October 27, 2005

Random post

So I know I haven't been the best blog landlord the past couple of weeks, so I thought I'd do a quick summary of things personal and public.

*I saw the Decemberists (again!) last Friday, in what was my first trip to First Avenue. It was great. Donny, Matt, Greta, and Nick were home for the concert. Melissa and Alex came as well. Possibly even a better show than the April show, though they played essentially the same setlist.

*I went home this weekend. I saw my cats, Winston and Chester and their mother, she-whose-name-we-do-not-utter. I cant call W. and C. "kittens" anymore... they are getting big!

*I anticipated Fitzmas

*I attended a flurry of cultural events: the city council debate between Cam and Cara, which convinced me to vote for Cara after all (I think); the University Theatre production of "The Madwoman of Chaillot," which convinced me that I need to go see more plays here; and a lecture by poet Phillip Levine, which convinced me that I should something meaningful with my life (what that something is, I do not know.) I love going to school here: there is always something entertaining and enlightening going on, if you have the time.

*Harriet Miers declined her nomination, after weeks of bad-mouthing by both sides. I feel kind of sorry for her: I don't think she would have been that bad of a Justice, if one can forgive her inexperience and lack of qualifications. But it sure is fun to see yet another political defeat for Mr. Bush & co. I wonder who they'll trot out next?

*I got swamped, as usual, with schoolwork, papers, and tests.

*The White Sox won the World Series. I watched parts of games 1 and 2, but then sort of forgot to watch the others. Oh well. I guess I'm happy for them, even though I hate them.

*UThink will soon be upgraded to Movable Type 3.2, so I am promising a redesign once that happens to celebrate the one-year anniversary of a plain picture. Though a few of those months don't count, because I didn't post at all.

Well, that's it for now. Check out this new blog I made (it's a work in progress) for the Month of Kindness, coming up November 10 - December 10. Mark your calendars!

Posted by smit2174 at 4:48 PM

October 16, 2005

More Miers

Faced with a conservative backlash and resistance from Democrats to Harriet Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court, the White House is now shifting tactics. Rather than focusing on her religious and political views, they want to move the focus to Miers' qualifications for the job.

As one Bush staffer puts it, "As the focus becomes less on who she's not and more on who she is, that's a better place to be."

To which Josh Marshall says:

So things will look better when interest moves from her not being a qualified candidate for the Court to her being an unqualified candidate.

Ha.

Posted by smit2174 at 5:41 PM

October 15, 2005

Pushkin was black

I learned a bit ago that two of my classes-- African-American Literature and Russian Literature-- are somewhat connected, in the form of the founder of modern Russian literature, Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin (Алекса́ндр Серге́евич Пу́шкин).

From Wikipedia:

Pushkin's father descended from one of the Russian gentry's oldest families who traced their history to the 12th century, while his mother's grandfather was Ibrahim Petrovich Gannibal, a former Eritrean who was abducted when he was a child and ended up in Russia and became a great military leader, engineer and nobleman after his adoption by Peter the Great.

And from James Weldon Johnson's Preface to The Book of American Negro Poetry (1922):

Is it not curious to know that the greatest poet of Russia is Alexander Pushkin, a man of African descent; that the greatest romancer of France is Alexandre Dumas, a man of African descent; and that one of the greatest musicians of England is Coleridge-Taylor, a man of African descent?

The fact is fairly well known that the father of Dumas was a Negro of the French West Indies, and that the father of Coleridge-Taylor was a native-born African; but the facts concerning Pushkin's African ancestry are not so familiar.

When Peter the Great was Czar of Russia, some potentate presented him with a full-blooded Negro of gigantic size. Peter, the most eccentric ruler of modern times, dressed this Negro up in soldier clothes, christened him Hannibal, and made him a special body-guard.

But Hannibal had more than size, he had brain and ability. He not only looked picturesque and imposing in soldier clothes, he showed that he had in him the making of a real soldier. Peter recognized this, and eventually made him a general. He afterwards ennobled him, and Hannibal, later, married one of the ladies of the Russian court. This same Hannibal was great-grandfather of Pushkin, the national poet of Russia, the man who bears the same relation to Russian literature that Shakespeare bears to English literature.

Interesting parallels.

Here is an extremely interesting and informative PBS Frontline page on Pushkin's genealogy.

Posted by smit2174 at 1:45 PM

October 13, 2005

Screw the Vikes

You know, say what you will about Randy Moss-- with all of his "shenanigans," I don't ever recall something as bad as this:

Crew members on two chartered boats told authorities Wednesday they saw Minnesota Vikings players take part in a wild sex party on Lake Minnetonka, detailing allegations that have rocked a team reeling on and off the field.

The workers told Hennepin County sheriff's deputies they had to step over and around players and naked women engaged in sex acts on the floor, said their attorney, Stephen Doyle of Wayzata. [...]

In a 90-minute talk with two investigators in Doyle's law office, six of eight crew members on the two boats described being frightened by some of the players, who became aggressive and yelled at them for not pouring alcohol fast enough, for running out of Grey Goose vodka and for insisting that they keep the boats' lights on, Doyle said. They also said they feared retribution from the some of the players, Doyle said.

At least 17 of the 90 people aboard the two boats were Vikings players, although the number of players could be higher, Doyle said. The crew gave a list of players they had identified so far to investigators, he said. [...]

Doyle said the boats' crews included two captains, two bartenders and four waitresses. Soon after the boats took off, the crew noticed naked women walking around, then the sex acts started, Doyle said. Within 40 minutes, the boats' captains had called one another, then home base, and headed back for shore. The entire cruise lasted about an hour and 20 minutes, Doyle said.

"There was lap dancing with a fair amount of cash floating around the floor with the dancers, leading quickly into sexual acts in a nature so explicit imagination wasn't necessary," Doyle said.

Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse has more. You have to love an article that begins this way:

[Vikings owner] Zygi Wilf was headed for temple Wednesday afternoon to join in observing Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement in his Jewish faith. The fasting and repentance end at nightfall today.

Rosh Hashanah was celebrated 10 days ago, with followers of Judaism instructed to spend this period contemplating the failings of the past year for which they should ask forgiveness.

Wilf had a big gaffe to mention to his father, Joseph: "Sorry, Pop, for risking the family fortune on a football team that lacks leadership, citizenship and workmanship."

It's terrible. But maybe some good can come out of this... More from the Star Trib:

Stadium opponents also are monitoring the situation and gleefully using it as collateral damage on the team's proposal for a new stadium complex in Blaine.

"This sex-and-drugs scandal has sunk the ships of all the stadium proposals," said John Knight, the founder of Citizens for a Stadium Tax Referendum. "These spoiled, overpaid, out-of-control sports stars have shown they don't deserve taxpayers' help."

True 'dat! I'm not blaming all the "sports stars," but some of them definitely need an attitude change. The owners need an attitude change, too. Why should the public pay for stadiums so you can pocket an extra $200 million in team value? Don't try to blackmail us, either. Not gonna work. We don't care about the Vikings any more. Move them where ever you'd like, if anywhere else wants you.

We're through, Vikes. You consistently suck, no matter how much money you spend to bring in free agents. You trade Randy Moss, who will probably go down as the best receiver in NFL history, for a bunch of nobodies. You give Daunte a huge contract extension, and then, when he complains that he's not being paid enough, you volunteer to give him more. He pays you back with 13 turnovers in 4 games.

Oh, and also, Mike Tice , you endorsed George Bush. Poor, poor choice. Considering he's now "#1" with less than 40% of voters nationwide. If I had to guess, I'd say that's probably not going to help you keep your job, especially with a 1-3 record and now this incident. Of course, it could turn out brilliantly: perhaps, all along, you were really just angling for the next Supreme Court appointment.

I also love this quote.

Asked if he saw strippers or sex on his boat Moore said, "Sex? What are you talking about? That's crazy. Look man, I'm engaged. That would put me in trouble."

I find that funny.

Posted by smit2174 at 7:03 PM

October 12, 2005

Rocky returns!

Yo, Adrian... get ready for Rocky VI!

Sylvester Stallone is all set to revive his most famous (by a small margin) creation, boxer Rocky Balboa for the sixth time in, you guessed it, Rocky VI. He will direct, and of course, star in the film.

The script has been finalised, and returns to the ageing character as he comes out of retirement, just looking to keep his eye in with a few local, low-profile fights. Until, that is, someone gets the idea that he should fight current heavyweight champion Mason "The Line" Dixon, which turns into a full-blown media three ring circus.

Principal photography is set to commence in December in L.A. ...

From what I hear, Rocky V was a smashing success, so I'm pretty pumped for the Sixth Edition.

Posted by smit2174 at 7:54 PM

October 11, 2005

]-[4rR137 |\/|13r$

Whatever you can say about Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, you can't say she's behind the times!

She's got her own blog:
"You Have the Right to Remain Stylin'

And, for all you narcissistic hipsters out there, she even has a MySpace profile.

In another sign of her internet prowess, she's crediting her newfound success to a hot new job site, CronyJobs.

[NOTE: These sites are intended as satire. If you think they're real... umm.. you're dumb. (No offense.)]

Posted by smit2174 at 12:06 PM

October 8, 2005

"AIDS, crack, Bernie Goetz"

I am going to do another one of those "here is how this entry came about" posts... so steel yourselves, dear readers, against an onslaught of randomness.

It all began in 10th grade. Mr. Bodey was my World History teacher. His class was insanely easy... I believe I finished with over 100%. He gave out candy for getting questions right, and once in a while, he would throw out a "Rich and Dreamy" question, a supposedly "tough" question which would entitle the first responder to one of these:

But that is neither here nor there. Mr. Bodey is most notable for the fact that, at least 2 or 3 times a week, he would begin class by playing Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire," the Piano Man's furious epic of 20th century history from 1949, the year of his birth, to 1989, the year the song was written. Mr. Bodey had a transparency of the song's lyrics, and at some points he would devote an entire class period to reviewing them point by point. I guess it was an effective, if gimmicky, way of teaching 20th century history. Mostly, I think, he just liked the song. (He also had a strange affinity for a band called "BoyZone." But that is also neither here nor there.)

Several years passed. I occasionally heard "We Didn't Start the Fire" in one way or another. It always brought me back to the good ol' days of Bodey's 7:50 AM history class.

This brings us to Friday, October 7, 2005. But let's back up a tick, to this spring, when I was burning a copy of Bright Eyes' masterful album I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning onto CD. The album is less than the full 80 minutes, so I decided to throw some random tracks on at the end. By fortuitous chance, Track 14 turned out to be "We Didn't Start the Fire."

So back to Friday. I was sitting at my extremely interesting and intellectually stimulating desk job in a state agency which will remain unnamed, staring at a computer screen, doing mind-numbing tasks while burning out my eyes staring at a computer screen. (But I would do that anyway, so who cares.) Since my job mostly requires absolutely no thought, just punching keys like a trained monkey, I am sometimes able to put on my trusty headphones and listen to music. On this day, I had me a hankerin' for some Bright Eyes, so I popped in my legal backup copy. When I reached the end of the album, I still had almost an hour left. So I decided to listen to Billy Joel. I disabled all the tracks but "We Didn't Start the Fire" and set Windows Media Player on repeat.

I proceeded to listen to this song ad nauseam for the better part of an hour. (Let's assume it was, oh, 52.14 minutes. Dividing the total amount of time by the length of the song (4.8 minutes) gives us a grand total of 10.8625 repetitions.) By the end, I was almost able to sing along to every lyric, if prompted correctly.

Because of Mr. Bodey's tutelage, I knew what pretty much everything in the song referred to. However, in the last verse, when Billy sings:

Foreign Debts, Homeless Vets/ AIDS, Crack, Bernie Goetz

I was unsure who this "Bernie Goetz" fellow was. I was also stunned by what hatred Billy Joel had for him to associate him with the plagues of the 80's: the spread of AIDS, the crack epidemic, the massive national debt racked up by Reagan's budgets. I resolved to do some research.

Well, it turns out that Bernie Goetz deserves to be lumped in with these scourges of society. He shot 4 people-- kids-- over 5 bucks. His excuse was that he was being mugged with a screwdriver. (The kids claimed they were merely panhandling.) From Wikipedia:

On the afternoon of December 22, 1984, four African American youths, Barry Allen, Troy Canty, James Ramseur, and Darrell Cabey, boarded the train on a mission to rob video game machines in Manhattan. Minutes later, Goetz entered the same train and sat down across from the four youths. A few minutes later, two of the youths asked Goetz for five dollars. Goetz, pretending not to hear them, asked them to repeat themselves. Canty responded, "Give me five dollars."

The youths responded to Goetz's refusal by threatening him with sharpened screwdrivers. Goetz had a gun, a .38 five-shot Smith & Wesson, and shot his assailants, one bullet for three of his assailants and two for Cabey. All four survived, though Cabey was paralyzed for life.

After checking whether two nearby women were injured -- they were not -- Goetz refused to hand over his gun to the conductor and left the emergency-halted train. After Goetz left the subway, he rented a car, and drove to Vermont. He almost died in Vermont when he got lost in the woods where he went to bury the gun. He turned himself in to New York City police nine days later.

He was later convicted of illegal possession of a weapon, and served 8 months in prison. He also serves as a textbook example of why only the police should be allowed to carry pistols. [An aside: the new Florida law, allowing, basically, anyone to kill anyone for any reason, as long as you make up a good excuse later, scares me.]

In conclusion:
1. Mr. Bodey was a crazy teacher.
2. Mr. Billy Joel wrote a crazy song called "We Didn't Start the Fire"
3. Mr. Bernie Goetz is a crazy man who shouldn't be allowed back on the street.
4. Mr. Pat Smith has a crazy desire for his band Brad Halen to cover "We Didn't Start the Fire" in its epic entirety. (I just added that one now, but it's true.)

Bonus: Go to this website to see a charmingly crappy and tacky animation of "We Didn't Start the Fire."

Posted by smit2174 at 8:32 PM

October 6, 2005

A bold move from Patty Wetterling

Wow. Patty Wetterling has now officially made bringing the troops home from Iraq part of her campaign platform.

The war in Iraq is costing this country and Minnesota in lives, treasure, and opportunity, and we can no longer afford to continue down the path we're on.

Today I am calling for the Administration to end our involvement in Iraq by Thanksgiving 2006 and prepare for the return of our brave men and women by launching a new generation of programs to honor their service.

[...]

Let me be clear: from today until the last American has left Iraqi soil, we must spend every dollar necessary to arm, support, and protect our troops. But the time has come to bring them home. This is not a call to abandon our troops or their mission. It is a call to honor them, a call to respect them, and a call to bring them home.

We're spending too much money on the wrong priorities. Removing our troops by next Thanksgiving ensures that by the time the next Senate begins its session, we will be debating how to spend this money on health care, job creation, education, rebuilding our own Gulf in the wake of Katrina, and keeping America safe.

Facing underdog status in her primary race with Amy Klobuchar for the Democratic nomination for the MN '06 Senate race, it appears Patty has decided to risk it all by taking on a huge issue in America right now. "Bring them home"-- This is a position that few mainstream Democrats have been willing to take. In a prominent ad on Kos, aimed at tapping the fundraising power of the overwhelmingly progressive and anti-war netroots, Patty claims she is "the ONLY Senate candidate with the courage to set a date." And it's probably true. But is it the right thing to do? And will it pay off politically?

I will be watching this race closely. I had assumed that Patty, as much as I love her, was dead in the water against the better-connected, well-funded Amy Klobuchar. This is an attempt to tilt the balance. But will it be enough?

A new Zogby/Wall Street Journal poll shows that both Klobuchar and Wetterling have a slight lead on Republican candidate (and major dickhead) Mark Kennedy.

Klobuchar 49%, Kennedy 42.9%
Wetterling 48.1%, Kennedy 44.9%

Wetterling's website also has a poll from February that puts her 9 points ahead of Kennedy, while Klobuchar has only a 2 point lead. Her favorability rating and statewide recognition are obviously much higher than Klobuchar's, because of Wetterling's tireless work as a child advocate and the nationwide media frenzy over the abduction of her son Jacob, 15 years ago. I think she is a great person and a great candidate. The only reason I have to doubt her is a subpar speech she gave at the UDFL convention last spring. While Wetterling was forced to rely on her notes and stand at the podium, Klobuchar had her material down pat and was able to interact with the crowd while she spoke. Klobuchar also had much more of a speaking presence than Wetterling. However, that was months ago, and it could have been just a bad night for Patty. If her speaking act has improved, this new announcement could breathe new life into her campaign.

Also, Democratic candidates Mike Hatch and Mike Ciresi both have a tiny edge on sitting governor (and huge d-bagger) Tim Pawlenty.

Posted by smit2174 at 7:26 PM