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.