Rear Window Ethics Rear Window Ethics: November 2004

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Matthew Shepard Revisited

An airing of a 20/20 report concerning the nature of Matthew Shepard's death has caused quite a ruckus lately as it again stirs up arguments about hate-crime legislation and further stokes recent arguments concerning gay rights in America.

Hate crime legislation is a very tricky topic. On one hand, it's easy to say that you can't punish someone for what's in their head. "Thought-crimes" or any other Orwellian concepts of privacy invasion are certainly not grounds for punishment in this country (excepting, of course, assassination threats and some areas of the Patriot Act). It's impossible for anyone to decide with certainty what someone was thinking while they committed a crime.

On the other hand, you must take into consideration sentencing guidelines as they are applied to all violent crimes. A man who plots to kill his wife for months before doing so tends to receive a harsher sentence than a man who finds his wife in bed and kills her in a fit of rage. If the defense in a trial is allowed to argue such circumstances that would lessen a sentence, it seems only fitting that the prosecution should be able to do the same in order to increase it.

The argument against hate-crime sentencing is that if I was in a bar fight and punched two men--one black and one white--it would be entirely unfair if I were to receive a harsher punishment for assaulting the man of a different race than me. This makes sense. But if I punched one because he said something about my mother, and then punched the other because he was black/gay/asian/jewish/mormon and made it pretty damn clear that that was my reason for doing so, then I should be punished accordingly. One was a crime of passion. The other was a crime of passion fueled by hate for what someone stands for, as they live and breathe in the same world as me.

If there is any doubt as to whether such unadulterated hatred still exists in America following the high-profile Shepard case, we need look no further than godhatesfags.com. Sure, it's just a website of a fanatical group that is exercising its right to freedom of speech and uncensored internet content. But look closer and see that the same group is in the final stages of erecting a monument in a Casper, Wyoming park to mark the death of Matthew Shepard. In a park. Where children play. The plaque reads:

Matthew Shepard entered Hell October 12, 1998, at age 21.

This is the same group that advocates the death penalty for all gay citizens of the United States of America. This is the same group that picketed outside of Shepard's funeral screaming "God hates fags!" at his mourning parents as they passed by.

Hatred is everywhere in America. Hatred is being dressed up by fanatical extremists in the guise of a religion that preaches tolerance, peace, and love when it comes to our fellow human beings. Hatred is being taught to children in the form of monuments placed where they play. Hatred is as much a mindset as premeditation, and should be treated with the same legal care and punishment.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Social Security Borrowing

"Please, sir, may I have some more?"

A New York Times article today went into detail about the Bush administration's plans to reform Social Security in the near future. The catch? To enact such a broad switch toward privatization of accounts would require borrowing between hundreds of billions to trillions of dollars.

Now, unlike most liberals, I'm not vehemently opposed to some privatization of Social Security accounts. I do not, however, think that it is a very good idea to try such a financially ambitious plan when the national debt is spiraling out of control at this very minute. I mean, we just passed a resolution to raise the limit of money we can borrow as a nation. Do we need to ask for more money and spend it like drunken sailors on a weekend at port?

I feel like a president, regardless of whether he spends one or two terms in office, should get but one major financial initiative. President Bush wanted tax cuts as well as to vastly increase defense spending.

You've had your allowance, Mr. President. No more until you do your chores. Clean up your mess, do your homework, and get this country back on some sort of plan for fiscal responsibility before you go asking for more and more money.

NYT Article

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Saturday, November 27, 2004

Communists!

While browsing through some news (and other stuff) I came upon this scanned copy of an American propaganda comic book for school children to learn about Communism. Good old BoingBoing, always keeps me full of fun tidbits like this.

HERE to read the whole thing!

It's from the site The Authentic HIstory Center, which has archives of primary source material from American history dating back to the Antebellum period. Cool stuff.

Christmas on the Radio

Yesterday, Thanksgiving, marked the first day of year that the country decides as a whole to switch into Christmas mode. Lights are up on houses, plastic snowmen and reindeer suddenly appear on lawns, and of course some radio stations decide it best to switch over to their Christmas-only playlists. It's too early! Stop it! Please!

There's something that just kills me about radio stations taking a break from their "classic hits from yesterday and today" to bring us the same 20 Christmas songs, on loop, for an entire month. How many times can you honestly hear "Grandma Got Run-Over by a Reindeer" followed by some schmaltzy Perry Cuomo standard, which is then itself trumped by Kenny G performing "The Christmas Song".

(Sidenote: GRANDMA GOT RUN-OVER BY A REINDEER MUST DIE).

And these radio stations are generally crap to begin with, so they chose the bottom of the barrel Christmas music to play. What about the classics? Where's Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" or Ella Fitzgerald swinging "Jingle Bells"? Even Manheim Steamroller was funny enough in its 80s synthesizer-heavy glory. But no, we have to hear Rosie O'Donnell sing a duet with Elmo, Yoko Ono and her children's choir bastardize John Lennon with "Happy Christmas", and Michael Bolton perform...well...anything.

I like Christmas. I'm not a Christmas junky, but I don't think I'm overly cynical about it either. I'm just ever so thankful that I have my trusty old iPod, because when 1/4 of your radio stations turn over to shit Christmas music for a month, it makes you want resort to self-immolation outside the DJ's window to try and stop the madness.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

New Haven Nightlife

Last night Joc and I went downtown to "go out". It was the first time I'd really seen the new bustling New Haven nightlife, and I was certainly surprised. There were all these bars and clubs on streets that only five years ago were all too terrifying for the young suburbanites that now walked them in droves. It was a rainy November night, and girls were dressed like it was spring break in Cancun.

Once we found a bar--one of the only ones without a line that stretched around the block--it soon became apparent to me that the masses of scantily clad idiots walking formerly dangerous streets were there for Thanksgiving.

You see, the kids who are now Freshmen and Sophomores in college were coming back home to Connecticut and flocking to New Haven nightspots with their high school friends. I realized this while sipping on my white russian and cringing at the table of frat boys next to me who were sitting in a booth at a rather upscale bar, chugging Miller Light and pouring beer foam on each other. Within five minutes of being there, a huge roar of guttural noises erupted as they tried to convince a sluttily-dressed girl to show her boobs. Nice.

Outside, walking back to the car in the rain, there were huddled groups of girls in tube tops talking a little too loudly about how it was too cold to be going home without a man. They then bounced down the street in their four inch heels to the parking garage. Apparently the streets are safe enough at night to party--just not to park.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

A pod of Flippers?

CNN reported today that a pod of dolphins surrounded and protected a group of swimmers from a Great White Shark off the coast of New Zealand. Story.

I think now is as good a time as any for this:

(Come on, everybody sing along!)

They call him Flipper, Flipper, faster than lighting
No one you see, is smarter than he.
And we know Flipper, lives in a world full of wonder,
Flying there under...under the sea!

Monday, November 22, 2004

Back in New Haven

I'm back in New Haven--as you might have imagined, given the title above. It's a little strange, considering this is the first time I've been back here since my mom moved out of the house. Even though a good friend of the family is living in it now, and even though we're still eating Thanksgiving dinner there, it's still slightly odd to me that the house I grew up in isn't really lived in by my family any more.

Jocelyn is at work today, as she has school through Wednesday. Some people work, it turns out, and can't just take days off to ride the train down to their hometowns to hang out before Thanksgiving. I don't know what their problem is.

Adding to the flood of weirdness all around me, I found that of the coffee houses near my old arts high school has wireless internet, so I've set up camp there. The strange part is that all of a sudden at 12:15 the rush of kids coming for lunch before their afternoon arts classes stormed through the door in a frenzied ball of teen angst, a healthy helping of smugness and a small side of goth.

Was I really like these kids in high school? (Sans the goth, of course). They make so much noise, and seem to talk in a strange mixture of giggles and self-important soliloquies about stuff sucking.

I'm such a grumpy bugger...

Saturday, November 20, 2004

What happened this week?

Let's see, is there some sort of theme recurring in political news over the past few days?

Today's Boston Globe:

Combined with President Bush's recent efforts to consolidate more executive-branch power in the hands of key loyalists, the GOP actions set the stage for an efficient legislative operation to process Bush administration objectives through Congress and then on to the White House for Bush's signature, analysts say.

''There is this kind of effort to convert the key policy-making institutions of government into one assembly line for the president's agenda," said Paul Light, a professor at New York University who specializes in government transitions. ''That's very unusual -- it's almost like running a large conglomerate when you have the [president as] CEO and the House and Senate as almost the manufacturing division."


Senate Republicans voted this week to give their majority leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee, more authority in naming members of legislative committees, a power that helps Frist impose party discipline by allowing him to pass over veteran senators for some posts.

GOP colleagues also forced Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, a moderate, to fight for the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee, a post he is entitled to under Senate traditions rewarding seniority. Specter, who supports abortion rights, effectively sewed up his bid for the job Thursday despite opposition from conservative groups, but only after pledging to his colleagues that he would give all of Bush's nominees ''quick committee hearings and committee votes."

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are considering an official challenge to the rules that allow 41 senators to stop a judicial nominee through a filibuster, the tool used by Democrats to block some of the administration's judicial nominees. The proposed challenge would not affect other filibusters.

On the House side, Republicans on Wednesday protected their leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, by voting in secret to throw out the rule requiring legislators to step down from their leadership positions if they are indicted. DeLay has not been charged with a crime, but several of his associates have been indicted in an ongoing Texas investigation into corporate donations to Republican state legislative candidates.

Michael Franc, a congressional analyst with the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation, said Congress is giving its leaders ''more tools in the toolbox" to approve the agenda of the Republican majority.

But giving GOP leaders more tools does not sit well with Democrats, some moderate Republicans, and some nonpartisan government watchdog groups. They say the moves are part of a pattern of rule changes that stifle dissent and threaten some of the checks and balances on government.

Some cited recent votes in the House to limit the kinds of cases federal courts can hear -- for example, blocking consideration of marriage legislation and laws defending the Pledge of Allegiance -- as a different type of assault on the balance of power, weakening the federal judiciary's ability to override the decisions of the president and Congress.

I see. So the administration rids itself of any nay-sayers, age-old congressional traditions are casually dismissed, long-standing governmental rules are being changed, federal courts are weakened, and power is consolidated across the board?

Well, looks like it was a productive week in Washington. I just can't wait for the 109th Congress to see what they can do to one-up the 108th! It's going to be exciting to imagine what new ways they can find to change the way government regulates itself with checks and balances. Who needs those, anyway?

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Train Ride

I'm on the Northeast Regional from Boston to New Haven right now, and it makes me want to travel everywhere by train. I haven't ridden on Amtrak in a few years, and I don't understand why. Honestly, it's the most relaxing way to get anywhere. Right now I'm in a car of 80 seats--9 of which are occupied There's no cramming into small airline seats or breathing recirculated air, and I don't have to drive anywhere or even pay attention to what is going on outside.

Sure, it takes slightly longer than a car might and a fair amount longer than a plane ride, but I think the pros outweigh the cons by a hefty margin. Not to mention the fact that Amtrak has started offering "Weekly Specials" where they discount certain routes up to 80%. I could ride from Penn Station to Chicago for $38. Sweet.

By the way, I would like to mention the fact that I am in no way being paid or compensated for my gushing praise of rail travel. On the contrary, I had to pay for my ticket and my bottle of water aboard the train. In fact, that's the one real downfall of rail travel: It's expensive. It costs me $41 to get from Boston to New Haven, and that's on an off-day with a AAA discount. Normally it would be almost $60.

But it doesn't stop these grand thoughts of taking advantage of the heavily discounted trips and just going somewhere for the hell of it. After all, if you can't pick up and go somewhere when you're self-employed, what's the point?

And so, this entire post has been a roundabout way of explaining these strange urges to take a 16 hour train trip to Savannah, Georgia for $40 someday, just because I can.

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Friday, November 19, 2004

Political Compass

Well, my brother can take some heart in this fact: I'm not THAT far left of center when it comes to my political views.

I'm a little less than halfway left from center and almost exactly halfway between libertarian and center. My famous company there? The Dalai Lama. I'm about as far left as Ralph Nader, but more libertarian than he is. I'm also close to Nelson Mandela, but not as far left and again more libertarian.

Not bad names to be associated with, I think. Then again, those people are usually jailed/expelled from their country/not taken seriously by the public, etc. So maybe I don't have much of a public future.

How do I know all this, do you ask? Well, I took a test devised by a political journalist and a professor of social history that seeks to expand the generalized labels of "right" and "left" in the political arena. It's a neat idea and only takes about five minutes as you answer a few statements in the "strongly disagree, disagree, agree, strongly agree" manner.

Take the test yourself!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

New Tax Overhaul?

Today's Washington Post:

The Bush administration is eyeing an overhaul of the tax code that would drastically cut, if not eliminate, taxes on savings and investment, but it is unlikely to try to replace the existing tax code with a single flat income tax rate or a national sales tax, according to several sources familiar with ongoing tax deliberations.
...
...The administration plans to push major amendments that would shield interest, dividends and capitals gains from taxation, expand tax breaks for business investment..
...
The changes are meant to be revenue-neutral. To pay for them, the administration is considering eliminating the deduction of state and local taxes on federal income tax returns and scrapping the business tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance, the advisers said.

That's great. I mean, why should business get tax breaks for directly providing their employees with health insurance? Much better that they get tax breaks for laying the workers off in the first place.

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New Review--Sideways

I posted a new review today in Rear Window Reviews on Alexander Payne's new film Sideways. One of the best pictures of the year, in my opinion.

Read it here.

Sideways

p.s. Let me just say that it is almost too funny watching a movie with full frontal male nudity while sitting next to two elderly ladies.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Monday Night Football, The NFL, Desperate Housewives and Moral High Ground

It seems that ABC, in an attempt to cross-promote their hit show Desperate Housewives, may have accidentally corrupted what is otherwise a pillar of moral virtue: Monday Night Football.

ESPN:

The network's steamy intro to the Philadelphia-Dallas game, featuring a naked Nicollette Sheridan jumping into the arms of Eagles receiver Terrell Owens, drew complaints from viewers and the NFL.

ABC Sports apologized Tuesday for the segment, used a day earlier to promote the hit show "Desperate Housewives" and broadcast just nine months after another football flap -- the Janet Jackson Super Bowl fiasco.

"We have heard from many of our viewers about last night's 'MNF' opening segment and we agree that the placement was inappropriate," ABC Sports said in a statement.

The NFL called the intro "inappropriate and unsuitable for our 'Monday Night Football' audience."

"While ABC may have gained attention for one of its other shows, the NFL and its fans lost," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

See the video (crappy quality from CNN) here.

I agree. This was a tasteless outrage, completely unsuitable for the children who work hard to stay up until 1am to watch Monday Night Football. They should be rewarded for their efforts in the face of the NFL's blatant disregard for young viewers, not marred by shameless interracial innuendo. Monday Night Football is a bastion of purity and righteousness, as I think we all know.

As for Greg Aiello...well, isn't the NFL the same league that cuts to gratuitous (read: awesome) shots of scantily clad cheerleaders before and after every commercial break? Isn't it the same league that clearly gave Coors Light the thumbs up for their string of ads featuring "those twins"? Since when did the NFL sit on moral high ground?

Dominos!

This is pretty cool, in a very nerdy way at least. Apparently a new record is set for domino topples. And we're only hearing about it now!?!? Once again the mainstream media has failed us with their excessive coverage of Fallujah when there are important domino-related events happening. For shame, media. For shame.

Watch the video!

I think besides the dominos falling, my favorite part is when the head nerd is beside himself because the stupid part of the topple didn't work and the majority of the dominos are still left standing. "Oh no!" he cries. "Oh no!"

Laziness, and Getting Out of the Wedding Biz

I was so lazy today that while in the midst of writing a double-sided note I noticed that my Sharpie pen was seeping ink through the paper--leaving the both sides of the page virtually illegible--yet I decided to keep on writing in the same manner without a second draft. They'll just have to figure it out, I guess.

I've realized that the time has come for me to take a break from doing wedding videos. The epiphany came when I narrowly resisted the temptation to use AC/DC's "Hell's Bells" as a soundtrack to the bridal procession. Sort of a Trevor Hoffman out of the bullpen kind of thing. I eventually decided against it, but the temptation was there and it was real. Who knows when the next allurement will arise, and whether I'll be able to thwart it or not? There is a definite chance that one day someone will be watching their wedding video for the first time, and the song for the Daddy/Daughter dance will have been switched from a nice Van Morrison to Britney Spears' "Slave 4 U".

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Review -- Monday 11/16/2004

Monday, November 16th 2004 ended up being a nice mixture of traditional 'Monday-ish' qualities, productivity, video games and more.

After the previous week's Monday it was a nice change of pace, as it was the first day of the last ten in which I could actually get some real work done, thanks to the marvelous week-long 'house guest' cameo by my friend Vanessa. It began early, but not overly so, and continued on in the same fashion: nice, not amazing, but certainly not bad.

It was a good Monday as far as weather was concerned. Not freezing, or overly warm. It had a nice breezy, slightly overcast quality to it, which was perfect for my two (count 'em, two!) trips to the post office.

This isn't to say that this particular monday didn't have its faults. It was a milk-less monday morning, which threatened to put a damper on things, but monday rose to the occasion and provided me with orange juice to tide me over until I could get to the store.

This particular monday had a nice productive quality to it, regardless of the actual quantity of work that was actually done during it. It felt like things were moving along, and to-do items were helplessly mowed down by volley after volley of pseudo-proficiency. At one point, however, the theme of productivity seemed to stray a bit, and was nearly jeopardized by a lengthy trip to the local CVS, in which there was far too much aimless browsing. Luckily, the task was completed before too long, and Monday got back on track.

Monday finished strong, coming to a close with a bowl of tomato soup and some video game playing with the roommate. All in all, I would certainly recommend Monday, November 16th 2004 to anyone who likes to work at home and enjoy the feeling of getting things done, without over-burdening themselves.

3/5 stars 3/5 stars.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Near Trash Night Calamity

Nish and I live on a first floor apartment in a small building of only five units. When I take out the trash I tend to walk out to our front door and just heave the bag(s) from the doorway to the pavement. I was in the process of such a maneuver tonight, when I narrowly averted disaster.

Right before I was going to release the bag of refuse and send it on its short arc through the chill air to the curb, I saw someone sprinting down the icy sidewalk on a vector that would certainly intersect the bag's path. I was able to hold my grip, and keep from slamming a bag of shitty-smelling trash into the face of the person running with such speed down such a precarious walkway.

Immediately following this sprinter, who looked about 14 to me, was his friend of the same age. At first I thought they were just joking around, but then after a brief gap there came a third party into this garbage night commotion. It was a middle-aged man running after the two boys, a belt in his right hand and a ball of icy snow in his left, howling "You better run, pussies! Run because I gonna kill you!" in a thick Italian accent. In addition to his vulgar English, he also spat vituperative Italian at his quarry as he sprinted past me--so close he almost hit the trash bag still hanging from my hand.

I stood there in the doorway, wearing only my pajamas, and watched the pursuit fly by at an astonishing speed considering the condition of the ground. When it had passed, I tossed my bag of trash down onto the sidewalk and walked back inside to the echos of the man, still screaming, "Run, fuckers, run!".

Such is life in the North End.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

NYT: Blue State Marriage

Looks like the New York Times is getting a bit dodgy with what they decide to report. Think this article has anything to do with the fuckthesouth.com website uproar?

Didn't people know this already? Now it's a NYT story? Whatever, I'm going to go get married and divorced right now, just to show everybody.

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Message to Pope: Mind Your Business

Dear Pope,

I know that you're the leader of all the Catholics, but why you feel the need to tell Anglicans what to do almost five hundred years after we said "peace!" and made our own church, is confusing to me. I think you have your hands full already with the rash of allegations against your clergy, so it might be prudent to figure that out first and foremost, before you go telling American Episcopal congregations what we need to do as far as allowing gay bishops and gay marriage.

Thank you very much, and have a great weekend!

Sincerely,

Travis

Reuters:

Pope Says Anglican Gays Are Obstacle To Unity

Scott Peterson Verdict

I turned on CNN this afternoon to see that after all the general hubbub, and all the media coverage, the Scott Peterson trial had come to a close. He was found guilty of murder.

My reaction: "What? Oh. OK. Who cares?"

I feel like I happened upon the season finale of some crappy TV drama without having seen a single episode of it before in my life, and now i have no clue as to what is going on. Who are these people? Why is that group of people so angry? Why am I watching UPN/The WB/Court TV? I have no idea who the characters involved with the trial are, who the victim was, what the evidence was found, or what jurors switched with what other jurors. And I really don't care.

It's not like I don't pay attention to the news. On the contrary, I find it difficult to get through the day without my morning NPR, my afternoon CNN, my evening Jim Lehrer, and my nighttime BBC. I guess I just manage to completely zone out when this trial is the topic of conversation.

I don't understand why this case received so much media attention. As far as I know, Scott Peterson wasn't famous before his arrest. This wasn't a celebrity trial. No celebrated football great was in the news. There was no racially polarizing force intrinsic to the case as it unfolded in the courtroom. There was a murder. Murders happen all the time, all across America and the world. Some schmuck is implicated and all of a sudden the country becomes obsessed with a trial to the extent that there are CNN news flashes about it, it's discussed on sports radio, and a seemingly endless number of blogs are written about it.

And now I'm one of them. Damn-it. How could this have happened? Crap. That's it, I'm out of here.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Review - 'How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb', U2

It would be an understatement to say that I have been looking forward to this album's release for a long time. It's a tradition that I am accustomed to: every four or five years, the new U2 album comes out. Sometimes it's amazing (Achtung Baby), sometimes it's terrible (Pop) and sometimes it's so so (All You Can't Leave Behind).

Huge thanks to my friend Greg for procuring me a copy of this album before its official release.

Despite all the temptation to skip over the album's first track, 'Vertigo', after having heard it so many times, I refused to jump around on my first time through the record. It's a solid, powerful, punk-ish opener that grabs your attention easily. It lets you know that this is going to be a guitar-heavy album, however, it doesn't necessarily tell much else about a record that has a drastically different feel from its opening number.

How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, in essence, is a combination of U2's roots with their previous and quite likable album All That You Can't Leave Behind. Showing their continuing maturity and wisdom, the album picks up thematically where ATYCLB left off. The blind anger and unbridled power of their early work has been honed and whittled down into capable, controlled and contemplative vignettes.

Distinct U2 traits, like The Edge's trademark delayed guitar riffs echoing above melodies; rich, warm, and sometimes even grating pads rising up underneath and around a few of the tracks; powerful ballads that rise and fall gracefully along with Bono's falsetto and forceful chest voice; a rough, blues-style track to wake the listener from the calm of the previous ballad--they're all here on the groups latest effort. It's quite logical that this effort would sound like classic U2, considering it was produced by Steve Lillywhite, who Produced a bunch of the group's earlier work.

This isn't to say that Bomb is a rehash of old material and old ideas. Indeed, classic U2 moments occur all over the 50 minutes of music, but there are new experiments as well. I mentioned earlier that the album is guitar-heavy. In addition to their usual, poignant riffs or driving chords, Bomb makes copious use of acoustic guitar in the hands of The Edge. Whereas Bono has traditionally used an acoustic in a rhythm guitar sense, The Edge now showcases his talent sans effect pedals or driving gain. Electric piano is also used effectively at times, but without falling into a 'The Sweetest Thing' dependancy.

The album does have its weak points, however. 'A Man And A Woman' is this album's 'Honey', and 'All Because Of You' sounds unfinished and immature coming from a group with the talent and history of U2. These low spots are easily overlooked in the big picture, as the mastery and beauty of tracks like 'Miracle Drug' with Bono's soaring vocals, 'City Of Blinding Lights' with The Edge's exquisite guitar work, and 'Original Of The Species' with its superb blending of Pop-style synthesizer and the new U2 'Walk On' matured anthem sound, easily overshadow most flaws.

Bomb is not U2's best album, but it does well to re-capture the power of the group's 1980s work and put it in the perspective of their most recent record. It's very solid effort that should have good staying power. I know I'll have it on repeat on my iPod, that's for sure.

I can't wait to see them play these songs live.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Veterans Day - Thank You

Today is Veterans Day.

Today flags will be hung outside of houses. Ceremonies will be held in cities and small towns across America. Relatives and loved ones who have served this country will be thanked and remembered.

And people will continue to buy yellow magnetic ribbons for their cars that read 'Support Our Troops', foolishly believing that the money they spend will go towards the men and women in our military rather than into the pockets of those who would exploit the recent rash of flag-waving in this country.

Veterans Day is not about whether you wear a red, white and blue tie, or how many miniature American flags you can tie to your car or put on your desk. It isn't about radio stations playing 'I'm Proud To Be An American' or network TV airing Saving Private Ryan. It is not about feeling good about yourself for 'supporting the troops' with pithy acts of pseudo-patriotism. Veterans Day is about reminding this country, just one day out of a year, that we owe a debt to those who risk their lives in our military, whether you agree with the action they were part of or not.

This means doing right by those men and women that have come back from combat. It means not underfunding the Department of Veterans Affairs by $1.2 Billion. It means not closing VA hospitals and centers, so that 300,000 veterans don't have to wait for six months to have their first VA medical appointment. It means doing away with extraneous medical fees and reducing, not increasing prescription drug co-pays.

It means making sure that when a soldier comes home, he or she has the reassurance of a supportive government and a thankful people. This nation owes those who have served at least that much, and I hope that is something that everyone is able to agree upon.

Nerd Alert!: Blogger Template Question (skip this if you want to read real stuff...)

Sorry to post this here, mainly because it reveals my nerdiness and general html incompetence publicly. It's one thing to be a nerd. It's another to be an uneducated, uninformed nerd.

As you may be able to see, I remade my banner for this site, and what I want to do is replace the title and description header from the "rounders" blogger template with the banner, instead of having one atop the other.

I would also like to be rid of the header title, but be able to put the description over the empty brick of the banner. I didn't put it into the graphic, because I figured if I wanted to change the text it would be nice to have it doable in the blogger interface.

So any help here would be much appreciated. Thanks!

Frink out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Dentist Commercial and America

I was watching CNN and a commercial came on advertising a dental treatment that would make my smile more appealing. "I'll never lose out on another promotion because of not smiling" one woman stated.

The ad ended with a line that may have more behind it than just dental implications:

"...giving you the perfect smile. Straight, white and beautiful."

Yes, I'm reading into it. That's what I do. I majored in freaking English Literature, ok? I read into things. And what I get from that ad, despite the fact that it probably wasn't a conscious decision, is straight and white equal beautiful.

Not surprising.

Arafat Dead; Alive; Dead; Alive; Dead; Alive...

News organizations are LOVING this. There are more conflicting reports on Arafat's health than there are of Electoral vote projections between networks. He's alive. Then he's dead. Then he's alive. Then he's dead.

One thing's for sure: he's GOING to die. They should probably just stick with that story.

It could turn out to be a very good opportunity for Israeli-Palestinian relations if the transition from Arafat to his successor is smooth and politically sound. An AP story here seems to think that the likely successor would be a moderate. A legitimate leader would certainly help a lot, in my opinion.

Cold Weather

It's cold! Very, very cold. It's 25°F outside right now, and I really couldn't be happier.

It seems that every time a new season sits on the horizon I can't wait for it to get here. During the summer I get tired of sweating all the time, feeling sluggish and forever thirsty. The colder it gets, the more energetic and excited I get. Today I wore three layers without sweating at all! That is a serious accomplishment, as anyone who knows me would agree.

Of course come March I will be really excited to feel those first warm days, wearing shorts in 55°F weather and packing away any clothing that covers my forearms and calves. It's why I could never live in an area that doesn't have distinct seasonal temperature shifts.

If I remember correctly, it is seasonal acclimatization that makes us feel nice and cool at 50° in October, and pleasantly warm at 50° in March. Thanks, Intro to Physical Anthropology from Sophomore year.

That being said, 25°F is pretty much cold any time. I love it.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

FuckTheSouth.com Rant

Wow. I just read a very angry person's rant HERE, which I presume was brought on by the results of the election last week. There's no specific reference to the source of the tirade, but it seems fairly obvious to me that it is based on the events of Nov. 4. It's a pretty crass diatribe, and was obviously written in a moment of frenzied rage, but if it is possible to look beyond the hatred found in the domain name (fuckthesouth.com) and pick up some of its talking points in a more civil manner, than that's what I'll attempt to do here.

If you look past the overt, angry emotion of the essay, it boils down to a rebuttal of three baseless conservative arguments used by some equally extreme viewpoints: That southern, 'red' states are more 'real' and more 'patriotic', that federal taxes take money that should be left the pockets of 'real' Americans, and that all this talk about the Evangelical 'morality vote' is self-righteous and hypocritical.

The arguments, stripped of their anger and patronizing tone follow:

1) Red states are no more patriotic than blue states. 9 of the original 13 colonies were in the Northeast. The history of this democracy lies in the Northeast, as do the vast majority of monuments paying tribute to America's revolutionary struggle in the 18th century. (Fairly pointless, weak argument).

2) Arrogance is a deeply American trait. Perhaps blue states are so arrogant because it is their Federal taxes that pay for spending in red states. The spending per dollar of taxes paid funnel out of blue state cities and into red states. Don't complain about taxes when it is someone else's dollars that pay for your spending. (Interesting point).

3) The concept of 'moral values' is a misnomer, myopic, and hypocritical. The frenzy and outrage over gay marriage in fundamental Christianity is preposterous because Massachusetts, the only state in the Union with legalized gay marriage, has the lowest divorce rate in the nation. The Bible Belt, on the other hand, has the highest divorce rate. Perhaps the concept of 'destroying' the institution of marriage is not fairly considered when leveling that charge at gay couples. (Valid comparison).

Before I am inundated with harsh criticism, I would like to stress the fact that I do not agree with FuckTheSouth.com's belligerent tactics or garbled, bitter message. I do, however, think that within the site's rant there are interesting talking points for those of us who feel more comfortable with discussion over blind, partisan, country-dividing rage.

For the full, original text of fuckthesouth.com, click here.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Money and Truffles

Just when I was feeling numbed by incomprehensible financial figures after reading the total amount both campaigns spent on the election, this puppy caught my attention.

Boston Globe:

ROME -- New York restaurateur Francesco Giambelli dished out a record $41,000 for a 2.4-pound prize Italian white truffle, auction organizers said Monday.

The 85-year-old, who owns Giambelli 50th on New York's East Side, beat off an unnamed opponent in Moscow to claim the largest truffle ever to be sold at an auction, auction director Davide Paolini said.

"It was very aggressive," he said. "No one has ever paid this much for a truffle."

I honestly don't know what to say about that. At least the money from the auction goes to charity, which is more than you can say about the money that was spent over the last few years on political advertising. Thankfully, that money goes right back into the pockets of the media corporations and their handy tax shelters. Then they can spend it again in two years on the mid-term elections, get it back once more, and stow it away for the 2008 campaign in off-shore accounts.

Don't you just love the political process?

Star Wars Trailer

I realize this is old news, but I actually hadn't seen it until today. The trailer looks pretty solid, but I thought the previous two had good previews as well. You never know. Lucas can make a mean trailer, though. That much is for sure.

The graphic for the poster is a little busted, if you ask me. It looks like amateur photoshop work. And I remember the posters looking so good for Episode 1, with the shadows and such.

Anyway, if you're like me, and you're the only person who HASN'T seen this a week ago, here it is.

Trailer

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Weekend

It was quite a weekend. My Mom flew in to celebrate her birthday with her children--an event which happened to coincide with visits from Joc and two friends from school, Vanessa and Rebecca. Top it all of with the drunken trail of destruction, confusion and vomit left across the city by my visiting brother, and you have my weekend.

I had a good time, but it was honestly more stressful than I would have imagined it to be on paper. Lots of people coming and going at different times, guests needing to be various places with little or no transportation available, and of course, seven people sleeping in my two-bedroom apartment.

I'd like to give a big shout-out here to Boston University, which managed to further complicate my life with its ridiculously out-dated security rules that mandate dorm visits. It was the best time I've had navigating my drunken brother through the streets of Boston after his cab driver dropped him off half a mile from my house once BU had kicked him out of the dorms, well...ever!

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Friday, November 05, 2004

Enough with the E-Voting, Please!

I'm not going to start conspiracy theories about the election, that would be extreme. However, after reading this it becomes apparent that many experts were correct in their pre-election assessments that electronic polling machines are more trouble than they're worth.

Today's Boston Globe:

An error with an electronic voting system gave President Bush 3,893 extra votes in suburban Columbus, elections officials said.
...
Sean Greene, research director with the nonpartisan Election Reform Information Project, said that while the glitch appeared minor "that could change if more of these stories start coming out."
...
In one North Carolina county, more than 4,500 votes were lost in this election because officials mistakenly believed a computer that stored ballots electronically could hold more data than it did.

And in San Francisco, a malfunction with custom voting software could delay efforts to declare the winners of four races for county supervisor.

Here for the full article.

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Use The Gregorian Force, Luke...

My friend Isaac sent me a link to this. Apparently the CHANT guys have given in to the Emperor and the alluring power of the Dark Side. It's a dark day for the Gregorian Republic and the Gregorian Jedi. As Isaac said, "you just can't make this stuff up."

Manny and Ray King: Together Again At Last


Manny: "I no touching you. I not touching you. I no touching you. I not touching you. I no touching you. I not touching you...............I still no touching you..."

Ray King: "Do you like my new trunks? They are size XXX Large! Ha Ha Ha! I feel like eating. After I win, lets go out to lunch! Ha Ha Ha! I have my weakness. But I won't tell you! Ha Ha Ha! I'm the king! Ha Ha Ha!

And for those of you who are unfamiliar with Mike Tyson's Punch-Out for Nintendo...well I guess King Hippo jokes just aren't for you.

Nighttime non sequiturs

The upstairs neighbor who usually blasts Madonna, Enya and Alicia Keys with overpowering, floor-crushing sub-woofers has moved on to another hobby. For two hours tonight he played piano warm-up scales, chromatically, up and down on an electronic keyboard. Once sufficiently warmed up, he then queued up a copy of Sarah McLaughlan's Surfacing album, put the song "Adia" on repeat, and proceeded to play block chords along with the recording. I am in hell.

It's raining hard here tonight. The North End is so old that it isn't really equipped with any kind of proper drainage system, so when it pours like this all hell breaks loose. Tomorrow gondolas will be floating down streets filled with engorged pasta spewed forth from the doorways of innumerable Italian restaurants in the six block area. People will forge makeshift rafts out of biscotti, marzipan and bakery string, and little old ladies will scream out their windows at passersby as if nothing was out of the ordinary.

It seems that whenever I set foot in stores like The Gap or J-Crew, a vast majority of the shoppers there are clad entirely in the product of the store they're in. If you're shopping in J-Crew while wearing four to five pieces of J-Crew on your person...well maybe it's time to take a break for a season.

How come so many blogs are about knitting? Isn't knitting sort of a hobby of its own? What is there really to talk about when it comes to knitting? I'm not professing the brilliance of my own thoughts here, but how many times can you write "I got this new color of yarn" and "the sweater is finally done! I hope it fits!"? I have to be missing something here, because if I'm not mistaken, there are tons of these knitting blogs and they pretty much talk about knitting...and that's it.

Printers are full of shit. Not the human craftsmen, but the computer peripherals. Mine has been frantically flashing its lights in some sort of epileptic seizure of alerts concerning the fact that my ink cartridges are supposedly empty. They're just dandy, thank you very much. Nice try, HP. Nice try.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Lions and Christianity

The two have a long history together, and a gruesome one at that. Having said that, I was surpised to know that someone believed lions to be religious, despite their unique involvement in the Christian persecution of the Roman Empire.

Man to lion: 'Come bite me!'

p.s. I'm trying very hard not to make a Tom Coburn/ W Bush/Religions Right voter joke here. I'm trying VERY hard.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

New Movie Review Site

I've decided to make a 'sister site' to Rear Window Ethics to house my thoughts and reviews on movies that I see. It's just to clean this whole mess up here, where I have rants, rambles, news, etc. and I feel like adding reviews into this blog is pushing it a bit.

So now, I give you Ethics' sister site, Rear Window Reviews. I love the alliteration already.

My latest review of Ray is now there, along with some other reviews and thoughts I've jotted down on Friday Night Lights, Rabbit-Proof Fence, In America, The Day After Tomorrow, and Fahrenheit 9/11.

Thanks,

Travis

Conservative Nation and the Years Ahead

"With a bigger majority, we can do even more exciting things."

-Tom DeLay (R), Texas 11/3/04

"The liberal years of America, at least for the moment, are over."

-Peter Jennings, ABC News 11/3/04

Indeed. Now that Republicans have managed to squeeze out a handful of Democrats from the House and the Senate--most notably Tom Daschle--they face far less opposition to their legislative agenda in the future.

Things to look for:

1. Expanded tax-cuts for big business and the wealthy.
2. 'Pep in the step' of the Federal Defecit as it rockets ever higher.
3. The re-structuring of the the Federal Judiciary, and the reversing of long-standing decisions.
4. Possible/probable passing of the Federal ban to gay marriage.

And that's just where the fun begins! By ridding Congress of moderate Democrats like Daschle and replacing them with staunch neo-conservatives like John Thune, the Republican leadership has much smoother sailing with which to complete their stated goals, and indeed any others they would see fit to create.

But it's all cool. I mean, this is what the country wanted. Why should we have to deal with dissenting voices, or even the occasional questioning of leadership? It's just no fun that way. Consolidation of power is really the only way to go when you want to make progress for your religion--err... campaign donors--umm... imposed moral absolutes--wait, which one was it? I don't remember anymore.

All I know is that it's a good thing God will be running the show for the foreseeable future. It's just so funny how He seems to simply listen to most people, but then speak directly to rich, white men in government.

Election 2004 and Cultural Homelessness

Well, that was what you could call a definitive route.

Here's what I said but one day ago:

No matter who wins this election, this country is going to have to find a way to get along. Each polarized half is going to have to talk with the other. If we can't talk with some kind of civility; if we can't have discussions without calling someone with other beliefs 'stupid' or 'liars' or 'traitors'; if we can't treat each other as Americans, then there's not much of a point for being one nation.

It sounds good, right?

Somehow after tonight's virtual conservative mandate across the board--most notably in the South--I feel like that isn't going to happen. With such numbers behind your party, wouldn't you move further in the direction you have been going? Wouldn't you become even more culturally conservative if that is what nets you such a decisive win in Congress and the White House?

I'm trying hard not to sound like a sore loser.

I stick by what I said yesterday. I don't believe that the people who voted for Bush in such staggering numbers--especially new voters supporting an incumbent--are stupid. I don't believe they're backwards. I don't believe they are all close-minded bigots. But at the same time it's very difficult for me right now to understand how I live in the same country as them.

A good part of me expected Bush to win this election. What surprised me was not the fact that he did so (pending currently, but sure to be certain in a few hours/days), but the fact that he and the Republican congressional candidates did it so decisively. I always imagined the numbers would be much closer in terms of popular vote. I mean, no President has lost the popular vote and then won a second term, let alone won it with such lopsided popular figures.

This entire week I have been thinking about how, despite all of our differences, people across this country truly believe in the same general principles. I believe that to be true, but at the same time it puts a considerable strain on that notion when a president as divisive as this president has been can win re-election by such a surprising margin.

I don't think I'm alone with these feelings. I would imagine that plenty of young, idealistic, yet reasonably grounded voters who live in "blue" states feel the same way. Tonight was a wake-up call that we live in a different country than the majority of American citizens. Tonight was a somewhat shocking realization that this country truly doesn't share our sentiments on issues of equality, integrity, compassion, and balance. Tonight we share a unified pain of cultural and national alienation from the land that we love.

It's quite an unfamiliar sensation to be a white, Protestant, straight, middle-class male in America and to feel like I don't belong here.

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Red Sox?

If Kerry pulls this thing out, it would probably be even more surprising than the Sox coming back from 3-0 against NY in the ALCS.

Sorry about the baseball analogy. It's the last time I talk about baseball for a while, trust me.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Lots of people at the polls today. It sounds like record numbers. Lines formed before sunrise and are down streets, around corners, and staying long.



Voting in the North End of Boston

Voting anywhere is momentous. Whether it's in a bustling city's public schools, in rural farm country, in a war-torn country trying desperately for democracy, or in America's cradle of liberty.

It's quite a thing to walk to your local polling place and see the Bunker Hill monument, the USS Constitution, and the Freedom Trail. It's quite a thing to walk through the courtyard of the Old North Church and Paul Revere's statue on the way to cast your vote in the most important election in recent history.

I was sent an email from someone I didn't know last night. I have no idea how I got on their mass emailing list, but the message was plain and simple. It showed a large picture of people jumping to their deaths from the top of the World Trade Center Towers, and it read "These people can't cast votes tomorrow. Fill your ballot in for them."

I know which way the email was hoping I'd vote, but I believe that my vote for Kerry (despite my long and agonizing deliberation, found HERE) truly was a vote for them. It was a vote for prudence; a vote for balance; a vote for reason.

I believe I did vote for the people in that picture. But I also believe I voted for those that went before them, and those that will go after me. Walking through the streets where this democratic experiment's fuse was first lit, I only hoped that regardless of the outcome, this election will adhere to the ethical and moral standards of those whose sacrifices made this day possible in the first place.

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Off to Vote

I'm off to vote, as well as get some decongestants from CVS to try and deal with this cold I got that came out of nowhere.

I mean, seriously, when you work out of your home and you probably leave that home only five days a week to run errands and stuff, it can't be very easy to get a cold. Apparently, it's easy enough. Apparently, as Jeff Goldblum's character in Jurassic Park puts it: "Life finds a way."

Goddamned cold.

Alright, it's time to brave the elements, blow my nose one last time, put on some pants, and step outside. It's a big moment. Not because of voting. Because of the whole putting on of pants thing.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Pre- Election Political Polarized Prattle

If there's one thing I've noticed by cruising around and reading other people's political blogs, it's that they're all so very patronizing when it comes to different opinions. Television talking heads are expected to be this way, but everyday people are amazingly pugnacious right now.

Bush supporter: You're with us or you're against us. You're not patriotic if you don't vote for us. John Kerry is Osama's best friend. We're going to be attacked if you don't re-elect Bush. Liberals are dreaming idiots who have no idea what the real world is like.

Kerry supporter: You're going to be drafted if Bush wins. You're an uneducated idiot if you vote for him. Religious people are stupid bigots. If you vote for Bush, there's something wrong with you. I'm going to yell at you until you realize the error of your ways.

I think the interesting thing is this: My dad is a Republican. Lots of my friends are Kerry supporters, but I have others that are staunch conservatives. I'm a (lower-case d) democrat, a "liberal" and independent. Yet we all get along. We get along because we respect each others' points of view, and believe they are just that: Points of view.

A friend isn't stupid because he doesn't believe Kerry can deliver on every single promise. A relative isn't unpatriotic because he doesn't agree with Bush on the Iraq war. And I'm not stupid for believing that America is a great country, but is made so by a constant re-evaluation of principles, and by consistently striving to make this land a better place and a truer democracy, rather than being simply content, blindly nationalistic, and afraid of change.

Even when I read about the latest condemnation of homosexuality by the religious right, I have to remind myself that people are entitled to their opinion, despite the fact that I strongly disagree with it.

No matter who wins this election, this country is going to have to find a way to get along. Each polarized half is going to have to talk with the other. If we can't talk with some kind of civility; if we can't have discussions without calling someone with other beliefs 'stupid' or 'liars' or 'traitors'; if we can't treat each other as Americans, then there's not much of a point for being one nation.

No one votes the 'wrong way' if they believe in their vote. If someone votes a certain way, and they believe in their vote, then I say "good for them". If someone says I'm stupid for believing in what I do, then I say "fuck 'em". And if someone tries to disenfranchise or void my vote, I say "I'll kick their ass".

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Fox and Tom Ridge: A Match Made by Murdoch

A Poll Before the Polls Open

Just to wet your appetite for decision-making...












To what extent does someone's blog, AIM profile, or away message sway your vote on Nov. 2?
100%! What else should I do, master?!
A lot, because my friends tell me what I should think.
A little. The more I see one candidate's name in print, the more I'll vote for them.
Some. Your impassioned pleas make me reconsider my political notions.
None. I'll think for myself, thank you very much. Stop bothering me.
Hold on. There's an election coming up? When is it? Wait, who's running?



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