Friday, April 30, 2010

In which I actually root for something from Arizona.

Please, Phoenix.

Please don't let the Spurs win. I can't abide another boring, methodical slog through the playoffs with Grey Hulk Tim Duncan moping along while Manu Ginobili and his nose draw baloney fouls as they flail and flop their way to the rim.

Please, Suns, spare us the sorry spectacle of Tony Parker improbably hitting clutch jump shots from beyond his usual range of 10 feet.

Spare us Gregg Popovich's sweaty pockmarks, his jagged scowl, his spittle.

Please, Steve Nash, you saucy Canadian, do it for us. Do it for fun. Do it for basketball.

Do it for America, eh?

Friday Rocks: "Dark Night of the Soul" by Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse

Thursday, April 29, 2010

WTF, Arizona? Part II

Okay, so Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the immigration law. She's facing a pretty hard primary in August (19 challengers!) from the far right of the Republican Party, which, in Arizona, is just slightly left of Pinochet, so she couldn't afford to look "soft."

She's not the only Arizona Republican under attack from the far right, though. Sen. John McCain, our favorite former maverick (that's right Jim Jackson fans!) and the man responsible for putting Sarah Palin on the national stage, is under attack on his right flank by the whackaloon former congressman J.D. Hayworth. McCain is perceived as "soft" on illegal aliens, simply because he reached out to Democrats in an earlier, failed attempt to reform immigration laws. This Hayworth character, however, is a hardcore supporter of the new immigration law. (AND he thinks the so-called "birther bill" doesn't go far enough!) So, of course, McCain, ever the maverick flip-flopper, is now in favor of harsher immigration laws. He's even saying that it's the Obama administration's fault that Arizona had to -- just HAD TO -- pass this law:
"This law is a response to the president's and the administration's failure to secure our borders," McCain said. "Our borders are broken. It's worse than I have ever seen it."
Oh yeah, and you know how Republicans are always complaining about frivolous lawsuits and the need for tort reform? Well the new immigration law says police departments can be sued if citizens don't think the law's being enforced properly. So Arizona could well see departments leery of lawsuits diverting time and resources from preventing and solving actual crimes in order to comply with this ridiculous law.

But there's at least one law enforcement official in Arizona who's willing to risk a lawsuit. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, whose jurisdiction includes Tuscon, says he doesn't intend to enforce the law, which he calls "racist," "stupid," "disgusting" and "unnecessary." Dupnik told KGUN9 (Ha! Gun!) in Tuscon: "If I tell my people to go out and look for A, B, and C, they're going to do it. They'll find some flimsy excuse like a tail light that's not working  as a basis for a stop, which is a bunch of baloney."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Debate of the Week: Taking Your Spouse's Last Name

Please comment below. Remember to keep it civil. Don't assume anything about the people you disagree with. I will delete any comments that are offensive or veer too far off topic. Thank you in advance.

Let's lighten things up around here, shall we? Lots of my friends have gotten married recently or plan to, and, as some of you may know, I'm getting married next year. So, since nuptials are on the brain around here, let's talk about married last names. 

Do you think a husband and wife should share a last name?

Ladies: Should a woman take her husband's last name, or should she keep hers? A Dutch study suggests that women who take their spouses' last name end up earning less money in their career. Should that even matter? What about hyphenation? Would you want your husband to take your last name?  Likewise gentlemen, do you think your bride should take your last name? Are you cool with her keeping her last name? Would you take your wife's last name? Would you hyphenate?

Let the debate begin!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Movie Review: SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009)

This isn't your father's "Sherlock Holmes." Nor is it your grandfather's or great-grandfather's, for that matter.

No, despite its relative fidelity to Arthur Conan Doyle's source novels, this is a "Sherlock" for the 21st century. That sounds annoying, but it's not. In fact, it's very good, and it could have been great if it weren't for its often mechanical and lumbering plot, which, after culminating in a "Scooby-Doo"-esque explanation of the mystery, amounts to nothing more than an elaborate tease.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Don't let the terrorists (or spineless corporations) win.

UPDATE: Well, Comedy Central parent company Viacom finally hunted down the video and removed it from YouTube, which is owned by Google. Score another one for the spineless corporations and the terrorists.

I'm responding to Andrew Sullivan's call to arms for free speech. If you have a blog, please embed this video:

Friday Rocks: "I Fought the Law" by the Dead Kennedys

Thursday, April 22, 2010

WTF, Arizona?

UPDATE: Well, it's official. Arizona's governor has signed the immigration bill into law. Congratulations, Arizona. You're the South Carolina of the American Southwest.

Oh, man. Arizona. Jiminy Christmas.

Sometimes I forget that you resisted recognizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day for so long. Then you go ahead do something like this:
Passage of the law, which would, among other things, allow the authorities to demand proof of legal entry into the United States from anyone suspected of being in the country illegally, testified to the relative lack of political power of Arizona Latinos, and to the hardened views toward illegal immigration among Republican politicians both here and nationally.
Oh, but cops will be able to act only if there's "reasonable suspicion." So if "Existing While Hispanic"  wasn't a crime in Arizona before, it sure could be really soon.

Oh, and then there's this bullshit:
The Arizona "birther bill" would require Arizona's secretary of state to review a presidential candidate's birth certificate before that candidate could get on the ballot in the state. It was attached as an amendment to a larger bill modifying the way candidates' names appear on the state ballot. That bill passed by a vote of 31 to 29 and received only the support of Republicans. It now moves to the state Senate before the governor can sign it into law.
Haha! Well, isn't that pleasant?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Nature doesn't care, but you should.

Nature doesn't love us. It doesn't hate us, either. It is an indifferent force that destroys with no regard for religion, skin color, wealth, social status or politics.

Look at this Icelandic volcano, for instance (I'm not going to bother spelling it, so here). Its gaping maw vomits smoke, ash and lava because that's what volcanoes do. Its ash cloud is thick, dark and so hazardous that, with the help of the wind, it has disrupted most air traffic in Europe for the better part of a week. Neither volcanoes nor the wind care about you and your vacation plans, or that package you're expecting from England, or whether President Obama makes it to the Polish president's funeral.

"The Earth has destroyed every living thing on the planet more than once, no reason to think it won't happen again," my friend Marty remarked to me in an email a few days ago. Of course he's right. Whether you're a environmentalist or a global warming denier or a believer in the Rapture/Apocalypse (just substitute "God" for "Earth"), you probably don't see the point in denying it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Debate of the Week: Should the U.S. Legalize Marijuana?

Debate of the Week is a weekly feature. Please comment below. Remember to keep it civil. Don't assume anything about the people you disagree with. I will delete any comments that are offensive or veer too far off topic. Thank you in advance.

This November, California voters will decide whether the state will legalize the general sale and use of up to an ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older. Currently, it's only legal for medical purposes there and in 13 other states, including my own New Jersey. On the federal level, marijuana sales and usage is still illegal, however, despite the Justice Department's decision to go easier on marijuana suppliers and users as long as they stick to state laws. 

The proposed California law's opponents include law enforcement groups and California's chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which says the law will lead to more impaired-driving accidents and fatalities. Supporters of legalization say it'll cut down on crime and increase revenue for the cash-strapped state.

So what do you think about legalization? Forget California, should the U.S. legalize marijuana? What effect, if any, would legalization have? Do you oppose legalization? Why?

Let the debate begin!

Monday, April 19, 2010

A terrible beauty is born.

Okay, who among you has actually tried one of these things?

Go ahead, be honest. We're all friends here. Nobody will judge you. At least I won't. I'm not necessarily the skinniest kid in class, you know. After all, I'm the guy who just spent an entire post vigorously defending pork roll's blessed name.

Still ... wow. I mean ... wow. Two deep-fried chicken patties for bread? If that's not the essence of America, I don't know what is. That's 540 calories of red-blooded patriotism.

Seriously(?), though, releasing this thing in America nowadays is like giving a drunk in the final hours of a weeklong bender a mason jar full of 180-proof basement-distilled moonshine. It's bound to put him down for good.

Still, I'm not ashamed to say I'm kinda looking forward to trying one. Okay, maybe a little ashamed.

But then again, what's more American than a food-related death wish?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sorry, it's pork roll. And there is a Central Jersey.

That's right, I said it. It's pork roll. Not Taylor ham.

When I went to the bagel shop to get breakfast this morning, I ordered "two pork roll, egg and cheeses, one on pumpernickel, one on plain, both saltpepperketchup." (I ordered for two people, smart ass. Not that I couldn't put away two of these bad boys ... anyway ...) I ordered "pork roll" even though the menu says "Taylor ham." I ordered "pork roll" even though the bagel shop is located a block away from my place here in Hudson County, here in North Jersey. I ordered "pork roll" and the folks behind the counter didn't even bat an eye.

Because even North Jersey folk are capable of admitting they're wrong, albeit tacitly.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Rocks: "Incident on 57th Street" by Bruce Springsteen

"Lost" just had to go and drop a Spanish Johnny reference this week, didn't it?
Spanish Johnny drove in from the underworld last night
With bruised arms and broken rhythm in a beat-up old Buick
But dressed just like dynamite
That last line's for you, Ilana ...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Like loving the dead.

May you rest in peace, Peter Steele:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Debate of the Week: Should the Pope Be Arrested?

Debate of the Week is a weekly feature. Please comment below. Remember to keep it civil. Don't assume anything about the people you disagree with. I will delete any comments that are offensive or veer too far off topic. Thank you in advance.

Pope Benedict XVI has been accused of ignoring cases of child molestation by Catholic priests, resisted taking action on the cases and even covering up some cases. These instances before he was pope and was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope John Paul II's top enforcer of doctrine. Reportedly, though, John Paul once ignored Ratzinger's plea to launch a full investigation into a cardinal who was eventually removed due to sex abuse. Some question whether John Paul or Benedict deserve the blame.

Several of the Vatican's critics want international legal action taken against the pope. Leading atheist authors Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, citing the legal principle that resulted in Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet's arrest in 1998, have called for authorities to arrest Benedict when he visits the U.K. for a state visit in September and try the pope for "crimes against humanity":
The Vatican has suggested the pope is immune from prosecution because he is a head of state. But Dawkins and Hitchens insist the pope would be unable to claim diplomatic immunity from arrest because, although his tour is classed as a state visit, he is not the head of a state recognised by the United Nations.
Now it's your turn to weigh in. Is there a case to arrest the pope? If there is, would you have the pope arrested? Was Benedict just following John Paul's lead, though? Does that matter? If you think the pope should be arrested, would you stop with him or charge more authority figures in the Vatican hierarchy?

Let the debate begin!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Not that you care ...

... but I'm pretty burnt out after an eventful weekend. I rocked out 80s-style Saturday night and had an astonishingly smooth Sunday, considering my parents and my aunt and uncle met my future in-laws for the FIRST TIME EVER. (In a way, this is crushingly disappointing. I thought for sure there would be an episode of "Scenes from an Engagement" in all this, but everyone was so pleasant and respectful to each other. Damn you all!)

So yeah, I'll be blogging at you later. I've got some pretty good ideas, if I do say so myself, but they'll have to wait for now. Tomorrow, we'll have a new Debate of the Week, which will deal with the pope and the Catholic Church's broadening child molestation scandal.

In the meantime, though, you should check out the good work over at the blogs listed over on the left under the "Friends in Blogging" header.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Quote of the Week

From President Obama:
The last I checked, Sarah Palin's not much of an expert on nuclear issues.
It narrowly beat out this:
I knew that we’d be buddies when I met her when she said, "Drill here, drill now." And then I replied, "Drill, baby, drill" and then we both said, "You betcha!"

Friday Rocks: "Where Do We Go From Here?" by Death

Rock on into the weekend, folks!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tiger Woods is a Sociopath.

(UPDATE: The video I posted before has been removed by the YouTube user. I found another one, but it features a really long ad at the beginning and some other crap from CBS, but it still includes the whole commercial. Also: ABC News puts the sound bite in context here.)

I forgot to set my coffee maker last night, so I went without my usually necessary cup o' caffeine this morning. But I didn't need it after seeing this:


Tiger Woods' father, Earl, has been dead since May 2006. That's his voice in the commercial, not God's, even though that's what Nike and Tiger would probably like you to believe.

Here's the transcript of what the late Mr. Woods says in the ad:
Tiger, I am more prone to be inquisitive, to promote discussion. I want to find out what your thinking was, I want to find out what your feelings are, and did you learn anything.
I don't know what the original context of this quote is, but that doesn't stop Tiger and Nike from re-contextualizing it to fit the golfer's recent controversy. "See," the ad seems to be saying, "even Tiger's dad would find it in his heart to forgive him. Now, please, just carry on and go buy our shoes and clubs."

Earl Woods, of course, had Tiger playing golf when he was a toddler. At age two in 1978, the future superstar appeared on "The Mike Douglas Show" to putt against Bob Hope. Earl coached Tiger as he blossomed from wunderkind to amateur champion to, finally, the world's greatest golfer and its most recognizable athlete. Even as Tiger's career took off, Earl was always there at his son's side.

Now, was Earl a proud, engaged father, or was he golf's version of Mama Rose, always prodding Tiger to "swing out"? Earl, according to various reports, was no angel himself. Did Tiger learn more than golf from his dear old dad? I don't know enough to answer that question, although I have my suspicions. But one thing was always clear from Tiger's point of view, or at least his public one: Earl was his dad, his teacher, his mentor, his best friend, the most important person in his life. He elevated Earl to the pantheon of Great Dads. But now Earl Woods has been reduced to a mere pop-media emblem, a sound bite to restore his son's marketability in the most cynical advertisement in an era of them.

It's become clear that Tiger, in the aftermath of his infidelity imbroglio, has been completely consumed by not by a specific image, but the notion of "image" itself. He's retreated into it, as if it were a cocoon. Now nothing else matters to Tiger; not his privacy, not his family, not his relationship with his dear old dad.

This is the true apotheosis of Tiger Woods, not whatever triumph awaits him at The Masters or any subsequent tournaments. He has shed any trace of humanity from his persona. He has finally -- fully, thoroughly -- completed his transformation into a brand.

And he did it by burying his father in a Nike swoosh.

P.S. Here's a great parody of the ad, courtesy of The Jack Sack:

UPDATE: Well, it appears Nike has hunted down the Jack Sack's parody and stripped it from the Web ... except at Deadspin! You can find Deadspin's compendium of parodies here. The Jack Sack's is #4.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Debate of the Week: Gov. Christie vs. the NJEA

Debate of the Week will be a weekly feature, hopefully. It all depends on the participation of you, the reader. Please comment below. Remember to keep it civil. Don't assume anything about the people you disagree with. I will delete any comments that are offensive or veer too far off topic. Thank you in advance.

This week I'm offering up the war between New Jersey's new Republican governor, Chris Christie, and the state teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association. Christie has proposed cutting school aid and is taking on the NJEA, pushing a salary freeze and cuts in benefits to help reduce the state's budget deficit. The NJEA is standing firm and claims Christie is scapegoating it, and its president, Barbara Keshishian, has called for Christie to reinstate the so-called millionaire's tax, which actually targets annual incomes of $400,000 and more.

Where do you stand? With Christie? With the NJEA? Somewhere in between? What reforms, if any, are needed?

Let the debate begin.

UPDATE: Thanks to Eddie for this link. Seriously, Bergen County Education Association?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Scenes from an Engagement, Episode 1a

I spent Easter Sunday with my dear fiancee at her cousin's house on Long Island. We sat on the deck much of the afternoon, enjoying the pleasant spring breeze and warm early April sun on our faces. I think you know where this is going.

Half my face is sunburned. I look like Richard Dreyfuss in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

My dear fiancee's face and arms are as red as Texan politics. "I'm sitting on a deck in Long Island in the beginning of April for, like, two hours, and I get sunburn," she said to me as she winced through the pain, though not without a note of haughty vindication. "And you want me to go closer to the equator? I'll spontaneously combust."

Okay, enough of that. That picture is the egg that marked my place setting at the Easter dinner table. It was made by my dear fiancee's cousin's husband (cousin-in-law?). He likes to bust my chops about "joining the family."

"You don't know what you're getting yourself into," he'll say. "You've already signed away your freedom, pal. You have no idea." I believe he speaks from experience.

Yes, that's a ball and chain affixed to my egg.

On Tonight's NCAA Final.

You know, I just really don't care about college basketball. The best kids don't stick around any more than a year or two, and as much as I like to see a well-executed play, sometimes I just want to see LeBron or Kobe or Dwyane or Dirk or Durant or Nash take over a game through sheer talent and will. Also, I'm really, really tired of hearing about "scrappy, energetic, smart, hard working" players who "take pride in their academics."

OK, OK, I admit getting caught up in the excitement of the close games in the tournament, and I admit to being a nominal fan of the North Carolina Tarheels (because of Michael Jordan's pro exploits). And this year is the first in a while when I haven't filled out a bracket for gambling purposes. But I just don't care. I just ... don't ... care ...

Oh screw it. Go Butler. Please do everyone a favor and beat those snobby Dukies senseless. Do it for America.

Not that I'll be watching or anything.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy Easter.

Some new evidence emerges that Pope Benedict XVI protected accused pedophile priests, this time in Arizona.

Anyway, in the purported words of J.C. himself:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like to white washed sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.
If you're interested in reading in-depth and thoughtful coverage of the implosion of Benedict's papacy, and to a larger extent the church itself, I suggest you check out Andrew Sullivan's blog, The Daily Dish. He writes about much more than the pope and the church, by the way.

Seriously, though, to all you believers out there, Happy Easter.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Movie Review: CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010)

"Clash of the Titans" is pretty friggin' metal.

Sure, this remake's wall-to-wall CG effects lack the DIY charm of Ray Harryhausen's legendary work on the 1980 original. And Sam Worthington ("Avatar") is no -- in the words of my buddy Nick -- Harry Hamlin Handsome Head. But "Clash" rocks pretty hard, especially in its action sequences.

If only the stuff between the Olympian set pieces (character development, motivation, dramatic tension, etc.) were as compelling.

In Honor of Good Friday.

You'll see it's all a show.
Keep 'em laughing as you go.
Just remember that the last laugh is on you.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Scenes from an Engagement, Episode 1

My dear fiancee and I, like many couples, I'm sure, have "our" shows that we pretty much have to watch together. Luckily, though, we grant each other a lot of TV liberty, so we really only must watch two shows together: "Survivor" and "Lost," two shows predominantly set on islands.

We were talking about this the other day, and it got me thinking about our upcoming honeymoon. We still haven't settled on where we'll go, but I've been adamant about going to an island, the kind where the sand is white, the water is clear blue, and the fruity drinks are brought to you on silver trays. I can imagine few things more rewarding or relaxing after 18 months(!) of planning a wedding than lounging about on some tropical island.

My fiancee, however, wants no part of an island. (Well, maybe one of those Hawaiian ones. But that would be, you know, expensive.) "We're not island people, honey," she'll often say.