Saturday, December 31, 2005

Good-bye old year

This is from

Twelve months, 10 words. Let's say your best friend, a news junkie in withdrawal, just got back from a year in Antarctica and has asked you to summarize this year's headlines in 10 words or less. How will you respond? You probably couldn't do better than Merriam-Webster Online's list of the top 10 most looked-up words of 2005. In order of popularity: 1) integrity, 2) refugee, 3) contempt, 4) filibuster, 5) insipid, 6) tsunami, 7) pandemic, 8) conclave, 9) levee, 10) inept.

Happy New Year y'alls!

If you get a chance check out coldplay's performance on Austin City Limits. Their version of Nightswimming with Michael Stipe is pretty fantastic.

Btw, I heard Dick Clark on TV tonight. I hate to say this, but the ageless one sounded still very weak and clearly struggled pronouncing words and seemed not entirely aware of what he was saying. It was very sad.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

I believe the term is screwed ...

So it's 2:15 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2005. I am sitting on my bed thinking about doing some reading before bed and obviously literally typing on my computer. From an apartment or house behind me and to my left I can hear a smallish to medium size dog barking intermittently. This dog has been barking for the last 20 minutes or so. I am very thankful that I don't have to work tomorrow, b/c getting to sleep likely won't happen for a while. :(

Sweet dreams, y'alls.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Ultimate movie snobbery

One of my favorite things about Los Angeles has been the world of movies here. Every movie that gets made has at least a brief release in the City of Angels. Buffalo, Tucson, Syracuse and Albany couldn't say the same.

So since Thanksgiving I've seen The Squid and the Whale, which has actually been playing here for months and it was only L.A. that would forgive my tardiness in seeing this movie, Brokeback Mountain (which many cities in America will never see), Memoirs of a Geisha, universal release and Syriana, which has been playing here for a month already. This could be the best movie I've seen this year. If not, it's way up there.

But not only does every movie play here, but we have the Arclight. These are movie theaters for movie snobs, which is pretty much almost everyone who lives in Los Angeles (at least in the 310 and the 818). There are reserved seats, ushers (who remind not to talk and to shut off your cell phones in a rehearsed speech before the previews), theaters with drinking, actors and industry types everywhere, high backs, NO COMMERCIALS, stadium style seating, extra-wide arm rests (it's like flying first class). And of course the requisite price. Matinees for $11, primetime for $14.

Today Scott and I went to see Syriana at the Arclight. We get in and there are like 6 people in the theater, including a couple behind us. The female half is talking on her cell phone, kinda loudly but not annoyingly so. And since the movie doesn't start for like 20 minutes it's all good. Then a rather large man, who sorta resembles a very unhappy Santa Claus sits a few seats away from us in our row in front of the cellphone talker. Well, after about one minute of his sitting there he says quite loudly to no one in particular, but to one person only,

" ... lobby." The initial words were kind of unintelligble, but it was clear what he meant. He then moved his seat from the near-center of the row to a seat second from the end. Our talker noticed and then told the person she was talking to that she had to go, because someone was unhappy.

"It's not like I was going to keep talking when the movie started," she then remarked to the guy with her. I give her credit for taking the higher road in this case. Her comment was not loudly passive aggressive for the other guy to hear. That was all for that luckily. Although, I was actually a little disappointed. I kinda wanted to see a smackdown, at least verbal altercation.

The other funny thing that happened at the movie was when an older married couple entered the theater. The usher happily escorted them to their row, which happened to be ours as well, and pointed out that they had the two seats that happened to be next to mine. We were about six rows back in the upper section of the stadium set-up. Now at any other theater this might not be so good, but since we were at the ultimate snob theater, we were still golden. The front of the Arclight is 25 feet from the screen. However, this wasn't far enough for the man, so he told his wife they should move back a few rows (out of the tickets that they had purchased).

The Arclight ushers are typically pretty anal about enforcing the sit-in-the-seat-you-purchased rules, even in non-empty theaters, as this one was. So the usher notices and then he starts pointing (subtly) and chatting with one of his fellow ushers about this clear flouting of the rules. Then a third usher comes in and gets involved in the conversation. You can tell that these three are losing it, someone is disturbing the order of their well-manicured universe. It's like the guy who allows his hedge to grow unchecked in a planned subdivision. OK, that's officially the worst and unfunniest comparison I've ever included in a blog entry or anything that I've ever written.

Today's reading recommendation: the Los Angeles Times' story about the difficulties California National Guard troops are having returning from combat in Iraq. One of the "highlights" was this nugget of information:

In contrast, their counterparts in the full-time military return to relatively well-equipped and -staffed bases, where their post-combat problems can be more easily observed and treated.

At Ft. Irwin, an Army base northeast of Barstow, soldiers undergo two weeks of "reintegration training" that includes counseling for family reunification and even a defensive-driving course to get soldiers used to civilian highways again.

Ft. Irwin has on-post medical facilities, subsidized grocery stores, day care and counseling programs for the children of parents at war. The base has six chaplains, a staff psychologist and a social worker office for its 5,000 soldiers and families.

The state's 20,000 California National Guard troops and their 40,000 dependents have only two full-time chaplains, one psychologist and one social worker.

And b/c I've been less political of late, here's a bonus read written by a British reporter for the London Independent. He talks about the ways American reporters "sanitize" the news--refusing to show the blood and death of war, which is ironically the ultimate bloody and death-filled endeavor or humanity, and how they negatively portray Palestinians.

The New Year is almost upon us ... resolutions people?


An Xmas miracle

Happy Boxing Day, dear non-readers.

ALERT: I discuss Brokeback Mountain at the end of this entry. No spoilers per se, but if you want to go in fresh, stop.

So yesterday I spent my sixth Xmas without the fam, and no disrespect to the fam intended but it was pretty great. The day began with a five-mile hike through Malibu Creek Park (where they filmed the opening sequence to M.A.S.H.) with my friend, the soon-to-be-the-next-star-of-newspaper-design, Amy, her boyfriend Robbie (major screenwriter on the verge), Amy's sister Kara, Amy and Kara's mom and step-dad and Amy and Robbie's friends Nick and Chris. A band of 8. It was one of those weird days in Southern California when the weather flips from zip code to zip code practically. It was gray/dreary in Culver City, drearier then sunny on the coast and sunny and warm in the Canyon. When you can wear a t-shirt and jeans on Xmas, how can you miss white Christmases?

After the quickie hike it was back home to shower up, call the fam and pick up some wine, music and really sharp knives, (that's my psycho seduction kit, because nothing says Xmas like a killing spree).

Then it was onto Amy's to chill, be a guy watching football (that was especially significant because Amy has seen me at my least manly -- discussing which movies make me cry, talking about clothes, hair products and i'd better stop on this list), trade music and eat a traditional Xmas feast -- 12-pound turkey, squash, mashed potatoes, salad, gravy, cranberry sauce, peas, fudge, wine, chocolate beer, stuffing.

As we were finishing up the preparing of the grandiose meal, Amy's stepdad, Neil (or is it Neal, i never got a spelling, dammit), asked me whether I'd like to carve the turkey. I kept trying not to, because as a 30-year-old I had never actually manned up and made the maiden slices on a turkey. But Neil gently insisted and promised that I wouldn't mess it up, b/c no matter what it looked like when I cut it, the eating size and shape would be small and shredded. That actually set my mind at ease.

So there I was holding my $70 Cutco Petite Carver knife and a fork getting ready to cut everybody's turkey. My first slice wasn't so good, unless we change the definition of good to mean about one square-inch of turkey of varying thickness that seems to be fraying at all the edges. My second piece is an improvement though, it's about twice as large and only half as frayed, though still randomly varied in thickness. My third slice though is about the size of the the kind of slab you see on a television commercial or at a carving station at a restaurant, yay! but it's also fraying and kind of variable in thickness, but less so. After about 20 minutes and dozens of slices, I've managed to reproduce the restaurant carving station quality on three or four slices of turkey.

Oh well, I felt like a man dammit, at least when Robbie said that he had gotten one of the well-cut slices.


P.S. We ended Xmas by seeing Brokeback Mountain. Good movie, not amazing. The characters were insufficiently drawn, at least Heath Ledger's was, and since the movie is told more from his viewpoint, that's not insignificant. But see it. First off, it's gorgeous--Wyoming mountains, two hot guys, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway (who can really act, as not shown in the Princess Diaries).

Thursday, December 22, 2005

What's the opposite of schadenfreude?

Shelley, wife of my best friend, Scott, has topped both Scott and myself. Scott and I have been loyal readers of Bill Simmons for years (and tried to get our e-mails into his mailbags) and since the two of them have been dating, she has migrated her Web browsing to include The Sports Guy and her sports fandom to the Red Sox.

So when Johnny Damon stabbed millions of Red Sox fans in the back and signed with the Evil Empire, she was naturally upset and fired off a rant to said Sports Guy. As soon as she cc:d it to Scott and me, I knew it had a real chance to actually getting published.

And lo and behold ... she obliterated us. (make sure to scroll down)

So what's the German word for anger and resentment at someone else's happiness?


P.S. the picture doesn't have any significance other than that, I love it!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Happy solstice!

"Wells Fargo will contribute $5,000 to the 49ers Foundation to help undeserved youth in the Bay Area for every 49er touchdown scored this season. (Pause) There's going to be a lot of sad kids." -- Joe Starkey, 49ers radio broadcaster

I "borrowed" that from Bill Simmons's homepage on But I thought that in honor of the beginning of winter, some humor was in order.

Btw, political update of the day: The Senate showed brass on filibustering ANWR drilling. Not even the American public is stupid enough to fall for the Republican ploy of attaching oil drilling in Alaska to war and katrina spending and saying that a vote to preserve Alaska is the same as a vote to help the terrorists defeat the troops and to continue poverty in Gulf.

But in good news politically, medical assistance for the poor and student loans were reduced in the new budget, b/c we've gotta preserve tax cuts for the wealthy! I cannot wait for like 8 years from now when those tax cuts trickle down!

Give me an S! Give me a U! Give me a P! Give me another P! Give me an L! Give me a Y! Give me an S! Give me an I! Give me a D! Give me an E!

What are you giving me? The economic shiv!

Happy solstice!

Btw, you know what the first night of winter means, right? The days start getting longer!!!!!!!!


Monday, December 19, 2005

A toothless media

So as part of President Bush's effort to justify his ordering warrantless wiretaps of Americans' phone calls and monitoring of citizens' e-mails, he held a press conference this morning, during which he admittedly sounded more frank and showed more honest candor than I've ever heard. But nevertheless, he dodged questions and worse yet, the White House Press Corps didn't hold him to the fire.

See below:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Getting back to the domestic spying issue for a moment. According to FISA (The Foreign Intelligence Service Act)'s own records, it's received nearly 19,000 requests for wiretaps or search warrants since 1979, rejected just five of them. It also operates in secret, so security shouldn't be a concern, and it can be applied *retroactively* (emphasis added). Given such a powerful tool of law enforcement is at your disposal, sir, why did you see fit to sidetrack that process? (sidetrack meaning order wiretapping without having to get a warrant first, definition added.)

THE PRESIDENT: We used the process to monitor. But also, this is a different -- a different era, a different war, Stretch (nickname for the reporter who asked the question). So what we're -- people are changing phone numbers and phone calls, and they're moving quick. And we've got to be able to detect and prevent. I keep saying that, but this is a -- it requires quick action.

And without revealing the operating details of our program, I just want to assure the American people that, one, I've got the authority to do this; two, it is a necessary part of my job to protect you; and, three, we're guarding your civil liberties. And we're guarding the civil liberties by monitoring the program on a regular basis, by having the folks at NSA, the legal team, as well as the inspector general, monitor the program, and we're briefing Congress. This is a part of our effort to protect the American people. The American people expect us to protect them and protect their civil liberties. I'm going to do that. That's my job, and I'm going to continue doing my job.

--MIKE COMMENT: what i don't understand is how the "quick action" is compromised by having to get a warrant after-the-fact, which is what retroactively means. DOES THE PRESIDENT NOT KNOW WHAT THE FUCK RETROACTIVELY MEANS? For fuck's sake. What double kills me here is that this was a great question by the reporter, especially dropping the "retroactively" bomb on the President, but then he gave him a free pass on that!!!!!!

For the complete transcript of the press conference click here.

Another lowlight for me:

Q Thank you, sir. Looking ahead to this time next year, what are the top three or top five -- take your pick -- accomplishments that you hope to have achieved? And in particular, what is your best-case scenario for troop levels in Iraq at this time next year?

THE PRESIDENT: This is kind of like -- this is the ultimate benchmark question. You're trying to not only get me to give benchmarks in Iraq, but also benchmarks domestically.

I hope the world is more peaceful. I hope democracy continues to take root around the world. And I hope people are able to find jobs. The job base of this country is expanding, and we need to keep it that way. We want people working. I want New Orleans and Mississippi to be better places. I appreciate very much the progress that Congress is making toward helping a vision of New Orleans rising up and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi being reconstructed. I think we can make good progress down there. --MIKE COMMENT: what the fuck does that shit mean? Who doesn't want more peace (well, except maybe dick cheney and certain chechen rebels) or democracy or jobs? Wow, those are good answers, Mr President.

One of the key decisions our administration has made is to make sure that the levees are better than they were before Katrina in New Orleans. That will help -- people will have the confidence necessary to make investments and to take risk and to expand.

I appreciate the Congress, and I'm looking forward to the Senate affirming the U.S. Congress' decisions to fund the education or reimburse states for education. There's some good health care initiatives in the bill. We want to make sure that people don't get booted out of housing. We want to work carefully to make sure people understand that there are benefits or help available for them to find housing. We want to continue to move temporary housing on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi so people can get better -- closer to their neighborhoods, and get their homes rebuilt. We want to start helping Mayor Nagin get temporary housing near New Orleans so as this economy comes back people will be able to find jobs.

I appreciate the fact that the Congress passed the GO Zone tax incentives in order to attract capital into the region. --MIKE COMMENT: YAY CORPORATE WELFARE!!!-- So one of my hopes is, is that people are able to find hope and optimism after the Katrina disaster down there, that people's lives get up and running again, that people see a brighter future. I've got a lot of hopes, and I'm looking forward to working with Congress to get those -- to achieve some big goals.

On a better note: Jalama Beach has amazing beach rocks. And The Natural Café in Santa Barbara (but also Westlake Village and one other locale) has amazing food, especially the Portabello Mushroom sandwich.

Happy Day

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Fears coming true and the importance of newspapers

President George W. Bush confirmed today that he did order the National Security Agency to spy on Americans and tap their phone calls without first needing to obtain warrants (which the Foreign Intelligence Service court handed out like candy -- Accoprding to Friday's NYTimes, which broke the story, the secret court has turned down only a small number of requests over the years. In 2004, according to the Justice Department, 1,754 warrants were approved.

And here's the kicker (please insert sarcastically prolonged drum roll here) ... he says he's gonna keep it up until we're safe. Yay! Maybe I should shut this blog down?

Embarrassed. Ashamed. I don't really even know what word describes how I felt when this information was disclosed on Friday. Following our ignoring the United Nations, abusing prisoners in ways that were especially offensive to Muslims at the Abu Ghraib prison, not allowing the Red Cross to inspect prisons and prisoners at Gitmo, and secret rendition of terrorist suspects to foreign prisons where anything could happen, I suppose nothing should surprise me anymore with this administration and this President. And yet, I guess because I still value the Constitution and the ideals of liberty our soldiers are defending and because I used to think that Bush was stupid but basically decent (it was Cheney who was dastardly), I was caught off-guard by this revelation.

This exchange from Friday though was not surprising:


The Journalist and the Politician. When Jim Lehrer interviewed President Bush yesterday, he tried to overcome the president's reluctance to talk about the NYT government-eavesdropping story:

JIM LEHRER: I mean, [the wiretapping story is] on the front page of the New York Times, the Washington Post, every newspaper in America today, and it's going—it's the main story of the day. So—

PRESIDENT BUSH: It's not the main story of the day.

JIM LEHRER: Well, but I mean in terms of the way it's being covered—

PRESIDENT BUSH: The main story of the day is the Iraqi election.

JIM LEHRER: Right, and I'm going to get to that.

What interests TP about this exchange is that Jim Lehrer is not really saying what he means. President Bush is certainly right about the Iraq election being the biggest story of the day. The NYT, which broke the domestic-spying story, gave the election a four-column lead on the same day. Even Lehrer would probably admit that a 70-percent voter turnout in a country just emerging from 40 years of totalitarian rule means more, in historical terms, than a revelation of domestic civil-liberties abuses. What Lehrer really means is something akin to this: "The Iraqi election may be the biggest story of the day, but it's not my job as a journalist to let you bask in a policy victory. It's my job to hold your feet to the fire, so I'm going to hammer you on domestic wiretapping." This is a perfectly respectable position for a newsman to take, of course; TP might act the same if he were in Lehrer's shoes. But it's worth noting that journalists, like politicians, sometimes feel the need to rationalize their agenda.

Michael Brus, a former Slate assistant editor, is a writer and social worker in Seattle.

Once again, the media does some great work and folds in other ways. Ironically, the NYTimes has recently replaced the No. 2 person at its Washington Bureau b/c of perceptions that the NYTimes was losing to the other publications (the Post had the rendition of prisoners to foreign countries and the LATimes had the scoop about the Pentagon paying for positive articles about developments in Iraq), at least according to industry buzz. This story blows the roof off things. The President may well have broken the law. One of the most moderate and measured people I know when it comes to politics, said that he considered this an impeachable offense.

And to me on the spectrum of impeachable offenses this is much worse than Clinton lying and his shaming the Office with his sexual dalliances. His sleaziness about marital fidelity and general smarminess and loose sexual morals, cannot compare to Bush's completely impugning the decency of human rights.

"The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons."
Fyodor Dostoevsky

While he says that we need to fight the soft racism of low expectations in schools, he seems totally fine with his expectation that Americans are up to bad things, especially Muslim Americans, b/c they don't believe in his Creationist God. How can someone be so arrogant as to think he knows alone how to run a country? Or be wise enough to entrust that most sacred of responsibilities to Dick Cheney?

I guess when you execute prisoners when you're Governor more often than you execute search warrants when spying on American citizens, that's your motherfucking answer.

What really bothers me is that NYTimes sat on this story for a year and didn't really explain why. Editor Bill Keller said that they wanted to do more reporting and learned that some within the government had a bigger problem with Bush and Co. going black-ops domestically and they learned more so they could report the story without compromising national security. I'm all about protecting national security, but still ... it seems like trusting this administration that everyone was OK with the checks and balances seems incredibly naive. This is the FUCKING BUSHADMINISTRATION FOR FUCK'S SAKE!!!

OK, I need to go look into moving to Sweden.

A quick final political thought from Mohammed ElBaradei (Nobel Peace Prize Winner)

"With globalization bringing us ever closer together," he warned, "if we choose to ignore the insecurities of some, they will soon become the insecurities of all."


A couple quick items ...

The Squid and the Whale features amazing performances from everyone, including a character portrayed by Jeff Daniels that is exactly whom i hope never to become. he's the ultimate snob, dissing pretty much all forms of high and low culture that he arbitrarily doesn't like, according to his standards of cultural excellence. Please let that never be me. Please let that never be me.

The most recent celeb sightings ...

Was out Thursday night at a bar in Culver City and we saw Tim Robbins, who appeared to have checked out a play at a local theater. He seemed to enjoy hanging out with the cast, although when one woman waylaid him for a solid 15 minutes and kept touching him, he seemed put off. He kept his smile the whole time, but it was that smile that never moved to the muscles beyond his mouth. What made the Tim Robbins thing better was that my friend, D, broke a cardinal rule of living in Los Angeles and approached Tim Robbins to applaud him for his political stances. They had a brief moment, but it would have been funnier if D had taken my advice and called Robbins a "Limousine liberal." Disclosure, I dig Tim Robbins and share virtually all his political stances, but a chance to be an ass on this scale is pretty fucking rare.

Saw Andy Richter today. he was buying coffee at the new coffeeshop near my office.

Happy Holidays!

P.S. Watch George W. Bush tomorrow when he gives his first Oval Office address since we invaded Iraq to root out the Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Monday, December 12, 2005

Best movie of 2005?

The Squid and the Whale. OK, it might not be the best movie of the year. But it's way up there.

Go see it.

More soon, the blogspot site is a bit whacked right now.


When are people born?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Weekly political apocalypse confirmation


The NYT off-leads with the fight over the use of cell phones as tracking devices. In the last three months, judges in New York, Texas, and Maryland have all ruled that prosecutors need to demonstrate probable cause to be able to access cell phone tracking info from phone companies. Prosecutors, naturally, want the threshold to be lower. Scariest buried factoid: Your wireless company can track you even when you're inside buildings, regardless of whether or not you're actually on the phone. And some companies keep that information for years.

--The idea that they can track me when I'm not even using it, is one of the ultimate signs that the MAN is turning the screws, ain't it? THIS IS A CORRECTION. BEFORE I HAD STATED THAT we could be tracked even without a signal. I re-read the article and realized that I'm an idiot. NEVER forget that.

The NYT today also ran a story that essentially said with Democrats like Joe Lierberman sucking the President's dick, we don't need Republicans like Tom DeLay in power to make sure that the Republican agenda for a screwed America takes shape. My guess is that my friend Bill, a very moderately leaning Republican who is actually an indepdendent (like me), would think that this article is right on. He's the President of the Joe Lieberman fan club.

I've also noticed a series of articles across the major papers, but especially in the Los Angeles Times about the lack of progress in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. It's been three months now and brown water lines and desertion seem to be the most prevalent things. It's really scary that CNN or MSNBC or even FuxedNewsChannel cannot find a way to put someone on the ground every night and give us hourly updates the way that they're able to for missing white women.

But perhaps the most heart-warming story today appeared in the New York Times. This story revealed how the United States continues to refuse to allow International Red Cross into the "secret" prisons that don't violate international treaties banning torture. If it's not who they are, but who we are as Sen. John McCain said, then we're fuckedmonkeys.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Overcoming my own preconceptions

So admittedly over the past few years I've noticed that I've grown a little further apart from most of my college friends, thankfully not all. Sure, much of that has to do with time, it's been 8 years since I graduated from the University of Arizona, and as I've luckily made many more friends from grad school or working at the Times Union or living and working in Los Angeles, I find that the time i have to devote to calling Wildcats and emailing them has been split up among all my new friends, too. But it's been more than simply the adidtion of new friends and the increased distance of spacetime--I've also noticed that i have less in common with many of them and the mikefricano that I am now.

Many of them studied to be teachers while in college and/or are teachers now. Also a fair amount of them have lived all of or much of their post college lives in Tucson and been there with each other when they had post-college milestones. and while i've never been criticized for my absence, in fact i've strengthened some relationships since graduating thanks to maturity, i can just tell that i don't have as much new common ground. and that's OK, i've learned that that is the path of life. for on my end i have added new friends to my circles as well that my college friends do not know.

But in addition to additions to the Web of friends, I've also become very much a screaming blue liberal, while many of them are a bit more conservative (at least so i've thought). Many of them grew up in Arizona, traditionally a more conservative state than New York or California where I live now. And I also went into the "liberal mainstream media" while they did not. It's been since college that I've met more atheists/agnostics and people pro-choice, anti-death penalty, anti-criminalizing flag burning, etc. I am known among some friends as the Forwarder of news articles and also especially Opinion columns criticizing the Bush administration and arguing for "liberal causes." I rarely, though, send anything to my college friends, save one or two. I assumed that they wouldn't appreciate my ramming my political ideas down their throats, just as I certainly wouldn't want them to do that to me.

In the past few days, though, thanks to this blog in fact, I realized that i was judging my college friends based on opinions assumed to be in evidence and not actual surveys of their political thoughts. I include my blog address in my email signature and a friend with whom I speak far too rarely (Megan) decided to check it out. Now this blog tends to get political from time to time, since politics have become an interest of mine. In this particular entry I was praising the decency of Jimmy Carter, who had appeared on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Megan read this posting and said she wholeheartedly agreed with my take on this very honorable man. This was honestly quite surprising to me, since I had assumed her to be more conservative than me, and she may well be because most people are, but it was unwise of me to do that. For just because someone is to my right it doesn't mean that they're RIGHT-WING. And honestly, i have no idea what Megan's political leanings are. I just know now that she recognizes a truly decent, intelligent, thoughtful man in Jimmy Carter and she is angered by the dishonesty of our current administration. Why would I possibly think that one of my friends, whose opinions and support are important to me, wouldn't have an astute command of something so plainly obvious?

I've said often that you can really assess people by examining their friends, because their values and ideas will be reflected in them. And if I am to consider Megan and all my college friends true friends, I need to trust that they'll have the wisdom and intelligence to "get me" even if their politics are diametrically opposed to mine. So though you may never read this Megan, thank you.


Monday, December 05, 2005

Television is good, very very good

Jimmy Carter was on The Daily Show tonight. Fantastic man, fantastic talk show guest. Catch the rerun Tuesday night. It'll be good for your brain and even more importantly good for your heart. He is so brilliant and genuinely decent in every way George W. Bush pretends to be. His honesty, integrity and honor are sorely lacking in American politics and society and also even in myself.

And Maureen Dowd guested on The Colbert Report. Very good guest. She could easily do more TV, and probably host her own show. She's so quick-witted, and disarming and very beautiful, which is not a bad thing for television or life in general.

I love Comedy Central, and if they're honest that bundling cable makes it possible for us to have nicher channels like Comedy Central then bundle away.

Merry Xmas season and christmas birthday!


Sunday, December 04, 2005

Quick recommendation -- the musical that might change your life

see RENT, it's fabulous. Chris Columbus's earnestness works for this musical. Rosario is totally cool though not amazing, but the new Joann, whose name escapes me right now, is startlingly good.

happy sunday! I hate sports!


Friday, December 02, 2005

Sign of Polital/Governmental Apocalypse

From … The WSJ's Washington Wire (following the Post) notes that the Office of Government Ethics, an executive branch office charged with "preventing conflicts of interest on the part of Government employees," has a position open: its directorship. Must be a really tough gig though. They haven't found a taker for two years.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

World AIDS Day

So today was World AIDS Day and each year this days causes me to reflect and ruminate a lot.

Back in sixth grade my family went to Arizona on a vacation. We spent time visiting family that lived in Phoenix, my mom's uncle Shelby and his wife, Maxine, and Shelby's son, Danny. Danny was really sick and he was secluded in a bedroom. I had just gotten over a mild case of the chicken pox and my sisters were in the middle of a full-blown case of the pox. We weren't allowed to see Danny because we were told that he might get sicker being exposed to us. [At the time, I didn't know the ironic truth of that.] This didn't really bother me, b/c i didn't really know Danny at all and I didn't want to make him sicker either.

When Danny died a few months later, my parents told me that he had died of AIDS. It was 1986/7 and I knew Danny was gay, but I had had no idea at the time that it was AIDS. My parents told me that part of the reason we weren't allowed to see him was because they were afraid of exposing us to AIDS. I wasn't angry or anything at them for (unnecessarily) shielding me and my sisters from this. And even now I'm not angry or disappointed or anything in them. At the time, there was so much that wasn't known about HIV/AIDS and so much misinformation out there. Hell, at the time i wouldn't have been comfortable going to school with an HIV positive student. I know thay my mom loved her cousin Danny, and even though i know she think homosexuality is wrong, I also know that she wouldn't stop loving her cousin or treat him badly because of his sexual orientation.

Anyway, for a reason I'm not sure if i'll ever know, this experience and its aftermath has really affected me. I've by no means become an activist or even done as much as I should have been doing all these years, but HIV/AIDS has become something pretty important to me. I give to AIDS Project LA, I have a red ribbon tie, I buy AIDS stamps (or did when they were issued), read many articles about the disease, especially its effects in sub-Saharan Africa.

While in college I started subscribing to Entertainment Weekly magazine. And every year the first issue in December in recognition of World AIDS Day the magazine would publish headshots of short bios of every one in the industry who had died from AIDS the previous year. After a couple years I noticed that the list started growing smaller and smaller, which was awesome, until it disappeared altogether, which wasn't as awesome. With some 8,000 people dying around the world each day from AIDS, the pandemic hasn't gone anywhere, we're just lucky that in the United States things have become much more manageable and controllable. But let's please never forget that THERE IS NO CURE.

Among my favorite movies are And the Band Played On and Angels In America. And I would definitely count the story below as one of my faves from my time as a newspaper reporter at the Albany Times Union. A cool thing about this story was that the day after the organizer of the event called me to thank me for my sensitivity. But what would make this much better would be for there never to be a need for another AIDS walk again.


ALBANY--A pastel chalk message was all Emily Parker could write to honor her brother. Shielded from the truth about her brother Chris' death 15 years ago, Emily didn't learn that her brother died of AIDS until 1992. On Sunday, she tried to make amends by letting him and anyone else who reads her fleeting memorial know "one day we will beat this."

While scrawling her 8-foot-by-5-foot message, Parker fixed areas where people walked over it. She also took the time to brush the chalk so that it filled in the heart she drew evenly.

"It's a tribute to my brother, because I never really got to say goodbye," said Parker, 22, who was one of 1,500 walkers who participated in AIDSWalk 2001. This year's event raised more than $200,000 for education, research and patient care.

After the walkers finished the trek through and around Washington Park, dozens grabbed colorful pieces of chalk and transformed the asphalt in front of the Lakehouse into a rainbow of remembrances for "Fred" and "Jim" and "Uncle Dan."

Sadly, said AIDSWalk coordinator Linda Glassman, the list will get longer. There are 3,475 people in northeastern New York with AIDS and thousands more infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, according to the state Department of Health. Nationally, 774,467 Americans had been reported with AIDS and 448,060 had died of the disease through last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

"AIDS impacts a wide variety of people," said Glassman, noting that the infection rate has remained constant even while the death rate decreased.

When Parker learned that her brother died of AIDS, she was angry and sad and even a little glad that she hadn't known all those years.

"This way I remember him as my brother," Parker said as she recalled photos of him laughing and having fun.

While progress has been made, frustration abounds for AIDS caregivers, who must compete for limited funds with myriad other diseases and catastrophes. Throughout the last several year, AIDS has ebbed in the public consciousness following the limited success of drug "cocktails" in treating patients.

"But it's not a cure," Glassman said. In fact, strains of the virus are becoming resistant to the $15,000-a-year drug combination, which counts liver failure and fatty lumps among its harmful side effects.

"What happened in New York City was horrible, but each day across the world 8,300 people die of AIDS," Glassman said.

Now Parker, who walked for the first time this year with the Starbucks team, said that she wants to learn more about the disease and to do something concrete to help.

"I'm just really glad that people can do this at least," she said, "so that other families may not have to deal with this."


And on this day of rememberance of people who have lived and died with honor, dignity and grace, our federal government continues to embarrass the fuck out of us. Today the Los Angeles Times reports that the military hired a public relations firm to "plant" stories in the Iraqi media of "positive" developments in Iraq. Once again, the century of Liberty doesn't have anything to do with an open democracy.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The weirdest concert I've ever been to

All right, I'm going to have to work harder to make sure that I post more often. I promised myself at least three days a week, and it's been more than a week since something went up (this entry is pre-dated).

So last night was the like the 13th show of the year. Setting: Troubadour. Artist: Nellie McKay

The show was supposed to start promptly at 9 p.m. with no opener, so Dave and I decide to get there about 8:30 p.m. We walk through the security and ticket line and are given "Lost passes" to the upstairs bar and balcony seats (which are already full). I'm pretty psyched, since I've never been granted access to the secret seats (which have housed Morrissey and Jim Belushi at shows coincident with me). Dave says it's b/c we're early, but i've been really early before and been shut out, so this is pretty cool.

Nellie McKay, whose first album was released as double CD at her insistence over her record company's wishes (can you say artiste?), comes out at about 9:20 and immediately says that she has just met her band this evening. the crowd doesn't seem to care, b/c she's here right in front of them and doesn't appear ailing. her last appearance in Los Angeles had been at a radio station festival show in the spring and she was so sick that she played just a couple songs. Unfortunately, the first two songs, while played pretty well with her brand new backing band, are riddled with an important sound level problem--the vocals are way too quiet compared to the band's mics. the audience complains about it, especially b/c many of her arrangements are piano only so the backing band is kinda weird (weirder still watching them sift through sheet music). at other shows i've been to a little complaint about the sound levels usually ain't nothing, but i can already sense a weird defensive vibe about this. Both sides seem at fault, the complainers seem to have a tone of you-better-fucking-fix-this-or-i'm-gonna-be-an-asshole-audience-member and she seems like to be taking this personally (when in fact people love her and just want to be able to hear her voice better).

But the next couple songs are performed with a louder and a bit clearer vocals so the crowd seems appeased and the vibe seems to be disappearing. People in the crowd were laughing along with her ironically jokey lyrics and feeling the vibe of her playful piano tickling.

Nellie then says she wants to do a new song called "Columbia is bleeding" about animal testing at Columbia University in her now-hometown of New York City. She plays the song, which no one knows and if the fans are at all like me didn't really "get" the lyrics hearing it the first time in a club, and it's received what seemed to be pretty favorably. People clapped and cheered and some laughed, though not necessarily apparently at that song per se. But about one minute into her next song she stops.

And then she rails against the audience for laughing, saying that "animal cruelty isn't funny. would you laugh if i sang about slavery? slavery isn't funny. rape isn't funny, unless you're sarah silverman. not all of my songs are funny." in my head all i can think to myself is nice job of criticizing the crowd for laughing at you by making a joke about someone else. She continues with this holier-than-thou criticism of the audience (keep in mind this is someone who makes jokes in her music, has a little girl voice sometimes and plays piano mostly with spritely paced major chords and keys) and a woman from the upstairs seats yells: "SHUT UP AND SING."

" ... [unintelligible response], you bitch!"

OK, gloves are off (or other applicable cliché). This leads to a GIANT FUCKING MELTDOWN. Nellie starts non-sequiturizing into complaints about her record label, Sony, for fighting her on the length of her upcoming album. She wants to do a 23-song, 75-minute CD, while Sony wants 16 songs and 48 minutes. She asks the crowd if any of us would NOT buy her CD b/c it was 75 minutes long. Of course we all agree with her and relatively onboardish with her rant, even if it does seem a bit vitriolic. But rather than be rallied by our support and agreement, she keeps going. So someone encourages her to start her own label. She says she'd like to but Sony controls her contract and that she has offered them a "quarter million" to get out of her contract, even though she doesn't have it and now she's hysterically crying and trembling, and if she cannot get out of her contract and cannot record her music the way she wants to she may never sing again, which would break her heart, b/c she cares so much about the music and that's all that matters to her and blahblabhblah and at this point the audience is stunned. I'm speechless and almost sweating b/c tghe audience is that uncomfortable. She's crying hysterically now and tears and snot are flying into the audience. people who had totally backed her on the record length thing, like me, are now really put off. dave is mouthing "one of the weirdest shows ever" to me and taking a pic with his camera phone. the band is just frozen more or less, with the bass player throwing her occasional smiles of support.

After about 10 minutes, the histrionics end. And she then goes right into her next song and plays it fine. The audience response to this and the next few songs is timid, except for the ass lickers who say that they love her. It's like she's the dynamite on the season finale of Lost on stage and we don't want to disturb it by clapping inapproriately or anything.
honestly, i;m thinking the whole thing might be staged, given her history of deceit about her career. I'm 19, no 22, no i'm not saying. My grandfather was a murdered, except he wasn't. My dad's a lech, except accding to dad he supported her for years and her mom. The buffalo news did an amazing article on all this a few years ago. now this doesn't detract from my loving her music, but perhaps i don't love the artist.

Eventually the vibe blows over, the show kicks ass and oh yeah, she comes into the audience to hand a photocopy of an article that appeared in a magazine about animals that were left behind or mistreated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She has only about 20 copies and (luckily) for dave and i we each get one. We were actually like first and third to get one. She was very nice about handing them out, too. the show ends two hours after it starts and it was great for the most part, but still ...

So that;s it. the weirdest concert i've ever been to.

A couple other things for this posting check out -- a novel about horrible pharmaceutical companies, that ironically was commissioned by the pharmas initially to portray them as the goodguys.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

George W. Bush and co. are so smart about global warming

This is from the Los Angeles Times ...

Antarctic Ice Shows Long Period of Lower Greenhouse Gas Levels
A nearly two-mile-long core of ice -- the oldest frozen sample ever drilled from the underbelly of Antarctica -- shows that levels of two greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, have not been as high as they are today for 650,000 years.

By Usha Lee McFarling
Times Staff Writer

A nearly two-mile-long core of ice -- the oldest frozen sample ever drilled from the underbelly of Antarctica -- shows that levels of two greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, have not been as high as they are today for 650,000 years.

The new research, published in Friday's issue of the journal Science, describes the content of the greenhouse gases within the core and shows that carbon dioxide levels today are 27% higher than they have been in the past 650,000 years and levels of methane, an even more powerful greenhouse gas, are 130% higher, said Thomas Stocker, a climate researcher at the University of Bern and senior member of the European ice coring team that wrote two new papers based on the core.

The work provides more evidence that human activity since the industrial revolution has dramatically altered the planet's climate system, scientists said. "This is saying, 'Yeah, we had it right.' We can pound on the table harder and say, 'This is real,'" said Richard Alley, a Penn State University geophysicist and expert on ice cores who was not involved with the new analysis.

--And of course the best way to respond to this is to give tax breaks for buying a full-size SUV. I love gasoline!!!!!!!!!!!

Happy thanksgiving. Let's all remember to thank someone with an American flag pin on their lapels.

Raise a glass to drinking JimJonesJuice


see Capote and Goblet of Fire!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

If this weren't real it might be funny in a really sick way

Instead, this is just ghastly.

I came across this reading today.

The Washinngton Post notices a recent e-mail from the Department of Homeland Security celebrating some of its great achievements in 2005:

DHS Today will highlight FY05 Accomplishments in this column over the next several weeks. This week's focus is on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The top FY05 FEMA accomplishments included:

Hurricane Katrina: The response to Hurricane Katrina was FEMA's largest response in its history.

Be thankful you're not that deluded this holiday season. A real entry coming soon.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Avoiding slopes and the importance of Bon Jovi songs

So I've made it my goal to not become the guy who starts something with enthusiasm and then fades fast and easy. And yet, I've started posting less frequently already. I think part of that is because I don't want this to become a strictly political blog and lately, that's where I felt I was being pulled. In an effort to be more multi-faceted with this blog, I am going to try and keep the political stuff to just two days a week, unless something huge happens. But this is me and I give myself just a 30 percent chance of adhering to that. Quick belated props to Condoleeza Rice for helping broker a compromise between the Palestinians and Israelis. Engaging in the international community through hard work and diplomacy works. whothefuckwouldathunkthat?

Now on to today's entry ...

As I've said before (at least I hope have), moving to Los Angeles is one of the two best decisions of my life (along with joining the Pride of Arizona in college). I've found a job that I truly love going to every morning--a purrfect combination of journalism, computer geekiness and most importantly teaching (without being a certificated teacher and with it dealing with all the attendant rules and regs), as well as been able to indulge my music jones by finally becoming someone who goes to concerts and introduces his friends to great music (yeah, the former intellectual snob, now gets to be a practicing music snob, who also listens to def leppard and deborah gibson), inline skate for 10+ miles every weekend and most importantly i've met some truly amazing people.

I was able to rediscover my best friend from high school, walk along as he met, dated and fell in love with his now wife (one of the few Republicans that I truly love--gotta get behind anyone who loves Rent, Harry Potter and watching the Oscar pre-show), one of the two funniest people I've ever met and so many others--especially my own kids. But perhaps my favorite person that I've met out here, our designer at L.A. Youth, might be pulling the Garden State and heading back to her Midwestern place of origin.

From Amy I've rethought my conceptions of friendship, family, love, music snobbery, parenting, pop culture, karakoe, abortion, xmas and art. not bad, eh? Soon we're going to journey with some of our fave people as they confront the difference between doing what is good and what is easy. Perhaps we can learn something from them. I know at least to never say goodbye, even if we do end up 1,200 miles apart.


Gross, goofy coda to today's posting

On my way to buy Goblet of Fire tickets Thursday night (for a Friday show), I had a most unfortunate adventure. was walking along 3rd Street, which is a pretty standard street in Los Angeles street, curb, grassy strip, sidewalk, more grass/trees then buildings. Well, I had walked about two blocks when and was about to cross the street when I noticed that most unmistakeable smell of animal shit. I looked down to make sure that I hadn't stepped in anything, and thankfully I hadn't. I kept walking assuming that I'd escape in a few steps. But instead it's getting worse and 10 steps after that even worse. I look down at my shoes again and i'm clean on the soles of my shoes, but at this point not in my lungs. As I'm looking down I notice that the grass between the sidewalk and the curb has been replanted. So i'm assuming that they're fertilizing. What makes this short junior highesque story even better is that I got to repeat it when I came back.

In closing I'm gonna pimp for USA Network on Thanksgiving and burning off tryptothan -- Bring It On, Coyote Ugly, Meet the Parents, American Pie 2 (and unfortunately, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days). But except for the unfortunate pairing of Penny Lane and nakedbongopothead is like 10 hours of comedic bliss.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

I don't know if this apocalyptic but ...

Care Bears are back. What the fuck is up with that?

And right now I'm watching this commercial featuring the always cute Kristen Davis touting the benefits of a Maybeline make-up with "caffiene" in it.

Um, uh, wtf?

Why newspapers still matter, and why the Net makes them better

So the Los Angeles Times today had the beginnings of an amazing investigative series on conservators, people who are appointed by the courts in california to oversee and manage (and control) the lives of the elderly placed in their charge. they make tons of money and seem to do in a nearly unregulated environment. best thing, gov. schwarzenegger vetoed legislation that would have added more regulation. So if you've got $385 lying around, get certified and then you, too, can file papers in court to control someone's life that you've never met.

And the New York Times featured a great Op-Ed from Frank Rich (Times select subscription required) about the Bush administrations culture of lying. Here are some of the most salient tidbits ...

... The power of these lies was considerable. In a CBS News/New York Times poll released on Sept. 25, 2001, 60 percent of Americans thought Osama bin Laden had been the culprit in the attacks of two weeks earlier, either alone or in league with unnamed "others" or with the Taliban; only 6 percent thought bin Laden had collaborated with Saddam; and only 2 percent thought Saddam had been the sole instigator. By the time we invaded Iraq in 2003, however, CBS News found that 53 percent believed Saddam had been "personally involved" in 9/11; other polls showed that a similar percentage of Americans had even convinced themselves that the hijackers were Iraqis.
--[this one is terrifying]

There is still much more to learn about our government's duplicity in the run-up to the war, just as there is much more to learn about what has gone on since, whether with torture or billions of Iraq reconstruction dollars. That is why the White House and its allies, having failed to discredit the Fitzgerald investigation, are now so desperate to slow or block every other inquiry. Exhibit A is the Senate Intelligence Committee, whose Republican chairman, Pat Roberts, is proving a major farceur with his efforts to sidestep any serious investigation of White House prewar subterfuge. Last Sunday, the same day that newspapers reported Carl Levin's revelation about the "intentionally misleading" Qaeda informant, Senator Roberts could be found on "Face the Nation" saying he had found no evidence of "political manipulation or pressure" in the use of prewar intelligence.

His brazenness is not anomalous. After more than two years of looking into the forged documents used by the White House to help support its bogus claims of Saddam's Niger uranium, the F.B.I. ended its investigation without resolving the identity of the forgers. Last week, Jane Mayer of The New Yorker reported that an investigation into the November 2003 death of an Abu Ghraib detainee, labeled a homicide by the U.S. government, has been, in the words of a lawyer familiar with the case, "lying kind of fallow." The Wall Street Journal similarly reported that 17 months after Condoleezza Rice promised a full investigation into Ahmad Chalabi's alleged leaking of American intelligence to Iran, F.B.I. investigators had yet to interview Mr. Chalabi - who was being welcomed in Washington last week as an honored guest by none other than Ms. Rice.

[i believe what you may be feeling is Yikes!]

So basically, yay newspapers! THERE IS NO WAY THAT WE'D BE GETTING THIS INFORMATION WITHOUT THEM. And more importantly than converted liberals like me getting this information, hopefully more questioning people will also be getting this information.

What else today? it's been a mixed, but mostly shitty, weekend for sports. My fantasy football team lost even though they actually didn't eat it for once. For Fuck's Sake ... I got three touchdowns from Roy Williams thrown by Joey Harrington!!! and I still LOST. The Sabres disappeared against the Senators and Arizona started to believe its hype in college football. DOUBLE YIKES! But the Bills won and Losman played well in the victory. Will they have the sack to let him keep playing?

I didn't get to watch the game, but I can imagine Jerry Sullivan's Monday column already: Leave Losman in. Leave Losman in. Leave Losman in. The defense still sucks, but London Fletcher played half as well as he talks for once.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

more vegetable reading

This is a truth-test of Bush's and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley's speeches earlier this week, in which they claimed that the administration did not manipulate or exaggerate intel about Saddam's non-existent weapons of mass destruction and that Congress was on board.

Asterisks Dot White House's Iraq Argument

By Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, November 12, 2005; Page A01

President Bush and his national security adviser have answered critics of the Iraq war in recent days with a two-pronged argument: that Congress saw the same intelligence the administration did before the war, and that independent commissions have determined that the administration did not misrepresent the intelligence.

Group Trains Air Force Cadets to Proselytize

By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 12, 2005; Page A06

A private missionary group has assigned a pair of full-time Christian ministers to the U.S. Air Force Academy, where they are training cadets to evangelize among their peers, according to a confidential letter to supporters.

Shame on us: Apparently it is about who they are ...

Senate to Gitmo enemy combatants: DROP Your Appeals DEAD!!

The NYTimes reports today that five "moderate" Democratic Senators voted to support "moderate" Republican Senator Lindsey Graham's proposal to deny of enemy combatants held at Gitmo the the right to appeal their incarcerations in the United States Court System.

"A foreign national who is captured and determined to be an enemy combatant in the world war on terrorism has no more right to a habeas corpus appeal to our courts than did a captured soldier of the Axis powers during World War II," Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, said in a statement. [With Democrats defending civil liberties like that, who needs Dick Cheney?]

Spokesman for Senator Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) as quoted in the NYTimes: "He thinks they should stay in the military tribunal system, and if that system is broken, we should fix it, not move them out of it," said David DiMartino, a spokesman for Senator Nelson. [Buck stops where?]

Let know one say that this is solely a pro-Democratic blog.

More coming later today, because dammit this is a news-filled Saturday

Friday, November 11, 2005

Funniest things about sports this week ...

It's a tie:

"If they let the cheerleaders date the players, then they wouldn't have to go make out with each other." -- Cris Carter trying to make sense of the Carolina cheerleaders scandal--two of them caught in a ladies' restroom stall--on HBO's "Inside the NFL"


Rich Rys, writer extraordinaire and philly sports fan myopic apologist, bought a T.O. jersey last season. That's a shame.

Go Sabres!

I want again to be proud of who WE are

Sometimes this blog will be about politics, b/c that's very much a part of who I am since I've moved to California.

So earlier today, President Bush confused questioning the intergrity of the reason why we went to war with not supporting the troops.

"As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them," the president said. "Our troops deserve to know that this support will remain firm when the going gets tough. And our troops deserve to know that, whatever our differences in Washington, our will is strong, our nation is united and we will settle for nothing less than victory."

I fail to understand why the President continues to impugn the concept of freedom as his default response to any criticism levlled at his reasoning (lying) about going to war. Are we not fighting to bring freedom to the Iraqis, who were previously unable to criticize, let alone question, their "elected" leader?

How can this be the same man who said this: "Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe -- because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export. And with the spread of weapons that can bring catastrophic harm to our country and to our friends, it would be reckless to accept the status quo... The advance of freedom is the calling of our time; it is the calling of our country. From the Fourteen Points to the Four Freedoms, to the Speech at Westminster, America has put our power at the service of principle. We believe that liberty is the design of nature; we believe that liberty is the direction of history. We believe that human fulfillment and excellence come in the responsible exercise of liberty. And we believe that freedom -- the freedom we prize -- is not for us alone, it is the right and the capacity of all mankind. -- George W. Bush

... I guess as long as it's not the liberty to ask why we lied our way into killing 2,050 American soliders and a "conveniently" uncounted thousands of Iraqis.


This was published on today:

"It's not about who they are. It's about who we are."

So said Sen. John McCain, in defending his amendment to a defense appropriations bill that would bar U.S. officials from inflicting "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment" on detainees in the war on terror. But while Sen. McCain is surely right that how we treat those in our custody ultimately reflects back on us, this debate is also very much about who "they" are. That's because the Bush administration's justification for employing "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment" against certain individuals expressly turns on the fact that these individuals are foreign nationals held abroad. The coercive-interrogation policy is predicated on a double standard: According to the administration, we can do it to "them" because "they" are different from "us."

ME AGAIN: Color me ignorant, but I fail to understand how torture jives with liberty.


But maybe this does:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says he is more concerned about the leak of information regarding secret CIA detention centers than activity in the prisons themselves. [Reported in an amazing story in the Washington Post early this month.]

Frist told reporters Thursday that while he believed illegal activity should not take place at detention centers, he believes the leak itself poses a greater threat to national security and is "not concerned about what goes on" behind the prison walls.

"My concern is with leaks of information that jeopardize your safety and security -- period," Frist said. "That is a legitimate concern."


So in closing I'd say it's OK for your blood to be boiling. If it's not, make sure you're still alive and that you haven't grown a tail. But to ensure that your boiling blood doesn't melt your intellect and turn you into a former Dover, PA school board member, check out these two sites. The first is 3 reasons for liberals to be happy, that aren't related to Lewis Libby getting a new nickname.

and this one is a blog from Barack Obama. Wisdom from the Land of Lincoln.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Existential Car Problems

First off, I have to thank or blame Scott Thompson, Sweet Home Class of 93, for that blog title today. He coined the term for that which you're about to read.

So continuing yesterday's story of Gulliver's Travels 90232, I got up at 6 a.m. today (which really ate it, b/c i was up until 1 a.m. writing yesterday's chapter FFS). I sleptwalk to my car and started my car and yay! my "service engine soon" light was still on. Luckily, I made it the 16 miles to the Saturn dealership and I left my car for the day in the caring hands of my friendly Saturn service tech/rep. She said that they'd hook up my car's computer to their femputer and find out why my light stayed on and why the ride was unsmooth.

Since I was carless, my esteemed colleague and fellow Arizona Wildcat Amanda Riddle picked me up at Saturn and drove me to work. Yay! AMANDA!

So we get to work and start editing pages for our next issue. Thankfully we were überbusy today, so I didn't paralyzingly lock onto my cell phone, even though I did prove that a watched cell phone never rings. WHERE ARE YOU SATURN PEOPLE?

At 2 p.m. (6.5 hours after leaving my car, at what was supposed to be near the front of the line), I finally get a hold of them and ...

"So, we tested your car and the codes that came up were a problem with your oxygen sensor." Incidentally, that's what my roommate Andrew and my old college roommate Bill specualted.

"OK," I said, wondering why they didn't quote me a price or say that I should replace it.

"But," tech says. I had a bad feeling about the but. "we're not sure what the problem is because the light has gone off."

"excuse me?"

"Yeah, we know that you had a problem with it, but the light is off now and it seems to be going fine. What I need to do is have someone drive it around for like 10-15 miles to see if it comes back and then we can more correctly diagnose the problem."

"OK, thanks, well call me when you learn more."

In the interests of brevity (too late), I'm gonna jump ahead here. Basically, they drove it around and still nothing, which left me here. It would cost $115 to fix the oxygen sensor ($75 for the part and $45 for the labor--not bad as car repairs go). But there's a chance that replacing the oxygen sensor won't fix the problem with my car. It's possible, though unlikely, that the oxygen sensor problem is just symptomatic of a bigger problem. So they don't me to spend money on a repair that might be unnecessary and then have me come back in a few more days and pay for another repair that was the real problem all along. They were very nice and waived $90 diagnostic fee. Last thing they tell me is to call them when the light comes on again. yay!

So in the end, I got a ride to work from one co-worker, a ride back to the dealer from my boss, stared a lot at my phone, lost a lot of sleep, a got a free car wash all to do this over again in the next few days most likely, because this light problem is going to come back.

Sorry to anyone who comes aross this entry. It really wasn't entertaining or amusing. I suck.


Monday, November 07, 2005

Why being an adult is the same as being Gulliver

Back when I was younger and my family went on vacations to Disney World, I was always kind of amazed how smoothly the trips went. We went to the airport and bam, we had reservations confirmed on a flight. Then we flew and changed planes and landed right on time. And when we went to the rental car counter, we'd have a midsize car waiting for us and sometimes even got an upgrade, b/c my parents knew enough to use the free upgrade coupon. (rhymes with poopon not, qupon.) And during our weeklong stay we followed our schedule of going to the Magic Kingdom, Sea World, EPCOT, MGM and whatever else. And we always were able to sightsee random things, buy souvenirs and then get on our flight back to Buffalo and get back to our lives. It was always lots of fun and just seemed like there was soooo much that we did. How in the hell did my parents ever manage to orchestrate that? I always figured that I'd learn the magic answer when I "became an adult."

This past week, I realized how turning 30 and "becoming an adult" are not necessarily mutual progressions of time.

On Monday, Oct. 31 (two days after my 30th birthday) I got a call in the late morning from my boss telling me that my new Apple iBook G4 (on which I am typing right now) had been delievered at my office. Yay! I tell her that I'll be in the later afternoon to pick it up, after I run a bunch of errands. While I'm running the errands I noticed a thing with my car. I was sitting at a traffic light and when it turned green my car wasn't quite as responsive as normal. I pressed on the gas and my usually very sensitive pedal required me to push down further before my car started moving. I had been listening to the radio and sort of blew it off thinking that I might have imagined it. However, on the drive home from the grocery store it definitely happened again. I figure that I need to call Saturn to have my newly used car (I bought it a few months ago, it's a 2002 SL2) looked at.

I drop off my groceries and head to the office and the car does it's weird unresponsive gas pedal thing again. I'm not particularly happy, and I'm in fact scared in the way Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanze were scared about going to the mechanic way. If he tells me I need a new "Johnson rod" who am I to disagree? But when I get to the office and pick up my computer and see its image on the box, any fears of a tempermental car are swept away, at least until I start driving again. About one mile into my 6-mile drive home, the "service engine soon" light comes on. YIKES!

The car is still doing the pedal thing sporadically at stop lights, but fortunately is exhibiting no other problems with its operation. I get home and immediately call Saturn, before even opening my new computer. It's a Monday remember and they tell me that the soonest diagnostic appointment they can schedule for me is not until Thursday. (Side note: in a place the size of Los Angeles, you can't just drop off you car when you get an oil change and say, "Btw, I noticed a noise can you take a look?" that makes me miss Albany. you have to schedule diagnostic appointments, which are all-day affairs). So now I have to play the "umm, uhhh ..." game on the phone as I think out loud about whether I can afford to drive me car for two days with the light on. The woman on the phone says that there are like 1,000 reasons that light can go, 900 of which are totally OK to drive with for a few days, especially with my short commute. So i go ahead and schedule for Thursday and arrange the relay of rides to get me to and fro the dealership, which is like 15 miles away.

So I get back to playing with my computer and it's grand! I'm even having so much fun that the fact I just spent $1,400 on it and have an ???? amount coming on my car (at least a few hundred i suspect) isn't even a thought in my mind. I do take a quick break to read my car's owner's manual hoping for a magic bullet. It says that one reason the "service engine soon" light comes on is when the car is low on fuel and an air bubble sneaks in. I know I've got just a quarter tank, not really low, but certainly not high. I take a quick spin to the gas station to fill up, hoping against hope that well it'll be fixed, right? Well, I fill up but of course no dice. the Light stays on.

The next morning I am very wary when I start my car, but of course it's fine. And I notice that on my drive the car is driving smoothly, even at stop lights and stop signs. That's a good sign. About two miles into my drive, the light turns OFF!!! Perhaps i've been blessed by a miracle of magic bullet car repair. Should I start questioning my atheism? This should give you some idea as to how vulnerable I feel about my car. This is definitely one of the least manly moments of my life, confessing my extreme car wussness for the world to see.

So I resolve that if my car remains good to go for the rest of Tuesday and on the way into work Wednesday, I will call Saturn to cancel the diagnostic appointment and perhaps reschedule for a couple weeks later when I am due for an oil change. We're on deadline at work, so the idea of throwing this into my daily stress is just too much. Wednesday rolls around and things are peachy and I am now basking just in the glow of my new computer, which has a really nice monitor, which I look at a lot late at night when I would have usually been in bed before the new computer. And I'm not watching porn or downloading porn. I'm just staring at my desktop wallpaper.

Fast forward (though if you've read this far, you'll realize that nothing moves fast when I write) to Friday evening. I'm driving to my colleague's opening at an art gallery and my car feels a little shakey. Like the drive is just not smooth and at one light the gas pedal thing feels like it might have just come back. Well, a friend calls me and after the quick conversation, I look at my dashboard and tada "Service Engine Soon." It's back. I call Saturn immediately since it's 6:45 and they're open until 7 p.m. But since it's Friday everyone in the service dept. has knocked off early and I'm cheerily invited to call back at 8 a.m. Saturday. The three miles to the gallery, my car exhibits the shakiestness of all in the past week. I'd provide a link to fear here, but they don't really have one that I have time to find.

Well, the gallery opening is fantastic. Cool art.

But on the way back to my apartment, well, more scariness. The car keeps being unsmooth. That's the scientific way to say "I'm afraid that I'm going to be told I need a new Johnson Rod and that said Johnson Rod will be very expensive."

[for those wondering when the fuck the gulliver reference will make sense, it's coming up. keep your shirts on]

So I get home from the art opening and decide to once again turn my attention to my computer. I love denial! Well, i figure that it's finally time to hook up my printer and test out Pages (Apple's version of MS Office, b/c I won't patronize Microsoft if I can help it. And there's no better way to stick it to the man than by buying software from another multi-billion-dollar corporation. Well, on this night I discover that I cannot print from the Internet, unless what you mean by print is getting all blank pages for every page you intend to print from say, ( I really wanted to print out Steve Lopez's series on homelessness in downtown Los Angeles.,1,7834819.special

And Pages, it's awesome, so as long as you never want to send a Pages document to anyone via e-mail. I spend several hours trying to fix these problems, but no dice. Then Sunday night I spend many more hours trying to fix all these things--printer and Pages. I download drivers (I even find the updated drivers for my three-year-old printer), uninstall software, reinstall new software, read manuals (well, skim them), pore through discussion groups.

Eventually the phone rings. It's my friend, Jon, from the 716. He asks how things are going and seems to be able to detect that I'm in a non-purrfect state of mind. I hit him with the litany: the car (which actually is worse b/c it was bad, then miraculously good, then stomach-punching worse), the computer, being on deadline at work, the money associated with the car and the computer, needing a haircut. blech. Any one of those things independently, no big deal. Even two of them, like just the computer and deadline, fine. But the car and the computer and the deadlines and everything else in life was just too much. I told my roommate that I felt like Gulliver being stabbed by the Lilliputians (well, the car was actually was like being stabbed by a lilliputian weilding a Cutco knife--i bought two of them and they're spectacular.)

Well, I can say that there was a mild resolution. I fixed the pages problem. I figured out how to export files into forms that can be attached to emails. Yay!

It's funny, as I dealt with all this I remembered a time I talked to my parents about the vacation planning thing and how at my age, they were already raising two kids. And they basically said that you draw on your past experiences and try to emulate your successful models and avoid the missteps of those you've seen who suck it. But basically, you're never prepared. Them parents sure is smarts.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Here I Am ... Rock me like a hurrica-ayne

So today's the beginning of my finally doing something to fucking publish myself. Since I'm too lazy to actually write anything that requires real work and editing, I'm going to do things blogstyle, at least hoping that this gets my writing bones back.

Mainly, if you get e-mails from me pretty regularly you'll see lots of redundancies with this blog and my e-mails, but this way it'll be archive-like. So if you cannot get enough of my greatest hits and can't find his collection on then this page is for you to embrace your real inner nerd-dom.

Go boldly, though if you don't like me, just go.

Posts hopefully coming soon, especially once I get my new computer. ;)

Hasta la vista

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Los Angeles has spit me out

The new place is in Culver City, about 3 miles east of where I used to live. Still very close to the beach about 5-6 miles away, so driving to the beach and rollerblading every Sunday morning still easy and convenient. I moved into a room in another guy's apartment. As i started looking and noticing that studios on the Westside of Los Angeles we're going for $900+ and one-bedrooms for at least a $1000 or even $1100, I realized that living alone in the neighborhood I wanted was prohibitive, esp. once I added in bills that would be all mine. So as i thougth more about it, I knew that neighborhood was more important than living alone (which was preference).

Then it was a craigslist adventure. I ended up searching for about 5 days. During the first four (Sunday 8/7 - Wednesday 8/10) I responded to about 10 "roommate wanted" ads and didn't get didly for a response. No e-mails, no calls, no hey-we-have-more-questions-for-yas. NOTHING. I was starting to fret a bit, because I had noticed that some of the ads Wednesday were reposts of ones I'd seen earlier (people just trying to make themselves first on the list again) meaning ones I had already passed on. Oh yeah, the big rub was that the night of Monday 8/8, my landlord brought two girls by to check out my apartment and they applied that night to move in. They loved it (of course they did, it's a great place). So the foot in my back about a moving deadline was very real.

Fast forward to Thursday 8/11. I have a strong morning. I call to make one arrangement to check out a place (three-bed, two-bath, which i'd share, but also moving in with a couple and some other roommate) that night at 7:30 p.m. Then I get an e-mail back about another ad. I'm checking them out Monday night at 7:30. Then in the afternoon I get another email. I plan a visit that night at 6:30 (i figure i'll hit the 7:30 after that).

Well, I go to the 6:30 and meet Andrew: 24, masters in harmonics from UT-Austin, who works as an engineer near downtown. He's very laid back, makes me feel very welcome, not that You'd-be-moving-into-my-place-and-have-a-room thing, but the it's-your-place-too thing. Like when i remarked that his living room walls were bare (like ours now) he said that he had shit, but was too lazy to put it up and that i should feel welcome to put some stuff up out there, too. that was cool. I also met his mom, she was in town because he just had had knee surgery and was helping him out around the house. I do spy an issue of Christian Singles magazine, so i realize that we're different, but he also told me stories about going to vegas and staying up all night, so we're not that different. In the end, we really click and it's like 8 p.m. and decide that the search is over. whew!

I leave, call the 7:30 people and belatedly cancel with them. get home and have a message from my landlord saying that they want to keep me as a tenant and they ask what they can do (it's nice to be wanted, especially after four days of rejection) and then another guys calls me on my cell to say he's interested in my response to his ad. when i tell this guy that i just found a place, he sounds genuinely happy for me that i get to leave the searching-for-an-apartment-in-LA fraternity. it sucks. but the move went smoothly.

So after i moved in though and signed the lease, I discovered the rub re:apartment. this place has had like 5 tenants in the last year-plus. and has never been emtpy in that time, it's always one leaving at a time. so the rental company doesn't get involved in deposits with that situation because they'd never get a chance to assess whether a place was completely back in pristine condition, so they leave it to the tenants moving in and out to keep that stuff on the up and up. well, when the place is finally emptied (i.e. both tenants move out together), then they have the apartment company's inspection team comes in and also the standard professional cleaning crew (painters, carpet dudes). the cleaning crew fees are deducted from final tenants' deposit, so the buck has been passed. basically, the set up kinda shivs the last tenants in the back a bit.

but given how cheap this place is for what we're getting, i don't really have a huge gripe with it in particular, more on principle. the cleaning crew typcially costs about $700, for an apartment that does NOT need major work--just the typical re-painting, fixing tiny nail holes in the walls, standard carpet steaming (not big stains, because those are extra). the guy i'm taking over from left a big stain and there are a few throughout, but shelley (scott's wife) lent me her steamer, so once i'm settled in, i am going to town on this place to get it up to snuff. so far, so good. it's not perfect, but there will be a huge improvement once i get this done. the cool thing, andrew is one board with whipping this place up into decent shape.

interesting other living potential drama. dave, a friend who helped me move, told me a few weeks ago that he's in a potentially weird spot living-wise. his current roommate has such bad credit that when they moved in to their place in june, he signed the lease alone b/c the apartment co. wouldn't approve her. she just pays him each month. she's a wannabe actress with a fiancee in chicago ((and an apartment). she works part-time at Express on the Third St. Promenade in Santa Monica and was thinking of quitting and moving back to chi-town. i told him if he gets stuck, i'll likely move in with him. she is prone to melodrama, he said, though.

btw, after moving in, andrew tells me that he's just a few days ago applied for a job in houston, which he had just found out about. this was about two weeks after we'd agreed to share his apartment. so while this threw me for a loop, i wasn't pissed or anything. i would never tell someone not to follow where their gut is leading them career-wise. and i know he wasn't leading me on or anything. he's gonna e-mail them this friday, if he hasn't heard anything. ideally, he said, they wouldn't want to hire him for six months. and also, he just had knee surgery and is on a rehab schedule through the end of the calendar year, which he's pretty intent on sticking with here in los angeles, b/c he wants the same doc throughout, which makes sense. he has heard from them and they told that until they sort out how katrina has affected their company they are in a holding pattern, so told him to touch base in a few months (meaning after the first of the year). my gut is that he'll likely
be moving in jan or feb, but we'll see. i'll jump off that bridge when i get there.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

From the Greatest Hits file: A bit about this blogger/How well do you know Agentslaeyer?

So here's what makes me really happy, really angry, and feel really really stupid.

So I went to see Rilo Kiley Sunday night. And they were amazing. They had all the extra energy of a band finishing a tour in its hometown. but the best thing was the encore.

for the second song they brought out their friend "deborah" and said they were going to do one of her songs. i was sitting way in the back and could really not see much in detail other than that "deborah" was youngish looking and blonde. well then they started the intro to the song and it was very familiar, like "lost in your eyes" by Debbie, before she was Deborah, Gibson.

Since I unfortunately missed Deborah Gibson last Sunday at Pride Day in West Hollywood, this was the next best thing. I could not have imagined a cooler, more unexpected amazing thing to happen at a concert. i know that no concert ever will have a moment that eclipses Deborah Gibson playing Lost in your Eyes backed up by Rilo Kiley.

i went to my roommate's PhD hooding ceremony last week and one of the deans of the grad school really pissed me off. she started railing against the "media" and included newspapers in her rant about how "the media tells us more about michael jackson and not enough about what's going on in washington." it really got me chapped, because she lives in los angeles home of the Los Angeles Times a paper that actually covers Washington pretty damned well. And is free and so is Could these papers be a lot better, sure they could, but she could do a lot better at her job, too, i'd bet.

i mean, she's right about television news, but it must be nice for her and all the professors and fucking morons in the audience who agreed with her to be so smugly taking cheap shots. any wonder why academics are hated only just below reporters.

I'm going to this wedding over Fourth of July weekend in Las Vegas. I booked my hotel reservations for Friday the 1st and Saturday the 2nd, since the wedding is on Saturday. Then last night I'm talking to Colleen M., the bride to be, and she asks what my schedule is. I tell her get in Friday and leave Sunday. She laughs and says "you can't leave Sunday, that's the wedding..." and then pauses ...

I'm waiting for her to say "just fucking with ya, it's saturday." meanwhile, she 's waiting for me to say "of course, just fucking with ya, i know it's sunday."

after about 30 seconds we both realize, that i'm an idiot. so now i have to fix this mess up.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Greatest Hits--Jury Duty ain't like Pauly Shore movies, thankfully

First the background on my first jury duty service from Jan. 2005 ...

It was two defendants accused of killing one young man, so actually we're conducting two trials simultaneously because with the exception of one piece of evidence all the other particulars are identical. The victim, Humberto G., was a senior at Morningside HS in Inglewood. He was killed May 31, 2003 after he was stabbed five times (four in the chest) by Antonio C. (one of the defendants) -- the defense stipulated to this. In fact, during jury selection all potential jurors were asked whether we agreed that sometimes people are justified in defending themselves -- so early on we knew that the defense attorneys would be mounting an "affirmative defense" (no dispute over the fact that the accused killed the victim, but claiming that the killing was justified).

The other defendant was a young man named Juan A., a friend of Antonio's that was with him the night of the killing. Both Calderon and Avila were charged with murder in the second degree, which is different from murder in the first because there was no advanced planning.

Opening arguments started on a Thursday, after three days of jury selection, and they were pretty boring. The prosecutor, Tracy L., took a long time with hers and she has the most annoying habit of shifting her weight while she stands about every 8 seconds. Go ahead, stand up and have someone watch you do that for a minute. It will have them laughing their asses off in about 40 seconds. So, this is opening statements and already i am foreseeing lots of trouble concentrating. Meanwhile she lays out her version of events....

Humberto G. and his best friend, Alex Negrete, are walking late at night on the way home from a party and they pass by a Jack in the Box and get jumped by Antonio, Juna (the defendants) and two other friends of theirs. Pretty soon the six total people break off into two separate fights of 2-against-1. Juan and Antonio against Humberto and Alex N. against the other two.

The defense attorneys have a slightly different version of events. They say that a carload of friends, Juan, Antonio and four others (the other two never engaged in the fighting), stopped at a Jack in the Box [I don't recall if a reason was given, and it doesn't matter because arguments are not evidence] and were minding their own business when Humberto and Alex decided to jump them. The defense attorneys said that they would show that there was a bad history between Alex and Humberto, football players, and Juan and Antonio, two smaller guys.

So off we go to the case, which didn't start until Friday morning (one thing about court in Los Angeles County, it's not the most efficient for a trial juror, but it does allow lots of time to get work done)....

The first witness is the prosecution's witness. It's Alex. He says that he and Humberto were leaving a party and walking to a cousin's house so that they could get a ride home. On the way there they passed a Jack in the Box and Humberto had been on a cell phone off and on. While at the Jack in the Box a car pulls up and four guys get out, one of them looks like he has a bat, and they rush them. They hesitate for a second then run away. Soon though, Humberto turns around and starts fighthing. Alex says that he wouldn't leave his boy hanging, so he goes to fight, too. Pretty quickly the end up pairing off into the separate groups and then shortly after that the cops get there. He and Humberto are thinking of leaving, since they didn't do anything wrong. The cops call them back over and then once they're up against the car, Humerto collapses and he dies a short time later. Once the defense attorney's get to crossexamine him, it gets argumentative as they keep trying to figure out some thing with an alley and why the stick found at the scene doesn't look anything like a bat. It was like a four-by-four, not round like a bat. Alex says that it was dark and it was a fast thing. He also says that once he showed the cops the crime scene that he saw what it really was.

Overall, he seemed to have a very skewed view of the truth, but i never got any sense he was lying, per se. just that the questionable reliability of an eye-witness seemed to be shining through here. his memory clearly portrayed he and humberto as beyond reproach in this incident, except that they should have kept running away rather than turn and fight.

His testimony basically takes the first day. The second day we get the testimony of Ericka M. She is the defendant Juan's girlfriend, but also apparently has a history with Humberto, the deceased. She testifies that she was driving Antonio, Juan and the others home when the check engine light turned on in her car so she pulled into the JackintheBox. She didn't even see Alex and Humberto. She said that Juan and Antonio and the rest of the guys passed around her cell phone and were talking to someone, but she didn't know who. She said that she didn't really see the altercations because she was not near them and it was dark. Bottom line, she corroborates Alex's testimony that there was a phone conversation. She also testified that someone told her to "pop the trunk."

The cops are up next. Btw, while i haven't exactly written a particularly dramatic email, i have done the favor of ignoring the dozens of objections. Let's put it this way, for those who've watched Law and Order and The Practice, the type of behavior that Sam Waterston's and Dylan McDermott's characters got away with -- the argumentativeness, the quasi-conversations -- wouldn't have flied in judge John Meigs courtroom. He runs a tight ship and the attorneys are up and down like jack in the boxes (no pun intended) objecting to everything. If it hadn't been a murder trial it would have been laughable.

Anyway, back to the cops. First it's the lead detective. He doesn't have much to say in terms of anything he saw, because he didn't see anything. Basically, his biggest purpose was that he interviewed Antonio and interviewed him on tape. So we listened to a conversation in which Antonio admits to stabbing and killing Humberto. He says "he lost it." The cop also said that there was no way Alex would have even been allowed to walk the cops around the crime scene. So then it's more cops and the coroner. Bottom line, Humberto was drunk at the time he was killed. They never tested Antonio's shirt to see whether Humberto's blood was on it and they didn't test the knife (murder weapon) that they found at the scene. Or if they did test it, the results weren't available at the trial.

The prosecution rests its case. At this point, i feel like the defendants are clearly guilty of something, murder or manslaughter, but i'm not sure which one. At this point the trial has been going on for several days and believe it or not, the jurors have done a pretty good job of keeping their mouths shut among each other. at least i think we have. instead they (i pretty much just read) end up talking about their love of john grisham books and movies and Nic Cage as an action hero. Um, yeah, these are your peers, America! i hope none of you ever end up in a jury trial.

The defense calls just one witness.... Antonio's brother, Daniel (who incidentally i had a dream about last night, and it's now like a month since the trial has concluded). Basically, he says that they went to JackintheBox to get something to eat, but they were closed. He also said that they go there a lot to eat, even kinda late, but they didn't know the place was closed. Daniel was a shitty witness. He somehow managed to have pretty detailed answers for every question from the defense attorneys, but when asked the same question from the prosecuting attorney he'd say he didn't remember. it was again something that would have been laughable had this not been a murder trial.

Then we got to closing arguments. If you're bored reading this, just remember, I had to freaking sit through all this. Closings were horribly long and we were again subjected to Tracy Lopez's shifting weight thing. Again, if you're feeling bored by this e-mail, stand up and start speaking at someone and shift your weight every 8 seconds... you're both guaranteed to be laughing within 40 seconds.

And now it's friday (7 days after the trial began) and we get the judge's instructions, which take two-plus hours and during which two jurors nodded off. and all of us were more or less baffled by the legalese. one of my favorite things about legalese, they love to define words with themselves. this made deliberations great fun.

deliberations.... we're in a 20 x 20 room with men's and women's bathrooms. we essentially are not allowed to leave except at designated breaks. we started with a quick mousketeer roll call, so we could call each other by name rather than just numbers. this dude scott volunteers to be jury foreman. he's mid 30s and a pretty important guy at his church and he cannot stand silence, so he always has to crack really bad jokes to fill silences, and has been doing that throughout the trial.

we read through the charges and definitions on murder 2 and review the judges instructions for Antonio only, based on that we vote. 5 guilty of murder 2nd, 4 non guilty of murder 2nd, three (including me) undecided. after reviewing the evidence though and the definitions of murder 2nd, which requires malice aforethought, which is essentially conscious disregard for life, it ends up 11 guilty and 1 not guilty. Our not guilty person says that given that this happened during a fight she cannot resolve the doubt she has as to whether the stab wounds were a "conscious disregard for life." She sees it as more heat of the moment, which is manslaughter. With no reliable eyewitnesses, we don't actually know how the fight happened.

The doubters, myself included, we ended up moving to Murder 2nd because of the number of stab wounds. with five wounds, four near the heart, to us this was enough to show some conscious intent to harm and it clearly demonstrated to us the "not caring" whether the guy who was stabbed lived or died. However, after a few hours of talking about this, she still wasn't convinced. End of deliberations on friday afternoon.

Monday starts with Scott wanting everyone's name and contact info because he's planning to write a book about his experience. he says it'll be half our rants and half commentary on the departure from jeffersonian ideals. he says we'll all get cuts from any future proceeds. Four of us don't sign, including me. I mean, I know everyone in Los Angeles is writing a screenplay or script or wanting to act, but this is fucking ridiculous. Well, after this discussion, it starts getting heated. People are really pressing her, imploring her to convince them of why she's right. It then starts getting raised voice argumentative. With people interrupting each other to take shots at her. I'm starting to get really embarrassed.... I work with teens for a living and granted we aren't discussing murder verdicts, but they're much better behaved.

At one point, the foreman, Scott, says that he should ask the bailiff to call in the alternate because she's being so stubborn. First off, illegal to do that, secondly, just really classless and bad form. at this point, a juror (bill) and i (we were generally the most cool customers in the room) can tell it's over in terms of us ever agreeing. that comment has pushed marissa (our lone holdout) over the edge temper wise. and then to make matters worse, scott throws the autopsy photos at her as if to say, how can you not find the guy guilty who made these wounds. seeing that were about one wrong look from marissa kicking scott's ass, i jump in. i start pointing out that the jury deliberation process isn't about us convincing one another of our points of view. it's about each of evaluating the evidence and interpreting the judge's instructions. and to respect the integrity of the process means each of us renders an independent position, that hopefully agree. so thankfully that serves to cool the room and we all realize that we're a hung jury on defendant number one.

defendant number 2 (i'll keep this really short). basically we're in disagreement again. in this case 10 in favor of just involuntary manslaughter (essentially because there was no way of knowing how involved juan avila was in this whole thing. he wasn't engaged in the fight and never touched the knife). but two were in favor of murder 2nd. i think that they were actually misinterpreting the law, but given the negative vibes in the room we weren't going to get over that. so we're hung on both. [side note, for each case we voted like four or five times].

so that's it. i know really long and not especially good writing. despite the negatives of much of the process, the boredom, the immaturity of my fellow jurors, the profiteering foreman, the ridiculous weight-shifting Assistant DA, the comically color coordinated defense attorney (her glasses matched her outfits every day, seriously, either the frames or the lens tint), it was a very compelling experience and one i'd repeat again when called. i am most glad that marissa never "caved" into the pressure even if i think she was wrong. the justice system has continued because it's far more important than any single verdict, it's about the process and watching it was like watching them make sausage, it's kinda ugly, but in the end you get something important and ultimately kinda satisfying.

So sorry this is soooo freaking long and not particularly exciting.