Tuesday, July 31, 2007
I was wrong.
Monday, July 30, 2007
It really seemed like every 50 yards of sidewalk brought you to a new and uniquely awful urban aroma. Living in New York City for 3 months, I was eventually desensitized to just how many unpleasant smells one can come across in a single city block. But I'm out of practice, so I was fully aware of all of them in San Francisco, and they all had incredibly distinct, yet equally distasteful, characters.
If you're ever walking the streets in the Mission area of San Francisco, don't forget to look down, because there is a Choose Your Own Adventure story written into the sidewalk.
As you walk down the street, you pass these little messages. Often times they will give you a choice of what to do, and a different direction to walk in based on your selection. The story is apparently some kind of romance, and there are both red and blue messages on the ground that represent two different paths. Our understanding is that two people can go through the story simultaneously, and if they play the game right, they end up meeting at the end.
Now that is weird but awesome.
Not so much weird as decadent. Truffle omelette for brunch? Yes please! I'll take mine with a side of everything. I'm quite proud of us, because were able to clear that entire table. Way to go, Team Gluttony.
Our venture to Dolores Park in the Mission had to be the most successful trip to a park ever, perhaps because this is the quirkiest park ever. The park sits on a huge hill that provides a great view of the city. We entered from the top, which is apparently affectionately known as the "Man Shelf," where dozens of hardbodied gay men take to sunning themselves and observing other hardbodied gay men sunning themselves. If you don't like "Man Shelf," you can also use its other name: "Speedo Ridge." No pictures of that. Sorry.
From that decidedly immodest entry point, we proceeded to the playground area, where we indulged our more juvenile instincts and took lots of fun pictures on swings. If you've never seen a 6'5" man on a swing set designed for elementary schoolers and younger, you really should recruit one and try it. Thanks, Trevor.
We then moved into the interior of the park, where we discovered that a few enterprising twenty-somethings had brought a Slip 'n Slide into the park, with a healthy supply of beer and barbecue food, and started competing for distance records on a downward-sloping run. Since Brian lived nearby (and therefore had a change of clothes at hand), we designated him our official representative. Even if he didn't set any distance records, he did us proud.
Upon closer inspection of the distance leader -- who was donning a stylish 80s windbreaker to improve his slipping and/or sliding potential through the grass -- I realized that it was actually my high school classmate, Brandon Chalk. Unsurprisingly, Brandon was responsible for the whole (genius) concept. Well done, Brandon.
Here's a little bit of weirdness that I brought to San Francisco with me. For some reason, I decided it would be a good idea to bring a jacket that I had never worn as my only jacket for the weekend. And in a still more inexplicable twist, I had purchased this jacket at a clearance sale without ever having actually tried it on. Little did I realize that this innocuous looking gray blazer was in fact cut so that it does not fit anybody properly. Observe:
Too big in the shoulders. Too small in the stomach. Too everything, and not anything enough. This is the worst-designed blazer ever. Seriously, if you are totally awkwardly proportioned -- bigger than me, and yet not -- and this blazer fits you well, it is yours for free. Andrew, I am looking at you.
Of course, a jacket that doesn't fit properly is one thing. That merely looks foolish. But Pam's shoes didn't fit properly, and that meant injury. For a while, she braved the streets of San Francisco barefoot. While this was admirable in its audacity, it was also a really bad idea for really obvious reasons. But never fear! Trevor and Brian simply took turns carrying her all the way back to her apartment so that she could change into more sensible flip-flops. It's the kind of thing you'd assume a camera could never truly capture the magic of, but actually, this one special time, a camera could and did:
The Urban Art
Sunday was dominated by a long stroll along the Embarcadero, setting of the world's greatest commercial for pants ever. It was an incredibly sunny and perfect day, tailor made for meandering up a nice long boardwalk. And everywhere we went, there was something to take a picture with!
There was the bizarre bench/saddle/I have no idea how this thing was so comfortable, but somehow it was. It's not especially conducive to interacting with your fellow bench-sitters, but it's surprisingly conducive to good posture.
A little further down, somebody had inexplicably left a large green screen unattended. So of course, we did what anybody would do in our position: we made the members of our group who were conveniently wearing green stand in front of it!
I don't know what it was about the Embarcadero, but for some reason, no matter what we saw, we felt compelled to take silly pictures in front of it. Think a simple roadside advertisement for a circus is safe from our rampant jackassery? Think again!
Thank god my friends are as totally nerdy as I am.
In San Francisco, it seems that even the pets have a liberal political agenda. Case in point: Brian's roommate's pseudo-girlfriend's dog, whose favorite chew-toy is a likeness of our very own Commander-in-Chief. And what can I say? It's hard not to get caught up in it.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
I guess this means Colin Powell is the angel on the other shoulder? Oh wait, he was exiled from this administration long ago...
If ever there was truly a Latin devil on any shoulder, that would have to be Alberto Gonzalez.
When we last saw him, of course, he was receiving the warmest possible welcome from his alma mater (account of that incident care of Peanut Butter Burrito...and yes, I do know the guy in the hood personally).
When I first heard about this on the drive to work this morning, a scene unfolded in my mind's eye.
A dimly-lit office, shadows flickering and twisting ominously on the wall as the candles that light the room dance uneasily in an unseen breeze. A desk of rich mahogany, its surface sparse...a typewriter, a phone, a quill and ink vial, a few sheets of paper, almost parchment-like in texture. On the adjacent wall, bookcases are filled with leather-bound tomes, interspersed with shrunken heads and polished skulls. The U.S. Code. The Congressional Record. A.E. Waite's The Book of Black Magic. A smell fills the air. Incense? No. Something else, something undefinable. A man sits at the desk, his back hunched ever so slightly, his hands resting over the typewriter, which radiates with the warmth of recent activity. The candles reflect off of his eyeglasses, obscuring his eyes, giving them the unsettling appearance of tumultuous lakes of orange flame. Smoke rises from a smoldering cigar that lies chewed up and discarded in an ashtray near his elbow, distorting his features even further in the dim haze. A bead of sweat forms on his bald head as he pulls the completed document from the typewriter, dripping down and soaking into his otherwise immaculate collar as he carefully sets the paper before him and pushes the typewriter aside. He snorts ever so slightly as he reaches across the desk to retrieve the quill and ink vial. Slowly but deliberately, he dips the quill into the vial and puts it to paper. In the deepest crimson, the words trace their way across the page: "Dick Cheney." He reaches for the phone, ready for the paper to be retrieved, ready to put his dark machinations into motion at last. No. For now, he may take a moment to celebrate. He opens the top desk drawer and retrieves a small glass and a bottle, its musky label reading simply "Duoro - 1873." He pours the port into the glass and restores the bottle to its place in the drawer. As he brings the glass to his nose and inhales deeply, the corner of his lip begins to twitch. Is he simply irritated by the powerful aroma of his fortified wine? Or is this...could it be...the beginnings of a smile?
But thankfully, it's already over, so we can all collectively exhale. Maybe we'd better take a peek at North Korea and Iran just to see if the regimes are still there. They are? Alright. Anyone shot in the face? Not even the guy under anesthesia? Nice. Okay, we're good.
Lindsay. Oh, Lindsay.
I sometimes get razzed about my Libertarian instincts from my mostly-liberal friends, but honestly, guys, if you wanted to convert me all the way, you should have realized that Lindsay Lohan is the most cogent possible argument for a welfare state that protects people from themselves. I have often defended Lindsay Lohan. Not that I've ever thought her immaturity and excess were okay, but at least there was always a legitimate core to her fame and to her access to all those many things she loves to abuse. She made movies, and they were pretty good (I liked "Mean Girls"), and she was pretty good in them, even if she always sort of played the same character: a non-drunk version of herself...which I suppose actually took some acting chops for the last few films. Anyways.
But it was still better than Paris Hilton, that spoiled, booze-swilling, chain-smoking, famous-for-being-famous human pincushion of a wasteland who had her "fans" (God knows what they were actually fans of) supporting her through her legal tribulations. I'm sorry, that's not fair, I don't know if Paris Hilton smokes.
At this point, though, I think Lindsay has crossed that line where she has exhausted all of the goodwill she built up with me by demonstrating a modicum of talent before exploding with the fury of 10,000 burning suns. A man can only take so many DUIs...my days as a Lindsay Lohan apologist are over. Even with Britney Spears apparently melting down again (good news, kids: apparently, "this week, on newsstands Friday, the truth will be told"), Lindsay manages to hold the "stereotypically worthless celebrity waste of space" title. Bravo.
The Michael Vick dogfighting case, on the other hand, is a whole new kind of celebrity justice animal. The stuff in the indictment is pretty hard to believe, but for all my usual skepticism of the government, I actually give an incredible amount of credence to whatever the U.S. Attorney's Office says. First of all, these are not the crummy lawyers I was complaining about the last time I discussed the state of America's legal public servants. U.S. Attorneys are typically good-to-great lawyers, and it's hard not to want to give them the benefit of the doubt. And in this case, I think there's even more reason to.
Think about it: (1) U.S. Attorneys win. A lot. They don't bring cases they don't expect to win. (2) They definitely don't bring cases they don't expect to win against celebrities, when the whole world is watching. (3) They super definitely don't bring cases they don't expect to win against celebrities, when the whole world is watching, and when the country is reeling with one cautionary tale after another of hotheaded prosecutors getting crucified for overplaying their hands in high-profile cases. You think the U.S. Attorney in Virginia didn't read a few articles about Mike Nifong (of Duke Lacrosse fame), or Rocky Delgadillo (tormentor of Paris Hilton)? Or whoever prosecuted Kobe Bryant? Maybe he even dug deep into the archives to pull up something about Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden, who you may remember from the last time a high-profile football player was on trial in front of the whole country (though Marcia did get that sweet Court TV gig out of it). He knows the consequences if he loses. I don't think he's going to.
Okay, that satisfies my obligation to say something about Lohan and Vick. I can only pray that this Lindsay Lohan situation doesn't evolve into an obsession for me the way that Paris Hilton did. God help me, I was reading TMZ! Thank God that's over.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
I think Andrea makes some good points here, but I'm not with her all the way. I think the notion that the ex-wife's exploitation of what is essentially a loophole in the alimony law is an intriguing one, but I frankly can't believe it's true. She isn't making a political statement, she's making a financial one. If she was actually trying to make a political statement, I have to think she'd be making it through her lawyer. She'd be pointing out the unequivalence of marriage vs. DP status and saying something about it, just like Andrea is, just like the lawyers writing the briefs in the California Supreme Court case are. But no, her lawyer's basically making an estoppel argument about the husband's right to challenge the alimony order.
I think the problem here is assuming that the ex-wife DOES consider herself married, and then heaping all your scorn on her. I think she probably considers herself emotionally "married," as do most couples who have commitment ceremonies or whatever. But a DP or a civil union isn't a LEGAL marriage - that was the point in setting up these parallel institutions, right? The law doesn't consider her married, it considers her in a DP - and CA's law is very good, but it's not equivalent. I think it makes perfect sense for someone in her position to say, "Sure, I WOULD legally marry my partner...but I'm not allowed to. As soon as I can get an actual marriage, with all the symbolism and benefits of one, I will agree that I am legally married." I think this makes way more sense with this "core of who you are" think you're getting at - if she cares about the right to marry, it goes against her sense of fairness to say, "oh well, a DP's just as good anyway."
Plus, the legislature could have easily added this situation to the DP law and didn't - "married or in a DP" - one more demonstration of how these are not parallel institutions.
I mean, Andrea's right about one thing: a domestic partnership is not truly equivalent to a marriage. So maybe the ex-wife is legally right. But my argument isn't a legal one, it's an ethical one. As I suggested in my initial post, I don't see how this is any different from a heterosexual ex-spouse intentionally staying out of a marriage with his or her new significant other, because that would cut off the flow of alimony payments. It's either greed, or just spite toward the ex-husband. Either way, I find it distasteful and exploitative. And even if DP and marriage status aren't truly the same, I think it's fair to say that the current state of affairs in this case is violative of the spirit of the alimony law, if not the letter.
As for the bit at the end about the legislature having been able to amend the alimony law but declining to do so, I don't think you can draw any conclusions from that. For all my California pride, the State Senate is a disaster. Thanks to the 2-term limit for State Senators (that's lifetime, not consecutive), there's no institutional memory, and the legislature is often too neutered by California's idiosyncratic preference for direct democracy-by-proposition to do much of anything. Except, perhaps, undoing things it's already done. It's quite impressive, really: an institution that is incapable of effectively looking forward or backward.
So even if the law were inherently homophobic, I don't think it's the legislature's intent to communicate its disdain for homosexual relationships at the cost of $1,250 per month to some random divorcee. I'm both naive enough to think the legislature isn't that petty, and jaded enough to think that the institution wouldn't have the foresight or intellectual capacity to make so subtle a statement even if it wanted to.
I mainly like this research study because it shows that chimps apparently recognize the pragmatic social elements of retributive behavior. Even though human-like behavior and emotional intelligence can be recognized in all sorts of animals, realistically speaking, it's probably mostly just people anthropomorphizing their pets' instinctual responses to their environments (except for my dogs...my dogs are smarter than yours and more emotionally genuine and they really really love me). But the chimps are operating on some kind of real, conscious social design. Retribution is legitimately socially useful, spite isn't, and they've figured out where to draw the line. I imagine that spite (which I, of course, indulge in regularly, perhaps to excess) is one of those things that can only thrive when a species or a community really doesn't have to worry about its survival anymore. The more spoiled and comfortable something is, the freer it is to dabble in spite.
Well in that case, no wonder I like the stuff so much.
It's funny that I'm spending time doing this at 2 am. This morning, I embraced yet another of those great "there are two kinds of people in the world" dichotomies. There are people who get up at the first ring of their alarm, bounding out of bed, energetic and ready to face the day. And there are people like me, who spend 7 5-minute snooze-button intervals dreaming about punching those first people in the face. I feel like my rage might be quelled somewhat if I just committed myself to sleeping at a rational hour on a regular basis. Nevertheless, onward ho...
Television: Flight of the Conchords (HBO)
This one isn't specific to me, but this is one example where, just because everyone else likes it, doesn't it mean it isn't really good. Well, maybe not everyone, maybe just my self-selecting group of indie-oriented, great-taste types. But anyhow. Flight of the Conchords is the Kiwi Tenacious D, with the deadpan comedic stylings of the original BBC Office (for an interesting comparison of the Conchords and the D, you might consult Tyler, the fine proprietor of Just Another Flaneur). It gets better with multiple viewings...the first time you watch it, you think, "This is pretty good. The sort of thing I should probably find funnier than I currently do." But with every additional episode you watch, you actually do find it that much funnier. Personally, I chuckle almost every time I look at Jermaine, because I remember him from those ridiculous Outback Steakhouse commercials. At the time, I watched them and thought, "Who is that American man doing that atrocious Australian accent?" And now I realize, it was a New Zealander doing an atrocious Australian accent. Probably on purpose, what with the whole Kiwis-vs.-Aussies thing. Can you imagine how hilarious they would have been if Bret was there with him?
Radio: Social Studies (KCRW)
For 4 minutes every week, Iris ("e-reese") Bahr transforms into Svetlana Maksimovolskahyah, Russian prostitute to the rich and powerful. Having grown up around accents like this (hers is remarkably dead-on), it's always nice to see them put to such deliciously subversive use. It's fast-talking, name-dropping, ADD-like fare. A representative quote from last week: "But I have to tell you something, Iraq war is nothing like Vietnam for one very important reason: recreation. Back in Vietnam the soldiers had nightclubs, alcohol, hot Asian girls, they were in Heaven. Find me a man that does not have Asian fetish, I will close up shop and start teaching pottery in Oxnard. And I hate pottery. It's 21st century, stop living in the past with the pinchpots and the ugly ashtrays, we are not Incas in Machu Picchu." And if I wasn't a fan already, this week's entry is basically pandering to my vanity, featuring a discussion of my main two celebrity lookalikes, Daniel Radcliffe and Elijah Wood.
Literature: David Rakoff
I raced pretty quickly through both Fraud and Don't Get Too Comfortable. David Rakoff is basically David Sedaris, but Jewish and angrier (sidenote: between David Sedaris, David Rakoff, and Dan Savage, every witty writer-essayist in the country is apparently gay...and has a first name that starts with D). The books are good, although you have to read them with the right mindset. The review blurbs on Don't Get Too Comfortable talk about how it's this scathing indictment of American superficiality and excess, but let's face it: the New Yorker-and-GQ-contributing Rakoff is precisely the kind of effete, coastal intellectual he's looking to indict (no comment on where I fit in with that type). I mean, yes, he is quite self-aware about his general shortcomings, but it seems like his attitude is that, because he recognizes the absurdity of preoccupation with artisinal olive oil, his own obsession with the stuff is therefore absolved, and he can go on mocking other people with the same character flaw. Frankly, Rakoff is kind of an asshole, and not really someone you should accept as a moral paragon. But for some good, sassy reading, it's worth the effort. And if you're a fan of Andrew's famous Harvward Bound, you may fine some remarkable similarities in the writing style. I was quite sad when I realized that I'd left my copy of Don't Get Too Comfortable in the seat-back in front of me on the flight back from San Francisco. Especially since I'd dog-eared the pages with the quotes I found especially entertaining.
Monday, July 23, 2007
I have no opinion about any of the procedural issues involved, contractual waivers, estoppel, or any of that nonsense. Let's even say that, procedurally, things work out in the ex-wife's favor. But assuming that this lesbian ex-wife would favor legal recognition of her right to marry her domestic partner, and assuming further that she considers her own domestic partnership to be equivalent to a marriage, I find it incredibly intellectually dishonest and opportunistic for her to argue that she's entitled to continue receiving alimony from her ex-husband. The law is quite clear that alimony ends when the person receiving it gets married. She she probably thinks of herself as married. The law basically thinks of her as married, minus the pretty little word. But insomuch as it is economically convenient for her to not to be married, she isn't. I'm not saying I don't make certain political choices because of financial expedience, but when somebody compromises on issues that cut to the core of who they are because it entitles them to a bonus $1,250 per month that, frankly, they probably don't really need at this point, it disgusts me. This is like me endorsing a law that restricts the civil right of Jews in exchange for a monthly welfare check...even if I don't consider Judaism to be the one-and-only of my identity, it's pretty deeply etched in there. I'll pass on the check.
And how is this any better than the divorcee in a 7-year relationship who refuses to work and refuses to get married because it would cut off the flow of alimony checks? I happen to take exception to a lot of the law on alimony, child support, community property, and the like. This is just symptomatic.
I genuinely hope that, when the Supreme Court of California finally rules on the same-sex marriage case later this year or early next year, the legalize it. And I equally genuinely hope that, when that time comes, Melinda Kirkwood of Orange County is legally barred from getting one.
But even the law isn't as spiteful and vindictive as I am.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
As CNN reports, one of the video's creators does anticipate my griping, telling an interviewer, “I don’t think it’s trivial any more than the ‘Daily Show’ or ‘Saturday Night Live.’” To me, this demonstrates a clear lack of understanding about how satire and parody actually work. Unless this "Obama girl vs. Giuliani girl" video is meant to satirize the trivialization of the political process, it is the trivialization of the political process. Frankly, I don't look at the video and think that its creators are so clever that they're making some kind of meta-statement. They think they're making a joke, but they're the butt.
I feel like only a unique election like this one -- one populated with so many candidates, no one of whom isn't glariningly deficient in one way or another -- could produce this. At least it ends with an admonition to the viewer to learn more about politics. As if that will stick.
But what the hell? Decide for yourself:
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Saturday, July 07, 2007
But then, everything changed. An oddly exciting theme music rose to a crescendo. I looked over the top of my copy of Charlie Huston's (very amusing) No Dominion.
The USARPS League Championship. That is, of course, the United States of America Rock Paper Scissors League Championship.
Straight out of ESPN 8: The Ocho, with comparable commentating. Booya.
And a quick trip to Wikipedia confirmed just how rich and deep the world of RPS truly is.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
So you can imagine my sense of disappointment when I discovered that Apple's advertising modus operandi is basically "steal, steal, steal." The side-by-side of the Apple-Intel commercial and Postal Service music video is especially potent. And this nugget:
Seems a little odd for the company whose mainstay customer is the creative professional, and whose most enduring ad campaign compels us to Think Different.Scathing.
I'm generally forgiving of these things. I consider similarity in arenas like this to be inevitable. But seeing it all side-by-side just makes it look egregious. Poor form, Steve. Poor form.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
And look what's already in talks...
So psyched. So so so SO psyched.
Monday, July 02, 2007
So they go to these jokers. I hope the guy who brought the dry cleaning lawsuit is disbarred, because that kind of abuse of process is inexcusable enough for people who aren't public servants who are supposed to have some kind of understanding and respect for the law. But there'll be another one coming up soon behind.
The one bright side of it all? If these jackasses can pass the bar, then I certainly can, right?
This is the extent of my optimism.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
My favorite quote: "At 7-Eleven, they're hoping it shows the ubiquitous chain has a trait seen in few corporations — the ability to laugh at themselves."