Friday, October 31, 2008


Relatively speaking, because I live in New York, I've grown a bit jaded to the point that encountering people wearing costumes -- whether on Halloween or any other day -- isn't unusual. Whether marketing mascots in the shape of sandwiches, hot dogs, Disney characters or the occasional fruit or vegetable -- bananas seem to be very popular, incidentally -- dressing up in crazy costumes isn't something that shocks many of this City's residents, myself included. In fact, depending where in the City you live, it's the antithesis of eyebrow-raising, if at all -- especially in the Village and Chelsea.

Having said all that, the first thing that pops into my head when I think of Halloween is going trick-or-treating when I was a wee lad in my hometown; to this day, the lure of candy -- whether it's of the bite-size variety or a full-blown king-size bar of chocolate, etc. -- isn't about the chocolate itself but of the salivating over someone dropping some free treats into an orange-colored plastic bag bearing a decorative pumpkin design. These days, having to buy the bags of candy around Halloween to make sure I'm ready should any little tykes come a-knockin' is a bit of a mixed blessing, but once the tykes approach with their giddy shouts of "trick or treat!" I'm right back there with them, somewhere around seven or eight years old, sporting a batman costume and an irrepressible urge for chocolate.

Growing up, the night prior to Halloween was a somewhat precarious affair. Most Halloween mornings meant broken eggs, toilet paper and other similarly-pleasant surprises in store for houses that were left unguarded. Had I been faced with a night before Halloween in the suburbs alone, it's not like I would be sitting on the stoop with a shotgun and a proactive sense of vigilante justice emanating from my trigger finger(s). But it is nice to consider, even for a moment, impersonating Albert Belle or Charles Bronson, even if the fantasy is far more palatable -- and realistic -- than the reality itself.

In any event, now that I'm ensconced in a quiet, cozy apartment building, I'm looking forward to the arrival of this year's crop of trick-or-treaters. I've got some things to pick up at a local Duane Reade, so I'll be sure and score some candy -- mini Three Musketeers, Snickers, Milky Ways and Twix bars. And I'll be sure and score more than necessary, just in case ;-)

After all, you don't outgrow your irrepressible urge for treats in only one lifetime ;-)

Happy Halloween!


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Silly Rabbit: Sports are For Kids

Most mornings, I find myself reviewing the prior day's sports news to make sure I didn't miss some obscure story about, as an example, Oksana Baiul puking on the Prime Minister of Japan while they were both attending a launch party for Blackberry in Australia or some other time zone-affected bit of news. I'm not sure why, but between morbid curiosity and my strange thirst for knowledge, pulls me in like a tractor beam.

In any case, over the last 24 hours I hit the jackpot -- I encountered not one but two juicy nuggets which combine the best and worst of non-sports sports news.

The first concerns one of the more entertaining sports figures of our time, pro golfer John Daly. The story, published here, indicates that this past Sunday morning -- as in before noon -- police in Winston-Salem went to the local Hooters on a medical call. Apparently, a male was -- consecutively -- drunk, beligerent, then unconscious. Turns out the aforementioned male was John Daly.

I'm not sure which of these facts is the most entertaining: that his choice of locales was Hooters; that he was drunk in the morning; or that he passed out and was, therefore, not combative with police. Of course, the story has a happy ending: he was carted off to a detox center for a 24-hour stay for the purpose of achieving (drumroll, please) sobriety.

Inasmuch as this story seems, on its surface, humorous and patently entertaining, I can't help but feel badly for Mr. Daly. Here is someone with an obvious talent for the game of golf, yet his notoriety, at least for the past several years, is for his off-the-course exploits and his penchant for alcohol imbibed to excess.

John, if you're reading this -- and even somewhat sober -- get some help, man.

Of course, we all know that won't be the case.

As Henny Youngman once observed, "When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading."

Another equally bizarre story concerns a minor-league pitching prospect out of the Chicago Cubs organization.

The pitching prospect, 21-year-old Julio Castillo, incited a brawl between his team, the Peoria Chiefs, and the home team, the Dayton Dragons. Apparently, Mr. Castillo decided to throw a baseball into the Dragons' dugout but instead of nailing one of his opponents, he missed the mark and instead clocked a fan in the crowd.

I've been to many an entertaining baseball game. I've been to big-league games, I've been to little-league games, and I've played a load of games (on many levels except for the former). I don't recall -- ever -- seeing a guy get so angry at the opposing team that he attempted to hit someone in the dugout with a ball.

Why this story is so entertaining is that this shitbird was so beyond control he actually opted to try and hit someone with the ball. Sure, pitchers have thrown at guys facing them in the batter's box; but doing what this guy did is downright stupid and he, as a result, should be expelled from the game -- and I mean the game of baseball.

Of course, what is disturbing is that he could have killed someone -- especially a child -- in the stands. That the only injury was a slight concussion to one unlucky fan is fortunate. But personally, knowing that no one was seriously injured, I think the follow-up to this story is not his indictment, but should he be allowed back on a minor-league field, I think that the entire crowd should, armed with baseballs, throw them at him simultaneously. That would probably remind him that he's an asshole who has no business -- and doesn't deserve -- being on a baseball field.

Duck and cover, and cover.

I hope these stories remind any yoots who visit this space with regularity that they should avoid alcohol, never attempt to injure their competitors and should always carry themselves with respect.

Be like Kobe ;-)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More, and Less, Economy

Somewhere, somehow, the Coen Brothers as well as Dick Wolf are reading this story and snickering simultaneously as neurons deep within the recesses of their collective brains begin snapping to attention and the blood begins flowing just a little faster.

And presumably, once they finish reading said story, they, like me, are laughing their asses off.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Where Should I Begin?

Not sure what this is, exactly, but why not?

Be sure and turn up -- or mute -- your volume, depending on where you are and what you may be or may not be doing.

The Economy of One-Word Posts


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Six Degrees of Separation

The last few days have been hot and cold, and fast and slow. The duality is striking, no?

First and foremost, I've spent way too little time keeping this space populated and I've let the weeds and the grass get way too overgrown, so -- launch hackneyed apology -- I feel badly for letting you, the reader, wilt without some measure of irritating, opinionated bullshit observation (at least penned by yours truly).

However, with work deadlines, the flaccid Presidential race, winter's random but rapid approach and the incoming Halloween holiday -- not to mention far too much time spent interacting with friends via Facebook -- and my time here is next-to-none. Fortunately or otherwise, there seems to be some measure of entertainment before and after visitors reach this site, so I'm not exactly losing sleep over my absence, mind you, but there is lots to say and I do feel badly not having been the one to be saying it.

Now, in no particular order, I'm still pretty much aligned with Obama. I've gotten some material via e-mail -- both from friends and from strangers -- suggesting everything from Obama is a muslim, a communist, hates America and hates Israel. Truthfully, I don't believe any of them. I think he's probably the right guy for the job at this point in time. I'm not getting an "Obama '08" tattoo, as I'm not a "believer." Personally, I know and have seen far too much with regard to American Presidential politics to be "inspired." It's not that I'm jaded; it's just that no candidate seems to be blowing my skirt up, and even if Ross Perot, Ralph Nader and the zombie corpse of Abraham Lincoln opted to get their names on the final ballot for November 4th, I'm pretty sure I'd still vote for Obama, and I'd still have an overwhelming sense of "Meh" as a result.

Neither here nor there, part of this political malaise is the country is inching towards recession. Because we're a buy-now, pay-later nation, when we can't buy now and pay later -- ie during times like these -- we need to find ways other than spending to occupy our collective thirty-second attention span. Unfortunately, the reality is that we're going to have some tough times ahead, but if I'm reading the situation right, we should be in good shape by March. And by good shape I mean we'll have forgotten that the entire world economy is in a clogged-up toilet with no plunger in sight.

Another aspect of this overall malaise is the onset of winter; it's technically fall, but -- as per usual, it seems -- the temps went from low 70's to low 50's in about a ten-day span. I'm digging a new barn jacket I got from Land's End, but other'n that, I still wish we had some high 50's/low 60's in between sweaty post-summer September and Freeze-Your-Balls-Off Pre-Winter. Then again, even I don't have any say with respect to the weather; ask Willard Scott, although don't come crying to me when he doesn't have a clue and only wants to talk about Welch's jams and jellies.

Further down the line, my home/desktop PC is slowly unraveling like Margot Kidder from the late 90's, except my PC hasn't upped and vanished, only to appear a few days later, toothless and haggard, in some shrubbery in the middle-class suburbs. However, having said all that, much like if I were casting a film I'd skip Margot's name in the audition checklist, I do need to get a replacement for the home PC stat. And as I've been considering for some time, it's pretty much now or never -- meaning I'm going to be building a new PC from scratch. That means I need to nab me a case, a motherboard, a graphics card, an audio board, hard drives, DVD-ROM drives, memory, a Pentium, some thermal compound (basically high-end silly putty) and a variety of miscellaneous other goodies.

Problem is, if I buy one wrong thing or make one small mistake, the entire thing -- literally -- could blow up in my face. Oh, goodie. And what's worse, to keep the currently unbuilt PC cool means I'll need a power supply of about 750 watts. Put into perspective, that's about a third of what most hair dryers consume; the difference, of course, is that most modern hair dryers are operated each day for about ten or so minutes. My PC is operating 24-7, pretty much all the time. No wonder I pay more to Con Ed then most people's monthly car payment.

I suppose there's more in the tank, but I've got shitloads to address tonight and my mind is quickly finding the other items on my indelibly incomplete to-do list, but one of those items which I intend to keep checked more often is to keep coming back here and harassing and/or assaulting the sensibilities of you, the reader, and anyone else who happens to stumble upon these pages and stays for the pretty colors.

One final note: the more I watch the swill being broadcast on The Food Network -- with Alton Brown's stuff being the obvious exception -- the more I was impressed by a Tony Bourdain Travel Channel special called "At The Table." It was, essentially, an hour of Tony eating dinner and asking/answering questions with four guests, including Bill Bruford (author and world traveler) and Ted Allen (formerly of Queer Eye, currently of The Food Network).

Great show -- go find it and spend the forty or so minutes watching it. If you stay awake and want to see it again, that means you're a foodie. If you fall asleep or lose interest, get thee to a McDonald's and make sure you get an XL vanilla shake to wash down all that carbo-mattic goodness (and the after-dinner mint, aka 1000mg of Lipitor).

Ciao fer now.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

'Tis The Season

We humans have established seasons in all aspects of our lives: tax season, holiday season, the varying seasons (Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall) and hunting season; so why should the political climate in the US fail to accede to this classification as well?

I've refrained from commenting on the forthcoming election on November 4th for various reasons, but mostly because I wasn't entirely sure for whom I'd be voting. Initially, I believed that I would support Jon McCain. I'm a Republican for the most part -- which makes me a "moderate" Republican, I suppose -- but because I tend to vote on what's in my head and my heart rather than a card carried in my wallet, I tend to think before I agree to support the Republican party or their leftist counterparts.

To clarify my position, I am -- for the most part -- a firm supporter of Republican financial policies. I believe in capitalism and I know, given the opportunity and a hands-off government, it works. Further, in typical times, I believe -- on some level -- in trickle-down economics because the theory has merit, on several levels. However, there are some caveats in connection with the theory which I won't go into here; I will, however, remind the reader that these are not typical times.

With respect to the economy -- which we can all agree will be getting worse before it finally improves -- it's clear that the teetering mortgages doled out since the late 90's have finally come due. People have been given far too generous loans by banks looking to make far too much money and the government has, unfortunately, been far too willing to bail out the institutions whose greed essentially caused all of this. Between the failure of many financial institutions (on a small, medium and large scale), the rising unemployment rate and a guaranteed inflation increase, the proverbial shit has and will continue to hit the proverbial fan.

Or, as the old-timers might say, these are the "rainy days" for which you were saving up those pennies. Except hang onto them as long as possible because there's plenty of cloud cover still up in the sky, and no one knows when they'll pass.

With respect to the election, I've spoken to quite a few people, some of whom are more dedicated supporters of either McCain or Obama, all of whom have relatively legitimate reasons for their positions. I say relatively because in many cases, there are ambiguities which confuse potential voters almost as much as those inherent in the massive blue collar support of Ronald Reagan in the 1980's.

I've been told that Obama will negotiate with terrorists (ie Iran and fringe groups). I think he will open dialogue with Iran and other hostile states, which is something that has never been done by a US President. The problem is that inasmuch as I disagree with this strategy, we cannot ignore the fact that it did bear success in working with North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program. Those talks weren't unilateral at first, but they did show some meaure of success. With respect to Iran, however, having a leader that calls for the destruction of Israel -- or any other nation -- is far in excess of Kim Jong Il's lunacy. The problem is that nuclear weapons make diplomacy a far better option. The problem is how can a nation negotiate with another nation whose admitted goal is to revel in the destruction of its neighbors?

Personally, I think the whole concept of dialogue with Iran is distasteful and destructive, and not in a good way.

Further, this policy suggests, to me, that Obama has less regard for Israel than he should. He says all the right things in front of cameras and microphones, but anyone willing to sit down with Iran and discuss these issues -- specifically, nuclear centrifuge and refinement -- and not publicly suggest that any Iranian nuclear program will result in a large crater in the Iranian desert is going in the wrong direction in my view. The problem with the Iranian mentality in this regard is this: refusing to enter into dialogue with them provides their leadership with the sense that America believes it is better than they are, which in turn spurs their nationalistic pride to continue on whatever path they've decided to pursue. On the other hand, capitulating to Iranian leadership and discussing these issues publicly provides their leadership with the sense that America has capitulated because it is weak, spurring their nationalistic pride, this allowing them to continue on whatever path they've decided to pursue. There really is no "winning" because no matter which direction we decide to go with respect to Iran, they'll do whatever they want to do and we -- and our allies in Europe and the Middle East -- will be left to pursue other options, hopefully before it is too late. And by too late, I mean once Iran has realized its desire to manufacture nuclear weapons. Simply put, talking with people who publicly advocate the destruction of another nation is not only foolish and a waste of time, it permits said nation to make further progress on a path which we -- and the world -- cannot afford to permit.

The other significant issue with which I have vis-a-vis Senator Obama is his immigration policy vis-a-vis Mexico. He has suggested that he will consider granting citizenship to illegal aliens living in the United States. I have a problem with that decision in several regards. It's not that I am xenophobic or dislike Mexicans or other foreigners, unlike what CNN's Ruben Navarrette Jr. seems to suggest. My problem with Obama's immigration policy is that granting citizenship to illegally-resident individuals is like legalizing heroin. It's easier to do it than address and resolve the issue properly, true, but it suggests to anyone considering illegally migrating to the US that they too will be able to achieve citizenship despite the fact their actions to do so are illegal.

So in essence, this policy suggests that anyone who wants to come here should break the law, ignore our constitution and our sovereignty, and we'll happily welcome you.

That's the antithesis of our Constitution, the same Constitution that many illegal aliens can't read unless it's translated for them into Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian or some other language.

Now -- if I haven't tickled your xenophobic funny bone yet, let me press harder.

Many left-wing liberals who respond to my displeasure with Obama's intended immigration plan scold me, advising me that this nation welcomed many European immigrants in the 30's and 40's as Hitler was attempting to gerrymander the map of Europe. And that's true. However, Ellis Island is far from the Rio Grande. Moreover, when Eastern European Jews migrated to the USA before, during and immediately after World War II, many of them had little to nothing and spoke various dialects, but adopted the Constitution, learned English and assimilated into the culture of the United States. How many modern immigrants -- legal or otherwise -- can be described that way?

It seems to me -- and the fact that every state in this country offers written drivers exams in languages other than English -- as proof that immigrants today are not asked to become Americans, nor do they have any interest in doing so. In the 30's and 40's, people came here to become Americans. Today, people want to come to America to make money to send home to their families, to whom they'll return as soon as they've struck gold in the land of opportunity.

The problem is that then, opportunity meant to make this land one's own and to make one a member of this nation. Now, opportunity means take advantage of what's being given away for free and use it up.

To me, that's the very antithesis of the concept of citizenship, and I think Senator Obama's suggestion that these people be given citizenship -- rather than earn it -- is repulsive.

Other things about Senator Obama bother me. He has only recently begun to say the Pledge of Allegiance, and the big discussion about his unwillingness to wear an american flag pin on his lapel were discussed ad nauseum for months. Clearly, he doesn't show patriotism like many of his peers do. Is that troubling? Yes. Is it a fatal problem? To me, no. I am not concerned about the beliefs of a surgeon about to perform surgery to save my life, my wife's life, or my son's or daughter's life. I just want to know that he or she is competent. Is the pledge of allegiance/lapel pin stuff a tad disconcerting? You bet.

However -- and there is not a big enough capital letter to precede this sentence -- my main concern is the economy. Abortion is another issue which needs to be addressed once and for all.

As a "moderate" Republican, it irritates me that no thinking Republican has come to the floor of the House or the Senate and said "We as Republicans should be ashamed of ourselves. Women should always have the right to make the choice vis-a-vis abortion unless their choice could endanger their lives, in which case their physician should consult and/or be involved in their decision." The fact that the Republican party has pandered to the right-to-life nitwits who believe the Bible, not the Constitution, is the supreme law of the land is ridiculous. And inasmuch as I typically agree with the Republican sense of small, unencumbered governmental interference, I think their stance on abortion is equally, if not moreso, repulsive than the notion of Obama's "open-door" immigration policy.

And frankly, criminalizing abortion is the worse of these two evils.

Mainly, with respect to the economy, it's relatively simple: for most people (not "folks"), both candidates will be in a position to relieve some of the tax burden. However, while Senator Obama's tax cut for those who make below $250,000 is, I believe, genuine, so is his intent to raise taxes on people making more than $250,000. On some level, I believe this is fair. If we intend to strengthen the middle class of this nation rather than have cities filled with homeless people and people driving Mercedes and Bentleys, then increasing the tax burden on the wealthy is appropriate. Jon McCain's policy seems to be keep taxes where they are or lower them across the board and hope the rich get everyone richer, not just the rich.

Personally, that is a great idea -- if our goal as a nation is to triple our President George W. Bush-strengthened deficit. If insuring the future of this nation and reducing our deficit is the main issue with respect to taxes and the economy as a whole, I can't see how Jon McCain will have a positive effect as President.

The problem as I see it is that I agree with Jon McCain's principles on many levels. I think he's a good guy and I like him. Also, I respect him -- which I cannot say for the sitting President. However, that being said, as much as I agree with many of his policies, I dislike the fact he is against abortion and would be happy to see Roe v. Wade overturned. Assuming this is true, we can only suspect he'd nominate judges for the Federal and Supreme Courts who agree with this position, and that could have severe adverse, long-term effect on this nation. So too could Obama's stupid, dangerous immigration policy. So do we go with pro-choice and an open-door policy, or do we go with pro-life and an immigration lock-down? Obviously, with womens' lives at stake, the answer is a no-brainer.

But these issues, frankly, are irrelevant when juxtaposed with the economy. There is no doubt in my mind that the economy will improve and this nation will bounce back. This crisis is a world-wide crisis in part because of the hundreds of millions we as a nation have committed to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other nations who have spent huge sums of money and resources in tandem. Once the other aspects of our economy have been addressed, and many Americans' fears allayed -- the latter of these will occur on November 5th, incidentally -- our nation will begin heading in the right direction.

Mainly, there are a variety of issues which are important -- gas prices, taxes, Iraq and Afghanistan, etc. -- but nothing at this point trumps the economy. And while I would prefer to vote for Jon McCain, I don't see how I can or will. I think that Obama has insured the "Lesser of Two Evils" approach is applicable for this particular election, however, with his admission that he wants to open a dialogue with Iran's demagogue, and his open-door immigration policy for anyone that would wants to earn American dollars to send home to be converted to other currencies.

I think this is an important election, and I hope that people are voting with their heads and not their hearts. This is an election about cold, hard facts, not whether someone is wearing a flag pin on their lapel or the cut of their suit. I spent a good bit of time listening -- rather than watching -- the debates and with the exception of Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate -- which, frankly, borders on insulting and ridiculous, and downright unbelievable -- I cared what was being said as opposed to how it was being said. Sound-bytes and snippets are entertaining but the real truth is that Obama's beliefs don't sound appetizing but the truth rarely does. McCain says all the right things and has the right values -- for the most part -- but what we need is a good shot of reality rather than more slogans and feel-good rallying. Been there, done that.

November 4th and beyond, full speed ahead.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Before and After

Despite the fact these pages have been uninhabited for a week's time, I've been really busy and haven't had enough time to sit down and fill in the blank(s). Fortunately, I've got a bit of time before the fan hits the shit and I'm back to it 24-7. But before I resume my recitation of the various minutae that occasionally occupy my attention, there's something more important needing to be addressed herein.

Between last week and this week, I have been celebrating Rosh Hashanah and -- later tonight and tomorrow -- Yom Kippur, which, combined, represent the Jewish new year. Despite the typical American response to January 1st, which is -- in a word -- PARTY!!!! -- the Jewish new year is a strange holiday. As much as it is a celebratory holiday, it also is a time when jews around the world atone or repent for their sins/misdeeds/human behavior over the prior year. Inasmuch as the holiday is celebrated and ushered in in the context of optimism and health and happiness, there is a somber sense that some among us -- family, friends, colleagues, etc. -- will not survive through the year. I understand and respect this dichotomy, but it does puzzle me. Because we are conservative, we do much of our holiday service in hebrew. If I were authoring my own service, I would -- in very basic terms -- have each person write up a paragraph indicating what he or she had done over the past year for which he or she was sorry. There's lots that we do from year to year that -- intentionally or otherwise -- require or command repentance. The notions of regret and apology are part of this process, but in truth, the essential aspect of this process is acknowledging one has made a mistake (or several, or several thousand) and requesting forgiveness for same, both from the person or persons who were adversely affected by said mistakes, and by the big man upstairs (no, not Frank Sinatra).

In essence, this a very interesting period, not because it contradicts typical American celebrations on New Year's Eve/Day but because of the aforementioned duality thereof.

In either case, tomorrow will be a day filled with happiness and solemn self-thought, celebration and smiles and consternation and self-examination, and the ultimate duality, that of the daily fast set against the post-fast gorging. If there was any question, it's likely that no one ever lost weight due to a Yom Kippur fast; whatever weight one would lose by not consuming food during the day is decimated by the end-of-day pig-out session that occurs all over the world at sundown (local time).

In either case, for everyone who celebrates and/or observes these holidays, I bid you an easy fast and a healthy, happy new year.