-millionaires.

But when we talk a sports blotter, we mean one thing: the legal problems involving and surrounding pro (and some college) athletes.

This week in particular, there have been a number of sports-related stories. The NFL's regular season concluded last weekend, and some of those teams who missed the playoffs, as is typical, dumped their head coaches. So the Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers need to look for new guys to head their respective coaching staffs. In the case of Bill Cowher, the former head coach of the Steelers, he resigned. But the fact is, these were non-performance-related sports stories.

However, more importantly, there's a bunch of police matters pending when it comes to sports news. There was the senseless, tragic murder of Darrent Williams, a cornerback with the NFL's Denver Broncos. Mr. Williams had attended a party for a fellow Denver athlete (Kenyon Martin of the NBA's Denver Nuggets) and wound up having some sort of altercation with someone or some other people at the club; several hours later, the Humvee limo in which he had been traveling was riddled with bullets that injured other passengers and left him dead.

He was 24 years old.

The police were looking for a white SUV in connection with the drive-by attack on Mr. Williams' limo; apparently, the SUV in question belongs to a Brian K. Hicks, a man who is currently in jail in connection with drug and attempted murder charges.

If this situation hadn't involved the death of a 24-year-old guy, it would almost -- almost -- be comical.

Then there's the story of Jared Allen, a member of the playoff-bound Kansas City Chiefs. Mr. Allen, who like Mr. Williams, is also 24, was arrested in May in Overland Park, Kansas (home of a friend of mine) for DUI. At that time, the judge suspended his sentence providing Mr. Allen didn't have a recurrence of DUI. Well, Mr. Allen had a recurrence. In September, he was again stopped and arrested for DUI, and this time, the judge, at the prosecutor's suggestion, yanked the originally-suspended sentence and sent Mr. Allen to jail. Except that since he's a pro athlete, he won't have to report to jail -- for his 48-hour sentence -- until February 16th. I suppose, at that particular time, he'll also have to pay his fine -- $500 -- and arrange for community service.

I'm not sure where to begin -- but I suppose forcing Mr. Allen to stay in jail for two whole days and pay a $500 fine is obviously ridiculous in its overwhelming leniency. This is a guy who has to be making at least -- at least -- $500,000 annually. So to give him a two-day stint in a drunk tank and a fine I'd expect to pay if I was caught speeding 25 or more miles above the limit is a joke. Something else which is almost comical as well: this is a guy who is 6-6 and 270 pounds. Unless he's got some sort of medical problem, it seems to me that in order for him to demonstrate he was driving drunk, he would have had to have consumed at least four or five drinks -- that, or the equivalent of at least a half-case of beer. I'm not taking Mr. Allen -- or anyone -- to task for having a couple of drinks and then being pulled over without knowing he was drunk -- legally or otherwise. But a guy that big has to consume a serious amount of alcohol to be drunk, and to consume that much booze and then be willing to drive says a lot about this shitbird's character -- or complete lack thereof.

What is even more disturbing than his apparent disregard for public safety, if not for his own safety, is that he, like most athletes in the National Football League, are aware that legal violations involving substances -- DUI, drug charges, et al -- which result in convictions will result in league-mandated suspension. That means Mr. Allen's two-day jail stint will be more brief than his punishment from the NFL.

There's something wrong when the NFL's sentence is harsher than a municipal sentence for DUI. But that's another matter.

The final item on today's sports blotter (only because I can't tolerate much more of this type of stupidity at any time) is this particular news story out of Detroit involving another member of the NFL -- this one, however, involves Joe Cullen, a coach for the Detroit Lions.

Mr. Cullen was arrested for DUI on September 1st, 2006. However, that's really only the icing on the cake. The really memorable aspect to Mr. Cullen's legal issues from 2006 stem from his being arrested a week prior, on August 24th, for driving nude.

Yep, you read right -- he was arrested for driving nude. To be more specific, he was arrested for driving -- nude -- through a Wendy's drive-thru (he placed his order -- nude, paid -- nude, and then -- nude -- picked up his burger and fries and Biggie drink and -- nude -- took off). This incident, by the way, knocks OJ's Rolls Royce post-murder jaunt through a Mickey D's drive-through to second-weirdest drive-thru tale of all-time.*

Yep -- this is a coach, not a player. Yep, his drunk-driving arrest from September was bona fide (he was 0.12, the legal limit is 0.08). And yep, he had been fired from at least one other coaching job for alcohol-related factors.

Notice that none of the above items mentions the brawl between the Pacers and Pistons from a couple years ago, or the recent brawl involving the aforementioned Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

When I was young, I voraciously watched sports -- baseball, basketball, football and hockey -- with a wide-eyed adoration borne from naivete and youth. These days, though, what happens on the field is governed and -- increasingly -- overshadowed by which players are in jail on drug or assault charges, suspension from using performance-enhancing drugs, or who are, sadly, no longer with us because of gun violence.

With all the money and stupidity rampant in pro (and also in college) sports, I wonder how long it will be before the off-field stuff is more entertaining than the actual on-field product. And, sadly, I wonder if I'll even care if and/or when this change actually occurs.

*Third weirdest drive-thru tale of all-time belongs to George Carlin, who went to a Burger King drive-through, ordered a #1 with a regular drink, rolled up to the payment window, handed them their $5.37, took the bag of BK goodies, drove to ANOTHER (nearby) Burger King, placed the same order -- #1, regular drink -- rolled up to the payment window, handed them the bag and said "That'll be $5.37."

** Fourth weirdest drive-thru tale involves me, a friend of mine, an inflatable doll, a homemade t-shirt, a hockey helmet, and a sex-toy. The remainder of that story shall be omitted out of respect for Ron Dugay, formerly of the New York Rangers.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

In Slow Motion

More often than not, I like to point out things in this world -- political, cultural, public, sociological -- that strike me as exceedingly stupid, moronic and/or foolish. However, that doesn't mean I'm entirely immune from this type of behavior myself. Now granted, I'm not suggesting I do stupid things with regularity -- I'm prone to modesty even more frequently than I am stupidity (and sarcasm) -- but when I do dumb things, I'm more than happy to share same with the readers of this space.

I came across an article entitled "Let the Sender Beware!" on the MSN home page that details various incidents of wrongly-sent e-mails and IM conversations. Every person I know has had, at one time or another, an incident with e-mail which they'd rather forget. Whether they sent an e-mail in anger that they subsequently wished they could rescind, sent a visceral, critical or too-honest e-mail to the object of their derision, somehow sent a very private e-mail to a list of co-workers rather than their significant other, or simply sent a business e-mail from a personal account, somehow we each have a story of e-mail embarrassment.

About a month ago, one of Kaia's fellow board members (who happens to also be a friend of hers) of a charitable, non-business entity had received a particularly curt, attitudinal mass e-mail from the head of the board. In response, Kaia's friend responded to the e-mail and intended to send it to only Kaia; unfortunately, in her irritation, she mistakenly hit "reply all" and forgot to omit all but Kaia's name from the list of recipients. As a result, the little, attitudinal e-mail sent from the head of the board managed to spark an all-day back-and-forth that saw Kaia's friend extremely embarrassed and having to come up with a quick, on-the-spot excuse as to why she responded to the original writer's e-mail with "God, she's such a bitch!" Based on the details, it actually worked out well -- she made an excuse that her response was in connection with another e-mail, but no one -- especially the bitchy head of the board -- believed it. The story has a happy ending, however; the head of the board got the (unintended) message and noticeably thereafter softened her tone.

However, there have been other mis-steps. One of my big-time clients -- not my biggest, but one whose account is well into the seven-figure mark -- left me a message on my cell-phone requesting an update on a particular matter. So I prepped a detailed, cogent response, outlining our progress, our immediate and long-term goals, and a breakdown of the timeline to date and our prognostication of where (and when) the matter was going. And I sent it to him without delay. When he called and asked me to send the same thing in a follow-up to the CEO of the construction company/contractor who was handling all the work, I did so; however, somehow it was sent to the contractor not from my business e-mail address but from a personal one with the name "Boogie" in the title.


When I realized my mistake (after I recovered from thinking HOLY SHIT, I'VE E-MAILED A BUSINESS ENTITY WITH A BOOGIE E-MAIL ACCOUNT) I called and explained that I used the wrong e-mail address and re-sent the whole package from my work e-mail. The construction company CEO had no issue; in fact, he laughed and occasionally refers to me as Boogie. It's not quite a badge of honor, but it does remind me to be incredibly careful with the dozen or so e-mail addresses I juggle on my work PC.

The thing is, the "slow motion" of doing something you know you shouldn't actually applies. I remember once locking myself out of my own apartment; it was back when I used two keychains, one for work and one for business. I was going downstairs to do laundry, so I got my bag o' laundry together, the detergent, the bounce sheets and my wallet, grabbed my keys and headed out the door. It was as my front door was closing when I realized -- in slow motion, watching the door slamming shut -- that I had grabbed my work keys and not my home keys. The door slammed, and like a schmuck, I was left standing there with my doorman watching, trying not to laugh and call me a dumb-ass or something akin thereto.

I eventually was able to get back into my place, and all -- since -- is well. I haven't been locked out since (although now, since I'm writing this here, I expect to be locked out again in the next few days). The moral is that it's a lot easier sensing one has done something stupid -- like e-mailing a friend to complain about one's boss, only to realize the person who you actually e-mailed IS your boss -- when the physical, tangible item is there in front of you. Computer stuff is electronic, so it's just a matter of pixels and light before your eyes. Being good is not always an option, but being careful should, and must, be.

One final word of advice: once something has been committed to e-mail, instant message or some other electronic form of publishing, it's there forever. Paper can be burned, crumpled up and/or destroyed, but electrons, pixels and binary 1's and 0's -- like a diamond -- last forever. You, the reader, can print this out, wad it up and use it to line a birdcage or wrap fish or in an emergency when you run out of Charmin, but this -- unfortunately or otherwise -- is here to stay.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Alas, Ye 2006, We Hardly Knew Ye

Another new year has arrived. This, of course, isn't news to anyone, and it's hardly significant except for the fact that we had a blast just being together.

While we counted down the hours, we were unsure what we were going to do; we were on waiting lists for a few places scattered throughout the city, but we were unsure as to what we really wanted to do. We opted to skip the drinks and dancing thing, knowing that it was mostly an amateur night and that all we really wanted to do was to spend some time with friends, usher in 2007 quietly with one another, and then go to sleep.

Which is what we did. We wound up seeing friends of ours, spending a few hours over dinner and drinks, relaxing, smiling and laughing, and then we went our separate ways and were barely awake for when the ball hit bottom.

Something that always puzzles me, and if someone could enlighten me I'm ready, willing and able to be graced with this knowledge, is why the ball drops on New Year's Eve and doesn't instead rise. If it's forward progress, and we're anticipating moving up and not backward, why doesn't the ball rise on New Year's Eve?

In any case, if you didn't catch it yet, we aren't really "New Years" people; sure, it was fun watching the Times Square festivities. Certainly, it was wonderful that we, yet again, were able (and willing) to celebrate with one another. But mostly, it was about spending time with friends, with family (the next day, with my sister to celebrate her birthday -- a shout-out to her), and just generally spending quality time with one another and relishing the fact that we would be doing much more of that in the not-so-distant future.

I think, on some level, the ushering in of a new year brings some measure of change, and the only real change between Kaia and I is that sometime in 2007 she'll be moving to NYC and we'll finally be under one roof, one lease and one zip code. Otherwise, things couldn't really be better. I know this time of year is typically a time when people take stock of their lives and what they've achieved and what they will achieve, and workwise I want to better myself and my business and make progress in both the quality and the quantity of stuff I'm handling; but on a personal note, all I'm looking forward to, other than spending time with friends and family and having a safe, happy, healthy year, is being able to know that sleeping quietly in the next room is someone who enriches my life, makes me happy and finds ways of making me happy to wake up in the morning and makes me smile right before I nod off to sleep at night.

I guess that's what we all want, on some level; but why I'm smiling today -- most days, actually -- is that it's very close, and as they say, the dream is increasingly real. I'm looking forward to when it's no longer just a dream but reality.

A safe, happy, healthy, wonderful new year to you all, and may you each find the laughter, the smiles and the happiness in which this year arrived each and every day from today forward.