Monday, October 30, 2006

The latest edition of why newspapers matter

The Los Angeles Times is in the midst of an amazing, heart-wrenching story about a couple's struggle to become parents. A couple of gay men who want with all their hearts to become fathers. The stories tell of their extreme emotional and also financial reaches to attain this. It's incredibly gripping. You can read it here.

Another nod to the Times' Steve Lopez, who on Sunday continued his amazing tale of Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a former Julliard string player who has been homeless essentially for a many years because of schizophrenia. It's been a roller coaster of joy and pain to read, and I'm sure even more emotionally volatile for Lopez to report. You can read it here.

Keep the presses rolling!

Grammar police

A few months ago, I deputized myself as a part of the Irony police promising that this blog would point out misuses of the word "irony" or "ironic." Well, thankfully since donning my badge, I've had just one or two irony-abuse entries.

However, I need to add another. "Then/Than."

See this example from espn.com ...


Question: Being a Giants fan I have very mixed feelings about Eli Manning. What's your take?
Green: I think he continues to get better. I think Eli's foot mechanics and throwing mechanics are much better then last season. I think he is doing a better job of reading the defense and taking what the defense is giving him. I think he is on target with the way he is progressing each season.

He MEANT "than" in this instance. THAN IS USED FOR FUCKING COMPARISONS.

Fell in love with a girl ...

This is from someone who wrote to John Buccigross's NHL column on espn.com. His response is below in itals.

John,

I just had to respond to that letter from ex-hockey fan Mark. You said "the girl of your dreams would never take you away from hockey." Exactly.

Speaking from experience -- and my husband will vouch for this -- instead of taking you away from hockey, she'll get you Rangers tickets for Valentine's Day so you could see Gretzky play before he retired. She'll watch every game of the Stanley Cup playoffs (Bourque going for the Cup was a compelling story, especially living in Boston). She'll listen to you patiently, at midnight, when you get back from pickup hockey -- late because the kids get the better ice times, which is as it should be -- as you describe the sweet goal you got, low, stick side. She'll start ordering the NHL Center Ice package for you, watching all the games and understanding what offsides and backchecking are. And finally, she'll start playing the game herself -- goalie if you're really lucky -- so that you'll always have at least one net filled at your scrimmages. (Besides, what better marital therapy is there than firing slap shots at your wife?)

Anne
Minneapolis

I just filed for divorce and am now hitchhiking to Minnesota.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A good thing big and small

I just watched the highlights of the hockey game between the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Islanders on yahoo! And regardless of score or whatever, it's good to see Ted Nolan behind an NHL bench again.

Republican stocking stuffers

U.S. Constitution toilet paper ... endorsed by President Bush and Vice-President Cheney for its ability to wipe away their bullshit lies about protecting freedom.

and order now and we'll thrown in U.S. Constitution Mad-libs, what dictators with a sense of humor use to strangle the rights of individuals, or just TORTURE them.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Must-read

Good friend and fellow former childhood Amherster, Kevin, is returning to college ... at 34. To become a physics major. He's decided to blog all about it. He's one of the smartest guys I know (and a hockey, beer and Tragically Hip fan) and a damned good writer. Check him out at myreturntocollege.blogspot.com.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Gift horse meet nothing

The Buffalo Sabres are 8-0 to start the new season. It's been such an amazing ride that I shall enjoy until ... For a while I was nervous and doing the Buffalo fan thing ("jeez I hope they stop talking about us because it'll jinx us" or "the guys will start believing their own hype"). But then I realized that reacting like that is chickenshit. A champion has an air and a directed focus and given the Sabres start (in the wake of heady pre-season predictions), they've got it, too.

So game on to all comers. I'm gonna enjoy this.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

For the record (Lost spoiler included but the text is white)

my theory about tonight's appearance from Desmond ... desmond traveled forward in time 108 minutes, which is how he knew about locke's speech. i don't know why he's naked. my joke theory to that specifically, is that a la terminator, one cannot time travel with any clothes on. but seriously, here's why i do think he time traveled. this show is all about duality: science/faith; black/white; old lives/new lives; electromagnetism (has to do with all radiation, which can be particles and waves, physics 101) so why not space/time continuum stuff? i know it's amping up the sci-fi aspects, but JJ is back this year (granted carlton wrote tonight's ep).

Btw, a dog has been barking. I hope s/he quiets down. It's after midnight, but not in a Clapton way.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Why you're going out of business!!!!

Tower Records. Famous for it's name, but perhaps more famous for ridiculously over-priced CDs, usually $18.99 per new disc. Well, they're liquidating and having the requisite Everything-must-go sale. Things are discounted 10-20 percent the lowest ticketed price, so that means a whopping $4 off of a $19 CD, meaning Best Buy is still cheaper.

I wonder why Tower is disappearing?

Buy from indie record labels directly!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Soundtrack for the Revolution 2006

It took until I moved to Los Angeles to really love the political process and so with Election Day less than a month away here are two playlists to get you ready to take back democracy. I really wanted to publish mine on iTunes but even though I think all the songs are available, except for this version of Rockin' in the Free World, it wouldn't register but like half of them.

My Soundtrack for the Revolution:
1. Anarchy In The U.K. — Sex Pistols
2. Fight The Power — Public Enemy
3. Fortunate Son — John Fogerty (live)
4. Master Of War — Pearl Jam (covering Bob Dylan)
5. Take It From The Source — Spirit Of The West
6. A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall — Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians (covering Dylan)
7. It's A Hit — Rilo Kiley
8. Not Ready To Make Nice — Dixie Chicks
9. Rockin' in the Free World — Indigo Girls w/ K's Choice (live)
10. Mosh — Eminem
11. Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2) — Pink Floyd
12. When the President Talks to God — Bright Eyes
13. The Rising — Bruce Springsteen
14. Philadelphia — Neil Young
15. City Of Blinding Lights — U2
16. It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) — R.E.M.

Dave's view ...

1. The Star Spangled Banner (live at Woodstock) - Jimi Hendrix
2. Gimme Some Truth - John Lennon
3. Down In The Flood - Bob Dylan
4. In The Flesh - Pink Floyd
5. Dance Like A Monkey - The New York Dolls
6. 16 Military Wives - The Decemberists
7. Fingerprint File - The Rolling Stones
8. Born In The U.S.A. (live acoustic version) - Bruce Springsteen
9. Battleflag - Lo Fidelity Allstars
10. God's Gonna Cut You Down - Johnny Cash
11. (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding - Elvis Costello
12. Electric Avenue - Eddy Grant
13. Monster Hospital - Metric
14. The Man Who Sold The World - David Bowie
15. Illegal Alien - Genesis
16. Families - Neil Young
17. When The Tigers Broke Free - Pink Floyd
18. Wake Up - Arcade Fire

Raise a drink to re-earning our position on the moral high ground by honoring and respecting other countries, not torturing people, being active stewards of the Earth and by combatting domestic and international hypocrisy.

Vote (democrat)!

Teaser for the next entry

Saw Sufjan Stevens Monday night at the Wiltern. The show was the most unusual concert I've ever been to. And I mean that in the best way. His vision is so unique and his show was distinctly sublime in complexity or orchestration and sound. Or perhaps, in what other circumstance could a man wearing colorful plastic bird wings stand on a stage playing a banjo absolutely command the emotions of 2,000 hipper-than-thou Angelenos?

I also saw Kirsten Dunst, very cute in person, and Danny Devito, whom I towered over. Coolest thing, he gave me an unsolicited nod upon our making eye contact. Cool.

Scary world we live in

The North Korean government appears to have successfully (depending on one's definition of the word) tested an atomic device Monday.

It's been a while since I just dumped a story verbatim into my blog, but the L.A. Times story analyzing years of botched diplomacy is soooo good that I figured why bother trying to interpret this, since I'd only mess it up. This is one of the reasons that newspapers are great. I hope that the Los Angeles Times does not lose its well-deserved spot among the world's best newspapers.

NEWS ANALYSIS

Diverted Attention, Neglect Set the Stage for Kim's Move

Up until 2001, North Korea's nuclear program was largely under seal and monitored by the U.N. What went wrong?
By Barbara Demick
Times Staff Writer

October 10, 2006

Little more than four years ago, the North Korean nuclear weapons program was largely under lock and key, the threat seen as a fleeting crisis of a previous decade.

North Korea's main nuclear center at Yongbyon, 60 miles north of Pyongyang, was monitored 24 hours a day by U.N. surveillance cameras. International inspectors lived near the site. Seals were in place over key nuclear installations and a nuclear reactor at Yongbyon was gathering dust.

So what went wrong?

The story of Monday's announcement of a nuclear test is one of failed policies, neglect and missed opportunities by the Bush administration and its predecessors.

It is also the story of how a cagey dictator, Kim Jong Il, took advantage of the United States' entanglement in Iraq to advance his nuclear agenda.

"When you start the debate about 'Who lost North Korea?' " said Scott Snyder, a North Korea expert with the Washington-based Asia Foundation, "there will be many places to lay" the blame.

North Korea's founder, Kim Il Sung, well aware that the United States had considered using nuclear weapons in the 1950-53 Korean War, first began a nuclear energy program in the 1960s with help from his patrons in the Soviet Union. His son, the present leader, accelerated the program in the early 1990s, and the Clinton administration grew concerned.

In 1994, the United States struck a deal known as the Agreed Framework, under which North Korea agreed to place its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon under a U.N.-monitored freeze in return for energy assistance and help building light-water nuclear reactors, which are harder to use for military purposes.

Relations warmed somewhat, and in 2000 then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright traveled to Pyongyang to meet Kim Jong Il. Normalization of relations appeared imminent.

All that changed when George W. Bush became president. Bush quickly made public his loathing for Kim and the regime. Republicans were particularly scornful of the agreement to give energy assistance to North Korea and looked for ways to void the pact.

The opportunity presented itself during the first visit by a Bush administration envoy to Pyongyang in October 2002. Assistant Secretary of State James A. Kelly was told by a North Korean official that the North was cheating on its nuclear freeze obligations by conducting secretive research into highly enriched uranium. As fuel for a nuclear weapon, highly enriched uranium is an alternative technology easier to keep hidden than a plutonium-based program, which requires a reactor such as the one at Yongbyon.

The Bush administration moved hastily to punish North Korea by cutting off shipments of fuel oil that had been pledged under the Agreed Framework.

Within weeks, the North Koreans put tape over the surveillance cameras at Yongbyon and broke the seals on their nuclear installations. By New Year's Eve, the U.N. inspectors were escorted out of North Korea.

The Asia Foundation's Snyder said the Bush administration was justified in its actions. It was also evident that Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan had been helping North Korea undertake a highly enriched uranium program on the sly. The Clinton administration, Snyder said, was sloppy in not following up on tips as far back as 1998 of North Korean efforts to procure uranium technology.

At the same time, the United States ended up in effect throwing away a deal that had kept the more immediately threatening plutonium production facility at Yongbyon in check.

"We wanted to catch them cheating. We focused on moral indignation at the expense of our national interests," Snyder said.

Once the U.N. inspectors were gone, North Korea wasted no time. By mid-2003, it had repaired its mothballed nuclear reactor and cranked up the reprocessing plant where weapons-grade plutonium was extracted from spent fuel rods.

The United States issued shrill warnings to the North Koreans, but they sounded increasingly hollow given the entanglement in Iraq. The North Koreans continually appeared to be calling the United States' bluff.

And if the Bush administration expected the removal of Saddam Hussein to deter Kim Jong Il from forging ahead, it was in for a disappointment. The North Koreans said they needed nuclear weapons to prevent the United States from exercising the doctrine of preemption on their territory.

"We're not like Iraq or Yugoslavia or Afghanistan. We can defend ourselves," Kim Myong Song, a North Korean guard at Mt. Kumgang, boasted to The Times last year.

North Korea trumpeted each and every step toward completing its nuclear weapon. Its news service declared it had reprocessed fuel rods into plutonium. The regime said it had a "nuclear deterrent" and warned repeatedly they it would conduct a nuclear test.

Usually regimes develop weapons of mass destruction in secret. North Korea's boastfulness led analysts to speculate that perhaps this was Pyongyang's cry for attention from Washington.

Yet as North Korea plowed ahead with its nuclear program, the Bush administration refused to meet directly with its adversary. Instead, it insisted on a rather clunky diplomatic initiative known as the six-party talks. Basically, the U.S. said, it would not meet with the North Koreans unless China, Russia, Japan and South Korea also participated.

Donald Gregg, a U.S. ambassador to South Korea under Bush's father and now head of the New York-based Korea Society, said the crisis could have been averted if the current Bush administration had talked to the North Koreans directly. He visited Pyongyang in late 2002 and brought back a written offer from the North Koreans to negotiate one-on-one.

"We were told at the White House that the offer would not be accepted as it would be 'rewarding bad behavior,' " Gregg recalled. "The basic problem is that Bush & Co. see diplomacy as something you give to a country as a reward for good behavior … not as a tool to be used which may bring better behavior on the part of an antagonist."

The six-party talks created an environment in which differences between the United States and the other parties began to loom larger than the North Korean nuclear problem itself.

The North Koreans were able to cleverly exploit the unpopularity of the war in Iraq to sow discord. In light of the United States' failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, China, Russia and South Korea all began to publicly question the U.S. claims about evidence of a highly enriched uranium program in North Korea.

In late 2002, South Korea elected a left-of-center president, Roh Moo-hyun, who appeared to place rapprochement with North Korea above his country's historical alliance with the United States.

While giving lip service to the Bush administration's efforts to isolate North Korea, the South Koreans continued sending food aid, fertilizer and building material north of the demilitarized zone.

Gi-Wook Shin, director of the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University, said the failure to prevent the nuclear test was collective in that the United States and its allies could not come up with a common policy.

"The main lesson we have learned from this over the last four years is that U.S. policy cannot succeed alone," Shin said. "Without the United States, South Korean policy will fail. Without South Korea and the others, United States policy will fail."

In July, when North Korea test-fired a series of missiles over the Sea of Japan, South Korea briefly suspended humanitarian aid, but quickly relented.

U.S. efforts to get robust action from the United Nations were opposed by China and Russia and ended with a watered-down resolution of condemnation.

That opened the door for North Korea to go even further.

Just three months later, North Korea announced the test that it said had "brought happiness to our military and people."

*


barbara.demick@latimes.com

Demick was until recently The Times' Seoul Bureau chief. She is currently on leave teaching at Princeton University.

*

(INFOBOX BELOW)

The nuclear club

World leaders expressed concern that the list of nations with deployed nuclear warheads (2006 estimates) may soon include North Korea.
Country Warheads
Russia 5,682
United States 5,521
France 348
Britain 185
China 130*
India 50*
Pakistan 60*
*Approximate

**Israel does not acknowledge being a nuclear state.

Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A moment of silence for a death against freedom

I regretably had not even heard of Anna Politkovskaya before reading the beginning of this story, which can be found here. But I know that this is a sad day for all people who believe in free speech and a horrific day for those who cared about Anna Politkovskaya personally.

October 8, 2006

Journalist Critical of Chechen War Is Shot Dead

MOSCOW, Oct. 7 — Anna Politkovskaya, the veteran Russian journalist and author who made her name as a searing critic of the Kremlin and its policies in Chechnya, was found dead on Saturday in her apartment building, shot in the head with a pistol, the authorities and her colleagues said.

Ms. Politkovskaya, 48, was a journalist with few equals in Russia. She was a special correspondent for the Novaya Gazeta newspaper and had become one of the country’s most prominent human rights advocates.

In recent years, as the Russian news media faced intensifying pressure under the administration of President Vladimir V. Putin, she maintained her outspoken stance. And she became an international figure who often spoke abroad about a war she called “state versus group terrorism.”

She was a strident critic of Mr. Putin, whom she accused of stifling civil society and allowing a climate of official corruption and brutality.

She was found dead by a neighbor shortly after 5 p.m. A Makarov 9-millimeter pistol had been dropped at her side, the signature of a contract killing, Vitaly Yaroshevsky, the deputy editor of Novaya Gazeta, said in a telephone interview.

“We are certain that this is the horrible outcome of her journalistic activity,” he said. “No other versions are assumed.”

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Game on

Quick hockey predictions:

Least surprising development: Flyers won't be good when it matters.

Most over-rated team by national writers/experts: Dallas Stars. They'll barely make the playoffs, if at all.

Second-most-overrated team by national writers/experts: Ottawa Senators. They'll be very good in the regular season, but the departure of Chara will be huge for a team that is already puss on the backline. And they didn't import any heart.

Prepare for the hangover: Edmonton will miss Pronger and Spacek on the blueline bigtime. I hope I'm wrong about this one.

End of an era: Colorado. No Tanguay. No Blake. Older Sakic. Who's even in net?

Don't write them off yet: The Red Wings may have borrowed Fred Taylor's groin for a goalie, but Datsyuk and Zetterberg are primed to lead the team. Shanahan will be missed more than Stevie Y on the ice (especially the PP).

Ridiculously even better?: Alexander Ovechkin. He'll score more than 60. Sid the Kid will win his first Ross trophy. Ryan Miller becomes a Vezina finalist.

Keep playing the Tragically Hip: Toronto Maple Leafs. The closest they get to the Cup this year is listening to 50-Mission Cap.

It's gonna happen: Sabres and 900,000 other people in WNY will drink from Lord Stanely's Cup! and I'm partying with Scotty Bowman!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The funniest quote of the year (non-George W. Bush-makes-me-wanna-stab-myself-in-the-eyes-variety)

''It gets a little surreal when you're judging the quality of a nut hit. We have an old guy at a piƱata party who gets hit in the crotch, which was funny, but the look he does to the camera puts it above and beyond. And we say, 'Oh, now it's 80 percent funnier!' We know there's no real formula.''
~Mike Palleschi, writer for the last six years on America's Funniest Home Videos as quoted in Entertainment Weekly

P.S. yes, i've just been waiting for an excuse to put Bob Saget in my blog.

Monday, October 02, 2006

I hate morality

I am stealing this from Sports Illustrated's Peter King, who noticed this in the New York Times:

Disturbing Newspaper Story of the Week: From page A9 of Saturday's New York Times, a report datelined Frisco, Texas, about a 51-year-old art teacher named Sydney McGee who was suspended for taking 89 students on a field trip to the Dallas Art Museum ... after the parents of one of the children complained that the child had been exposed to nude art. Never mind that, according to the Times, more than 500,000 students have gone on field trips to the same museum and passed by similar art over the past 10 years. McGee's contract will not be renewed, according to the paper. Aside from being dumbfounded, I have these simple hopes: that McGee sues the Frisco Independent School District for several jillion dollars, wins, and embarrasses the lords of said district into resigning.

What the fuck is happening in this country?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sweet dreams are made of this

I read today that the weather lacked a willingness to be bridled into cooperating. Nevertheless, the shepherds ultimately accomplished most of that which was on the checklist. Apparently though, they've been forced to ruminate, though, on the long-term future of the endeavor.

Hobgoblin English Ale and Jenny Lewis's Rabbit Fur Coat CD, which I am confidently saying right now today will be my favorite CD of 2006.

"I'm as sure as the moon rolls around you
That I could be happy ..."